Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Years Eve pm


This afternoon's weather surprisingly took a turn for the better but little in the way of new birds were located. Eleanor came across a hunting Barn Owl between Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell villages and I notched up two Woodcock and four Siskins at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate).

Here is hoping for a wildlife-filled 2014!

Neil M

First Year Shag
Portland Harbour
by Jacob Spinks

Portrait of a drake Goosander
Abington Park Lake
by Robin Gossage

New Years Eve (wet) Birding!


Well the wind and the rain continues but at last it is mild!  Some feed station maintenance was required this morning and whilst we were out we notched up a few birds.  Harrington Airfield still attracted a few Bramblings by the concrete track entrance and several Golden Plovers on the top fields secured the attention of a large female Peregrine.

Brixworth Sewage Works continues to attract a couple of Grey Wagtails together with over forty Pied Wagtails and several Meadow Pipits.  The Great Northern Diver was still present at Pitsford Res in the general vicinity of the Holly Tree still and two Grey Wagtails were on the shoreline in the grounds of the Yacht Club.

Happy New Year!

Eleanor and Neil

Monday, 30 December 2013

Dorset and back!


I know I should be stronger and resist temptation, but when a bird appears on a British coastline which I have never caught up with in the world, and with it showing so well, I had to drive down to Dorset in the pouring rain and howling gale this morning to see it!  

With my crew of slightly less desperate individuals, we arrived at Portland harbour just south of Weymouth as the clouds began to clear and the blue sky appear. We managed to shelter effectively from the still strong winds and scanned the inner harbour for our quarry and after nearly 30 minutes we found him, a Brunnich's Guillemot.  Arguably this is the first mainland bird in the UK that has been available for British birders to see, and it was a real treat to watch it fishing close in to the harbour wall. An excellent supporting cast of other birds also fishing in the same area included a number of Razorbills, a Common Guillemot, a Black Guillemot, a number of Shags and Cormorants, both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers and plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers.

Neil H had completed some research and thanks to him we went in search of other interesting birds nearby. On a flooded sports pitch near Radipole (Weymouth) we located the reported Glossy Ibis which was busily probing for and gobbling up plenty of worms.  In strong sunlight it was possible to appreciate the iridescent greens and bronzes of it's plumage. Just as we were leaving it seems that one of the photographers approached too close and the bird was airborne.

We then took a drive to the east and arrived in the Studland area near Poole.  The bay here attracts wintering birds of interest which has included a Surf Scoter for some time.  A little scanning provided distant views of this bird. The bay also held Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, small numbers of both Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, Brent Geese, common waders and even a couple of wintering Sandwich Terns.  A small passerine in gorse bushes showed itself as a fine male Dartford Warbler.  And with daylight dwindling, our short winter birding day in Dorset was over and it was time for the long journey back.  My thanks to Neil H, Jacob Spinks and David Arden for their companionship during the day.

Eleanor stayed in the county where the weather remained poor for much of the day.  Her only birds of note were two 'redhead' Smew at Sywell Country Park.


Neil M

Brunnich's Guillemot


Sunday, 29 December 2013

End of year birding


The start of the day began cold but the sun soon came up and lasted all day.  The first venue for Eleanor was Blueberry Farm with plenty of raptors taking advantage of the splendid weather and included at least ten Common Buzzards including the the usual white bird.  Five Red Kites were also present but the most interesting bird was a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier hunting over the large hillside field at 10.50am.  Other birds included the pair of Stonechat still, plus a Barn Owl.

A subsequent visit to Pitsford Res presented a spectacle of the general public wandering around in all directions, but good birds remained with the Great Northern Diver showing well at the junction of The Narrows and The Basin, five Smew (one drake near the causeway and four 'redheads' in the Holcot Bay), and two drake Goosander and two Great White Egrets north of the causeway.

A ringing session at Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today was sufficient to catch fifty birds. Perhaps the most interesting birds included a male Sparrowhawk, two Blackbirds, six Redwings, two Goldcrests and a Nuthatch.  A couple of Woodcock were flushed from the woodland floor.


Neil M

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A wander to the west


At Harrington Airfield this morning there were 2 Bramblings by the shooting wall and a pair of Grey Partridge on the top fields.

A ringing session this morning at Glynn Davies Wood in the west of the county and close to the Warwickshire border provided an opportunity of handling just over a hundred birds, the majority being tits. It was the first time I had been to this small woodland which is a reserve owned and manged by the Banbury Ornithological Society.  There is evidence that this is part of an ancient woodland but it is now threatened by the High Speed 2 development that seeks to plough through countryside in the south and west of Northamptonshire.

Birds of note included five Marsh Tits and five Nuthatches caught and released and other birds noted frequenting the wood included two Willow Tits and overflying Red Kite and Raven.


Neil M

Friday, 27 December 2013

Windy Pitsford


On leaving the house this morning with my two collie companions I had no idea where we would be heading, but thinking that these two could do with a change of scenery we started at Brixworth Country Park. There were 2 Bramblings, 4+ Lesser Redpolls and several Siskin flying around.

I then decided to walk around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir, which proved to be quite exhilarating, due to the wild and windy weather conditions.

