Rarity Round-up, 8th to 14th August 2020

Another week of high temperatures, peaking at 33°C on 12th, saw a continental airstream which resulted in north-easterlies for much of the period. Highlights were limited to the first 2020 records of Turnstone and Wood Warbler – but it could have been oh so different if a certain wader had played ball …

Hollowell Res – arguably the place to be during August – continued to prove attractive to birds and birders alike, hanging on to much of the previous week’s fare, including its somewhat dodgy Pink-footed Goose. Déjà vu and the only other noteworthy wildfowl during the period were again Red-crested Pochards, with Pitsford Res harbouring three eclipse drakes and a female/juvenile on 9th.

Numbers of Great Egrets continued to increase, Summer Leys/Earls Barton GP again topping the locality leaderboard with numbers fluctuating daily and a maximum of five on 8th. Elsewhere, three visited Hollowell on 14th, up to two were seen at Pitsford throughout, and singles were at Stanwick GP on 10th and 14th.

Great Egrets, Summer Leys LNR, 8th August 2020 (Paul Crotty)

Back on form, Hollowell produced the most Ospreys with twos on 8th and 11th and one on 12th, while Stanford Res hosted one on 8th and 9th and one was at Stanwick on 14th. Meanwhile, Stanford produced its fourth Marsh Harrier of the year, a juvenile, on 10th.

Osprey, male ‘T3’ from Rutland, fledged 2016, Hollowell Res, 12th August 2020 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Stanford Res, 10th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

But it’s back to Hollowell, where this week’s drama unfolds, with a fly-over adult Pacific Golden Plover, early on 9th. Light conditions put paid to the possibility of clinching that all-important underwing as the bird continued over high west, calling … and the call was spot-on! No view of the underwing, no sound recording and, therefore, no acceptance by the BBRC. It’s a life-haunting moment. Ouch. With PGPs in Suffolk, Northumberland, Donegal, Clare and a possible in Kent it’s clearly in the zone – and stirs memories of July 2013, when one was just up the road at Rutland Water, details of which are here.

Potential patch gold aside, in a week when Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake stole the thunder from Summer Leys, there were other waders to be had. Let’s face it, as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, any waders in the county are good these days, now that the acres of autumn mud are no longer exposed and long, long gone from Pitsford, as the water authority is obliged to maintain high water levels to service the overpopulated mess we now find ourselves living in …

So, the pick of fourteen wader species to be found in the county this week starts with Whimbrel – four fly-overs at Hollowell on 10th and one over Harlestone Heath on 13th. Two Black-tailed Godwits again put in a brief appearance at Summer Leys on 14th and the first Turnstone of 2020 – a juvenile – paid an all-too-brief visit to Stanwick on the same date.

Juvenile male Ruff, Earls Barton GP, 13th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)

The aforementioned Hardwater Lake attracted two Ruffs between 12th and 14th, the latter date panning out to be a good wader day under leaden skies, with misty and drizzly conditions also bringing Sanderlings to three localities – one at each of Stanwick and Boddington Res and at least nine at Pitsford, all of which visited the dam at some point beyond midday.

Adult Sanderling, Pitsford Res, 14th August 2020 (Nick Parker)
Adult Sanderling, Pitsford Res, 14th August 2020 (Nick Parker)

Back at Hardwater, things had warmed up nicely with two Wood Sandpipers playing centre stage between 9th and 14th and up to three Greenshanks during the same period. One or two of the latter hopped across the road to Summer Leys scrape on occasions. The only other Greenshanks were at Hollowell on 12th and at Clifford Hill GP on 14th.

Wood Sandpipers (adult, left and juvenile), Earls Barton GP, 13th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Greenshank, Hollowell Res, 12th August 2020 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 13th August 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)

Unsurprisingly, there was little change on the gull front. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull dropped into Daventry CP on 13th and the regular second-summer Caspian Gull was still present at Hollowell throughout but Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at five localities, which included single juveniles at Hardwater Lake on 11th, Summer Leys on 13th and Clifford Hill on 14th, while two juveniles were at Daventry CP on 13th and one or two adults were seen at Pitsford, on and off, throughout. A little earlier than usually expected, a juvenile Arctic Tern spent most of the day at Summer Leys on 14th. 

This week saw passerine migration stepping up out of second gear, with a Northern Willow Warbler trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 8th. This is only the fifth record of this subspecies, acredula, for the county, all previous records have come from the mist nets of Stanford, the last being in 2018.

Northern Willow Warbler, Stanford Res, 8th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

The same site also produced the first Wood Warbler in 2020, the following day and staying with Stanford, three Common Redstarts were there on 8th, while up to two were still at Harrington AF on 11th.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 8th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)
Male Common Redstart, Harrington AF, 11th August 2020 (David Arden)

Elsewhere, up to three Whinchats were at Chelveston AF between 10th and 12th and a Northern Wheatear was at Clifford Hill GP on 14th.

A trickle of Crossbills continued but that’s all it was, with singles – all fly-overs – at Hollowell on 9th and 10th, Weldon on 10th, Brackley on 12th and two over Harrington AF on 11th.

2 thoughts on “Rarity Round-up, 8th to 14th August 2020

  1. Hi, Yesterday (17.08.2020) in our garden I saw this very unusual bird which I decided was a Wood Warbler but paler, (almost washed out in the wash!); then I saw your photo of the Northern Willow Warbler, I am 99% sure we had 2 or 3 feeding with blue tits and a flock of long tailed tits on our Hawthorn tree in Wootton (NN4) Northampton, I got my binoculars out so saw it closely but didn’t have a camera handy. I expect you’ll say …. “very unlikely!”

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Hi, Yesterday (17.08.2020) in our garden I saw this very unusual bird which I decided was a Wood Warbler but paler, (almost washed out in the wash!); then I saw your photo of the Northern Willow Warbler, I am 99% sure we had 2 or 3 feeding with blue tits and a flock of long tailed tits on our Hawthorn tree in Wootton (NN4) Northampton, I got my binoculars out so saw it closely but didn’t have a camera handy. I expect you’ll say …. “very unlikely!”

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