Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

Hello

A single Barn Owl was hunting on the outskirts of Scaldwell village first thing this morning and a restricted ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall this morning with just a single net resulted in 50 captures, the highlights being a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Nuthatch, 2 Marsh Tits, 3 Goldfinches and a Goldcrest.

Birds noted at Harrington Airfield this morning amounted to a male Peregrine and a pair of Raven.

Birds north of the causeway at Pitsford Res this afternoon included a Raven and six Goosanders and a check of the gull roost off the yacht club in the afternoon yielded a fine adult Mediterranean Gull, a Redshank and a Grey Wagtail.

Happy New Year!

Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Frosty birds!

Hello

Cracking winter's day weather today with a crispy, frosty start and plenty of sunshine. The pair of Ruddy Shelduck were seen off the yacht club at Pitsford Res this morning and 39 Golden Plovers were on the fields at Harrington Airfield.

Blueberry Farm provided views of 2 Ravens, a Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat this morning but the best birds were at Sywell Country Park this afternoon with a gorgeous Bittern on some bent-over reeds in the icy margins (1pm), a pair of Smew, a pair of Stonechat, 2 Water Rails, 20+ Siskins and 6+ redpoll sp. The suspended feeders were full and attracted plenty of birds including Nuthatch and Marsh Tits.

Regards

Neil M


Ruddy Shelduck

Robin

Monday, 29 December 2014

Bits and Bobs

Another one of those days where I had to fit my birding around running numerous errands...

At day break I was at Blueberry Farm where the air was crisp and clear and the ground white from the hard frost. As I watched the beautiful sunrise I regretted not taking my camera as a Barn Owl hunted low over the fields creating a magical scene. Other birds seen included a pair of Stonechat and a Woodcock.

Mid-morning found me in Northampton so I made a detour to Billing Garden Centre area for the Ring-necked Duck which has been viewed from the car sales office. A visiting birder arrived at the same time and we quickly located a small group of Tufted Duck and Gadwall but they were just in silhouette as they loitered in the direct sunlight. We walked from the garden centre and followed the main road towards the narrow bridge and we were able to 'scope the birds through the trees. The Ring-necked Duck was easy to pick out with it's distinctive head shape.

En-route back home a Great White Egret, 2 drake Smew and a Shelduck at Pitsford Reservoir were all visible from the causeway.

A visit to Harrington Airfield produced a male Peregrine, again in hunting mode after the numerous winter thrushes, 7 Grey Partridge and approx 50 Golden Plover.

I ended as I started by walking around Blueberry, this time enjoying the glorious red sky and sunset leaving behind a clear frosty sky dotted with bright stars.  Again I was fortunate to watch a Barn Owl hunting [Large Redgrass field] and also a Short-eared Owl which may be the bird from Harrington. 

Regards  Eleanor

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Short-eared Owl

Hello

This afternoon at about 2pm, Ian Jones saw a Short-eared Owl by the third bunker at Harrington Airfield...

Regards

Neil M

Festive Birding !

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and that many folk will have some time off before returning to normal in the New Year, so plenty of time to get out and about !!!

Due to family commitments my birding activity has been severely curtailed. In the Blueberry Farm area I have seen one or two Barn Owls on a regular basis at different times of the day. Also at least 2 pairs of Stonechat remain in the area.  Both yesterday and today I have seen numerous Woodcock underneath the hedgerows.

I've visited Harrington Airfield every day to feed the birds at the main entrance and whilst I haven't seen any birds of interest I'm sure this will soon change. The seed is proving attractive to a wide number of species - Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin and Blue Tit, as well as a valuable food source as the temperatures fall.

I visited late this afternoon and although chilly the sunset was remarkable. There were 11 Golden Plover feeding on the wet fields and small groups of calling Goldies were constantly in the air. Their calls joining those of a couple of Red Kite who were very vocal. A superb male blue Peregrine was definitely in hunting mode as he powered across the airfield and a Barn Owl and Grey Heron took me my surprise when I got back to the feeding station just as darkness fell.

Sending best wishes to everyone for this Festive period and a happy and healthy bird-filled 2015 

Love Eleanor

Friday, 26 December 2014

Abington Park over Christmas

Hello

Doug Goddard has been in Abington Park, Northampton over the festive period and seen plenty of good birds including 13 Goosanders today on the lakes and a Ring-necked Parakeet (the latter attracted to captive birds in enclosures) .

