May goes out with a bang at the eleventh hour and, as we usher in meteorological summer, a high pressure system delivers warm south-easterlies and a nugget of gold to the far eastern part of the county.
With the spotlight firmly on the Nene Valley this week, four Cattle Egrets were at Stanwick GP on 30th and at least one was present on 1st. The 30th also saw a Great Egret in flight over Castle Ashby Lakes and what was presumably the same individual was subsequently seen just a stone’s throw away from there, at Earls Barton GP’s Quarry Walk, on 4th. One also visited Thrapston GP on the same date.
Last week’s hide-packing Purple Heron was still on show at Summer Leys LNR on 29th before flying off north-east during the evening of the same date. How far it actually went is a matter of conjecture as, on 2nd and 3rd, it was seen at Quarry Walk, 2 km south-west of Summer Leys.
On the raptor front, Marsh Harriers were logged at two sites on 1st – a wing-tagged bird at Summer Leys and possibly the same individual at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR. But in the north of the county things went large when a satellite-tagged White-tailed Eagle from the IoW reintroduction scheme was tracked skimming the southern flank of Stanford Res before passing over DIRFT 3, prior to entering Warwickshire, early in the afternoon of 29th.
This was second calendar-year male ‘G461’, the fourth individual from the above scheme to be recorded in Northants, following female ‘G318’ in spring 2020 and winter 2021, male ‘G393’ during the same two periods and female ‘G405’ during spring this year. Flying from The Wash to the Mendip Hills in Somerset, it covered approximately 300 km in two days.
Back in the Nene Valley, things hotted up when, once again, the easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys delivered the goods, in the last hours of 31st, with the discovery of the first Red-necked Phalarope in the county for five years. It proved to be a popular draw throughout its evening stay but was nowhere to be seen the following morning.
Apart from one on 30th April and one on 25th June, all previous spring records fall into an 11-day window between 29th May and 8th June, while 75% of all autumn records have been in September.
Other waders were, of course, available – most notably a Knot, which dropped into Stanwick early in the morning of 3rd, remaining into the afternoon.
Summer Leys also produced two adult Mediterranean Gulls on 2nd, while immature, non-breeding gulls of note were restricted to a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull and a first-summer Caspian Gull – both at DIRFT 3 on 3rd.
Two Black Terns visited Thrapston GP on 1st but … a little further down the Nene Valley …
Fotheringhay came to the fore with the flash sighting of a male Golden Oriole just outside the village, briefly, on 2nd. Twenty-four hours elapsed before the news came to light and, needless to say, it couldn’t be found the following day – which was a shame because the last accepted record in Northants was ten years ago, in May 2011. This bird falls neatly into this spring’s mini-influx of nearly sixty records, nationally, mostly in eastern England inland to the Midlands.
Our own county has seen only fourteen records in the last fifty years, with eight in May, four in June and singles in September and October. The only one to be ringed in Northants was at Ecton SF on 1st May 1971 – which some of us will remember – and it was trapped by Chris Whittles, who was subsequently the founder of CJ WildBird Foods Ltd, now known as CJ Wildlife.