Rarity Round-up, September 21st-27th 2019

South-easterlies, warm continental air and sunshine at the very beginning of the period quickly gave way to the more usual Atlantic low pressure systems, a westerly airflow and periods of gusty wind and rain throughout the week. Migrant passerine numbers dwindled, while bird of the week was undoubtedly the juvenile Little Stint, which graced Boddington Reservoir for the last three days of the period.

Wildfowl were thin on the water this week, with the drake Ruddy Shelduck again at Stanford Res on 22nd-23rd and the female being seen at Pitsford Res on 22nd and 27th, while a Common Scoter was reported from Summer Leys LNR on 24th.

Drake Ruddy Shelduck, Stanford Res, 22nd September 2019 (Steve Nichols)

As far as Cattle Egrets were concerned, the Stanwick six were seen only on 21st and four localities – Pitsford Res, Stanford Res, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP – enjoyed the presence of single Great Egrets at one time or another, although Pitsford produced two on 22nd.  The only raptors were two Marsh Harriers – one flying north over Hartwell on 21st and one south at Thrapston GP on 24th.

But the week’s highlight was a juvenile Little Stint at Boddington Res from 25th to 27th. This is only the second in the county this year, which is a far cry from the days when this species was a guaranteed annual passage migrant.

Juvenile Little Stint, Boddington Res, 25th September 2019 (Mike Pollard)

Also at Boddington during this period was a juvenile Ruff, on 26th – another wader exhibiting dwindling numbers in recent years. The only Greenshanks to be found were at Pitsford, where two favoured the dam throughout the week.

Greenshank, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2019 (Mike Alibone)

On the larid front, Pitsford’s gull roost also produced all of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls, which included a first-winter on 22nd and a second-winter on 23rd, 26th and 27th, while reports of Yellow-legged Gulls fell to just five, which included two at Stanwick GP on 21st, an adult at Pitsford and four at Hollowell Res on 22nd with an adult at the latter site on 23rd and a juvenile at Boddington Res on 26th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2019 (Mike Alibone)

And so to passerines and just when you thought there could surely be no more Pied Flycatchers up popped two more, both of which were found at Yardley Chase on 26th, bringing this autumn’s total up to a whopping ten!

Pied Flycatcher, Yardley Chase, 26th September 2019 (Bob Bullock)

Considerably less sought-after but always guaranteed to brighten any birding day, Common Redstarts also kept coming, with singles in the Brampton Valley on 21st and at Little Irchester on 22nd and two at Harrington AF on 25th.

Whinchat, Sywell CP, 24th September 2019 (Alan Francis)

Just two Whinchats included one in the Brampton Valley on 21st and one at Sywell CP on 24th but more migrant Stonechats included one at Hollowell on 22nd-23rd and up to three at Stanford between 22nd and 27th and the week’s only Northern Wheatear was also at Hollowell Res on 21st.

Male Stonechat, Borough Hill, 21st September 2019 (Linda Honeybourne)

The first Rock Pipit of the autumn was found at Daventry CP on 24th. Hopefully there will be more of these to come over the next couple of weeks.

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Rarity Round-up, 7th-20th September 2019

If a week is a long time in politics then two weeks is an even longer time – not just double – when it comes to autumn birding. For the major part of the duration, the weather was dry and temperatures were unseasonally high, hitting the mid-twenties. Winds were largely westerly, alternating between the addition of northerly and southerly components, before swinging a decisive south-easterly at the end of the period. While wader numbers tailed off, passerine migrants maintained their prominence at a number of favoured localities.

In terms of species, there was no change to the wildfowl line-up but some local movements saw Hollowell’s long-staying female Ruddy Shelduck up and go on 14th, only to pitch down again a little further north, at Stanford Res, where it remained until at least 18th. Curiously, during this time it was joined there by a male on 16th-17th. Two Garganeys paid a brief visit to Thrapston GP on 14th, another was on the scrape at Summer Leys on 20th, while Thrapston hosted up to three Red-crested Pochards between 10th and 16th and another Red-crested Pochard visited Clifford Hill GP between 15th and 18th.

