Newsround – 18th to 24th March 2023

A relentless and blustery south-westerly airstream continued throughout the period, providing conditions conducive to spring migration for many species. Few would dispute that the Nene Valley was the place to be this week and, undoubtedly, the highlight for many was a hugely impressive flock of Black-tailed Godwits which descended on Summer Leys, while a new Ring-necked Duck was found at Ringstead. And then there were the new summer visitors …

On the face of it, some of these dates may seem to be a little early but none of them is anywhere near record-breaking – the earliest Yellow Wagtail, for instance, was on 9th March 2014 and the other three are all between eight and ten days later than the previous record holders. The week also produced further singles of Garganey at Summer Leys on 23rd, Yellow Wagtail near Lamport on 21st and Swallow at Thrapston GP’s Titchmarsh LNR on 24th.

Now, following due systematic process, there was little change to the week’s wildfowl, which saw the Pink-footed Goose remaining throughout with Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering and the female Ruddy Shelduck still at Winwick Pools on 20th.

Similarly lingering was the female Red-crested Pochard at Summer Leys until at least 23rd, while the long-staying female Ring-necked Duck again chose to alternate between Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs and was still present at the latter site on the last day of the week. Meanwhile, in the east of the county, another female Ring-necked Duck was discovered at Ringstead GP on 23rd, this bird highly likely to be the individual seen at nearby Thrapston GP on 27th-28th January – its whereabouts during the intervening period remaining unknown.

With no reports this week, the Ravensthorpe & Hollowell female Greater Scaup appears to have upped and gone but the first-winter drake saw another full week out at Billing GP.

A little further down the Nene Valley, a riot of Black-tailed Godwits caused a bit of a stir, ultimately proving a popular draw, at Summer Leys on 21st and 22nd. An exceptional flock of 163 dropped in on the Scrape there, mid-morning, on the first of these two dates and was still present at first light the following day. The flock then fragmented with groups moving off until the last had departed by very early morning – only to be replaced, almost three hours later, by the arrival of a new flock of up to thirty birds. While Pitsford Res cobbled together a mere three on 21st, it still holds the record for producing the most birds in one day – in excess of three hundred passing through on 28th April 2017.

With numbers of winter gulls fast dwindling, local scarcities were few and far between. Most notable was an adult Mediterranean Gull appearing intermittently at Summer Leys on 19th-20th, followed by a first-summer there, albeit only briefly, on 22nd.

The only Caspian Gulls making an appearance this week were a first-winter and second-winter at Daventry CP on 18th and a first-winter paying a short visit to Titchmarsh LNR’s Aldwincle Lake on 22nd.

On the raptor front, single Ospreys seen in two site-sensitive areas in the north of the county on 21st were not completely unexpected but a White-tailed Eagle over Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs on 19th was a different kettle of fish entirely. This bird was radio-tagged ‘G547’, a second-winter female from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, which has spent most of the last year in northern Scotland and, through tracking, is now said to be heading purposefully south. Before hitting Hollowell it had flown more than 217 km from the Yorkshire Dales during the day, choosing to roost at Ravensthorpe, where it was still present early the following morning.

It’s astonishing how these flying barn doors routinely slip through the county without being seen, raising the obvious question … what else are we missing?

And talking of things missing, there appears to have been a big clear out of Stonechats this week with the only birds seen being two at Priors Hall, Corby on 19th.

Hot on the heels of the first spring wave last week, Northern Wheatears were on the up with five together at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 23rd, twos at Polebrook AF on 19th and in the Brampton Valley on 20th, plus singles at the latter locality on 21st, 22nd and 24th and one at Hinton AF on 18th.


Newsround – 11th to 17th March 2023

Despite the tussle between two opposing weather systems and the toing and froing of a cold northerly airstream, the period shaped up nicely into a classic mid-March week for spring migrants.

In this respect, Summer Leys LNR held good to its name, producing three firsts for the year, two of which were true summer visitors.

Aside from the above, other sites quickly followed suit, with Sand Martins in particular appearing on three further consecutive days, numbers of which included five at Wicksteed Park Lake on 14th, two at Kislingbury GP and seven at Pitsford Res on 15th, followed by forty at the latter site – plus singles at Lilbourne Meadows NR and Summer Leys – on 16th. DIRFT 3 also produced three Little Ringed Plovers on the last of these dates and another visited Summer Leys on 17th. And then there were Northern Wheatears, listed above but broken down into singles at two sites in the Brampton Valley, two at Harrington AF and one at Summer Leys. Last but not least, an Osprey was thrown in for good measure on the final day of the week.

Bouncing back to basics now, wildfowl of potentially questionable origin included the Upton CP Barnacle Goose, remaining until 12th, the Pink-footed Goose with Greylags at, and around, Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 15th and the female Ruddy Shelduck still at Winwick Pools, also on 15th.

