Newsround – 28th January to 3rd February 2023

With winds off the Atlantic, a dry and ultimately mild week ensued as temperatures rose to above average by the end of the period. Much of last week’s fare lingered, including Ravensthorpe’s Ring-necked Duck and at least two Siberian Chiffchaffs at Ecton while, out of the rarity hat, a surprise appeared in the form of a White Stork, briefly, in Moulton.

Following due process, though, the Barnacle Goose of more than questionable origin remained with Canada Geese at Upton CP on 30th, while the almost equally eyebrow-raising single Pink-footed Geese were still present with Greylags at both Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 28th and Wicksteed Park until 31st. On a similar theme, the itinerant female Ruddy Shelduck returned to Hollowell for the day on 30th.

Three Red-crested Pochards included the long-staying drake at Stanford Res all week, a new drake at Daventry CP on 31st and a female was present throughout the period at Summer Leys.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 31st January 2023 (Gary Pullan)

But moving into the higher echelons of more worthy wildfowl, appearing settled and prone to showing well off the causeway, the now popular female Ring-necked Duck completed its first full week at Ravensthorpe. The same cannot be said, though, for the other female found at Thrapston GP on the final day of the previous week. It was still present there, on Aldwincle Lake, the following day, 28th, but it’s not been seen since …

Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 3rd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Much more obliging, however, and despite going AWOL for a day, was the female Greater Scaup at Hollowell, now into its third week. Keeping up appearances in Pitsford’s Walgrave Bay, the drake Smew remained until at least 29th.

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 29th January 2023 (James Skinner)

In the absence of any notable waders, gulls lined up in pretty much the usual places. The week’s token Mediterranean Gull, an adult, was found in the roost at Boddington on 3rd and Hollowell and Stanford carved up the majority of this week’s serving of Caspian Gulls between them. Of the latter, Hollowell produced an adult on 28th, two adults, a second-winter and a third-winter on 30th, three adults on 1st and two adults on 3rd. Stanford’s gull roost held an adult on 29th, two adults on 30th and a near-adult plus a third-winter on 2nd. It would appear likely that some of these are duplicates, moving between the two sites which, after all, aren’t too far apart as the gull flies. Meanwhile, DIRFT 3 produced an adult on 3rd.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 3rd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Yellow-legged Gulls were down to just the regular, wintering adult at Pitsford, where it remained all week.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 2nd February 2023 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s big surprise, then, came in the form of a White Stork on a house roof, briefly, in Moulton on 29th. Quick off the mark, the observer managed a hastily obtained record shot of it taking flight, which appeared on social media shortly after the event but it was not possible to determine if it had any rings. It did not linger, nor was it seen again …

This week’s Merlin decided to grace Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 1st.

And sticking with the Nene Valley … At least two Siberian Chiffchaffs remained along the outflow at Ecton SF throughout the period. ‘SF’ is a simple abbreviation of ‘Sewage Farm’ and latter-day birders may be inclined to view the area as the more recently named ‘Great Billing STW’ (Sewage Treatment Works), or even Billing Gravel Pits, as some would have it. But for those of us birding for well over fifty years in Northants, the name ‘Ecton SF’ has heritage and dates back to the pre-1940s. Little Bittern, Night Heron, Montagu’s Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard, Black-winged Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Sociable Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs … the list is endless, the name can never be dropped or forgotten. The site is legend!

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 29th January 2023 (James Underwood)

Ecton SF also periodically produces Stonechats – but not this week, though, when they were limited to two at Upton CP on 30th and singles at Lilbourne Meadows NR and Hollowell Res on the same date and at Earls Barton GP on 1st.

Stonechat, Lilborne Meadows NR, 30th January 2023 (Mke Alibone)

Newsround – 21st to 27th January 2023

The freezing temperatures and the attendant icy conditions of the previous week spilled over into the first half of the period, after which a thaw set in as the thermometer eased its way back up toward something approaching the seasonal norm. Once again, ducks stole the show in terms of overall rarity, although a quartet of easy-to-see Siberian Chiffchaffs proved equally popular, exerting a strong observer pull as the week rolled out.

And it’s probably because we’re becoming more accustomed to seeing Ring-necked Ducks as they’ve upped their numbers visiting the UK over the past few winters. A female discovered at Ravensthorpe Res on the penultimate day of the week, and remaining the following day, continued this species’ run of appearances in Northants for the third consecutive winter. As if to underline its increasing frequency of occurrence, another female was found at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh Reserve at the eleventh hour on 27th, setting a new standard for the multiple presence of Ring-necked Duck in Northamptonshire. The two birds constituted the 10th and 11th county records, following the long-staying female that visited Thrapston GP, Ringstead GP and Stanwick GP between December 2021 and April 2022.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 26th January 2023 (Jon Cook)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 27th January 2023 (Mike Alibone)
First-winter female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 27th January 2023 (videograb, Nick Parker)

Knocked into second place by the above, Hollowell’s female Greater Scaup remained throughout the week.

