Newsround – 21st to 27th August 2021

A cool north-easterly airstream and a haul of passerine migrants characterised the week.   

In the battle to produce the most Garganeys, Stanwick GP came out on top, just two days into the period, with five on 22nd, otherwise it was between one and three birds there on a daily basis. Rival, Daventry CP, mustered two on 23rd-24th and singles on 22nd and 26th. Both of last week’s two Red-crested Pochards – the female at Stanford Res and the eclipse drake at Pitsford – made it into this week, with the drake still present on 21st and the female remaining throughout the period.

Appearing unsettled and fidgety, a Black necked Grebe – the first of the autumn – slid into Boddington Res on the evening of 25th. Unsurprisingly, it was nowhere to be seen the following day.

Cattle Egrets, Stanwick GP, 25th August 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Keeping up appearances, Cattle Egret numbers leapt to three, two adults and a juvenile, at Stanwick between 25th and 27th, the same site producing a Great Egret on 26th, followed by two there the next day. In a better showing than last week, this average white band appeared at three further sites – Hollowell Res, Pitsford (two) and Summer Leys LNR.   

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 26th August 2021 (Paul Crotty)

Thrapston GP produced the week’s only Osprey, an obligingly showy individual atop a pylon close to Elinor Trout Lake, on 23rd-24th. Other raptors were available and were represented by Marsh Harriers at Pitsford on 24th, Stanford on 25th-26th and Stanwick on 26th

Adult Osprey, Thrapston GP, 22nd August 2021 (Nick Parker)

Waders continued to trickle through at selective sites although, across the board, there has been virtually no further drop in local water levels conducive to producing decent numbers, or tempting long stays. Even Hollowell, normally with mud aplenty by late August, is disappointingly high. A Curlew flew east at Boddington Res on 22nd and two were at DIRFT 3 on 24th, while further large waders in the shape of Black-tailed Godwits appeared at Daventry on 26th, followed by three at Stanwick the next day.

Juvenile Knot, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd August 2021 (John Bass)

A juvenile Knot was found at Summer Leys on 22nd, remaining until the following day and up to two Ruffs were at the same site throughout, while two also paid a brief visit to DIRFT 3 on 22nd and one was at Pitsford Res on 26th.

Juvenile Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 27th August 2021 (Mark Tyrrell)

Last week’s Spotted Redshank remained at Daventry until 23rd, while three put in a frustratingly brief appearance at Summer Leys, before flying off, on 22nd and Greenshanks continued to remain scarce, with twos at Clifford Hill GP and Daventry on 23rd and 24th, respectively and one was at Stanwick on 27th.

The latter site was again the place to be for gulls, producing the autumn’s second-highest count of thirty-one Yellow-legged Gulls on 21st, with further double-figure counts of seventeen on 25th and ten on 26th. Two additional sites produced smaller numbers, including three at Pitsford Res on 22nd and two at DIRFT 3 on the same date, the latter found among the same loafing flock as a second-summer Caspian Gull on the same date. An adult Caspian also put in an appearance at Stanwick on 27th.  

In what has turned out to be a rather disappointing year, so far, for Black Terns, two juveniles were found at Clifford Hill on 22nd, with at least one remaining the following day.

On dry land, then … a Short-eared Owl was reported from the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton on 26th and a Merlin was seen between Farndon and Great Oxendon on 21st.

And we begin an eclectic mix of passerines with last week’s early Redwing still at Stanford on 23rd, this site also top of the leaderboard for Common Redstarts, which have been found at an impressive thirteen localities this week. Twelve birds were trapped and ringed at Stanford between 24th and 27th, while maximum counts of birds seen elsewhere are as follows: four at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, three or four at Braunston, threes at Harrington AF and at Stanford on Avon, twos at Duston and Honey Hill, one or two at Hinton AF, and singles at Hardingstone GP, Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, Stortons GP and Welford Res.

Male Common Redstart, Honey Hill, 22nd August 2021 (Jon Cook)
Common Redstart, Stortons GP, 23rd August 2021 (Tony Stanford)

Whinchats also picked up this week, with Harrington AF holding up to two between 22nd and 25th, two at Welford Res on 26th-27th, one trapped and ringed at Stanford on 25th, singles at Duston and Pitsford Res on 26th and one at Hinton AF on 27th.

