Mediterranean Gull – a new breeding species for Northants

A new species is added to the list of birds breeding in Northamptonshire as Mediterranean Gulls nest for the first time at Stanwick Gravel Pits

Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Mediterranean Gulls have been appearing with increasing frequency among Black-headed Gulls breeding in the Nene Valley – particularly within the well-established Summer Leys colony. This appears to be a recent phenomenon, principally involving single birds which are apparently not sexually mature. Most remain for only a short time during spring but in 2015, a second-summer was discovered in the Summer Leys colony on 18th March, remaining there until 29th June. During this period, it established and held territory, continually displaying to the local Black-headed Gulls. This was repeated in 2016, with another second-summer visiting the colony for only a short duration on 20th-21st March. However, two adults appeared there little more than five weeks later, on 28th April, before relocating the following day to the Stanwick colony, where they were seen again on 11th-12th May. There were no subsequent sightings.

Fast forward to this year, 2017 and 5th April, when a pair was displaying among the Black-headed Gulls at Stanwick, after which they promptly disappeared. On 24th April two were again present – both wore BTO rings and one sported a black leg tag ‘SA30’, which has not yet been traced to source. Again, they were not subsequently reported but then two – amazingly a different pair – arrived in the Black-headed Gull colony on Rotary Island at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd May. Appearing settled, they remained difficult to observe in the island’s vegetation until 5th May.

The following day, 6th May, what was assumed to be the same pair appeared in Stanwick’s Black-headed Gull colony, where they were observed copulating and defending territory.

Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Mediterranean Gulls, Stanwick GP, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Nest construction ensued and eggs were laid, subsequently hatching, with the young visible within the colony. It was after this that fortune took a turn for the worse. During the first week in June the young had disappeared – assumed to have been predated by the local Lesser Black-backed Gulls – and by the end of the week both adults had also abandoned the site. Not a positive outcome for a first breeding attempt but, as this species continues to increase in the UK and indeed breeds in Cambridgeshire, we can surely look forward to further attempts in the future.

Thanks to Steve Fisher for providing information and to Bob Bullock for images.

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Technology and innovation lend visibility to heronry survey

With special consent from Natural England, Assistant Warden Mischa Cross explains how specialist equipment was used with careful planning to accurately survey nesting Grey Herons at Pitsford.

In early May 2017, the heronry at Pitsford Reservoir Nature Reserve was surveyed using a drone to see if a more accurate count of nests could be established with this method, rather than counting from on the ground. The trial proved very successful with 14 nests counted from the drone footage, compared with 10 nests counted from the ground.

Aerial footage of Pitsford Water Nature Reserve Heronry using a drone, May 2017. The nests are clearly visible and can easily be counted from the photographs. Young birds can be seen on the nests.

The survey was timed so that the eggs had hatched. This meant adult birds would not be sitting on the nests incubating eggs, as they may be inclined to leave the nest, risking damage or chilling of the eggs. One flight was sufficient to get the required footage and it lasted no longer than 10 minutes. The drone used was a DJI Phantom Vision 2+ v.3, which can fly up to a maximum height of 300ft. For this survey the height was set at 200ft so better quality images could be captured in an attempt to see if egrets were also using the area. It was hoped to get video footage but unfortunately this was unavailable on the day of the survey. The drone was piloted by fully qualified, CAA approved and insured pilot, Josh Hellon. The pilot was always in full manual control of the UAV/drone and it has a failsafe that returns it to the take-off point if there are any problems.

Observations were made from the ground while the drone was in the air to see how the birds in the area reacted to the presence of the drone. No obvious signs of disturbance were witnessed. As the eggs were hatched, the adult birds are likely to have been away from the nest collecting food.

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New email address for reporting bird news

Please use the new gmail address, below, for latest news reports and all further correspondence. Thanks.

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Rarity Round-up 27th May to 2nd June 2017

The calm after the storm. After some sporadic heavy rain during the first forty-eight hours, warmer weather set in as winds swung between west and south-east and temperatures edged momentarily into the high twenties. As May turned into June, the northward flow of wetland migrants enjoyed by all in the preceding weeks almost dried up and we entered a quiet period, enlivened for some at least by the brief appearance of an Arctic Skua on 2nd.

