For the first two days of the period, an eastwardly-moving high pressure system drew deeply into southern Europe, sucking up warm, southerly winds and producing a summer teaser of local temperatures hitting the mid-twenties. This proved highly conducive to migration with an array of scarcities and common migrants appearing during this two-day period alone. The following five days saw a return to a cooler, more westerly airstream with temperatures closer to average. The arrival of more summer visitors included Hobby, Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat, Grasshopper, Garden and Reed Warblers, to name but a few, and the two rarest visitors to the county in the period were, of course, the shortest stayers.
Wildfowl still firmly anchored this week were the Sywell CP Whooper Swan, the Daventry CP Eurasian White-fronted Goose, the Stanwick Scaup and the Stanford Long-tailed Duck, although doubts are now being expressed about the origins of the goose. There were three new Garganeys, including one at Summer Leys LNR on 9th and single females at Stanwick GP on 11th and Pitsford Res on 12th, while Red-crested Pochards included single drakes at Pitsford Res on 9th, Clifford Hill GP on 10th and Thrapston GP on 13th.
Back on the agenda – albeit briefly – this week was Great White Egret with one flying west along the Nene Valley at Sixfields, Northampton on 11th but clearly more impressive were two Spoonbills clocked circling low over Thrapston GP’s Aldwincle Lake before heading off toward Oundle, late in the morning of 8th. This will be approximately the 34th record for Northamptonshire and it’s a shame they didn’t pitch down there for the remaining part of the day.
More obliging, however, were two small crowd-pleasing Red-necked Grebes, which were discovered at Daventry CP on the same date, with both still present the following day and one remaining until 13th. Last week’s Black-necked Grebe also remained on site until 11th – a tussle ensuing between it and one of the Red-necked Grebes at one point!
Marsh Harriers again featured in this week’s line-up. One was hunting over the reedbeds surrounding the scrape at Summer Leys on the evening of 12th and it, or another, was seen flying high over Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR, at Ditchford GP, the following morning, while another flew north at Pitsford Res on 14th.
Given the success and the proximity of the Rutland Osprey scheme, it is not surprising we are seeing more locally each year. This week’s migrants included singles north over Sywell and Foxholes Fisheries, Crick – both on 8th, one (a ringed male from the Rutland scheme) over Hollowell Res on 9th, one between Ravensthorpe Res and Hollowell on 12th with one – possibly the same – fishing at Pitsford Res on the same day and one flying north-west over Fotheringhay on 13th.
The first rarity to occur at the now half-drained Stanford Res was not predicted. On 9th, two Common Cranes were discovered ‘on the deck’ at 08.00 but both took to the air shortly afterward and they were last seen heading south-west over the dam at 08.30. Both bore colour rings and the combination indicates they had been ringed in the UK.With barely twenty county records they were a great find for the three observers who saw them.
More spring waders were on the move this week with the first Whimbrel flying north over Pitsford Res on 12th, two Ruff were at Summer Leys on 11th-12th followed by a male there on 13th and a Greenshank was there on 12th.
With Common Terns now arriving in some numbers (twenty-eight at Stanwick GP on 12th) other terns are only to be expected. Three Black Terns at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 9th were early. In fact they were the earliest in the 48-year history of the Northamptonshire Bird Report – the previous earliest being on 12th April 1980. Sandwich Terns, however, are renowned for being early and, following the one at Pitsford Res on 31st March, another arrived at Daventry CP on 9th, stayed for less than thirty minutes and then was off.
Another record broken was the amazing flock of twenty Sandwich Terns which arrived at Clifford Hill GP at about the same time as the Daventry individual. Twenty is apparently unprecedented in Northants but, again, they did not stay long, prematurely helped on their way by dog-walkers straying from the path and down to the shoreline where they had chosen to rest. A Little Gull was at Pitsford Res on 9th-10th but the only other relatively scarce Larid was, understandably for the time of year, a third calendar year Yellow-legged Gull at Daventry CP on 10th.
Some of last week’s Waxwings remained in Northampton in the vicinity of Rushmere Road, where they were feeding in lime trees until 12th. Surely this must be the last we’ll see of this species this spring? Meanwhile, in the west of the county, Daventry CP hosted a male Common Redstart on 11th, while the top of Newnham Hill featured again (after last week’s Ring Ouzel) on the same date with another male Common Redstart and two Northern Wheatears.
More Northern Wheatears were at Harrington AF, where up to two were present between 8th and 14th, and near Castle Ashby with two on 14th. The lion’s share of this week’s White Wagtails was at Stanford Res, where there were up to three between 8th and 10th, six on 12th and three on 13th-14th, while one was between Pitsford Res and Scaldwell on the latter date and one appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 14th.