Saturday, 16 November 2019

Bramblings, Ravens and Woodcock.


Birding opportunities were limited today due to a stricken vehicle so any birds recorded were very much local.

Half a dozen Bramblings were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again this morning (they roost in the hedging behind the big barn) and a pair of Ravens again spent a while in the biggest trees here in the village at Hanging Houghton. A Brambling was also in the village and two Woodcocks were flushed from a ploughed field adjacent to Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) this morning.

Elsewhere and Adrian couldn't find either of yesterday's Siberian Chiffchaffs at Ditchford Pits but found a pair of Blackcap whilst he was searching, and then went on to see 2-3 Short-eared Owls at Neville's Lodge, Finedon.


Neil M

Siberian Chiffchaff - a
particularly tame bird
at Spurn yesterday -
image courtesy of Jacob.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Ditchford WeBS count


Eleanor's two visits to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton paid off today with a female Merlin, a pair of Stonechat and six Bramblings in the morning, and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier there this afternoon.

Despite the floods in the Nene Valley I had a go at completing the monthly WeBS count at Ditchford Pits. It wasn't a great start with Ditchford Lane closed for bridge repairs and the river and the pits had broken their banks at numerous points. It didn't take long before I was pretty wet and completing plenty of 'U' turns in an effort to find alternative routes around the complex. In the end I was wading up to my thighs simply to get around; Jaeger the dog I had with me wasn't impressed!

The floodwater caused spiders, snails and insects to climb to the tops of nettles, voles didn't know where to go and many of the water birds were displaced.

I spent some time checking through the numerous roving tit flocks (as always) and started to find a few Chiffchaffs. The distinctive, loud and metallic (almost Dunnock-like) calls of Siberian Chiffchaffs could be heard from the willows and two of these pretty distinctive grey birds were roaming around in the willows, one seemed to be with the tits and the other seemed more sedentary on the little causeway separating the Coton Reel and The Perch Pits (both birds being between the main pit and Irthlingborough). In the end I saw about six Chiffchaffs within the complex.

Other birds there today included twelve Egyptian Geese, eight Snipe, a Water Rail, a Raven, two Grey Wagtails, three Kingfishers, a female Stonechat, seven Cetti's Warblers and singles of Siskin and Brambling.

Elsewhere and a Barnacle Goose and a Pintail were on the floods at Bozenham with a Raven there too, and a Short-eared Owl was seen  at Neville's Lodge, Finedon at dusk.


Neil M


Egyptian Geese.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

There has been some rain!


I think the talking point today was definitely the weather with rain all last night and again all morning! Many local roads became rivers, a few trees uprooted and many fields were awash with flood water. With cold temperatures and a lively breeze it wasn't a great day for birdwatching in the county!

At least one Grey Wagtail was at a flooded Brixworth Treatment Works and Harrington Airfield was sodden and the only birds of note was a single Siskin and a Woodcock sheltering behind some straw bales!

At Pitsford Reservoir there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull briefly off the dam this morning, a pair of Red-crested Pochard were in the Scaldwell Bay and the gull roost off the Sailing Club attracted the ailing (but possibly recovering) adult Mediterranean Gull.

With all this wet and cold it made me think of the warmer parts of the world...the images below were from a short trip to the very warm country of Gambia in January 2015!


Neil M


Spur-winged Plover.

Monitor Lizard.

Broad-billed Roller.

Royal and Caspian Terns

Violaceous Turaco.

African Harrier-hawk.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Ringing Kelmarsh Hall


Yesterday (Tuesday) and a ringing session at Bradden in South Northants provided 47 Blue Tits, 19 Great Tits and a Goldcrest.

A ringing session took place today (Wednesday) at Kelmarsh Hall in pleasant late autumn weather conditions including quite a warm sun!

In total 159 birds were caught and processed of 17 species. Of these only eight birds had been ringed before. The tit family naturally dominated proceedings with 73 Blue Tits, 50 Great Tits, 8 Coal Tits and 4 Marsh Tits. Other birds included a likely candidate for a continental Blackbird, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Nuthatch, a Robin, 6 Dunnocks, 3 Wrens, 6 Goldcrests, a female Blackcap, 4 Goldfinches, a Chaffinch, a pair of Bullfinch, a Grey Wagtail and a Treecreeper.

Five Siskins were on-site briefly and a Peacock butterfly came out of somewhere to sunbathe!

Eleanor's ramble around the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon was good for a pair of Stonechat and six Bramblings.