At Stanford Res the first-summer Eurasian White-fronted Goose visited again on 30th but was not alone in being the only winter visitor lingering ludicrously late at this site. A drake Garganey continued a run of intermittent appearances at Summer Leys, showing there on 28th, 1st and 2nd, while two – presumably a pair – were at Stanwick GP on 29th. The only other wildfowl during the period were Red-crested Pochards, which included a drake and a hybrid female at Pitsford Res on 27th and two drakes bouncing back and forth between Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR and Stanwick GP between 27th and 31st.

The latter site produced another late spring Bittern, which flew on to the A45 Lay-by Pit on 29th. On 2nd June, a Honey Buzzard was reported circling above Oundle before flying south-west, a Marsh Harrier flew east at Summer Leys on 27th, while an Osprey fishing at Stanford Res on 29th-30 and again on 2nd was perhaps not entirely unexpected, given the small number of breeding pairs in the region.

Grey Plover, Stanford Res, 2nd June 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Above average numbers of Avocets have occurred this spring and more appeared this week, with two at Stanwick GP on the evening of 28th, although they were nowhere to be seen the following day. The trickle of waders continued with two more Grey Plovers – one at Pitsford Res on 29th and the other at Stanford Res between 31st and 2nd, while a Turnstone visited Pitsford Res on 27th, followed by two more there on 31st. Hollowell Res produced the week’s only Greenshank, on 28th, while last week’s potentially record-breakingly late Jack Snipe proved officially to be just that, remaining there until at least 1st.

Turnstone, Pitsford Res, 31st May 2017 (Stuart Mundy). One of two present at this site on the same date.

Jack Snipe, Stanford Res, 31st May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Bird of the week, however, was the light morph adult Arctic Skua, which circled high above Daventry CP, late in the morning of 2nd, before drifting off north-west. Spring records are not unprecedented but even a stayer in autumn would be kinda nice …

After the full-on spring passage of Black Terns there was just one, at Pitsford Res, on 30th, when two Yellow-legged Gulls were at the same site. More unusual was the fly-over of two Hawfinches at Harrington AF on 29th – probably the first record for the site.

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First-summer Golden Plover

On 27th May, Bob Bullock found a European Golden Plover at the western end of Earls Barton Gravel Pits, where it remained until at least 29th May, when I managed to take the photos, below. We don’t usually see this species locally beyond mid-April so any solitary ‘Golden’ Plover occurring late in the spring is worth a second look – especially when it appears as dull and greyish as this one. Remember the first-summer American Golden Plover at Summer Leys from 13th to 17th May 2001?

When seen from a distance, in overcast conditions, the initial impression might have been that of Grey Plover – especially this spring, when we’ve had larger numbers than usual passing through. However, the bill is too small and neat, lacking Grey’s length and chunkiness.In general, this bird’s structure does not immediately match that of either American or Pacific Golden Plover, both of which are of slimmer proportions and more elegant with longer legs. Closer examination also reveals closed wings only marginally extending beyond the tail, so ruling out the much more noticeably longer-winged American, and five primary tips extending beyond tertials – the latter reaching only halfway down the tail (too short for Pacific).The lack of summer plumage this late in the year immediately suggests this is a first-summer and a closer examination confirms this. Upperparts are rather faded, there are few ‘golden’ spangles but many off-whitish ones and the rear flanks are barred (not so in full adult) and the tail feathers are barred off-white and brown, lacking adult’s yellowish chevron-like pattern,  as well as being rather worn.In sunlight, this bird appeared noticeably warmer-toned and, in case there was every any doubt about the identification, it gave the typical Golden Plover “puwee” call and when it flew a short distance on a couple of occasions it revealed white axillaries and underwings, instead of smoky-grey …

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The 2017 BTO House Martin Survey – Northamptonshire

We know surprisingly little about House Martins despite the fact that they breed alongside us, using our houses on which to build a nest made of hundreds of beakfuls of mud. Critically, we do not know why this species is in rapid decline in the UK. Currently, it is ‘Amber listed’ in the Birds of Conservation Concern listings, compiled by the UK’s leading conservation agencies.

The BTO is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s House Martin Nest Study. If you have House Martins nesting in your area, you could help collect vital data.

