Stepping into May sees expectations move up a gear. It’s the month most likely to produce the icing on the cake where spring migrants are concerned and, while this week’s mixed weather conditions made predictions a tough call, some of those most highly anticipated visitors turned up on cue.
So, another week, another White Stork and in terms of highlights, waders again proliferated, those at the scarce end of the spectrum refusing to stick around for any length of time. In the same vein, this week’s quota of rare terns proved even less cooperative. Such are the joys of spring …
Seemingly now part of this year’s spring furniture, Garganeys remained at both Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP, with three at the first of these two sites on 3rd and at least two at the latter on 4th. The drake Red-crested Pochard also remained at Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 5th.
Back on the menu, at least for some, was a White Stork … or maybe two – both of which proved to be as slippery as butter. On 30th, one flew over Oundle Rugby Club and it would appear logical to assume this was the same bird relocated on the ground at Lower Barnwell Lock, briefly, early in the morning on 5th. It didn’t stay, of course, and what was presumably the same individual was again seen heading high west over Summer Leys during the afternoon of the same day. What we can be sure of, though, was that it was not the same bird as that which visited Summer Leys and Stanwick GP late on 21st/early on 22nd April. The latter was traced to the White Stork Project via a numbered ring on its left tibia, while this week’s bird had no such ring, having instead a small metal ring on its right tarsus.
Meanwhile, Stanwick’s Glossy Ibis remained there until at least 3rd.
Both Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets slipped down into just single birds, with one of the former flying west at Summer Leys on 1st and at Stanwick GP on 2nd-3rd, while a Great Egret was also at Stanwick on 3rd.
Raptors, too, were in short supply – again being limited to the same two species as last week … and the week before. An Osprey flew north over New Duston, Northampton on 30th and singles visited Hollowell Res on 2nd, 3rd and 5th, while a Marsh Harrier appeared briefly at Stanford Res on 2nd.
Waderwise, though, things were on the up – looking up, that is, as catching up with the best required a fairly swift response. Topping this week’s bill was a Curlew Sandpiper on golden pond: DIRFT 3. Found just after midday on 1st, it remained until late afternoon, after which it apparently melted away.
Time, perhaps, to reflect on just what this unassuming drainage pool on the DIRFT industrial development site has produced over the last four years. So, we have at least twenty-two species of wader, including Temminck’s Stint, eleven species of gull, including the county’s only proven Baltic Gull, Spoonbill, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and some unquestionably dodgy ducks. Not a bad haul to date but, as the construction of new buildings is fast encroaching, for how much longer will it continue to deliver?
Other waders proved popular while they were available, these including single Whimbrels at Earls Barton GP on 1st and 4th and two at Thrapston GP on the same date, rising to three on 2nd.
Bar-tailed Godwits, however, were easier to come by, with singles at Clifford Hill GP, DIRFT 3 and Pitsford Res on 2nd, two at Hardwater Lake (Earls Barton GP) on 3rd-4th, one at adjacent Summer Leys on 3rd-5th, one at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 4th and three at Pitsford Res on 4th-6th.
The first Turnstone of the year hit the shoreline of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake on 2nd, quickly followed by three very short-stayers at Stanwick the next day.
Two Ruffs were at Summer Leys on 30th, followed by one there on 3rd and one also visited Clifford Hill GP on 2nd, while single Sanderlings visited DIRFT 3 on 4th and Clifford Hill on 6th. With most having long departed, Jack Snipes are unusual in May but one was still at Summer Leys on 1st and another lingered at Hollowell on 3rd. More Wood Sandpipers came through this week, starting with an obliging bird at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 3rd-4th and a couple of fleeting singles at Summer Leys on 4th and 6th, the latter site producing three stunningly summer-plumaged and equally fleeting Spotted Redshanks on 3rd which, after leaving Summer Leys, were found not too long afterwards in Lincolnshire, at Deeping Lakes, north of Peterborough. The only Greenshank of the week was at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 4th-5th.
After last week’s impressive numbers of Little Gulls, there was none during the period. Instead, two adult Mediterranean Gulls flew west over Summer Leys on 2nd and what was presumably the same two were back there, on Gull Island, briefly on 5th. Otherwise, it was down to a short-staying fourth-summer Caspian Gull at Daventry CP to keep the side going, on 3rd.
While terns were clearly more in evidence this week, the scarcest played hardest to get, with 3rd May seeing a flock of six Sandwich Terns flying non-stop north-east over Stanwick, followed a while later by a Little Tern paying the briefest visit to Ditchford’s IL&M reserve before moving swiftly on. The afternoon of same date also produced three Black Terns, the year’s first, at Boddington Res, where they lingered into the evening.
In better numbers than last week, more Arctic Terns came through, with top tallies including fourteen at Stanford Res on 2nd and six at Thrapston GP on 4th. Elsewhere, Stanwick produced three on 3rd, the gravel pits at Ringstead and Clifford Hill hosting two apiece on the same date, while the latter locality held singles on 2nd and 5th and further singles were at Pitsford on 30th and Summer Leys on 3rd.
Passerines, though, proved to be a puzzle. While one of last week’s female Ring Ouzels lingered at Honey Hill until 2nd, there were no Common Redstarts this week. In fact, so far this year, Black Redstarts have outnumbered their commoner congener, with the latest one to be found near Little Brington on 5th.
The year’s first Whinchats pitched up, perhaps a tad later than expected, starting with a male at Hollowell Res on 1st-2nd, swiftly followed by further birds at both Elkington and Priors Hall, Corby on 2nd and, on 5th, twos at Clifford Hill GP and Stanford Res and one in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.
Found at no less than nine localities, Northern Wheatears were widespread, with the highest site total of five at DIRFT 3 on 2nd. Elsewhere during the week, ones and twos were at Boddington, Brampton Valley, Clifford Hill, Harrington AF, Honey Hill, Priors Hall (Corby), Sixfields (Northampton) and Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby).
Sharing the stage with Common Redstart, another passerine which has been strangely low in numbers so far this spring is White Wagtail. Just one was seen this week – on the dam at Stanford Res on 1st.