The Week in Focus 9th to 15th April 2016

Heavy showers combined with an intermittent southerly airstream did much to both further the northward movement of migrants while at the same time grounding many of them. The most prominent event of the week was the passage of Little Gulls, which was most obvious in, though not restricted to, locations in the Nene Valley.

‘Old faithful’ – Pitsford’s Ruddy Shelduck – remained present throughout but the only other notable wildfowl were two Garganeys at Daventry CP on 12th and the Summer Leys Scaup, which remained throughout the period and appeared to be paired with a male Tufted Duck at the week’s end.

An immature male Goshawk appeared briefly in Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res on 9th and was again there equally briefly on 15th. Despite ‘healthy’ populations located not too distantly elsewhere in the UK, this species remains rare and difficult to catch up with in Northants. The only Ospreys reported were singles at Pitsford Res on 11th and flying west at Summer Leys on 14th, while reports of Peregrines were limited to just three, all at Summer Leys, on 11th, 13th and 15th.

The week produced two more Avocets, which included one at Clifford Hill GP late in the evening on 11th and one at Summer Leys, which remained all day on 14th. Just one report of Golden Plovers comprised approximately forty at Clifford Hill GP on 12th, while reports of Ringed Plovers were limited to one near Corby on 11th, two at Stanwick GP on 12th and one at Clifford Hill GP on 15th. Little Ringed Plovers numbered no more than two at each of Clifford Hill GP, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys during the week. Last week’s Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit remained at Summer Leys until 11th, probably making it into the record books as the most photographed godwit in Northants, ever.

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Simon Wantling)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 9th April 2016 (Simon Wantling)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 11th April 2016 (Mark Tyrrell)

Black-tailed Godwit, Summer Leys LNR, 11th April 2016 (Mark Tyrrell)

Following this, there were five at Earls Barton GP on 12th, while a Black-tailed Godwit at Stanwick GP on the same date was identified as being of the nominate, European race, limosa. The first Whimbrel of the spring flew over Pitsford Res on 15th. Numbers of Dunlin ramped up this week with records from Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR, Stanwick GP and Clifford Hill GP, where fifteen were counted on 15th and the first Common Sandpiper appeared at Stanwick on 10th, followed by no more than two at Daventry CP, Pitsford Res, Stanford Res and Wicksteed Park Lake. The only Green Sandpipers were one at the Northampton end of the Brampton Valley on 11th and the Pitsford Res individual below the dam until at least 13th, while the only Redshanks reported were two at Stanwick GP on 12th, four at Summer Leys on 13th and one at Stanford Res the following day. A Jack Snipe was again seen at Boddington Res on 10th along with ten Common Snipe on the same date, while one was at Stanwick GP on 11th-12th and another at Summer Leys on 14th.

Little Gull is now very much to be expected – and often in some numbers – in early to mid-April and this year did not disappoint. They arrived en masse between 11th and 13th with possibly as many as eighty-six individuals involved in the three-day passage, the highest count being a flock of twenty-two at Stanwick GP on 11th.

Little Gulls by location, 11th-13th April 2016. Background image: Bob Bullock

Little Gulls by location, 11th-13th April 2016. Background image: Bob Bullock

First-summer Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

First-summer Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull and Black-headed Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull and Black-headed Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Little Gull, Earls Barton GP, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

The only other gulls of note were a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at Stanwick on 11th-13th and one at Pitsford Res on 13th. Black Terns arrived a little earlier than normal with two at Pitsford Res on 12th and one at Summer Leys on the same date, while the maximum count of Common Terns was at least twenty-five at Stanwick GP on 11th.

Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR, 12th April 2016 (Bob Bullock)

Arctic Terns also arrived on the latter date, when seven were at Stanwick GP, followed by two at Pitsford Res and singles at Summer Leys and Boddington Res on 12th, singles at Daventry CP and Stanwick on 14th and, on 15th, five were at Clifford Hill GP, at least three at Summer Leys and two at Thrapston GP. Sandwich Tern appeared at three localities which included one at Clifford Hill GP on 11th, two at Stanford Res on 12th and three at Summer Leys on 15th.

Sandwich Terns, Stanford Res, 12th April 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

Sandwich Terns, Stanford Res, 12th April 2016 (Chris Hubbard)

The first Cuckoo was discovered at Wakerley Great Wood on 13th and, although only a scarce resident, a particularly showy Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Lings Wood during the week drew an appreciative crowd as it performed close to the on-site Wildlife Trust offices. Others were seen at Pitsford Res, near Kelmarsh and in Salcey Forest.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lings Wood, 9th April 2016 (Alan Coles)

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lings Wood, 9th April 2016 (Alan Coles)

Arriving in exactly the same location as last year, a male Wood Warbler was singing in trees by the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Res on 15th, while the second singing male Siberian Chiffchaff of the spring was discovered at Cotton Park, Long Buckby on 9th. Neither of these scarce phylloscs stayed beyond the date of their discovery. Three more species of warbler arrived this week with a Lesser Whitethroat at Clifford Hill GP on 12th, a Common Whitethroat at Summer Leys on 9th and a Reed Warbler at Stanwick GP on 11th. The first Nightingale was also logged at Wakerley Great Wood on 13th. One of the traditional sites for Ring Ouzel – Harrington AF – attracted a male between 12th and 15th while a female was in a field between Blisworth and Milton Malsor

Ring Ouzel, Harrington AF, 12th April 2016 (Cathy Ryden)

Ring Ouzel, Harrington AF, 12th April 2016 (Cathy Ryden)

Ring Ouzel, Harrington AF, 12th April 2016 (Cathy Ryden)

Ring Ouzel, Harrington AF, 12th April 2016 (Cathy Ryden)

on 9th and a female or first-summer Black Redstart was a brief visitor to a Byfield garden on 14th. Byfield also produced a male Common Redstart on 13th, the same date that three more arrived at Harrington AF, the latter site producing the week’s maximum count of five Northern Wheatears on the same date. More Northern Wheatears included singles at Borough Hill on 10th and Stanford Res on 12th plus three at Clifford Hill GP the next day. The only White Wagtails during the period were three at Stanwick GP on 12th, while lingering Bramblings included singles at both Harrington AF and Hanging Houghton on 9th and two near Walgrave the following day.

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