Monday, 16 September 2019

Sunday's ringing


Northants Ringing Group members were active yesterday at two key sites. Kenny and team were in among the birds at Linford Lakes where they processed 95 birds (85 new) of twelve species. Some excellent warbler numbers is more evidence of a good breeding season with 25 Chiffchaffs, 12 Willow Warblers (a very high total for so late in the season), 21 Blackcaps, 6 Reed Warblers and 3 Sedge Warblers. Other birds included 6 Wrens, 3 Robins, 3 Dunnocks, 10 Blue Tits, 3 Great Tits, a Greenfinch and 2 Reed Buntings.

Two Green Sandpipers were also present and other wildlife included 7 Great Crested Newts, 12 Common Newts, 3 Common Frogs, 2 Common Toads and a Water Shrew.

In the meantime Dave and Lewis were working at Pitsford Reservoir and caught 61 birds of 18 species. A female Sparrowhawk was perhaps the highlight but a spread of birds included 5 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 5 Wrens, a Treecreeper, a Long-tailed Tit, 12 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits, a Willow Tit, a Marsh Tit, 5 Robins, 5 Blackcaps, 3 Dunnocks, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Blackbirds, a Chaffinch and 4 Bullfinches.

Eleanor's visit to Harrington Airfield this morning yielded small numbers of Blackcaps, a rather late Garden Warbler and two Spotted Flycatchers. There will be bird ringing at this site on Wednesday and Thursday this week and access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted to invitees. Please let me know if you would like to come along.

Two Grey Partridges were the only birds of note in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today.

A brief visit to the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this evening was good for a Great White Egret, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, four Snipe, a Green Sandpiper and two Grey Wagtails.

Bob Bullock found two Slavonian Grebes at Clifford Hill Pits today, the birds remaining on the main barrage lake all day. A Common Sandpiper was also present. Nick Parker's efforts at Thrapston Pits produced two Red-crested Pochard and two Pintail.


Neil M

Adult female Sparrowhawk.


Willow Warbler.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Autumn Days

I know that I have said this before but this is my favourite time of year. Autumn always seems such a special time, that transition from the long lazy summer days to the shorter colder days ahead. 
The hedgerows heavy with their ripening fruits, the fields a mixture of stubble and fresh plough now that most of the harvest is in and the trees beginning to turn from green to orange. The sky is not exempt as there have been some stunning sunrises and sunsets over the past week and the moon at the moment is big and beautiful too. The countryside around is a feast for the eyes with so many colours and textures. 
At this time of year I hate spending any time indoors and if I had my way I would be out and about from dawn until dusk, but sadly other things prevent me from doing so. But I'm always looking and listening at the birds etc around me wherever I happen to be.
There are still plenty of Painted Lady butterflies on the wing plus good numbers of Red Admiral, Peacock  and Small Tortoiseshell.
We have seen an increase in the number of birds visiting our garden, especially Goldfinches and Greenfinches.
In the valley below Hanging Houghton the weedy crops are beginning to attract large numbers of Tree Sparrows, Linnets and Goldfinches.  There are still several Whinchat favouring "shrike" hedge and this morning a Marsh Harrier was in this area.
This afternoon the air was filled with the evocative calls of the Red Kite and Buzzard.  I stood and watched as 4 Red Kites were playing with a stick low over a stubble field.  One of the kites would drop the stick and another pick it up and fly a short distance before dropping it again. And so the " game" went on with each of the kites taking part.  They were clearly enjoying themselves and were extremely vocal.   
Yesterday at Harrington there were more of the usual Autumn birds present including a Stonechat, 2 Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart.
This time of year is not all about the "rare" birds which might be found but the sheer spectacle and experience of visible migration. It can be an amazing experience to stand still and simply watch and listen as birds are on the move. Meadow Pipits and Swallows were moving in large numbers this morning, I wonder what will be moving tomorrow ?

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 8 September 2019

A much quieter day.

