Friday, 31 May 2013

Scotland Day 5 (Wednesday 29th May)

Hi

Apologies for the delay in blogs and images.  The last couple of days has seen us out and about by 6am and not back in until 11pm, so there has been little precious time for updating the blog etc!

Wednesday was spent exploring the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in stunning weather.  A pre-breakfast walk in to the Invedruie Woodlands was sufficient to find Crossbill, Tree Pipit and the first of ridiculously large numbers of Spotted Flycatchers for the day.  Further woodland and moorland at Glenborrowdale hosted good numbers of day-flying moths and butterflies, most of which were too flighty to identify!  Wood Warbler, Redstart and more Tree Pipits and Spotted Flycatchers were the pick of the birds.  Cat and Pine Marten scats were located but no sightings of the animals themselves!

The hills and moors up here echo to the sound of calling Cuckoos.  It seems we are finding more in one day than I see in a whole spring back home!  We are more and more compelled to think that west Scotland is where all our summer visitors now live!  Virtually all the warblers are represented in good numbers.

The lighthouse and headland at Ardnamurchan Point is a useful sea-watch location and we watched a variety of seabirds venturing past - good numbers of rafting Manx Shearwaters were probably the best.  Birding in the end third of the peninsula yielded interesting passerines in the forms of Twite, Whinchat, Wheatear, Stonechat, Rock Pipit and others.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil



Wood Warbler


Hooded Crow

Meadow Pipit

Willow Warbler

Highland Cow


Red Deer

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Scotland Day 4

Hi

Today was spent driving from Dumfries and Galloway to the Ardnamurchan Peninsular.  As such we didn't experience a great deal of wildlife interest today.  Willow Warblers continue to cascade their songs wherever we go and Wood Warblers were trilling away alongside the A82 as we travelled along the length of Loch Lomond and the Trossocks.  The first apparent pure Hooded Crow of the trip was spotted against the stunning backdrop of Glencoe.  Carpets of Bluebells are frequently colouring the road verges and Lady's Smock and other common flowers abound.  Ardnamurchan wildlife to date includes plenty of Common Seals, Roe and Red Deer, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Sandpiper and the first of the midges!

Regards

Eleanor and Neil



Siskins
Ardnamurchan Peninsular.
Siskins are common and well-
spread throughout Scotland
and it is very much an every-day bird,
but I can't help but continually
stop and stare at these charismatic
 little finches!



Monday, 27 May 2013

Scotland Day 3

Hi

After two days of glorious weather, we paid for it today with very strong winds and heavy rain for most of the day!  Loch Ken and the Dee Marshes were extremely wet and birding was very difficult.  The hides and feeders at this site at least provided views of Nuthatch and Willow Tit.  The latter species is a rare bird in Scotland but a small population occurs along the Dee Valley and are among the most northerly birds in the UK.  Nuthatch was almost unknown in Scotland some 15 years ago, but this species is spreading north and west rapidly.

We visited the Bellymack Farm Red Kite feeding station in the driving rain and high winds.  Plenty of soggy Red Kites and other opportunists braved the weather but photography proved very challenging!  Some images feature under the new Tab 'Soggy Kites'.

A walk around Laurieston Forest at least shielded us from most of the rain but no birds of note were seen.

We finished at Threave, which is a Natural Trust reserve and is one of at least three sites locally which provide nesting opportunities for Osprey.  We saw the birds at relatively long range, with the male fishing nearby.  Despite the persistent rain, Willow Warblers sang all day wherever we were and is an indication that the bulk of the UK population now breeds north of the border.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Scotland Day 2

Hi

First thing this morning we motored up to the upland spruce forests blanketing the hills north of Dumfries.  Plenty of bird song indicated good numbers of common birds and many warblers finding a living on the edges of these plantations.  The best birds were Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Redstart.

After breakfast we drove west to the beautiful Wood of Cree.  This is an extensive oak woodland draped in moss and with an under-story of hazel and other shrubs, supported with birch, rowan, scrub and a mass of wild flowers.  Powerful burns cut through the landscape to add further diversity.  Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts sang from mostly hidden song-posts, but the Wood Warblers were a little easier.  Other birds included Nuthatch, Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher (seen at numerous sites today) and Grey Wagtail.

