Friday, 31 October 2014

Haloween Birds

Hello

A classic autumn morning at Harrington Airfield with a high volume of birds moving over the plateau north to south. About 500 Woodpigeons moved over in just less than 90 minutes, other birds included about 300 Redwings, 90 Fieldfares, 200 Starlings and good numbers of Chaffinch, Skylark, Linnet, Goldfinch and Meadow Pipit. Small numbers of Tree Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting and Brambling added variety with singles of redpoll sp and Grey Wagtail.

Grounded birds included good numbers of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and slightly more noteworthy birds seen included a male Peregrine, a Raven, two Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps.

The reserve section of Pitsford Res late morning provided views of two Great White Egrets, 18 Pintail a Black Swan and two Green Sandpipers and at least one Willow Tit in the Scaldwell Bay and 26 Red-crested Pochard in the Walgrave Bay.

This afternoon birds noted at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) included now three pairs of Stonechat, three Woodcock and a Barn Owl (Marsh Harrier reported).

Birds around feeders in the garden here at Hanging Houghton included a Marsh Tit, a Nuthatch and a smart male Lesser Redpoll, with a male Brambling nearby.

Regards

Neil M


The Great White Egrets
had found a shoal of small
fish in the shallows in the
Scaldwell Bay, two Grey
Herons and a couple of
Cormorants also took advantage.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Passerines en-masse

Hello

Eleanor was out and about today and ventured up to Harrington Airfield this morning. Large numbers of passerines were present which included Linnets, Yellowhammers and an influx of Blackbirds. Nothing of particular note though.

It was a similar story at Blueberry Farm near Maidwell with large numbers of small birds on or near the ground, causing a Common Buzzard to alter it's hunting technique and successfully catch a bird by quartering the field similar to a harrier. Two pairs of Stonechat remain on-site and two Ravens were noted in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Jacob Spinks was at Pitsford Res today to the south of the causeway and noted the Grey Phalarope still, the Bar-headed Goose and the pair of Ruddy Shelduck.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard

Hello

This morning a small team of us decided to try a ringing session at Brixworth Sewer Works. The weather forecast was changeable and we weren't sure if the impending rain was going to disrupt our efforts. Although the overall catch numbers were not high, quality was in the form of four Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail, a Magpie, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and four Goldcrests.

However whilst we were in the process of checking nets, a raptor appeared just to the west of the site, slowly spiralled up and gently drifted off to the south-west. A stunning juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard! Looking more like a tiny Golden Eagle than a buteo, the bird exhibited proportionately slim wings, was long-bodied and of course displayed the bright white upper tail and dark terminal band, black carpal patches, dark lower abdomen and overall cold plumage tones with a pale head. We were all a touch stunned as the local status of this species is certainly rare; hopefully this may be the forerunner of other sightings as a good number of Rough-legs have been spotted this autumn to the east and north of us.

An adult Yellow-legged Gull later flew over the site towards Pitsford Res.

Eleanor in the meantime was at Blueberry Farm and notched up a pair of Stonechat on the north side of the complex with another pair in the southern-most field. A Grey Plover flew over calling in an easterly direction and a female Merlin caught a passerine. The Short-eared Owl was still in the southern-most field.

At lunch-time visit to Harrington Airfield yielded large numbers of passerines which included good numbers of Linnets and Yellowhammers. Six Bramblings were present and a Short-eared Owl was flushed from the airstrip. Two Ravens were also present.

Regards

Neil M


Magpie

Grey Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tuesday's Tales

Another glorious Autumn day with plenty of sunshine and light breeze.  I was up and about early this morning as were the Short Eared Owl and pair of Stonechat in the southern most field at Blueberry Farm.
After a quick coffee I took the younger dogs and headed to Harrington Airfield where I spent the next few hours. Initially there were birds everywhere !! Big numbers of passerines on the top fields including Skylark, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Goldfinch, but despite intensive scrutiny I couldn't find anything else different amongst them.  Small flocks of Starling and Redwing were constantly flying over. Harrington is one of those rare places where you can actually physically feel, hear and see migration happening and it can be quite remarkable.
The conditions, plenty of food, sunshine and breeze was perfect for raptors and it was only a matter of time before they put in an appearance.  A female Merlin came low across the fields and caused the passerines to panic. She appeared to catch something before she continued on her way.
Whilst sitting around the bunkers scanning I picked up a male Peregrine, 8+ Red Kites and numerous Common Buzzard.
As I walked back along the main track I was accompanied by 2 "cronking" Ravens.
This afternoon I visited Sywell Reservoir but despite walking round I only saw 6+ Siskins, 2 Grey Wagtail and a pair of Stonechat.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 27 October 2014

Here and There !!


