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.

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