After the first two days, Storm Erik’s wind and rain ultimately gave way to southerly winds bringing warm air to the country from as far south as the Azores. The resultant ‘warm’ conditions were positively spring-like, with temperatures hitting a local daytime high of 14ºC. Some movement took place on the wader front, with Oystercatchers returning to three Nene Valley sites and an Avocet appearing at Hollowell Reservoir.
At Thrapston GP, the first-winter Whooper Swan remained on Town Lake but in terms of species, this week’s goose count was down a little with three Pink-footed Geese still ranging widely over the Thrapston GP complex, while two continued to visit Stanford Res on and off, commuting with Greylags from land adjacent to nearby Stanford Hall.
Numbers of Red-crested Pochards remained low, with a maximum of nine at Pitsford Res on 13th and again, they were not recorded elsewhere, while the drake Ring-necked Duck there continued to perform well in Pintail Bay, often allowing close approach. Once again, the other drake in the Nene Valley, after putting in a brief appearance on Earls Barton GP’s Mary’s Lake on 5th, resurfaced nearby on the main lake at Grendon on 12th. Yes, it’s still down there … somewhere in the valley.
Meanwhile, the two juvenile Great Northern Divers remained at Pitsford all week, occasionally showing well together, some distance south of the causeway. Great Egrets were a little down on last week and although Thrapston continued to hold four or five and Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys two or three, elsewhere the picture was different, with only singles at Cransley Res, Ditchford GP/Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Pitsford Res and Stanford Res.
The juvenile Hen Harrier at Stanford Res remained for the duration and continued to show fairly frequently and the Neville’s Lodge ‘ringtail’ showed prior to dusk on 9th, 12th, 13th and 15th, also visiting Summer Leys on 10th, where photographs taken enabled it to be identified as a juvenile female. In contrast to last week, just one Merlin in the vicinity of Blueberry Farm on 13th was more this species’ usual form.
So, wader of the week, then – in fact the only wader of the week – was the Avocet which visited Hollowell Res on 14th. Still quite scarce in Northants, hopefully this early migrant will be the first of more to come this spring. Scarce gulls were again few and far between, being represented by an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Boddington Res on 14th, an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Daventry CP on 11th and 13th and an adult Caspian Gull at Pitsford Res on 9th plus a first-winter and a second-winter together at Hollowell Res on 15th.
A Short-eared Owl was found at Harrington AF on 10th, while three were around Neville’s Lodge just prior to dusk on 11th and at least one was there the following evening. Close to the latter site, a Siberian Chiffchaff was at Stanwick GP on 10th, having been first glimpsed there about three weeks ago while, having entered its fourth week,
the Great Grey Shrike continued to be seen throughout the period near to Blueberry Farm, where the Corn Bunting count reached a heady four on 14th. There was a further unconfirmed report of a Great Grey Shrike at the feeder stream end of Hollowell Res on 15th.
However, setting themselves up as a popular draw, up to eight Crossbills were present almost daily at Irchester CP from 9th. Although it has bred locally in the past, this species is an irregular visitor to the county, normally occurring as a result of late summer and autumn irruptions.