Newsround – 19th to 25th November 2022

The week was characterised by bouts of heavy rain, brought in from the Atlantic by a series of low pressure systems on a varying westerly airstream. And the rain made its mark, leaving some areas flooded and, from an active birding perspective, less easy to negotiate. On the back of this came a handful of new birds to add a little more spice to the birding landscape.

So, new in, on the last day of the week, was a juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose consorting happily with Canada Geese on Stanwick GP’s Main Lake. Somewhat surprisingly, this is only the second for the county in 2022, the first being a lingering individual from last year, which remained at Clifford Hill GP until mid-January.

Juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Stanwick GP, 25th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Popping up on the radar again this week was Whooper Swan, which, like last week’s four, touched neither ground nor water as it flew east over Stanford Res on 19th. Once again, the sole representative of the period’s ducks was Red-crested Pochard. Stanford’s fourteen took a tumble, falling to eight by 25th, Daventry CP’s drake remained until at least 21st, a new drake was discovered on the Fishing Lake at Wicksteed Park on 24th and Pitsford Res retained two of its drakes on 25th.

Making its way into the charts this week was a Bittern – seen in flight and believed to have landed – at Stortons GP on 24th. This suburban locality has a track record for producing wintering Bitterns but its reedbed is dense and offers little in the way of ideal viewing points. The only other ‘herons’ of note were single-figure numbers of Cattle Egrets, which were predominantly at Stanwick GP, where the maximum was seven on 20th. Apart from this, four flew north-east over Ditchford GP on 21st.

After a one-day bird at Thrapston GP last week, the Nene Valley ramped up its numbers of Marsh Harriers, with one seen at Summer Leys daily throughout the period, two flying east together over Stanwick on 22nd, followed by one there on 25th and one flying west over Ditchford on 23rd. At Summer Leys, exciting photographic opportunities await those with time and patience …

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th November 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

Last week’s ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier remained in the Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley area, again being seen on 20th and 22nd.

With water levels still relatively low, Pitsford remained the premier venue for waders, prime of which were the Wood Sandpiper, remaining in Scaldwell Bay throughout, and the Common Sandpiper in the dam area until at least 23rd. Both birds look set to winter but the chances of this actually happening currently look slim, given the ongoing rainfall and the heavy gush of water through a large feeder pipe into the back of Scaldwell Bay, if the latter continues. A Jack Snipe also added flavour on 19th.

But if Pitsford topped the leaderboard with waders, then Summer Leys pulled in two oft sought-after gulls which are more usually associated with spring passage. First up were two Little Gulls, which flew through the site without lingering, after the week opened, on 20th. These were followed in the last hour of daylight as the week closed on 25th, when, looking potentially moribund, an adult Kittiwake appeared on the Main Lake there. Shaping up to be the one and only Kittiwake of 2022, there has been no further news of it to date. After a momentary downturn, Stanford’s remarkable autumn run of Mediterranean Gulls was reignited this week when the roost there held no fewer than four different individuals, with anything up to three being seen there nightly between 20th and 25th.

Otherwise, large, white-headed larids in the shape of Yellow-legged Gulls were divided between Pitsford, where single adults were present between 21st and 23rd, and Stanford, where two adults joined the roost on 19th and 21st and single birds were present on 20th, 24th and 25th.

Away from the water, the somewhat drier habitat of Harrington AF played host to this week’s Short-eared Owl on the last day of the period. And what a great week for Merlins, with no less than four being seen. The 19th saw one in the Brampton Valley while, the following day, DIRFT 3, Stanford Res and Stowe-nine-Churches all came up trumps for birders in these three areas.

Topping the bill for passerines was the ongoing presence of the handsome male Bearded Tit along the causeway and in the reedbeds skirting Stanwick’s A45 Lay-by Pit. Although remaining on site throughout the week, easy to see it was not. Mobile, elusive, wide-ranging and frequently invisible, though audible, attempting to nail it down continued to present a challenge.     

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 25th November 2022 (Duncan Woodhead)

Similarly, the Black Redstart found at Pitsford’s Saling Club, late on 22nd, presented its own viewing problems. Feeding mainly on the ground, as it slipped between the onshore yachts, keeping tabs on it proved to be anything but plain sailing.

Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 19th November 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Ending, as is the norm of late, with Stonechats, numbers this week were poor. Two or three at Earls Barton GP on 19th, two at Clifford Hill GP on 24th and three at Pitsford on 25th were very much the lowest for some considerable time.

Newsround – 12th to 18th November 2022

As weather conditions moved slowly along in the direction toward a seasonal norm, last week’s leftovers, combined with a few new arrivals, served to keep things going …

Heading up this week’s wildfowl – if only for a few minutes – four Whooper Swans flew west at Daventry CP on the last day of the week. Apart from that, more static fare was on offer in the shape of a generally settled bunch of Red-crested Pochards, fourteen of which continued to feature at Stanford Res throughout the period. Daventry CP also hung on to its one and only drake for the same duration, while Pitsford Res made a bit of a comeback, with four on 13th and two on 16th.

Sticking with said reservoir, last week’s juvenile Great Northern Diver, found just before dusk on the last day, upped and went the following morning, 12th, heading off high south-west. On the cusp of winter there’s plenty of time for another – at Pitsford, or elsewhere.

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 12th November 2022 (Ant Hall)

Over the review period, Cattle Egrets were restricted to Stanwick GP, the roost there attracting up to thirteen between 13th and 15th.

The week’s raptors consisted of two harriers – a Marsh Harrier at Thrapston GP on 16th, followed by a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell two days later, on 18th. If they linger, catching up with them may prove to be another matter entirely …

Last week’s star waders maintained a presence, their numbers briefly boosted by the arrival – and subsequent rapid departure – of two Avocets at Boddington Res on 13th.

Avocets, Boddington Res, 13th November 2022 (Gary Pullan)

With most coming through during spring, appearances in November are few, with Boddington, Daventry and Thrapston accounting for the three records in that month during the last 20 years, which have seen a significant increase in occurrences. While the trend line in local records may mirror the shape of an Avocet’s bill, it also represents the upturn in its UK population growth, which has increased by 326% over the last 25 years.

Back at Pitsford, and looking set to tough out the winter, the Wood Sandpiper lingered along the shoreline, between the causeway and the current ‘low tide’ of Scaldwell Bay, for the duration of the period. Seemingly not following suit, though, last week’s Little Stint remained throughout the weekend of 12th-13th before subsequently vanishing. Another wader still on site there was last week’s Common Sandpiper, still on the dam on 16th, while the week’s only Jack Snipe was found at Hollowell Res on 18th.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 16th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 16th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Set to rival Stanford for roosting Mediterranean Gulls, Pitsford produced two different adults on consecutive evenings, the 16th and 17th, and Boddington almost made the grade by dishing up an adult Mediterranean x Black-headed Gull hybrid on 13th. Large, white-headed gulls were also available, with single adult Caspian Gulls in the roosts at Stanford on 13th and Boddington on 14th, and at Hollowell on 18th. Boddington, Pitsford and Stanford shared this week’s Yellow-legged Gulls with no more than three at any one location.

The Short-eared Owl remained on the outskirts of Farthingstone, being seen on 12th and 16th and a male Merlin put in an appearance at Summer Leys on 13th, followed by one flying north over the Brampton Valley, near Brixworth, the following day.

Passerines were again in short supply and topping the rather short bill was a first-winter Ring Ouzel over, and behind, the dam at Boddington on 14th, while this week’s Stonechat numbers rallied somewhat, with Pitsford holding five on 13th and Clifford Hill GP, Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Kettering, Summer Leys and Upton CP all producing between one and two birds apiece.

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Newsround – 4th to 11th November 2022

With the continuing run of unseasonally mild weather, what seemed set to be a lacklustre week was rescued at the eleventh hour by an unexpected reignition of autumn wader passage, along with the arrival of a deep water diver – all very conveniently in one place …

However, the period opened and closed with a rather reduced selection of wildfowl – in this case limited strictly to Red-crested Pochards. While Daventry CP hung on to its one and only drake, numbers built at Stanford Res, which came clearly to the fore by producing fourteen – eleven of which were drakes – from mid-week onwards. During the same period, not even one of Pitsford’s former double-figure flock was anywhere to be seen.

At the week’s end, though, it emerged that the latter locality had clearly traded up its ducks deluxe for a more exciting model in the form of the annually expected Great Northern Diver, a juvenile of which checked in for an overnight stay, late on 11th.