Once again, the long-staying drake Red-crested Pochard saw another week out at Stanford Res, while the peripatetic female Ruddy Shelduck pitched up again at Hollowell on 23rd and stayed until 25th, when it relocated to Winwick Pools near West Haddon.

Feral to the core, a Barnacle Goose joined local Canadas at Upton CP on 26th while, of perhaps less questionable pedigree, Pink-footed Geese were found in three localities. Two flew north over Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 23rd, the same date on which one also joined the resident Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering and the Ravensthorpe & Hollowell bird was still at the latter locality on 27th.

Pink-footed Goose, Wicksteed Park, 23rd January 2023 (Julie Roe)

This week’s notable wader line-up was once again limited to Jack Snipe with singles at three localities, which included both the Brampton Valley and Ecton SF on 21st and Hollowell, two days later, on 23rd.

Gulls were a little more numerous than during the last period – this comment referring more specifically to Caspian Gulls which, on 21st, broke the record for a single site total when up to six were present in the roost at Stanford. Three were present the following evening and two adults, probably a pair, were regularly visiting throughout the remainder of the week. Elsewhere, two adults and a second-winter were at Hollowell on 27th, two were at Naseby Res on 21st and an adult was there on 27th, single adults visited both Clifford Hill GP and Ravensthorpe Res on 23rd, a second-winter was on ice at Daventry CP on 25th and a first-winter was at DIRFT 3 on 27th.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, Hollowell Res, 27th January 2023 (Jon Cook)
First-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 27th January 2023 (Mike Alibone)

A token appearance by Yellow-legged Gulls saw a second-winter in the roost at Hollowell on 22nd, single adults at Pitsford on 22nd and 27th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd. That just leaves the rarest gull of the week, out on its own, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull which visited Daventry CP on 24th and 27th.

The rather depressed number of Cattle Egrets continued with just two flying over Summer Leys on 21st.

A Merlin flew over Greens Norton on 27th but making a far bigger impression for two observers in the south-west of the county on 27th, a White-tailed Eagle paid a low-level visit to Everdon Stubbs, where it was seen at one point to land in a tree. Unfortunately, it came under persistent pressure from five mobbing Red Kites before ultimately moving off. It appears that this individual was ‘G818’, a third calendar-year female from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, which had roosted 30 miles north in Leicestershire, having flown over 100 miles south from the Forest of Bowland the previous day.

And from the large to the small … Up to four Siberian Chiffchaffs were present at Ecton SF at the beginning of the period, with at least one remaining as the week drew to a close. Variation in plumage and bare part colour gave rise to some debate on their identification but this is a complex area to delve into and recent DNA analyses on this race have thrown up some surprising results. A discussion will be forthcoming shortly.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 21st January 2023 (James Underwood)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 24th January 2023 (Martin Swannell)
Siberian Chiffchaff, Ecton SF, 24th January 2023 (Martin Swannell)

These ‘sibes’ were set against phenomenal, record-breaking numbers of wintering Common Chiffchaffs in the same area, in which at least seventy were present on 22nd and some fifty were counted on 25th. Too difficult? Stick to Stonechats – nice ‘n’ easy – unless, of course you run into a Siberian candidate … Ecton held up to two on 21st-22nd, five were at Upton CP on 25th, three were at Earls Barton GP on the same date and one was at Clifford Hill GP on 23rd.

Stonechat, Upton CP, 25th January 2023 (Tony Stanford)

Newsround – 24th to 30th December 2022

Continuing last week’s theme, the relatively mild weather continued throughout, with some areas recording a positively balmy 14°C as the week unfolded. After Boxing Day though, the post-Christmas rush was not for the sales but instead to Earls Barton GP where, it seems, Yellow-browed Warblers abounded …

But first, paying due diligence to the systematic list, the Ravensthorpe Pink-footed Goose was back, around and about the area of the reservoir, on 27th and in fields behind the Fishing Lodge there on 30th. Three sites produced Red-crested Pochards during the period – Stanford Res hung on to its long-staying drake throughout, two drakes appeared at Pitsford Res on 24th and a female found at Hardingstone GP on 27th remained until at least 30th.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 30th December 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Moving upmarket somewhat, last week’s two drake Smews were still at Pitsford on 24th, at least one of which was still present on 27th.

