Monday, 31 December 2012

Winter weight control!

Hi

John Woollett and team managed a ringing session at Stortons GP yesterday morning (Sunday 30th).  An interesting retrap was of a Water Rail that was first ringed on-site in February of this year.  On that occasion when the weather was cold and conditions harsh, this bird weighed 118 grams.  Yesterday this bird weighed 162 grams, an indication of the much milder and easier conditions and at a time when presumably this bird is able to feed avidly on earth worms and similar invertebrates.  Although we often think of small birds losing considerable weight and fat reserves during difficult periods, this is a reminder that it affects larger birds too.  

The Jackdaw with the distinctive 'neck braces' remains in and around the village at Hanging Houghton, and was seen again this morning.  The question as to whether it is a migrant 'Nordic Jackdaw' or simply a well-marked bird from a local population remains unanswered.  Two other birds in the same flock 'ghost' similar markings.

At least one Brambling remains attracted to garden feeders in the village at The Croft.  Again a couple of Ravens were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.

A brief visit to Kelmarsh Hall this morning confirmed the presence of at least one Brambling, a Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll.      


Regards

E & N

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Splitting forces!

Hi

Splitting forces is always dangerous in our household as Eleanor always sees more than me!

Today Eleanor stayed local and ran around the south side of Pitsford Res, seeing c20 redpoll sp as she did so.  There was subsequently a Brambling at the feeding station on the old Scaldwell Road.

There were 2 Ravens in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and at 3.30pm 4 Waxwings were perched on the television aerial of our house at Hanging Houghton!  The Great White Egret and 4 Little Egrets were again on the floodwater near Holcot village as viewable from the Walgrave and Hannington roads at about 1pm, and at 3.40pm there were 6 Bramblings on the seed at Harrington Airfield.

In the meantime Neil Hasdell and myself decided to go north for a further change of scenery.  We started at East Carlton Country Park which hosted a pleasant walk but little in the way of birds.  The escaped South American teal sp was still present on the ponds there but otherwise it was just the usual resident woodland birds which included Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.

We then drove slowly north along the Welland Valley which not surprisingly was flooded along most of its course.  Pockets of Lapwings, common wildfowl and gulls were encountered plus a single Little Egret near Harringworth.

A walk then along a footpath that extends from the valley up on to the plateau of Harringworth Airfield.  There is some interesting habitat where the old airfield meets the back of Wakerley Wood and it was here where our best bird of the day was pushed out of a bush by Bazra (our Border Collie) in the shape of a Hawfinch.  This bird was probably initially on the ground beneath Blackthorn and Hawthorn bushes at about SP948975.  A Waxwing was heard calling here but not seen and other birds included a couple of Lesser Redpolls, 3 Siskins and a male Stonechat.

After a bite to eat in the car park at Wakerley Wood, we moved on to Fineshade which was busy with people.  A few Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll were noted and common birds were coming to the feeders in front of the wildlife hide.

Our last main venue for the day was Batherwycke Lake which contained plenty of wildfowl but surprisingly no evident Mandarin Ducks.  Birds of note included 2 Shelduck and 2 'redhead' Goosanders.

Scanning over Harrington Airfield just before dusk failed to locate the regular Merlin perhaps coming in to roost -  the only raptor noted was a Sparrowhawk or two!

Regards

Neil M



 
Common Buzzard-
moulting inner primaries

 
 



 
Sorry can't resist the
Red Kites!

 
Coal Tit
Fineshade

 
The villain
of bird feeders!

 
Marsh Tit at
Fineshade.  Note
the silver mark
on upper mandible
which is hard to
see in the field but
easier to appreciate
with digital photography
and helps distinguish
it from the Willow Tit
 

 
Bazra - the finder of our
best bird!


 
Herring and Great Black-
backed Gulls over
Blatherwycke Lake

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Last few birds of 2012

Hi 

Birds around the garden today included a couple of flighty Bramblings but unfortunately no sign of yesterday's Waxwings.

At least one Brambling was a Kelmarsh Hall late morning.

