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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


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


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.


Newsround – 17th to 23rd September 2022

Another predominantly dry week and, aside from a brief south-westerly interlude, winds from the north were the order of the day for the majority of the period. Despite these conditions being far from ideal for scarce autumn migrants, as the week drew to a close, some new and rather more inspiring birds had made it over the county boundary – albeit in small numbers and only for a short period of time …

However, there was nothing majorly new on the wildfowl front and the two Pink-footed Geese of questionable provenance remained with us – the Stanwick GP bird until at least 17th, while the Daventry CP individual was still present on 21st. More sporadic in its appearances this autumn, the female Ruddy Shelduck paid a return visit to Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 19th, remaining at the latter site until at least 21st, while Pitsford Res again produced a Garganey on 19th-20th and 23rd.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 20th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Following last week’s record number of Cattle Egrets, things simmered down somewhat as a return to more normal figures saw eight in flight at Thrapston GP on 17th, the same date on which two flew over Stanford Res – hot on the heels of the site’s first record less than three weeks previously. One was also present at the more traditional location of Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR on 21st, the same day a Bittern was reported flying south at Broughton.   

This week’s raptors were down almost to the bare bones, with just two Ospreys, both appearing on 18th on opposite sides of the county, including one at Stanford and a juvenile over Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR. Similarly, two Marsh Harriers were also seen on the same day, 20th, with one flying from the Brampton Valley toward Brixworth and the other at Summer Leys LNR. An unidentified ‘ringtail’ harrier sp. was seen close to Harrington AF on 22nd and was perhaps the Hen Harrier known to have been in the area last week but, then again, perhaps not …

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 20th September 2022 (Adrian Leybourne)

Late September, though, sees the number of passage waders coming through reduced to a trickle, but what may have been lost in quantity was, this week, made up for in quality – if only fleetingly. Black-tailed Godwits were down to single birds at Ditchford on 19th and Daventry on 21st, while Ruffs were similarly reduced to singles at the latter site on 20th-21st and at Pitsford on 21st-22nd, with two there the following day. But it was the 20th which produced two of the week’s star waders. First up was a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, seen only briefly and photographed at Pitsford then seemingly disappearing into the ether, only to reappear, equally briefly, two days later on 22nd – assuming it was, of course, the same individual. With just the one previous record this year, Curlew Sandpiper is not the regular autumn migrant it once was and it can no longer be guaranteed as an annual visitor to the county, even when there is a national influx and coastal counts reach triple figures. This is a far cry from the way things used to be a couple of decades or so ago, when this species was taken as a given in autumn and many mud-fringed, local reservoirs laid claim to their own.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th September 2022 (Paul Wyer)
Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Sadly, much the same can be said about Little Stint, once taken largely for granted as a regularly occurring autumn migrant in small numbers. Echoing the one-day bird at Thrapston at the end of August, the second of the year made an equally brief stay at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 20th. Autumn is not yet over but time is running out for further encounters with this little gem.

Juvenile Little Stint, Earls Barton GP, 20th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Although somewhat further down in the pecking order, the third decent wader on the roll call this week was Spotted Redshank, two of which turned up at the above Earls Barton site on 22nd, some forty-eight hours after the Little Stint. In keeping with the last two species, they did not stay but happily, two – perhaps the same – were found during the evening of the same date at Pitsford Res, where they remained until the following day. These were the first autumn Spotted Redshanks to turn up at this site for four years, but it is unlikely we will ever see a return to the good old days of the last century, when acres of beckoning mud was the autumn norm at Pitsford and numbers of this species were inclined to reach double figures there.

Juvenile Spotted Redshanks, Earls Barton GP, 22nd September 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Sticking with Pitsford, a Wood Sandpiper was discovered there on 17th, remaining until the week’s end when it ultimately became overshadowed by the aforementioned taller Tringas. Two Greenshanks were also on site there throughout the week and two also visited Earls Barton on 20th, with one remaining until 23rd. The first Jack Snipe of the autumn was found at Hollowell Res on 21st, still being present on 23rd.

Jack Snipe, Hollowell Res, 23rd September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Scarce gulls remained just that. Single first-winter Caspian Gulls appeared at Ravensthorpe on 20th and at Daventry the following day, while Yellow-legged Gulls stretched to one at Pitsford on 21st and seven on 23rd, plus three at Summer Leys on 22nd.

This week’s Merlin was in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton, on 20th.

All the period’s passerines fell squarely into the chat zone – well, there or thereabouts – and included single Common Redstarts in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 18th and 23rd, two near Old on 19th, up to two at Harrington between 19th and 21st, two at Hollowell on 22nd and one at Honey Hill on 23rd.

Common Redstart, Hollowell Res, 22nd September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Whinchats, too, were still very much in evidence with the Brampton Valley holding up to four during the period, at least two were present at Hollowell between 19th and 23rd, two were at Harrington on 21st and one at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 18th.

