Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Interesting Ringing Recoveries

Hello

Some more recoveries have filtered through recently of birds caught and ringed locally and then turning up elsewhere as follows...

D871279 refers to a Blue Tit first caught and ringed at Kelmarsh Hall on 4th April 2014 which was then caught again by a ringer at Carlton, Bedfordshire on 13th December 2014. This bird hatched during the calendar year of 2013 and something later stimulated it to travel 33KM in a SE direction to Bedfordshire;

D871585 refers to a juvenile Blue Tit initially caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 20th July 2014 which was again caught by a ringer (our ringing secretary Nick Wood) at Hollington Wood near Milton Keynes on 8th February 2015. This is a distance of some 26KM in a SSE direction. It is likely that this bird hatched somewhere at or close to Pitsford Reservoir but is another individual that has moved in a SE direction;

V733982 refers to an adult male Reed Bunting first caught and ringed at Stanford Reservoir on 5th June 2010 which was then caught by ringers operating at Stortons Gravel Pits, Northampton on 8th February this year. Although this is only a distance of 24KM in a SE direction this bird will be six years old this year and possibly older...

Regards

Neil M

Monday, 30 March 2015

Spring is slow this year...

Hello

A short ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall this morning provided a modest catch of 34 birds, half of which were new. Highlights included two Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff and a re-trap Nuthatch which was first caught and ringed in 2011 (and re-trapped in the same location in both 2012 and 2014).

Other birds on-site included a pair of Raven and a pair of Grey Wagtails.

Two Barn Owls were showing extremely well on the outskirts of Scaldwell village first thing this morning, and a flock of at least a hundred Golden Plovers were in adjacent fields.

A visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon was sufficient to locate two Kittiwakes off the sailing club and dam, a Green Sandpiper was still on the pool below the dam and a Raven was cruising about.

Regards

Neil M


Barn Owl at
Scaldwell

Courtesy of Jacob Spinks

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Birds of wind and rain

Hello

Birds around Scaldwell village yesterday (Saturday) as seen by Jacob Spinks included a small flock of Brambling, a Chiffchaff and a singing Blackcap.

This morning a Blackcap was singing in Hanging Houghton village and at least one redpoll sp visited the garden in blustery conditions.

A walk in windy conditions at Harrington Airfield this afternoon produced just five Golden Plovers and three Grey Partridges.

I drove over to Boddington Reservoir this afternoon in an effort to see the first year Ring-billed Gull initially found on Friday by local birder and expert rarity finder Gary Pullan. Sadly the bird didn't show (despite reports to the contrary), and there were very few gulls present. A 'redhead' Goosander was present and a flock of c15 Golden Plovers were south of the reservoir.

Regards

Neil M

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Back from Islay

Great Northern Diver


Hello

The NBC contingent left Islay on the 9.45am ferry to the mainland yesterday, seeing a few birds along the way! The best were probably a flock of Pale-bellied Brents, Eiders, a Common Scoter, common auks, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, quite a few Slavonian Grebes, Gannets and Kittiwakes.

While I have been away many people have taken on the task of maintaining the wild bird feed stations at Pitsford, Kelmarsh, and Harrington - thank-you all very much! Perhaps not surprisingly my first day back in the county today was spent visiting all these feed stations and topping up feeders in order to ensure that the feeding birds during the winter are supported during the spring hunger gap. 

There seemed to be a very light sprinkling of Chiffchaffs and clearly the main arrival of these early migrants has yet to occur. A Green Sandpiper was again on the muddy pools below the dam at Pitsford Res, but the gull roost there has all but finished for the season now.

Eleanor was again over at Staverton today and the pair of Raven were still in situ. The only other birds of note were two Barn Owls at Blueberry Farm this afternoon.

Regards

Neil M


Drake Eider

Great Black-backed Gull

Drake Red-breasted Merganser

Gannet



Thursday, 26 March 2015

Islay Birds Thursday

Hello

A very windy day on Islay today but with plenty of sunshine and a couple of sharp showers too!

