Rarity Round-up, 27th July to 2nd August 2019

With the previous week’s heat ebbing away, the country became under the influence of something more readily associated with British summertime: rain. The first two days saw plenty of it and the weather system responsible also had a dramatic effect on migrants, with many appearing far earlier than is normal.

While acknowledging the continued presence of the first-summer female Ruddy Shelduck at Hollowell Res, this week there were other ducks on offer to dazzle and delight … perhaps. Stanford’s eclipse drake Garganey remained throughout and this species’ ranks were swelled further by the discovery of first one, then two, then three on Titchmarsh LNR at Thrapston GP before the week was out.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Stanford Res, 31st July 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Pitsford’s two drake Red-crested Pochards were still in situ at the northern end on 1st-2nd but south of the causeway up to five drake Common Scoters were found on 28th – perhaps associated with the adverse weather conditions prevailing on that date.

Looking as if they are now on the verge of vacating their nest at Ringstead GP, the four juvenile Cattle Egrets were showing a little more bravado, crashing around in the bushes of their island home, while the three adults continued to feed at nearby Stanwick. Meanwhile, a Great Egret was present again at Pitsford on 2nd.

Cattle Egrets, Ringstead GP, 29th July 2019 (Mark Tyrrell)
Four juvenile Cattle Egrets, Ringstead GP, 29th July 2019 (Mark Tyrrell)

Back on the menu for early autumn, this week saw two Marsh Harriers in the county, one of which was mobile around the Brixworth/Brampton Valley area between 27th and 31st, while the other was at Stanford Res on 29th-30th. Meanwhile, single Ospreys continued to visit Hollowell on 27th and Pitsford on 30th and 1st-2nd.

But for birds susceptible to weather not conducive to overland migration, the grim conditions of the first two days resulted in some remarkably early and scarce species appearing this week. Waders were the first to fall foul and beyond a Black-tailed Godwit visiting at Stanwick on 27th and 2nd, single Whimbrels appeared there on 28th, at Pitsford on 30th and at Hollowell on 31st. A Sanderling was found at Summer Leys LNR on 28th, another visited Stanwick on the same date and a Ruff was also at Stanwick on the following day. Chief prize among this week’s waders, though, were two juvenile Spotted Redshanks, both of which were incredibly short staying. One dropped into Summer Leys on the evening of 30th and the other was discovered at Stanwick, early in the morning of 1st, before apparently moving on in haste.

Juvenile Spotted Redshank, Summer Leys LNR, 30th July 2019 (Ricky Sinfield)

A sprinkling of Greenshanks included singles at both Summer Leys and Ditchford IL&M on 28th, one at Ravensthorpe Res on 31st and at nearby Hollowell on 1st-2nd. A Wood Sandpiper was discovered at Thrapston GP on 27th. While the date is not unusual, the isolation of the record is, as it occurred during an enormous nationwide influx, which included treble-figure counts on the east coast and many birds penetrating far inland. There should have been many more in Northants but it was not to be. Although not in the same league, also noteworthy is the unusually high number of Common Sandpipers which passed through during the week, with Hollowell producing a remarkable twenty on 1st.

And so to the other weather-related arrivals – more specifically, Arctic Terns. Made up of small groups, at least forty of them came through between 28th and 31st, with all but two of these on 28th. What is amazing, however, is that this number included several juveniles, which do not normally occur before September at the earliest. In fact, the occurrence of juvenile Arctic Terns in Northamptonshire in July is probably unprecedented. Location totals for 28th comprise seventeen at Thrapston GP, eleven at Stanford Res, five at Stanwick, at least three at Clifford Hill GP and two at Pitsford. Single juveniles were at Pitsford on 30th and Summer Leys on 31st. Early Black Terns appeared at the same time and on 28th included one at Summer Leys and two at Stanwick, followed by one at the latter locality the next day.

The first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the autumn was found at Summer Leys on 29th, while numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls continued to rise, with site maxima of ten at Stanwick, five at both Pitsford and Ravensthorpe and singles at Thrapston and Hollowell. This early autumn build-up also came with added Caspian Gulls – a third-summer at Stanwick and an adult at Ravensthorpe on 30th, followed by a first-summer at the latter site on 2nd.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 29th July 2016 (Steve Fisher)
Third-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 30th July 2019 (Steve Fisher)

Aside from the autumn’s first Tree Pipit, at Harrington AF on 2nd, there have already been higher than usual numbers of migrant Common Redstarts so far in July and even more were added to the tally during the period. It’s difficult to know if their occurrence was weather-related but it must have at least been an influencing factor to some degree. Up to two were in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area throughout the week, two were at Upper Boddington on 30th, up to three were at Twywell Hills & Dales on 1st-2nd, a juvenile male was at Yardley Chase between 28th and 1st and singles were at Summer Leys on 29th and at Harrington AF between 29th and 31st.

Juvenile male Common Redstart, Denton Wood, 1st August 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

The Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area also produced up to two Whinchats between 28th and 2nd and four Common Crossbills – presumably fly-overs – on the latter date.

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