Numbers of Cattle Egrets at Stanwick GP ranged between one on 9th and six on 19th, while up to two Great Egrets were at both Summer Leys LNR and Pitsford Res throughout and one was seen at Ravensthorpe Res on 17th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 13th September 2019 (Alan Coles)

Slavonian Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 16th September 2019 (Adrian Borley)

On 16th, two Slavonian Grebes were found at Clifford Hill GP in a rare, short-lived period of overcast and drizzly conditions. In keeping with their congener’s one-day appearances so far this autumn they had gone by the following day.
On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier was in the Brampton Valley on 11th and the number of Ospreys fell to just two – one at Ravensthorpe Res on 7th and the other over Foxholes Fisheries, Crick on 11th, the latter date also producing a male Merlin at Easton-on-the-Hill.

Wader numbers dwindled during the period to a single Ruff at Stanwick between 9th and 11th and Greenshanks at four localities, which included up to three at Hollowell Res between 7th and 14th, two at Pitsford on 7th with one there on 13th, up to two at Boddington Res between 8th and 11th and one at Summer Leys from 9th to 13th.

Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 8th September 2019 (Martin Swannell)

Greenshank, Pitsford Res, 16th September 2019 (Alan Francis)

A juvenile Black Tern at Boddington was the only one of its kind during the period and the same site produced a second-winter Mediterranean Gull on 17th, while single first-winters dropped into Daventry CP on 9th and 17th. Daventry also produced a juvenile Caspian Gull on 16th and an adult visited Hollowell on 7th. Yellow-legged Gulls were found at eight sites with maximum counts of ten-plus at Stanwick on 9th and 8 at Thrapston on 14th.

Northamptonshire has enjoyed a great autumn for passerine migrants and again there was no shortage during the review period. It’s been a real ‘Pied Flycatcher autumn’ and they just keep coming, although all of this period’s remained elusive. One was found at Borough Hill on 7th before promptly vanishing and it, or another, (re)appeared there in exactly the same place, three days later, on 10th. Another at Naseby Res, on 12th, also disappeared within minutes of being found.

Common Redstarts maintained a presence with five at Borough Hill on 7th being the maximum site tally. Elsewhere, singles were at Twywell on 8th, Harrington AF on 10th, 13th 18th and 19th (the latter trapped and ringed), two were at Stanford Res on 14th with one there on 17th and two were at Hockerhill  Farm, Wilby – also on 17th.

Whinchats were also still very much in evidence, with up to three at Borough Hill on 7th-8th, up to three in the Brampton Valley between 8th and 17th, two at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon and two at Ditchford GP’s IL&M on 7th, up to two at Harrington AF between 10th and 19th and singles at Thrapston GP on 7th and at Stanford Res on 14th – the latter trapped and ringed.

Whinchat, Stanford Res, 14th September 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Whinchat, Brampton Valley, 15th September 2019 (Alan Coles)

The first migrant Stonechats of the autumn also arrived during the period. Singles were at Harrington AF on 10th and 19th, three were at Stanford Res on 14th with one remaining the next day, two were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 17th and two at Summer Leys the following day and singles were found at Milton Malsor on 17th, Wicksteed Water Meadows, Kettering on 17th and 20th and at both Thrapston GP and Borough Hill on 19th.

Stonechat, Stanford Res, 15th September 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Stonechat, Brampton Valley, 20th September 2019 (Martin Swannell)

Northern Wheatears continued to trickle through, with singles at Hollowell Res on 7th and 14th, Harrington AF on 10th and 13th, Orlingbury on 13th, Clifford Hill GP on 15th-16th, in the Brampton Valley on 17th and at Borough Hill on 19th.

Northern Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 16th September 2019 (Doug Goddard)

Rarely identified in autumn, for some reason, a White Wagtail was found at Boddington Res on 7th and on the same date, single Tree Pipits flew over Borough Hill and Croughton Quarry.

