Rarity Round-up, 30th May to 5th June 2020

Meteorological spring went out with a bang, the last day producing the county’s 6th Caspian Tern. So, too, did the weather and by the end of the week high pressure, high temperatures and an easterly airstream had all given way to cool northerlies and showers.

There were no reports of Clifford Hill GP’s Pink-footed Goose beyond 31st, while Stanwick GP’s drake Garganey remained until at least 2nd and one/two drakes were still frequenting Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP on 3rd with at least one remaining on 5th. New in this week were two Greater Scaups at Daventry CP on 1st, surprisingly remaining on site until at least 4th.

June is generally recognised as being the month for Quail and, right on cue, a male was singing in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, on the evening of 1st, remaining in situ early the following morning. This species appears to be increasingly difficult to catch up with locally, despite being recently identified as now in partial recovery following a protracted period of population decline. It is estimated that there are 540 singing males in the UK in summer (RSPB).

Stanwick continued to host Cattle Egrets with four present on 31st and again on 5th, while a Great Egret remained at Thrapston GP on 30th and one flew over Stanford Res on 3rd.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 1st June 2020 (Steve Fisher)

On the raptor front, the week belonged to Ospreys. Seven localities featured – some more frequently than others. The reservoirs fared well, with Pitsford hosting singles on 30th, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, Stanford produced singles on 31st and 1st plus two on 2nd, while Cransley and Hollowell logged one a piece on 2nd and 3rd respectively. One also flew north over Harrington AF on 2nd and in the east of the county, two drifted north over Barnwell CP on 3rd and singles visited Thrapston GP/Thorpe Waterville on 31st and 2nd. The first of these Thrapston birds wore a blue ring bearing the inscription ‘S1’ in white and it transpired it was a male which had been ringed as a chick at the Manton Bay nest at Rutland Water on 30th June 2015.

Male Osprey, Thorpe Waterville, 31st May 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Further information reveals ‘S1’ first returned to the UK in 2017 and was seen at Poole Harbour and also Rutland Water that summer. It was subsequently satellite-tagged on 9th August 2018 at a site in Rutland. This has since provided valuable data on the bird’s local movements and annual migration to an island off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.

Male Osprey, Thorpe Waterville, 31st May 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

This spring it left Guinea-Bissau on 8th March and arrived back in Rutland on 4th April. It has subsequently established a new territory in Rutland but has also been ranging widely in the local area. The satellite data show that ‘S1’ isn’t a frequent visitor to the Thrapston area and so other recent sightings – mainly from Elinor Trout Lake – clearly refer to one or more different birds. There are several unattached males in the Rutland Water area and these individuals often range widely on a day-to-day basis (Tim Mackrill, RDWF). Also in the Nene Valley, a Marsh Harrier flew north-east at Summer Leys on 31st.

With the wader passage all but over, a Sanderling paid the briefest of visits to Boddington Res on 5th and an ‘unseasonal’ Green Sandpiper – perhaps an early autumn migrant – at Cransley Res on 2nd, was worthy of mention.

June is not normally recognised as a prime month for gulls, so an adult Mediterranean Gull flying over Wellingborough on 3rd, a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on the same date and an adult at Daventry CP on 5th were about par for the course. Both were largely of no consequence in comparison to the star of the week, though, the magnificent Caspian Tern, which flew over Stanford Res on 31st – sadly without stopping.

Caspian Tern, Stanford Res, 31st May 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

This, the 6th record for Northamptonshire, appeared at a time of other sightings of this species in the UK, with one visiting four sites in Hampshire later the same day and it, or another (a Swedish-ringed adult) at Saltholme, Cleveland during the evening of 3rd.

Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 1st June 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Somewhat overshadowed by the above but in a spring of few records, two Black Terns spent the evening at Summer Leys on 1st. Hopefully more will appear in the autumn.

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