   Today I have been out and about mixing birding with errands, beginning with a short walk at Blueberry Farm area and finishing at Harrington Airfield.
The Short Eared Owl and pair of Stonechat were present in their usual southern most field of Blueberry. There was a noticeable movement of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Redwing at this time.
A run along the Brampton Valley Way only produced 2 Grey Wagtails and good numbers of Redwings.
A brief visit to Pitsford Reservoir which was a very busy with people walking + cycling as well as numerous fishing boats and sailing craft . Infact it seemed as if "the whole world" was out enjoying the lovely Autumn warmth and the wildfowl themselves looked stunning in the sunshine.  From the causeway I could see 2 Great White Egret, 2 Ruddy Shelduck and 10+ Red Crested Pochard and from the dam a Green Sandpiper and the Grey Phalarope which was very mobile.
This afternoon I visited the garden centre at Harlestone and whilst browsing there were at least 4 Common Crossbill flying around. A walk around Harlestone Firs produced at least 20+ Siskins, mainly near the railway line and plenty of common woodland birds.  The rich reds, orange and yellow of the leaves were beautiful and my canine companions enjoyed a roll in the leaves followed by a bath in the muddy puddles !!!  it is very muddy away from the main track.
I decided to do a late afternoon visit to Harrington Airfield . I only walked out along the rough strip and it was quite productive with a Short Eared Owl, 6 Grey Partridge, approx. 50 Golden Plover and a pair of Stonechat, topped off with a lovely sunset.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 26 October 2014

NBC Car Trip

Hello

Today Eleanor stayed local and birds in the Blueberry Farm area near Maidwell included a Short-eared Owl, a Peregrine and two pairs of Stonechat.

It was the day for the Northants Bird Club car trip and our car went to the Norfolk coast starting at Titchwell. A blustery south-westerly accompanied us all day but it remained mild and dry. Very few people were at Titchwell first thing and we quickly connected with Sparrowhawk, at least five Marsh Harriers, four Cetti's Warblers, a Woodcock and a Chiffchaff for starters. Plenty of Little Egrets and common waders occupied the salt-marsh and passerines included about five Rock Pipits. 

The sea provided views of Razorbill, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser and Red-throated Diver and the shoreline bustled with Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Knot and Curlew. A seal pup was left high and dry on the high tide but didn't seem that bothered!

Plenty of waterfowl and waders inhabited the fresh-marsh and brackish lagoon, the best being Spotted Redshank, Avocet, Ruff and Pintail. Skeins of Brent and Pink-footed Geese whizzed about in all directions.

Our next venue was Holkham which was very busy with people, dogs and horses! Nevertheless our perseverance paid off with distant views of a Great White Egret, four Marsh Harriers, half a dozen Common Buzzards and a flying well-marked Rough-legged Buzzard. Efforts at checking the small bird flocks in the foliage failed to find much out of the ordinary but Jays were very high profile and flocks of Starlings swept past us all day.

Scanning the sea and we found some close-in scoters which included a couple of small parties of Velvet Scoter and a very smart drake Surf Scoter. More Red-throated Divers, a Gannet and a Razorbill fished the shallows off the beach.

We finished the day with skeins of calling Pink-footed Geese arriving to roost against a stunning rich pink sun-set.

Regards

Neil M


Stonechat

Black-tailed Godwit

Little Egret

Brent Geese

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mild October

Hello

A ringing session in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Reservoir today netted about sixty birds, the best perhaps being a single Redwing and a dozen each of Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit plus three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a couple of Blackbirds which may have been of continental origin.

Other birds noted in the bay included a Brambling and a Grey Wagtail, a few Goldeneye and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. The Scaldwell Bay hosted two Great White Egrets in the afternoon plus a Little Egret, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, twelve Red-crested Pochard, several Pintail, two Green Sandpipers and a pair of Stonechat.

Blueberry Farm again provided views of a Short-eared Owl, a Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat this afternoon.

Regards

Neil M

Little Egret

Great White Egret

Mad March Brown Hares in
October! The relative warm
temperatures appears to be
causing some unseasonal behaviour
in our local wild-life including these
Hares. And there are still some
butterflies, dragon-flies and bees about,
and many birds such as Dunnock
have started singing again.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Quick round-up

Hello

A gallop around Harrington Airfield was called for this morning, and a continuing theme for the autumn has been the large number of common birds present. It was the same today with excellent numbers of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, common finches and the like inhabiting the scrub, and with pigeons, corvids and Skylarks on the open fields. A Corn Bunting, once a breeding bird at this location but now a rare visitor, was present near the first bunker after initially being flushed from the large triangle of rough grass. A Ring Ouzel was in track-side bushes near to the shooting wall and other migrant thrushes were present in good numbers. The finches included a few each of Brambling, Siskin and redpoll sp. Other birds included about 30 Golden Plovers, two Ravens, a covey of seven Grey Partridge, two Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Willow Tit.

Birds in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res this morning included a Great White Egret and 12 Red-crested Pochard and the Short-eared Owl and two Stonechats were still present in the southern-most field at Blueberry Farm.

