Temptingly Tundra

A close look at some of the migrant Ringed Plovers passing through Northants in autumn would suggest they are from further north than the race which breeds in the UK.

The fact that we get ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers on passage in small numbers during late spring is well established (see here and here). As juveniles in autumn they are perhaps less obvious and characters vary as differences are clinal but some readily exhibit certain pointers which suggest they are not the nominate race hiaticula.

At least two such individuals have been present at Boddington Res since 29th September and are still present today. To my eyes they stand out as being different – so much so that they have even been reported by some observers as Little Ringed Plovers.

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers can be one of two races, either psammodroma, which has a breeding range from the Faeroes to north-east Canada, or tundrae, which breeds from northern Scandinavia to Russia, although the validity of psammodroma as a race is contested by some authorities.

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plover, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

The Boddington two differ from each other insomuch as one has a narrow, complete breast-band and the other has a broad, almost broken one. While both appear noticeably smaller than ‘our’ Ringed Plovers, they differ from juvenile Little Ringed Plover by the lack of a pale eye-ring, a fairly obvious supercilium and clean white forehead. Of course, when they fly there’s the wing-bar!

Presumed ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plover, Boddington Res, 2nd October 2018 (Mike Alibone)

In addition to the size difference against the nominate race, ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers have darker upperparts and in October show no signs of the moult to first-winter which has normally already begun to take place in hiaticula. Additionally, the supercilium is less extensive, the legs are a dull, weak ochre and one other feature is the bill, which is smaller and ‘dinkier’ in Tundra birds. All these features are shown by these two birds at Boddington so it’s more than just tempting to call them ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers.

Posted in Waders | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 22nd to 28th September 2018

Apart from a period of persistent rain on 23rd, local weather remained dry and mainly sunny. South or south-westerly winds from 25th raised temperatures to a peak of 23ºC on 27th, after which northerlies caused the temperature to fall to a maximum of 14°C at the week’s end, on 28th. After producing a Grey Phalarope at the end of last week, Daventry Country Park remained firmly in the spotlight, positioning itself as ‘locality most likely to deliver’ … and it did.

Following a general coastal influx during the month, the second Pink-footed Goose of the autumn (or the first relocating) was found with Greylags at Summer Leys LNR on 24th, while the only other wildfowl of note was the juvenile Garganey still present at Pitsford Res on 22nd. On 24th, a juvenile Gannet was reported flying over Clifford Hill GP and it, or another, was subsequently reported flying low north-west over the road and fields between Church Brampton and Holdenby later in the day, at 16.00. Meanwhile, single Great White Egrets were seen at six locations, which included Stanford Res on 22nd, Pitsford Res on 23rd and 28th, Thrapston GP on 24th and 27th, Summer Leys and Daventry CP on 25th and Ravensthorpe Res on 28th.

On the raptor front, Thrapston GP again produced a Marsh Harrier on 24th and, like last week, just one Osprey was seen – this time at Stanwick GP, where it was observed carrying a fish on 27th. Bird, or birds, of the week, however, were the five Common Cranes watched circling above Daventry CP for fifteen minutes, late in the morning on 25th. About the twenty-third record for the county, it was unusual as ‘flocks’ are scarce, most previous records having been of ones and twos.

Common Cranes, Daventry CP, 25th September 2018 (Gary Pullan). Three of five adults circling the site before all five headed south.

Even more interesting, however, is the fact that this particular flock has history. All five were unringed adults which had spent the summer in north-east Scotland, where there is a small breeding population. These five had spent much of their time around Loch of Strathbeg and they were last seen on Sunday, 23rd. They subsequently flew south over Saltholme Pools, Teeside the following day before their arrival at Daventry CP at 10.45 on 25th. Continuing their journey south, they were tracked over Knap Hill, Wiltshire at 13.00 and then east over Pennington, Hampshire at 19.00. They were then found at nearby Lymington the following morning, before flying south-east and then finally flying out to sea, south, over St Catherine’s Point, Isle of Wight. Who needs satellite tags?!

Daventry Common Cranes presumed migration route, 23rd to 26th September 2018. Background image of the Daventry birds by Gary Pullan.

Back to the 25th and Daventry where, on the ground, a Little Stint was found and the Grey Phalarope was still present. The phalarope had departed by the following day but the stint remained until 27th. Another juvenile Grey Phalarope was discovered off the dam at Pitsford Res mid-afternoon on 23rd. It remained by the dam until late afternoon the following day, after which it became more mobile and was last seen off the northern shoreline, east of Pintail Bay on 25th.

