Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Reservoir birds


At Pitsford Res this afternoon, just before 1pm, a flock of 13 Arctic Terns arrived and flew around the reserve for several minutes, but then disappeared high north-east.  Other birds north of the causeway included the 2 Oystercatchers and a Red Kite.  A flock of about 40 Carrion Crows were by the dam, taking advantage of a major fly hatch from the waters.

A walk around Ravensthorpe Res this afternoon provided a Common Sandpiper and an adult Yellow-legged Gull (please see below images).

An update from the ringing at Stortons GP on Sunday was that some 33 birds were caught which included safely returned ringed birds (and old friends) from previous years in the shape of Sedge and Reed Warblers and Whitethroats, all trans-Saharan migrants.


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull
Ravensthorpe Res.
A succession of images
of the same adult bird.

Local patch observations


A circuit at Harrington Airfield this morning provided 2 Grey Partridge, 2 Ravens and a Wheatear.  The Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were in good voice.

The only birds of note at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) this morning were two singing Grasshopper Warblers.


E & N

Distant Raven
Harrington Airfield

Nosey livestock!
Hanging Houghton

Hanging Houghton

Monday, 29 April 2013

Cowslips and Commas


A pleasant day in the sunshine today providing there was shelter from the strong cool breeze.

After feeding the birds at Harrington first thing, it was off to the north east of the county for a wander around part of the Old Sulehay complex.  No birds out of the ordinary but a nice selection including the usual common warblers.  The second wave of wild flowers included carpets of Cowslips and more Primroses.

Scanning fields in the Oundle area failed to locate a migrant Dotterel, so on next to Thrapston GP where a circular walk around the Titchmarsh Reserve was called for.  Nine species of loudly-singing warblers drowned out most other birds, but a Nightingale sang from the other side of the river.  A Marsh Harrier flew over east at 1.30pm and at least 8 Hobby hawked insects alongside terns consisting of about 20 Common and a single Arctic.  Waders consisted only of 2 Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper.

The next venue was Stanwick GP which provided 2 Oystercatchers, 2-3 Little Ringed Plovers, a dozen Common Terns and 2 White Wagtails.  A quick stop at the Summer Leys reserve at Earls Barton GP gave an impression of little that was new.  Two drake Shelduck were arguing over the duck and the Black-headed Gulls were very noisy.  More obscure were on-territory Lapwing and Redshank.

The pair of Oystercatcher remain on the rafts at Pitsford Res.


Neil M

Early morning Fox
checking rabbit burrows
Old Sulehay

Titchmarsh Reserve

Titchmarsh Reserve

High-up Marsh Harrier
Titchmarsh Reserve.
Re-growing central pair
of tail feathers

Cowslip and Common Carder
Bumble Bee (Bombus pascuorum)
Titchmarsh Reserve.
My thanks to Nigel Lingley
for identifying the bee!

My companion for the day!

Titchmarsh Reserve

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Week-end ringing


Although not ideal conditions, ringers in the county have utilized mist nets at Stortons GP, Pitsford Res and Scotland Wood to catch and ring birds over the week-end.

Small numbers were caught at Pitsford during what will probably be the last targeted session at the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station until the autumn.  The session ensured that to date 124 new Yellowhammers have been caught and ringed there this calendar year plus 53 Tree Sparrows and 39 Reed Buntings.

Scotland Wood produced 58 captures which included five species of tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and a good showing of Chaffinch.  Other birds noted on-site included a Raven, 8 Siskins and 2 Lesser Redpolls.

Details of the captures at Stortons GP have yet to be received.

Despite a wind switch from the north to the south, it seems that it hasn't produced much in the way of new migrants as yet!


Neil M

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Fleeting glimpse...


A fleeting glimpse it was but the male Ring Ouzel again showed briefly at Harrington Airfield this evening!  Also present was a Hobby and 2 Wheatears...



A drop in temperature!


This morning there was a fine male Marsh Harrier at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, moving in a westerly direction (7.45am).  Other birds included a Barn Owl, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and a Cuckoo.  A Red Kite was present over Hanging Houghton.

At Sywell CP there were 4 Common Terns on the raft plus a couple each of Sedge Warbler and Yellow Wagtail.

At Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate), a single Crossbill was present this morning, together with a couple of Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll.