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Parish birding

Hello

Birds noted locally by Eleanor today included a Peregrine at Lamport and 50 Golden Plovers and 3 Ravens in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

This afternoon the Short-eared Owl showed well in the southern-most field of the Blueberry Farm complex, initially at 1pm and again from 5.45pm. A Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat were also present in the same area.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pitsford WeBS

Hello

Much of today was spent completing a WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir. Unfortunately there was a significant amount of disturbance but we persevered in the pleasant weather conditions. 

A single Great White Egret was seen in the Walgrave Bay and later a single was in the Scaldwell Bay. It's not known if these observations refer to one or two birds. Other birds on-site included about 8 Little Egrets, a Black Swan, 27 Red-crested Pochard (11 in the Walgrave Bay and 16 in the Scaldwell Bay), 13 Pintail, 4 Goldeneye, 3 Green Sandpipers, 38 Snipe, three adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a Stonechat and a Siskin.

Nearby a Water Rail and three Snipe were noted at Brixworth Sewer Works.

Regards

Neil M

Red Fox Pitsford Res.
A different individual
to the injured animal seen
at the week-end.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Steadfast birds in the wind

Hello

Birds noted at Pitsford Res today included 2-3 Great White Egrets (two in the Scaldwell Bay and later one at the Gorse Bushes), the Grey Phalarope near to Pintail Bay still, the two Ruddy Shelduck south of the causeway and three (two adult) Yellow-legged Gulls in the gull roost.

Despite the very windy conditions this afternoon, a Short-eared Owl and two Barn Owls were hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, but this time in the sheltered area at the bottom of the largest seta-side field (on the hill) to the west of the farm.

Regards

Neil M

Monday, 20 October 2014

Detecting diurnal migration

Hello

A wander around Harrington Airfield this morning provided plenty of evidence of south-bound migration but nothing of particular note was seen. Common finches made up much of the movement which also included a Brambling and a couple of redpoll sp. Redwings, Starlings and Woodpigeons made in-roads in to the south-westerly air-stream and moved over in small flocks. Skylarks are more difficult to assess because they spend so much time chasing each other around and singing, direct diurnal migration is less pronounced. For the last month or so small numbers of Tree and House Sparrows have been flying over the disused airfield or even pitching down on the bushes for a short while. This may just be localised movement but who knows! Other birds seen this morning included a Wheatear and about sixty Golden Plover.

Birds in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res today were noted as a single Great White Egret (I'm not certain that the other two are currently on-site, but one has been seen regularly south of the causeway too), 18 Red-crested Pochard, 11 Pintail, a pair of Stonechat and a Willow Tit. A few Siskins were around Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay. Birds visible from the dam this afternoon in wet and dull conditions included a Water Rail, a Green Sandpiper, up to four Grey Wagtails, a Wheatear and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. 

A Grey Wagtail was in Hanging Houghton village today and three Bramblings flew south over the Brampton Valley below the village. This evening the Short-eared Owl again hunted the southern-most field of the Blueberry Farm complex; a Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat were present too.

Regards

Neil M


Goldfinch. Large numbers of these
birds pass through the county at this
time of the year, many to winter in Iberia.

More images from Pitsford

Hello

Local naturalist Jacob Spinks was out and about at Pitsford Reservoir with his camera yesterday, and shares with us some of his favorite images of the day...

Neil M





Grey Phalarope


Kestrel

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Breezy Sunday

Hello

At Harrington Airfield this morning birds present included a Short-eared Owl, a pair of Stonechat and a Wheatear. Three Siskins flew south over Hanging Houghton early morning.

At Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon, time spent on the reserve north of the causeway provided views of a single Great White Egret (Scaldwell Bay), 24 Red-crested Pochard (22 in Scaldwell Bay and 2 in the Walgrave Bay), four Goldeneye, seven Pintail, a Black Swan, both Marsh and Willow Tit and a pair of Stonechat (male trapped and ringed). A Swallow was seen near the dam.

A female Pochard and a drake Tufted Duck were both sporting blue bill shields in the Scaldwell Bay this afternoon. Hopefully we have recorded the correct details of the Tufted Duck but the Pochard was too distant. It is likely that both birds were initially trapped and ringed in France or Spain.

A Short-eared Owl was hunting in breezy conditions at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell in the southern-most field just before dusk.

Regards

Neil M



Red Fox Pitsford Res.
This animal was suffering
an injury to it's left leg
causing a severe limp.


Male Stonechat
Pitsford Res.




Saturday, 18 October 2014

Ditchford WeBS count

Hello

This morning Eleanor located a Wheatear in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke.

This afternoon we completed a belated WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits in breezy but ridiculously warm conditions. Common Blue Damselflies and Common Darters were among many insects on the wing in these balmy temperatures.

The water-sport pit west of Ditchford lane hosted a Water Pipit and at least seven Egyptian Geese. A Bittern was in waterside vegetation on the second old pit east of Ditchford Lane. Other birds included a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe, three Little Egrets, ten Kingfishers, a pair of Stonechat, six Cetti's Warblers, four Grey Wagtails and two Siskins.

