If a week is a long time in politics then two weeks is an even longer time – not just double – when it comes to autumn birding. For the major part of the duration, the weather was dry and temperatures were unseasonally high, hitting the mid-twenties. Winds were largely westerly, alternating between the addition of northerly and southerly components, before swinging a decisive south-easterly at the end of the period. While wader numbers tailed off, passerine migrants maintained their prominence at a number of favoured localities.
In terms of species, there was no change to the wildfowl line-up but some local movements saw Hollowell’s long-staying female Ruddy Shelduck up and go on 14th, only to pitch down again a little further north, at Stanford Res, where it remained until at least 18th. Curiously, during this time it was joined there by a male on 16th-17th. Two Garganeys paid a brief visit to Thrapston GP on 14th, another was on the scrape at Summer Leys on 20th, while Thrapston hosted up to three Red-crested Pochards between 10th and 16th and another Red-crested Pochard visited Clifford Hill GP between 15th and 18th.
Numbers of Cattle Egrets at Stanwick GP ranged between one on 9th and six on 19th, while up to two Great Egrets were at both Summer Leys LNR and Pitsford Res throughout and one was seen at Ravensthorpe Res on 17th.
On 16th, two Slavonian Grebes were found at Clifford Hill GP in a rare, short-lived period of overcast and drizzly conditions. In keeping with their congener’s one-day appearances so far this autumn they had gone by the following day.
On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier was in the Brampton Valley on 11th and the number of Ospreys fell to just two – one at Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and the other over Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on 11th, the latter date also producing a male Merlin at Easton-on-the-Hill.
Wader numbers dwindled during the period to a single Ruff at Stanwick between 9th and 11th and Greenshanks at four localities, which included up to three at Hollowell Res between 7th and 14th, two at Pitsford on 7th with one there on 13th, up to two at Boddington Res between 8th and 11th and one at Summer Leys from 9th to 13th.
A juvenile Black Tern at Boddington was the only one of its kind during the period and the same site produced a second-winter Mediterranean Gull on 17th, while single first-winters dropped into Daventry CP on 9th and 17th. Daventry also produced a juvenile Caspian Gull on 16th and an adult visited Hollowell on 7th. Yellow-legged Gulls were found at eight sites with maximum counts of ten-plus at Stanwick on 9th and 8 at Thrapston on 14th.
Northamptonshire has enjoyed a great autumn for passerine migrants and again there was no shortage during the review period. It’s been a real ‘Pied Flycatcher autumn’ and they just keep coming, although all of this period’s remained elusive. One was found at Borough Hill on 7th before promptly vanishing and it, or another, (re)appeared there in exactly the same place, three days later, on 10th. Another at Naseby Res, on 12th, also disappeared within minutes of being found.
Common Redstarts maintained a presence with five at Borough Hill on 7th being the maximum site tally. Elsewhere, singles were at Twywell on 8th, Harrington AF on 10th, 13th 18th and 19th (the latter trapped and ringed), two were at Stanford Res on 14th with one there on 17th and two were at Hockerhill Farm, Wilby – also on 17th.
Whinchats were also still very much in evidence, with up to three at Borough Hill on 7th-8th, up to three in the Brampton Valley between 8th and 17th, two at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon and two at Ditchford GP’s IL&M on 7th, up to two at Harrington AF between 10th and 19th and singles at Thrapston GP on 7th and at Stanford Res on 14th – the latter trapped and ringed.
The first migrant Stonechats of the autumn also arrived during the period. Singles were at Harrington AF on 10th and 19th, three were at Stanford Res on 14th with one remaining the next day, two were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 17th and two at Summer Leys the following day and singles were found at Milton Malsor on 17th, Wicksteed Water Meadows, Kettering on 17th and 20th and at both Thrapston GP and Borough Hill on 19th.
Northern Wheatears continued to trickle through, with singles at Hollowell Res on 7th and 14th, Harrington AF on 10th and 13th, Orlingbury on 13th, Clifford Hill GP on 15th-16th, in the Brampton Valley on 17th and at Borough Hill on 19th.
Rarely identified in autumn, for some reason, a White Wagtail was found at Boddington Res on 7th and on the same date, single Tree Pipits flew over Borough Hill and Croughton Quarry.