Downsizing to diving ducks, last week’s female Red-crested Pochard continued to occupy the Main Lake at Summer Leys until mid-week and, attracting far less attention than it did some weeks back, the female Ring-necked Duck was still present at Ravensthorpe Res until 15th. Having apparently developed itchy feet though, for the first time, it clearly cast site faithfulness to the wind and had moved to nearby Hollowell Res by the week’s end.

The long-staying female Greater Scaup, however, remained at Ravensthorpe throughout, while the first-winter drake was still on site at Billing GP until at least 16th. It, or another, visited nearby Clifford Hill GP on 12th.

In addition to the aforementioned Little Ringed Plovers, a wider passage of waders this week included a trickle of Curlews, Ringed Plovers and Dunlins but unquestionably topping the bill were the three Avocets that dropped in to Summer Leys for a mere ten minutes on the morning of 14th. Having quickly departed to the west, searches at locations further up the Nene Valley unfortunately proved fruitless.

Three sites produced Black-tailed Godwits, with five at Summer Leys, briefly, on 13th, two at Lilbourne Meadows on 16th and the same number at Ditchford GP the following day. The latter site also produced a Jack Snipe on 15th and one was also at Pitsford Res on the previous day.

To gulls and the second-winter ‘Viking Gull’ (Glaucous x Herring hybrid) again visited Daventry CP on 14th – noteworthy but perhaps not measuring high enough on the laridometer to elicit any significant level of interest for most. It appears the same bird has recently been seen in the gull roost at Draycote, just over the border in Warwickshire. More run-of-the-mill fare appeared in the shape of Caspian Gulls, which included a first-winter at Stanford Res on 11th, a second-winter at Wicksteed Park Lake, Kettering on 12th and a bird of the same age on the same date at DIRFT 3. An adult also visited Stanwick on 14th, while Daventry pulled in a second-winter on 15th and a first-winter on 17th.

Meanwhile, the wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull remained at Pitsford throughout the period.

Scarce raptors were few and far between but Summer Leys did conjure up a transient Marsh Harrier, albeit very briefly, on 12th. Back over in the Brampton Valley, and the last day of the week produced not one but two Merlins – a male at the southern end, close to Brampton View Care Village, and a female/immature near Boughton Crossing.

Back on the menu, for one day only, was Stanwick’s male Bearded Tit, in precisely the same location as previously, on 15th. Its whereabouts over the preceding two weeks remains a mystery …

Aside from certain summer visitors already mentioned, other passerines were limited to two Siberian Chiffchaffs hanging on at Ecton SF until at least 12th and a widespread brace of Stonechats, most – if not all of which – appeared to be migrants.

At least three Stonechats were at Pitsford between 12th and 14th, twos were at Stanford Res on 12th, Clifford Hill GP from 12th to 16th, Kislingbury GP on 15th and possibly three in the Brampton Valley between 12th and 17th. Elsewhere, singles were at Sywell CP from 12th to 16th, Boughton on 12th and Ditchford GP on 15th.


Newsround – 4th to 10th March 2023

Spring was put well and truly on hold this week as winter came back with a vengeance. Biting northerlies from the Arctic brought temperatues down and, from mid-week, significant snowfall transformed the landscape, culminating on the last day of the period in 50 mph gales and blizzard conditions, courtesy of ‘Storm Larisa’.

Although many of last week’s birds remained in place, a sprinkling of migrants was evident – not least of which was a herd of fifteen Bewick’s Swans that arrived at Summer Leys LNR on 6th, sparking a mini-twitch before their departure to the east an hour or so after first light the following morning.

Although it’s tempting to believe these birds were from Slimbridge, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have confirmed they do not recognise them and they did not winter there. The UK winter population of Bewick’s decreased by 88% between 1993/94 and 2018/19 (BTO) and, as such, this species is Red-listed nationally in the UK Birds of Conservation Concern. This figure is reflected in Northamptonshire’s records which, since the turn of the century, now average only 3 per annum. There was none in 2022.

Other wildfowl were available, of course, their ‘wildness’ open to debate in some cases. Falling squarely into the latter category, a Barnacle Goose joined Canadas at Upton CP on 8th, while the Pink-footed Goose remained with Greylags at Wicksteed Park, Kettering until at least 9th.

Back at Summer Leys, the female Red-crested Pochard was still present on 5th, after which a drake was found adjacent to the reserve, at Earls Barton GP’s Mary’s Lake, on the last day of the period. Also remaining in situ were the female Ring-necked Duck and the female Greater Scaup at Ravensthorpe Res, until 10th and 6th, respectively. In the Nene Valley, the drake Greater Scaup also saw the week out at Billing GP.

