Rarity Round-up, 9th to 15th November 2019

Low pressure dominated the period, bringing significantly heavy rain which, backed principally by north-easterlies, resulted in considerable flooding of low-lying areas. The Nene Valley bore the brunt but arguably produced the best birds of the week.

Clearly spoilt for choice with the availability of the expanding floodwater, commoner wildfowl appeared in areas that would normally see none. Immediately west of Northampton, for example, the extensively flooded Kislingbury Meadows, at its aqua alta, played host to a couple of Shelducks, as well as to small numbers of Tufted Ducks and even Pochard. At the other end of the county, at Thrapston GP, the adult Whooper Swan was still present until at least 11th, while back over to the west, the female Ruddy Shelduck, which went unreported last week, popped up at Foxholes Fisheries, near Crick, on 12th where, it emerged, she had been holed up for a good few days. North of the causeway at Pitsford Res, Red-crested Pochard numbers increased to six on 12th, while three visited Thrapston on 11th and the Clifford Hill GP drake was joined by a second one from 9th until at least 12th. The juvenile drake Greater Scaup remained at Daventry CP all week and Pitsford’s Pintail Bay was the venue for the discovery of a female Common Scoter on 10th, before two more were found in close proximity the following day.

Common Scoter Pitsford Res, 11th November 2019 (Richard How)

The latter location also produced the second ‘redhead’ Smew of the autumn, on 13th, while Summer Leys retained its own ‘redhead’ until at least 11th, before it was relocated on Mary’s Lake, across the lane of the same name, at Earls Barton GP.

Also at Summer Leys, sporadic in-flight appearances of Bittern continued with one there on 12th, while another was also seen flying between Fawsley and Everdon on 9th. Reports of Great Egrets were down on recent weeks, with up to two at Pitsford between 10th and 13th and singles at Thrapston on 9th, Summer Leys between 10th and 13th and at Stanwick GP on 12th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 12th November 2019 (Jamie Barrera)

On the raptor front, another Marsh Harrier was found – this time flying west at Oundle on 12th and a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier was hunting over DIRFT 3 and adjacent Lilbourne Meadows LNR on 9th-10th, while a ‘ringtail’ harrier sp. was reported from the Brampton Valley, near Cottesbrooke, on 14th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Stanford Res, 10th November 2019 (Steve Nichols)

The Pitsford adult Mediterranean Gull was again in the roost there on 11th and 14th and just one Yellow-legged Gull was reported this week – an adult at Stanford Res on 10th.

Short-eared Owls were found at three localities – one, a presumed migrant, at Stanford Res on 9th, while last week’s DIRFT 3 two were quartering the adjacent Lilbourne Meadows area on 13th and one was still at Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) on 13th and 15th. The Harrington AF Merlin was seen there again on 10th and singles were also in the Brampton Valley and at Stanford Res on 15th.

Short-eared Owl, Stanford Res, 9th November 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Following last week’s Siberian Chiffchaff, trapped and ringed at Stanford, two more were discovered in willows at a heavily waterlogged Ditchford GP on 15th – as ‘half-predicted’ in the last round-up – while just across the A6, at Stanwick, a Firecrest was trapped and ringed on 10th.

Firecrest, Stanwick GP, 10th November 2019 (Stanwick Lakes posts/RSPB Ringing Group)

Lastly, Stonechats continued to be seen in twos in the Brampton Valley, at DIRFT 3 and Clifford Hill GP with three at Pitsford Res and one at Stanford.

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Rarity Round-up, 2nd to 8th November 2019

An unsettled week with a variable wind direction, sporadic heavy showers, low cloud and drizzle. Against a backcloth of visible passerine migration, a Siberian Chiffchaff at Stanford Reservoir was arguably the week’s highlight.

This week’s wintering wildfowl numbers were on the up but unevenly distributed with, for example, Pitsford Res and Summer Leys LNR holding relatively good numbers, while in stark contrast the reservoirs at Ravensthorpe and Hollowell barely mustered a handful of common ducks between them. The adult Whooper Swan remained on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake and six flew north over Stanford Res on 8th, the latter site seeing the reappearance of the drake Ruddy Shelduck for one day only, on 6th, although the more regularly encountered female in the Hollowell/Ravensthorpe area failed to materialise this week.

