Newsround – 12th to 25th September 2020

A short-lived ‘Indian Summer’ extended into the second half of this two-week period before giving way to a northerly airstream, culminating in lower than average temperatures and gales. The good fortune of the Stanford Ringing Group continued with another Wryneck and a Yellow-browed Warbler. It was – and probably still is – on a roll …

Present throughout the period but clearly taking an awayday, the female Ruddy Shelduck visited Foxholes Fisheries at Crick on 22nd before returning to its now favoured locality of Ravensthorpe Res later on the same day.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 17th September (Ant Hall)

Meanwhile, heading up the wildfowl cast proper, single Garganeys were found at Hollowell Res on 12th, Daventry CP on 18th and at Pitsford Res on 18th-19th, while the female Red-crested Pochard remained at the latter site until 14th.

Garganey, Pitsford Res, 19th September 2020 (Angus Molyneux)

Continuing this year’s Spoonbill rush, another put in a brief appearance, sharing the shoreline with two Great Egrets at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 15th.

Spoonbill, Ditchford GP, 15th September 2020 (Tony Vials)

And yes, they made it – Cattle Egrets hit double figures – a new Northamptonshire record count for the species was made at the Stanwick roost, where at least ten were present, early in the morning on 23rd. Numbers here varied daily throughout the period but up to five visited nearby Ditchford/Irthlingborough  between 12th and 15th.

Cattle Egret, Irthlingborough, 15th September 2020 (Mike Alibone)
Cattle Egrets, Stanwick GP, 19th September 2020 (Mark Tyrrell)
Cattle Egrets, Stanwick GP, 19th September 2020 (Mark Tyrrell)
Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 21st September 2020 (Mike Fink)

Great Egrets remained well-scattered over seven sites, with Pitsford producing the maximum count of five on 17th and 22nd.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 18th September 2020 (Tony Stanford)

Just three raptors during the period included an Osprey over Ditchford/IL&M on 19th, a ‘ringtail’ harrier sp., believed to be a Hen Harrier, at Lilbourne Meadows LNR on 13th and a Marsh Harrier at Stanwick, intermittently throughout. The latter sported red wing-tags, enabling it to be identified as a young female from a brood of four (one female, three males) raised at Thorpe Marshes, near Beccles, Suffolk. This is the first sighting since it was tagged on 7th June 2020.

Juvenile female Marsh Harrier, Stanwick GP, 19th September 2020 (Mark Tyrrell)
Juvenile female Marsh Harrier, Ditchford GP, 19th September 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Waders bounced back a little, with two Ruffs at Pitsford on 22nd and one at Stanwick on 25th and the star of the wader movement so far this autumn, a juvenile Little Stint, at Hollowell between 18th and 20th. In fact, it’s likely to be the only one in the county in 2020 …

Juvenile Little Stint with Dunlins, Hollowell Res, 18th September 2020 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Little Stint, Hollowell Res, 19th September 2020 (Jon Cook)

A juvenile Wood Sandpiper dropped into Summer Leys late on 22nd, remaining until the following morning, while single Greenshanks visited Pitsford on 12th, Naseby Res on 15th and two were at Earls Barton GP on 16th.

Juvenile Wood Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd September 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

No new species were added to the gull list when compared with the last period. Single first-winter Mediterranean Gulls visited Summer Leys on 19th and Stanwick on 21st, where an adult Caspian Gull was found on 18th. It, or another, had been at nearby Ditchford GP/IL&M on 13th. Meanwhile, Yellow-legged Gulls were to be had at Earls Barton, Pitsford, Stanwick and Thrapston, with Stanwick producing the highest total of seven on 18th. One more Merlin appeared during the period, this time at Harrington AF on 19th.

