Sunday, 19 February 2017

Woodford Starling murmuration


The following account, images and information has kindly been submitted by Annie Ford who has discovered and photographed a Starling murmuration in the village of Woodford...

'I first spotted that Woodford had more starlings than other villages in the area when I drove through the village one sunny afternoon in September last year and took some photos. Later on in the year someone showed me a few photos of a murmuration over the streets of Woodford. I went to look for the starlings a couple of times without success. In January this year I noticed them again flying over the houses in Mill Road, but was too late to photograph them because they were just settling. So I made it my mission to find out the best spot and best time to catch them. 

I realised that like us humans the starlings prefer good weather for outdoor activities. When it's dull they just settle down to roost, but when the weather is clear, they will provide a really good spectacle. The better the weather, the more starlings arrive and the bigger the spread of the murmuration. 

I have been to Titchmarsh Lakes and to Summer Leys, where murmurations occurred before, but the weather turned dull on me so I cannot comment if they still happen or not. 

I attach a few photos for you from the various days I have been in pursuit of the little darlings. 

The brightest day was 13th February, when I was watching the murmuration from the field adjacent to Mill Road. The starlings flew right across the village down to Thrapston Road and up to the playing field. Friday wasn't quite so bright, but the sun kept coming out so I decided to try my luck near the playing field again. At first I thought they were just settling straight away in a piece of scrub near Mill Road, but just as I thought of going home, I realised a lot of starlings had arrived and were settling in a field to the left of the playing field. The noise was quite considerable. All of a sudden, they started taking off from that field and flew towards Mill Road in a vast stream of birds. They flew just over the hedge of the playing field. I did take a short video of that because it was quite spectacular. They assembled into a murmuration over Mill Road and beyond and then settled in their place near Mill Road, although I did hear some on the other side of the playing field. 

The action currently happens between 5 - 5.30 pm It's difficult to say, where the best place is to see the murmuration, as they often break up into smaller flocks and then combine again. Sometimes the best vantage point is at the edge of the village in Mill Road, sometimes in or near the playing field near the working men's club. 

I attach a map for you which I prepared for one of the members of my photoclub. Where I wrote murmuration is the scrub where they settle. The field below the hedge, where I wrote park here is the one where the starlings had settled en masse before the murmuration yesterday. (the google map is incorrect, as the working men's club is in the same place as the community sports complex - which is where you can park the car)

I presume the murmurations will stop soon, as the starlings will start pairing up and nesting, but you might catch some if we have reasonable weather before then.

I came back from shopping Thrapston yesterday (Saturday) and the afternoon had brightened up. I saw a few  starlings arrive  at about 5 pm, so I rushed home to dump the shopping and get my Nikon D300 (I only had my  little Nikon S9000 compact in my handbag) and drove back up to Woodford. I just pulled in a few hundred yards  before getting to the Village on Mill Road.

The murmurations started in the usual way with a few starlings, then more and more came and they split and  joined together flying over the whole village and the fields to the left and the right of me. Then finally they started  painting spectacular pictures in the sky. I was stunned. I think there must have been more starlings than ever...'

Annie Ford

Images courtesy
of Annie Ford

Female Starling
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Early spring Sunday


Jacob wandered around the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir in his continued effort at finding new birds for his patchwork challenge and found a new bird - a House Sparrow! Other birds included the Red-necked Grebe, the White-fronted Goose, two Great White Egrets, a drake Pintail, a drake Red-crested Pochard, a second calendar year Yellow-legged Gull, a Green Sandpiper, two Redshanks, five Siskins and four Marsh Tits.

Eric Graham returned to the Titchmarsh Reserve today and located nine Little Egrets and three Redpolls. John Woollett and team committed to some ringing at Stortons Gravel Pits today and caught 25 birds which included a Redwing and five Reed Buntings. Two Ravens were over Astcote this afternoon.

A wetlands bird census at Ditchford Gravel Pits today was a day slogging through the mud in very spring-like temperatures. An adult drake Scaup was on pits west of Ditchford Lane and two Great White Egrets were present (Viaduct Pit and the Wilsons Pits complex). Other birds included six Little Egrets, two Oystercatchers, a Jack Snipe, 39 Common Snipe, three Goosanders, one or two Shelduck, five Water Rails, two Chiffchaffs, seven Cetti's Warblers, two Stonechats and three Grey Wagtails.


Neil M

Drake Scaup.

Great Crested Grebe.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Plenty going on out there!


Jacob's efforts at Pitsford Reservoir this morning yielded birds in the shape of the Red-necked Grebe off the causeway, two Great White Egrets, two Redshanks, a Green Sandpiper and an Oystercatcher. The relatively small gull roost again failed to attract any scarce gulls.

Jacob recorded Redpoll and Siskin at Scaldwell village and the Reed Bunting count in our garden went up to 13 birds! 

Harrington Airfield hosted 36 Golden Plovers today and Brixworth Water Treatment Works attracted a Chiffchaff, a Grey Wagtail, about eighty Pied Wagtails and several Siskins.

Eric Graham reported a pair of Oystercatchers at Thrapston Gravel Pits today and sadly vandalism to two of the hides on the Titchmarsh Reserve there. Steve Austin counted 44 Waxwings commuting between Wootton village and the Wyevale Garden Centre off the Newport Pagnell Road on the outskirts of Northampton this morning.

Eleanor watched three Otters playing in the water at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this morning and the usual two Great White Egrets were present too. She went on to see two Ravens at Staverton, four Goosanders at Daventry Country Park and an adult female Peregrine and a pair of Stonechat at Borough Hill Country Park.


