Summer Visitor Arrival Dates: 5

With few left to arrive, only two more spring migrants have turned up over the past week – one of these just a little bit special …

Spotted Flycatcher
The first Spotted Flycatcher to be seen this spring was at Bradlaugh Fields, Northampton on 6th May. Hot on its heels, two more were then found between Byfield and Boddington on 7th. A shade earlier than last year’s first, which was on 10th May – and nowhere near the earliest, the records being held by one at Duston, Northampton on 20th April 1971 and two at Thrapston GP on the same April date in 1976.

Since those days in the 1970s, Spotted Flycatcher has declined in the county (see here) and according to BirdLife International, its population is declining in north and central Europe as a result of habitat conversion, cooler summers and decreasing insect populations caused by pollution and insecticides. In Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline.

The numbers of Northamptonshire localities this species was recorded at over the last five years are: 2015 (49), 2016 (27), 2017 (47), 2018 (35) and 2019 (40).

There is a remarkable number of instances of migrant Nightjars found roosting along the tops of garden fences. On 5th May, such was the case for one lucky observer in a garden backing onto Overstone Wood in Sywell. This one flew in and alighted before flying off after a minute or so. Prior to this, there have been only twelve previous records in the county this century, the last being in August 2016. These have included some oddball individuals, such as the male churring at the end of a Corby garden from 25th to 28th June 2002 and one on Brackmills Industrial Estate, Northampton on 10th September 2014.

Nightjar, France, 18th June 2010. Photographed at night, light is reflecting from its eye (sébastien bertru/wikimedia commons)

The local status of Nightjar is currently unknown. This species bred in the county until the 1980s but labelling it a former breeder may be quite wrong because of its nocturnal and secretive nature. Considering Nightjar has shown marked improvements in population status, attributed largely to sustainable forest management and targeted conservation action, as well as having moved from the Red to the Amber list (BTO), how many are we missing? But then how many local birders venture out to large, isolated woodland clearings at night …?

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