As we entered October a heavy dollop of brisk westerlies marked the week just gone but, for all the bluster, there were still birds to be found. With waders now clearly on the ebb, passerines came to the fore – one in particular sparking a bit of a twitch …
This week saw Pitsford Reservoir singled out as the only locality to produce any notable wildfowl, the latter including the presumed same lingering Garganey until at least 2nd and a drake Red-crested Pochard on the same date.
Once again, varying numbers of Cattle Egrets were seen around and about at Stanwick GP, these consisting of two on Roadside Lake on 2nd, eight in the roost there on 6th and six with cattle at North Lake on 7th.
The period’s two Marsh Harriers comprised one at Pitsford on 2nd and the other, a juvenile, at Summer Leys LNR on 6th.
Picking through last week’s leftover waders, the juvenile Grey Plover remained at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh Reserve until 3rd, along with the two Ruffs also rolling over there until 2nd. Similarly, Pitsford’s two Ruffs were still present on 1st, one of which remained until 6th.
New in, though, were single Black-tailed Godwits at Hollowell Res, Summer Leys and Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) – all on 1st. While the first two of these were one-day birds, the latter remained until 6th, when another was also seen at Ditchford GP.
The same part of Earls Barton also held a Greenshank on 1st-2nd and two Jack Snipes were found at Thrapston on 1st.
The variety of gulls was up this week with, albeit somewhat late, the first Little Gulls of the autumn turning up at Pitsford, where a first-winter was found on 2nd, followed by two first-winters on 5th, one of which remained until the end of the period.
With numbers still depressed, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull visited Boddington Res on 7th, while small numbers of the regularly visiting larger gulls included a first-winter Caspian Gull at Summer Leys on 1st, followed by a second-winter at Daventry CP on 5th and 7th, plus an adult or near-adult at Stanford Res on 6th. Yellow-legged Gulls again maintained a presence with an adult at Earls Barton GP on 2nd and 7th, an adult and a first-winter at Daventry on 3rd and two adults at Pitsford on 6th.
Away from the water, Harrington AF served up a Short-eared Owl on 2nd and a Merlin two days later, on 4th.
But there were no doubts when it came to bird of the week, the award going to Duston’s first-winter Red-backed Shrike – an outrageous find on the edge of suburbia! Being the first in the county since June 2015, this scaly beauty certainly pulled the punters throughout the second half of the day it was present, 3rd October. The occurrence of the 2015 bird was not publicised at the time, neither was the one before that, in July 2011, and you have to go back as far as 2004 to find a twitchable one. In view of this, it was a new bird for a number of county birders. Further details on the Duston bird and a summary of earlier records can be found here.
Another week and another fleeting view of a Ring Ouzel at Harrington came as no surprise on 6th, along with a similarly short-staying Firecrest at Byfield Pool on the same date. Amazingly, the latter is the only one recorded in the county, so far, this year. Meanwhile, the number of Whinchats dwindled to two at Hollowell on 1st and singles at Pitsford on 2nd and 3rd (trapped and ringed on the latter date), in the Brampton Valley between 2nd and 5th and at Clifford Hill GP on 6th. Conversely, Stonechats went from strength to strength, being recorded from nine localities, with the highest site totals of eight at Earls Barton GP on 2nd and in the Brampton Valley from 2nd to 5th.
Just two Northern Wheatears were made up of singles on a dung heap at Hartwell on 3rd and on the dam at Stanford on 7th, the latter site also producing a Rock Pipit and, like the Firecrest, the first in the county this year, on 1st-2nd.
It was quickly followed, however, by another briefly at Daventry CP on 3rd.