Saturday, 31 January 2015

Stonechat Portrait


Simon Hales has kindly forwarded some images of a couple of Stonechats currently on-site at Ditchford Gravel Pits...


Neil M

Ringing at Pitsford Reservoir


Some bird ringing took place at Pitsford Reservoir today resulting in 96 captures, the majority being common tits. A large proportion of the tits were adults and re-traps from previous years. Two Marsh Tits were re-trapped, one of them displaying a white tail, and six Coal Tits featured within the total.

Other birds included five new Chaffinches and a couple of Robins, three re-trap Moorhens, a Yellowhammer, a Fieldfare and seven Blackbirds. One of the Blackbirds was a re-trap, first being ringed at Harrington Airfield in November 2014.

Other birds noted were two Woodcock at Christies Copse and a pair of Grey Partridge near to Rectory Farm (close to the reservoir border). The gull roost off the yacht club provided views of a first winter Mediterranean Gull and two Ruddy Shelduck were discovered at dusk.


Neil M

Friday, 30 January 2015

Narnia Re-visited !

Late afternoon I retraced some of my steps from this morning's walk. By now much of the snow had melted leaving behind saturated muddy fields which were attractive to good numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing, Skylark and a few Meadow Pipits, all busy feeding.  In turn, these birds attracted a male Merlin who flew low over the field causing the birds to scatter and then he went off in pursuit of one of the smaller passerines. I've no idea whether he was successful as the hedgerow got in my way !!!

It would seem that the Otters are still being seen regularly along the River Welland in Market Harborough town centre. The local paper [Harborough Mail] has published a lovely photograph of an adult otter and two cubs taken on 16th January by a local resident. The paper also states that "their" own reporter has camped out for three days and as yet have failed to see the otters  !!. So although the otters are frequenting the stretch of river running through the town centre it is as with wildlife watching ,a case of being in the right place at the right time.  Good luck !

Regards Eleanor



Fabulous winter weather this morning with a decent snowfall overnight. Eleanor spent some time in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning, walking up to and around the Blueberry Farm complex. Birds included two pairs of Stonechat and a Barn Owl and the usual two Ravens plus fifteen mobile Golden Plovers.

Birds in the garden this morning attracted to the food included a Fieldfare and the regular Marsh Tit.


Neil M

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Smeagol's circuit!


Cool and wintry out there today but it didn't stop Eleanor running around the southern side of Pitsford Reservoir this morning with her faithful companions Tor and Smeagol (yep that's the name of the latest canine family member)! The three White-fronted Geese were by The Holly Tree and two Jack Snipe also flushed up. Other birds of interest were restricted to a Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher.

The ringing demonstration at Stanwick Lakes back on 18th January provided an opportunity of catching some birds previously ringed there from previous years. Ian Wrisdale who led the session and regularly rings at Stanwick has provided some interesting data concerning these birds, proving that some small birds are surviving well at this site.

A male Great Spotted Woodpecker caught was over five years old and two re-trap Long-tailed Tits were each over four and six years old respectively. A Great Tit was proven to be over six years old and a re-trap Reed Bunting was confirmed as being over five years old.


Neil M

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Back home to the cold...


Neil H and I are just back from a week's birding in The Gambia which was very good, and my thanks to Eleanor for keeping the blog updated whilst we dodged those awful African sun rays! And yes it does seem a touch cold here after some very warm temperatures in near tropical conditions.

Today I noted a Nordic Jackdaw or at least a bird showing those features in the garden here at Hanging Houghton this morning. It was contained within the local Jackdaw flock and may be the same individual that has appeared in the village now for it's third winter.

John Finlayson maintains a wild bird feeding station at Grafton Park Wood in the north of the county. Like many of us he enjoys assisting birds during the cold hunger months, February to April probably being the critical months when there is very little natural food out there for our avian neighbours to exploit. Please see John's Nuthatch pictures below, an individual clearly benefiting from regular hand-outs.

The road causeway that passes over Pitsford Reservoir between Brixworth and Holcot is a favoured location for local bird photographers. Lapwings often loaf along the causeway parapets and water margins and Simon Hales has snapped the below picture for our benefit.


