Thursday, 31 March 2016

Being fat is good!


Following on from John Hunt's original report of the Egyptian Geese with goslings at Oundle last week, John confirmed that all eight goslings were doing well yesterday!

A quiet ringing session in Helen Franklin's garden today just outside the county at Priors Marston was enlivened when a Siskin was caught and ringed and then shortly afterwards a male Sparrowhawk hit the net and was also duly caught and ringed!

John Woollett's garden at Astcote continues to attract good numbers of Siskins. Some of the birds have been feasting on his sunflower hearts for some time now as they endeavor to pile on fat layers in readiness for their journey to Northern Europe. One bird has been caught three times and it's weight was initially 12.3g, then 14.4g and finally 16.3g. Four grammes is a considerable weight gain for such a small bird. John has also caught two visiting Bramblings, one of which weighed over 30g!

John saw a Wheatear near the hamlet of Foxley in South Northants yesterday; they seem very thin on the ground so far this spring.

Eleanor again noted about a hundred Golden Plovers in a field next to Blueberry Farm this afternoon and there seemed to be plenty of singing Chiffchaffs in sunny Northamptonshire today.


Neil M

Egyptian Goose
family Oundle Marina

Courtesy of John Hunt.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Birds of the bright sunshine!


Mark Evans was at the Titchmarsh Reserve yesterday completing a survey around this section of Thrapston Gravel Pits. Oystercatchers were present, as was an elusive Great White Egret, four Goosanders, six Cetti's Warblers, two Chiffchaffs and vocal Kingfishers.

Today Jacob Spinks and Eleanor Morrison spent some time at Earls Barton Gravel Pits, spending most of it on the Summer Leys reserve. Birds noted included the female Scaup still, up to six Oystercatchers, five Redshanks, two Kingfishers, two Grey Wagtails, up to twelve Cetti's Warblers, a House Martin, six Sand Martins and five Siskins. A subsequent visit to Pitsford Reservoir confirmed the continuing presence of the wintering male Stonechat and a Swallow.

A quick visit to Harrington Airfield this afternoon provided just a single pair of Grey Partridge.

Neil Hasdell and I carried out some ringing at Kelmarsh Hall this morning, catching seventy birds. The highlights included sixteen Goldfinches, five Chaffinches, two Marsh Tits, two Nuthatches, a Song Thrush and a House Sparrow. One of the Blue Tits was a bird originating from Stanford Reservoir. Other birds seen on-site included a Raven, a Grey Wagtail, one or two Siskin(s) and a Chiffchaff.

Birds in the garden at Hanging Houghton today included a Brambling, a male Lesser Redpoll, the Goldfinch x Canary hybrid still, a Tree Sparrow plus small numbers of Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings.


Neil M

Male and female
Tufted Duck

Apparent Goldfinch x Canary

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Friends of Fineshade

To all Friends of Fineshade

Hello everyone.
Many of you have said that you wish there was more you could do to help protect Fineshade Wood. Well, there are things that we are asking you to do right now and over the next couple of weeks. Here's a list and there's more detailed explanation and some good news(!) below.


 1) Online. Please go to Mark Avery’s blog page here:  Read the blog he posted on March 28th and click on “Likes”. Perhaps submit a comment too.
 If you are a Twitter or Facebook user go to the FoF pages and share, retweet, like etc. all the postings that relate to SSSI status.

2) If you live locally attend the meeting of our parish council one week tonight on Tuesday 5th April at 7:30.

3) On Wednesday April 13th be prepared to support a major PR push to promote Fineshade’s SSSI worthiness.


Fineshade Wood should be a SSSI – publicity campaign

It will be very hard for Forest Holidays(FH) and, particularly, the Forestry Commission(FC), to make a new planning application for a holiday camp if Natural England(NE) designate it as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. With the help of the Woodland Trust the case was made that some of the wood was Ancient Woodland; Natural England agreed and FH had to redraw their planned boundary. In rather the same way we hope to persuade NE to give the entire wood the protection of SSSI status. As you know we have been working to make a detailed case over the winter – it’s set out in full here.!sssi/cjj8
We feel the time is now right to really push that case with a publicity campaign. A first step was Mark Avery’s blog yesterday.   Among other things, that resulted in more visitors to our website than ever before. Please do what you can to help by clicking to “like” Mark’s blog, by sending a comment and by sharing, retweeting, etc. his and our social media posts.

We are planning a special push for this campaign on Wednesday 13th April. Do please visit our website on that day and send emails tweets and Facebook postings then.