After reluctantly leaving this jewel of a reserve, we headed further west and then direct south to visit the Mull of Galloway.  This exposed headland is the most southerly landmass in Scotland - Northern Ireland was clearly visible from the windy cliffs.  Relatively small numbers of sea-birds breed here and we saw Gannet, auks, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag etc.  A male Peregrine put in an appearance and there was visible proof of successful breeding of Pied Wagtail and Stonechat.  Both Meadow and Rock Pipit song-flighted in the strong updrafts.

Our last venue for the day was the southern edge of Loch Ryan which held good numbers of loafing drake Eider, three species of tern, auks and Gannets, but little that we hadn't experienced earlier in the day.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil



Wood Warbler
Wood of Cree

Gannet
Mull of Galloway

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Scotland - Day 1

Hi

Today was spent driving up to Dumfries and Galloway and visiting a couple of sites as the start of a trip to West Scotland.  Like most of the UK it was bright, sunny and dry.  

Our first venue was a short stop at Mabie Forest, a Forestry Commission area south of Dumfries.  Common woodland birds and a stretch of the legs was all that was required and we then moved on to Southerness Point.  Here it was high tide and the pick of the waders roosting on the rocks were a couple of Whimbrel.  Good numbers of Arctic and Sandwich Terns were fishing in the Solway here and passing birds included Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill.  A small pod of Harbour Porpoise were relatively close in.

After dawdling around the emerging sands and rock pools, we headed off a little to the west to visit the RSPB reserve at Mersehead, generally a winter venue for the Barnacle Goose.  No Barnies today though, and common birds showing well included Lesser Redpoll, common warblers and small numbers of waterfowl and waders.

The weather forecast looks OK for tomorrow, and we hope to spend some time in the Stranraer area.

Regards

E & N



Lesser Black-backed Gull
Southerness

Ringed Plovers
Southerness

Sandwich Terns
Southerness

Chaffinch
Mersehead

Lesser Redpoll
Mersehead

Lapwing
Mersehead

Rook
Mersehead

Summer Leys

A much more pleasant day today, although I still had plenty of clothes on for a visit to Summer Leys.
Bird of the day was a Spotted Flycatcher in Kim's corner, a bird I have only seen once before on the reserve in almost the same location.  This was a year tick for me.
From the Pioneer hide there was a pair of Little-ringed Plovers holding territory on Round Island and a brief view of a Common Sandpiper on Rotary Island.
A Yellow Wagtail was on the grass behind Brayshaw's Bund catching insects.
There was no sign of any dragonflies on the Toad Pond: Hairy Dragonflies should be emerging shortly, hopefully before the long weekend is over.
A couple of Common Spotted Orchid plants were visible near to the Pioneer Hide but neither was in flower.

    Neil H.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Raven versus Crow

Hi

No surprise perhaps but little to mention today with such gruesome weather locally!

A pair of Raven over the village here at Hanging Houghton this morning caused consternation among the local Carrion Crows and they were rapidly 'escorted' out of the parish!

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Kingfisher surprise

Hi

No birds of note today but I was a little surprised to come across 2 Kingfishers at the brook in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.  They often appear later in the summer during the post-breeding dispersal period, but I'm guessing these must be breeding not too far away!

This week we have been gradually dismantling the local wild bird feed stations on the Kelmarsh Estate and adjusting the ones at Pitsford Reservoir for the summer.  Never before have we fed so much food to so many birds so late in the season!

Regards

Eleanor

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Spring to summer

Hi

I started the day padding about on the Old Sulehay site, north-east of Oundle.  Very dull and uninspiring weather and it took a little while for the birds to sing properly today.  The birds were mostly predictable but included a late redpoll sp and two 'purring' Turtle Doves were a treat, with one of them displaying nicely.  A Spotted Flycatcher was at nearby Fotheringhay village.

A visit then to Thrapston GP and a circular walk around the Titchmarsh Reserve again.  The only bird out of the ordinary was an Arctic Tern with Common Terns, but the Nightingale was still present and singing well (this time on the reserve itself).  Two or three Hobby were present and the walk was accompanied with constant warbler song everywhere.