The majority of the birds were found sheltering in the bays with very few on the open choppy water. Those that did brave the open water bobbed up and down like corks and made me feel quite sea sick.

One of the first birds I saw was in fact the Great Northern Diver, sheltering very close to the bank in the small Yacht Bay and shortly afterwards I saw 4 Smew (2 drakes + 2 'redhead') in the Pintail Bay.  I  didn't see anything else of note until the small bay near "The Pigs" were there were a further 4 'redhead' Smew.

One of my collies is still recovering from major surgery so I am continuing to push her out in her buggy. I "parked" her buggy whilst I scanned the open water, but a strong gust of wind pushed it forward and propelled it at quite a speed towards the water.  My initial thought was "do I save my scope, which was strapped onto her buggy, or the dog first "!!!  Luckily I didn't have to make this choice as the buggy and Bobbie came to a halt at the waters edge.
Mind you Bobbie had the last laugh as we got caught out in a vicious squally shower and there was nowhere to shelter, but she remained snug and dry in her buggy.

So cold and wet we continued. As we crossed the causeway I could see 2 Great White Egrets on the small side, but I couldn't hold my 'scope steady to see anything else.

At the back of the Catwalk Bay was a Water Rail and at least 6 Lesser Redpolls feeding on some tall dead grass stems.

The other birds of note seen on my walk round were 2 drake Goosander, 2 Raven and a female Peregrine.

I thought that I might as well drive around to the causeway and then walked down the Scaldwell Bay.  Again the open water was devoid of birds as they sought shelter underneath the bushes or in the shelter of the back of the bays.  There were in fact 3 Great White Egrets present and 8+ Red Crested Pochard.  Also 3 Goosander (2 drake, 1 'redhead'), 2 drake Smew (possibly the same birds from the big side).  There were also 2 or 3 Redshank flying about.

A visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon failed to find anything of note.





Above three images
courtesy of Jacob Spinks

Surface-feeding birds taking
advantage of diving ducks and
Mute Swans bringing up weed
and contents for them to pillage -
Ravensthorpe Res

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day birds


A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning confirmed the presence of 10 Bramblings and the flock of about 100 Golden Plovers still.  Good numbers of Fieldfare also remain on-site.

At Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon the usual birds were all still present - 2 Ravens, 2 Red Kites, a Barn Owl and the pair of Stonechat.

At Pitsford Res today, a short ringing session at the Old Scaldwell Road produced thirty birds of which half were new.  Highlights were three Fieldfares and two Redwings.  One of the Redwing was a re-trap from the same site first caught in early November, which is a surprise considering the nomadic nature of this species.

The Great Northern Diver was still present at Pitsford this afternoon, fishing at the juncture of The Narrows and The Basin.  The gull roost contained an adult Caspian Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.


Eleanor & Neil


Black Swans

Great Northern Diver
All three images courtesy
of Robin Gossage

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day morning


A stunning day's weather out there today although the roads were a little precarious first thing with black ice!

A Lesser Redpoll was calling at Kelmarsh Hall this morning and the fallen apples in the orchard there were being consumed by at least 50 Fieldfare as they slowly change their winter diet with the berries beginning to run out.  The territorial Mistle Thrush couldn't keep them at bay but was making a lot of noise trying his best!

The traditional broadcasting of seed at Harrington Airfield by the concrete track entrance attracted about 8 Bramblings plus plenty of Chaffinches, Yellowhammers etc.

Enjoy your festivities!

Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Pre Christmas Birding !

Birding has been somewhat limited today due to getting ready for the "invasion" of the family tomorrow !!!!
I took Bazra and we went off for a couple of hours around Blueberry.  The fields were very water logged and the brook had flooded part of the valley below Hanging Houghton.
The usual birds put in an appearance. The pair of Stonechat remain in the southern most field of the Blueberry complex.  A Barn Owl was sitting in the hedge enjoying the winter sunshine, whilst 2 Red Kites, 2 Ravens and numerous Common Buzzard were hanging in the wind and clearly having fun.
Neil popped into the feeding station at Pitsford and saw a Great White Egret and 3 Black Swans.

We would just like to wish everyone a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and lots of good birding in 2014.

Regards Eleanor and Neil

Monday, 23 December 2013

Batten down the hatches!


Strong winds and driving rain meant that today was always going to be a touch tricky for seeing wildlife!

Early this morning I put some effort in to watching the garden birds which was something of a novelty.  We put the food out each morning before it is light but are never here to see what eats it!  First I counted and perused the Jackdaw flock which included a striking individual which exhibited the features normally associated with Nordic Jackdaw.  Plenty of Woodpigeons invaded the garden and it seemed to be a race between them and the Grey Squirrels to consume the sunflower hearts!  The stars though were a little gaggle of Long-tailed Tits which all just about fitted on to the peanut feeder at the same time!

A drive up to Barnwell Country Park near Oundle was next as we made preparations for a Ringing Demonstration on-site on 19th January 2014 (full details will be advertised nearer the date).  A flock of 35 or so Siskins wheeled about the alders in the increasingly strong gusts.  Eleanor in the meantime took a rather wet walk at Harrington Airfield after feeding the birds by the main entrance.  Half a dozen Bramblings came down on to the food amongst the more common fare, and a flock of about a hundred Golden Plovers careered around.