Drake Ruddy Shelduck, Stanford Res, 6th November 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Up to four Red-crested Pochards continued to favour the northern section of Pitsford Res, three visited Stanford on 3rd and the Clifford Hill GP drake was still present on 7th.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Clifford Hill GP, 7th November 2019 (Mike Alibone)

In the west of the county, at Daventry CP, an adult female and juvenile drake Greater Scaup were present on 4th-5th, the juvenile remaining until 7th, while the Summer Leys ‘redhead’ Smew remained on 2nd and then went missing before its reappearance there on 7th-8th.

Also at Summer Leys, what was presumably last week’s Bittern was again seen briefly in flight on 8th and further down the Nene Valley, at Stanwick GP, the five Cattle Egrets materialised once more on 4th. Stanwick again produced the week’s highest count of Great Egrets with three on 6th, while two were seen at both Pitsford and Thrapston and singles were at  Ditchford GP, Stanford, Summer Leys and Maidwell.

Last week’s Marsh Harrier reappeared at Stanford Res on 3rd, another flew west over Summer Leys’ scrape on 8th and for the second week running, a Jack Snipe at Hollowell on 7th was again the period’s only notable wader.

Just three Mediterranean Gulls included the Pitsford adult on 2nd, 4th-5th and 8th, a second-winter in the gull roost at Boddington Res on 5th and another adult in the roost at Stanford on 5th and 7th-8th. A third-winter Caspian Gull visited Daventry CP on 5th and a thin scattering of Yellow-legged Gulls included a third-winter and the usual one or two adults at Pitsford, single adults at Stanford on 3rd and Daventry on 5th and three adults in the roost at Boddington, also on 5th.

With numerous migrant ‘shorties’ recently logged ‘in-off’ on the east coast, more Short-eared Owls were found this week, with at least two at DIRFT 3 on 6th and one at the more traditional wintering site of Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) on the same date, followed by two there the following evening.

Short-eared Owl, DIRFT 3, 6th November 2019 (Mike Alibone)

The lengthy North Sea crossings between Norway, Britain and Eire made by a satellite-tagged individual over two years, documented here, outlines just what an amazing traveller this species can be. One of last week’s Merlins was again at Harrington AF on 4th and 8th.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Stanford Res, 6th November 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Another scarce late autumn migrant coming through on the east coast at present is Siberian Chiffchaff, one of which was trapped and ringed at Stanford on 6th. Hopefully one or two will be discovered locally as winter progresses. The Stanford ringers also trapped a very late Willow Warbler on the same date. This is probably the latest recorded in autumn in the county, notwithstanding three seen in December 1974, at Pitsford Res (2 on 15th) and Duston (one on 20th) which were considered to have been wintering.

Stonechat, Thrapston GP, 4th November 2019 (Nick Parker)

Lastly, Stonechats continued to be seen in ones and twos at DIRFT 3, Pitsford, Summer Leys and Thrapston, while four were at Hollowell on 7th.

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Rarity Round-up, 26th October to 1st November 2019

A change of month, a change of clocks and a change of wind direction back to easterlies resulted in a few new birds, the first autumnal frost on 28th and the arrival of the county’s first Smew of the ‘winter’ at Summer Leys on the last day of the week.

The adult Whooper Swan remained all week on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake and a juvenile was found in the Tove Valley, east of Grafton Regis, on 29th, although it did not linger.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Ravensthorpe Res, 27th October 2019 (Paul Crotty)

At Hollowell Res, the female Ruddy Shelduck put in an appearance on 27th before moving to nearby Ravensthorpe Res later in the day, while the three Red-crested Pochards at Pitsford Res had become four by 29th and the Clifford Hill GP bird was still present on 30th. In the west of the county, last week’s juvenile Greater Scaup remained at Daventry CP until at least 31st, while the juvenile at Pitsford was still present off the sailing club on 26th – the same date a female was reported at Summer Leys LNR.