By the time the week closed, the back end of this year had notched up another Great Northern Diver – this second bird on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP, on 27th, following the trait of the one at Pitsford in November insomuch as it was present for less than 24 hours. Such short visits are very much out of character for this species in Northants, where we’re much more accustomed to seeing protracted stays over the winter period. There’s still time for another …

Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Following an apparent absence of any last week, a single Cattle Egret was found with cows on the edge of Southfield Farm Marsh NR, near Kettering, on 28th.

The long-staying ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier remained in the north-central part of the county, being seen near Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 24th and at Harrington AF again on 27th. The latter date also saw the appearance of a male between Mears Ashby and Earls Barton and what was presumably the same individual flew over Summer Leys LNR toward Bozeat not long afterwards.

Waders were in short supply this week but in a bizarre turn of events, the Wood Sandpiper – last seen at Pitsford on 7th December – made a reappearance on 29th on the same building site pool at Upton, Northampton, as it did in early April, again after vacating Pitsford at the end of January. It didn’t stay beyond the morning of that date and, despite a local search, it wasn’t relocated by the time the week closed on 30th.

On the Larid front, two adult Caspian Gulls were at Hollowell on 27th and an adult visited Stanford on 28th and 29th, the latter date producing two Yellow-legged Gulls there, while an adult was seen briefly at Hardingstone GP on 30th.

Stanford also produced one of this week’s two Merlins, on 26th, while the other was seen between Harrington AF and Draughton on 29th.

A Waxwing was reported flying from the Gladstone Road area of Northampton toward Dallington Park on Boxing Day but there was never any doubt about the week’s top passerines when a veritable tsunami of Yellow-browed Warblers hit on 27th, as two were found in close proximity in trees and scrub adjacent to the entrance of Earls Barton GP’s Mary’s Lake. Clearly one of these birds was the individual first seen on the nearby island in the lake, briefly, on 16th. This stripey duo clearly saw fit to do the decent thing and remained, showing well, to the delight of all comers, until the week’s end.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Bob Bullock)
Yellow-browed Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 27th December 2022 (Martin Swannell)

We’re so used to hearing of this species being trapped and ringed in the county (two at Stanford earlier, in the autumn) and these birds go some way to redress the balance. And two together? Well, that’s a first, locally! Winter records are rare in Northants but not without precedent. Indeed, with increasing numbers appearing in Europe during autumn and winter, Yellow-browed Warbler has been suggested as an ideal model for studying the links between vagrancy and the emergence of new migratory routes.

Female Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 26th December 2022 (Leslie Fox)
Female Stonechat, Upton CP, 29th December 2022 (Mike Alibone)

But back down to earth, the week’s Stonechats were seen at Earls Barton GP, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Pitsford Res, Summer Leys LNR, Sywell CP and Upton CP with no more than four at any one locality.

Newsround – 17th to 23rd December 2022

As the meteorological pendulum swung back to weather conditions more normally associated with the time of year, cold north-easterlies from the Arctic gave way to warm south-westerlies off the Atlantic and a rapid thaw ensued.

Local bodies of water became ice-free once again and wildfowl numbers had rallied by the week’s end. Overall, though, in the run up to Christmas the picture was bleak. Smew topped the bill with the discovery of two drakes at Pitsford Res on 22nd, otherwise a drake Red-crested Pochard at Stanford Res was the only one left holding the fort throughout the period.

Drake Smew, Pitsford Res, 22nd December 2022 (Matthew Cottrell)

The Nene Valley hung on to at least one Marsh Harrier, with one seen over Earls Barton GP’s new workings, both north and south, on 18th, while the long-staying ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier continued to feature in the Brampton Valley at Blueberry Farm on 19th, crossing the Harborough Road to visit Harrington AF the following day.

In what transpired to be almost a carbon copy of last week’s waders, the Black-tailed Godwit remained at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 17th and single Jack Snipes were at both Daventry CP and Hollowell Res on 21st.

On the Larid front, single adult Caspian Gulls continued to be seen at both Hollowell and Stanford on 21st and 23rd, while adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at both Daventry and Pitsford on 21st.

Propping up the passerines, a sprinkling of one or two Stonechats occurred in the Brampton Valley on 17th, at Chipping Warden on 18th, Weedon on 19th, Earls Barton GP on 20th and Hollowell on 23rd.

Newsround – 6th to 12th August 2022

Another thermometer-popping week saw a small flurry of new birds in, flanking some seemingly settled long stayers.