Regards

Neil M


Ring-necked Parakeets

Common Buzzard

Goosander with Perch

Boxing day birds

A walk at Pitsford this morning was just what was needed after the Christmas day feasting.
A scan of the Scaldwell and Walgrave bays, after topping up the feeders at the Saldwell road feed station, revealed a Great White Egret in each of the bays. From the causeway a possible third bird was noted near to the Lagoon hide. Also from the causeway a redhead Smew was in the mouth of the Holcot bay. My first drake of the year was just south of the causeway.
A walk south of the causeway down to the Pintail bay was rewarded with a calling Little Owl near to the three storey farm house by the narrows.
The goose flock was commuting between the fields and the reservoir in the vicinity of the Holly tree. The three White-fronted Geese were still included amongst them, but I failed to spot the Ruddy Shelduck or the Great Northern Diver.
     Regards,
             Neil H.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all our followers and visitors to this blog-site. Thank-you for your support, your interest and contributions over the last year. We will seek to ensure the blog remains as relevant as possible for people with an interest in wild birds and other wildlife in Northamptonshire and further afield.

Enjoy the Festive Period...

Neil M

Monday, 22 December 2014

Barn Owls

Hello

Yesterday I neglected to document sightings of single Barn Owls which were noted in Maidwell village and also alongside the road between Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell. This afternoon a Barn Owl was again noted hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell. With such an exceptional year for breeding Barn Owls, it is perhaps surprising that they are not being seen more regularly.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ringing Sunderland Wood

Hello

A ringing session took place at Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today which led to 75 captures, the majority being Great and Blue Tits with a high percentage of adults.

A Redwing, two Blackbirds, two Wrens, four Goldcrests, a Robin and a Chaffinch were additional species as were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Marsh Tit and seven Coal Tits.

Other birds noted in this mid-Northants Ash woodland included a couple of Woodcock and at nearby Scotland Wood a Willow Tit was moving around with a mobile tit flock.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Peregrines on the horizon

Hello

A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning was necessary to feed the hordes of birds at the old airfield entrance! Birds of note included an adult male Peregrine, a covey of seven Grey Partridge and about two hundred Golden Plovers together with good numbers of Skylarks and winter thrushes. Nearby a Woodcock was flushed at Sunderland Wood.

This afternoon and birds noted at Pitsford Res included at least one Great White Egret, three Little Egrets and a hunting first year male Peregrine north of the causeway and three Shelduck near to the dam. Blueberry Farm hosted a hunting Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat.

Regards

Neil M




They may be common
resident birds in this fair
county of ours but I think
the tits suitably brighten
 up a winter's day.
Top Coal Tit, middle
Long-tailed Tit and
bottom Blue Tit.

All courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Pitsford WeBS count

Hello

Three of us completed a rather late WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir today in super winter sunshine. Numbers of wildfowl are much less than previous months but there is still a good variety present. Highlights included three Great White Egrets (all north of the causeway), three Little Egrets, 2 Ruddy Shelducks, 96 Snipe, 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Redshank, 2 Green Sandpipers, the pair of wintering Stonechat still and a Chiffchaff. A flock of 120 Golden Plovers flew over.

Regards

Neil M


Redwing

Robin in afternoon
winter sunshine

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Mild, wet and windy!

Hello

The current bout of mild, windy and occasionally wet weather is not particularly conducive for good winter birding locally, but it does provide an opportunity to see other wildlife.

John Porter saw a flying Brimstone butterfly at Summer Leys yesterday and reported that the Golden Plovers gathered there looked superb in the winter sunshine. 

Young Hedgehogs are still wandering around at a time when they should be hibernating. It seems that the offspring from the late breeding efforts often don't have time to bulk up for hibernation and as a result rarely survive the winter; the lack of adequate sustenance and fat reserves makes them liable to pneumonia and similar conditions. However in a mild winter these youngsters will continue to feed and with supplementary food and/or captive conditions can make it through the winter months. It may not be just the birds that are eating foodstuffs put out in the garden!

Eleanor has been visiting Harrington Airfield regularly and feeding the birds on the concrete track where it junctions the minor road to Draughton. Nothing of specific interest as yet but today there were good numbers of Chaffinches, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings and even Blackbirds and Blue Tits taking advantage of the food.

