Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Spring at last?


Eleanor visited Cottesbrooke village today and saw four Hawfinches in the trees and bushes just downhill and opposite the playing field. The birds were not showing particularly well and weren't very vocal either... The usual pair of Raven were still on territory.

Another Raven was at Naseby village, a pair of Grey Partridge were again at Harrington Airfield and two Barn Owls continue to hunt the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Bethan and Jacob's birding efforts today included locating the three Scaup still on the Watersport Pit west of Ditchford Lane at Ditchford GP this afternoon, and the Slavonian Grebe and a second winter Caspian Gull at Pitsford Reservoir.

Metal ring NZ27670 was placed on the leg of a first year Great Tit at Bradden in South Northants on 30th November 2017. This young male was then caught again but this time at Adstock in Buckinghamshire on 13th March 2018, 21km SSE and 103 days later. The tit family are renown for not moving too far from their hatching area but spring and post-breeding periods are the time for wanderlust!


Neil M

Female Reed Bunting at
Scaldwell village courtesy
of Bethan Clyne.

I love this shot of a
Coal Tit sharing his
food with those in range!
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Courtesy of John Tilly.

Nuthatch with lunch!
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Sun-loving Great Tit!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Ditchford WeBS count


Yesterday (18th) and there were at least two Barn Owls active around Hanging Houghton, three Golden Plovers in flight between there and Brixworth and a pair of Grey Partridge at Harrington Airfield. The return of the cold weather and snow was enough to cause forty Fieldfares to drop in to our garden but only a small number remained to consume the apples put out for them. A Redwing was feeding in the garden first thing and all the usual suspects were in attendance.

The main feed station at Pitsford Reservoir was busy yesterday, which included thirty or so Yellowhammers waiting patiently for me to broadcast seed on the ground for them!

Today (19th) and we travelled over to Ditchford Gravel Pits to complete the March WeBS count. It was generally quiet and with strong sunshine but a fierce, cold wind we saw a Great White Egret west of Ditchford Lane and three Scaup on the Watersport Pit also just west of Ditchford Lane. Other birds on the complex included three Little Egrets, a pair of Oystercatcher, three Jack Snipe, twenty-nine Snipe, a couple of Grey Wagtails and four or five Chiffchaffs. A Brimstone butterfly found a warm, sunny and sheltered place in which to bask.

Jacob and Bethan saw an adult Caspian Gull and a first winter Yellow-legged Gull in the Pitsford Reservoir gull roost this afternoon.


Neil M

Drake Tufted Duck.


Canada Goose.
All images from
Ditchford today...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Proposed fencing at Earls Barton GP

A message from Alan Smith at the Wildlife Trust...
Mary’s Lake and Moon Lake form part of the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits, a series of pits that are of international importance for overwintering waterbirds, and which has been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA). Mary’s Lake and Moon Lake, along with Summer Leys Nature Reserve, sit within one of the most publicly-accessed units of the SPA, with a good network of Rights of Way, permitted paths and informal access.
The lakes are regularly visited by good numbers of overwintering birds such as Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard and Tufted Duck. Public disturbance and lack of management have been identified as the main threats to the wildlife of the sites. Moon Lake is the least-visited of the lakes in this area, as there are no Rights of Way around the lake and access is not possible all the way around. There is a large area of grassland around the lake which has been covered in scrub in recent years, meaning it is less-suitable as grazing habitat for the waterbirds using the lake.
The Wildlife Trust is working with Natural England, Wellingborough Council and the landowner to address the disturbance and management issues on the site. The aim is to allow management, through scrub clearance and grazing, and provide an undisturbed area of open water at Moon Lake.
It is therefore proposed to construct a fence line, as shown below, to create a grazing unit around Moon Lake and create an undisturbed area for birds. The fence line will not impact on any of the current Rights of Way and access will be possible along the western edge as shown.

Should you wish to comment on this proposal please contact the Wildlife Trust on 01604 405285 or email Northamptonshire@wildlifebcn.org  We will also be on-site to explain the project and answer any questions on Thursday 22/03/18, between 9-30am and 12-30pm, and again on Monday 09/04/18, between 1 and 4pm, at the Moon Lake Fisherman’s car park ( see above for location ).
We are also aware that the Angling Club is considering putting an otter fence around Mary’s Lake itself. Whilst this is their own project we will be liaising with them to ensure that no Rights of Way are affected and that signage and footpath surfaces are improved around that lake.

