Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sunday's county ringing


With relatively calm but cool weather conditions, it is no surprise that Northants Ringing Group members were busy today...

A small team operated mist nets at Stortons Gravel Pits catching about 70 birds of which 30 were previously unringed. These captures included 3 Goldcrests, 2 Robins, 5 Dunnocks, 3 Blackbirds, 3 Redwings, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 17 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits, 18 Blue Tits, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 2 Chaffinches and 5 Reed Buntings. Two of these Reed Buntings were carrying rings indicating they were ringed elsewhere.

Sarah and Kenny worked the mist nets at Linford Lakes and processed 54 birds of 12 species, 44 of which were new birds. This total was made up by 6 Goldcrests, 3 Robins, 4 Dunnocks, 3 Wrens, 14 Redwings, 4 Blackbirds, 8 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits, a Chaffinch, 4 Goldfinches and a Siskin.

Jacob completed a little ringing at Scaldwell village this morning catching plenty of common birds but also a Bullfinch and 4 Redwings. A Grey Wagtail and a Hawfinch were noted flying over.

Jacob's subsequent birding expedition to Pitsford Reservoir provided views of 4 Great White Egrets, a Scaup, 2 Dunlin and 2 Redshanks and a Grey Wagtail. A female-type Common Scoter was located in the Holcot Bay but what was presumably the same bird was later in open water half-way between the causeway and the dam. Two Caspian Gulls found each other in the afternoon gull roost, a smart adult and a third calendar year bird.

Helen Franklin's foray into Glyn Davies Wood over in the far west of the county yielded Raven, Nuthatches, Marsh Tits and a Woodcock.


Neil M



Blue Tit.

All these species were
ringed in the county
by ringers today.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Saturday sightings


Jacob was active at Pitsford Reservoir again today, locating or re-locating a Water Pipit in the Scaldwell Bay feeding with Meadow Pipits. Other birds which have now become regular were 5 Great White Egrets, 3 Scaup, a Red-crested Pochard, 13 Pintail, 20 Golden Plovers, 4 Redshanks, 2 Dunlin and 2 Green Sandpipers. I spent some time at Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay in order to complete more work in support of the winter feeding station there and flushed 3 Woodcock from alongside the feeding ride and noted 2 Ravens flying over.

Eleanor was over at Staverton again today and noted a Peregrine, 4 Ravens and 2 Hawfinches which were initially perched on top of a conifer and then flew on. Afterwards a visit to Borough Hill Country Park provided views of the pair of Stonechat still plus a few each of Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin. A brief visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir confirmed the continuing presence of 2 Great White Egrets, 10 Little Egrets and 2 Green Sandpipers.


Neil M

The big, glossy Raven!


Blue Tit.

Coal Tit.

Above four images
courtesy of Steve Bennison.

This is the time of year when
garden and open country or
woodland feeding stations play
an important part in the lives
of our more common birds as
they prepare for winter and
identify safe and reliable places
to find suitable sustenance.

Friday, 17 November 2017

A Friday Fieldfare!


It was the last day of ringing at Harrington Airfield this week and the birds caught and ringed today included a Fieldfare, 14 Redwings, 2 Meadow Pipits and 6 Reed Buntings amongst 50 plus birds captured. No Hawfinches were noted on-site today and although there were still reasonable numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares about, visible migration was much quieter than of late. Vocal Golden Plovers were mostly flying over but they are coming down into fields nearby. A covey of Grey Partridge were seen yesterday and a single 'Redpoll' was mobile today late morning. 

A hunting Barn Owl was seen early this morning near Staverton and birds noted by Jacob at Pitsford Reservoir today included 5 Great White Egrets, 8 Pintail, a Red-crested Pochard, 4 Scaup, 2 Dunlin, 4 Redshanks, 116 Golden Plovers, 3 Green Sandpipers, 6 Snipe and a Stonechat and a Grey Wagtail. Eleven Siskins were seen flying over Scaldwell village and a Grey Wagtail was at Hanging Houghton.


