Thursday, 17 October 2019

October ringing


A ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir in the Scaldwell Bay provided 105 birds of twenty species (60 new and 45 re-traps). Highlights were a juvenile female Sparrowhawk, a Kingfisher, two Moorhens, three Song Thrushes, three Redwings, seven Blackbirds, ten Goldcrests, two Marsh Tits and a Willow Tit.

Chris Payne committed to a little ringing in his garden at Greens Norton today, quickly catching and processing 67 birds made up of 25 Blue Tits, 10 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, 24 Goldfinches, six Greenfinches and a Stock Dove.

Eleanor saw the pair of Stonechats in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again today and at least two Barn Owls were close to the village late this afternoon.

It is anticipated that there will be ringing operations at Harrington Airfield this coming week-end which ensures that the area around the bunkers and the old airstrip will have restricted access. Anyone who would like to attend to observe is asked to make contact.


Neil M



Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Birds of the drizzle!


Low cloud and drizzle this morning produced large numbers of migrants at Harrington Airfield probably amounting to over a thousand small birds in and over the bushes around the bunkers. The biggest numbers included 275 Redwings, 200 Chaffinches, 50 Skylarks, 50+ Meadow Pipits, 50 each of Linnet and Goldfinch and Yellowhammer, over a hundred Starlings with smaller numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Reed Buntings, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows, Siskins, Redpolls and wagtails. Once the breeze kicked in and the drizzle lifted, many of the birds appeared to depart. An immature male Merlin was a bit late for the party and whizzed off north.

Steve's efforts at Stanwick Pits this morning provided a Great White Egret, two Cattle Egrets, a Ruff, two Fieldfares. five hundred Redwings, eighteen House Martins and fifteen Siskins.

Eleanor spent some hours this afternoon in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and up at Blueberry Farm and notched up an immature Ring Ouzel in a hedge at the bottom of Hill Field and the area around 'shrike hedge' provided a female Merlin, a pair of Stonechat and a Barn Owl.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this evening provided a second winter Mediterranean Gull and nine Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M



Ring Ouzel (this
one an adult female).

Meadow Pipit.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

October migrants


After such a wet, filthy night it made sense that something should have been brought down.. and an early morning visit provided a flock of five Common Scoter at Pitsford Reservoir north of the causeway. Two of these birds were drakes. Redwings were also passing over in good numbers with smaller numbers of Siskin and Starling. A Common Sandpiper was in the Scaldwell Bay and later there was a Rock Pipit on the causeway. Eleanor had poor views of a mystery raptor flying north over the reservoir that reminded her of a Black Kite but sadly it didn't hang around.

Steve Fisher was out during the early morning too and his haul at Stanwick included an impressive 42 Little Egrets (surely a county record?), two Great White Egrets and four Cattle Egrets (later in the day all six) and 930 Redwings moving over in a SW direction. Later he added two Goosanders and two Redpoll. Just down the road and Chris Green notched up another Great White Egret at Ditchford Pits (Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows section) plus a Pintail and a Kingfisher. Nick Parker confirmed the continued presence of the adult Whooper Swan on Town Lake, Thrapston Pits (I wonder if it is last year's bird returning?).

Harrington Airfield was full of common birds today in very soggy conditions. A male Ring Ouzel showed well near Bunker Two and another bird with it may have been another bird of the same species. A pair of Stonechat were at Bunker Three and vis mig birds included plenty of Starlings, Redwings and fifty Fieldfares.

A ringing session was held in the extreme west of the county today at Glyn Davies Wood which is a Banbury Ornithological Society reserve. It was going fine until the local Bicester and Warden Hill Hunt turned up and rampaged through the reserve with dogs and horses. Not only were they trespassing but they completely trashed two mist nets and the ringers present were fortunate that no birds came to harm. A couple of the hounds remained in the wood with bloodied muzzles and the ringing session was abandoned. Birds caught and successfully processed were made up of four Goldcrests, two Wrens, three Robins, seventeen Blue Tits, two Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, twenty-two Great Tits, two Nuthatch and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Local ringing sessions, hopefully with the absence of the local hunt, are planned for Pitsford Reservoir on Thursday and at Harrington Airfield at the weekend.


Neil M

Great White Egret
courtesy of John Tilly.

Green Woodpecker courtesy
of John Tilly.

Dunlin courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Curlew Sandpiper
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Waderquest AGM and World Watch

Lesser Black-backed Gulls


My apologies for the lack of messages recently, I'm afraid we suffered a complete broadband failure which lasted over a week! Hopefully it is sorted now.