Today we received  news of ringing effort returns, the more interesting as follows...

i. Pete Gilbert was working at Pitsford Reservoir today and on the reserve found a decomposed body of a Tawny Owl. It transpires that this bird was ringed as a nestling in one of the reserve owl boxes in April 2012. Clearly it didn't live very long and it seems didn't travel far;
ii. A young male Blackcap ringed at Pitsford on 13th Sept 2014 was caught again by ringers at Icklesham, Sussex on 25th Sept 2014;
iii. A Lesser Redpoll ringed at Stortons Gravel Pits on 7th Oct 2012 was caught again by ringers operating in South Lanarkshire, Scotland on 19th April 2014;
iv. A young female Cetti's Warbler ringed at Stortons GP on 31st Aug 2013 and was then caught by ringers working at Rutland Water on 16th May 2014;
v. A female Goldfinch ringed at Astcote (South Northants) on 4th Feb 2014 was found freshly dead at Crossrigg, Cumbria on 22nd Oct 2014;
vi. A juvenile Blue Tit ringed at Greens Norton on 7th Sept this year then took a 32km journey north to Stanford Reservoir where it was caught by ringers on 23rd October. I wonder what stimulated it to travel north to another area of the county (the British breeding stock of this species is normally pretty sedentary)?

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Glyn Davies Wood

Hello

Despite a strong south-westerly breeze this morning, a ringing session took place at Glyn Davies Wood right over in the west of the county. This ancient fragment of woodland is managed and owned by the Banbury Ornithological Society and the warden Mike Lewis maintains an excellent feed station within the wood. 

Some 72 birds were processed which included 2 Goldcrests, 19 Great Tits, 35 Blue Tits, 5 Marsh Tits, a Willow Tit, 3 Coal Tits, a Robin, 2 Wrens, a Blackbird and a Nuthatch.

Other birds on-site included typical woodland birds and a couple of Ravens.

One or two Raven(s) were present at Hanging Houghton this afternoon.

Regards

Neil M

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Pitsford Ringing

Hello

A ringing session took place around the main feed station at Pitsford Reservoir this morning providing 70 captures as managed by Dave Francis. Re-trap birds included 8 Moorhens and a 6 year-old Blue Tit. New birds included a Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, 5 Blackbirds, a Starling, a Robin, 2 Dunnocks, 7 Tree Sparrows, 5 Chaffinches, 5 Greenfinches and 6 Yellowhammers.

Eleanor saw c100 Golden Plovers at Harrington Airfield at lunch-time but couldn't find anything else of note and visiting birder Garry Smith notched up a Barn Owl at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon.

Regards

Neil M


Monday, 15 December 2014

Meagre Pickings

Hello

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today courtesy of Eleanor and Neil H included a Great Northern Diver south of the causeway, two Great White Egrets north of the causeway and three 'redhead' Smew in the Holcot Bay. 

The only birds of note at Blueberry Farm were the three pairs of Stonechat.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The day of the Coal Tit!

Hello

A ringing session took place at Scotland Wood as part of the on-going project to monitor woodland bird populations on the Kelmarsh Estate. Eighty small birds were captured and assessed, species totals being 5 Goldcrests, a Robin, a Blackbird, 21 Blue Tits, 10 Great Tits, 18 Coal Tits, 4 Marsh Tits, 11 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Nuthatch, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 5 Chaffinches.

Birds noted at Harrington Airfield today again included the adult male Merlin, a Brambling on the seed, a couple each of flying Siskin and redpoll sp and about 150 Golden Plovers.

Late afternoon on the Blueberry Farm complex confirmed that all three pairs of wintering Stonechat remain and again two Barn Owls were seen out hunting.

Activation of the duck trap at Pitsford Res just before dusk succeeded in capturing and processing seven Moorhens, a Coot and a Starling in our continued efforts to better understand the status and dynamics of birds visiting this site.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Birds of the frosty apple

Hello

An excellent ringing session at an orchard on the outskirts of Nether Heyford today provided over a hundred birds caught and ringed with thrushes taking centre stage. Some thirty-two Fieldfares caught and ringed were the star birds but well supported with over twenty Redwings, at least five Blackbirds and good numbers of Chaffinch, Robin and Blue Tit.

This afternoon a visit to Harrington Airfield provided views of an adult male Merlin and hundreds of winter thrushes gleaning the hawthorns.

Birds visible north of the causeway at Pitsford Res this afternoon included two Great White Egrets, two Little Egrets, a Redshank and a roost of over a hundred Cormorants.

Late afternoon at Blueberry Farm and the Pytchley Hunt were in full flow over the complex with hounds and horses everywhere in pursuit of their fox quarry. Nevertheless a few birds were available which included a close Barn Owl, a male Peregrine and a pair of Stonechat.

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 12 December 2014

White-fronted Geese

Hello

Neil Hasdell was out and about at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and located three White-fronted Geese south of the causeway near to the Airstrip/Holly Tree. For a time they were associating with the transient flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese which are currently congregating on the reservoir and adjacent fields at that point.

Regards

Neil M

Ditchford Gravel Pits

Hello

The first task today was visiting some of the local wild bird feed stations, and whilst doing so I noticed a flock of ca 440 Golden Plovers on the top fields at Harrington Airfield and two Ravens flew over Maidwell village.