Whinchat, Welford Res, 27th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Happily following suit, Northern Wheatears also stepped up to the mark, with twos in the Brampton Valley and at Hinton AF on 26th and 27th, respectively and singles at Blueberry Farm on 21st, Harrington AF on 22nd and 24th, near Boughton on 22nd, at Boddington Res, Duston and Quinton on 26th and at Welford Res on 27th.

Northern Wheatear, Welford Res, 27th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

And it wouldn’t be late August without the odd Tree Pipit or two, would it? Singles were reported in flight from Harrington AF and at Stanford – both on 24th

Newsround – 14th to 20th August 2021

The westerly airstream and associated unseasonally dull weather throughout the period likely had little or no bearing on the assortment of birds on offer this week and there were few – if any – surprises.   

Decidedly dodgy ducks or, more correctly, iffy wildfowl in general, included what is presumably the same Pink-footed Goose as the one at Pitsford Res back in June and July, fresh out of the woodwork at Ravensthorpe Res on 20th. And sharing a similarly suspect origin, as some would no doubt say, a female Ruddy Shelduck appeared at DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools on 19th. In fact, it is logical to assume this is the same returning individual as the one which favoured the north-west of the county and Hollowell Res in particular, from 29th May 2019 to 1st February 2020 and again from 7th June 2020 to 2nd February 2021. Where does it go from late winter to early summer? The UK status of this species is currently under review by the BOURC, so watch this space …

Female Ruddy Shelduck, DIRFT 3, 19th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Meanwhile, last week’s Garganey at Stanwick GP chalked up another seven days’ stay, remaining there until 20th, as did both of last week’s two Red-crested Pochards – the female at Stanford Res and the eclipse drake at Pitsford. Also at Stanwick, a one-day bird showing characteristics of Ferruginous Duck on 19th but it departed before any conclusive views were obtained … and a curt reminder not to forget the continued presence of the presumed Chiloe Wigeon x Crested Duck hybrid at Summer Leys LNR was provided when it popped up again at the reserve on 18th.

Presumed Chiloe Wigeon x Crested Duck hybrid, Summer Leys LNR, 17th August 2021 (Tony Stanford)

In a nod to conformity, a Cattle Egret put in an appearance at Stanwick on 16th, while the only Great Egrets this week were found at Pitsford, where up to four were present between 14th and 19th.  

This week’s raptors were limited to Marsh Harriers, with singles reported at both Harrington AF and Thrapston GP on 17th and in the Brampton Valley and south-west over Stanford on 20th.

With ideal wader habitat at a premium, this week’s crème de la crème was a juvenile Spotted Redshank which, having been found on 17th, saw out the remainder of the period at Daventry CP, while last week’s Wood Sandpiper at Stanwick remained until 16th. The latter time and place also produced the week’s only Greenshank and the only Black-tailed Godwits – two – were again at Stanwick on 14th. Single Curlews were also there on 16th and in flight over Stanford on 19th, when two also flew over Thrapston GP. Two sites produced Ruffs, with one at Pitsford on 17th and two at Summer Leys on 19th.

Juvenile Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 19th August 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Back to Stanwick, which was the place to be for this week’s Caspian Gulls. Single adults were present on 16th and 20th and a ‘near-adult’ was there on 16th, while a first-summer was found at DIRFT 3 on 14th. The latter site delivered the highest count of this week’s Yellow-legged Gulls, with fifteen there, also on 14th, followed by ten at Stanwick on 16th. Five other sites produced smaller numbers, ranging from one to four, at Corby, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe, Stanford and Thrapston, on and off, throughout.

Yellow-legged Gull, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 15th August 2021 (James Underwood)
Yellow-legged Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 15th August 2021 (Paul Crotty)

To kick off this week’s passerines, an early Redwing found itself in the photographic limelight at Stanford on 16th. This is the earliest ever to be logged in autumn in Northants, beating the previous record, two at Pitsford on 15th September 1990, by a clear month.  

