Gale force south-westerly winds on the last day of the month caused widespread minor damage and brought down trees across the county. Much calmer conditions subsequently prevailed, with northerly winds and the first frost of the autumn occurring overnight on 1st of the new month. November – a ‘gap month’ between autumn proper and winter, when summer visitors have long gone, scarce migrants all but dry up and things slow down a bit. But then there were the hangers-on …
Still in place, last week’s Pink-footed Goose remained at Hollowell Res until at least 2nd and after a week without any, a Whooper Swan dropped in to join the local Mutes at Daventry CP on 3rd.
Again this week, the female Ruddy Shelduck continued to visit Foxholes Fisheries at Crick until 31st but it failed to show subsequently. Following two late Garganeys on 21st October, another, or the same was at Pitsford Res on 4th, while a first-winter Greater Scaup appeared at Daventry CP on 1st, remaining there until at least 4th. This bird was identified as a different individual to the one last seen there on 28th, the latter possibly accounting for the first-winter female which paid a brief visit to Hollowell Res on 3rd.
Seemingly settled was the Black-necked Grebe on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake, where it remained all week.
Close by, at Ringstead GP, there were still nine Cattle Egrets coming in to the evening roost on 4th, the same date seeing four of these at Hall Farm, Irthlingborough, just a short flap up the Nene Valley. Great Egrets, meanwhile, were found at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Ringstead, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with a respectable eight at Pitsford on 4th-5th being the highest number, although this still falls well short of the staggering count of forty-one made not too far away at Rutland Water in late October!
Last week’s long-staying Osprey made it into November by the narrowest of margins as the first day of the month was the last day upon which it was seen, when it cruised over Summer Leys, heading west … and with it went last week’s exclusivity.
It was not the only raptor on the beat this week, as November ushered more in. The 1st saw a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier at Harrington AF, still present in the area on 4th, while the latter date gave rise to a Marsh Harrier, seen three times during its short stay at Stanford Res.
After none at all during the last review period, waders were back, with one record-breaking bird in particular hitting the headlines. When confronted with a dainty, neatly-speckled, yellow-legged Tringa during the first week of November, the smart money would be on Lesser Yellowlegs, wouldn’t it? But this is, after all, Northamptonshire, so however unlikely the occurrence of a Wood Sandpiper at this time of year would seem, one at Pitsford on 4th-5th cruised easily into the record books as the county’s latest ever, by a comfortable ten-day margin. The previous latest was one at Earls Barton GP on 26th October 1997.
Perhaps aspiring to do the same – although they do occasionally occur in winter – a rather late Common Sandpiper was found at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 3rd, while a Ruff at Summer Leys on 1st was likely to be this autumn’s established long-stayer and another was a brief visitor to Pitsford on 4th.
Just one Caspian Gull – a second-winter at Daventry on 30th – and one Yellow-legged Gull – at Pitsford on 4th-5th – were the only scarce Larids during the period.
Following last week’s juvenile male Merlin at Hinton AF, a female was found there on 3rd – just one of five, which included singles at Harrington AF on 1st and in the Brampton Valley on 5th, plus two near Hartwell on 4th.
Another hanger-on from summer was a late Swallow, heading east over Clifford Hill GP on 3rd, while this week’s Stonechats included up to four at both Hollowell and Thrapston, two at Earls Barton and singles at Clifford Hill and Pitsford.