Newsround – 19th to 25th March 2022

As the county basked in barely interrupted sunshine and unseasonally high temperatures, things were shaping up nicely on a number of fronts, with two species in particular coming to the fore. Garganeys and Little Gulls well exceeded their allotted March quotas, as well as generously sticking around for anyone on a mission to catch up with them.

Conversely, it was an altogether different – and somewhat disappointing – picture as far as the arrival of new summer visitors was concerned.

By this time in 2021, we’d already seen the arrival of Swallow, House Martin and White Wagtail, in addition to the rather lacklustre spring tally so far this year …

But no matter. The profusion of Garganeys made up for it, while four sites offered a choice of viewing, geographically speaking. Stanwick GP produced birds daily between 20th and 23rd, with a maximum of five on 22nd but, by virtue of its comfy seating arrangements, by far the most popular venue was the easybirdin’ site of Summer Leys LNR, which kicked off with two on 20th and closed the week with four, including three fine drakes. Two of these absconded to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 23rd and 25th. Elsewhere, Pitsford Res produced two on 21st and singles on 22nd and 25th, while Thrapston GP held three mobile birds on 24th.

Drake Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 22nd March 2022 (Peter Ford)
Garganeys, Summer Leys LNR, 23rd March 2022 (Paul Wyer)

Showing no sign of going anywhere soon, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 21st March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Not quite the same can be said for Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis which, as the week progressed, appeared to be developing itchy feet as it left its hitherto preferred area around North Lake in favour of the site’s Main Lake, before wandering across the A6 to Ditchford GP on 25th.

Glossy Ibis, Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows, Ditchford GP, 25th March 2022 (Tony Vials)

Following a report of a White Stork flying south-west over Ringstead GP/Stanwick GP during the morning of 21st, it promptly appeared at Clifford Hill GP shortly after midday, circling, before heading off south. As ever with this species, its origin is open to debate.

Just one Cattle Egret put in an appearance at Stanwick, on 21st, this week and Great Egrets were also at a low ebb, with up to two at Summer Leys between 22nd and 25th and singles on floodwater in the Tove Valley near Towcester on 21st, Pitsford Res on 22nd and at Daventry CP on 23rd.

Following the year’s first Osprey last week, further individuals were seen over both Moulton and Yelvertoft on 19th, over Hollowell Res on 24th and over Deene Lake the following day. The only other raptor of note, as well as being only the second record for the year, was a Marsh Harrier heading east over Clifford Hill GP, early evening on 24th.

For the second week running, topping the wader bill was an Avocet, which remained throughout the day on the Main Lake at Summer Leys, on 20th.

Avocet, Summer Leys LNR, 20th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The same day saw a Bar-tailed Godwit at Stanwick GP – much earlier than is usual for this species in the county, while a Black-tailed Godwit also turned up there on 24th-25th. Although the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys throughout, swelling the ranks this week were five on floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle on 20th and a new bird at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 25th, where the overwintering Common Sandpiper remained until at least 23rd. Pitsford’s wintering individual remained on, and around, the dam there until at least 22nd. Meanwhile, Jack Snipes were still to be found at three localities, with two at Boddington Res on 22nd, one at Hollowell Res on 23rd, followed by two there on 25th and two at Summer Leys on the same date.

Vying with Garganey for a place in the limelight this week was Little Gull – and in numbers the likes of which we are certainly not used to seeing this early in the spring. A strong easterly vector in this week’s continued southerly airflow seems the most likely factor involved in their appearance here as part of a widespread influx across central, southern and eastern England.

Little Gull: distribution of UK records, 21st-25th March 2020 (

At least six were found at Pitsford Res on 21st, followed by two there the next day, then four on 23rd and two on 25th. Not to be left out, of course, Summer Leys held seven on 23rd, four on 24th and two on 25th, while Boddington produced one on 23rd.

Little Gulls, Summer Leys LNR, 24th March 2022 (Leslie Fox)

Arguably as smart, single adult Mediterranean Gulls showed up at Daventry CP on 24th and at Summer Leys the following day, while the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull was, once again, an adult at Pitsford on 21st.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Summer Leys LNR, 25th March 2022 (Paul Gibbs)

Passerines continued to feature poorly, with Borough Hill’s Black Redstart resurfacing on 23rd and still being present at the week’s end. That is, of course, assuming it has remained there since it was last reported on 5th February … or could this be a new bird? The only other passerine of note was Northern Wheatear, the first of the spring being the aforementioned Harrington bird on 21st, followed by another behind Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP two days later, on 23rd.

