The Week in Focus 12th to 18th March 2016

Lingering foggy beginnings to the first two days of the period and cool east to north-east winds were not enough to deter the first real summer visitors of the year, with Osprey and Sand Martin logged heading north along with a supporting cast of ‘new in’ singing Chiffchaffs. Passerine migration was also clearly underway, being most evident in the form of substantial flocks of northbound winter thrushes and a scattering of migrant waders at local wetland hotspots.

The lone Barnacle Goose was still at Clifford Hill GP this week and, on 18th, ten Dark-bellied Brent Geese were found north of the causeway at Pitsford Res before they relocated to an area off the dam later in the day.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Pitsford Res, 18th March 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Also in the vicinity the Ruddy Shelduck remained all week and two drake Smews were in Moulton Grange Bay there on 13th. At Summer Leys LNR the drake Chiloe Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid reappeared on 14th before promptly disappearing again, while a female Pintail was at Stanwick GP on 14th-16th and the female Scaup remained throughout at Summer Leys.

Three localities produced Bitterns this week, which included the rarely encountered individuals at Summer Leys on 13th and Stanwick on 18th plus a new bird at Stortons GP on 16th. The first of these two sites was the only one to produce Great White Egrets with two there on 12th-13th – both flying over nearby Little Irchester on the first of these two dates – and one on 14th-15th.

The first summer visitor appeared in the shape of an Osprey, which was seen flying toward Hollowell Res on 12th, while Peregrines were at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Daventry CP, Higham Ferrers, Northampton, Stortons GP and Summer Leys. No other raptors were reported during the period.

Wader numbers ramped up this week. Sixteen Golden Plovers were near Scaldwell on 12th, three hundred and fifty were at Bozenham Mill on 15th, six flew over Blueberry Farm the following day and twenty were at Pineham Industrial Estate (Northampton) on 18th, the same day that two Ringed Plovers visited Clifford Hill GP. Four Curlews included singles at Pitsford Res on 12th, Thrapston GP on 13th, Bozenham Mill on 15th and over the A5 near DIRFT on 17th, while a Ruff was found on floodwater near Braunston on 17th and four more visited Stanwick the following day. But it was Dunlin which made an impact this week with Summer Leys producing one on 14th followed by three on 16th-17th, singles at Stanwick on 14th, 15th and 18th with four there on 16th, four over Boddington Res on 15th and four more through there on 18th, one at Daventry CP on 16th and eleven at Clifford Hill GP on 18th. A Green Sandpiper was discovered on a newly excavated pool at Haselbech on 12th, while the pool below the dam at Pitsford hosted another on 18th, two Redshanks were at Earls Barton GP on 13th with three at Summer Leys the following day, Stanwick GP held up to nine between 14th and 18th and one visited Daventry CP on 16th. At Stanford Res a Jack Snipe was found on 12th and another was discovered at Boddington Res on 15th, while Common Snipe numbered seven at Stanford Res and five at Blueberry Farm on 12th, fifteen were at Pineham and fifty-five at Boddington Res on 15th and eighteen at Pitsford Res on 16th.

Another Kittiwake arrived this week – an adult spent the early part of the afternoon of 12th on the main lake at Summer Leys before flying off west, while an adult

Kittiwake, Summer Leys LNR, 12th March 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Mediterranean Gull was found at Fawsley Park on 12th, before relocating to a field at nearby Preston Capes later in the day; staying in the west of the county, a first-winter visited Daventry CP on 16th. A first-winter Caspian Gull visited Stanford Res on 12th while, back at Stanwick, a third-winter on 15th was joined by a second-winter the next day when an adult Iceland Gull also dropped in to roost there on 16th.

Adult Iceland Gull, Stanwick GP, 16th March 2016 (Steve Fisher)

After a winter with below average records, two Short-eared Owls were found at Blueberry Farm on 16th, remaining until 18th, while the first spring Sand Martin appeared at Earls Barton GP on 13th and Chiffchaffs – several of them in song – were at six localities during the period. Two Central European Blackcaps continued to visit a garden in Barton Seagrave and one was in a Duston (Northampton) garden throughout the

Central European Blackcap, Barton Seagrave, 13th March 2016 (Geof Douglas)

week but it was from the back gardens of the village of Woodford that observers were able to witness a spectacular Starling murmuration said to number ‘thousands’ of birds, with the ‘cloud’ reported to be visible from a distance of 2 miles.

Starlings, Woodford, 11th March 2016 (Julie Wise)

Starlings, Woodford, 17th March 2016. Image taken at two miles range. (Leanne Tough)

A Stonechat was at Bozenham Mill on 14th, twos were in Brampton Valley and Sywell CP the following day and up to four were still at Blueberry Farm on 16th-17th.  Further evidence that spring migration was under way came in the form of three Rock Pipits, which included singles at Pitsford Res on 16th and 18th and one at Hollowell Res on the

Rock Pipit, Pitsford Res, 18th March 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Rock Pipit, Pitsford Res, 18th March 2016 (Bob Bullock)

second of these two dates. Wintering Bramblings hung on, though, with singles in gardens at Thornby on 12th and 17th, Scaldwell and Pitsford Res on 12th, up to two in

Brambling, Thornby, 12th March 2016 (John Hallam)

Hanging Houghton between 14th and 18th and six in Warmington all week, while the East Hunsbury (Northampton) Mealy Redpoll continued to visit garden feeders there until at least 17th.