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.
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.
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.
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.