This afternoon the Great White Egret was on the floodwater again near to Holcot village and viewable from the Hannington Road, but efforts to photograph it were thwarted as there was always vegetation in the way.  Just the one Little Egret was keeping it company.

The Pitsford Res gull roost contained two Mediterranean Gulls this evening (adult and 1st winter).

Regards

Neil M


 
Great White Egret

 
Tufted Duck Pitsford

 
Common Gull Brixworth

Friday, 28 December 2012

Grey day birding

Hi

Limited opportunity for birding today on a very grey dank day in the county.

A single Brambling was on the scattered seed at Harrington Airfield this morning.  Neil Hasdell located the Slavonian Grebe at Pitsford Res this morning, present off the Brixworth bank next to The Gorses (about half way between the causeway and the dam).  A 'redhead' Smew was still present off The Pines and a Redshank was at the yacht club this afternoon.

At 3.05pm this afternoon a lock of 11 Waxwings were in a garden at The Croft, Hanging Houghton briefly, before flying towards Lamport Grange.  Two Bramblings and a redpoll sp were also flying around the gardens.

Finally this afternoon there was a male Stonechat in the most northerly field at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell plus a hunting Barn Owl.

We thought we would add an image of a pink male Lesser Redpoll caught yesterday to brighten the day up (please see below)!

Regards

Eleanor and Neil

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Squelch squelch!

Hi

A good traipse around the Blueberry Farm complex today confirmed that few birds of interest remain on-site, with just 2 Woodcock being of note.

A squelchy walk around Stanford Res was a pleasant change of scenery, the only birds of interest were 5 Goosanders, ca20 Lesser Redpolls on weeds, a Cetti's Warbler and ca50 Tree Sparrows.

Small numbers of finches at Kelmarsh Hall this afternoon included a couple each of Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.

It seems that the current mild and wet conditions are failing to produce many new birds in the county.

Regards

Eleanor & Neil

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Bramblings

Hi

Birds visible from the feed station at Pitsford Res this morning included a 'redhead' Goosander, a Brambling and a Lesser Redpoll.

Four Bramblings and a Lesser Redpoll were caught and ringed at Kelmarsh Hall today with several others of each and up to 10 Siskins present too.

About 8 Bramblings were back on the seed at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.

Finally a couple of Ravens were visible in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.

Regards

E and N

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Crested Angels from the north

Hi

Eleanor has just come in from her Christmas Day morning run with the dog, and she has just seen 4 Waxwings along the Brampton Valley Way below Brixworth in bushes close to the Creaton Road access point.  This would have been about 10.20am...

Also 2 Ravens at Blueberry Farm this morning.

Regards

Neil M

Angels of the flood

Hi

On this Christmas morning the Great White Angel and three Little Angels were again on the floodwater near Holcot at 10am this morning, best viewed from the Hannington Road (for angel read egret).  Although they are slowly becoming more used to cars and traffic generally, it is best to stay in your vehicle and watch from a distance to avoid disturbance.

A quick recce and top-up of the feeders on the Kelmarsh Estate this morning, and before the rain sets in, didn't come up with anything particularly unusual but there were three smart male Bramblings at Kelmarsh Hall.

Regards

Neil M

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hi

A first winter Mediterranean Gull and a first year Yellow-legged Gull were in the gull roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon.  In addition there were a pair of Smew off The Pines and a Kingfisher off the yacht club.

Merry Christmas and fingers crossed for a bird-filled 2013!

E & N

Soggy birding!

Hi

Rain, rain and more rain!

This morning the Jackdaw sporting the broad silver neck braces was again present at Hanging Houghton.  Two other birds showed similar but much duller markings.

At 11am this morning the Great White Egret was showing well on the floodwater at the back of the Holcot Bay at Pitsford Res, just outside Holcot village and viewable from both the Walgrave and Hannington roads.  Two Little Egrets were also present.  At least one Brambling was present at the main feeding station at Pitsford Res this morning.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Egrets and stuff

Hi

A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning only produced a single female Brambling amongst the feeding birds on the seed by the concrete track entrance off the Draughton Road.