Whinchats, Hollowell Res, 21st September 2022 (Jon Cook)

It’s also proving to be a good autumn for Stonechats so far, with birds present at seven localities, including Blueberry Farm, Brampton Valley, Harrington, Hollowell, Pitsford, Welford and Willowbrook Industrial Estate. By the end of the week, Brampton Valley and Hollowell had produced the highest numbers of six and five, respectively.

In stark contrast, though, Northern Wheatears were down to singles in the Brampton Valley on 18th and 21st and up to two at Harrington between 19th and 21st.

The last week in September has a track record for producing American waders and, if the short-term weather forecast for wind and rain is correct, we may yet be in for something interesting over the forthcoming days.


Newsround – 10th to 16th September 2022

Although we’ve clocked up record-breaking numbers of Cattle Egrets this week, with a largely northerly airstream – particularly at the end of the period – the birding has been somewhat lacklustre in comparison to that experienced in previous weeks.

Yes, in a week during which local birding has been rather like pulling teeth, the first wild Pink-footed Geese have arrived ‘up north’ in the UK. This, however, adds no further credibility to either of the long-stayers at Daventry CP or Stanwick GP, still present on 10th and 13th, respectively. Two one-day Garganeys included an eclipse drake at Daventry on 10th and one at Pitsford Res on 14th, while Stanford Res produced five Red-crested Pochards on the first of these two dates.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Daventry CP, 10th September 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Becoming rather more sporadic in its occurrence at Daventry, the previously long-staying first-winter drake Ferruginous Duck – now looking rather more dapper in pretty much adult plumage – put in another appearance there on 15th.

Last week’s quintet of Cattle Egrets remained in the Townholme Meadows area at Ditchford GP until at least 12th but on the evening of the same date, a flock of sixteen flew west at Summer Leys LNR, ahead of a record-breaking count of at least twenty-one emerging from the roost at Stanwick GP, early the following morning.

Cattle Egrets, Summer Leys LNR, 12th September 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

On the raptor front, the same three species as last week were again in evidence in the county. Three Ospreys included one at Stanford on 10th and a juvenile over Hollowell village on the same date, followed by another juvenile flying south-west over Daventry on 13th.

Juvenile Osprey, Hollowell, 10th September 2022 (Jon Cook)

Also keeping up appearances, Marsh Harriers comprised a male heading low south over Daventry on 10th, one at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the following day and another at Summer Leys on 13th. At a time of year ripe for the production of a Pallid Harrier, unsurprisingly, Northamptonshire had to make do with third-best (let’s not forget Montagu’s) once again in the shape of two ‘ringtail’ Hen Harriers, one of which flew south at Fotheringhay on 13th, while the other – likely to have been last week’s bird – made another appearance at Harrington AF on 15th.

Scarcer passage waders remained just that, with just one Black-tailed Godwit at Pitsford from 10th to 13th, two Ruffs at Naseby Res from 12th to 14th, plus twos at both Summer Leys and Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 13th.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 13th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

This week’s token Wood Sandpiper was at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 13th and the only Greenshanks were one at Pitsford on 10th-11th, followed by up to three there between 13th and 16th and one at Earls Barton GP between 10th and 16th.

A small trickle of the scarcer gulls included single juvenile Caspian Gulls at Boddington Res on 10th and 11th, with a first-winter there on the latter date, while the previous week’s German-ringed adult male remained at Naseby until 14th. Also in a repeat performance of last week, there were again few Yellow-legged Gulls in evidence, with an adult at Daventry on 10th, a second-winter at Boddington on 11th, two adults at Pitsford on 11th and 14th and one at Stanwick GP on 9th.

The first Arctic Tern of the autumn, an adult, visited Ravensthorpe Res on 11th.

Continuing the recent run of Merlins, one was seen at Stanwick on 13th.

And it looks like we are continuing to do well this autumn for Pied Flycatchers, with another being found alongside Spotted Flycatchers in a rural garden between Badby and Fawsley on 10th. Against this, though, Common Redstart numbers began to dwindle, the favoured sites of Blueberry Farm and Harrington both producing up to two birds on two and three dates, respectively, while singles were also found at Hollowell on 10th and 16th, Orlingbury on 11th, in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 13th and at Stanford on 15th – the latter bird being trapped and ringed.

Numbers of Whinchats remained relatively high, with maximum site totals of four at Borough Hill on 12th and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 14th. Elsewhere, twos were at Hollowell and Woodford Halse and singles near Brockhall and at Chelveston AF and Clifford Hill GP.

Juvenile Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 11th September 2022 (Jon Cook)

As we can expect Whinchat totals to diminish over the next week or two, their shoes will no doubt be filled by Stonechats, numbers of which were clearly on the up during the period. The five sites of Borough Hill, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Stanford and Upton CP all produced birds, the highest number being six at Borough Hill on 12th and at Earls Barton GP on 15th.

Stonechat, Upton CP, 15th September 2022 (Tony Stanford)

Northern Wheatears continued to be found in various localities. Blueberry Farm, Boughton, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Earls Barton, Harrington and Pitsford all produced birds in ones and twos but three were at Duston on 10th.

