Unless you were particularly unlucky, over the past two weeks the rain has again held off and the southerly airstream has continued with its delivery of abnormally high summer temperatures. Perhaps surprisingly, local bodies of water remain at relatively high levels, with one source stating reservoirs are currently around 90% full – principally Hollowell (86.42%), Pitsford (90.78%) and Ravensthorpe (91.24%). Hollowell is traditionally the one to expose its mud first and so frequently becomes the initial autumn ‘go-to’ destination to find passage waders for local birders not faithful to a patch.
Somewhat seasonally skewed – or simply an escape – a Pink-footed Goose visited Clifford Hill GP on 17th, while the number of Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res climbed from two, through five on 18th-25th, to nine on 26th. Topping the bill for wildfowl, however, was a drake Common Scoter discovered at Boddington Res on 26th. This species undertakes a ‘moult migration’ in which many thousands congregate at favoured sites – principally in the eastern North Sea, the Baltic and off western France so inland records at this time of the year should not be considered unusual.
Drake Common Scoter, Boddington Res, 26th July 2018 (Gary Pullan)
The two Great White Egrets at Thrapston GP remained throughout the period, favouring the northern end of Titchmarsh LNR’s Aldwincle Lake. The same site produced an Osprey on 17th and again three days later, on 20th, when two flew over. Two more fly-over Ospreys included singles at Towcester on 20th and Stanwick GP on 27th. The latter site also produced a Marsh Harrier, flying west, on 16th.
Osprey, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher)
Sticking with Stanwick, the evening of 27th produced what is likely to be the largest autumn flock of Whimbrels in the County. Sixty-two flew west together, followed by two more shortly afterward. Numbers of Black-tailed Godwits ramped up during the period, with flocks of fifteen at Earls Barton GP on 17th, twenty at Clifford Hill GP on 20th, five over Thrapston GP on 26th and singles at both Stanwick and Summer Leys on 21st and 27th. Worthy of note also was a Ruff at Stanwick on 21st. Another milestone along the road to autumn was passed on 17th, when the first fresh, scaly, juvenile Mediterranean Gull appeared at Daventry CP. This was quickly followed by four different individuals there during 20th and 21st, plus another on 27th. Two more juveniles were also seen at Pitsford Res from 21st.
Whimbrels, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher). Part of a flock of 62 which flew west.
Black-tailed Godwit, Stanwick GP, 27th July 2018 (Steve Fisher)
Daventry CP also briefly played host to what was potentially bird of the summer so far. A ‘black-backed gull’, present during the afternoon of 26th and early morning of 27th, showed all the characteristics you could ever wish to see if you were going to claim a Baltic Gull in the UK. From the observer’s photographs, it certainly looks the business and more will be published on this site in due course. More gull action at Daventry included the occurrence of a first-summer Caspian Gull on 26th and up to four Yellow-legged Gulls between 17th and 27th. Several were seen regularly at Pitsford Res and
Probable Baltic Gull, Daventry CP, 26th July 2018 (Gary Pullan)
Second-summer Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, 19th July 2018 (Alan Francis)
singles visited Wicksteed Park Lake on 19th and Thrapston GP on 25th but Stanwick accounted for the lion’s share with the highest counts of seventeen on 20th and thirty-three on 26th. On the passerine front, a Common Redstart at Fawsley Park on stands decidedly lonely …