A short walk around sections of Harlestone Heath and Harrington Airfield didn't provide any birds of note.  The only birds noted locally for yesterday were the regular Barn Owls and Grey Partridges at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Regards

Neil M



Turtle Dove
Old Sulehay

Female Banded Demoiselle
Thrapston GP

Male Banded Demoiselle
Thrapston GP

Hobby
Thrapston GP

Lady's Smock
Thrapston GP

Monday, 20 May 2013

Amazing migration

Hi

Some 24 birds were captured during a ringing session at Stortons GP yesterday morning and included a Garden Warbler and a Reed Warbler initially caught within minutes of each other at the same site back in 2011.  The considerable value of re-traps provides one of the interesting aspects of ringing and an opportunity of assessing site fidelity -  particularly amazing when its small bundles of feathers that have wintered in the African continent that then frequently return back to the same clump of scrub or reeds where first captured.  One of the many reasons why I find bird migration so amazing!

Today but it has been hard work finding anything.  A walk around Borough Hill CP (Daventry) located a singing Spotted Flycatcher but little else.  A Hobby hawking insects at Daventry CP was the best bird there and Ravensthorpe Res seemed even quieter!

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pitsford Ringing

Hi

An early morning ringing session at Pitsford Res today incorporated a Constant Effort Site census, in total catching and processing 50 birds.  Species caught included 2 Mallard, 5 Stock Doves, Kingfisher, Yellowhammer, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff.  Other birds noted included Raven and redpoll sp and the number of Common Terns seemingly intent on breeding on the rafts has gone up considerably the last couple of days to about 40 birds.  At least one Oystercatcher remains.

At Harrington Airfield this morning, birds noted included a Turtle Dove and a pair of Grey Partridge.

Some scanning from the garden this afternoon produced plenty of raptors enjoying the warm conditions and included three very high kites, one of which was a Red Kite.  The other two remained very distant and defied identification.

Regards

E & N



Jackdaw
Hanging Houghton

Goldfinch
Hanging Houghton

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Back to reality

Hi

Well after the purple patch in NN6 yesterday, today was back to reality with a bump!

I've made a couple of visits this morning to the area between Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton but I couldn't hear or see yesterday's Firecrest.  A similar story with the Nightingale near Maidwell too.  Unless they were particularly quiet this morning, it seems that both birds may have already moved on.

The only birds of note on this morning's rounds were at Kelmarsh Hall with 1-2 Siskin, a Raven and a singing Spotted Flycatcher.

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 17 May 2013

Roadside Firecrest

Hi

A cycle ride down to Pitsford Res this morning came to an abrupt halt when a Firecrest decided to sing from some conifers at the road-side!  This was between the villages of Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell, along the minor road that connects the A508 with Scaldwell village.  The bird was singing from a conifer belt that parallels the road at SP758728.  The bird was still present at 2.40pm this afternoon.

A Common Bird Census around the reserve section at Pitsford Res this morning was unremarkable, the scarcer birds being a Spotted Flycatcher, a Common Sandpiper and at least one Oystercatcher.  There are good numbers of Garden Warblers on-site now and it was good to see the first brood of young Great Crested Grebes.

At Harrington Airfield this morning there was a cream-crown Marsh Harrier which flew towards Kettering, two 'purring' Turtle Doves, a pair of Grey Partridge and a Wheatear.  Other birds of note included a Spotted Flycatcher in Maidwell village and a singing Nightingale along the Brampton Valley Way below Maidwell (south of the Draughton cross-roads).

This afternoon a wander around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell produced a Hobby, a Barn Owl and a Whinchat.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil

Muntjac Deer
Pitsford Res

Firecrest
between Scaldwell
and Hanging Houghton

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Garden surprise!

Hi 

This morning a male Marsh Harrier was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton at about 7.45am, flying up to the village of HH before disappearing.

This afternoon a Wheatear was also in the Brampton Valley between HH and Cottesbrooke.

Local ringer Chris Payne experienced a pleasant surprise today when he extracted a female Redstart from his mist net in the garden at Greens Norton (images attached)!