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Rarity Round-up, 31st August to 6th September 2019

Temperatures fell as the prevailing Atlantic airflow re-established itself, delivering brisk, breezy and mainly dry conditions on the back of variable northerly to south-westerly winds. Local birding survived on the remnants of last week’s migrant rush, the usual long-stayers were still in place, with the popular well-watched sites continuing to produce small numbers of new birds.

At Hollowell Res the female Ruddy Shelduck remained until at least 3rd, while single Garganeys at Pitsford Res on 31st and at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd were both new in.  Unusually scarce so far this autumn, a single drake Red-crested Pochard at Clifford Hill GP on 5th was the only one of its kind in the county this week.

Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd September 2019 (Alan Coles)

For those still following the Quail trail, it may not yet have gone completely cold, as one was flushed from setaside on the northern edge of Orlingbury on 1st. There are October records from at least one previous year …

Up to six Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick GP throughout and Great Egrets became marginally more widespread with, in addition to the two at Summer Leys LNR and one at Pitsford Res, on and off, new birds at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR on 3rd and at Wicksteed Water Meadows, Kettering on the same date.

And so to the mysterious case of the Night Heron, which was reported from two sites in close proximity at Ditchford GP. Specific grid locations emerged from the ether on 31st and whys and wherefores notwithstanding, locals looked there but the willows were bare – if they ever held fruit in the first place.

Nothing so mysterious about a Black-necked Grebe at Pitsford Res on 1st – remarkably, again, only a one-day bird, or so it would seem.

On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier flew east over Stanwick’s Visitor Centre on 5th but the number of Ospreys dwindled again to singles at Hollowell, Pitsford and Thrapston on 31st, the latter site hanging on to its bird until the next day.

A poor showing for waders this week saw just one adult Black-tailed Godwit at Summer Leys on 3rd-4th and up to three Greenshanks at Hollowell between 31st and 3rd, plus one at Summer Leys all week and two at Boddington Res on 6th.

Adult Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd September 2019 (Alan Coles)

Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd September 2019 (Alan Coles)

For the second week running, a juvenile Little Tern made its way to the county, appearing at Stanwick GP early in the morning of 2nd. Aside from that, a juvenile Arctic Tern at Pitsford on the same date was noteworthy. Pitsford also attracted a juvenile Little Gull for the best part of the week, between 31st and 5th. Again, just one Mediterranean Gull was found – this time a first-winter – at Boddington on 2nd, while a juvenile Caspian Gull appeared at Stanwick on 1st.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Boddington Res, 2nd September 2019 (Mike Pollard)

Single adult Yellow-legged Gulls were at Ravensthorpe on 31st, Stanwick on 1st, Hollowell on 1st and 3rd and at Pitsford on 5th but seventeen were counted at Stanwick on 6th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanwick GP, 6th September 2019 (Steve Fisher)

The flood of passerines last week had abated somewhat by the end of the period but Common Redstarts continued to appear in higher than average numbers. Stanford held two on 31st and one was trapped there on 3rd. The last day of August also produced singles near Lamport and at Pitsford and two at Twywell, while the following day saw singles at Harrington AF and Hollowell and three at Fawsley Park. On 3rd, there were four near Walgrave and two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell – the latter having dropped to one by 5th, on which date there were up to two at Harrington and singles at Wollaston and Fleetland Farm (Duston), Northampton.

Adult female Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 3rd September 2019 (Dawn Sheffield)

Numbers of Whinchats were also still much in evidence, with five at Wollaston on 31st and 5th, up to three were in the Brampton Valley at Blueberry Farm between 1st and 5th, three were at Neville’s Lodge, Finedon on 2nd, singles were at Harrington and Pitsford on 5th and three were at Fleetland Farm on the same date. Northern Wheatears were, however, less abundant with only singles at Fawsley Park on 1st, Harrington on 1st-3rd, Blueberry Farm on 2nd and near East Haddon on 5th.

