Although this week’s winds were largely migrant-friendly south to south-easterlies, the overcast, wet and murky conditions, which ensued throughout the period, were not and left many migrants temporarily grounded. Among these, a ‘mini-invasion’ of northbound Common Scoters marked the week, while summer visitors new in were Common Sandpiper and Sedge Warbler on 8th, Cuckoo and Grasshopper Warbler on 9th and Hobby on 13th.
After a recent dearth of wildfowl, things changed dramatically this week. Keeping a generally low profile, the Stanwick Pink-footed Goose was still associating with Greylags there on 8th and the same site also hosted a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on 13th after one had flown south-west there two days previously, on 11th. Seven Dark-bellied Brents also made landfall during the drizzle at Clifford Hill GP on 12th.
Back at Stanwick, a drake Garganey was located on 13th and is still only the second record, so far, this spring. Diving ducks were well-represented during the period, with a drake Red-crested Pochard at Stanford Res on 9th, followed by a male and female at Kislingbury GP on 11th but more interesting was the report of a female Ring-necked Duck, south of the causeway at Pitsford Res, on 11th. Despite subsequent searching, it was not relocated, although a female Scaup was discovered there during the process.
In all this duckin’ n divin’ the week belonged to Common Scoters, which continued to come through in what seems likely to be an unprecedented local ‘spring of scoters’ – perhaps giving rise to a new collective noun for the species. Six – including four drakes – were at Daventry CP on 9th, followed by four more (two drakes) there on 11th. Two also visited Boddington Res on 9th, two drakes were at Pitsford Res on 10th-11th, three (one drake) lingered at Clifford Hill GP from 10th to 13th and a drake was at Hollowell Res on 11th. Interestingly, nine different groups of Common Scoters were sound recorded on nocturnal migration north over one locality in neighbouring Bedfordshire in the early hours of 9th.
Apart from two flying east along the Nene Valley on 8th, just one Great White Egret remained in the vicinity of Hardwater Lake and the weir at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys LNR until 13th.
Single Ospreys were seen at six localities during the period, these comprising Pitsford Res on 7th, Hollowell Res, Stanford Res and Thrapston GP on 8th, Ravensthorpe Res on 9th and Welford/Sulby Res on 13th. There were no reports of any other scarce raptors this week.
Wader passage begins to ramp up from hereon but, apart from a Knot at Stanwick GP on 8th, there was little change to last week’s line up, with a Black-tailed Godwit at the aforementioned Stanwick on 7th-8th, followed by another there on 13th and one on floodwater near Oundle on 9th. Stanford Res notched up its second Greenshank of the spring, with one on 8th and a Jack Snipe remained at Hollowell Res on 7th.
April wouldn’t be complete without a Sandwich Tern, so the one which completed a couple of laps of Stanford Res on 8th, before swiftly moving on, was right on cue. Hopefully more will follow. The year’s first Arctic Tern was found at Clifford Hill GP also on 8th, quickly followed by another at Earls Barton GP on the same date and another at Daventry CP on 11th. For the first time this year there were no reports of scarce ‘large’ gulls during the period, although arguably more attractive – and a lot easier to identify – Little Gulls appeared at a couple of localities, with Ditchford GP hosting two adults on 10th and Daventry CP producing three adults the following day.
Kittiwake is another species which has enjoyed a remarkable series of records so far this spring. The run continued with single adults at both Daventry CP and Stanwick on 8th, with the latter site producing another flying east on 9th followed by one on floodwater at Oundle minutes later, leading to speculation it may have been the same individual.
The pick of the passerines this week were single Ring Ouzels reported from Chelveston AF on 8th and another in the Brampton Valley, near Chapel Brampton, the following day. Just prior to these two arriving, birders hunting for this species at the traditional site of Newnham Hill on 6th failed to locate any but were amply rewarded with the discovery of a Black Redstart by way of compensation.
Staying in the west of the county, a Common Redstart was found at Boddington Res on 10th and a Northern Wheatear put in an appearance at Borough Hill on 7th. The east, however, produced the only White Wagtails which included two near floods at Oundle on 9th and one near Barnwell on 11th. At least one Hawfinch hanging on at Cottesbrooke this week, on 8th, may well be the last of an outstanding winter’s run for this species. Probably.