We seemed to spend most of our time concentrating at staying upright in the mud at Ditchford Gravel Pits today whilst completing the monthly WeBS count!

A Great White Egret was west of Ditchford Lane, at one stage flying around carrying a small Pike in its bill. Other birds included three Little Egrets, a flock of fourteen Egyptian Geese, a first year Caspian Gull, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, approximately a thousand Herring Gulls, a Goosander, three Water Rails, ten Kingfishers, four Cetti's Warblers, eight Chiffchaffs, a pair of Stonechat and a couple of Grey Wagtails. 

An Otter showed briefly on one of the old pits.

Regards

Neil M

More from Abington Park

Hello

Doug Goddard is a regular visitor to Abington Park in Northampton and has kindly forwarded some images of a variety of species that can be found regularly in this town park...

Regards

Neil M


Treecreeper

Grey Wagtail

Green Woodpecker

Kingfisher

Grey Heron

Little Grebes

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Blustery winter day!

Hello

It was a little cool and breezy at Harrington Airfield this morning, but at least it was bright and sunny. Small numbers of winter thrushes were present in the bushes along the rough strips and a covey of seven Grey Partridge were also present. A female Merlin was racing around the north side of the complex and the now regular Red Kites were showing well in the winter sun.

Scanning from the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford Reservoir at lunch-time produced 2-3 Great White Egrets and the wintering pair of Stonechat.

The last two hours of daylight were spent at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell but the only birds of note were 2-3 Barn Owls and a pair of Stonechat.

Regards

Neil M

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Birds of the park

Hello

John Gamble has kindly forwarded some images of birds noted yesterday at Abington Park, Northampton. A pack of twenty stunning Goosanders provided some opportunities to photograph these normally shy birds, which during the last few winters have regularly visited the lakes and to a point become used to people wandering around. In addition John found the pair of Ring-necked Parakeets which seem to have taken up residence in the park and again appears to be a repeat of previous winters.

Today (Tuesday) and I was driving out near Fotheringhay at about 12 noon when I noticed a goose flock next to the road and River Nene in some grass meadows. Close to the assembly of Greylag and Canada Geese and Mute Swans were four Pink-footed Geese - map reference TL059928.

Regards

Neil M




Goosanders

Ring-necked Parakeet

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter feed stations

Hello

Quite cold in the strong breeze today making it feel like a proper winter day. Several of the local farmers were using the conditions to slash field hedges today during pitiful examples of hedge management, but there were still plenty of winter thrushes along the Brampton Valley Way taking advantage of the berry-laden hawthorns that were not subject to such wanton habitat destruction.

I spent much of the morning visiting the winter wild bird feeding stations that we maintain, replenishing suspended feeders and broadcasting mixed seed. The Kelmarsh sites have plenty of tits and other woodland birds coming to them now, including Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and possibly Jays. We are again putting down mixed seed on the concrete track at Harrington Airfield, at the entrance to the complex off the minor road to Draughton. We are always grateful for visiting birders/photographers to broadcast safe seed at this location should they visit. So far it has been mostly common birds coming down such as Chaffinch and Yellowhammer, but as the season progresses more species are anticipated to join them.

Three feed stations are maintained at Pitsford Reservoir, including one at Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay. Diane Freeman commits to most of the work at this location, visiting every couple of days to ensure the feeders still dispense the foodstuffs. Although a broad range of species utilise this feed station in a woodland setting, priority and targeted species such as Willow and Marsh Tit regularly visit to supplement their winter feeding. In due course it is hoped to construct a simple bench and wooden blind to provide permit holders the opportunity of watching birds at this feed station without causing any disturbance.

A Woodcock flushed up at Sunderland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) this morning, but I didn't see anything else of note on my travels...

Regards

Neil M

Blueberry am

Good Morning

An early morning walk by Eleanor at Blueberry Farm today yielded observations of a single Short-eared Owl, a Barn Owl, a pair of Stonechat and a couple of Ravens...

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 7 December 2014

BTO Conference

Hello

This week-end I attended the annual British Trust for Ornithology Conference at Swanwick, Derbyshire. As always there was a full itinerary which included lectures, workshops and presentations on subjects mostly associated with birds. The theme was 'Birds, people and places'.

The majority of delegates are amateur birdwatchers who devote their time to monitor resident and migrant wild birds and pool their findings for the benefit of all interested in the welfare of our natural avi-fauna.

The Friday evening presentation was orchestrated by Helen McDonald who has researched and provided a personal view of the history of falconry and its links with the naturalist and indeed the culture of rural communities associated with birds of prey in their midst.