What a difference 24 hours makes. Yesterday the hedges were alive with birds but today they were ominously silent. I struggled to find any birds in shrike hedge or Harrington Airfield. 
My only bird of interest was a Quail which I flushed whilst walking the fields below Hanging Houghton this evening.
However it would appear that the ringers had more success with locating birds. Ringing at the feeding station Pitsford Reservoir produced 93 birds made up of 81 new birds and 12 retraps. Dave Francis noted a significant fall of Chiffchaff with 21 caught and all new first year birds. 
The other interesting feature is the number of Blue Tit caught and the relatively low recapture rate. Dave reports that over 700 Blue Tit have been caught this season and so many new birds continue to be caught. 23 were caught today. 
Whilst at Linford, Milton Keynes the ringers caught 111 birds, 95 of which were new birds representing 13 species. Kenny Cramer noted that warblers dominated but that there was a notable shift in proportions. 25 Reed Warblers, 19 Blackcap, 16 Chiffchaff, 8 Sedge Warblers and a single Willow Warbler and Cettis.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Heaving Hedges !!

Most of my day has been taken up with agility training three of the dogs at Staverton . The usual Ravens were present and very vocal and visible.
My plan was to grab something to eat and have a quick walk at Borough Hill, but as I drove into the car park my heart sank as it was extremely busy and I very nearly drove straight home. However I was hungry after all the training so decided to eat my sandwiches. It's a good job that I did because as I sat in the car park I could hear a Common Redstart calling.  That was all the incentive I needed to get out of the car and at that point was only planning a short walk.
My short walk turned into a two hour amble as I kept getting distracted by the sheer amount of passerines moving along the hedgerows. It was fabulous to watch as the birds were calling, feeding and flitting about as they moved along the hedge. Thankfully the dogs were tired and were very content to simply sit and wait as I stopped and started all the way round. 
It felt a bit like old times as a few years ago heavy movement of passerines was a regular occurrence at this site.
At the end of my walk I had found a Pied Flycatcher, 6+ Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Common Redstart, 2 Tree Pipits, 3 Whinchat, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Sedge and Garden Warbler, numerous Blackcap, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler. In amongst all these warblers were Blue and Great Tits, Goldfinches, Bullfinches, juvenile Robins, Goldcrests and a few Song Thrushes and Blackbirds.
It was hard to draw myself away and I wonder what else was moving through unseen.
A quick stop at Ravensthorpe where the water level is very low produced a Green Sandpiper and an Osprey heading over the dam.
My final birding of the day was with my two other dogs and at shrike hedge below Hanging Houghton there were 2 Whinchat and a Barn Owl.

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 6 September 2019

Creatures from the south, the east and the north!


The moth traps at Pitsford Reservoir today provided something of a local rarity with the discovery of a 'clifden nonpareil' (sometimes called a Blue Underwing), a new species for the site and a moth with a distinct southerly distribution.

Details have come through now of the colour-ringed Yellow-legged Gull seen at Pitsford on 31st August. This bird was originally ringed as a chick in Germany on 31st May 2017 but already it is showing adult-like features, such is the rapid moult process of this species. That same year it was seen in Leicestershire on 12th August and 28th October and on the 25th February 2019 was spotted near Jura in eastern France. On 11th May this year it was seen across the border near Bern in Switzerland and of course this autumn has returned to the English Midlands. This series of records seems to confirm that the now regular summer and autumn influxes of Yellow-legged Gulls locally stem from breeding birds in eastern Europe. There were seventeen Yellow-legged Gulls at Stanwick this afternoon (courtesy of Steve Fisher), on the pit by the visitor centre for convenience!

Yesterday evening and Steve had a Marsh Harrier fly east through Stanwick; this morning there were five Cattle Egrets there plus a Common Sandpiper and a Swift.  Kim saw a Great White Egret and a Greenshank at Summer Leys this morning and Ken witnessed a Hobby dashing over Upper Harlestone. The Brampton Valley seemed quiet this morning, that is apart from the southward migrating Meadow Pipits whose numbers have now created significant momentum.


Neil M

'Clifden nonpareil' or Blue
Underwing moth, image
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Yellow-legged Gull.

Meadow Pipit.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Autumnal birding


No opportunities for birding yesterday and only limited time today but a few bits and pieces noted locally...

Eleanor saw the two Whinchats and a Common Redstart in 'shrike hedge' in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning and a quick foray at Harrington Airfield confirmed a Common Redstart in bushes by Bunker Two and pair of Grey Partridge with small young. The two Ravens remain resident here in the village at Hanging Houghton.