As many will know I definitely have a soft spot for gulls and will happily gaze at them for hours (often trying to work out what they are)! In August this year I was fortunate to be in Glasgow where there is quite an urban community of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, surely one of the better looking large gulls? Anyway the following photographs depict some of the birds close to hand...


Neil M

Adult or near-adult.

Juvenile (hatched this year).

First summer (second
calendar year).

Probably a fourth summer
but some third summers can
be very advanced.

Advanced first summer
(second calendar year).

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Birds of Thursday...


A couple of busy local ringing sessions took place today in almost perfect weather conditions with the usage of mist nets. Dave, Lynne and Lewis were at Pitsford Reservoir where they captured and processed 90 birds of 14 species (53 new and 37 re-traps). This total was made up of 30 Blue Tits, 20 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, 9 Dunnocks, 5 Robins, 3 Wrens, 7 Tree Sparrows, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, a Chaffinch, 5 Reed Buntings, a Song Thrush, a Blackbird and 3 Moorhens.

Harrington Airfield enjoyed a second consecutive day of ringing, this time with some 170 captures of 16 species (144 new and 26 re-traps). The session was dominated by Goldfinches with 74 new birds and 8 re-traps from previous sessions. Other birds were made up of a Song Thrush, 6 Dunnocks, 7 Yellowhammers, 8 Great Tits, 14 Blue Tits, 2 Wrens, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps, 3 Robins, 18 Meadow Pipits, 4 Linnets, 7 Chaffinches, 5 Reed Buntings and 8 Swallows.

A few Redwings were on-site as were a couple of Golden Plover and calling Grey Partridge. Skylarks were very evident there today with one flock totalling 48 birds. A female Merlin arrived this afternoon and went storming after Meadow Pipits.

Elsewhere and Stanwick Pits/Lakes held three Cattle Egrets today plus a late Common Tern and a Ringed Plover. Seventy Golden Plovers were located in a field south of Cogenhoe village and Summer Leys reserve at Earls Barton hosted a Great White Egret and Garganey with a Spotted Redshank reported from the Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve at Ditchford Pits.

Birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning include a pair of Stonechats, a Whinchat, a Little Egret on the brook and a hunting Barn Owl and 15 Redwings were seen flying over Moulton Agricultural College.


Neil M




All images courtesy of
John Tilly.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

October's cool air brings new birds...


Birds for yesterday (Tuesday) included several Redwings locally, although speaking to other birders it seems they were not the first of the autumn (but certainly the first I have encountered). Plenty of Meadow Pipits and other diurnal migrants were taking advantage of the pleasant conditions at Harrington Airfield in the morning and the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton produced a Whinchat, a pair of Stonechat, a Siskin, two Redpolls, a couple of Redwings and fifteen Golden Plovers plus an increase in the number of visible Skylarks and Blackbirds.

The Little Stint was again at Boddington Reservoir, the Titchmarsh Reserve attracted a Great White and twelve Little Egrets and Pitsford Reservoir hosted a Great White Egret, a Pintail, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Greenshank.

Today (Wednesday) and Adam saw a late Common Swift heading north over Corby this morning and Andy Cook saw a Red-crested Pochard and a Hobby at Clifford Hill Pits. Nick's efforts at Titchmarsh were again rewarded today with an Osprey and a Great White Egret and Steve Fisher found the six Cattle Egrets and a Peregrine at Stanwick, this time around the roadside pit.

A ringing session at Harrington Airfield this morning netted 76 birds of twelve species made up of two Blackbirds, a Chiffchaff, two Long-tailed Tits, ten Great Tits, eight Blue Tits, ten Yellowhammers, five Reed Buntings, a Chaffinch, twenty-two Goldfinches, ten Meadow Pipits, a Robin and four Dunnocks. Another session is planned there for tomorrow (Thursday) and access to the rough area around the bunkers and old runway will be restricted.


Neil M

Meadow Pipit at
Harrington Airfield
today...courtesy of
Lynne Barnett.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Rain, a little sunshine and plenty of birds!


