Rarity Round-up, 25th to 31st July 2020

In a week of contrast, weatherwise, the Northampton districts of Duston and Moulton were subjected to a fast-moving Tornado on 25th – the same day that weather warnings for rain and thunder were in place for southern parts of England. Subsequent heavy showers duly gave way to more settled conditions and a change in wind direction from westerly to southerly, dragging in hot air from the continent, which resulted in local temperatures reaching 35°C at the week’s end. Stanford and Summer Leys experienced their own tornado in the shape of a Caspian Tern, which swept in – and out again – in little more than the blink of an eye.

Following its brief visit to a rather full Ravensthorpe Res on 29th, the female Ruddy Shelduck returned to the more appealing shorelines of Hollowell Res, remaining there until the week’s end. Again, the only other wildfowl of note during the period were the Pitsford Res Red-crested Pochards, seemingly down once more to two on 26th and one on 29th-30th.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 29th July 2020 (Linda Honeybourne)

Meanwhile, the run of Spoonbills continued with a 35-minute drop-in appearance of an adult at Hollowell on 29th and another (or the same) reported at Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake the following day. Arguably, then, as common as Cattle Egrets this week, with only singles of the latter seen flying east at Stanwick GP on 26th and on the ground there on 31st …

Adult Spoonbill, Hollowell Res, 29th July 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Had it not been for two Great Egrets at Blatherwycke Lake on 29th, the Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys chain of pits would have had the monopoly on this species, with at least three present there throughout the week.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Ospreys were seen on four dates, with Hollowell top of the locality leaderboard as usual. Two were present there on the morning of 26th and one again during the evening, followed by four (a juvenile and three adults) on 31st. Pitsford produced one on 26th and again the following day. Singles were also seen at Thrapston GP on 30th and Stanford Res on 31st. Last week’s juvenile Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys continued to be seen, on and off, throughout the week, as was the juvenile at Pitsford, mobile around the nature reserve, north of the causeway, while one visited Hollowell Res on 31st.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 31st July 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Pitsford Res, 31st July 2020 (Tony Stanford)

The period saw fewer waders than in previous weeks, with Black-tailed Godwit being the only species of note. Twelve were at Summer Leys on 26th and five visited Hollowell Res on 28th. One, at the first of these two sites, photographed distantly on 25th, showed the hallmarks of a continental limosa but the case remains far from proven …

On to gulls. Single juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were loafing at Daventry CP on 25th and at Hollowell on 29th, while one jointed a flock of Black-headed Gulls feeding on flying ants over Wellingborough the following day. Last week’s second/third-summer Caspian Gull was still at Stanwick on 26th, when the maximum count of eleven Yellow-legged Gulls was also made there. Elsewhere, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was at Clifford Hill GP on 26th-27th, a second-summer at Hollowell on 28th, when an adult was also at Pitsford, followed by a third-summer there on 30th and two at Thrapston GP on the same date.

This week’s star, however, was the mighty Caspian Tern which flew east over Stanford Res at 07.50 on 26th, before turning up two and a half hours later, on the scrape at Summer Leys. It remained at the latter site for all of eight minutes and then it was gone …

Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (David Wright)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)

Pure speculation is that it’s the same individual that had already visited Stanford on 31st May and has been doing the rounds in the UK ever since, in the same manner as the 2017 Summer Leys/Clifford Hill bird. Either way, it’s the sixth or seventh county record, a great find and a fantastic bird for the lucky few who were in the right places at the right times.

Caspian Tern: assumed movements through Northamptonshire and the UK 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

Completely overshadowed, an adult Arctic Tern was at Pitsford on the unusual date of 29th.

Another nice find was a Nightjar, stumbled upon by the Stanford Ringing Group, along the old railway track at Stanford Res, early in the morning of 30th. The last Nightjar at this site was in 2016.

To passerines proper … and 28th saw the week’s only Common Redstart – an adult male – between Whilton and Little Brington and a male Whinchat at Hollowell, while the autumn’s first Northern Wheatear was found at Deenethorpe AF on 26th.

Male Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 29th July 2020 (Jon Cook)
Northern Wheatear, Deenethorpe AF, 26th July 2020 (James Underwood)

Beyond this meagre sprinkling, Crossbills remained very much in evidence with at least twenty still in Bucknell Wood on 26th-28th, eight over Upper Harlestone on 28th and six still in Wakerley Great Wood on 30th. However, the reporting rate on BirdTrack has fallen back to the historical average in the last week, suggesting this year’s influx has now lost momentum.

