Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Quiet Week !!

It has been a very quiet week with very little to report. I have visited my usual haunts of Blueberry Farm, the valley below Hanging Houghton, Harrington Airfield, Sywell Reservoir, Pitsford Reservoir and Salcey Forest, but have only seen the "regulars". These include Grey Partridge, Grasshopper Warbler, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Raven, Red Kites, Grey Wagtails, Spotted Flycatchers and a Cuckoo.
Butterflies noted on my travels include Marbled White, Wood White, Small Heath and clouds of Ringlets.
A Hummingbird Hawk Moth has been seen a couple of times feeding on Valarian in Hanging Houghton.
Dave Francis completed a CES ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir 26/6 and caught 72 birds, including 12 Blackcap, 12 Wren, 11 Robin, 4 Reed Warbler and 3 Garden Warbler.
It is interesting to note that the Robin total for this year's CES is a staggering 42 individual birds !!!!!.


Two meetings planned for the coming week.  On Wednesday 2nd July the Birdclub will meet at the Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir at 19.30hrs.  If the weather is good there will be a walk and other outdoor activities. Should the weather be poor, we will have an indoor meeting at this venue.  Tea/coffee will be provided.
On Thursday 3rd July there will be an outdoor walk led by birdclub member Hugh Matthews.  The venue is Fermyn CountryPark. Meet at 09.30hrs in the main car park. Parking charges apply and there is a cafĂ© and toilet facilities.  Hopefully the weather will be good and there will be plenty of butterflies etc about.
Everyone welcome at these events.


Regards
Eleanor

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Baby boom

A visit to Summer Leys this morning was rewarding on a number of fronts. There are large numbers of young birds all over the reserve now. The Black-headed Gulls have had a good breeding year, dozens of youngsters are taking their first flights. 
A few Common Tern chicks have just hatched on Mary's Island. The bulk of the terns have nested on Round and Eddie's Islands this year and most were washed out when the reserve flooded a few weeks ago. Fortunately many have settled back for a second attempt that will hopefully be more successful than the first.
Multiple broods of Lapwings have been seen on and around the scrape and the first of two broods of Little-ringed Plovers hatched on Sunday.
A good proportion of the holes in the recently refurbished Sand Martin colony have been occupied with constant activity from the adult birds.
Butterflies were plentiful today with good numbers on the wing, Ringlets and Marbled Whites being the predominant species. The area at the back of Mary's Lake was particularly good for the latter of the two species with ~30  individuals in an area the size of a tennis court.
On a slightly more worrying note a family of Mink has taken up residence amongst the rocks of the main lake overflow with at least two adults and a kit having been seen.
                                Demanding Jackdaw
                                                Marbled White
                                                Mink

    Regards,
                                  Neil H.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Post-breeding migration

Hello

Late morning today and at Pitsford Res there was some evidence of post-breeding movement, with an adult Black Tern and a Little Egret in the Scaldwell Bay, rafting Gadwall and Coot in both the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays and an influx of at least 17 Pochard in the Walgrave Bay.

A Hobby with prey was at Lamport early this afternoon...

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Longest Day

Hello

Yesterday it was good to see a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth nectaring on Red Valerian in the village here at Hanging Houghton.  Locally this moth often arrives at about the same time as other migrant insects such as Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow butterflies.

The intrepid duo of Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett were out on the water at Pitsford Reservoir again today in order to check the breeding birds on the rafts in the Scaldwell Bay.  As many as 59 Common Tern nests were in evidence, albeit that some of these have failed already.  Nevertheless another 22 tern chicks were ringed and there should be plenty more yet.  The female Pied Wagtail was incubating four eggs on her nest in one of the shelter pipes on one of the rafts.  Sadly only one of the Oystercatcher chicks now survives but the Black-headed Gull nest is still on-going.

Regards

Neil M

Barn Owls

Hello

Although seemingly low key and in small numbers this year, it appears that our local Barn Owl population is currently enjoying a productive breeding season. Local naturalist Nigel Lingley teamed up recently with Paddy Jackson, a local expert, to check on breeding Barn Owls within the area here north of Northampton. The results were good with four broods of young and another clutch of eggs all being located in sited nest-boxes. Please see images from Nigel Lingley below.