Regards

Eleanor




Female Redstart
courtesy of Chris Payne



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pitsford terns

Hi

This afternoon at Pitsford Res a migrant flock of terns included a dozen Common, 2-3 Arctic and 2 Black.  They were quite mobile moving up and down between the causeway and the dam during the course of the afternoon.  In addition the number of hirundines and Swifts increased considerably from this morning but despite plenty of scanning as we do every year, there was yet again nothing odd among them!  The two Oystercatchers remain but were also very mobile.

Regards

Neil M

So that's what a wader looks like?

Hi

A couple of hours this morning at Earls Barton GP in pretty wet and cold weather was made birdable due to the hides on the Summer Leys reserve.  Nine species of wader were on offer which included 2 Oystercatchers, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Ringed Plovers, a Little Ringed Plover, a Turnstone, 4 Redshank, 5-6 Sanderling and 15 Dunlin.  Plenty of big gulls about adding to the tension around the Black-headed Gull colony and Common Tern gathering.

A brief visit to Pitsford Reservoir this morning didn't produce anything of note, with moderate numbers of hirundines and several Swifts and Common Terns visible from the causeway.

Harrington Airfield provided singles of Wheatear and Whinchat this morning.

Regards

Eleanor & Neil

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

And then it rained!

Hi

Well a nice calm and pleasant sort of start to the day, gave way this afternoon to heavy rain which is due to last overnight and the first part of tomorrow morning.

This morning, before the deluge, Eleanor located 3 rather late Wheatears in the Brampton Valley between Cottesbrooke and Hanging Houghton.  A Red Kite was the pick of the birds at Hanging Houghton this morning.

I expect to be looking at some pretty sodden birds tomorrow!

Regards

Neil M

Monday, 13 May 2013

Stormy weather

Hi

Well what a stormy lot!  High winds, strong wind but at least there is some sunshine.  But I don't feel sorry for the observers just the birds!  These conditions are probably OK for birds such as Blackbird, Song Thrush and Robin with plenty of worms, slugs and snails about.  Here's just hoping that these stormy conditions subside before the majority of the fledgling tits and warblers hatch.  Strong winds and rain effectively washes their food off leaves and away (caterpillars and similar).

Some scanning from the causeway at Pitsford Res today provided a Red Kite and a Dunlin.

Further singles of Red Kite were noted at Hanging Houghton and near Kelmarsh Hall and two wind-blown Whinchats were at the southern edge of Blueberry Farm early this evening.

Regards

Neil & Eleanor


Swift
Pitsford Res

Stortons Ringing

Hi

An intrepid band of ringers did battle with the elements at Stortons Gravel Pits yesterday morning and managed some ringing before it became too windy.  A Water Rail caught and ringed is now one of several during the year and further evidence that this site is no longer just a wintering area.  The capture of a Kingfisher is unusual for this time of year and suggests it is breeding nearby.  Some good numbers of Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats is also welcoming.  Whilst on-site, other birds seen and heard included Hobby, Cuckoo and Little Egret.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 12 May 2013

SP55

Hi

Another BOS Long Day Count today, this time it was the turn of SP55 which is to the west and south of Daventry.  Not quite such an early start as yesterday found me at Fawsley Park.  It had been raining just before I arrived and the wind was strong and cold.  Again not ideal conditions and I struggled to find some of the smaller birds I was after.  Both Sedge and Reed Warblers were singing pre-dawn but otherwise it seemed relatively quiet.

Next was a walk up the hill to Badby Wood to complete a circuit of this pristine Bluebell wood.  Plenty of mammals about including Roe and Muntjac Deer, Fox and Hare.  The Bluebell carpet is extensive but is perhaps best on the southern and eastern outskirts.  Badby was also quiet for birds, many of the tits, Nuthatch etc are quieter now that they are laying and incubating.

Then back down the hill to Fawsley for a well-deserved coffee and second breakfast, even more enjoyable with a Little Owl showing nearby.

After a slow meander along the rustic lanes around Badby village, I trundled along to the Catesby area.  A dozen Ravens were mostly first year non-breeding birds and some big gulls in the fields included Lesser Black-backed and Herring.  A Cormorant in full nuptial plumage on one of the large ponds made me wonder if there is a secretive pair breeding nearby.

Half-way through the count and I just wasn't finding relatively common birds.  Eventually I found a single Kestrel and saw just one Sparrowhawk.  I blanked completely on Red-legged Partridge, Lapwing, Jay, Cuckoo, Kingfisher, Grey and Yellow Wagtail.