Birds in and around the garden here at Hanging Houghton included a Brambling, plus a Jackdaw with plumage traits sometimes associated with north-eastern populations known as 'Nordic Jackdaw'.  An image is below - see what you think!

The Great White Egret was quite mobile at Pitsford Res late morning and seen in both the Holcot and Walgrave bays.  Five Little Egrets were near floodwater at the back of the Holcot Bay as seen from the Hannington Road.

At 3.30pm this afternoon, five Waxwings were on television aerials in Holcot village at the crossroads in the middle of the village.

Blueberry Farm seemed quiet this afternoon, three redpoll sp and a Snipe being the most notable birds.

Regards

E & N


 
Stock Dove Hanging Houghton

 
Jackdaw at Hanging Houghton
(with a sheep in the way!)


 
Little Egrets Pitsford


 
Great White Egret
Pitsford - distant
flight shots

 
Goldeneye Pitsford

 
Tufted Duck Pitsford

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Pitsford birds

Hi

This afternoon birds visible from and around the yacht club at Pitsford Res included 4-5 Smew (2-3 drakes), a Kingfisher, a Barn Owl hunting at 3pm (during a short spell when it wasn't actually raining!), a first year Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Mediterranean Gulls (adult and first winter).

Regards

Neil M

Rain birds!

Hi

In very soggy conditions this morning it was time to replenish the food at the wild bird feeding stations.  Not much to report in the constant rain but there were a couple of vocal Bramblings at Kelmarsh Hall and at 10.40am the Great White Egret was in flooded fields just outside Holcot village next to Pitsford Res and best viewed from the Hanninton Road.  While I was there it was spending time standing around in the brown stubble field away from the stream.  Plenty of Grey Herons there too and 2 Little Egrets were in a grass field on the opposite side of the Hannington road.

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 21 December 2012

GWE again...

Hi

Today the only birds of note seen was the Great White Egret together with 4 Little Egrets on floodwater at the back of the Holcot Bay, Pitsford Reservoir (at 12 noon).

Regards

Eleanor

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Great White Egret

Hi

At about 11.30am this morning the Great White Egret was on show on the ever increasing floodwater at the back of the Holcot Bay, Pitsford Res, best viewed from the Hannington Road out of Holcot village.

Regards

Eleanor

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Smew

Hi

Very limited opportunity for birding today, but a walk around Ravensthorpe Res this afternoon in rapidly deteriorating light was sufficient to locate 2 'redhead' Smew, 40 Cormorants, a Nuthatch, a Grey Wagtail, a Siskin and a redpoll sp.

15 redpoll sp flew over Smith's Farm Shop, Boughton this morning heading for the Brampton Valley Way.

Regards

E & N

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Ditchford WeBS survey

Hi

Today was taken up completing the WeBS survey at Ditchford GP, slipping and sliding in the mud as we went!

There were comparatively few large gulls in the Ditchford Lane area which was rather disappointing.  A first year Scaup was with Tufted Ducks on the Watersport Pit to the west of Ditchford Lane.  A pair of Smew were on the old Skew Bridge Pit.  Other birds included 2-3 Little Egrets, 2 Stonechats, 3 Chiffchaffs, 8 Cetti's Warblers, 6-7 Kingfishers, 3 Grey Wagtails, c60 Golden Plovers over east, 6 Water Rails, just a couple of Siskins and 4 Lesser Redpolls.

Regards

E & N

Ringing updates

Hi

On Sunday (16th), John Woollett and a team of ringers operated nets and traps at Stortons GP and captured 70 birds, 45 of which had been caught before at this site.  New birds included a Water Rail (at least the third individual to be ringed at Stortons this year), a Magpie, a Goldcrest and 2 Lesser Redpolls.  A Woodcock was flushed there yesterday (17th).

Today (18th) and Dave Francis has been ringing at Pitsford Res this morning and caught 56 birds, the majority of them new birds.  This included another 13 Yellowhammers, 17 Goldfinches, 3 Tree Sparrows, 4 Reed Buntings, a Goldcrest and a Moorhen.  Bramblings present at the feed station included an unringed bird and 37 Snipe were present in Scaldwell Meadow.