Elsewhere and Neil Hasdell saw a Peregrine and a Brambling at Harrington Airfield, five Goosanders were at Abington Park (N'pton), Summer Leys held a 'redhead' Smew and a Great White Egret and a Short-eared Owl was still at Neville's Lodge near Finedon.


Neil M




Coal Tit.

Great Tit.

Marsh Tit.



All images courtesy
of John Tilly.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Birds of the Rockingham Forest.


Today Eleanor took the rare opportunity of visiting some of our old birding haunts in the north of the county. Fineshade Woods was her first stop where she completed an eight mile run around the woods with Tor and Jaeger. The woods seemed quiet apart from the usual Nuthatches, Marsh Tits and Jays but she also saw a Woodcock, two Ravens, at least two Bramblings and about thirty Siskins. After refreshments at the very good cafe there it was time for a two hour hike around nearby Wakerley Wood which again seemed quiet and again no Crossbills, Hawfinch etc. Located birds did include more Nuthatches and Marsh Tits, a female Peregrine, another Woodcock, a few Siskins, four Redpolls and a Brambling.

Eleanor's last venue was Blatherwycke Lake where two Pink-footed Geese were within the Greylag flock, plus an Egyptian Goose, a Black Swan and eight Mandarin Ducks.

Birds at Hanging Houghton included a couple of Ravens and a female Brambling and the Fieldfare flock was still at Harrington Airfield together with a male Brambling and eighteen Golden Plovers.

The Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir was my venue this afternoon with a walk down to the Ringing Hut and back - no great surprises with two Great White Egrets, six Red-crested Pochards, a drake Pintail and a drake Mandarin Duck.

Elsewhere and Nick saw a Bittern as well as a Great White Egret at Summer Leys, a Great White Egret was at Stanwick Pits and a Peregrine was seen over Kingsthorpe.


Neil M

Pink-footed Goose.

Great White Egret.

Drake Mandarin Duck.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Berry-eating gulls!


With more rain last night, there was more sodden ground and raging brooks in the centre of the county this morning! A quick look around a few sites on the Kelmarsh Estate this morning didn't provide any birds of note so on to Pitsford Reservoir where there were still four Red-crested Pochards (two drakes) in the Scaldwell Bay and three Stonechats.

A first for me was watching a small flock of Black-headed Gulls trying to pluck sloe berries from the bushes around the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station! I've watched these birds taking caterpillars and insects whilst hovering over bushes but I didn't even know they liked sloe berries - at least one bird was successful and another actually landed in a bush to try it's luck!

A little later I ended up at Harrington Airfield and took a soggy walk across the top fields and around the bunkers. A good three hundred Fieldfares were swirling around at very low level around the bushes because of the strong wind - smaller numbers of Starlings and Redwings were with them. A single Woodcock flushed up from bushes and another was also flushed from field hedges near Hanging Houghton. Vis mig today seemed weak with a just a couple of Siskins and a few small flocks of Redwing going over south.

At the south end of Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon the unwell adult Mediterranean Gull was straddling the pontoon next to the Sailing Club and there were three female/immature Common Scoters - the original bird from yesterday was between the Pintail and Yacht Bays with two others in the open water of the main basin.

Northampton's Chronicle and Echo on-line newspaper reports that an Otter is being regularly seen in Abington Park, Northampton!


Neil M

Black-headed Gull courtesy
of Dave Jackson.


Sunday, 10 November 2019

Meagre pickings


Neither Eleanor or I saw very much today in much better weather conditions. A male Brambling was in the village at Hanging Houghton and the Ravens paid us a visit, vocalising all the time they were here! Eleanor watched a female Blackcap sunning herself and flushed a Woodcock at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

My visit to Pitsford Reservoir late morning was mostly uneventful with lots of open and empty water. Quite a few birds were pushed up into the Pintail Bay due to the fishing boats and sailing craft and one of these birds was a female/immature Common Scoter.

Birds found elsewhere included a Great White Egret and a 'redhead' Smew at Summer Leys, four Red-crested Pochard and two Great White Egrets in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir and the 'ringtail' Hen Harrier at the DIRFT3 site near Crick.

A couple of ringing sessions were held locally with a catch of 22 birds of eight species at Linford Lakes which included a Blackcap, five Goldcrests, a Goldfinch, four Greenfinches and a couple of Blackbirds and 55 birds being processed at Stortons Pits which included two Redwings, two Blackbirds, three Goldcrests, lots of tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Neil M

Blackbird courtesy
of John Tilly.