Greater Scaup, Pitsford Res, 26th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Greater Scaup, Pitsford Res, 26th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Summer Leys also produced the first Smew of the back end of the year, a ‘redhead’, on 1st, serving as a reminder that winter proper is only a few weeks away.

Smew, Summer Leys LNR, 1st November 2019 (Bob Bullock)

Here for the winter or simply in transit, only time will tell on the two Black-necked Grebes which found their way to Pitsford and made their way to Pintail Bay on 1st. The same could well apply to the Bittern seen briefly but ridiculously well in flight at Summer Leys on 27th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 27th October 2019 (Matt Hazleton)

This species replaces Cattle Egret in a week during which none of the latter was seen for the first time since the spring. By contrast, Great Egrets consolidated their hold, being reported in ones and twos from all of last week’s localities, including Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford, Summer Leys and Thrapston with three at Stanwick on 1st.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 28th October 2019 (Alan Coles)

Two Marsh Harriers appeared this week, one of which showed signs of lingering at Summer Leys on 30th-31st, while the other flew over Stanford Res and into Leicestershire on 29th. A Jack Snipe at Hollowell on 27th was the week’s only notable wader.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 30th October 2019 (Amir Mughal)

Juvenile Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 31st October 2019 (Alan Coles)

Just that bit too early for any truly winter visiting gulls, roost-watchers managed to eke out possibly up to two Mediterranean Gulls at Pitsford between 26th and 1st and another at Boddington Res on 31st. All birds concerned were adults. Along with Neville’s Lodge (Finedon) and Hollowell, the same two localities also produced Yellow-legged Gulls, with a maximum of eleven at Boddington on 31st.

Following the first Short-eared Owls of the autumn/winter period last week, Borough Hill again produced three on 27th, while single Merlins were seen at Stanford on 30th and at Harrington AF the following day.

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 29th October 2019 (Tony Stanford)

Stonechat, DIRFT 3, 30th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

In stark contrast to last week, passerines were in short supply and following that week’s Waxwings at Stanford Res on 25th, ten were reported in flight over the same locality two days later, on 27th. Other than that, Stonechats continued and extended their recent abundance, being seen at Borough Hill, Clifford Hill, DIRFT 3, Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell, Pitsford, Stanford and Thrapston, with a maximum of four at Borough Hill on 27th and the same number at Pitsford on 29th.

Rock Pipit, Pitsford Res, 1st November 2019 (Bob Bullock)

Rock Pipit, Pitsford Res, 1st November 2019 (Bob Bullock)

Also notably lacking in records this autumn, a Rock Pipit was a welcome visitor to the dam at Pitsford on 31st-1st.

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Rarity Round-up, 19th to 25th October 2019

With more unsettled weather afoot, chilly northerlies swung quickly to south-westerlies, bringing rain, bluster and birds. In the last week before taking the unwelcome plunge into late afternoon darkness for the next few months, leaf-fall accelerated and migration continued apace – especially where passerines were concerned – with the reservoirs at Pitsford and Stanford again delivering the best in class.

Looking set for the long haul, the adult Whooper Swan remained all week at Thrapston GP, while four adults flew north over Pitsford Res on 21st and another adult was found at Summer Leys LNR on 25th. The female Ruddy Shelduck was still at Ravensthorpe Res on 19th and the continued presence of one Red-crested Pochard at Clifford Hill GP was eclipsed by three at Pitsford on 25th. More Greater Scaup arrived this week and included three at Daventry CP on 22nd, one of which – a juvenile – remained until 25th, while the juvenile at Pitsford on 13th reappeared there on 24th.

Adult Whooper Swan, Summer Leys LNR, 25th October 2019 (Adrian Borley)

The number of Cattle Egrets present at Stanwick varied by the day and included a maximum of six on 21st, while Great Egrets were reported from the usual localities, including reservoirs at Hollowell, Pitsford and Stanford and gravel pits at Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with no more than two at any locality.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd October 2019 (Alan Coles)

Waders were understandably thin on the ground. With the recognised passage period now over and water levels at local reservoirs unseasonally high after the past few weeks’ persistent rain, it is, after all, hardly surprising. So a Ruff at Stanwick on 23rd and a Jack Snipe at Ditchford GP on 22nd, were all local observers were able to squeeze out of this week’s birding.