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 17 October 2014

Goldfinch bonanza!

Hello

Time spent at Pitsford Reservoir today provided further views of the first winter Grey Phalarope which was still in the Pintail Bay at 4.30pm. Other birds present included a Green Sandpiper, a Black Swan, the pair of Ruddy Shelduck still, a Great White Egret, a Rock Pipit and a Wheatear.

At least one male Brambling remained at Hanging Houghton today.

Yesterday morning (Thursday) and Chris Payne experienced an influx of Goldfinches at his Greens Norton ringing site, catching a whopping 47 birds! He processed a total of 90 birds which in addition to the Goldfinches included a couple of Collared Doves, a Woodpigeon, a Great Spotted Woodpecker as well as Long-tailed Tits, House Sparrows, Greenfinches etc.

Regards

Neil M

Grey Phalarope
Pitsford Res



Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wood Duck

Hello

John Gamble has kindly forwarded some images of a female Wood Duck present on the River Nene near Morrisons Supermarket at Northampton on Tuesday (14th Oct) at about 11am. Presumably the same individual as that further up-river near the Carlsberg premises earlier in the year...?

Regards

Neil  M




Wood Duck
Courtesy of John Gamble

Pitsford Birding

Today most of my birding was confined to the big side of Pitsford Reservoir. As it was a lovely Autumn day I thought that I would walk the whole circuit which I believe is just over seven miles which took me and my canine companions four hours.
Plenty of birds to look at including at least 6 Little Egrets, 1 Great White Egret, Green Sandpiper, Wheatear, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, 1 Siskin, and 8 Brambling.
The Grey Phalarope was still present just north of Moulton Grange Bay, but it was quite flighty today giving most birders the run around.
As I walked across the causeway I noted the 2 Ruddy Shelduck sitting at the waters edge in front of the Lodge.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Grey Phalarope

Hello

At Harrington Airfield this morning birds included large numbers of Redwings and a couple of Fieldfares, plus a Woodcock, a Brambling and a redpoll sp flew over. At Hanging Houghton there was a male Brambling present.

At Pitsford Reservoir today a first year Grey Phalarope was located by Bob Bullock near to the Moulton Grange Bay and this lingered in to the afternoon. Other birds included a Rock Pipit on the dam, a Wheatear, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two Greenshank flew through.

Regards

Neil M


Yesterday's juvenile Gannet
at Pitsford Res. Courtesy of
Dave Jackson. 


Grey Phalarope



The forgotten birder!

Hello

In Eleanor's excitement she forgot to mention that I managed a short time scanning on the dam at Pitsford Res during the late afternoon of Tuesday (14th October), and picked out a first winter Mediterranean Gull and three adult Yellow-legged Gulls among the pre-roost gathering of gulls.

Regards

Neil M

Spotshank and Owls !

After the excitement of the morning I was expecting a quiet afternoon as a friend and I took our dogs to Sywell Reservoir.  For the size of the water there were plenty of common waterfowl including 2 stunning drake Goldeneye.  But the best bird was a Spotted Redshank which flew round and round giving good views and it was calling continually as it looked for somewhere to land before flying off over the dam. 

In the carpark area were Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Nuthatch, Tawny Owl and a few Siskins.

I spent early evening [6pm] at the southern end of Blueberry Farm area. There were quite a few Redwings and Jays on the move. 
The light went very quickly and I had given up any hope of seeing anything else when I realised that one of the dogs was gazing intently at something.  I followed his gaze and saw a Short-eared Owl hunting very low a few metres in front of me[ 18.40hrs]. Not a good view as poor light.

As I turned the car round to drive home I picked out a Barn Owl in the headlights and then when I was nearly back to the village , again through the headlights I saw another Barn Owl perched on a bench.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Gannet at Pitsford Reservoir !!

Morning
Just thought I'd pop to Pitsford to look for any lingering Kittiwakes but all seemed quiet as I scanned round, so I moved onto my next task........walking the dogs !.  
I walked around the country park and inbetween  playing ball with the dogs I scanned the reservoir.  I had such a shock when I saw an immature Gannet cruising low over the water.
Games were abandoned as I watched in awe as the bird slowly circled around the Pintail Bay and headed off towards the causeway before reappearing and proceeded to dive into the water in front of me. 
It was with shaking hands that I tried to contact folk but getting the news out was also hampered by the fact I've got a new phone which I cannot use and I haven't managed to put any contact numbers in yet, sorry.
When I left at 10.30 it was sitting on the water between the Pintail Bay and gorse bushes.

Regards   Eleanor

Monday, 13 October 2014

Kittiwakes!

Hello

A day of heavy rain and strong northerly winds made it a difficult day for birding away from immediate cover.

In the swirling wet weather this morning a flock of about sixty Fieldfares were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, the first ones we have noted this autumn.

