Newsround – 17th to 23rd September 2022

Another predominantly dry week and, aside from a brief south-westerly interlude, winds from the north were the order of the day for the majority of the period. Despite these conditions being far from ideal for scarce autumn migrants, as the week drew to a close, some new and rather more inspiring birds had made it over the county boundary – albeit in small numbers and only for a short period of time …

However, there was nothing majorly new on the wildfowl front and the two Pink-footed Geese of questionable provenance remained with us – the Stanwick GP bird until at least 17th, while the Daventry CP individual was still present on 21st. More sporadic in its appearances this autumn, the female Ruddy Shelduck paid a return visit to Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 19th, remaining at the latter site until at least 21st, while Pitsford Res again produced a Garganey on 19th-20th and 23rd.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 20th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Following last week’s record number of Cattle Egrets, things simmered down somewhat as a return to more normal figures saw eight in flight at Thrapston GP on 17th, the same date on which two flew over Stanford Res – hot on the heels of the site’s first record less than three weeks previously. One was also present at the more traditional location of Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR on 21st, the same day a Bittern was reported flying south at Broughton.   

This week’s raptors were down almost to the bare bones, with just two Ospreys, both appearing on 18th on opposite sides of the county, including one at Stanford and a juvenile over Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR. Similarly, two Marsh Harriers were also seen on the same day, 20th, with one flying from the Brampton Valley toward Brixworth and the other at Summer Leys LNR. An unidentified ‘ringtail’ harrier sp. was seen close to Harrington AF on 22nd and was perhaps the Hen Harrier known to have been in the area last week but, then again, perhaps not …

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th September 2022 (Adrian Leybourne)

Late September, though, sees the number of passage waders coming through reduced to a trickle, but what may have been lost in quantity was, this week, made up for in quality – if only fleetingly. Black-tailed Godwits were down to single birds at Ditchford on 19th and Daventry on 21st, while Ruffs were similarly reduced to singles at the latter site on 20th-21st and at Pitsford on 21st-22nd, with two there the following day. But it was the 20th which produced two of the week’s star waders. First up was a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, seen only briefly and photographed at Pitsford then seemingly disappearing into the ether, only to reappear, equally briefly, two days later on 22nd – assuming it was, of course, the same individual. With just the one previous record this year, Curlew Sandpiper is not the regular autumn migrant it once was and it can no longer be guaranteed as an annual visitor to the county, even when there is a national influx and coastal counts reach triple figures. This is a far cry from the way things used to be a couple of decades or so ago, when this species was taken as a given in autumn and many mud-fringed, local reservoirs laid claim to their own.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th September 2022 (Paul Wyer)
Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Sadly, much the same can be said about Little Stint, once taken largely for granted as a regularly occurring autumn migrant in small numbers. Echoing the one-day bird at Thrapston at the end of August, the second of the year made an equally brief stay at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 20th. Autumn is not yet over but time is running out for further encounters with this little gem.

Juvenile Little Stint, Earls Barton GP, 20th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Although somewhat further down in the pecking order, the third decent wader on the roll call this week was Spotted Redshank, two of which turned up at the above Earls Barton site on 22nd, some forty-eight hours after the Little Stint. In keeping with the last two species, they did not stay but happily, two – perhaps the same – were found during the evening of the same date at Pitsford Res, where they remained until the following day. These were the first autumn Spotted Redshanks to turn up at this site for four years, but it is unlikely we will ever see a return to the good old days of the last century, when acres of beckoning mud was the autumn norm at Pitsford and numbers of this species were inclined to reach double figures there.

Juvenile Spotted Redshanks, Earls Barton GP, 22nd September 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Sticking with Pitsford, a Wood Sandpiper was discovered there on 17th, remaining until the week’s end when it ultimately became overshadowed by the aforementioned taller Tringas. Two Greenshanks were also on site there throughout the week and two also visited Earls Barton on 20th, with one remaining until 23rd. The first Jack Snipe of the autumn was found at Hollowell Res on 21st, still being present on 23rd.

