Friday, 21 October 2016

Harrington migration


Harrington Airfield was exciting this morning in classic conditions - lots of thrushes spiraling around in the low cloud and initial mirk. Redwings were in their hundreds and there were good numbers of Fieldfares, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Skylarks and Chaffinches on the move. Several flocks of Starlings arrowed south-west and other migrants included four redpoll sp and at least two Bramblings. Birds in the bushes included a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap and there was a flock of fifty mobile Golden Plovers.

Richard How visited later in the morning and located a Yellow-browed Warbler with a tit flock next to the old shooting wall. An excellent find and well overdue for the site. Unfortunately it couldn't be re-located later.

Two or three Bramblings were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.


Neil M



Thursday, 20 October 2016

South Northants Ringing


Chris Payne was busy ringing down at Bradden yesterday catching 59 birds made up of 30 Blue Tits, 19 Great Tits, 2 Robins, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Coal Tits, a Chaffinch, a Dunnock and a Nuthatch.

Today it was the turn of his garden at Greens Norton where the configuration of nets and feeders are positioned for optimum catching opportunities. Chris caught 41 new birds and no re-traps, Goldfinches easily being the most common bird with 28 individuals, the majority of them being birds hatched this year. Other birds amounted to 5 Greenfinches, 4 Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Goldcrest, a Coal Tit and a Blackbird.

Birds at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell prompted two visits there today providing sightings of a Tree Pipit, a pair of Stonechat, probably about ten Bramblings, four redpoll sp flying over, a Corn Bunting, about a hundred Fieldfares and over three hundred Redwings. Eight Red Kites were again following a tractor.

At Harrington Airfield this afternoon birds amounted to four Ravens, at least two Bramblings, two or more redpoll sp and about ten Golden Plovers.

A brief stop at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon in the vicinity of the Sailing Club was sufficient to see the Ruddy Shelduck, plus an adult Yellow-legged Gull and fly-over singles of Brambling and a redpoll sp.


Neil M

Another view of the furtive
Siberian Accentor from yesterday...

First Winter
Mediterranean Gull.

Chiffchaff. At this time of the year
Chiffchaffs come in all different plumage
tones and colours and make a confusing array of
contact calls. Many of these individuals
are likely to be from far-flung lands and trying
to assign them to specific races is at the least
problematic. For the unwary, some of the shrill
 single and double note calls closely resemble other
 rarer phylloscopus species...

And of course it is the
season of the Redwing! These
very dapper winter thrushes
are true nomads and their impetus
to migrate always seems so strong...

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Quality birds in Northants and Yorkshire!


A walk around the Harrington Airfield complex this morning was good for eight Bramblings (at least six by the concrete entrance and two by the shooting wall), a Short-eared Owl (initially asleep on straw bales at the end of the track), at least four Grey Partridges, thirty Golden Plover, a Blackcap, two Grey Wagtails, a pair of Stonechat and a steady flow of migrating Redwings and Fieldfares over.

Blueberry Farm this afternoon yielded two pairs of Stonechat, a female Peregrine, a female 'ringtail' Hen Harrier at 16.40hrs which flew towards Haselbech and Red Kites and Common Buzzards following a tractor as it was cutting the setaside vegetation. A Barn Owl was hunting in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

A small team of us ventured up to Easington in East Yorkshire today and successfully saw the Siberian Accentor which has been there for about a week now. A stunning bird which before this autumn had not been recorded in the UK. We also managed to connect with an Isabelline Wheatear which was being pushed around by a Northern Wheatear and other noteworthy birds during the day included Mediterranean Gull, a Peregrine, a Black Redstart and two Shore Larks.


Neil M

Siberian Accentor

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Amazing Migration!


Back on home turf today, and a wander around Harrington Airfield in the rain this morning was sufficient to confirm the presence of good numbers of migrant thrushes. A Golden Plover was heard calling but otherwise I didn't see anything of note.

Neil H was at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and noted three Great White Egrets, three Green Sandpipers and a Pintail on the reserve. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was in the gull roost off the dam this afternoon and a female Peregrine was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton earlier on this afternoon.

