Rarity Round-up, 25th to 31st July 2020

In a week of contrast, weatherwise, the Northampton districts of Duston and Moulton were subjected to a fast-moving Tornado on 25th – the same day that weather warnings for rain and thunder were in place for southern parts of England. Subsequent heavy showers duly gave way to more settled conditions and a change in wind direction from westerly to southerly, dragging in hot air from the continent, which resulted in local temperatures reaching 35°C at the week’s end. Stanford and Summer Leys experienced their own tornado in the shape of a Caspian Tern, which swept in – and out again – in little more than the blink of an eye.

Following its brief visit to a rather full Ravensthorpe Res on 29th, the female Ruddy Shelduck returned to the more appealing shorelines of Hollowell Res, remaining there until the week’s end. Again, the only other wildfowl of note during the period were the Pitsford Res Red-crested Pochards, seemingly down once more to two on 26th and one on 29th-30th.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 29th July 2020 (Linda Honeybourne)

Meanwhile, the run of Spoonbills continued with a 35-minute drop-in appearance of an adult at Hollowell on 29th and another (or the same) reported at Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake the following day. Arguably, then, as common as Cattle Egrets this week, with only singles of the latter seen flying east at Stanwick GP on 26th and on the ground there on 31st …

Adult Spoonbill, Hollowell Res, 29th July 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Had it not been for two Great Egrets at Blatherwycke Lake on 29th, the Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys chain of pits would have had the monopoly on this species, with at least three present there throughout the week.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Ospreys were seen on four dates, with Hollowell top of the locality leaderboard as usual. Two were present there on the morning of 26th and one again during the evening, followed by four (a juvenile and three adults) on 31st. Pitsford produced one on 26th and again the following day. Singles were also seen at Thrapston GP on 30th and Stanford Res on 31st. Last week’s juvenile Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys continued to be seen, on and off, throughout the week, as was the juvenile at Pitsford, mobile around the nature reserve, north of the causeway, while one visited Hollowell Res on 31st.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 31st July 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Pitsford Res, 31st July 2020 (Tony Stanford)

The period saw fewer waders than in previous weeks, with Black-tailed Godwit being the only species of note. Twelve were at Summer Leys on 26th and five visited Hollowell Res on 28th. One, at the first of these two sites, photographed distantly on 25th, showed the hallmarks of a continental limosa but the case remains far from proven …

On to gulls. Single juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were loafing at Daventry CP on 25th and at Hollowell on 29th, while one jointed a flock of Black-headed Gulls feeding on flying ants over Wellingborough the following day. Last week’s second/third-summer Caspian Gull was still at Stanwick on 26th, when the maximum count of eleven Yellow-legged Gulls was also made there. Elsewhere, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was at Clifford Hill GP on 26th-27th, a second-summer at Hollowell on 28th, when an adult was also at Pitsford, followed by a third-summer there on 30th and two at Thrapston GP on the same date.

This week’s star, however, was the mighty Caspian Tern which flew east over Stanford Res at 07.50 on 26th, before turning up two and a half hours later, on the scrape at Summer Leys. It remained at the latter site for all of eight minutes and then it was gone …

Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (David Wright)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Caspian Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th July 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)

Pure speculation is that it’s the same individual that had already visited Stanford on 31st May and has been doing the rounds in the UK ever since, in the same manner as the 2017 Summer Leys/Clifford Hill bird. Either way, it’s the sixth or seventh county record, a great find and a fantastic bird for the lucky few who were in the right places at the right times.

Caspian Tern: assumed movements through Northamptonshire and the UK 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

Completely overshadowed, an adult Arctic Tern was at Pitsford on the unusual date of 29th.

Another nice find was a Nightjar, stumbled upon by the Stanford Ringing Group, along the old railway track at Stanford Res, early in the morning of 30th. The last Nightjar at this site was in 2016.

To passerines proper … and 28th saw the week’s only Common Redstart – an adult male – between Whilton and Little Brington and a male Whinchat at Hollowell, while the autumn’s first Northern Wheatear was found at Deenethorpe AF on 26th.