Pied Flycatcher, Barnwell CP, 1st September 2019 (John Hunt)

Another Pied Flycatcher discovered at Barnwell CP on 31st remained until the following day, continuing this species’ record run so far this autumn. Back at Blueberry Farm, a Corn Bunting on 3rd was the first record in the county since the last winter period.

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A gull which doesn’t quite fit the bill

A closer look at the Ravensthorpe ‘Caspian’ Gull

Generally regarded as a Caspian Gull, this second-calendar year (first-summer) bird has been visiting Ravensthorpe Reservoir since early August. From the initial images obtained by Gary Pullan, it looked marvelously ‘snouty’ and long-legged – two features widely associated with Caspian Gull.

Second calendar year gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 16th August 2019 (Gary Pullan)

There were, however, some characteristics which simply did not ring right for Caspian Gull, leading Gary and I to debate its identity, which swung from Caspian to Yellow-legged, though Caspian x Yellow-legged hybrid and then back to Caspian. John Moon chipped in with a better image, which did not really change anything at the time.

Second calendar year gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 19th August 2019 (John Moon)

On 31st August, I managed to get some digiscoped shots (below) of which some, after scrutiny, were perhaps more suggestive of Yellow-legged Gull – not least because of the bill structure.

Summary of features based primarily on images taken on 31st August.

  • Large and lanky and legs long and good for Caspian
  • Shortish (closed) wings but renewed primaries probably still growing
  • Mantle shade of grey too light for Yellow-leggedGul but OK for Caspian (but see comments)
  • Bill long but heavy, with large gonys – looks in some images to be fine for Yellow-legged Gull but too chunky for Caspian but in others ok(ish) for Caspian
  • Underwing coverts quite dark – darker than I would expect for Caspian but Malling Olsen states some Caspians can have quite dark underwings (and see comments below)
  • Head shape, long forehead and eye position ok for Caspian and looks ‘snouty’

I forwarded a set of images to Carl Baggott – the Leicestershire Recorder, ‘King of Shawell’ and a man with a true passion for gulls and with extensive experience of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls in eastern Europe and Yellow-legged in Portugal.

Carl kindly commented as follows:

This is quite a difficult bird, but I don’t get a Caspian Gull feel from the images. It seems closer to YLG and I am not too concerned about the lightness of the grey feathers as this is quite variable at that age. The tertials favour YLG also, as does the large head and bill. The snouty description of Caspian Gull head is overstressed and doesn’t really help with most gulls. As you say some Caspian Gulls can have dark underwings and I have photographed birds in Germany with similar underwings. Most 2CY Caspian Gulls have pale inner primaries or a venetian blind effect across the inner primaries.

I have seen birds like this at Shawell and left them unidentified. It can be very difficult with ones like this as you don’t know their origin. I have seen Yellow-legged Gulls in Portugal that are easily confused with Caspian Gulls and even American Herring Gulls.

On the question of the possibility of a hybrid:

It could well be [a hybrid], but difficult to say for certain. There is nothing to really hang your hat on. A colour-ring is always useful as you know so at least you know where it’s from. Hybrids are easier as adults or first-winters usually as you can look at coverts (Caspian Gulls especially) on the young birds and primaries on adults. Then it comes down to matter of opinion unless you know the species of the parents. Hybrid is always the go to, but there is a great deal of variation in pure birds.

The above not only highlights the difficulty of identifying ‘odd’ gulls in the field but also the problems with trying to identify them from images taken from different angles and in different poses – for example, see the apparent change in head shape and bill thickness in the above images.

For a set of images of similarly-aged Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls in The Netherlands  see here.

Comments welcomed!

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Rarity Round-up, 24th to 30th August 2019

The bank holiday weekend saw the dam burst on autumn migration. With a light south-easterly airstream, originating from a high pressure system centred beyond eastern Europe, temperature records were not the only ones broken, as the county also enjoyed a deluge of passerines on the move … and a lot more as the week unfolded.

