Sunday, 31 July 2016

Round Up

It has been a busy week and my birding has been rather restricted.
Whilst at agility near Staverton the resident family of Raven's were very vocal and tumbling about which was quite funny to watch......almost as funny as Tor, my dog, clowning about as he went over the jumps !!

The big grassy field at Blueberry has had a severe haircut and there is now only a small area of long grass/bushes.  Despite this at least two singing Grasshopper Warblers remain . It was whilst scanning this area I found a family of Stonechat, 2 adult with 3 youngsters and I'm pretty sure that they could not have flown very far as too young. I think that they could have bred there. Yesterday I could only find 2 youngsters with the adults. Before the field was cut I had been watching a healthy colony of Marbled White Butterflies, but I cannot find these now.

There have been a couple of Barn Owls hunting the area and also below Hanging Houghton.

This afternoon I was walking the fields between Walgrave village and the back of the Walgrave Bay. A couple of the fields have been recently harvested and these were attracting plenty of gulls, Red Kites, Common Buzzard and a "cream crown" Marsh Harrier.

I visited Harrington Airfield this evening and nearly got bowled over by a tractor. I literally had to jump into the bushes dragging the dogs with me !!!  They were busy harvesting and several tractors were taking the grain away, but one particular tractor was going too fast along the track.  So this rather spoilt my walk. I got off the track as soon as I could and was rewarded by a Redstart, Turtle Dove and at least 10 young Grey Partridge.

A few birds over the house this week including 2 Crossbills, Grey Wagtail, Ravens and Common Terns. There was a Humming Bird Hawk Moth in the village during the week.

It is nearly time for the next Birdclub Meeting.  On Wednesday 3rd August we have one of our birdclub members Jeff Blincow giving a talk about his trip to Chile.  It promises to be an excellent and entertaining evening. Everyone is very welcome - 7.30pm at the Lodge, Pitsford Water.



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

An island of skuas!


Our morning on Fair Isle today was made up of seeking out and ringing Great Skua (Bonxie) chicks! Quite different to their confrontational and aggressive parents, these delightful 'monsters to be' generally behave very well once located and sit still whilst their metal ring is affixed. Providing they survive the first year, these ocean predators may well live for twenty years or more...

Record numbers are breeding on the island this year, and it seems that they and other sea-bird species are generally enjoying a productive breeding season.

Also on the island are the beautiful and graceful Arctic Skuas. Much smaller and slimmer than their Bonxie cousins, a small population manages to breed on Fair Isle but sadly the chicks are often predated by the Bonxies at the fledging stage. Nevertheless they also seem to be experiencing a more productive season than of late.

Very few migrant passerines are moving through but gulls and waders are definitely on the move with plenty of Common Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Curlews, a Whimbrel and a variety of smaller waders feeding on the beaches or croft fields.


Neil M

Helen Franklin and Lynne
Barnett holding Bonxie chicks

Adult dark phase
Arctic Skua

Juvenile Arctic Skua

John Franklin suffering 'the Bonxie
experience'. Even when they are not
on territory, these intimidating birds
are renown for flying at the heads of
people, sometimes with a resounding
'slap' as they make contact with their feet...

Head to head with a Bonxie!

Adult Bonxie or Great Skua.
Big, powerful but also very
maneuverable too, these
predatory sea-birds really are
the 'wolves of the sea'.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Scottish birding


The NRG contingent finally arrived on Fair Isle today, the weather preventing this last leg of the journey until this afternoon. Prior to this we utilised our time with some birding in the Edinburgh area on Saturday and mainland Shetland on Sunday and Monday. A couple of pods of Orcas are presently patrolling Shetland waters but we haven't caught up with them yet...!


Neil M






Arctic Tern

Grey Seal

Red-breasted Merganser

Shetland birding


A planned short trip to Fair Isle hasn't gone quite according to plan with the travel arrangements, and currently four of us from the Northants Ringing Group are in Lerwick on the Shetland mainland. Plenty of northern birds to see this time of year with breeding sea birds and waders in good numbers and an opportunity to see passerines such as Rock Dove, Twite and the Shetland races of Starling and Wren.

Yesterday (Monday) we enjoyed an evening boat excursion to witness the vibrancy of the sea-bird city on Noss; we hope to try and fly to Fair Isle later today...


Neil M


Great Skua or Bonxie

Arctic Tern


Great Black-backed Gull


Sunday, 24 July 2016

County bird ringing...


Yesterday (Saturday) provided views of two Turtle Doves at Harrington Airfield during the early morning and Eric Graham's visit to Titchmarsh Reserve near Thrapston continued to yield views and song of common warblers, two Yellow-legged Gulls and five Little Egrets.

