Newsround – 15th to 21st April 2023

With a high pressure system firmly anchored over Scandinavia, producing sustained, strong easterlies for a significant part of the week, things began to build nicely for a surge of migrants from the continent. Throw in the essential ingredients of low cloud and rain, and the perfect combination of weather conditions was set to deliver. And it did …

Five more summer visitors checked in this week – all of them pretty much on cue, although in days gone by, when Tree Pipits maintained a healthy local population, this one is ‘late’ in comparison to the first arrivals that used to occur in March, as well as being a scarcity in itself.

By the end of the third week in April, wildfowl numbers are now predictably low, this week’s offering consisting of a Pink-footed Goose at Stanwick GP from 17th to the week’s end, a disappearing drake Garganey, briefly, at Daventry CP on 16th following a much more obliging drake Common Scoter there the day before.

Also adding to, as well as topping, the Daventry delectables this week were two smart, summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebes, present there, for one day only, on 17th. For anyone not able to connect with them, there was the chance of a second bite of the cherry when two turned up at Pitsford Res, two days later, on 19th. Perhaps the same duo – and clearly a pair, they were displaying there in Moulton Grange Bay for the greater part of the afternoon.

Larger waders were a key component of this week’s aforementioned weather conditions, kicking off with, as above, the year’s first Whimbrel, which flew east over Clifford Hill GP on the evening of 17th. The next day, four flew east together at Stanwick, followed by one on the main Lake there, briefly, on 19th, the same date producing another bird flying north-northeast over Daventry CP. One more put in a characteristically brief appearance at Clifford Hill GP, early on 20th, before departing to the east.

Then came the godwits. An initial rush of Bar-tailed Godwits commenced with an early morning eleven at Stanwick on 18th, followed there the next day by a flock of thirty, straight through, during the afternoon. In fact, this second day saw the biggest movement with thirteen on the ground, briefly, at Summer Leys before departing east, followed there less than an hour later by eleven more short-stayers on the scrape. Before the day was out, two more had pitched down at Clifford Hill GP, where they were still to be found the next morning, the 20th, having been joined by three more. Back over at Stanwick, two different, single birds dropped in on 20th and 21st, while the Clifford Hill five remained until the latter date, representing the only truly lingering birds during the period.

Considerably outnumbered by the last species, Black-tailed Godwits put in appearance at Summer Leys, where five short-stayers were seen on 18th and three lingered at Clifford Hill GP from 19th to 21st, teaming up with the on-site Bar-tailed Godwits.

And then there were Little Gulls … Perhaps not quite the tsunami we may have come to expect based on previous years but impressive numbers nonetheless. With the biggest arrival on day one, the 19th, Clifford Hill took pride of place in stacking up the numbers. An initial late morning arrival of 17 quickly ramped up to at least twenty-four as more birds arrived during the afternoon but all except three moved on in haste. Elsewhere on 19th, twelve flew east at Stanwick GP and groups of three and eleven passed east through Summer Leys. On 20th, Summer Leys had produced at least a further seven by the end of the day, Daventry CP held on to three for 30 minutes, while Clifford Hill, Pitsford and Stanwick mustered one apiece. Producing two, Stanford Res got in on the action on 21st and single birds were again at Stanwick and Summer Leys.

Other gulls were, of course, available and, this week, adult Mediterranean Gulls were not the sole preserve of Stanwick, where two were present between 15th and 19th, being joined by another two, for one day only, on 17th. Two then flew west through Summer Leys on the evening of 18th. The period’s only Caspian Gull was a first-winter at Hollowell Res on 17th.

Hot on the heels of the year’s first Arctic Tern, at Thrapston on 12th, more arrived this week, Summer Leys taking the lion’s share of eight on 17th, when five also moved through Stanford and two visited Clifford Hill. Summer Leys again saw two on 18th, when one was at Stanwick, while singles visited Pitsford on 19th-20th and Boddington Res on 21st.

After last week’s Nene Valley White Stork it, or another, was reported in the Brampton Valley, between Brixworth and Cottesbrooke on 16th.

Meanwhile, raptors were on the up this week with Ospreys seen at Hollowell on 16th, 17th and 18th, Pitsford on 16th and 17th and at Ravensthorpe on 16th and 21st.

Marsh Harriers, too, were very much in evidence with singles at Polebrook AF on 16th, Pitsford on 17th, Stanwick on 17th and 20th, Earls Barton GP’s Quarry Walk on 20th and at nearby Summer Leys the following day. Two Hen Harriers, including an adult male, were seen in flight between Weston and Helmdon on 21st.

Aside from the arrival of some of the more common summer visitors, scarcer migrant passerine numbers ramped up somewhat during the period. Single male Ring Ouzels put in brief appearances at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 15th and at Polebrook AF the following day. Time for further spring occurrences of this iconic thrush is fast running out …

Not so for Common Redstarts, though, with this week’s quota of bobby dazzlers adding a splash of colour to Blueberry Farm on 15th and 20th, Honey Hill on 15th and at both Lamport and Harrington on 17th.

Northern Wheatears were clearly in evidence during the past seven days and a maximum site count of six at Clifford Hill on 15th was noteworthy. Elsewhere, threes were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 16th, at Harrington on 17th and in the Brampton Valley between Brixworth and Hanging Houghton on the same date. Two were present at Blueberry Farm on 15th and 20th, singles at Pitsford, Hollowell and Honey Hill on 15th and at Deenethorpe and Wappenham on 16th and 17th, respectively.

Last but not least, the first Greenland Wheatear of the spring was found at DIRFT 3 on the last day of the week. There will no doubt be more of these swarthy-looking hulks to come as we move into the latter part of the spring.


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