Another unseasonal Pink-footed Goose was found at Daventry CP on 12th, with odds-on favourite it being one of the two or three found locally during the last week of July. Aside from this, the only dapper dabbler during the period was the Garganey which remained at Pitsford Res until 8th. Pitsford also maintained its monopoly on Red-crested Pochards, with up to five on 7th, falling back to two on 12th, while a drake Ferruginous Duck x Common Pochard hybrid was also found there on 11th. Sometimes easy but frequently playing hard to get, the ‘real’ juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck clocked up another week at Daventry, remaining there throughout the period.

Juvenile drake Ferruginous Duck, Daventry CP, 9th August 2022 (Gary Pullan)

Not as straightforward to see as they were in the early part of the year, Cattle Egrets are now at a premium, with just one this week, at Stanwick GP, on 11th-12th. Conversely, this week’s Great Egrets peaked at four on 8th, at Pitsford Res, while singles were present on and off at Naseby Res, Stanwick, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP.

While a Honey Buzzard was reportedly seen flying south over Islip on 12th, more tangible fare appeared in the shape of a Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys between 6th and 8th and another in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm, Maidwell area on the same dates.  

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 8th August 2022 (Ricky Sinfield)

Continuing the raptor theme, single Ospreys were seen over Stanford Res on 6th-8th, Summer Leys on 7th, Naseby on 11th and Hollowell on 7th and 9th – the latter bird being identified from its faded Darvic ring as a ‘veteran’ 17-year old female.

Female Osprey, Hollowell Res, 10th August 2022 (Jon Cook)

Although an early returning Golden Plover appeared at Hollowell on 9th, the Nene Valley produced the pick of this week’s waders with, in fact, all of these being limited to the Earls Barton GP complex.

Adult European Golden Plover, Hollowell Res, 9th August 2022 (Jon Cook)

Top ranking goes to Wood Sandpiper, two of which were present there between 8th and 11th, one occupying the newly exposed shallows of Mary’s Lake for the duration, visiting adjacent Summer Leys on 10th. The other was present for a day, on 9th, a little further up the valley at New Workings (North). Otherwise, it was down to Black-tailed Godwits to keep the wader ball rolling, with Summer Leys hosting two crisp juveniles throughout the period, joined briefly by a third bird on 6th and an adult on 12th.  

Juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 10th August 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s only Caspian Gull, a third-year and the first of the autumn, dropped in at Daventry on 11th, while Yellow-legged Gulls peaked at six at Priors Hall, Corby on 6th. Elsewhere, five were at Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 8th and ones and twos were seen at Daventry, Earls Barton, Pitsford and Stanwick.

Once again a Short-eared Owl showed itself briefly in the Brampton Valley on 6th and was, for a second time, captured on a trail-cam positioned there, during the early hours of 8th.

On the passerine front, numbers of Common Redstarts ramped up with birds seen at eleven localities, including Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Brampton Valley, Eydon, Harrington AF (where one was trapped and ringed on 11th), Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res, Stanford-on-Avon, Welford and Woodford Halse. The highest numbers were three at Blueberry Farm between 6th and 8th and the same number at Welford on 11th.

The number of Whinchats remained low, with up to two in the Brampton Valley remaining from last week until 8th and a juvenile at Harrington AF on 7th. A juvenile was found at Harrington on 7th. Northern Wheatear numbers rallied a little with singles at Pitsford Res on 7th-8th, in the Brampton Valley on 8th, Harrington on 9th and at Duston on 11th.

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 7th August 2022 (David Arden)

It’s a sad, sad situation when the first Tree Pipit of the year turns up in August but this was exactly the case when one flew over Blueberry Farm on 6th, followed by singles at Stanford Res on 7th and Pitsford Res on 10th, while five separate individuals flew over Harrington on 11th.

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 7th August 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Equally saddening, the county also saw its second-only record of Corn Bunting this year with one briefly at Stanford on the last day of the period.

Newsround – 25th June to 8th July 2022

Another fast-moving fortnight in which early autumn wader passage upped tempo and was instrumental in producing the second Pectoral Sandpiper of the year. Other birds were, of course, available …

Not least of which was Hollowell Reservoir’s female Ruddy Shelduck, still present there on 3rd, while the first eclipse drake Garganey of the autumn checked in at Thrapston GP on 6th. A drake Red-crested Pochard, also in eclipse, appeared at Pitsford Res on 8th.

Numbers of Great Egrets climbed from just the one at Pitsford during the last period to two there by the end of this one, while one visited Stanford Res on 4th.

Single Ospreys were seen in flight over Hollowell on 3rd, west over Little Irchester on 5th, Pitsford on 6th and Stanford on 8th.

