The warm, southerly airstream, which had lulled us all into a false sense of summer, was dramatically curtailed this week. By the end of the period, the weather had taken on a distinctly wintry flavour, with sleet and snow showers on the back of biting northerly winds originating from the Arctic. Nevertheless, the birds kept coming …
Again, new summer visitors were slow to arrive, as well as being thinly spread.
However, we’ve been spoilt. Seriously spoilt. On show in their dapper spring finery, more Garganeys than you can shake a stick at – well, almost – and they’re all part of a national, large-scale influx involving several hundred birds. The stand-out location was Summer Leys LNR, where they were on view daily and last week’s closing total of four increased to six by 28th, falling back to four again at the week’s end. Again, birds were mobile between there and nearby Hardwater Lake. Elsewhere, two visited Stortons GP on 27th.
Other ducks were also available and included a drake Red-crested Pochard at Clifford Hill GP on 27th, followed by the rediscovery of the Thrapston female Ring-necked Duck, a short hop up the Nene Valley at Ringstead GP, on 30th, where it remained until the week’s end.
Following the relatively long-staying drake at Stortons GP earlier in the month, the trend for scoters in suburbia continued this week with two Common Scoters taking a break from overland migration at Hardingstone GP on 30th.
Meanwhile, Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver was still present on 27th but there were no subsequent reports.
No further wandering for the Glossy Ibis at Stanwick, which completed another week there on, and around, the Main Lake.
Cattle Egrets were back up in respectable numbers this week, with Stanwick producing two on 30th and Ringstead GP three on 31st, while, just north of the latter site, the fields south of the church at Woodford held nine on the final day of the period. Back at Stanwick, Great Egrets were up to four between 30th and 1st, Summer Leys held on to one between 26th and 29th and one visited Pitsford on 26th.
In the overall movement north, two more Ospreys came through, on 26th and 1st, both of them at Hollowell Res. The second of these birds was identifiable as blue-ringed ‘T3’, a six-year old male from the Rutland Water project.
And while we’re talking ‘track-and-trace’, a satellite-tagged second-year male White-tailed Eagle, G818, from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, flew south-east, through the county during the afternoon of 28th, as it moved between Staffordshire and south Bedfordshire. While in Northants, it passed over Stanford Res, Guilsborough, Hollowell, Spratton and to the east of Northampton. Bizarrely, as with so many that have gone before, it wasn’t actually seen in the field!
The only other raptor of note was a Marsh Harrier over the scrape at Summer Leys, on 31st.
On the wader front, single Black-tailed Godwits visited Summer Leys on 29th and Stanwick on 1st and the wintering Ruff at the first of these two sites was joined by a new bird on 26th, both birds being present on 29th and one on 30th. Not to be outdone, Stanwick held three on 30th, two on 31st and one on 3rd, while the floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle produced one on 29th.
Following what would be acknowledged as a better than average winter for local Jack Snipes – including double-figures being reached at Daventry CP – this past week will be remembered by many for up to four individuals of this cryptic and normally secretive species giving themselves up and feeding in plain sight on the scrape at Summer Leys. Elsewhere and typically less obliging, singles were at Stanford Res on 26th and Clifford Hill on 30th.
The overwintering Common Sandpiper remained at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) throughout the period but, just along the road a bit, lurked wader of the week – a rather early spring Spotted Redshank which, after its initial discovery at Summer Leys on 29th, quickly moved the short distance west to Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake, where it remained until the week’s end.
In stark contrast to last week, just one Little Gull – an adult – was seen during the period, that one being at Ringstead GP on 30th, where there was also an adult Mediterranean Gull on 1st. Another, or the same, adult was also seen almost daily at nearby Stanwick throughout the week.
Aside from the aforementioned summer visitors, passerines were once again in short supply. Continuing the current theme, a Black Redstart spent little more than five minutes in a Long Buckby garden before moving on, on 27th, while four Northern Wheatears comprised singles at Pitsford on 27th, in the Brampton Valley and at Polebrook AF on 28th and at Harrington AF on 1st.
Back at Summer Leys, though, a Water Pipit – the only one of the year, so far – paid a brief visit to the scrape before flying high east on 28th.