Rarity Round-up, 12th to 18th October 2019

The weather remained largely unsettled, with heavy rain and sporadic showers, backed by blustery south to south-westerly winds during the early part of the week. The period’s highlight was a Yellow-browed Warbler, trapped and ringed … where else other than at Stanford Reservoir.

Last week’s adult Whooper Swan was present all week at Thrapston GP, where hopefully it will remain for the winter. Also remaining – though highly mobile – was at least one Ruddy Shelduck, a female having been seen at Foxholes Fisheries (Crick) on 12th and it seems likely this was the same individual seen briefly at Stanford Res later the same day and again at Ravensthorpe Res on 18th.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 12th October 2019 (Joan Chaplin)

A juvenile drake Red-crested Pochard visited Clifford Hill GP on 12th and two were present there on 15th but it was Pitsford Res which produced the best diving ducks this week, with a juvenile Greater Scaup on 13th followed by five Common Scoters two days later, on 15th. Unfortunately, this was the best we could manage during a week when, just over the county boundary in Leicestershire, Rutland Water pulled in a fine drake Lesser Scaup. Spitting distance from Northants, again, as we remain the only Midlands county to have missed out on adding this species to our list. One day, maybe, one day …

Common Scoters, Pitsford Res, 15th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Up to six Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick throughout, as did up to two Great Egrets with more of the latter including singles at Ditchford GP, Thrapston and Summer Leys, Two at Pitsford and three at Stanford. On 17th, Stanford also produced a Marsh Harrier, which drifted away toward the reservoir’s namesake, Stanford on Avon, in the latter half of the morning.

Great Egret, Stanwick GP, 17th October 2019 (Steve Fisher)

Wader-wise, it was again slim pickings, which consisted of a late Whimbrel flying west over Grafton Regis on 15th and a Ruff at Stanwick the following day, on 16th.

With most of them long gone, any report of a Common Sandpiper at this time of the year is guaranteed to quicken the pulse. How well was it seen? Spotted Sandpiper ruled out? So, the chances of the late example of the aforementioned Common, which turned up on the dam at Pitsford on 17th, being one of the latter surely had to be higher than normal. But no such luck. Well, this is Northamptonshire, don’t forget and, just like Lesser Scaup, we’re still owed one – big time!

And so to gulls, with Mediterranean Gull topping the bill and kicking off with a first-winter on land cleared for housing at Upton Park (Northampton) on 12th and an adult in the roost at Boddington Res on the same date, plus a second-winter there on 18th. The roost off the sailing club at Pitsford then produced an adult and a second-winter on 13th, a second-winter on 16th, an adult again on 17th and an adult plus a first-winter on 18th, while the maximum counts of Yellow-legged Gulls were nine in the roost at Pitsford on 16th and six at Boddington on 12th and 18th. Surprisingly, last week’s juvenile Arctic Tern lingered, still being at Hollowell Res on 16th.

Thanks to the IOC, ‘new order’ raptors appeared in the shape of a Merlin or two – at Harrington AF on 16th and 18th.

Once again, those hallowed nets of the Stanford Ringing Group delivered Northamptonshire’s fourteenth Yellow-browed Warbler on 12th. With more than four hundred on the east coast during the past week (and six hundred the week before that) it came as no real surprise – especially when the group’s track record is taken into consideration.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 12th October 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

With Northern Willow Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Dusky Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Siberian Lesser Whitethroat all ‘back of the net’ in recent years, the group is almost duty-bound to trap the obligatory Yellow-browed every year. This one is their fifth (including one at nearby Naseby Res) in addition to one which managed to avoid the nets altogether in October 2016!

Ring Ouzel, Stanford Res, 14th October 2019 (Chris Hubbard)
Ring Ouzel, Stanford Res, 14th October 2019 (Steve Nichols)

Also at Stanford, a Ring Ouzel was discovered near the dam on 15th, remaining there until the next day, when one was also found in a Spratton garden.

Male Stonechat, Brampton Valley, 12th October 2019 (Angus Molyneux)

Stonechat numbers dwindled to ones and twos at Stanford Res, Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley, while what seems highly likely to be the last Northern Wheatear was the bird lingering on the dam at Pitsford Res from last week until 15th.

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