A predominantly westerly airstream brought sporadic showers, but conditions remained largely dry until the week’s end. Few new migrants were reported, although two Cattle Egrets flying west over Blueberry Farm on 27th would have constituted a popular draw had they been relocated. Conversely the Summer Leys Great White Egret appeared intent to stick it out at that locality until at least 25th.
The year’s first Quail was reported singing near Polebrook on 28th, while raptors worthy of note this week were a Marsh Harrier flying south along the Brampton Valley on 24th, an adult male Hen Harrier near Twywell Hills and Dales on 27th and single Peregrines at Corby, Higham Ferrers and Thrapston.
Little Ringed Plovers were seen at three localities and the only Ringed Plover reported was one at Pineham on 23rd, while the only Dunlin were singles at Hollowell Res on 27th and at Stanwick GP the following day. Stanwick also held a Turnstone from 24th to 26th and a Redshank on the latter date and two remained at Summer Leys, where a Wood Sandpiper dropped in on 27th.
The long-staying second-summer Mediterranean Gull was also still present at Summer Leys throughout the week while, at Stanwick, the putative second-summer Azorean Gull
also remained with up to Yellow-legged Gulls and a second-summer Caspian Gull was also present between 26th and 28th.
A late spring Arctic Tern visited Daventry CP on 29th but scarce passerines this week were restricted to six Crossbills flying west at Kelmarsh on 25th.
Unremarkable weather conditions, with predominantly westerly winds, contributed little to an equally unremarkable week in terms of new arrivals.
Two Garganey appeared at Stanford Res on 17th, remaining there until 21st, while the Summer Leys Great White Egret put in a likely final appearance there on 21st. Single Ospreys also visited Summer Leys on 17th and Stanford Res on 20th and there was an unconfirmed report of two at Clifford Hill GP on 18th-19th, while Peregrines overflew Stortons GP on 17th and Queen’s Park, Northampton on 20th.
Little Ringed Plovers were seen at four localities and Ringed Plovers numbered nine at Hollowell Res on 18th with six there on 21st, while twos were at Stanwick GP and Summer Leys on 19th and 20th respectively and, also in the Nene Valley, a Whimbrel visited Thrapston GP on 20th. The same date produced a Black-tailed Godwit at Summer Leys – they have been very scarce this year – but wader of the spring to date was the Temminck’s Stint which showed itself briefly to just one observer at Stanford Res on the evening of 18th. Dunlin numbers rose to ten at Hollowell Res on 21st after six there on 18th and singles at Stanford Res on the same date and at Summer Leys on 16th. The only Common Sandpiper was also at Summer Leys on 16th, three Redshanks were there on the same date and one was at Thrapton GP from 20th to 22nd.
As the vegetation grew taller and ever more dense in the Summer Leys Black-headed Gull colony, the second-summer Mediterranean Gull became more difficult to see, although it was still present on 16th. Along the valley at Stanwick, the putative second-summer Azorean Gull continued to test and tantalise a handful of observers from 18th to 20th
and three Yellow-legged Gulls were present on 19th. The week’s only scarce passerine was a singing male Wood Warbler – the second of the spring – found at Pitsford Res on 22nd.
The somewhat mixed, unsettled weather conditions were delivered by winds predominantly from a south-westerly quarter and, as expected, the main thrust of summer migrants began to slow. Perhaps the most notable feature of the past two to three weeks has been the paucity of passage waders which are eagerly awaited each spring. Just single records of Turnstone, Sanderling, Wood Sandpiper and Grey Plover probably make this the worst April/May for many years … and with not even a whiff of a Bar-tailed Godwit, could this be the shape of springs to come? Let’s hope not!
While the Nene Valley gravel pits remained largely devoid of waders, the Great White Egret continued to appear sporadically on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR throughout the week.
Ospreys were seen at Hollowell Res on 9th and 13th-14th and one was also reported flying over the A45 near Weedon on 12th but the only other raptor of note this week was a male Peregrine near Catesby on 10th.
Arguably the highlight of the week was the occurrence of two Common Cranes, which flew low over Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh Reserve at 10.30 on 15th. They quickly drifted off high but at 11.10 they were back, only to fly off high again toward nearby Thorpe Waterville.
