Newsround – 18th to 24th September 2021

A warm, southwesterly airstream dominated this week’s weather, delivering largely clear skies and temperatures well above the norm for the time of year. Indeed, it’s been mooted that we could be heading for the warmest September on record …

Conditions which, of course, are not conducive to delivering the goods, locally. In fact, Northamptonshire birding has been well below par this autumn when it comes to producing the icing on the cake. It would appear that the shortage of supplies in various sectors, said to be as a result of the Covid pandemic, has filtered through to the rare and the scarce of the bird world, with local birding of late being akin to pulling teeth … or maybe we simply exhausted our annual quota during the spring, which was one of the best in the county for many, many years. So, this week’s Newsround is, in essence, pretty much a copy and paste of last week’s … again.

This week’s token dodgy waterfowl is represented by a Cackling Goose at DIRFT 3 on 21st. Showing some characteristics of the race minima, it’s similar to the bird here but clearly not quite the full shilling.

And this was the week that Garganey loyalty to the localities of Daventry CP and Stanwick GP finally collapsed, with new birds appearing at Ditchford GP, where there was one on 20th and two on 21st, and at Pitsford Res, where one was found on 23rd. Stanwick hung on to one until 21st, while Daventry retained a single bird throughout the period. In contrast to last week, only the Pitsford Red-crested Pochard remained, being seen on 20th.

Once Bittern, twice not so shy, as again this week the Summer Leys bird showed itself on several occasions to those who were prepared to exercise patience. It was still present on 21st.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 21st September 2021 (Tony Stanford)
Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 20th September 2021 (Adrian Leybourne)

Cattle Egrets remained in the Ditchford/Stanwick area throughout, with five at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 19th, followed by one there the next day and two were at Stanwick on 20th, six on 21st and five on 24th.

Cattle Egrets, Ditchford GP, 19th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Six was the highest single site tally of Great Egrets, coming from Pitsford on 22nd, Stanwick held three on 19th, while up to two were seen at Daventry, Ditchford, Hollowell and Summer Leys.

On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier lingered at Stanford on 20th-21st and another flew high over Summer Leys on 22nd, while a White-tailed Eagle, female G318 from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, took a leisurely route from Leicestershire, along the Nene Valley, to Oxfordshire on 18th-19th. G318 is no stranger to the county, having first passed through Northants on 4th April 2020, before visiting the county again this year, between 1st and 3rd February.

Route taken by satellite-tagged female White-tailed Eagle, G318, through Northamptonshire, 18th-19th September 2021 (Tim Mackrill)

With wader movements clearly on the wane, up to three Curlews were still present at DIRFT 3 between 18th and 21st and single Black-tailed Godwits visited Summer Leys on 21st and Pitsford on 22nd. Three Ruffs were at Pitsford on 22nd, two were at Summer Leys on 18th, one remaining there until at least 21st and one flew high east over Earls Barton GP New Workings (North) on 18th. Apart from that, residual Greenshanks included singles at DIRFT 3 on 19th and 24th, Daventry from 20th to 24th and in flight, west, over Naseby Res on 21st.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2021 (Ant Hall)

For a species which has recently bred in the county and the population of which is increasing generally, Mediterranean Gull has remained strangely scarce this autumn, with this week seeing just one, a first-winter, at Daventry on 24th. The latter site also produced a second-winter Caspian Gull on 20th, while the Boddington Res gull roost held a juvenile Caspian on 22nd and an adult and a fourth-winter on 24th. There was no shortage of Yellow-legged Gulls, Stanwick inching into double figures with eleven on 21st, followed by eight there on 24th. Elsewhere, three were at Ditchford GP on 19th and 21st, twos at Daventry on 21st and Boddington on 24th with one at the latter site on 22nd and singles at Earls Barton on 18th, 19th and 23rd and at Pitsford on 21st.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 19th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Although most terns have departed by late September, four juvenile Common Terns were at Daventry on 23rd, being joined briefly by two – more typically late – juvenile Arctic Terns, all six birds flying off north-west early in the day. In a similar fashion to last week, one more Black Tern, a juvenile, came through at Pitsford on 21st.

On the passerine front, Common Redstart numbers were still on the wane, with singles still at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 20th and one still at Lamport on 21st. Single Whinchats were still in the Brampton Valley, at Harrington AF on 21st, Borough Hill on 22nd and Hollowell on 24th. Stonechats also put in an appearance this week, with one at Hollowell on 20th increasing to three there on 24th, two at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 21st and three at Borough Hill on 22nd, while only two Northern Wheatears comprised singles at Harrington between 18th and 22nd and one at Orlingbury on 23rd.