Regards

E & N

Monday, 17 December 2012

Harrington pm

Hi

This afternoon a walk around Harrington Airfield was productive with a/the female Merlin, a Short-eared Owl, a Woodcock and at least 10 Bramblings.

Regards

Eleanor

Pitsford WeBS Count

Hi

Today was another team effort at counting the waterbirds at Pitsford Res, with David Arden, Neil Hasdell, Eleanor and myself conducting a coordinated count.  The extra rain of the last few days had turned the water brown on much of the reserve section of the reservoir.  However the winter sunshine and relatively mild conditions meant it was good to be out.  Total numbers of waterbirds have yet to be added up, but birds of note included the Great White Egret (in Holcot Bay and showing well from the Goosander Hide), a 'redhead' Smew near to Pintail Bay, 3 Goosanders, a Red Kite, a Water Rail, a Kingfisher, a Chiffchaff, 2-3 Brambling and small numbers of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins.

A Brambling remains in our garden at Hanging Houghton.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Monitoring Feed Stations

Hi

Dave Francis presided over a ringing session at the main Pitsford Res feeding station yesterday afternoon and again this morning.  The benefits to some birds of maintaining a feed station is best assessed when we can actually work out how many birds are using it.  Visually we can count the numbers we see at any one time but have no idea of the total number requiring sustenance.  Dave caught 32 new Yellowhammers during the Saturday/Sunday session, and another 10 were caught on Friday morning.  Add the retraps and another 150 or so Yellowhammers caught at this one spot during the year and I think we can begin to understand how such a project benefits a local population.  In some areas Yellowhammers are really struggling so its just great to enhance their status in central Northants.

Other birds trapped and monitored yesterday afternoon and this morning included another 4 new Bramblings, 14 Goldfinches, 5 Tree Sparrows (plus a controlled bird from elsewhere), 4 Reed Buntings, a Fieldfare and a Moorhen.  However my favourite bird of the session was a single Snipe that was flushed in to a net.  I'm a big fan of the bird species that endeavour to utilise their plumage to hide from would-be predators, and it is an incredible privilege to be able to be so close to a crepuscular species such as a Snipe (please see the below images).

This afternoon there were two Barn Owls hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Regards

Neil M



Saturday, 15 December 2012

A muddy affair!

Hi

A ringing session at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) today turned out to be quite a muddy affair!  We caught 60 birds which were all standard birds for the site and included a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Treecreepers, 2 Marsh Tits and 6 Goldcrests.  Other birds noted in the wood included 2 Woodcock, 2 Raven, a Brambling and a couple of Siskins.

At Harrington Airfield today there were 10 Bramblings still coming to the seed by the entrance off the Draughton Road and 2 Ravens were seen too.  A male Brambling was again in our garden at Hanging Houghton.

There were 2 Red Kites at Wellingborough Grange this afternoon and a flock of 15 Waxwings flew over calling loudly on their way towards Wellingborough town.

A relative large gull roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon included an adult Mediterranean Gull and a Kingfisher was present too.

Regards

E & N

Friday, 14 December 2012

Gloomy wet day!

Hi

Well I don't think it ever did become properly light today!  Oh well a day of chores!

Birds were few and far between today, the best being a solitary Waxwing in flight at 10.15am on the west side of the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Res.

A smart male Brambling was feeding in our garden at Hanging Houghton today and there were at least two more at the main feeding station at Pitsford.

Another Brambling and a Siskin and a Grey Wagtail were in the grounds of the yacht club at Pitsford and this afternoon there was a Barn Owl and a Grey Wagtail in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Cold weather birds

Hi

Birds at Sywell CP (which was mostly frozen) this morning included a Black-necked Grebe, 2 'redhead' Smew and c15 redpoll sp.

Later this morning Pitsford Res attracted the Great White Egret still and 2 Little Egrets, these birds again on the flood water at the back of the Holcot Bay.  The old Scaldwell Road feeding station attracted 4 Bramblings on the seed.  Much of the reserve section was frozen and 6 Smew (4 drakes) and 2 Goosanders were flying around at 3pm as visible from the causeway.