This afternoon  a flock of 15 Kittiwakes were near the dam at Pitsford Res. One of these birds quickly flew off leaving the 14 birds with other gulls on the water. At about 5pm more birds arrived and the total went up to 17, followed by a succession of others. The most I was able to count at any one time was 20 birds, but with the difficult weather conditions and the commencement of the gull roost, it is likely there were more birds than this. When I left at about 5.55pm there were still at least 10 birds present. Examples of all three age groups were represented within this inland gathering.

Regards

Neil M

Sunday, 12 October 2014

County Bird Ringing

Hello

A busy ringing session at Stortons GP this morning provided an opportunity of examining and ringing 97 new birds and processing 27 birds ringed there before. The highlights for the team led by John Woollett was probably two Jays, a Blackcap, two Chiffchaffs, 37 Greenfinches, 12 Goldfinches, 9 Chaffinches, 6 Long-tailed Tits and 6 Reed Buntings.

Also today a period of ringing took place at Pitsford Reservoir, working at two sub-sites in the Scaldwell Bay and at the main feeding station. The feed station provided sixty birds, the main birds of interest being 27 Tree Sparrows (19 new), 3 Reed Buntings and singles of Pied Wagtail, Blackcap, Meadow Pipit and Goldcrest. The Scaldwell Bay produced sixty-five birds but with rather a high proportion of re-traps as opposed to new birds. The highlights were a new Kingfisher, two previously ringed Willow Tits, 3 Goldcrests, a new Chiffchaff, a total of 17 Long-tailed Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Treecreeper and a Yellowhammer.

A third Willow Tit was present near the nets but remained un-trapped and other birds noted included 2-3 fly-over Grey Wagtails and a Green Sandpiper.

Eleanor visited the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton on a couple of occasions, straying up to the Blueberry Farm complex. Two Short-eared Owls were present today, spending most of their time in the southern-most field. A pair of Stonechat were present in the same field. A juvenile Ring Ouzel was seen in hedging at lunch-time and other birds included a pair of Grey Partridge and ten fly-over Golden Plovers.

Regards

Neil M


Jays at Stortons GP
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Saturday pm

Hello

Preparatory work for the winter wild bird feed stations on the Kelmarsh Estate continued today, although I was caught out in one particularly heavy shower!

It seems that small numbers of Chiffchaffs are still dotted about in our hedges and copses, and frequently mixed in with tit flocks. No other noteworthy birds were seen on the estate and I spent the last hour of daylight in to dusk at Blueberry Farm which provided views of a Barn Owl, a different pair of Stonechat to that seen this morning (two pairs on-site today) and hearing vocal Tawny and Little Owls.

Eleanor saw a different hunting Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening and earlier in the afternoon paid a visit to Harrington Airfield which produced 3 Grey Partridges, c200 Golden Plovers, the regular Little Owl and a Wheatear.

Regards

Neil M

Pitsford a.m.

Hello

A visit to Brixworth Sewer Works this morning confirmed the continued presence of at least one Grey Wagtail.

At Pitsford Res a Green Sandpiper was in the vicinity of Yacht Bay in the morning mist. In clearer conditions north of the causeway, at least two Great White Egrets were present with two singles on view at the same time in both the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays. Six or more Little Egrets were present and the Scaldwell Bay retained 18 Red-crested Pochard (two leucistic birds) and 15 Pintail.
Passerines included a Grey Wagtail and several Chiffchaffs.

Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) hosted a pair of Stonechat and 2-3 Bramblings this morning.

Regards

Neil M

Friday, 10 October 2014

Sunny Northants!

Hello

A little county birding commenced with a visit to Harrington Airfield this morning. Light visible migration mostly amounting to Linnet and Meadow Pipit flocks heading south. Reed Bunting, Dunnock and Yellowhammer were probably the most obvious passerines on the scrubby areas, other passerine migrants included small numbers of Blackbirds plus singles of Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Golden Plovers amounted to little more than twenty birds present and five Red Kites were late risers.

At Pitsford Res this afternoon the two Great White Egrets and about six Little Egrets were visible north of the causeway and there were thirteen Red-crested Pochard, two Black Swans and at least two Willow Tits in the Scaldwell Bay. The GWEs were visible from the Bird Club Hide - the viewing from this hide, and to a certain extent the habitat has now been completely transformed with the removal of very large Crack Willow trees.

This afternoon a wander around the Blueberry Farm complex near Maidwell yielded three Stonechats and a Short-eared Owl.

Regards

Neil M

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Fair Isle Day 10 (Thursday)

Hello

A short period of ringing and birding this morning and then we left Fair Isle for the long journey home to sunny Northants!

Not surprisingly the trap round results were made up of incoming Robins and thrushes plus a Brambling or two. Birding opportunities were minimal but before we made our way to the airstrip, an Olive-backed Pipit showed itself near to the Bird Observatory, finally giving itself up to us and others departing the island at literally the eleventh hour!

