With winds showing a bias toward the southerly quarter, the UK saw its hottest day of the year so far with the national temperature peaking at 26°C on 17th, when Northants also reached 24°C. Intermittent, heavy showers again influenced what was seen on the ground, although this related more to numbers of commoner waders than anything else – and this week’s rare was in the air …
Predictably, ducks were down to just the one species, Garganey, with single drakes at both Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP on 15th and at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 19th, while the long-staying pair remained at Thrapston GP throughout the period.
New in this week – and the first in the county for 2022 – were two flamboyant and very showy Black-necked Grebes at Stanwick, sparking a mini-rush to see them on 19th. It seems highly likely this was the same duo that subsequently put in an appearance in Scaldwell Bay, at Pitsford Res, the following day.
Meanwhile, back at Stanwick, the Glossy Ibis remained ensconced on the Main Lake, while egret numbers tumbled, with Cattle Egrets down to one at Summer Leys on 14th and two at Stanwick on 16th and the only Great Egret was one at Earls Barton GP on 17th.
But as far as raptors are concerned, outdoor gatherings have the potential to be rewarding. Go to a BBQ, keep your eyes on the skies and you never know, you might just feature. Such was the case on 15th, when a male Honey Buzzard cruised over, adding much more than a sizzle to a social gathering in Byfield. Commoner, of course, but no less exciting, a Marsh Harrier appeared at Summer Leys late on 16th and was still present the following morning.
And so to waders … For Grey Plovers there are good years and there are bad years and, to date, 2022 falls squarely into the latter category. With just the Stanwick short-stayer on offer so far this spring, an even less obliging bird graced DIRFT 3 for one evening only, on 18th.
While the tendency is for spring records to outnumber those in autumn, there are, historically, still plenty of the latter and even a small number in winter, although the trend line over the last twenty years rolls out to reveal a decline – albeit a shallow one. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, there were more Black-necked Grebes in the county than Grey Plovers …
Equally short-staying were four Turnstones at Summer Leys on the evening of 15th. Back at DIRFT 3, though, and featuring only for their continuing exceptionally high totals, Ringed Plovers numbered twenty-seven on 15th and twenty-one on 19th, with sixteen on the adjacent Lilbourne Meadows NR the following day. Where reasonable views were obtained many showed characteristics of, and were assumed to be, the northern race tundrae, although we should not be overlooking the fact that psammodroma, which is closely similar and breeds no further away than Iceland, could also be occurring.
DIRFT 3 also produced a Sanderling on 15th and the week’s only Whimbrel was one near Daventry on 19th, while Ruffs were found only at Summer Leys, where breeding plumage males were present on 18th and 20th and one in non-breeding attire was seen on 19th.
With tern passage appearing to be fast on the wane, two Arctic Terns were at Clifford Hill GP on 15th.
Rounding up some odds and sods, the year’s only known Turtle Dove was at an undisclosed location in the north of the county on 19th, a somewhat unseasonal Short-eared Owl visited Harrington AF on 14th and Northern Wheatears were down to four at Clifford Hill GP on 15th and one between Yardley Hastings and Easton Maudit on 19th.
Beginning with brisk north-easterlies, which rapidly swung to sustained south-westerlies, this week’s weather played a key role in producing the goods, most particularly on the one significantly rainy day of the period, 11th May. Aside from a lingering White Stork, waders were once again the centre of attention, with a nifty Pectoral Sandpiper stepping up to provide this week’s crème de la crème – albeit fleetingly …
While this was happening, ducks were dwindling, with just one drake Garganey at Summer Leys LNR on 11th and the pair still present at Thrapston GP on 13th. Drake Red-crested Pochards continued to add colour to the week’s proceedings, with one visiting Summer Leys on 8th and two on the dam at Stanford Res on 13th.
Back in the marshy meadow at Lower Barnwell Lock was last week’s White Stork, which established a routine of turning up for a couple of hours or so during the mornings, on 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th.
Further up the Nene Valley, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis was going nowhere fast, seeing out another full week on site.
Stanwick also continued to hold up to five Cattle Egrets between 7th and 11th and one visited Summer Leys on 11th and 13th. Great Egrets, meanwhile, were bumping along the bottom, with singles at both Hollowell Res and Stanwick on 8th, DIRFT 3 on 11th and Summer Leys on 12th.
Being down to just one species, the week’s raptors can be quickly summed up, as Ospreys were seen at Biggin Lake (Oundle) on 7th, Hollowell on 8th and over Barton Seagrave on 13th.
Bird of the week, however, was the long-overdue Pectoral Sandpiper, which was found at the good old easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys, after the rain, during the early evening of 11th. This resulted in a mad dash, by some, to see it before the light faded and darkness closed in. Despite reports to the contrary, it would appear to have departed early the following day, long before many had awoken from their morning slumber.
Although there have been more than 40 county records, this is the first since 2011, when singles were at Pitsford Res from 10th to 17th September and Stanford Res from 23rd to 30th September. It is also only the fourth to be recorded in spring.
Summer Leys was also among four localities to briefly host two highly ambulatory Avocets on 7th. First located at Stanwick early doors, they quickly moved west to Clifford Hill GP before swiftly heading back east to Summer Leys and then rapidly on to Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows. Another was subsequently reported from the pool east of Warmington Mill, on the evening of 9th.