Regards

Eleanor

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Hoarfrost

Hi

Cold but spectacular weather today with some amazing hoarfrost dazzling in the winter sunshine.

Birds were minimal today with singles of Brambling at Hanging Houghton, Harrington Airfield and Pitsford Res.  The drake Scaup was visible from the dam at Pitsford Res late morning.

A good walk around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell was eerily quiet this afternoon.  The only birds of note were singles of Woodcock and Willow Tit and unfortunately the Hen Harrier from two days ago failed to reappear.

E & N



 
Pitsford hoarfrost!

 
Well it is that
time of the year!

 
Male Yellowhammer

 
Adult Common Gull



 
Variety of Pied
Wagtail plumages






Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Freezing fog!

Hi

In rather cold and unpleasant conditions, a ringing session was undertaken at Pitsford Res today at the old Scaldwell Road feeding station.  The freezing fog never did clear at the reservoir today so who knows what was on the water!  Birds caught included 3 fabulous Bramblings, 3 Fieldfares, a rare catch of a Mistle Thrush, and small numbers of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Goldfinches etc.

Regards

Neil M


 
Bramblings Pitsford Res
Feeding Station

Monday, 10 December 2012

Good birding but no Waxwings!

Hi

This morning it was time again to visit all the feeding stations and fill up the feeders, particularly as it is supposed to be pretty cold this week.

At Harrington Airfield there were up to 6 Bramblings attracted to the seed by the Draughton road entrance plus a redpoll sp and 2 Ravens.  Another Raven was at Sunderland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate), a Brambling was at the feeders at Kelmarsh Hall and a solitary Siskin was at Scotland Wood.

A visit to Sainsburys at Kettering failed to locate any Waxwings, the only compensation being 2 Grey Wagtails a foraging Red Kite and some nectar points!

A good yomp around the Blueberry Farm area near Maidwell yielded two views of a fine adult male Hen Harrier hunting the large hillside setaside field (locally called 'The Hill').  Other birds included 2 Barn Owls and 3-4 Woodcock.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon contained a/the gorgeous adult Mediterranean Gull and the drake Scaup was still present.

Regards

E & N





 
Pied Wagtail and Bramblings
Harrington Airfield

Sunday, 9 December 2012

BTO Conference continued...

Hi

As a carry on from the last blog concerning the annual BTO week-end conference, the auk colonies have been extensively studied on the Isle of May.  During the worst years when Guillemots in particular were suffering from a lack of food, the social fabric of the colonies effectively broke down with many chicks being left unattended for long periods.  Although there was subsequently some increased predation from gulls, the social breakdown was so severe that adult Guillemots were killing chicks and even tossing them off the cliff!  Not surprisingly the survival rate was extremely low and it is thought that only the very earliest hatched youngsters had any chance of surviving during these very lean years.

Guillemots and Razorbills apparently moult just after the breeding season and become flightless for a short period.  Geolocaters indicate that they spend this time east of Scotland and drift south down the east coast of England during this time.  Puffins however spend their time off the north of Scotland and even go right the way around Scotland and Ireland to winter on the Atlantic seaboard off south west England and Ireland.

The current state of affairs on this seabird city island was summarised as follows:-
  • slight recovery since the crisis of the mid 2000s
  • may be associated with colder winters
  • however it is predicted temperatures will rise again and food webs will change too
  • effects likely will vary regionally
  • offshore renewable energy will represent a threat and significant losses anticipated
A further atlas input titled 'Joining the dots' provided some worrying trends, most of which are already well-known.  This included contracted ranges for 24 out of 28 farmland birds and 15 species have seen populations tumble, all during the period 1970 - 1990.  Other birds of concern include the Short-eared Owl which has suffered a 35% reduction in numbers during the last couple of decades and the Hawfinch has suffered a significant range reduction.

A major outcome of the survey is that it provides the BTO and its partners with the knowledge of where birds are and some idea of their density.  This comes in to its own when assessing the impact of man on the environment, and Windfarm Sensitivity Maps have been created which can be assessed by would-be developers so that future conflict can be avoided.  Just round the corner, the European Bird Atlas is due to start next year, and it is thought that the results of the British and Irish 2007 - 11 atlas will be incorporated within it.