I visited the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir today to feed the birds and a quick scan from there provided views of a Great White Egret in front of the Bird Club Hide in the Scaldwell Bay plus a Green Sandpiper and at least one adult Yellow-legged Gull. Dave Jackson later had a Whinchat below the dam at the other end of the reservoir and Roger Eads saw a Little Gull fly past the Maytrees Hide late this afternoon.

Elsewhere Stanwick Pits continued to host six Cattle Egrets, two Swifts and a Common Sandpiper and Summer Leys Reserve attracted a Great White Egret, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Common Sandpiper with five Whinchats and a Common Redstart at nearby Wollaston Weirs. A Wheatear was in a field next to Rowell Leys between East Haddon and Holdenby.


Neil M

Black-tailed Godwit.

Common Sandpiper.


Green Sandpiper.


Little Grebe.

Spotted Redshank.

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Ditchford WeBS count


I spent much of the day completing an early September WeBS count at Ditchford Pits, initially in cloudy conditions but later in strong, warm sunshine. Sometimes it's tough being a WeBS counter! Actually there were very few water birds to count and I spent some of my time watching the clouds of Migrant Hawker dragonflies and other insects. Two pond turtles or terrapins were seen on different pits and there were some sizeable Leather or Mirror Carp active too.  

Birds of note included eight Egyptian Geese, a Snipe, a Dunlin and three Common Sandpipers west of Ditchford Lane. The Kingfisher numbers are still very low this year and I only recorded two today. The number of calling Cetti's Warblers suggested a reasonable post-breeding population on-site and Water Rails with young was good news. Meadow Pipits are passing over the county now, just a few at the moment but no doubt this number will quickly grow during September as the majority of the population in Scotland and Northern England filter south with some going as far as Iberia and even North Africa.

Other birds at Ditchford included a Hobby, just two Little Egrets, a Grey Wagtail, a couple of Ravens and a calling Little Owl. A Water Stick Insect was an impressive looking beast!

Eleanor visited Harrington Airfield today and located two Common Redstarts, a Wheatear and a Whinchat and birds in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area amounted to a Corn Bunting, another Common Redstart and two Whinchats. A/the Sacred Ibis of unknown origin was noted flying over Desborough today, Steve Fisher found five Cattle Egrets at Stanwick  and Summer Leys hosted two Great White Egrets, a Garganey, a Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Common Sandpiper.

Finally I saw the juvenile Little Gull at Pitsford Reservoir again this evening, this time with other gulls in the Pintail Bay. Several Yellow-legged Gulls were also present.


Neil M

Migrant Hawkers...oh and
there were plenty of Blackberries
at Ditchford as usual too!

Terrapin sp at it's
usual sun bathing spot!

Water Stick Insect - apparently
the longest aquatic insect in
the UK!

Yellow-legged Gull at
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Egret party!


Pitsford Reservoir this evening continued to host the juvenile Little Gull which together with a juvenile Arctic Tern were loosely associated with about ten Common Terns half way between the dam and the causeway. Adult Yellow-legged Gulls spend the day at the reservoir and in the afternoon and evening they are joined by a variety of different aged individuals just prior to roost, the total varying between eight to twelve birds. A Greenshank and two Grey Wagtails were by the Sailing Club this morning.

Interesting passage passerines were still about today with two Whinchats and a Wheatear at 'shrike hedge' in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, two Common Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher along the Brampton Valley Way at Draughton Crossing next to the pony field, and four Common Redstarts this afternoon in hedgerows alongside the footpath between Walgrave village and Pitsford Reservoir (access from Bridle Road, Old village and walking to the fourth field). One or two Whinchat(s) were also at Neville's Lodge, Finedon.

Steve Fisher found a juvenile Little Tern at Stanwick Pits this morning and Summer Leys hung on to a Great White Egret, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Yesterday a busy ringing session took place at Linford Lakes by Northants Ringing Group, netting 106 birds which were nearly all newly-ringed. Warblers made up the bulk with 30 Chiffchaffs, 23 Reed Warblers, 13 Blackcaps, 9 Willow Warblers and 10 Sedge Warblers. Two Green Sandpipers were also present and non avian highlights included lots of Great Crested and Common Newts.

