Newsround – 7th to 13th August 2021

Another unsettled week, again largely influenced by Atlantic low pressure systems. Nevertheless, migration continued apace and a number of ‘autumn firsts’ put in appearances during the period.

Still settled at Stanwick GP, last week’s Garganey remained until at least 12th, being joined by another on 9th and 10th.

Garganey, Stanwick GP, 8th August 2021 (Adrian Borley)

But the ducks-deluxe slot was filled this week by two Red-crested Pochards – a female at Stanford Res throughout the period and an eclipse drake at Pitsford Res from 11th until 13th. They have been uncharacteristically scarce this year, with January duos at Pitsford and mobile between Kislingbury GP and Stortons GP, followed by just one at Clifford Hill GP on 4th March.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Stanford Res, 7th August 2021 (Ewan Turner)

An escaped Fulvous Whistling Duck at Sulby Res/Welford Res also provided a modicum of interest on 8th.

Two Quails were reported from Harrington AF on 10th.

Great Egrets were limited to one at Stanford on 10th and Pitsford holding up to four throughout the week, while it looks like our recent Cattle Egret colonisation has ground to a halt, with Bedfordshire proving more attractive to them this year.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 13th August 2021 (Tony Stanford)

A tidy showing of raptors this week featured multiple Ospreys, which included two at Pitsford and one at Stanford on 10th, three high over Cottesbrooke on 11th, plus two at Hollowell Res and one at Pitsford on 12th. And, as is the way with August, a run of pristine juvenile Marsh Harriers continued with singles at Summer Leys on 8th and 10th-11th and at Pitsford on the same dates.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 8th August 2021 (Keith Griffiths)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 11th August 2021 (Clive Bowley)

On the wader front, Black-tailed Godwits continued to trickle through in small numbers, which included singles at Summer Leys LNR and Clifford Hill on 7th and 8th, respectively and seven at Stanwick GP on the last of these two dates. A single Curlew was at DIRFT 3 A5 Pools on 10th, the same date delivering the autumn’s first Turnstone, which put in a brief appearance on Pitsford’s causeway. Despite a blank last week, the county’s so far excellent run of Wood Sandpipers continued with singles at DIRFT 3 on 10th and at Stanwick on 12th-13th. Conversely, it’s been poor as far as Greenshank numbers are concerned with, this week, just three flying through at Daventry CP on 12th.

Meanwhile, a juvenile Caspian Gull found at Stanwick on 8th piqued interest at both local and international levels as it bore a ring inscribed 686-U, allowing it to be traced to a scheme indicating it had been ringed as a pullus on 31st May 2021 at Dynin (lhota), Jihocesky. Kraj, in the Czech Republic. A great record of a true Eastern European migrant, having travelled a distance of 1128 km in its first couple of months.

Czech Republic-ringed juvenile Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 8th August 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Other Caspians were also available, however, with a ‘near-adult’ also visiting Stanwick daily between 7th and 10th, an adult at Pitsford on 8th and a second-summer there on 9th, plus an adult at DIRFT 3 on 10th.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 10th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Unsurprisingly, Stanwick also accounted for the lion’s share of this week’s Yellow-legged Gulls, with at least twenty there on 7th, this number having dwindled to eight by the end of the period. Three other sites produced smaller numbers, with six at Harrington AF on 7th, two at DIRFT 3 on 8th and four on 10th, and three at Pitsford on 9th with one on 10th.

The first of the autumn’s Black Terns appeared at Pitsford on 12th, when two adults were found in Scaldwell Bay, while another autumn first – a Merlin – flew over Harrington AF on 9th.

To passerines … and Common Redstarts continued to feature strongly this week, with the long-staying female, again accompanied by the male, remaining at Lilbourne Meadows LNR throughout. Elsewhere, Harrington produced one on 7th and four on 9th, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell held two on 8th and three on 10th, singles were at Pitsford on 10th and Stanford on 12th and the week closed with two at Honey Hill on 13th.

Female Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 10th August 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Male Common Redstart, Honey Hill, 13th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Two Whinchats were reported from Pitsford on 10th, while single Northern Wheatears were at Harrington on 9th and 13th, Pitsford on 10th and at both Borough Hill and Welford Res on 12th.