More feeding station maintenance this afternoon was a rather damp affair and with trees crashing around me I decided not to remain in the woods for too long!  A Woodcock flushed at Scotland Wood was the only bird of note.

An attempt to watch the gull roost at Pitsford failed due to a very intrepid but talented wind-surfer keeping the birds at bay, and the gull hide almost being blown away (with me in it)!


Neil M

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pitsford WeBs Count


Most of today was taken up completing the Wetland Bird Survey at Pitsford Res, dodging a heavy shower and a hail storm!  A Snow Bunting was flushed from the shoreline by The Holly Tree at 10.50am.  The bird towered up and flew strongly south and wasn't seen again.  Most of the other sightings were of birds that have been present for a little while and included the Great Northern Diver, 3 Great White Egrets (all north of the causeway), 9 Little Egrets and a female Peregrine.  South of the causeway 13 Red-crested Pochard plus a drake Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrid were in the Walgrave Bay.  One of the females was a leucistic bird and the female partnered with the hybrid lacked pale cheeks.

Other wildfowl included 6 Goosanders and 4 'redhead' Smew (Holcot Bay) and waders included a Green Sandpiper, a Dunlin, 3 Redshank and 50 Snipe.  Passerines included 2 Grey Wagtails, 10 Lesser Redpolls, 6 Siskins and 2 Ravens.  The gull roost provided good views of an adult Caspian Gull and 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls.

Away from Pitsford, the Hume's Leaf Warbler was still present at the private site this afternoon.


Eleanor and Neil

Great Northern Diver
Pitsford Res

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Pure Velvet!


Having seen the superb images provided by professional photographers of the long-staying drake Velvet Scoter at Eyebrook Reservoir, we just knew we had to go and see it!  Eyebrook is situated within Rutland just over the Northants border and we justified our trip with a visit beforehand to Eyebrook Wild Bird Food situated in the nearby village of Great Easton to collect plenty of bird food. It was here that we met Bess, a beautiful collie pup who enjoyed plenty of cuddles and Eleanor's pockets had to be searched as we left.......just in case, as it was certainly love at first sight!!

Anyway, back to birding.  Wow, what a stunning bird.  It's plumage glistened in the weak winter sunshine and it really looked like smooth rich velvet. I think everyone has been captivated by this bird's beauty. It is quite difficult to adequately describe the myriad of colours which blend together in this masterpiece.   You really must go and visit yourself.

On our walk to the dam we had noticed a small bird feeding station, and because of our interest and activities with our own feeding stations we checked out their feeders etc.  The feeders were attractive to numerous Tree Sparrows, which in turn proved attractive to a hunting male Merlin who whizzed through looking for his lunch !

On our return to our own county we visited Wakerley Great Wood hoping for rare crossbills, but sadly we were disappointed as this vast wood was eerily quiet. Birds of note were 50+ Siskins, several Marsh Tit and Nuthatches.  The most birds were located on the adjacent old airfield complex where there were large numbers of winter thrushes.

Time for lunch at the nearby cafĂ© at Top Lodge, Fineshade and as ever the home-made soup was delicious.  We always sit outside whilst we eat as there are always Red Kites flying low overhead, and today there were a couple of very vocal individuals, but the light was poor for photographs.

We walked the short distance to the wildlife hide and had made ourselves comfortable to watch the numerous birds on the feeders, when suddenly, chaos ......a male Sparrowhawk appeared right in front of us and gave a dramatic twist and turn as he chased the birds. We are not sure whether he caught anything before he disappeared from view.  However it was obvious from the absence of the tits etc that he was still nearby and suddenly he appeared and sat on the beam supporting the feeders. He was very close, but he realised that we were in the hide and flew off. Sadly no time for a photo which was a pity as he was another stunning boy, a lovely rich orange underside complimented by a blue-grey upperside.

We just had time to look at Blatherwycke Lake before the light faded. Here we saw a Water Rail, a Kingfisher and a Barnacle Goose.  There were not as many birds present here as normal, possibly as a result of nearby pheasant shooting which had been ringing out for a while.

Our final bird of the day was an adult Peregrine sheltering from the rain on a building on the outskirts of Corby.


E & N


Friday, 20 December 2013

"Not a partridge in a Pear Tree but a diver by the Holly Tree!"

This morning the Great Northern Diver was showing extremely well near the Holly Tree at Pitsford Reservoir and was literally only a few feet away........guess who hadn't brought the camera?  The bird looked stunning yet strangely prehistoric with it's feathers looking like an armoured suit of scales and a piercing red eye.

I had parked in the Moulton Grange car park and on my walk back I bumped into 2 Crossbills, 12 Siskins, 2 Ravens and at least 3 Little Egret.

A quick visit to a few of the numerous feeding stations we are maintaining provided good views of common woodland birds, namely Nuthatches and assorted tits.

The Humes Leaf Warbler remains in situ.

A very muddy walk around Sywell Country Park produced very little, apart from 2+ Crossbills, 10 Siskins, 3 Jays and a Red Kite. I did notice that cars were being checked in the car park for a valid permit/paid ticket today and there would have been a couple of unhappy folk when they got back to their cars to find a parking notice served!  Please be warned.