Neil M

Courtesy of John Finlayson

Simon Hales

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Quiet days

Another couple of "quiet" days. I have seen a Barn Owl at Blueberry but not the Stonechats.  The feeding area at Harrington remains frequently disturbed, muddy and smelly and indeed the airfield devoid of birds. I haven't faired much better at Pitsford although I did see a pair of Smew and the 3 White Fronted Geese today.  
At Sywell reservoir there were a handful of Siskins and Lesser Redpoll and a good walk around Salcey Forest failed to produce anything different, just the typical woodland birds, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Siskin.  The highlight of my visit here was a lovely lunch at the Forest Cafe, highly recommended.
Birds in/over the garden include 2 Raven, Marsh Tit, 2 Nuthatch and a Lesser Redpoll.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Weekend Round Up

During the course of the weekend I have visited Blueberry area on several occasions. No new birds to report. At least one pair of Stonechat remain, along with 2 Barn Owls and frequent "fly overs" of a couple of vocal Ravens.
The feeding area at Harrington Airfield remains covered in thick mud and regularly disturbed by the steady stream of lorries which are continuing to bring lots of very smelly muck which will be spread onto the fields at a later date.  So birding here severely curtailed due to this disturbance and because the dogs are drawn to this muck like magnets !! yuk.
At Pitsford Reservoir this morning there were a pair of Smew and a Great White Egret north of the causeway and the 3 White Fronted Geese remain south of the causeway but very mobile.
I spoke to a local birder yesterday and he told me that he has a female Brambling and Blackcap in his garden at the moment, infact he had taken pictures of the Brambling.
Often I'm in and out throughout the day so perhaps do not appreciate the birds in my garden as much as I should, but as with so many folk this is where and how my passion for birds watching the birds visiting the garden.
I managed to spend a few hours tidying the garden today with my binoculars close at hand and by the end of the afternoon had notched up a good variety including Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Siskins, Grey Wagtail, Red Kite and Buzzard. Infact one of the Common Buzzards came through the garden literally a few feet from the ground. I could see why people might get worried that the Buzzard was going to take their cat or child.  A few minutes before the Buzzard did this low fly through I had been playing and training the dogs and I wonder whether it had spotted a discarded treat.
Whilst reading the local Harborough Mail newspaper I noted that up to 4 Otters have been reported last week along the town centre stretch of the river. The newspaper has also published a photograph of a Peregrine Falcon sitting on the roof of St Dionysius Church which is also in the town centre. So keep your eye's peeled if you are visiting Market Harborough.

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 23 January 2015

Quiet Day

My birding today was confined to a couple of visits to Blueberry Farm area. Nothing new to report. Two Barn Owls, pair of Stonechat and a Raven.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Frustrating Day!

My day started on a good note with a Barn Owl and pair of Stonechat at Blueberry Farm . It went downhill thereafter.
I decided to run around the big side at Pitsford Reservoir with Tor and notched up 2 Grey Wagtail, a Kingfisher and 2 Goosander [first one's I've seen at Pitsford for a while]. There was at least one Smew although I didn't see it myself.  
I was aware that there was a tractor hedge cutting or rather to my eye's murdering the hedge as chunks of sharp branches etc were flying off in all directions leaving the hedge scarred and ugly. I was none too pleased when I trod on one of these sharp pieces....ouch.
I intended to spend some time birding the small side but this was not possible today as the Ruddy Duck cull was in progress!! . There were several boats secreted in the reeds/bushes each containing folk with riffles as well as folk with binoculars/radio's at various points along the shoreline. Consequently most of the wildfowl had vacated the area.  I really do have to question the cost of this project, how much does each Ruddy Duck death cost ?  and for myself it begs the question as to why this is allowed on a nature reserve ? !!
After I had calmed down I went to Harrington to feed the birds. More frustration as I was greeted by a very muddy feeding area and a constant stream of lorries bringing some extremely smelly muck which they have deposited half way along the track. The birds couldn't really feed at the entrance so I put some food further along the track hoping that they would at least be able to feed.  So if you intend visiting Harrington at the moment be prepared for mud and the famous "Harrington aroma".   The only birds of note were 2 Raven and approx 100 Golden Plover.

