Under the influence of a southerly airstream, the mild weather continued into the early part of the week, bringing with it a waft of Saharan dust which, having entered the atmosphere, resulted in some spectacular sunrises. Along with this came our first summer visitor … and another eagle.
In the first gooseless week since early October last year, we were left with barely a handful of quality quackers propping up the local wildfowl cohort. On which note the drake Ring-necked Duck remained settled on Ditchford GP’s Big Lake throughout the period while, on the adjacent Skew Bridge Lake, the drake Smew also saw the week out, although the accompanying ‘redhead’ appeared to be absent after 27th. Another – or perhaps the same – ‘redhead’ appeared at Summer Leys LNR on 3rd. Colourful but no cigar, a drake Red-crested Pochard was found at Clifford Hill GP on 4th.
Cattle Egrets continued to feature regularly in their favoured Stanwick feeding area but four were also found among sheep on the reserve at Summer Leys on 28th. In stark contrast to last week, Great Egret numbers were down, with no more than three reported at any one of the seven localities they were found at.
Another week, another White-tailed Eagle or, more correctly put, ‘G318’ paid a return visit. After her previous visit last month, the ‘Lady from the Island’ flew west into the county from Buckinghamshire on the afternoon of 3rd and ended up roosting in a small wood approximately 2.5 km south of Grimscote. The following day, she flew 18.5 km south and roosted in Bucknell Wood near Silverstone before leaving the county on 5th and moving 66 km south-west through Oxfordshire. If such a large bird can slip through the county unnoticed, what else are we routinely missing?!
This week saw numbers slide on the wader front, with three Ringed Plovers returning to an undisclosed breeding site on 1st and single fly-over Curlews at DIRFT 3 on 28th and Stanford Res on 4th. Dunlins were limited to singles at both Clifford Hill GP and Stanwick GP on 4th, while the only Jack Snipes were two at Pitsford Res on 3rd.
Conversely – and unsurprisingly – numbers of Mediterranean Gulls ramped up considerably, with Stanford’s gull roost claiming the lion’s share of at least two different birds over 27th, 1st-2nd and 5th. Boddington Res also produced its own duo in the roost there on 28th. Others were more readily available during ‘normal’ daylight hours at Thrapston GP daily on 3rd to 5th, at Earls Barton GP on 3rd, at Stanwick on 4th and Daventry the following day. Again, all birds were adults. Rushton Landfill’s long-staying juvenile Iceland Gull chalked up twenty-eight days on site this week, still being present there on 4th, while more meaty fare in the shape of a first-winter Caspian Gull was at DIRFT 3’s A5 Pool on 28th and single Yellow-legged Gulls were seen at Pitsford on 2nd and 5th.
The Harrington Airfield Short-eared Owl – one of the very few in the county this winter – remained throughout the week but it’s proving to be a good one for Merlins, this week’s comprising singles at both Rockingham and Upper Benefield on 1st and Pitsford Res on 3rd.
Topping the passerines, the male Bearded Tit resurfaced at Stortons GP on 28th and fittingly, out of that Saharan dust, came our first Sand Martin of the year, at Summer Leys on 3rd. Otherwise, it appears numbers of Stonechats plummeted this week – Pitsford being the only site from which they were reported. But we’re hanging on to our Crossbills, with as many as ten still at Hollowell throughout the period and fifteen still at Wakerley Great Wood on 5th.