On the Saturday morning an input on 'Birds and renewable energy' introduced us to the Collision Risk Model associated with offshore turbines, which predicts the number of bird collisions with offshore installations. It seems that an increase in the size of the turbines but with greater distances between each installation may reduce the likelihood of collisions. It is thought that breeding sea-birds foraging for food and attempting to fly around these installations are most affected when it comes to loss of energy and an increase in physical stress. Migrants are thought to mostly divert around these banks of turbines and simply continue on their journey.

'Birds in a Changing Climate' was associated with global warming, and galvanizing the irrefutable fact that we as a species are increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that the warming affect will adversely affect those organisms on the planet that cannot easily respond and their ultimate extinction. In the birding world, it is generally believed that sea-birds and those birds utilising tropical areas of the world will be most affected.

The Witherby Lecture was entitled Birds in an Urbanising World and provided some stark statistics. It is thought that in the UK there are now only 2.5 breeding birds per human being illustrating a 40% reduction in bird numbers since 1980. The message was that many of the new generation were disengaged with the natural world but that amateur naturalists were doing their best with as many as 7.4 million bird feeders and 4.7 million nest boxes out there! Seemingly 25% of our bird species comprise 95% of all breeding individuals, reflecting that there are some species doing well but a disturbing large number of species that are clearly not. Highlighting environmental growth not sustainability was a key message.

The last session of the morning included the award of medals, there being two recipients this year. Our very own Dave Francis was awarded the Tucker medal for his contribution and outstanding services to the BTO, as presented by Chris Packham. Very fitting, particularly as it was Dave's 70th Birthday too!

The Saturday afternoon sessions included an update on the Breeding Bird Survey which has been running since 1994 and Mark Thomas from the RSPB provided a powerful presentation associated with wildlife crime, particularly raptor prosecution. A lively presentation about the Nest Record Scheme was well-delivered.

This morning there were a series of individual inspirational presentations by young naturalists ('New Generation Birders') aged 12-16 years and why birds and their monitoring had illuminated their lives. Amazing stuff and a breath of fresh air and a taste of hope that there are youngsters out there who are prepared to pick up the baton! And of course it falls to us to inspire and mentor the next generations.

'Keeping Track of Birds' highlighted the use of technology to enhance our knowledge of migrating birds, not surprisingly the Cuckoo, Nightingale and Swift were many of the examples. Stop-overs in Africa and inter-continent migration appears related to the timing of rain-fall, particularly following periods of drought and the related response by insects such as termites. 'Flight Lines' is a BTO-led project at linking art, imagery and science to reach out and influence and engage new audiences, and our last main-line presentation.

Another very good conference which provided plenty of information and opportunity for the future. More details will be documented via the BTO website - www.bto.org  - plus plenty of other information too...

Regards

Neil M



Dave and Sue Francis
tackling the Birthday cake!

Photo courtesy of Helen Franklin

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Images from Stanwick Lakes.

Hello

Simon Hales has kindly forwarded some images of birds taken at Stanwick Lakes today...

Regards

Neil M


Robin

Redwing

Blackbird

Fieldfare

Blueberry Farm update...

Hello

Apologies for the late entry regarding birds noted by Eleanor at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) yesterday (Friday)...

A female Peregrine presided over the complex and two pairs of Stonechat were still present, one pair in Big Lichfields and the other in Large Redgrass. Two Short-eared Owls were also hunting, mostly in Large Redgrass. Please refer to the Birdwatching Site maps to identify the Blueberry Farm field names...

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 5 December 2014

Ringing at Brixworth

Hello

A ringing session this morning at Brixworth Sewer Treatment Works was successful with 45 birds captured and released. Highlights included 4 Redwings, a Lesser Redpoll, 17 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails and 10 Meadow Pipits. Two of the Meadow Pipits had first been captured at the same location in October 2014, indicating that they may be trying to winter at this site which is rich in insectivorous food. A Chiffchaff was also present today but not captured.

A quick look at Pitsford Reservoir in the vicinity of the yacht club confirmed the continuing presence of the pair of Ruddy Shelduck with the goose flock, and a redpoll sp and a Little Egret were present too.

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Hen Harrier

Hello

Eleanor spent some time out and about today but again found the local sites quiet for birds. The exception was a fine male Hen Harrier that graced Big Lichfields (the southern-most field) at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell. This bird was flying low along a hedgerow at about 3pm but wasn't seen again...

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Kelmarsh Ringing

Hello

A modest ringing session took place this morning at Kelmarsh Hall utilising just a single strategically-placed mist net. Birds captured and released included two Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, two Marsh Tits, four Coal Tits and three Redwings.

