Newsround – 31st October to 6th November 2020

The long-established south-westerly airstream was dispensed with mid-week by a high pressure system, bringing clearer skies and a swing to the south-east, which saw the autumn’s first frost on 4th – a date which produced some cracking fireworks of the birding kind …

Predictably, Hollowell Res hung on to its Pink-footed Goose flock, well, six of them at least and the female Ruddy Shelduck remained there until 4th. Two more Pink-footed Geese paid a brief visit to Summer Leys LNR, also on 4th.

Pink-footed Geese, Hollowell Res, 1st November 2020 (Jon Cook)

Red-crested Pochards extended the number of visited localities from last week’s three to four, with Pitsford’s fifteen still present on 2nd, up to four at Summer Leys on 2nd-3rd, a drake at Hollowell on 4th and a female at Stortons GP on 5th, while a first-winter Greater Scaup was discovered off the dam at Pitsford on the same date.

Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 2nd November 2020 (Bob Bullock)
First-winter Greater Scaup, Pitsford Res, 31st October 2020 (Angus Molyneux)

But the fireworks kicked off a day early for one gobsmacked observer. Yes, Glossy Ibis steals the show once more, making the news for the second week running. Not five, this time – just one is all it takes and this particular one flew low over St. James, Northampton, before landing momentarily on a house roof, from which it quickly took flight after being attacked by two Carrion Crows. That was on 4th. Bizarre! Described as looking weak and sickly, it flew off low, appearing to be struggling to gain height. Look out for next week’s, then …

In what is now the new normal, up to eight Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick throughout, while Great Egrets were seen at seven localities, with the highest count being just three, at Hollowell, on 4th.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 2nd November 2020 (Bob Bullock)

With all the early autumn ones long gone, that peculiar sense of déjà vu must have crept into the minds of birders at Stanford Res when they notched up another Shag there on 3rd. Said to have been seen the day before, it had certainly gone by the day after.

Juvenile Shag, Stanford Res, 3rd November 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

With the only sighting last week of the wandering, red wing-tagged juvenile female Marsh Harrier being Summer Leys on 26th, she was back there and being seen daily from 31st to 3rd but by the following day, 4th, she had clearly developed itchy wings and left the confines of the Nene Valley, being seen hunting over fields near Preston Deanery before heading high south-east toward Salcey Forest. The last goodbye, perhaps.

Juvenile female Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd November 2020 (Paul Lawrence)

Further in-flight entertainment this week came in the shape of a Hoopoe, with views snatched briefly near Christie’s Copse, in Pitsford’s Walgrave Bay, on 5th. The last in the county was at Ditchford GP on a more typical date in May 2019 but late autumn birds are not without precedent.

Another splash of seasonal colour was provided by a nine-strong flock of Bearded Tits, initially picked up flying over Summer Leys Main Lake on 4th. They crossed the road and pitched down in the corner of Earls Barton GP’s Reedbed Pit, before flying off high south-west. Birders elsewhere duly jumped on the beardie bandwagon and two were found the next day at Stortons GP, when another was heard calling from reeds near Pioneer Hide, back at Summer Leys.

The flames of autumn continued to burn, however, as a Firecrest was found at Byfield Pool on 31st and another was trapped and ringed at Stanford on 4th, only the seventh ever to be ringed by the group there.

Firecrest, Stanford Res, 4th November 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

And then there were Stonechats, with records from nine sites this week.


Following which were the seed-crunchers – two Hawfinches at a ‘private site’ near Tansor on 4th and an array of Crossbills, with thirteen flying west over Pitsford, also on 4th and two at Hollowell on the same date. Elsewhere, singles flew south-west over Hanging Houghton on 5th, west over Scaldwell on 6th and again at Hollowell on the same date. Autumn, it seems, is far from over.

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