Just one Mediterranean Gull – a first-winter – found its way to the county this week, when a first-winter appeared in the roost at Boddington Res on 22nd, this date also producing a respectable site total of ten Yellow-legged Gulls at the same locality. Singles of the latter were also seen at Hollowell, Pitsford and Thrapston.

First-winter Mediterranean Gull, Boddington Res, 22nd October 2019 (Gary Pullan)

The first Short-eared Owl of the autumn/winter period was found on Borough Hill on 19th, quickly followed the next day by another at Harrington AF, where a Merlin was seen also on 19th, the same individual possibly accounting for one reported in the nearby Brampton Valley during the week.

Following small numbers Waxwings turning up in Orkney and Shetland as early as 2nd October and with many localities on the east coast and across the Midlands (and even Scilly) pulling in the odd bird, three making a five-minute stopover at Stanford on 25th is perhaps not as surprising as it may at first seem. Are we in for a Waxwing Winter? When and where will the next ones be in the county and who will be the claimant? The bets are on …

Much rarer locally than those jingling, colourful and charismatic berry-gobblers and altogether much less flamboyant, Woodlark remains highly prized in Northamptonshire. On 23rd, two circled Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay before flying north. With just three previous records this century (2001, 2014, 2016) and ten in the last fifty years, it’s a puzzle as to why we don’t see more. The above two, along with earlier reports of singles at Woodford on 1st January and Pitsford on 15th April, will give us our best-ever year for this species, assuming all records are formally submitted and subsequently accepted by the local records committee.

Background image: Ron Knight/Wikimedia commons

There were no more Yellow-broweds this week but continuing the rare warblers theme was an ‘eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat at Stanwick on 21st. With the east coast – particularly East Yorkshire – having produced a number of candidates for Siberian blythi and a possible Turkestan halimodendri in the past couple of weeks, its occurrence comes as no real surprise. Siberian Lesser Whitethroat has already occurred in Northants in recent years – the first, a wintering bird, in 2014 (1, 2, 3) and the second, trapped and ringed in 2015.

Firecrest, Stanford Res, 25th October 2019 (Mick Towsend)

Stanford scored another ‘back of the net’ with a Firecrest trapped and ringed on 25th. More good stuff from the Stanford Ringing Group before the autumn’s out, I’ll wager! Stonechats continued to be seen at Borough Hill, Clifford Hill, Pitsford Res, in the Brampton Valley and at Harrington AF, where vizmig fly-overs included the hunky Anthus duo of Rock Pipit and Water Pipit on 19th and 20th respectively. With five Common Crossbills flying over Stanwick on 20th, this week the passerines have it, the passerines have it!

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Rarity Round-up, 12th to 18th October 2019

The weather remained largely unsettled, with heavy rain and sporadic showers, backed by blustery south to south-westerly winds during the early part of the week. The period’s highlight was a Yellow-browed Warbler, trapped and ringed … where else other than at Stanford Reservoir.

Last week’s adult Whooper Swan was present all week at Thrapston GP, where hopefully it will remain for the winter. Also remaining – though highly mobile – was at least one Ruddy Shelduck, a female having been seen at Foxholes Fisheries (Crick) on 12th and it seems likely this was the same individual seen briefly at Stanford Res later the same day and again at Ravensthorpe Res on 18th.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 12th October 2019 (Joan Chaplin)

A juvenile drake Red-crested Pochard visited Clifford Hill GP on 12th and two were present there on 15th but it was Pitsford Res which produced the best diving ducks this week, with a juvenile Greater Scaup on 13th followed by five Common Scoters two days later, on 15th. Unfortunately, this was the best we could manage during a week when, just over the county boundary in Leicestershire, Rutland Water pulled in a fine drake Lesser Scaup. Spitting distance from Northants, again, as we remain the only Midlands county to have missed out on adding this species to our list. One day, maybe, one day …

Common Scoters, Pitsford Res, 15th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Up to six Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick throughout, as did up to two Great Egrets with more of the latter including singles at Ditchford GP, Thrapston and Summer Leys, Two at Pitsford and three at Stanford. On 17th, Stanford also produced a Marsh Harrier, which drifted away toward the reservoir’s namesake, Stanford on Avon, in the latter half of the morning.