The removal of the Doddington cows from the field next to Summer Leys heralded the departure of the Cattle Egret, which had been accompanying them for the last couple of weeks. That just left the traditional location of Stanwick GP to deliver the goods, with one on 6th, ten leaving the roost there early on 7th, five on site on 9th and ten flying over on 11th.

But it was Pitsford which, once again, entered the limelight by pulling all of this week’s waders out of the hat on the last day. So, only the 5th this year, a juvenile Little Stint appeared just north of the causeway on 11th. It is one of the latest to occur in Northamptonshire, although small numbers were still being seen in at least nine other UK counties during the period.

Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Somewhat uncannily, though, the appearance of a Wood Sandpiper in the same area, at the same time, almost mirrors last year’s December appearance of a bird which spent the greater part of the winter in the county, after first spending time at Eyebrook Res in Leicestershire. History appears to have repeated itself this year, with one, said to be a juvenile, at Eyebrook last week. Although difficult to age with certainty, the Pitsford bird appears to be an adult. If so, is it a returning bird … and how long will it stay?

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Last up, a Common Sandpiper was also found on the dam at Pitsford on 11th. While no biggie, it’s well out of season.

But if Pitsford was the place for waders, then Stanford was the place to be for gulls, having produced three different Mediterranean Gulls during the period. First up was an adult in the roost on 5th, followed by a first-winter, nightly, from 6th to 8th and then a different first-winter on 11th. Larger larids were also available, represented by an adult Caspian Gull in the Stanford roost on 6th and 8th, a near-adult at DIRFT 3 on 9th and a first-winter at Daventry CP the following day.

Near-adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 9th November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The small number of Yellow-legged Gulls this week comprised an adult in the Stanford roost on 6th plus two there on 8th, single adults at Daventry CP on 7th and Summer Leys on 11th and one at Pitsford on the latter date.

A Short-eared Owl was at Farthingstone on 11th and a male Merlin at Stanford on 6th. Passerines were in short supply with this week’s Stonechats appearing to take a tumble with twos at DIRFT 3 on 5th and Sywell CP the following day, while three were at Pitsford on 11th. Apart from that, a Water Pipit paid a brief visit to the Scrape at Summer Leys on 6th.

Newsround – 29th October to 4th November 2022

In the week just gone, we waved goodbye to British Summer Time and, so it seems, to most of the interesting autumn migrants. That’s not to say there was no drama, though, as Northamptonshire likely missed out on adding one more species to its county list …

Echoing last week, the long-staying Pink-footed Goose in the Hollowell/Ravensthorpe area was seen just the once, again at Ravensthorpe Res, on 31st but a respectable number – twenty-nine this time – was seen in flight over Harrington AF on 4th. Similarly mirroring last week, the female Ruddy Shelduck again paid a one-day visit to Stanford Res on 30th.

Red-crested Pochards continued to loom large, again being seen at five localities. As far as numbers were concerned, Pitsford Res once more came out on top with eleven still present on 31st, while Stanford held on to its six on 29th-30th, dropping to five for the remainder of the period. Clifford Hill GP mustered five on 3rd, Summer Leys LNR retained two on 29th and Daventry CP its one and only until at least 3rd.

Numbers of Cattle Egrets were pretty much down to rock bottom during the period, with Stanwick producing one on 30th, while last week’s bird at Summer Leys remained throughout, on the northern flank of the reserve, in a cattle field below Great Doddington.

Cattle Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Which brings us neatly on to … Great Egret, dropped from the weekly some time ago. Why so? Well, a record count of twenty-one at Pitsford at the end of the week serves to underline the fact that they are, we’ll just say, really rather common these days. Their ‘rarity status’ is, let’s face it, a thing of the past and you’d be hard pressed to saunter round Pitsford, north of the causeway, and find the same number of Grey Herons. The only difference is they don’t breed … yet. Those of us who made the abortive trip to North Yorkshire’s Scaling Dam Reservoir to see Britain’s 12th, in June 1974, have no doubt felt rightly miffed in recent years. If only we’d known …

This week it was the turn of Hen Harrier to steal the raptorial limelight, with a ‘ringtail’ mobile around the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area, late in the day on 3rd.  

