The unseasonally inclement weather this weekend paid dividends to those who ventured out to brave it. Strong north to north-easterly headwinds and sustained heavy rain from Friday onwards put paid to the progress of many northbound migrants resulting in large numbers of birds being grounded across southern Britain.
Notable among these locally were record numbers of Northern Wheatears (minimum counts of 80 at Clifford Hill GP and 71 at Borough Hill including many Greenlanders) and sizeable flocks of Black-tailed Godwits with 30 on floodwater at Irthlingborough, 26 at Summer Leys and 9 at Clifford Hill. Flooded pools at the latter locality also attracted a Turnstone and at least 21 Yellow Wagtails, including a female presumed ‘Channel Wagtail’ (Yellow x Blue-headed hybrid). Two more Ring Ouzels at Borough Hill and one at Summer Leys completed a remarkable run of records for this species this spring. With three hours between them, two Kittiwakes also went through at Summer Leys on Saturday and a Slavonian Grebe (not from Stewartby, Bedfordshire) was found at Thrapston Gravel Pits on Titchmarsh reserve. I caught up with this soggy-looking summer-plumaged individual early this morning while it was feeding on North Lake, seemingly oblivious to the choppy water, high winds and lashing rain.
Later this morning the Black-tailed Godwits were performing well, down to just a few metres, in front of the Screen Hide at Summer Leys. Fantastic-looking summer-plumaged Icelandic race birds, I was frustrated by the lack of camera (having smashed it yesterday when the wind blew my tripod over at Clifford Hill!). Neil Hasdell came to the rescue, however, and kindly sent me the photos below, which are no doubt better than anything I would have achieved by digiscoping :-).
The shorter-legged, shorter-billed and considerably more extensively rufous-patterned islandica race is the one most frequently encountered in Northants, with nominate limosa, ‘Continental’ Black-tailed Godwit, being considerably rarer, even though it breeds no further away than East Anglia.