In stark contrast to last week’s rush of early spring migrants, blustery north-westerlies, quickly followed by cold north-easterlies, effectively put the lid on any further arrivals of summer visitors. Meanwhile, Thrapston’s long-staying Glossy Ibis remained top of the leaderboard as far as rarities were concerned.
There were no new wildfowl, either – ‘nocmig’ notwithstanding, of course. The two Barnacle Geese which arrived at Pitsford Res last week were still in place on 17th, with another appearing at Summer Leys LNR on the same date. Pitsford also retained its showy drake Greater Scaup off the dam, with the female Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid in tow, all week, while Ditchford GP’s drake Ring-necked Duck remained until at least 15th, as did the drake and ‘redhead’ Smew there.
Which brings us neatly to this week’s ‘nocmig’ events. The nocturnal equivalent of visible migration watching, employing sound recording equipment to capture the flight calls of migrating birds, is gaining in popularity. After delivering the county’s earliest-ever Little Ringed Plover last week, Scaldwell’s migration station was again tuned in, producing recordings of flocks of migrating Common Scoters during the hours of darkness on 15th and 18th. As we enter the peak season for this species, hopefully there will be some more tangible, ‘on the ground’ birds found during the next week or two.
Arguably best new bird of the week – at least for those who were in the vicinity of Summer Leys on the last day of the period – was Black-necked Grebe. One found on the main lake there during the morning was shortly followed by the discovery of two more over the other side of Mary’s Lane, on the lake of the same name, early in the afternoon. Three of these dapper, summer-plumaged birds in close proximity is unusual but still falls short of matching the recent ‘flock’ of four at Daventry CP in April 2019.
Meanwhile, further down the Nene Valley, last week’s rumours of the Glossy Ibis frequenting the horse field behind the lay-by on the A605 east of Thrapston, morphed into reality when it was found to be feeding happily there on 14th. It remained settled for the next three days, after which it became more elusive.
Glossy Ibis, Thrapston GP, 16th March 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Also more elusive this week were Cattle Egrets, with sightings at Stanwick limited to one on the ground on 15th and two flying over, two days later, on 17th. And as for Great Egrets, well, they were restricted to just the five localities of Ditchford – where there were potentially up to eight on 17th, Pitsford, Stanford, Summer Leys and Thrapston.
After last week’s Marsh Harrier at Summer Leys, another flew over Byfield on 19th, and then we entered the unidentified raptor zone, with the same day producing a harrier sp. flying north-east over Little Irchester and, potentially more exciting, an eagle sp. flying over Byfield in the direction of Fawsley later in the day. The latter escaped positive identification but was presumed to be a White-tailed Eagle and with the Isle of Wight reintro birds criss-crossing the country in recent weeks, that would seem to be the logical conclusion. Now, that would have been the end of it, except for the fact that, praise be to satellite-tracking … none of the IoW birds was in the area at the time. What with a ‘wild’ White-tailed Eagle moving through Suffolk and Cambridgeshire earlier in the week, speculation is rife …
In terms of species selection, this week’s waders were … last week’s waders. Single Curlews visited Stanford on 14th, Pitsford on 15th and Summer Leys on 15th-16th, while, of two which were present at Clifford Hill GP on 16th, one was multicolour-ringed, the combination of which narrowed it down to one of five or six individuals from the population breeding in the Brecks. This is currently being monitored by the BTO with the aim to better understand how habitat is influencing breeding success and how management may be better targeted to help the species, which is currently in decline. A rather smart, summer-plumaged Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit visited Summer Leys from 14th to 16th and the same site produced a Dunlin on 15th-16th and three on 19th. One also visited Stanwick on 17th. Two Jack Snipes were at Pitsford on 15th and one was found at Ditchford on 17th.
Hot on the heels of last week’s first-winter at Boddington Res came more Kittiwakes and Stanford was in line to receive its own in the well-watched gull roost there on 15th. This was followed by an adult at Stanwick on 16th and sadly, an adult was found dead at Hollowell on 17th. Caspian Gulls made a comeback on 16th, when a first-winter appeared at Daventry CP and a second-winter was found in less salubrious surroundings at Rushon Landfill.
Daventry also produced a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, with a third-winter on 15th and a second-winter the following day, while up to two were at Pitsford throughout the week. The recent run of Mediterranean Gulls also continued with Stanwick stealing the crown from Stanford in terms of numbers. Three were present on 19th, two on 13th and one on 14th-16th, while Stanford’s gull roost held single adults on 13th and 17th plus a second-winter on 14th. Elsewhere, single adults were at Daventry CP on 15th and Summer Leys on 19th.
On dry land, Harrington Airfield’s Short-eared Owl made it through to another week, being seen again on 16th, when the onsite Merlin was also present until at least 18th. Another Merlin flew north at Boddington Res, also on 16th.
Passerines mustered two Stonechats – one at Harrington on 14th, the other being at Clifford Hill on 18th, while Crossbills held steady with in excess of twenty at Salcey Forest on 16th, several still at Wakerley Great Wood on 14th, three at Hollowell on 15th and one at Pitsford on the same date.