In the wader camp, the lingering Black-tailed Godwit remained north of the causeway at Ravensthorpe until at least 2nd and last week’s Summer Leys bird spilled momentarily into this week, being seen there again on 29th.

The few scarcer larids were represented by an adult Caspian Gull at Hollowell on 31st and Yellow-legged Gulls, which were down to an adult and a third-winter at Pitsford on 31st. Two adults were at Ravensthorpe and an adult at Sywell CP – also on 31st, the latter remaining until 3rd, while another adult visited Summer Leys on 2nd.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Sywell CP, 3rd November 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Short-eared Owls were on the up a little this week with the Borough Hill individual still present on 29th, the same date on which another was seen near Thrapston GP’s Elinor Trout Lake. Another was found in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton on 1st and seems likely to have been the same bird seen hunting over adjacent farmland at Cottesbrooke on 4th.

Arguably bird of the week – and potentially bird of the year – was a Pallid or Common Swift seen flying south over Wellingborough during the afternoon of 2nd. Setting this in context, a record-breaking number of at least eighty Pallids have graced British skies over the past couple of weeks. Pallid Swift is unique among European swifts in being routinely double-brooded, with the young of the second brood fledging … in October. Whack in a protracted period of unseasonal, far-reaching southerlies and bingo! But just to complicate matters, a small number of Common Swifts have also been caught up in the influx, being positively identified over the same period. Undoubtedly a heady mixture of surprise and frustration for the observer in Wellingborough, which probably translates broadly into ‘I wish I’d never seen it!’ The one that got away – we’ve all been there …

A Merlin was seen at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 4th.

Passerines kick off with a further report of a single Bearded Tit along the causeway of Stanwick’s A45 Lay-by Pit emerging on 30th but there’s next to no further information about it. While Ring Ouzels made it back onto the menu this week, neither of the two birds reported was readily viewable. One was seen briefly on 30th between Bradden and Greens Norton before flying off with Redwings towards Slapton, while the other was in an unspecified area somewhere near Lamport Hall on 4th.   

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 31st October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Small numbers of Stonechats continued to be reported with seven localities holding no more than two birds apiece, while a late Northern Wheatear was found at Harrington on 4th.

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Newsround – 22nd to 28th October 2022

Heavy rain, high temperatures and continuing southerlies brought more interesting autumn visitors to the UK than they did locally. However, there was still much to focus on throughout the week, although the bottom line is … it wasn’t overly different to the week before.

While the long-staying Pink-footed Goose in the Hollowell/Ravensthorpe area was seen just the once – at Ravensthorpe on 24th – six in flight over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 28th were clearly on the wild side, representing a slice of the annual seasonal movement of this species across the UK. Once again, the peripatetic female Ruddy Shelduck popped up at Stanford Res on 22nd.

In comparison to last week, this week’s Red-crested Pochards were rather more numerous and widespread, being seen at five localities. Pitsford Res retained the lion’s share with eleven there on 25th, at least nine of which were still present at the end of the period. Stanford upped its on-site total from last week’s four to six from 25th – the same date marking the appearance of three at Summer Leys LNR. Daventry CP got in on the action with two on 27th, while one lingered at Ravensthorpe from 25th until the week’s end.  

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Red-crested Pochards, Daventry CP, 27th October 2022 (Gary Pullan)

There was no significant change to the numbers and localities as far as Cattle Egrets were concerned. The week opened with three at Stanwick GP on 22nd and closed with four there on 26th, while last week’s bird – mobile around Summer Leys from 18th – lingered in the area until at least 25th and one was seen at Ringstead GP on 26th.

Cattle Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 24th October 2022 (Matthew Cottrell)

This week’s raptors were distilled into a single juvenile Marsh Harrier again paying a brief visit to Summer Leys on 25th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 25th October 2022 (Mark Tyrrell)

Scarcer waders were drifting ever closer to the edge of the radar with, looking like becoming a long-stayer, last week’s seemingly settled Black-tailed Godwit still lingering north of the causeway at Ravensthorpe throughout. Another also visited Summer Leys on 28th, while a single Jack Snipe was located at Hollowell on 22nd.