Alan Smith 
Planning and Biodiversity Officer 

Direct line: 01604 774046
Office: 01604 405285

Tweet: @wildlifebcn
Like: /wildlifebcn
Visit: www.wildlifebcn.org 

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire
Lings House, off Lings Way 
Billing Lings 
NN3 8BE 

Pitsford gulls


Yesterday afternoon I took some images of the gulls coming to roost at Pitsford Reservoir, unfortunately in very poor light! Interestingly, looking through the photos, it looks as if there was a Kittiwake amongst the flock (obscured) and we overlooked an adult Yellow-legged Gull too!


Neil M

Black-headed Gulls.

Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Common Gulls.

Common Gull.

Herring Gull.

Yellow-legged Gull.

Flying away shot
of the second winter
Caspian Gull.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Back to winter again!


With snow on the ground right now and apparently plenty more overnight, tomorrow might be interesting!

With strong winds all day, flurries of snow and a real drop in temperature during this afternoon, it really was a blast of winter again today. However the morning and early afternoon provided plenty of sunshine and spells of quite reasonable weather.

Two Stoats chasing each other around in the Brampton Valley were the best wildlife on offer for Eleanor today, although the Barn Owl was hunting there again this afternoon. A Fieldfare came into the garden this morning and enjoyed an apple lunch, feeding up before the snow hit.

We finally had a dump of frog spawn in our little garden pond a couple of nights back, I just hope it survives this cold snap!

Birds for me today were minimal but a couple of Siskins were attracted to the feeders at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir attracted a second winter Caspian Gull briefly.


Neil M

The Kelmarsh Estate
British White Cattle.

Red Kite,
courtesy of Bethan Clyne.

Monochrome Mute Swan,
courtesy of Bethan Clyne.

Friday, 16 March 2018

The calm before the storm?


Eric was again on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston today and saw two Goosanders, two Egyptian Geese, three Chiffchaffs, two Siskins and a Redpoll. A Great White Egret was reported and Eric saw a Brimstone butterfly in the spring-like weather. Nearby and John Hunt was able to report that a pair of Egyptian Geese were chaperoning three goslings at Oundle Marina.

A Barn Owl was hunting the roadside between Spratton and Brixworth this morning and the usual one was again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. Both Brimstone and Comma butterflies were on the wing between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton.

Eleanor noted two pairs of Grey Partridge at Harrington Airfield today and birds at Brixworth Water Treatment Works included a Water Rail, six Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon attracted a flock of twelve Kittiwakes, the majority if not all disappeared before dark and were only picked up because they were heard calling amongst the throng!

A ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall today provided 106 captures of 14 species of small birds made up of a Blackbird, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 26 Great Tits, 21 Blue Tits, three Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, five Long-tailed Tits, seven Dunnocks, three Robins, four Nuthatches, 21 Goldfinches, two Siskins, nine Chaffinches and a Bullfinch.

A Raven was also active there and other birds noted included a Redpoll and a couple more Siskins.


Neil M

This is the third time that
we have encountered this
Great Tit whilst ringing at
Kelmarsh Hall. It was first
caught on 6th Feb 2017 and
assessed as being an adult male.
It was caught again on 6th March
2017, on both occasions the
bird was unremarkable. However
today it is now sporting this quite
incredible bill! The lower mandible
was 21mm in length and the upper
18mm. What caused this abnormal
bill growth is not known...

Second year male

Adult male Siskin.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A quiet day at Pitsford...


Eleanor's forays in to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today provided views of a Barn Owl and a pair of Grey Partridge.

Jacob was at Pitsford Reservoir all day today in an effort to further enhance his patchwork challenge year list. He reports that it was a generally quiet day with few new birds but his endeavours produced sightings of the Slavonian Grebe, a Raven, a second year Caspian Gull, a second year Yellow-legged Gull, a rather brown-looking Barn Owl, two Chiffchaffs, a Grey Wagtail and a Siskin...

It will be interesting to see what is produced by the wintry blast of easterlies this coming week-end!


Neil M

Barn Owl.
Courtesy of Robin Gossage.

With females on eggs, this is
the time when it is frequent to
see single Ravens out foraging...

Maybe there will be
some more inland birds
this week-end?

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Early spring migration


Yesterday (13th) and Dave Francis completed a little ringing in his garden on the outskirts of Northampton, successfully processing two Siskins, eleven Goldfinches, a Bullfinch, four House Sparrows and an unexpected male Sparrowhawk among more common fare!

