Thursday, 28 May 2020

Butterflies, flycatchers and Nene Valley birding


More stunning weather today and with more to come it seems!

Reasonable numbers of birds in the garden again today, many birds taking advantage of the suet pellets, suet blocks and dried mealworms on offer. One or two Yellowhammers are still visiting for the seed and of course the Jackdaws are here for everything! A Broad-bodied Chaser was depositing eggs into our bigger pond - it'll take a year or two before we see the results!

Butterflies are in the news with Black Hairstreaks found today at Fermyn Wood Country Park and again at Glapthorne Cow Pastures and a Clouded Yellow and plenty of Wood Whites at Yardley Chase in the private section. Nationally some other butterfly species from the continent have been recorded and with a high weather system over northern Europe it's likely more will follow. I'm sure that people with moth traps will enjoy similar experiences with their specimens!

Spotted Flycatchers used to be one of the most common summer migrants to this part of the world but now they are rather scarce and localised breeders, often singing and holding territory for a couple of days and then moving on. Today they were recorded at Beck Dairy (Cottesbrooke), Hanging Houghton village, Glyn Davies Wood and New Covert, Kelmarsh.

Nene Valley birders were out and about today and sightings included a Great White Egret, a Hobby, an Osprey and six Cuckoos (including a rufous form female) at Thrapston Pits and a Garganey and a Great White Egret at Stanwick Pits. At least one Garganey remained at Summer Leys LNR today.


Neil M

Red Kite
courtesy of John Tilly.

Sedge Warbler at Stortons Pits
by Paul Crotty.

Four spotted Chaser
by Robin Gossage.

Red-eyed Damselfly by
Robin Gossage.

Swallow nest by Chris
Payne. Yesterday Chris
found seventeen Swallow
nests with eggs in South

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Mid-week highlights


Yesterday evening (Tuesday) provided views of an adult male Marsh Harrier quartering the top fields at Harrington Airfield before cruising off towards Lamport.

Today (Wednesday) and a cool but gentle northerly breeze with some cloud cover and warm sunshine made for a fabulous day.

Eric Graham ventured to Thrapston Pits where he encountered an Egyptian Goose, a pair of Shoveler, eight pairs of Gadwall and a Great Black-backed Gull predating Black-headed Gull chicks on one of the islands. Steve Fisher found the drake Garganey on the main lake at Stanwick Pits this morning and Summer Leys catered for the continued stay of the summer plumage Black-necked Grebe and a Garganey. The Pink-footed Goose was still at Clifford Hill Pits today and a Turtle Dove was seen at a site in the county.

At Pitsford Reservoir an Osprey was seen over the Scaldwell Bay this morning and this afternoon the third calendar year Yellow-legged Gull was still at the south end of the reservoir.

Harrington Airfield supported two 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers today (150m along concrete track from Draughton Road entrance and Bunker Three) and another was located between Hardingstone Lake and the River Nene on the outskirts of Northampton. A Spotted Flycatcher was found at Wappenham by Graham Martin and a Birdguides report indicated the sighting of a north-bound Honey Buzzard over Islip at about midday.

Our bird list for the birds recorded from the garden currently stands at 57 for May, nowhere near the April total of 66 even though we have a few days to go yet!

The first Black Hairstreak butterflies of the year were found at Glapthorne Cow Pastures today - nationally a rare butterfly but with a couple of really good sites in Northamptonshire we do well for them locally.


Neil M

Record shot of yesterday's
Marsh Harrier at Harrington

Distant image of the Black-necked Grebe
at Summer Leys courtesy of Paul Crotty.

Blue Tit nestlings. Many tits have
now fledged but there are still families
yet to take flight.
Image courtesy of Chris Payne.

Robin nest by Diane Freeman.
Mimic Hoverfly Volucella
bombylans, this red-tailed
form mimics Red-tailed Bumblebee.

Mimic Hoverfly of the same species
as above but this form mimics the
White-tailed Bumblebee.

Hoverfly Volucella pellucens.

Hoverfly images provided by
Robin Gossage.


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Spring into summer


We seem to have entered a period of sunshine and warm temperatures but also a worrying lack of rain as our continental-style weather continues.