Male Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 29th July 2020 (Jon Cook)
Northern Wheatear, Deenethorpe AF, 26th July 2020 (James Underwood)

Beyond this meagre sprinkling, Crossbills remained very much in evidence with at least twenty still in Bucknell Wood on 26th-28th, eight over Upper Harlestone on 28th and six still in Wakerley Great Wood on 30th. However, the reporting rate on BirdTrack has fallen back to the historical average in the last week, suggesting this year’s influx has now lost momentum.

Rarity Round-up, 18th to 24th July 2020

The persisting westerly airstream continued to deliver light winds with occasional showers in the early part of the period, appearing to have little influence on birds turning up locally. Spoonbills and Crossbills were flavours of the week.

Languishing in infamy, the female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Hollowell Res throughout and, at Pitsford Res, two Red-crested Pochards reappearing on 19th had become four by 23rd.

Just the one of two long-staying juvenile Black-necked Grebes on the main lake at Summer Leys narrowly made it into the week, being seen on 18th but not subsequently.

Last week’s Spoonbill, seen in fading light at Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 17th, materialised the following morning on Summer Leys’ scrape, where it performed well for all comers until its departure, just prior to midday. On 20th, it, or another, was found just before dusk – again at Hardwater Lake. One was also seen circling high above Pitsford Res, before drifting west, on 23rd.

Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Bob Bullock)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Dan Beaman)
Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 18th July 2020 (Dan Beaman)

Eliciting far less excitement these days, Cattle Egrets continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were four on 18th and three on 24th. Given their presence in the county over the last two years, it would be tempting to change their status from ‘vagrant’ to ‘scarce resident’. Meanwhile, aside from singles at Hollowell on 19th and over Oundle Marina the following day, the focus for Great Egrets this week was the Earls Barton/Summer Leys complex, where up to three were seen, on and off, throughout.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 20th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

On the raptor front, Ospreys bounced back with Hollowell producing three different individuals, including female ‘30’ from Rutland Water, all on 22nd. Two were at Pitsford on 23rd and singles were seen at Hollowell on 19th and 23rd, Thrapston GP on 21st and over Harrington AF on 22nd. Marsh Harriers were seen briefly at Stanford Res on 19th, Earls Barton on 22nd and Summer Leys on 24th.

Female Osprey, Hollowell Res, 22nd July 2020 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 24th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Waders continued to trickle through, Stanford Res holding on to the best, with a Wood Sandpiper there briefly on 19th and two Whimbrels over on 23rd, while Black-tailed Godwits were limited to thirteen at Stanwick on 19th and the same number at Summer Ley the following day, when four were also seen over at Pitsford.

Third-summer Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 23rd July 2020 (Mike Alibone)
Second- or third-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 24th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick became the focus for gulls this week, with three Mediterranean Gulls (two adults and a first-summer) on 18th and three juveniles on 24th, plus a second/third-summer Caspian Gull on 23rd-24th. The late summer build-up of Yellow-legged Gulls now underway there, included at least twenty-two on 23rd. Elsewhere, single Yellow-legged Gulls were at Hollowell on 19th and at Pitsford on 18th-19th, with two there on 20th and three on 23rd.

Juvenile Black Redstart, ‘North Northamptonshire’, 17th July 2020 (Matt Jackson)

Belated news of a juvenile Black Redstart at a ‘private site’ (the latter-day euphemism for ‘site withheld’) in north Northamptonshire on 17th was an unusual July record, to say the least and local breeding not ruled out. Common Redstarts, however, were still very much in evidence, with the long-staying male at Harrington AF all week, a female or juvenile there on 20th-21st and another female/juvenile at Twywell Hills & Dales on 23rd. The autumn’s first Whinchat, a juvenile, appeared at Stanford on 20th, with a juvenile Stonechat there on the same date but it was Crossbills which dominated the passerine division this week as the national influx continued. Wakerley Great Wood saw the greatest numbers, which included at least forty on 18th and up to ten on 21st, while Bucknell Wood held twenty-one on 18th, at least ten on 20th and four on 21st.

