Newsround – 3rd to 9th October 2020

Backed by Atlantic westerlies, heavy rain was the order of the first part of the week, leaving its mark in the form of floodwater in many lowland areas. Temperatures dropped to below average and with the arrival of the first Whooper Swans, the county took another step closer toward winter …

In fact, this week’s wildfowl line-up took on a whole new identity with a distinctly coastal feel as five Dark-bellied Brent Geese touched down at Clifford Hill GP on 4th and an adult Whooper Swan arrived at Stanwick GP on 3rd, before quickly moving off east. Four more adults arrived at Summer Leys LNR on the afternoon of 7th but had departed by the following morning.

Adult Whooper Swan, Stanwick GP, 3rd October 2020 (Steve Fisher)
Adult Whooper Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 7th October 2020 (Mark Tyrrell)
Adult Whooper Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 7th October 2020 (Paul Crotty)
Adult Whooper Swans, Summer Leys LNR, 7th October 2020 (Paul Crotty)

On 4th, it was clear that a sizeable movement of Common Scoters was taking place across the Midlands, with the landlocked counties of Derbyshire, Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire each enjoying a slice of the cake. In Northants, we, too, received our own share when a drake splashed down on the main lake at Stanwick and four were mobile north of the dam at Pitsford Res.

Varying numbers of Cattle Egrets remained throughout at Stanwick, where the highest total of nine left their roost site early on 4th, while no more than two Great Egrets were seen at each of Ditchford GP, Pitsford, Stanford Res, Stanwick and Summer Leys.

A minor resurgence of Ospreys occurred this week, with singles reported at Stanford on 4th and at both Hollowell Res and Kislingbury GP on 8th and, completing the raptor line-up, the wing-tagged juvenile female Marsh Harrier was again at Ditchford on 5th and at Stanwick the following day.

The smouldering embers of shorebird migration burst briefly back into flame as waders, too, made a bit of an unexpected comeback, including three species which have put in lower than average appearances in the county this year. Two Grey Plovers were found on floodwater in the River Tove valley, near Grafton Regis, on 8th but their stay on the Northants side of the river was brief before they quickly defected to more appealing habitat on the Bucks side. At the same site, on the same date, a flock of four Spotted Redshanks – multiples being a minor miracle locally, these days – flew east and pitched down in Buckinghamshire, although their stay there was similarly brief. Further scarce, short-stayers in less contentious locations were two single Knots, which arrived and departed on the afternoon of 3rd on Summer Leys scrape and Pitsford Res dam. Runners up were five Black-tailed Godwits in flight over Stanford Res on 9th, one and then two, Ruffs at Stanwick on 5th and 9th respectively – plus one at Summer Leys on 6th – and a Greenshank at Clifford Hill GP on 4th.

The scarcer gulls continued to be in short supply, with an adult Mediterranean Gull plus a Yellow-legged Gull in the roost at Stanford on 5th, up to three Yellow-legged Gulls at Pitsford on 3rd and a third-winter Caspian Gull at Stanwick on the same date.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 3rd October 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Turning to passerines, last week’s Borough Hill Black Redstart remained remarkably faithful to the eastern yard area and fenceline of the summit compound all week, the same location producing the period’s maximum tally of at least seven Stonechats on 9th, while between one and two of the latter were seen at Kettering, Stanford, Stanwick and Summer Leys, with the week’s only Northern Wheatear at Stanford on 5th.

Juvenile Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 7th October 2020 (Nick Truby)
Male Stonechat, Borough Hill, 7th October 2020 (David Smith)

Following two last week, another Rock Pipit paid an all too brief visit to the dam at Pitsford on 3rd, before being flushed. Sadly, the level of human disturbance in this area has increased significantly this year, making it far less appealing to birds and birders alike. Crossbills on the move this week included singles flying over Stanwick on 5th and 9th, five over Thrapston on 5th and one at Brookfield Plantation (Corby) on the same date.

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