Rarity Round-up, 21st-27th March 2020

Sunshine and south-easterlies. With some rather nice weather conditions, conducive to migration, things took a turn for the worse halfway through the period as the coronavirus lockdown situation ensued, putting paid to most birders’ activities.

Hanging on in there until 22nd was Clifford Hill GP’s first-summer Dark-bellied Brent Goose, while Stanford Res’ nine Pink-footed Geese again entered Northamptonshire airspace briefly on 21st and 23rd. Back at Clifford Hill, the two drake Greater Scaups were still present on 23rd – at least one of which remained on 27th and the adult female was back at Stanwick GP on 22nd.

Clifford Hill also hung on to its two summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebes until at least 21st and on the same date, a Bittern was discovered at Stanford Res before quickly flying off into Leicestershire. Apart from two at Stanwick on 22nd, single Great Egrets were still to be found at Ditchford GP, Kislingbury GP, Pitsford Res, Stanford on Avon, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP

The year’s second Osprey was picked up heading over Bulwick on 21st and, for the second consecutive week, Avocets were again seen in the Nene Valley, when two were found at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 26th. Initially present on Dragonfly Lake, they moved to Townholme Meadow, where they were visible from a bedroom window in Irthlingborough – now there’s lockdown birding for you! They were still present the next day. Other notable passage waders included a Black-tailed Godwit at the same locality, a Knot at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd and a Ruff for a short time at Summer Leys the following day, while a Jack Snipe was at Boddington Res on 26th.

More Mediterranean Gulls this week were two adults on Mary’s Lake, Earls Barton GP on 25th but that was about it as far as gulls were concerned. Single Short-eared Owls were still in evidence at Borough Hill on 21st and near Stanford Res on 21st-23rd, while a Merlin flew north over Chipping Warden, early in the morning of 21st.

Bird of the week without a doubt, though, was a Hooded Crow seen in fields east of the track down to Elinor Trout Lake at Thrapston GP on the afternoon of 23rd. It didn’t linger, as is typical of local occurrences of this species and if accepted, it will be only the third in the county this century, the previous two being flyover singles at Alderton on 7th November 2018 and at Summer Leys on 28th March 2019.

Another ‘first’ for the year this week was a singing male Willow Warbler at Stortons GP on 22nd but it was ‘outsung’ by a something smaller, with more pulling power – a male Firecrest at Ravensthorpe Res on 21st, which delighted all who turned up to admire it, pre-lockdown, on 22nd.

Male Firecrest, Ravensthorpe Res, 21st March 2020 (Jon Cook)
Male Firecrest, Ravensthorpe Res, 22nd March 2020 (Angus Molyneux)
Male Firecrest, Ravensthorpe Res, 22nd March 2020 (Martin Swannell)
Male Firecrest, Ravensthorpe Res, 22nd March 2020 (Bob Bullock)

Meanwhile, following last week’s first, Northern Wheatears continued to pass through in small numbers with singles at both Borough Hill and Stanford Res on 21st, Clifford Hill GP on 21st-22nd and Wollaston STW on 23rd.

This is likely to be the last weekly report for some time – for obvious reasons – but for anyone able to travel safely, within government ruling, to local sites then please continue to share records.

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