The Week in Focus 27th February to 4th March 2016

The week in which meteorological spring fell commenced with cold easterlies but remained largely dry and partly sunny, with light snow showers on the final day. While no true summer visitors have yet arrived, a number of species have returned to breeding territories in some parts of the county.

Four Bewick’s Swans flew north over Pitsford Res on 4th and a Pink-footed Goose at Clifford Hill GP on 3rd may have been a new bird but was more likely to have been the same individual from late January, which also visited Summer Leys on 14th February. The Ruddy Shelduck remained at Pitsford Res all week, as did the female Scaup at Summer Leys LNR, while a drake Smew was still at Ravensthorpe Res on 28th and up to three remained at Stanwick GP throughout the period.

A Bittern was found at Summer Leys on 28th, remaining until at least 3rd and occasionally showing well from Pioneer Hide. Another was seen in flight over the reedbed at Stanwick GP on 1st.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 28th February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 28th February 2016 (Alan Coles)

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 3rd March 2016 (Douglas Goddard)

The two Great White Egrets continued to be reported at Thrapston GP until 27th, two were still at Ditchford GP on 28th and, after three weeks’ absence from Ravensthorpe Res, one was back again on 1st-3rd, while the long-staying Summer Leys individual remained there throughout. New for the week – and seemingly a one-day wonder – was a Black-necked Grebe on the main barrage lake at Clifford Hill GP on 28th.

Black-necked Grebe, Clifford Hill GP, 28th February 2016 (Bob Bullock)

A Merlin was at Pineham, Northampton on 2nd-3rd but the only other raptors of note were Peregrines at Higham Ferrers on 27th-28th and 2nd-3rd, Grafton Regis and Boddington Res on 29th, Stanwick GP on 2nd, Stortons GP and Daventry CP on 3rd and Summer Leys and Hollowell Res on 4th, while two adults at Boddington Res on 3rd were seen at nearby Woodford Halse, where they were joined by an immature on the same date.

The only Golden Plovers reported this week were fifty between Scaldwell and Brixworth on 4th, the same date on which a pair of Ringed Plovers returned to the only site where breeding was proven last year. Two Redshanks continued to be reported at Summer Leys until 27th while the only Green Sandpiper was the one on the pool below the dam at Pitsford Res, which remained until at least 2nd, and the only Common Snipe were just one at Harrington AF on 2nd and seven at Hollowell Res on 4th.

An adult Kittiwake arrived in the Boddington Res gull roost late in the afternoon of 2nd but was quickly harassed by Common Gulls, resulting in its apparent departure to the north at dusk. The same gull roost produced a run of Mediterranean Gulls with an adult and a first-winter there on 29th, a different adult and a first-winter on 1st, two first-winters on 2nd and one first-winter on 3rd-4th. In fact, it wasn’t a bad week for gulls at all with the Pitsford Res roost producing a near-adult Caspian Gull on 27th and a second-winter there the following evening, while an adult and a first-winter were at Stanwick GP on 28th and 3rd, an adult there on 29th and a first-winter on 4th.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Stanwick GP, 28th February 2016 (Dan Watson)

Caspian Gulls. Left, first-winter, Stanwick GP, 4th March 2016 (Steve Fisher). Right, near-adult, Pitsford Res, 27th February 2016 (Jacob Spinks)

The latter site also delivered a juvenile Iceland Gull on 3rd and the adult Glaucous Gull again on 2nd, while a juvenile Glaucous was discovered in the roost at Pitsford on 27th. Two Yellow-legged Gulls – an adult and a first-winter – were at Hollowell Res on 4th.

Firecrest, Stanwick GP, 3rd March 2016 (Steve Fisher)

After a notable absence the Stanwick GP Firecrest was again in the willow scrub by the A45 Lay-by Pit hide on 2nd, a male Central European Blackcap visited a garden in East Hunsbury (Northampton) on 27th and a female was in a Duston garden throughout, and the Summer Leys Stonechat remained there all week, three were at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) on 28th and two at Hollowell Res on 4th. Two Bramblings were in a Hanging Houghton garden on 27th with one there on 2nd and 4th, one was in a Scaldwell garden on 29th, one at Sywell CP on 4th and up to six continued to visit feeders in Warmington all week.