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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.