Today (14th) and Eleanor watched two Barn Owls hunting this morning in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and later there were two Ravens in the village and a male Brambling graced our garden. Chris Payne hosted two female Bramblings in his Greens Norton garden and small numbers of Siskins were seemingly wherever I went today with birds in the Kelmarsh Estate woods, Hanging Houghton and Pitsford Res. A Siskin singing at Scotland Wood included Chiffchaff and Redpoll song phrases in it's repertoire!

The most notable north-bound migrants today were Starlings, Fieldfares, Redwings and Meadow Pipits with a constant light movement all day. Harrington Airfield seemed quiet although a flock of 16 Golden Plovers did drop in.

Pitsford Reservoir was well-watched today by a number of observers which resulted in sightings of a male Peregrine, a drake Mandarin Duck, the Slavonian Grebe still, two Oystercatchers, a Woodcock, two Snipe, a Jack Snipe, three Sand Martins, a Chiffchaff, a Redpoll and a first winter Yellow-legged Gull in the gull roost.


Neil M

Drake Mandarin Duck at
Pitsford Reservoir, sticking
remarkably close to three
Greylag Geese!

Male Muntjac.

Female Muntjac.
All images from
Pitsford Res today...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Iceland Gull and friends


Eric Graham has been busy the last two days at Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston. Yesterday (12th) provided views of a Great White Egret, a pair of Egyptian Geese, a female Goosander, 150 Pochard, two Oystercatchers and three calling Cetti's Warblers. Today (13th) and there were two Great White Egrets, an increase of three pairs of Egyptian Geese plus a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler.

Eleanor today flushed two Woodcock from hedging at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir was productive this afternoon with a couple of cracking gulls in the shape of an adult summer plumage Mediterranean Gull and a stunning juvenile Iceland Gull, just rewards for the amount of 'blank' gull roosts at Pitsford this winter. Other birds there included the Slavonian Grebe, fifty Golden Plovers in flight and a Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

The Mediterranean Gull
at Pitsford Reservoir today,
courtesy of Jacob.

The Snowy Owl seen
recently on the Norfolk
coast courtesy of observer Jacob!

Monday, 12 March 2018

A petition to ban driven grouse shooting

A message from Dr Mark Avery...

This is a note to many of the groups to which I have spoken in the last few years about the problems associated with driven grouse shooting - environmental damage and wildlife crime.

To cut to the chase - there is another e-petition putting pressure on this government to act on this matter, and I am trying to give that e-petition some help in reaching a good target.  It's already at over 36,000 signatures, and although 100,000 looks impossible, a good showing somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 is possible.  It closes on 2 April.

This is the link to the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/201443

Thank you.

Dr Mark Avery

Red Grouse.

courtesy of
John Gamble.

Dull and wet but still some birds!


A dull, dank day with yet more rain today! Despite the rain and relatively high temperatures of the last week we still have lying snow in NN6, an indication of how big the drifts were two week-ends ago!

Our garden hosted twenty Reed Buntings today plus small numbers of Yellowhammers and common finches and we still seem to be feeding plenty of migrant Blackbirds as they tuck in to the food in order to gain more weight prior to their departure north and east of here.

A walk at Harrington Airfield this afternoon during a spell of no rain was productive with sightings of a hunting Barn Owl, a fly-over Raven, two pairs of Grey Partridge and a migrant Chiffchaff.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir later this afternoon contained a first winter Mediterranean Gull.

A Blue Tit ringed at Stortons Pits on 12th January 2014 turned up in a mist net at Brigstock in the garden of ringer Colin Graham of the Rockingham Forest Ringing Group on 20th February 2018. Where it has been during the interim four years is a mystery. Colin explained that he had an influx of Blue Tits at the time ahead of the forthcoming cold weather. Many tits it seems leave the woods and open countryside during the autumn and seek out easy food placed out for them in gardens in our villages and towns. At the end of the winter and early spring these birds begin to filter back in to breeding habitat and of course some of them re-locate into pastures new...


Neil M

Blue Tit
courtesy of John Tilly.

courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Mediterranean Gull
 (right hand bird).

More images from Uganda...

African Pied Wagtail.


Well the week has started on a wet, dull note so I thought I would add some more photos of wildlife from Uganda in January where it was much warmer, mostly dryer and brighter!

Neil M

Yellow-billed Kite.

Saddle-billed Stork.


Lappet-faced Vulture.






butterfly sp.

Wattled Lapwing and
African Rock Python.