Jack Snipe, Hollowell Res, 23rd September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Scarce gulls remained just that. Single first-winter Caspian Gulls appeared at Ravensthorpe on 20th and at Daventry the following day, while Yellow-legged Gulls stretched to one at Pitsford on 21st and seven on 23rd, plus three at Summer Leys on 22nd.

This week’s Merlin was in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton, on 20th.

All the period’s passerines fell squarely into the chat zone – well, there or thereabouts – and included single Common Redstarts in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 18th and 23rd, two near Old on 19th, up to two at Harrington between 19th and 21st, two at Hollowell on 22nd and one at Honey Hill on 23rd.

Common Redstart, Hollowell Res, 22nd September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Whinchats, too, were still very much in evidence with the Brampton Valley holding up to four during the period, at least two were present at Hollowell between 19th and 23rd, two were at Harrington on 21st and one at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 18th.

Whinchats, Hollowell Res, 21st September 2022 (Jon Cook)

It’s also proving to be a good autumn for Stonechats so far, with birds present at seven localities, including Blueberry Farm, Brampton Valley, Harrington, Hollowell, Pitsford, Welford and Willowbrook Industrial Estate. By the end of the week, Brampton Valley and Hollowell had produced the highest numbers of six and five, respectively.

In stark contrast, though, Northern Wheatears were down to singles in the Brampton Valley on 18th and 21st and up to two at Harrington between 19th and 21st.

The last week in September has a track record for producing American waders and, if the short-term weather forecast for wind and rain is correct, we may yet be in for something interesting over the forthcoming days.


Newsround – 10th to 16th September 2022

Although we’ve clocked up record-breaking numbers of Cattle Egrets this week, with a largely northerly airstream – particularly at the end of the period – the birding has been somewhat lacklustre in comparison to that experienced in previous weeks.

Yes, in a week during which local birding has been rather like pulling teeth, the first wild Pink-footed Geese have arrived ‘up north’ in the UK. This, however, adds no further credibility to either of the long-stayers at Daventry CP or Stanwick GP, still present on 10th and 13th, respectively. Two one-day Garganeys included an eclipse drake at Daventry on 10th and one at Pitsford Res on 14th, while Stanford Res produced five Red-crested Pochards on the first of these two dates.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Daventry CP, 10th September 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Becoming rather more sporadic in its occurrence at Daventry, the previously long-staying first-winter drake Ferruginous Duck – now looking rather more dapper in pretty much adult plumage – put in another appearance there on 15th.

Last week’s quintet of Cattle Egrets remained in the Townholme Meadows area at Ditchford GP until at least 12th but on the evening of the same date, a flock of sixteen flew west at Summer Leys LNR, ahead of a record-breaking count of at least twenty-one emerging from the roost at Stanwick GP, early the following morning.

Cattle Egrets, Summer Leys LNR, 12th September 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the raptor front, the same three species as last week were again in evidence in the county. Three Ospreys included one at Stanford on 10th and a juvenile over Hollowell village on the same date, followed by another juvenile flying south-west over Daventry on 13th.

Juvenile Osprey, Hollowell, 10th September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Also keeping up appearances, Marsh Harriers comprised a male heading low south over Daventry on 10th, one at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the following day and another at Summer Leys on 13th. At a time of year ripe for the production of a Pallid Harrier, unsurprisingly, Northamptonshire had to make do with third-best (let’s not forget Montagu’s) once again in the shape of two ‘ringtail’ Hen Harriers, one of which flew south at Fotheringhay on 13th, while the other – likely to have been last week’s bird – made another appearance at Harrington AF on 15th.

Scarcer passage waders remained just that, with just one Black-tailed Godwit at Pitsford from 10th to 13th, two Ruffs at Naseby Res from 12th to 14th, plus twos at both Summer Leys and Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 13th.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 13th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s token Wood Sandpiper was at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 13th and the only Greenshanks were one at Pitsford on 10th-11th, followed by up to three there between 13th and 16th and one at Earls Barton GP between 10th and 16th.

