Saturday, 21 April 2018

4 R's !!

Raven, Rouzels, Redstart and Ringing !!!
This morning I was agility training at Staverton and I was getting concerned as several hours passed before I heard and saw Raven. I'm not sure if these birds were the resident pair as there has been quite a bit of disturbance in their favourite conifer belt and these two birds were a couple of fields away. 
Late afternoon found me walking around Borough Hill where I ended up taking a different route around due to so many people and horses.  I spent quite a while walking through the scrub/bushes above the housing estate and the main track. Plenty of common warblers and a surprise finding of a male Ring Ouzel followed a few minutes later by a male Common Redstart.  So well worth the detour!!.
A visit to Daventry Country Park only produced 2 Common Sandpiper sitting on the tern rafts which were being very well used by the Common Terns.
As it was a nice evening I couldn't resist a visit to Harrington and I'm glad that I did.  There was a male Ring Ouzel around the first bunker and yet another surprise in store as at the second bunker there was the unmistakable "purring" of a Turtle Dove which was sitting in a tree.  I think that this is the earliest that I have ever seen this species at Harrington. 
Other birds of note were Yellow Wagtail, 4 Grey Partridge, several Swallows and my first Whitethroat.

Kenny Cramer and his helpers have been ringing at their Milton Keynes site.   Kenny writes " If our last session marked the tentative start of spring then today was an explosion, starting with a riotous dawn chorus followed by glorious sunshine and soaring temperatures making it feel more like July than April.
The reserve was alive with the sound of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Cuckoos while Common Terns called raucously and Red Kites drifted lazily overhead. Our catch largely reflected the sounds we were hearing consisting of 48 birds of 16 species.
Blackcaps dominated with 16 new and 2 returning birds, one being ringed July 2016 and the other June 2017.   Other warblers included our first Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler of the season. A Chiffchaff, 1 new/1 retrap Cettis and 2 Reed Warbler were something of a surprise being a full 16 days earlier than our previous earliest record for Linford.
Also of note was a Sedge Warbler which we released unringed due to it suffering from scaly leg lesions similar to those commonly seen in Chaffinches.
Other wildlife included a massive emergence of Ashy Mining bees and at least 7 Grass snakes."

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 20 April 2018

A day of surprises !!

A strange day. Initially there were blue skies and warm sunshine with the sound of bird song quite deafening as I walked the dogs . I had to go to Marston Trussell as I drove towards my destination it became increasingly misty and finally quite foggy !!  After my appointment I had to take a detour home due to roadworks and found myself on the single track road between Marston Trussell and Clipston. It is a road that I haven't been along for a few years but it is high up and has interesting looking grass fields at its highest point. I had my young collie with me so decided to walk him along the road as the grass fields were full of sheep/lambs and I'm trying to get him used to sheep etc.  Of course I am birding as I walk and was pleased to see 2 male Northern Wheatears. Whilst Jaeger sat and watched the sheep I scanned the fields and hopping around in the field was a lovely male Ring Ouzel. Another bird of the same size and jizz disappeared from my view over a ridge in the field . I never saw it again but suspect that it was another Ring Ouzel.
Later whilst in Kettering town centre I was very surprised to see and hear a Grey Wagtail in full song !!

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Sunshine and migrants at last !!!!

Plenty of sunshine and blue skies today and at times the temperature felt positively tropical.
An early morning walk produced lovely views of a Barn Owl below Hanging Houghton.
I spent the morning agility training at Doddington crossing which put simply a field next to Mary's lake at Summer Leys.  Whilst here several Sedge Warblers were calling and much to everyone's amusement a rather vocal Cuckoo. There were good numbers of Red Kite in the air and at one point a bit of a scuffle between 2 Red Kites and an Osprey. The only other bird of note was a Hobby.
On my way home I called in to Sywell Reservoir where there were more Sedge Warblers and a Cettis Warbler but very little else.
I visited Harrington Airfield this evening checking the rough strip and bunkers.  I flushed a stunning male Common Redstart out of the bushes and followed it to the first bunker where I left it. Other birds included a single Northern Wheatear, 2 Yellow Wagtails and 2 pairs of Grey Partridge.
Plenty of butterflies on the wing today, my first Orange Tip along with Brimstone, Comma and small Tortoiseshell.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Thrapston warblers


Eric's saunter around the Thrapston Pits complex today provided plenty of birds in the warm sunshine. Large numbers of warblers included plenty of Blackcaps, Sedge Warblers and Cetti's Warblers plus a Whitethroat and two Reed Warblers. Other birds of note included a pair of Shelduck, Oystercatcher, a Kingfisher and a dozen Common Terns. Plentiful butterflies including the stunning Orange-tips.

A wander around the Harrington Airfield area late morning today provided little that was new but one of the local Red Kites had somehow lost it's tail!


