Saturday, 30 April 2016

Last day of April!


Yesterday afternoon (Friday) and the Ruddy Shelduck was noted again below the dam at Pitsford Reservoir and a Grey Wagtail was keeping three Yellow Wagtails company at Brixworth Sewer Works.

This morning Eric Graham was again at Thrapston Gravel Pits and a perusal around the Titchmarsh Reserve provided views of three or four Hobby, lots of common warblers, Oystercatcher and Cuckoo. Two Nightingales sang from hidden song-posts.

Pitsford Reservoir hosted a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper today and a circular walk at Welford Reservoir in wintery showers was good for three Common Sandpipers and three Yellow Wagtails.

Cathy Ryden picked up a dead Barn Owl this morning on the outskirts of Creaton village. The circumstances suggested it was a road casualty. The bird was ringed and sadly it seems like it was a brooding female.

Eleanor saw the regular pair of Raven at Staverton today and a subsequent walk at Borough Hill Country Park yielded two Ring Ouzels and at least twelve Wheatears. This evening a Whinchat was in the southern-most field at Blueberry Farm and a cream-crown Marsh Harrier was hunting over fields in the Brampton valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Goodens Nomad Bee
photographed by Robin
Gossage at Pitsford
Reservoir on Wednesday.

A brood of Egyptian Geese
active at Earls Barton GP
earlier in the week as
photographed by Graham Bentley.

Song Thrush



Above three images
all taken by Cathy Ryden.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Harrington foray...


I have just returned from a short trip to the Provence region of South France where I helped out on a Naturetrek tour based mostly around the inland lavender region and a couple of days on the coastal Camargue. My thanks to Eleanor and Neil Hasdell for writing the blogs and to Cathy, Graham and others for providing information and images in my absence.

A breezy and cool stroll at Harrington Airfield this morning brought me back to the reality of this cold spring we are experiencing but it was nice to see at least three Brown Hares careering around the top fields and a couple of pairs of Grey Partridge still on territory. A/the Ring Ouzel was singing well from bushes by the shooting wall next to the concrete track, the third year in a row I've heard migrating birds singing whilst on passage in Northants, and there were two Wheatears sheltering from the wind around the bunkers and a singing Lesser Whitethroat in the old airstrip bushes.

Please see below some images of local birds as taken by Cathy Ryden with her trusty Canon bridge camera...


Neil M

Singing Wren

Pied Wagtail

Male Reed Bunting

All images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Odds and Ends

Birding remains hard work in this cold spell. Whilst I seem to be struggling to find anything, spare a thought for the birds who feed on insects as they must be really finding it hard. As I was watching the numerous Hirundines flying low over the water at Pitsford I wondered how many would not survive due to lack of food and cold , the last thing they need after their long journey to get here.
Our garden was again very busy with birds including 2 Lesser Redpoll, a Brambling, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers. This afternoon there was a noticable increase in the birds feeding, then a couple of hours later the garden was completely white as we had quite a heavy snow shower !!! Totally bizarre .
Yesterday the only birds of interest were the Ruddy Shelduck below the dam at Pitsford Reservoir and a significant movement of Yellow Wagtail.
Today there was a Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler and Barn Owl in the valley below Hanging Houghton and 4+ Wheatear at Harrington Airfield but very little else.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 25 April 2016

Redstart's in the snow !!!