Two Avocets at Stanwick GP on 13th headed the cast of waders which did make it to Northants this week and at total of approximately two hundred Golden Plovers flew
north over Oundle in three small flocks on 10th. Little Ringed Plovers were seen at four localities and Ringed Plover numbers ramped up to double figures at Clifford Hill GP with ten there on 9th, although elsewhere there were only two at Stanwick GP on 10th and one at Hollowell Res on 13th-14th with three there on 15th. A Whimbrel was found at Grimscote on 15th and on 10th, Stanwick GP hosted the spring’s only Turnstone to date and a male Ruff was present at Hollowell Res on 12th-13th, while two Sanderlings
accompanied nine Dunlins at Clifford Hill GP on 9th. Smaller numbers of Dunlin included one showing likely characteristics of the race arctica at Stanwick GP on 9th-10th, two at Summer Leys on 13th and one at Hollowell Res on the same date with three there the following day and one on 15th, while the only Common Sandpipers were singles at Summer Leys on 9th-10th and 14th, three at Stanford Res on 11th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 15th. The latter site also hosted a Greenshank on the same date. Two Redshanks remained throughout at Summer Leys, where the long-staying second-summer Mediterranean Gull remained in the Black-headed Gull colony. Another Mediterranean Gull – this time a first-summer – was in the Stanwick Black-headed Gull colony from 9th to at least 14th, while the same site produced a very good candidate for a second-summer Azorean Gull on 9th-10th. With perhaps two other possible Azorean Gulls recorded at this site in the past year or so these occurrences beg the question just what is going on with the Yellow-legged Gull complex right now and what is the true origin – both genetically and geographically – of these birds? A second-summer Yellow-legged Gull observed mating with, and apparently paired to, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at Stanwick this week will add fuel to the fire for proponents of the hybrid theory but observers of the ‘Azorean’ candidate say it’s bang on the money and are confident it is not a hybrid … Five more Yellow-legged Gulls were also at Stanwick on 9th – the same date that a first-summer was at Daventry CP, while these same two sites recorded Arctic Terns on 12th, numbering eight and one respectively.
One of the key species cited in the recently upheld objection to proposed leisure facility development at Fineshade Wood, Nightjar, was churring at the very same site on 9th. Subsequent evening visits drew a blank, however, while the first of another late arriving summer visitor, Spotted Flycatcher, were found at both Fawsley Park and Harrington AF on 10th. Just one Common Redstart was discovered – a male at Borough Hill on 11th along with a male Whinchat, with further single Whinchats at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) and Long Buckby on 11th and 12th respectively. Still coming through, though now likely to be wearing different genes, Northern Wheatears were found at Preston Capes and Pineham, Northampton (two) on 10th, two at Borough Hill and Blueberry Farm on 11th and 12th respectively and one at Pineham and two at Harrington AF on 13th. These latter two – both females – were trapped and biometrics duly confirmed their credentials as Greenland Wheatears, characteristics of which were also shown by the Pineham individual on the same date.
These conform to the occurrence pattern of this subspecies which occurs later in spring in the UK than nominate race individuals, with the vast majority of Northerns on passage in early to mid-May being Greenland Wheatears, a fact established by ringing activities. Sadly, Corn Bunting is all but extinct as a breeding species in Northants so a singing male found at one site on 10th is probably the last …
A very unsettled start to May saw a deep Atlantic low bringing unseasonally gale force winds and heavy showers to central England mid-week. Amazingly, this weather system delivered no surprises to Northants, although Cambridgeshire’s Grafham Water – within spitting distance of the county boundary – pulled in both Arctic and Pomarine Skuas as a result.
Back in the frame this week, the Great White Egret appearing sporadically at Summer Leys LNR between 2nd and 8th was possibly a new bird, although more likely the returning Nene Valley wanderer of recent weeks.
Just one Osprey was reported during the period – at Daventry CP on 4th, and two Peregrines included singles at Summer Leys on 6th and Stanwick GP on 8th.
First up on the wader front – even if a little late putting in an appearance – a Grey Plover arrived at Summer Leys on 5th but had duly departed by the following day.
Little Ringed Plovers remained there, however, with this site hosting the week’s maximum of five on 2nd, although there was a possibility of eight being present there at one point. This species was also noted at Clifford Hill GP and Thrapston GP. Ringed Plovers remained relatively scarce but six at Warmington GP was a good count on 4th, three were at Stanwick GP on 5th and two visited Summer Leys the next day. The latter site hosted a drop-in Whimbrel immediately after heavy rain on 3rd and a Dunlin the next day, followed by two more Dunlin there on 6th and singles at both Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP on 5th.