The heavy rainfall of the last nine months and the two winters prior to that have not been kind to Barn Owls, with many individuals not being able to sustain themselves let alone raise a brood of youngsters. In addition, most species of owl will only breed when there is sufficient food to raise a brood of young. In Barn Owls it often means that adults will delay nesting attempts until such time that the rodent population has itself recovered from wet or severe conditions. The Tawny Owl is capable of taking a broad range of prey and is not so reliant on a healthy vole population, but the more specialised Barn Owl requires a healthy number of rodents, particularly voles, in order to flourish.

In addition, John Finlayson has been in touch to state that a pair of Barn Owl are breeding at a site in the east of the county and appear to be taking prey back to youngsters in a nest. His pictures of the adults are attached. Hopefully our local owl population will enjoy a reprieve this year and bounce back with plenty of birds out hunting by the autumn.

Please also see an image of a Sparrowhawk picked up by Nigel as a road casualty. This bird appears to be making suitable progress and hopefully will be released soon.

Regards

Neil M




Nestling Barn Owls
Nigel Lingley




Hunting adult Barn Owls
John Finlayson

Sparrowhawk
Nigel Lingley

Friday, 20 June 2014

Ringing at Brixworth

Hello

A very modest ringing session took place at Brixworth Sewer Works this morning. Few birds were caught but did include three new Great Spotted Woodpeckers (two juveniles), a Whitethroat and a juvenile Swallow. Interestingly we did capture a juvenile Grey Wagtail already bearing a ring which we didn't recognise as being used by anyone in the Northants Ringing Group! Presumably this bird has already moved some way from it's breeding site (and presumably outside the county), and found the sewer works to its liking!

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thursday birds

Hello

Eleanor spent some time today walking the Blueberry Farm area near Maidwell, again confirming the presence of a pair of Barn Owl and two singing Grasshopper Warblers. 

Thirty-five Gadwall feeding together at Pitsford Res between the Old Scaldwell Road and the causeway this evening is the nucleus of an increasing summer flock which will include moulting males and hopefully breeding females. And the Cuckoo is still calling loudly - I think he needs to read the rule book because most males quieten down or shut up completely at the beginning of the June!

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Pitsford ringing

Hello

Ringing in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res yesterday evening and this morning provided over a hundred birds which included 3 Marsh Tits, 21 new Long-tailed Tits, 8 new Blackcaps, 8 more new Robins, 6 new Wrens, 3 new Goldcrests and a new adult Tawny Owl.  Other warblers included Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler and Reed Warbler.

There were two Cuckoos outside the Ringing Hut yesterday evening and at least one bird was still present this morning.

Two Grey Wagtails were at Brixworth Sewer Works this afternoon and Eleanor again saw two Grey Partridges and two Turtle Doves at Harrington Airfield this morning.

Regards

Neil M


Tawny Owl
Broad-bodied Chaser

Both images courtesy
of Lynne Barnett


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Position static

Hello

Despite Eleanor spending plenty of time out yesterday and today, the birds remain somewhat static as you might expect for this time of the year.  There are two singing male Grasshopper Warblers at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) currently and a pair of Barn Owls continue to use the site and nearby farmland.  Other interesting birds on this set-aside complex include several pairs of Skylark and Meadow Pipit, and the unspoilt dense hedgerows support warblers including a couple of Lesser Whitethroat territories.  In previous years a pair of Willow Tit breed here but we haven't seen them recently, a sign of the times it seems...

Regards

Neil M

Monday, 16 June 2014

Pitsford CBC

Hello

This morning was spent conducting a Common Bird Census on the nature reserve north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir.  It was actually quite dull light for much of the walk, although an hour's sunshine livened up the insects for a short time.  No particular birds of note were located although Spotted Flycatcher was logged in three different places in the Walgrave Bay.  Most small birds and water-birds have produced youngsters now and there was still plenty of bird-song echoing around the plantations.  The very persistent male Cuckoo is still frantically calling and flying around the place, but there has been no sign of a female. Tawny Owls were still in family groups in both the Holcot and Walgrave Bays and the Gadwall are just beginning to form the traditional summer flock.