First-winter Black-tailed Godwit, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

There was no real change to this week’s gulls and it looks like staying that way until the winter weather works its magic and hopefully becomes instrumental in dishing up some ‘white-wingers’ at the end of the year. For now, though, the closest we’ll get is Mediterranean Gull, although this week’s bird in the roost at Stanford on 22nd and 28th was a first-winter.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Stanford Res, 28th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Caspian Gulls consisted of a near-adult at Stanwick on 22nd and one at Hollowell on 24th, with two there the following day. Daventry dished up a first-winter on 26th and 28th, accompanied by an adult on the latter date and a third-winter visited Boddington Res on 28th. Boddington also scored the highest Yellow-legged Gull total of at least five on 28th. Elsewhere, it was ones and twos at Daventry, Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanwick and Thrapston.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Daventry CP, 28th October 2022 (Gary Pullan)

This week’s Short-eared Owls were limited to one hunting around the radio mast and concrete blocks on the summit of Borough Hill, at dusk, on 25th.   

Last week’s Bearded Tits at Stanwick took a further tumble with just one being seen there on 22nd and again on 24th before apparently melting away. Two were subsequently discovered on the west side of the main lake at Wicksteed Park, Kettering on 28th. A Whinchat turned up at Hollowell on 22nd. Although this is recognisably late, it’s not the latest ever – that accolade falls to one at Hemington on 9th November 1977. Back at Hollowell on 22nd, the week’s top count of Stonechats, six or seven, beat four or five at Pitsford on the same date, while smaller numbers were also seen at Borough Hill, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF and Summer Leys.

Rock Pipit, probably Scandinavian race littoralis, Hollowell Res, 23rd October 2022 (Jon Cook)

To round off, two more Rock Pipits featured this week – one at Hollowell on 23rd and the other at Ravensthorpe on 25th.

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Newsround – 15th to 21st October 2022

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.

Cattle Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 21st October 2022 (Leslie Fox)

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.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Boddington Res, 19th October 2022 (Gary Pullan)

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.

German-ringed adult male Caspian Gull, Naseby Res, 19th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

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.

Third-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 16th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Naseby Res, 19th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The juvenile Black Tern at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows NR remained until 18th.

Juvenile Black Tern, Ditchford GP, 16th October 2022 (Tony Vials)

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.

Male Bearded Tit, Stanwick GP, 20th October 2022 (Nick Parker)

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.

Male Stonechat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 16th October 2022 (James Underwood)

Another Rock Pipit – this week at Ditchford GP, on 16th – moves the year’s total up to four.

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Newsround – 8th to 14th October 2022

While an Atlantic airstream persisted throughout the period, Stanford netted its second Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn, and one of the county’s rarest larids paid a fleeting evening visit to Pitsford in the early part of the week.

First off, though, and heading up this week’s wildfowl, were two Whooper Swans which flew east over Hollowell Res on 11th, quickly followed by seven at Stanford Res, just before sunset, on 14th. Although these are the first in the county this autumn, by the end of September others had reached places as far-flung as Scotland, South Wales, Suffolk and Cornwall, with fifteen having made it back to the Cambridgeshire Nene Washes by 28th.

Whooper Swans, Stanford Res, 14th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Also at Hollowell was a/the Pink-footed Goose among the local Greylag flock there on 9th, 11th and 14th.

Apart from the re-emergence of the apparent female Ferruginous Duck x Red-crested Pochard hybrid, at Pitsford on 8th-10th, three reservoirs got in on the Red-crested Pochard act this week. Hollowell produced five on 9th, Pitsford six on 10th, rising to nine on 13th and Stanford held four from 12th until the week’s end.

Along the Nene Valley, the Stanwick GP Cattle Egrets were limited to a one-day count of eight on 8th.

On the raptor front, Marsh Harriers held steady with two again – one over the Scrape at Summer Leys LNR on 9th and the other in the more agricultural setting of Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 13th.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 10th October 2022 (Clive Bowley)

By mid-October, waders are typically thin on the ground but this week saw quality rightly triumph over quantity with a new Little Stint, in for one day at Ditchford GP on 10th, following a late Wood Sandpiper at Pitsford on 9th. A Black-tailed Godwit remained for two days, north of the causeway at Ravensthorpe Res, on 12th-13th.

