Newsround – 23rd to 29th July 2022

Looking at the species list, the last week of July produced a heady mix of migrants, some in numbers normally associated with later on in the autumn. In this respect, ‘dry July’ continued apace and with water levels in free fall at many – but not all – local water bodies, the expectation of an early vagrant wader is sure to mount …

Somewhat perplexingly, a trio of Pink-footed Geese constituted an unseasonal ‘mini arrival’ which included one at Ravensthorpe Res from 24th until the week’s end, another at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh NR on 28th and one at Pitsford Res on 29th. At least two were adults and the species is believed to be uncommon in captivity.

Pink-footed Goose, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th July 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Pink-footed Goose, Thrapston GP, 28th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

The almost annual occurrence of another wildfowl species, which is all too often given short shrift, is that of Ruddy Shelduck. Last week’s female at Hollowell Res was joined by another there on 25th, while one arrived at Pitsford on 26th and singles were also found at Winwick on 24th and Ravensthorpe on 27th. The latter two localities are close to Hollowell as, to some extent, is Pitsford so duplication is possible if not highly likely.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 25th July 2022 (Jon Cook)
Female Ruddy Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 26th July 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northants Birds has long championed the cause here and here for these birds originating from the self-sustaining continental population. At last, the wheels are in motion and things are being taken seriously as only last year the British Ornithologists’ Union’s Records Committee (BOURC) announced it is currently reviewing the status of this species on the British List. Ruddy Shelduck is currently in Categories B, D, and E of the British List but is potentially also occurring in Britain as a vagrant from established naturalised populations on the near continent and must therefore be treated as a candidate for Category C5 (vagrant naturalised species from outside Britain). But don’t hold your breath …

The long-staying female Garganey at Stanford Res remained until 29th, as did two drake Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford.

Now encountered with increasing frequency in Northamptonshire during summer, a Bittern was seen at Summer Leys LNR on 23rd and 28th and with none recorded in the county since late May, two Cattle Egrets paid a brief visit to Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 25th. Numbers of Great Egrets remained low with a maximum of three at Pitsford on 29th and singles at Earls Barton GP on 23rd, Summer Leys from 25th to 27th and Thrapston GP on 26th.

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Thrapston GP, 25th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

On the raptor front, Marsh Harriers retained their prominence with singles at Lamport on 23rd and 27th, Summer Leys on 25th-26th, in Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 26th and 28th and at Stanford Res from 27th to 29th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 25th July 2022 (Alan Coles)

The usual Ospreys were to be found around the reservoirs in the north-west of the county, two of these giving up their history through their ring numbers which were identified from photographs. Both birds were males from the extended Rutland Water breeding program and were together at Hollowell Res on 27th. One is a three-year-old male ringed at a nest near Rutland Water on 24th June 2019. It returned to the UK for the first time last year when it was seen at various sites including Cors Dyfi in Wales on 2nd June 2021 and Otmoor Reservoir on 16th July 2021, before eventually returning to Rutland in August. This summer it has been a regular visitor to Horn Mill Trout Farm in Rutland. The other was ringed on 30th June 2017. It spent time at Fishlake Meadows in Hampshire in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but has also been returning to Rutland/Northants each summer.

Male Osprey, Hollowell Res, 27th July 2022 (Jon Cook)

Singles also visited Stanford on 23rd and 28th, Hollowell on 25th and 28th and a male with a blue ring spent the best part of ten minutes at Naseby Res on 26th.

This week’s waders were thin on the ground, with single Black-tailed Godwits at both Summer Leys and Earls Barton on 25th, Daventry CP on 26th and Stanwick GP on 27th, while six visited Stanford on 25th. A moulting male Ruff was again present at Summer Leys on 26th and one of last week’s two Sanderlings at Hollowell remained on 23rd. Following the autumn’s first at Daventry last week, another Greenshank appeared at Pitsford on 29th.

Male Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2022 (Tony Stanford)

And while we’re talking ‘firsts’, the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the autumn spend just minutes at Stanford on 24th, otherwise it was down to Yellow-legged Gulls to prop up the Larids. The highest count was five in Wellingborough at the Ise Valley Industrial Estate on 26th, followed by two there on 29th. Four were at Priors Hall, Corby on 24th, two at Stanwick on 27th and singles were at Ringstead GP on 23rd, Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 24th and Ravensthorpe Res on 25th.

Passerine passage was well represented by Common Redstarts, numbers of which were way ahead of where they normally are in July. Last week’s male at Pitsford remained all week, as did the male at Lilbourne Meadows NR, present since late June. Blueberry Farm, Maidwell held up to three throughout the period and the number at Harrington AF had also reached three by the end of the week. Elsewhere, two were between Old and Pitsford Res on 27th and singles appeared between Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton on 25th, and at both Stanford-on-Avon and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 28th. A Black Redstart was the briefest of visitors to Harrington AF on the latter date before rapidly melting away and continuing the chat theme, the first of the autumn’s Northern Wheatears was found in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on the same date. A single Common Crossbill flew over Denton Wood on 23rd but so far, there are no signs of a late summer influx.

Newsround – 9th to 22nd July 2022

Widely predicted to break records, temperaturewise, the second week of the period saw Northamptonshire reach an astonishing 40.2°C at the Met Office climate station in Pitsford on 19th – just short of the record-breaking national high of 40.3°C. Never mind dry January, we were deep into experiencing an uncomfortably dry July. As the period progressed, though, the birds appearing were none too shabby and provided ample reward for those willing to don their sunhats or to hit the field early doors.