Crossbills, Wakerley Great Wood, 21st July 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 18th July 2020 (James Underwood)

On the latter date, four or five were at Pitsford Res and fly-over singles were seen near Harry’s Park Wood on 18th, Eastfield Park (Wellingborough) on 22nd and East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 24th.

Rarity Round-up, 11th to 17th July 2020

A predominantly westerly airstream delivered a mixed bag of sunshine, showers and low to average temperatures this week. As so often happens, the biggest and best birds were seen by only a lucky handful of people.

Stealing the wildfowl limelight exclusively this week, the female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Hollowell Res throughout and, while we may never know its origins, it would still seem reasonable to believe there is a chance it originates from the well-established European feral population. It would appear that the BOURC will be reviewing a recently submitted dossier on Ruddy Shelduck occurrence in recent years, given the meteoric rise in numbers of the Dutch moulting population and consequent ‘temporal mirroring’ along the English coast. Elevation to category C5 of the British list is surely overdue however, to date, the BOURC’s counterargument has been that “Ruddy Shelduck is commonly and widely kept in captivity in the UK and abroad, of which many birds escape annually (usually after the summer moult when keepers fail to round up all birds for pinioning) – so admission for a species with such a large captive population with frequent escapes is always problematic.” We’ll see.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 14th July 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Far less controversial were the two long-staying juvenile Black-necked Grebes on the main lake at Summer Leys, which continued to be seen until 14th, after which only one remained.

However, quickly dipping toes back into contentious waters, this week’s ‘bird of the week’ was White Stork, three of which were seen circling over Long Buckby at 09.00 on 13th, before gaining height and drifting off west. Their origin is, of course, unknown. The birds from the Knepp reintroduction scheme appeared to be still in place at the time, while three flying south-west over Worplesdon, Surrey, on 7th, may account for the Long Buckby trio. There have been approximately twenty-three previous records, the most recent of which were in 2007, 2016, 2018 and 2019.

White Storks, Long Buckby, 13th July 2020 (Cate)
White Storks, Long Buckby, 13th July 2020 (Cate)

Runner-up to the above was a fine adult Spoonbill, found at the eleventh hour in Wader Bay at Summer Leys on 17th. It quickly hopped across the road to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake, where it stayed into the fading light, allowing a handful of birders to catch up with it before darkness finally fell.

Adult Spoonbill, Earls Barton GP, 17th July 2020 (Matt Hazleton)

Back down to earth somewhat, Cattle Egrets were seen at Stanwick GP three days running: an adult and a juvenile on 14th, an adult on 15th and two adults on 16th. A Great Egret visited Stanford Res on 12th and two were there on 16th, with further duos at Earls Barton GP on 13th and Stanwick on 16th.

Meanwhile, Ospreys were down to just one at Pitsford Res on 13th-14th – the lowest weekly total for quite some time.

Mirroring last week in terms of waders, single Whimbrels flew south-west at Stanwick GP on consecutive days, 15th and 16th, the second of these being on the ground briefly before taking to the air. The latter date saw a Black-tailed Godwit at the same site and one at Pitsford Res, while five were at Summer Leys on 11th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 11th July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

A juvenile Little Gull flew east at Clifford Hill GP on 11th, while the Yellow-legged Gull count comprised two at Pitsford on 14th and one at Stanwick on 15th-16th. For the second week running, the county saw a Little Tern – this one lingering long enough to be photographed, at Stanwick, on 14th.

Little Tern, Stanwick GP, 14th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)
Little Tern, Stanwick GP, 14th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Passerines maintained their foothold in this week’s report with the long-staying male Common Redstart at Harrington AF all week, last week’s three – including one male – near Brockhall until 14th and another male at Pitsford on 16th. The autumn’s first Stonechat, a juvenile, appeared at Stanford on 14th and Crossbills continued to feature, with singles at Hollowell on 11th, Denton Wood on 13th and over Brackley on 17th, while at least ten were still at Wakerley Great Wood on 11th and six remained at Bucknell Wood on 15th.

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 11th July (Bob Bullock)

Rarity Round-up, 4th to 10th July 2020

Last week’s unsettled conditions continued and again the influence was mainly from the west. Common Crane and Black-necked Grebe were the period’s headliners.

