Newsround – 8th to 14th May 2021

Compared to the last two, this week was somewhat mellow, belonging rather more to the hangers-on than the newly arrived. A low pressure system centred over the British Isles for the majority of the period delivered unsettled weather and ‘false southerlies’, resulting from a northerly wrap-around, rather than anything originating from deep down in southern Europe. So, the foot was off the gas for high octane birding … but is that it for the spring?

Well, it would certainly appear so as far as wildfowl are concerned, since the week’s only pukka ducks were single drake Garganeys, at both Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP on 8th. However, it was the latter site which dipped more than one toe into muddy waters as, bobbing on the surface, was last week’s and the week before’s Pink-footed Goose – now looking distinctly suspect in terms of origin.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanwick GP, 11th May 2021 (Steve Fisher)

But looking further into the murky depths revealed some unquestionably dodgy fare in the shape of a Chiloe Wigeon x Crested Duck hybrid on 8th, which proceeded to make its way to Summer Leys for 11th. And if that wasn’t enough, just to add insult to injury, a Barnacle Goose x Cackling Goose hybrid followed two days later, accompanied by a ‘pure’ Barnacle Goose.

Relying principally on cast-offs from Thrapston and Ditchford GPs to keep it afloat, Stanwick has, so far, come in decidedly under par this spring. But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings … or so they say.

One thing Stanwick is reliable for, of course, is Cattle Egrets, four – or possibly as many as six – of which were present there on 9th, while the one which turned up at Pitsford Res at the end of last week remained throughout. Pitsford was also one of the four sites producing Great Egrets this week, with one still there on 12th, while singles were also seen at Thrapston on the same date and at both Clifford Hill GP and Summer Leys on 8th.

Cattle Egret, Pitsford Res, 11th May 2021 (John Moon)
Cattle Egret, Pitsford Res, 13th May 2021 (Ant Hall)

Raptor sightings this week were limited to single Ospreys at Thrapston on 9th and 12th, Pitsford on 10th, Hollowell Res on 11th and Stanford Res on 14th.

If last week belonged to waders, then this week followed suit – albeit at a less prestigious level. Two Grey Plovers – relatively scarce so far this spring – were found at DIRFT 3 on 8th and two Ringed Plovers of one of the tundra races also turned up there on 14th.

Waders at DIRFT 3: Dunlin and Grey Plovers, 8th May and Tundra Ringed Plover, 14th May (Gary Pullan)

The long-staying Whimbrels, present at Clifford Hill GP from last month, notched up a mammoth stopover of 18 days this week, although their numbers had dwindled from a maximum of eight to just three by 13th. In contrast to last week, they were recorded from no other sites.

Whimbrel, Clifford Hill GP, 12 May 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Away from breeding sites, the week’s only Curlew was also found at Clifford Hill on 8th, while this week’s Black-tailed Godwits consisted of two at Summer Leys from 8th to 10th and one there on 11th. Two also flew west over DIRFT 3 on 9th.

Hot on the heels of the year’s first Turnstone at Clifford Hill last week came four more at the same site in the murky weather of the 8th, the same day also seeing two paying a fleeting visit to Summer Leys and one at DIRFT 3. Clifford Hill produced further singles on 9th and 13th-14th.

Turnstones, Summer Leys LNR, 8th May 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Turnstone, Clifford Hill GP, 13th May 2021 (Bob Bullock)

Following a series of unseasonal occurrences during the second week of February, the first Knot of the spring appeared at DIRFT 3 on 13th, remaining there the following day, while last week’s Ruff lingered at Summer Leys until at least 12th.

Knot, DIRFT 3, 14th May 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Sanderlings, too,were again on the menu, with the 8th delivering five to Clifford Hill, three to DIRFT 3 and one to Summer Leys, while the following day, two remained at DIRFT 3 and another was found there on 13th. All the blow and bluster of the 8th saw many more Dunlins moving through during the miserable conditions of the day. DIRFT 3 produced sixty (in two flocks, of fifty-one and nine), Clifford Hill held at least fifty-one, twenty-five were at Summer Leys, twenty at Ecton SF and ten at Earls Barton GP’s new workings (north). It was all over by the following day, though, with just three at Clifford Hill and singles were at Stanwick on 10th and at DIRFT 3 on 13th-14th.

Dunlins, Ecton SF, 8th May 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The 8th also brought single Wood Sandpipers to both Stanwick and Summer Leys, as well as a Greenshank to the latter site, which continued to hold on to one of its long-staying Spotted Redshanks, remaining there until at least 13th.

Spotted Redshank, Summer Leys LNR, 12th May 2021 (Mark Tyrrell)

In contrast to the continued high velocity wader movement, gulls and terns were at a low ebb. A Little Gull visited Stanford on 12th and the following day saw two first-summer Caspian Gulls at DIRFT 3, while a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull visited the latter site on 8th and a third-winter was at Pitsford on 9th. With most already having moved through, single-figure counts of Arctic Terns included two at Stanford on 8th and one at Summer Leys on 11th, while single Black Terns visited Clifford Hill, Pitsford and Summer Leys on the consecutive days of 8th, 9th and 10th, respectively.

Another week, another Wood Warbler – this one being even more fleeting than last week’s. Stanwick was the venue, the bird singing for ten minutes and remaining out of sight, early in the morning of 11th. This week’s Whinchats were all on 9th, when four were at Borough Hill and one was at Clifford Hill, while Northern Wheatears still continued to filter through, some showing characteristics of the Greenland race, which tends to be prevalent the deeper we move into May.

Northern Wheatear, probably Greenland race, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 9th May 2021 (James Underwood)
Northern Wheatear, probably Greenland race, Stortons GP, 9th May 2021 (Tony Stanford)
Male Greenland Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 11th May 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Male Greenland Wheatear, Clifford Hill GP, 12th May 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Clifford Hill produced the most, with three on 8th and ten there the next day, 9th, which also saw seven at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, six at Borough Hill and one at Stortons GP. Singles were again at Clifford Hill on 10th, 12th and 13th, with two there on 11th and further singles were at Harrington AF on 11th and Boddington Res on12th.

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