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Daventry CP, 24th September 2018 (Gary Pullan)

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Daventry CP, 23rd September 2018 (Ken Prouse)

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Pitsford Res, 24th September 2018 (Doug Goddard)

Pitsford’s long-staying juvenile Black Tern remained throughout the week and another juvenile visited Clifford Hill GP, briefly, on 22nd and a first-winter Caspian Gull was found at Daventry CP on 23rd. The usual sprinkling of Yellow-legged Gulls included singles at Ravensthorpe Res on 22nd, 24th and 28th, Pitsford Res on 23rd, 26th and 27th and Thrapston GP on 24th with two there on 28th.

Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 23rd September 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 23rd September 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Yellow-legged Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 24th September 2018 (Paul Crotty)

Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 26th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

Three were at Stanwick GP on 23rd, including one with a partial hood, closely resembling the individual muted as an Azorean Gull candidate which was present at this site on 4th October 2017.

Many thanks to Gary Pullan for Common Crane movement information.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 15th to 21st September 2018

The week’s weather was strongly influenced by the Atlantic storm track with SSW winds pushing up from the continent and raising the temperature to a local high of 26°C on 17th. The following day, ‘Storm Ali’ (nothing to do with the author!) was named as it advanced rapidly eastwards, bringing strong west to south-westerly wind and rain and delivering at least one storm-driven bird to the county on 21st.

This week’s wildfowl included the female Ruddy Shelduck putting in two appearances at Stanford Res on 15th and 18th with the same site also producing a flock of eight Red-crested Pochards on the latter date.

Juvenile Garganey, Pitsford Res, 21st September 2018 (Martin Swannell)

The Garganey at Daventry CP remained until at least 20th and a, or ‘the’, juvenile at Pitsford Res was again seen between Moulton Grange Bay and the dam on 20th-21st. Meanwhile, Great White Egrets increased in both number and the number of sites they were found at this week – the latter from three to five.

Great White Egret, Pitsford Res, 16th September 2018 (Adrian Borley)

The Thrapston GP individual remained all week, one was at Pitsford Res on 15th-16th while last week’s bird at Summer Leys LNR was still present on 21st, being joined by another there on 18th. Two were also together at Sulby Res on 16th and one flew west over Ditchford GP on 17th.

Juvenile Spotted Redshank, Hollowell Res, 9th September 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Just one Osprey was seen – a migrant flying south at Cosgrove on 17th – and against a flimsy backcloth of commoner waders, the juvenile Spotted Redshank at Hollowell Res chalked up its second full week in residence on 21st. Bird of the week, however, was the Grey Phalarope deposited at Daventry CP, courtesy of ‘Storm Ali’, on 21st. Showing well, as they so frequently do inland, it pushes the number of county records this century into double figures.

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Daventry CP, 21st September 2018 (Gary Pullan)

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Daventry CP, 21st September 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Grey Phalarope, Daventry CP, 21st September 2018 (Martin Swannell)

Pitsford’s juvenile Black Tern remained until at least 19th, ranging widely between the northern reserve area and ‘The Narrows’, well south of the causeway.

Juvenile Black Tern, Pitsford Res, 17th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

Another was found at Thrapston GP on 17th, where last week’s juvenile Little Gull remained on Town Lake until the same date. Just one Mediterranean Gull made it on to the weekly list, a first-winter at Daventry CP on 17th, and an adult Caspian Gull at Ravensthorpe Res on 15th, visiting nearby Hollowell Res on 21st, was the only one the county could muster for this species, as well. Numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were down further on last week, with a juvenile at Daventry CP on 17th, an adult at Hollowell Res on 21st and up to three at Pitsford Res during the period.

Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 17th September 2018 (Angus Molyneux)

Numbers of passerines also took a plunge, although a Pied Flycatcher seen briefly in canalside bushes near Thrupp, between Long Buckby Wharf and Welton, on 15th would constitute the only record for Northamptonshire so far this year. Otherwise, single Whinchats at both Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and Stanford Res on 15th and two again at the latter site on 17th, were a poor show considering this species had been present at seven localities during the previous week. Only one Northern Wheatear was found – on Pitsford dam on 18th – while a single White Wagtail was identified at Boddington Res on 17th, where it remained until 20th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 8th to 14th September 2018

There was perhaps a little more oomph to this week’s autumn migration – just maybe, despite the continuing west to south-westerly winds. The period remained largely dry and warm, with temperatures reaching 22ºC on 9th and 11th.