Today and another ringing session by NRG members at Stortons Pits provided 72 captures, again nearly all newly-ringed birds. Blackcaps dominated with an excellent catch of 37 birds plus 7 Reed Warblers, 7 Whitethroats and singles of Garden Warbler and Sedge Warbler.


Neil M

Little and Great White Egret.

Great White Egret.

Fishing Great White Egret.

Great White Egrets.

Great White Egret and
Grey Heron.

All images courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Birds of the harvest


Two Ravens remained in the vicinity of Hanging Houghton for much of the day today and Harrington Airfield hosted another four Ravens, a Peregrine, a Common Redstart and a Wheatear.

The Pied Flycatcher found yesterday at Barnwell Country Park (courtesy of John Hunt) was on view on and off all day today (plus a couple of Kingfishers) and at Thrapston Pits an Osprey was fishing at Elinor Lake and two Green Sandpipers were present.

Adrian looked for the Night Heron at Ditchford Pits today but didn't find it but at Summer Leys reserve the two Great White Egrets were still present as were two Greenshanks and two Common Sandpipers. Quality birding at Stanwick Pits today procured six Cattle Egrets, a juvenile Caspian Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. Ian watched three Common Redstarts at the Granary at Fawsley Park today and the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke hosted three Whinchats and a Wheatear in amongst the tractors and combines harvesting the wheat.

A pair of Raven and a Grey Partridge were noted at Neville's Lodge, Finedon and Pitsford Reservoir this evening yielded a Black-necked Grebe in the mouth of the Pintail Bay plus a juvenile Little Gull and nine Yellow-legged Gulls off the dam.


Neil M

Harvesting operations
Brampton Valley.

Northants Bird Club Meeting 4th Sept


The next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club will be on Wednesday 4th September when three members will each provide a short presentation of their choice, all bird and wildlife related. Lynne Barnett will kick off proceedings, followed by Pete Gilbert and finally committee member Mark Williams. 

As usual the start time for the meeting is 7.30pm at The Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir, Brixworth Road, Holcot NN6 9SJ. Hot drinks and biscuits will be available and the meeting is open to both members and non members alike. These short presentation sessions by members have proved popular in the past so be early to make sure you have a seat!

Neil M

Blue Tit.


Song Thrush.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Birding the last day of August...


I woke this morning listening to the croaking of Ravens in the dim light of dawn...

Birds noted at Summer Leys reserve today included two Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers and a Snipe. An Osprey was at Titchmarsh Reserve today and an excellent find just down the road was a Pied Flycatcher at Barnwell Country Park. Five Whinchats were found next to the River Nene near Wollaston Sewer Works today and Hollowell Reservoir hosted the Ruddy Shelduck, a Greenshank, three Common Sandpipers and four Little Ringed Plovers.

An unconfirmed report of a Nigh Heron at Ditchford Pits sounds intriguing, the venue of the last long-staying accessible bird in the county - map references SP925683 and SP930680 apparently are the observation spots.

Two Common Redstarts were again near Twywell village in a hedgerow along the footpath towards the Country Park. Another Common Redstart was in field hedging just south east of Lamport this afternoon with a Spotted Flycatcher nearby and there were two Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Water Treatment Works.

Pitsford Reservoir was busy this evening, birds north of the causeway including a fishing Osprey, a Garganey, two Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper, three Snipe, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Hobby, a juvenile Little Gull and a Common Redstart. Later observations from the Sailing Club yielded a fishing Osprey (possibly the same bird from north of the causeway), ten Common Terns, six Yellow-legged Gulls (one colour-ringed) and a Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

Great White Egret at
Summer Leys reserve
today courtesy of
John Tilly.

Pied Flycatcher.

Common Redstart.

New petition for banning driven grouse shooting

A message from Dr Mark Avery...

The petition was set up by Chris Packham and had already gathered over 72,000 signatures in just over a week. That's good going. But time is short because we need to get past 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in the Westminster Parliament to raise the profile of this issue. Although in theory we have until 13 February to get to 100,000 signatures it isn't that simple as, if a general election is called (as seems likely some time this autumn) then all petitions are closed and we'd have to start again!

So I am asking for your help, please, whether you agree with the petition or not, to spread the word to your friends and colleagues.