A number of ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

Two Chiffchaffs ringed in Yorkshire earlier this year have been re-trapped at Pitsford Reservoir this autumn and an adult female Chiffchaff caught and ringed at Pitsford on 19th June this year had only travelled 42 km in a south south-west direction to be re-trapped at Hillesden in Buckinghamshire on 2nd October;

X177982 relates to a Reed Warbler which was ringed at Stortons Gravel Pits as a juvenile on 19th July 2009, which was then re-trapped in Portugal on 24th August 2012. This bird was then captured again at Stortons Gravel Pits on 19th August 2013 and finally was controlled at Wilstone Reservoir, Hertfordshire on 17th July 2016. So where will this seven year old reed dweller turn up next?

Another Reed Warbler (Z677862) was ringed as a nestling at Chew Valley Lake, Avon and Somerset on 24th June 2016 and was then caught at Stortons Gravel Pits on 24th August. This young bird travelled 155km in a north-east direction;

An adult male Blackbird which was caught and ringed in our garden at Hanging Houghton on 26th February 2015 was found freshly dead near Elamajarvi, Vaasa in Finland on 31st August 2016. This migrant Blackbird was found 1982km north east from where originally ringed and thought to have been tragically killed by a cat.


Neil M

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Reed Warbler


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Cornish birding


Challenging weather conditions with some hefty showers and strong winds in the coves of Cornwall today, but some sunny spells and mild temperatures too. A lengthy vigil at Porthgwarra seemed destined to failure but during the early afternoon the Red-eyed Vireo finally showed in an elm copse there. A wander around the cove and headland provided views of three Chough, a couple of Ravens and two or three Firecrests. A relatively small Ocean Sunfish was visible from the headland. 

Another vocal Firecrest was seen in Penzance and a stop on the Hayle Estuary was suitably timed to see a juvenile Spoonbill, a Mediterranean Gull and a fine mixture of common waders.

A bit of a drive to Chapel Porth near St Agnes on the north coast provided just a brief view of a secretive Dusky Warbler and another Firecrest.


Neil M

A swimming Water Rail!

A sunlit Gannet

Herring Gulls pecking
at an Oceanic Sunfish

Record shot of the Red-eyed Vireo

Grey Plover

Bar-tailed Godwit

Saturday, 15 October 2016

More county ringing...


Today (Saturday) provided ideal ringing conditions locally in Northants. Dave Francis and Cathy Ryden worked at the Pitsford Reservoir Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station and Chris Payne and Helen Franklin processed birds at the Bradden site in South Northants.

Fifty-nine birds were caught at Pitsford and included a very young juvenile Brambling which was a bit of a surprise. Dunnocks like this site and twelve were caught there today, only one being a retrap. Other birds included ten Tree Sparrows, eight Robins, six Reed Buntings, four Long-tailed Tits, two Yellowhammers and singles of Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Goldfinch.

At dawn there were 69 Mute Swans congregated in the Scaldwell Bay and there was a small passage of Redwings and Fieldfares passing over. A Stonechat was also present.

At Bradden Chris and Helen caught and processed a very respectable forty-four birds made up of sixteen Blue Tits, sixteen Great Tits, two Coal Tits, three Chaffinches, two Robins, a Goldcrest, a Dunnock and three Blackbirds.

The birding down here in the Isles of Scilly has remained very good but so far the islands are not keeping pace with the outstanding list of rarities on the east coast.

On Thursday 13th October we ventured over to the very pleasant island of Bryher and caught up with the two juvenile Dotterel and went on to see a Yellow-browed Warbler feeding on some seaside rocks. Other birds included three Ring Ouzels, two Lapland Buntings, a Merlin and a Peregrine. The island hosted large numbers of thrushes, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and migrants were everywhere.

On our return to St Mary's we spent much of the afternoon obtaining eventual great views of a Pallas's Warbler which had been located on the Garrison. This little mite was whizzing around at probably twice the pace of a Yellow-browed and was very hard to keep up with! Other birds included a Yellow-browed Warbler in the neighbouring tree, a Pied Flycatcher and a couple of Black Redstarts.

Yesterday (Friday) was a difficult birding day with some heavy showers but we managed two Lapland Buntings on St Mary's plus six Black Redstarts, a Common Redstart, several Water Rails, four Jack Snipes, two or three Yellow-browed Warblers and a Ring Ouzel. Being this far south there are still Sandwich Terns in the harbour and still plenty of warblers even if the Wheatears and Whinchats are beginning to thin out.

