In a week when local temperatures remained depressed, Britain recorded one of its coldest May Day bank holidays on record and predominantly northerly winds and rain did their best to halt migration. Undeterred by the weather, migrants continued to push through, evidenced in the main by large numbers of hirundines and Common Swifts battling against the elements, alongside a notable second wave of Black Terns and a continuing northward movement of waders.
Summer visitors recorded arriving for the first time during the past week include:
10th May – Spotted Flycatcher, Daventry CP
Still in no apparent hurry to depart, the first-summer Whooper Swan remained at Thrapston GP until at least 8th, feeding with the resident Mute Swans in surrounding crop fields. Numbers of other wildfowl were, unsurprisingly, limited for early May but the monopoly maintained by Summer Leys LNR on Garganey was at long last broken when a drake appeared at Pitsford Res on 8th-9th, while the Summer Leys drake was still present, though elusive, on 10th. Stopping off on the latter date, two female Common Scoters were well north of the dam at Pitsford Res, while the escaped female Bufflehead, described as ‘legendary’ by BirdGuides, was back at Clifford Hill GP on the last day of the period. Since she was last seen there on 2nd, her roving nature has taken her up to South Yorkshire, where she spent at least two days at Old Moor, in the Dearne Valley, before returning to Clifford Hill!
Just one Great Egret, at Stanford Res on 4th-5th, ensured this species’ continued presence in the county this week but is that it now until its return in late summer? After four Black-necked Grebes at Daventry CP, present for just one day, on 26th April, another appeared at the same site on 9th, again remaining for one day only.
Another week, another harrier – this time it was a Marsh Harrier which livened up Polebrook AF on 5th, following a Hen Harrier at the same locality last week but it was Ospreys which continued to steal the limelight. Pitsford produced multiple sightings of single birds on 4th, 7th and 10th, Hollowell yielded singles on 4th and 8th, with two there on 9th, one attracted unwanted attention from local gulls at Ravensthorpe on 8th and one was at Thrapston on 5th.
Wader passaged picked up more momentum after a relatively quiet period last week. Set against a backcloth of double-figure Dunlins and Ringed Plovers, scarcer species this week appeared in the form of two Avocets at Clifford Hill GP on 10th, following a run of Nene Valley occurrences earlier in the spring.
More Grey Plovers also came through, including singles at Clifford Hill GP, Hollowell Res and Summer Leys – all on 8th, followed by two flying north-east over Pitsford the next day and another at Hollowell on 10th, while single Whimbrels were seen at Stanwick GP
on 4th, Ditchford GP on 9th and at both Pitsford and Clifford Hill on 10th. But it was Bar-tailed Godwits which rose to prominence during the week, with one at Summer Leys on 4th and another there, showing well at different points around the reserve, for three days from 8th.
Eighteen flew north over Pitsford on 8th, followed by another four over the next day. Pitsford also produced the only Sanderlings of the spring so far – one over north on 8th followed by a rather showy individual on the dam the next day. Back at Summer Leys, a Wood Sandpiper dropped on to the scrape before quickly departing on 7th and another followed the same pattern the next day, similarly moving on rather sharpish. Summer Leys has developed a track record as the classic locality for spring sightings of this species over the years.
After a week without any, Black Terns were back in the spotlight, being found at ten localities, including the county’s reservoirs as well as various sites along the Nene Valley. It seems likely that more than one hundred and twenty were recorded, the largest flocks of which were twenty at Stanwick GP on 7th, sixteen at Pitsford Res on 8th and twelve at Stanford Res on 7th.
Two Little Terns also made the news – one reported at Ravensthorpe Res on 8th, the other stopping off briefly at Summer Leys the following day. Arctic Terns continued to pass through in small numbers throughout the week, with single-figure counts from eight localities, the highest being seven at Hollowell Res on 8th.
Passerines were thin on the ground. One of the two Ring Ouzels remained at Newnham Hill until 6th and a rather lean serving of Whinchats included singles at Earls Barton GP and Sywell CP on 4th and two at Clifford Hill GP on 9th-10th.
Northern Wheatears were still to be found in select locations. A single female was at Borough Hill on 5th, another lingered at Summer Leys from 5th to 8th, a male was found near Glapthorn on 6th and two were at Clifford Hill GP on 9th – this number having doubled by the following day. The smart male ‘Channel’ Wagtail, found at Stanford Res as long ago as 23rd April, has remained on site on the Leicestershire side of the reservoir ever since, venturing into Northamptonshire again on 10th.
Stanford also produced a Tree Pipit on 7th and, for a change, it wasn’t simply a fly-over – unlike the vast majority of reports of this former widespread breeder, now sadly reduced to scarce migrant status.