There are two ways that you can help, please:

  • sign the petition yourself
  • forward details to friends, family etc
I'd be very grateful, and so would Chris, for any support. 

Dr Mark Avery


Meadow Pipit.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Friday's birds


I'm just back from two weeks in the West Highlands of Scotland based on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular. Although warm it was very wet and a far cry from the weather systems in sunny Northamptonshire! A pair of Raven welcomed me back at Hanging Houghton - even though they have been resident in the county for some years now I'm still thrilled to see and hear them!

Dave Francis completed the last of the Constant Effort ringing sessions of the season at Pitsford Reservoir today catching 53 birds of 16 species made up of  12 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, 2 Marsh Tits, a Coal Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, 5 Wrens, 3 Dunnocks, 4 Robins, 4 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 3 Goldcrests, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcaps and a Reed Bunting.

Eleanor visited Twywell Hills and Dales Country Park this afternoon and located three Common Redstarts and two Whinchats and two Spotted Flycatchers.

Summer Leys reserve was lively today with two Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, a Wood Sandpiper, a Snipe and a Common Sandpiper. Two Whinchats were on-site at Sywell Country Park in the north-east arm and another was seen at Neville's Lodge, Finedon. Three Yellow-legged Gulls and about ten Common Terns were visible at Pitsford Reservoir this evening.


Neil M

Wood Sandpiper courtesy
of Robin Gossage.



Sunday, 25 August 2019

Odds and Ends

Whilst the very hot weather has been welcomed by many, it can be hard work for others. Birding can seem an effort and my own birding has been confined to early morning and late evening rambles around the fields at Blueberry or Harrington Airfield.  Every day I am bumping into Common Redstart. These are "regular" at Harrington. I've no idea whether these are new birds moving through or the same ones staying put for a while as sometimes they are sitting in full view and at other times remain elusive. Other birds that I have seen on an almost daily basis are Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler, Turtle Dove and Tree Pipit.
Plenty of good birds [ not seen by myself] have turned up at the reservoirs and gravel pits including Black, Little and Sandwich Tern, Cattle and Great White Egret, Wood Sandpiper and Pied Flycatcher.
The ringers have been busy. John Woollett caught 49 birds at Stortons gravel pits with Blackcap being top of the list at 25.
At Pitsford Dave Francis caught 104 birds of 17 species and noted that the numbers of Blackcaps have already dropped off considerably with only 3 birds caught.  In previous sessions Blackcap have been top of the list of the totals.
Interesting observations from these ringing sessions about the Blackcap numbers from two sites which as the bird flies are not far from each other.
I have been watching a Barn Owl regularly although it/they have become more elusive which seemed strange as they had young to feed and when they were hunting they were catching plenty of food. Anyway I decided to check the nest site and was saddened and dismayed to find two well grown chicks lying dead on the ground underneath the nest.  I have no idea why this happened but it was very sad to see.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Round Up !!

I always enjoy being out and about at this time of year. Already it is feeling very "Autumnal" with mist hanging over the fields early in the morning, the crisp clear air and the drawing in of the evenings.
The hedgerows are heavy with the ripe plump blackberries and the cereal fields waiting patiently to be harvested.
There are still plenty of Painted Lady butterflies about as well as good numbers of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock.
I continue to bird the hedgerows and regularly bump into Common Redstart, Whinchat and Whitethroats.  This afternoon there was a Common Redstart showing well near the first bunker at Harrington Airfield. Other birds included Northern Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Grey Partridge and Turtle Dove.

The ringers have been busy. A couple of days ago [18th Aug] Kenny and his team caught 105 birds, 93 of which were new at their site near Milton Keynes. A total of 15 species including 26 Bluetit, 19 Greatit, 19 Reed Warblers, 12 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler and a Sedge Warbler.
Today John Woollett and his team enjoyed a very productive session. A total of 66 birds caught, 46 new and 20 retraps.  Over half [12] the retraps were Long Tailed Tits.  17 different species were caught with Blackcap being the most numerous {15} followed by Reed Warbler at 9.
You never know what is going to end up in the net and today it was the turn of a racing pigeon !! After phoning the number on its leg the owner was contacted.  The pigeon came from a loft in Grimsby.

Regards  Eleanor