Rarity Round-up, 8th to 21st June 2019

With below average temperatures, high winds and twice the month’s expected rainfall in two days, June is now odds on to be the wettest on record. The county was deluged by heavy rain during the first week of the review period, resulting in disaster for many ground-nesting birds around bodies of water and in other low-lying areas. Unsurprisingly, there were few new migrants reported.

Now seemingly ensconced at Hollowell Res, the first-summer female Ruddy Shelduck remained throughout the period, while the only other waterfowl conceivably vying for attention was a drake Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford  Res on 15th-17th.

The first Common Quail of the year was a singing male, just north of Mears Ashby, early on 15th. Unfortunately, it did not linger and it later emerged that what was very likely to have been the same individual was also reported singing from a field at Sywell, 2 km due west, on the same date. Although June is generally recognised as the month, this species is unpredictable in its occurrence in the county. The perception that it is becoming rarer locally is not necessarily true, as the analysis of records, below, illustrates. Occurrences peaked in Northants in the 1990s although, prior to that decade, with four blank years (1973-75 and 1985) Quails look to have been rarer than they appear to be today, which is surprising. But are they being overlooked? [see here]                                                                                                                          This species is declining as a result, in part, of uncontrolled netting of migrating birds, particularly in Egypt, where Quail trapping is now taking place on an unsustainable, commercial scale. In Europe agricultural intensification has led to the loss of rough grass and uncultivated land and an increase in the use of herbicides and insecticides, which has led to a reduction on the availability of weeds, seeds and insects. In Europe the population size is estimated to be fluctuating and Quail is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (BirdLife International 2018, 2019).

Up to two Cattle Egrets remained at the northern end of Stanwick GP throughout, with one venturing south, down to the main lake, before flying toward Ditchford GP on 10th. Moving up the size scale, with none reported since 29th May, Northants did not manage to stay Great Egret-free for long, as one appeared at Thrapston GP on 14th.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 10th June 2019 (Steve Fisher)

Meanwhile, Hollowell maintained its reliability for Osprey sightings with one on 8th, 9th and 14th, while two were there on 12th. Elsewhere, singles visited Pitsford on 11th and Thrapston on 14th and 18th.

The adult Yellow-legged Gull remained at Hollowell between 8th and 14th, visiting nearby Ravensthorpe on 11th and another adult was at Stanwick on 17th, while the only passerine of the period was a Crossbill, which flew over Yardley Chase’s Denton Wood on 17th.

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