Neil M

Despite no rudder, this tailless
Red Kite was just as manoeuvrable
as ever!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Creatures of Bieszczady


Very little in the way of birds locally to report on, spring seems to be passing us by here in the Brixworth/Hanging Houghton area! A Grey Wagtail was at Kelmarsh Hall this evening and I saw a Raven flying over the M1 just north of Watford village this morning.

However Greg Buck from Chipping Warden kindly emailed to inform us of a Black Redstart in the village on Sunday (15th April) which remained for about an hour and a half. A very scarce bird in the UK and their status in Northamptonshire hasn't changed much over the years with regular but scant records mostly in spring and autumn.

I'm not long back from an excursion to south east Poland, in particular looking in and around the Bieszczady National Park and surrounding forests close to the Ukraine and Slovakian borders. The tour was mostly to try and find the elusive and rare mammals that inhabit this region but of course we came across plenty of birds and other wildlife of interest. I haven't formatted all the images yet but a few below for your viewing...


Neil M

Camberwell Beauty
butterfly feeding on a
Wolf scat!

Pine Marten.
The first image
shows it eating a
Common Lizard.

European Bison.

Lesser Spotted Eagle.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Some birds at Pitsford!


Jacob's birding efforts at Pitsford Reservoir today provided views of a Scaup plus a probable hybrid, a Common Sandpiper, three Yellow Wagtails, a Redpoll, two Siskins and a Raven. A big increase in Blackcaps was evident with 26 being counted and Jacob went on to find a female Redstart between the reservoir and Scaldwell village.

An evening foray at Harrington Airfield didn't provide much that was new, the best birds being a Yellow Wagtail, a pair of Grey Partridge and a hunting Barn Owl.


Neil M

Short-eared Owl
Endernel, Nene Washes,

Bearded Tits at
Titchwell RSPB.

Brambling at
Titchwell RSPB.

All images courtesy of
John Gamble following
an Easter excursion to the
east coast and back!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Stortons Ringing


A small group of ringers descended on Stortons Pits this morning and enjoyed a quality session involving 32 birds. These were made up of three Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, nine Blackcaps, a Sedge Warbler, a Cetti's Warbler, four Long-tailed Tits, three Great Tits, two Dunnocks, a Blackbird, two Bullfinches, four Reed Buntings and a Sparrowhawk.

One of the Blackcaps was a bird first ringed there in 2016 and the Sparrowhawk was first caught in January this year. A Lesser Whitethroat was heard singing on-site.

A single Brambling was at Hanging Houghton this morning and singles of Redpoll and Grey Wagtail were noted at Kelmarsh Hall. This evening a Barn Owl was again hunting the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Sparrowhawk at
Stortons Pits courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Male Bullfinch
courtesy of John Tilly.

Female Bullfinch
courtesy of John Tilly.

Pair of Mallard
courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Warm and sunny at last!


On Thursday 12th April Chris Payne completed some ringing in his Greens Norton garden, successfully catching and processing 43 birds. True to form Goldfinches dominated with 23 individuals plus 4 Chaffinches, 9 Greenfinches, a Redpoll, a Dunnock, 3 Blackbirds, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Woodpigeon.

Today and Debbie and Eric Graham walked around Thrapston Pits including the Titchmarsh Reserve and saw plenty with a Great White Egret still hanging around on the Heronry Lake, an Osprey on Elinor, a Curlew, two Oystercatchers and five species of warblers which included good numbers of both Sedge and Cetti's.

It seems that the Nene Valley was the place to be today in warm, sunny conditions with excellent sightings reported at sites such as Clifford Hill, Stanwick and Summer Leys. Pitsford Reservoir seemed quiet by comparison today and Harrington Airfield only served up a Wheatear and on-territory Yellow Wagtails and Willow Warblers.


Neil M

Sedge Warbler.
Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Osprey and mobbing Curlew.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Fog Free Friday !!

After the previous two days of thick fog it was nice to be able to see the birds properly rather than just vague shapes in the gloom. The sun even put in an appearance today, albeit briefly !!! But it was during this period that I managed a visit to the big side of Pitsford and did quite well.  2 male Common Scotor by the "Holly Tree" but nothing else of note on the water, just a vast expanse devoid of birds.  On the dam were 8 Yellow Wagtails adding some welcome colour . Beautiful delicate birds and dazzling yellow. There was also a small passage of hirundines, several Swallow and Sand Martin with a single House Martin joining them.
The highlight of my visit was an Osprey which circled several times before diving down into the water and successfully caught a large trout. The fishermen in the boat must have had a fabulous view of this very skilled fisher and they were probably quite jealous of the size of the fish.
There was a Barn Owl hunting the fields between Hanging Houghton and Blueberry this evening.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Quiet Times