For further information, read more here

Alternatively, or for further advice, contact:

Ben Reeve
BTO Assistant Regional Rep for Northants
7 Rectory Close, Crick, Northants, NN6 7SY
Twitter: @NorthantsBTO
Personal Twitter: @BeardWarbler
01788 824413
07961 038455

Posted in Hirundines | 1 Comment

Late Spring Round-up 22nd April to 26th May 2017

An exceptional five weeks

‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings and Dunlins, Stanford Res, 17th May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

With most of the common summer visitors having arrived by the end of the period, the focus was clearly on wetland migrants in what has undoubtedly become the best spring, locally, for many years. More specifically, the period produced waders and terns in numbers, the likes of which we have not seen for a good few years, including a few potentially broken records. The main contributory factors were, firstly, the weather – particularly in the second week – when low cloud and rain combined with a prolonged period of easterlies to ‘down’ migrants across the county. Secondly, we have been blessed with lower than usual water levels at our reservoirs, following a rather dry winter. The draw-down at Stanford has also been a major influencer, providing the ideal habitat to attract migrant waders, twenty-five species of which have been recorded there so far this spring. Aside from all this, the county notched up Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt (again) and Red-rumped Swallow during this fast-moving five-week period.

Two winter visitors which have lingered or appeared later than the norm, giving rise to speculation, in some quarters, that their origins may be somewhat suspect, are the Whooper Swan at Stanford Res from 5th to 8th May and the long-staying – though mobile – first-summer Eurasian White-fronted Goose.

Whooper Swan, Stanford Res, 7th May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

From Pitsford to Daventry to Hollowell to Stanford, this individual has engaged in a reservoir round-robin. It was last seen at the latter site on 23rd May and, having appeared during a good winter for this species locally, it is likely to be a non-breeder in no hurry to depart, and perhaps deserves the benefit of the doubt. Back to things more seasonal and Summer Leys LNR was the principal location for Garganey, with probably three different birds over the period 6th to 23rd May, including two showy drakes on the scrape. Single drakes also visited Stanwick GP on 10th and 20th May and Clifford Hill GP on 18th May. Red-crested Pochards were still popping up here and there, with two at Thrapston GP on 30th April – one remaining until at least 13th May – one at Pitsford Res on 1st May and singles at Ditchford GP between 9th and 20th May, two there on 26th May and one at Stanwick GP on 20th-22nd May. The latter site held on to its long-staying female Scaup – believed by some to be not 100% genetically pure – until 18th May and another(?) female turned up at Daventry CP the following day, remaining there until 22nd May.

Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 20th May 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Stanford’s similarly long-staying first-year drake Long-tailed Duck remained there until 29th April, seemingly breaking all records for length of stay for this species locally, while another drake north of the dam at Pitsford Res added spice to a local bird race on 13th, remaining there until the following morning. Both of these reservoirs were clearly destined to deliver more sea ducks before the period was out, with two Common Scoters at Pitsford on 23rd April and one at Stanford on 12th May.

Common Scoters, Pitsford Res, 23rd April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

In keeping with the maritime theme, a chance Saturday evening visit by one birder to Pitsford, on 6th May, produced the first Black-throated Diver for five years. Those intent on catching up with this fine summer-plumaged Gavia had to move quickly – it was airborne and off north at 05.20 the next morning …

Black-throated Diver, Pitsford Res, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Many have been wondering how long it will be before Bitterns breed in the county as they edge ever closer, as well as being seen with increasing frequency outside the traditional winter season. Hopes were raised and dashed as one was seen at Summer Leys on 28th and 29th April but it disappeared thereafter. Next year, perhaps, unless Great White Egrets beat them to it. This may not be as unlikely as it sounds, as this is another species pushing the winter envelope and appearing increasingly later in spring – frequently in summer dress. Three during the period included one flying north over Clifford Hill GP on 28th April and singles at Summer Leys on 1st, 6th 9th and 10th May and at Pitsford Res on 2nd, 6th and 7th May.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 9th May 2017 (Mike Alibone)