Adult Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 18th September 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Meanwhile, the Stanford Ringing Group was on a roll, trapping its second Wryneck of the autumn on 14th, followed by a Yellow-browed Warbler on 22nd. The latter was the 6th trapped and ringed by the group and is only the 15th Northants record. The SRG’s amazing run continues, with more autumn glory to come, no doubt – and we’re not talking evergreen shrubs here …

Wryneck, Stanford Res, 14th September 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

Normally associated with late autumn, the third Black Redstart of the season was found on 20th, obligingly remaining in place until 22nd, at the easily accessible location of Borough Hill. The latter locality also produced Common Redstarts on 15th and 20th, while one was at Stanford on 12th and two remained at Harrington AF between 13th and 17th.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 21st September 2020 (Dave Smith)
Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 21st September 2020 (Dave Smith)

Just four Whinchats were found as we approached closer toward the end of September. These included singles at Braunston on 13th, Wicksteed Water Meadows (Kettering) on 14th, Borough Hill on 20th and Corby on 21st-22nd, while the number of Stonechats ramped up, with records from Borough Hill, Clifford Hill GP, Corby, Geddington, Harrington, Hollowell and Twywell Hills & Dales, including a maximum of at least nine at Borough Hill on 20th.

Whinchat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 22nd September 2020 (James Underwood)
Stonechat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 22nd September 2020 (James Underwood)

Northern Wheatear numbers fell to only four individuals: one trapped and ringed at Stanford on 12th, a different bird there on 14th and singles at both Borough Hill and Harrington on 21st.

Northern Wheatear, Stanford Res, 14th September 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

Which leaves only Crossbills, albeit in smaller numbers than in previous weeks, with Wakerley Great Wood holding six on 14th and two on 19th.



Newsround, 5th to 11th September 2020

The westerly airflow continued this week, which remained largely dry, with temperatures depressed in the early part. Shags lingered at two localities, one of which also produced a sixth county record …

In fact, there was little change afoot across the board, including the almost inert Pink-footed Goose and the female Ruddy Shelduck, now part of the fixtures and fittings in the Hollowell/Ravensthorpe area, where they were still present on 9th. Apart from this dodgy duo, a female Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res from 7th to 10th was the only other wildfowl of note.  

Following previous recent occurrences, another Spoonbill was reported during the week, this one flying west over Billing Garden Centre, adjacent to Billing GP, early doors on 8th. It was not relocated. Encouragingly, Cattle Egret numbers jumped to a record nine roosting at Stanwick GP on 9th and 11th, five of which were seen below nearby Irthlingborough Church on the first of these two dates. Just one more gets us to double-figures … Fairly well nailed-down and with no more than three at any one location, Great Egrets maintained a presence at Hollowell, Pitsford and Summer Leys throughout and one flew over Oundle on 10th.

Meanwhile, Shags hung on at two localities, although their numbers dwindled further with the death of one of the Stanford two on 7th, the other remaining until 11th. At Pitsford, three birds appeared to have decreased to one by 8th, after which there were no further reports from the site.

Juvenile Shag, Pitsford, Res, 6th September (James Underwood)
Juvenile Shag, Pitsford, Res, 8th September (Mike Alibone)

On the raptor front, Ospreys were seen at both Thrapston GP and Stanford on 5th and one – a juvenile – was seen flying over the Brampton Valley below Brixworth the following day, while 11th saw Marsh Harriers at both Stanford and Stanwick.

Juvenile Ruff, Clifford Hill GP, 7th September 2020 (Doug Goddard)

 Waders were, again, seemingly on the wane, with two Ruffs briefly at Earls Barton GP on 6th, a juvenile at Clifford Hill GP on 7th and two juveniles at Hollowell Res on 8th. A Greenshank visited Ditchford GP on 8th and up to three were at Earls Barton GP from 8th to 10th – a pretty poor show for a species that used to be a common autumn migrant.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Welford Res, 8th September 2020 (Mike Alibone)

There was also little change regarding gulls this week, with three first-winter Mediterranean Gulls at Daventry CP on 7th and an adult at Welford Res the following day, while a juvenile Caspian Gull appeared in the roost at Boddington Res on 7th and an adult visited Stanwick GP on 9th. Yellow-legged Gull numbers were down on last week – back into single figures, in fact – the highest number at any of this week’s seven localities being eight at Stanwick on 9th. Elsewhere, five were in the roost at Boddington on 7th, up to three were at Pitsford throughout the period and the same number at DIRFT 3 on 5th, while singles visited Thrapston GP on 5th, Daventry on 7th and Ringstead GP on 11th.