Despite being out and about I have seen very little with everywhere appearing to be very quiet. So this blog is a result of other people's contributions, thank you. 
Eric Graham writes " myself and Ken Spriggs spent a good morning on the reserve [Titchmarsh, Thrapston], but could not walk around the reserve as Harpers brook had burst its bank again. Plenty of warblers calling, at least 7 calling Cettis, 5 singing Sedge Warbler, 1 Willow Warbler, plenty of Chiffchaff and up to 10 Blackcap.
Also 5 Common Tern and a flock of 70+ Swallows and Martin mostly sitting on the power line.
There was a pretty vocal Water Rail in front of south hide. Winter ducks are still holding their own with good numbers of Teal and Goldeneye, a small flock of Shovelar and a few Wigeon and Gadwall. "

Kenny Cramer and his ringers were at their Milton Keynes site a few days ago [ Saturday 7th April]
Kenny writes " 40 birds of 13 species.  5 Chiffchaff, 2 Treecreeper and our first Kingfisher of the year kept things interesting, while a retrap of one of last years Cettis was an encouraging sign that these recent colonisers have not faired too badly through the harsh winter.
The day was however dominated by the arrival of Blackcaps with 18 birds ringed.
Sightings today included a Sandwich Tern, the long staying Cattle Egret, 12 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing, 2 Swallow and a House Martin. An Osprey was reported over the fishing lake but unfortunately not seen by us.
2 Grass Snakes were good evidence of the very welcome warmer weather. "

Blackcap release in slow motion

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Bits and Bobs

The Barn Owl was again hunting the field edges this morning below Hanging Houghton whilst a Common Buzzard sat in its usual bush watching the owl intently. Fingers crossed that it doesn't become breakfast like it's mate did a few weeks ago !!
Then it was off to Staverton for my weekly agility training. It was ominously quiet today, no Ravens . I noticed that there has been quite a bit of work done in the belt of conifers which these birds frequent so I am wondering whether they have been disturbed and moved on.  Only time will tell.
A walk at Borough Hill only produced a single male Northern Wheatear and there were two further Wheatears near Kentle Wood [Daventry] and an Osprey over.
On my way home I stopped off at Ravensthorpe Reservoir and was surprised to literally come face to face with an Otter as it splashed about very close to the causeway. Of course no camera with me !.  I heard a Water Rail calling, 2 Swallows overhead and a flock of 12 Goldeneye displaying were the only birds of note.
I took a bit of a detour and went to Cottesbrooke and from the bus shelter  saw a stunning male Hawfinch sitting very quietly in a tree. I drive through Cottesbrooke most days and this is the first time for a while that I have seen a Hawfinch. I think that the birds are more elusive.
Before I reached home I notched up a further 2 Northern Wheatears along the gated road from Cottesbrooke to Haselbeech.

Dave Francis Had a mini ringing session in his garden yesterday [6th April] where he caught 14 birds including 8 Siskin. Dave says " these 8 brought my garden total so far to 50 individuals. Siskins are one of my favourite birds to ring. They are usually docile, easy to extract, easy to age and sex and they produce controls.   
None of the birds so far were controls but they may well get caught when they get back to Scotland or wherever they are heading.
The last time I had a good siskin winter in my garden I caught a Swedish one and had one of mine controlled in Belgium, as well as several assorted Scottish movements".

Regards Eleanor 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Pitsford CBC


This morning I completed the first Common Bird Census of the year on the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir. I started at 6.30am when it was rather cold (just above freezing) but finished at 1pm in lovely warm sunshine!

The extremely high water levels didn't put off the incoming summer migrants which included 14 singing Chiffchaffs, four singing Willow Warblers and 6 singing Blackcaps. I was interested to establish if the resident small bird population had been adversely affected by the hostile weather in March. Goldcrests and Treecreepers (fourteen individuals of each) were present in lower than normal numbers, 46 singing Wrens holding territory suggested they didn't do too bad but 33 singing Robins seemed a low count.

Seven Marsh Tits and two Willow Tits no doubt made use of the feed stations on-site during the winter and other birds noted included about five Siskins, a Redpoll, a Shelduck and the pair of Oystercatchers. A Swallow flew straight through.

The very high water levels was probably the main reason why I was able to count at least 18 Muntjac on my walk around the reserve - there just wasn't any available waterside vegetation for them to hide in! A welcome increase in insects included Comma butterflies and from lunch-time onwards, Brimstone butterflies too...


Neil M


Common Buzzard.


Bee Fly.

Greylag Goose.

Comma butterfly.


All images from Pitsford
Reservoir today...

Monday, 2 April 2018

Robin's pics to the rescue!