Neil M


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ongoing migration


A modest ringing session at Harrington Airfield this morning provided 52 birds which included 25 new Redwings, 5 new Blackbirds and 5 new Meadow Pipits. Two Hawfinches were flying around the bushes with Redwings at 8.20am and there were various sightings and calls of singles during the morning including at least another one flying straight through, so a minimum of four birds. Nearby there two more Hawfinches in a hawthorn hedge in the Brampton Valley at Draughton Crossing and at 9am another single flying around gardens at Hanging Houghton.

Other birds noted at Harrington during the day included small numbers of Siskin, Redpoll and Brambling and a couple of Snipe. In excess of four Bramblings and a Barn Owl were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and small numbers of Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll were noted a several spots in the NN6 district this afternoon. Single Grey Wagtails were in Scaldwell village and Kelmarsh Hall.

Eleanor and Jacob visited Pitsford Reservoir and between them they saw 4 Great White Egrets, a Barnacle Goose, a Red-crested Pochard, 10 Pintail, 4 Scaup, 3 Redshanks, 3-4 Green Sandpipers, 8 Dunlin and 2 Siskins. Large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares were moving over all day within NN6...


Neil M


Male Green Woodpecker. This bird
was first ringed as a juvenile at the
same site in 2015.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

November ringing


The dull, still and mild weather conditions of today were perfect for the deployment of mist nets and several Northants Ringing Group members were active...

Chris Payne caught 60 birds in just one 60' mist net at Bradden made up of 29 Blue Tits, 15 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, a Robin, 2 Wrens, 3 Chaffinches and 9 Goldfinches. Chris has been ringing at this site regularly this autumn yet the majority of the birds were all new, thus providing an insight to the sheer number of birds that a feeding station can and does support.

Dave Francis conducted some ringing in his garden on the edge of Northampton, catching 70 birds. It has been some time since Dave has tried ringing in his garden so it is perhaps not surprising that nearly all the birds had not been ringed before. However, both of two Nuthatches were old friends from previous years, one being over 3 years old. Other birds included 27 Blue Tits, one of which was a bird initially ringed as a nestling from a nest box at Pitsford Reservoir. Also caught were 10 Great Tits, 5 Coal Tits, 15 Goldfinches, 5 Greenfinches, 3 Robins, a Wren, a Dunnock and a House Sparrow.

Ringing operations were also initiated at Harrington Airfield and three ringers were responsible for trapping and processing 135 birds. Migrant thrushes dominated the early morning with 12 Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, 30 Redwings and a Song Thrush all impacting with the nets. Other highlights included 10 Meadow Pipits, 10 Yellowhammers, 4 Reed Buntings, 15 Long-tailed Tits, 12 Chaffinches, 2 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.

Three Hawfinches were seen flying over the complex heading west at 12.20pm and other birds included over a hundred Golden Plovers, 2 Snipe, 4 'Redpolls' and a couple of Siskins.

Eleanor waked around Sywell Country Park this morning and saw 5 Hawfinches low in flight, a Water Rail, 2 Kingfishers, 2 Grey Wagtails and c50 Siskins. Two Bramblings and a Barn Owl were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton first thing this morning.


Neil M

Coal Tit.
A regular visitor to many
 garden and woodland
feeding stations. They often
cache food and at this time
of the year will quickly empty
sunflower feeders despite their
small size!

The modest and unassuming
Meadow Pipit breeds in very
small numbers in Northants but
is a heavy passage migrant and
thinly distributed winterer. The
very long rear claws are typical of
birds striding around on the ground,
and for their size this species has
one of the longest. The well
established oil seed rape crop
(already with plenty of large leaves)
at Harrington Airfield is proving
popular with a quite a gang of these
streaky passerines feeding and
sheltering in the fields. Sustained cold
periods sends these birds south, with
many wintering in Iberia...

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Autumn wildlife images


Not much in the way of birding opportunities today I'm afraid but Chris Payne had his garden mist nets open for a short time at Greens Norton today and caught typical birds which included a Treecreeper and some Starlings...

Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Bird ringing operations are planned for Wednesday, Thursday and possibly Friday mornings at Harrington Airfield whilst this relatively calm period of weather persists. Target birds will be migrant thrushes and it is possible that Redwings will dominate. Please let me know if you would like to attend these ringing sessions as the area will otherwise be restricted to ringers and helpers. My apologies if this affects your plans for the next couple of days...

The below images were taken on the Scottish islands of Islay and Jura during a very pleasant week-long trip there at the end of October...


Neil M

Fallow Deer.

Twite (and one Linnet!).


Red Deer.

Golden Eagle.

Monday, 13 November 2017

A good start to the week !

The "north" of the county is always attractive at this time of year both in the beautiful array of Autumn colours found in the woodland and the associated birds.

First stop for me was East Carlton Country Park which looked particularly stunning draped with blue skies, sunshine and frost. Zig zagging around the park produced 2+ Brambling, 6 Siskins, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. But a clump of bushes/trees near to the big house held the prize of a staggering 13 Hawfinches !!!! Absolutely amazing sight, unfortunately short-lived due to the arrival of some yappy dogs and equally noisy owners.

A slow drive along the Welland Valley produced huge flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing and a male Peregrine Falcon near Gretton.
Next on the agenda was the churchyard at Bulwick. This small churchyard held an incredible number of birds including a male Blackcap, Chiffchaff, several Goldcrests and big numbers of Redwings.

Then it was onto Blatherwycke churchyard which like Bulwick was attractive to good numbers of birds, mainly winter thrushes and common finches.

Blatherwycke Lake is one of those places which is always busy with birds. Today it was "busy" for the wrong reasons, namely disturbance due to a big shoot taking place in the adjoining fields. Birds were literally flying everywhere and it was only possible to pick out 4 Mandarin Duck, an Egyptian Goose and Little Egret.  

A good walk around Wakerley Wood produced very little apart from 2 Hawfinches, several Siskins, a Woodcock and the usual woodland species of Nuthatches, Marsh Tit and more winter thrushes.

My final destination was Fineshade Wood, looking stunning with the weak afternoon sunshine help creating the myriad of oranges, browns and yellows of the trees - amazing!  Birds were a bit thin on the ground, a couple of Redpolls, a Crossbill and 2 Ravens being the highlights.

Throughout the day Red Kites were always overhead and filled the air with their evocative calls. All in all a good day and a good start to the week.

Other birds seen today included a Hawfinch flying over our garden at 07.20 this morning plus Nuthatch and Raven during the day. There were approx 300 Golden Plover at Harrington Airfield and a Barn Owl was between Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell.

Jacob visited Pitsford Reservoir today and notched up quite a list -  2 Green Sandpiper, 3 Redshank, 3 Great White Egret, 2 Stonechat, 5 Brambling, 2 Redpoll, 8 Siskin, 18 Pintail and 5 Scaup.



Sunday, 12 November 2017

A cool wind blows...


Sarah, Kenny, Rory and Thomas braved the cool temperatures this morning for a little ringing at Linford Lakes near Milton Keynes. They caught 24 birds made up of a Fieldfare, 4 Redwings, a Song Thrush, 2 Blackbirds, a Chiffchaff, 7 Goldcrests, a Wren, 3 Treecreepers, a Long-tailed Tit, a Robin, a Greenfinch and a Redpoll.

Jacob was at Pitsford Reservoir today and his observations included 4 Great White Egrets, 3 Scaup, 13 Pintail, 15 Dunlin, 2 Redshanks, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Peregrine, a Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Stonechats, a Grey Wagtail and 3 Redpolls. The gull roost off the Sailing Club was unremarkable

A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning in blustery, cool but bright conditions yielded good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings, a Siskin, 4 Redpolls and a flock of about 150 Golden Plovers. The local Sparrowhawks have obviously been busy intercepting in-coming thrushes judging from  piles of feathers found in the rough grass. However the best bird was a stunning adult male Hen Harrier flying north-west towards the Brampton Valley Way, after a little quartering over some rough ground.