Newsround – 31st July to 6th August 2021

With temperatures a touch below average, the week shaped up to be rather unsettled, with low pressure systems feeding cooler Atlantic air into the UK. Migrants continued to trickle through in small numbers but the period was otherwise uneventful.

The sole wildfowl representative of the week can be summed up in a single word: Garganey. One was on show at Stanwick GP from 31st until at least 5th and last week’s Daventry CP bird was still present on 1st.

Just one Cattle Egret was present at Stanwick GP on 2nd-3rd, while Pitsford Res produced a Great Egret on 31st plus two there on 4th and singles also visited Summer Leys LNR on 1st and Blatherwycke Lake on 5th.  

After no reports at all last week, Ospreys made a bit of a comeback, with single birds at Stanford Res on 2nd, over Cottesbrooke on 3rd, Pitsford on 4th and at both Deene Lake and Hollowell Res on 5th.

Juvenile Osprey, Hollowell Res, 5th August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Hollowell also produced an early morning Marsh Harrier on 3rd – they are rarely recorded from this site – and further individuals were seen briefly at Stanford on 2nd and Thrapston GP on 4th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Hollowell Res, 3rd August 2021 (Jon Cook)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Hollowell Res, 3rd August 2021 (Jon Cook)

Last week’s Harris Hawk remained in Duston, Northampton on 1st, local intel revealing that it has escaped from a Daventry-based falconer and has been on the loose for the last twelve months!

On the wader front, Black-tailed Godwits dominated the week’s proceedings, with eight at Clifford Hill GP on 31st followed there by four on 6th. Elsewhere, six flew over Stanford on 31st and one was at Daventry CP on 1st. Curlews away from breeding sites were limited to two at DIRFT 3 A5 Pools on 31st and 3rd and a Ruff was also present there on 4th. Greenshank numbers were again surprisingly low, with just one at Stanford on 4th.

As we head into autumn proper, gull numbers are visibly on the up and, among them, the first juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the season appeared at Stanwick on 2nd. A count of thirty-two Yellow-legged Gulls at the latter site on 5th was considered to be conservative as prolific late summer vegetation on site considerably hampered viewing of some four to five hundred large gulls there at the time. Smaller numbers elsewhere throughout the period included up to eleven at DIRFT 3, up to three at Pitsford and one at Daventry. This week’s Caspian Gulls were equally divided between DIRFT 3 and Stanwick, the first of these two sites providing two different adults on 1st and 3rd – the latter bearing a German ring. Stanwick’s two consisted of a third- or fourth-summer from 3rd to 5th, joined by an adult there on the latter date.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 1st August 2021 (Mike Alibone)
German-ringed adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 3rd August 2021 (Mike Alibone)

To passerines … and four sites produced Common Redstarts this week, starting off with the long-staying female remaining at Lilbourne Meadows LNR until at least 4th. Elsewhere, up to three were seen at Blueberry Farm throughout the period, as was the same number at Harrington AF, where three were trapped and ringed on 2nd, and two were at Lamport on 5th. Other passerines reported were two Whinchats in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, between 2nd and 4th and one at nearby Blueberry Farm on 5th and, hot on the heels of last week’s first, came more Northern Wheatears.

Northern Wheatear, Harrington AF, 3rd August 2021 (David Smith)

One was in the Brampton Valley on 2nd and 4th, one lingered at Harrington AF from 3rd to 6th and one was found at Blueberry Farm on 5th.

Newsround – 24th to 30th July 2021

An unsettled week with frequent heavy showers finished with Storm Evert on the back of an Atlantic low as it tracked east across the country. However, it was the middle day of the period which shaped up nicely, as a long-awaited county ‘first’ magically appeared for one lucky observer – and then it was gone …

Meanwhile … The token Garganey of the week put in an appearance at Daventry CP on 26th, while hybrid fans should note the continued presence of the Chiloe Wigeon x Crested Duck at Summer Leys LNR on 27th. Arguably, best of the wildfowl bunch, though, were five Common Scoters at Ringstead GP on 25th – a site which has enjoyed occasional records in the past.