Yesterday (Sunday) and a check of the dam area at Pitsford Reservoir in the morning provided closer views of the second winter Mediterranean Gull that has been around for a few days now. At least two Yellow-legged Gulls were present there and Adrian later added a female Ruddy Shelduck and a drake Mandarin. North of the causeway and Adrian saw a Great White Egret, another Yellow-legged Gull, eight Pintail, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Clifford Hill Pits was the venue still for two Slavonian Grebes, a drake Red-crested Pochard, two Whinchats and two Stonechats. The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton came back to life after a quiet period and produced sightings of a Marsh Harrier, two Golden Plovers, two Whinchats and a pair of Stonechat.

This morning (Monday) there was a fabulous reprieve from the wet weather and the still conditions and broken sunshine provided an opportunity for a ringing session on land at Woodford Halse. In total 126 birds were caught and processed of 14 species of which only three were bearing rings from previous efforts. The number was made up of 2 Wrens, 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 51 Blue Tits, 36 Great Tits, a Marsh Tit, 2 Coal Tits, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Blackcaps, a Robin, 8 Dunnocks, 2 Nuthatches and 3 Chaffinches.

A pair of Raven were about as were several Grey Wagtails and a Clouded Yellow butterfly.

Also this morning Nick Parker saw an Osprey overflying Thrapston Pits and the birds at Clifford Hill today again included the two Slavonian Grebes, a Red-crested Pochard, a Common Sandpiper, a Hobby and two Whinchats.

A visit to Borough Hill Country Park early this afternoon coincided with a flock of fifteen Crossbills flying over heading NW plus an overflying Siskin and a handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Not too far away the Little Stint and a Green Sandpiper were at Boddington Reservoir and Pitsford Reservoir hosted a Great White Egret and a Rock Pipit not far from the dam this afternoon, both birds arriving ahead of a serious band of rain!

Harrington Airfield provided a Short-eared Owl this afternoon being pursued by corvids, a Common Redstart near Bunker One and a pair of Stonechat at Bunker Three. Two Whinchats were at Shrike Hedge in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Leucistic Great Tit.

Meadow Pipit.

Images courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting


Wednesday 2nd October is the date for the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club at the regular venue of the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir (just off the Brixworth road outside the village of Holcot).

Club member Dave Jackson will be providing Part 1 of his illustrated talk on the Birds of New Zealand which I'm sure will be full of excellent photos!

The meeting will commence at 7.30pm with a few notices and then it is over to the main presentation. Hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening and the meeting is open to members and non members alike.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Neil M

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Blustery Saturday


The pairs of Raven were vocal at both Hanging Houghton and Staverton villages today as they bond for nesting efforts next year (hopefully).

Mike Alibone today relocated the two Slavonian Grebes at Clifford Hill Pits and a Red-crested Pochard was there later too. Five Pintail were present at Summer Leys today and birds at Pitsford Reservoir included a Great White Egret, the leucistic drake Pochard (stunning bird), in excess of eight Yellow-legged Gulls, two Greenshanks, three Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe, two unidentified calidris waders in flight and a Grey Wagtail.

Eleanor's afternoon visit to Borough Hill Country Park, Daventry provided an excellent haul of passerines feeding in the lee of the wind and included six Stonechats, two Whinchats, a Wheatear, three Common Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher.


Neil M

First year Common Gull.

First year Black-headed Gull.

Greenshanks courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Pitsford WeBS count


Today a small team of us completed the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir and we were lucky to miss the heavier showers.

A Ruddy Shelduck was seen briefly in flight and two Great White Egrets were still in residence (Walgrave and Holcot Bays). Over 1800 Tufted Ducks were present, the majority south of the causeway and scarcer ducks included a drake Mandarin Duck by Catwalk Bay, two Goldeneye, eleven Pintail (between causeway and the Bird Club hide) and a Red-crested Pochard hybrid (not sure what it's exact parentage is but it was with Mallard). Other birds included eleven or twelve Little Egrets, six Yellow-legged Gulls, two Greenshanks, two Common Sandpipers, three Green Sandpipers, a Snipe, three Ringed Plovers, a juvenile female Peregrine, a Kingfisher, four Grey Wagtails and quite a flurry of House Martins passing through and plenty of Chiffchaffs in the bushes.

Yellow-legged Gull.

A second winter Mediterranean Gull arrived in the gull roost fairly early in the evening off the Sailing Club.


Elsewhere and the Little Stint was apparently present still at Boddington Reservoir...and Little Owls were visible at Delapre Park, Northampton and visible from the entrance road towards the abbey (a species that is much more difficult to see locally these days).