Eleanor and Neil

Friday, 26 April 2013

Salcey Wood Warbler


At Harrington Airfield this morning the male Ring Ouzel and 2 Wheatears and a Grasshopper Warbler were still present on the old airstrip at the first bunker from the chippings compound.

At Salcey Forest today there was a singing Wood Warbler at the very start of the walkway ascending up to the viewing tower (still present at 2.30pm).  A drake Mandarin Duck was on a pond somewhere in the wood, and 1-2 Raven(s) were also present.



Thursday, 25 April 2013

Back to county birding


A wander around Harrington Airfield this morning was enjoyable with a male Ring Ouzel showing on three occasions along the old airstrip, and presumably is the same long-staying bird which could have been present since March?  Other birds included a Cuckoo, a Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Wheatears and a Turtle Dove.  There were two 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers and a Cuckoo at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell today.

A visit to Pitsford Res provided views of an Osprey over the reserve, and 2 Common Sandpipers were on the causeway.

A couple of Siskins were at Scotland Wood this afternoon and Kelmarsh Hall still attracted a couple of Lesser Redpolls.



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

North Norfolk


This morning was spent exploring the beaches at Old Hunstanton and Titchwell on the North Norfolk coast, switching to heath-land at Dersingham Bog and Roydon Common in the afternoon.

There were good numbers of gulls, terns and waders on the sand bars at Old Hunstanton and visible migration was evidenced with fly-over Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and redpoll sp.  The gardens were full of singing Blackcaps.

At Titchwell, we were met by a singing Firecrest in the car park, which later showed well near to the feeding station and cafe.  Despite this little sprite singing loudly and showing well, all the visitors and birders were oblivious!

A walk along the raised path to the beach was, as always, very pleasant and bird-filled.  Standard fare included Marsh Harrier, still plenty of Brent Geese, Pintail, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Bearded Tit, Cetti's Warbler etc.  The beach held a variety of waders including Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling.

Dersingham Bog is normally a quiet spot but heavy machinery was on-site completing maintenance work which didn't make it too conducive for birding!  A short walk provided four species of raptor including Marsh Harrier, and also Stonechat, Grasshopper Warbler, Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.  We went on to Roydon Common which produced similar birds and Cuckoo, Grey Partridge and a single Woodlark.

On our way home this evening a quick stop at Polebrook Airfield provided 2 singing Nightingales, 3 Grey Partridge, a Turtle Dove, a Cuckoo, and a Lesser Whitethroat.  A drake Mandarin Duck was on a large puddle just inside Ashton Wold.


Eleanor and Neil



Black-headed Gull

Bar-tailed Godwit



The Brecklands


A day out today (23rd) in the Brecklands of Norfolk and Suffolk, with fine sunny and warm weather.

First stop was the small Norfolk town of Thetford, where a couple of Otters have been showing most days along the River Thet and Little Ouse.  We saw two animals which were active and completely ignored human activity (please see image below).  Birds included Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, common warblers etc.

A wander around Lynford Arboretum provided a singing Firecrest, Grey Wagtail, Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and common woodland birds - and Lynford Hall provided a decent cup of coffee too!  Lots of butterflies on the wing today including Orange-tip.  Also interesting that Common Buzzard has now colonised the Brecklands with quite a number seen during the day.

Next was a pleasant hike around open woodland near to Mayday Farm, part of the Thetford Forest complex.  The best birds were Woodlark, Crossbill and again plenty of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.  Deer were numerous, Muntjac and Roe being the most common.

An afternoon cup of tea at Brandon Country Park gave up another singing Firecrest, Brambling, Siskin and a Nuthatch collecting mud to finish its nest hole.

Scanning at Weeting Heath failed to locate any Stone Curlew; Marsh Harrier, Wheatear and Tree Pipit were suitable recompense.

Our final birding venue for the day was the impressive RSPB reserve at Lakenheath.  A walk along the raised footpath was productive with 2 Common Cranes, up to 4 Bitterns, lots of Marsh Harriers, a Whooper Swan, a Short-eared Owl, a Barn Owl, a Nightingale, a Grasshopper Warbler and a couple of Egyptian Geese.  A roadside Long-eared Owl was the final good bird of the day.


Eleanor and Neil

Grey Wagtail



Tree Pipit

Barn Owl

Monday, 22 April 2013

Grey and cool again!


