Deep into October, signs of winter were afoot as flocks of wildfowl continued to build and numbers of loafing gulls visibly increased. That’s not to say autumn is over, of course – far from it, in fact, and the week just gone continued to produce a trickle of waders, some interesting passerines and a rather large raptor …
Hot on the heels of those at Hollowell and Stanford last week came three more Whooper Swans and this time it was Pitsford’s turn to host them, if only for one day, on 15th. While the Pink-footed Goose remained throughout with the Greylags at Hollowell, the female Ruddy Shelduck, on tour in the northwest of the county, dropped in at Stanford on 18th.
The latter site and Pitsford carved up the week’s quota of Red-crested Pochards between them, nine hanging on at Pitsford until at least 19th and four remaining at Stanford until the end of the period. That just leaves the female Aythya-type hybrid, bearing some resemblance to a Ferruginous Duck, still at Pitsford on 15th. There is some debate as to its parentage but Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck is being touted, although this combination is said to be extremely uncommon. Let’s leave it there …
There’s no question of hybridisation where our Cattle Egrets are concerned, though, and three localities produced birds this week, although numbers were low. The 18th saw singles at all of these – Ringstead, Stanwick and Summer Leys, with a mobile individual remaining at, and in the vicinity of, the latter site until 21st, while Stanwick produced five fly-overs on 19th.
With a Marsh Harrier checking in briefly at Summer Leys on 18th, the same date saw a veritable sun-blocker of a White-tailed Eagle heading high north-northeast over Brigstock. Sporting a trademark white tail, this bird was clearly not an immature and enquires made to those with their fingers on the pulse of the current reintroduction project immediately eliminated any released birds. This species has moved up the population category ladder from ‘threatened’ in the 1980s to ‘least concern’ and is currently undergoing a population increase. Continental birds now seem to be appearing with relative frequency in the UK and they are not restricted to coastal locations so, hopefully, there will be more to come. Eyes to the skies, as they say …
On the ground, last week’s Black-tailed Godwit was still to be found north of the causeway at Ravensthorpe on 17th and the county’s fourth Grey Plover of the year paid a brief visit to nearby Hollowell two days later, on 19th. The last day of the period saw a Greenshank flying east over Stanford.
After the momentary excitement (at least for some) of last week’s Sabine’s Gull, things returned to normal, with the best of the larids being multiple Mediterranean Gulls at Boddington, including single adults on 15th and 19th and an adult plus a first-winter on 17th.
Following a week with no reports of Caspian Gulls, the German-ringed adult reappeared at Naseby after some five weeks’ absence, on 19th and an adult visited Hollowell on 21st.
Yellow-legged Gulls again remained in small numbers which included singles at Pitsford on 15th and 16th, Boddington on 15th and 17th, Hollowell on 17th, 19th and 21st and Daventry on 19th, when two were also at Naseby.
The juvenile Black Tern at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows NR remained until 18th.
This week’s Short-eared Owls were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 15th, in the adjacent part of the Brampton Valley on 16th and at Harrington AF on 20th, while a Merlin was seen flying south over fields to the east of Daventry CP on 19th.
While passerines were thin on the ground, they included some quality birds, not least of which were six Bearded Tits at Stanwick on 19th. Although these were the first in the county this year, they were not entirely unexpected as late October is when they are on the move, as historical records illustrate. Mainly keeping a low profile, they were not the easiest to see and only two could be located there the following day.
A Ring Ouzel was at Pitsford, in bushes below the dam, on 15th and this week’s Stonechats appeared in ones and twos at Boddington, Brampton Valley, Harrington AF, Pitsford, Stanford and Summer Leys, with Hollowell producing four on 17th and Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby at least three on 16th.
Another Rock Pipit – this week at Ditchford GP, on 16th – moves the year’s total up to four.