Newsround – 12th to 18th March 2022

The continuing southerlies off the near continent remained dominant throughout the period but the mild, dry conditions were rudely interrupted by a deluge of heavy rain mid-week. ‘Wet Wednesday’ saw parts of the county receive around 75% of their average March rainfall, causing localised flooding within a matter of hours. By contrast there was only a trickle, not a torrent, of spring migrants, as two more summer visitors were added to the county year list.

Demonstrating a migrational tour de force was a certain stripey-headed duck, the advance guard of which arrived at Pitsford Res on 15th, quickly to be followed by more the next day. Enter stage right … a flotilla of Garganeys – eight to be precise, comprising seven drakes and a female, which pitched up at Stortons GP ahead of the rain on 16th. Remarkably, this appears to be the largest recorded flock size for Northamptonshire but they had all moved on by the following morning, and a lone female was then discovered at Pitsford later in the day.

As in the previous week, other ducks were also available – these including the drake Red-crested Pochard at Daventry CP and the drake Common Scoter at Stortons, both of which were present until 13th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The Stanwick White-fronted Goose trio remained until at least 17th.

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed yet another week, still being present there on the last day of the period.

Back to Stanwick, where the Glossy Ibis again remained throughout the period and the week’s highest tally of four Great Egrets was present the following day. Numbers of the latter continued to dwindle, Stanford Res producing a maximum of three on 13th,  while singles were at Summer Leys LNR between 13th and 17th and Ravensthorpe Res on 14th.

In a nod to early spring, the first Osprey of 2022 was seen cruising north over Wicksteed Park, Kettering on 17th.

Kicking off the week’s waders were two rather fine Avocets, which remained throughout the day on the north side of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 15th.

Avocets, Clifford Hill GP, 15th March 2022 (Ant Hall)

The same day saw a Black-tailed Godwit paying a brief visit to Ditchford GP, while the wintering Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 14th March 2022 (Mark Tyrrell)

Other wintering waders included both Common Sandpipers, the longest staying at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North) and the relatively recent individual on, and around, Pitsford Res dam. Daventry CP continued to produce the highest single-site count of Jack Snipes, with seven there on 14th and four on 16th.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 12th March 2022 (Doug Goddard)

It would be good to have reported a glut of gulls this week but, sadly, things were quite the opposite. An adult Mediterranean Gull at Daventry CP on 17th was the only one of its kind, while second-winter Caspian Gulls visited Stanwick on 13th and DIRFT 3 on 15th – the latter date also delivering the week’s only Yellow-legged Gull, an adult, at Pitsford.

Second-winter Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 15th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Passerines again fared poorly, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart at the on-site waterworks scraping in on 12th. Where were all the Northern Wheatears …?

Newsround – 5th to 11th March 2022

Sandwiched between a series of Atlantic lows and an eastern European high, the UK experienced a mild southerly airstream which, for much of the week, was clearly conducive to the arrival of some interesting spring migrants and summer visitors. And come they did – the latter on the final day, scraping in by the skin of their teeth during the last hours of daylight …

Oddly, though, these were a tad later than last year, when the first Sand Martin arrived on 3rd March and the first Little Ringed Plover on 7th.

It’s still early days, though, and winter visitors were still very much in evidence. The Stanford Res White-fronted Geese were back in Northants on 6th before again taking to the Leicestershire side of the border, where they were still present on the last day of the period. The four Whitefronts at Stanwick GP remained until at least 9th, while Stanford also clocked up a Pink-footed Goose on 5th and Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose was still very much in evidence on 11th.

Also still in situ was the drake Red-crested Pochard on the filtration pools below the dam at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 10th, while new birds popped up at Pitsford on 6th and at Daventry CP from 9th to 11th.