Meanwhile, the autumn run of Common Redstarts continued, with an impressive nine sites producing at least eighteen birds. The most at any single locality was four at Stanford on Avon on 16th, while maxima at other sites comprised three at Harrington AF, at least two near Old, two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, two at Lilbourne Meadows NR, two at Stanford Res (including a juvenile trapped and ringed on 14th) and singles in the Brampton Valley, at Clifford Hill GP and at Lamport.

By contrast, however, there were far fewer Whinchats, with two at Harrington AF on 17th and 20th and one in the Brampton Valley on 16th, where an unspecified number of Stonechats was also reported on 20th. Northern Wheatears were also in relatively short supply, with one in the Brampton Valley on 16th, two there on 20th, one at Harrington between 17th and 20th and one at Pitsford on 18th.

Newsround – 7th to 13th August 2021

Another unsettled week, again largely influenced by Atlantic low pressure systems. Nevertheless, migration continued apace and a number of ‘autumn firsts’ put in appearances during the period.

Still settled at Stanwick GP, last week’s Garganey remained until at least 12th, being joined by another on 9th and 10th.

Garganey, Stanwick GP, 8th August 2021 (Adrian Borley)

But the ducks-deluxe slot was filled this week by two Red-crested Pochards – a female at Stanford Res throughout the period and an eclipse drake at Pitsford Res from 11th until 13th. They have been uncharacteristically scarce this year, with January duos at Pitsford and mobile between Kislingbury GP and Stortons GP, followed by just one at Clifford Hill GP on 4th March.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Stanford Res, 7th August 2021 (Ewan Turner)

An escaped Fulvous Whistling Duck at Sulby Res/Welford Res also provided a modicum of interest on 8th.

Two Quails were reported from Harrington AF on 10th.

Great Egrets were limited to one at Stanford on 10th and Pitsford holding up to four throughout the week, while it looks like our recent Cattle Egret colonisation has ground to a halt, with Bedfordshire proving more attractive to them this year.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 13th August 2021 (Tony Stanford)

A tidy showing of raptors this week featured multiple Ospreys, which included two at Pitsford and one at Stanford on 10th, three high over Cottesbrooke on 11th, plus two at Hollowell Res and one at Pitsford on 12th. And, as is the way with August, a run of pristine juvenile Marsh Harriers continued with singles at Summer Leys on 8th and 10th-11th and at Pitsford on the same dates.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 8th August 2021 (Keith Griffiths)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 11th August 2021 (Clive Bowley)

On the wader front, Black-tailed Godwits continued to trickle through in small numbers, which included singles at Summer Leys LNR and Clifford Hill on 7th and 8th, respectively and seven at Stanwick GP on the last of these two dates. A single Curlew was at DIRFT 3 A5 Pools on 10th, the same date delivering the autumn’s first Turnstone, which put in a brief appearance on Pitsford’s causeway. Despite a blank last week, the county’s so far excellent run of Wood Sandpipers continued with singles at DIRFT 3 on 10th and at Stanwick on 12th-13th. Conversely, it’s been poor as far as Greenshank numbers are concerned with, this week, just three flying through at Daventry CP on 12th.

Meanwhile, a juvenile Caspian Gull found at Stanwick on 8th piqued interest at both local and international levels as it bore a ring inscribed 686-U, allowing it to be traced to a scheme indicating it had been ringed as a pullus on 31st May 2021 at Dynin (lhota), Jihocesky. Kraj, in the Czech Republic. A great record of a true Eastern European migrant, having travelled a distance of 1128 km in its first couple of months.

Czech Republic-ringed juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 8th August 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Other Caspians were also available, however, with a ‘near-adult’ also visiting Stanwick daily between 7th and 10th, an adult at Pitsford on 8th and a second-summer there on 9th, plus an adult at DIRFT 3 on 10th.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 10th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Unsurprisingly, Stanwick also accounted for the lion’s share of this week’s Yellow-legged Gulls, with at least twenty there on 7th, this number having dwindled to eight by the end of the period. Three other sites produced smaller numbers, with six at Harrington AF on 7th, two at DIRFT 3 on 8th and four on 10th, and three at Pitsford on 9th with one on 10th.

