Newsround – 14th to 20th May 2022

With winds showing a bias toward the southerly quarter, the UK saw its hottest day of the year so far with the national temperature peaking at 26°C on 17th, when Northants also reached 24°C. Intermittent, heavy showers again influenced what was seen on the ground, although this related more to numbers of commoner waders than anything else – and this week’s rare was in the air …

Predictably, ducks were down to just the one species, Garganey, with single drakes at both Summer Leys LNR and Stanwick GP on 15th and at Lilbourne Meadows NR on 19th, while the long-staying pair remained at Thrapston GP throughout the period.

New in this week – and the first in the county for 2022 – were two flamboyant and very showy Black-necked Grebes at Stanwick, sparking a mini-rush to see them on 19th. It seems highly likely this was the same duo that subsequently put in an appearance in Scaldwell Bay, at Pitsford Res, the following day.

Black-necked Grebes, Stanwick GP, 19th May 2022 (Steve Fisher, videograb)

Meanwhile, back at Stanwick, the Glossy Ibis remained ensconced on the Main Lake, while egret numbers tumbled, with Cattle Egrets down to one at Summer Leys on 14th and two at Stanwick on 16th and the only Great Egret was one at Earls Barton GP on 17th.

But as far as raptors are concerned, outdoor gatherings have the potential to be rewarding. Go to a BBQ, keep your eyes on the skies and you never know, you might just feature. Such was the case on 15th, when a male Honey Buzzard cruised over, adding much more than a sizzle to a social gathering in Byfield. Commoner, of course, but no less exciting, a Marsh Harrier appeared at Summer Leys late on 16th and was still present the following morning.

Marsh Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 17th May 2022 (Alan Coles)

And so to waders … For Grey Plovers there are good years and there are bad years and, to date, 2022 falls squarely into the latter category. With just the Stanwick short-stayer on offer so far this spring, an even less obliging bird graced DIRFT 3 for one evening only, on 18th.

Grey Plover, DIRFT 3, 18th May 2022 (Steve Nichols)

While the tendency is for spring records to outnumber those in autumn, there are, historically, still plenty of the latter and even a small number in winter, although the trend line over the last twenty years rolls out to reveal a decline – albeit a shallow one. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, there were more Black-necked Grebes in the county than Grey Plovers …

Equally short-staying were four Turnstones at Summer Leys on the evening of 15th. Back at DIRFT 3, though, and featuring only for their continuing exceptionally high totals, Ringed Plovers numbered twenty-seven on 15th and twenty-one on 19th, with sixteen on the adjacent Lilbourne Meadows NR the following day. Where reasonable views were obtained many showed characteristics of, and were assumed to be, the northern race tundrae, although we should not be overlooking the fact that psammodroma, which is closely similar and breeds no further away than Iceland, could also be occurring.

Ringed Plover, showing characteristics of race tundrae, Lilbourne Meadows NR, 20th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

DIRFT 3 also produced a Sanderling on 15th and the week’s only Whimbrel was one near Daventry on 19th, while Ruffs were found only at Summer Leys, where breeding plumage males were present on 18th and 20th and one in non-breeding attire was seen on 19th.

Sanderling, DIRFT 3, 15th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)
Whimbrel, near Daventry, 19th May 2022 (Gary Pullan)

With tern passage appearing to be fast on the wane, two Arctic Terns were at Clifford Hill GP on 15th.

Rounding up some odds and sods, the year’s only known Turtle Dove was at an undisclosed location in the north of the county on 19th, a somewhat unseasonal Short-eared Owl visited Harrington AF on 14th and Northern Wheatears were down to four at Clifford Hill GP on 15th and one between Yardley Hastings and Easton Maudit on 19th.

Are we now in for a quiet period?

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