Another couple of presentations championed the use of Birdtrack and other reporting mechanisms such as Breeding Bird Surveys and National Garden Watch not only to report birds but other taxa too.  Examples include butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and amphibians, and in some cases these systems provide more records than specific taxa disciplines or organisations.  Invertebrates are important barometers and it is assessed that global warming means that many are on the march north and colonising, at a rate which averages out at five metres a day!  Small wonder that we see new species of grasshoppers and bush-crickets in the county these days!  In essence the message was that birdwatchers make a very valuable contribution providing they submit their records, and this is further enhanced through team-working and the collaboration of all the scientific and conservation organisations.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 8 December 2012

BTO Conference

Hi

This week-end I am up at Swanwick in Derbyshire, attending the British Trust of Ornithology Conference, which is typical as flocks of Waxwings are clearly now invading Northamptonshire!  A short walk around the complex here at Swanwick was enough to find a single vocal Waxwing this morning!

Yesterday evening there was a superb and totally inspirational hour long presentation on the crusade to save the threatened Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and the extraordinary lengths and measures achieved already in bringing this enigmatic wader back from the brink of extinction.  Perhaps at least as important has been the clear definition and importance of saving what is left of the East Asian/Australasian coastal habitat, which is critical to the survival of many other waders too.

A significant part of the day today has been discussing and commenting on the preliminary results of the Bird Atlas 2007 - 11 and the mapping of Britain's and Ireland's birds.  It is anticipated that as many as 40,000 observers throughout the land participated in this study, including many in our own fair county.  Some examples of the results are as follows:-
  • The biggest positive change as a group was the egret family, with a range expansion and associated breeding of Little and now Cattle and Great White Egrets;
  • The highest density of registered observers was in urban Edinburgh and Belfast!
  • The Isle of White failed to confirm breeding of relatively common birds such as Tawny Owl, Common Buzzard and Greylag Goose!
  • 96 species on non-native birds were recorded (with Black Swans by way of example recorded in 100 squares);
  • Yellow Wagtails have suffered a 32% range loss and huge reductions in population density;
  • The first British breeding Cetti's Warbler was in Kent in 1973.  During the survey they were located in 421 km squares nationally in the breeding season and 375 during the winter period, reflecting a successful colonisation of England;
  • Due perhaps to climate change, the Hobby population has shifted 150km north since the last atlas;
  • Ireland has experienced some huge changes.  Positives include a high density of Wrens, a huge increase in Great Tit density and the natural colonisation of the green isle by Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Negatives are the virtual extinction of the Corn Bunting (and the range halved in GB), major losses in the Stock Dove population (but the GB population is stable) and a massive decline in the Curlew with 20,000 pairs in the 1970s now reduced to between 50 - 200 pairs!
  • Woodcock (there is a specific survey next year) have shown a winter expansion of 37% but a breeding range contraction of 55%;
  • The Kestrel is in decline across the whole of GB but with no range loss, just actual numbers.
Another presentation reflected on habitat and what exactly does a bird need?  Some of this was about comparables.  Why is it that in Germany Goshawks have moved in to the cities such as Berlin and Hamburg and breed in the parks and feed on urban birds successfully, but here they are a bird that is sensitive to human activity and can only normally be found in large tracts of forest/wilderness?  The British Willow Tit is associated with mature hedgerows, scrub and light deciduous woodland, but in northern Europe is a bird of conifers.  It also reflected on the findings of the Atlas in that birds such as the Redstart and Whinchat which have now seemingly abandoned the lowland areas of middle England during the last three decades and are now mapped to their habitat preference to the uplands of the West.  As predicted this presentation provided more questions rather than answers!