Parish Council Meeting

 We’re aware that Curtin&Co have been working behind the scenes to win support for a possible future application. Part of this process has been a request from David Shetcliffe, Curtin’s Account Manager, to meet members of Duddington-with-Fineshade Parish Council. He has been invited to attend the next meeting on Tuesday 5th April at 7:30pm in the Village Hall at Duddington.  However, the Council have been at pains to make clear that this will not constitute Public Consultation at this stage: as far as we know there is no new proposal to consult about. Rather it is likely to be an attempt to identify probable opposers, waiverers and supporters of a FH development.

All Parish Council meetings are open to the public (i.e. all interested parties) to attend but there is not necessarily an opportunity to speak. The agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting has Mr Shetcliffe as item 3 after apologies and expressions of interest. This will be followed by Item 4, “Public Time” before the council move on to other business. Item 3 will be a very useful opportunity to hear what Mr Shetcliffe has to say, and during that, Fineshade’s own Parish Councillor, Shenagh Hackett, as well as Councillors from Duddington who supported Fineshade so powerfully last time, will of course be able to respond to him. Public Time, item 4, will be an opportunity for anyone to put forward comments on the points raised. We will, in addition, be asking the council to support the request for SSSI designation for the wood.

So if you live locally and are able to come along on Tuesday evening please do -  a large turn out will send a clear message of the strength of local opinion.

Good news – for Fineshade at least

 We have heard that Forest Holidays have put in a new planning application elsewhere. It’s a site in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.  The application has not been decided yet - in fact there’s a long way to go - but it looks very much as if they will be granted permission.   The differences from Fineshade are stark.
  • There seem to be no local residents directly affected.
  • There are no protected species that will be harmed.
  • There have been no objections at all, from anyone.
  • The National Park Authority seems to be in full support.
  • There’s a lot of unemployment in the area so the jobs to be created are important. 
The fact that they have been working on this application in Wales explains why it has been so quiet here in recent months - though we know that we are still on their books for the future. And that’s why they have the Curtin&Co “consultation” exercise going on.

The effect may be to set back any application here at Fineshade... so that may give us time to really push the SSSI-worthiness.

So finally... enjoy Fineshade

Thank you once again for being a Friends of Fineshade. It's all about enjoying as well as protecting the wood so do make sure that you visit and enjoy the wood this spring. We've still got room for Friends on Brian Laney's walk on 9th April and look out for other events, including a butterfly walk later.

The Friends of Fineshade.


Monday, 28 March 2016

Easter Monday in the county


Well despite storm-driven birds being found elsewhere, my efforts at Pitsford Reservoir today failed to find any new birds of note. Regular birds included the Ruddy Shelduck and Green Sandpiper in the area of the dam, plus a couple of Oystercatchers, a Woodcock, a couple of Chiffchaffs, about twenty Sand Martins and three Swallows.

Eleanor was counting her Golden Plover flock in a field near Blueberry Farm this afternoon (reaching about a hundred) when they were ambushed by a low-flying adult female Peregrine. They barely managed to lift off before she took one with comparative ease.

Nick Parker was over at the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Gravel Pits today, noting two Egyptian Geese which flew north plus migrants in the shape of Chiffchaff, Swallow and House Martin.

Helen Franklin checked out the Ford complex at Daventry yesterday evening but it seems that the huge transitory roost of Starlings has already moved on with no birds seen.

John Hunt has kindly let us know about a pair of Egyptian Geese that are already minding a brood of eight goslings! They were spotted last Wednesday at Oundle Marina and hopefully have survived the rain and high winds!


Neil M

A Swallowtail butterfly
taken by Simon Hales at
Strumpshaw Fen last year.
Not long now before spring
and then summer explodes in
a riot of colour and rapid

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Wonderful wagtails


Today we struggled to find anything of note on a breezy and sunny spring day in the county, a Raven at Kelmarsh being about the best.

I spent thirty minutes photographing birds on the filter beds at Brixworth Treatment Works this afternoon, dominated of course by wagtails...


Neil M


Pied Wagtails

Grey Wagtails

Reed Bunting

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Golden Plovers & 'little brown jobs'


Eleanor's almost daily excursions in to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton finally provided two Wheatears this morning, plus about 150 Golden Plovers. The adjacent Blueberry Farm complex again provided views of a Woodcock and a Barn Owl.

Birds in the Daventry area included the usual pair of Raven at Staverton and Daventry Country Park hosted a female Peregrine, two House Martins, a Swallow and about twenty Sand Martins.

This afternoon a flock of 200 Golden Plovers were again in a bean field between Brixworth and Scaldwell and a further flock of 100 were near Walgrave. Like the winter thrushes, they are ganging up before they move on, using the fields of Northamptonshire as a migrating staging post.

The usual finches and buntings were feeding in our garden today and Jacob Spinks was busy at Pitsford Reservoir locating a Blackcap, the male Stonechat, c60 Sand Martins, a couple of Swallows, small numbers of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, the Green Sandpiper, at least one Oystercatcher and of course the Ruddy Shelduck.