Great Egret, Stanwick GP, 17th October 2019 (Steve Fisher)

Wader-wise, it was again slim pickings, which consisted of a late Whimbrel flying west over Grafton Regis on 15th and a Ruff at Stanwick the following day, on 16th.

With most of them long gone, any report of a Common Sandpiper at this time of the year is guaranteed to quicken the pulse. How well was it seen? Spotted Sandpiper ruled out? So, the chances of the late example of the aforementioned Common, which turned up on the dam at Pitsford on 17th, being one of the latter surely had to be higher than normal. But no such luck. Well, this is Northamptonshire, don’t forget and, just like Lesser Scaup, we’re still owed one – big time!

And so to gulls, with Mediterranean Gull topping the bill and kicking off with a first-winter on land cleared for housing at Upton Park (Northampton) on 12th and an adult in the roost at Boddington Res on the same date, plus a second-winter there on 18th. The roost off the sailing club at Pitsford then produced an adult and a second-winter on 13th, a second-winter on 16th, an adult again on 17th and an adult plus a first-winter on 18th, while the maximum counts of Yellow-legged Gulls were nine in the roost at Pitsford on 16th and six at Boddington on 12th and 18th. Surprisingly, last week’s juvenile Arctic Tern lingered, still being at Hollowell Res on 16th.

Thanks to the IOC, ‘new order’ raptors appeared in the shape of a Merlin or two – at Harrington AF on 16th and 18th.

Once again, those hallowed nets of the Stanford Ringing Group delivered Northamptonshire’s fourteenth Yellow-browed Warbler on 12th. With more than four hundred on the east coast during the past week (and six hundred the week before that) it came as no real surprise – especially when the group’s track record is taken into consideration.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 12th October 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

With Northern Willow Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Dusky Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Siberian Lesser Whitethroat all ‘back of the net’ in recent years, the group is almost duty-bound to trap the obligatory Yellow-browed every year. This one is their fifth (including one at nearby Naseby Res) in addition to one which managed to avoid the nets altogether in October 2016!

Ring Ouzel, Stanford Res, 14th October 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Ring Ouzel, Stanford Res, 14th October 2019 (Steve Nichols)

Also at Stanford, a Ring Ouzel was discovered near the dam on 15th, remaining there until the next day, when one was also found in a Spratton garden.

Male Stonechat, Brampton Valley, 12th October 2019 (Angus Molyneux)

Stonechat numbers dwindled to ones and twos at Stanford Res, Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley, while what seems highly likely to be the last Northern Wheatear was the bird lingering on the dam at Pitsford Res from last week until 15th.

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Rarity Round-up, 5th-11th October 2019

An unsettled week with a strong, predominantly westerly airflow saw a couple of potentially weather-related arrivals in the respective shapes of Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Gannet, amid more winter thrushes and the autumn’s first Bramblings.

At least some reward for a seemingly endless succession of early morning visits by one observer to Stanwick GP appeared in the form of a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the Main Lake there, albeit briefly, on 6th. Further down the valley, at Thrapston GP, there was speculation that the adult Whooper Swan there on 7th-8th was last winter’s ‘ugly duckling’ all grown up and back for the winter. Let’s see if it stays. Meanwhile, in the north of the county, the roving Ruddy Shelducks were still making sporadic appearances – the drake at Stanford Res on 8th and the female returning to Hollowell Res on 10th.

Drake Ruddy Shelduck, Stanford Res, 8th October 2019 (Chris Hubbard)

Up to six Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick until at least 10th, the same site being visited by a Great Egret on 5th and again on 10th. Great Egrets were also at Ditchford GP on 5th, Stanford on 6th and 8th, Thrapston on 6th-7th, Pitsford Res on 7th and 9th and Summer Leys LNR on 9th-10th. Two were also at the latter locality on 5th and 7th and at Pitsford on 5th and 6th, while three visited Stanford on 11th.