There was no change to the wildfowl line-up, with the female Ruddy Shelduck apparently ensconced at Hollowell Res, while the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard remained at Pitsford Res until at least 5th.

Lacking the splendour of adult finery but making up for it in a generous length of stay, two juvenile Black-necked Grebes were found on the main lake at Summer Leys on 6th, remaining on view there throughout the rest of the period. July records are exceedingly rare for this species in Northamptonshire.

Juvenile Black-necked Grebes, Summer Leys LNR, 6th July 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Just along the Nene Valley, Stanwick GP’s Bittern showed again briefly on 4th, while up to four Cattle Egrets – three adults and a juvenile – were present there between 6th and 9th while, continuing their summer run this year, Great Egrets were at Stanford Res on 9th and up to two were again at Hollowell Res on 4th-5th.

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 8th July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Hollowell also continued to produce fishing Ospreys, where there were singles on 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th, while singles were over Harrington AF on 4th, Pitsford on 5th, Thrapston GP on 9th and Deene Lake on 10th.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 6th July 2020 (Jon Cook)

Fast gaining a reputation for becoming suburban fly-overs, 2 Common Cranes were seen heading south-west over Duston (Northampton) on 7th. Now with three similar reports so far this year, it’s worth noting the last ones on the ground were two at Stanford Res, briefly, on 9th April 2017.

Hot on the heels of the autumn’s first, last week, five more Whimbrels flew south-west at Stanford on 10th, while Black-tailed Godwits continued to move through in numbers, with up to twenty-four Icelandic race birds at Summer Leys on 6th, when eight also visited Pitsford. Eight flew south at Clifford Hill GP on 7th, three visited Earls Barton GP on 8th and nine dropped into Summer Leys on 10th. There were no other waders of note but it’s still early days.

The Mediterranean Gull count at Stanwick peaked with five, including three adults, on 4th but it all went downhill from thereon, with just one adult present on 9th. An adult also visited Stanford on 6th. Other loafing larids were a third-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 4th, the second-summer still at Hollowell on the same date and an adult there the following day. Surprisingly, a Little Tern flew straight through at Stanford on 6th.

Last week’s male Common Redstart remained at Harrington all week, another male appeared at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on 8th and a male plus two female/juveniles were found near Brockhall on 10th.

Male Common Redstart, Foxholes Fisheries, 8th July 2020 (Joan Chaplin)

Crossbill numbers picked up again this week with Bucknell Wood producing more than twenty, Wakerley Great Wood a dozen, Thrapston GP three and Weldon and Hollowell singles. This is the best time to catch up with one …

Crossbills, Bucknell Wood, 7th July 2020 (Tony Vials)

Juvenile Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)

Female Crossbill, probably first-summer, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)

Male Crossbill, Wakerley Great Wood, 10th July 2020 (John Moon)

 

 

Rarity Round-up, 27th June to 3rd July 2020

Atlantic low pressure systems dominated the week’s weather, bringing rain and generally unsettled conditions on a mainly south-westerly airstream, while return wader passage gathered pace …

This week, the female Ruddy Shelduck appeared settled throughout at Hollowell Res, with other new wildfowl be represented only by a female Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res on 29th and a drake there on 3rd.

Continuing the trend in summer records, a Bittern was found at Stanwick GP on 3rd – no doubt a reflection of the recent significant increase in the UK’s breeding population.

Bittern, Stanwick GP, 3rd July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Up to four juvenile Cattle Egrets remained at Ringstead GP, visited sporadically by the adults, both of which were seen feeding around the main lake at adjacent Stanwick GP, while the only Great Egrets this week were fly-over singles at Stanford Res on 27th, 30th and 1st and one still at Hollowell Res on 1st-3rd.

Adult Cattle Egret, Ringstead GP, 29th June 2020 (Adrian Borley)

Juvenile Cattle Egret, Ringstead GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Hollowell also continued to hold fishing Ospreys, where there were singles on 28th and 29th, with the nearby localities of Pitsford and Harrington AF producing fly-overs on 27th and 30th, respectively, with one fishing at the first of these two sites on 3rd.