Further windfalls resulting from the steady precipitation of 11th appeared in the form of a record flock of Ringed Plovers, of which a minimum of forty-six was counted at DIRFT 3, including at least two Tundra Ringed Plovers. At least thirty were still present there the following day. Also on 11th, the same site produced a Greenland Dunlin (race arctica), while another showing characteristics of this race was present at Summer Leys on 11th-12th. After the first in May 2013, one in May 2015 and two in May 2017, these would constitute only the 5th and 6th records for the county, if accepted.
This week’s Whimbrels were restricted to two flying east over the Brampton Valley at Maidwell on 8th and, similarly, Bar-tailed Godwits, were down to one at Stanwick on 7th-8th and last week’s three still at Pitsford, dropping to two there from 9th until the end of the period.
Two more Turnstones turned up, both of them on 13th, at Pitsford and Lilbourne Meadows NR.
It was Summer Leys which had the monopoly on Ruffs, with three on 11th, four on 12th and two on 13th, while Pitsford pulled a Sanderling on 8th, five visited DIRFT 3 on 11th and further singles were at Stanwick on 11th, DIRFT 3 on 12th and Summer Leys on 12th-13th. The only Greenshanks of the week were single birds at Stanford and Summer Leys on 12th.
Gulls this week were at a premium – or not, depending on your opinion, and a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 11th was all the county could muster during the period. Not so for terns, though, with Arctic Terns still on the move and 7th delivering two to Clifford Hill and separate fly-through flocks of seventeen and five to Stanford. A single Black Tern paid a brief visit to Pitsford the following day.
Pretty much taking a back seat in the week’s proceedings, passerines were few and far between. After the year’s first, last week, another two Whinchats were found at Upper Harlestone on 7th and at Stanford on 12th – a somewhat meagre total.
Northern Wheatears were down to singles at Summer Leys on 7th, Clifford Hill on 8th, Ashton STW on 9th and Earls Barton GP on 11th, while Clifford Hill produced two showing characteristics of Greenland Wheatear on 7th and another one on 11th.
Stepping into May sees expectations move up a gear. It’s the month most likely to produce the icing on the cake where spring migrants are concerned and, while this week’s mixed weather conditions made predictions a tough call, some of those most highly anticipated visitors turned up on cue.
So, another week, another White Stork and in terms of highlights, waders again proliferated, those at the scarce end of the spectrum refusing to stick around for any length of time. In the same vein, this week’s quota of rare terns proved even less cooperative. Such are the joys of spring …
Seemingly now part of this year’s spring furniture, Garganeys remained at both Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP, with three at the first of these two sites on 3rd and at least two at the latter on 4th. The drake Red-crested Pochard also remained at Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 5th.
Back on the menu, at least for some, was a White Stork … or maybe two – both of which proved to be as slippery as butter. On 30th, one flew over Oundle Rugby Club and it would appear logical to assume this was the same bird relocated on the ground at Lower Barnwell Lock, briefly, early in the morning on 5th. It didn’t stay, of course, and what was presumably the same individual was again seen heading high west over Summer Leys during the afternoon of the same day. What we can be sure of, though, was that it was not the same bird as that which visited Summer Leys and Stanwick GP late on 21st/early on 22nd April. The latter was traced to the White Stork Project via a numbered ring on its left tibia, while this week’s bird had no such ring, having instead a small metal ring on its right tarsus.
Meanwhile, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis remained there until at least 3rd.
Both Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets slipped down into just single birds, with one of the former flying west at Summer Leys on 1st and at Stanwick GP on 2nd-3rd, while a Great Egret was also at Stanwick on 3rd.
Raptors, too, were in short supply – again being limited to the same two species as last week … and the week before. An Osprey flew north over New Duston, Northampton on 30th and singles visited Hollowell Res on 2nd, 3rd and 5th, while a Marsh Harrier appeared briefly at Stanford Res on 2nd.
Waderwise, though, things were on the up – looking up, that is, as catching up with the best required a fairly swift response. Topping this week’s bill was a Curlew Sandpiper on golden pond: DIRFT 3. Found just after midday on 1st, it remained until late afternoon, after which it apparently melted away.
Time, perhaps, to reflect on just what this unassuming drainage pool on the DIRFT industrial development site has produced over the last four years. So, we have at least twenty-two species of wader, including Temminck’s Stint, eleven species of gull, including the county’s only proven Baltic Gull, Spoonbill, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and some unquestionably dodgy ducks. Not a bad haul to date but, as the construction of new buildings is fast encroaching, for how much longer will it continue to deliver?
Other waders proved popular while they were available, these including single Whimbrels at Earls Barton GP on 1st and 4th and two at Thrapston GP on the same date, rising to three on 2nd.
Bar-tailed Godwits, however, were easier to come by, with singles at Clifford Hill GP, DIRFT 3 and Pitsford Res on 2nd, two at Hardwater Lake (Earls Barton GP) on 3rd-4th, one at adjacent Summer Leys on 3rd-5th, one at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 4th and three at Pitsford Res on 4th-6th.
The first Turnstone of the year hit the shoreline of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 2nd, quickly followed by three very short-stayers at Stanwick the next day.