Waders on offer were at a premium with the first Black-tailed Godwit of the year dropping in briefly to Summer Leys on 7th and the week’s only Jack Snipe was found at Stortons GP on 8th.

Gulls, too, were somewhat thin on the ground. An adult Mediterranean Gull joined the roost at Stanford Res on 6th and 7th and the number of Caspian Gulls was also rather diminished with a third-winter at DIRFT 3 on 5th and an adult at Hollowell Res on 6th, followed by three adults there the next day. At Pitsford Res, the wintering adult Yellow-legged Gull remained all week.

Also in short supply – perhaps understandably – were passerines, which were propped up on the rarity front by the continuing presence of Siberian Chiffchaffs along the outflow stream at Ecton SF. Two were seen on 7th and at least one remained on 10th.

There was also some movement of Stonechats during the week. Stanford held one at the beginning of the period and a further two arrived there near the week’s end. Elsewhere, Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (South) held at least 6 on 7th, Sywell CP produced four – possibly six – on 9th, four were at Hollowell on 6th-7th, two were at Earls Barton Lock on 10th and one at Hartwell on 7th.


Newsround – 25th February to 3rd March 2023

With the wind primarily from the north-east and, although the movement of some species was clearly evident, there was not even a sniff of any long-awaited and much anticipated spring migrants this week. Still, having now stepped into meteorological spring, there is much to look forward to and, with just about everything still in place from the week before, plenty to look back on and revisit.   

With the grey goose barrel having almost run dry, three Pink-footed Geese came to the fore, although only one of them was truly new – that one being found at Blatherwycke Lake on 28th. Aside from this, the bird with Greylags at Lilbourne Meadows NR reappeared on 27th-28th, as did the one-eyed individual at Wicksteed Park, where it was still present on 2nd.

Pink-footed Goose, Wicksteed Park Lake, 2nd March 2023 (James Underwood)

The female Ruddy Shelduck remained at Winwick Pools throughout the week and so, too, did the female Red-crested Pochard at Summer Leys LNR and the female Ring-necked Duck at Ravensthorpe Res.

Female Red-crested Pochard, Summer Leys LNR, 25th February 2023 (James Underwood)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 27th February 2023 (Mike Alibone)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 28th February 2023 (James Urwin)
Female Ring-necked Duck, Ravensthorpe Res, 3rd March 2023 (Bob Bullock)

Emulating the above American, the female Greater Scaup also saw out another week at the same site, while a new bird – this one a first-winter drake – was discovered at Billing GP on 1st, remaining there until the end of the period.

First-winter drake Greater Scaup, Billing GP, 1st March 2023 (Mike Alibone)

Last week’s two Smews at Blatherwycke just made it into the new week but were not reported again after 25th.

Scarce waders continued to be in short supply and 25th was clearly ‘Jack Snipe day’, when single birds were seen at both Hollowell and Pitsford Reservoirs.

But on the Larid front, Caspian Gulls again loomed large with last week’s Summer Leys first-winter spilling over into day one of the period, Hollowell holding firm with two adults on 25th and again on 2nd-3rd and a second-winter plus a third-winter dropping in to DIRFT 3 on 27th. As far as Yellow-legged Gulls were concerned, there was a little more on offer than of late, with the usual adult loitering in the vicinity of Pitsford’s Sailing Club on 25th and 27th, a second-winter at Wicksteed Park Lake on 2nd and a first-winter at Hollowell on 3rd.

Second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Wicksteed Park Lake, 2nd March 2023 (James Underwood)

Potential head-scratcher of the week, though, was a second-winter ‘Viking Gull’ at Daventry CP on 3rd. The way things are going, this Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid seems likely to be the closest we’ll get this year to getting to grips with a Glaucous Gull proper, given the lack of numbers in the UK over the outgoing winter. Add to this the winding down and closure, this year, of Northamptonshire’s last remaining landfill site raises the question of what this spells for future appearances of ‘white-winged’ gulls in the county … they will be at a premium!

Second-winter ‘Viking Gull’, Daventry CP, 3rd March 2023 (Gary Pullan)

So, too, are passerines currently. No longer under the spotlight and retreating into the shadows was Stanwick’s male Bearded Tit, seen all too briefly this week only on 26th and 28th. Stonechats, though, were seemingly on the move, with Hollowell producing the highest count of five on 2nd-3rd, followed by four at Earls Barton GP on the first of these two dates, while Pitsford netted two on 25th and singles were at Lilbourne Meadows and Kettering on 28th and at Stanford Res from 28th until the week’s end.

Male Stonechat, Earls Barton GP, 2nd March 2023 (Leslie Fox)