It would have been surprising if we hadn’t had at least one seabird in the county over the past couple of weeks, so the juvenile Gannet found grounded at Gretton Weir on 8th was not entirely unexpected, even if the locality in which it occurred was. Discovered shortly before midday, it had disappeared when the observer returned later in the day. September is the peak month in Northants but early October has also produced numerous records.

Juvenile Gannet, Gretton, 8th October 2019 (Harriet Crawford)

And by the time we hit October it’s usually all over for the waders – this year so far proving to be no exception. A Ruff at Stanwick on 6th and the two Greenshanks remaining at Pitsford until the same date constituted this week’s meagre tally.

Conversely, Mediterranean Gull was well represented by a mix of ages, primarily at the Pitsford gull roost, where two first-winters and a second-winter were present on 5th, single second-winters on 6th and 8th, an adult and three first-winters on 7th and an adult on 10th. Elsewhere, a first-winter was at Panattoni Park (Northampton) on 7th and the gull roost at Boddington Res produced an adult on 10th, as well as an adult hybrid Mediterranean Gull x Black-headed Gull on 8th.

Mediterranean Gull x Black-headed Gull, Boddington Res, 8th October 2019 (Gary Pullan)

Hollowell Res produced the only Caspian Gull of the week, a first-winter on 10th, while the maximum count of Yellow-legged Gulls was ten in the roost at Pitsford on 5th and single-figure counts came from Boddington and Hollowell. A juvenile Arctic Tern, typically late, was found at the latter locality on 10th.

Passerine migrants were unsurprisingly on the wane this week although, in the wake of hundreds of recent east coast records, a Yellow-browed Warbler was reported in flight in a Duston (Northampton) garden on 7th. Common Redstarts hung on with one in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 5th, while Stonechats were seen in ones

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 8th October 2019 (Mike Alibone)

Northern Wheatear, Pitsford Res, 10th October 2019 (Martin Swannell)

and twos at Brampton Valley, Harrington AF, Panattoni Park and Pitsford, although four were at Hollowell on 10th. Northern Wheatears were still represented by singles at Panattoni Park on 5th-6th, Harrington on 6th and Pitsford from 6th to 10th.

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Pitsford Pied Wagtail: seeing things in black and white

When Matthew Care posted two tweets containing mobile phone images of a Pied Wagtail on Pitsford dam showing, as he put it, ‘isolated black breast and white wing patch’, it appeared, at least in some quarters, that there were enough ingredients there to alert local birders to the possibility that it might be something worth investigating.

Amur Wagtail was flagged up as a possibility. However remote this may seem, this south-east Asian subspecies has already reached Britain (see here) and the classic eastern vagrant month of October would surely be a prime time to find one.

The images, taken only with a mobile phone camera, left a lot to be desired from an ID perspective, as well as leaving a lot to the imagination, thus telling only half the story. The bird depicted in the images, despite also looking unusually ‘white-faced’ (the origin of the scientific name leucopsis for the Amur race of White Wagtail) was surely just a Pied Wagtail, wasn’t it? It is well known that pictures can lie and it had to be worth a look, to be sure, to be sure.

The bird was in the same place, on the wall of the valve tower walkway, when I arrived late afternoon and after a quick look, I set up my camera to get some digiscoped shots. Unfortunately, at the same time, an Anglian Water engineer proceeded down the walkway and entered the tower. The bird quickly took flight and I was left with the rather messy images, below.

While the bird did indeed show a lot of white in the wing (formed by unusually broad white fringes to median coverts, greater coverts and tertials – probably freshly moulted and unworn) and an isolated, triangular black breast patch, it was the latter which lent the impression of a greater extent of white to the head. Although there are published images (see here for example) of Amur Wagtail showing the same amount of white in the wing as this bird appears to, the ‘norm’ for Amur Wagtail is more of an extensive white ‘block’ which, when combined with clean white flanks, gives this race a much cleaner, more striking appearance than the bird at Pitsford. Indeed it’s the extensive grey and blackish flanks of the Pitsford individual which, at a glance, kill the chances of it being anything other than the Pied it actually is.

However, there is nothing wrong with flagging up anything which, at first sight, appears unusual – lest something juicy should slip the net …

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