Two Ruffs were at Summer Leys on 30th, followed by one there on 3rd and one also visited Clifford Hill GP on 2nd, while single Sanderlings visited DIRFT 3 on 4th and Clifford Hill on 6th. With most having long departed, Jack Snipes are unusual in May but one was still at Summer Leys on 1st and another lingered at Hollowell on 3rd. More Wood Sandpipers came through this week, starting with an obliging bird at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 3rd-4th and a couple of fleeting singles at Summer Leys on 4th and 6th, the latter site producing three stunningly summer-plumaged and equally fleeting Spotted Redshanks on 3rd which, after leaving Summer Leys, were found not too long afterwards in Lincolnshire, at Deeping Lakes, north of Peterborough. The only Greenshank of the week was at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 4th-5th.
After last week’s impressive numbers of Little Gulls, there was none during the period. Instead, two adult Mediterranean Gulls flew west over Summer Leys on 2nd and what was presumably the same two were back there, on Gull Island, briefly on 5th. Otherwise, it was down to a short-staying fourth-summer Caspian Gull at Daventry CP to keep the side going, on 3rd.
While terns were clearly more in evidence this week, the scarcest played hardest to get, with 3rd May seeing a flock of six Sandwich Terns flying non-stop north-east over Stanwick, followed a while later by a Little Tern paying the briefest visit to Ditchford’s IL&M reserve before moving swiftly on. The afternoon of same date also produced three Black Terns, the year’s first, at Boddington Res, where they lingered into the evening.
In better numbers than last week, more Arctic Terns came through, with top tallies including fourteen at Stanford Res on 2nd and six at Thrapston GP on 4th. Elsewhere, Stanwick produced three on 3rd, the gravel pits at Ringstead and Clifford Hill hosting two apiece on the same date, while the latter locality held singles on 2nd and 5th and further singles were at Pitsford on 30th and Summer Leys on 3rd.
Passerines, though, proved to be a puzzle. While one of last week’s female Ring Ouzels lingered at Honey Hill until 2nd, there were no Common Redstarts this week. In fact, so far this year, Black Redstarts have outnumbered their commoner congener, with the latest one to be found near Little Brington on 5th.
The year’s first Whinchats pitched up, perhaps a tad later than expected, starting with a male at Hollowell Res on 1st-2nd, swiftly followed by further birds at both Elkington and Priors Hall, Corby on 2nd and, on 5th, twos at Clifford Hill GP and Stanford Res and one in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.
Found at no less than nine localities, Northern Wheatears were widespread, with the highest site total of five at DIRFT 3 on 2nd. Elsewhere during the week, ones and twos were at Boddington, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington AF, Honey Hill, Priors Hall (Corby), Sixfields (Northampton) and Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby).
Sharing the stage with Common Redstart, another passerine which has been strangely low in numbers so far this spring is White Wagtail. Just one was seen this week – on the dam at Stanford Res on 1st.
The continuing easterlies at last delivered and a veritable windfall of migrants kicked off the week from day one, with a cornucopian rush of Little Gulls taking pole position in the proceedings. Waders, too, were prolific, including a Dotterel on the Cambridgeshire border, which served to round the week off nicely.
New arrivals of standard summer visitors were, however, down to the barest minimum.
Wildfowl numbers, too, were unsurprisingly low, with 24th seeing three Garganeys at Thrapston GP plus a drake at Stanwick GP, while another drake visited Summer Leys LNR on 28th. Last week’s drake Red-crested Pochard remained on the fishing lake at Wicksteed Park, Kettering, on the latter date but there was no sign this week of Ringstead GP’s long-staying female Ring-necked Duck, which now appears to have departed.
The same cannot be said, though, for the Glossy Ibis, which completed another full week at Stanwick, where it has now notched up two full months on site.
The eight Cattle Egrets remained at Stanwick on 23rd, dwindling to six by 28th and one was between Summer Leys and Great Doddington on the first of these two dates with, presumably, the same individual paying a visit to the reserve proper on the latter date, before moving back out to Dod. Great Egrets, during the period were limited to site maxima of four at Stanwick on 23rd and singles at Ditchford GP on 25th-27th, Hollowell Res on 25th, Fawsley Park Lakes on 26th and Summer Leys on 28th.
Raptor numbers were down on last week, as well as being limited to the same two species – Osprey and Marsh Harrier – with singles of the former at Summer Leys on 24th and Hollowell on 29th and of the latter over the reedbed at Stortons GP on 23rd.
Heading up the cast of this week’s waders was a not too shabby male Dotterel, found in a pea field at Hemington on the last day of the period. For most observers it kept its distance and was cloaked in heat haze. Over the years, the pea and bean fields in this area have produced five out of the county’s eleven records to date (see here for details).
This week also saw the first Grey Plover of the year arrive at Stanwick on the evening of 23rd, remaining only until early the following morning. Whimbrels continued to trickle through in small numbers, which included three at Clifford Hill GP on 26th and singles at Summer Leys on 24th, 25th and 28th, at adjacent Earls Barton GP on 25th and 28th and at Stanwick on 29th.
Bar-tailed Godwits were the order of the day on 23rd, when a not insignificant rush produced a flock of thirteen flying north-east over Byfield, two or three at Clifford Hill GP and singles at DIRFT 3, Earls Barton, Stanwick and Summer Leys.
More followed, with further singles at Clifford Hill on 29th, Summer Leys on 24th-25th and 27th and at nearby Hardwater Lake (Earls Barton GP) on 26th-27th, the later keeping close company with the week’s only Black-tailed Godwit.
Summer Leys continued to hang on to one or two Ruffs throughout the period, while the ‘magic 23rd’ delivered five Sanderlings to the reserve, followed by one the next day and another at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North) on 25th.