This afternoon back at Pitsford Res, there was a single Great White Egret, 3 Black Swans and a group of 6 Goosander all north of the causeway.

The week-end doesn't look too promising weather wise....but you never know ! Anyway we will be undertaking the WeBs count at Pitsford on Sunday come rain or shine (and probably both)!



Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ditchford WeBs count


The Hume's Leaf Warbler was heard calling at the private site in the county this morning.

Several Bramblings were waiting for me in the bushes at Harrington Airfield and no doubt came down on to the seed after I left!

Today was the WeBs count at Ditchford GP and it was a bit of a slog in the heavy mud after last night's rain.  Up to two thousand big gulls were circulating west of Ditchford Lane, some in fields and others bathing in the flooded gravel pits.  There was a constant to and fro from nearby Sidegate Landfill and it was tempting to spend all day watching them continually moving around.  However there was a count to be done and I had to tear myself away without finding a big white-winger!

The only birds of note seen included 2 Egyptian Geese, a drake Scaup, 2 'redhead' Smew, a drake Red-crested Pochard, a first year Caspian Gull, a Woodcock, a Green Sandpiper, 3 Kingfishers, 5 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Water Pipit and 10 Siskins.

We just had time to nip down the road and locate the 3 Long-tailed Ducks on Mary's Lake at Earls Barton GP.  They were showing well until at least 3.25pm.


Neil M

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Some local images...


Just a couple of images (below) taken locally during the last week (including of course a festive Robin)...

Merry Christmas!

E & N

Scotland Wood

Drake Wigeon
Pitsford Res

Ugly ducklings?
First year
Mute Swans
Pitsford Res

Adult Common Gull
Pitsford Res

Laying in wait
and hiding at the
same time!

First year
Black-headed Gull
Pitsford Res

It's windy out there!


An excursion in to Brixworth Country Park this afternoon provided a flock of 6 Crossbills in small conifers on the north side of the park.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res didn't provide a gull of note; the Great Northern Diver was viewable distantly in The Narrows by The Holly Tree, and a Grey Wagtail was about.


E & N

Pitsford am


A breezy and cool wander at Pitsford Res this morning nevertheless confirmed the continuing presence of quite a number of interesting birds.  The Green Sandpiper remains on the floodwater in the horse field below the dam, the Great Northern Diver was again present close to The Holly Tree as was a drake Scaup and a pair of Smew.  Half a dozen Siskins and 2-3 Redshank were mobile south of the causeway and a male Peregrine was also covering a large area.  Scanning north of the causeway provided 2-3 Great White Egrets, the 3 Black Swans still and a Redshank.


Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Out in the sunshine


A ringing session today at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate was good if you like the tit family!  I had anticipated erecting two nets in the wood but quickly realised that a solitary forty foot net (in length) was all that was required to catch 65 birds!  The more interesting birds included a Goldcrest, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Tit, three Marsh Tits and thirteen Coal Tits (the latter species reflecting the amount of conifers in the wood).  A Blue Tit already bearing a ring wasn't originally a local bird.

Other birds noted in this woodland area included a Raven, a redpoll sp and three Woodcock.

However today was all about enjoying the still and sunny weather before the return of more wind and rain for the remainder of the week, and Eleanor notched up two Ravens  and two or three Siskins near Beck Dairy, Cottesbrooke and half a dozen redpoll sp below Hanging Houghton whilst out running.

A visit to Harrington Airfield with more seed attracted a dozen Bramblings at the concrete track entrance again.

This afternoon a yomp around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell provided views of a Short-eared Owl, two Barn Owls, the pair of Stonechat still, three Lesser Redpolls and plenty of winter thrushes which have now pretty much stripped the majority of the berries.


Neil M

Monday, 16 December 2013

Hidden diver!


A wander out with Bazra this morning in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton yielded a continuation of now regular sightings of the wintering female Peregrine, two Ravens and the resident mostly all-white Common Buzzard.

A couple of excursions to Pitsford Reservoir in blustery and wet conditions failed in an effort to connect with the Great Northern Diver, even though it was still present.  A 'redhead' Smew, 7 Little Egrets and a sudden large increase in the numbers of roosting Great Black-backed Gulls had to do instead!


Eleanor and Neil

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Ringing at Kelmarsh Hall


A wild bird ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall over the week-end provided over 100 captures mostly of common woodland birds with Blue Tits dominating.  However birds a little out of the ordinary and a special privilege to handle included singles of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Goldcrest and Collared Dove.  One of the Great Tits carried a ring not originating from local ringers and represents a 'control' from elsewhere, the second on-site during this period.  A single Siskin attempted a little singing in the mild conditions and was preceded by singing Mistle Thrush, Great Tit and Coal Tit presumably all stimulated by the mild and almost spring-like conditions early this morning! 

Re-trapped Goldfinches included birds from the 2012/2013 winter suggesting that at least some of them demonstrate regional and specific site fidelity.  Are they the same birds we see breeding here in the summer or are they wintering birds from somewhere else?  As always with ringing, it tends to throw up just as many questions as providing answers!

