Rarity Round-up, 16th to 22nd May 2020

A balmy south to south-westerly airstream, a hot, dry week with local temperatures peaking at 26°C … and the county’s tenth Red-footed Falcon. What’s not to like?

Almost as unseasonal as the weather, a Pink-footed Goose showed up at Clifford Hill GP on 21st, although May records are not without precedent. More in keeping with the middle of May, however, were single drake Garganeys at Stanwick GP on 16th and at Summer Leys LNR between 16th and 18th, while the long-staying drake Red-crested Pochard remained at Stortons GP throughout the period.

Red-crested Pochard, Stortons GP, 19th May 2020 (Tony Stanford)

Following last week’s two, another wayward Cattle Egret was mobile around Earls Barton GP on 18th and again, may not have been one of our ‘locals’. Two which most certainly were, though, continued to be seen at Stanwick GP until at least 20th. Seemingly in no hurry to move on, two Great Egrets included singles still at Thrapston GP on 18th-22nd and at Summer Leys on 21st.

The ‘large raptor’ line-up during the period comprised an Osprey at Pitsford Res on 18th and two circling above the A5199 near Hollowell, two days later, on 20th, while single Marsh Harriers flew east over Spratton on 16th and over Summer Leys on 19th. But the early morning stars this week were at least two Common Cranes heard calling at in dawn’s early light, as they moved east of Irthlingborough, on 16th. With continued breeding in East Anglia and the growing population from the reintroduction scheme, The Great Crane Project, in southwest England, it is surprising we do not see more of this species locally.

‘Continental’ Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 13th May 2020 (Geoff Walker)

On the wader front, the only truly ‘new’ visitors this week were two Whimbrels, which arrived at Boddington Res and then moved to the field opposite the car park there on the morning of 18th. Last week’s nominate race ‘Continental’ Black-tailed Godwit, stayed in the Wader Bay at Summer Leys until 17th and the Wood Sandpiper remained at Ecton SF until at least 16th.

Wood Sandpiper, Ecton SF, 16th May 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Scarce gulls and terns were, unsurprisingly, in short supply at this late stage in the spring but Earls Barton GP mustered an adult Mediterranean Gull on 20th, while a Sandwich Tern spent all of five minutes prospecting Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake, before quickly moving on, early on 21st.

First-summer Red-footed Falcon, Ringstead GP, 16th May 2020 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Bird of the week, then? Or perhaps bird of the year, for some? That honour unquestionably fell to the first-summer male Red-footed Falcon which graced Ringstead GP’s Kinewell Lake for four days from 16th. This, the county’s tenth, put on a great display as it hawked low over the water, videoed shearing the surface by the finder, for the greater part of day one, after which it switched to a much higher aerial hunting mode. This bird was part of a handful of records in the UK at the time as the wider European breeding population returned from its African wintering grounds. Click on the map below to see both live and historical movements.

First-summer Red-footed Falcon, Ringstead GP, 16th May 2020 (Nick Parker, video grab)
Red-footed Falcon, European occurrences, 14th-20th May 2020 (Euro Bird Portal)

Out of a dearth of passerines emerged just one bird, a ‘Channel’ Wagtail at Boddington Res on 19th-21st. A welcome discovery during a spring in which Yellow Wagtails have been unusually scarce.

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