A Pink-footed Goose at Clifford Hill GP between 8th and 10th at first sight may seem too early to be wild but there were UK arrivals ‘up north’ prior to these dates and this species had appeared in some numbers by the week’s end. Love them or hate them, the female Ruddy Shelduck made another appearance, this time at Stanford Res, on 8th-9th and 11th. The established pattern of occurrence for this species overwhelmingly points to an origin from the feral European population, so at least it counts as a migrant!

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Stanford Res, 8th September 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

The Garganey at Daventry CP remained on view on 8th-9th and again on 12th and 14th and there was also a juvenile at Pitsford Res the following day, on 13th. Meanwhile, single Great White Egrets were again at Thrapston GP on 10th-11th and Pitsford Res on the latter date and one loafed around at Summer Leys all week.

Raptors featured a little more strongly than last week, kicking off with a Honey Buzzard flying low south over Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res on 8th and a Marsh Harrier at Thrapston GP on 14th but in between these dates, single Ospreys were seen at the latter locality on 9th and flying south over Pitsford Res on 12th.

Juvenile Knot, Pitsford Res, 7th September 2018 (Bob Bullock)

On the wader front, last week’s juvenile Knot remained until 9th on the single lump of mud poking out of an otherwise brim-full Pitsford Res. It deserves a medal. A Ruff visited Clifford Hill GP on 8th and on the same date, a juvenile Spotted Redshank was watched flying into Hollowell Res, where it remained until at least 13th.

Pitsford Res again produced single Black Terns on 9th and 12th-13th, or was it simply last week’s bird, from 5th, periodically slipping under the radar?

Juvenile Black Tern, Pitsford Res, 13th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

Juvenile Black Tern, Pitsford Res, 13th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

Staying with the diminutive, the week delivered two Little Gulls – an adult at Sywell CP on 10th and a juvenile at Thrapston GP on 14th and, with Mediterranean Gulls unusually absent, larger larids included adult Caspian Gulls at both Naseby Res and Stanwick GP on 9th and a third-summer loafing on buoys at Hollowell Res throughout the period.

Adult Caspian Gull, Naseby Res, 9th September 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were down, with a juvenile at Clifford Hill GP on 8th, single adults at Thrapston GP on 10th and Pitsford Res from 9th to 12th and two there on 13th.

Up to two Common Redstarts remained at the popular site of Twywell Hills & Dales until at least 12th and a juvenile female was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 13th while, in an ongoing show of strength, between one and three Whinchats were seen throughout the week at Clifford Hill GP, Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res, Sywell CP and at Wicksteed Water Meadows (Kettering).

Whinchat, Sywell CP, 11th September 2018 (Martin Swannell)

Whinchat, Sywell CP, 12th September 2018 (Doug Goddard)

Whinchat, Stanford Res, 13th September 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

Numbers of Northern Wheatears again remained low, though, with singles at Hollowell Res on 12th and Pitsford Res the following day. Two White Wagtails were found at the dam end of Pitsford Res on 13th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 1st to 7th September 2018

It’s now looking and feeling a bit more like autumn, although winds remained firmly in the west for the last week and the early part of the period saw temperatures momentarily in the mid-twenties again. Consequently, there was nothing readily identifiable as being associated with an arrival from the east, although it was just about possible to feel a pulse in the neck of still largely dormant wader passage.

The week started with a new Garganey at Ravensthorpe Res on 1st and ended with another new one at Daventry CP on 7th. In between, one also remained at Stanwick GP until at least 5th. Sticking with the Nene Valley, a Bittern was seen in flight at Summer Leys LNR on 5th and Thrapston GP continued to be the most reliable site to see Great White Egret with one remaining throughout the week. Stanwick GP again produced one on 1st and 2 on 6th, while one visited Pitsford Res on 5th and another was at Summer Leys LNR on 7th.

Great White Egret, Stanwick GP, 1st September 2018 (Steve Fisher)

Osprey numbers were well down on last week, with just singles at Hollowell Res on 1st and Pitsford Res on 5th. It’s worth mentioning that the last of the Rutland Water Ospreys had departed by 4th, while another from there had already reached Mauretania by 5th!

Considering how little wader habitat there is at Pitsford Res, it did rather well during the last two days of the period, producing 50% of this week’s ‘star cast’. As in previous years when the water level has been high, it was the area around the dam and Moulton Grange Bay which pulled in two Turnstones on 6th, followed by a Knot the next day, on 7th.

Juvenile Knot, Pitsford Res, 7th September 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Juvenile Knot, Pitsford Res, 7th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

Elsewhere, a juvenile Ruff remained at Hollowell Res between 2nd and 4th, a Wood Sandpiper was found at Boddington Res on 1st with another reported from Stortons GP on the same date.