First-winter Black-tailed Godwit, Ravensthorpe Res, 13th October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Topping the bill this week, though, was a smart juvenile Sabine’s Gull, which appeared – and promptly disappeared – during the last hour of daylight at Pitsford on 10th. Echoing the brief, 40-minute evening stay of the last one there, in 2010, it was present off the dam for no more than 30 minutes and was last seen heading off high south into the gathering dusk over Pitsford village, more than suggesting that there was no chance it was going to be there the following day. And, of course, it wasn’t. Turning the pages back five years, the last was at Daventry CP in September 2017 – a much more obliging individual which proved popular during its 3-day stay on site. This week’s bird now becomes the county’s 12th record.

 

Pitsford also retained one of last week’s first-winter Little Gulls until 8th and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull also dropped into the gull roost there on 10th, followed by an adult in the roost at Stanford two evenings later, on 12th. Yellow-legged Gulls remained in small numbers at the favoured location of Pitsford Res, where there were up to two adults during the period, while single adults were at DIRFT 3 on 11th and at Hollowell Res on 14th.

Out on its own, a juvenile Black Tern at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows NR on the last day of the week lifted this autumn’s records from a meagre 5 to a meagre 6.

This week’s obligatory appearance by a Short-eared Owl was where else but in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 11th, while 9th saw two Merlins – one at nearby Harrington AF and the other at Stanford Res.

But it was the latter locality that scored with, yet again, another Yellow-browed Warbler trapped, ringed and released near the feeding station, where it remained on view for a short time on 14th. This individual is thought to be a different bird to the one which accompanied a tit flock in a small area on the Leicestershire side of the reservoir for 3 days earlier in the week which, if true, means the site as a whole has pulled in three this year! Quite astonishing in view of the fact that 2022 is widely acknowledged as not being a ‘big yellow-browed year’.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 14th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 14th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Also at Stanford, a Common Redstart was trapped and ringed on 11th – the latest ever at this site and the 24th to have been ringed there this year.

Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 11th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

This week’s Stonechats maxed out at seven near Deenethorpe on 9th, while records came from a further 8 localities including Bozenham Mill, Brampton Valley, Ditchford GP, Ecton SF, Harrington, Hollowell, Pitsford and Stanford. Hot on the heels of last week’s two, the third Rock Pipit of 2022 appeared on the ground at Clifford Hill GP on 10th, while singles of both Water Pipit – the year’s second – and a rather late Tree Pipit, flew over Harrington on 13th.

Three Hawfinches flew over Cosgrove on 8th. Perhaps a sign of more to come this winter …

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Newsround – 1st to 7th October 2022

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.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 6th October 2022 (Clive Bowley)

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.

Juvenile Grey Plover, Thrapston GP, 3rd October 2022 (Chris Sidebottom)

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.

First-winter Black-tailed Godwit, Earls Barton GP, 2nd October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

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.

First-winter Little Gull, Pitsford Res, 5th October 2022 (Richard How)

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.

First-winter Red-backed Shrike, Duston, Northampton, 3rd October 2022 (Mike Alibone)

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.

Female Stonechat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 1st October 2022 (James Underwood)
Male Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 3rd October 2022 (Alan Coles)
Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 6th October 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Northern Wheatear, Stanford Res, 7th October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

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.

Rock Pipit, Stanford Res, 1st October 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

It was quickly followed, however, by another briefly at Daventry CP on 3rd.

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The duston Red-backed shrike

I must say I have the greatest admiration for birders who, as well as visiting established nature reserves and popular birding sites, routinely demonstrate a pioneering spirit by going off the beaten track to discover and explore new, and different, localities with potential for attracting birds. This usually means ditching quantity in favour of taking a gamble on finding quality birds in areas not – or rarely – visited by others.

Doing just that, Nigel Muddiman struck gold on Monday, 3rd October by finding a Red-backed Shrike while visiting a site on the edge of Duston, not too far from his home.

The shrike, a juvenile/first-winter, was located in an open area, flanked by a raised grass bank, in which it occupied a narrow line of low trees and bushes, alongside an overgrown, reed-filled pond. Remaining faithful to this small area, it was on view to all comers throughout the afternoon, usually showing well at quite close range.

During the period of observation, it was constantly feeding – usually dropping down from any number of random perches into the fairly short grass before emerging with prey items, which consisted principally of unidentified beetles and grasshoppers. It was clearly in good health and was also seen to eject pellets.