The Siberian Rubythroat, which had been present at Levenwick on the Shetland mainland for about a week, seemingly left overnight during clear conditions and disappointed many birders up here who had travelled especially to see it.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fair Isle Day 9

Hello

This morning on Fair Isle started with the morning trap round which amongst other things succeeded in catching a splendid female Sparrowhawk.

In excellent weather conditions today, the island was absolutely dripping in birds. Species of the day was again the Song Thrush, the daily census coming up with a figure of about 1,900 individuals - not bad for a three mile by one and half mile island! Over 800 Redwings, over a hundred Blackbirds and increases in many other species meant it was difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Patches of feathers indicated that the island raptors were preying on the Song Thrushes amongst others and a few casualties included yesterday's Barn Owl picked up dead. The rigours of migration are simply too much for some individuals.

On our walk up towards the North Lighthouse from the observatory we counted between 17 and 20 Ring Ouzels including nine together. Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Snipe were seemingly everywhere as we worked the cliffs and geos. Small numbers of wagtails, Robins, Wheatears and common warblers added variety. Four Snow Buntings and a Lapland Bunting were by North Light and a splendid drake Long-tailed Duck was a nice find. With small flocks of thrushes flying up in front of us wherever we walked, we ascended Ward Hill and found a Dotterel waiting for us.  More thrushes, a Hen Harrier, the usual Peregrine and a couple of  Merlins hurtled around us, and we flushed several Jack Snipe and a couple of Woodcock.

A quick look round for an earlier reported Olive-backed Pipit failed to locate the bird, but we were rewarded with a confiding Little Bunting.

We then began to work the south of the island, every field alive with common thrushes and many with flocks of geese which apparently included some Bean Geese, but we failed to connect with these. A Great Grey Shrike was seen by a few observers as it roamed the island and two Dotterel flew over us heading north. The pleasant conditions meant that birds like Stonechat, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, lots of Blackcaps, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a North-West-type Redpoll gave themselves up readily. Finches included still plenty of Bramblings and Twite and with more Siskin today. A Common Buzzard and a Jackdaw were seen - these are barely annual visitors to Fair Isle - and a rarity in the shape of a Blue Tit was seen briefly by a couple of observers! Although skilfully avoided by us, quite a number of Short-eared Owls were located today.

The South Harbour area provided views of Purple Sandpiper and other waders plus plenty of Wheatears and a couple of White Wagtails. A Tree/Olive-backed Pipit flew over us calling as we began the slow dawdle back to the observatory and supper!

Regards

Neil M


Ring Ouzels

Song Thrush - the most
conspicuous migrant on
Fair Isle currently.

Drake Long-tailed Duck


Little Bunting

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Fair Isle Days 7 & 8 (Monday and Tuesday)

Hello

The Northern Isles are renown for being windswept but the last two days have seen the Shetlands well and truly battered with very high winds and heavy rain. This has made birding very difficult, but interestingly much of this weather is generally coming from the east. This means that it should be bringing birds with it!

Yesterday (Monday) and the gales in the morning were without rain and mostly from the south-east. Early afternoon saw the direction change more to the east and the rain arrived. Storm-force winds and heavy rain continued over-night and this morning. The first band of rain petered out at lunch-time today and with the winds veering to the north-east and becoming slightly less strong, there is a sense of expectancy tomorrow (Wednesday) about what we may find on the island.

Yesterday was interesting as a fall of thrushes from early morning continued right through the day with more birds arriving all the time. By dusk there were well in excess of five hundred Song Thrushes on the island, supported by over three hundred Redwing and the first major fall of Robins of the autumn. Goldcrests fell from the skies like wind-driven leaves, one even landing on my head! We disturbed a Water Rail sheltering behind a building half way up Ward Hill and many of the thrushes were taking refuge behind any structure of significance including disused buildings, walls etc. With the heavy pulses of rain we frequently joined them! The raptors on the island picked off birds at their leisure.

Other birds present included at least five Snow Buntings, three Whooper Swans, hundreds of wild geese of the Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle variety and a strong influx of Common Gulls. Other birders located a couple of Little Buntings and a rather late Dotterel. We notched up several Jack Snipe and a Ring Ouzel and a drake Scaup was sheltering in the Havens. The boot room at the obs contained many pairs of soaking walking boots and dripping coats, thus creating an interesting aroma!

Today (Tuesday) and the morning was quite frankly unbirdable! A few stalwarts strayed out for a few brief excursions and reported an arrival of Woodpigeons plus a Purple Sandpiper in the sheep-pens! During the afternoon we scooted around the south-end of the island and encountered a very obliging Little Bunting near to South Harbour. Snipe and Jack Snipe were everywhere and a couple of Woodcock too. The thrush numbers had multiplied again, the Song Thrush being the most numerous. Up to five Ring Ouzels were present. Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Brambling, Siskin, Twite and Skylark flew around in mixed flocks and tired Meadow Pipits littered the fields. An Olive-backed Pipit was seen briefly by the warden before it was blown away along the cliffs. The geese remained and plenty of ducks were visible around the island. Waders were in all sorts of strange places trying to shelter from the gales and three Purple Sandpipers showed well. The rarest bird for Fair Isle was a Barn Owl flushed from a road-side ditch, last seen perched on the cliffs (only about the sixth ever record and the first since 1958)!

