It was a largely dry week with a bias toward an Atlantic-borne mixture of northerly and westerly airstreams. Nevertheless, the county enjoyed some class arrivals and more than a hint that winter is only just around the corner.
And that hint materialised in the form of migrating geese – all seemingly genuine and kicking off with a small skein of thirteen Pink-footed Geese flying south-east over Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 11th.
These were followed the next day by an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, found at DIRFT 3, where it remained until at least 14th. Amazingly, this is the second record for this industrial development site, following one there in January 2018.
In line with recent arrivals in Gloucestershire, Norfolk, South Yorkshire and Worcestershire, a White-fronted Goose was also found, at Clifford Hill GP, on 13th and, furthering the winter theme, six Whooper Swans were seen heading east over Summer Leys LNR on 15th.
Entering the murky underworld of the dark and the dubious, this week’s roll-call at DIRFT 3 exposed the ongoing presence of the Cackling Goose, the female Ruddy Shelduck and the drake Cape Shelduck throughout the period, although the latter two enjoyed some time away at nearby Foxholes Fisheries, Crick at the beginning of the week.
On 15th, a new Black-necked Grebe was found to still be present on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake after news emerged of its earlier discovery there on 12th. Coming a full four weeks after the last, this is the 6th record of the autumn and the only bird which has stayed for more than one day.
A Bittern was seen briefly at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 13th and, other than the one which continued to feature throughout the period, Summer Leys has had a lean autumn to date, so the appearance of a Spoonbill there on 9th helped put the site back on the map this week. Despite being an almost annual visitor to the county, this was only the second record for 2021, the previous one being of two that briefly toured the Nene Valley between Summer Leys and Stanwick GP on 8th-9th April.
Cattle Egrets continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were two on 12th but further down the valley at Ringstead GP at least four appeared to be roosting on the same date and this number had increased to six on 14th. This week’s Great Egrets were found at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston the highest site total being three at Pitsford on 14th.
Two days after the Spoonbill, Summer Leys produced an Osprey, which was presumably the same bird – a juvenile – seen nearby at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 14th.
The long-staying juvenile male Ruff also remained at Summer Leys all week, while a westbound Curlew flew over the site on 9th.
Gull roosts continued to deliver the goods, with Boddington and Stanford vying for pole position, the latter holding a first-winter Mediterranean Gull on 11th and 13th, joined there by a second-winter on the first of these two dates, while an adult was at Boddington on 13th.
The 11th also produced an adult Caspian Gull at Stanford, while the Boddington roost held two Caspians – a second-winter and a fourth-winter – on 13th. Elsewhere, an adult and first-winter Caspians were at DIRFT 3 on 12th and an adult visited Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 14th.
Other gulls were available, of course, and a sprinkling of Yellow-legged Gulls included one at Stanwick on 12th, four at DIRFT 3 on the same date, four at Boddington on 13th, five at Thrapston GP on the latter date and one or two at Pitsford on 14th.
A high-flying Short-eared Owl, west over Daventry CP on 13th, is hopefully in the vanguard of more to come.
While passerines were thin on the ground, what the week lacked in quantity was made up for in quality when the Stanford Ringing Group trapped and ringed a Yellow-browed Warbler on 12th. It showed well, on and off, for 20 minutes after being released. As well as being only the sixteenth county record, this bird is the seventh for the site, the sixth to be ringed there and the fourth in consecutive years. There is now an annual air of expectation – if not predictability – of this species finding its way into a net in late autumn at this site.
A single Whinchat, along with approximately ten Stonechats, was at Borough Hill on 9th, two more Stonechats were found at Thrapston GP on 15th and singles were at Stanford on 9th, Harlestone Heath on 12th, Hollowell on 14th and Pitsford on 15th.
Let’s hope the autumn magic continues …