Where has the warm weather gone to ?  I had to sort out my fleece layers and gloves today as the cold north wind continues, brrrr. 
I don't think that the birds are enjoying this weather either as they are certainly keeping a low profile.
What I have noticed is the return to our garden of a Brambling, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 10 Reed Buntings and 8 Yellowhammer , all busy tucking into the food. The increased number of birds in the garden has not gone undetected by the local Sparrowhawks who have made several successful strikes. 
Yesterday the only birds I could find were at least 8 Wheatears as I scanned the promising looking bean fields at Harrington Airfield.
Today was slightly better. This morning there was a very showy singing Grasshopper Warbler at Blueberry Farm in the field nearest the farm itself. It was behaving as if it had just arrived and took absolutely no notice of myself or the dogs. I did regret not taking my camera as even with my bridge camera I would have managed a reasonable shot.
This afternoon more dog walking, this time across the fields between Walgrave and Old.  Initially the skies were blue and the sun shining, but this soon changed to grey and rain which turned into snow !!!!  Myself and the dogs took shelter in the hedgerow which had been productive last autumn for Redstart's etc.  After the snow had stopped the sun came back out again and so did 2 male Common Redstarts. They were obviously doing the same as me and taking shelter from the inclement weather.
This field is quite raised and gives good views all around and whilst scanning I looked over towards the back of the Walgrave Bay of Pitsford Reservoir and watched a Great White Egret fly out of the reservoir and drop into a pond situated between the back of the reservoir and Walgrave village.  I do not know whether this is a new bird or one of the long staying birds which has obviously been hiding itself away.
The day would not be complete without a visit to Harrington Airfield and a look at the bean fields. It was very bleak, cold , windy and it snowed again !!  But I soon forgot about that as I watched a male Ring Ouzel near the shooting wall. Definitely a new bird as it was in superb pristine plumage.  
There were no other birds of note and I've just watched the weather forecast and sadly no change for the next few days.  Oh well, I've got plenty of jobs to do !

Regards  Eleanor 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Lings & Summer Leys

A visit to Ling's Wood earlyish this morning was rewarded with views of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming on its favourite dead tree branch. There has been some rivalry for this position in recent days with a Great Spotted Woodpecker claiming priority over its diminutive cousin. 

Whilst viewing the bird yesterday a fox in pursuit of a baby rabbit was somewhat surprised to see me in the middle of the path, it didn't hang around for long after realising its error.

After calling in at Ling's, the next stop was Summer Leys.
The Spotted Redshank and a couple of Greenshank were again visible in Wader Bay whilst the Wood Sandpiper was on the scrape with 3 Little Ringed Plover. Snipe numbers had jumped overnight to at least 23 birds.
2 Whimbrel were wandering the grassy bank beside the disused railway occasionally finding a morsel to eat, whilst keeping a wary eye on a passing Buzzard. A third bird flew through calling but didn't stop to join its colleagues.

Garden and Reed warbler were new in today, whilst an enthusiastically singing Sedge Warbler was on show between the Feed Station and Kim's Corner.

Two further Little Ringed Plover were present on Gull Island whilst a fly through Yellow Wagtail was my first of the year.

Last Wednesday a visit to Glapthorn Cow Pasture was rewarded with views of a singing Nightingale in the undergrowth 150m or so from the entrance to the wood.

Finally, the Pasque flowers at Barnack Hills and Holes have just come into bloom.


                                 Neil H.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Quiet Times !

Just as I thought migration was gathering pace it seems to have come a full stop !! The last couple of days have been very quiet and despite being out and about I have seen very little.
The only bird to mention for yesterday is a Barn Owl hunting below Hanging Houghton at dusk.
This morning I started the day with an early morning visit to Harrington Airfield where it was dead as a "Dodo". All I saw were 2 Wheatear.
I took Tor agility training at Staverton where the resident pair of Ravens were very vocal. One spent quite a bit of time perched on top of a conifer making all sorts of weird and wonderful noises......or was it just having a laugh at us as we tried to get our dogs to run the course.   A Common Buzzard strayed too close to their nest and both Ravens went in for the "attack" which took place literally over our heads. The Common Buzzard beat a hasty retreat and peace was restored.
Whilst in this part of the world I walked around Borough Hill and Daventry Reservoir and again saw nothing.
A look at Ravensthorpe and Hollowell Reservoirs on my way back home produced nothing. I felt very sorry for a Willow Warbler at Ravensthorpe, one minute it was singing then the next it was killed as it was hit by a car as it tried to cross the road. Such a waste of such a bright and beautiful little bird who had just survived flying thousands of miles.
My best bird of the day was at 15.45hrs as I watched a cream crown Marsh Harrier quartering the rape fields below Hanging Houghton. It disappeared out of sight heading in the general direction of Brixworth.
I suspect that many of the migrants will slow down as the winds have changed to a cold north easterly. But we will see what tomorrow brings.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Migration continues

An early morning visit to Harrington Airfield was quite productive.  On a  slow meander around the bunkers I saw 2 Ring Ouzels chasing each other around, in fact I heard them long before I saw them, their distinctive harsh "chack chack" call resonating through the air. A third bird, a male, was again present in the vicinity of the shooting wall. Quite an amazing sight and sound.
I saw at least 4 Wheatears, a male Redstart and 2 pairs of Grey Partridge. 
A large number of Whitethroats had arrived overnight as every bush seemed to have one !!
At Blueberry the Grasshopper Warbler was still showing well and a Hobby flew over.
My first Cuckoo of the year was at Brixworth Country Park.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

New summer and lingering winter migrants


Eleanor was up at Blueberry Farm this morning and located a singing Grasshopper Warbler in Hill Field. This bird gave the impression of having just arrived - it was flying from patches of vegetation and singing in full view.