The Black-necked Grebe popped up again at Summer Leys after remaining hidden for most of the morning - the islands are fantastic for breeding and migrant birds there but they do have a habit of hiding what you are trying to look at! Steve Fisher's early morning jaunt at Stanwick Pits provided views of a Garganey on the Main Lake. A Peregrine showed well at Thrapston Pits today.

Up to three Hobbies have been on show at and over the village today and it's difficult to look up and not see a Common Buzzard or Red Kite. The head count of juvenile Pied Wagtails in the garden has now gone up to six and is presumably a mix of two different broods? They and the attendant adults have to be on high alert as the regular male Sparrowhawk is visiting the garden several times each day.

A couple of Broad-bodied Chasers have sallied through the garden today but not lingered and Fiona's moth trap caught plenty of interesting specimens overnight. The warm temperatures and calmer conditions have clearly stimulated more bat activity as we slip from spring to summer, but so far they seem to be just pipistrelle types.

Butterflies have been inspiring people locally and at the moment Salcey Forest is providing plenty of Wood Whites. It already seems to be a good season for Small Heaths with them being seen at a variety of sites and immigrants in the shape of Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow have been seen in the county during the last week or so. Black Hairstreak enthusiasts are awaiting their first emergence any day now!


Neil M

Black-tailed Godwit
at Summer Leys earlier
in the month courtesy
of Geoff Walker.

Fungus Beetle courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Ornate Brigadier by
Robin Gossage.

Canada Goose and family.

Mother Shipton (day
flying moth).

Singing Corn Bunting by
Cathy Ryden. Once a regular
if localised bird for us in
Northamptonshire they are
now very scarce but still quite
numerous to the east of us
in parts of Cambridgeshire and

Not everyone has a Rook
as a breeding bird in their
garden. It can be quite a
 noisy affair!
Image courtesy of
Jim Dunkley.

An image of an interesting
Common Buzzard taken by
Jim Dunkley recently. The tail is
severely abraded and this bird appears
 to be in active wing moult and
replacing the inner primaries. I'm
sure this tired-looking bird has an
 unusual story behind it!

Monday, 25 May 2020

Chasers and Demoiselles


After completing a bird survey this morning, I then explored the Welland Valley to the north of Rockingham as far as Harringworth. Birds in this under-watched area of the county included on-territory Lapwings, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Meadow Pipit, three Cuckoos and oodles of Red Kites. The bridge over the River Welland at Harringworth was good for Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher. A couple of Little Egrets were working the valley and a pair of Gadwall appeared rather maternal.

Odonata were out in large numbers with good numbers of Banded Demoiselles, four species of damselfly and several Hairy Hawkers. Mayfly larva were swimming to the surface and in a matter of seconds after hitting the water's surface flying speedily away as an emerged adult. However the demoiselles were very much in hunting mode and frequently intercepted the Mayfly maiden flight and took them to a nearby reed to consume. The demoiselles are probably their nemesis under the water when both in their larval stage and again when they emerge as flying adults!

A Bittern in flight at Stanwick Pits at 7am this morning was a good find by Adrian. The bird kept flying west and vanished towards the Irthlingborough and Meadows reserve. And a Black-necked Grebe on the Summer Leys reserve this evening was another good find.

Eleanor saw the pair of Spotted Flycatchers in trees near to Beck Dairy (Cottesbrooke) again today and found another pair at Haselbech Grange. Fiona hosted two Broad-bodied Chasers in her garden, initially posing very nicely.


Neil M

Scarce Chaser courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

River Welland near Gretton.

River Welland at Harringworth.

Railway line viaduct at

Broad-bodied Chaser

Red Kite

Banded Demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle eating
a Mayfly.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Damsels and Dragons!


A cloudy and dull day for the most part with warm sunshine at times and still a strong wind with powerful gusts...but it should be calm from tomorrow onwards!

A Spotted Flycatcher was still along the Brampton Valley Way north of Draughton Crossing and Harrington Airfield hosted a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler at Bunker Three plus a pair of Grey Partridge.

