Monday, 29 February 2016

Ringing at Pitsford Res


A targeted ringing session within Christies Copse at Pitsford Reservoir was undertaken this morning resulting in 104 birds coming to the feeders there. Not surprisingly the most common bird was Blue Tit with 49 birds plus 25 Great Tits, 10 Coal Tits, 2 Marsh Tits, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Dunnocks, 3 Robins, 2 Chaffinches, a Goldfinch and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Common raptors were up and active for most of the day and other birds included a couple each of Siskin and redpoll sp, a Raven and a Water Rail.

Jacob Spinks saw a Brambling in his Scaldwell village garden today and one was present at Hanging Houghton too. Eleanor spotted an adult male Peregrine at Grafton Regis this afternoon...


Neil M

Flight images of the Bittern seen at Summer
Leys Nature Reserve yesterday, courtesy of
Alan Coles.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Nearly the last day of February


Eric Graham and Ken Spriggs were out on the Titchmarsh reserve at Thrapston Gravel Pits yesterday (Saturday) and again saw two Great White Egrets with a supporting cast of 2 Goosanders and 4 Oystercatchers. The feeders attracted 5 Lesser Redpolls and a Siskin.

Three or four Otters were on show at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this morning as was a drake Smew; two of the Otters were still showing this afternoon...

Jacob Spinks and Eleanor Morrison were on the Summer Leys Nature Reserve at Earls Barton this morning and saw a Bittern, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Shelduck, a Raven and a female Stonechat. The well-maintained feed station there attracted 2 Marsh Tits, 20 Reed Buntings and 14 Bullfinches.

Three Stonechats were in The Hill field at Blueberry Farm this afternoon and birds visible from the dam at Pitsford Reservoir included the Ruddy Shelduck, a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail and a Green Sandpiper (observers being Cathy Ryden and Jacob Spinks).

Garden birds here at Hanging Houghton included a female Brambling, at least seven Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer.


Neil M

Nuthatch at Kelmarsh
Hall (yesterday)

Female Kestrel eating
a lob-worm

Sunset at Pitsford Reservoir

All images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Northants Bird Club - next indoor meeting Wednesday 2nd March 2016


A reminder to members and an invitation to non-members that the next indoor 
meeting of the Northants Bird Club will be at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir,
Brixworth Road, Holcot on Wednesday 2nd March 2016 starting promptly at 
7.30pm. Parking is available around the Lodge and also by the waters edge 
by the fishing boats and on the road causeway.

The first agenda item is the club's AGM with our Chairman Bob Gill presiding. 
After a successful year for the club, it is likely that this formal business will be a
rather brief affair, and then the main item for the evening will be Bob Bullock 
presenting a digital presentation on the Birds of Northamptonshire. This will 
be the first half of a presentation of Bob's images of eventful birds in the 
county during the last decade or so.

As usual hot drinks and biscuits will be available all evening and we look 
forward to seeing you there!


Neil M


Spotted Crake

New arrivals and old friends...


A ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall this morning provided 84 captures of 13 species made up of a Blackbird, 4 Robins, 5 Dunnocks, 2 Treecreepers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Nuthatch, 28 Blue Tits, 5 Coal Tits, 11 Great Tits, 9 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Greenfinches, 6 Chaffinches and 9 Goldfinches. One of the Blue Tits was a bird bearing a ring from elsewhere (classed as a 'control') and one of the Goldfinches was first ringed at the same site in December 2012, being aged as an adult then. This means that this small finch will be at least five years old this year.

Other birds noted at Kelmarsh Hall included a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail, a Siskin and a Raven.

Eleanor noted the pair of Raven at Staverton again today and watched six Goosanders at Daventry Country Park.

Birds in our small garden at Hanging Houghton this afternoon included an influx of 12 Reed Buntings plus two male Bramblings and two Yellowhammers.

A peruse of the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon identified a big influx of Herring Gulls and in amongst them was a striking first year Glaucous Gull, which from the size was perhaps a female. A near-adult Caspian Gull was also present in the biting north-easterly breeze and a Green Sandpiper was again on the pools below the dam.


Neil M

Can you spot the two Ruff
in the Black-tailed Godwit flock?

Bewick's Swan

These images are the last from
the Slimbridge trip of last Sunday...

Friday, 26 February 2016

Yellow Buntings!


Another ringing session at Orton today provided forty captures, using a stubble field as our catching area. We caught another 24 stunning Yellowhammers, 9 Reed Buntings and a few common finches. The field was holding up to 120 Yellowhammers at a time but it seemed that birds were continually coming and going so it is likely that the true number utilising the field is much higher. A Barn Owl was present first thing and fly-overs included a Siskin...


Neil M

The vivid yellow of
a male Yellowhammer

Singing Robin.

