A marked change in wind direction dragged warmer air from the Atlantic via south-west Europe, initiating a rapid thaw in lying snow from the beginning of the week. With this came the first migrants but most winter visitors continued to frequent favoured localities, although some had clearly registered the rapidly lengthening days and decided to move on.
The juvenile Whooper Swan wintering at Ravensthorpe Res was still present on 4th but appeared to have departed by 8th, when there was no sign of it, while Stanwick GP’s Pink-footed Goose remained until at least 5th. The two Scaup there were joined by a third on 6th, all three remaining until the week’s end and the female at Sywell CP was still off the dam there on 8th. It was difficult to be certain if two drake Common Scoters, discovered on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake on 4th, were a product of hard weather movements or simply spring migrants.
The Slavonian Grebe completed another full week between the sailing club and Pintail Bay at Pitsford Res, while Great White Egrets remained at the usual sites in the Nene Valley, which included Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR (three), Stanwick GP (two) and Thrapston GP (two). One also flew south at Hollowell Res on 4th.
The first signs of spring wader passage were evident this week with an Avocet, which made a stopover at Summer Leys on 7th, and an early Grey Plover in flight near Clifford Hill GP the following day.
Also relatively early was an adult Little Gull at Thrapston GP on 4th, although winter and early spring records for this species are not unprecedented. March is typically the major spring passage month for Mediterranean Gulls and the easy to watch gull roost at Boddington Res has a track record for producing them. This year is no exception, with single adults there on 4th and 5th, followed by two adults on 6th.
The same roost produced a juvenile Iceland Gull on 4th and adult Caspian Gulls on 4th and 5th plus a sub-adult the following evening, on 6th. Elsewhere, further Caspian Gulls included an adult and a second-winter at Hollowell Res on 4th, plus a second-winter in the Thrapston GP roost on the same date, a sub-adult and a second-winter in the Pitsford Res roost on 5th and a sub-adult there on 8th plus a second-winter at Rushton Landfill the same day.
Proving scarce and difficult to find throughout the winter, Short-eared Owls have been largely absent from traditional localities but one was found this week on farmland near Milton Malsor on 8th.
There were still Hawfinches to be had for those still looking, although numbers were down on previous weeks and included singles at Fawsley Park on 4th, Salcey Forest on 5th and Thenford on 9th, while a Mealy Redpoll was still visiting garden feeders in Irthlingborough on 5th.