Keeping the stars and stripes flying, a residual Jack Snipe remained at Hollowell throughout the week, while the first true migrant (we believe) Wood Sandpiper hit Summer Leys briefly on 28th. Greenshanks continued to move through, with two at DIRFT 3 on 23rd and one on 24th, one visited adjacent Lilbourne Meadows NR on the latter date, one appeared at Ditchford on 26th and one was at Summer Leys on 28th-29th.
As far as gulls were concerned, those of the smaller persuasion had the stage all to themselves this week – and what a performance they gave! Yes, Little Gulls barrelled in on the first day of the period and by the end of it, at least thirty-two were present together at Summer Leys. Elsewhere numbers were none too shoddy, either, with 23rd also seeing thirteen at Clifford Hill GP, six at Daventry CP, five at Pitsford Res and one at Boddington Res. Numbers had dropped by the following day, when three were found at Thrapston GP and one was at Summer Leys, while 25th saw single adults at Hollowell and Stanwick, two adults were at Pitsford on 26th and a rather obliging flock of seven put on a fine show, up close and personal, at Stanwick on 29th.
Unsurprisingly, more Arctic Terns came through – albeit in small numbers – including two or three at Summer Leys on 25th, when two were also at Boddington and Stanwick. Two were again reported from Boddington the following day, when four were at Stanwick on 27th and one paid the briefest of visits to Stanford on 28th.
Again, it wasn’t a particularly eventful week for passerines, which were limited to three species and, once more, included last week’s (and the week before’s) spill-over Ring Ouzels at Honey Hill, where single males were present on 23rd-24th and 28th-29th and a male and female were also seen on 27th. Last week’s male, was still at West Farndon on 23rd-24th and females were seen between Great Doddington and Summer Leys on 27th and at Harrington AF on 26th-29th.
Single male Common Redstarts were also reported at the latter site on 24th and 29th.
This week’s Northern Wheatears maxed out at seven on Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 29th but elsewhere, numbers were restricted to three or four at Harrington on 26th-29th, two near Piddington on 26th and singles at Boddington Res on 26th-27th, Summer Leys on 28th and at Clifford Hill GP and Pitsford Res on 29th.
Last week’s warm, southerly airstream continued for the first half of the period but by mid-week, the winds had turned easterly as a result of a high pressure system developing over Scandinavia. While this change promised much, it did, in fact, deliver rather less than expected and this week’s two ‘standout’ birds – majestic as they were – hailed from two very different UK reintroduction schemes.
Following a rush of new summer visitors last week, this week proved to be much, much quieter, with new pins on the map at a premium.
The cast of wildfowl begins with the continued presence of Garganeys, including the single drake hanging on at Summer Leys until 20th, when it was joined again briefly by two more. Thrapston GP’s pair remained throughout the period and, new in, a drake visited Stanford Res on 19th. Also new in this week was a drake Red-crested Pochard on the fishing lake at Wicksteed Park, Kettering, on 19th-20th, while Ringstead GP’s female Ring-necked Duck remained faithful to Kinewell Lake until at least 20th.
Following last week’s fly-over White Stork, what seems highly likely to have been the same bird caused a stir, this time on the ground, just north of Summer Leys LNR on the evening of 21st. Shortly after its discovery, it flew north-east and was then picked up again flying north-east over Stanwick before being relocated on a small pool next to North Lake there, allowing a handful of people to catch up with it before it flew off, once more. Early next morning it was back, when the ring on its left tibia was readily readable as ‘GB46’, allowing a bit of track and trace to be effected and its history to be unveiled.
It quickly emerged that GB46 is a well-travelled, 5-year old female which originally came from Poland. She was brought to the UK in early 2018 after sustaining an injury in the wild and was held at the project’s satellite site in Surrey before being released in August 2019. She then spent the rest of 2019 and 2020 exploring the UK and after being seen on the Isle of Wight on 18th September 2020, a sighting in Bergen, followed on 16th April 2021. She was then reported from the Netherlands at the end of March this year and was most recently reported in Aberdeenshire last week (The White Stork Project, per Chris Sidebottom). All good and interesting stuff but there will be some who may be a tad disappointed that this was not a truly wild bird …
Meanwhile, not a stone’s throw away, the Glossy Ibis remained on the Main Lake at Stanwick all week.
And it looks like Stanwick also took back all its Cattle Egrets, recently on loan to nearby Woodford, with the full eight reappearing there between 18th and 21st, although two visited Ringstead on 22nd. During the period, Stanwick also held the highest number of Great Egrets, four on 16th, while three were at Ditchford GP on 19th and singles were at Stortons GP on 17th and at Summer Leys between 18th and 20th.
This week’s raptors kicked off with a White-tailed Eagle at Stanford on 16th, when it stuck to the Leicestershire side of the reservoir. The next morning, however, it made the crossing to Northamptonshire and lingered in nearby trees before heading off south. In parallel with the White Stork, it emanated from the currently running UK reintroduction scheme and has been identified as second-year female, ‘G819’, from the Isle of Wight. It was subsequently tracked heading east, to the north of Corby, later in the day.
The usual scattering of Ospreys included singles at Hollowell on 16th, 17th and 20th, Pitsford Res on 16th, Thrapston on 17th and Stanford on 20th and 22nd. Fly-through Marsh Harriers were at Stanford on 17th, Thrapston on 19th and over the Brampton Valley on 20th.