Neil M

Scarlet Elf Cup
Courtesy of John Gamble.

Water Rail
courtesy of John Gamble.

Male Bluethroat at Willow Tree
Fen, Lincolnshire. It is rare for a
mid-winter Bluethroat in the UK
and this one is very much a show-stopper!
Images courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Mild Friday


Some ringing at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir provided 70 captures made up of 4 Coots, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 5 Great Tits, 3 Blue Tits, 10 Tree Sparrows, 10 Reed Buntings, a Robin, 4 Chaffinches, 4 Goldfinches, 14 Yellowhammers, a Greenfinch and 8 Dunnocks.

Birds seen on-site included both the Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, the White-fronted Goose, 4 Pintail, a Red-crested Pochard and 74 Common Snipe. A flock of eight geese flying over this morning were identified as Pink-footed.

Lyn and John Hunt caught up with many of the better birds in the county today including the large flock of Waxwings currently in Wootton. They also found a Short-eared Owl at Earls Barton Gravel Pits, alongside the flooded pit behind Mary's Lake.

Redpolls seem to be scarce this winter and Jacob had one at Scaldwell village today and we are fortunate to have at least seven Reed Buntings coming to our garden at Hanging Houghton. The pair of Stonechat were still present today below the village in the Brampton Valley.

A nestling Pied Wagtail which was ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 10th May 2016 was sadly taken by a cat at Bradville, Milton Keynes on 13th Feb this year. During it's short life this young bird had clearly translocated 31km further to the south.


Neil M

Lamport Hall.

Adult male Sparrowhawk. First caught and ringed
in November 2014 (when assessed to have been hatched
 in 2013), he was recaptured at Hanging Houghton
 on 9th January 2016 and again today.

Sunrise at Guilsborough.

First year male Blackbird.

Male Siskin.

Above three images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Thursday's tidings!


Jacob's on-going quest to find new birds at Pitsford Reservoir continued today and his presence provided records of the Red-necked Grebe, the White-fronted Goose, three Pintail, a Raven and two Marsh Tits. An interesting raptor was sighted twice at range during poor visibility and may have been a Goshawk.

Barnes Meadow reserve provided sightings of two Jack Snipe, three Snipe, an adult male Peregrine and a Kingfisher and a quick search at Lings Wood failed to locate a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker despite perfect conditions (plenty of Siskins there though). Abington Park was home to three Ring-necked Parakeets late morning, in the copse between the main and bottom lakes.

Chris Payne completed a couple of hours ringing at Bradden today, catching 45 birds made up of an impressive 18 Goldfinches, 20 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, a Greenfinch and 2 Goldcrests. Chris noted a female Blackbird making a nest in his Greens Norton garden!


Neil M


Little Egret

Drake Mallard

Pied Wagtail

All images above taken
by Jacob Spinks at Pitsford
Reservoir today...

Ring-necked Parakeet
Abington Park

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Abington Park.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Spring is in the air!


Quite a few people out birding on the reserve side of Pitsford Reservoir this morning and between us the scarcer birds amounted to the Red-necked Grebe still (just south of the causeway), a White-fronted Goose with Canadas and Greylags mostly in the Scaldwell Bay, two Great White Egrets, two Green Sandpipers, a returning Oystercatcher, three Pintail, a Raven and two Marsh Tits. 

Checking the large nest boxes today to make them ready for the forthcoming breeding season (evicting Grey Squirrels and their dreys mostly), we came across two roosting Tawny Owls which we took as a good sign for possible future usage. 

In addition there were several singing Skylarks over the adjoining fields and the Song Thrushes were in song all around the reserve. Another impressive aspect was appreciating all the labours of volunteers and contractors alike in the amount of management work completed on the reserve this winter. Imposing and cluttered crack willows around the hides have been cut back or felled and everywhere there is evidence of thinning, the creation of glades and 'scalloping' and reigning back scrub threatening to dominate the meadows and ponds. A phragmites reed bed has been planted, paths to the hides have been cleared, secondary sycamore growth has been treated and visual clear ways to provide scanning of the water margins has been provided.

Two Ravens were vocal and active at Hanging Houghton today.


Neil M

Digi-shots of the White-fronted
Goose at Pitsford Reservoir
courtesy of Jacob Spinks. The plumage
suggests a second winter bird.

White-fronted Goose with
Greylags courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Drake Pintail at Pitsford Reservoir
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Red-necked Grebe at Pitsford
Reservoir courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Red-necked Grebe and friends...


Pitsford Reservoir was the place today, particularly as it was the second day with a Red-necked Grebe just off the south side of the causeway. The Slavonian Grebe was also showing in Yacht Bay and with plenty of Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebes present it was a four grebe day! 

Other birds included a Great White Egret in the Walgrave Bay, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, two Redshanks, two Little Owls, a Raven, a Marsh Tit and two Grey Wagtails.

Sywell Country Park continued to host the wintering Whooper Swan and other birds here included a Water Rail, a Cetti's Warbler, a pair of Stonechat and twenty Siskins.

A pair of Stonechat remain in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and eight Waxwings were seen briefly at the Wyevale Garden Centre on the Newport Pagnell Road (at Northampton) at about 12.30pm.


Neil M

Red-necked Grebe with
Great Crested Grebes
courtesy of Eleanor.

Red-necked Grebe.

Red-necked Grebe
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Red Kite (and Jackdaw)
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Little Egret courtesy
of Jacob.

Carrion Crow
courtesy of Jacob.

Whooper Swan at Sywell
Country Park courtesy of