Following last week’s swing to a south-easterly airstream, the period began with more of the same, the wind quickly turning east to north-east as a high pressure system became anchored over Scandinavia for much of the week. Low cloud, mist and occasional drizzle ensued – such conditions being the stuff of dreams on the east coast in autumn. This was, however, Northamptonshire in early April but the birds did not disappoint, with Little Gulls once again rising to prominence alongside early Black Terns and the arrival of more summer visitors.
Summer visitors recorded arriving for the first time during the past week include:
7th April – Black Tern, Summer Leys LNR
8th April – Arctic Tern, Hollowell Res
10th April – Tree Pipit, Daventry CP
Still in apparently no hurry to leave, the first-winter Whooper Swan remained at Thrapston GP until at least 7th and the three Pink-footed Geese continued to be seen there, present and correct, through to the week’s end, on 12th. A drake Garganey also remained at Summer Leys LNR throughout the period and last week’s drake Red-crested Pochard was still at Pitsford Res on 10th. However, it was the Nene Valley that cashed in on the first spring migrant Common Scoters of 2019, with four remaining all day at Summer Leys on 9th.
After an apparent absence of two weeks, a Great Northern Diver was reported again at Pitsford Res on 8th and apart from three Great Egrets at Thrapston GP on the same date, twos were seen at each of Stanford Res and Sulby Res, while singles were present at Ravensthorpe Res, Stanwick GP and Summer Leys.
A distant view of an unidentified male harrier at Fawsley Park on 7th suggested another week in which a Hen Harrier visited the county, but these days nothing is a given and, as they say, other harriers are available … Prior to that it had also been seen at nearby Eydon. Ospreys continued to move through, with singles visiting Pitsford Res on 8th, Ravensthorpe Res on 9th, Summer Leys on 10th and 11th, Ditchford GP on 11th and Thrapston GP on 12th. On 11th, the Summer Leys sighting of one moving east was only 25 minutes prior to that of the eastbound bird at Ditchford and indeed, all the Nene Valley occurrences may have referred to the same individual. Also on the move, another Common Crane flew high north over Hanging Houghton, early in the evening on 12th.
Wader interest was piqued this week as the first two spring Grey Plovers made landfall at Hollowell Res on 8th, both remaining until the following day, when two Black-tailed Godwits were found at Stanwick GP and a Bar-tailed Godwit appeared at Clifford Hill GP.
Hot on their heels came a Knot on the A45 Lay-by Pit at Stanwick, on 12th, although its visit there was all too brief before it continued its northward migration, moving on shortly after its discovery.
In addition to these expected spring migrants, single Jack Snipes were still at Hollowell Res on 6th and at Upton Mill (Northampton) on the same date.
Following the trickle of Little Gulls during the last day of the previous week, the dam burst and many more appeared at reservoirs and gravel pits across the county. The largest numbers arrived on 8th, when the highest site counts were twelve at Stanford Res and eleven at Hollowell Res and 9th, when twelve were at Clifford Hill GP. Additionally, records throughout the seven days came from Boddington Res, Ditchford GP, Pitsford Res, Ravensthorpe Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys and Thrapston GP. The influx is likely to have involved almost one hundred birds.
Caught up among the many Little Gulls and no doubt ushered in by the easterly winds, were the first Black Terns of the spring. One at Summer Leys on 7th was quickly followed by another at Clifford Hill GP the following day. These two are the earliest ever to be recorded in Northants, both narrowly beating the previous record holder, which was at Ditchford GP on 9th April 2017. Arctic Terns arrived too, with singles at Hollowell Res on 8th, Boddington Res and Clifford Hill GP on 9th and two paid a brief visit to Stanwick on 10th.
Stanwick also produced all two of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls – an adult on 6th and a second-summer on 8th-9th while all, bar one, Yellow-legged Gulls were to be found at Daventry CP, which held singles from various age groups on 7th, 9th 11th and 12th with two there on 8th. The other one was at Pitsford Res – also on 8th.
The long-staying, wintering Great Grey Shrike – by far the easiest to see in the county for decades – remained in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton throughout the week but the other passerines recorded this week were all of a transitory nature.
Two Ring Ouzels comprised singles at Gretton on 7th and another photographed in a garden at Hellidon the following day. A male Common Redstart was in scrub north of Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP on 11th and more Northern Wheatears included two at Clifford Hill GP from 6th to 11th, one at Pitsford Res on 7th and up to four near Bugbrooke on 7th-8th, while two relatively early male Greenland Wheatears were found in a paddock east of the country park at Daventry on 11th.
Making up for a rather poor showing of just one last week, White Wagtails rose to prominence with up to twelve at Clifford Hill GP between 6th and 11th, two at Summer Leys on 9th and singles at Hollowell Res on 9th and Stanford Res on 10th and 11th. Now a lamentably scarce migrant, a Tree Pipit flew north over Daventry CP on 10th. This former local breeder is difficult to catch up with locally – hopefully there will be a few more to come …