Waders continued to trickle through and, after the year’s first Whimbrels last week, more followed with two arriving at Clifford Hill GP on 20th and singles at both Stanwick and Summer Leys on 22nd.
Four Black-tailed Godwits over Summer Leys on 16th constituted a rather meager offering of this species this week and, following the year’s first at Stanwick on 20th March, Summer Leys produced a Bar-tailed Godwit on 17th while, nearby, Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake held two from 17th to 18th, one remaining until the week’s end.
Summer Leys continued to hang on to one or two Ruffs throughout the period and a Jack Snipe on 21st, while two of the latter species were at Hollowell on 16th, with one there on 18th and 20th. A further push of Greenshanks this week included two at Pitsford on 16th, one at Summer Leys on 18th, two at DIRFT 3 on the same date with one there on 20th, two at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 21st, one at Ditchford on the same date and four at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd.
And it looks like this is the week we wave goodbye to the Wood Sandpiper at Upton CP, where it remained until 19th. A significant drop in water level reduced its favoured building site flood pool to residual puddles by mid-week. Time to move on …
Gulls this week were limited in numbers. The two adult Mediterranean Gulls remained at Stanwick throughout the period, while two – an adult and a second-summer – flew west at Ringstead on 17th. Elsewhere, it was Yellow-legged Gulls which attempted to fill the holes, with an adult at Pitsford on 18th and a second-summer at Clifford Hill GP on 20th.
Following last week’s fly-through Sandwich Terns at Summer Leys, four more headed east over Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 22nd. The year’s first Arctic Tern appeared at Clifford Hill on 16th and was quickly followed by five at Summer Leys on 19th and four flying north-east over Stanwick the next day.
Very much overshadowed by everything above, passerines were limited to last week’s spill-over Ring Ouzels at Honey Hill, where four were still present on 16th, with two or three remaining until at least 20th. A new bird, a male, was found at West Farndon on 21st and was still present the following day.
This week’s Northern Wheatears comprised two at Borough Hill on 16th and one between Teeton and Hollowell on the same date, one at Clifford Hill on 18th, three at Harrington AF and two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 20th and one at Earls Barton GP on 21st.
A largely settled week, weatherwise, saw a sustained southerly airstream develop across western Europe, culminating in the highest temperature of the year so far, a balmy 21°C, locally, on 15th. With apparently perfect conditions for northward migration, it seems the floodgates finally opened and we were where we should be by mid-April – in the thick of it, with arrivals of summer visitors and, on the back of that, some teasers …
It was very much a case of déjà vu as far as this week’s wildfowl were concerned, with four of last week’s Summer Leys Garganeys, including three fine drakes, remaining until 13th, after which only one was present. Thrapston GP also produced a pair on 9th and 13th and two drakes were present there on 15th.
Seeing out another week, Ringstead GP’s female Ring-necked Duck remained on show at Kinewell Lake, visiting nearby Stanwick GP on 10th-11th.
For those in the right place at the right time, bird of the week was a White Stork, which cruised west over Summer Leys during the afternoon of 12th but instead of continuing along the Nene Valley, it went off-piste at some point, being seen heading high north over Blisworth some 30 minutes later. It bore a metal ring, the value of which is pretty much null and void without that all-important number being clocked.
Seemingly now part of the springtime furniture, the Glossy Ibis remained at Stanwick all week.
Little more than 24 hours after the White Stork moved over Summer Leys, somewhat tantalisingly, an immature Spoonbill flew north-east over the same site, gaining altitude and disappearing high over adjacent Mary’s Lake, on 13th. What was highly likely to have been the same bird was seen briefly before flying north near Peterborough later in the day. This is the second to visit the county this spring and more are sure to follow in due course.
Up to eight Cattle Egrets were again on view directly below the church at Woodford, while two visited Stanwick on 14th. During the period, Stanwick also held three Great Egrets, two were seen at Summer Leys and singles visited Hollowell Res and Woodford.
A movement of raptors was more evident this week and included Ospreys at Stanwick on 9th, Pitsford Res on 9th and 10th, Kelmarsh on 11th, Hollowell on 13th, Daventry CP on 14th and at Thrapston the following day. Fly-through Marsh Harriers were at both Summer Leys and Upton CP on 9th, Daventry CP and Harrington AF on 12th and over Stanwick on 14th.
Some fresh waders were a welcome addition to this week’s mix and while the Nene Valley featured as strongly as usual – including a report of an Avocet at Ditchford GP on 11th – it by no means had the monopoly. The first Whimbrels of the year were at Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick on 11th, quickly followed by one flying over Stanford Res the following day. Numbers of Black-tailed Godwits remained rather low, with one at Summer Leys on 10th, two at Stanwick on 11th and 12th and two briefly visiting Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on the last of these two dates.
The two long-staying male Ruffs at Summer Leys were joined by a female on 13th, after which only one male was seen during the remaining two days of the period.
Heavy showers early in the evening on 13th resulted in the grounding of a number of migrants, the most notable of which was a Sanderling on Pitsford causeway. Offering comfortably close views, this formed a rare treat for those who managed to connect. It had departed by the following morning.
The only Jack Snipes this week were at Hollowell Res, where two were present on 13th, at least one of which remained the following day. The first tranche of Greenshanks also marked the week, with two at Summer Leys/Earls Barton GP on 12th-14th and one the following day, plus singles in flight east at Stanford on 13th, north over Lilbourne Meadows early on 15th and on the A5 Pools at DIRFT 3 on the same date.