Rarity Round-up, 18th to 24th July 2020

The persisting westerly airstream continued to deliver light winds with occasional showers in the early part of the period, appearing to have little influence on birds turning up locally. Spoonbills and Crossbills were flavours of the week.

Languishing in infamy, the female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Hollowell Res throughout and, at Pitsford Res, two Red-crested Pochards reappearing on 19th had become four by 23rd.

Just the one of two long-staying juvenile Black-necked Grebes on the main lake at Summer Leys narrowly made it into the week, being seen on 18th but not subsequently.

Last week’s Spoonbill, seen in fading light at Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 17th, materialised the following morning on Summer Leys’ scrape, where it performed well for all comers until its departure, just prior to midday. On 20th, it, or another, was found just before dusk – again at Hardwater Lake. One was also seen circling high above Pitsford Res, before drifting west, on 23rd.

Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Dan Beaman)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Dan Beaman)

Eliciting far less excitement these days, Cattle Egrets continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were four on 18th and three on 24th. Given their presence in the county over the last two years, it would be tempting to change their status from ‘vagrant’ to ‘scarce resident’. Meanwhile, aside from singles at Hollowell on 19th and over Oundle Marina the following day, the focus for Great Egrets this week was the Earls Barton/Summer Leys complex, where up to three were seen, on and off, throughout.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

On the raptor front, Ospreys bounced back with Hollowell producing three different individuals, including female ‘30’ from Rutland Water, all on 22nd. Two were at Pitsford on 23rd and singles were seen at Hollowell on 19th and 23rd, Thrapston GP on 21st and over Harrington AF on 22nd. Marsh Harriers were seen briefly at Stanford Res on 19th, Earls Barton on 22nd and Summer Leys on 24th.

Female Osprey, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2020 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 24th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Waders continued to trickle through, Stanford Res holding on to the best, with a Wood Sandpiper there briefly on 19th and two Whimbrels over on 23rd, while Black-tailed Godwits were limited to thirteen at Stanwick on 19th and the same number at Summer Ley the following day, when four were also seen over at Pitsford.

Third-summer Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 23rd July 2020 (Mike Alibone)
Second- or third-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 24th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick became the focus for gulls this week, with three Mediterranean Gulls (two adults and a first-summer) on 18th and three juveniles on 24th, plus a second/third-summer Caspian Gull on 23rd-24th. The late summer build-up of Yellow-legged Gulls now underway there, included at least twenty-two on 23rd. Elsewhere, single Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hollowell on 19th and at Pitsford on 18th-19th, with two there on 20th and three on 23rd.

Juvenile Black Redstart, ‘North Northamptonshire’, 17th July 2020 (Matt Jackson)

Belated news of a juvenile Black Redstart at a ‘private site’ (the latter-day euphemism for ‘site withheld’) in north Northamptonshire on 17th was an unusual July record, to say the least and local breeding not ruled out. Common Redstarts, however, were still very much in evidence, with the long-staying male at Harrington AF all week, a female or juvenile there on 20th-21st and another female/juvenile at Twywell Hills & Dales on 23rd. The autumn’s first Whinchat, a juvenile, appeared at Stanford on 20th, with a juvenile Stonechat there on the same date but it was Crossbills which dominated the passerine division this week as the national influx continued. Wakerley Great Wood saw the greatest numbers, which included at least forty on 18th and up to ten on 21st, while Bucknell Wood held twenty-one on 18th, at least ten on 20th and four on 21st.

Crossbills, Wakerley Great Wood, 21st July 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 18th July 2020 (James Underwood)

On the latter date, four or five were at Pitsford Res and fly-over singles were seen near Harry’s Park Wood on 18th, Eastfield Park (Wellingborough) on 22nd and East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 24th.

Rarity Round-up, 11th to 17th July 2020

A predominantly westerly airstream delivered a mixed bag of sunshine, showers and low to average temperatures this week. As so often happens, the biggest and best birds were seen by only a lucky handful of people.

