The Week in Focus 26th March to 1st April 2016

A long bank holiday weekend – the first of the year – provided more than ample opportunity for birders to get out into the field at the beginning of the period and experience the spring migration in its ascendancy. A number of early migrants arrived, with House Martins and many more Sand Martins, the first Willow Warblers and Yellow Wagtail all putting in an appearance as the airstream swung southerly at the week’s end.

The Clifford Hill Barnacle Goose was still present with Greylags and Canadas on 28th.

Barnacle Goose, Clifford Hill GP, 28th March 2016 (Martin Swannell)

Seemingly now a permanent fixture, the Pitsford Ruddy Shelduck remained throughout and Garganeys were seen daily at Earls Barton GP, peaking at four (three drakes) on 31st and another was found on floodwater at the Northampton end of the Brampton Valley on 1st.

Garganey, Brampton Valley, 1st April 2016 (Adrian Borley)

Last week’s three Red-crested Pochards were still at Sywell CP on 26th, while the Summer Leys Scaup was also still in residence on the main lake there on 31st and two Common Scoters appeared at Daventry CP on 27th.

The Summer Leys Bittern was again seen briefly on 29th, while at least one Great White Egret was still in evidence there until 31st, with the one at Thrapston GP remaining until at least 30th. With so many individuals wintering and lingering into spring it is tempting to believe that someday they will remain to breed.

Following the first Osprey of the year on 12th, five more were seen commencing with a belated report of one at Pitsford Res on 20th and further singles at Boddington Res on 27th, Daventry CP on 29th, Summer Leys on 30th and again at Pitsford Res the following day.

Osprey, Pitsford Res, 20th March 2016 (Amanda Wallis)

Meanwhile, Peregrines continued to be seen at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys, Higham Ferrers and Northampton with further individuals at Daventry CP, Hellidon and Kettering.

Wader numbers fell back compared with last week with between one hundred and one hundred and fifty Golden Plovers near Walgrave, in the Brampton Valley and at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) during the week and up to two hundred between Scaldwell and Brixworth on 26th, while a Ringed Plover was at Pitsford Res on 31st and a pair plus three pairs of Little Ringed Plovers were at a Nene Valley breeding site on 28th and the count of the latter species at Stanwick GP had reached four by 30th.

Ringed Plover, Pitsford Res, 31st March 2016 (John Nicholls)

Other waders included single Curlews at Chacombe on 29th and Pitsford Res on 1st, a Black-tailed Godwit at Summer Leys on 26th and a Ruff at Stanwick GP on the same date. Perhaps surprisingly there were no Dunlins this week and the only Green Sandpipers were singles at Pitsford Res on 26th-28th and on floodwater at the Northampton end of the Brampton Valley on 1st, while the only Redshanks were five at Summer Leys on 30th and three at Stanwick GP the following day. The end of the week produced stripy waders  in the form of a Jack Snipe with thirteen Common Snipe at Boddington Res on 30th, one Common Snipe at Stanwick GP the following day and three at Daventry CP on 1st.

Scarce, large larids were in short supply with only a third-year Yellow-legged Gull at Daventry CP also on 1st and, further down the size scale, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was found at Summer Leys on 28th. An adult Little Gull spent a few minutes at Daventry CP early on 28th before heading off north and an adult Kittiwake spent most of the day on the roadside A45 Lay-by Pit at Stanwick GP on 31st.

Kittiwake, Stanwick GP, 31st March 2016 (Steve Fisher)

Double-figure counts of Sand Martins were made at several localities this week, Swallows were seen at seven localities and the first House Martins appeared on 26th, when one or two were at Daventry CP, followed by more at four further sites before the end of March. The first Willow Warbler was singing at Thrapston GP on 30th, quickly followed by others at Ditchford GP and Summer Leys the next day and a singing male Siberian Chiffchaff was found behind the dam at Daventry CP on 30th, although it did not linger. Single Blackcaps at Pitsford Res on 26th and Pitsford Res on 1st are likely to have been new arrivals from south-west Europe but a long-staying, wintering Central European female was still frequenting a garden at Barton Seagrave until 31st. Surprisingly few Northern Wheatears were discovered with two in Brampton Valley on 26th and one at Foxley on 30th, while the last of the wintering Stonechats was one still at Pitsford Res on 30th. Two more White Wagtails were located on 31st – at Stanwick GP and Clifford Hill GP and the first of the year’s Yellow Wagtails was on the dam at Boddington Res on 30th. Wintering Bramblings remained in gardens in Hanging Houghton, where there was one until 30th, at Geddington, where two were present on 31st-1st and at Warmington, where six were seen regularly all week.