Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Brixworth ringing


A ringing session took place today at the Anglian Water Treatment Works at Brixworth today where it was hoped that the forecast rain would attract local Swallows and House Martins to the site. As it happens there was only a splash of rain and the hirundines mostly didn't appear! Nevertheless we managed to catch 59 birds of sixteen species, again typical local breeders.

Instead of Swallows the 'bird of the day' was Pied Wagtail, no less than 17 different juveniles were caught and ringed today, suggesting that the local breeding productivity has been good. Other birds amounted to five Swallows, a House Martin, a Jackdaw, a Magpie, three Starlings, a Reed Warbler, four Blackcaps (including a bird first ringed there as an adult in May 2017), eight Chiffchaffs (including a bird previously ringed elsewhere), a Wren, a Treecreeper, a Dunnock, two Robins, a Reed Bunting, nine Long-tailed Tits and three Blue Tits. Birds of note on-site included a Hobby which whizzed through a few times and a Grey Wagtail.

Barn Owls continue to be seen at Summer Leys LNR and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. A long-staying Ruddy Shelduck remains at Hollowell Reservoir and this site is a firm favourite fishing spot for Ospreys at the moment.

Eric Graham paid Blatherwycke Lake a visit today and saw eight Mandarin Ducks, Gadwall with ducklings and six Little Egrets.


Neil M

WW2 fighters over
Pitsford Reservoir
two days ago...

Drake Red-crested Pochard
Pitsford Reservoir, also two
days ago...

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Ringing at Pitsford Reservoir


Today's weather provided near perfect bird ringing conditions and with the rain of previous weeks and it seems with yet more to come, efforts were made to conduct some ringing at Pitsford Reservoir. Setting up and some initial ringing began yesterday (Monday) evening, but the majority of the action was this morning and into the early afternoon. Five ringers managed to process over 220 birds of 24 species, all being locally breeding birds or their offspring. It was good to see so many young birds after the low temperatures and rain of this month.

This total was made up of nine Mallard, twenty Common Terns, a Kingfisher, three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, six Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, four Dunnocks, nine Robins, ten Wrens, six Treecreepers, thirty-nine Blue Tits, forty-six Great Tits, a Marsh Tit, twenty-one Blackcaps, two Whitethroats, four Garden Warblers, a Reed Warbler, seven Chiffchaffs, twenty-three Tree Sparrows, a Bullfinch, two Chaffinches, two Goldfinches, four Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting.

Damselflies were emerging in large numbers, some using mist net poles and nets as their metamorphic staging posts! Meadow Brown butterflies were on the wing plus a few Small Tortoiseshell and a Painted Lady.

Eric was at Thrapston Pits today, noting a Hobby, an Osprey, lots of common warblers, a Kingfisher, four Oystercatchers, three Cuckoos and a Little Egret. Plenty of common butterflies and odonata were on show too including the localised Scarce Chaser dragonfly.

Harrington Airfield held two Turtle Doves today, a Grasshopper Warbler and an adult male Peregrine and nearby there was a singing Grasshopper Warbler near to Blueberry Farm and a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Meadow Brown butterfly.

Pitsford rainbow.

Tree Sparrow.

Monday, 17 June 2019

The Camargue


Locally not a great deal to write about currently, the drake Red-crested Pochard was showing well off the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford Reservoir today and a couple of hunting Barn Owls were still around Hanging Houghton again today.

A few classic images from the Camargue in France during a couple of short trips in May this year...


Neil M

Grey Heron.

Greater Flamingo.


Great Spotted Cuckoo.

Scarlet Darter.

Black-winged Stilt.

Cattle Egret.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Still trying to avoid the showers!


The Brampton Valley between Northampton and Market Harborough tends to attract hunting Barn Owls along it's length. With regular anecdotal reports from Kingsthorpe Meadows and the Merry Tom Lane area. The birds hunting the fields, dykes and headlands below Hanging Houghton have continued to be active the last couple of days. Lets us hope that their breeding efforts this year will be much better than last year which on the whole was very poor. 

At Pitsford Reservoir a hunting Barn Owl was active south of the causeway yesterday evening; today a drake Red-crested Pochard was noted near to the Maytrees Hide at the neck of the Scaldwell Bay.

A reeling Grasshopper Warbler remains at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) this evening where there was also a pair of Grey Partridge. Several more Grey Partridges (including calling birds) were at Harrington Airfield again today but sadly there was no sign of any chicks.

A ringing session at Stortons Pits today was curtailed because of rain, but the four ringers on-site did well to catch and process sixty birds prior to 9am, forty-seven of them being new birds and thirteen re-traps including a Reed Warbler ringed from a site elsewhere.


Neil M

Stock Dove.


Still plenty of birds coming for
food in our garden including
doves and pigeons!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Dodging the rain!


Yesterday evening I returned from a eight day trip to the Central French Pyrenees, an extremely pretty area with lots of impressive mountains, stunning alpine meadows, an amazing variety of plant life and flowers and of course alpine birds and other creatures too!