After scanning fields, copses and a few small lakes in this area I finished up at Mantles Heath and nearby Hen Wood.  Mantles Heath is another fabulous Bluebell wood but was quiet as the rain swept in from the south west and the count was over!

Eleanor remained local and found a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a Spotted Flycatcher in Cottesbrooke village with another Spotted Flycatcher at nearby Beck Dairy.  A single Cuckoo was the only bird of note at Harrington Airfield.

Regards

Neil M





Saturday, 11 May 2013

SP54

Hi

Today I crewed up with Mike Tubb and we completed a Banbury Ornithological Society Long Day Count in the 10km square SP54.  This area falls to the east and north of Middleton Cheney in the south west of the county.

With the forecast of rain in the afternoon, we elected to try a particularly early morning start in an effort to find owls and register calling birds under the cover of darkness.  In the strong wind and cool conditions it was a long time before we found anything!  By dawn we had logged 4 Tawny and 3 Little Owls and heard singing and displaying Lapwings and Skylarks.  At first light we positioned ourselves to try and and optimise the advantage of early morning but at only 5 Degrees Centigrade and a strong wind only the bigger birds were initially industrious.

As the day progressed and the species total climbed, we began to see quite an array of mammals in this relative wildlife-rich corner of Northamptonshire.  A number of Roe Deer showed well and Muntjacs seemed to be at every location.  Plenty of Brown Hares were visible in the fields.  Mike was particularly talented at locating Foxes in both field and copse.  This area has some fabulous areas of unimproved pasture and carpets of Lady's Smock (or Cuckoo Flower), Cowslip, Forget-me-Not and Primroses certainly provided plenty of colour on a sometimes dull and dank morning.

At one site we located an incubating Sparrowhawk (the only one we saw all day), and found a pair of Raven near Thenford and presumably a different pair at Thorpe Mandeville.  A vocal Spotted Flycatcher was also located at Thorpe and 1-2 were near Trafford Marsh.  Lesser Whitethroats were in good numbers and singing well but Garden Warbler completely evaded us.  Swift and Kingfisher were represented by just single birds and we failed to find a Cuckoo in the square this time.  Grey Wagtails were on-site at three potential breeding spots and Yellow Wagtails were on territory at three locations.  Unfortunately the breeding site for Meadow Pipit had been ploughed up and converted to cereals so we didn't find this species.

A male Peregrine was a nice surprise at Trafford Marsh.  Nuthatch was located at three sites and we enjoyed watching an adult Raven flying in and feeding two of four fledglings in tops of trees at one of the main locations in SP54.  We were fortunate to find Tree Sparrows present and presumably breeding at three distinct locations.

Regards

Neil M

Brown Hare
Thenford

Friday, 10 May 2013

Greenland Wheatear?

Hi

An early afternoon wander at Harrington Airfield provided a pair of Grey Partridge and a female Wheatear apparently showing characteristics of the Greenland race (large size, erect stance and posture, bright colouration, long wings displaying seven visible primary projections).  Please see a couple of images below...

Regards

Neil M







Thursday, 9 May 2013

Damp Squib!

Hi

Hardly conducive conditions for finding migrants passing through the county today, but I tried with a pretty negative result.  So far May has been something of a damp squib with few birds being discovered out of the norm.  At least breeding birds are now busy in first attempts at nesting and there are Canada and Greylag Goose goslings at many of our water bodies now.  Also moderate numbers of Mallard ducklings and the Pheasants have been laying clutches ever since the first new greenery emerged.  Some early juvenile Blackbirds can be heard rather than seen, particularly in urban areas, and most of the tits are now laying and incubating.

At Pitsford Res this evening, a flock of 12 Common Terns north of the causeway quite quickly increased to 38 just before dusk.  The pair of Oystercatchers remain on their raft and there were a couple of hundred Swallows keeping low over the water in very windy conditions.

Regards

Eleanor

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Inspiration required!

Hi 

Despite spending lots of time out and about today it was hard work seeing anything of note.  Visits to Harrington Airfield, Pitsford Res and a couple of miles along the Brampton Valley failed to inspire.

