Two Weeks in Focus: 13th to 26th June 2015

What a difference two weeks makes as spring melts into summer. Alongside late spring scarcities and returning early autumn migrants, the last week fielded a number of ephemeral probables and possibles to ponder …

Duck was back on the menu with the apparition of (the?) two Ruddy Shelducks at Pitsford Res fleetingly on 17th, two Garganeys at Summer Leys LNR/Earls Barton GP between 13th and 20th, with two Red-crested Pochards there from 22nd to 26th, and two Common Scoters at Clifford Hill GP from 14th to 16th.

A Quail was still singing at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) until at least 16th, while a probable Cattle Egret was seen flying west between Great Billing and Earls Barton, observed from a moving car on 23rd and a Great White Egret made a surprise – although brief – appearance at nearby Summer Leys on 26th.

June would be incomplete without a flyover Honey Buzzard and 25th saw a pale morph move high west over Daventry CP – the site of the much admir’d individual which lingered for eleven days in 2002. A probable Honey Buzzard was reported flying between Upton CP and West Hunsbury, Northampton on the same date, and a possible Black Kite wearing jesses, believed to have been seen several times at Geddington during the last week, was thought to be probably an escaped Harris Hawk, which is said to have been present in the area for the last two years … No doubt, though, about the identity of an Osprey fishing at Naseby Res on 16th. In the north of the county, two possible Common Cranes flew north-west over Corby on 15th.

Waders were surprisingly well represented for the latter half of June. Aside from a lone Little Ringed Plover at Daventry CP on 24th, two or three pairs were observed with young at two other sites and at least one pair had their breeding site ploughed up by heavy industrial development plant during the last week. A pair of Ringed Plovers successfully raised three young at one site, while presumed migrants comprised four at Summer Leys on 13th with one there again on 20th. Summer Leys also produced two Sanderlings on 13th, Little Stint on 17th and up to four Dunlins between 13th and 23rd.

Nearby at Stanwick GP two Black-tailed Godwits were found on 23rd, while a Curlew was at Islip on 15th and Redshanks were seen at Pitsford Res, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP. Single Green Sandpipers at Clifford Hill GP on 14th and Summer Leys on 24th were a sure sign that autumn is on the way.

Further remnants of spring, however, were two Black Terns at Summer Leys on 13th and one at Clifford Hill GP two days later, while a Little Gull over Stortons GP on 21st constituted an unusual record for the site. The long-staying second-summer Mediterranean Gull was still at Summer Leys on 26th and, on 25th, another visited

Second-summer Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 26th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)
Second-summer Mediterranean Gull, Stanwick GP, 26th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Stanwick GP, where the putative second-summer Azorean Gull appeared again on 14th,  a second-summer Caspian Gull was present on 14th, 15th and 25th and up to ten Yellow-legged Gulls were a precursor to the annual late summer build-up there.

June is normally light on passerines but a male Red-backed Shrike in an area of central Northants, which was not conducive to public access, was present for one day only, on 15th, just long enough to be confirmed and photographed.

Male Red-backed Shrike, locality withheld, 15th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)
Male Red-backed Shrike, locality withheld, 15th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Approximately fifteen Crossbills flying west over Chelveston AF on 25th were probably in the vanguard of more to come as the autumn draws closer.

The Week in Focus: 6th to 12th June 2015

Temperatures hovered around, or below, average as a high pressure system positioned across Britain brought cool east to north-easterly winds for most of the week, although it warmed up at the week’s end. While some coastal counties continued to enjoy a trickle of scarce and extremely rare migrants, Northants slipped into the annual mid-June lull …

A Quail was singing at Harrington AF when last week’s male was also still at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell). Just one Peregrine was reported this week, at Stortons GP on 7th while the  wader collection comprised Little Ringed Plovers breeding at three sites plus two at Daventry CP on 7th, a Ringed Plover at Thrapston GP on 10th, along with four Redshanks and a Greenshank there on the same date.

At Stanwick GP, six Yellow-legged Gulls and a second-summer Caspian Gull were present on 9th and seven Yellow-leggeds and two second-summer Caspians were there on 11th. Most unseasonal, however, was a Short-eared Owl near Kettering on 8th.

The Week in Focus: 30th May to 5th June 2015

The period included a bout of unseasonal gales, brought in by a deep Atlantic low pressure system on 1st/2nd but the week’s end enjoyed a southerly, warm airflow from the continent, albeit short-lived.

A Pink-footed Goose at Clifford Hill GP on 30th and a drake Garganey at Stanford Res on 3rd-4th emerged as the only scarce wildfowl of the week, while hot on the heels of last week’s Polebrook Quail came three more, with singles in the Brampton Valley near Kelmarsh on 30th, at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell from 30th to 4th and at Harrington AF on 31st.

Then came the fly-overs. An adult Gannet reportedly south over the A14 near Thrapston following the gales on 2nd, a Great White Egret south over Harrington AF on 31st and another Teflon County Special – a female Red-footed Falcon, which was hawking over the feeder stream just north of Boddington Res for five minutes on 30th. The latter is the first in spring since 2000 and a bird which the single Peregrine at Hanging Houghton on the same date – plus numerous Hobbies elsewhere – can never make up for.

Aside from the now summering Little Ringed Plovers at three sites, spring’s final wader fling came in the form of six ‘tundra’ Ringed Plovers at Clifford Hill GP on 30th (nine had been present there the previous evening) followed by two at Stanwick GP the next day and six at Hollowell Res on 2nd – all of which it seems logical to assume were also likely to have been of the race tundrae. Sanderlings also chose this week to make up for their apparent absence earlier in the spring with singles at Clifford Hill GP on 31st, Stanwick GP on 2nd and Summer Leys LNR the following day, while three visited Stanwick GP on 1st.

Sanderling, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd June 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Sanderling, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd June 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Not to be outdone, Dunlin too put in appearances at Clifford Hill GP, where there were eight on 30th (following twelve on the previous evening), at Stanwick GP, where there were twelve on 31st, at Hollowell Res (two on 2nd) and at Stanford Res (one on 3rd).

BlackTern, Stanwick GP, 31st May 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Black Tern, Stanwick GP, 31st May 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Black Tern, Stanwick GP, 31st May 2015 (Bob Bullock)
Black Tern, Stanwick GP, 31st May 2015 (Bob Bullock)

One of the few Black Terns to be recorded this spring appeared at Stanwick GP on 31st while a ‘portlandica’ Arctic Tern put in a brief appearance at Summer Leys on 3rd – the same site continuing to host the long-staying second-summer Mediterranean Gull until at least the same date.

'Portlandica' Arctic Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd June 2015 (Bob Bullock)
‘Portlandica’ Arctic Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd June 2015 (Bob Bullock)

Other rare larids were, unsurprisingly, restricted to Stanwick GP, where year-round gull watching continued to yield results in the form of the putative second-summer Azorean Gull again on 4th and up to five Yellow-legged Gulls and a second-summer Caspian

Putative second-summer Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP 4th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)
Putative second-summer Azorean Gull, Stanwick GP 4th June 2015 (Steve Fisher)

Gull between 2nd and 4th. This week’s scarce passerines came in the form of an uncharacteristically late spring Black Redstart at Harrington AF on 30th, a male Greenland Wheatear near Boddington Res on 30th plus a Northern Wheatear (probably also Greenland) at Duston Mill, Northampton on 31st and two parties of Crossbills which were heard only at both Yardley Chase and at Pitsford Res on 30th.