This morning and a heavy deluge of rain hit when we were in the exposed area of the airfield meaning we were quickly drenched! After the rain several birds emerged from the dripping bushes which included a Siberian Chiffchaff, several Yellow-browed Warblers and a couple of Firecrests. Water Rails and Jack Snipe again showed well and raptors included Peregrine and Hobby. Two Lapland Buntings were a touch flighty and then it was time to again board the Scillonian III and sail to Penzance. Wildlife highlights included Common Dolphins, auks, plenty of Gannets, an Arctic Skua and with a drake Eider in Penzance Harbour.


Neil M





Yellow-browed Warbler!


Sunset from St Mary's

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Ringing exploits from the week-end


Northants Ringing Group members were active in the field again last week-end with sessions at Pitsford Reservoir and Linford Lakes (Milton Keynes).

The nets in the Scaldwell Bay were utilised at Pitsford Reservoir during the afternoon of Saturday 8th and morning of Sunday 9th October, resulting in 59 captures. This included 10 Chiffchaffs, nine Goldcrests, two Redwings, a Blackcap, a Willow Tit and a Jay. One of the Chiffchaffs was a bird previously ringed at Wheldrake Ings reserve in Yorkshire on 26th September 2016 and the Jay was seemingly a bird ringed at Pitsford several years ago with no recaptures since.

Kenny Cramer and team enjoyed an excellent session at Linford on Sunday morning capturing nearly a hundred birds. Correlation with Pitsford was evident with the capture of twenty Chiffchaffs, thirteen Goldcrests, a Blackcap and seven Redwings. Other birds included a Kingfisher, a Green Woodpecker, a Cetti's Warbler and a Lesser Redpoll. Other creatures noted included two Grass Snakes and three Great Crested Newts.

Down here in The Scillies things have quietened down a little although migration is still evident with new birds being found each day. Yesterday (Tuesday), it was decidedly cooler but mostly dry and sunny and still with a stiff easterly wind. Eleanor ran around the complete coastal path around St Mary's first thing, seeing Wryneck, Lapland Bunting and Subalpine Warbler on her way around.

General birding during the day located a second Wryneck and more Yellow-browed Warblers and Firecrests, a Red-breasted Flycatcher, a Pied Flycatcher and small numbers of assorted wagtails and chats. A Hobby was mobile around the island and other birds of interest included Mediterranean Gull, Willow Warbler and several Siskins.

Today (Wednesday) and the weather conditions cooled further and some showers materialised this afternoon. At least three Hobbies were hawking insects around the islands and the thrush numbers further increased with more Redwings, Fieldfares and Ring Ouzels. A couple of Lesser Whitethroats were seemingly of eastern origin, an 'acredula'-type Willow Warbler showed well and Firecrests and Yellow-browed Warblers could be found at a number of localities on St Mary's. Jack Snipe were still in evidence on the island and more common waders could be found on the plentiful beaches and rocky outcrops.


Neil M

Firecrest. Always a stunning bird
and on the Scillies this year they are
 almost as common as the Goldcrest.
A little ringing around our accommodation
has identified five different individuals
utilising the ivy clad elms.

Subalpine Warbler. Considered by some to
be a 'Western' Subalpine Warbler...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Isles of Scilly 8th - 10th Oct


On Saturday 8th Oct we finally bit the bullet and took a boat to the island of Tresco, and it wasn't too long before we were watching the juvenile Sora Rail that has been present for perhaps a couple of weeks now. Like all such birds it was skulking but on occasions did exit the reeds of the Great Pool albeit at some distance.

On another warm and sunny day we took a wander around the island and saw an Osprey, a Woodcock, a female Peregrine, a flock of six Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a Back Redstart and half a dozen Yellow-browed Warblers. Insects were out in force with particularly large numbers of Red Admiral butterflies and several Hummingbird Hawk-moths amongst others.

On our return to St Mary's at about 5pm we bumped in to a late Turtle Dove, a couple of Wrynecks, a Black Redstart, a male Lapland Bunting, another Yellow-browed Warbler, the long-staying Black-necked Grebe and five Jack Snipe. Whinchats and Stonechats were everywhere.

Yesterday (Sunday), an early wander around St Mary's successfully located three Ring Ouzels, plenty of Redwings and a Red-throated Diver. By way of a change we then took a four and half hour boat trip around the islands birding the shoreline and islets. Five adult Peregrines were atop their respective rocks in very calm conditions and we encountered an adult Great Northern Diver, a Common Scoter, several Mediterranean Gulls, lots of waders including three Purple Sandpipers, a couple of Puffins, the Brent Geese again and pods of Harbour Porpoises and both Common and Grey Seals.

