The Week in Focus 19th to 25th March 2016

The period kicked off with chilly north-easterlies but became milder after the first three days as warmer weather systems pushed in from the Atlantic. More summer visitors appeared as migration visibly ramped up over the seven days.

A Pink-footed Goose visited Summer Leys LNR briefly early on 25th, the Clifford Hill GP Barnacle Goose remained on station all week, as did Pitsford Reservoir’s Ruddy Shelduck, while the female Pintail was still at Stanwick GP on 21st. The year’s first Garganey arrived fleetingly in the form of a dapper drake at Summer Leys LNR on 20th,

Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 20th March 2016 (Matt Hazleton)
Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 20th March 2016 (Matt Hazleton)

quickly followed by three more (two of which were also drakes) at adjacent Earls Barton GP on 24th, at least one of which remained until the following day. Sywell CP produced a drake Red-crested Pochard on 20th, which was joined by a female there on 24th and another drake on 25th, while the Summer Leys Scaup was also still in residence on the main lake there on 24th.

Red-crested Pochard, Sywell CP, 24th March 2016 (Alan Francis)
Red-crested Pochard, Sywell CP, 24th March 2016 (Alan Francis)
Red-crested Pochard, Sywell CP, 24th March 2016 (Alan Francis)
Red-crested Pochard, Sywell CP, 24th March 2016 (Alan Francis)

A flock of eleven Common Scoters dropped into Pitsford Res early in the afternoon on 19th, remaining there into the early evening but they were nowhere to be seen the following morning. A drake Common Scoter found at Daventry CP during the morning of 23rd was seen to depart high to the north-west in the early evening.

Two out of last week’s three Nene valley Bitterns remained this week, with one at Summer Leys on 21st-22nd, while the Stanwick individual was seen to come into roost in the reedbed there just before dusk on 24th. Not to be outdone, Great White Egrets were still in evidence with the Thrapston GP bird making a reappearance on 20th and two returning to Summer Leys on 24th.

This week’s raptors included a male Marsh Harrier – the first since the almost wintering bird at Summer Leys – at Stanwick GP on 23rd with the latter site also producing a male Merlin on 20th. Other than that, the usual Peregrines were at large at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys, Harrington AF, near Holcot, Northampton, Stanwick GP and Thrapston GP.

Continuing last week’s build-up, wader numbers again rose. Golden Plovers were logged at five sites with a maximum of between two hundred and fifty and three hundred between Scaldwell and Brixworth on 24th – the same date that the first Little Ringed Plovers appeared at Stanwick GP and at another breeding site in central Northants. Stanwick GP also produced a Curlew on 21st, four more on 23rd and a Black-tailed Godwit on 22nd with two there the following day. Ten Black-tailed Godwits spent the day at Summer Leys on 20th with one remaining there until 22nd and another was present on 25th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd March 2016 (Clive Bowley)
Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd March 2016 (Clive Bowley)

Although both Pitsford Res and Stanwick produced five Dunlins on 19th, and the same number was reported from Ditchford GP the following day, it was Stanwick which delivered the highest count of fifteen on 20th, with one remaining until 24th. The only Green Sandpipers this week were singles at Pitsford Res on 19th and by the River Nene at Upton Way (Northampton) on 25th, while eight Redshanks were at Stanwick GP from 19th to 22nd and six were counted at Summer Leys on 20th. This week’s Jack Snipe included four at Boddington Res on 22nd and two at Hollowell Res the following day, while Common Snipe were reported from Brixworth, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res, Stanwick GP Summer Leys but the maximum count consisted of approximately forty at Boddington Res on 22nd.

Scarce gulls were clearly on the menu this week with a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Stanwick on 19th and an adult at Pitsford the same day, a second-summer at Summer Leys on 20th-21st and single first-winters at Boddington on 22nd and Daventry CP on 24th. The only Yellow-legged Gull reported this week was a first-winter at Daventry CP on 23rd-24th. On 21st an adult Caspian Gull visited Stanwick GP, which also played host again to the visiting adult Iceland Gull which flew east over the A45 Lay-by Pit there the same day. Arguably for some, though, bird of the week was an adult Kumlien’s Gull which spent twenty minutes bathing at Daventry CP during the early afternoon of 24th before flying off south. This would be only the second county record of this highly variable race of Iceland Gull and, despite searching for the remainder of the day, it was not relocated.

On 19th a ‘new’ Short-eared Owl was discovered at Harrington AF and the two from last week remained at Blueberry Farm until 20th. Anyone who though last week’s Woodford Starling murmuration was spectacular might be interested to know that another – estimated to number one hundred thousand birds – has built this week near Ford at Daventry. Does anyone have any images? After the first on 13th March, more Sand Martins arrived this week with one at Stanwick and two at Pitsford on 22nd and fourteen at Daventry CP and twenty-one at Pitsford on 24th. Swallows, too, made an appearance with one at Clifford Hill GP on 22nd preceding an arrival on 24th of singles at Daventry CP, Ditchford GP and Stanwick GP with two at Pitsford on the same date. And the first Northern Wheatear – a male – arrived at Clifford Hill GP on 25th. The only Stonechats appearing to remain this week were two at Sywell CP on 22nd but the at times very confiding Pitsford Res Rock Pipit, first discovered on the dam on 18th, took centre-stage, sparking a mini-twitch of local admirers on 19th-20th before last being seen on 23rd.

Rock Pipit, Pitsford Reservoir, 19th March 2016 (Angus Molyneux)
Rock Pipit, Pitsford Reservoir, 19th March 2016 (Angus Molyneux)


Rock Pipits, Northamptonshire, temporal distribution of records 1996-2015. Background image: Angus Molyneux
                   Rock Pipits, Northamptonshire, temporal distribution of records 1996-2015.                                       Background image: Angus Molyneux

Another was also at Hollowell Res on the latter date and the first spring White Wagtail was located – again at Pitsford – on 19th. Wintering Bramblings continued their presence in gardens in Thornby until 21st, Hanging Houghton, where there were four on 21st-22nd and at Warmington, where up to seven remained all week.  The East Hunsbury (Northampton) Mealy Redpoll continued to visit garden feeders there until at least 24th and, additionally, one was at Stanford Res on 19th and three at Yelvertoft on 20th, while four Crossbills were seen at Kelmarsh on 22nd.

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