The surge from the south continued to deliver a heady taste of spring, with local temperatures peaking at 17°C on 25th and 26th. However, it all went pear-shaped for the last two days of the period, when an area of low pressure brought showers and a corresponding fall in temperature, which remained above average for the time of year. The first true summer visitors, Sand Martins, arrived on cue on 28th – the same date a drake Ring-necked Duck was discovered at Stanwick. A Cattle Egret also remained at large in the Nene Valley.
At Thrapston GP, the first-winter Whooper Swan and the three Pink-footed Geese remained until the week’s end and the two Pinkfeet were still present around Stanford Res until at least 25th, while the adult White-fronted Goose visited Thrapston GP again the following day. The three Red-crested Pochards remained on Mary’s Lake, at Earls Barton GP, until 24th and a drake was found at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on the same date. On the other side of the A6, at Stanwick GP, the roving drake Ring-necked Duck appeared on the main lake on 28th and was still present the following day.
Over to Pitsford Res, where the two juvenile Great Northern Divers were still in situ, north of the dam, on 28th but no Great Egrets were reported from there this week. Topping the bill for numbers of this species was Summer Leys, with five on 25th, while Thrapston managed three, Stanford two and singles were seen at Cransley Res, Earls Barton GP, Ditchford GP/Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Hollowell Res and Ravensthorpe Res. On the last day of the period, a Cattle Egret, paid a brief visit to Stanwick before disappearing – albeit likely on a temporary basis.
In the absence of any other raptors, Hen Harrier narrowly makes it into this week’s report with the juvenile female again seen at Stanford on 1st March. Waders were also represented by just singles of Jack Snipe at Hollowell Res on 23rd and Black-tailed Godwit at Clifford Hill GP on 27th.
Gulls, too, were thin on the ground, with only a fine, summer-plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull on the scrape at Summer Leys, briefly on 26th, the adult Yellow-legged Gull and a first-winter Caspian Gull again at Hollowell Res on 23rd, and an adult Caspian Gull in the roost at Boddington Res on 26th.
Up to two Short-eared Owls continued to be seen at Neville’s Lodge throughout the week and another was found at Lilbourne Meadows LNR on 25th-26th. At Irchester CP, last week’s eight Crossbills had fallen to two on 23rd and one on 1st but at least four were in Yardley Chase on 28th and three at Wakerley Great Wood the following day, on 1st.
Rounding off the passerines, a Corn Bunting was found with a winter flock of Yellowhammers, south of Culworth, on 24th. Both sadly and bizarrely, this species is now rarer in Northamptonshire than Great Egret …