With a passing nod to the female Ruddy Shelduck at Hollowell Res and the eclipse drake Garganey at Stanford Res – both still present on 25th – there was far more happening in and around our reservoirs to capture the imagination and demand attention.

Even the six Cattle Egrets still at Stanwick GP now seem like part of the furniture. There seems little doubt they will soon assume Great Egret status, talking of which there were up to four around this week, including two at Summer Leys LNR on 30th, one on and off at Pitsford Res, plus one at Stanford on 28th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 25th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

A far better week for Ospreys kicked off with three north of Pitsford causeway on 25th, followed by another there on 29th and singles at Thrapston GP on 25th, flying south over Byfield on the same date, flying west over Summer Leys and south over Kettering on 26th and east over Stanford on 28th.

Osprey, Pitsford Res, 25th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

After the shorebird doldrums of the last review period, a much-improved picture on the wader front saw an Avocet at Pitsford, briefly on 26th and a Black-tailed Godwit over the causeway there on the same date. Another Black-tailed Godwit visited Hollowell on 25th and two Turnstones included one flying south-west over Stanwick on 26th and a smart, scaly juvenile on Pitsford dam on 29th-30th.

Juvenile Turnstone, Pitsford Res, 29th August 2019 (John Moon)

Juvenile Turnstone, Pitsford Res, 30th August 2019 (Dave Smith)

At Stanford, four Ruffs flew south-west without stopping on 28th and the fourth Spotted Redshank of the autumn arrived at Hollowell on 25th but, like the previous three, it had departed by the following day.

Spotted Redshank, Hollowell Res, 25th August 2019 (Mike Alibone)

With six together, also at Hollowell on 25th, the arrival of Greenshanks was more encouraging this week, with up to four at Stanford on 28th and 29th, three at Pitsford and two still at Hollowell also on 29th and one at Summer Leys from 25th until the week’s end.

Greenshank, Summer Leys LNR, 27th August 2019 (Paul Crotty)

Summer Leys also featured with two elegant Wood Sandpipers for one day on 25th, followed by another there on 30th.

Wood Sandpipers, Summer Leys LNR, 25th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

Wood Sandpiper, Summer Leys LNR, 30th August 2019 (Mike Alibone)

The bank holiday weather system provided ideal conditions for picking up a rare tern or two and a much need boost for those who managed to connect. Aside from a lingering juvenile Little Tern at Boddington Res, between 25th and 27th, it quickly became clear on 24th that a substantial movement of Black Terns was under way.

Juvenile Little Tern, Boddington Res, 25th August 2019 (Gary Pullan)

The first four appeared at Stanford, early doors, quickly followed by the discovery of at least ten off the dam at Pitsford and five at Boddington, where four more arrived two days later, on 26th. These birds formed just a small part of a national movement involving hundreds, if not thousand, across south and east England. Beyond the county line, an impressive ninety-six were counted at Farmoor Res in Oxfordshire, for example. How many did we miss? Adding a little more spice to the mix, single Sandwich Terns flew through at Pitsford on 24th and at both Ravensthorpe Res and Stanwick the following day.

Overshadowed by terns, gulls were again low in numbers, the best of which was a petite and crisply marked juvenile Little Gull that hung around long enough to be photographed at Summer Leys on 28th, vanishing late in the day, only to reappear briefly the following morning.

Juvenile Little Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 28th August 2019 (John Moon)

Just one Mediterranean Gull – an adult – was on the sailing club pontoon at Pitsford on 24th, two Yellow-legged Gulls were at Stanwick on the same date and an adult Yellow-legged was around Boddington on 26th and 27th. Last week’s second calendar year Caspian Gull from Ravensthorpe put in a brief appearance at nearby Hollowell on 25th.