Stealing the wildfowl limelight exclusively this week, the female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Hollowell Res throughout and, while we may never know its origins, it would still seem reasonable to believe there is a chance it originates from the well-established European feral population. It would appear that the BOURC will be reviewing a recently submitted dossier on Ruddy Shelduck occurrence in recent years, given the meteoric rise in numbers of the Dutch moulting population and consequent ‘temporal mirroring’ along the English coast. Elevation to category C5 of the British list is surely overdue however, to date, the BOURC’s counterargument has been that “Ruddy Shelduck is commonly and widely kept in captivity in the UK and abroad, of which many birds escape annually (usually after the summer moult when keepers fail to round up all birds for pinioning) – so admission for a species with such a large captive population with frequent escapes is always problematic.” We’ll see.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 14th July 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Far less controversial were the two long-staying juvenile Black-necked Grebes on the main lake at Summer Leys, which continued to be seen until 14th, after which only one remained.

However, quickly dipping toes back into contentious waters, this week’s ‘bird of the week’ was White Stork, three of which were seen circling over Long Buckby at 09.00 on 13th, before gaining height and drifting off west. Their origin is, of course, unknown. The birds from the Knepp reintroduction scheme appeared to be still in place at the time, while three flying south-west over Worplesdon, Surrey, on 7th, may account for the Long Buckby trio. There have been approximately twenty-three previous records, the most recent of which were in 2007, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

White Storks, Long Buckby, 13th July 2020 (Cate)
White Storks, Long Buckby, 13th July 2020 (Cate)

Runner-up to the above was a fine adult Spoonbill, found at the eleventh hour in Wader Bay at Summer Leys on 17th. It quickly hopped across the road to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake, where it stayed into the fading light, allowing a handful of birders to catch up with it before darkness finally fell.

Adult Spoonbill, Earls Barton GP, 17th July 2020 (Matt Hazleton)

Back down to earth somewhat, Cattle Egrets were seen at Stanwick GP three days running: an adult and a juvenile on 14th, an adult on 15th and two adults on 16th. A Great Egret visited Stanford Res on 12th and two were there on 16th, with further duos at Earls Barton GP on 13th and Stanwick on 16th.

Meanwhile, Ospreys were down to just one at Pitsford Res on 13th-14th – the lowest weekly total for quite some time.

Mirroring last week in terms of waders, single Whimbrels flew south-west at Stanwick GP on consecutive days, 15th and 16th, the second of these being on the ground briefly before taking to the air. The latter date saw a Black-tailed Godwit at the same site and one at Pitsford Res, while five were at Summer Leys on 11th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 11th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

A juvenile Little Gull flew east at Clifford Hill GP on 11th, while the Yellow-legged Gull count comprised two at Pitsford on 14th and one at Stanwick on 15th-16th. For the second week running, the county saw a Little Tern – this one lingering long enough to be photographed, at Stanwick, on 14th.

Little Tern, Stanwick GP, 14th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)
Little Tern, Stanwick GP, 14th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Passerines maintained their foothold in this week’s report with the long-staying male Common Redstart at Harrington AF all week, last week’s three – including one male – near Brockhall until 14th and another male at Pitsford on 16th. The autumn’s first Stonechat, a juvenile, appeared at Stanford on 14th and Crossbills continued to feature, with singles at Hollowell on 11th, Denton Wood on 13th and over Brackley on 17th, while at least ten were still at Wakerley Great Wood on 11th and six remained at Bucknell Wood on 15th.

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 11th July (Bob Bullock)

Rarity Round-up, 4th to 10th July 2020

Last week’s unsettled conditions continued and again the influence was mainly from the west. Common Crane and Black-necked Grebe were the period’s headliners.

There was no change to the wildfowl line-up, with the female Ruddy Shelduck apparently ensconced at Hollowell Res, while the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard remained at Pitsford Res until at least 5th.

Lacking the splendour of adult finery but making up for it in a generous length of stay, two juvenile Black-necked Grebes were found on the main lake at Summer Leys on 6th, remaining on view there throughout the rest of the period. July records are exceedingly rare for this species in Northamptonshire.

Juvenile Black-necked Grebes, Summer Leys LNR, 6th July 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Just along the Nene Valley, Stanwick GP’s Bittern showed again briefly on 4th, while up to four Cattle Egrets – three adults and a juvenile – were present there between 6th and 9th while, continuing their summer run this year, Great Egrets were at Stanford Res on 9th and up to two were again at Hollowell Res on 4th-5th.