Common Scoters, Ringstead GP, 25th July 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Up to two Cattle Egrets were at Stanwick GP between 25th and 27th, while up to two Great Egrets were at Pitsford Res during the same period and singles were at Thrapston GP on 25th, Summer Leys on 27th and Earls Barton GP on 29th.   

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 27th July 2021 (Tony Stanford)

In a surprisingly Ospreyless week, a Marsh Harrier was reported from Harrington AF on 29th but perhaps more impressive for some was the back garden appearance of a Harris Hawk in Duston, Northampton on 26th, hopefully now winging its way back to its rightful owner.

Harris Hawk, Duston, Northampton, 26th July 2021 (Duncan Cookson)

Another week, another Wood Sandpiper – this one lingering at Summer Leys from 27th to 29th. Otherwise, waders were limited to sixteen drop-in Black-tailed Godwits at Summer Leys on 28th, with two and one at Stanwick GP on 25th and 30th respectively, plus a Greenshank there on 27th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Summer leys LNR, 28th July 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the gull front, DIRFT 3, as usual, delivered the most Caspian Gulls, with a second-summer on 25th, a fourth-summer on 27th and an adult on 27th-28th. Elsewhere, a third- or fourth-summer visited Stanwick on 29th and 30th and an adult was at Welford Res on the latter date.  

Third- or fourth-summer Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 30th July 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Yellow-legged Gulls became more widespread as the late summer build-up began. The highest total was around fifteen at Stanwick on 30th, with between six and nine there in the preceding days. DIRFT 3 produced eight on 27th, with lower numbers on other dates during the week while, elsewhere, Thrapston GP held five on 27th, up to four were at Pitsford between 24th and 27th, two visited Ringstead on 25th and singles were at Clifford Hill GP on 26th and Stanford Res on 30th.

Third-summer Yellow-legged Gull, DIRFT 3, 30th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

However, none of this week’s gulls came anywhere close to matching this week’s incontrovertible biggie. Long awaited, though completely unexpected may almost be a contradiction in terms but it fittingly describes the appearance of Northamptonshire’s first-ever Gull-billed Tern as it flew rapidly past an astounded Steve Fisher at Stanwick, early on 27th. Seen well at point blank range, it was all over in seconds as the bird flew directly away, over the Main Lake and on to who knows where, as it headed south-west along the Nene Valley, toward Ditchford and beyond … Frenetic observer activity ensued as the chain of gravel pits along the valley was immediately checked … in vain. This was never the way it was supposed to happen, the bird failing to do the decent thing of lingering for at least a few hours in order for the locals to catch up with it. Arguably overdue in the county, Gull-billed Tern has occurred in the neighbouring counties of Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire plus other Midlands counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. How long will the wait be for the next in Northants?

To passerines and five sites produced Common Redstarts this week, starting off with the long-staying female again throughout the period at Lilbourne Meadows LNR, being joined by a male there from 25th until the week’s end. Elsewhere, up to three – possibly four – were at Harrington AF all week, up to three at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell between 28th and 30th and singles were at Honey Hill on 24th and Old on 29th.

Male Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 25th July 2021 (Jon Cook)
Male Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 28th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The only other migrant passerine of note was a Northern Wheatear which turned up at DIRFT 3 on 30th, hopefully the first of many more to come this autumn.

Newsround – 17th to 23rd July 2021

In a week in which temperatures hit a high of 29°C, the wind fluctuated between north and north-easterly and the weather remained dry, as did the birding scene, with nothing outstanding turning up to quicken the pulse.

The sole species representing the wildfowl in this week’s steady-as-she-goes birding endeavours across the county appeared in the form of two Garganeys, with one at Stanwick GP on 19th and the at Pitsford Res on 22nd.

An early morning Quail was reported from Brackley on 21st and Stanwick’s Cattle Egret total leapt to two on 18th-19th dropping back down to one on 22nd-23rd, while the only Great Egret this week was one at Thrapston GP on 19th-21st.