A small trickle of the scarcer gulls included single juvenile Caspian Gulls at Boddington Res on 10th and 11th, with a first-winter there on the latter date, while the previous week’s German-ringed adult male remained at Naseby until 14th. Also in a repeat performance of last week, there were again few Yellow-legged Gulls in evidence, with an adult at Daventry on 10th, a second-winter at Boddington on 11th, two adults at Pitsford on 11th and 14th and one at Stanwick GP on 9th.

The first Arctic Tern of the autumn, an adult, visited Ravensthorpe Res on 11th.

Continuing the recent run of Merlins, one was seen at Stanwick on 13th.

And it looks like we are continuing to do well this autumn for Pied Flycatchers, with another being found alongside Spotted Flycatchers in a rural garden between Badby and Fawsley on 10th. Against this, though, Common Redstart numbers began to dwindle, the favoured sites of Blueberry Farm and Harrington both producing up to two birds on two and three dates, respectively, while singles were also found at Hollowell on 10th and 16th, Orlingbury on 11th, in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 13th and at Stanford on 15th – the latter bird being trapped and ringed.

Numbers of Whinchats remained relatively high, with maximum site totals of four at Borough Hill on 12th and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 14th. Elsewhere, twos were at Hollowell and Woodford Halse and singles near Brockhall and at Chelveston AF and Clifford Hill GP.

Juvenile Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 11th September 2022 (Jon Cook)

As we can expect Whinchat totals to diminish over the next week or two, their shoes will no doubt be filled by Stonechats, numbers of which were clearly on the up during the period. The five sites of Borough Hill, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Stanford and Upton CP all produced birds, the highest number being six at Borough Hill on 12th and at Earls Barton GP on 15th.

Stonechat, Upton CP, 15th September 2022 (Tony Stanford)

Northern Wheatears continued to be found in various localities. Blueberry Farm, Boughton, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Earls Barton, Harrington and Pitsford all produced birds in ones and twos but three were at Duston on 10th.

To round off, a Corn Bunting put in an appearance for one day in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton, on 13th.

Newsround – 3rd to 9th September 2022

With a mixture of sunshine, occasional early morning mists and hefty showers, backed by largely light south to south-easterlies, the week just gone by took on a distinct autumnal feel. And so it came to pass that the Northamptonshire list became one species heavier, as the nets of Stanford once again worked their magic and delivered something seemingly not on anyone’s radar …

Wading through the wildfowl, at least two Pink-footed Geese of dubious origin remained at large, with the Daventry CP individual still present until at least 8th and the Stanwick GP bird being seen again on 4th and 9th. A Garganey was at Pitsford Res on 3rd – the same site hanging on to just one Red-crested Pochard until 8th. Back over at Daventry, the long-staying first-winter drake Ferruginous Duck remained on site until at least 5th.

A sprinkling of Cattle Egrets included singles at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd and at Stanwick on 3rd-4th but numbers grew at Ditchford GP, where three were initially found on 3rd, followed by five in the Townholme Meadows/St Peter’s Church area on 8th-9th.

Fewer Ospreys were seen this week and included two at Pitsford, briefly, on 5th and a juvenile flying south over Boddington Res on 9th. Similarly, Marsh Harriers were down to just one, a juvenile at Summer Leys on 6th. The vacancy, however, was immediately filled by a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, which proved to be highly mobile between Harrington AF and the Brampton Valley on 4th-5th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 6th September 2022 (CliveBowley)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 6th September 2022 (CliveBowley)

With muddy reservoir margins becoming more extensive and providing a welcoming draw to passage waders,  Black-tailed Godwits were of daily occurrence at, and exclusive to, Pitsford, where seven were present on 3rd-4th and up to five remained for the rest of the period. Naseby Res was, however, the focus for the highest number of Ruffs which had climbed to six by the week’s end. Elsewhere, singles visited Pitsford on 4th and Stanford on 3rd and 4th, one of which was a colour-ringed and flagged juvenile female ringed at Blindheimsvikane in Norway on 27th August. Having travelled 1,204 km in no more than seven days, this is only the 16th Norwegian-ringed Ruff to be recorded in the UK (info from Chris Hubbard).

