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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.