A flock of about a hundred Fieldfare passed over Blueberry Farm in a northerly direction and nearby another twenty Fieldfares and two Redwing were along the Brampton Valley Way between Hanging Houghton and Brixworth.

A singing Reed Warbler and a few Siskins were at Pitsford Reservoir in the vicinity of The Fishing Lodge...


Neil M

'What you looking at?'

'Square one for Robin [Gossage]'

'From the double-decker [hide]'

Recent images of  Little Egrets and a
Grey Heron from Summer Leys and
 comments by Graham Bentley.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Birds of the warm sunshine!


Harrington Airfield continues to host Ring Ouzels with at least two birds on show today and a probable third more skulking individual. Four Wheatears were also present this morning...

At Pitsford Reservoir Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett committed to some quality ringing around the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding station, netting a Willow Warbler, a Blackcap, three Tree Sparrows, six Goldfinches, two Lesser Redpolls and thirteen Yellowhammers amongst others. A Hobby was present between the causeway and Holcot village.


Neil M

Yellow Wagtails at
Hollowell Reservoir today,
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Recent images from
Summer Leys of Black-tailed
Godwit, Oystercatcher,
 Little Egret and Little Grebe.

Courtesy of  Graham Bentley.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Harrington Airfield revisited!


A little more ringing at Harrington Airfield this morning in surprisingly cold, grey and breezy conditions didn't produce many fresh birds. Three new Willow Warblers were caught and ringed and another bird from 2015 was caught too, the fourth returning individual during the last two days. This last individual was ringed as a juvenile at the same site on 9th August 2015 so it is almost certainly returning to the same few bushes it first experienced as a freshly-fledged bird. Not bad for an eight gram migrant that has migrated to West Africa and back!

Other birds processed included a Chiffchaff, a Lesser Redpoll, a Song Thrush and of course some more stunning Yellowhammers.

Birds noted on the old airfield included the adult male Ring Ouzel, still religiously feeding on the wet field ruts next to the shooting wall and viewable from the concrete track. At least four Wheatears were still present and a further trickle of overhead migrants included Meadow Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, Swallows and singles of Tree Pipit, Fieldfare and a vocal and low Little Ringed Plover.


Neil M

Collared Dove

Male House Sparrow

Female Bullfinch

All images courtesy
of Chris Payne, taken
 whilst conducting ringing in
South Northants this past week...

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Snow, frost and birds at Harrington...


After early morning frosts and a layer of snow, a ringing session at Harrington Airfield proved to be a good move with 126 captures of 17 species. Four Willow Warblers caught included three returning birds (one from 2014 and two from 2015) and two Green Woodpeckers were females first ringed last year. The most common bird caught was the Yellowhammer with 58 new birds and 10 from previous years. Other birds included 17 Chaffinches, 2 Linnets, a Lesser Redpoll (one of three flying around), 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Blackcaps and four of the six or so Wheatears present.

Other birds present included two Ring Ouzels, a Redwing, three Redstarts, a Raven and two Willow Tits. Small numbers of Swallow, Sand Martin, Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail trickled over in a northerly direction. Two of the trapped Wheatears keyed out as male 'Greenland' Wheatears, with the two females apparently of the nominate race.

A Ring Ouzel was seen in flight at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon and four Wheatears were in the Brampton Valley between there and the Brampton Valley Way.

Nick Parker visited Pitsford Reservoir this morning and watched a perched Osprey north of the causeway and later visited Thrapston Gravel Pits to locate a well-marked Whimbrel.

Further ringing at Harrington Airfield is planned for tomorrow morning with restricted access to the old airstrip, but the concrete track and footpaths remain unaffected...


Neil M

Male 'Greenland' Wheatear
Harrington Airfield.

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A winter welcome for our summer migrants!