And last but by no means least, the Wood Sandpiper continued to appear at home on the building site flood pool alongside Upton CP, where it remained until at least 14th.
A whiff of easterlies on 11th brought three more Little Gulls to Summer Leys and one to Kislingbury GP, followed by four at Clifford Hill GP the next day. Otherwise it was business as usual with the adult Mediterranean Gull at Stanwick throughout the week being joined there by another on 14th, while the first Sandwich Terns of the year were reported flying west over the car park at Summer Leys on 13th.
Passerines rallied somewhat this week, and fittingly a monumental milestone was reached on 14th, when the Stanford Ringing Group processed their 165,000th bird at the reservoir of the same name. An admirable achievement over some 41 years’ effort on site, which includes some mouth-watering rarities, with Dusky and Icterine Warblers in the not too distant past immediately springing to mind.
Aside from the inbound summer visitors already mentioned above, more Ring Ouzels arrived, Honey Hill again playing host to up to six between 12th and 15th. Six together is a fair old number, the likes of which we are not used to seeing locally and, needless to say, the site pulled in a good number of admirers throughout the period. Elsewhere, one visited Chelveston AF on 9th and another was found at Ringstead GP on 14th.
New in this week were Common Redstarts and, after the first at Daventry CP on 12th, two more followed – one at Honey hill on 13th and the other at Byfield on 14th.
The arrival of Northern Wheatears further gained momentum this week, with both Hartwell and Honey Hill producing five apiece on 13th, three were at Byfield on 12th, when two were also at Clifford Hill GP and two at Harrington, two were in the Brampton Valley on 15th, when two were again at Hartwell and singles were at Hinton AF on 10th, Clifford Hill GP on 11th, Ashton STW on 12th, Honey Hill on 12th and Stanford Res on 15th.
A significant movement of Yellow Wagtails was accompanied by White Wagtails, of which Pitsford took the lion’s share with six on the dam there on 14th. Four other localities also delivered, with two at Summer Leys on 12th followed by one there on 14th and singles at Clifford Hill GP on 12th, Upton CP on 13th and at Ashton STW the following day.
A mixed bag of weather, backed by a largely westerly airstream, did little to hasten the arrival of the expected quota of spring migrants … but come they did, albeit in small numbers.
Once again, this week’s standout birds kick off with Garganey, all sightings of which were confined to Summer Leys LNR and nearby Hardwater Lake, where daily counts produced a maximum of five on 4th. The only other duck of distinction was the female Ring-necked Duck, which remained on show at Ringstead GP’s Kinewell Lake throughout the period.
Just along the Nene Valley, the Glossy Ibis remained faithful to Stanwick GP until at least 6th. Stanwick also held two Cattle Egrets on 6th but the bigger numbers were again to be found at Woodford, where nine were present between 2nd and 4th, dropping down to three by the week’s end.
Small numbers of Great Egrets included a random scatter of river valley singles at Earls Barton GP, Kislingbury GP/Upton CP, Ringstead and Woodford and twos at Stanwick and Summer Leys on 3rd and 7th, respectively.
Raptors in the mix included two Ospreys – one flying south over Kelmarsh on 2nd and the other at Hollowell Res on 3rd, while a Marsh Harrier was over the reedbed at Stortons GP on 8th, a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier flew over Collyweston on 4th and a grey male harrier sp. remained unidentified as it passed south-west over Moulton on 2nd.
After a four-day bout of incessant, voracious feeding, last week’s star wader, the Earls Barton GP Spotted Redshank, just scraped in before going AWOL on 3rd but its top-notch position was quickly filled by a Wood Sandpiper on a building site flood pool abutting Upton CP from 4th. Or should this more correctly read the Wood Sandpiper? In reality, it is the best part of a month too early for this species to appear as a migrant in Britain and, so far this year, there has been only one Wood Sandpiper in the whole of the UK – the bird which resided in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford, from 4th November 2021 to 21st January. So, where has it been hiding during the intervening period? Despite a backdrop of active building construction and a proliferation of high vis orange PPE, it elicited considerably more than a modicum of daily interest and remained ‘on site’ until the week’s end.
Other members of the visiting wader cohort included single Black-tailed Godwits at DIRFT 3 on 2nd-3rd and Stanwick on 2nd and 5th, while up to two Ruffs were at both Stanwick and Summer Leys throughout the week and the floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle produced one again on 2nd.
Further extending their well-attended gig, Jack Snipes continued to perform out in the open on Summer Leys scrape but they appeared to be on a countdown to departure, with three on 2nd, two on 3rd and one on 4th – after which there were no further reports. And while the two overwintering Common Sandpipers continued to put in appearances at Pitsford and Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North), their exclusive status was unashamedly usurped this week by the arrival of the first spring migrant, bang on time, at Sywell CP on 7th.
Gulls this week were in short supply. The adult Mediterranean Gull at Ringstead on 1st was again there the following day and it, or another, was also seen almost daily at nearby Stanwick throughout the week, while a single adult Yellow-legged Gull was present at Pitsford on 4th.
On the passerine front, another scarce summer visitor checked in this week with the arrival of a female Ring Ouzel at Honey Hill on 3rd, although it appeared to have departed by the following day.