The first of the autumn’s Black Terns appeared at Pitsford on 12th, when two adults were found in Scaldwell Bay, while another autumn first – a Merlin – flew over Harrington AF on 9th.

To passerines … and Common Redstarts continued to feature strongly this week, with the long-staying female, again accompanied by the male, remaining at Lilbourne Meadows LNR throughout. Elsewhere, Harrington produced one on 7th and four on 9th, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell held two on 8th and three on 10th, singles were at Pitsford on 10th and Stanford on 12th and the week closed with two at Honey Hill on 13th.

Female Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 10th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Male Common Redstart, Honey Hill, 13th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Two Whinchats were reported from Pitsford on 10th, while single Northern Wheatears were at Harrington on 9th and 13th, Pitsford on 10th and at both Borough Hill and Welford Res on 12th.

Newsround – 31st July to 6th August 2021

With temperatures a touch below average, the week shaped up to be rather unsettled, with low pressure systems feeding cooler Atlantic air into the UK. Migrants continued to trickle through in small numbers but the period was otherwise uneventful.

The sole wildfowl representative of the week can be summed up in a single word: Garganey. One was on show at Stanwick GP from 31st until at least 5th and last week’s Daventry CP bird was still present on 1st.

Just one Cattle Egret was present at Stanwick GP on 2nd-3rd, while Pitsford Res produced a Great Egret on 31st plus two there on 4th and singles also visited Summer Leys LNR on 1st and Blatherwycke Lake on 5th.  

After no reports at all last week, Ospreys made a bit of a comeback, with single birds at Stanford Res on 2nd, over Cottesbrooke on 3rd, Pitsford on 4th and at both Deene Lake and Hollowell Res on 5th.

Juvenile Osprey, Hollowell Res, 5th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Hollowell also produced an early morning Marsh Harrier on 3rd – they are rarely recorded from this site – and further individuals were seen briefly at Stanford on 2nd and Thrapston GP on 4th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Hollowell Res, 3rd August 2021 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Hollowell Res, 3rd August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Last week’s Harris Hawk remained in Duston, Northampton on 1st, local intel revealing that it has escaped from a Daventry-based falconer and has been on the loose for the last twelve months!

On the wader front, Black-tailed Godwits dominated the week’s proceedings, with eight at Clifford Hill GP on 31st followed there by four on 6th. Elsewhere, six flew over Stanford on 31st and one was at Daventry CP on 1st. Curlews away from breeding sites were limited to two at DIRFT 3 A5 Pools on 31st and 3rd and a Ruff was also present there on 4th. Greenshank numbers were again surprisingly low, with just one at Stanford on 4th.

As we head into autumn proper, gull numbers are visibly on the up and, among them, the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the season appeared at Stanwick on 2nd. A count of thirty-two Yellow-legged Gulls at the latter site on 5th was considered to be conservative as prolific late summer vegetation on site considerably hampered viewing of some four to five hundred large gulls there at the time. Smaller numbers elsewhere throughout the period included up to eleven at DIRFT 3, up to three at Pitsford and one at Daventry. This week’s Caspian Gulls were equally divided between DIRFT 3 and Stanwick, the first of these two sites providing two different adults on 1st and 3rd – the latter bearing a German ring. Stanwick’s two consisted of a third- or fourth-summer from 3rd to 5th, joined by an adult there on the latter date.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 1st August 2021 (Mike Alibone)
German-ringed adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 3rd August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

To passerines … and four sites produced Common Redstarts this week, starting off with the long-staying female remaining at Lilbourne Meadows LNR until at least 4th. Elsewhere, up to three were seen at Blueberry Farm throughout the period, as was the same number at Harrington AF, where three were trapped and ringed on 2nd, and two were at Lamport on 5th. Other passerines reported were two Whinchats in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, between 2nd and 4th and one at nearby Blueberry Farm on 5th and, hot on the heels of last week’s first, came more Northern Wheatears.

