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.

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