A wet start to the period and locally forecast gales that failed to materialise preceded a tantalising ridge of high pressure that crept in from the east near the week’s end. But never mind the weather, as autumn proper got underway October started with a bang!
But before all that, lining up for a gander were the exotica of DIRFT 3, with the Cackling Goose, female Ruddy Shelduck and drake Cape Shelduck continuing their presence throughout the week. And as the pendulum swings from the fence-hoppers to the genuinely wild, passing on the 5th, Hollowell’s Pink-footed Goose mid-swing, two Garganeys were found on Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 6th.
Indisputably, however, bird of the autumn – and for some, of the year – was apparently the UK’s only inland Leach’s Petrel of the period, at Pitsford Res, on 2nd. The first in the county since 2008 and 24 hours earlier than predicted, it did the decent thing and remained on view, north of the causeway, until the early evening. Full details here.
The Summer Leys Bittern was back on show, almost daily, during the week – again providing principally flight views, while a Cattle Egret appeared at Ringstead GP on 5th and two were still at Stanwick GP on 5th-6th. Remaining rather low-key, Great Egrets were reported only from Ditchford GP, Earls Barton/Summer Leys, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Stanwick, the highest site total being three at Summer Leys on 5th.
Reigniting the seabird theme, a juvenile Northern Gannet was a nice surprise for two startled observers as it cruised at little more than tree-top height, west over Weedon Bec, late in the afternoon of 7th. This one fits in nicely with the autumn prevalence of occurrences in the county and was one of a number of individuals seen inland over Cambridgeshire, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, London and Nottinghamshire during 6th-7th. A much more frequent visitor than Leach’s Petrel, it would appear to be about the 43rd record for Northants.
With autumn wader passage beginning to feel like a distant memory, only the long-staying juvenile male Ruff at Summer Leys is really newsworthy. It remained all week.
Gulls bounced back a bit this week, with an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Boddington Res on 4th, the same roost also including adult Caspian Gulls on 4th, 5th and 7th, with a first-winter and a fourth-winter also present there on the latter date. Further adult Caspian Gulls were found at DIRFT 3 on 5th and 8th, the individual on 8th sporting a yellow ring inscribed with the characters XLVH. This enabled it to be traced back to eastern Germany, where it was ringed as a 4th calendar year male on 29th April 2021 at Gräbendorfer See, approximately 40 km from the border with Poland and approximately 1,019 km from DIRFT 3. An adult also visited Stanford Res on 8th.
Between one and three Yellow-legged Gulls were seen in the Boddington roost, at Pitsford, Ringstead and Stanwick, while Thrapston GP produced the week’s maximum of five on 7th. More intriguing, though, was a super, smart-looking, diminutive black-backed gull, which ticked all the boxes for Baltic Gull, in the Boddington roost on 4th and coincided with the appearance of an identical bird at Cley, Norfolk on the same evening.
Completing the back-end miscellany of the systematic list, a female Merlin spent an hour and a half around the Main Barrage Lake at Clifford Hill GP on 3rd, a single Whinchat, along with three Stonechats, was near Moulton on 2nd and two more Stonechats were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 4th, while three were at DIRFT 3 on 8th.
The only Northern Wheatear this week was one at Stanford Res on 6th and a lone Crossbill was seen in flight close to Harlestone Firs on 5th.