The Week in Focus: 15th to 21st March 2014

The week started warm, bright and dry under a continued south-westerly airstream, which turned more westerly with falling temperatures as the week progressed. However, it remained relatively mild and largely dry, providing ideal conditions for the arrival of more spring migrants.

A pair of Ruddy Shelduck was present near Slipton until 18th, having been present in the area since 12th. The reduction in wintering wildfowl numbers became more evident this week but the 2 Egyptian Geese were seen at Ditchford GP on 16th, the unringed female Wood Duck of unknown origin was still being seen on the River Nene at Northampton on 18th and the red colour-ringed Marbled Duck remained at Stanwick GP until at least 19th. The first Garganey arrived this week at Daventry CP, where four were found on 20th and two pairs of Red-crested Pochards dropped into Stortons GP on

Red-crested Pochards, Stortons GP, 17th March 2014 (Doug Goddard)

Red-crested Pochards, Stortons GP, 17th March 2014 (Doug Goddard)

17th, while the drake Scaup remained at Ditchford GP on 16th, the same date that the Thrapston GP Long-tailed Duck was still on Town Lake and the ever popular Earls Barton GP individual remained on Mary’s Lake there until at least 20th. The only Smew left over from the winter were a pair at Stanwick GP until at least 19th while single-figure counts of Goosanders came from nine localities throughout the week.

The wintering juvenile Great Northern Diver continued its protracted stay at Pitsford Res all week and at least one Great White Egret remained faithful to Summer Leys LNR until at least 18th, while two were again at Ditchford GP on 16th. Bird of the week, for many, however, was the Red-necked Grebe discovered off the dam at Pitsford Res late on 19th and still showing well to all comers on 21st. Red-necked Grebe has become a bit of a local rarity in recent years, this individual being the first in the County since one put in a brief appearance at Stanwick GP on 22nd November 2008.

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 20th March 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 20th March 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Hot on the heels of the first two Ospreys last week came two more – one over Brackmills, Northampton on and another over Ditchford GP on 21st. Four in the County already bears testament to the growing UK population, which is now estimated to be in the region of two hundred and fifty pairs. Aside from this, Peregrines were seen in the Brampton Valley, Ditchford GP, Hanging Houghton, Hardingstone GP and at Harrington AF.

The Brampton Valley continued to host up to 300 Golden Plovers throughout the week and six Jack Snipe were found at Hollowell Res on 16th, while 2 Dunlin were at Summer Leys on 16th-18th. A Curlew visited Thrapston GP on 19th, twelve Redshanks were at Stanwick GP on 17th with smaller numbers at Aldwinckle and Summer Leys, while a single Green Sandpiper was seen below the dam at Pitsford Res on 20th.

Winter gulls have begun to disperse but there are still good numbers moving through on passage with adult Mediterranean Gulls in reservoir roosts at Pitsford on 15th and two different individuals at Boddington on 20th and 21st. A second-winter Caspian Gull was again at Stanwick GP on 17th, and a first-winter Kittiwake visited Pitsford Res on 16th. The pair of ringed Bearded Tits at Stortons was seen again on 16th. Interestingly, the ringers on site believe there are two pairs present. More Sand Martins drifted through at several sites with approximately twenty at Stortons GP on 20th being the maximum count, while more and more Chiffchaffs piled in this week, with singing males widely reported. Central European Blackcaps began to melt away with established long-stayers remaining in gardens at Barton Seagrave until 16th and Wellingborough, where there were two males and a female until 21st. Singing males in Wellingborough and Hardingstone may have been early summer visitors or winterers on the move. The first Ring Ouzel of the spring, a male, was found at Harrington AF on 17th and the first Northern Wheatears were found at Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley on 18th and another was at Borough Hill on 20th.  Hot on the heels of last week’s early Yellow Wagtail three more were seen – two at Middleton Cheney on 15th and one in the Brampton Valley on 18th, while Northamptonshire’s only know wintering Water Pipit showed itself again at Ditchford GP on 16th. Serving to remind us that winter is not yet over, Bramblings hung on all week at Harrington AF with sixteen still there on 18th and one was also at Kelmarsh on 17th.

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