Sandwiched between a series of Atlantic lows and an eastern European high, the UK experienced a mild southerly airstream which, for much of the week, was clearly conducive to the arrival of some interesting spring migrants and summer visitors. And come they did – the latter on the final day, scraping in by the skin of their teeth during the last hours of daylight …
Oddly, though, these were a tad later than last year, when the first Sand Martin arrived on 3rd March and the first Little Ringed Plover on 7th.
It’s still early days, though, and winter visitors were still very much in evidence. The Stanford Res White-fronted Geese were back in Northants on 6th before again taking to the Leicestershire side of the border, where they were still present on the last day of the period. The four Whitefronts at Stanwick GP remained until at least 9th, while Stanford also clocked up a Pink-footed Goose on 5th and Pitsford’s Barnacle Goose was still very much in evidence on 11th.
Also still in situ was the drake Red-crested Pochard on the filtration pools below the dam at Ravensthorpe Res until at least 10th, while new birds popped up at Pitsford on 6th and at Daventry CP from 9th to 11th.
After causing a stir last week at Thrapston GP, the female Ring-necked Duck appeared to receive little further attention and went unreported after 8th. The reverse was true, however, in the case of last week’s drake Common Scoter at Stortons GP. It attracted a non-stop stream of admirers, its central and easily accessible location, combined with obligingly close views, unprecedented local photographic opportunities and a record-breaking length of stay – at least for Northants – were key contributory factors. It was still present as the week drew to a close on 11th.
Pitsford’s juvenile Great Northern Diver completed another week, sometimes appearing off the dam.
Similarly settled, the Glossy Ibis at Stanwick’s North Lake had clocked up sixteen days’ stay by the end of the week. But a most unexpected find was a hugely flamboyant adult Spoonbill, on its way to who knows where, making a short stopover at DIRFT 3 on 8th. Discovered feeding on the main A5 Pool, mid-afternoon, it subsequently took a long nap and, as light began to fade, looked set to roost. Unfortunately it decided to move on and headed off north before dark. Spoonbill is becoming an increasingly regular visitor to Northants, largely on the back of its recently expanding UK breeding and wintering populations. Data from the 2020 WeBS survey show that peak counts of the species have increased by more than 300% in the past decade, so more will surely follow …
And, like last week and the week before, Stanwick produced all of the week’s Cattle Egrets – up to five again, as well as the highest count of twelve roosting Great Egrets. Elsewhere, Thrapston held six, Stanford three, while up to two were to be found at Ditchford GP, Earls Barton GP, Ravensthorpe, Summer Leys and Wicksteed Park Lake (Kettering).
Hot on the heels of the first last week were more Black-tailed Godwits, with floodwater at Lower Barnwell Lock (Oundle) producing one on 7th followed by two on 11th. Meanwhile, the long-staying Ruff remained at Summer Leys all week, as did the wintering Common Sandpiper at Earls Barton’s New Workings (North). An impressively high single-site count of at least twelve Jack Snipes was made at Daventry CP on 9th, while three were on a farm pond near Teeton on 7th and two were seen at Hollowell Res on 8th.
March traditionally sees the beginning of a small, though regular, passage of Mediterranean Gulls and following last week’s at Stanford, the same site produced another adult in the roost on 5th, while DIRFT 3 got in on the action, also producing an adult in the pre-roost there on 8th.
But it was not the best gull on site this week, that accolade falling to a juvenile Glaucous Gull first discovered loafing on DIRFT’s main A5 Pool on 6th and subsequently joining the pre-roost there on 7th and 8th.
The status of Glaucous Gull in Northants is interesting. While the trend line shows a steady increase in records over the fifty years, 1971-2020, this is likely to be reversed as the closure of local landfills in recent years begins to bite … DIRFT 3 also produced the obligatory Caspian Gull – a second-winter – on 6th and 9th, while an adult was at Stanwick on 7th, third-winters visited both Stanford and Hollowell on 8th and not to be left out, of course, Rushton Landfill produced an adult and a first-winter on 9th and an adult and a third-winter on 11th.
Once more, passerines were in short supply, with Ravensthorpe’s Black Redstart continuing to favour the on-site waterworks throughout and the number of Stonechats continuing to diminish as they begin to vacate their winter quarters. Two were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 5th, while singles were at Pitsford and Stanwick on 6th and one remained at Hollowell Res on 8th.