This evening was better when an Osprey flew over Blueberry Farm at 6.15pm, seemingly on its way to Pitsford Res.  Other birds here included 2 Hobby, a Barn Owl and a singing Grasshopper Warbler.

Two Reed Buntings were still feeding in the garden again today.

Regards

Eleanor

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Great weather but no migrants!

Hi

Much of this morning was spent walking around two of the main sections of Old Sulehay, up in the north-east of the county.  Plenty of bird-song but no species out of the ordinary.  The next show of flowers, namely Bluebells, are beginning to look good there now.

Despite plenty of scanning, I still can't seem to find anything of note in the big fields around Hemington and Barnwell, not even any Wheatears hopping about.

On next to Thrapston GP and a circular walk around the Titchmarsh reserve again.  Standard fare included a Hobby, 30+ Common Terns, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and a Nightingale and really no evidence of on-going diurnal migration.  A brief visit to Fermyn Wood Country Park succeeded in seeing plenty of Great Crested Newts in the Long Pond but no butterflies of note yet.  And after yesterday's Bank Holiday weather, the cafe had sold out of ice-cream!

I spent the rest of the afternoon at a variety of spots north of Corby; the weather was smashing but the birds were all rather predictive.  Deene Lake held 2 Shelduck and a Common Sandpiper and Blatherwycke Lake hosted 6 Shelduck, a Black Swan, 2 Chinese Geese and 2 Oystercatchers.

A Barn Owl was on show at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this evening.

Regards

Neil M

Common Buzzard
against backdrop of
Blackthorn blossom.
Old Sulehay


Treecreeper
Old Sulehay

Sedge Warbler
Thrapston GP

Black-headed Gull
Thrapston GP

Great Crested Newt
coming up for air
Fermyn Wood Country Park

Monday, 6 May 2013

Pitsford CES

Hi

This morning heralded the first of the Constant Effort Site (CES) ringing sessions at Pitsford Res, which takes place in the Scaldwell Bay.  The general idea is that ringing takes place regularly at a site that remains much the same habitat-wise, with a consistent number of nets positioned in exactly the same manner during the relevant season and every year.  A number of schemes are managed up and down the country and it is a powerful tool in assessing numbers of adult and juvenile birds, breeding productivity and relative abundance and survival rates.  However all this means being at the ringing hut in the Scaldwell Bay for a 5am start!  On my cycle down there, a roadside Little Owl 'gave me the evil eye' whilst it was being mobbed by a Blackbird.

The local Cuckoo was on the go from before dawn and small numbers of common warblers were in song.  Some 50 birds were caught during the morning with half of them birds previously caught on-site.  Blackcap and Long-tailed Tit were the most numerous species, and among these two species there were relatively old birds, initially ringed in 2009.  Eight species of warbler sang from the bushes including a phyllosc singing both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler songs and sometimes mixing them together in the same delivery.  This isn't as unusual as it sounds; most years there are a couple of 'confused' birds that do this.  A single Siskin didn't stay long but a Tawny Owl was out hunting until mid-morning.

Harrington Airfield was very quiet this morning with no new birds of interest and the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton was much the same.

An evening walk at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell provided a brief view of the Short-eared Owl again, plus a Barn Owl and a Hobby.

Regards

E & N

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bank Holiday sunshine

Hi

A visit to the woods on the Kelmarsh Estate this morning was pleasant and a redpoll sp was at Sunderland Wood, a Siskin was at Kelmarsh Hall and a couple of Siskins were still at Scotland Wood.  Despite the warmer weather now, the woodland wild bird feeders are still being emptied rapidly and we are visiting every three or four days still to keep pace.  This is far later than last year.

We still have a few buntings visiting the garden and now 3 Tree Sparrows are regularly feeding on the seed.

A beautiful evening tempted us out to Blueberry Farm near Maidwell, and birds included a Short-eared Owl and at least one Hobby.

Regards

E & N

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Pitsford CBC

Hi

This morning was taken up completing another Common Bird Census around the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir.  No surprises with a very typical set of Pitsford birds, scarcer species being a Red Kite, a Raven, 2 Oystercatchers, a few Common Terns, 2 Kingfishers and 2-3 Lesser Redpolls.  Plenty of Greylags have taken to nesting on the vegetated rafts first introduced last year.  Still not many Garden Warblers on-site yet and more Blackcaps are expected.  A few butterflies emerged during the late morning sunshine which included Orange-tip.  Pitsford is not a great place for wild flowers but the annual show of several specimens of Snake's Head Fritillary are noteworthy and probably at about their best currently. 