We can forget breeding, though, for one species which continues to tease and tantalise as far is its appearances in the county are concerned: Glossy Ibis. Itchy feet does not even begin to describe the condition afflicting all five individuals which have now visited Northants since the species was first recorded here in 2002. So, the one discovered at Summer Leys at 11.30 on 23rd May duly conformed and was up, up and away at 13.35, never to be seen again – or was it? Three days later, an early morning scan across the pools immediately south of Irthlingborough, west of the A6 bridge and … there it was! Within minutes, however, it had flitted further west, ending up on an island in one of the lakes off Greenway before quickly, and mysteriously, melting away …

Glossy Ibis, Summer Leys LNR, 23rd May 2017 (Alan Coles)

Migrating raptors, it could be argued, are also difficult to catch up with. The period’s best included a male Honey Buzzard west over Great Brington on 16th May, single May Marsh Harriers at Summer Leys on 7th, over Billing GP on 8th, Stanford Res on 13th, Stanwick GP on 22nd and Boddington Res on 23rd, while a male Hen Harrier flew west between Irchester and Wollaston on 12th May.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 7th May 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Meanwhile, Ospreys continued to drift around north Northants, with singles on several dates at Pitsford Res, Naseby Res and Harrington AF, while two Rutland-ringed individuals visited Welford Res on 21st May.

Topping the bill of the wader listing, the Black-winged Stilts returned for an encore at Stanford Res on 23rd April. Photographs suggested they were two of the three present three days previously, on 20th April but perhaps they were not.

Black-winged Stilts, Stanford Res, 23rd April 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Stranger things have happened. The same site produced an Avocet briefly on 18th May, following one at Summer Leys on 6th May and two there on 10th. And so started a remarkable run of waders at the reservoirs and in the River Nene Valley.

Avocet, Summer Leys LNR, 6th May 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

The first Grey Plovers appeared on 30th April, when three were at Clifford Hill GP and two arrived at Pitsford Res – the exposed mud between the dam and the mouth of Moulton Grange Bay subsequently proving a popular draw for a number of waders during the period. Stanford managed at least four – possibly six – between 1st and 7th May and singles were at Clifford Hill GP on 1st, Earls Barton GP on 5th and 6th, Stanwick GP on 5th and 12th (with two there on 9th), five were at Summer Leys on 6th – four of which departed east and were seen shortly afterward over Ditchford GP – and two were at Ditchford GP on 9th May.

Grey Plover, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Grey Plover, Earls Barton GP, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Grey Plover, Summer Leys LNR, 6th May 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Back on the border with Leicestershire, Stanford was continuing to do well, producing the highest spring count of ‘Tundra’ Ringed Plovers (twenty-seven on 17th May), while five localities between them produced a total of thirty-five Whimbrels between 22nd April and 14th May, with a maximum of seven at Pitsford Res on 30th April.

Whimbrel, Stanford Res, 23rd April 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Whimbrel, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Whimbrel, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

What Black-tailed Godwits lacked in number of records they made up for in numbers of birds. Apart from singles at Stanford on 24th April and Ditchford GP on 7th May, a flock exceeding three hundred flew north-west near Scaldwell on 28th April while, not on quite the same scale, Bar-tailed Godwits also appeared in respectable numbers. The largest flock comprised at least thirty-two in flight over Summer Leys on 5th May in addition to five on the ground there on the same date.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Summer Leys LNR, 5th May 2017 (Alan Coles)

Bar-tailed Godwits, Stanford Res, 30th April 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Bar-tailed Godwits, Clifford Hill GP, 1st May 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Stanford produced singles on 22nd and 24th April, at least eight there on 30th April, followed by two on 5th-6th May and three the following day. Elsewhere, Clifford Hill GP enjoyed a run of two on 30th April, three on 1st May, followed by seven on 5th May and singles visited Hollowell Res on 1st-2nd May, Summer Leys on 3rd May, Daventry CP on 5th May and Ditchford GP on 9th-10th May.Respectable numbers of Turnstones also appeared during May, with three at Stanford on 5th followed by two there on 16th, singles at Ditchford GP on 5th, Summer Leys on 8th and Stanwick GP on 12th, two at Daventry CP on 19th and one at Pitsford Res on 25th-26th.