Birding will be limited tomorrow. Many of us knew Rodney Ingram who sadly died earlier this month.  Tomorrow there will be a service at the parish church , Ecton at 2pm to celebrate and give thanks for Rodney's life. Rod touched so many of us in a huge variety of ways. He was instrumental in starting up from scratch the Northamptonshire Bird Club and for many years served on the committee and remained supportive of the club. He was an extremely talented artist and used this gift to illustrate the birds in the Northamptonshire Bird Report and Christmas cards for the Rspb. He was passionate about all aspects of birds, but he was also one of life's true "gentlemen" and I believe left his mark on many of our live's and his legacy will continue.  Thanks Rod.

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The North !!

Today I headed north !! For weeks I have been promising myself a visit to the "north" of the county and today was the day it happened. Although the weather forecast was not good it was my only free day for a while.
First stop was Burn Coppice just outside Deenethorpe village, an area which I haven't visited for a while. I spent over an hour wandering along the bridle track whilst scanning the hedgerows and trees. This is a good area for viewing Red Kites and today was no exception. Despite the light rain and gloomy light these birds brightened the day with their graceful flight and evocative calls.
The air was filled with another favourite call of mine as a flock of 9 Pink Footed Geese flew over heading northwards.
I was almost back to my car when I realised that the Chaffinches were not happy birds and on scanning the hedgerow I could see the cause of this......the Great Grey Shrike, which sat up briefly before disappearing behind the hedge !  I never saw it again.
My next venue was Blatherwyke churchyard. What an amazing area and I was staggered by the amount of birds around the churchyard. Plenty of common species, notably winter thrushes, tits and finches. As I walked towards the church I saw the distinctive shape of two Hawfinch which were perched on the treetops against the skyline. It is such a pity that it was such a dull day as it was difficult to appreciate their colour. The churchyard itself was carpeted in snowdrops and gives a different vantage point for looking at the lake itself.
There were at least 14 Mandarin Duck visible around the edge of the lake, 2 Egyptian Geese, a few Siskin and of course plenty of Red Kite.
I then went to Wakerley Wood where a good walk around produced very little. It was extremely quiet. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were vocal with their drumming as were the Long Tailed Tits with their chattering as they moved through the trees. There just seemed to be the "odd" Siskin and Redpoll flying about. My highlight was two Roe Deer and a Fox !.
I finished my day out with a good walk around Fineshade Wood where I covered a lot of ground but saw very little. Again it was very quiet with the highlight being 4 Ravens .

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dawn + Dusk Birding

My birding has been very limited today . Dawn found me and my canine companions at Blueberry Farm area. If you are out and about before it is light keep your eye's peeled skywards as the International Space Station is often visible and is usually quite easy to pick out from the stars and aircraft as it looks like a slow moving elongated bright star. Anyway, once it became daylight a beautiful scene of crisp white frosty hedgerows and trees making it seem magical greeted my eye's. This scene was crowned off by a lone hunting Barn Owl, showing well and totally oblivious to my presence., and a pair of Ravens flying about making "silly" noises, as they do sometimes..............and all before breakfast !!
My other birding slot was at the end of the day, just before darkness fell. A quick stop at Sywell Reservoir which was partially iced over produced a Bittern flying around the areas of reedbed, a lone Pink Footed Goose with the geese flock and the blood curdling shrieks of 2 Water Rails as they conversed with each other !!

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 19 January 2015

Market Harborough Otters


Eleanor paid an afternoon visit to Blueberry Farm, Maidwell today, locating two Barn Owls, a pair of Stonechat and two Ravens.

There is currently mixed information on the Otters in Market Harborough. The Harborough Mail newspaper suggests that the animals haven't been seen along the River Welland since November. However, there are reported recent sightings, particularly when the water was higher a week or two ago so it seems likely that they are still present but perhaps not showing as well as the last two winters. Neil Hasdell and Jim Dunkley have both visited several times but neither have managed a sighting. However if you want to experience good views of Grey Wagtails and Kingfishers, there are several individuals of both species present and showing regularly.