Other birds noted on site included two or three Ravens, a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.

Regards

Neil M



Coal Tit

Marsh Tit

Nuthatch


The handsome Redwing

All pictures courtesy of Neil Hasdell.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A grey December day

Hello

Despite spending quite a bit of time outdoors today we struggled to find much. About a hundred Golden Plovers were visible from the main concrete track at Harrington Airfield, there was a single Siskin at Kelmarsh Hall and the only bird of note at the Pitsford Res gull roost was a single adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Good news from the Kelmarsh Estate following some perusal of areas around the upper reaches of the River Ise is that there is evidence of both Otter and Water Vole in residence.

With the very grey conditions of the last two days, I think we deserve a splash of colour! Below is an image of a Peacock butterfly taken on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Gravel Pits by Simon Hales as recently as Sunday...

Regards

Neil M



Peacock butterfly
Courtesy of Simon Hales




Christmas Shopping already!

Hello

Sorry for this late notice which is advertised on behalf our local Wildlife Trust albeit the venue is in Cambridgeshire...

Neil M



Monday, 1 December 2014

Bits and Bobs

Hello

We have just returned from a two week excursion to Gujarat in India looking for wildlife and the Blog has been left in the very capable hands of Neil Hasdell during that time for which I am very grateful.

Eleanor popped in to Market Harborough this afternoon and saw a single Otter showing briefly near the Railway Station. It seems that the current sightings are regular but the pattern is inconsistent and the hit rate has not yet reached the standards of the last two winters. Please report any sightings and we'll endeavour to document them here.

A visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon produced five Red-crested Pochard, the Bar-headed Goose and a redpoll sp all visible from the yacht club area. Birds north of the causeway included three Little Egrets, three Great White Egrets on view at the same time, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull.

Finally a ringing session took place at Stortons Gravel Pits yesterday which provided good numbers of captures including the migrant bird of the session, a hard-to-catch Fieldfare (please see below).

Regards

Neil M



Fieldfare at
Stortons GP
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Northants Bird Club Meeting this Wednesday

Hello

This is an invite to non-members and an reminder to members of the Northants Bird Club, that our next indoor meeting and illustrated presentation will be held this Wednesday evening (3rd December 2014), at our usual venue at Pitsford Reservoir using the classroom in the Fishing Lodge just off the causeway and close to Holcot village. Eminent naturalist Jeff Blincow will be our presenter, speaking on a birding tour to Texas, USA in 2013. Please be seated so that we can begin the evening from about 7.30pm.

Tea and coffee and biscuits will be available and you are invited to partake!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Neil M

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fineshade Wood update...

Hello again everyone

East Northants Council Development Control Committee met to consider the Forest Holidays application on 27th Nov and came within an inch of rejecting it completely. In the end they decided to defer a decision.

It was quite a meeting as councillor after councillor spoke up - referring to the letters, emails and phone calls that they had all received from us all. Thank you so much to everyone who played a part in this over the last week. It really was a most important factor in drawing Councillors' attention to the value of this piece of woodland that is treasured by so many people.

Here's an account of what happened.

Tension was already high as the Committee began to discuss Fineshade - previously they had granted approval to a contentious application for a new supermarket in Rushden and vocal irate protestors in the public gallery had forced the chair to temporally adjourn the meeting. Once our application got under way the Case Officer gave a surprisingly brief introduction - we had expected a long spiel in which he would repeat his view that there was "overwhelming" support for the proposal from planning policy and explain his recommendation to grant planning approval. In fact he said only a few sentences, but did manage to get one key fact wrong: he said that the applicants were proposing a new route from the A43. There was a challenge to this from the public gallery and again the chair adjourned the meeting.

3 minute addresses were next: one from me representing objectors, from Shenagh Hackett representing our parish council and then from the applicants represented by David Williamson, Head of Recreation etc for Forestry Commission (FC) England. Two Forest Holidays planners were in the gallery. Some councillors' body language was already looking encouraging and we could also see them looking through the booklet we had sent them, with pictures showing heavy traffic at the A43 junction. The address from Mr Williamson stressing FC experience and expertise did not go down at all well, and was almost immediately undermined by one Councillor who expressed his distrust and disapproval of the FC.