Adult Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 9th September 2020 (Steve Fisher)

The male Merlin in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, was seen again on 10th and a female/juvenile visited Stanford on 9th.

Passerine passage continued unabated, which brings us neatly to ‘bird of the week’ – at least for a privileged, though well deserved, few – a juvenile Marsh Warbler trapped and ringed by the hard-working ringing group at Stanford on 10th. This represents only the 6th record for the county, three of which have been in the last three years. The smart money will be on the group trapping a monster rare as autumn further unfolds over the next few weeks …

Juvenile Marsh Warbler, Stanford Res, 10th September 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

The SRG also trapped and ringed five Common Redstarts on the same date, while the highest single locality day-count this week was six at Harrington AF on 5th, with up to four remaining there until 9th. Elsewhere, two remained between Walgrave and Old on 6th and singles were found between Shutlanger and Stoke Bruerne on 9th and at Preston Deanery the following day.

Common Redstart, Harrington AF, 6th September (James Underwood)

Back at Stanford, three Whinchats were present on 5th, one of which was trapped and ringed, representing only the fifth ever to be ringed there. Elsewhere, up to two were in the Brampton Valley between 8th and 10th and singles were found near Glapthorn Cow Pasture on 5th, at Chelveston AF on 6th and at Harrington AF on 9th.

Juvenile Whinchat, Stanford Res, 5th September 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

A single Stonechat was in the Brampton Valley on 10th. With records from five localities, Northern Wheatear numbers were up on last week, although all reports were of singles, apart from two at Borough Hill on 7th. One was at Stanford from 6th to 11th, another at Harrington between 6th and 9th, one visited Pitsford on 6th and another was found at Harpole on the same date.

The early autumn has so far proven generous with Tree Pipits, three more of which were seen this week, including singles over Higham Ferrers and at Chelveston on 6th and over Harrington the following day. Just when we thought Crossbill numbers were dwindling, they bounced back, with the northern woodlands producing the highest numbers of the year so far. These included around forty at the much favour’d locality of Wakerley Great Wood on 7th and thirty-two at nearby Fineshade Wood on 10th. Elsewhere, ten flew over Newnham on 9th and three were over Kettering on 10th.

Stanford nets another Marsh Warbler

With the Stanford Ringing Group going full pelt this autumn, it was odds on that, after the Wryneck trapped and ringed recently, something else high calibre would find its way into the ringers’ nets sooner or later. In this case, it was sooner, as a juvenile Marsh Warbler was processed there this morning after being trapped near the feeding station at 10.00.

It had a wing of 68mm which is 2-3mm longer than average Reed and a notch which is measured on P2, which fell at 9mm, which is short for a Reed Warbler. It also had a bill to feathers measurement of 12mm which is shorter than Reed with it being wider at the base too indicates Marsh (SRG).

Many thanks to Chris Hubbard for the above images and to Theo from the SRG for information.

This is the 6th record for Northamptonshire and the third in the last three years, with Stanford remaining a firm favourite for occurrences (see here and here).

It’s not quite mid-September and it’s really quite frightening to think what lies ahead for the group during the next eight weeks! Said recently to be a bumper year for them in Finland, Red-flanked Bluetail, perhaps …

Rarity Round-up, 29th August to 4th September 2020

Winds took on a northerly vector for the first half of the period, before moving round to deliver milder south-westerlies off the Atlantic. This appeared to have little effect on migrants, of which there were many, although Shags still dominated the news this week.

Both the Pink-footed Goose and the female Ruddy Shelduck continued to put in sporadic appearances at Hollowell Res, the latter site producing a new Garganey on 4th. Elsewhere, single Garganeys were at Pitsford Res on 29th and 3rd, Clifford Hill GP on 31st and at Summer Leys LNR the following day.

Having recently acquired a reputation for appearing at any time of the year, an example of the former winter visitor, going by the Norfolk name of ‘Brown Harnser’ – more commonly known as Bittern – was seen on the scrape at Summer Leys on 2nd, before melting away again. It’s anyone’s guess if this is a new bird or the individual which was present there in the spring, or even the one that has occasionally put in appearances further down the valley at Stanwick GP. The latter site maintained its exclusivity for hosting Cattle Egrets, which were seen there daily, with a maximum of six on 29th. Stanwick, along with Hollowell, also produced the week’s maximum site count of three Great Egrets, while up to two were seen at both Pitsford and Summer Leys throughout and one visited Thorpe Malsor Res on 1st.