Late this afternoon a single Woodcock flew over the road between the villages of Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell.


Neil M

Pitsford produces ...!!

It was a bright and breezy walk at Harrington Airfield this morning . The only birds of note being 4 Brambling sitting very quietly in the bushes at the shooting wall and a Red Kite over.
I decided that Pitsford reservoir had been rather neglected by us both, so after coffee I headed off there. My heart sank when I saw the amount of activity at the sailing club and I nearly drove on, but decided that I might as well walk across the dam.  I'm glad that I did as the first bird I looked at was a Great Northern Diver, or at least that is what I thought!! The bird in question dived and it seemed an age before it reappeared. All I could find were Cormorants, so this set seeds of doubt, but then the Great Northern Diver appeared again and as I watched it swam towards grange bay, phew.
Next stop was the causeway. By this time it was raining and quite windy, but feeling quite hopeful I walked down the big side to the gorse bushes.  On scanning I could see the huge "aircraft carrier" alias Great Northern Diver heading my way.
There was a male Scaup near the holly tree, 4 Redhead Smew in the catwalk bay and a further 2 drake Smew flying around.
Despite being wet and windblown I checked the small side. There were 2 Great White Egret viewable at the same time, at least 8 Red Crested Pochard, 2 Goosander, 3 Black Swan, 2 Redshank, 20 Snipe and Black Tailed Godwit.
The Hume's Leaf Warbler remains at the private site where it was heard calling but not seen.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A few bits and pieces


The Hume's Leaf Warbler was still present at the private site today but showed only briefly.

The pair of Stonechat were still present at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon as was a Barn Owl, 2 Red Kites and 3 Ravens.  A Grey Wagtail and a Woodcock were along the Brampton Valley Way near Draughton.

A Raven and 2 Bramblings were present at Kelmarsh Hall.


E & N

Friday, 13 December 2013

Gloomy afternoon


This afternoon and a wander in gloomy conditions at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell provided views of a Barn Owl, 2 Ravens, a Woodcock and a pair of Stonechat.

The lights went out early at Pitsford Res too, but it was possible to see a few birds north of the causeway which amounted to 2 Great White Egrets, 3 Black Swans and 12 Goosanders.


N & E

Feeding Stations


Well this morning was back to reality with visits to the majority of the wild bird feeding stations to top up feeders and add extra food.  Despite the relatively mild conditions the food has been disappearing fast!  A Woodcock flushed up at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) and a vocal Raven flew through the wood.  A juvenile female Peregrine was chasing Woodpigeons in the fields between Scotland Wood and Maidwell village.  I left her perched in an ash tree waiting for her prey to return after she had frightened them all away!

At least one Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Sewer Works and Eleanor counted about ten Bramblings on the seed at Harrington Airfield this morning.

The Hume's Leaf Warbler was heard calling at the undisclosed private site, this being it's eighth day in residence.

A mid-week ringing session by Dave Francis at Pitsford Res provided 70 birds, the majority of which were new birds.  These new individuals included a sudden influx of 23 Greenfinches plus 5 Goldfinches, 5 Tree Sparrows, 5 Yellowhammers, 2 Redwings and 2 Moorhens.


Neil M

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Dull Day !

Sadly not much time for birding today. I ran around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir in the fog, so struggled to see very much. The only birds of note being 4 Little Egret, 2+ Redshank and a very vocal Water Rail.
I managed to persuade my friend to meet at Harlestone Garden Centre, with a view to walking in the Firs after our Christmas shopping spree!!.  There were at least 2 Crossbills flying around calling, 30+ Siskins and several Redpolls flying over as we walked.
So after the excitement of yesterday, it was a rather dull day.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Hume's on show


Today was the day when the Hume's Leaf Warbler site was opened up for chaperoned access.  The bird was heard calling at 8am on a cool and murky start of the day and the bird was only seen fairly fleetingly in grey conditions for the first couple of hours.  Thankfully it remained vocal which aided locating it again and again.

As the day very slowly warmed up, the bird provided longer observations and at times showed rather well with all 70 plus observers seeing the bird.

Our thanks go to John Showers and Phil Jackman for their help in assisting with the day's events and giving up their time in often cold and dank conditions.

Donations by visiting birders ensured that £248 was provided for a Grade 1 listed local restoration project on-site.

A very big thank-you to all visitors for their impeccable behaviour and helping each other to stay on the bird which was a task in itself!

If the bird winters it is hoped to run a similar event in January 2014, on this occasion at a week-end.  This is naturally dependent on local conditions etc, and the event will be advertised on this blog site and linked local sites.

Eleanor visited Blueberry Farm last thing this afternoon before the mist returned and notched up 2 Red Kites, 2 Woodcock and a Barn Owl.


Neil M

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tuesday Tidings !!

I decided to start my day with a run around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir. It was barely light when I started off and initially I flushed numerous "dozy" passerines out of the bushes and from the track !!  There were 2 Great White Egret together at the back of the Pintail Bay. However I noticed that the water level is now slightly higher and that water is being actively pumped in, which may make this bay less favourable for these birds.  Two drake Smew were in the Catwalk Bay.  As you can see I managed to spot all the "white" birds !!.
I had a small flock of Crossbills fly over calling as I reached the causeway and later I accidently disturbed them from the trees in the Catwalk Bay. Must be worth a closer look for the rarer two barred or parrot crossbill.
Other birds included 4+ Redpolls, 10 Siskin and Grey Wagtail.