But it was passerines that really stole the show – and not just the rare ones to boot. The Stanford Ringing Group had its work cut out simply trying to keep up with the seemingly incessant deluge of birds piling into its nets during a multi record-breaking eight-hour session on 24th (read about it here), which included processing 163 Blackcaps, 143 Whitethroats and 70 Reed Warblers, to name but a few. Along with these, six Common Redstarts were also trapped and ringed and the site continued to host small numbers of this species daily, with a peak count of eleven – nine of which were trapped and ringed – on 27th. Common Redstarts were also found at four other localities, peak counts of which were four at Harrington AF on 25th-26th, three at Twywell Hills and Dales on 30th, at least two in the Blueberry Farm area of Brampton Valley on 28th and singles at Sywell CP on 24th and Borough Hill on 26th. For an overview of the autumn’s extensive passage, so far, see here.

Male Common Redstart, Harrington AF, 25th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

Whinchats were also far more numerous than the preceding week. Last week’s four were still at Blueberry Farm until 25th, with at least one remaining until 28th, Stanford produced three on 24th and one on 27th, two were at Borough Hill on 25th-26th, up to two were at Harrington AF between 24th and 27th, three were found at Sywell CP on 29th (two on 30th) and two at Twywell Hills and Dales on 30th and singles at Fawsley Park on 25th, near Lamport on 26th and at Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) on 30th.

Whinchat, Borough Hill, 25th August 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Whinchat, Harrington AF, 26th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

Up, too, in numbers were Northern Wheatears – most of them found in the same areas as the aforementioned Common Redstarts and Whinchats. In the Brampton Valley up to three were in the Blueberry Farm area between 24th and 28th, Harrington AF attracted at least two between 24th and 29th, two were near Lamport on 26th and singles were found in Broughton on 24th and at Stanford Res (trapped) on the same date, a male was at Borough Hill on 25th with a second bird there on 26th and singles visited Pitsford Res on 27th and Glapthorn on 29th.

Northern Wheatear, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 24th August 2019 (Duncan Cookson)

Male Northern Wheatear, Borough Hill, 25th August 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 27th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

Northern Wheatear, Harrington AF, 27th August 2019 (Martin Swannell)

Reflecting the relatively heavy passage on the east coast, Pied Flycatchers put on their best show for many years (if not ever) with four appearing. Singles were found at both Stanford Res and Deenethorpe on 24th, one was at Duston (Northampton) on 26th and another was discovered with a roving tit flock at Brixworth CP on 29th. Tree Pipits, too, continued to be logged in numbers higher than usual, with 24th producing two in the Brampton Valley and singles at both Pitsford and Stanford, while one was found at Borough Hill the following day, on 25th. Perhaps next week will be a little quieter …

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Starting to see Red

Record numbers of Common Redstarts have been moving through Northamptonshire over the past few weeks, peaking today with a double-figure count at Stanford Reservoir.

It has been an amazing autumn for Common Redstarts, giving rise to speculation that some may have bred locally. While this may have been true for one or two birds at least, there have been too many to account for the odd, out of range breeding pair and with the picture seemingly mirrored nationally, it appears this species has enjoyed a productive breeding season.

Apart from single males at Moreton Pinkney on 22nd June and at Lamport on 26th June, the first record of the autumn came from Arbury Hill, west of Badby, where an adult and a juvenile were seen as early as 2nd July, perhaps indicating local breeding. Denton Wood similarly provided views of a juvenile on 11th July, again fuelling speculation of local breeding. What was assumed to be the same bird was seen there again on 18th July and from 28th July through to 1st August and again on 10th and 17th August. It was a male and the fact that its post-juvenile moult had steadily progressed each time it was seen would indicate it was the same individual throughout.

Juvenile male Common Redstart, Denton Wood, 11th July 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

.Juvenile male Common Redstart, in moult to first-winter, Denton Wood, 28th July 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

.Juvenile male Common Redstart, in moult to first-winter, Denton Wood, 1st August 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

First-winter male Common Redstart, Denton Wood, 17th August 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

Following the Denton Wood bird, there have been approximately 43 records, accounting for something like 80 individuals. What an autumn! Here are some of those birds.

Adult male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard). Largely black face with prominent white supercilium, combined with greyish-fringed greater coverts age this as an adult male.