Northern Wheatear, Harrington AF, 3rd August 2021 (David Smith)

One was in the Brampton Valley on 2nd and 4th, one lingered at Harrington AF from 3rd to 6th and one was found at Blueberry Farm on 5th.

Newsround – 24th to 30th July 2021

An unsettled week with frequent heavy showers finished with Storm Evert on the back of an Atlantic low as it tracked east across the country. However, it was the middle day of the period which shaped up nicely, as a long-awaited county ‘first’ magically appeared for one lucky observer – and then it was gone …

Meanwhile … The token Garganey of the week put in an appearance at Daventry CP on 26th, while hybrid fans should note the continued presence of the Chiloe Wigeon x Crested Duck at Summer Leys LNR on 27th. Arguably, best of the wildfowl bunch, though, were five Common Scoters at Ringstead GP on 25th – a site which has enjoyed occasional records in the past.

Common Scoters, Ringstead GP, 25th July 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Up to two Cattle Egrets were at Stanwick GP between 25th and 27th, while up to two Great Egrets were at Pitsford Res during the same period and singles were at Thrapston GP on 25th, Summer Leys on 27th and Earls Barton GP on 29th.   

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2021 (Tony Stanford)

In a surprisingly Ospreyless week, a Marsh Harrier was reported from Harrington AF on 29th but perhaps more impressive for some was the back garden appearance of a Harris Hawk in Duston, Northampton on 26th, hopefully now winging its way back to its rightful owner.

Harris Hawk, Duston, Northampton, 26th July 2021 (Duncan Cookson)

Another week, another Wood Sandpiper – this one lingering at Summer Leys from 27th to 29th. Otherwise, waders were limited to sixteen drop-in Black-tailed Godwits at Summer Leys on 28th, with two and one at Stanwick GP on 25th and 30th respectively, plus a Greenshank there on 27th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer leys LNR, 28th July 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the gull front, DIRFT 3, as usual, delivered the most Caspian Gulls, with a second-summer on 25th, a fourth-summer on 27th and an adult on 27th-28th. Elsewhere, a third- or fourth-summer visited Stanwick on 29th and 30th and an adult was at Welford Res on the latter date.  

Third- or fourth-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 30th July 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Yellow-legged Gulls became more widespread as the late summer build-up began. The highest total was around fifteen at Stanwick on 30th, with between six and nine there in the preceding days. DIRFT 3 produced eight on 27th, with lower numbers on other dates during the week while, elsewhere, Thrapston GP held five on 27th, up to four were at Pitsford between 24th and 27th, two visited Ringstead on 25th and singles were at Clifford Hill GP on 26th and Stanford Res on 30th.

Third-summer Yellow-legged Gull, DIRFT 3, 30th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

However, none of this week’s gulls came anywhere close to matching this week’s incontrovertible biggie. Long awaited, though completely unexpected may almost be a contradiction in terms but it fittingly describes the appearance of Northamptonshire’s first-ever Gull-billed Tern as it flew rapidly past an astounded Steve Fisher at Stanwick, early on 27th. Seen well at point blank range, it was all over in seconds as the bird flew directly away, over the Main Lake and on to who knows where, as it headed south-west along the Nene Valley, toward Ditchford and beyond … Frenetic observer activity ensued as the chain of gravel pits along the valley was immediately checked … in vain. This was never the way it was supposed to happen, the bird failing to do the decent thing of lingering for at least a few hours in order for the locals to catch up with it. Arguably overdue in the county, Gull-billed Tern has occurred in the neighbouring counties of Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire plus other Midlands counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. How long will the wait be for the next in Northants?

To passerines and five sites produced Common Redstarts this week, starting off with the long-staying female again throughout the period at Lilbourne Meadows LNR, being joined by a male there from 25th until the week’s end. Elsewhere, up to three – possibly four – were at Harrington AF all week, up to three at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell between 28th and 30th and singles were at Honey Hill on 24th and Old on 29th.

Male Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 25th July 2021 (Jon Cook)
Male Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 28th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The only other migrant passerine of note was a Northern Wheatear which turned up at DIRFT 3 on 30th, hopefully the first of many more to come this autumn.