Neil M

Kingfisher River Welland,
Market Harborough.
Courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ringing in the winter sunshine...


A busy day for county ringers today. Chris Payne and Mike Tubb were at Bradden in South Northants and caught nearly 60 birds which included Reed Bunting, Goldcrest and Chaffinch. They heard Ravens in the near vicinity too.

Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett were ringing at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and caught 69 birds which included a Fieldfare, a Pied Wagtail, a Goldcrest, four Starlings, a dozen Yellowhammers and a couple of Moorhens.

Also today there was an event at Stanwick Lakes which included a bird ringing demonstration and about two hundred birds were caught in just a couple of mist net rides. Many of the birds were Blue Tits and Great Tits, but there was a variety of common birds which included Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of flocks of Long-tailed Tits. The stunning winter sunshine brought many people out today and at Stanwick it was great to see so many children clearly wowed by their proximity to wild birds in the hand!

Birds noted on site included a male Sparrowhawk sun-bathing for a remarkably long period, a dozing Barn Owl half-hidden in some ivy and a couple of Smew on one of the pits. As many as 400 Golden Plovers were commuting between nearby fields and the main pit and Red Kites regularly patrolled overhead and with many big gulls constantly on the move too.

A quick visit to Billing GP this afternoon (about 3.30pm) confirmed the presence of the female Ring-necked Duck still, albeit that the views were brief due to the very obscured viewing conditions from the road.


Neil M

Images from the Bird
Ringing Demonstration
at Stanwick Lakes today.
Courtesy of Nick Wood.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Cold today, but colder tomorrow...


A bright and cold but lovely winter day out there today. Eleanor took a wander around the Harlestone Heath area where many of the woodland birds were in song. Up to fifty Siskins were present as were half a dozen 'redpolls'.

A Peregrine was in the air between Brixworth and Hanging Houghton this afternoon and two Barn Owls and a pair of Stonechat were on view at Blueberry Farm.

More nest-box checking on the Kelmarsh Estate this afternoon provided an opportunity of walking through Rabbit Hill Spinney and flushing a Woodcock. Two Ravens were seen in flight over nearby fields.


Neil M

Bird Ringing Demonstration and Bird Walks at Stanwick Lakes tomorrow

Members of the Mid-Nene RSPB Group, Northants Ringing Group and Northants Bird Club will be providing assistance at the above event which will be at Stanwick Lakes, part of the Stanwick Gravel Pits complex off the A45 between Higham Ferrers and Raunds. A similar event this time last year at Barnwell Country Park proved to be very successful. I look forward to seeing you there!

Neil M

Friday, 16 January 2015

Grey Squirrel 16 - Tawny Owl 0


Eleanor spent some time in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning, the cooler weather seemingly causing some regional bird movement. An adult male Peregrine was present and very much interested in the flock of about two hundred Golden Plovers on the fields. The high water level of the brook had attracted a Little Egret and a Little Grebe and two Ravens were still present.

Neil H and I spent the day clearing out big nest-boxes on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir.  Most of these boxes have been erected to support the local Tawny Owl population but most years a few other bird species use them too. With just two exceptions though the boxes today were full of Grey Squirrel drey material and often Grey Squirrels too! Tawny Owls tend to begin their nesting efforts early in the year and I would like to think that our efforts at evicting the grey-furred rodents today will at least give the Tawnies a chance to take back the boxes before the squirrels trash them again!

A Great White Egret was in the Walgrave Bay this morning and single Chiffchaffs were present in the Holcot and Scaldwell Bays. This afternoon there was a movement of big gulls evident, an example being a mixed flock resting on the water in front of the Maytrees Hide which included 94 Herring Gulls and 33 Great Black-backed Gulls. The Cormorant roost at The Point reached at least 95 birds.


Neil M

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Pitsford WeBS count


Yesterday (Tuesday), Eleanor noted a Short-eared Owl by the third bunker at Harrington Airfield and later saw a single Barn Owl at Blueberry Farm.

