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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.