What a difference a week makes! South-westerlies, rising temperatures and largely mild conditions created ideal conditions for the northward movement of the first summer migrants into the UK, with Northants receiving at least a sprinkling. Other birds were also plainly on the move – a clear indication that spring migration is now well and truly underway.
They should surely have been on their way by now but the three European White-fronted Geese were still at Pitsford Res until at least 11th with the two Ruddy Shelducks remaining there on 7th. A drake Pintail was again at Summer Leys LNR on 7th-8th and the drake Red-crested Pochard remained at Stanford Res over the same two days, while the female Ring-necked Duck – after going unreported last week – was still at Billing GP until at least 11th.
If we hadn’t enjoyed the generous helpings of wintering Long-tailed Ducks last year then the first-winter drake which paid a brief visit to Pitsford Res on its way north on 10th would perhaps have elicited more interest than it actually did; this species is still a rare visitor to the county on any account. Most of our wintering Smew have departed and those remaining this week included two at Pitsford Res on 7th, a ‘redhead’ at Stanwick GP on 10th and 11th, the two ‘redheads’ still at Stortons GP on the latter of these two dates and three at Ravensthorpe Res on 13th.
The only Great White Egrets to be found during the period were the Summer Leys duo, which remained until at least 12th. And then there was ‘Klio’. The name given to the White Stork which, having escaped from the Exotic Pet Refuge near Deeping St James last week, appeared in Northants by the River Nene near Nassington on 7th and then border-hopped to various sites in nearby Cambridgeshire the following day. On 11th ‘he’ was back – this time at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows Reserve for an hour or two before flying to Brigstock and finally Lowick, where he was eventually recaptured on 12th. A smart bird with no rings which would surely have passed muster had its origin remained unknown …
A grebe found on the main lake at Stanwick GP on 8th ultimately proved to be a Slavonian Grebe after giving rise to some debate over its initial identification as a Red-necked. It was not present the following day so this was another bird which had moved swiftly on. It, or another, was found at Ravensthorpe Res on 13th.
And so to the vanguard of our summer visitors. An Osprey moved north over Harrington AF on 10th, no doubt the first of many to come, while Peregrines at Greens Norton on 7th and at both Stanwick GP and Summer Leys on 13th, and single Merlins at both Daventry CP and Blueberry Farm on the latter date were the only other raptors reported during the week.
Golden Plovers were recorded from Harrington AF, Byfield, Bozenham Mill and Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) with a maximum of three hundred at the latter site on 10th. This has been a poor winter for this species with no four-figure counts anywhere. A Curlew visited Clifford Hill GP on 8th, Common Snipe were found at Blueberry Farm, Bozenham Mill, Stanwick GP and Pitsford Res, with a maximum of thirty-four at the latter locality on 11th, which also produced two Jack Snipe on the same date. After last week’s double-figure count at Stanwick GP, Redshanks appeared to be unduly scarce with just one at Clifford Hill GP on 7th, two at Summer Leys the following day and up to four there on 13th, while single Green Sandpipers were found at Stanford Res on 7th and 8th, Pitsford Res on 7th and 11th, at Upton Valley (Northampton) on 10th and between Everdon and Fawsley on 13h.
The gull roost at Boddington Res is consistently the most reliable site in the county for passage Mediterranean Gulls when they come through in March. This week saw three adults there on 9th, two adults and a second-winter on 10th and an adult on 11th. No doubt more will be seen there as the month progresses. The only other gulls of note were an adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Pitsford Res roost on 12th and three at Hollowell Res on 13th.
Rather more scarce this winter, a Short-eared Owl was at Blueberry Farm on 7th and again on 13th; other than passage birds it seems unlikely this species will be seen in any numbers now before next autumn. The same cannot be said for Sand Martin, the first of which appeared at Ditchford GP’s Broadholme SWT on 9th – arguably the first true summer migrant of the year, Chiffchaffs notwithstanding, of course, this week appearing to herald an arrival en masse with records from nine widely-scattered localities. Presumed Central European Blackcaps – it’s still a bit early for the return of Iberian winterers – were a female in a Wellingborough garden on 8th and a male in a garden in Barton Seagrave on 11th.
The main attraction on the passerine front this week, however, was the first-winter Waxwing which was found in Corby on 11th and remained, posing for the cameras, until 13th.
Up to six Stonechats were still at Blueberry Farm all week and singles were also at Pitsford Res and Stanford Res on 7th.