Today was the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir. A Great White Egret was mobile around the reserve and a second year Yellow-legged Gull was present first thing. The Slavonian Grebe was about half way between the causeway and the dam in the vicinity of The Holly Tree but towards the Brixworth bank. The three White-fronted Geese were with four Greylags in fields near to the Pintail Bay, often obscured by the trees. Waders included two Green Sandpipers, 100 Snipe, a Jack Snipe and 25 Golden Plovers flying over. Five species of raptor included an adult male Peregrine and the only Smew was a 'redhead' at the very back of the Holcot Bay. Other birds included three Kingfishers and a female Stonechat.

Frank Quinn noted two Stonechats at Bluebery Farm today, in Big Lichfields.


Neil M



Female Stonechat

Monday, 12 January 2015

What weather!


Strong winds again and increasingly heavy rain didn't make it a great day outside, but there are things to do out there!

Neil H saw a pair of Smew and a Goosander in the Holcot Bay at Pitsford Res, the only birds I saw of any note there was a single Little Egret and a Grey Wagtail.

Constructing some seed feeders at Scotland Wood (probably in a failed effort at outwitting the local Grey Squirrels) and finishing off checking the nest-boxes was sufficient to see two Woodcock.

Below are some images of British butterflies kindly supplied by Simon Hales, just to remind us that sunnier and warmer days are ahead of us (honest)!


Neil M



Marbled White

Purple Emperor

All courtesy of
Simon Hales

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Birds of the Bramble and the Sky


A visitation to Harrington Airfield this morning proved mostly quiet for birds, but a Short-eared Owl was flushed from the third bunker and the covey of 7 Grey Partridge remained.

A wander around the Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve was breezy but pleasant in some weak winter sunshine, the best birds being a couple of Red Kites and a Little Egret.

Later, two Ravens and a Barn Owl were at Blueberry Farm and some nest-box maintenance and clearing out at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) caused four Woodcock to flush up as we ploughed through the brambles.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday) and a roadside Barn Owl was showing well between the villages of Mears Ashby and Wilby.


Neil M

Red Kite

Common Gull

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ditchford WeBS count


In somewhat blustery (and muddy) conditions today, a WeBS count was completed at Ditchford Gravel Pits. A Great White Egret was west of Ditchford Lane as were 17 Egyptian Geese (15 on the Watersport Pit), a juvenile Pink-footed Goose, an adult Peregrine and a first winter Mediterranean Gull.

A Bittern was discovered on the old Skew Bridge Pit and another Great White Egret graced the Wilsons Pits section. As a whole the complex also hosted 6 Little Egrets, 5 Goosanders, 2 Water Rails, 12 Kingfishers, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs and a Stonechat.


Neil M

Friday, 9 January 2015

Birds of a breezy county!


Birds seen locally today included a pair of Raven here at Hanging Houghton, a Barn Owl at Blueberry Farm and a Great White Egret north of the causeway at Pitsford Res. Eleanor walked around Sywell CP and noted two Water Rails, a Kingfisher, c6 'redpolls' and about twenty Siskins. The feeders are well-maintained there and it is possible to obtain excellent views of confiding Jays, Marsh Tits and Nuthatches and well as more common species.

Neil H went looking for the Great Grey Shrike at Deenethorpe today but couldn't find it. A number of other birders were also present but the bird couldn't be found.

Doug Goddard was in Abington Park this morning and saw three Ring-necked Parakeets inspecting tree holes (please see the below images) plus just a single Goosander on the lakes there...


Neil M

Ring-necked Parakeets in
Abington Park, Northampton
courtesy of Doug Goddard.

Fineshade Wood - the latest...

Hello again

Firstly a very Happy New Year, and thank you once again for all the support you  provided during 2014.  It was a pretty difficult year but, with your help, we achieved far more than we ever dared hope: 
  • the Glamping Pods application was rejected by East Northants Council (ENC), 
  • Forest Holidays withdrew from the Ancient Woodland area (where the bluebells are),
  • the revised Forest Holidays proposal came within a whisker of being rejected too.
At the ENC committee meeting on 28 November, councillors voted to defer a decision in order to "allow officers to seek additional highways advice from NCC and to arrange a further site visit."  We understand there is to be a site visit by Councillors and representatives of Northants Highways possibly on January 15th.