Juvenile male (left) and female Ruffs, Naseby Res, 8th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

In the Nene Valley, this week’s one and only Wood Sandpiper remained at Summer Leys from 4th to 7th, two Greenshanks were there on 3rd, while nearby Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) continued to hold two throughout the period. Pitsford also produced Greenshanks daily, with up to four on 5th and 9th.

Juvenile Greenshank, Pitsford Res, 7th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Construction sites with acres of levelled ground are oft favoured by loafing gulls and so it was that this week’s token Mediterranean Gull – an adult – was found among such a flock at Harlestone Park, off New Sandy Lane in Northampton on 5th. This species is still proving thin on the ground, so far, this autumn.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Harlestone Park Construction site, Northampton, 5th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

More in evidence, though, were Caspian Gulls and a 2021 German-ringed adult which was found at Naseby on 5th, turned out to be a male that had visited the county last year, when it was seen at DIRFT 3 in August and again in October. Another adult was at Daventry on 8th and a juvenile dropped in at Boddington Res the following day.

German-ringed adult male Caspian Gull, Naseby Res, 5th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

There were few Yellow-legged Gulls about during the period, with one at Pitsford on 3rd, a juvenile at Daventry on 4th with three there on 8th and six at Stanwick GP on 9th.

Two juvenile Black Terns visited Boddington on 9th.

Back on dry land, Harrington AF produced a Short-eared Owl on 5th and a Merlin on 5th-6th.

But bird of the week – and probably of the year – was once again at Stanford, where the ringers played a blinder, extracting from the nets a somewhat leftfield catch in the shape of a first-winter Blyth’s Reed Warbler on 8th.

So, after all the hoo-ha at Stanford, another week and another Pied Flycatcher reported from Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the day before was, this time, left looking positively mundane. Meanwhile, the autumn run of Common Redstarts continued unabated with records from seven sites, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Boddington, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington, Stanford and Yardley Chase. The highest counts were four at Stanford on 3rd and four or five at Harrington on 6th.

First-winter male Common Redstart, Clifford Hill GP, 4th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Whinchats, too, continued to be well represented, with ten sites producing varying numbers, the maxima of which were six in the Brampton Valley on 7th-8th and five at Stanford on 3rd. A male Stonechat was at Priors Hall, Corby on 4th.

Whinchat, Clifford Hill GP, 4th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatears were found in ones and twos at Barton Seagrave, Brampton Valley, Duston (Northampton), Orlingbury, Summer Leys and Sywell AF, with Harrington producing three on 5th and 8th. The latter site also delivered two fly-over Tree Pipits on 8th.

A mighty week, then … and there is much more of autumn still to come.


Newsround – 20th August to 2nd September 2022

During the period in which we crossed the dateline into meteorological autumn, easterlies picked up and garden birds once more came to the fore.

But first, suspect Pink-footed Geese remained on station with the Daventry CP bird seeing out the second week and the Thrapston individual re-emerging on 25th. Absent for a couple of weeks, the female Ruddy Shelduck revisited Hollowell Res on 24th and 31st, two Garganeys dropped in to Cransley Res on 26th and another was found at Pitsford on 30th. Pitsford Res also continued to play host to a small number of Red-crested Pochards, including five there on 20th and one from 27th to 1st. Other diving ducks included a female-type Greater Scaup at Clifford Hill GP on 25th and the long-staying drake Ferruginous Duck, now having shed more of its juvenile feathers, at Daventry CP until 1st.

First-winter drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP 31st August 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Escaping the traditional confines of Stanwick GP, where one was present on 21st-23rd, followed by four on 2nd, single Cattle Egrets appeared at Summer Leys on 25th and at Stanford Res – a long-anticipated first for the site – on 28th.

Cattle Egret, Stanford Res, 28th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Ospreys and Marsh Harriers have dominated the late summer raptor scene this year and they continued to feature over the period, with singles of the former at Pitsford on 20th and 1st and at Thrapston GP’s Elinor Trout Lake on 22nd, 24th and 28th. Marsh Harriers appeared below Hanging Houghton in the Brampton Valley on 20th, at Summer Leys on 23rd, Stanford Res on 24th and 28th, Stanwick GP on 27th and Daventry CP on 30th.