Ringing is anticipated at Harrington Airfield this coming week on Wednesday and Thursday. Public access remains the same along the footpaths but the bunkers and old airstrip will be subject to restricted access.


Neil M

Chiffchaff courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Fieldfare courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Sparrowhawk courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Persistent birding pays off!


Debbie and Eric Graham visited the Titchmarsh Reserve today and located a Shelduck, ten Little Egrets and a lone 'Redpoll'. They went on to Blatherwycke Lake and saw several Siskins but their main prize was two Hawfinches in a yew tree next to the churchyard!

Bob Bullock was also duly rewarded for his persistence and saw two Hawfinches this morning around yew trees as viewed from the church at Thenford in South Northants.

Birding at Pitsford Reservoir today started well with a high-flying but vocal Hawfinch flying south over the main feeding station at 8.50am. Jacob's dedicated patchwork birding went on to log an impressive suite of birds including four Great White Egrets, 42 Golden Plovers, 3 Redshanks, 14 Dunlin, 3 Green Sandpipers, a Snipe, 3 Scaup, 12 Pintail, a Caspian Gull, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Stonechat. A little visible migration watch provided over-flying Starlings (42), Fieldfares (30) and a 'Redpoll'.

A brief scan from the causeway at Ravensthorpe Reservoir late morning provided views of a Great White Egret, 3 Green Sandpipers and a Snipe. Staverton attracted five Ravens and a Grey Wagtail. Single Barn Owls were noted from the roadside near Ravensthorpe village this evening and again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton where there was also a flock of eight Bramblings in a hedge.


Neil M

Great White Egret
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Great White Egrets
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Barn Owl.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Breezy birding!


Yesterday (Thursday) saw Chris Payne complete some more ringing in his garden at Greens Norton, netting over 50 birds which included 26 Goldfinches, 16 Blue Tits, 8 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Great Tits, 2 Blackbirds, a Goldcrest and a female Blackcap.

Just prior to 8am this morning (Friday) and a flock of eight Hawfinches announced their presence in the village here at Hanging Houghton and landed in the lime trees which line Manor Road. In very windy conditions these large finches didn't remain many seconds before heading off down into the Brampton Valley either for shelter or travelling on to some unknown location further west. This Hawfinch invasion is unprecedented so we have no idea where they are heading (or where they think they are heading)!

A quick jaunt around Harrington Airfield provided proof of a big Redwing movement with hundreds of birds flying over or flying out of the bushes. Not many other obvious migrants though until Eleanor located two Hawfinches in roadside hawthorns. They flew to some bushes near to the entrance to the concrete track but then finally flew west. A flock of about twenty Golden Plovers were in a field nearby.

About six Bramblings were in hedging along the Brampton Valley Way between Brixworth and Hanging Houghton plus a few Siskins and 'Redpolls', and a couple of Ravens were vocal around Hanging Houghton village mid-morning.

Eleanor's walk around Sywell Country Park didn't provide many birds of note, the best being a Water Rail, a Kingfisher, a Cetti's Warbler, a couple of Grey Wagtails, about 12 Siskins and a couple of 'Redpolls'.


Neil M

Redwing close-up,
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Photogenic Kestrel,
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Cock Pheasant courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Pitsford update...


Birds sighted north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir today included now 5 Great White Egrets, 14 Dunlin, 3 Redshanks, 3 'Redpoll', 3 Siskin and a Stonechat (observer Jacob Spinks).

Dave Francis completed some ringing at the feeding station near to Maytrees Hide, catching 61 birds of 17 species, reflecting the diversity utilising the area and feeders. The most common bird caught was Tree Sparrow with 10 individuals, plus 8 Goldfinches, 5 Chaffinches, 8 Blue Tits, 7 Great Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Coal Tit, a Goldcrest, 5 Wrens, 3 Robins, 3 Dunnocks, 2 Blackbirds, a Redwing, a Song Thrush, a Starling, a Collared Dove and 3 Yellowhammers.

