Rarity Round-up, 15th to 21st August 2020

With the heatwave over and temperatures 10°C lower than last week’s peak, a mixed bag of weather – backed principally by a southerly airstream – culminated in unseasonal gale-force winds at the end of the period. While wetland species continued to dominate, passerines proliferated and included the appearance of the first Pied Flycatchers of 2020.

More wildfowl were on the menu than during last week and while the Pink-footed Goose and female Ruddy Shelduck both continued to divide their time between the reservoirs of Hollowell and Ravensthorpe, the autumn’s first Garganey was found at Clifford Hill GP on 16th and two more appeared at Pitsford Res on 21st.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 16th August 2020 (John Nottingham)
Garganeys, Pitsford Res, 21st August 2020 (Adrian Borley)

At least four Red-crested Pochards were still present at the latter locality on 17th and a drake Common Scoter made a one-day stopover at Daventry CP on 15th.

With no reports last week, Cattle Egrets were again back in the picture at Stanwick GP, where one was seen on 16th, followed by four on 18th. Numbers of Great Egrets again continued to increase, with six localities each hosting between one and three birds, among which was a building development site at Cranford Road in Kettering.

Ospreys were also reported from six sites with, unsurprisingly, Hollowell producing the most, including three on 15th. Elsewhere, singles were at Pitsford on 16th, 17th and 20th, in flight, east, between Lamport and Maidwell on 16th, at Naseby Res on 19th and over Harrington AF on 21st, while a juvenile lingered at Fawsley Park Lake between 18th and 21st. The latter also date saw a juvenile Marsh Harrier flying south over Harrington.

Juvenile Osprey, Fawsley Park, 18th August 2020 (Linda Honeybourne)

This week’s top waders were limited to the same species as last week’s, albeit at different localities. Just one Whimbrel – again a fly-over – graced the skies above Boddington Res on 16th, while Black-tailed Godwits half returned to form with the 15th seeing one at Stanwick, three at Hollowell and eight at Ditchford GP and the following day producing one at Hollowell and four at Ditchford. Turnstones were again in the frame with two smart adults spending a day on the dam at Pitsford on 16th, which also held a Sanderling on 15th-16th.

Adult Turnstones, Pitsford Res, 16th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Turnstone, Pitsford Res, 16th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Sanderling Pitsford Res, 15th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)

A sprinkling of Ruffs was confined to the Nene Valley, where one remained at Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake between 15th and 19th, two visited Clifford Hill GP on 18th and one was at Summer Leys on 21st. One of last week’s Wood Sandpipers made it into this week, remaining at Hardwater Lake until 15th, the same site retaining up to two Greenshanks until 19th. Elsewhere, singles visited Ditchford GP and Pitsford Res on 16th and one was on the Cranford Road development site in Kettering on 21st.

Things were looking up on the gull front when a Little Gull dropped into Boddington Res on 16th, the same site producing a juvenile Mediterranean Gull on 20th. Further juvenile Meds were to be found on 15th, when one was at Daventry CP and two visited Pitsford, the latter site holding another on 21st, the day after one appeared at Ravensthorpe.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st August 2020 (Adrian Borley)
Juvenile Caspian Gull, Pitsford Res, 21st August 2020 (Adrian Borley)

The regular second-summer Caspian Gull remained at Hollowell until at least 15th, while a smart juvenile was on show at Pitsford on 21st but numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls remained low, with Pitsford hanging on to its two long-staying adults throughout. Elsewhere, an adult visited Ditchford GP on 15th, two juveniles were at Daventry CP on 18th, a second-summer was at Boddington on 20th and one was found at Harrington on 21st.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull Pitsford Res, 16th August 2020 (Bob Bullock)

Another autumn ‘first’ was a Black Tern briefly at Stanford before flying west, early on 17th – the same date upon which three were seen off the dam at Pitsford, while a juvenile appeared at Hollowell the following day.

Juvenile Black Tern, Hollowell Res, 18th August 2020 (Jon Cook)

Said to have been hundreds on the east coast this week, it would have been almost inconceivable not to have had any Pied Flycatchers occurring locally. Sure enough, they came. Four of them. But those thinking they were in with a chance of connecting with one of this quartet were to be disappointed … The first was trapped and ringed at Stanford on 15th, immediately doing a bunk after its release. The second was at Borough Hill on 20th but would-be observers found precise site information concerning its whereabouts woefully lacking – those making the on spec trip there leaving empty-handed. The third, at Yardley Chase on 21st, was in a private woodland and the fourth was also said to be ‘on private land’. Say no more. There is still time for another …

Pied Flycatcher, Stanford Res, 15th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

The ‘private land’ theme continued with the discovery of a juvenile Black Redstart near Byfield on 16th – the second of the autumn so far, these individuals occurring much earlier than normal, i.e. outside the expected October time window.

Juvenile Black Redstart, Byfield, 16th August 2020 (Gary Pullan)

Meanwhile, Common Redstarts were widespread, with at least six localities delivering, including one trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 15th, up to three at Harrington between 15th and 21st, the same number at Hellidon on 17th and at least four between Walgrave and Old on 20th, while singles were found at both Borough Hill and Hollowell Res on the same date.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 15th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)
Common Redstart, Hollowell Res, 20th August 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Following records from just one site last week, Whinchats rose to prominence during the period, the star locality being Borough Hill, where there were five on 18th, nine on 20th and two on 21st. Other favoured localities were Pitsford Res, Hellidon and Ditchford GP, each producing singles on 16th, 17th and 20th respectively, while two were at Harrington on 17th.

Whinchat, Borough Hill, 18th August 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Not to be outdone, Stonechats put in a token appearance, with up to two at Hellidon on 16th-17th, while Northern Wheatear numbers were up on last week, with one still at Clifford Hill GP on 16th, followed by four there two days later, on 18th. Elsewhere, singles were at Hellidon on 20th and at Borough Hill on 20th-21st.

Northern Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 19th August 2020 (Ant Hall)

Tree Pipits and late August is the prime time these days for this long-lost county breeder, now reduced to scarce migrant status. Borough Hill laid claim to the lion’s share with four on 20th, while singles flew over the Brampton Valley at Brixworth on 18th and Hanging Houghton the following day. Crossbill numbers dwindled further with just three in flight at Harlestone Heath on 15th and two over Kentle Wood (Daventry) on 20th. It appears this species is now on the brink of slipping back to its scarce, pre-influx status …

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