Against the now established backdrop of Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits began to move through in reasonable numbers which included one at Hollowell on 29th, two at Summer Leys LNR on 2nd followed by nine there on 4th, eleven at Pitsford on 5th and singles at Summer Leys again on 6th and Stanford on 7th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Hollowell Res, 29th June 2022 (Jon Cook)
Black-tailed Godwit, Stanford Res, 7th July 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

But the biggest surprise of the week was a Pectoral Sandpiper, originally found at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 2nd and quickly making the hop across to DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools, before moving back again to Lilbourne, where it remained until mid-afternoon the following day. There have been July records before but not as early as this one. In the life of the county bird report, Ditchford GP produced the previous earliest on 15th July 1987 while, a decade earlier, veterans will remember going for the bird which clung to the narrowest of muddy margins at Cransley Reservoir between 30th July and 9th August 1976 – at that time only the fourth county record. Hot on the heels of the Summer Leys individual, back in May, this month’s bird takes the DIRFT wader species tally to 26.

Adult Pectoral Sandpiper, DIRFT 3, 2nd July 2022 (Alan Boddington)

Also at Lilbourne and part of a recognised sizeable movement across the UK, three Wood Sandpipers dropped in on 29th.

And so on to gulls, with Daventry CP dishing up the first Mediterranean Gull of the autumn, an adult, on 8th. A first-summer Caspian Gull visited Pitsford on 28th and, becoming a little more abundant, Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering) on 26th, Pitsford on 27th-28th and 1st, with two there on 7th-8th, at least eight at DIRFT 3 on 30th and one at Stanwick GP on 5th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering, 26th June 2022 (James Underwood)

Following a report of a Golden Oriole near Cotterstock on 28th, passerines were limited to male Common Redstarts at Lilbourne Meadows from 30th until at least 5th and one reported at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 3rd and a female-type there the following day. In the same area, two Crossbills flew west over the Brampton Valley on 1st.


Newsround – 7th to 13th May 2022

Beginning with brisk north-easterlies, which rapidly swung to sustained south-westerlies, this week’s weather played a key role in producing the goods, most particularly on the one significantly rainy day of the period, 11th May. Aside from a lingering White Stork, waders were once again the centre of attention, with a nifty Pectoral Sandpiper stepping up to provide this week’s crème de la crème – albeit fleetingly …

While this was happening, ducks were dwindling, with just one drake Garganey at Summer Leys LNR on 11th and the pair still present at Thrapston GP on 13th. Drake Red-crested Pochards continued to add colour to the week’s proceedings, with one visiting Summer Leys on 8th and two on the dam at Stanford Res on 13th.

Red-crested Pochards, Stanford Res, 13th May 2022 (Chris Hubbard)

Back in the marshy meadow at Lower Barnwell Lock was last week’s White Stork, which established a routine of turning up for a couple of hours or so during the mornings, on 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th.

White Stork, Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle, 7th May 2022 (James Underwood)

Further up the Nene Valley, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis was going nowhere fast, seeing out another full week on site.

Stanwick also continued to hold up to five Cattle Egrets between 7th and 11th and one visited Summer Leys on 11th and 13th. Great Egrets, meanwhile, were bumping along the bottom, with singles at both Hollowell Res and Stanwick on 8th, DIRFT 3 on 11th and Summer Leys on 12th.

Being down to just one species, the week’s raptors can be quickly summed up, as Ospreys were seen at Biggin Lake (Oundle) on 7th, Hollowell on 8th and over Barton Seagrave on 13th.  

Bird of the week, however, was the long-overdue Pectoral Sandpiper, which was found at the good old easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys, after the rain, during the early evening of 11th. This resulted in a mad dash, by some, to see it before the light faded and darkness closed in. Despite reports to the contrary, it would appear to have departed early the following day, long before many had awoken from their morning slumber.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 11th May 2022 (Adrian Borley)

Although there have been more than 40 county records, this is the first since 2011, when singles were at Pitsford Res from 10th to 17th September and Stanford Res from 23rd to 30th September. It is also only the fourth to be recorded in spring.

Summer Leys was also among four localities to briefly host two highly ambulatory Avocets on 7th. First located at Stanwick early doors, they quickly moved west to Clifford Hill GP before swiftly heading back east to Summer Leys and then rapidly on to Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows. Another was subsequently reported from the pool east of Warmington Mill, on the evening of 9th.

