Rarity Round-up, 22nd to 28th June 2019

After a dry start, the week went through a short dull and damp phase before becoming rather bright and breezy. Local winds remained mainly north/north-easterly while, nationally, a more southerly vector kicked in. Migration was expectedly slow for the masses, evidenced only by a handful of returning waders, while this week’s highlights, an audible European Bee-eater and a visible Spoonbill presented to just two lucky observers.

The first-summer female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Hollowell Res all week while, ducking and diving, three Red-crested Pochards appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd during a period understandably quiet for wildfowl.

Following the Common Quail at Mears Ashby and Sywell on 15th, two were heard again at the first of these two localities on 23rd and one on 24th but their uncharacteristic reticence, shortly after discovery, made them immensely difficult to nail. One was also heard briefly near Kentle Wood, Daventry on 22nd before the locality fell silent. Local birders wanting to catch up with this species, this year, clearly need to be quick, quick, quick off the mark …

Stanwick GP’s two Cattle Egrets moved from its northern extremity to the main lake between 24th and 26th and at least one remained on 27th. Arguably better, though, was this week’s star bird, a Spoonbill which, unfortunately harassed by local Black-headed Gulls, failed in its attempt to alight on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR on 22nd and headed off high west instead. Of late, Spoonbill has been a much more difficult species to catch up with locally than Cattle Egret. Clearly rarer in terms of number of records, the latter has now provided many more available ‘bird-days’ than Spoonbill, which tends to be short-staying and highly transitory, with many fly-over records. One notable exception was a flock of eight, which remained in the shallows at Pitsford Res between 29th September and 14th October 1984, in the good old days, when the section north of the causeway featured mud, mud, glorious mud.

First-summer Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd June 2019 (Ricky Sinfield)

With regular Hollowell observers apparently AWOL this week, there were no reports of Ospreys from this site during the period. Instead, examples of this adept aerial angler were seen at both Pitsford Res and Thrapston GP on 22nd and at Biggin Lake, Oundle on 27th.

Osprey, Thrapston GP, 22nd June 2019 (Ady Leybourne)

Among small numbers of returning Common and Green Sandpipers, this week, was a Grey Plover, found at Ravensthorpe Res on 26th and four Black-tailed Godwits in flight over Summer Leys on the same date, while another Black-tailed Godwit was on the scrape at the latter site on 28th.

Totally eclipsing the Spoonbill in terms of sheer rarity, a European Bee-eater was heard calling three times in flight over Byfield on 28th, remaining frustratingly invisible to the finder. This would represent only the 4th for Northamptonshire, following accepted records in 1995, when 2 were at Ditchford GP on 5th May, in 1997 when one was at Oundle Cemetery on 13th May and in 2003, when one was near Badby on 31st May.

Not quite as colourful were two male Common Redstarts – one at Moreton Pinkney on 22nd and the other at Lamport on 26th. More to come as we move into July – the gateway to autumn.

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