On the wader front, just one Whimbrel was seen during the period, flying over Clifford Hill GP on 25th. Black-tailed Godwits, on the other hand, maintained a strong presence with thirteen at Hollowell on 25th and varying, single-digit numbers at Summer Leys between 20th and 30th, with a maximum of seven there on 26th. Elsewhere, singles remained at Daventry CP between 20th and 23rd and at Pitsford on 23rd and 27th, with six there on 2nd, one was at Clifford Hill GP on 26th and 31st and two visited Naseby Res on the latter date.

Black-tailed Godwits and Ruffs, Naseby Res, 1st September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Ruff numbers failed to climb above a site maximum of two – the latter at Naseby Res on 31st-1st – otherwise, singles were found at Daventry on 29th and 2nd, Stanford on 31st-1st, Clifford Hill on 31st and Summer Leys on 1st-2nd.  

Ruffs, Naseby Res, 1st September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Meanwhile, a new bird for 2022, a Little Stint at Thrapston GP on 31st, fortunately remained just that, narrowly escaping the apparent collective hallucinogenic gaze of a group of a dozen or so observers assembled nearby. This week’s one and only Wood Sandpiper checked in at Summer Leys on 30th, the same site holding up to three Greenshanks between 20th and 1st. Other Greenshanks made themselves available at Thrapston on 25th, Pitsford on the same date with one-two there on 1st-2nd and two at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 1st.

Thin on the ground so far this year, the week’s only Mediterranean Gull – a juvenile moulting to first-winter – was found at Stanwick on 2nd, while an adult Caspian Gull visited Daventry on 23rd. Up to two Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at Daventry, Pitsford and Stanwick during the period.

Following the first of the autumn’s Black Terns at Thrapston and Stanwick during the previous period, the Stanwick bird remained until 27th and up to three juveniles lingered at Pitsford between 20th and 25th. Not to be left out, the smaller reservoirs of Stanford and Boddington were visited, respectively, by two juveniles on 21st and an adult on 25th.

Juvenile Black Tern, Stanwick GP, 23rd August 2022 (Bob Bullock)

A male Merlin was seen at Lamport on 24th.

And bird of the week? Well, that honour fell to Wryneck – two of them to be precise, the first of which was found in a garden at Woodend on 21st. Sometimes visible, sometimes not, it was seen again briefly the following day. The second was pulled from a mist net at Stanford, before being rung, on 30th but it was not seen subsequently. Being trapped almost to the day in 2021, this was the ringing group’s fourth in three years.

Wryneck Woodend, 21st August 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Wryneck Woodend, 21st August 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Wryneck, Stanford Res, 30th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

The ringers at Stanford also struck lucky with a Pied Flycatcher on 28th – only the third ever to be ringed there.

Pied Flycatcher, Stanford Res, 28th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Seemingly now the norm for early autumn, the plethora of Common Redstarts continued with records from twelve sites, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Brampton Valley, Chipping Warden, Fawsley, Harrington, Lamport, Old Stratford, Pitsford, Stanford, Stanford-on-Avon, Thrapston and Woodford Halse. The highest counts were five trapped and ringed at Stanford on 30th and four at Harrington between 22nd and 31st.  

Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Sharing some of the above localities with the last species, Whinchats, too, were also found in good numbers, with records from Borough Hill, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Fawsley, Harrington, Hollowell, Old Stratford and Stanford – Harrington and Hollowell producing the maximum of five apiece on 28th and 29th, respectively.

Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 21st August 2022 (Jon Cook)
Whinchat, Stanford Res, 29th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Northern Wheatears were a little less widespread, with no single site producing more than one bird. Borough Hill, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington, Pitsford and Stanford all featured during the period.

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 27th August 2022 (David Arden)

Following an earlier than normal autumn passage, just one Tree Pipit was found, at Harrington, on 29th, while a Corn Bunting appeared unexpectedly at Ditchford GP on 21st.