Cattle Egret, Stanwick GP, 23rd July 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Raptors, too, were limited to single Ospreys at Stanford Res on 17th, in flight over Brigstock CP and Fermyn Woods on the same date and one at Thrapston GP on 19th.

We’re not yet out of July and for the 4th week running, the top wader was yet another Wood Sandpiper, which flew off south-west only minutes after being located at the eastern end of Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 17th. Coming in at second-best was a Whimbrel making a short stopover at Clifford Hill on 19th, while the only Curlew of the week was one at DIRFT 3 on 18th, along with two Black-tailed Godwits there on the same date with one remaining the following day. Stanwick also produced one of the latter species on 19th, followed by three on 23rd and the same site held a male Ruff for a day on 17th.

Black-tailed Godwits, Stanwick GP, 23rd July 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Apart from an average scattering of Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and the odd Dunlin or two, the only other wader of note was Greenshank, with one at Summer Leys LNR on 17th and the rest at DIRFT 3, where there was one on the same date, two on 18th-19th and one from 21st to 23rd.

DIRFT 3 was also the place to be for most of this week’s large, white-headed gulls, with a ‘sub-adult’ Caspian Gull there on 17th, followed by a first-summer of the same species the next day. Two Yellow-legged Gulls were also there on 17th and four on 18th, one was at Pitsford Res on 19th and three there on 20th and, on 23rd, five were found at Stanwick and one at Thrapston. An adult Mediterranean Gull visited Daventry CP on 19th.

Mediterranean Gull, Daventry CP, 19th July 2021 (Gary Pullan)

To passerines … and Common Redstarts were still very much in evidence this week with last week’s female still at Harrington AF on 17th, another female in a Pitsford garden on 18th and two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 19th and 22nd. Two Whinchats were reported from the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 20th-21st.

Let’s hope next week delivers something a little different …

Newsround – 10th to 16th July 2021

An ‘Azores High’ moving west to the UK eventually delivered the long-awaited clear skies and soaring temperatures by the week’s end, although winds remained largely northerly throughout the period. Conditions were thus conducive for southbound migrants, which were again very much in evidence this week.

One bird going against the grain, though, was the Pink-footed Goose of clearly suspect origin, staying put at Pitsford Res on 10th.

Stanwick GP’s Cattle Egret staged its obligatory one-day appearance on 14th, while Great Egret numbers continued to build with up to three at Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP throughout the week.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 15th July 2021 (Adrian Leybourne)

At appears that 10th July was raptor day, with single Ospreys at Pitsford and Hollowell Res and a Marsh Harrier logged going north over Moulton.

Topping the waders bill again this week was another Wood Sandpiper, mobile between DIRFT 3 and the adjacent Lilbourne Meadows LNR on 12th – this time doing the decent thing and staying around until the following day, when one also visited Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake.

Wood Sandpiper, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 13th July 2021 (Gary Pullan)

DIRFT 3 also produced two Black-tailed Godwits on 10th, the same date that seven appeared at Clifford Hill GP, followed by two – maybe four – at Summer Leys/Earls Barton between 13th and 15th. Hot on the heels of the autumn’s first Greenshank at Pitsford last week, two were at DIRFT 3 on 13th, followed by one there on 15th.  

The latter site again held the highest number of Yellow-legged Gulls, with twelve on 13th while, elsewhere, four were at Pitsford on 12th with two there on 15th and one was at Thrapston GP on 12th.

Juvenile Pied Flycatcher, Bucknell Wood, 16th July 2021 (Harry Appleyard)
Juvenile Pied Flycatcher, Bucknell Wood, 16th July 2021 (Harry Appleyard)

There can be little argument that bird of the week was the juvenile Pied Flycatcher found at Bucknell Wood on 16th – an early autumn migrant following three spring records in late April.

Adult female Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 15th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

More Common Redstarts also appeared this week. Aside from the female found at Lilbourne Meadows on 6th and remaining until 15th, there were at least four reported from Blueberry Farm, Maidwell between 13th and 16th and a female was at Harrington AF on the last of these two dates.