Drake Red-crested Pochard, Daventry CP, 9th March 2022 (Gary Pullan)

After causing a stir last week at Thrapston GP, the female Ring-necked Duck appeared to receive little further attention and went unreported after 8th. The reverse was true, however, in the case of last week’s drake Common Scoter at Stortons GP. It attracted a non-stop stream of admirers, its central and easily accessible location, combined with obligingly close views, unprecedented local photographic opportunities and a record-breaking length of stay – at least for Northants – were key contributory factors. It was still present as the week drew to a close on 11th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 7th March 2022 (Alan Coles)

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed another week, sometimes appearing off the dam.

Similarly settled, the Glossy Ibis at Stanwick’s North Lake had clocked up sixteen days’ stay by the end of the week. But a most unexpected find was a hugely flamboyant adult Spoonbill, on its way to who knows where, making a short stopover at DIRFT 3 on 8th. Discovered feeding on the main A5 Pool, mid-afternoon, it subsequently took a long nap and, as light began to fade, looked set to roost. Unfortunately it decided to move on and headed off north before dark. Spoonbill is becoming an increasingly regular visitor to Northants, largely on the back of its recently expanding UK breeding and wintering populations. Data from the 2020 WeBS survey show that peak counts of the species have increased by more than 300% in the past decade, so more will surely follow …

Adult Spoonbill, DIRFT 3, 8th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

And, like last week and the week before, Stanwick produced all of the week’s Cattle Egrets – up to five again, as well as the highest count of twelve roosting Great Egrets. Elsewhere, Thrapston held six, Stanford three, while up to two were to be found at Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe, Summer Leys and Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering).

Hot on the heels of the first last week were more Black-tailed Godwits, with floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock (Oundle) producing one on 7th followed by two on 11th. Meanwhile, the long-staying Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week, as did the wintering Common Sandpiper at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North). An impressively high single-site count of at least twelve Jack Snipes was made at Daventry CP on 9th, while three were on a farm pond near Teeton on 7th and two were seen at Hollowell Res on 8th.

March traditionally sees the beginning of a small, though regular, passage of Mediterranean Gulls and following last week’s at Stanford, the same site produced another adult in the roost on 5th, while DIRFT 3 got in on the action, also producing an adult in the pre-roost there on 8th.

Adult Mediterranean Gull, DIRFT 3, 8th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

But it was not the best gull on site this week, that accolade falling to a juvenile Glaucous Gull first discovered loafing on DIRFT’s main A5 Pool on 6th and subsequently joining the pre-roost there on 7th and 8th.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull, DIRFT 3, 6th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

The status of Glaucous Gull in Northants is interesting. While the trend line shows a steady increase in records over the fifty years, 1971-2020, this is likely to be reversed as the closure of local landfills in recent years begins to bite … DIRFT 3 also produced the obligatory Caspian Gull – a second-winter – on 6th and 9th, while an adult was at Stanwick on 7th, third-winters visited both Stanford and Hollowell on 8th and not to be left out, of course, Rushton Landfill produced an adult and a first-winter on 9th and an adult and a third-winter on 11th.

Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 9th March 2022 (Martin Swannell)
Male Stonechat, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, 5th March 2022 (James Underwood)

Once more, passerines were in short supply, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart continuing to favour the on-site waterworks throughout and the number of Stonechats continuing to diminish as they begin to vacate their winter quarters. Two were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 5th, while singles were at Pitsford and Stanwick on 6th and one remained at Hollowell Res on 8th.

Newsround – 26th February to 4th March 2022

Blow the wind southerly … and it did – at least for the early part of the week in which we crossed the date line into meteorological spring. And while many of our long-staying winterers remained, there were sure signs of things moving – both large, very large and small.

There can’t be much more time left locally for our handful of wintering geese, as mid-March sees the start of the return to their breeding grounds. Some will recall, in days gone by, flocks of White-fronted Geese heading high above the Nene Valley from Slimbridge to the east coast, before making the crossing over the North Sea. With UK wintering numbers having declined considerably this is no longer the case and we have to make do with small mercies. And so it was that the three Stanford on Avon Whitefronts remained settled there until 27th, after which they appeared to develop itchy feet, moving into fields in Leicestershire, both north and east of Stanford Res. By contrast, the Stanwick trio remained until the week’s end, while Ravensthorpe’s Pink-footed Goose continued to keep company with the Greylags there until at least 28th. Meanwhile, back at Stanford on Avon, another Pinkfoot was found on the latter date, the escaped Cackling Goose showed up there at the same time and, undoubtedly with no better pedigree, Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose was still loafing well south of the causeway on 2nd. After nearly a month with no reports, the Tove Valley Whooper Swan resurfaced on 3rd near Yardley Gobion, not too far away from its original place of discovery near Cosgrove.

