Newsround – 13th to 19th August 2022

A return to temperatures more normal for mid-August, variable wind directions and some seriously heavy showers characterised the week just gone. A surprise Shag in a Towcester garden headed up a veritable mixed bag of birds, which included the extended dwell time of the juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck at Daventry CP.

It was at this location that things were beginning to look decidedly dodgy as last week’s on-site Pink-footed Goose showed signs of being paired with one of the Greylags present. It remained until the end of the period. Unless there are two different birds involved, the on and off eclipse drake Garganey at Pitsford Res also saw out the week there, as did two Red-crested Pochards. Another eclipse drake Garganey visited Stanford Res on 14th while, back at Daventry, the juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck also remained throughout.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Stanford Res, 14th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
Bittern, Stanwick GP, 15th August 2022 (Steve Fisher)

No longer confined to the winter months, Bittern, it seems, has become a bit of a Martini bird in Northants, nowadays having the potential to be found any time, any place, anywhere. This is no doubt a result of its continually increasing UK breeding population, a measure of which is reflected in the number of booming males – a record 228 in 2021. Following one at Summer Leys LNR recently, another showed well on the edge of the reeds at Stanwick GP on 15th. They are still not easy to come by …

Stanwick also hosted a Cattle Egret between 16th and 19th, while this week’s Great Egrets were too readily available at Ditchford GP, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Pitsford – the latter site producing a maximum of up to five birds.  

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 15th August 2022 (Steve Fisher)

Putting aside the rarity value of a certain Daventry duck, the bird of the week slot was rightly occupied by a juvenile Shag. In this instance, a garden pond in Towcester came firmly under the spotlight, playing host for the best part of the day, on 13th. Feisty and approachable during its stay, the bird had departed by the evening but not before it had consumed the pond’s one and only goldfish.

Juvenile Shag, Towcester, 13th August 2022 (Ben Mitchell)

This week’s Ospreys were limited to the area around Hollowell Res, with two there on 16th, one on 18th and one flying south over the nearby village of Guilsborough on 19th. The only other raptor of note was Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys producing a juvenile on 13th, Harrington an adult male on 15th and the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton one on 15th and 18th.

When compared to the last review period, things were looking up on the wader front, kicking off this week with eighteen Whimbrels flying south over Daventry on 16th – a decent flock size for Northants, if ever there was one. Black-tailed Godwits were also more in evidence, Stanford leading on numbers with seventeen circling the site before flying west on 19th. On the ground, Summer Leys produced birds on a daily basis, which comprised probably five different individuals during the period. Elsewhere, singles were at Hollowell on 17th, Daventry on 17th-19th and at Naseby Res on 18th.

Juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 16th August 2022 (Alan Coles)

Ruff numbers, too, were on the up, Pitsford laying claim to the lion’s share with three on the ground and six more flying over on 16th and one remaining the following day. Stanwick subsequently produced one on 17th and another was at Summer Leys on 18th, while an out-of-season Sanderling appeared at Thrapston GP on the first of those two dates.

Juvenile Ruff, Pitsford Res, 17th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s one and only Wood Sandpiper was at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 18th-19th, while single Greenshanks visited Summer Leys on 16th and Naseby on 18th.

Wood Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 19th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s only Caspian Gull – an adult or near-adult – was again at Daventry on 16th, while Pitsford held up to three Yellow-legged Gulls, Daventry produced a first-summer on 17th and an adult visited Naseby the following day.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 16th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

After a very lean spring for the species, the first of the autumn’s Black Terns appeared at Thrapston GP on 17th and it seems highly likely this was the same bird relocated at Stanwick the following day, remaining there until 19th.

Juvenile Black Tern, Stanwick GP, 18th August 2022 (Steve Fisher)

Heading up this week’s passerines was a Pied Flycatcher, located in a boundary hedge at Hollowell on 18th. As is often the case, it remained highly elusive and its stay was equally brief. Chalk and cheese, though, the appreciable run of autumn Common Redstarts continued, producing birds at seven localities, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Brampton Valley, Harrington AF, Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res. The highest number was four or five at Harrington on 15th and 18th, with one trapped and ringed there on the latter date.