On the wader front, the first Whimbrel of ‘autumn’ flew south at Pitsford on 3rd but it was the usual summer spill of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits moving back south through the county which made up the bulk of the week’s waders.

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd July 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Stanwick GP, 2nd July 2020 (Steve Fisher)

On 27th, twelve were at Stanwick and one visited Summer Leys LNR, followed by two at the latter locality on 30th. The 2nd, though, saw a flock of approximately forty drop into Stanwick GP for some 35 minutes before continuing their journey south, with the same day seeing five at nearby Ditchford GP and one, plus three more, at Summer Leys. Singles then visited Pitsford, Stanwick and Summer Leys the following day, with the latter site producing a Greenshank on 27th.

Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 27th June 2020 (Ricky Sinfield)

Following last week’s news of Mediterranean Gulls successfully breeding at Stanwick, two adults and two juveniles remained there throughout the period, becoming more mobile around the site by the week’s end. Three Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford Res on 27th with one again on 3rd, while the second-summer remained at Hollowell until at least 1st.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 30th June 2020 (Mike Alibone)

Passerines rarely feature in June-July, so an early migrant male Common Redstart at Harrington from 28th until 3rd was a bonus following a spring in which few were recorded. Crossbills continued to be seen, although in much smaller numbers compared with last week’s influx. Five flew south-west at Stanwick on 27th, two were in pines at Hollowell on 29th and four were seen heading south-west over Stanford Res on 2nd.

Rarity Round-up, 20th to 26th June 2020

A hot and humid period, with local temperatures hitting 30°C on the last day of the week, by which time it was clearly evident waders were returning and we were in the midst of a Crossbill invasion …

The Pink-footed Goose, last seen with Greylags at Pitsford Res on 9th June, was back there again on 25th, a return mirrored by the female Ruddy Shelduck at Hollowell Res which, after being absent from 12th June, reappeared on the same date. Stanwick GP’s Red-crested Pochard was again on site on 25th, while last week’s two drake Common Scoters remained off the sailing club at Pitsford until 20th.

After last week’s announcement that Cattle Egrets had once again bred successfully at Ringstead GP, four – possibly five – fledged juveniles were seen there on 21st but the only Great Egrets during the period were at Hollowell Res, where one on 24th-26th was joined by another there on 25th.

Hollowell also produced single Ospreys on 20th, 24th, 25th and 26th, one of which was wearing a ring identifying it as a female from Rutland Water. The only other Ospreys were singles at the other oft favoured fishing localities, Stanford Res and Thrapston GP – both on 22nd. Surprisingly, none was reported from Pitsford this week.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 25th July 2020 (Jon Cook). Female ’30’ from Rutland Water.

Although it’s only June, the return wader passage is picking up already. A juvenile Avocet visited Pitsford Res on 25th, remaining throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits have started moving through in small numbers, with Summer Leys LNR hosting two on 24th, one on 25th and five on 26th, the same site producing an early Wood Sandpiper along with a Greenshank on the latter date.

Juvenile Avocet, Pitsford Res, 25th June 2020 (Tony Stanford)
Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 24th June 2020 (Tony Stanford)

Just along the Nene Valley, at Stanwick, Mediterranean Gulls have once more successfully bred following a year’s absence since they first bred there in 2018. Two adults and a recently fledged juvenile were observed on 25th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 25th June 2020 (Steve Fisher)

Elsewhere, one was seen in flight over Barton Seagrave on 21st. The only other reasonable larid of note was a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Hollowell on 20th and 26th. Hollowell also held a first-summer (or second-summer) Arctic Tern from 20th to 22nd – its occurrence, identification and ageing having already been discussed here.

First/second summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)

Beyond this, the week belonged to Crossbills. The UK is currently enjoying a national influx, said to be the result of a ‘bumper breeding season’, with many east coast sites recording huge numbers on the move, one of the biggest including more than twelve hundred south over Scarborough during the morning of 25th.

