For the first part of the week, the UK was sandwiched between a low pressure system to the west and high pressure to the east, resulting in a warm, southerly airstream off the near continent. Things changed mid-week, however, as winds swung westerly, heralding a period of showery and unsettled conditions, which persisted until the week’s end. The bank holiday, 5th May, took the crown for the best day in terms of both rarity and diversity of species recorded.
Now ensconced within the resident Greylag flock, the long-staying Pink-footed Goose continued to find Thrapston GP to its liking, remaining there until at least 6th, while Clifford Hill GP’s Egyptian Goose was still present on 9th. Also on 6th – and perhaps surprising for the time of year – a Ruddy Shelduck appeared by the yacht club at Pitsford Res, while a late drake Goosander was found at Thrapston GP. The first Quail of the year was heard singing at Harrington Airfield on 4th, quickly to be followed by the second at Draughton Crossing in the nearby Brampton Valley on 7th. The latter site notched up a fly-over Osprey on the same two dates and another was seen at Stanwick GP on 5th.
It shouldn’t have happened again … but this week it did. What was potentially Northamptonshire’s fourth-ever Glossy Ibis put in a tantalisingly brief appearance at Summer Leys, showing itself only to one observer as it flew east over the reserve, just before two o’clock on the afternoon of 5th. This species has carved out a local reputation for being the subject of single observer sightings and limiting its Northamptonshire visits to a matter of minutes. Will one ever stay long enough to be seen by the masses?
Fly-over Glossy Ibis notwithstanding, one rarity that did make itself available to most of those who made the trip to look for it was a female Dotterel, which was found between Hemington and Lutton – also on 5th. Distant and camera-dodging, it remained a shimmering vision in the heat haze at the centre of a pea field for most of the morning but appeared to go AWOL during the afternoon. With only ten previous records, this species remains a true rarity in Northants, the last one being in 1996. Interestingly, 50% of all previously accepted records have come from this same area of the county and 80% of these have fallen within the ten-day period 26th April to 5th May.
Not quite matching the latter’s celebrity status, a Grey Plover dropped in at Summer Leys on the same date, while Little Ringed Plovers continued to be reported from four locations and Ringed Plovers occurred at Clifford Hill GP and Summer Leys with site maxima of sixteen on 6th and seven on 7th respectively. The same two sites produced all of this week’s Dunlins, which were present daily at both, with maxima of five at Clifford Hill GP on 7th and thirteen at Summer Leys on 9th. Three Whimbrels arrived at the latter site on the evening of 7th and were still present on 9th and single Curlews were also found here and in the Brampton Valley – both on 7th. Other waders included single Common Sandpipers at Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP while four were counted at Clifford Hill GP on 5th and Summer Leys produced two Greenshanks on 4th-5th, with one remaining until 9th. The same site hosted a Wood Sandpiper on 5th, while two Turnstones visited Clifford Hill GP on the same date.
One of the week’s surprises came in the shape of a smart, second calendar year Iceland Gull,which visited Daventry CP for thirty-five minutes on 5th. This was the first record of this species for the site and probably the latest in spring to be recorded in the county.
A first-winter Mediterranean Gull was at the same site the following day and a third-year Yellow-legged Gull was found at Stanwick GP on 8th. In contrast to last week, only two Little Gulls were reported – both second calendar years, including one at Summer Leys from 3rd until 6th and one at Stanwick GP on 5th. Tern numbers also dwindled with just one Black Tern at Pitsford Res on 5th, while Arctic Terns totalled just three with singles at Daventry CP on 6th and 9th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 7th.
Scarce passerines were again in short supply this week with a Black Redstart at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 4th, single Whinchats at Harrington AF on the same date and at Clifford Hill GP on 6th and Northern Wheatears at Blueberry Farm/Brampton Valley with 2 on 4th and 7th and 4 on 6th plus one at Clifford Hill GP on the latter date.