Mid morning found me feeding the birds at Harrington Airfield. I only fed them yesterday but know that I have a couple of busy days ahead, so thought I'd better keep the birds topped up.  When I arrived at the entrance there was not a single bird to be seen or heard , but when I checked the ground I could understand why ?  as not a scrap of food left !!! It is a wonder any of the birds could fly after eating the amount I put out yesterday.
I fed them and did a short circuit round the airfield, which seemed quiet.  When I returned to my car the track and nearby bushes were alive with birds, including 10+ Brambling, some of which are in stunning plumage.

We maintain a number of small feeding stations in nearby local woods and other locations and one of many jobs today was to go and top up all the feeders.  So I took my handsome assistant and headed into the woods.  Again plenty of birds around, with Nuthatches, Marsh Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Siskins being very vocal.  My assistant very kindly flushed out 3 or 4 Woodcock in Scotland Wood, as well as a lovely Roe Deer.
There were also 2 Raven and Red Kite in the area.

I checked the area where the Hume's Leaf Warbler was found and after a good 30 mins of searching it started to call and showed quite well for short periods at a time.
Neil has arranged access to this site for tomorrow.  Please see previous blogs for details.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 9 December 2013

Blueberry Farm


Eleanor took a wander around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon, the site attracting 2 Ravens, 2 Red Kites, 1-2 Barn
Owl(s) and a pair of Stonechat...


Neil M

Hume's still present


This morning the Hume's Leaf Warbler was still present at the restricted access site, hopefully with a view to remaining until at least Wednesday when viewing arrangements are being put in place - please see previous blogs for details.  However the bird showed poorly today and for much of the time could only be heard calling.

At Harrington Airfield this morning one of the Short-eared Owls was still in residence and a dozen or so Bramblings were mobile (with many of them on sown game cover behind the bunker alongside the concrete track).  The Golden Plover flock was flighty and mostly distant.


Eleanor and Neil

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Glauc en-route to breakfast!


This morning a number of the Northants Ringing Group set up a ringing demonstration on the new Wildlife Trust reserve called Irthlingborough Lakes (part of the Ditchford GP complex).  Over seventy birds were captured, none of which were particularly unusual but a good range of species provided an opportunity for people to see wild birds close-up which is always a privilege.

Whilst we were there a 1st year Glaucous Gull flew west over the pits at 10.10am, no doubt on its way to Sidegate Lane Landfill.  A Grey Wagtail, a Kingfisher, a redpoll sp and a couple each of calling Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler were the only other birds out of the ordinary.

This afternoon the Hume's Leaf Warbler from the last few days was again showing on and off and calling well.


Neil M

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Hume's Access


Should the Hume's Leaf Warbler be present on-site during this coming week it is planned to provide escorted access on Wednesday 11th December 2013.

It is planned to accommodate three time slots of  9am, 11am and 1pm.

Should you wish to attend please advise me by email:-


Please indicate which time slot you would prefer.

On confirming the appointment I will provide a rendezvous point and my mobile number.  Please be advised that there may be a delay in me being able to respond.

I will visit the site early on Wednesday to establish if the bird is still present and update Birdguides and northantsbirds.com accordingly.  It is therefore advisable to monitor these websites on Wednesday for any relevant news.

Anyone booking for the 9am time slot is advised to be on-site in any event (the disadvantage of this early slot is that it may not be possible to confirm the presence of the bird by this time).

Future access after this date may not be possible.

Thank-you for your patience.

Neil McMahon

Raptors and owls!


A visit to Brixworth Sewage Works today provide views of a Peregrine, and two Grey Wagtails amongst quite a flock of Pied Wagtails.

Myself and Baz fed the birds at the start of the track at Harrington Airfield, and it wasn't long before at last 6 Bramblings appeared. There is quite a lot of fallen leaves on the ground which makes it rather a challenge picking out the Bramblings from the orange and gold colours of these leaves.

We flushed a Woodcock and 2 Short-eared Owls on our walk.  I suspect that the Short-eared Owls are very recent arrivals judging by their flighty action.

There were 2 Red Kites over Walgrave village, seen as I opened my parents' front door, after I had visited them.

Poor Baz really wanted a snooze this afternoon, but I had other ideas !!! It was such a glorious afternoon and I couldn't miss the opportunity of a good walk around the Blueberry Farm complex.
There was a tractor ploughing which attracted large numbers of gulls, corvids, Starlings and winter thrushes.  They were very vocal and a real test for my ears!!!  Anyway it wasn't long before there were calls of alarm and chaos as a female Peregrine whizzed through, closely followed by 2+ Ravens.

When I reached the summit of the large field I loitered awhile to give Baz a rest and there was a fantastic sight of 3 Red Kites, the resident white Common Buzzard, a Raven and a Short-eared Owl all circling around in the air together, with the Raven and kites being very vocal.  It really was a beautiful scene.