Regards

Neil M



The ever-present Fulmar

Fungi

Hello

On 19th September we posted a picture of a fungi that had been located near to Pitsford Reservoir by Diane Freeman. With the help of local naturalists Jeff Blincow and Lynne Barnett, this fungi has now been identified as a rare red data species 'Hericium corolloides'. A picture of this is reproduced below.

In addition, Robin Gossage has recently photographed an allied species 'Hericium cirrhatum', another rare coral fungi (please see below). The damp autumn conditions is traditionally a good time of the year for the fungi specialists do go foraging...

Regards

Neil M

Hericium corolloides

Hericium cirrhatum
Courtesy of Robin Gossage

Swallow on migration

Hello

We have just received some information with regard to a Swallow ringed by the Northants Ringing Group at Brixworth on 27th May 2014. This bird was re-caught by a ringer at a place called Dinnyes, Fejero in Hungary on 13th September 2014! When originally mist-netted locally this bird was aged and sexed as an adult male and it is likely that it was destined to be a breeding bird somewhere in the UK and possibly in the county.

In September it would be a reasonable assertion to think that this bird was very much on migration en-route to Africa. Swallows migrate the full length of the African continent from European breeding quarters but it is generally assumed that 'our' Swallows move through France and Iberia and through the Western Mediterranean area. This bird appears to be attempting to try a crossing further east, perhaps out over the Med via Greece or even potentially going all the way around via Israel and down the Red Sea route.

How many kilometers this bird has clocked up as it has winged it's way south is anyone's guess but it had traveled 1510 km in an east south-east direction to be in Hungary 109 days later. Even on migration, Swallows will attempt to feed on the wing, and the distances these birds travel on a 'normal' day is quite staggering.

Regards

Neil M


Swallow




Monday, 6 October 2014

Stortons ringing

Hello

John Woollett and team managed another ringing session at Stortons GP on Sunday where they successfully caught 98 birds. Twenty of these birds were re-traps from previous efforts on-site.

Birds caught included three Cetti's Warblers (one new bird), a late Reed Warbler which weighed in at a healthy weight of 13.7g, two Blackcaps and good numbers of Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches.

Regards

Neil M

Fair Isle Day 6 (Sunday)

Hello

This blog refers to our adventures on Fair Isle on Sunday...

The morning trap round produced a few birds for ringing which included Goldcrest, Song Thrush and Brambling. After breakfast we decided to venture up to the north of the island, with a freshening southerly wind-stream on our backs. We quickly notched up the island's Merlins and Peregrines as we marched over the moorland and dodged the menacing Bonxies as they swooped down towards us.

A good look around indicated that the White's Thrush from the previous day had probably gone and we flushed up several Jack Snipe and many Snipe as we checked various depressions and damp patches. A bright and bouncy Yellow-browed Warbler flitting around on the peat and heather was a treat, this little warbler seemingly coping with the lack of foliage. A Ring Ouzel was next and a climb up to Ward Hill produced plenty of Song Thrushes and Redwings and other common migrants. An inspection of the old buildings by the Mast led to the discovery of a Black Redstart.

We then zig-zagged down the hill, locating plenty of Golden Plover, pipits and Wheatears as we did so.

After a splendid Fair Isle Sunday dinner, we yomped up to Pund and managed just brief views of the long-staying Bluethroat. The Hen Harrier argued with a Peregrine over the centre of the island and Lapland Buntings called from nearby wet bogs. A couple of flocks of Whooper Swans patrolled over-head and Pink-footed Geese and Greylags ensured there was plenty of noise too!

The south end of the island hosted plenty of waders but despite our best efforts we couldn't find anything unusual in the ever-increasing windy conditions and arrived back at the obs just before dusk at 7pm, just in time for Fair Isle High Tea. I could easily become used to this!

Regards

Neil M


Meadow Pipit

Starling

Pink-footed Geese

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Reflections...

Hello

Some reflective images of waders from Robin Gossage...

Regards

Neil M




Ruff - a species that varies in
size, bare parts colouration
and plumage!


Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper




Sunny Sunday morning

After yesterday's wet weather this morning was a very pleasant, if rather chilly, surprise.  I decided to make the most of it with a rather 'iffy' forecast for the rest of the week and headed up to Harrington Airfield for the first part of my outing. Harrington was unspectacular with a Stonechat near the second bunker being the highlight.  A number of Golden Plover were vocal in the autumn sunshine, various flocks numbering ~80 birds in total. Assorted finches and buntings were present in good numbers without anything unusual being noted.
The second part of the morning was spent in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir. The first bird observed was the Great-white Egret in flight between the Walgrave and Scaldwell Bays where it landed beside the Willows Hide. 5 of its smaller Little Egret cousins were dotted about the reserve.  I bumped into Dave Francis who said there was a Stonechat between the feed station and the Bird Club Hide, unfortunately I couldn't relocate it. 
A Green Sandpiper was on the mud next to the Bird Club hide and 10 Pintail were to the left of it just off the bund with a further 2 in front of the Willows Hide. 16 Red-crested Pochard were present, 9 of which were drakes including the leucistic bird. A pair of Black Swans were sailing serenely close to the Bird Club Hide.
The glorious weather had obviously not gone unnoticed by the raptors, 16 Buzzards were up at one point, 9 in the same thermal along with a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.



          Regards,

                            Neil H.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fair Isle Day 5

Hello

Still suffering from a very poor Internet connection up here on Fair Isle but here goes!

Today was mostly a day of rain but thankfully the strong winds of the last few days had stilled and there was barely a breath of breeze. These are quite rare conditions for up here so it was worth becoming somewhat waterlogged in order to find passerines.

However it was the geese that provided most of the avian spectacle (and sound) in the morning with over a thousand Pink-footed Geese arriving from the north and landing on various parts of the island, and other skeins passing down the sides of the island or circling over-head. Small numbers of Greylags and Barnacles added some variety and there was an increase in ducks too with mobile Wigeon, Teal and Red-breasted Merganser in good numbers.

We located a very wet Richard's-type Pipit that was so fed up at becoming wet in the grass it took to walking along the edge of roads and tracks! Other repeats included the male Bluethroat again, two smart and performing Yellow-browed Warblers, Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting and plenty of Twite and Brambling. Two Merlins hunted the isle as did the male 'ringtail' Hen Harrier and the Bonxies continued to harry just about anything that passed over including the geese-flocks which looked impressive! Other birds included Arctic Tern, Red-throated Diver, Jack Snipe, Grey Wagtail, Whinchat, Wheatear, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.

However bird of the day was a White's Thrush which was found in the afternoon at the north-end of the island during the daily bird census. This is a bird we have not managed to see anywhere in the world and it looked pretty much how I always expected to see one, sheltering under a peat and heather overhang on the north aspect of Ward Hill at a location known as West Lother. This big bird, the same size as a Mistle Thrush, flinched each time a flying Bonxie came too close for comfort. A fitting end to a fairly challenging but stimulating day in the great British outdoors!

Regards

Neil M


Fair Isle Day 4

Hello

Apologies for the delay in posting this blog. With Fair Isle being a little far-flung, Internet and mobile 'phone connections are sometimes problematic!

Powerful southerly winds yesterday (Friday 3rd) with rain ensured it wasn't ideal bird-watching conditions first thing, but being on the coast there is never an excuse that you can't go sea-watching! So after finding a reasonably dry piece of cliff I scanned a wild and spectacular sea for 90 minutes. Hundreds of Gannets and Fulmars careered around in all directions and there was a light passage south of auks (mostly Razorbills) and Kittiwakes. Bonxies continued to harry anything in reasonable proximity, particularly the Gannets. Other south-bound items of interest included a Great Northern Diver, five Red-breasted Mergansers and two Harbour Porpoise.

A wander around Buness and the Havens added observations of Arctic Tern and Snow Bunting amongst more regular fare, and Eleanor added Hen Harrier and Jack Snipe to the day-list.

After a splendid lunch (the food here is amazing) and an improvement in the weather, it was a wander to the north and Eleanor and I inspected the geos and creases around the cliffs in an effort to find avian items of interest. Plenty of migrant Redwings, Song Thrushes, two more Snow Buntings, a couple of Goldcrests and a fine male Ring Ouzel were about the best. Plenty of Snipe flushed up from the moors and the local Hoodies were joined by a wandering Carrion Crow. Two Peregrines in conflict with each other were both males, an adult and a juvenile.

After checking Ward Hill and the mast area, we headed down-hill to a group of birders huddled in a field about a mile away. Their quarry was a large pipit, the second to be found on the island during the day. The powers that be decided it was a Richard's Pipit but the bird seemed remarkably small to me. This and the first bird were fresh-in and probably tired and perhaps the reason that neither were heard to call (one of the best identification features of these large pipits). They were both classed as small Richard's Pipits. Perhaps we will obtain better views today.

A flying redpoll sp was seen better by other observers who identified it a a North West (Common) Redpoll.

Some late ringing provided me with an opportunity of ringing and examining a Yellow-browed Warbler in front of a throng of visitors and then we processed a small flock of drop-dead gorgeous Bramblings. A great day on Fair Isle and then it was a superb island curry and a very good presentation on the wildlife of New Zealand.

Regards

Neil M



Bonxie or Great Skua

Snow Bunting