Fieldfare courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Collared Dove.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Cold, foggy and now more rain!


An early morning walk at Harrington Airfield this morning was cold and foggy and it was difficult to see very much at all! A decent flock of Fieldfares were swirling around and resting regularly on the plough of the top field and there were relatively small numbers of the other common thrushes too. Bramblings could be heard calling at various places but were not visible as were Golden Plovers!

A later visit to Pitsford Reservoir confirmed a significantly higher water level and with plenty of brown water swirling about, such conditions generally ensures something of an exodus of water birds and so it seemed to be. All I managed to see were four Red-crested Pochard (two drakes) north of the causeway.

Elsewhere, Mike Alibone hit on a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier at the DIRFT 3 site near Crick and birds at Clifford Hill Pits amounted to two drake Red-crested Pochards, a Stonechat and twenty-five Golden Plovers.

A couple of ringing recoveries have been received recently and are as follows:-

1.  A female Blackcap was caught and ringed at Stortons Pits on 30th September 2018 and was then caught again at Rutland Water on 17th July 2019. It is assumed that this bird was initially encountered as a passage migrant but may have returned to the Midlands to breed at Rutland Water and she will have travelled a great deal more than the 49km distance between the two sites;

2.  A Mallard duckling was ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 17th June 2019 and like so many of our birds locally was reportedly shot near Lamport on 25th October when reported as a drake. The majority of the Mallard ringed at Pitsford are recovered within the county with one exceptional individual that found itself the other side of Moscow (also shot)!


Neil M

Drake Wigeon.

Great Crested Grebe.

Reed Bunting.

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 8 November 2019



Further birds seen at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday (Thursday) included five or six Red-crested Pochard, five Pintail (three drakes), three Stonechats, a Kingfisher and a Peregrine and the mammals included Stoat (all seen by Wendy and Robin Gossage).

This morning's (Friday) weather was pretty abysmal but it didn't stop migration with a number of birds on the move in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. Mostly it was finches with several Siskins and Redpolls and twenty-five Bramblings, but also winter thrushes, Meadow Pipits and Starlings.

Ruth Ward saw a Marsh Harrier over-flying Summer Leys this afternoon heading west and a Great White Egret was seen later, and John Hunt located a perched Peregrine on Oundle church spire. 

There was no sign of the harrier at Harrington Airfield this afternoon but birds on view included Red Kites, Common Buzzards, a perched immature male Merlin and an adult male Peregrine. There were also at least four Bramblings on site and 2-3 in our garden this afternoon. An adult Mediterranean Gull (he/she is still kicking) was again in the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon.

John Woollett and John Boland completed a little ringing at Stortons Pits today with two nets catching 41 birds made up of 22 Blue Tits, 15 Great Tits, 2 Long-tailed Tits, a Wren and a Magpie. Four of the Blue Tits were birds first ringed as nestlings in the nest boxes at Stortons and have clearly remained site faithful!


Neil M


Always an exciting bird to see,
particularly when in flight and in
hunting mode. The top image was
taken at Pitsford and the lower images
are from Summer Leys where a pair
act in concert to hunt down quarry.

Images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Egrets and owls


A bit of a surprise this morning for Lynne Barnett at Maidwell when she noticed a Great White Egret perched on an outbuilding in the garden! I think we recognise that Grey Herons regularly tour gardens looking for food, particularly in the breeding season, but I think this is the first time a GWE has been witnessed doing it locally!

A quick scan into the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning produced two Great White Egrets, three Red-crested Pochard (two drakes) and a female Stonechat.

At Harrington Airfield this afternoon there were plenty of the regular raptors active and a male 'grey' harrier (presumably a Hen but just not seen well enough) at range for just a couple of wing flaps before it disappeared below the lie of the land. Other birds included a couple of vocal Bramblings and a covey of four Grey Partridges.

At Neville's Lodge this afternoon Tom Green located two Short-eared Owls which were vocal and also Grey Partridge and Snipe too.

Jacob Spinks has spent much of the year at Spurn on the Yorkshire coast and naturally has seen a great deal of rare and scarce birds. Whilst working there he has also committed to a little ringing and yesterday caught and ringed a Long-eared Owl, surely one of the most stunning birds to be encountered as a ringer or birdwatcher.


Neil M

Great White Egret
at Maidwell courtesy
of Lynne Barnett.

Jacob Spinks with
Long-eared Owl.