Although Robins have been singing
for much of the winter, now is the time to see them
at their best. Not only are they maintaining territories
but pairs are becoming established and existing bonds
reinforced and of course the lack of leaves and other
foliage ensure we can see them in their full glory.

Common Buzzard.

The cool breeze and sunny conditions
of the past week has provided ideal conditions for local
Common Buzzards to confirm territories. Aerial disputes
often occur at high altitude but this bird was more intent on
finding something to eat I think!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Birds in the cold air


Bits and pieces from yesterday (Wednesday) that I forgot to mention included a pair of Grey Partridge and ca40 Golden Plovers at Harrington Airfield and an adult Caspian Gull in the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir (but not the regular bird). In addition John Woollett conducted some ringing in his garden at Astcote yesterday and the catch included 10 new Goldfinches, 4 Siskins and a Yellowhammer. With cooler temperatures, particularly at night, and reduced natural food available, fresh birds are seeking out our gardens.

Yesterday's ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir included the processing of a Blue Tit with an old ring. Dave Francis has checked back through the records and this individual was first ringed as a juvenile at Pitsford in June 2008. This makes this little blue sprite over seven and a half years old!

Chris Payne was ringing down at Bradden again today and was kind enough to report the capture of 66 birds which included four Goldcrests, three Robins, three Greenfinches and nine Goldfinches. He noted two Tree Sparrows nearby, the first he has seen in that area...

Cathy Ryden noted six Goosanders visible from the aptly-named Goosander Hide at Pitsford Reservoir today; Eleanor saw four Stonechats at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and a single Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

A quick visit to the Brixworth Sewage Treatment Works today was sufficient to see two Chiffchaffs and three Grey Wagtails and a Raven was heard.


Neil M



Common Cranes, Canada Goose
and Barnacle Geese at Slimbridge.

Goldcrest at Bradden today
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Pitsford ringing


Dave Francis presided over a very successful ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir, finishing at lunch-time today. Again the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station was the venue and Dave and Lynne Barnett processed 106 birds between them of 16 species. 

Sixty-nine of these were new birds and the bigger birds included two Mallard, a Coot and a Tufted Duck. Smaller captures included 45 Yellowhammers, 7 Reed Buntings, 6 Tree Sparrows, 3 Goldfinches, 8 Chaffinches, 3 Greenfinches, a Treecreeper, a Redwing and 2 Starlings. This brings the new Yellowhammer total for this year at this location to 148 birds, and with plenty of individuals from previous years still being attracted to the broadcast seed it is possible that we may be supporting between 200 - 300 birds of this threatened farmland bunting.

A far more modest ringing session at Orton this morning provided just 33 captures which included 27 Yellowhammers from a flock of at least a hundred birds present in untreated stubble fields and supplemented with artificial feeding.

Birds visible from the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this evening included an adult Caspian Gull, one or two first year Mediterranean Gull(s), the regular Ruddy Shelduck and a Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

Drake Bufflehead

Drake Redhead

Female Lesser Scaup

Drake Ring-necked Duck

Female Canvasback

Images of  captive near-arctic ducks
from Slimbridge. This is possibly the
best time of year to check out our local
wildfowl for a vagrant from across 'The
Pond', so no harm in a reminder of
what they look like!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

More images from Slimbridge...


Little opportunity for birding today, but I did manage to pop down to Pitsford Reservoir in the vicinity of the dam this evening. A Green Sandpiper was on the pools below the dam and the Ruddy Shelduck and a Grey Wagtail were in the vicinity of the Sailing Club.


Neil M

Red Kite

It's all gone!

Above two images courtesy
of Jim Dunkley

Drake Pochard

Drake Tufted Duck




Captive 'redhead' Smew

Above images taken
at Slimbridge on Sunday.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday's birds


Plenty of birds in the garden again today which included two male Bramblings, a male Yellowhammer, a Tree Sparrow and a couple of Reed Buntings. There were also two Bramblings along the Brampton Valley Way near to Merry Tom Lane. Two Snipe were flushed at Harrington Airfield this morning and a Woodcock flushed up at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate).

Neil Hasdell was at Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve again today and birds clocked up included the female Scaup again, a female Goosander, 3 Egyptian Geese, 2 Shelducks, 2 Redshank, 2 Oystercatchers, just 3 Golden Plovers, 3 Little Egrets and 30+ Siskins.


Neil M



Long-tailed Tit

All images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Northants Bird Club car trip


Six members of the Northants Bird Club ventured south to Gloucestershire today, our first venue being a roadside flood pond on the outskirts of Gloucester. Here we eventually enjoyed prolonged views of two Penduline Tits which appear to be wintering at this site. Tiny birds, they were often difficult to see as they fed amongst the reed mace.

