Newsround – 29th April to 5th May 2023

As we moved into May, the reputational ‘big’ month, a sustained easterly airstream was evident throughout most of the period. Scarcer waders came to the fore, including the first Stone Curlew for nine years, unfortunately found injured and taken into care. And, it seems, we weren’t quite done with White Storks just yet …

Three more summer visitors checked in this week. In the days when Turtle Doves were commonplace, this one would have been late by comparison. The Spotted Flycatcher, though seemingly early, would have a long way to go to beat the earliest, on 20th April, in both 1971 and 1976.

The period produced a rather haphazard collection of wildfowl, consisting of last week’s drake Garganey remaining at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle on 29th and a female of the same species at Stanford Res on 1st. While these are both indubitably unsullied, the same certainly can’t be said about the others. An eyebrow-raising drake Red-crested Pochard, accompanied by a female hybrid of the same species x Ferruginous Duck, was at Pitsford Res on 4th and a drake Greater Scaup showing serious hybrid characteristics was present at Summer Leys LNR and adjacent Mary’s Lake on 4th-5th. Throw in an escaped Fulvous Whistling Duck at Ravensthorpe Res for good measure, on 1st, and that’s more than enough to contend with …

Leaping straight to waders and first up comes sketchy news of a Stone Curlew picked up injured near Hackleton, and taken into care, on 30th. The last to be seen in Northants was at Harrington AF on 17th April 2014 and this week’s bird will be only the thirteenth Northants record, if accepted.

The brief appearance of an Avocet at Summer Leys on 29th represents only the third this year, following three together at the same site during March and one at Ditchford GP in April. Becoming scarcer as time goes by, the year’s first Grey Plovers also pitched up at Summer Leys, where three were found on 4th with one remaining until 5th.

This week’s Whimbrels were the sole preserve of Clifford Hill GP’s Main Barrage Lake, where 2 were present on 30th April, one on 3rd May, followed by two there the next day. And, it seems, the above site along with Summer Leys had the period’s godwits sewn up between them, with the Leys producing a Bar-tailed Godwit on 3rd and six fly-over Black-tailed Godwits on 5th, while the Hill mustered a single Black-tailed on 29th-30th.

A notable passage of Ruffs took place in the Midlands this week and we were not left out. A healthy sixteen dropped into Lilbourne Meadows NR on 3rd, all of which departed in the evening and two turned up there the following day. The 4th saw eleven at Summer Leys and three there on 5th, while a small area of floodwater near Aynho attracted three or four on 4th. Clifford Hill mustered one on 5th.

To spice things up a little, there was also a generous dollop of Wood Sandpipers, which kicked off with one at Lower Barnwell Lock, Oundle on 30th, followed on 3rd by three at both Lilbourne Meadows and said floodwater at Aynho and one at Clifford Hill, preceding another on floodwater at Braunston on 4th. None of these remained beyond the days on which they were found.

Upsizing, Greenshanks continued to move through with single birds at Stanwick on 29th-30th, Lower Barnwell Lock on 30th, Lilbourne Meadows on 30th and again there on 4th-5th and at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys on 4th.

There was little of note on the Larid front this week, with two second-summer Caspian Gulls putting in a brief appearance on the A5 Pools at DIRFT 3 on 4th and one present there the following day.

Moving quickly back to the Nene Valley, though, one of the week’s highlights was a Little Tern, the first – and perhaps only – record this year, discovered early in the afternoon of 3rd and remaining throughout the rest of the day, long enough for those with an itch to catch up with it.

Otherwise, it was down to fourteen Arctic Terns passing through Stanwick on 4th to keep terns on the map for this week.

To all things bigger and what can be larger than White Stork? After the previous month’s action, it seems we’re not quite done with them yet as one flew low east over Oundle School playing field on 3rd, subsequently being seen moving in the same direction over the River Nene shortly afterwards. Not as obliging as the recent Summer Leys/Great Doddington bird but impressive for the observers nonetheless and, who knows, it could easily be the same bird.

That’s not to detract in any way from less scarce but equally impressive raptors. Ospreys were seen at Ravensthorpe on 3rd, Earls Barton on 4th and Hollowell on 5th, while this week’s Marsh Harriers were restricted to Summer Leys, where they were seen on 29th, 3rd and 5th, during which time two different individuals were recognised. A Merlin was also identified at the latter site on 2nd.

The plentiful run of passerine migrants continued this week and, although Common Redstarts were restricted to just the one at Harrington AF on 29th, Whinchats took over where the last species left off. Singles were found at six localities which included both Ditchford and Stanwick on 29th, Harrington and Stanford on 30th, Clifford Hill on 1st-2nd, Great Doddington on 2nd and Harrington again on 4th. The latter date saw late Stonechats at Chipping Warden and Priors Hall, Corby, where there were two present. Northern Wheatears remained at Clifford Hill between 29th and 2nd, peaking at nine on 30th, the same date producing the same number at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby. Elsewhere, singles were found at Harrington on 29th and at Borough Hill and Summer Leys on 1st, while two were at Priors Hall on 4th. Swarthy Greenland Wheatears were restricted to two at DIRFT 3 between 30th and 3rd, while the week’s only White Wagtail was one in the Brampton Valley below Brixworth on 30th.


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