Newsround – 3rd to 9th July 2021

A series of easterly moving Atlantic lows delivered both southerly and northerly airstreams during the period, along with both sunshine and showers, none of which appears to have had any bearing on the week’s produce. However, following on from last week, there were further sure signs of early autumn movements across the avian spectrum.  

Deemed almost obligatory to receive a mention, the decidedly dodgy Pink-footed Goose from back in June popped up again at Pitsford Res on 4th. Without it, there would be no wildfowl appearing in the week’s line-up …

Pink-footed Goose, Pitsford Res, 4th July 2021 (Angus Molyneux)

Also scraping in was a/the one-day Cattle Egret at Stanwick GP on 6th, while the Great Egret total doubled from last week’s one to singles at Stanford Res from 3rd to 5th and at Earls Barton GP on 4th.

Single Ospreys visited Stanford on 4th and Thrapston GP on 8th.

Another Wood Sandpiper – again an all too brief stayer – topped the waders bill this week, making a short evening stopover at DIRFT 3 on 5th. The same site also hosted seven Curlews on 3rd and another was calling north-east of Pitsford on the same date. DIRFT 3 also produced three Black-tailed Godwits on 3rd, five on 5th, one on 6th and two on 9th.

Black-tailed Godwits and Curlew, DIRFT 3, 3rd July 2021 (Gary Pullan)
Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd July 2021 (Paul Wyer)

Elsewhere, five were at Summer Leys LNR on 9th, with four on 3rd, one on 4th-6th and one at Pitsford on 7th, the latter site also producing the first Greenshank of the autumn on the same date. With small numbers of Green Sandpipers now trickling through, a double-figure count of ten at Lilbourne Meadows LNR on 8th was noteworthy.

As usual, DIRFT 3 was the place to be when it came to all of this week’s Caspian Gulls, with two first-summers there on 3rd, a third-summer on 5th, 6th and 8th and at least three first-summers on the latter date.

Third-summer Yellow-legged Gull, DIRFT 3, 6th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Yellow-legged Gull numbers continued to build there, also, with up to six from 3rd to 6th and between twelve and fifteen on 8th. Elsewhere, four were at Pitsford on 9th, two on 5th and one on 6th-7th, while an adult was at Stanwick on 6th.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 4th July 2021 (Phil Adams)
Female Common Redstart, Lilbourne Meadows LNR, 6th July 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The autumn’s first Common Redstart, found at Stanford Res last week on 2nd, was still present and remained until 5th, neatly followed by single females at Pitsford Res on 6th and Lilbourne Meadows from 6th until the week’s end.

Newsround – 26th June to 2nd July 2021

A mixed bag of weather had little bearing on the selection of this week’s birds, which more than hinted that early autumn passage was well underway.  

This was not applicable, of course, to the single, presumed resident, Cattle Egret hanging on at Stanwick GP throughout the week, nor to the wandering summertime Great Egret at Summer Leys LNR on 26th and at adjacent Earls Barton GP on 1st.

Ospreys, too, were all likely to have been from the Midlands breeding population – this week’s comprising singles at Hollowell Res on 27th and 1st, Naseby Res on 28th, Daventry CP on 29th and Blatherwycke Lake on the same date.

But it was a Wood Sandpiper at Stanwick on 28th which provided the amuse-bouche for autumn, along with a supporting cast of two Green Sandpipers, while six more Green Sandpipers also appeared together at Deene Lake the following day. Black-tailed Godwits turned up at three sites, which included two at Ditchford GP and one at Summer Leys on 30th, followed by one at Stanwick on 2nd.

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer leys LNR, 30th June 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

This week’s gulls were pretty much last week’s gulls. An adult Mediterranean Gull was at Summer Leys on 26th, followed by a first-summer at Stanwick the next day. Further gull action came from DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools, where a first-summer Caspian Gull was present on 27th and 2nd, the same site hosting three Yellow-legged Gulls on 27th, one on 29th and four on 2nd.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 2nd July 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Along with the above waders, underlining that initial taste of autumn was a male Common Redstart, found at Stanford Res on 2nd – no doubt the first of many more to come …

Newsround – 19th to 25th June 2021

A grim week on the weather front, with predominantly north-easterly winds, showers and depressed temperatures AND although a Rose-coloured Starling made the headlines once again, ITS presence was SOMEWHAT short-lived.  