Turnstone, Stanford Res, 16th May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Much scarcer, however, was Knot, of which there were three, including one colour-ringed individual on the mud at the mouth Pitsford’s Moulton Grange Bay on 30th April followed, uncannily, by a different, unringed bird in exactly the same place the next day. Proof, if ever there was, that the ‘two-bird’ theory should sometimes be given more credence than it actually is! The third was found at Summer Leys on the evening of 5th May, remaining only until the early morning of 6th. Ruffs were scarcer than might have been expected under the circumstances. One remained at Summer Leys between 22nd and 24th April, further singles visited Ditchford GP on 29th April and Clifford Hill GP on 5th May and four were at Stanford Res on 3rd May.

Knot, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Ruff, Stanford Res, 3rd May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Early evening on 9th May marked the discovery of a Temminck’s Stint just south of the causeway at Pitsford Res. It was the first in the county since May 2013 and it obligingly remained there through the following morning. Pitsford also produced the spring’s only Little Stint – again on the Moulton Grange mud – on 14th May. The ‘magic month’ continued with a far stronger Sanderling passage than is usual, with all records falling within the first twenty days. On 1st, there was one on that hallowed mud at Pitsford and two at Clifford Hill GP, one of which remained the following day. Two appeared at Stanford on 6th, followed by singles at Pitsford and Hollowell Reservoirs on 8th and 10th respectively, while the 12th saw two more at Stanford, another at Pitsford and three on the new diggings at the western end of Earls Barton GP. The 17th, however, was the species’ big day, with three at Stanwick GP and a massive thirteen at Stanford – the latter likely to be a record-breaker, at least in recent history – and a lingering bird at Pitsford on 19th-20th is likely to have been the last one for this spring.

Temminck’s Stint, Pitsford Res, 10th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Temminck’s Stint, Pitsford Res, 10th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Temminck’s Stint and Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 10th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 14th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Sanderling, Clifford Hill GP, 1st May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Among the many Dunlins passing through – the maximum being eighteen at Stanford on 17th – came the county’s second and third ‘Greenland’ Dunlins – one with the aforementioned Stanford flock and the other at Hollowell Res on 23rd May. This diminutive arctica race must surely occur more here frequently but it is less than straightforward to identify.

Spotted Redshank, Stanford Res, 5th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Surprisingly, with all that beckoning mud, there was only one record of Spotted Redshank during the period – two at Stanford Res on 5th May but it was not wasted on Greenshanks, numbers of which were almost on a par with those we expect to see in autumn. In summary, eight localities produced more than thirty individuals between them, including the maximum count of nine at Stanford Res from 5th to 9th May.

Greenshanks, Stanford Res, 25th and 29th April 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Wood Sandpipers appeared in marginally above average numbers, though, with the first at Earls Barton GP on 29th-30th April moving to nearby Summer Leys on the latter date, where numbers varied between one and three from 6th to 9th May.

Wood Sandpiper, Earls Barton GP, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Wood Sandpiper, Stanford Res, 1st May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

Stanford of course produced its own, with singles in May on 1st-2nd and 5th and a potentially record-breakingly late Jack Snipe also remained there throughout the period. Frequently to be found feeding well out in the open on the Leicestershire bank, it crossed the line when it flew and entered Northants airspace on 15th May.

Jack Snipe, Stanford Res, 16th May 2017 (Chris Hubbard)

But enough of waders. The county enjoyed its best spring for Little Terns for a good many years as seven made their way through during the seven-day period, 29th April to 5th May. The first was at Summer Leys on 29th, followed by singles at Pitsford Res, Stanford Res and Daventry CP the next day. Further singles appeared at Summer Leys on 1st, Stanford on 3rd and Pitsford on 5th. There was also a half-decent Black Tern passage between 23rd April and 14th May, during which between ninety and a hundred were recorded from a total of nine localities. Double-figure counts – all on 30th April – came from Pitsford Res, with two flocks of twelve and twenty-three, and Thrapston GP, where there were eleven on Aldwincle Lake. Following earlier records, the spring was not yet done with Sandwich Terns, one spending just five minutes at Hollowell Res on 30th April and two less than half an hour at Stanwick GP on 19th May, while Arctic Terns appeared in good numbers between 22nd April and 20th May. The big day for this species was undoubtedly 27th April, when at least one hundred and ten were at Stanford Res and one hundred and twelve Sterna terns – the majority Arctics – were at Thrapston GP. In summary, records came from a further five localities, with sizeable flocks of approximately fifty-five at Pitsford and between thirty and thirty-five at Boddington Res – both on 30th April.