Four localities produced Common Sandpipers, with a maximum of three at Daventry CP on 4th and Summer Leys accounted for a Wood Sandpiper from 4th until the week’s end, while single Greenshanks were found at Stanwick GP on 2nd and Summer Leys the following day. Two Redshanks were also at the latter site at the same time, followed by singles at Thrapston GP on 3rd and Warmington GP on 4th. Summer Leys was the only locality to host this week’s Common Snipe, which numbered up to ten between 3rd and 6th.
Staying with Summer Leys, the long-staying second-summer Mediterranean Gull remained throughout the week but the lion’s share of scarce Larids fell as usual to
Stanwick GP, which produced a second-summer Caspian Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls on 4th, a Yellow-legged Gull plus a first-summer Little Gull the following day and five Yellow-legged Gulls on 8th. A second-summer Yellow-legged Gull also visited Clifford Hill GP on 7th, where an Arctic Tern was also present at the same time.
This week saw the arrival of the spring’s first Turtle Doves with singles at Old Sulehay on 2nd and at Harrington AF from 5th to 8th, although none has yet been found at the traditional site of Polebrook AF. Just one Common Redstart was discovered – a female at Borough Hill on 4th along with two Northern Wheatears at the same time, three more Northern Wheatears were at Harrington AF on 8th, while Clifford Hill GP produced another Northern on 3rd, a Greenland Wheatear on 7th and the week’s sole White Wagtail was at Summer Leys on 6th.
A predominantly dry and bright week punctuated only by a series of short, heavy downpours on 29th. Winds veered largely between northwest and southwest during the last week of what was officially the fifth sunniest April on record.
A Ruddy Shelduck flying over the Brampton Valley toward Brixworth on 26th was probably not everyone’s idea of a wetland wonder but it’s worth a mention nevertheless, otherwise it falls to last week’s drake Garganey at Summer Leys LNR until 27th to be the sole wildfowl representative in this week’s summary. With the lack of rare herons for the first week for months it’s on to raptors and the surprise appearance of two Hen Harriers – a ‘ringtail’ and an adult male – both moving west and separated in time by one hour at Twywell Hills and Dales LNR on 29th, while a male Marsh Harrier flew east at Stanford Res on 1st. The only Ospreys reported this week were at Thrapston GP on 27th and at Hollowell Res on 1st and Peregrines were seen at the first of these two locations on 26th and at Harrington AF the following day.
Little Ringed Plovers were recorded at six locations with a maximum of five at Hollowell Res on 29th and, for the second week running, Ringed Plover numbers were low with just singles at both Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP on 26th. A Whimbrel remained at Summer Leys between 25th and 28th and eight were also seen flying south-west over Pitsford Res on 26th.
Although there were three at Hollowell Res and one at Summer Leys/Earls Barton GP on 25th, Dunlin numbers ramped up at the latter site with fourteen there, the same number
at Clifford Hill GP and two at Pitsford Res – all on 26th; thereafter, singles were recorded at Pitsford and Hollowell Reservoirs, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys between 27th and 29th. Eight localities produced Common Sandpipers, with a maximum of four at
Stanwick GP on 27th, while single Green Sandpipers were seen only at Summer Leys and Wicksteed Park Lake, with the first of these two localities producing a Greenshank on 25th-26th with another at Stanwick GP in 26th. Summer Leys also held the week’s only Redshank – on 27th – and the week’s only Common Snipe, with six on 26th and three on 30th.
Staying with Summer Leys, the second-summer Mediterranean Gull continued to be reported until 28th (although it was probably still present at the week’s end), while passage terns included four Black Terns at Pitsford Res on 29th and small numbers of Arctic Terns, including two reported over Scaldwell on 25th, two at Clifford Hill GP on 26th, one at Daventry CP on 28th and five at Hollowell Res on 29th.
One or two Wood Warblers normally find their way to the county each spring and the first – perhaps only – one this year was a singing male discovered at Daventry CP on 26th.
‘New’ Ring Ouzels were found at Long Buckby, where there were up to three on 25th-26th, and at Harrington AF, where a male was present between 27th and 29th, while a late Fieldfare at Moulton on 28th was noteworthy. A Common Redstart was at Harrington AF on 29th, Whinchats were found at seven localities and Northern Wheatears at
four. Migrant White Wagtails appeared at five localities, with a maximum of four at Pitsford Res on 27th, while a flava wagtail at Daventry CP on 27th-28th appeared to be a good candidate for a female Blue-headed.