Our last full day on the island with all Northants Bird Club members departing on the ferry tomorrow morning as a pre-amble for the long drive home.

Different tactics today with five car-loads splitting up to check different parts of the islands. Plenty of birds seen on previous days were logged which included at least three Hen Harriers, two Dippers on the burn by the Woollen Shop and of course plenty of wildfowl and waders. A new bird for the trip was a group of four Purple Sandpipers on rocks and sea-weed on the edge of Loch Indaal. Other birds of note included a couple of Greenshank, a flock of between 30 - 40 Choughs at Ardnave Point and 3-4 Wheatears at the same location.

Throughout the trip the views of the hills and mountains of Islay, Jura and distant uplands of Mull, Colonsay and the mainland have been particularly clear and colourful and the light quality superb which has really enhanced the ambiance and theatre of this special part of the world.

Regards

Neil M



Barnacle Geese

Greenland White-fronted Goose

Jura

Hello

Most of today (Wednesday) was spent on the island of Jura, a rugged island which takes just five minutes to reach on a ferry crossing from Islay. Although still cool, much of the day was sunny and the light quality excellent.

After much scanning we were rewarded with distant views of three White-tailed Eagles visible from the Straits of Islay, these huge birds dwarfing the mobbing Common Buzzards. Other birds included Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Eider and Great Northern Diver. Another White-tailed Eagle materialised while we were at the only island village of Craighouse and other birds on show were Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, common waders, Red-breasted Merganser and more Eider and Great Northern Divers. No sign of the hoped-for Otters though...

We motored slowly to the north of the island, seeing plenty of Red Deer along the way, and espied a pair of Golden Eagles flying together above a rock crag. Sustained views included a period when they both chased Red Deer across the hillside, actually making contact on a couple of occasions and causing them to bolt in panic. Most of the birds from this point were repeats of previous days, but a flushed Jack Snipe was a little unexpected.

We crossed back to Islay at about 6pm and checked the north end of Loch Indaal which provided views of thousands of roosting Barnacle Geese, a flock of eleven Pale-bellied Brent Geese, about fifty Bar-tailed Godwits and a first year Iceland Gull.

Regards

Neil M

Jackdaws


Red Deer

Oystercatcher

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Islay Birds Tuesday

Hello

A cold and strong wind on Islay all day today with rain showers in the morning but sunnier in the afternoon. In the morning we drove around the perimeter of Loch Gorm, checking the fields for geese and marshy areas for general wildlife. Geese of three species were well-represented of course and waders included Curlew, Ringed Plover and Golden Plover. The strong wind meant that many smaller birds kept a low profile but we found Stonechats, plenty of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and good numbers of thrush species.

A short walk at Machir Bay allowed us to locate some Twite, a couple of which were singing in the grassy dunes, up to twenty Chough and good numbers of pure-looking Rock Doves. Most of the gulls on the beach were adults in superb summer plumage with a mixture of Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed almost glistening in their different shades in the sharp light. Distant Gannets patrolled the mouth of the bay.

Following more roadside scanning we popped in to the burn-side location of the Islay Woollen Mill and Sarah located a Dipper working the stream above the weirs. Some feeders there attracted good numbers of Chaffinches and Blue and Great Tits. Lunch was a pleasant affair in a High Street cafe in Bowmore

We subsequently checked out Port Askaig but apart from a Black Guillemot and some distant Red Deer we couldn't see much in the bright spring sunshine. Some snow on the Paps of Jura reminded us that the temperatures had plummeted somewhat! Barry had spent some quality time in the hides on the Gruinart RSPB reserve and taken some excellent wildlife images, including some close Snipe. He also noted Greenshank and Pintail among other water-birds using this site.

We finished the birding day with drives down minor roads and scanning over the rolling moorland and freshwater lochs. New island birds for the trip included Red-legged Partridge, Tufted Duck and Barn Owl!