The beautiful Long-eared
Owl courtesy of Bethan Clyne.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Ringing at Scotland Wood


A ringing session was held at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate this morning, the small numbers of ringers available meaning that this was a small scale effort but still resulted in 86 birds being caught and processed. It was good to record 31 re-traps among this number, birds that have survived from previous seasons and probably spending much of their lives in and around this woodland complex.

The total included a male Sparrowhawk, 19 Great Tits, 31 Blue Tits, 13 Coal Tits, 2 Marsh Tits, a Long-tailed Tit. a Wren, 3 Dunnocks, 8 Goldcrests, 3 Chaffinches, a female Brambling and 3 Nuthatches.

Other birds noted on-site included a male Brambling, a couple of Siskins and Redpolls and a Tawny Owl that watched me with interest when I unloaded my car at the start of the session!

Two or three Bramblings visited our garden at Hanging Houghton again today.

Elsewhere and Short-eared Owls seemed to be the theme with two seen by the DIRFT 3 development site and adjacent Lilbourne Meadows Reserve and another at Neville's Lodge near Finedon. Both Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows and Summer Leys Reserves accounted for single Great White Egrets today with a pair of Peregrines chasing Lapwings at the latter.


Neil M




Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Damp and breezy Tuesday


Dog walking and combining some of it with visits to service seven wild bird feeding stations was the order for the day...

Brixworth Treatment Works sported a couple of Grey Wagtails but nothing else of note, Harrington Airfield held several Bramblings which were well scattered, plus a mobile flock of twenty-three Golden Plovers and plenty of in-coming thrushes and over-flying Starlings and Woodpigeons.

Pitsford Reservoir was the site for the adult Mediterranean Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull by the Sailing Club and north of the causeway there were the usual two Great White Egrets, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a drake Pintail and three Red-crested Pochard, most of these birds being in the Scaldwell Bay. Small flocks of Bramblings and rather larger flocks of winter thrushes headed south west.

The Marsh Tits at Kelmarsh Hall and Scotland Wood and at the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford came to greet me as I filled up the feeders, or more likely they just wanted me out of the way before they raided the sunflower seeds! And with two visiting the garden feeders too it's great to hear their little sneezing call wherever I go! A couple of Bramblings muscled in on the Chaffinch flock regularly visiting our small garden.

A walk across the fields near Hanging Houghton this afternoon was pleasant despite the rain with plenty of birds taking advantage of the excellent mature and improved hedgerows managed by the Lamport Hall Trust with a flushed Woodcock and Bramblings being about the best birds seen. Lots of fungi in evidence and several examples of the Dog Vomit slime mould too.


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull.

Wood Sandpiper.


Images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Limited birding


Mild and pleasant this morning, duller and with some rain this afternoon, albeit that the forecast indicates colder influences from the north and east pretty soon!

Not much opportunity for any birding for me or Eleanor today so most of the sparse sightings from today are due to others attempting to find something out there!

A couple of Ravens again made one of their frequent visits to the village today and making all sorts of curious noises.

Steve Fisher's efforts at Stanwick Pits yielded two Great White Egrets and five Cattle Egrets and Robin's foray to Harrington Airfield was worth it with a view of a Merlin and a Brambling. The small gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon was uninspiring albeit that the sick adult Mediterranean Gull was still present, but sadly not for much longer I don't think...

Ringing sessions are planned on the Kelmarsh Estate this coming week (Wednesday and Friday), concentrating on small woodland birds. Please let me know should you wish to come along to observe or even assist in the operations. In some respects the flagship bird for the estate could be the Marsh Tit which is actually well represented in the woodlands and to my mind has not declined locally (nationally it is still described as declining significantly).


Neil M

Marsh Tit.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

A quiet weekend for birds


A wet and dreary morning but then a pleasant afternoon of weak sunshine summed up the weather today!

It was status quo at Pitsford Reservoir today with two Great White Egrets north of the causeway and an adult Yellow-legged Gull and four Red-crested Pochards were in the Scaldwell Bay.

Nick and Eric were at Thrapston Pits and between them saw two Great White Egrets, five Little Egrets, the Whooper Swan and a Kingfisher. Matt saw another Great White Egret at Summer Leys and there was a flock in excess of 300 Golden Plovers there.

A wander at Harrington Airfield this afternoon provided views of 2-3 Bramblings, a covey of five Grey Partridges and three Snipe.


Neil M

Brambling at
Harrington Airfield.