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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.