The Pitsford Leach’s Petrel

It’s been a long, thirteen year wait since 2008, which was when the last Leach’s Petrel occurred in Northamptonshire. However, thanks to Adrian Borley, the wait was over yesterday, when he found one during the morning, just north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir.

With the news out, a crowd amassed pretty quickly to see the bird which spent most of its time sitting on the water, approximately halfway between the causeway and the opposite shoreline. Occasionally making short flights, it remained into the evening, by which time it had moved into Scaldwell Bay.

Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Martin Swannell)

Being overcast, wet and windy, weather conditions were not overly favourable for photography but some images captured managed to illustrate the diffuse darkish line down the otherwise white rump, as well as white tertial tips and the obvious forked tail, characteristic of the species.

Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Martin Swannell)

Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

This was the 27th county record and a new bird, locally and in some cases, nationally, for a number of birders turning up to see it.

Most records have fallen between 1978 and 2008 but outside of these dates there were single records in 1889, 1891 and 1895, five in 1952 and one in 1953. Interestingly, Pitsford has laid claim to almost half of the 1978-2008 records, with records from other, non-wetland, localities relating to birds found dead or simply storm-driven. September appears to be the key month for records but there have also been winter occurrences after bouts of severe weather.

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