The calm and settled weather, established over the preceding two weeks, remained throughout the period, while temperatures continued to rise – some parts of the county hitting 27°C during the second week. Other parts of the country exceeded 30°C and with no rain in sight, rumours of a forthcoming drought, water shortages and hosepipe bans began to circulate in the media, as did the suggestion that we might be in for another ‘summer of ‘76’ scenario.
Should this be the case, what might we look forward to during the remaining summer period? A look back at the 1976 Northamptonshire Bird Report reveals that while wildfowl suffered, extensive mud availability in July produced both Little and Temminck’s Stints, Sanderling and Avocets at Pitsford Res, Avocets at Ravensthorpe Res and the county’s fourth-ever Pectoral Sandpiper at Cransley Res … and that was before we hit autumn proper.
Moulting into eclipse, a drake Garganey appeared on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR on 26th, remaining until 29th, when it was joined by a female. Further down the valley, at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR, the Great White Egret continued to put in sporadic appearances, being present on 18th-19th and 28th, as did an Osprey, which was seen on 22nd and 28th. Three pairs are currently feeding young at nests in Northamptonshire, so it is likely to have been a local visitor to the reserve. One also flew north-east over Byfield on 28th. At least three hundred pairs are now breeding in Scotland and with a new translocation scheme operating in Poole Harbour, plus the announcement of measures being taken to conserve this species on migration and in its west African winter quarters, we can surely look forward to more frequent encounters over the forthcoming years.
Titchmarsh LNR also produced a Marsh Harrier on 23rd and a male Hen Harrier was reported flying over the A43, close to Fineshade Wood the next day, on 24th. It would have been unusual if spring had passed by without at least one Honey Buzzard being recorded so, preserving its almost annual status in the county, one was seen flying north-west over Nether Heyford on the evening of 20th.
Rarely do raptors or even passerines outnumber waders in these reports but compared with the above and below in this instance, three Black-tailed Godwits at Summer Leys on 20th seem distinctly lonely. A singing male Firecrest at Badby Wood on 24th and 25th provided a summer jewel for those who went to see it and ten Crossbills in pines at the University of Northampton’s Park Campus, briefly on 19th, were a sure sign of post-breeding dispersal and perhaps an indication of more to come.