The first week of the period enjoyed relatively mild conditions facilitated by light south-westerlies – all this in stark contrast to the unsettled second week, which featured gale-force winds and intermittent squally showers.
With most of the winter wildfowl well out of the way, the focus for the period was on summer migrants. A few winterers lingered, however, including a Pink-footed Goose which dropped in with Greylags on Brooke Weston football pitch, Corby on 25th and up to three Pintails at Summer Leys LNR between 21st and 26th. The drake Red-crested Pochard also remained at Stanford Res until 21st and another appeared at Daventry CP on 3rd, while two were at Summer Leys on the same date. The long-staying female Ring-necked Duck was still at Billing GP until at least 2nd and what was presumably the last of the winter’s Smew – a ‘redhead’ – stuck it out at Stanwick GP until 25th.
Similarly, just one wintering Great White Egret remained at Summer Leys until 1st before moving to nearby Ditchford GP on 3rd. Spring would not be spring without an April migrant Black-necked Grebe and one turned up right on cue at Daventry CP on 3rd, as did the first Ospreys, with singles at Pitsford Res on 23rd, Scaldwell and two other sites on 24th, Boddington Res on 2nd and Ravensthorpe Res the following day. The latter bird was satellite-tagged and is known as ‘Yellow 30’ – a female from Rutland Water which was seen there the previous day, as well as being seen near Stamford and at Eyebrook Reservoir.
Much rarer these days, however, was an immature Goshawk which sparred briefly with local Common Buzzards over Boddington Res before moving off on 30th. Not long to go before the first Hobby of the year finds its way into the county but until then a Merlin at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 23rd and single Peregrines at five other sites will have to suffice.
Considering the low numbers of Golden Plovers in the county this winter, the largest count for months came from Preston Capes on 28th, when some 1500-2000 were estimated to be present there. Smaller numbers were at Harrington AF, Scaldwell, Boddington Res and Clifford Hill GP. Both Ringed Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers appear to be slow to come through this spring with just one Ringed at Stanwick GP on 24th and one Little Ringed over Daventry CP on 3rd. A Curlew visited Hollowell Res on 31st and two in the Tove Valley on 3rd were not unusual at this site but a Sanderling at Daventry CP on 26th was – they are not normally seen locally before May. Three Dunlins at Stanwick GP on 31st were the only ones during the period, between one and three Common Snipe were found at Hollowell Res and Summer Leys, while up to two Jack Snipe were at Hollowell Res between 21st and 27th and two were found at Boddington Res on 30th. Other waders included two to three Redshanks at both Stanwick GP and Summer Leys and two Greenshanks at the latter locality on 2nd were unusually early (but one turned up in Hertfordshire on the same date). Green Sandpipers appeared on floodwater near Everdon, at Upton Valley Way (Northampton), near Welford and at Pitsford Res.
It was a great time for gulls! Stealing the award for most showy Larid was a second-summer Mediterranean Gull which arrived in the Black-headed Gull colony on Summer Leys’ Rotary Island on 29th, staked its claim for territory and remained for the following five days. Other Meds included an adult at Stanwick GP on 23rd and single first-winters at Summer Leys on 27th and at Daventry CP on 31st.
Better than this, though not as easy to get to grips with, was a first-summer Ring-billed Gull – only the fourteenth county record – which visited the gull roost at Boddington Res on 27th and 28th. Boddington has a track record for producing this species, more than half of the county records of which have been found by just one observer, Gary Pullan.
Yellow-legged Gulls are relatively scarce at this time of year and the three records in the period were an adult at Stanford Res on 21st, a second-summer at Stanwick GP on 31st and a fourth-year at Daventry CP on 3rd, while the only Caspian Gulls were restricted to Stanwick GP with an adult on 24th-25th, a second-summer on 27th and two second-summers on 31st. After first being seen flying around Wellingborough Recycling Centre on 23rd, an adult Glaucous Gull became a regular late afternoon visitor to the main lake at Stanwick GP between 24th and 2nd. This individual had been ringed as recently as 21st March, at Pitsea Landfill in Essex, before making the journey north-west to Northants.
Late March is also a prime time for inland Kittiwake passage and Pitsford Res featured two on 30th.
And so to landbirds, which appear to have been somewhat overshadowed during the period … Two outgoing Short-eared Owls were reported from the far eastern end of Stanwick GP on 27th, while incoming Swallows were at Stanford Res on 29th, Boddington Res on 2nd and Summer Leys on 3rd. The first northbound White Wagtails appeared, including singles at Stanford Res on 21st and 27th and at Summer Leys on 26th with two there on 3rd. A Black Redstart frequented gardens in Byfield on 21st, while two
Stonechats lingered at Blueberry Farm on 23rd but just one Northern Wheatear was found – a male at Clifford Hill GP on 3rd. Several Bramblings near Scaldwell on 28th was a sign that winter was not quite over …