A further presentation which was well-received was the current findings on the long term study of the sea-birds breeding on the Isle of May up in the Firth of Forth.  It was entitled 'An Exultation of Auks', with a particular emphasis on the Guillemot and Puffin.  Irrefutable evidence was presented that showed that since the 1980s there had been a 3% increase in the sea temperature and in particular how this affected marine life and in consequence the food for the sea-birds.  It seems that the Lesser Sandeel which has been widely regarded as the essential diet of many sea-birds is quite rapidly disappearing and is being replaced by sprats or similar species.  This is associated with the reduced ability of the species of copepod to survive in warming waters (the staple diet of sandeels) and the increasing ability of the prey item of the sprat to sustain and exploit new waters.  This isn't the whole story but probably the main influence on the changing fortunes of at least some of our sea-birds.  Apparently Snake Pipefish have not been recorded as a prey items for Puffins etc since at least 2009, so this concerning period when they were brought in by our breeding sea-birds (they are of low nutritional value and mostly indigestible) appears to be over for the time being.

The use of miniature geolocaters and time depth recorders have been used in recent years on some of our auks, and although it is early days the initial results on post-breeding dispersal and the amount of time these birds spend underwater is fascinating (e.g. 50% of the recorded dive times of the Guillemot occur at night; Puffins seems to be only active during the daylight hours).

There is plenty more interesting info coming out of the conference but that will do for now!

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 7 December 2012

Comments

Hi

My apologies to anyone that has tried to leave comments on this blog site and failed.  It seems that there was a bit of a glitch which I think has now been resolved.  I'll soon know if it has been fixed if any comments appear!

Many thanks

Neil M

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Hungry birds!

Hi

A walk around a cold and crunchy Harrington Airfield this morning produced a Short-eared Owl, about 40 Golden Plovers, a couple of redpoll sp and at least 7 Bramblings.

The cold weather of the last few days has certainly brought birds in to the garden, with particularly good numbers of Blackbirds at dawn looking for food.  Today I noticed up to 3 Pied Wagtails, a Reed Bunting and even some Fieldfares touched down briefly.  Bigger birds include the regular Jackdaws, Magpies, Carrion Crows and a mass of Woodpigeons which means the food doesn't last very long!  Add the Stock Doves, Collared Doves and Pheasants and actually a small band of Starlings (which are scarce here), then its small wonder that most of our money goes on bird food!

Scanning the gulls at the roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon produced a smart third winter Caspian Gull, and a drake Scaup was close up to the dam wall.

Regards

Neil M


 
1st year Common Gull
Harrington Airfield

 
Brambling Harrington Airfield

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Up to the north

Hi

With the promise of wintery weather and decent light for a change, it was an excuse to bird at some of our favourite locations in the north of Northants today.

First we jogged around Fineshade Wood where we slipped and slid along the trails and tracks of the whole complex first thing without meeting a soul.  Although there were plenty of common birds, nothing of particular note was seen in the greater part of the woodland, a few Lesser Redpolls and Siskins and some Fallow Deer being the highlight.  At Top Lodge itself, scanning provided six species of raptor which included 2 Peregrines, one of which interacted briefly with a female Merlin over towards the Abbey.

A wander down to the wildlife hide was worthwhile with tits and other common birds coming to the feeders which are still being serviced in the now absence of the RSPB on site. 

After a well-earned 'brunch' at the Fineshade cafe, next it was across the A43 to nearby Wakerley Wood.   A short circuit failed to locate much of note, just the odd Lesser Redpoll and Siskin or two.

Next was Blatherwycke Lake which looks very bare now that many of the trees have been felled.  Plenty of wildfowl on the water, but six Mandarin Ducks were the only birds of note.  Red Kites were in double figures and visible on every horizon.

We spent a short time looking for the Waxwings at Oakley Vale, Corby but failed to connect [14 or so present yesterday].

Our last venue was Fermyn Wood CP which was absolutely full of Redwings and Fieldfares but not a great deal else.  A wander of the fields to the north east of Fermyn Wood yielded the second female Merlin of the day.  Small numbers of Siskins and just a couple of Lesser Redpolls were present in the country park but sadly no sign of any Hawfinches.

Regards

E & N


 
Blue Tit

 
Woodpigeon


 
House Sparrow

 
Pied Wagtail

 
Peregrine



 
Red Kites


 
Fieldfare

 
Redwing