Moving into the last week of September, we can perhaps take heart from history. In previous years, this week has produced some class Yankee waders with, for example, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Phalarope having turned up in the county during this late September window. We’ll see …

Newsround – 11th to 17th september 2021

Apart from a deluge on 14th, it proved to be a largely dry week with above average temperatures, although winds were strongly influenced by Atlantic weather systems. While there were still some smart birds to be admired, the air of expectancy now hangs thick as the early morning mist, as autumn begins to mature …

But another week passed with nothing new. Even the slot of last week’s Ruddy Shelduck was filled by an escaped Cape Shelduck, which clearly didn’t cut the mustard. Found at Stanford Res early in the afternoon of 16th, it had relocated to Pitsford Res by the end of the day.

Cape Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 16th September 2021 (Ant Hall)

Numbers of Garganey dwindled this week, with Daventry CP and Stanwick GP maintaining their strange duopoly, the former site still holding two on 12th-13th, with one remaining until 17th and the latter hanging on to one all week.  Apart from a one-day bird at Pitsford in July, there has been none found at any other locality this autumn. Conversely, Red-crested Pochards were on the up – three appearing at Thrapston GP on 12th, the long-staying female at Stanford being joined by a drake and another female on 16th, while the eclipse drake was seen again at Pitsford on 16th-17th.

Continuing the run of one-day birds, the fifth Black necked Grebe of the autumn, an adult, was found at Daventry CP on 14th.

Adult Black-necked Grebe, Daventry CP, 14th September 2021 (Gary Pullan)

And for anyone prepared to play the waiting game, a Bittern proved a popular draw at Summer Leys LNR, on occasions showing reasonably well from the Pioneer Hide on 11th, 12th 16th and 17th. Another was seen and photographed at Stortons GP on 12th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 16th September 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Other, not so cryptic, herons were available of course, with up to five Cattle Egrets at Stanwick throughout, while Great Egrets maxed out with four at Pitsford, up to three at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys, two apiece at Daventry and Thrapston and one at Stanwick.

Great Egret, Earls Barton GP, 15th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s token Osprey flew over Stanford on 11th, likewise, a juvenile Marsh Harrier appeared at Pitsford on the last day of the week. Potentially bigger than both – in more ways than one – was the belated report of a White-tailed Eagle over Brixworth on 10th. The crew from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme have kindly confirmed it was not one of theirs …

Waders continued to trickle through, with 3 Curlews still roosting at DIRFT 3 until at least 16th and another in flight over Daventry CP on 13th, the latter site also producing 2 Black-tailed Godwits between 13th and 15th and three on 17th. Single Black-tailed Godwits also visited Hollowell Res and Summer Leys on 13th.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Daventry CP, 14th September 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Last week’s Ruffs remained at Daventry until 12th and at Summer Leys all week, with two present there on 12th, while the two smart juvenile Little Stints remained on DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools until 14th. Daventry’s two Greenshanks hung on until 15th, one was at DIRFT 3 on 12th-13th and another dropped into a small pool in suburban Kettering on 13th.

Another quiet week for gulls again saw just one Caspian Gull, a juvenile, at DIRFT 3 on 16th and Yellow-legged Gull numbers also remained low, with five at Stanwick on 16th, up to four at Pitsford between 14th and 17th and singles at Earls Barton GP on 15th and 17th and at Boddington Res, Daventry and Thrapston on the last of these two dates.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 14th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 17th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Still in short supply, one more Black Tern came through this week – another short-stayer at Hollowell on 11th.

Juvenile Black Tern, Hollowell Res, 11th September 2021 (Jon Cook)

On the passerine front, Common Redstart numbers began to dwindle, with ones and twos on odd dates at Borough Hill, Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) and Harrington AF, plus two trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 11th, three still up the road at Stanford on Avon on the same date and at least six between Old and Pitsford Res on 12th.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 11th September 2021 (Ewan Turner)

Whinchats followed a similar pattern, with up to three in the Brampton Valley and up to two at Blueberry Farm – all between 12th and 15th, two at Harrington AF on 12th and one at Hollowell on 16th.

Whinchat, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 14th September 2021 (Paul Burrows)

Nor were there any great numbers of Northern Wheatears this week, with singles in the Brampton Valley, Harrington and Pitsford – all on 12th, Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 13th, Pitsford again on 15th, Hollowell on 16th and Harrington on 17th, when two were also at Pitsford.

Newsround -4th to 10th September 2021

Temperatures reaching the high twenties, a south Scandinavian high and a south-easterly airstream out of Europe and beyond, so what more could you ask for in early September? Well, some different birds would be good for a start …   

Instead, back for a teasing visit, the peripatetic female Ruddy Shelduck once more dropped into DIRFT 3 on 10th but had vanished again before the following day. Both Daventry CP and Stanwick GP maintained their joint, daily Garganey run, with the count at Daventry peaking at four on 4th and Stanwick finishing with two on 10th. And the beat goes on with Red-crested Pochards – two out of last week’s three individuals sticking it out at Pitsford and Stanford Reservoirs throughout the period.