Crossbill, Hollowell Res, 26th June 2020 (Gary Pullan)

 

Many quickly made their way inland, resulting in their appearance in at least eleven localities in Northamptonshire. The majority of sightings were fly-overs and numbers ranged from singles to double-figure counts of sixteen at Bucknell Wood on 24th and fourteen at Harlestone Heath on 25th. The movement continues …

‘First-summer’ Arctic Tern

An Arctic Tern at Hollowell Reservoir provides the opportunity to study a plumage rarely seen in the UK in summer.

Found by Gary Pullan during the morning of 20th June, a first- (or possibly second) summer Arctic Tern was still present there yesterday, allowing Jon Cook to capture some clearly instructive images of a bird which would normally be expected to spend the northern summer south of the Equator. A tiny proportion is, however, known to accompany adults when they move north in spring, although they are likely to wander and do not usually appear in breeding colonies.

Any tern with a white forehead and a predominantly dark bill, seen in late spring/early summer, is likely to draw attention, as it stands out from the typical fully black-capped, red-billed Common and Arctic Terns normally encountered on spring passage or, in the case of Common Tern, breeding in the county. Identifying it to species is one thing and ageing it correctly is another.

Jon’s excellent series of photos nicely illustrate its identity, which is straightforward, given good views in the field. In the first image, against the light the translucent primaries are clearly visible, immediately putting the bird in the Arctic camp before any full assessment of the plumage detail.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)

A check of the upperside of the primaries also adds to this identification, as they are ‘clean’ and uniform, lacking the darker, unmoulted outer primaries of both first- and second-summer Common Tern.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)
First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)

There is a darker bar on the leading edge of the wing coverts, which looks more prominent in some photos than others. First-summer Common Tern would also show this but in combination with darker (not white) secondaries.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)

The overall ‘neat’ proportions also look right for Arctic Tern, although in some photos the bill looks rather long but this is probably accentuated by the white forehead.

Leg colour is said to be variable – see, for instance, Terns of Europe and North America (Larsson & Malling Olsen, 1995) and this bird has a definite redness associated with its legs.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 22nd June 2020 (Jon Cook)

Bill colour of second-summer is said to be red like that of an adult but with a dark tip to the upper mandible and a darker base. The images above appear to depict an all dark bill but the one below, from Adrian Borley, taken on 20th in different light conditions, appears to show some redness in the bill’s centre, as well as some brown tones to the dark crown. The underparts are a mixture of grey and white. The last two features are said by Larsson & Malling Olsen (1995) to be indicitave of second summer birds.

First-summer Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res, 20th June 2020 (Adrian Borley)

The Hollowell bird appears to show features of both first- and second-summer. Any further comments on its age would be welcomed.

Rarity Round-up, 13th to 19th June 2020

A slow-moving low pressure system over the UK dragged in a mixed bag of warm air and showers from the east, on the back of which were just about enough birds to keep spirits up during a traditionally quiet period.  

Single Garganeys at Hollowell Res on 19th and Pitsford Res on 18th would appear to be firsts for both sites this year, while the latter locality also produced two drake Common Scoters off the sailing club there on 17th-19th – both showing signs of immaturity. This ties in nicely with moult migration movements of one-year old birds, some of which start to move as early as May, after curtailing their spring migration to the north-east before reaching the breeding range. Perhaps not as exciting but a might more colourful, the drake Red-crested Pochard continued its stay at Stanwick GP until at least 16th.

Four Cattle Egrets were at Ringstead GP on 15th, two of these being seen at adjacent Stanwick GP the following day. With their continued presence in this part of the Nene Valley, it comes as no surprise to discover that, following successful breeding at Ringstead last year, they have bred there again this year – three young being present on 19th.

Juvenile Cattle Egrets, Ringstead GP, 19th June 2020 (Adrian Borley)

The Great Egret at Thrapston GP remained until 15th, being joined by another on 13th, while one was also seen at Stanford Res on 15th-16th.

Four localities produced Ospreys this week. One flew north-east over Spratton on 13th, one was over Bulwick on 14th and two at Ravensthorpe Res on the same date, while another visited Pitsford Res on 17th.