Regards

Neil M


Flowering Rush


Oystercatcher


Common Tern

Sunday, 15 June 2014

NRG in action

Hello

Members of the Northants Ringing Group (NRG) were divided up and busy today at three sites.  John Woollett and Chris Payne were busy catching good numbers of birds at Stortons Gravel Pits, amounting to 69 birds in all which included plenty of warblers such as Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Cetti's Warbler, all with fledged young.  The rather still and sultry conditions provided an ideal opportunity to use mist-nets at this sometimes breezy location.

In the meantime a gaggle of NRG members and supporters met at the Hanson Environment Study Centre, just over the border at Great Linford and near to Newport Pagnell.  This was in support of an open day, and we ran a Bird Ringing Demonstration near to the old flooded gravel pits.  Thirty-nine birds were processed which included seven Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Marsh Tit, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff.  About forty members of the public spent much of the morning with us as we explained the process and what ringing seeks to achieve.  Birds noted here included several Little Egrets, Kingfisher, Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler.

Finally at Pitsford Reservoir, Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett used a boat to visit the tern rafts in the Scaldwell Bay to ring the very first of the young Common Terns.  A Pied Wagtail nest with eggs was discovered on one of the rafts and two of the young Oystercatchers remain.  A Black-headed Gull nest with a single egg was found nestled against a willow stump close to the Bird Club hide.

Regards

Neil M


Ringing Demo at the HESC

Jacob Spinks and
Kenny Cramer processing
a Great Spotted Woodpecker

Common Tern chicks
Pitsford Res.  

Common Tern chicks
capable of hiding very
well amongst the spartan
vegetation on the tern rafts

Black-headed Gull nest
Pitsford Res

Pictures from the HESC courtesy
of Nick Wood and images from
Pitsford courtesy of Lynne Barnett.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Mum knows best!

Hello

An early wander at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell by Eleanor this morning was sufficient to locate a Barn Owl and a singing Grasshopper Warbler, and this evening the Barn Owl was still present but the highlight was an Osprey flying over carrying a fish!

My mother has traditionally always fed birds in her garden and for the last couple of decades or so has found that by far and away the favourite food for a variety of species is cooked pastry!  Although it is debatable whether such food provides a suitable balanced nourishment for adult and juvenile birds, there is no doubt that the birds love it and become particularly tame in order to be first in the queue!  Supplemented with sunflower hearts, peanuts and the usual garden offerings, her garden is packed with birds many of which follow her around the garden!  Today I took my camera along and took some images - once the individuals had backed off a bit!

This afternoon Eleanor and I walked around the Summer Leys reserve at Earls Barton GP, a rare treat for us.  Nothing unusual was seen but the standard fare was good with a Hobby, five Teal , two drake Pochard, one of the pair of Shelduck with five ducklings, two Oystercatchers, at least two Redshank, six Little Ringed Plovers, two or three Little Egrets and a Cetti's Warbler.  The small Sand Martin colony was active and the Black-headed Gulls had produced lots of young on one of the islands, some of which are already capable of flight.  The orchid family was well represented with flowering Common Spotted, Bee, Marsh and Pyramidal.  A Hobby was seen over nearby Bozeat village.

Regards

Neil M



Adult Jackdaw

Juvenile Male Blackbird

Collared Dove

Juvenile male Starling

Juvenile female Starling

Adult male Starling

Juvenile male Starling (and pals)

Adult Jackdaw

Adult Jackdaw

Adult female Starling

Adult Robin

Adult and juvenile Rook

First year female Blackbird



Marsh Orchids

Bee Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Pitsford and other news...

Hello

On Thursday morning (12th), Dave Francis conducted a CES ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir based in the Scaldwell Bay. Juvenile birds were to be expected and included Long-tailed Tits, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.  A re-trap Sparrowhawk livened up proceedings!  More juvenile Robins ensured that Dave has now trapped twenty of these yellow-spotted youngsters here this spring, confirming a good early season for them.  The impression is that adult warblers are not hitting the mist nets in any numbers, albeit that there seem to be reasonable numbers singing in the bushes. 

Other birds caught included a couple of Marsh Tits, Treecreeper and Bullfinch. Over a thousand birds have been ringed at Pitsford Reservoir this year, about half of them being young tit nestlings ringed in the nest-boxes.  Earlier ringing in the year at the feed station site at the Old Scaldwell Road provided captures of 71 Yellowhammers and 40 Tree Sparrows.