Today started with a non-birding morning but early afternoon took me in to the Brampton Valley with a Green Sandpiper between The Windhover Public House and Boughton Mill riding stables again and a Kingfisher by Brampton Fisheries.

The dam area of Pitsford Reservoir attracted good numbers of hirundines plus a Wheatear and good numbers of wagtails which included fifteen Yellows, a Grey, at least two Whites and about twenty Pieds. A Green Sandpiper was present here too as was the Ruddy Shelduck. Birds noted north of the causeway by other observers included an Osprey, a first year Little Gull, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Little Egret and a Whitethroat. Cathy Ryden paid Hollowell Reservoir a visit and located a Wheatear and two Yellow Wagtails.

Eric Graham and Nick Parker visited Thrapston GP today and between them saw plenty of birds which included a pair each of Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Egyptian Goose, an 'asio owl'
sp, six Yellow Wagtails, a Cuckoo, a showy Nightingale, Swifts, a pair of Siskin and a redpoll sp plus plenty of warblers including Sedge, Reed and Cetti's. These summer migrants are probably not impressed with the cold temperatures and snow of the last 24 hours!

Harrington Airfield hosted two Ring Ouzels today, a showy male by the shooting wall next to the concrete track and a skulking bird by the first bunker. Two Wheatears were quite mobile and a Raven flew over. Please note that ringing operations will be conducted on the old airstrip tomorrow and Monday, which includes the rough strip between the chippings compound and the concrete track and public access is restricted. The concrete track itself and all footpaths are unaffected.


Neil M

Yellow Wagtail

Pied Wagtail


Friday, 15 April 2016

More rain birds!


A walk in the rain at Harrington Airfield this morning initially didn't provide much of interest but did include a single Wheatear and a pair of Grey Partridge. On my walk back a male Ring Ouzel flew towards me and then arced around and probably came down in bushes near to the concrete track entrance. Four or five singing Willow Warblers seemed to be very much on territory.

Pitsford Reservoir provided ten Fieldfares on fields below the dam and three Yellow Wagtails in the grounds of the Sailing Club. A singing Wood Warbler was discovered by David Rowe in trees by the Fishing Lodge and this bird sang and showed on and off during the afternoon. A Whimbrel flew north at 12.20pm, the pair of Oystercatcher are still present and an Arctic Tern was in the Scaldwell Bay. Jacob Spinks later saw an immature male Goshawk and a large gathering of Swallows also in the Scaldwell Bay.

Nick Parker's birding venture at Thrapston GP this afternoon/evening provided views of 35 'Commic' Terns which included at least two Arctic Terns, ca200 Swallows and a calling Cuckoo as well as good numbers of common warblers.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tit

Comma butterfly

Great Crested Grebes

Images courtesy of Cathy Ryden, from
a brighter and sunnier day than today!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The warblers have arrived!


Debbie and Eric Graham were active around the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston GP today, coming across large numbers of singing Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and double-figure Cetti's Warblers. Sedge Warblers were present too and a Reed Warbler was singing near South Hide. And with eight Little Egrets and lots of Common Terns and hirundines present it was obviously a very enjoyable jaunt!

Eleanor located four Wheatears at Harrington Airfield today but couldn't find any Redstarts or the Ring Ouzel.

Gary Pullen notched up a Black Redstart at Byfield village briefly this morning and his diligent and almost daily visit to Daventry Country Park yielded an Arctic Tern and a Common Sandpiper.


Neil M

Lesser Redpoll


Interestingly this bird bears a 
ring and although the full ring
number cannot be read, the part
numbers suggest this bird might
well have been ringed at Pitsford
Reservoir earlier this year. More evidence
that ground feeding at one site might
well be having a beneficial effect on the
Yellowhammer population within the
county over a larger area than first imagined.
Most Yellowhammers appear to be quite
sedentary but hopefully are capable of foraging
over quite a large area.

Tree Sparrow

All the above are garden birds
as expertly photographed by
Cathy Ryden.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A warm spring day...


Some habitat management work to fit in with the Constant Effort Scheme in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir coincided with some stunning weather today. The last couple of days has seen an invasion of singing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers to the county and today a Sedge Warbler was chuntering in bushes at Pitsford. The Green Sandpiper was still below the dam on muddy flood pools, pike were spawning in the shallows, toads were croaking in vegetated waters and five species of butterfly were on the wing including my first Orange-tip of the year. Ashy Mining Bees were active on the track in the Scaldwell Bay. This evening Jacob Spinks located a Yellow-legged Gull around the tern rafts.