A foraging Raven here at Hanging Houghton today came under heavy attack from the local pair of Carrion Crows, the Raven might be bigger but they are intimidated by the crows when they act in concert...

A couple of visits to Pitsford Reservoir today failed to reveal many birds of interest with three Sand Martins briefly and a hunting Barn Owl by The Pines being about the best. Good numbers of Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers continue to be attracted by the broadcast seed at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station...

So with little fresh narrative available I was pleased to receive the following pictures today...thank-you Robin!


Neil M

Male Yellowhammer.

Little Owl.

Common Gull having a
mid-flight scratch!

Grey Heron and frog.

Great Spotted Woodpecker.

All images provided by
Robin Gossage.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter floods


Despite a great deal of effort, ringing operations today didn't attract many birds! The team at Linford Lakes faced plenty of flooding which affected tactics although the dozen birds caught did include two Chiffchaffs, a smart male Siskin, a Reed Bunting and a Goldcrest. Two Oystercatchers joined many other water birds taking advantage of the food provided by the floods.

The Stortons Pits team fared no better, the best of the ringing catch being two Chiffchaffs, two Reed Buntings, a Song Thrush and a Bullfinch. Three singing Cetti's Warblers clearly survived the harsh weather of last month.

Single Barn Owls were on show today near Hanging Houghton and Loddington.


Neil M


Grey Heron.

Little Egret.

Male Shoveler.

Female Shoveler.

Male Gadwall.

All images courtesy of
John Tilly -  these birds and
others will be taking advantage
 of the Easter floods...

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Next NBC Indoor Meeting


Well for much of the day today the weather was pretty dire! Not surprisingly many outdoor events over the Easter Holidays have been cancelled due to the consistent wet weather and saturated ground. And it seemed that the birds were mostly hidden away from us today with very little in the way of significant sightings despite being out and about for much of the day...

A Raven in flight between Hanging Houghton and Brixworth this morning was carrying something, and a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below HH showed exceptionally well. Harrington Airfield hosted another daylight hunting Barn Owl plus a pair of Grey Partridge. We enjoyed brief views of a male Brambling and now two Jays in the garden plus still good numbers of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers.

This coming Wednesday (4th April) is the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club, commencing at 7.30pm at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir. The speaker is the popular Chris Ward who returns to deliver the second part of his birds and other wildlife of Australia talk.

Hot drinks and biscuits are available during the evening, there is parking around The Fishing Lodge and the meeting is open to members and non-members alike...we look forward to seeing you there!


Neil M


Reed Bunting.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Little Grebe.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Birds of Good Friday


Debbie and Eric enjoyed their time on the Titchmarsh Reserve today seeing seven Sand Martins, a singing Blackcap, plenty of  Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers, a male Brambling and a pair of Oystercatchers.

Phil Horsnail had some good finds this morning, locating a pair of Garganey on floodwater (there will be plenty of that about this week-end!) between Oundle and Ashton, close to the Olive Tree nursery and three Hawfinches (including a singing bird) in scrub and ash trees on the grown up section of the disused Polebrook Airfield.

I'm afraid that our birding opportunities were minimal today with a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, the Jay again in our garden and six or so Sand Martins over Station Road, Earls Barton this morning whilst I was passing the western end of Earls Barton GP.


Neil M

Sand Martin.
Image courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Drake Garganey.

Image courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Great Crested Grebe.
Image courtesy of Cathy
Ryden. The fish is a Ruffe
or Pope, which is related to
 the Perch. It tends to stiffen it's
 body when threatened in the hope
that the rigidity might prevent
it from being consumed - not
successful on this occasion!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Pre-Easter birds


Yesterday (28th March) John Hunt found a nice selection of birds on flooded meadows at Oundle between Lower Barnwell Lock and the A605 bypass, made up of two Shelduck, four Redshank, a Dunlin, a Black-tailed Godwit, five Golden Plovers and also Lapwing and Snipe. With most gravel pits, lakes and reservoirs sporting very high water levels currently and with more rain forecast it seems that river valley floods in meadows will provide the best opportunity for wader passage in the county this spring!

Today (29th March) and Dave Francis completed a mini ringing session in his garden on the outskirts of Northampton, catching and ringing 7 Siskins, 6 Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, 2 Long-tailed Tits, a Great Tit and 2 Starlings. Ringing is planned this coming Sunday at Stortons Pits and Linford Lakes.

Eleanor's foray into the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning yielded a Barn Owl and about ten Golden Plovers and later birds at Harrington Airfield included 2-4 Wheatears and 4 Grey Partridges.


Neil M

Golden Plover.
Image courtesy of
Dave Jackson.

Image courtesy of Jacob.

Image courtesy of John Tilly.

Cock Pheasant.
Image courtesy of John Tilly.

Carrion Crow.
Image courtesy of John Tilly.