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 8th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Hollowell also continued to produce fishing Ospreys, where there were singles on 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th, while singles were over Harrington AF on 4th, Pitsford on 5th, Thrapston GP on 9th and Deene Lake on 10th.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 6th July 2020 (Jon Cook)

Fast gaining a reputation for becoming suburban fly-overs, 2 Common Cranes were seen heading south-west over Duston (Northampton) on 7th. Now with three similar reports so far this year, it’s worth noting the last ones on the ground were two at Stanford Res, briefly, on 9th April 2017.

Hot on the heels of the autumn’s first, last week, five more Whimbrels flew south-west at Stanford on 10th, while Black-tailed Godwits continued to move through in numbers, with up to twenty-four Icelandic race birds at Summer Leys on 6th, when eight also visited Pitsford. Eight flew south at Clifford Hill GP on 7th, three visited Earls Barton GP on 8th and nine dropped into Summer Leys on 10th. There were no other waders of note but it’s still early days.

The Mediterranean Gull count at Stanwick peaked with five, including three adults, on 4th but it all went downhill from thereon, with just one adult present on 9th. An adult also visited Stanford on 6th. Other loafing larids were a third-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 4th, the second-summer still at Hollowell on the same date and an adult there the following day. Surprisingly, a Little Tern flew straight through at Stanford on 6th.

Last week’s male Common Redstart remained at Harrington all week, another male appeared at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on 8th and a male plus two female/juveniles were found near Brockhall on 10th.

Male Common Redstart, Foxholes Fisheries, 8th July 2020 (Joan Chaplin)

Crossbill numbers picked up again this week with Bucknell Wood producing more than twenty, Wakerley Great Wood a dozen, Thrapston GP three and Weldon and Hollowell singles. This is the best time to catch up with one …

Crossbills, Bucknell Wood, 7th July 2020 (Tony Vials)

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)

Female Crossbill, probably first-summer, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)

Male Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)



Rarity Round-up, 27th June to 3rd July 2020

Atlantic low pressure systems dominated the week’s weather, bringing rain and generally unsettled conditions on a mainly south-westerly airstream, while return wader passage gathered pace …

This week, the female Ruddy Shelduck appeared settled throughout at Hollowell Res, with other new wildfowl be represented only by a female Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res on 29th and a drake there on 3rd.

Continuing the trend in summer records, a Bittern was found at Stanwick GP on 3rd – no doubt a reflection of the recent significant increase in the UK’s breeding population.

Bittern, Stanwick GP, 3rd July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Up to four juvenile Cattle Egrets remained at Ringstead GP, visited sporadically by the adults, both of which were seen feeding around the main lake at adjacent Stanwick GP, while the only Great Egrets this week were fly-over singles at Stanford Res on 27th, 30th and 1st and one still at Hollowell Res on 1st-3rd.

Adult Cattle Egret, Ringstead GP, 29th June 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Ringstead GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Hollowell also continued to hold fishing Ospreys, where there were singles on 28th and 29th, with the nearby localities of Pitsford and Harrington AF producing fly-overs on 27th and 30th, respectively, with one fishing at the first of these two sites on 3rd.

On the wader front, the first Whimbrel of ‘autumn’ flew south at Pitsford on 3rd but it was the usual summer spill of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits moving back south through the county which made up the bulk of the week’s waders.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Stanwick GP, 2nd July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

On 27th, twelve were at Stanwick and one visited Summer Leys LNR, followed by two at the latter locality on 30th. The 2nd, though, saw a flock of approximately forty drop into Stanwick GP for some 35 minutes before continuing their journey south, with the same day seeing five at nearby Ditchford GP and one, plus three more, at Summer Leys. Singles then visited Pitsford, Stanwick and Summer Leys the following day, with the latter site producing a Greenshank on 27th.

Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 27th June 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)

Following last week’s news of Mediterranean Gulls successfully breeding at Stanwick, two adults and two juveniles remained there throughout the period, becoming more mobile around the site by the week’s end. Three Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford Res on 27th with one again on 3rd, while the second-summer remained at Hollowell until at least 1st.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Passerines rarely feature in June-July, so an early migrant male Common Redstart at Harrington from 28th until 3rd was a bonus following a spring in which few were recorded. Crossbills continued to be seen, although in much smaller numbers compared with last week’s influx. Five flew south-west at Stanwick on 27th, two were in pines at Hollowell on 29th and four were seen heading south-west over Stanford Res on 2nd.