The Marsh Tit was the third individual this autumn of that species which has flown up from the woodland compartments of the reserve for the food in the suspended feeders. One of the Great Tits was proven to be in excess of six years old, a ripe old age if you are a Great Tit!


Neil M

A partly white male
Blackbird. Not particularly
unusual in this species but
always eye-catching!

Male Bullfinch.

Female Bullfinch.

Male Bullfinch. A species that
has now in the main adapted
to feeding stations and with a
particular liking for sunflower seed.

Note these individuals are
affected by problems to their feet
and legs creating warts and scabs,
initially minor but then growing into
a mass of scaly warts and often leading
to the loss of claws, toes and even feet.
Finches have a propensity to a disease
called fringilla papillomavirus which
may be the influence here, but also
an infestation of mites is believed
to create a similar appearance.

Male Chaffinch.

Blue Tit.

All images kindly provided by
John Tilly and his new lens!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Redwings and friends


Yesterday (Tuesday) and Eleanor spent some time in Harlestone Heath but apart from small numbers of Siskins and Bramblings didn't see much of note.

Some more ringing at Harrington Airfield today (Wednesday) targeted incoming migrants and provided 80 captures, 65 of which were previously unringed birds. Thrushes made up half the total with three Blackbirds and thirty-eight Redwings. Other highlights included a Lesser Redpoll and seven Meadow Pipits and five new Chaffinches. The remainder of the birds were mostly resident individuals.

Other birds noted on-site included approximately 30 Golden Plovers and several Bramblings, with hundreds of Starlings and Redwings moving over the disused airfield.

Eleanor watched two Hawfinches on view for about an hour this morning in a hawthorn hedge at Hockerhill Farm between Wilby and Mears Ashby - they were happily munching through the hawthorn berries before moving on...


Neil M

Lesser Redpoll.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Images from the East Coast!


Chris Payne kindly forwarded me some images some time ago following a short trip to the east coast, so here they are!


Neil M


Black-tailed Godwit.


Marsh Harrier.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sunday birds


Yesterday afternoon (Saturday) and a walk around Ravensthorpe Reservoir provided views of three Great White Egrets, two Green Sandpipers, two Kingfishers and four Grey Wagtails.

Today (Sunday) and a short ringing session at Harrington Airfield produced some more migrants which included nine Redwings, a Lesser Redpoll, a Brambling, a couple of continental Chaffinches and a Meadow Pipit. Other birds noted on-site included up to a dozen Bramblings, twenty Golden Plovers, four Ravens and an assortment of finches and thrushes.

Kelmarsh Hall attracted a Grey Wagtail,  a 'Redpoll' and a couple of Siskins and this afternoon the female Merlin materialised again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton as did the pair of Stonechat and a vocal Barn Owl.


Neil M



Meadow Pipit.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Cory's Shearwater


A superb find at Pitsford Reservoir this morning was a county first in the unlikely shape of a Cory's Shearwater, very much a pelagic species and definitely not at home in middle England! A Cory's Shearwater was seen at Rutland Water a couple of days ago, but if this was the same individual then it must be very hungry by now! Sadly it seems that this wanderer from the Mediterranean departed quickly and only about four observers managed to see it.

An excellent suite of birds at Pitsford today included a flighty but vocal Water Pipit, four Great White Egrets, fourteen Pintails, a small group of four Scaup, four Red-crested Pochards, six Snipe, two Ruff, two Redshanks, two Green Sandpipers, two Dunlin, an adult Caspian Gull, two Yellow-legged Gulls, a Raven and a Grey Wagtail.

A few Bramblings remain at Harrington Airfield, a Grey Wagtail was at Hanging Houghton and there were at least ten Ravens performing acrobatics at Staverton. Eleanor took a walk at Borough Hill Country Park this afternoon and saw a pair of Stonechat again and flushed a Short-eared Owl.


Neil M

Green Woodpecker.

Common Buzzard.

Little Egret.
Images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.