In contrast to last week, things picked up considerably on the duck front. After keeping an extraordinarily low profile, back on the menu was the female Ring-necked Duck at Thrapston GP. Last reported on 12th January, it was relocated on the Heronry Lake on 26th and remained all week, this time presenting itself quite simply as a sitting duck for anyone who wanted to catch up with it.

Female Ring-necked Duck, Thrapston GP, 27th February 2022 (Bob Bullock)

Still present throughout the period were the single drake Red-crested Pochards, remaining on show at Earls Barton GP and at Ravensthorpe Res, the latter moving to a filtration pool below the dam from 28th. New in this week was a drake Common Scoter, the first of the year, at Stortons GP on 4th.

Drake Common Scoter, Stortons GP, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver was still on site, between Pintail Bay and The Narrows, on 2nd.

Now appearing reasonably settled, last week’s Glossy Ibis attracted a steady stream of admirers to its preferred feeding area along the west side of Stanwick’s North Lake, where it remained until at least 3rd.

Glossy Ibis, Stanwick GP, 1st March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

And, like last week, Stanwick also hosted all of the period’s Cattle Egrets – up to five, to be precise and, with no more than three at any other site in the county, for the first time in a while, outnumbering all single site totals of Great Egrets. Small numbers of the latter were found at Ditchford GP, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe, Stanford, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston.

And then, on 1st, the skies over Upper Harlestone darkened momentarily as an immature White-tailed Eagle made its presence felt, rising up from ground level, gaining height and circling over the village, mobbed by Red Kites, before subsequently heading over trees behind the local cricket club. Totally unprepared, the experience left the observer agog. Well, it would, wouldn’t it! When the news comes through, however majestic an eagle may be, it’s easy to ‘write it off’ as a non-wild, radio-tagged bird from the ongoing Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme. We should now be waking up to the fact that, because this species is doing well in mainland Europe, some immatures are wandering to the UK in winter … and it appears this was one of them as no IoW birds were in the area at the time. Despite being looked for, it was not seen again.

Not quite in the same league but still a little on the large side, two Common Cranes flew low south-east over Ravensthorpe on 26th. Again, with the UK population growing, we should expect these to occur with increasing frequency.

Back down to earth, more meagre fare was on offer on the wader front, a line-up which featured the first Black-tailed Godwits of the year, at Summer Leys, where four were found on 3rd and the long-staying Ruff remained all week. The two wintering Common Sandpipers both made it into the period, the Pitsford bird remaining until at least 26th, while the Earls Barton individual was still present at New Workings (North) at the week’s end. A single Jack Snipe was seen at Hollowell Res on 28th.

Stanford had the monopoly of this week’s Mediterranean Gulls with an adult in the roost there on 28th and 2nd, while Rushton Landfill continued to produce the period’s highest number of Caspian Gulls with a first-winter, a second-winter and two third-winters on 4th. Meanwhile, Hollowell produced an adult on 28th and a third-winter on 3rd.

First-winter Caspian Gull, Rushton Landfill, 4th March 2022 (Mike Alibone)

While passerines were in short supply, a new Black Redstart was discovered below the dam at Ravensthorpe Res on 2nd, remaining there to see the week out, while Stonechats were again thin on the ground with two at Hollowell on 28th and singles at Clifford Hill GP on the same date and at Harrington AF and Hartwell on 3rd.

Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 2nd March 2022 (Angus Molyneux)
Black Redstart, Ravensthorpe Res, 4th March 2022 (Jon Cook)

Another first for the year materialised in the shape of a Mealy Redpoll, briefly inspecting a garden feeder in Farthingstone on 2nd, while two Crossbills were around the garden centre at Harlestone Heath on 28th and one was seen at Wakerley Great Wood on 4th.