The Week in Focus: 23rd to 29th March 2013

The cold easterly blast, which brought well below average temperatures to most of Britain continued, although things began to hot up as spring migrants appeared undeterred by the adverse weather.

Having disappeared last week, the five Egyptian Geese were back at Ditchford GP on 23rd with two remaining the following day and one on floodwater at nearby Irthlingborough on 26th was likely to have been the same individual seen at adjacent Stanwick GP on 29th. A drake Green-winged Teal – the fourteenth for Northamptonshire – was discovered at the latter site on 24th, remaining there until at least 27th before relocating to nearby floodwater at Irthlingborough on 29th.

Drake Green-winged Teal, Stanwick GP, 26th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Green-winged Teal, Stanwick GP, 26th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Green-winged Teal, Stanwick GP, 26th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Drake Green-winged Teal, Stanwick GP, 26th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Pintail remained scarce with two at Summer Leys LNR on 23rd and a drake at Thrapston GP on 29th while the drake Scaup was still present at Ditchford GP until at least 26th. A drake Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid provided some additional interest at Summer Leys LNR on 28th and 29th, the ‘redhead’ Smew was still at Stortons GP on 24th and six (two drakes) remained at Pitsford Res on 26th while Goosanders continued to be recorded from six localities, with a maximum of twenty-five at Thrapston GP on 27th.

A Bittern was seen flying into the reedbed at Stortons GP on 24th and the Ravensthorpe Res individual was still present on 25th and again on 28th but Great White Egrets provided one of the biggest surprises of the week when single birds were seen at Summer Leys LNR on 23rd and 27th and no less than three were present together there on 28th.

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 28th March 2013 (Doug McFarlane)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 28th March 2013 (Doug McFarlane)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

Also at Summer Leys a male Marsh Harrier went straight through on 26th and another was seen flying over Spratton on 28th, while the only Peregrines reported were singles at Earls Barton GP on 24th and at Thrapston GP on 27th. The discovery of two first-year Common Cranes at Thorpe Waterville on 28th allowed a handful of local birders to catch up with this species which has been recorded only thirteen times before in Northamptonshire; they departed high to the north-east at 05.45 the following morning.

First-year Common Crane, Thorpe Waterville, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

First-year Common Crane, Thorpe Waterville, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

First-year Common Crane, Thorpe Waterville, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

First-year Common Crane, Thorpe Waterville, 28th March 2013 (Bob Bullock)

An Avocet was present for one day only on floodwater at Irthlingborough on 24th and the first Little Ringed Plover of the year appeared at Pitsford Res on the same date, followed by two further individuals at Stanwick GP and Summer Leys LNR on 28th. The only Ringed Plover was one at Ditchford GP on 26th and Golden Plovers were recorded at Clifford Hill GP, Harrington AF and Summer Leys LNR with a maximum of 500 at the first of these localities on 23rd. Dunlins were seen in ones and twos at Stanwick GP, Ditchford GP and Clifford Hill GP although thirteen were present at the latter site on 23rd, while three Ruff paid a brief visit to Stanwick GP on 26th. Three Jack Snipe remained at Hollowell Res on 27th and Common Snipe passage continued to produce reasonable numbers with a maximum of fifty at Stanwick GP on 25th and 26th. Summer Leys produced a Black-tailed Godwit, which remained from 23rd to 27th and eleven visited Stanwick GP on 28th with four there the following day. The year’s first Whimbrel appeared on 28th, when two flew over Sywell CP, while single Curlews were seen at Summer Leys on 23rd and 27th, Ditchford GP on 26th and Pitsford Res on 29th when two were also seen near Thrapston GP.  Redshanks were reported from Summer Leys, Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP with a maximum of fourteen at the latter site on 28th.

Boddington Res produced an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost on 26th and two adults on 29th while a second-winter was at Blatherwycke Lake on 28th. A near-adult Caspian Gull was on floodwater at Irthlingborough on 24th and, nearby, juvenile Glaucous Gulls continued to be seen at Ditchford GP on 26th and at Stanwick GP on 28th with a juvenile Iceland Gull at the latter site on 27th and a second-summerYellow-legged Gull at Clifford Hill GP the following day.

Again, just one Sand Martin was seen this week at Summer Leys LNR on 28th but an arrival of Chiffchaffs was evident with new birds at Ditchford GP (six), Stanwick GP, Clifford Hill GP (three) and in the Brampton Valley (three) while the first Willow Warbler was at Thrapston GP on 27th. Long staying Central European Blackcaps remained in two gardens in Duston (Northampton), Kettering, Wellingborough and Sywell but there was no evidence of any new arrivals from the south. The first migrant Ring Ouzel was discovered in a horse paddock at Wicken on 24th and hot on the heels of last week’s Northern Wheatear at Pitsford Res came more this week with one at Clifford Hill GP from 23rd to 28th (being joined there by another on the latter date), one at Wicken

First summer male Northern Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 26th March 2013 (Michael Hedge)

First summer male Northern Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 26th March 2013 (Michael Hedge)

on 24th and singles at Harrington AF and Sywell CP on 27th and 28th respectively. Bramblings hung on at East Hunsbury (Northampton), Harrington AF, Hanging Houghton and Kelmarsh and a Mealy Redpoll was again visiting a garden feeder in Polebrook on 27th.

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