Regards

Neil M


First year Red Kite
Pitsford Reservoir



Snake's Head Fritillary
Pitsford Reservoir



Friday, 3 May 2013

Spring status quo

Hi

Despite committing to the usual circuit at Harrington Airfield this morning we failed to find anything of note.  There were certainly more Whitethroats today and perhaps the main contingent has arrived now.

Three brief visits to Pitsford Res during the day to top up the feeders was uneventful.

At Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) this afternoon a Grasshopper Warbler was still 'reeling' and a Turtle Dove was present.

Regards

Eleanor and Neil


Pied Wagtail
Pitsford Res

The decline of small farmland birds

Hi

A thought-provoking and highly interesting presentation was delivered to members of the Northants Bird Club at their monthly meeting on Wednesday evening.  The talk was associated with the decline of small farmland birds, typically Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Linnet.  Dr Alan Larkman delivered the presentation, illustrating the evidence for his personal but well-evidenced views on why the small farmland seed-eaters are not increasing despite initiatives to help them.  He discussed the dynamics of why it is that large birds such as Pheasant, Woodpigeon, corvids etc have all increased since the mid-1970s but the small bio-mass birds that depend on smaller seed-types in a well-scattered format have seen a complete reverse in fortune.  Dr Larkman argued that despite a strong lobby to curb the numbers, the general increase in raptors did not adversely affect these dwindling species, and in fact there is some evidence that a healthy raptor population serves to improve the overall strength and resilience of small bird species.  

Not surprisingly, modern agricultural practises that are efficient and effective at reducing the all-important weed-seeds for birds was sited as the main overall negative factor affecting small farmland birds.  Not only is the amount of weed seed much less, but the insect food that is critical to nestling survival  is also much-reduced.  It seems that the productivity of nesting birds is reasonable and has actually improved, but the ability for birds to sustain themselves during critical 'bottlenecks' of low food availability means that they simply cannot survive.  We have all seen game crops and strips and even wild bird crops designed to provide help to these birds; excellent for the successful larger birds and even the small birds until the food effectively runs out at the end of January or February.  With no natural seed bank available until late summer, small birds then either move off if they are fit to do so or effectively starve to death.  It is then not surprising to witness birds such as Reed Buntings moving in to gardens during the latter part of the winter and spring - they are simply responding to food availability.

Dr Larkman is based in West Oxfordshire, which in many respects mirrors similar habitat to many areas of Northamptonshire.  His studies are based locally and he has collated research completed by others interested in the same area of work.  To provide evidence of his theories and also to satisfy his passion for small farmland birds, Dr Larkman and a band of volunteers maintain a variety of feeding stations to help support birds, particularly during the 'hunger gap' of late winter/spring.  His slides were just amazing with fabulous images of hundreds of Linnets, Yellowhammers etc all feeding together on carefully scattered seed, hanging feeders groaning under the weight of amassed Tree Sparrows and other telling images depicting what actually can be done to support our feathered friends.

For me, the presentation was hard-hitting, extremely compelling and above all inspirational.  I just hope that Alan is provided with the appropriate platform to convey his views which surely should affect the policy and execution of modern agricultural practises and European initiatives to support small farmland birds.  My thanks to Alan for a fascinating presentation and coordinating the support for vulnerable local bird species.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

An interesting harrier

Hi

An evening visit to Harrington Airfield was eventful with the discovery of an interesting 'ringtail' harrier.  The bird was first seen at about 7.15pm as it quartered the ground near to the airstrip and alongside the B576.  The bird flipped over the B576 and was last seen heading off towards Loddington.  The bird was on view for about five minutes and appeared small but relatively long-winged, very dainty and bouyant in flight.  I struggled to see plumage specifics but the general impression was that the bird closely resembled a Montagu's.

A single Raven and a Wheatear were also present at Harrington, and a Siskin lingered at Kelmarsh Hall.

Regards

Eleanor