Today (Sunday) and Northants Ringing Group members John Woollett and Chris Payne were active at Stortons Gravel Pits where the catch included good numbers of Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler and a Willow Warbler. Nick Wood tried a new ringing strategy at Chase Park Farm adjacent to Yardley Chase resulting in the capture of three Dunnocks, two juvenile Goldcrests, a Blue Tit, three juvenile Chiffchaffs, three Willow Warblers, three Whitethroats, two Great Tits and a Robin.


Neil M

Juvenile Wren (oops not a
juvenile Cetti's Warbler)!
Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Pitsford Reservoir antics


A ringing session at the main Pitsford Reservoir feeding station spanning a few hours yesterday evening (Thursday) and first thing this morning (Friday) yielded a very good total of 71 captures (64 new birds and 7 re-traps). As you would hope at this time of the year most of the birds were juveniles (hatched this year) and were made up of 14 Dunnocks, 13 Tree Sparrows, 6 Chaffinches, 5 Sedge Warblers, 4 Blue Tits, 4 Robins, 5 Blackbirds, 6 Great Tits, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Wrens, 2 Reed Buntings and singles of Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Reed Warbler and Woodpigeon. 

The RAF Red Arrows display team whizzed over the reservoir heading south yesterday evening, and this afternoon they came back north between Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm.

Clouds of biting flies (Cleggs and Deer Flies) surrounded us this morning in warm conditions at Pitsford as efforts were made to tidy up the ringing rides in the Walgrave Bay, and work has started this week in replacing the bridges arching over the brooks at the very ends of the Scaldwell and Walgrave bays. Pedestrian access around the reserve shouldn't be affected by this essential work which is likely to take some weeks. A couple of Marbled White butterflies can be seen in the Scaldwell Meadow currently, between the causeway and the Maytrees Hide.

A flock of 14 Mistle Thrushes at Hanging Houghton this morning is a typical summer record when all the local village birds flock up after all breeding efforts are over. This bird is another of those species which is still present over most of its original range but the numbers have thinned out during the last few years.

Several hours walking and scanning in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon in sultry and humid conditions paid off for Eleanor with sightings of two Crossbills over Blueberry Farm, at least one Hobby and a juvenile Marsh Harrier again hunting cereal fields and grass headlands. Just a few Marbled Whites were visible at Blueberry Farm.

Birds of interest in the area of the dam and sailing club at Pitsford Reservoir this evening amounted to little more than two adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Common Sandpiper.


Neil M

Some of the Red Arrows
(of a flight of nine aircraft)

Yellow-legged Gull
at Pitsford Reservoir
today courtesy of
Jacob Spinks (Young
Birdwatcher of the
Year finalist!)

Thursday, 21 July 2016

French Dragons


Some initial images of dragonfly fauna and other beasts from the French Camargue region earlier this month. These pictures were taken during an eight day Naturetrek tour I helped out on, specifically looking at dragonflies and birds - but of course we looked at everything that crossed our path!


Neil M

The spectacular Scarce
Swallowtail butterfly...

Wall Brown butterfly.

Black-tailed Skimmer eating
a Wall Brown butterfly!

Pronged Clubtail


Honey Buzzard

Red-veined Darter.

Black-tailed Skimmer
with blow-fly prey.

Mating pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Catching birds of the air


This morning's walk was at Harrington Airfield and provided views of two Turtle Doves and a Willow Tit, all close to the main concrete track.

This evening a small band of us met at Lamport Hall and managed to catch several birds made up of sixteen House Martins, five Swifts and a House Sparrow.

Big numbers of Marbled Whites were still on the wing at Twywell Hills and Dales Country Park today and about eight were visible at Blueberry Farm.


Neil M

Small Tortoiseshell

Juvenile Jackdaw with
aberrant bill colour.

Common Swift.

House Martin.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

French-ringed Sedge Warbler


Ian Wrisdale is the principal ringer at Stanwick Gravel Pits and manages a long term Constant Effort Site there. On three occasions this year (15th May, 4th June and 12th June) Ian has caught a French-ringed Sedge Warbler which is presumably breeding at Stanwick. The initial ringing details have come through now and this bird was first caught and ringed on 8th August 2015 when it was aged as a bird hatched in that year. The original ringing location was at Trunvel, Treogat, Finistere in France, some 562km from Stanwick GP.

David Arden was also at the Fermyn Wood complex yesterday and managed some fine images of some of the bigger butterflies on show...


Neil M

From eggs to nestlings,
the journey of a Swallow nest
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Purple Emperor and
White Admiral butterflies
Fermyn Wood complex by
David Arden.