Whinchat numbers improved somewhat this week, Harrington producing four on 14th and 17th, Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) three on 18th, up to two in the Brampton Valley between 14th and 19th and singles at Stanford on 15th and 19th. An early autumn Stonechat put in an appearance at Wollaston Mill, near Summer Leys, on 14th. Northern Wheatear numbers continued to move slowly upward, with Harrington producing singles on 13th and 17th and two on 17th. Elsewhere, singles were found in the Brampton Valley on 13th and 18th, Thrapston on 16th, Summer Leys on 7th and Welford Res on 18th, while single Tree Pipits flew over Blueberry Farm on 13th and Duston on 19th and one was below Hanging Houghton in the Brampton Valley on the latter date.


Newsround – 6th to 12th August 2022

Another thermometer-popping week saw a small flurry of new birds in, flanking some seemingly settled long stayers.

Another unseasonal Pink-footed Goose was found at Daventry CP on 12th, with odds-on favourite it being one of the two or three found locally during the last week of July. Aside from this, the only dapper dabbler during the period was the Garganey which remained at Pitsford Res until 8th. Pitsford also maintained its monopoly on Red-crested Pochards, with up to five on 7th, falling back to two on 12th, while a drake Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard hybrid was also found there on 11th. Sometimes easy but frequently playing hard to get, the ‘real’ juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck clocked up another week at Daventry, remaining there throughout the period.

Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 9th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Not as straightforward to see as they were in the early part of the year, Cattle Egrets are now at a premium, with just one this week, at Stanwick GP, on 11th-12th. Conversely, this week’s Great Egrets peaked at four on 8th, at Pitsford Res, while singles were present on and off at Naseby Res, Stanwick, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP.

While a Honey Buzzard was reportedly seen flying south over Islip on 12th, more tangible fare appeared in the shape of a Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys between 6th and 8th and another in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm, Maidwell area on the same dates.  

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 8th August 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

Continuing the raptor theme, single Ospreys were seen over Stanford Res on 6th-8th, Summer Leys on 7th, Naseby on 11th and Hollowell on 7th and 9th – the latter bird being identified from its faded Darvic ring as a ‘veteran’ 17-year old female.

Female Osprey, Hollowell Res, 10th August 2022 (Jon Cook)

Although an early returning Golden Plover appeared at Hollowell on 9th, the Nene Valley produced the pick of this week’s waders with, in fact, all of these being limited to the Earls Barton GP complex.

Adult European Golden Plover, Hollowell Res, 9th August 2022 (Jon Cook)

Top ranking goes to Wood Sandpiper, two of which were present there between 8th and 11th, one occupying the newly exposed shallows of Mary’s Lake for the duration, visiting adjacent Summer Leys on 10th. The other was present for a day, on 9th, a little further up the valley at New Workings (North). Otherwise, it was down to Black-tailed Godwits to keep the wader ball rolling, with Summer Leys hosting two crisp juveniles throughout the period, joined briefly by a third bird on 6th and an adult on 12th.  

Juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 10th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s only Caspian Gull, a third-year and the first of the autumn, dropped in at Daventry on 11th, while Yellow-legged Gulls peaked at six at Priors Hall, Corby on 6th. Elsewhere, five were at Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 8th and ones and twos were seen at Daventry, Earls Barton, Pitsford and Stanwick.

Once again a Short-eared Owl showed itself briefly in the Brampton Valley on 6th and was, for a second time, captured on a trail-cam positioned there, during the early hours of 8th.

On the passerine front, numbers of Common Redstarts ramped up with birds seen at eleven localities, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Brampton Valley, Eydon, Harrington AF (where one was trapped and ringed on 11th), Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res, Stanford-on-Avon, Welford and Woodford Halse. The highest numbers were three at Blueberry Farm between 6th and 8th and the same number at Welford on 11th.

The number of Whinchats remained low, with up to two in the Brampton Valley remaining from last week until 8th and a juvenile at Harrington AF on 7th. A juvenile was found at Harrington on 7th. Northern Wheatear numbers rallied a little with singles at Pitsford Res on 7th-8th, in the Brampton Valley on 8th, Harrington on 9th and at Duston on 11th.

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 7th August 2022 (David Arden)

It’s a sad, sad situation when the first Tree Pipit of the year turns up in August but this was exactly the case when one flew over Blueberry Farm on 6th, followed by singles at Stanford Res on 7th and Pitsford Res on 10th, while five separate individuals flew over Harrington on 11th.

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 7th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Equally saddening, the county also saw its second-only record of Corn Bunting this year with one briefly at Stanford on the last day of the period.

Newsround – 30th July to 5th August 2022

No let up in the dry weather saw more migrants on the move, including some early bonus birds, comprising both the bold and the bizarre. Falling squarely into the latter category was the first ‘pure’ Ferruginous Duck in Northamptonshire for eleven years.