Avocets, Summer Leys LNR, 7th May 2022 (David Preece)

Further windfalls resulting from the steady precipitation of 11th appeared in the form of a record flock of Ringed Plovers, of which a minimum of forty-six was counted at DIRFT 3, including at least two Tundra Ringed Plovers. At least thirty were still present there the following day. Also on 11th, the same site produced a Greenland Dunlin (race arctica), while another showing characteristics of this race was present at Summer Leys on 11th-12th. After the first in May 2013, one in May 2015 and two in May 2017, these would constitute only the 5th and 6th records for the county, if accepted.

This week’s Whimbrels were restricted to two flying east over the Brampton Valley at Maidwell on 8th and, similarly, Bar-tailed Godwits, were down to one at Stanwick on 7th-8th and last week’s three still at Pitsford, dropping to two there from 9th until the end of the period.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 10th May 2022 (David Arden)

Two more Turnstones turned up, both of them on 13th, at Pitsford and Lilbourne Meadows NR.

Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwits, Pitsford Res, 13th May 2022 (Tony Stanford)
Turnstone, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 13th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

It was Summer Leys which had the monopoly on Ruffs, with three on 11th, four on 12th and two on 13th, while Pitsford pulled a Sanderling on 8th, five visited DIRFT 3 on 11th and further singles were at Stanwick on 11th, DIRFT 3 on 12th and Summer Leys on 12th-13th. The only Greenshanks of the week were single birds at Stanford and Summer Leys on 12th.

Gulls this week were at a premium – or not, depending on your opinion, and a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 11th was all the county could muster during the period. Not so for terns, though, with Arctic Terns still on the move and 7th delivering two to Clifford Hill and separate fly-through flocks of seventeen and five to Stanford. A single Black Tern paid a brief visit to Pitsford the following day.

Pretty much taking a back seat in the week’s proceedings, passerines were few and far between. After the year’s first, last week, another two Whinchats were found at Upper Harlestone on 7th and at Stanford on 12th – a somewhat meagre total.

Female Northern Wheatear, showing characteristics of Greenland race leucorhoa, Clifford Hill GP, 8th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)
Male Northern Wheatear, showing characteristics of Greenland race leucorhoa, Clifford Hill GP, 11th May 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatears were down to singles at Summer Leys on 7th, Clifford Hill on 8th, Ashton STW on 9th and Earls Barton GP on 11th, while Clifford Hill produced two showing characteristics of Greenland Wheatear on 7th and another one on 11th.


Newsround – 25th to 31st December 2021 

Under the influence of a strong south-westerly airstream, delivering unseasonally mild weather, which culminated in a UK record-breaking high temperature of 16°C on New Year’s Eve, the last week of 2021 saw little respite from the overcast and wet conditions of the previous review period. Once again, unsurprisingly, the focus was on wildfowl, the highlight of which was the discovery of a Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston.

Kicking off this week’s geese, a Pink-footed Goose found at Stanford Res on 26th and remaining throughout the period, may have been the same bird that was in the area during late November, while another Pinkfoot was discovered with Greylags at Stanwick GP on 31st.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanford Res, 28th December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Joining the Stanford individual were an adult and two first-winter White-fronted Geese on 31st – again, maybe not entirely new birds as the number and ages matched those of last week’s trio which visited Hollowell Res on 21st.

Adult and two first-winter White-fronted Geese, Stanford Res, 31st December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Which brings us neatly to bird of the week, which appeared in the shape of a female Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston on 30th. As the UK is once again experiencing a sizeable influx, under the circumstances it was really only a matter of time before someone, somewhere, stumbled across one. This bird, only the county’s 10th, follows hot on the heels of the popular drake which, earlier this year, remained at Ditchford GP between early February and late March before becoming more mobile along the Nene Valley.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 30th December 2021 (Adrian Borley)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 30th December 2021 (Nick Parker)

An altogether meatier Aythya was the first-winter female Greater Scaup which remained at Stortons GP throughout the week, as did Stanford’s female Red-crested Pochard, while eight of the latter were found at Pitsford Res on 27th, with two remaining there on 29th.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Stanford Res, 26th December 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

This week’s Smew action was also confined to Pitsford where, after a report of a ‘redhead’ on 27th, two drakes on 29th were joined there by a third for the following two days.

Drake Smews, Pitsford Res, 30th December 2021 (Steven Peppiatt)

Cattle Egrets were found in their usual hotspots of Stanwick, where there were four on 26th and five on 31st, Irthlingborough, where three were below the church on 31st and at Ringstead GP on the same date, when seven were present on the main island in Kinewell Lake. Compared with recent high counts, the number of Great Egrets was no great shakes, with at least twelve at Pitsford, four at Thrapston, two at Ditchford and one at Stanford.

