The Week in Focus: 20th to 26th April 2013

The week remained relatively warm and dry with light winds predominantly from the south and west – ideal conditions for spring migrants moving through the UK.

With the wintering duck all but departed drake Mandarin Ducks were found at Ashton Wold on 24th and Salcey Forest on 26th, a drake Garganey was at Summer Leys LNR also on 26th and the pair of Red-crested Pochards remained at Hardingstone GP until at least 24th with the drake still present on 26th. Small numbers of Goldeneye remained at Hollowell, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe and Stanford Reservoirs on 20th while two Goosanders were still at Thrapston GP on 21st and another was at Stanwick GP on 24th.

Male and female Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 22nd April 2013 (Keith J Smith)

Male and female Red-crested Pochard, Hardingstone GP, 22nd April 2013 (Keith J Smith)

Although Marsh Harriers flying west at Little Irchester on 22nd, over Brampton Heath Golf Course and near Kentle Woods (Daventry) on 26th were noteworthy, they were just outnumbered by Ospreys which were seen at Stanford Res and Stoke Albany on 20th, Thrapston GP on 23rd, over Borough Hill on 24th and at Pitsford Res the following day. The first Hobby of the year was found at Stanford Res on 20th, while Peregrines were recorded at three localities, two of which appeared to be pairs at potential breeding sites.

Two Avocets dropped in briefly at Clifford Hill GP mid-morning on 20th and, after departing, they were seen just eleven minutes later at Summer Leys LNR, where they also did not linger. Just one Ringed Plover was seen in the period – at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd, 23rd and 25th and the same site again hosted a Grey Plover, which came in to roost on the evenings of 22nd and 24th with up to 158 Golden Plovers; elsewhere, two Golden Plovers were at Chelveston AF on 20th and eighteen were near Tiffield the following day. The only Dunlins were one at Summer Leys LNR on 21st with two there on 26th, up to four at Clifford Hill GP between 22nd and 26th and one at Hollowell Res on the latter date, where surely now the last of the winter’s Jack Snipe was seen on 20th. Black-tailed Godwits were still being logged with one at Summer Leys LNR on 21st and another at Clifford Hill GP from 22nd to 25th with two there and a high count of 38 at Summer Leys LNR the following day. Just one Whimbrel also paid a brief visit to the latter site on 23rd, two Curlews flew over Stoke Albany on 21st and singles were at Thrapston GP and Pitsford Res on 21st and at Stanwick GP on 24th. Common Sandpipers were found at seven localities and single Green Sandpipers were at Upton Valley on 20th and Pitsford Res on 22nd while a Greenshank visited Summer Leys LNR on 21st.

Rarity of the week came in the shape of a first-summer Ring-billed Gull – only the 12th record for the County – at Stanwick GP on 22nd and again on 26th and an adult Little Gull visited Daventry CP on 25th. More Arctic Terns arrived this week with Hollowell Res producing one on 20th and three on 22nd and 25th, Boddington Res hosting singles on 21st and 25th with three there on 26th, Thrapston GP had two on 22nd and four were at Daventry CP on 22nd with one there on 25th.

The first of the year’s Turtle Doves was found at Polebrook AF on 24th and was quickly followed by another at Harrington AF the next day. Similarly, Common Swifts appeared to arrive en masse on 25th, being reported from Borough Hill, Clifford Hill GP, Spratton and Stanwick GP. The first Garden Warbler was at Stanwick GP on 24th and the first Grasshopper Warbler was at Summer Leys LNR on 20th – a rather late arrival date for this species. A singing male Wood Warbler was at Salcey Forest on 26th.

What was assumed to be the same long-staying male Ring Ouzel remained at Harrington AF from 20th to 26th, while the first of these dates saw two at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and further singles at Chelveston AF, Stanford Res (staying until 23rd) and Hellidon (staying until 21st) where presumably the last ten Fieldfares of the winter were also present at the same time.  In contrast to last week only two Common Redstarts were found, both on 24th and included a female at Borough Hill and a male at Fawsley Park while Whinchats were more numerous with singles at Harrington AF on 24th, Borough Hill on 26th and three at the latter locality on 25th and another at Wollaston Sewage Works on 26th.  Northern Wheatears were found this week at ten localities with a maximum of fifteen at Chelveston AF on 20th and the same number at Borough Hill on 25th.

Similarly, Yellow Wagtails were found at seven sites with a maximum of sixteen at Hollowell Res on 22nd and the same number at Upton Valley (Northampton) on 24th. Thrapston GP hosted a male Blue-headed Wagtail on 21st and an intriguing ‘grey’ individual was there the following day.

Male Blue-headed Wagtail, Thrapston GP, 21st April 2013 (Adrian Borley)

Male Blue-headed Wagtail, Thrapston GP, 21st April 2013 (Adrian Borley)

Fewer White Wagtails were in evidence than last week with singles at Thrapston GP on 20th, Upton Valley on 20th and 26th (with 2 there on 23rd-24th), Summer Leys LNR and

White Wagtail, Upton Valley, April 2013 (Mike Alibone). Note the dark grey/blackish feathering in the centre of the rump. Although there is a chance this could be an intermediate individual (hybrid Pied x White Wagtail is not uncommon) the colour and extent of dark feathering appears to fall within the range of normal variation for White Wagtail.

White Wagtail, Upton Valley, April 2013 (Mike Alibone). Note the dark grey/blackish feathering in the centre of the rump. Although there is a chance this could be an intermediate individual (hybrid Pied x White Wagtail is not uncommon) the colour and extent of dark feathering appears to fall within the range of normal variation for White Wagtail.

White Wagtail, Upton Valley, April 2013 (Mike Alibone)

Rushden on 21st and two at Hollowell Res on 22nd with one there on 25th. The last Bramblings were singles at Pitsford Res and East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 20th and two or three Crossbills were at Pitsford Res on the same date.

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