Unsurprisingly, the water level has been dropping at Hollowell Res, where the female Ruddy Shelduck remained, intermittently, until at least 21st, while a Garganey pitching up at Stanford Res on 12th turned out to be a long-stayer, still being present there on 22nd. Another was found at Pitsford Res on 14th, the latter site hosting up to three drake Red-crested Pochards between 11th and 20th.

Garganey, Stanford Res, 12th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

A Common Quail was reported near Grimscote on 12th.

Pitsford and Summer Leys LNR shared the period’s Great Egrets between them – the former site holding up to three and the latter, two.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd July 2022 (Alan Coles)

But bucking the trend in terms of drying out and producing those eagerly-awaited muddy margins, lush herbaceous borders of the overgrown, reedy kind were instead the order of the day at Summer Leys. Perfect, in fact, to deliver the reserve’s saving grace, which appeared in the form of up to three pristine, juvenile Marsh Harriers, present and performing well between 19th and 22nd. In most instances only one was visible at any one time but all three were present at the same time on 21st and could be individually identified from images taken by local – and some not so local – photographers.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 19th July 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2022 (Sarah Runciman)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2022 (Tony Clark)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 21st July 2022 (Leslie Fox)

More regular raptor fare was available in the form of single Ospreys, which were seen at Pitsford on 10th, Stanford on 11th, Hollowell on 14th, 18th and 22nd and north of Guilsborough on 15th.

On the wader front, the autumn’s first returning Whimbrel flew over Ringstead GP on 16th but numbers of the more prevalent Black-tailed Godwit continued to ramp up with twenty at Pitsford on 9th, followed by two there on 22nd and Stanford, meanwhile, enjoying a run of at least six on 9th, two on 10th, ten on 13th and one on 14th. At least four were at Summer Leys on 22nd and one visited Thrapston GP on the same date.

Adult Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 9th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

A moulting male Ruff was present at Summer Leys on 16th-17th but most unusual were two Sanderlings at Hollowell on 22nd – a regular, though scarce, spring migrant in small numbers but much rarer as far as autumn passage goes. The first of the autumn’s Greenshanks appeared at Daventry CP on 13th, ahead of more due before the month’s end.

Adult Sanderling, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2022 (Jon Cook)
Adult Sanderlings, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2022 (Jon Cook)

By contrast, the period’s gulls were restricted to just one species – Yellow-legged Gull. Most records came from Pitsford, where a maximum of three was present on 20th, although Stanford produced singles on 12th and 22nd and four were at Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 13th and one was there on 21st.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanford Res, 12th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Passerines were limited to an unseasonal Redwing photographed in Wellingborough on 17th and, after a very poor spring for the species, a succession of early passage Common Redstarts, which included the long-staying male at Lilbourne Meadows until at least 17th. Additionally, up to two were at Harrington AF between 11th and 20th, two were present at Stanford-on-Avon on 13th-14th, at least one was at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 13th and 18th-19th, while one-day singles were at Braunston on 12th, Woodford Halse on 15th, Lamport on 17th, Pitsford on 20th and Honey Hill on 21st. A solitary Crossbill flew over Lamport on 17th.


Newsround – 25th June to 8th July 2022

Another fast-moving fortnight in which early autumn wader passage upped tempo and was instrumental in producing the second Pectoral Sandpiper of the year. Other birds were, of course, available …

Not least of which was Hollowell Reservoir’s female Ruddy Shelduck, still present there on 3rd, while the first eclipse drake Garganey of the autumn checked in at Thrapston GP on 6th. A drake Red-crested Pochard, also in eclipse, appeared at Pitsford Res on 8th.

Numbers of Great Egrets climbed from just the one at Pitsford during the last period to two there by the end of this one, while one visited Stanford Res on 4th.

Single Ospreys were seen in flight over Hollowell on 3rd, west over Little Irchester on 5th, Pitsford on 6th and Stanford on 8th.

Against the now established backdrop of Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits began to move through in reasonable numbers which included one at Hollowell on 29th, two at Summer Leys LNR on 2nd followed by nine there on 4th, eleven at Pitsford on 5th and singles at Summer Leys again on 6th and Stanford on 7th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Hollowell Res, 29th June 2022 (Jon Cook)
Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 7th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

But the biggest surprise of the week was a Pectoral Sandpiper, originally found at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 2nd and quickly making the hop across to DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools, before moving back again to Lilbourne, where it remained until mid-afternoon the following day. There have been July records before but not as early as this one. In the life of the county bird report, Ditchford GP produced the previous earliest on 15th July 1987 while, a decade earlier, veterans will remember going for the bird which clung to the narrowest of muddy margins at Cransley Reservoir between 30th July and 9th August 1976 – at that time only the fourth county record. Hot on the heels of the Summer Leys individual, back in May, this month’s bird takes the DIRFT wader species tally to 26.

Adult Pectoral Sandpiper, DIRFT 3, 2nd July 2022 (Alan Boddington)

Also at Lilbourne and part of a recognised sizeable movement across the UK, three Wood Sandpipers dropped in on 29th.

And so on to gulls, with Daventry CP dishing up the first Mediterranean Gull of the autumn, an adult, on 8th. A first-summer Caspian Gull visited Pitsford on 28th and, becoming a little more abundant, Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 26th, Pitsford on 27th-28th and 1st, with two there on 7th-8th, at least eight at DIRFT 3 on 30th and one at Stanwick GP on 5th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering, 26th June 2022 (James Underwood)

Following a report of a Golden Oriole near Cotterstock on 28th, passerines were limited to male Common Redstarts at Lilbourne Meadows from 30th until at least 5th and one reported at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 3rd and a female-type there the following day. In the same area, two Crossbills flew west over the Brampton Valley on 1st.