Following the recent spate of rainfall, water levels have been on the rise, rendering some wetland localities potentially suboptimal for wintering waders. The Pitsford Wood Sandpiper remained, however, the two Ruff at Summer Leys were still in situ and at least one Jack Snipe was present at Hollowell Res on 31st, while the wintering Common Sandpiper also saw the year out at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North).

Scarce gulls were at a premium, or so it appears, with just two Caspian Gulls propping up this week’s Larids – an adult at Hollowell on 29th and a third-winter at Stanford the following day.

On the passerine front, the Black Redstart, mobile around the summit compound and concrete blocks on Borough Hill, saw the year out by still being present at sunset on 31st.

Black Redstart, Borough Hill, 24th December 2021 (Kyle Smith)

The latter site continued to hold two Stonechats throughout, while singles were at both Pitsford and Thrapston on 27th and Upton CP on 30th, with five at Hollowell Res on 31st.

Newsround – 13th to 19th November 2021 

There was little change in this week’s weather, with the westerly airstream still in place and temperatures remaining above average for mid-November. However, vestigial summer visitors were still to be found alongside some classic winter arrivals.

The third Dark-bellied Brent Goose to be found in the county this year was a juvenile/first-winter, which tagged along with the local Canada Goose flock at Clifford Hill GP on 17th.

Juvenile moulting to first-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Clifford Hill GP, 17th November 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Meanwhile, the Hollowell Res Pink-footed Goose remained there throughout the period and despite last week’s speculation that it may have also visited Stanford Res, photographs clearly indicate it is a different bird.

Pink-footed Goose, Hollowell Res, 15th November 2021 (Alan Coles)

The fifteen-strong raft of Red-crested Pochards also remained at Pitsford Res, as did the three at Stanford, both groups still being present at the week’s end, while 17th saw the reappearance of one of the Greater Scaups at Daventry CP – this one being the bird which had earlier been on site between 1st and 4th November.

And the pick of this week’s ducks deluxe was the first Smew of the winter – two to be precise – discovered on 19th on Brightwells Lake, a small body of water that receives scant attention compared to certain other areas of the Ringstead GP complex, of which it is a part. While the November date may seem a little early for this species in the county, a dig into historical records unearths a number of October birds, the earliest of which was at Stanford on 11th October 1993. The first in the UK this autumn was one at Hornsea, East Yorkshire on 13th October.

‘Redhead’ and moulting eclipse drake Smew, Ringstead GP, 19th November 2021 (Nick Parker)

With no reports for the best part of a month, a Bittern resurfaced briefly at Summer Leys LNR on 14th but other herons were, of course, available … and much easier to see, at that. After last week’s record-busting totals, numbers of both Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets nudged higher still, with the first of these two amassing sixteen in a cattle field north of Ringstead on 16th-17th. Many of these joined the egret roost at Kinewell Lake, while fourteen flying north-east at nearby Stanwick GP, at dawn on 14th, were clearly the same birds.

Cattle Egret, between Woodford and Ringstead GP, 17th November 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Great Egret numbers reached a minimum of sixteen at Pitsford on 15th – the highest ever single-site total for Northants – while nine were counted at Ringstead’s Kinewell Lake on 14th. Elsewhere, Hollowell produced five, Thrapston GP four, Stanwick three and Summer Leys two, resulting in a potential current wintering population of perhaps as many as forty birds. Who said they were rare … ?

Also looking set to winter – or at least in no hurry to move on anytime soon – the Pitsford Wood Sandpiper remained throughout, the long-staying Ruff at Summer Leys was joined by another there on 16th and the Common Sandpiper at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) was still present at the week’s end. The only Jack Snipes found during the period were two near Ravensthorpe on18th.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 14th November 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Gull numbers were once again very low and included a third-winter Caspian Gull at Hollowell on 19th, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was still at Pitsford on 14th.

In contrast to last week, just one Merlin was seen, this time at Harlestone Lake, on 15th and just when you thought it was all over for Swallows, one was seen flying south-west over Bradden on 13th. It surely is now …

The past couple of weeks has seen a number of late Ring Ouzels moving through the UK and we were not left out. One was found behind Byfield Pool at Boddington Res on 14th and another reported from below Hanging Houghton on 17th, while this week’s Stonechats included four at Thrapston GP on 14th, four at Hollowell between 15th and 19th, two at Earls Barton GP on 15th and one at Sywell CP on 14th and 15th.

Following one last week, three more Hawfinches were reported on 17th, in trees close to the gatehouse at Lilford Park. Unlike the next species, however, they remain in short supply and there would appear to be no sign of an impending invasion.

Newsround – 6th to 12th November 2021 

A predominantly westerly airstream remained in place throughout the period and temperatures were largely above average for early November, clearly suiting some lingering summer visitors.