We understand that the application will come back to the committee at their meeting on 28th January at 7pm. That may be when a decision to reject or accept the planning application will be made. If you live locally please try to come to that meeting in Thrapston.

Residents' legal challenge of ENC’s decision not to require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is still pending. The National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU) should be making a decision sometime in the next few weeks. Forest Holidays' lawyers have submitted a response to our claims. If Councillors were to grant approval for the application on 28th Jan and if NPCU find in our favour then an EIA would need to be carried out before development could go ahead.

Just before Christmas, Forest Holidays lost a long-running battle to develop a similar site at Delamere Forest in Cheshire. A public enquiry ruled that it would contravene Green Belt regulations.

Also just before Christmas a new nearby planning application appeared on the ENC website. This is for a similar-sized holiday village on grazing land called Jack’s Green, between Kings Cliffe and Nassington.  The land was part of a WW II airfield and there would seem to be few environmental or access problems with this site. (See 14/02225/FUL on the ENC website). The application comes from a company called Rockingham Forest Park Ltd with an address in nearby Wansford.

Paul Hackett’s petition has now reached over 1000 signatures 

So that’s a summary of the position as it appears on 1st January. If you feel you have time to help now there is a suggestion below:-

Pressure on Northants Highways

After the ENC meeting on 26th November and during December we residents and our local Parish Council renewed the pressure on Northants Highways and Northamptonshire County Council, sending detailed objections direct to key people. What we (and the ENC councillors) want is a new statement from Northants Highways OBJECTING to application number 14/01704/FUL, rather than the wishy-washy comment they provided previously. 

Now that the holiday season is over we feel that it would be politic to renew the pressure on Northants Highways … and this is where we are asking for your help once again. The message has to be “the road is already at carrying capacity: there should be no extra development that will significantly increase traffic”.

Key people: We believe these are:

Employed people: (i.e civil servants)  Terry Chapman, Development Management Engineer, the writer of the previous consultation comment Chris Bond, Team leader, Development Management, Northants Highways David Farquar, Assistant Director at NCC: responsible for Northamptonshire Highways

Elected NCC councillors  Heather Smith, our Ward Councillor, and deputy leader of council. Michael Clark, NCC “cabinet member” with oversight of Transport

What could you do?

1) If you have already sent an objection concerning access issues to ENC, please could you now resend it directly to one of the key people listed above, perhaps with an appropriate covering note.  

2) And/or, if you feel particularly strongly about the danger of the A43 junction, please could you send them a personal email describing why you feel it is dangerous. Perhaps you have had a near miss there? Perhaps you feel threatened when you take a turn into or out of Fineshade? Could you make a personal appeal saying that: there should be no extra traffic until the junction is sorted out.

3) Have you had difficulties in the single track lane because of pressure of traffic during the past week? or perhaps when the Forestry Commission had badly organised events? Could you email saying that the lane is already at carrying capacity at peak times and simply cannot carry the extra traffic caused by a 350-bed development in the wood.

4) If you feel that neither Forest Holidays (FH) nor Northants Highways have taken into account the seasonal nature of the road use, please could you point out that the brief FH traffic survey was carried out last March, before the caravan site was operating and outside the main holiday season.  Remind them that there have been occasions in 2014 (caused by the popularity of the Gruffalo trail etc.) when the whole access route was gridlocked.

5) If you feel that a 70-unit, 350-bed development in woodland should have an effective alternative emergency access route, please ask Highways to look particularly at the proposed alternative, which is currently a bridleway that is scarcely passable on foot, let alone by emergency vehicles in the event of, say, a forest fire.

If you should get any meaningful responses, please do forward it to us at

Thank you once again - and here’s to a much more peaceful 2015!

Best wishes
Barrie Galpin

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Muddy places of Northamptonshire!


Muddy in the Kelmarsh Woods again this morning but all feeders successfully filled with tit-bits for the local Nuthatches, tits, woodpeckers and others.

A late morning circuit of the Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve (part of the Ditchford GP complex) provided views of about 500 Lapwings on the new scrape, a Little Egret and a flying Water Rail.