Regards

Neil M



Stonechat

Monday, 23 March 2015

Islay Birds Monday

Skylark

Grey Heron

Wren


Iceland Gull superimposed
against a Highland Cow and a
Rock Dove flying over!


Hello

Another full day on the island of Islay today, and although there was the odd rogue shower we enjoyed sunny if rather breezy conditions. We saw as a many as four different Iceland Gulls, all of them first years on our travels today but the high-point of the day was a pair of displaying Golden Eagles over the Mull of Oa, the male for a very protracted period of time. He was extremely energetic, performing rapid stoops with flexed wings and diving down at high speed towards the ground before hurtling back up again. Other birds in the same area included plenty of Ravens, some distant Chough and as many as fifty Twite feeding with Skylarks. The Fulmars were on their breeding ledges and wild goats were about in good numbers.

Earlier we saw two male Hen Harriers quartering the marshes next to the RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve and Common Buzzards were seen throughout our travels. The usual species of geese were out in force and we stumbled across three Pale-bellied Brent Geese late in the afternoon. Roadside birds included large numbers of Hooded Crows and Ravens and the more interesting passerines were probably Grey Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll and Rock Pipit.

Regards

Neil M

The Gruinart Farmhouse
Islay


Barnacle Geese
Greenland White-fronted Geese
Wild Goat
Raven



A funny sort of day !

I was out and about early this morning and enjoyed a  glorious sunrise at Blueberry. The birds were pretty good as well, a female Merlin , 2 Barn Owls, 2 Grey Partridge , pr Stonechat and several Red Kites who were very vocal.
On my way into town I stopped off at the dam at Pitsford Reservoir and watched an Osprey attempting to fish and noted the Green Sandpiper still present . 
I took the dogs for a walk at Harlestone Firs and plenty of activity from the common woodland residents, Marsh Tit's, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Treecreeper being the most vocal. There were a few Siskin dotted around the wood and the Chiffchaff's have definitely arrived !!! 
This afternoon I walked a stretch of the Brampton Valley Way to check out reports which I had received from concerned folk about the numbers of dead corvids noted in some recently sown fields. Sadly this does appear the case, I've informed the relevant agencies  and now await their response.
Whilst in this area I came across 2 Oystercatcher feeding on a grassy area, a reminder of the arrival of Spring and of the fact that you never know where birds are going to turn up.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Birds of Islay

Hello

Our first full day on Islay, and it was sunny for much of the day. Many of the birds on Loch Gruinart were visible from our accommodation, and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier paid us a visit at 7am. We spent the morning checking out the RSPB reserve and saw plenty of the usual local birds including large numbers of Barnacle Geese and smaller numbers of Greylags and Greenland White-fronteds. Wildfowl included Pintail and Red-breasted Merganser and good numbers of Lapwings and Redshank were displaying.

The afternoon was spent exploring the Rinns of Islay which provided plenty of geese, Common Buzzards and Stonechats. Two more Hen Harriers were seen and passerines included plenty of Meadow Pipits, smaller numbers of Rock Pipits and plenty of Rock Doves. Mammals out and about included Roe Deer, Common Seal and still good numbers of Brown Hares.

Birds on the calm water at Loch Indaal were mostly distant but a good variety were on tap such as Eider, Slavonian Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot, Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver. However a day without the sought-after eagles was a little disappointing - must try harder tomorrow!

Neil M


Chough

Common Seal

Barnacle Geese

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The journey to Islay

Hello

Yesterday (Friday), 12 Northants Bird Club members ventured north to Scotland as part of a mini expedition to Islay. Most of the day was spent travelling up the M6 and further north and some of us called in at the Caelaverock Wildfowl and Wetland reserve near Dumfries. Plenty of Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans awaited us and other birds included Pink-footed Geese, common wildfowl and waders and five Little Egrets.