It is hoped over the week-end to again visit the floating tern rafts in the Scaldwell Bay to count the Common Tern nests and ring any youngsters.  Black-headed Gulls are also attempting to nest on these structures this year.  A trail camera positioned on a raft may provide some answers as to what may predate eggs/youngsters.

Other news from Pitsford indicates that the spring moths enjoyed a very good season but the early summer moths are not being found in high numbers.  A Blossom Underwing observed on the reserve in April was a new species for the site.  Sarah and Mischa will be hosting a moth event on 4th July 2014 in line with the National Moth Night, commencing at 9pm.  This is planned to take place at the end of the Old Scaldwell Road next to Maytrees Hide and if you would like to attend, please let Mischa or Sarah know.

Yesterday (13th),  Helen Franklin and I spent some time near Woodford Halse checking Swallow nests in a stable complex.  We managed to ring three young Swallows in one nest and catch six adults also for ringing purposes.  A brood of Pied Wagtail was also ringed.  Birds present in the near vicinity included Little Owl, Hobby, Tree Sparrow and Spotted Flycatcher.  Just over the border in Priors Marston we checked on a Spotted Flycatcher nest which contained young with two proud adults in attendance.

A Polecat lying in the middle of the road isn't a particularly unusual sight in the county these days, albeit that this animal's nocturnal activities prevent most of us from seeing much of them bouncing around.  Yesterday morning one had been hit on the road between Daventry and Buckby Wharf, but to my surprise when I stopped to have a closer look it managed to right itself and hopped, skipped and jumped in to the roadside hedge!

For the butterfly enthusiasts, Black Hairstreaks were on the wing yesterday at Glapthorne Cow Pasture (Wildlife Trust reserve near Oundle). Neil Hasdell has kindly provided an image (please see below), and a Nightingale was still audible there.  In addition, please also see a couple of images below from Nick Wood when he discovered a brood of Nuthatch in one of his nest-boxes at Chase Park Farm recently...

Regards

Neil M


Black Hairstreak
Neil Hasdell


Nuthatch brood
Nick Wood

Swallow
Woodford Halse







Thursday, 12 June 2014

Spring - Summer - Autumn...?

Hello

The smaller passerine species have been churning out young birds for some weeks now, and many of the water-birds have achieved much the same.  In the crow family it is the Raven that nests earliest and their broods have been out for some time now. Then it's the Rooks who aren't far behind and many of the cut haylage fields now are full of both adults and begging juveniles.  About now, the majority of the Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw and Jay youngsters are fledging. Technically it is still the season of spring, but the breeding season is generally early this year so in the birds' world this season is very much summer now!  

And there are birds on the move that are failed breeders which are already beginning to navigate back to safe feeding and moulting sites. Perhaps the most obvious locally is the Lapwing with quite a number of birds gently moving south for about a week or so now, and there are breeding plumage Black-headed Gulls starting to disperse from breeding areas. Other species will be involved soon, including waders such as Green Sandpiper, and in some respects it can become confusing as to which way some of these migrants are going!  Failed breeding adult and juvenile Chiffchaffs will be another species that begins to move soon and those species which are single-brooded and have failed or off-loaded their offspring may soon begin their annual moult or move on to a safe place to do so.

Eleanor tried birding at some different locations today including Daventry Country Park, Borough Hill Country Park and Harlestone Heath.  A single pair of Spotted Flycatcher was located at all three sites but apart from this Eleanor assures me she can't think of any other out of the ordinary birds out there!  At least one Willow Tit was along the Brampton Valley Way below Hanging Houghton at lunch-time.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Pitsford nest-boxes

Hello

A small team of us spent time at Pitsford Reservoir today erecting some more large nest-boxes on the Wildlife Trust reserve  We managed to achieve our objective and also check on other recently placed boxes, adding sawdust and shavings as appropriate for nesting birds.  Most of this work is in preparation for the 2015 season and beyond, hopefully providing appropriate nesting opportunities primarily for owls but also Kestrel, Stock Dove and Jackdaw and occasionally something else.  Some twenty-two large boxes are now up and in good condition, and are in addition to a couple of hundred small nest-boxes for the local tits and Treecreepers.

No birds out of the ordinary to report today, but it was good to hear a Grey Partridge calling away on the outskirts of Hanging Houghton this evening.