In the afternoon a wander of the pits west of Ditchford Lane yielded a Great White Egret, three Little Egrets and five Egyptian Geese.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res again failed to produce a gull of any note...


Neil M

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A jog around Pitsford Res!

This morning I decided to run around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir, the first time this year !  

At 09.45hrs there were 3 Great White Egrets standing together near the gorse bushes. As I neared the Pintail Bay a large flock of geese came from the fields and landed on the water in front of me. I thought that three of them looked suspicious but couldn't be certain of the species.  I continued and made a slight detour from the track to check for Jack Snipe and found two birds.

The flock of geese decided to follow me and when I arrived back to the causeway they flew over and landed on the small side. My suspicious geese turned out to be the three White-fronted Geese and were viewed from the feeding station before the flock disappeared back to the big side.

A visit to Harrington Airfield late this afternoon only produced 7 Grey Partridge.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 5 January 2015

County Ringing


Northants Ringing Group ringers have been active in the county during the last two days. Yesterday John Woollett and team set up nets in an orchard at Nether Heyford in the foggy, cold conditions and enjoyed an excellent session by catching and ringing 58 Fieldfares. Other birds included just a single Redwing and four Blackbirds plus standard fare. This number of Fieldfares ensures that 90 birds have been caught and ringed on this site so far this winter.

Today and a team effort at Brixworth Water Treatment Works provided 51 captures. The highlights were 2 Chiffchaffs (with a third being seen on-site), a Goldcrest, a Song Thrush, a Bullfinch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 6 Meadow Pipits, 14 Pied Wagtails and 4 Grey Wagtails.


Neil M

More images from yesterday's
visit to Badby Wood courtesy
of Helen Franklin



Song Thrush

Grey Wagtail

Images courtesy of
Neil Hasdell

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting


This is a reminder to members and an invite to non-members to attend the next Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting this coming Wednesday 7th January at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Water, Brixworth Road, Holcot, NN6 9SJ. 

Please be seated by 7.30pm and prepare to be presented to by Dr Mark Avery on his talk entitled 'Fighting for Birds: from Passenger Pigeons to Hen Harriers'.

Mark is a particularly articulate and knowledgeable presenter, someone who seems to be able to grasp the politics as well as the passion associated with our disappearing natural world. He is prepared to fight the cause for nature conservation and provide the platform for others to be so inspired. Mark is an author of several books on this and allied subjects and will be bringing a small selection for purchase on the night.

As always, hot drinks and biscuits will be available on the night and parking is available around the Lodge with an overflow facility being by the fishing boats by the shoreline or on the parking areas of the causeway. This is likely to be a popular meeting and I would advise an early arrival for the best seats!


Neil M

SP55 Short Day Count


Today it was the turn of SP55 for a Banbury Ornithological Society Short Day Count, and I was hoping for a considerably better day's weather than yesterday! At 8am Helen Franklin and I were in the starting blocks at Fawsley Park, the overnight frost and fog but very still conditions providing a classic sparkling seasonal backdrop. Here we bumped in to Ian Dobson and Martin Elliott also committing to the same task, and comparing notes later they seemed to do much better than us!

Prior to the survey roadside birds included a Barn Owl perched in a tree between Long Buckby and Buckby Wharf and a Woodcock near Hellidon.

The lakes at Fawsley ensure that this key site is a magnet to birders in this area of the county and good birds quickly notched up included Siskin, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Raven and Water Rail. The cold morning air carried the sounds of calling Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and Common Buzzard from afar but sadly not the calls of Little Owl or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as you would have expected some years ago.

After scrutinising the lakes we elected for an uphill walk along the Jurassic Way to Badby Woods. Common Gulls fed on frozen invertebrates on the sheep-strewn slopes and a few other bird species fell in to place for the count. On reaching the wood, winter sunshine had penetrated the morning fog and the ice petals on the tree branches looked simply stunning. As is usual for this time of the year. the paths in Badby Wood were very muddy as we completed a clockwise circuit close to the perimeter adding Jay, Marsh Tit and Sparrowhawk to our tally.

Downhill then to our car and some coffee but unfortunately the fog came down again and remained thick for the remainder of the day...