Yesterday evening (21st), there were 2 Red Kites and 2 Barn Owls at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Also yesterday local ringers completed a short ringing session at Stortons GP, catching and ringing a few warblers.  Ringing operations there indicate that there are at least 7 Cetti's Warblers on-site currently (believed to be 4 males and 3 females).

I was out and about for much of the day today (22nd) but failed to connect with anything new or unusual.  In fact the highlight of the day was the kind donation of a home-made rhubarb crumble which was yummie!

Despite a good tramp around Harrington Airfield this morning, there seemed to be few new birds although the number of singing Willow Warblers had increased.  Four Wheatears adorned the bunkers and the Whitethroats are beginning to sing a little now.

A few each of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin were present at both Kelmarsh Hall and Scotland Wood.  Pitsford Res seemed unchanged with the 2 Oystercatchers, a Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, 2 Ravens and a Lesser Redpoll.

A couple of Lesser Redpolls, Tree Sparrows and several Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers persist in visiting our garden and trying to dodge the regular Sparrowhawk forays.


Neil M

Pied Wagtail
Pitsford Res

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Nice but not as good as yesterday!


At Harrington Airfield this morning the male Ring Ouzel was still present on the old airstrip, and still acting in a most unsociable manner and hiding for long periods.  Two Wheatears were also present.

At Pitsford Res this morning there was a ringing operation for a few hours at the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station which succeeded in capturing and releasing 34 birds, 21 of which were new.  Ten new Yellowhammers add to the impressive tally already caught there during the winter and spring and there were again small numbers of Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow.  Two warblers caught amounted to a Whitethroat, and a Sedge Warbler bearing an unfamiliar ring which should prove interesting once information comes from the Ringing Unit as to its original ringing venue.

Other birds noted in the same vicinity at Pitsford this morning included a Barn Owl, a Red Kite, a Common Tern, a Curlew, 2 Oystercatchers, a Common Sandpiper and small numbers of in-coming summer/passage migrants such as Sand Martin, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit etc.

Birds at Naseby Res this afternoon amounted to 3 Yellow Wagtails, a redpoll sp and a singing Willow Tit with nothing of note seen at Welford Res.


Eleanor and Neil

Yellow Wagtail
Naseby Res

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Bring on the sun!


Well I think we all deserved the sun today which was genuinely warm and penetrating, and accompanied with only with a light cool breeze.  

Yesterday evening (Friday 19th), Eleanor found a female Redstart in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, and went on to see the regular adult female Peregrine at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

This morning (Saturday 20th), and I completed a Common Bird Census around the reserve section of Pitsford Res.  Reasonable numbers of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are on-site now but there is clearly quite a few absent Blackcaps from the normal territories.  Variety was in the shape of a pair of Shelduck, 3 Goldeneye, 2-3 Oystercatchers, a Raven, 2-3 Crossbills, a redpoll sp, a Brambling, a Red Kite and 2 Common Terns.

The gorgeous sunshine brought forth quite a throng of insects including several species of butterfly.

Anyway whilst I was committed at Pitsford, Eleanor located a male Ring Ouzel at Harrington Airfield (second bunker), at least 4 Wheatears and a Red Kite, and then subsequently 2 female Ring Ouzels at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell in the cropped hay field near to the farmhouses.

This afternoon I visited Blueberry Farm but failed to re-locate the two Ring Ouzels; there were still quite a gathering of Common Buzzards and a Red Kite there.  On next to Harrington Airfield which provided 2 Wheatears, a pair of Grey Partridge and 4 Whitethroats.  I gave up on trying to find the male Ring Ouzel when it suddenly flew in to some bushes on the airstrip.  It was extremely skulking and then flew back towards the third bunker.

In the meantime Eleanor saw 2 Ravens at Great Brington and a Grey Wagtail, 4 Goldeneye and several House Martins at Ravensthorpe Res.  A quick visit to Hollowell Res was enough to find an Arctic Tern with 2 Common Terns and several common summer migrants.  A Polecat lay dead on the road nearby.


Neil M

Red Kite Blueberry Farm

Peacock butterfly

Awful images of a
challenging subject -
Ring Ouzel at Harrington

Friday, 19 April 2013

The sun is just around the corner!