Before that Councillor Glithero, acting as our Ward Councillor, with carefully judged words, made a strong case against approval. This was quickly followed by two or three others from nearby Wards who had clearly been primed to follow his line. We were still expecting to hear support for the plan from Councillors  further south but this is when the weight of your support really began to come through, as one after another spoke of the volume and quality of letters that they had received. Others stressed how much they were influenced by the detailed lengthy objection from the Wildlife Trust - unique in their experience. Not one Councillor spoke in favour of the the application and by now Mr Williamson's head was often in his hands and the FH guys were stony-faced.  We had been expecting and hoping that Councillors would vote to defer a decision until the ruling by the Secretary of Stately about our legal challenge concerning Environmental Impact Assessments was known, but realisation gradually came that there was a chance they would actually reject the application. A deferral was moved by Councillor Glithero but then there was also a move to reject by Councillor Mercer and there was much nodding of heads and words of support.

There then followed a lengthy debate about the merits of straight refusal now and whether the council might then face a costly appeal from the applicants. Here the road situation was crucial. Northants Highways had previously supplied a wishy-washy "no objection" comment and because of that, the Planning Officers and legal advisor warned that an appeal might be possible. It was decided to press Highways for a clearer statement and defer a decision which would also give more Councillors a chance for a site visit.  A vote on deferral was almost unanimous - though it's not clear at the moment how long that deferral will be. What was quite clear was that, had there been a vote on rejection, Fineshade would have won last night.  My neighbour said it was a case of snatching a draw from the jaws of victory!  Certainly we came away very encouraged indeed and Forest Holidays must have had a nasty long journey home through the fog.

So, we have a reprieve. What will Forest Holidays do now? We still are pretty certain that council officials want the development to go ahead, but now they must realise that elected Councillors, as well as local people, have different ideas.

Once again, thank you so much for your support so far. We'll keep in touch and may well need to ask for your help again.

The battle for Fineshade continues.

Barrie Galpin

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Pitsford stroll

A walk south of the causeway this morning was pleasant without being terribly productive. A single redhead Goosander (my first of the season) flew past heading towards the causeway and presumably onto the reserve half. A large flock of mostly Canada Geese was feeding on a field near the gorse bushes until the crow scarer in the field went off and spooked them.  In flight the long staying Bar-headed Goose was obvious amongst the flock along with a hybrid Canada/Greylag.
Back at the causeway a scan of the reserve side revealed two Great White Egrets, one in the Walgrave Bay and the second near the Lagoon Hide. Two Ruddy Shelduck were resting near the mouth of the Holcot Bay and two drake Red-crested Pochard were sleeping in the mouth of the Walgrave Bay.

     Regards,

               Neil H.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Deja Vu

A strong similarity to last Sundays post today. I visited Market Harborough for a second time in search of otters, with a similar outcome to Sunday. At least it wasn't raining today, well not very much anyway. Instead of otters the supporting cast of Grey wagtail and Kingfisher were on display. The Kingfisher remained perched for long enough to take a very grainy picture in the dismal light, before disappearing off downstream. 


Later this afternoon I made a visit to the feed station at Pitsford to top up the feeders. A few minutes bird watching from the Maytree's Hide revealed the presence of two Great White Egrets, one in the Walgrave Bay and the other in the Scaldwell Bay.

       Regards,

                  Neil H.











Monday, 24 November 2014

Sunny Summer Leys

What a difference a day makes. After the wash out that was Sunday today was bright and sunny, if somewhat cooler.
As it was sunny I decided to try my luck at Summer Leys, in the hope that there may be a Bittern enjoying the warmth. As with yesterday my hopes were not realised. There was a marked absence of waterfowl on the main lake, presumably due to the high water levels caused by the recent rains. The only bird of note was a Peregrine sunning itself on a distant pylon. Approximately 200 Golden Plover periodically filled the air with their calls as they flew around the reserve. 2 Cetti's Warblers were also vocal a little closer to the ground.

Spot the pylon



                                        Spot the Peregrine on the pylon

The pylon the Peregrine was sitting on is somewhere in the middle third of the top picture, I think! Both pictures were taken on my phone, the second one through my telescope.

      Regards,
               
                 Neil H.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Soggy Sunday

Lacking inspiration on a thoroughly damp Sunday morning I decided to head over to Market Harborough to look for otters.
After 21/2hrs of walking up and down the River Welland in persistent rain I finally admitted defeat and headed for Pitsford. There was some consolation in a smart Grey Wagtail and two sightings of Kingfisher.
I called in at Pitsford for a coffee and a Rocky in the Maytree's hide after topping up the peanut feeder at the feed station. A pleasant 1hr was spent seeing not a great deal. Plenty of common water birds, including a smart drake Goldeneye. For the first time I managed to see 3 Great White Egrets at the same time, one of which was asked to relocate by one of the others.
Chris Payne had a ringing session at Bradden on Friday where he and associates caught a total of 57 birds, mostly Tits and Chaffinches, in approximately 2 hrs.  Star bird was a Nuthatch.