Neil M

Cormorant. Sadly one of
these birds was flying around
with fishing line and a pike lure
protruding from its beak at Pitsford
today, quite a common occurrence at
this site since coarse fishing has been
permitted at the reservoir.
Image courtesy of Robin.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Birds of the breeze and sunshine...


I popped down to Pitsford reservoir this morning and spent a couple of hours collecting seed and restocking the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station. Whilst there I scanned around to see what was on offer, there were certainly plenty of Tufted Ducks with rafts of them close to the Maytrees Hide. Many more flocks arrived from south of the causeway and the overall number must have been close to a thousand birds. Tomorrow is the WeBS count so we will see how many we count!

A Great White Egret was fishing in the Scaldwell Bay which also hosted a Common Sandpiper, four Pintail and four Yellow-legged Gulls. The moderate to strong breeze and broken sunshine was perfect for raptors and other larger birds to cruise about, to the point where it was hard to leave as there was always another new bird on the horizon to look at. At least a dozen Common Buzzards and six Red Kites showed on and off and two Hobbies were hunting dragonflies around the leeward side of the trees. Two Ravens and other corvids joined in the fun! In the meantime Neil Hasdell had located a Greenshank and three Ringed Plovers at the dam and Moulton Grange Bay shoreline.

A revisit to Pitsford this evening to count the roosting gulls, this time up at the Sailing Club, provided distant views of a second winter Mediterranean Gull and twelve Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing else of note. A pair of Raven were again very obvious in Hanging Houghton village today.

The weekly visit by local naturalists to the MOD section of Yardley Chase paid off today with the discovery of two Pied Flycatchers (this is strictly a private site). At Summer Leys/Earls Barton Pits, birds included a Great White Egret, a Green Sandpiper, a Ringed Plover, a Hobby and a Pintail, and yesterday's Little Stint was still present at Boddington Reservoir today...


Neil M

Common Buzzard.

Red Kite.

Hobby (with House Martin).


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Pitsford Showcase


Sunshine and showers today and a very autumnal feel but still warm. Pitsford Reservoir was the venue for a Wildlife Trust supporters day with indoor presentations from Sarah and Mischa showcasing the reserve. A bird ringing demonstration was the outside presentation near to the Fishing Lodge. Some eighty-six birds were processed which included four Mallard and a Moorhen from a static trap with the remainder of the birds being caught in mist nets. The total was made up of a Dunnock, a Blackcap, a Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, three Wrens, twenty-three Great Tits, twenty-nine Blue Tits, three Coal Tits, two Marsh Tits, seven Long-tailed Tits and ten Goldcrests.

Other birds noted at Pitsford today included a Great White Egret, two Greenshanks, a Ringed Plover, a Hobby and a Raven.

Gary Pullen found a Little Stint at Boddington Reservoir today, a Great White Egret remained at Summer Leys and two Common Redstarts were found at Harrington Airfield by Neil Underwood.


Neil M

Coal Tit courtesy
of John Tilly.

Little Grebe,
courtesy of Robin.

Green Sandpiper,
courtesy of Robin.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Pochard, Barn Owls and more!


Little opportunity for birding today but others braved the elements and saw a few things out there!

Birds reported at Summer Leys today included a Great White Egret, two Snipe, a Common Scoter, a Green Sandpiper and a Hobby. Nick Parker witnessed a Marsh Harrier flying south over Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston at 11.10am and this afternoon Gary Pullen located a Rock Pipit on one of the tern rafts at Daventry Country Park.

A few interesting recoveries of ringed birds as follows...

Roger Eads successfully photographed a female Pochard at Pitsford Reservoir on 5th September 2019 sporting a nasal saddle inscribed LLP. This bird was ringed at Saint-Philbert-De-Grand-Lieu France on 19th January 2017 and seen there again on 10th May 2018. This is one of several such marked Pochard that have emanated from France and then subsequently been seen at Pitsford.

A Blue Tit that was ringed as a nestling in a box at Hargrave, Northants on 11th May 2019 was recaptured by a ringer at Old Weston, Cambridgeshire on 13th September. Although in a different county this bird travelled just 10km in a north easterly direction.

A juvenile Garden Warbler ringed at Stortons Pits on 5th August 2018 was re-captured at Queen Mary Reservoir, Surrey on 7th August 2019 (367 days later), presumably on its way south to Africa for the second time in its short life.


Neil M

Pochard courtesy
of Roger Eads.

Chris Payne has been checking
nest boxes in the south of the county
today and found a healthy brood of
Barn Owls at one site!
 Images courtesy of Chris.