Decidedly more dodgy than the weather, though, last week’s Pink-footed Goose was still at Pitsford Res on 23rd, while the only other wildfowl stepping up to the mark were two Garganeys at Stanwick GP on 20th and one at Summer Leys LNR on 22nd-23rd.

Raptors this week were limited to single Ospreys visiting Stanford Res on 23rd and 24th and, while waders are normally in short supply in June, Clifford Hill GP produced two Avocets on the evening of 24th and DIRFT 3 pulled in a Whimbrel and 2 Curlews on 21st. The latter site also held a first-summer Caspian Gull plus a fourth-summer Yellow-legged Gull on 19th and two first-summer Caspian Gulls plus five Yellow-legged Gulls on 25th. Further Yellow-legged Gulls included a first-summer at Pitsford on 20th and two there on 24th.

First-summer Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 21st June 2021 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick produced two different first-summer Mediterranean Gulls on consecutive days, 21st and 22nd.

Presumed Northern Willow Warbler, Stanford Res, 19th June 2021 (Stanford Ringing Group)

Once again, passerines were in the limelight. The Stanford Ringing Group trapped what would appear to be a Willow Warbler showing characteristics of the race acredula, known colloquially as Northern Willow Warbler, on 19th. Although this race breeds from Scandinavia eastwards, birds showing similar characteristics are present in Scotland. All of the county’s previous five records have come from the mist nets of Stanford, the last one as recently as August 2020.

Rose-coloured Starling, Grange Park, Northampton, 19th June 2021 (Mark Oldham)

Some species are less cryptic, however. So, another week, another Rose-coloured Starling, although the images snatched of one in a private garden at Grange Park, Northampton, on 19th do not entirely rule out last week’s bird that spent three days at nearby Clifford Hill GP. The propensity for this ‘Martini’ species to turn up almost any time, any place, anywhere means that they are inevitably chance-encountered without investing any effort into locating and watching local Starling flocks. “Who dares wins” is clearly not applicable to finding them in this case. Simply hang your fat balls out and sit back …

Newsround – 12th to 18th June 2021

High pressure and a south to south-westerly airstream saw temperatures move toward the upper twenties during the period, although the week ended on A somewhat damp note as heavy rain moved in from the continent. However, it was the VERY beginning of the week which produced the goods …

And from day one, Clifford Hill GP was, this week, at the forefront, on the 12th topping the locality leader board for the best in class, although that is not seriously applicable to the first of the two – let’s say ‘unusual’ – species found there on that date. During the morning, seven white morph Snow Geese were discovered feeding on the north side of the Main Barrage Lake. It would appear there has never been anything constituting a flock of this species in Northants before … but the date, coupled with the existence of steadily growing numbers of feral birds at Farmoor, Oxfordshire (103 were counted there on 4th May) unequivocally dashes any hopes of their being wild.

Snow Geese, Clifford Hill GP, 12th June 2021 (Mark Williams)
Snow Geese, Clifford Hill GP, 12th June 2021 (Mark Williams)

There have been a number of flocks seen in the UK over the past six weeks, with forty-two in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Lincolnshire last month and, more recently, thirty-seven moving through Durham, Cleveland, Northumberland and Lothian. Smaller numbers have also appeared in other counties of late. Interestingly, the Northants seven showed up at Eyebrook, Leicestershire the following day and seven, dubbed by BirdGuides as ‘of unknown origin’ (now, there’s a teaser …), were on the Dumbles at Slimbridge on 17th. It seems likely that these were the same birds.

Still on the wild (or not) goose theme, a Pink-footed Goose was in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res on 15th-17th, while the nearby Brampton Valley continued to host a singing male Quail on 16th. The latter date saw the only Great Egret of the week at Stanwick GP and single Ospreys visited Hollowell Res on 12th-13th and Thrapston GP on 14th-15th. Away from breeding sites, single Curlews flew over Stanford Res on 15th and 16th and two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Pitsford on 17th.