This morning was spent visiting all the local feed stations where the food is still being consumed avidly.  Another sign of a cold and rather unforgiving Spring!

There were still a few Lesser Redpoll and Siskin in the Kelmarsh Estate woodlands as well as small numbers of singing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

At Pitsford Res a first year male Peregrine upset the local pair of Oystercatcher, but I'm sure they'll get over it!  A Brambling remains at the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station.  A small band of 10 House Martins feeding off the yacht club was a welcoming sight.

The garden here at Hanging Houghton continues to attract small numbers of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a couple of Tree Sparrow.

Here's looking forward to a sunny week-end!


Neil M

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Creatures of the Spring gale!


An overcast and wind-blasted Harrington Airfield produced very few birds this morning, a pair of Grey Partridge and 2 Whitethroats being the only birds of note.

Efforts were made to retrieve and anchor a wayward tern raft at Pitsford Res early this afternoon and whilst we were at it we checked on the Cormorant colony which now numbers 36 active nests, the highest number in recent years.  A pair of Oystercatcher remain on territory on one of the rafts.

At 3.25pm this afternoon, a female Merlin flew south at Hanging Houghton.

A couple of hours hiking around the Blueberry Farm complex this afternoon was extremely quiet, the passerines in particular being silent and retiring in the very strong wind.  Still plenty of Common Buzzards on-site which seem to be attracted to the healthy and currently active Common Toad population.


Neil and Eleanor


Cormorant on nest

Noisy lambs in field
adjacent to Pitsford Res!

Great Crested Grebe

Wind-blasted Collie!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spring sunshine


This afternoon a visit to Welford Res was mostly uneventful with a Red Kite and a Grey Wagtail being the best.  Naseby Res was exposed to the strong wind and the only birds noted were a White Wagtail and two Yellow Wagtails.  Nearby a flock of 73 Golden Plovers were in a field between the A14 and Carvells Lane.

The superb sunshine today ensured I was out and about well in to the evening, and a walk at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell was pleasant but the only bird of note was a single Whitethroat.


Neil M

Police helicopter
Welford Res

RAF Helicopter
over Blueberry Farm

Common Buzzards at
Blueberry Farm, Maidwell

A breezy affair!


Wandering around Hanging Houghton this morning produced an adult Peregrine ranging about and an Osprey over towards Pitsford Res at 8am.  The garden continues to attract small numbers of Lesser Redpolls and about five each of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer.  The Swallows have arrived in the village and there are now a couple each of singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

A couple of visits to replenish the feeders at the three feeding stations at Pitsford Res this morning didn't yield much that was different.  There was a White Wagtail on the dam and a Green Sandpiper on the muddy pools below the dam.  Both Marsh and Willow Tits continue to be attracted to the feeders in Christies Copse and a couple of Siskins seemed to be doing likewise.


Eleanor and Neil

A couple of shots of a male
Kestrel at the dam at Pitsford
Res.  One of a pair of birds taking
advantage of the windy
conditions to stall and hover whilst
hunting the ground below.

Pitsford Toad!

Monday, 15 April 2013

En-mass arrival


This morning the female Mandarin Duck was again on the brook in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and there were two Bramblings at Harrington Airfield at the concrete track entrance off the Draughton Road.  A couple of Siskins and 5 Lesser Redpolls were in the garden at Hanging Houghton this morning together with the usual buntings.

An excursion up to the Old Sulehay complex in the north-east of the county nicely confirmed that there had been a mass arrival of common summer migrants with good numbers of singing Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps throughout.  Two Ravens flew over from the direction of Bedford Purlieus, a Cuckoo was heard calling and there were about 8 Lesser Redpolls buzzing about.  The rain and sunshine has provided carpets of colour with emerging Primroses, Violets and Wood Anemone.

Blatherwycke Lake hosted 5 Shelduck, 2 drake Mandarin Ducks, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Black Swans, a Chinese Goose, 2 Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Siskins.  Nearby, Deene Lake attracted 8 Shelduck and a Barnacle Goose.

A further visit to Harrington Airfield this afternoon indicated fresh arrivals with 2 female Ring Ouzels briefly (flew from bushes on the airstrip to the shooting wall - not seen since), 8 Wheatears, a Red Kite and c45 Golden Plovers.


Eleanor and Neil

Black Swans

Chinese Goose

Red Kite