It was just before two o’clock this afternoon when Matt Hazleton picked up a Spoonbill flying in from the north-east before arriving on the main lake at Summer Leys. It landed in the Brayshaw’s Bund/Wader Bay area and seemed settled, giving Matt the opportunity for a few photos before he emailed me to let me know.
After putting the news out, I made my way to Summer Leys only to discover upon arrival that it had flown off up the Nene Valley. Time was limited so I decided to head back home, calling in at Clifford Hill GP, just in case …
At 15.10, I arrived at the western end of the main barrage lake and quickly scanned the ‘new’ peninsular … and there it was! More news alerts then a bit of video before I had to leave at 15.40, leaving John Moon, Martin and Andrew Dove there to watch it.
Spoonbill, Clifford Hill GP, 27th April 2014 (Mike Alibone). Black primary tips just visible, pale bill tip, no breast band and shortish crest make this a first- or second-summer bird.
It remained there for the next two hours, after which I heard it had been flushed by fishermen driving out on to the peninsular. So much for this being an SSSI …
Many thanks to Matt and to Simon Hales for the use of their images.
Dave Jackson found this superb Great White Egret this morning at Clifford Hill GP. It was still there late in the afternoon and seems reasonably tolerant of various human activities going on around it.
Great White Egret, Clifford Hill GP, 27th July 2013 (Mike Alibone)
Since the first County record at Stanford Reservoir in July 1992, there have been at least fifteen subsequent records, including three together in October 2002 and three together in the early part of this year at Earls Barton GP. The likely source of our visitors is France and The Netherlands where, according to British Birds, there is now a wintering population in excess of 2000 individuals!
… except this! I was lucky enough to be at Clifford Hill Gravel Pits when this Scared Ibis dropped in at about 19.20 last night. Dave James, a few hundred metres away from me, picked it up first on the north bank of the main lake. It appeared unringed.
An escape or a wanderer from the French feral population, which numbers more than 600 pairs – a huge reduction from the several thousand birds present a few years ago. In France they are treated as a pest and a conservation concern as they are danger to other birds which are predated. There has been a culling program underway for the past few years.
Northamptonshire’s fifth Cattle Egret was discovered in yesterday’s late evening gloom in the grassy surrounds of the RMC pit, just across the road from Summer Leys reserve. It did not remain there for any length of time, promptly vanishing before the arrival on site of a small number of would-be observers. Fortunately it was back again this morning – firstly in the partly flooded sheep fields opposite the mill at Hardwater Crossing, then on the north side of Hardwater Lake before returning to the area where it was initially discovered and seems to favour. The photos below – kindly supplied by Bob Bullock and Neil Hasdell – provide a nice comparison between this rather flashy bird with the somewhat plain Little Egret.
The four previous records have been of birds out of breeding plumage and three out of those have also been at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR. The previous records are: Earls Barton/Summer Leys 11th-13th August 2006, Fotheringhay 23rd February 2008, Earls Barton/Summer Leys 30th-31st July 2008 and again at the same locality on 27th-28th May 2009.
All that glitters is not gold, or so the old proverb says and nothing is more apt in the case of this leucistic Grey Heron, initially identified as a Great White Egret, near Stanford on 23rd February.
From a distance it looks interesting but upon closer examination – and before any structural differences become apparent – there are a number of plumage anomalies.
Dark feathers are visible among the white, the most obvious of which are the grey tertials and the rest of the flight feathers on the closed wing. There is a ghost of Grey Heron’s black lateral crown stripe above, and behind, the eye and the legs are pale – much more in line with those of a Grey Heron. Bizarre that this bird should be discovered at the same time as a ‘real’ Great White Egret has put in an appearance in the Nene valley not so very far away …
Great White Egrets are now almost annual visitors to the County, even staying to winter in recent years, but the last two or three have paid fleeting visits and they have been difficult to catch up with as a consequence. Conforming to this recent trend, the latest one to occur was found at Kislingbury Gravel Pits on 1st February by Colin Adams.
It was present for only ten minutes after its discovery before being flushed by a dog-walker and flying off east.
This bird no doubt accounted for the report five days later of one flying north-east over Denford. Where had it been during the intervening period?
Although there have now been two this year, Spoonbill is a near annual visitor to Northants, with records this century in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and one pending, the 27th County record, for 2010. It usually appears singly but eight were present at Pitsford Reservoir on 29th September 1984.
A juvenile discovered at Stanford Reservoir on Saturday – and featured in Bob Bullock’s photo above – is still present today and is almost certainly the same individual which had previously been present at nearby Draycote Water in Warwickshire. Aged as juvenile because it has a flesh-coloured bill and black outer webs to outer primaries are just visible on the closed wing.
An early morning visit to Daventry Country Park paid off for Allan Maybury when he picked up this Great White Egret dropping in at around 07.30. However, a considerable number of gulls took umbrage and made this bird feel most unwelcome at the site, causing it to think twice about landing and, ultimately, it headed off west.
Since the first County record at Stanford Reservoir in July 1992, there have been at least ten subsequent records, including three together in October 2002, as the breeding population of this species has increased on the near continent. Great White Egret has also started to winter regularly in the UK and the last two winters have seen long staying individuals at Pitsford Reservoir. Two arrived together there on 10th October last year, with one staying into the New Year. Can we look forward to more this winter?
A phone call to Frank Smith from an excited farmer who was uncertain of the identity of a ‘large stork or ibis’ on his land at Weedon sent Frank over to investigate – and this was the
result! A fantastic adult Black Stork, only the second record for Northamptonshire, after the first at Barnwell on 27th-28th July 1990. The swift release of the news allowed local (and some not so local) birders catch up with a long awaited Northamptonshire tick! ‘Unblocked’, I think is the term.
Black Stork, Weedon, 14th May 2011 (Bob Bullock)
The bird, present for 4 hours by the River Nene, just off the Upper Weedon-Dodford Road (see Latest Reports for directions), flew west at 16.45 but was later relocated about 1 km to the west, at the end of a rape field at around 18.45. It then took flight again towards some more ponds about 2 km further west.
Thanks to Bob Bullock for use of his photos and to the farmer for initially alerting Frank.