Following the short-term scare elicited by a hybrid at Stanwick back in January 2020, there is no doubt about the identification of this week’s bird, a juvenile male, which turned up at Daventry CP on 31st, remaining there throughout the week. What may be in doubt, however, is its origin. Clearly one of the two which turned up a stone’s throw away, at Draycote Water, it remains a mystery as to what they are doing there, unseasonally, in late summer – especially as this mirrors last year’s occurrence at the same locality around the same time. Is there a local wildfowl collection in the vicinity, from which captive-bred birds are escaping before they are pinioned? The jury is out …

Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 1st August 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 4th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 4th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Despite some twenty-five previous records, Ferruginous Duck – currently a ‘BB rarity’ – is now a seriously rare bird in the county. The last acceptable one was a drake at Pitsford Res, returning for its third year, from 28th September to 14th October 2011, while the only other record this century was a first-winter drake at Daventry CP from 15th December 2002 to 10th February 2003, and what was believed to have been the same bird visiting at Hollowell Res on 1st February 2003.

In contrast to the above, six Common Scoters (five drakes) at Pitsford in no way proved contentious when they dropped in while undertaking their overland moult migration, on 31st. Pitsford also held up to four Red-crested Pochards (two drakes) throughout the week, along with an eclipse drake Garganey on 1st, ahead of what was likely to have been the same bird there again on 4th-5th.

Last week’s Bittern was seen again at Summer Leys LNR on 30th while, back at Pitsford, two Cattle Egrets paid a brief visit the following day. The latter site also produced the week’s maximum count of Great Egrets with five present on the 5th, while Summer Leys and Thrapston GP held one apiece during the period.

Heading up the raptors, single Ospreys were seen over Hollowell Res on 30th and 31st, Stanford Res on 30th and 5th and at Daventry on 3rd. Marsh Harriers remained in the spotlight this week, though, with one flying west over Sulby on 30th, and singles at Stanford on the same date, Summer Leys on 30th-31st and 4th and over Pitsford on 5th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 4th August 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the wader front, two Whimbrels flew west over Ditchford GP and over Summer Leys shortly afterward on 30th and one flew over Pitsford on 31st. Pitsford also scored a respectable twenty-eight Black-tailed Godwits – albeit fleetingly – on 31st and a modest ten flying south there, on 4th. Four and seven were at Summer Leys on 31st and 4th, respectively, four visited Stanford on 5th and singles were found at Daventry, Hollowell and Pitsford on 1st.

Adult Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 1st August 2022 (Matthew Cottrell)

The week’s only Greenshank was mobile around Summer Leys between 30th and 2nd, the same site hosting an adult Wood Sandpiper between 30th and 1st while, a little further west along the Nene valley, a juvenile Wood Sandpiper spent the day at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 4th.

Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper Summer Leys LNR, 2nd August 2022 (Alan Coles)
Juvenile Wood Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 4th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Following the first pop-in juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the autumn at Stanford last week, another was there equally briefly on 4th. Upsizing, Yellow-legged Gulls peaked at seven at Pitsford on 31st, followed by three there on 1st and at least one lingering throughout the week. Elsewhere, single birds visited Stanford on 31st and 2nd, Harrington AF and Stanwick GP on 2nd and Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 4th.

A Short-eared Owl was captured on a trail-cam, positioned in the Brampton Valley, during the early hours of 5th.

A short hop away at Harrington AF, topping this week’s passerines were two rather nice Pied Flycatchers, present for one day, on 30th. A great find and a welcome distraction from the run-of-the-mill bits and pieces coming through hitherto. More were to follow, with 1st seeing another located at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and yet another down in in the south-west of the county, at Eydon, on 4th.

First-winter male Pied Flycatcher, Harrington AF, 30th July 2022 (Nick Parker)

A scarce, much admir’d and locally sought after migrant, Pied Flycatcher is an almost annual visitor, producing an average of three records per year, although 1995 saw an amazing thirteen appearing, ten of which were in autumn. Though rare, records in July are not without precedent but August remains the peak month for occurrences.

Common Redstarts were again in profusion this week with up to two at six localities including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF (where one was trapped and ringed on 4th), Lamport, Pitsford Res and Woodford Halse. Two more  Northern Wheatears appeared – one at Wollaston on 4th and the other in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton the following day. A single Common Crossbill flew over Harrington on 31st.