After staying overnight, today (Saturday) we travelled around dramatic scenery en-route to boarding our ferry and sailing for 90 minutes before landing at Islay at about 3.30pm. Interesting birds included Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, lots of divers including a splendid pack of 18 Black-throateds, common auks, Eider, Slavonian Grebe, Kittiwake, Gannet and a pair of Golden Eagles. Smaller fare included Grey Wagtail and Rock Pipit and Chough and the geese on Islay included lots of Barnacles, Greylags and the very handsome Greenland White-fronteds. Mammals included Harbour Porpoise, Grey and Common Seal, Red and Roe Deer and lots of Brown Hares.

We are staying on the island until Friday morning and are hopeful with catching up on many of the local wildlife specialities.

Regards

Neil M

Shoveler

Whooper Swan

Mute Swan

Brown Hare

Agility Birds !!

I spent the morning at Staverton near Daventry attempting "agility" with Tor one of my dogs. It was quite an entertaining morning by both the antics of the dogs and by the birds present !!! Firstly I nearly fell over a tub of flowers as I was busy trying to locate a suspicious looking passerine on the roof of one of the buildings. It turned out to be a Black Redstart !!!
Most folk there were oblivious to the loud cronking and other weird and wonderful noises made by a pair of resident Ravens as they demonstrated their own style of ariel agility over our heads .
Finally the morning was rounded off nicely by the evocative calls of 2 Curlew as they flew over.
It is a good job that Tor was paying attention to the instructor as my ears and eye's were everywhere else !! That's the problem with birds......they just get in the way sometimes !!
A very blustery walk at nearby Borough Hill only produced another Raven, and a quick scan at Ravensthorpe Reservoir 2 Sand Martins.
I finished the day at Blueberry where I could only locate one pair of Stonechat and 2 Barn Owls.

Regards  Eleanor

Friday, 20 March 2015

Fabulous Friday

This morning I headed to Blueberry Farm area and sat on the top of the hill to experience the "eclipse". Initially the sun was very bright but as the moon moved across it became noticeably darker and cooler and the atmosphere felt eerily different. I had company as I sat , three dogs, a pair of Stonechat and 2 Ravens, all of whom did not behave any differently, but the Black Headed Gulls feeding on a nearby ploughed field made some high pitched squealing noises for a few minutes.......definitely creepy !!
Other birds included a female Merlin chasing Fieldfares, Barn Owl, 2 Grey Partridge and 6 Lesser Redpoll.
This afternoon I walked around Sywell Reservoir and in the warm sunshine it really felt as if Spring has arrived. A pair of Smew  and a Water Rail were quite elusive whereas a Grey Wagtail and 4 Sand Martins much easier to see.
A short evening walk at Harrington Airfield produced a Barn Owl hunting against the backdrop of a beautiful red and blue sunset sky.

Regards  Eleanor

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Fur versus feather

Hello

Dave Francis and Neil Hasdell were busy today checking the owl boxes at Pitsford Reservoir. Some Tawnies were in residence and an adult was caught in one box and subsequently ringed (please see an image below). A Stock Dove nest with eggs was a pleasant surprise in another box but the majority of boxes had again been taken over by Grey Squirrels and were subsequently evicted. There can be little doubt that the squirrels adversely affect nesting opportunities for the resident Tawny Owls.

Eleanor was out and about today and her daily excursion in to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning provided views of a Wheatear, a pair of Grey Partridge, a pair of Raven and about 50 Golden Plovers. This afternoon she spent some time at Harrington Airfield which produced another Wheatear, about a 100 Golden Plovers and a 'ringtail' (probably a female) Hen Harrier hunting the rough borders adjacent to the main concrete track.

John Finlayson spends much of his time monitoring the local wildlife at Titchmarsh Local Nature Reserve near Thrapston. Always armed with a camera, below are some images of a confiding Water Rail taken on the reserve...

Regards

Neil M


Tawny Owl
Pitsford Reservoir

Courtesy of Neil Hasdell



Water Rail
Titchmarsh LNR

Courtesy of John Finlayson

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

More spring migrants

Hello

Early afternoon today saw us dropping in to Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve for a quick look around. Kim Taylor had earlier seen an adult Mediterranean Gull and went on to see a Great White Egret. Birds visible from the Pioneer Hide included a drake Pintail, two Little Egrets, a pair of Oystercatcher, a pair of Redshank and a Shelduck. A calling Water Pipit dropped in to waterside vegetation (to the LHS of the hide as you approach) at about 1.15pm. At least one Chiffchaff was present.