Regards

Neil M

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Birds of Middle England

Hello

Despite spending a fair bit of time out yesterday (9th), there wasn't much to show for our airing, the best being a Hobby near Brixworth.

Today (10th) and Eleanor again checked out Harrington Airfield this morning and again there were two 'purring' Turtle Doves and a pair of Grey Partridge. Yellow Wagtails remain on territory there too.

This evening and a wander around the Blueberry Farm near Maidwell produced a singing Grasshopper Warbler, one or two Barn Owls(s) and a family of Tawny Owls.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sunday pm

Hello

At risk of sounding repetitive, Eleanor wandered the Harrington Airfield complex this afternoon and again came across two Turtle Doves and two Grey Partridges.  This time the birds were around bushes and rough pasture on land to the north of the main concrete track where it connects with the old airstrip (opposite the old firing range wall).

A change of scenery was required this evening with a walk around Welford Reservoir which produced sightings of Spotted Flycatcher and a Grass Snake.

Regards

Neil M



Great Crested Grebe
Welford Res

First Year (hatched last year) male Blackbird
Welford Res.  The end of tail shape and brown
worn wing feathers indicate that this is not a full
adult male Blackbird.  In addition, most mature males
would exhibit a brighter bill and eye-ring and the body
feathers would be blacker and glossier.  Even so the
behaviour of this bird indicated that it was foraging for
food for it's young so despite it's young age it has
presumably been successful in finding and defending
a territory.

Dawn Chorus

Hello

A little late in the season but this morning we had a go at a guided dawn chorus at Pitsford Reservoir, at the request of Pitsford Women's Institute.  A 4.30am start is always a little daunting for some - luckily I am a morning person!  The walk took in the north bank of the Holcot Bay and we walked to the Lagoon Hide and back.  Initially we were distracted because a family unit of Tawny Owls (including two mobile and vocal youngsters) were close to our rendezvous spot.  A Jay was seen and a Sparrowhawk heard and then it was back on the agenda to listen to singing small birds. 

There are plenty of Wrens on site this year, no doubt more numerous due to the mild winter, and their song velocity was in danger of drowning out the remainder of the songsters!  However the Song Thrushes were not to be outdone and we quickly tracked down the monotonous song of Chiffchaff and others amongst the throng.

A couple of Muntjac sprang away from us and we espied water birds as the bushes gave way to open water viewing.  The Coots seem to be doing well this year with plenty of youngsters in evidence and Great Crested Grebes and Mute Swans also have broods on-site.

Other songsters included hidden Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Blackcap but Garden Warblers were much more showy.  A good view of a Grass Snake was a bonus.  Common Buzzard was seen and Green Woodpecker heard and then we meandered back to the cars - where did two and a half hours go?

Breeding Oystercatchers and Common Terns are an assured sight in the Scaldwell Bay and the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station is supporting adult and juvenile Tree Sparrows and Great Spotted Woodpeckers in addition to more standard fare.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Soggy Saturday !

Although I've spent plenty of time outdoors today I haven't much to show for my efforts....apart from a big pile of soggy clothes and wet dogs !!!!  We had a good early walk around Blueberry Farm area, but only saw the usual Common Buzzards, Red Kites, Meadow Pipits etc. 

I decided to go for a run and take Tor with me. All was going well until a pesky squirrel jumped onto the track in front of us and Tor nearly pulled me through the hedge in his quest to chase it!  Some time later we both squelched our way back home, managing (as usual) to be out when the rain was at it's heaviest!

As it was a nice evening I went back to Blueberry area and again plenty of Common Buzzards, but also a hunting Barn Owl and a pair of Grey Partridge.

We all jumped with fright when the calm quiet evening was broken by the close barking of a Muntjac deer which was literally just the other side of the hedge.  Our young foster dog squealed with fright and sat quaking behind "old" Bazra for protection.

Regards  

Eleanor

Friday, 6 June 2014

Harrington Orchids

Hello

Although not in huge numbers, the Common Spotted Orchids at Harrington Airfield along the old airstrip are blooming, with significant variation in colours and petal structure.  The Bee Orchids are fewer in number and not as well-developed yet...

Regards

Neil M






Common Spotted Orchids

Bee Orchid