Wood Sandpiper, Boddington Res, 1st September 2018 (Mike Pollard)

Having experienced a sudden, early departure of Common Terns, a single Black Tern moving south through Pitsford Res was a nice find on 5th but even better were two Sandwich Terns – an adult and a juvenile – at Boddington Res briefly on the morning of the previous day. The 5th produced both of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls – a juvenile at Pitsford Res and a first-winter at Stanwick GP, the latter still present the following day, while Stanwick also produced an adult Caspian Gull on 4th.

Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th September 2018 (Steve Fisher)

A second- or third-year Caspian Gull was also present on pools at Priors Hall, Corby on 1st. Single-figure counts of Yellow-legged Gulls came from Clifford Hill GP, Pitsford Res, Priors Hall, Ravensthorpe Res, Thrapston GP and Wicksteed Park Lake, although eighteen were counted at Stanwick on 4th.

Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 4th September 2018 (Steve Fisher)

A trickle of Common Redstarts continued with two at the popular site of Twywell Hills & Dales on 3rd, one at Daventry CP on 4th and, following last week’s, another male was trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 6th.

Female Common Redstart, Daventry CP, 5th September 2018 (Gary Pullan)

There were more Whinchats this week, including at least five at Borough Hill on 2nd-3rd, up to three at Stanford Res on the same dates, two at Harrington AF on 3rd, 2 at Clifford Hill GP on 6th and singles at Hollowell Res between 4th and 7th and at Pineham, Northampton on 6th.

Whinchat, Stanford Res, 3rd September 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

Whinchat, Borough Hill, 3rd September 2018 (Ken Prouse)

Whinchat, Hollowell Res, 4th September 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Whinchat, Clifford Hill GP, 6th September 2018 (Alan Coles)

By contrast, Northern Wheatears were found at only 3 sites – one near Rushden on 1st and twos at Borough Hill and Pitsford Res on 3rd and 7th, respectively. Single White Wagtails were identified at Clifford Hill GP on 31st August and at Stanwick GP on 6th September.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 25th to 31st August

Apart from a prolonged spell of rain on 26th, the weather remained largely dry and undramatic, with a westerly bias to the wind and a wave of warm air pushing up from the continent at the week’s end. Waders were again at a low ebb, Ospreys were widespread and then there was the curious case of a roadrunner …

In the absence of any other wildfowl – save three Pintails at Pitsford Res – Garganeys were this week’s ducks deluxe, with one at Hollowell Res on 28th and the other hanging on in there at Stanwick GP until at least 29th. The latter site also held on to its mobile Great White Egret and two were there on 29th, while up to two were still present on Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR throughout the period. Some interchange between these two sites is highly likely.

Ospreys just keep coming. Singles were recorded from seven localities – one up on the last review period – these including Hollowell Res and Pitsford Res on 25th, Thrapston GP on 27th with a juvenile south over Daventry CP and then south over Fawsley Park Lake 25 minutes later on the same date (great tracking!) and at Ditchford GP and over Borough Hill on 31st.

Which brings us on to the bizarre tale of a small, spotty bird seen scuttling across the A428, just west of Clifford Hill GP, early in the morning on 29th. The county’s first Spotted Crake since Stanwick in August 2012 narrowly avoided an untimely end under the wheels of the observer’s vehicle but it was seen well enough to identify – spots an’ all – before it disappeared into Hardingstone Dyke on the south side of the road. Has it been looked for since? You have to go back to the last century for records prior to the Stanwick bird so they’re not that easy to come by locally. The closing hours of daylight may pay dividends for the keen optimist hoping for a dalliance at dusk …

Juvenile male Ruff, Hollowell Res, 27th August 2018 (Mike Alibone)

The dearth of waders continued, with Hollowell producing the only waders of note – a Ruff on 27th and two short-staying Spotted Redshanks two days later, on 29th. The latter date produced both of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls – evening juveniles at Boddington Res and Ringstead GP, while single-figure counts of Yellow-legged Gulls came from Daventry CP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Wicksteed Park Lake, although twenty-one were counted at Stanwick on 30th.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Boddington Res, 29th August 2018 (Gary Pullan)

Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, 27th August 2018 (Alan Francis)

On the passerine front, just two Common Redstarts were found this week, comprising one at Borough Hill on 28th and a juvenile male trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 31st. More Whinchats appeared, with singles at Welford Quarry on 25th, Borough Hill on 28th and Chelveston AF on 30th and two were near Kettering at Wicksteed Water Meadows on 28th-30th. An arrival of Northern Wheatears saw thinly-scattered singles at Harrington AF on 25th, Pitsford Res on 28th, Alderton and Chelveston AF – both on 30th – and two were at Orlingbury on 29th.

