Friday, 31 July 2015

Storm Petrels - no time for sleep!


Yesterday (Thursday) was a full day on the island of Skokholm with the 16 strong members of the Northants Ringing Group (including helpers and friends) committing to a number of different strategies for catching and ringing wild birds on the island. The weather helped as we woke to a sunny day and with a breeze which later dwindled.

The night before we had roamed the island and managed to catch a small number of Manx Shearwaters which were a new species for some. However the almost full-moon conditions meant it wasn't conducive to catch large numbers of 'Manxies' so we enjoyed a relatively easy night and were bedded down by 2.30am in the morning. After the luxury of two hours kip, some of us were up at 5am and managed to catch a couple of roosting Jackdaws before moving on to smaller fare.

During the day we deployed spring-traps, mist nets and Heligoland cages and caught small numbers of passerines which were a mixture of migrants and island breeders. Willow Warbler was the most common bird caught but the supporting cast included Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Reed Bunting.

A passage day for waders provided us with views of Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Ruff and Whimbrel and quality island regulars came in the form of Chough, Raven, Peregrine and common sea-birds.

In the afternoon nine of us elected to take a RIB cruise to the island of Grassholm, with its renown Gannet colony dominating the island. Grassholm is usually visible from Skokholm but is some six miles further west. Here we enjoyed the spectacle of thousands of Gannets milling around us. the cliffs supported small numbers of common seabirds including auks and Kittiwakes and we spotted a gaggle of waders which included three Purple Sandpipers.

Thursday evening/early Friday morning was relatively calm and tranquil, normally ideal conditions for mist-netting Storm Petrels, However the almost full moon made the two nets look more obvious than normal so the catch was probably reduced. Nevertheless we worked solidly from 11pm to 4am, catching some 180 'Stormies' and all members of the team were able to partake in extraction, ringing and releasing techniques. These gorgeous little ocean wanderers are a joy to handle and everyone felt privileged to play a small part in their world.

With the danger of significant sleep deprivation already upon us, we retired from the field at about 5.30am to 6am, with a view to starting the diurnal activities by 9am. And with a further petrel ringing session planned for tonight, we will be very tired by dawn tomorrow!


Neil M

Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Most birds on
the island are adults or juveniles, but there are
a few of other ages too

No not a rare bunting, just a
juvenile Reed Bunting in moult!

Skokholm is reputed to be home
to the largest Slow Worms in the

Nick Wood, Mark Spinks and Helen
Franklin enjoying the sunshine!


Grey Seal

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Skokholm at last!


Yesterday (Tuesday), and the gathering of Northants Ringing Group members in Pembrokeshire continued as we failed to yet again reach Skokholm Island due to adverse conditions. Nevertheless we made the best of it and combed the coastline around Dale, Marloes and beyond to find a variety of birds and other wildlife.

The strong winds caused a number of feeding sea-birds to pass close to Wooltack Point near to Marloes, as joined by a couple of Harbour Porpoise.

Afternoon sunshine brought forth dragonflies and damselflies and the butterflies included Painted Lady, Wall Brown and Grayling.

Today (Wednesday) and we managed to finally boat over to Skokholm and begin our expedition proper.


Neil M


Harbour Porpoise



Monday, 27 July 2015

Night Heron images


Although it sounds as if the Night Heron was not seen at Ditchford GP today, please find a couple of images below of the bird as taken by Neil H a couple of evenings back...

Currently I'm with a fair chunk of the Northants Ringing Group down in Pembrokeshire, waiting for the strong winds to abate with a view to landing on the island of Skokholm. Here we hope to see and ring breeding and migrant birds on the island which should include Manx Sheawater and Storm Petrel.

Birding around the Dale Peninsular and Marloes area today provided views of Chough, Raven, Peregrine, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Green Sandpiper, Little Egret, Stonechat, Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher, often in very blustery conditions.


Neil M

Night Heron at
Ditchford Gravel Pits
courtesy of Neil Hasdell.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Night Heron remains


The Night Heron has been seen this evening both in flight and half-concealed in bushes at Ditchford Gravel Pits, in much the same place where it has been seen in flight the last few evenings (on the River Nene between the Bailey Bridge and the Broadholme SWT outflow).

This evening Eleanor located a singing Grasshopper Warbler and a party of four Whinchats in the southern-most field (Big Lichfields) at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.


Neil M

Sule Skerry Part 2


Dave Francis is not long back from his sortie on Sule Skerry, ringing sea-birds during the second week of the three week BTO-led expedition. I was there in the first week and it sounds like the somewhat challenging weather conditions persisted through some of the second week too...

However Dave also enjoyed some decent calm and sunny weather and managed to take some photos as below...


Neil M

Great Skua

Rock Pipit


The iconic Puffin

Friday, 24 July 2015

A wet Pitsford!

Sparrowhawk and bird bath!
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.


This morning a foray to Pitsford Reservoir near the dam area produced a fishing Osprey which caught a trout, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Grey Wagtail. Three Grey Wagtails were also present at Brixworth Sewer Treatment Works.