Clifford Hill Pits was the venue for four Dunlin, a fly-through adult Mediterranean Gull and a Pink-footed Goose. A Cattle Egret was foraging with cattle near North Lake at Stanwick Pits again.

As we progress towards summer from spring, insects begin to take centre stage, and today I was able to find good numbers of damselflies and a few dragonflies. The beauty of strong winds is that it tends to concentrate insects in the lee of bushes and trees and it was here where I discovered a particularly showy Hairy Hawker or Hairy Dragonfly. This is a beast that I have rarely been able to study or photograph so was definitely the wildlife highlight of the day.


Neil M

Red-eyed Damselfly.

Common Blue Damselfly.

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Brown Hare.

Male Hairy Dragonfly.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Windy Saturday


More blustery conditions today with periods of sunshine and the occasional shower.

The more interesting birds reported today in Northamptonshire included a Cattle Egret at the north end of Stanwick Pits and a hepatic (rufous-phased) Cuckoo near Mary's Lake at Earls Barton Pits.

I saw recently-fledged Blue Tits and Tree Sparrows today and our Pied Wagtail family is actually made up of four juveniles and not three! A male Sparrowhawk visited our garden today and grabbed a juvenile (but full size) Blackbird but then released the bird under duress when the brave Blackbird parents immediately attacked him and drove him off after hearing their youngster's distress calls - amazing stuff!

Other bits and bobs included a Spotted Flycatcher at Beck Dairy, Cottesbrooke again, a Kingfisher along the brook in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and a Hobby for the third day in a row over the garden.


Neil M

First year female and male Blackbirds,
both birds hatched last year and now
collecting food for their own dependent

Clearly a female Grey Squirrel
with dependent young in the dray
judging from her condition.

Adult female House Sparrow with a
small Crane Fly sp. Most seed-eating
passerines hunt invertebrate food for
their youngsters in order to provide
sufficient protein for health and growth.

One of the recently-fledged
Pied Wagtails currently in our

Friday, 22 May 2020

Windy Friday


A breezy morning turned into a blustery, windy day albeit with plenty of sunshine.

Deb and Eric patrolled Titchmarsh reserve early this morning and notched up a Great White Egret and three Cuckoos, one of which was attempting access to a Sedge Warbler nest.

A Hobby appeared over our garden again today but most of our sightings were rather mundane.

Yesterday afternoon and one of our pairs of Pied Wagtails showed up with three just-fledged youngsters and they were here all today too!

A Barn Owl was seen near the village of Old this morning.

The strong, blustery wind is apparently with us for the next couple of days.


Neil M

Male Blackbird courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Male Blackbird sunning itself
and exposing the preening
gland on the rump. Image
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Mute Swan family at
Sywell Country Park
courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Woodpigeon courtesy
of John Tilly.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Spotted Flycatchers, warblers and butterflies.

Small Heath butterfly.


Despite initially ideal ringing conditions for mist nets this morning, I came away from a ringing session at Harrington Airfield with just twenty-one captures. It was definitely quality and not quantity today with the catch being made up of two Blackbirds, a Robin, a Blue Tit, two Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, a Common Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, three Willow Warblers (including another returning bird from last year), a Grasshopper Warbler, two Linnets and six Yellowhammers.

A hunting Barn Owl was there to greet me when I arrived early this morning as were two pairs of Muntjac and several Brown Hares. Butterflies again included Common Blue and Small Heath and a few Red Admirals were on the wing today.

Spotted Flycatchers are currently at a number of sites locally should anyone be struggling to catch up with this declining summer visitor. During the last two days they have been found along the Brampton Valley Way north of Draughton Crossing, Beck Dairy outside the village of Cottesbrooke, New Covert between Kelmarsh and Arthingworth and the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir (reserve and site still closed but birds audible at least from the road).

A Hobby was over the garden early this afternoon, Clifford Hill Pits hosted a Sandwich Tern briefly this morning plus a Pink-footed Goose and Summer Leys was the venue for a lingering Great White Egret and a Common Sandpiper. The long-staying Red-crested Pochard was still at Stortons Pits today.

An adult male Peregrine was again in the Blueberry Farm area near Maidwell this evening...


Neil M

Spotted Flycatcher courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Common Blue butterfly.