Northern Wheatear, Alderton, 30th August 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Migrant Tree Pipits continued to be found, with 25th producing flyover singles at Croughton Quarry and Naseby Res and one ‘on the ground’ at Welford Res, followed by two at Borough Hill on 28th.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment

Rarity Round-up, 11th to 24th August 2018

The weather for the last two weeks, now firmly dominated by Atlantic low pressure systems, has remained largely dry and has not been a key influencer on the appearance of birds locally. While wader passage has yet to gather pace, the movement of passerines gained momentum, with the mist nets of Stanford delivering yet more surprises.

Apart from a Ruddy Shelduck at Welford Res on 24th, keeping wildfowl afloat during the review period, Garganeys were present at four localities, the most notable of which was Stanwick GP, where an eclipse drake was present between 11th and 20th. Elsewhere, singles visited Summer Leys LNR on 12th and 15th and both Pitsford and Hollowell Reservoirs on 18th.

Eclipse drake Garganey, Stanwick GP, 16th August 2018 (Mike Alibone)

Meanwhile, the site most consistent for producing Great White Egrets was again Thrapston GP, where two were frequently present on Titchmarsh LNR throughout the period, with the same site producing three together on 19th. There may have been some movement of the third bird between here and Stanwick, where one was seen on 11th-12th, 14th and 23rd-24th with perhaps the same individual visiting Ditchford GP on 24th. The one lingering at Daventry CP was seen almost daily until 18th and one visited Hollowell Res on 20th.

Ospreys were recorded from six localities, again prominent at Thrapston GP and Hollowell Res – both sites producing two together on several occasions. Away from these locations, two drifted north over Moulton on 13th and singles were at Pitsford Res on 14th, Priors Hall (Corby) on 19th and Ditchford GP on 23rd.

Osprey, Hollowell Res, 19th August 2018 (Martin Swannell)

Osprey, Thrapston GP, 21st August 2018 (Alan Francis)

Juvenile Osprey, Ditchford GP, 23rd August 2018 (Tony Vials)

Marsh Harrier action ramped up during the period with two juveniles flying west over Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 11th, followed by singles north of the causeway at Pitsford Res on 14th-15th, over Thrapston GP on 16th and 21st-22nd and over Keepers Lodge Bay and adjacent fields at Stanford Res on 21st.

It was the worst two-week period for waders with, aside from small numbers of commoner waders, the only birds of note were two Ruffs at Summer Leys on 15th – and that’s scraping the barrel!

The second Black Tern of the autumn, a juvenile, appeared at Hollowell Res on 22nd and the season’s first Little Gull was found off the dam at Stanford Res on 21st but it did not linger. Mediterranean Gulls were rather more obliging, however, with single juveniles visiting Ditchford GP IL&M on 11th, Hollowell Res on 14th, Pitsford Res on 15th and Stanwick GP on 20th, while an adult was found at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 20th August 2018 (Steve Fisher)

There were only three Caspian Gulls, though, an adult at Hollowell Res on 11th and two – an adult and a first-summer – together at Daventry CP the following day and Yellow-legged Gulls were reported from five localities, with a maximum count of eight at Stanwick on 20th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 23rd August 2018 (Steve Fisher)

And so to passerines, which saw a bit of an upturn in numbers as well as another quality warbler – even if only a ‘sub’ – being pulled again from a mist net at Stanford Res. The fourth Northern Willow Warbler for the county was trapped and ringed on 21st, following the previous three identified by the same means there in 2008, 2011 and 2014.

Northern Willow Warbler (left) and Willow Warbler, Stanford Res, 21st August 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

Beyond this, up to four Common Redstarts were regularly to be found at Twywell Hills & Dales between 14th and 23rd, with the same site producing a Whinchat on 16th-17th, while further singles were at Borough Hill on 20th and near Glapthorn on 22nd.

Male Common Redstart, Twywell, 16th August 2018 (Bob Bullock)

Back to Stanford for one of the most difficult passerines to find locally since it stopped breeding locally: Tree Pipit. No less than four were trapped on 21st

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 21st August 2018 (Chris Hubbard)

If you’re lucky it’s a late August flyover migrant at Borough Hill or Harrington – a tease or ‘teez’, whichever way you look at it.

Posted in Weekly Reports | Leave a comment