To round off, a Corn Bunting put in an appearance for one day in the Brampton Valley, below Hanging Houghton, on 13th.

Newsround – 3rd to 9th September 2022

With a mixture of sunshine, occasional early morning mists and hefty showers, backed by largely light south to south-easterlies, the week just gone by took on a distinct autumnal feel. And so it came to pass that the Northamptonshire list became one species heavier, as the nets of Stanford once again worked their magic and delivered something seemingly not on anyone’s radar …

Wading through the wildfowl, at least two Pink-footed Geese of dubious origin remained at large, with the Daventry CP individual still present until at least 8th and the Stanwick GP bird being seen again on 4th and 9th. A Garganey was at Pitsford Res on 3rd – the same site hanging on to just one Red-crested Pochard until 8th. Back over at Daventry, the long-staying first-winter drake Ferruginous Duck remained on site until at least 5th.

A sprinkling of Cattle Egrets included singles at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd and at Stanwick on 3rd-4th but numbers grew at Ditchford GP, where three were initially found on 3rd, followed by five in the Townholme Meadows/St Peter’s Church area on 8th-9th.

Fewer Ospreys were seen this week and included two at Pitsford, briefly, on 5th and a juvenile flying south over Boddington Res on 9th. Similarly, Marsh Harriers were down to just one, a juvenile at Summer Leys on 6th. The vacancy, however, was immediately filled by a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier, which proved to be highly mobile between Harrington AF and the Brampton Valley on 4th-5th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 6th September 2022 (CliveBowley)
Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 6th September 2022 (CliveBowley)

With muddy reservoir margins becoming more extensive and providing a welcoming draw to passage waders,  Black-tailed Godwits were of daily occurrence at, and exclusive to, Pitsford, where seven were present on 3rd-4th and up to five remained for the rest of the period. Naseby Res was, however, the focus for the highest number of Ruffs which had climbed to six by the week’s end. Elsewhere, singles visited Pitsford on 4th and Stanford on 3rd and 4th, one of which was a colour-ringed and flagged juvenile female ringed at Blindheimsvikane in Norway on 27th August. Having travelled 1,204 km in no more than seven days, this is only the 16th Norwegian-ringed Ruff to be recorded in the UK (info from Chris Hubbard).

Juvenile male (left) and female Ruffs, Naseby Res, 8th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

In the Nene Valley, this week’s one and only Wood Sandpiper remained at Summer Leys from 4th to 7th, two Greenshanks were there on 3rd, while nearby Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) continued to hold two throughout the period. Pitsford also produced Greenshanks daily, with up to four on 5th and 9th.

Juvenile Greenshank, Pitsford Res, 7th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Construction sites with acres of levelled ground are oft favoured by loafing gulls and so it was that this week’s token Mediterranean Gull – an adult – was found among such a flock at Harlestone Park, off New Sandy Lane in Northampton on 5th. This species is still proving thin on the ground, so far, this autumn.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Harlestone Park Construction site, Northampton, 5th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

More in evidence, though, were Caspian Gulls and a 2021 German-ringed adult which was found at Naseby on 5th, turned out to be a male that had visited the county last year, when it was seen at DIRFT 3 in August and again in October. Another adult was at Daventry on 8th and a juvenile dropped in at Boddington Res the following day.

German-ringed adult male Caspian Gull, Naseby Res, 5th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

There were few Yellow-legged Gulls about during the period, with one at Pitsford on 3rd, a juvenile at Daventry on 4th with three there on 8th and six at Stanwick GP on 9th.

Two juvenile Black Terns visited Boddington on 9th.

Back on dry land, Harrington AF produced a Short-eared Owl on 5th and a Merlin on 5th-6th.

But bird of the week – and probably of the year – was once again at Stanford, where the ringers played a blinder, extracting from the nets a somewhat leftfield catch in the shape of a first-winter Blyth’s Reed Warbler on 8th.

So, after all the hoo-ha at Stanford, another week and another Pied Flycatcher reported from Blueberry Farm, Maidwell the day before was, this time, left looking positively mundane. Meanwhile, the autumn run of Common Redstarts continued unabated with records from seven sites, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Boddington, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington, Stanford and Yardley Chase. The highest counts were four at Stanford on 3rd and four or five at Harrington on 6th.

First-winter male Common Redstart, Clifford Hill GP, 4th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Whinchats, too, continued to be well represented, with ten sites producing varying numbers, the maxima of which were six in the Brampton Valley on 7th-8th and five at Stanford on 3rd. A male Stonechat was at Priors Hall, Corby on 4th.

Whinchat, Clifford Hill GP, 4th September 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatears were found in ones and twos at Barton Seagrave, Brampton Valley, Duston (Northampton), Orlingbury, Summer Leys and Sywell AF, with Harrington producing three on 5th and 8th. The latter site also delivered two fly-over Tree Pipits on 8th.

A mighty week, then … and there is much more of autumn still to come.