Once again, the far east of the county struck gold – this time at Glapthorn Cow Pasture, where three people who had made the journey from Cornwall to see Black Hairstreaks had excellent views of a male Golden Oriole on the morning of 13th. Two lucky local birders, present around the same time, also connected, enjoying brief flight views. Further attempts to find it later in the day, and again early the following morning, unfortunately met with disappointment by the handful of hopefuls searching for it. This bird follows hot on the heels of the male at Fotheringhay on 2nd June.

Rose-coloured Starling, Clifford Hill GP, 14th June 2021 (Ken Prouse)

Fortunately, quite the reverse situation was true when it came to the discovery of the county’s sixth Rose-coloured Starling. Found at Clifford Hill GP on the evening of 12th, it remained until 14th, allowing many to connect with it, although it became increasingly elusive during its 3-day stay. This was the first twitchable one in Northants for twenty-three years and a full account has already been published here.

Male Channel Wagtail, Stanford Res, 12th June 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Arguably no less colourful, last week’s male Channel Wagtail paid a return visit to Stanford Res on the evening of 12th, when it was again around the dam in company with Yellow Wagtails.

Spring, it seems, is not done with yet …

The Rose-coloured Starling at Clifford Hill GP

Following a similar event this time last year, Western Europe is, once again, experiencing a late spring influx of Rose-coloured Starlings. Numbers in Spain have recently exceeded 300 and in France numbers had likely reached four figures by 1st June, with the biggest flock totalling 320 birds. Here in the UK, there have been more than 130 records to date but unlike last year, far fewer birds have made it inland and most reports have been restricted to coastal locations.

Against the odds, then, we have been fortunate in having one arrive in Northants and the fact that it was found in a readily accessible location, combined with a stay of at least three days, constitutes a big bonus for local birders.

Discovered by Dave Smith on the evening of 12th June, it was feeding on the grassy, sheep-grazed banks in the vicinity of the north-east corner of the Main Barrage Lake, remaining long enough for a number of locals to catch up with it before the end of the evening.

Rose-coloured Starling, Clifford Hill GP, 12th June 2021 (Dave Smith)

Still present the next morning, although mobile along the full length of the barrage lake, it attracted a steady procession of admirers throughout the day before flying off west during the evening. Fortunately, it reappeared close to the main river bridge early on 14th, after which it quickly became even more mobile and elusive throughout the remainder of the day.

Rose-coloured Starling, Clifford Hill GP, 14th June 2021 (Ken Prouse)

During its stay, it associated with Starlings but, at the same time, doing very much its own thing in terms of behaviour. Its movements while feeding were slower and less ‘frenetic’ and it did not adopt the ‘busy’ attitude of the surrounding Starlings, which were clearly absorbed in collecting as much food as possible and flying off north over the River Nene. This is not unusual, as gait – in terms of vagrants – is described by BWP as ‘often slow and methodical, at least when feeding in grass or weeds’, so suggestions made on the 13th that it might be suffering from ill health would appear to be unfounded.

Rose-coloured Starling, Clifford Hill GP, 14th June 2021 (Ken Prouse)

In terms of sex, the clean bright pink of its upper and under parts point clearly to a male but ageing may be more problematic. Dave’s image, above, clearly shows only the shortest of crest feathers (not long, as can be seen in many photographs of classic adult males), while the excellent images from Ken Prouse show worn – almost bleached – brown (not black) primary feathers, suggesting it is one of last year’s juveniles which has, in part, arrested its post-juvenile, autumn moult. Such delays do sometimes occur and moult then takes place in spring (BWP). Two new tail feathers are also growing with pale, as yet unworn tips. This, combined with the short crest feathers, strongly suggest this is a first-summer male, although this may be pure speculation.

Rose-coloured Starling, Clifford Hill GP, 14th June 2021 (Ken Prouse)

Whatever its age, it’s a fantastic bird, the 6th county record and the first to be truly twitchable in Northants since a relatively long-staying bird in, and around, Woodford Halse for 12 days in September 1998. In addition to the latter, previous records were at Weedon in September 1888, Thrapston in July 1908, Wellingborough in May 2018 and Hackleton in June 2020.