Neil H was at Summer Leys Nature Reserve this morning and saw a Water Rail and a Green Sandpiper.

The wet weather extending in to the early hours tomorrow may down an interesting migrant or two...?


Neil M

Whitethroat with Grasshopper/
cricket prey.
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden

Butterflies and more...

Yesterday, a 'spur of the moment' decision found me heading to Fermyn Wood Country Park and nearby woodland in search of butterflies.

I didn't think that I would find time to visit the area this year, but I grabbed a few hours when the opportunity arose. I took my two young dogs with me and kept my fingers crossed that they wouldn't accidentally trample on the butterflies and embarrass me, but thankfully they behaved and all butterflies remained intact !

Initially it was quite cloudy but just after midday the sun came out and the butterflies and insects erupted in a frenzy of colour and activity.  I don't think that I have ever seen so many Silver-washed Fritillaries, they were absolutely stunning.  At times it was easy to count 10+ on the Blackberry flowers. 

There seemed to be a profusion of Blackberry flowers which attracted large numbers of butterflies including Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, White Admiral and Ringlet.
A few Purple Hairstreak were found flitting about at the top of the Oak trees and a couple of White Letter Hairstreak were visible in an Elm hedge.

Although I hoped to see Purple Emperor I thought that I had left it too late in the season, so I was very pleased to find 4 individuals. I came across a superb male sitting on the track, but as I prepared to take a photograph a family of Fallow Deer chose that moment to cross the track, which one of the dogs found interesting , which meant I was momentarily distracted. When I turned back to take my photograph the Purple Emperor was nowhere to be seen !

Birds took second place, but I did see approx 10 Crossbills, several family parties of Jays, and good numbers of Red Kites which were both very vocal and acrobatic above the trees.



Silver-washed Fritillary

Female Silver-washed Fritillary
of the form 'Valezina'.
Thanks to Doug Goddard for
confirming this identification.

Large White

Peacock butterfly

White Admiral


Tor to the left and Smeagol to the right!

Fallow Deer

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Pitsford Ringing


With a brief evening stint on Wednesday and a morning session today (Thursday), Dave Francis was busy committing to some bird ringing at Pitsford Reservoir, mostly centred in the Scaldwell Bay.

Eighty-four birds were captured of a variety of species, the more noteworthy being 7 Mallard, a Moorhen, a Carrion Crow, 4 Kingfishers (3 in a net at the same time), a Green Woodpecker, 8 Blackcaps, 12 Chiffchaffs, 6 Reed Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, 5 Treecreepers, 2 Marsh Tits and 2 Willow Tits.

The Night Heron showed this evening (21.48 hrs) at Ditchford Gravel Pits again, flying east along the River Nene by the dilapidated Bailey Bridge that connects Wilsons Pits with the Nene Valley footpath on the opposite side of the river. Just three observers were present to witness it!


Neil M

Night Heron


A successful ringing operation at Harrington Airfield today provided an opportunity of handling 78 birds of which just eight were re-trapped birds from previous sessions.

This total included 7 Linnets, 17 Whitethroats, 3 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaffs and 3 Green Woodpeckers.

Birds of interest at Pitsford Res this evening included three Dunlin, the pair of Ruddy Shelduck, a juvenile Shelduck and a Kingfisher.

This evening an adult Night Heron was discovered at Ditchford Gravel Pits by Steve Fisher, the bird was seen in flight a few times at the River Nene by the Anglian Water Sewer outfall near to the dilapidated Bailey Bridge...


Neil M

Male Linnet
Courtesy of Jean Dunn.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Ringing tomorrow at Harrington Airfield


This evening was spent preparing for a ringing session at Harrington Airfield tomorrow. This effectively means that the private land of the old airstrip and the three bunkers will be out of bounds due to the setting of traps and nets. Should anyone want to attend as an observer, please contact me tomorrow on my mobile 07905 596427 after 6am.

Jean Dunn continues to monitor her colony of Pipistrelle bats at Boughton and during the last few days has seen youngsters emerge, sometimes during daylight.

Neil H was at Summer Leys NR this morning and saw a juvenile Marsh Harrier passing over and causing calamity among the local birds. A Black-tailed Godwit was present too...


Neil M

Pipistrelle Bat at Boughton
Courtesy of Jean Dunn

Garden Tiger Moth last week at Pitsford Res,
courtesy of Mischa Furfaro

Juvenile Swallow at Guilsborough
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The day after...


After yesterday's excitement, today was much more mundane in respect of birding terms. Pitsford Reservoir yielded the pair of Ruddy Shelduck, a juvenile Shelduck, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Little Egret. Big birds included an Osprey fishing south of the causeway at about 3.30pm and the Vulcan flying around, sometimes with the Blades acrobatic team!


Neil M

Gatekeeper butterfly

Green-veined White butterfly

Ruddy Darter

Common Sandpiper

All the above images taken
by Neil Hasdell at Pitsford Reservoir
 during the course of the last couple
of days

Courtesy of Jacob Spinks