A good walk around Blueberry Farm this afternoon provided views of a Wheatear, lots of Meadow Pipits, two Woodcock and two Barn Owls. Birds at Brixworth Sewer Works included a Snipe and a Chiffchaff.

Scanning through the gulls at the roost at Pitsford Reservoir this evening produced a second winter Caspian Gull.

Chris Payne spent some time ringing at Bradden again today catching both new and re-trap birds of several species - tits and common finches dominating. A couple of Nuthatch were the highlights.

Regards

Neil M


Bathing Blackbird

Eleanor McMahon

Rook

Spring lambs!

Nuthatch

Courtesy of Chris Payne

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Information from ringing

Hello

Some wild bird ringing took place at Pitsford Reservoir today, the venue again being the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station. Some 32 birds were caught of 12 species which included Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Goldcrest and Willow Tit. A re-trap Blue Tit was 6 years and 10 months old, very old for this species.

Some Great Tits are beginning to show signs of an avian disease causing swellings around their head and often affecting their eyes. In previous years some birds of this species have suffered quite horrific growths and lesions so we will continue to monitor this latest development.

Local ringers are reporting catching small numbers of continental Chaffinches currently, the males at least of which are subtly distinct. They tend to be marginally larger than our birds and in the hand routinely have long wing lengths. The breast/belly is often a pale and bright pink, rather than the brick-red pink of more local birds, or a combination of the two. These birds are often 6-7 grams heavier than local birds and examination in the hand provides useful clues with the high amount of fat amassed around the breast. This serves as on-board flight fuel as they prepare to migrate back from where they originated.

An all-time high of at least ten Reed Buntings feeding in our garden this afternoon was very pleasing and made up for the lack of interesting gulls in the gull roost at Pitsford Res this evening - a third winter Yellow-legged Gull being about the best.

Regards

Neil M



Chaffinch and Great Tit

Courtesy of Robin Gossage

Wren

Courtesy of John Finlayson

Monday, 16 March 2015

Ditchford WeBS

Hello

This morning a hike around Borough Hill Country Park at Daventry provided lots of cows but not too many birds - two Ravens and plenty of Skylarks were about the best. Similarly a walk around Blueberry Farm provided plenty of common birds but with just a single Woodcock being the only noteworthy item.

This afternoon was taken up completing a belated WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits. As usual the pits west of Ditchford Lane were the more interesting and attracted two Great White Egrets (together some of the time), a Little Egret, 3-4 Egyptian Geese, an Oystercatcher and a first year female Peregrine. Other birds noted on the overall complex included another Little Egret, just one Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail, six Sand Martins, at least eleven Chiffchaffs, 4+ Cetti's Warblers, two Water Rails and three Shelduck.

Birds attracted to our garden at Hanging Houghton today included a gang of Reed Buntings still plus a Marsh Tit, and a Raven flew through the village last thing this evening.

Regards

Neil M


Drake Tufted Duck


First year female Peregrine

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Forest of Dean

Hello

Ten members of the Northants Bird Club travelled down to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire today to see some of the bird specialities of the area.

The first venue was the village location of Parkend, and we quickly located small numbers of Hawfinches in trees and bushes near to the church and also under yews by the cricket pitch. Dave Jackson managed some fine images of the birds feeding under the yew trees.

A Dipper showed on the stream in the village and three Crossbills perched up on bushes by the church. Siskins were everywhere and other birds included Nuthatch and Grey Wagtail.

Our next location was the look-out at New Fancy View and although the conditions were far from ideal, two Goshawks were on view. A male flew past a couple of times and a big female sat perched distantly in a larch tree. Siskins continued to show well and numerous Ravens careered past. A Hawfinch flew below the look-out a few times.