Other birds on our walk included a Barn Owl, Woodcock and a pair of Stonechat.



Hume's Leaf Warbler


The apparent Yellow-browed Warbler from yesterday was seen today and primarily as a result of it's call has now been identified as the far rarer Hume's Leaf Warbler.  This used to be treated as a race of Yellow-browed but is now regarded as a full species in its own right.

Access to the site remains restricted, but if the bird remains efforts will be made to provide an opportunity for chaperoned access in the near future.


Neil M

Images courtesy of
Neil Hasdell

Friday, 6 December 2013

Winter Woodcock & Co


Yesterday (Thursday) and a blustery walk at Harrington Airfield was enough to see two Woodcock and about ten Bramblings.

Today (Friday) and two visits to Blueberry Farm, Maidwell provided observations of a female Peregrine, a Barn Owl, two Red Kites, 2+ Ravens, two Woodcock and a pair of Stonechat.  Hundreds of Fieldfares remain on-site.

A Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling at a private site today - efforts will be made to try and locate the bird tomorrow and if it is still present small numbers of birders may be able to visit the site by way of restricted and escorted access.

Pitsford Res continued to hold birds of interest today, two drake Smew, a Goosander and a Great White Egret were visible from the dam and birds on show from the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station included two Great White Egrets, eight Red-crested Pochard, four 'redhead' Smew, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Redshank.

A ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall today provided 95 captures which included plenty of tits, a Nuthatch, three Bullfinches, thirteen Goldfinches, a Treecreeper and nine Blackbirds.  A Woodcock was seen on our initial arrival.


Eleanor and Neil

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

It's becoming colder...


A day of chores today meant that we were both out of action for much of the time.

I noticed a Grey Wagtail at Pitsford Quarry this morning and later there was a Red Kite circling over Hanging Houghton village.

Whilst at Pitsford Res restocking and organising the feed station at the Old Scaldwell Road, I noted the long-staying Black-tailed Godwit, the Bar-headed Goose and at least 6 Red-crested Pochard in the Scaldwell Bay.

A short birding session at Ravensthorpe Res this afternoon in plummeting temperatures failed to find much of note, the highlights being a Grey Wagtail, a Kingfisher and a Water Rail.


Neil M

Tuesday, 3 December 2013



Today on my early morning run there were 2+ Bramblings, a Grey Wagtail and 2 Ravens near Beck Dairy, Cottesbrooke.  I think that I gave the pair of Stonechat [at the southern end of Blueberry] a fright as it was barely light when I ran past them as they perched on the brambles next to the track!!

Whilst drinking my coffee at home and recovering from my run I had 2 Crossbills, 6 Siskins and probably the same 2 Ravens over the garden.

I found myself running errands around the Wellingborough area so I took Bazra and enjoyed a very pleasant stroll around Sywell Country Park.  It is quite a favourite walk of mine and I think a rather under-watched place.  The autumn colours were quite stunning, mind you so were the birds as I coincided my walk with a brief spell of sunshine.  Two 'redhead' Smew, a Water Rail, a pair of Stonechat, 10+ Lesser Redpolls and 50+ Siskin certainly brightened up the day.

One of my aims for today was to visit Earls Barton and hopefully photograph the 3 Long-tailed Ducks present on Mary's Lake.  I do not remember seeing three of these birds together in the county before and they certainly looked quite spectacular and were showing well - diving, preening, flying and loafing around.  Sadly the light was pretty poor this afternoon.......well that's my excuse for my poor attempts at photographing them!



Monday, 2 December 2013

Feeding the birds


Eleanor's walk at Harrington Airfield this morning failed to find much of note, but a dozen Bramblings were on the seed with other birds by the main entrance.

After a short period of bird ringing in the garden this morning I spent much of the day visiting and re-stocking wild bird feeding stations nearby.  Three Woodcock were noted in Scotland Wood, a private site on the Kelmarsh Estate.


Neil M

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Watch out for European Immigrants!


A ringing session held in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Res provided over sixty birds of a variety of species.  Quite a number of Blackbirds included a female bearing a Dutch ring, further proof that many of the Backbirds around at the moment are transient European birds looking for suitable winter quarters.  A male Sparrowhawk was the highlight for many, these fierce and undaunted little predators always demand respect and generate just a little awe.  A Lesser Redpoll was also caught together with a Willow Tit and a couple of Redwings plus six tiny Goldcrests.

Other birds noted in and around the Walgrave Bay included nine Red-crested Pochard, a Kingfisher, a couple more redpoll sp and about six Siskins.

A still and cold Blueberry Farm yielded a hunting Barn Owl and two Stonechats this afternoon and a Peregrine was reported.


Eleanor, Neil H and Neil M


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Week-end foray


Birds noted at Pitsford Reservoir today included 2 Great White Egrets, at least 16 Red-crested Pochard, 2 Redshank, a drake Pintail south of the causeway and a Woodcock.

Blueberry Farm continued to host 2 Stonechat, 2-3 Woodcock, 2 Ravens, a Barn Owl, 2 Red Kites, a female Peregrine and still large numbers of winter thrushes.