Adult male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Male Common Redstart, presumed first-winter, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard). Rather dull black facial area with considerable white flecking, along with obscure supercilium point to first-winter.

First-winter male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard). Same comments apply as above. Also thickly buff-bordered juvenile greater coverts, with adult-like inner one or two grey-edged feathers age this bird.

First-winter female Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard). A tricky one to age. Looks like an adult but the ringers have aged it as a first-winter.

First-winter female Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 27th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Male Common Redstart, probably first-winter, Harrington AF, 25th August 2019 (Alan Coles)


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Rarity Round-up, 17th to 23rd August 2019

With the Atlantic jetstream further north this week, the weather remained largely dry, bright and breezy, on the back of a predominantly west to south-westerly airflow. Topping the bill was a ‘wrecked’ Shag in Weedon, otherwise it was business as usual …

As wildfowl are still a little thin on the ground at present, the first-summer female Ruddy Shelduck continued to keep things afloat at Hollowell Res, as did Stanford’s eclipse drake Garganey, now into its fifth week on site. At least one Red-crested Pochard remained at Pitsford Res until 19th.

A juvenile Shag picked up on the outskirts of Weedon on 20th was a bizarre find indeed as this species is not prone to becoming grounded inland like other birds more traditionally associated with a maritime environment. Said to have been in good physical condition, it was thought to be diseased and was taken into professional care, with the aim of recovery prior to its release in the near future.

Juvenile Shag, in captivity, Weedon, 21st August 2019 (Gary Pullan)

Cattle Egrets continued to be seen daily at Stanwick GP with, as last week, the maximum being six – three adults, three juveniles – on 18th. Moving up the rare egret size scale, single Great Egrets were again on the scrape at Summer Leys from 18th-23rd and at Pitsford Res on 19th.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 19th August 2019 (Alan Coles)

Pitsford was also one of only two sites to yield Ospreys this week, with two there on 18th followed by singles on 20th and 22nd, while singles were at Hollowell on 17th and 23rd. Pitsford also produced another Marsh Harrier – a juvenile on 18th.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Pitsford Res, 18th August 2019 (Duncan Cookson)

Five species of waders this week was less than impressive, as were their low numbers. In this respect, a solitary Whimbrel flew south at Daventry CP on 19th and single Black-tailed Godwits were found at Summer Leys on 18th, Ravensthorpe Res on 19th and Clifford Hill GP on 22nd. The Thrapston Turnstone hung on until 18th, a Greenshank visited Summer Leys on 22nd and five were at Hollowell res on 23rd.

Second calendar year Caspian Gull, Ravensthorpe Res, 19th August 2019 (John Moon)

Gulls, too, were lower in numbers.  Again, the only two Caspian Gulls this week were a second calendar year at Ravensthorpe Res on 19th and a juvenile at Daventry CP the following day. Similarly, there were only low, single-figure counts of Yellow-legged Gulls, comprising one at Hollowell on 17th, two at Daventry on 19th, three at Ravensthorpe on 21st with one on 23rd and one at Hollowell Res on 23rd.

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 20th August 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 22nd August 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

On the passerine front, it’s been a great week for Tree Pipits, with the lion’s share at Stanford Res, where one was trapped and ringed on 20th, two flew over and one was on the deck there on 21st and another was present the following day. Elsewhere, one was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 22nd and two were on Borough Hill on 23rd. Common Redstarts were down a little on last week’s total but a first-winter male was again at Denton Wood on 17th, two were at Fawsley Park on 18th and singles were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 18th and 22nd.

First-winter male Common Redstart, Denton Wood, 17th August 2019 (Steve Brayshaw)

Whinchats, to, were also a little more in evidence, with up to four at Blueberry Farm between 18th and 22nd and singles at Borough Hill on 19th and Stanford Res on 21st. By contrast, only one Northern Wheatear was found – this being near Chapel Brampton on 21st-23rd, while four Crossbills were reported in the Brampton Valley on 22nd.

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