Harrington Airfield was busy with would-be observers today with a Ring Ouzel being reported at about 9.30am but seemingly not since. Bob Bullock located a fine male Redstart this morning along the concrete track, and by late afternoon three individuals were on show with an adult male and a female at the start of the concrete track at it's junction with the Draughton Road and another adult male at the very end of the concrete track. Also present were five Wheatears, a pair of Grey Partridge and two Ravens.

John Hunt has kindly reported that two Nightingales were in song at Glapthorn Cow Pastures today, apparently a day later than last year!


Neil M

Ashy Mining Bees
Andrena cinerari
Pitsford Reservoir

Record and distant
shot of the adult male
Redstart at the concrete
track entrance to Harrington
Airfield this afternoon...

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Exciting April!


Birds north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir this morning included a small flock of terns made up of three Common and two Arctic Terns. Later these birds had disappeared but two Black Terns were present instead. The Green Sandpiper was on the pools below the dam this evening.

Sywell Country Park hosted two adult Little Gulls, 2-3 singing Sedge Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler and a Grey Wagtail.

Early this afternoon Harrington Airfield finally sprung in to action for Eleanor and produced views of a male Ring Ouzel around the second bunker, two Wheatears, a Yellow Wagtail, some fly-over Fieldfares and two pairs of Grey Partridge. 

At least one Ring Ouzel, possibly two, was seen by Cathy Ryden this evening. Initially a male was visible from the main concrete track and flew off and then the same or another flew towards the bunkers on the rough area and then foraged in one of the fields. Please note that the bunker and rough areas will be out of bounds on Sunday 17th and Monday 18th April for ringing operations. Should you wish to attend and watch proceedings this can be accommodated but I would need to know beforehand in order to comply with landowner requests.

A Barn Owl was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.

John Hunt reports that yesterday the excellent parentage of the Egyptian Geese at Oundle Marina was paying off with eight goslings still hale and hearty! Nearby a pair of Mandarin Duck were at Barnwell Country Park on North Lake.

During the last month we have been fortunate to have Tawny, Little and Barn Owls all vocally active around the village, some evenings with all three species calling at the same time. Tawny and Little Owls tend to be perched when they call but Barn Owls regularly call in flight and most late evenings when I'm out with the dogs I hear a Barn Owl calling as it completes its territorial flights. The mournful call of the male Little Owl living close to our garden suggests he doesn't have a partner this year...


Neil M

A Rutland Water Osprey caught
in the act of stealing nesting
material from a Greylag Goose nest!

Courtesy of John Gamble.

Male Ring Ouzel
Harrington Airfield.

Male Wheatear at
Harrington Airfield

Willow Warbler at
Harrington Airfield

Above five images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Monday afternoon update...


This afternoon birds located north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir included an Osprey, two Oystercatchers and two Shelduck. When the rain hit this evening a Common Sandpiper materialised on the dam...


Neil M

Female Blackcap caught
and ringed at Kelmarsh Hall

Mistle Thrush with a
beak full of worms for
its nestlings at Kelmarsh
Hall yesterday.

Both images courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Birds of an easterly wind...


A brighter and warmer start than I was expecting at Harrington Airfield this morning but the only birds of note were a single male Wheatear and one of the resident pair of Grey Partridge.

A summer plumage Green Sandpiper remains on the dwindling flood water between the Windhover Public House and Boughton Mill Riding Stables in the Brampton Valley and birds visible from the dam at Pitsford this lunchtime included four Little Gulls, the Ruddy Shelduck and the Green Sandpiper there too.

Eleanor followed up Doug McFarlane's suggestion of looking just south of the Kelmarsh Tunnels on the Brampton Valley Way this morning and espied a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker there together with a mixture of other good woodland birds which included Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Siskin. Thank-you Doug!

In the meantime Neil Hasdell was over at Summer Leys LNR this morning and enjoyed a hatful of birds which included eight Little Gulls, a Peregrine, the female Scaup still and Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler.


Neil M

Green Sandpiper in summer plumage.