Neil M




Reed Bunting

All the above images of 'little
brown jobs' were taken by Cathy
Ryden who has the knack of capturing
the habitat around the subject. The marshy
area of Brixworth Sewer Treatment
Works provides the perfect backdrop
for the last three birds...

Friday, 25 March 2016

Sunny Good Friday


A belated and sunny WeBS count was completed at Ditchford Gravel Pits today. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were visiting the yellow flowers of Celandine and Coltsfoot, spawning Pike were thrashing around in the shallows and bees and other insects were on the wing in good numbers.

A Great White Egret was west of Ditchford Lane and summer migrants included about ten Chiffchaffs, two Sand Martins and a Swallow. The best of the waterfowl included six Egyptian Geese, three Shelduck and a drake Pintail. There were about seven singing Cetti's Warblers, a Water Rail, two Kingfishers and two Redshanks.

The garden here at Hanging Houghton attracted a Lesser Redpoll, two Siskins, a couple of Bramblings and small numbers of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers.

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included at least one Oystercatcher, six Snipe, two Sand Martins and five Chiffchaffs (courtesy of Jacob Spinks). A flock of about 150 Golden Plovers remain in a bean field between Scaldwell and Brixworth.

John Woollett has now caught over 200 Siskins in his garden at Astcote recently, which includes four controls (birds ringed elsewhere).


Neil M

Great White Egret

Spawning Pike

Thought to be a Dace, but a couple
of other species of  'silver fish' not

Not sure you can have a
'murmuration' of flies, but
it was an impressive display
of synchronized flying!

Great Crested Grebe

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Wader images


More wader images from the visit to Titchwell last Saturday...

Hopefully we will see some of these species on migration through the county this spring...


Neil M


Grey Plover

Image courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

BTO House Martin Survey


Ben Reeve has recently come on-board to assist the British Trust for Ornithology Northants representative Barrie Galpin, and one of his first tasks is to publicise the 2016 BTO House Martin Survey. This follows on from the preliminary work completed by volunteers last year, and again volunteers are sought to complete work within this fair county of ours.

Ben can be contacted by email - should you be able to assist...


Neil M

House Martin.

A dull and still Wednesday...


Dave Francis completed a period of ringing at Pitsford Reservoir today, concentrating his efforts at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station. This resulted in the capture of eighty birds which included an amazing fifty-nine new individuals. As in all previous efforts at this site this year, Yellowhammers dominated with 37 birds of which 30 were new. This means that 193 new Yellowhammers have been ringed here so far this calendar year.

Other birds included 12 Reed Buntings, 12 Goldfinches, 8 Tree Sparrows, 3 Greenfinches, a Chiffchaff and a Woodpigeon. A noisy Oystercatcher was noted in the Scaldwell Bay.

A much more modest ringing session at Brixworth Sewer Treatment Works today provided just 36 birds which included four Pied Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail, four Goldfinches, two Bullfinches, a Reed Bunting and three re-trap Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Up to five Grey Wagtails were on-site plus three Chiffchaffs, a Snipe and nearby a flock of about 200 Golden Plovers were in fields between Brixworth and Creaton.

Ian Dobson watched a much smaller roosting flock of Starlings at the Ford site at Daventry this afternoon, but the still impressive numbers were sufficient to attract a marauding female Sparrowhawk.

Blueberry Farm this morning provided views of a Barn Owl, a Woodcock and fifty Golden Plovers, with a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again this afternoon.


Neil M

Male Stonechat


Above two images
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Grey Wagtail

Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The second day of spring!


Chris Payne enjoyed an excellent ringing session at Bradden today, catching 75 birds. This total included a good haul of finches - 22 Goldfinches, 8 Chaffinches, 5 Greenfinches and 2 Siskins. Also 6 new Coal Tits, a new Great Spotted Woodpecker and a re-trap Marsh Tit. A Common Buzzard hit one of the nets but didn't ensnare long enough to be caught!

Kenny Cramer presided at a ringing session at Linford Lakes on the outskirts of Milton Keynes on Sunday, netting 27 birds which included a stunning male Bullfinch, a Redwing, three Blackbirds, two Goldcrests and two Treecreepers.

Jacob Spinks was at Pitsford Reservoir this evening, seeing two Sand Martins, a Rock Pipit and a Grey Wagtail around the dam. The Ruddy Shelduck was present too.

Ian Dobson witnessed a mega Starling roost this evening at the Ford site on the outskirts of Daventry. As many as 100,000 birds roosted in the conifers within the grounds there, the murmuration beforehand was apparently very spectacular!

Eleanor was at Harrington Airfield this morning and saw 8 Grey Partridges, a Barn Owl, a female Peregrine, a Raven and ca50 Golden Plovers.