At least ten Bramblings were on the seed at Harrington Airfield, at the concrete track entrance off the Draughton Road.  Small numbers of fidgety redpoll sp were present at all three sites.


Eleanor, Neil H and Neil M

Friday, 29 November 2013

Dank afternoon!


A dull and dank afternoon failed to inspire, additional birds at Pitsford Res visible from the yacht club amounted to a Great White Egret, 4 Little Egrets and a Yellow-legged Gull.  It was also rather samey at Blueberry Farm with a Barn Owl and the pair of Stonechat being the only birds of note.  Hundreds of noisy 'chacking' Fieldfares there were in their element - plenty of berries and nice thick hedges to roost in.


N & E

Plenty of Goldeneye are
now present at Pitsford Res
including many fine drakes.

Egrets & Co


This morning I took a wander in to the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res.  The bird highlights were 1-2 Great White Egret(s), 13 Red-crested Pochard (still including the leucistic drake), 13 Pintail, a drake Goosander, 3 Black Swans, several Little Egrets, a Dunlin, 2 Redshank and a few Golden Plover.  At least one Marsh Tit is regularly at the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station these days and today a Willow Tit was by the James Fisher Hide.

Eleanor flushed a Woodcock along the Brampton Valley Way, again by the Spratton crossing, and 2 Bramblings were also along the Way below Brixworth.

Good numbers of common birds were at the concrete track entrance of Harrington Airfield this morning, many of them bathing in the puddles there.  Birds coming down for the seed at the same place included 8 Bramblings.


Neil M

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Birds setting their stall out for winter.


This morning a scan at Ravensthorpe Reservoir provided views of the still present leucistic female Red-crested Pochard and a Raven proclaiming its territory.

A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning confirmed the presence of hundreds of Fieldfares stripping the berries off the hawthorns.  Also present were two Red Kites, 4 Bramblings and a Chiffchaff.  Fly-overs included 2+ redpoll sp and a Grey Wagtail.

A single Grey Wagtail was present in Hanging Houghton village.  Single Woodcock were present at Kelmarsh Hall and Scotland Wood.

Birds noted at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon included a Barn Owl, 2 Woodcock, 2 Grey Partridges, a pair of Stonechat, 2-3 Red Kites and over-flying finches included 5 Bramblings and 2+ redpoll sp.

Scanning from the yacht club at Pitsford Res this afternoon provided views of two fishing Great White Egrets, four Little Egrets and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls.


Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Brampton Valley and beyond...


Today Eleanor spent some time locally, starting with a run along Merry Tom Lane, along the Brampton Valley Way and around Cottesbrooke to Hanging Houghton.  Birds en-route included about 6 Bramblings near to Brixworth, a Woodcock along the BVW towards the Spratton Crossing, 2-3 Crossbills between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton (Gamboro' Plantation) and 2 Ravens below HH.

A visit to Brixworth Country Park provided views of 16 Lesser Redpolls by the hide, at least 2 Bramblings and another Woodcock.  A walk at Harrington Airfield confirmed the continuing presence of 4+ Bramblings by the shooting wall.

In the meantime Dave Francis was completing a ringing session at the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir, the overall session providing 80 birds, with just over half of the birds being new.  Ringing has helped us to confirm that this year at least 166 new Tree Sparrows have made use of the foodstuffs which is provided year-round.

New birds included a Moorhen, 3 Redwings, 6 Blackbirds, 4 Yellowhammers, 6 Tree Sparrows and 10 Greenfinches.

Egrets noted south of the causeway this afternoon included four Little and two Great Whites.


Neil M

Monday, 25 November 2013

Pitsford WeBs Count


Today was taken up completing the monthly count of water-birds present at Pitsford Reservoir.

Three or four Great White Egrets were again present - it still has not been possible to see all suspected four birds at the same time!  One showed particularly well just off the causeway this afternoon, causing a small gathering of curious on-lookers taking photos.  Possibly as many as 15 Little Egrets were present.

Good numbers of waterfowl were present, the highlights being 11 Goosanders, a drake Smew (Holcot Bay), a Black-necked Grebe (near yacht club), 10 Pintail and 24 Red-crested Pochard (plus an extraordinary drake RC Pochard x Mallard hybrid)!  Less authentic species included the Bar-headed Goose still and three Black Swans.

Waders were well-represented - a single Black-tailed Godwit, 4-5 Redshank, 40 Snipe, a Grey Plover and a Common Sandpiper.

Other birds included an adult female Peregrine, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, two Kingfishers, 12 redpoll sp, a couple of Siskins, a Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff.  One of the adult Great Black-backed Gulls present has learnt to catch fish by diving in to the shallows in a similar manner to a Gannet - the Scaldwell Bay is its usual fishing haunt.

One of the many Little Grebes present suffered predation in the jaws of a large Pike in the Pintail Bay - probably a regular but rarely witnessed event.  The Little Grebe clearly saw the underwater predator because it was sounding the alarm and tried to take evasive action but to no avail.


Eleanor & Neil

Red Fox and escort!

First year Great Crested Grebe


Drake Teal

Bar-headed Goose


Drake Smew

Great White Egret

Little Egret

Little and Large!

Vanity is a terrible thing -
he/she clearly admires the reflection!