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.

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