Another week, another Black Redstart as, echoing last week’s fleeting garden visit by a bird in Long Buckby, another one showed up in similar circumstances near Wellingborough on 7th.
And it looks like the weekly permitted quota of four Northern Wheatears was once again not exceeded, with singles at Chelveston AF on 2nd-3rd, Harrington AF on 7th and at both Earls Barton GP and Kislingbury GP/Upton CP on 8th.
The warm, southerly airstream, which had lulled us all into a false sense of summer, was dramatically curtailed this week. By the end of the period, the weather had taken on a distinctly wintry flavour, with sleet and snow showers on the back of biting northerly winds originating from the Arctic. Nevertheless, the birds kept coming …
Again, new summer visitors were slow to arrive, as well as being thinly spread.
However, we’ve been spoilt. Seriously spoilt. On show in their dapper spring finery, more Garganeys than you can shake a stick at – well, almost – and they’re all part of a national, large-scale influx involving several hundred birds. The stand-out location was Summer Leys LNR, where they were on view daily and last week’s closing total of four increased to six by 28th, falling back to four again at the week’s end. Again, birds were mobile between there and nearby Hardwater Lake. Elsewhere, two visited Stortons GP on 27th.
Other ducks were also available and included a drake Red-crested Pochard at Clifford Hill GP on 27th, followed by the rediscovery of the Thrapston female Ring-necked Duck, a short hop up the Nene Valley at Ringstead GP, on 30th, where it remained until the week’s end.
Following the relatively long-staying drake at Stortons GP earlier in the month, the trend for scoters in suburbia continued this week with two Common Scoters taking a break from overland migration at Hardingstone GP on 30th.
Meanwhile, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver was still present on 27th but there were no subsequent reports.
No further wandering for the Glossy Ibis at Stanwick, which completed another week there on, and around, the Main Lake.
Cattle Egrets were back up in respectable numbers this week, with Stanwick producing two on 30th and Ringstead GP three on 31st, while, just north of the latter site, the fields south of the church at Woodford held nine on the final day of the period. Back at Stanwick, Great Egrets were up to four between 30th and 1st, Summer Leys held on to one between 26th and 29th and one visited Pitsford on 26th.
In the overall movement north, two more Ospreys came through, on 26th and 1st, both of them at Hollowell Res. The second of these birds was identifiable as blue-ringed ‘T3’, a six-year old male from the Rutland Water project.
And while we’re talking ‘track-and-trace’, a satellite-tagged second-year male White-tailed Eagle, G818, from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, flew south-east, through the county during the afternoon of 28th, as it moved between Staffordshire and south Bedfordshire. While in Northants, it passed over Stanford Res, Guilsborough, Hollowell, Spratton and to the east of Northampton. Bizarrely, as with so many that have gone before, it wasn’t actually seen in the field!
The only other raptor of note was a Marsh Harrier over the scrape at Summer Leys, on 31st.
On the wader front, single Black-tailed Godwits visited Summer Leys on 29th and Stanwick on 1st and the wintering Ruff at the first of these two sites was joined by a new bird on 26th, both birds being present on 29th and one on 30th. Not to be outdone, Stanwick held three on 30th, two on 31st and one on 3rd, while the floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle produced one on 29th.
Following what would be acknowledged as a better than average winter for local Jack Snipes – including double-figures being reached at Daventry CP – this past week will be remembered by many for up to four individuals of this cryptic and normally secretive species giving themselves up and feeding in plain sight on the scrape at Summer Leys. Elsewhere and typically less obliging, singles were at Stanford Res on 26th and Clifford Hill on 30th.
The overwintering Common Sandpiper remained at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) throughout the period but, just along the road a bit, lurked wader of the week – a rather early spring Spotted Redshank which, after its initial discovery at Summer Leys on 29th, quickly moved the short distance west to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake, where it remained until the week’s end.
In stark contrast to last week, just one Little Gull – an adult – was seen during the period, that one being at Ringstead GP on 30th, where there was also an adult Mediterranean Gull on 1st. Another, or the same, adult was also seen almost daily at nearby Stanwick throughout the week.
Aside from the aforementioned summer visitors, passerines were once again in short supply. Continuing the current theme, a Black Redstart spent little more than five minutes in a Long Buckby garden before moving on, on 27th, while four Northern Wheatears comprised singles at Pitsford on 27th, in the Brampton Valley and at Polebrook AF on 28th and at Harrington AF on 1st.
Back at Summer Leys, though, a Water Pipit – the only one of the year, so far – paid a brief visit to the scrape before flying high east on 28th.
As the county basked in barely interrupted sunshine and unseasonally high temperatures, things were shaping up nicely on a number of fronts, with two species in particular coming to the fore. Garganeys and Little Gulls well exceeded their allotted March quotas, as well as generously sticking around for anyone on a mission to catch up with them.
Conversely, it was an altogether different – and somewhat disappointing – picture as far as the arrival of new summer visitors was concerned.
By this time in 2021, we’d already seen the arrival of Swallow, House Martin and White Wagtail, in addition to the rather lacklustre spring tally so far this year …
But no matter. The profusion of Garganeys made up for it, while four sites offered a choice of viewing, geographically speaking. Stanwick GP produced birds daily between 20th and 23rd, with a maximum of five on 22nd but, by virtue of its comfy seating arrangements, by far the most popular venue was the easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys LNR, which kicked off with two on 20th and closed the week with four, including three fine drakes. Two of these absconded to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 23rd and 25th. Elsewhere, Pitsford Res produced two on 21st and singles on 22nd and 25th, while Thrapston GP held three mobile birds on 24th.