We persevered in the difficult conditions and managed to find a few extra species in the Catesby and Cannons Ashby areas and finished at Byfield Pool where the best birds were repeats in the shape of Kingfisher and Marsh Tit. A couple of Ravens fed in a field near Hellidon.


Neil M

Sparkling ice petals
courtesy of Helen Franklin.

Common Gull

Grey Squirrel

Hellidon Tower in the
morning mist

Saturday, 3 January 2015

SP54 Short Day Count


Rather wet out there today and not the best day for me to commit to a Banbury Ornithological Society Short Day Count in the south of the county! At 8am I commenced my day at Thenford, moving on to Middleton Cheney and then Farthinghoe Local Nature Reserve. And it didn't stop raining! At least three Little Grebes and a Kingfisher were useful early finds at Thenford as the small birds began to wake up and call. The mature trees at this site including large numbers of yews attract Nuthatch and Treecreeper, and these birds were up and about despite the constant rain and low temperatures.

Travelling the short distance towards Middleton Cheney added a couple of sodden Common Buzzards and the first Meadow Pipits of the day. A visit to the village sewage treatment works was interesting as it was the first time I had ever seen a flock of Long-tailed Tits feeding on the filter beds in a similar manner to that adopted by wagtails and pipits! A Grey Wagtail was the first of five birds seen during the day and some Bullfinches were the first of small numbers logged at most sites.

Bird feeders next to the Farthinghoe reserve were busy with small birds including Marsh Tits and Tree Sparrows. A Jay on the reserve was the only one noted all day and the adjacent farm attracted a healthy flock of Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. Another large flock of Yellowhammers were feeding on stubble between Thenford and Thorpe Mandeville and included a few each of Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. Nearby a small flock of Golden Plovers fed in their traditional field.

The wet weather began to abate in the afternoon and I went for a hike around Edgcote and Trafford Bridge where the final new species for the day included a Sparrowhawk, some Linnets, five Snipe and a Water Rail.


Neil M

Images from Pitsford


Robin Gossage has kindly forwarded some images of birds taken at Pitsford Reservoir recently, with some of the pictures taken only yesterday...

In addition, Robin has forwarded images of an unidentified fly and these are placed on his Tab - Robin's Wildlife Images. Come on you entomologists, take a look and make Robin's day!


Neil M


Slavonian Grebe



White-fronted Geese


Friday, 2 January 2015

Portugal at Christmas


I was fortunate that over the Christmas period there was an opportunity for some birding in the Algarve region of Portugal, co-leading a tour on behalf of Naturetrek. This was the first time I had been away at Christmas and our base was the south-west coastal 'town' of Sagres, a few miles east of Cape St Vincent. The week-long trip included trips to coastal lagoons and marshes, beaches, scrubby plains, woodland, the highest peak in the Algarve and the rolling fields and plateau of the Castro Verde district. Some 134 species of birds were observed and we even managed to find 8 species of butterfly on the wing! We were very fortunate with the weather as it was sunny every day and we experienced no meaningful rain, despite December supposedly being about the wettest month in this part of Portugal. 

Wintering warblers in good numbers included Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cetti's and Sardinian and we saw Dartford Warbler too. Raptors were relatively few but we saw Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Peregrine and Black-winged Kite among the more common Kestrels and Common Buzzards. Stonechats were particularly common and Black Redstarts numerous, and it is likely that many of the finches, common warblers and waders had at some stage moved down from the UK and other countries north of Portugal.

Regional specialities are few but we saw Audouin's Gull, Little Bustard, Great Bustard, Azure-winged Magpie, Richard's Pipit, Spotless Starling, Crag Martin and Purple Swamp-hen.

With the pleasant temperatures, stunning coasts, dramatic sunrises and sunsets, good transport infrastructure and quiet, laid-back culture admixed with a pride for producing excellent food from home produce and the sea, it's no wonder that many people from Europe head for the south of Portugal in the winter.

Adeus and Obrigado!

Neil M

Purple Swamp-hen

Approaching sunset, Cape St
Vincent, Portugal.
Courtesy of Barbara Lovell