Osprey, Pitsford Res, 17th June 2020 (Tony Stanford)

Following the Irthlingborough Common Cranes at cockcrow on 16th May, another flew north over East Hunsbury, Northampton at a similarly early hour on 16th. There have been twenty-two accepted records to the end of 2018. Sometimes insomnia pays dividends.

Northamptonshire Common Cranes: monthly distribution of records, 1937-2018. Background image Phadke09/Wikimedia Commons.

More late spring Black Terns appeared this week – this time at Clifford Hill GP on 13th, when three were present, two of which remained the following day.

Black Tern, Clifford Hill GP, 13th June 2020 (Dave Smith)
Black and Common Terns, Clifford Hill GP, 13th June 2020 (Dave Smith)

Scarce passerines were at a premium and represented only by a single Crossbill, which was seen at Hardwick Wood on 17th. June-July is the time when this species is on the move so hopefully there will be more to come.

 

 

 

Rarity Round-up, 6th to 12th June 2020

Showers, a northerly blow and below average temperatures provided the overall backdrop for this week’s birding, although the wind had developed a strong easterly component by midweek. ‘Staying alert’ could not have been more appropriate advice for the period – there are clearly some quality birds still being found out there …

In a month not normally recognised for wildfowl, there was a decent crop – although how genuinely ‘wild’ they are is a matter of opinion. It would appear that Clifford Hill GP’s Pink-footed Goose relocated to Pitsford Res, where it was discovered in Scaldwell Bay on 9th. At least it’s moving in the right direction. A female Ruddy Shelduck was found at Hollowell Res on 7th, remaining there at the week’s end.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 12th June 2020 (Jon Cook)
Female Ruddy Shelduck, Hollowell Res, 12th June 2020 (Jon Cook)

It is easy to speculate this is last year’s individual, returning to the same site to see out its summer moult. Having not been reported for more than a week, it appears that Stortons GP’s drake Red-crested Pochard has relocated to Stanwick GP, where one was present from 6th until at least 11th. Back at Hollowell, four Common Scoters dropped in on 8th.

Common Scoters, Hollowell Res, 8th June 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Following last week’s Brampton Valley Quail, another was singing at Harrington AF on 7th, proving itself a popular draw for listeners until 9th. It was sound-recorded during its stay. One was also reported from Haselbech on 7th. Fifty years of Northamptonshire Quail records are depicted here.

Stanwick continued to host at least two Cattle Egrets throughout the period, while the Great Egret at Thrapston GP was seen again on 9th.

Three localities produced Ospreys this week, down from last week’s seven. Singles visited Stanford Res on 7th and 10th, Hollowell on 7th, 8th and 12th and Thrapston on 10th and 11th, where Elinor Trout Lake is a popular draw.

Thrapston also produced an Avocet on 11th and three were on site there the following day, on 12th. Also in the Nene Valley, two Black-tailed Godwits visited Summer Leys LNR on 8th, followed thereafter by one on 10th-11th and one at adjacent Earls Barton GP, also on 11th. It is not known if all sightings were of the same two birds, or whether four were involved. Those on 11th involved both races, the commonly encountered Icelandic race islandica at Earls Barton and the much scarcer ‘continental’ race limosa at Summer Leys.

 

 

            Gulls and terns featured well for June. A first-summer Little Gull visited Stanford Res on 11th, a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull was at Hollowell Res on 8th and a late spring Black Tern appeared at Stanwick GP on 6th.

Following the ephemeral Rose-coloured Starling in Wellingborough on 26th May and the inevitability of an invasion, the floodgates duly opened and the UK received its fair share of ‘Rosy Pastors’ – in excess of seventy at the time of writing. As they crossed the country, expectations were running high at a local level before one was eventually found in a garden in Hackleton on 9th. It remained long enough for a quick pic and then it was off, never to be seen again. Or was it? It, or another, was reported flying between gardens in Great Houghton, only 4 km to the north, on 9th and 10th. While all this may have been somewhat vexing, to say the least, for those of us routinely cruising and scanning suburbia, scrupulously checking our local Starling flocks, it also offers hope and inspiration that persistence may yet pay off. There are surely more to be discovered. Keep calm and carry on kerb-crawling …

The only other passerines of note were Crossbills. One flew over Pitsford on 7th and approximately twelve were in Yardley Chase, at Denton Wood, the following day.