Another week, another Shag. The juvenile which roosted at Stanford Res on 29th was joined by another on 31st, both birds remaining until the week’s end, while the mobile Pitsford trio joined forces mid-week, residing on the causeway and obligingly allowing close approach for anyone willing to chance his, or her, arm with a camera.

Juvenile Shag, Stanford Res, 30th August 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

Juvenile Shag, Pitsford Res, 31st August 2020 (Clive Bowley)

Juvenile Shags, Pitsford Res, 2nd September 2020 (Alan Coles)

Raptors this week were at a low ebb, with just two sites producing Ospreys. An adult flew south-east over Moulton Grange Bay at Pitsford on 3rd and it, or another, was seen north of the causeway there some four hours later. The following day, another was fishing at Hollowell before flying off east. Conceivably, all sightings could relate to just one individual.

Waders, too, were poorly represented during the period but then local wetland mud is at a premium this year. Two Bar-tailed Godwits – unusual in autumn – flew west over the dam at Stanford on 29th, while the same date produced a Greenshank at Stanwick, followed by further singles at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 30th and Summer Leys on 1st.

Gulls, however, were on a par with last week, with juvenile Mediterranean Gulls at Daventry CP on 29th and at Pitsford the following day, while the latter site produced an adult on 3rd. Caspian Gulls appeared at three localities, DIRFT 3 industrial development hosting a second-winter on 1st, Hollowell producing a second-summer on 3rd and Daventry delivering a juvenile the next day. This, then, just leaves Yellow-legged Gull, a species well represented during the period with, aside from the two or three fixtures at Pitsford, higher counts than we have seen of late. Priors Hall Quarry at Corby amassed approximately thirty-five on 30th, the same date on which Ringstead GP saw a gathering of fourteen on Kinewell Lake. Nearby Stanwick held twenty-one on 2nd and nine on 3rd, with the latter date producing two at DIRFT 3 and a single adult at Hollowell. Making in onto the list for the second week running, a juvenile Black Tern visited Pitsford on the evening of 3rd.

Yellow-legged Gull, probably fourth-winter, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 3rd September 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Two species out on a limb, insomuch as they were a tad earlier than is usual, were a Short-eared Owl at Harrington AF from 29th to 1st and a male Merlin in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, on 3rd.

In another busy week for passerines, Pied Flycatchers were reported from Braunston on 31st and Lamport on 1st, while Common Redstarts maintained a strong presence in what is likely to go down as the best autumn on record for this species.

Common Redstart, Priors Hall, 30th August 2020 (James Underwood)

Once again, the Stanford Ringing Group was on to a good thing, with seven trapped and ringed during the period, while ringers at Harrington trapped and ringed two on 1st after three or four had been present there the previous day. Elsewhere, at least three were still between Walgrave and Old on 31st, three were at Lamport on 2nd and between one and two were seen during the week at Ashby St Ledgers, Borough Hill, Fawsley Park, Priors Hall and Twywell Hills & Dales. In an about-turn from last week, Whinchat numbers were up, with four at both Stanford Res and in the Brampton Valley on 31st and singles at Stanwick on 29th and 31st, Ditchford on 30th, Hollowell on 31st, 1st and 3rd, Borough Hill on 31st, Clifford Hill GP on 2nd, Bozeat GP on 3rd and Preston Deanery on 4th. By contrast, Northern Wheatears proved to be scarce, with singles at Hollowell Res on 31st and Stanford Res on 4th.

Northern Wheatear, Hollowell Res, 31st August 2020 (Jon Cook)

Still moving through, a Tree Pipit was trapped and ringed at Harrington on 1st and singles were seen in flight over Hanging Houghton on 2nd and Brackley on 4th, while back in the limelight – to a certain extent – at least fifteen Crossbills were still in Bucknell Wood on 2nd and four flew west over Harrington the following day.