Showing no sign of going anywhere soon, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.
Not quite the same can be said for Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis which, as the week progressed, appeared to be developing itchy feet as it left its hitherto preferred area around North Lake in favour of the site’s Main Lake, before wandering across the A6 to Ditchford GP on 25th.
Following a report of a White Stork flying south-west over Ringstead GP/Stanwick GP during the morning of 21st, it promptly appeared at Clifford Hill GP shortly after midday, circling, before heading off south. As ever with this species, its origin is open to debate.
Just one Cattle Egret put in an appearance at Stanwick, on 21st, this week and Great Egrets were also at a low ebb, with up to two at Summer Leys between 22nd and 25th and singles on floodwater in the Tove Valley near Towcester on 21st, Pitsford Res on 22nd and at Daventry CP on 23rd.
Following the year’s first Osprey last week, further individuals were seen over both Moulton and Yelvertoft on 19th, over Hollowell Res on 24th and over Deene Lake the following day. The only other raptor of note, as well as being only the second record for the year, was a Marsh Harrier heading east over Clifford Hill GP, early evening on 24th.
For the second week running, topping the wader bill was an Avocet, which remained throughout the day on the Main Lake at Summer Leys, on 20th.
The same day saw a Bar-tailed Godwit at Stanwick GP – much earlier than is usual for this species in the county, while a Black-tailed Godwit also turned up there on 24th-25th. Although the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys throughout, swelling the ranks this week were five on floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle on 20th and a new bird at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 25th, where the overwintering Common Sandpiper remained until at least 23rd. Pitsford’s wintering individual remained on, and around, the dam there until at least 22nd. Meanwhile, Jack Snipes were still to be found at three localities, with two at Boddington Res on 22nd, one at Hollowell Res on 23rd, followed by two there on 25th and two at Summer Leys on the same date.
Vying with Garganey for a place in the limelight this week was Little Gull – and in numbers the likes of which we are certainly not used to seeing this early in the spring. A strong easterly vector in this week’s continued southerly airflow seems the most likely factor involved in their appearance here as part of a widespread influx across central, southern and eastern England.
At least six were found at Pitsford Res on 21st, followed by two there the next day, then four on 23rd and two on 25th. Not to be left out, of course, Summer Leys held seven on 23rd, four on 24th and two on 25th, while Boddington produced one on 23rd.
Arguably as smart, single adult Mediterranean Gulls showed up at Daventry CP on 24th and at Summer Leys the following day, while the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull was, once again, an adult at Pitsford on 21st.
Passerines continued to feature poorly, with Borough Hill’s Black Redstart resurfacing on 23rd and still being present at the week’s end. That is, of course, assuming it has remained there since it was last reported on 5th February … or could this be a new bird? The only other passerine of note was Northern Wheatear, the first of the spring being the aforementioned Harrington bird on 21st, followed by another behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP two days later, on 23rd.
The continuing southerlies off the near continent remained dominant throughout the period but the mild, dry conditions were rudely interrupted by a deluge of heavy rain mid-week. ‘Wet Wednesday’ saw parts of the county receive around 75% of their average March rainfall, causing localised flooding within a matter of hours. By contrast there was only a trickle, not a torrent, of spring migrants, as two more summer visitors were added to the county year list.
Demonstrating a migrational tour de force was a certain stripey-headed duck, the advance guard of which arrived at Pitsford Res on 15th, quickly to be followed by more the next day. Enter stage right … a flotilla of Garganeys – eight to be precise, comprising seven drakes and a female, which pitched up at Stortons GP ahead of the rain on 16th. Remarkably, this appears to be the largest recorded flock size for Northamptonshire but they had all moved on by the following morning, and a lone female was then discovered at Pitsford later in the day.
As in the previous week, other ducks were also available – these including the drake Red-crested Pochard at Daventry CP and the drake Common Scoter at Stortons, both of which were present until 13th.
The Stanwick White-fronted Goose trio remained until at least 17th.
Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.
Back to Stanwick, where the Glossy Ibis again remained throughout the period and the week’s highest tally of four Great Egrets was present the following day. Numbers of the latter continued to dwindle, Stanford Res producing a maximum of three on 13th, while singles were at Summer Leys LNR between 13th and 17th and Ravensthorpe Res on 14th.
In a nod to early spring, the first Osprey of 2022 was seen cruising north over Wicksteed Park, Kettering on 17th.
Kicking off the week’s waders were two rather fine Avocets, which remained throughout the day on the north side of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 15th.
The same day saw a Black-tailed Godwit paying a brief visit to Ditchford GP, while the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week.
Other wintering waders included both Common Sandpipers, the longest staying at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North) and the relatively recent individual on, and around, Pitsford Res dam. Daventry CP continued to produce the highest single-site count of Jack Snipes, with seven there on 14th and four on 16th.
It would be good to have reported a glut of gulls this week but, sadly, things were quite the opposite. An adult Mediterranean Gull at Daventry CP on 17th was the only one of its kind, while second-winter Caspian Gulls visited Stanwick on 13th and DIRFT 3 on 15th – the latter date also delivering the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull, an adult, at Pitsford.
Passerines again fared poorly, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart at the on-site waterworks scraping in on 12th. Where were all the Northern Wheatears …?