Three Weeks in Focus: 22nd March to 11th April 2014

A run of relatively mild weather, with winds from a southerly quarter in the middle part of the period, served to further advance spring and to introduce a steady flow of migrants to the county.

Two female Ruddy Shelducks were reported on the south bank of the River Welland, west of Rockingham on 10th – an interesting time of year for this species in not conforming to the usual pattern of late summer occurences of birds suspected of being from The Netherlands. If ever proof were needed that Egyptian Geese breed in Northants then here it is – a pair was discovered with two young goslings in the east of the County on 23rd

Egyptian Geese, site withheld, 23rd March 2014

Egyptian Geese, site withheld, 23rd March 2014

while other, less auspicious, wildfowl remained in the shape of the unringed female Wood Duck on the River Nene at Northampton to 1st and the red colour-ringed Marbled Duck at Stanwick GP throughout the period. In a similar vein, the long-staying Ross’s Goose

Ross's Goose, Pitsford Res, 28th March 2014 (Dave Jackson)

Ross’s Goose, Pitsford Res, 28th March 2014 (Dave Jackson)

now apparently paired with a Greylag Goose – commuted between Pitsford Res and Clifford Hill GP between 28th and 4th. A pair of Pintail visiting Summer Leys LNR on

Pintails, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd April 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Pintails, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd April 2014 (Bob Bullock)

2nd were the only ones recorded but what is likely to be ‘bird of the month’ was a fine drake Blue-winged Teal which appeared only briefly at Stanwick GP on 1st before quickly departing to the north. Both wintering Long-tailed Ducks remained at Thrapston GP until 5th and at Earls Barton GP until 11th, while a handful of

Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 24th March 2014 (Alan Coles)

Long-tailed Duck, Earls Barton GP, 24th March 2014 (Alan Coles)

Goldeneyes lingered and odd Goosanders remained at Clifford Hill, Stanwick and Thrapston GPs and at Daventry CP. The latter site hosted three Common Scoters (two drakes) from 4th to 8th and two drakes were also found at Stanwick GP on 4th and a single drake joined the Earls Barton Long-tailed Duck on Mary’s Lake from 6th to 8th.

The wintering second calendar year Great Northern Diver continued its long term winter residence at Pitsford Res until at least 5th while three Bitterns – presumably migrants – were found with one at Summer Leys on 23rd, another or the same at adjacent Earls Barton GP on 31st and another at Pineham (Northampton) on 6th. Great White Egrets remained very much in evidence with singles at Stanwick GP on 22nd, 2nd and 6th with two flying east there on 10th, while one was seen intermittently at Summer

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR,  5th April 2014 (Mark Hill)

Great White Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 5th April 2014 (Mark Hill)

Leys/Earls Barton GP between 24th and 5th with three roosting there on 30th and one visited Ditchford GP on 6th. The Red-necked Grebe discovered off the dam at Pitsford Res on 19th remained until 8th, after which it could no longer be located.

Migrant raptors on the move were a Marsh Harrier visiting Summer Leys on 24th and, on the same date, a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier flew west at Stanwick GP and another ‘ringtail’

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2014 (Alan Coles)

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2014 (Alan Coles)

flew east at Summer Leys on 2nd. More Ospreys came through during the period, singles being noted at Pitsford Res on 26th, Great Billing on 1st, Northampton on 3rd, Brampton Valley on 4th and two north-east over Harpole on 6th. A Merlin flew high north over Borough Hill on 9th and Peregrines were seen at Summer Leys on 6th, in the Brampton Valley on 8th and in Northampton on 8th and 10th.

The first Little Ringed Plovers were found at Clifford Hill GP and Kislingbury/Upton on 31st, quickly followed by others at Pitsford Res, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys, while the Brampton Valley continued to host good numbers of Golden Plovers with up to five hundred still there on 8th and a single Grey Plover flew over Daventry CP on 4th. The only Dunlin during the period were two at Clifford Hill GP on 7th, similarly one Ruff was seen at Stanwick GP on 10th and a Jack Snipe was at Summer Leys on 5th. Single Black-tailed Godwits visited Clifford Hill GP on 31st and Ditchford GP on 2nd and a Bar-tailed Godwit put in a brief appearance at Summer Leys on 29th. The latter site

Bar-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, xx March 2014 (Stuart Mundy)

Bar-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, xx March 2014 (Stuart Mundy)

hosted a long-staying Curlew throughout the review period while others appeared at Thrapston GP on 30th and 6th, Stanwick GP on 6th and in the Brampton Valley, where there were two on 8th.

Curlew, Summer Leys LNR, 4th April 2014 (Alan Coles)

Curlew, Summer Leys LNR, 4th April 2014 (Alan Coles)

Single Green Sandpipers lingered throughout below the dam at Pitsford Res and on flooded pools at Upton/Kislingbury/Pineham, while the first Common Sandpiper appeared at Pitsford Res on 8th.

A first-winter Mediterranean Gull was at Stanwick GP on 22nd and 24th while others – all adults – turned up in reservoir roosts at Pitsford on 30th-31st and Boddington on 24th and (two) on 25th. A late second-winter Glaucous Gull put in a brief appearance at Clifford Hill GP on 6th and a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull visited the Boddington Res roost on 25th, when an adult Kittiwake was also present. An influx of Little Gulls occurred on 31st when thirteen were counted at Summer Leys, nine at Daventry CP and six at Pitsford Res; these were followed by singles at Summer Leys and Daventry CP on 2nd and 3rd respectively, with three more at the latter site on 7th and two at Stanwick GP the following day. Such high numbers are rare before mid-April.

Little Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 1st April 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 1st April 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Early sternas included single Sandwich Terns at Daventry CP on 31st, Stanwick GP the following day and at Boddington Res on 9th, while the first Common Tern was found at Daventry CP – again on 31st – quickly followed by others at Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP from 5th. Single Arctic Terns appeared at Pitsford Res on 1st and Stanwick GP on 5th. The first Cuckoos were found at both Harrington AF and Stanwick GP on 6th, while a Woodlark – the first for several years – flew west over Daventry CP, while Swallows became evident from 31st and the first House Martin was at Byfield on 6th. More spring firsts came in the shape of Willow Warblers – widespread from 31st – and Sedge Warblers from 1st, while the first Common Redstart appeared at Hellidon on 11th and a Black Redstart was in Wollaston on 23rd. Northern Wheatears were reported from five localities with a maximum of seven at Borough Hill on 9th and three Ring Ouzels – all males – appeared in the Brampton Valley on 24th, Daventry CP on 4th and at Old Sulehay on 10th. Following last month’s very early Yellow Wagtails, small numbers were reported from five sites, while single White Wagtails were found at Summer Leys on 4th, Stanwick GP on 5th and 8th and at Braunston and Clifford Hill GP on 8th, while the wintering Water Pipit remained at Ditchford GP until 6th. Up to a dozen Bramblings continued to be seen at Harrington AF until 9th but a build-up in ‘pre-departure’ numbers at Hellidon reached an impressive eighty-two on 4th while a small

Brambling, Harrington AF, 30th March 2014 (Bob Bullock)

Brambling, Harrington AF, 30th March 2014 (Bob Bullock)

movement of Crossbills was noted at Pitsford Res on 30th with parties of two, eight and ten heading south-west. Finally, a very confiding Snow Bunting proved a popular

Snow Bunting, Daventry CP, 3rd April 2014 (Dave Jackson)

Snow Bunting, Daventry CP, 3rd April 2014 (Dave Jackson)

attraction at Daventry CP on 3rd. It was not present the next day but, amazingly, a different individual flew over the same site on 5th.

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