The prolonged easterly airstream continued as the Scandinavian high pressure system filled and slipped further south, dragging warm air up from the continent as it did so. By the week’s end, local temperatures had hit 22°C and migrants continued to arrive in significant numbers throughout the period.
Summer visitors recorded arriving for the first time during the past week include:
13th April – Reed Warbler, Earls Barton GP
14th April – Common Whitethroat, Stanford Res
16th April – Cuckoo, Barnwell CP/Salcey Forest
17th April – Whimbrel, Hollowell Res/Summer Leys & Lesser Whitethroat Summer Leys
18th April – Nightingale, Thrapston GP
19th April – Garden Warbler, Stanford Res/Thrapston GP
Now sporting a predominantly yellow bill, thereby graduating to ‘first-summer’, the Whooper Swan continued its prolonged stay at Thrapston GP throughout the week, as did at least two of the three Pink-footed Geese. Summer Leys LNR retained its monopoly on Garganeys, a drake remaining for the duration and being joined there by another on 17th, while Daventry CP produced the only Red-crested Pochard of the week, a drake on 19th.
A Great Northern Diver was again reported from Pitsford Res on 16th – the day prior to a Cattle Egret being discovered feeding with cattle at the northern end of the Stanwick GP complex, where it remained at the week’s end. It’s difficult to be certain but it would seem highly likely this is the same individual which had been present, on and off, in the nearby Delta Lake area of Ditchford GP, where it was last seen on 30th March. The contours and vegetation of its chosen feeding area, at Stanwick’s North Lake, render it difficult to see, suggesting it may have been on site for some time prior to 17th.
By contrast, Great Egrets were, as usual, far more obvious, with Stanford Res taking the lion’s share of three on 13th and 16th, while Summer Leys retained two and singles were seen Daventry CP, Earls Barton GP, Foxholes Fisheries (Crick), Oundle, Stanwick and Thrapston.
Ospreys were recorded at four sites during the period, including singles in the Nene Valley – flying east at Earls Barton GP on 13th and west at Oundle on 15th – at Hollowell Res, where there were two different birds on 16th and at Pitsford Res on 16th, 18th and 19th.
Wader passage continued to gain momentum as another Grey Plover appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 18th, remaining there the following day. The first Whimbrels of the spring appeared on 17th, when two visited Hollowell Res and one was found at Summer Leys, from where further records of one came on 18th and 19th and two Black-tailed Godwits remained there from 16th to 19th.
A Bar-tailed Godwit also put in a brief appearance at Summer Leys on 15th and another appeared at Clifford Hill GP, late on 19th while back at Summer Leys, a Ruff was present on 15th and again on 17th. Up at Stanford Res, the year’s first Greenshank was found on the dam on 15th, while single Jack Snipes lingered at Hollowell Res on 13th and on floodwater at Barnwell the following day.
Hot on the heels of last week’s, a trio of Black Terns included one briefly at Summer Leys on 18th and two at Hollowell the next day. Similarly, an Arctic Tern was at Summer Leys on 16th and further down the valley, two visited Ditchford GP on 19th. Numbers of Little Gulls fell flat compared with the previous week’s influx, with Summer Leys producing one on 17th and 18th, two visited Wicksteed Park Lake on the same dates and two were at Thrapston on 18th-19th.
Coming to a Black-headed Gull colony near you, two adult Mediterranean Gulls – clearly a ‘pair’ in the traditional sense of the word – appeared to be prospecting suitable breeding sites in the Nene Valley on 19th, being seen first at Stanwick before moving to Summer Leys and then heading back down the Nene to Thrapston. Last of the larids, this week’s ‘token’ Yellow-legged Gull was at Pitsford Res on 15th.
Late in the season but not unprecedented, a Short-eared Owl was out at the northern end of the Stanwick complex during the evening of 19th and the wintering Great Grey Shrike remained in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton until at least 17th. The second Woodlark to be found in the county this year flew east over the dam at Pitsford Res on 15th. Surprisingly, for a species which breeds only tens of kilometres from Northamptonshire and is also a migrant, there have been only three previous records this century (2001, 2014 and 2016) as well the aforementioned individual in January this year, if accepted.
Of more reliable occurrence and only to be expected in April, however, is Pied Flycatcher but predicting just where one will turn up is far less easy. Trees bordering a playing field at Barton Seagrave would not be the first choice locality for many a birder to go looking but that’s precisely where one was found, late in the evening on 16th.
Common Redstarts were a little more abundant, though, with single males at Hellidon on 13th and 18th, Daventry CP on 15th, near Rothersthorpe on 16th and at Summer Leys on 19th, while Northern Wheatears were even better represented by singles at Stanwick and Pitsford Res on 15th, Harrington AF on 16th and 19th, near Brackley on 17th, at both Kelmarsh and Rushden on 18th and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on 19th. In addition, five were at an undisclosed locality on 18th. This week’s White Wagtails were fewer in number compared with last week and included singles at Stanford Res on 14th and 19th, with three there on 17th and further singles at Pitsford Res on 14th and Hollowell Res on 17th.