Rarity Round-up, 30th May to 5th June 2020

Meteorological spring went out with a bang, the last day producing the county’s 6th Caspian Tern. So, too, did the weather and by the end of the week high pressure, high temperatures and an easterly airstream had all given way to cool northerlies and showers.

There were no reports of Clifford Hill GP’s Pink-footed Goose beyond 31st, while Stanwick GP’s drake Garganey remained until at least 2nd and one/two drakes were still frequenting Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP on 3rd with at least one remaining on 5th. New in this week were two Greater Scaups at Daventry CP on 1st, surprisingly remaining on site until at least 4th.

June is generally recognised as being the month for Quail and, right on cue, a male was singing in the Brampton Valley, between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton, on the evening of 1st, remaining in situ early the following morning. This species appears to be increasingly difficult to catch up with locally, despite being recently identified as now in partial recovery following a protracted period of population decline. It is estimated that there are 540 singing males in the UK in summer (RSPB).

Stanwick continued to host Cattle Egrets with four present on 31st and again on 5th, while a Great Egret remained at Thrapston GP on 30th and one flew over Stanford Res on 3rd.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 1st June 2020 (Steve Fisher)

On the raptor front, the week belonged to Ospreys. Seven localities featured – some more frequently than others. The reservoirs fared well, with Pitsford hosting singles on 30th, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, Stanford produced singles on 31st and 1st plus two on 2nd, while Cransley and Hollowell logged one a piece on 2nd and 3rd respectively. One also flew north over Harrington AF on 2nd and in the east of the county, two drifted north over Barnwell CP on 3rd and singles visited Thrapston GP/Thorpe Waterville on 31st and 2nd. The first of these Thrapston birds wore a blue ring bearing the inscription ‘S1’ in white and it transpired it was a male which had been ringed as a chick at the Manton Bay nest at Rutland Water on 30th June 2015.

Male Osprey, Thorpe Waterville, 31st May 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

Further information reveals ‘S1’ first returned to the UK in 2017 and was seen at Poole Harbour and also Rutland Water that summer. It was subsequently satellite-tagged on 9th August 2018 at a site in Rutland. This has since provided valuable data on the bird’s local movements and annual migration to an island off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.

Male Osprey, Thorpe Waterville, 31st May 2020 (Ady Leybourne)

This spring it left Guinea-Bissau on 8th March and arrived back in Rutland on 4th April. It has subsequently established a new territory in Rutland but has also been ranging widely in the local area. The satellite data show that ‘S1’ isn’t a frequent visitor to the Thrapston area and so other recent sightings – mainly from Elinor Trout Lake – clearly refer to one or more different birds. There are several unattached males in the Rutland Water area and these individuals often range widely on a day-to-day basis (Tim Mackrill, RDWF). Also in the Nene Valley, a Marsh Harrier flew north-east at Summer Leys on 31st.

With the wader passage all but over, a Sanderling paid the briefest of visits to Boddington Res on 5th and an ‘unseasonal’ Green Sandpiper – perhaps an early autumn migrant – at Cransley Res on 2nd, was worthy of mention.

June is not normally recognised as a prime month for gulls, so an adult Mediterranean Gull flying over Wellingborough on 3rd, a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford on the same date and an adult at Daventry CP on 5th were about par for the course. Both were largely of no consequence in comparison to the star of the week, though, the magnificent Caspian Tern, which flew over Stanford Res on 31st – sadly without stopping.

Caspian Tern, Stanford Res, 31st May 2020 (Chris Hubbard)

This, the 6th record for Northamptonshire, appeared at a time of other sightings of this species in the UK, with one visiting four sites in Hampshire later the same day and it, or another (a Swedish-ringed adult) at Saltholme, Cleveland during the evening of 3rd.

Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 1st June 2020 (Martin Swannell)

Somewhat overshadowed by the above but in a spring of few records, two Black Terns spent the evening at Summer Leys on 1st. Hopefully more will appear in the autumn.