Next on to Cannop Ponds and an excellent show of Mandarin Ducks were probably the birds of the day as they displayed and called right in front of us. More Siskins here too and Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Grey Wagtail were all very showy.

A bit of a drive to Symonds Yat Rock always provides dramatic views over the River Wye, and we enjoyed good close views of acrobatic Ravens, a pair of Peregrines and with the supporting cast of more Mandarins, a Hawfinch and Nuthatches chiseling out a nest-box.

The last venue was the open landscape of Crabtree Ridge yielded Woodlarks for some but alas no sign of the wintering Great Grey Shrike. Crossbills, Bramblings and plenty of redpolls and Siskins ensured that finches dominated here and 13 Goosanders were on the nearby lake.

Regards

Neil M


Hawfinch

Courtesy of Dave Jackson

Hawfinch

Crossbill

Mandarin Duck

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Birds of a cool north-easterly

Hello

A varied day today with plenty of time outside in quite cool and breezy conditions but it remained essentially dry.

A Barn Owl was hunting around the outskirts of Scaldwell village first thing, and a flock of about 125 Golden Plovers flew west there at 5.30pm.

Birds noted at Blueberry Farm today included 2 Barn Owls, 2 Woodcock and two pairs of Stonechat.

A sustained period of ringing at Kelmarsh Hall today provided 126 recorded captures of 14 species. At least three Siskins were on-site and two were caught and ringed, four Nuthatch were caught as were two Marsh Tits and two Grey Wagtails caught included a bird originally ringed elsewhere.

Eleanor paid a brief visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir and saw two Smew (one drake and one 'redhead') and also saw a pair of Raven at Staverton near Daventry.

With a cold, blocking north-easterly air-stream and after seeing a significant movement of gulls all day, it seemed to make sense to survey the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir. For once it paid off with a stunning adult Mediterranean Gull early-on and later a classic adult Iceland Gull arrived and settled on the water.

Regards

Neil M


Adult male Siskin
Kelmarsh Hall

Courtesy of Jacob Spinks

Friday, 13 March 2015

Subtle Spring migration

Hello

Yesterday evening (Thursday), an adult Yellow-legged Gull was present in the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir (but no sign of any Meds).

Today Neil H visited Summer Leys Nature Reserve at Earls Barton and notched up a Peregrine, 3-4 Redshank, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Shelduck, 2 Grey Wagtails, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Cetti's Warbler.

Birds in our garden at Hanging Houghton today included now 8 Reed Buntings, 2 Yellowhammers, a Tree Sparrow, a Marsh Tit and a Chiffchaff. Lots of Meadow Pipits and winter thrushes and Starlings were visibly on the move over the NN6 area today.

The Kelmarsh Estate provided a Raven and two Grey Wagtails at Kelmarsh Hall and a Woodcock at Sunderland Wood and birds at nearby Harrington Airfield included 2 Ravens, 2 Grey Partridges and ca50 Golden Plovers.

Blueberry Farm provided the best birds this afternoon with an adult male Merlin, a Short-eared Owl (Hill Field), 2 Barn Owls, 3 Woodcock and 6 Stonechats.

Regards

Neil M

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pitsford WeBS count

Hello

Chris Payne and team committed to a ringing session at Bradden in South Northants today and caught something like 78 birds. The catch included Treecreeper, Nuthatch and eight Chaffinches, at least one of which showed characteristics of continental origin.

Two Ravens were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again today and there were two Barn Owls and two Stonechats at Blueberry Farm.

Some of the day was taken up completing a WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir, which was mostly quiet for wetland birds. The three White-fronted Geese were still present north of the causeway and two Ravens were south of the causeway. Waders included 2 Jack Snipe, 34 Snipe, 2 Oystercatchers and a Green Sandpiper. A pair of Nuthatch were present in the Holcot Bay.

Regards

Neil M

Treecreeper

Courtesy of Chris Payne

Oystercatcher

White-fronted Geese

Mute Swan

Greylag Geese

Rook