The bank holiday weekend saw the dam burst on autumn migration. With a light south-easterly airstream, originating from a high pressure system centred beyond eastern Europe, temperature records were not the only ones broken, as the county also enjoyed a deluge of passerines on the move … and a lot more as the week unfolded.
With a passing nod to the female Ruddy Shelduck at Hollowell Res and the eclipse drake Garganey at Stanford Res – both still present on 25th – there was far more happening in and around our reservoirs to capture the imagination and demand attention.
Even the six Cattle Egrets still at Stanwick GP now seem like part of the furniture. There seems little doubt they will soon assume Great Egret status, talking of which there were up to four around this week, including two at Summer Leys LNR on 30th, one on and off at Pitsford Res, plus one at Stanford on 28th.
A far better week for Ospreys kicked off with three north of Pitsford causeway on 25th, followed by another there on 29th and singles at Thrapston GP on 25th, flying south over Byfield on the same date, flying west over Summer Leys and south over Kettering on 26th and east over Stanford on 28th.
After the shorebird doldrums of the last review period, a much-improved picture on the wader front saw an Avocet at Pitsford, briefly on 26th and a Black-tailed Godwit over the causeway there on the same date. Another Black-tailed Godwit visited Hollowell on 25th and two Turnstones included one flying south-west over Stanwick on 26th and a smart, scaly juvenile on Pitsford dam on 29th-30th.
At Stanford, four Ruffs flew south-west without stopping on 28th and the fourth Spotted Redshank of the autumn arrived at Hollowell on 25th but, like the previous three, it had departed by the following day.
With six together, also at Hollowell on 25th, the arrival of Greenshanks was more encouraging this week, with up to four at Stanford on 28th and 29th, three at Pitsford and two still at Hollowell also on 29th and one at Summer Leys from 25th until the week’s end.
Summer Leys also featured with two elegant Wood Sandpipers for one day on 25th, followed by another there on 30th.
The bank holiday weather system provided ideal conditions for picking up a rare tern or two and a much need boost for those who managed to connect. Aside from a lingering juvenile Little Tern at Boddington Res, between 25th and 27th, it quickly became clear on 24th that a substantial movement of Black Terns was underway.
The first four appeared at Stanford, early doors, quickly followed by the discovery of at least ten off the dam at Pitsford and five at Boddington, where four more arrived two days later, on 26th. These birds formed just a small part of a national movement involving hundreds, if not thousands, across south and east England. Beyond the county line, an impressive ninety-six were counted at Farmoor Res in Oxfordshire, for example. How many did we miss? Adding a little more spice to the mix, single Sandwich Terns flew through at Pitsford on 24th and at both Ravensthorpe Res and Stanwick the following day.
Overshadowed by terns, gulls were again low in numbers, the best of which was a petite and crisply marked juvenile Little Gull that hung around long enough to be photographed at Summer Leys on 28th, vanishing late in the day, only to reappear briefly the following morning.
Just one Mediterranean Gull – an adult – was on the sailing club pontoon at Pitsford on 24th, two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Stanwick on the same date and an adult Yellow-legged was around Boddington on 26th and 27th. Last week’s second calendar year Caspian Gull from Ravensthorpe put in a brief appearance at nearby Hollowell on 25th.
But it was passerines that really stole the show – and not just the rare ones to boot. The Stanford Ringing Group had its work cut out simply trying to keep up with the seemingly incessant deluge of birds piling into its nets during a multi record-breaking eight-hour session on 24th (read about it here), which included processing 163 Blackcaps, 143 Whitethroats and 70 Reed Warblers, to name but a few. Along with these, six Common Redstarts were also trapped and ringed and the site continued to host small numbers of this species daily, with a peak count of eleven – nine of which were trapped and ringed – on 27th. Common Redstarts were also found at four other localities, peak counts of which were four at Harrington AF on 25th-26th, three at Twywell Hills and Dales on 30th, at least two in the Blueberry Farm area of Brampton Valley on 28th and singles at Sywell CP on 24th and Borough Hill on 26th. For an overview of the autumn’s extensive passage, so far, see here.
Whinchats were also far more numerous than the preceding week. Last week’s four were still at Blueberry Farm until 25th, with at least one remaining until 28th, Stanford produced three on 24th and one on 27th, two were at Borough Hill on 25th-26th, up to two were at Harrington AF between 24th and 27th, three were found at Sywell CP on 29th (two on 30th) and two at Twywell Hills and Dales on 30th and singles at Fawsley Park on 25th, near Lamport on 26th and at Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) on 30th.
Up, too, in numbers were Northern Wheatears – most of them found in the same areas as the aforementioned Common Redstarts and Whinchats. In the Brampton Valley up to three were in the Blueberry Farm area between 24th and 28th, Harrington AF attracted at least two between 24th and 29th, two were near Lamport on 26th and singles were found in Broughton on 24th and at Stanford Res (trapped) on the same date, a male was at Borough Hill on 25th with a second bird there on 26th and singles visited Pitsford Res on 27th and Glapthorn on 29th.
Reflecting the relatively heavy passage on the east coast, Pied Flycatchers put on their best show for many years (if not ever) with four appearing. Singles were found at both Stanford Res and Deenethorpe on 24th, one was at Duston (Northampton) on 26th and another was discovered with a roving tit flock at Brixworth CP on 29th. Tree Pipits, too, continued to be logged in numbers higher than usual, with 24th producing two in the Brampton Valley and singles at both Pitsford and Stanford, while one was found at Borough Hill the following day, on 25th. Perhaps next week will be a little quieter …