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.

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