Sywell Country Park hosted a drake Red-crested Pochard, a Little Egret, a Cetti's Warbler, 2 Grey Wagtails, a pair of Stonechat and ca50 Siskins.

Blueberry Farm attracted a Barn Owl, a female Peregrine (presumably the same bird from Harrington) and a Woodcock. Garden birds here at Hanging Houghton included four Bramblings still, 12+ Reed Buntings, 6 Yellowhammers and a Tree Sparrow.


Neil M

Male House Sparrow.

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The first day of Spring...


A short ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall this morning provided 58 captures of common birds which included Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, common tits and a single Yellowhammer. Birds noted on-site included a Raven, a Siskin or two and four Crossbills.

Our garden at Hanging Houghton attracted four Bramblings today plus half a dozen Yellowhammers and about a dozen Reed Buntings. A singing Willow Tit was around the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir early this morning and Jacob Spinks saw a Peregrine on its pigeon prey between the villages of Holcot and Moulton.

A Little Egret and a Barn Owl were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm hosted a Barn Owl, a Woodcock and ca80 Golden Plovers. No sign of the Short-eared Owls today though...

Helen Franklin noted another Barn Owl near Spratton early this morning.


Neil M

Marsh Harrier

Drake Teal

Bar-tailed Godwits


All the above images
taken at Titchwell on

Sunday, 20 March 2016

To the Forest of Dean and back...


Eleanor's early morning foray in to the Brampton Valley led to the discovery of two Little Egrets and a Barn Owl below Hanging Houghton this morning and birds at Blueberry Farm included two Short-eared Owls, two Barn Owls, a pair of Grey Partridge and twenty-five Golden Plovers. Further afield and two Ravens and four Siskins were at Staverton and at 1pm Ravensthorpe Reservoir provided views of an Otter and two Grey Wagtails.

Also today and over at Thrapston Gravel Pits, Eric Graham confirmed the continuing presence of a Great White Egret and also a Peregrine amongst more common fare. Neil Hasdell spent some time at Earls Barton Gravel Pits and saw a Mediterranean Gull, the female Scaup and nine Black-tailed Godwits on the Summer Leys reserve.

Early yesterday morning a Barn Owl was a roadside observation between the villages of Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell.

Five of us migrated down to Gloucestershire today, starting with a brief stop to catch some views of the two Penduline Tits on the outskirts of Gloucester. Moving on to the Forest of Dean we encountered some Hawfinches at Parkend, three displaying Goshawks at New Fancy View and small numbers of Mandarin Ducks at Cannop Ponds. We drove to the nearby Symonds Yat Rock and watched plenty of Common Buzzards, Ravens and a Peregrine enjoying the weak sunshine and breeze.

We finished the day at Crabtree Hill back in the forest where we watched a Great Grey Shrike predating newts, a couple of pairs of Stonechat, a Goosander and several Crossbills.


Neil M

Penduline Tits


Common Buzzard.

Displaying Raven.

Mandarin Ducks

Saturday, 19 March 2016

To Norfolk and back...


Eleanor re-visited Blueberry Farm again first thing this morning and located two Short-eared Owls and a Barn Owl in Redgrass. A late afternoon visit to Harrington Airfield this afternoon provided a spectacle of 400 Fieldfares and 100 Redwing feeding on the top fields. An adult female Peregrine saw an opportunity and ploughed in to the monster flock, catching and consuming an unfortunate Fieldfare. A Short-eared Owl was located here too.

In the meantime I paid North Norfolk a quick visit today with a crew armed with cameras and optics... Wolferton Woods and Dersingham Bog was our first location, and in addition to plenty of Siskins we enjoyed a couple of vocal Woodlarks and a pair of Stonechat. Hunstanton was next and cliff-top viewing included gliding Fulmars, confiding Turnstones and blogging Brent Geese.

It's difficult not to go to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell when in this part of the world, and after enjoying the tame birds in the car park and feeding station which included more Siskins and Bramblings, we dawdled towards the coast. Typical birds were on show which included Marsh Harrier, more Brent Geese, common waders and close views of common wildfowl. A Water Pipit showed briefly a couple of times on the salt-marsh, rafts of Common Scoter bobbed on the grey waves and Sanderling sprinted on the beach ahead of the waves.

The walk back allowed us close views of Avocet, Grey Plover, Little Egret and others.

With birds on show at Pitsford Reservoir, we drove back to witness a flock of eleven Common Scoter visible from the dam, a Dunlin, the Ruddy Shelduck and a fine adult summer plumage Mediterranean Gull being chased by Common Gulls.


Neil M

Fulmars at Hunstanton

The Woodpigeon. Not just
capable of coping with our
influence on the environment
but being flexible enough
to successfully exploit it!

Turnstone at Hunstanton.