This autumn’s run of Black necked Grebes also continued, with singles at Pitsford on 4th and Clifford Hill GP on 6th. True to form – at least as far as this year goes – neither of them lingered for more than a day.

And talking of form, Cattle Egret numbers at Stanwick climbed to seven on 9th – a figure close to that we were used to seeing last year, as well as being the highest total, so far, in 2021. Five localities produced Great Egrets, with Pitsford holding birds daily and maxing out at three on 7th and 9th. Elsewhere, two visited Daventry CP on 9th and singles were at Hollowell Res on 6th, Summer Leys LNR on 6th and 10th and in flight over Little Irchester on 9th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 7th September 2021 (Alan Coles)

It was the turn of Thrapston GP to produce the week’s only Osprey, with one flying north-east over there on 5th, while the only other raptors of note were single Marsh Harriers at Stanford and Summer Leys – both on 4th.

On the wader front, last week’s celebrity Little Stint was also this week’s celebrity Little Stint, remaining on Pitsford’s dam until 5th, during which time it became increasingly flighty, finally moving off for good after being subjected to increasing disturbance from recreational activities. Up to three remained at DIRFT 3 all week, increasing to four there on 10th, while another was found at Thrapston GP on 8th.

Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Bob Bullock)

DIRFT 3 also hosted all of this week’s Curlews – up to three, in fact – as well as producing four Ruffs on 5th. A single Ruff remained at Daventry all week and another appeared at Summer Leys on 10th. Daventry also featured the most Greenshanks – four on 4th, dropping to two for the remainder of the period, while one was at Pitsford on 4th-5th.

A peculiarly quiet week for gulls saw just one Caspian Gull, a first-summer, at Daventry CP on 7th and Yellow-legged Gull numbers also remained low, with the highest counts of seven at DIRFT 3 on 4th and four at Stanwick on 9th, while singles were at Daventry on 4th, 7th and 9th and Pitsford on 7th-8th.

And this year’s dearth of Black Terns continues with one briefly at Stanford on 5th, before hot-winging it high to the south-east, and two also made a short stop at Daventry the following day.

A report of a Siberian Chiffchaff at Pitsford on 9th kicks off the passerines summary for the week but for sheer numbers, Common Redstarts came out on top, with reports from the eleven locations of Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Borough Hill, Corby STW, Harrington AF, Honey Hill, Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Stanford on Avon, Stanford Res, Twywell Hills & Dales and Woodford Halse. There was no more than two at any one location.

Common Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 7th September 2021 (David Smith)

Whinchat numbers held steady, with six locations producing. Borough Hill held the most, with up to six there on 5th-6th, up to five were in the Brampton Valley all week, 2 were at Stoke Albany on 5th and singles were present at Welford Res on 6th, Stanford on 7th and Harrington between 7th and 10th. Northern Wheatears, maintained a low profile with two at Harrington between 7th and 10th, 2 at Braunston on 8th and one in the Brampton Valley on 10th.

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 4th September 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

A Tree Pipit lingered at Stanford on 4th and one was reported from Harrington on 9th.

Newsround – 28th August to 3rd September 2021

As we say goodbye to anticyclonic gloom and one of the coldest, greyest Augusts on record, stepping into meteorological autumn, there was no shortage of seasonal fare, with highlights including a Wryneck trapped and ringed at Stanford and an engaging Little Stint on show, point blank, at Pitsford …

Back for more, from two weeks before and a tick in waiting to boot, the Ruddy Shelduck again dropped into DIRFT 3 on 1st before departing early the following day. That’s not to say it won’t pop up elsewhere before the autumn’s out. Meanwhile, just down the road, at Daventry CP, the daily Garganey count peaked at four on 2nd, with Stanwick GP – the only other site regularly producing – this week relegated to runner-up, with its highest total of two squeezed out on 28th and 2nd.  

Three Red-crested Pochards this week included one-day eclipse drakes at both Daventry CP and Pitsford Res on 29th and the female at Stanford Res remaining throughout the period. Four Common Scoters made a brief stopover at Hollowell Res on 30th.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Stanford Res, 30th August 2021 (Chris Hubbard)
Common Scoters, Hollowell Res, 30th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Following one at Boddington Res last week another, or perhaps the same, Black necked Grebe was found at Daventry CP on 2nd. It didn’t linger.

Juvenile Black-necked Grebe, Daventry CP 2nd September 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Up to four Cattle Egrets were present throughout the week at Stanwick GP, while four localities produced Great Egrets, with Pitsford holding birds daily, three there on 1st being the highest site total. Elsewhere, singles were at Thrapston GP on 29th and 1st, Summer Leys LNR on 31st and Boddington Res on 2nd.