Against this backcloth, numbers of winter wildfowl were undoubtedly on the increase, some of which, however, were clearly not so wild. Falling squarely into the latter category was the re-emergence of the Cackling Goose, still on the loose in the west of the county, on this occasion with Canada Geese at Stanford Res on 10th. Stanford also played host to a Pink-footed Goose – most likely the Hollowell Res bird – from 9th until the week’s end. Two more Pinkfeet flew east over Nether Heyford on 6th, while the roving female Ruddy Shelduck appeared at Hollowell on 11th.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanford Res, 9th November 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Making a splash this week were Red-crested Pochards, with arrivals at four localities – most notably at Pitsford Res, where seventeen appeared on 6th and fifteen were still in place at the week’s end. Smaller numbers arriving elsewhere included two at Boddington Res on 6th, three at Thrapston GP on 7th and three at Stanford, which were present from 7th until the end of the period.

Red-crested Pochards, Boddington Res, 6th November 2021 (Gary Pullan)
Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2021 (Martin Swannell)

Pitsford also produced a female Greater Scaup – a one-day bird on 7th, while Daventry CP chalked up its third of the autumn this week, with another first-winter from 8th to 10th.

Female Greater Scaup, Pitsford Res, 7th November 2021 (Angus Molyneux)
First-winter Greater Scaup, Daventry CP, 8th November 2021 (Gary Pullan)

At the other end of the county, Cattle Egrets pushed through to deliver an all-time county high with at least fourteen coming into the roost at Ringstead GP on 12th but away from this site only two were seen, at nearby Stanwick GP, on 9th. In parallel, Great Egrets smashed the site record total this week with at least eleven at Pitsford on 7th and 9th, while totting up numbers from Ringstead, Stanford, Stanwick, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston suggests the total wintering population in Northants currently is likely to be a minimum of twenty. Ignoring possible Nene Valley duplicates, of course, that excludes any which may be lurking at other local bodies of water which would appear not to have been visited by birders this week.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 7th November 2021 (Alan Coles)

And now to the curious case of the ‘Desborough stork’. Seen only as an early morning silhouette on a house roof on 8th, before quickly disappearing, it later emerged that a bird appearing to match the description of a White Stork was seen on a house roof in Wellingborough, last week, on 4th …

Arguably less ephemeral, though never overly easy to catch up with locally, harriers were still in the spotlight, with two species putting in appearances for the second week running. On 8th, a Marsh Harrier flew south over Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP, while the 7th saw a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier in the Brampton Valley, north of Brixworth, the same bird again being seen within spitting distance, at Blueberry Farm, on 10th. But stealing the limelight was the male Hen Harrier that cruised over the Main Lake and scrape at Summer Leys on 12th, before proceeding to quarter the rough fields either side of Mary’s Lane, its twenty-minute stay enabling a number of on-site birders to catch up with it. However, this was no ordinary male and, sporting an aerial, it has been identified as a satellite-tagged bird known as ‘Apollo’, originating in Lancashire, previously wintering in Spain and more recently having spent time near (the aptly-chosen) Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire before appearing at Summer Leys. The area it was hunting in would seem like ideal wintering habitat but is it enough to hold its interest? Summer Leys or Spain – where would you rather be … ?

Male Hen Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 12th November 2021 (Alan Coles)
Male Hen Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 12th November 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Topping the bill for waders again this week was the Pitsford Wood Sandpiper, which remained throughout, while others seemingly in no hurry to move on were the long-staying Ruff at Summer Leys and the Common Sandpiper just up the road at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North). Which one will crack and go first … or are they all in it for the long haul? A Black-tailed Godwit at DIRFT 3 on 7th and a Jack Snipe at Pitsford on 7th-9th also added to this week’s mix.

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2021 (Martin Swannell)

By contrast, however, gulls were once again few and far between and included a third-winter Caspian Gull at Daventry on 12th, along with two Yellow-legged Gulls there on thesame date, while an adult Yellow-legged remained at Pitsford until at least 7th.

Continuing last week’s surge, Merlins were found at Sywell AF on 7th, at Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley on 8th and at Barnwell the following day. We appear to be enjoying an autumn of plenty locally, so far.

In another parallel with last week, two more late Swallows were found, feeding over horse paddocks at Castle Ashby, on 7th, while this week’s Stonechats included one at Pitsford on 7th and twos at Earls Barton on 8th, Thrapston on 9th and Upton CP on 12th. Rounding off the week’s passerines were a Crossbill flying west over Brackley on 8th and a Hawfinch, briefly, at Hanging Houghton on 10th.