   Regards,

          Neil H.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Starlings and Sparrows

I visited Titchmarsh nature reserve yesterday afternoon to view the starling murmuration. A look over the adjacent pit prior to the arrival of the Starlings revealed a few common ducks in small numbers, as well as a couple of Little Egrets and a single Cetti's Warbler
Returning to the area detailed in a previous post, a short wait ensued before small groups of birds began to congregate at about 3.45pm.  These small groups steadily increased in size until several thousand birds were wheeling above the reed beds, periodically being harassed by two Sparrowhawks intent on acquiring a late supper prior to roosting. 
Groups of Starlings peeled off from the main congregation, diving into the reeds at speed, chattering to one another, before settling down for the night in the warmth of the phragmites beds. Eventually the skies were empty and the spectacle over.













A pair of ringing sessions were conducted yesterday afternoon and again this morning at the feed station at the end of the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford Reservoir.
The modest total caught was 36, including 22 new birds as follows:
Goldcrest 1
Wren 1
Tree Sparrow 10
Blue Tit 2
Chaffinch 4
Yellowhammer 1
Starling 1
Blackbird 1
Kestrel 1

During this morning's session the 200th Tree Sparrow of the year was caught, the first time this milestone has been passed at Pitsford.

   Regards,

           Neil H.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Otter(s) at Market Harborough

Hello

Celia Martin kindly emailed today to state that at least one Otter has been seen on the River Welland at Market Harborough, being seen twice recently by Aldis and Sainsburys. During the last two winters up to four different animals showed very well on the narrow river which passes through the small town of Market Harborough, showing no fear of humans and even dogs on leads. Last winter it was possible to watch these animals from hardcore paths that parallel the river - hopefully it will be the same this time too! We would be grateful if any further sightings could be emailed to us so that we can post details and provide the best opportunity for anyone wishing to see these fabulous mammals up close.

Regards

Neil M

Fineshade Wood update...

Hello again everyone

If you were one of the 123 objectors to this planning application you will have had a letter saying that the application is due to be discussed by East Northants Council's (ENC) Development Control Committee on Wednesday 26th November.  ENC's Planning Officer is recommending that permission is granted.

Legal action on wildlife issues
For a third time the Planning Officer issued a Screening Opinion declaring that this is not worthy of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA - a set of procedures that should be carried out with all major planning applications where there will be significant adverse effects on biodiversity.)  The full EIA procedures take time - up to a year - and Forest Holidays and their financial backers are in a hurry and always try to avoid using them. But even their piecemeal surveys have revealed many protected, rare and regionally important species.

Therefore a group of Fineshade Residents took legal advice from lawyers specialising in environmental law. This resulted in a formal request to the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU, effectively the Secretary of State). We have requested a Screening Directive which may well overturn the council's Screening Opinion and force an EIA. The lawyers believe we have a very strong case. The council have agreed to delay granting actual approval of the application until that ruling comes through.

Lobbying Councillors 

Because the matter is still coming to the Committee on 26 November we feel it is very important for individual Councillors to know at first hand just how strong is the opposition to Forest Holidays' proposals. Could you therefore help to lobby the 17 representatives who will be the ultimate judges of what happens at Fineshade? The attached document contains individual's names and full contact details (all these details are publicly available on the ENC website.)  We think that many of these Councillors will not have read all (or any!) of the objections. On the other hand, they have had a glossy special presentation by Forest Holidays - the planning system really is stacked in favour of the developer. 

If you live in East Northants you may know some of the Coucillors, or have friends who do. If you live further away there is no reason why you shouldn't simply send them your previous objection and ask them to read it carefully. Could you send your objection to some or all of them individually, perhaps by post or by email?  We think some councillors don't really "do" email, and a letter arriving on their doormat could be very powerful. 

We think the road issues really need pushing now. Councillors could, for example, make a planning condition that there should be no development work until the access road and the dangerous A43 junction is upgraded. Could you send them pictures of traffic on the access road? (We can send you a selection).   Some will never have been to Fineshade at all, so could you phone any of them to tell them why you value Fineshade so much? Ask them if they have ever seen the traffic during a busy summer weekend. We are convinced that personal contact like this could be very useful indeed.

Attending the meeting

If you live locally could you come to the Council Chamber in Thrapston for 7pm on Wednesday 26th November?  We expect that Forest Holidays, a representative of the Parish Council and one objector will each be allowed to speak for 3 minutes. A large supportive presence in the public gallery will be most helpful.

Thank you very much indeed for your support so far and we really hope you'll be able to join us in a final push during the coming 9 days.

Barrie and Tricia Galpin
On behalf of Fineshade Residents