Today (Monday) and after some early morning Firecrests and a brief view of a Subalpine Warbler, we took a boat to St Martins, possibly our favourite island. Here we found another Firecrest, a Ring Ouzel, a Merlin, a Mediterranean Gull, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Garden Warbler in slightly cooler but still sunny conditions. The male Subalpine Warbler was still showing on our return to St Mary's, pretty good for a species known to be a major skulker!


Neil M

Jack Snipe


Yellow-browed Warbler

Pale-bellied Brent Geese


Sora Rail


Common Seal

Grey Seal
Grey Plover

Purple Sandpiper

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Colour Ringed Little Egret

On Wednesday last week whilst surveying the large number of wildfowl congregated in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res, my attention was captured by a little Egret fishing in the shallows away towards the bund. It appeared to have been colour Ringed. Further studying through my scope eventually revealed that the bird was Ringed above the knee on both legs. The left leg had an orange (it looked red to me) ring with the black letter N and the right a green ring with the number 6.
After reporting the siting via the BTO the following information was provided about the bird: It was ringed by North Thames Gull group on the 5th May 2012 as a nestling, making the bird 4yrs 154 days old. The bird was Ringed at Netherhall in Essex, 89km from Pitsford.
               Neil H.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Scilly Isles 6th and 7th Oct


Like much of the country, the Isles of Scilly have been hit with continual blustery easterly winds which has produced large numbers of migrants. In particular the Robin is particularly numerous and there must be hundreds of of them on the islands. A little ringing next to our chalet during the last three days has produced 29 different individuals.

Yesterday (6th) was very enjoyable, the high-point being just past noon when we discovered a Caspian Tern in flight over the Porthcressa Bay on St Mary's. This bird quickly moved to the east of the island and settled at Porthellick where most locally-based birders managed to catch up with it.

Other interesting birds included the two Cattle Egrets again, a confiding Black-necked Grebe, a Wryneck, the Red-backed Shrike on the Garrison, several Firecrests and Yellow-browed Warblers, a Curlew Sandpiper, a Merlin, a couple of Black Redstarts and plenty of insects including Hummingbird Hawk-moths and Painted Lady butterflies in good numbers.

Today (7th) and much the same weather conditions but with a much-reduced wind provided good ringing conditions and individuals trapped and ringed included Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Firecrest and Grey Wagtail. Eleanor saw up to four different Wrynecks on St Mary's today, including two or three together. Yellow-browed Warblers were everywhere and both Porthellick and Lower Moors hosted ridiculous numbers of Jack Snipe. The Cattle Egrets remained mobile and most of the birds from the day before were seen again. A pulse of fresh-in warblers included a new wave of Blackcaps.

And tomorrow's forecast is looking good too...!


Neil M


Common Redstart

Black Redstart

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Little Bunting

Rock Pipit

Red-backed Shrike

Black-necked Grebe

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Isles of Scilly


On Monday Eleanor and I sailed from Penzance in Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly, a favourite location of ours.

A rough crossing provided views of several Great Skuas and a Grey Phalarope plus more common sea-birds and brief views of Harbour Porpoise and Common Dolphin.

With strong easterly/south-easterly winds the islands held plenty of migrants and our first afternoon wander ensured we saw a Red-breasted Flycatcher, a Red-backed Shrike and the first of many Yellow-browed Warblers.

Yesterday (Tuesday) and the wind strengthened even more. A wander up to the airfield on St Mary's was productive with side by side views of Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Golden Plover and a cracking male Lapland Bunting. More Yellow-browed Warblers and two Cattle Egrets in the afternoon were the pick of the later in the day birds.

Today (Wednesday) and the quality birds kept coming with a confiding Little Bunting, another Red-breasted Flycatcher, the Cattle Egrets, AGP and Buff-breast again plus Lapland Bunting, Wryneck, Redstart and Black Redstart, Hobby, Jack Snipe and plenty of Firecrests and Yellow-browed Warblers...

And the weather forecast suggest more avian influences from the east during the next several days...


Neil M

Song Thrush. Still a common
bird on the Isles of Scilly.

Large Red Underwing moth.

Grey Wagtail.