Stanford produced the week’s only Osprey, on 31st and this week’s crop of Marsh Harriers comprised singles at Hollowell and Ditchford GP on 28th, Pitsford and Stanford on 29th, Earls Barton GP on 30th and Stanwick GP on 1st. With breeding taking place in neighbouring Cambridgeshire and an increasing number of records locally, a breeding attempt here seems on the cards in the near future.

Waders quickly became flavour of the week or, more specifically, a rather showy juvenile Little Stint on Pitsford’s dam, which offered itself up unconditionally to anyone who cared to gaze over the dam wall and click a shutter or two.

Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Sophie Rowell)

With point blank views, for many, this was the wader highlight of the autumn so far – especially when you take into consideration that they are nowhere near as common in the county as they used to be. Since the turn of the century, there have been far fewer autumn records, including a couple of blank years.

Sadly, the trendline is on the downward slide. Astonishing to think that in some previous years there were many more, e.g. in 1998 there was an estimated 91 individuals counted, although that was exceptional. According to BirdLife International, Little Stints are increasing globally so the reason, perhaps, may be that migration routes have changed or, more likely, the lack of suitable habitat in autumn as reservoirs are no longer left to draw down as they once were. This was not, however, the only Little Stint on offer during the week. A juvenile was found at DIRFT 3 in the fading light of 31st – one of three there from 1st until 3rd, although the quality of the viewing conditions was nowhere near comparable to that of the Pitsford bird. All three were still on site at the week’s end.

At the other end of the size range, the period’s only Whimbrel was at Stanwick GP on 30th and single fly-over Curlews were seen at Daventry CP on 31st and 2nd. A trickle of Black-tailed Godwits produced one at Summer Leys between 28th and 30th, increasing to two there on 31st, one at Stanwick on 30th-31st, two flying east over Stanford on 30th and three at Daventry on 2nd. Single Ruffs appeared at Stanwick, Earls Barton GP and Summer Leys – all on 29th, the last of which remained until 31st, while one was at DIRFT 3 on 1st-2nd.

This week it was the turn of Boddington Res to serve up a Spotted Redshank, with an adult there on 31st, while numbers of Greenshanks remained low and included singles at Summer Leys and Pitsford on 28th, two at Daventry CP from 29th until 3rd and one again at Pitsford on 2nd-3rd.

Greenshank, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The autumn’s first Little Gull, a juvenile, made a 30-minute stopover at Thrapston GP on 29th, before moving swiftly on, while four Mediterranean Gulls came out of the woodwork this week, appearing at Stanwick on 29th, Boddington on 31st and at Daventry on 2nd and 3rd (two different individuals). All were juveniles or first-winters. This week’s Caspian Gulls were restricted to Stanwick, where there was an adult on 2nd, joined there by another adult the following day while, compared with last week, Yellow-legged Gulls were at a low ebb, with four at Thrapston on 29th, three at Ditchford on 1st and one at Pitsford on 3rd.

Ditchford was also the place to be for anyone hoping to run into a Sandwich Tern, or two, although the timing had to be right to connect with the in-flight duo, picked up heading east over Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR, on 28th.

The run of early autumn Merlins continued this week, with singles at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 1st, Boddington on 2nd and Pitsford on 3rd.

Bird of the week, however – at least for a lucky few – was the wonderfully intricately patterned Wryneck (aren’t they always!) pulled from the net at Stanford on 28th by a suitably chuffed cohort of the Stanford Ringing Group. Not to be sneezed at, this was their third in two years.

Wryneck, Stanford Res, 28th August 2021 (Ewan Turner)
Wryneck, Stanford Res, 28th August 2021 (Ewan Turner)

And the group was still on a roll, as far as Common Redstarts was concerned, with nine of the eleven seen on site on 28th-29th trapped and ringed, while just up the road, at Stanford on Avon, three remained from last week. Elsewhere, at least four were between Cold Ashby and Winwick, up to three at Blueberry Farm, several at Braunston, two at Honey Hill and singles at Boddington, Hanging Houghton, Hardingstone GP, Harrington AF, Lamport and Pitsford.

Common Redstart, Cold Ashby, 30th August 2021 (Jon Cook)
Common Redstart, Cold Ashby, 30th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Meanwhile, Whinchat numbers continued to increase, with at least five at Borough Hill between 28th and 1st, up to five at Stanford Res between 28th and 30th, four at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 2nd, two at Blueberry Farm on 1st and singles at Braunston and Welford Res on 28th and at Harrington on 30th.

Whinchat, Borough Hill, 28th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Northern Wheatears, however, took a bit of a dive. Singles were at Honey Hill on 29th, Harrington from 31st to 2nd and at Blueberry Farm on 1st, while just one Tree Pipit made it into the week, at Borough Hill on 31st.