Low cloud and very grey conditions over the Forest of Dean called for Plan B, so we spent the remainder of the day at the splendid Wildfowl and Wetlands reserve at Slimbridge. Here there is an opportunity of watching wild birds in suitable habitat, plenty of captive wildfowl and similar and a number of Common Cranes feeding in the fields as part of the reintroduction scheme. With a mix of small birds, some raptors and a good number of waders too, we always had something to admire...

A few images from the day today, hopefully some more to follow during the next few days...


Neil M

Leucistic Woodpigeon


Bewick's Swan

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A few bits and pieces...


Eleanor was over at Staverton again today and saw the usual pair of Raven. A subsequent visit to Daventry Country Park provided views of 8 Pintail, 12 Goosanders, 15 Lesser Redpolls and 25+ Siskins. Two Otters were visible from the causeway at Ravensthorpe Res today (about 1.30pm) and a drake Smew was present too.

The Ruddy Shelduck was present near to the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this morning, as was a Redshank. Three Teal were caught and ringed there today...

A Chiffchaff and three Grey Wagtails were at Brixworth STW this morning and the Firecrest was reported. A Siskin was in full song at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate and 1-2 Snipe were noted at Harrington Airfield.


Neil M

Courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Long-tailed Tit
Summer Leys LNR

Summer Leys LNR

Teal at Pitsford Reservoir

Above images courtesy
of Neil Hasdell

Friday, 19 February 2016

Nene Valley Birding


A WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits today was muddy and quiet for birds. The only birds of note were three Great White Egrets, two on the Viaduct Pit west of Ditchford Lane and another one on pits east of Ditchford Lane. Other birds included a Little Egret, an Oystercatcher, two drake Goosanders, three Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Grey Wagtail and a couple of Siskins.

Neil Hasdell was again at Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve today, spotting the female Scaup again, a Great White Egret, three Oystercatchers, the female Stonechat and two Peregrines.

A Brambling remained here at Hanging Houghton, a Kingfisher was at Kelmarsh Hall and the Pitsford Reservoir gull roost provided views of an adult Mediterranean Gull.


Neil M

Great White Egret

Common Buzzard

Male Sparrowhawk

Some breeze and spring sunshine
following rain is always good for the
local raptor population to air their wings.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Sunny Thursday!


Chris Payne took advantage of the pleasant weather this morning and completed a fairly hectic ringing session down at Bradden in rustic South Northants. He processed 78 birds made up of 36 Blue Tits, 17 Great Tits, 4 Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Nuthatches, 2 Robins, a Blackbird, a Dunnock, a Greenfinch, 5 Chaffinches and 4 Goldfinches. Other birds in the near vicinity included two Ravens sparring with the local Common Buzzards.

Neil Hasdell was over at Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve at Earls Barton and connected with a female Scaup near Gull Island, a drake Goosander, the wintering female Stonechat still, a Cetti's Warbler, two Shelduck, three Egyptian Geese, two Redshank and two Peregrines.

A male Brambling was in our garden at Hanging Houghton again today and Cathy Ryden enjoyed watching a male Siskin for it's second day in her garden at Guilsborough. At this time of the year garden feeders can expect to attract scarcer birds as natural food is virtually spent. Redpolls and Siskins should join the garden Goldfinches and Reed Buntings and the odd Yellowhammer can begin joining in with the more regular Chaffinches and sparrows (if you are lucky enough to have sparrows). Niger seed and sunflower hearts in suspended feeders attracts the smaller finches, Chaffinches like mixed seed broadcast on the ground, Reed Buntings take small seeds on the ground (with a particular liking for Red Millet) and Yellowhammers tend to like bigger seeds and grain also presented on the ground or in grain hoppers.

Jacob Spinks saw a drake Smew in the Holcot Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning (plus some Siskins) and later in the day he enjoyed an excursion over to Daventry Country Park where he spotted the drake Green-winged Teal that has been present for a little while, plus two Kingfishers, more Siskins and a small flotilla of Goosanders.

The lone Ruddy Shelduck was in the vicinity of the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this evening, and just a single Little Egret was by the causeway.


Neil M

Marsh Tit at Bradden

Courtesy of Chris Payne

Coot on sunlit water
Hollowel Reservoir

Coot versus Moorhen...

Pied Wagtail

Adult male Blackbird.
The all black glossy plumage,
broad tail feathers, bright orange bill and
eye-ring all help to age this as a
bird hatched sometime before 2015.

Adult male Chaffinch. This bird too
was hatched before 2015. The tertial
feathers are broad and rounded with a
thick chestnut band to the edges, the primary
and secondary tips show little or no
wear, the black of the primary coverts
are almost as dark as the greater coverts
and the tail feathers are well-rounded and
in good condition. Continental male
Chaffinches tend to be pinker on the
underside (like this one) whereas more local
birds tend to be a brick red/pink, but
there is much variation.

The above five images are all
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.