Readily aged as a first calendar year bird and, more precisely, a first-winter, the close views revealing a distinctly barred crown against rufous ground colouring of head and upperparts, along with pronounced and extensively barred underparts.

With the last record in Northants in 2015, this was a great find – especially in view of the fact that it’s only the sixth record this century and only the fourteenth in the last 50 years!

Nationally, Red-backed Shrike’s UK status is red-listed and is now down to 1-3 breeding pairs, with 180-250 birds recorded annually on passage (BTO/RSPB).

Despite a thorough search of the area during the morning and again in the afternoon of the following day, the shrike was nowhere to be seen.

All images © Mike Alibone

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Newsround – 24th to 30th September 2022

With the delivery of a few more waders and the now-to-be-expected annual Yellow-browed Warbler trapped at Stanford, the past week panned out quite reasonably, ending in a wet and windy blow from the southwest.

Pitsford Res continued to hang on to its Garganey, which was seen intermittently throughout the period, while the only other duck with the potential to set the site alight was a female Ferruginous Duck or hybrid, which evaded positive identification on 27th. It wasn’t reported subsequently. Over to the east, a drake Red-crested Pochard was a one-day affair at Thrapston GP on 28th.

Stanwick GP was the only locality to deliver the week’s Cattle Egrets, numbers of which rose from three on 24th to eleven on 30th. An early morning visit to the roost there may ultimately yield more, of course.

And if last week’s low total of raptors represented slim pickings, then this week we hit rock-bottom with just a single Marsh Harrier seen flying south-east over Clifford Hill GP on the last day of the period.

Waders, though, were another matter entirely. A Grey Plover at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh Reserve on 29th was only the third one of 2022 and, following two one-day birds in the spring, sparked a mini-twitch to the site.

Grey Plover, Thrapston GP, 29th September 2022 (Nick Parker)

Titchmarsh also conjured up another third for the year, a Little Stint, plus a Black-tailed Godwit and two Ruffs – all on the same day as the Grey Plover. Other Ruffs were also available but only for birders visiting Pitsford, where two remained all week, being joined by a third on 25th.

Ruff, Pitsford Res, 30th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Although playing hard to get, Pitsford continued to hang on to one of last week’s two Spotted Redshanks until 25th, two Greenshanks were there on the latter date and up to two lingered at Earls Barton GP throughout the week. After the autumn’s first, last week, 2 Jack Snipes were found at Ditchford GP on 29th and one remained at Hollowell on 30th.

On the larid front, a first-winter Caspian Gull showed up at Summer Leys on 30th, while Yellow-legged Gulls maintained a local presence with a first-winter at Hollowell on 24th, up to three adults at Pitsford between 26th and 30th, single adults at Thrapston GP on 28th and at Summer Leys on 30th and 2 adults at Earls Barton GP on 29th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 29th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s Merlin, a male, was at Harrington AF on 26th.

But diving into the passerines, what better way to start than with a smart sprite of a Yellow-browed Warbler? It almost goes without saying that this, the first – and probably the last – of the autumn, was pulled from one of the nets at Stanford, which has now chalked up eight (seven trapped and ringed) out of the county’s total of seventeen records. This is the fifth consecutive year that Stanford has struck lucky with this stripey Siberian jewel, the annual occurrence of which there is now taken as a given.  

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 30th September 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Also predictable, though clearly not in the same class, was a fleeting view of a Ring Ouzel at Harrington on 24th, the same site holding single Common Redstarts on the same date and again on 28th. Two further birds were seen on 24th – one in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and the other in a private garden at Grange Park, Northampton. Three sites continued to produce Whinchats throughout the period, including two or three birds in the Brampton Valley and singles at Pitsford and Hollowell, with one remaining at the latter locality on 30th. And the autumn build-up of Stonechats continued, with the highest tally of eight in the Brampton Valley between 25th and 29th. Elsewhere, six were at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (South) on 29th and at least five at Hollowell on 27th, while up to three were at Pitsford, twos were found at Harrington, Hellidon, Preston Deanery, Teeton and Thrapston and singles at Deenethorpe and Ditchford.

Female Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 27th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Again, Northern Wheatears were down to the bare bones, with just a single bird in the Brampton Valley on 26th and 29th and, just east of there, two Crossbills flew over Harrington on 24th.

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