Little Tern, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Little Tern, Pitsford Res, 30th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 26th April 2017 (Alan Coles)

Black Tern, Earls Barton GP, 10th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

In comparison to terns, Little Gulls were in surprisingly short supply. On 29th April, an adult visited Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP, followed the next day by another adult at Pitsford Res. On 1st May, an adult and a first-summer were at Clifford Hill GP and on 11th May seven – all first-summers – visited Stanford Res, where one remained the following day. Single adults were also found at both Daventry CP and Summer Leys on 19th May.

Adult Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 29th April 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Adult Little Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 19th May 2017 (Ricky Sinfield)

Two adult Mediterranean Gulls appeared at Stanwick GP on 24th April and then caused a stir at Summer Leys between 3rd and 5th May, when it looked as if they might be taking up residence in the Black-headed Gull colony there. However, it was not to be and they were subsequently back at Stanwick on 6th. One of these, or another, was seen flying west along the River Nene at Wellingborough Embankment on 10th and then came a run of first-summers – involving at least two different birds – from Stanwick on 12th May and daily there from 18th to 22nd May with one also appearing at Summer Leys on 13th May.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 6th May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

First-summer Mediterranean Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 13th May 2017 (Alan Coles)

Not to left out, larger scarce gulls were slimly represented by a Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford Res on 22nd April and a first-summer Caspian Gull at Daventry CP on 11th May.

With all the wetland action, passerines and anything not exclusively associated with water have seemingly taken a back seat. Or have they? As if to redress the balance, Northamptonshire’s fourth-ever Red-rumped Swallow appeared with an influx of House Martins at Daventry CP on 15th May. Present from mid-afternoon until at least 18.30, it remained highly mobile, distant and would disappear for lengthy periods. Three out of the county’s four have now been at Daventry CP – and they’ve all been found there by Gary Pullan! The first was at Ditchford GP in September 1984 and the subsequent two at Daventry were in April 1999 and May 2009. We can surely expect more to come …

Just one Wood Warbler appeared this spring – a singing male at Pitsford Res on 29th April, which became increasingly difficult to see as the day progressed, similarly only one Pied Flycatcher was reported, via Birdtrack, at Hinton-in-the-Hedges on 6th May.

A Black Redstart was present on buildings in Wellingborough town centre on 23rd May – again, another poor spring for this species as well as for Common Redstart with singles only at Pitsford Res on 29th April and Clifford Hill GP the following day, although a singing male has been present in a suitable breeding area in the west of the county for the past four weeks. It’s been the same sorry story for Whinchats in what surely must be the worst spring for many years for this species – just two, one at Earls Barton GP on 29th April and one the following day at Clifford Hill GP.

In contrast, there were still plenty of Northern Wheatears coming through, including some identified as ‘Greenland’ Wheatears, although most – if not all – are likely to be of this race in late spring. In April, Harrington AF held up to five between 23rd and 28th, two were at Earls Barton GP from 23rd to 29th, two also visited Priors Haw on 24th and singles were at Ditchford GP on 26th, Desborough Airfield on 28th and Clifford Hill GP on 30th, followed by six at the latter site the following day and one was at Gretton on 11th May.

Northern Wheatears, Harrington AF, 23rd April 2017 (Alan Coles)

Northern Wheatear, Harrington AF, 23rd April 2017 (Alan Coles)

Northern Wheatear, Harrington AF, 25th April 2017 (Martin Swannell)

Male Greenland Wheatear, Earls Barton GP, 23rd April 2017 (Mike Alibone)

Male Greenland Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 1st May 2017 (Bob Bullock)

Continuing a run of records, another male ‘Channel’ Wagtail paid a brief visit to Stanford Res on 3rd May and single female-type Blue-headed Wagtails were at Pitsford Res on 1st May and at Hollowell Res on 12th May. And, after a fantastic showing of White Wagtails earlier this spring, numbers dwindled to four at Stanford Res on 24th and, on 30th, one was present there, one was at Pitsford Res and three visited Earls Barton GP.

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