Today I assisted at a community project on the Brampton Valley Way at Kingsthorpe aimed at inspiring people of all ages and abilities to appreciate and understand aspects of the natural world. This was led by Jenny Flude a Forest School leader and volunteer wildlife ranger and supported by members of the Wildlife Trust for BCN, volunteer conservationists, Dave from Northamptonshire Walks and Sustrans (owners of the land and a charitable organisation aimed at helping people to walk and cycle).

We managed a weather window permitting a steady stream of visitors of all ages between 11am and 3pm and provided a variety of educational and skills learning options associated with our natural world specifically but not exclusively in this part of Northamptonshire.

Yesterday Chris Payne, fresh from more adventures on the adopted island of Skokholm, checked a Tawny Owl box in South Northamptonshire which he knew was being used for a late breeding attempt. The two fledgling chicks were in fine fettle and were duly ringed and hopefully will fledge and catch up in life very soon (and hopefully after it has stopped raining)!


Neil M

Images from the event on
the Brampton Valley Way

Tawny Owls
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Although I have been out and about things seem to pretty quiet on the birding front. But this is also the time of year when the "mega" is likely to turn up, so keep those eyes sharply focussed and ears finely tuned and who knows what might turn up !!
Despite the weather today has been one of my best days for a while. Nothing rare but simply good views of both a hunting Barn Owl and Peregrine Falcon.  At Blueberry there was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler which was also sitting out in full view.
A visit to Harrington Airfield was quite productive with a Turtle Dove and a family of very young Grey Partridge.  The rain certainly didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the many Willow Warblers who were in full song and I'm sure competing among themselves to see who could sing the loudest !!
Quite a few Bee Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids out in bloom but I don't think that there are as many as previous years.
Our garden continues to attract a good number and variety of birds and I cannot keep up with the amount of food they are getting through.  Several male Yellowhammers spent the afternoon in the garden.
We had a pair of Pied Wagtails nest successfully in the ivy and for the last week the young and adults have been feeding in the garden or nearby. My heart has been in my mouth on many occassions whilst I have watched the youngsters sitting out in the open and looking very vulnerable and oblivious to the many dangers around.  Sadly this afternoon Mr Sparrowhawk took one of the youngsters from the garden. I was so cross with him, but that is the harsh reality of life. No doubt he has his own youngsters to feed, but why did he have to take "my" little Pied Wagtail. !!!

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Pitsford CES ringing.


A ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir today in the Scaldwell Bay provided 82 captures; these early Constant Effort Sessions (CES) seem to indicate that so far it has been a reasonably productive spring for early and first brood locally breeding passerines.

Dave Frances, Helen Franklin and Gill and Richard Watts were the team today and they processed sixteen species made up of a Kingfisher, two Lesser Whitethroats, three Reed Warblers, eleven Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Marsh Tit, five Long-tailed Tits, eighteen Great Tits, sixteen Blue Tits, two Song Thrushes, two Blackbirds, seven Wrens, five Dunnocks, five Robins and two Bullfinches.

Most nest boxes are quiet now but the Pitsford boxes have housed about seven hundred young tits this spring, nearly all of them Blue Tits and Great Tits!


Neil M

Blue Tit on nest.

Juvenile Robin.

Marsh Tit.

Great Tit
brooding nestlings.

All images courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Provence in April.


I have been fortunate to have spent quite a bit of time out in the South of France this spring, all within the Provence area and including excursions into the Camargue. The following images depict some of the wildlife we encountered during the initial trip which was eight days straddling the third and fourth week of April...


Neil M

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth.

Short-toed Eagle.

Western Bonelli's Warbler.

Montagu's Harrier.

Scarce Swallowtail.

Western Green Lizard.

Marsh Frog.

Wild Daffodil.

Camargue White Horse.

Corn Bunting.

Greater Flamingo.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Birds of early June


Yesterday (Tuesday) and bits and pieces locally included a Raven overflying the A508 near Great Oxendon and still a good collection of birds in and around the garden at Hanging Houghton such as Yellowhammers and Goldfinches coming to food and a good variety of raptors overhead.

After the rain eventually passed over, I popped down to Pitsford Reservoir for the last hour and a half of daylight. A Cuckoo was calling from The Point area. A large hatch of insects created a feeding bonanza for the Common Terns, Swifts and hirundines and a Hobby hawked for a long period of time over the Scaldwell Bay as watched from the Bird Club hide. This super falcon came close once or twice by which time it was almost good for photos but very atmospheric!

Today (Wednesday) and a pair of Grey Partridge, a Cuckoo and a Barn Owl were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and two noisy Ravens flew over Hockerhill Farm near Mears Ashby.


Neil M

The Pitsford Hobby.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019



A few images originating from south east Poland following an eight day trip to the Bieszczady National Park and surround in March/April this year...

Neil M

Willow Tit.

Marsh Tit.

Both Marsh and Willow Tits
are much colder and greyer than
their British counterparts.
 The Willow Tits in particular
 have quite a different song. In SE
Poland both species occupy the same
habitat and are regularly together,
the Willow Tit being the more numerous.

Long-tailed Tit. Most birds
in this part of the world are of
the white-headed form.

Roe Deer. Buck above and
Doe below (almost rhymes)!

European Beaver activity!

Drake Goosander.

White Stork.

Camberwell Beauty butterfly.