Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Local bird ringing


Some more ringing locally included a session at Stortons Gravel Pits on Sunday where John Woollett and Chris Payne caught 31 birds which included 3 Garden Warblers, 9 Blackcaps, 4 Reed Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Cetti's Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, a Chiffchaff and 3 Bullfinches.

A small team of ringers at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday (Monday) completed the last Constant Effort Site session for the year and captured 40 birds. The more interesting were 3 Blackcaps, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Marsh Tit, 2 Willow Tits and 2 Kingfishers.


Neil M

Angla Shades moth

Canary-shouldered Thorn moth

Above images courtesy of
John Gamble.

Painted Lady.



Above images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Early morning birding ....

I was up and out at Harrington Airfield early this morning. Again a beautiful morning with blue skies and sunshine, yet with that hint of "Autumn" ever present.
There was a large mixed flock of Linnet, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting feeding in the weeds/flowers along the rough strip.  Plenty of Whitethroats in clambering about in the bushes and at least 2 families of Grey Partridge remain although the large family has reduced in size to approx 8 birds. A Common Redstart and Whinchat were around the first bunker.
As I walked down the strip which connects the rough area to the main track I could see a bird sitting like a sentinel on top of the straw bales......it was a Black Redstart. There were quite a few birds around these bales including 2 Turtle Doves in their favourite dead trees.  The Black Redstart showed well despite being constantly chased around by a Robin.
There was another Common Redstart in the bushes by the shooting wall and a Cream Crowned Marsh Harrier quartering the fields near to the entrance where I had parked,
A short walk in the valley below Hanging Houghton produced a Common Redstart, Whinchat and Hobby.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 29 August 2016

Catch Up

 After a rather soggy weekend it was nice to return to a lovely Autumnal day. Early this morning there was a Little Egret, Barn Owl, Wheatear and Common Redstart in the valley below Hanging Houghton.
This afternoon I took the "gammy" legged collies plus spaniel for a walk across the fields from Walgrave to the hedgerow which has been productive for Common Redstart.  By the time we reached the hedgerow I had already come across 2 Whinchat and a Common Redstart . Whilst the dogs rested I checked the hedge and today there were at least 3 Common Redstart, a Spotted Flycatcher and another Whinchat.
I spent late afternoon/early evening walking around Blueberry and sitting at the top of Blueberry Hill field watching the world go by as well as the birds going over , which included Tree Pipit, Golden Plover and Crossbill.  Birds seen in the area included 3 Stonechat, Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Common Restart and 2 Whinchat.
During the past couple of days I have visited Harrington Airfield a few times. It has been fairly quiet, just a couple of Common Redstart, 2 Turtle Doves and a Cream Crowned Marsh Harrier. 

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 28 August 2016

More images from the Ardnamurchan...


Some more images taken in the west Highlands of Scotland during the last couple of weeks...


Neil M

Pine Marten




Common Buzzard

Fallow Deer

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

Manx Shearwater

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Redstarts Return !!

Yesterday I made an early morning visit to Harrington Airfield and found it to be "busy" with birds. Whitethroats adorned every bush, the air was filled with the jingling calls from a large flock of Goldfinch and Linnet. The large covey of Grey Partridge made me jump as they literally exploded in all directions as I walked through the scrubby area.  It was a case of walking slowly and stopping regularly to see what was flying over or might pop out of the bushes. It was whilst loitering in this manner that I discovered a Corn Bunting, very rare in the county, Garden Warbler, 2 Redstarts and a Turtle Dove.
A couple of walks in the valley below Hanging Houghton/ Blueberry area produced a cream crowned Marsh Harrier, 2 Redstarts, Whinchat, 2 Stonechat and Hobby.
This morning I ran around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir and notched up 4 Common Sandpiper, 6 Little Egret, 2 Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher.
After a quick coffee and exchange of dogs I headed to Harrington Airfield, but as I'd got my old collie I didn't walk very far. But even so I managed 2 or 3 Redstarts, one of which was a superb male giving good views as he was flycatching from the top of a bush.
I finished my birding by checking the hedgerow between Old and Walgrave . I accessed this by taking the footpath from Bridle Road Old and walking over two small grass fields before following the footpath in the direction of Pitsford Reservoir.  Here there were at least 4 Redstarts showing well and vocal. At one time I was watching 4 of them flying out of the hedge, landing on the field and then flying up onto the fence posts where they sat "shimmering" their tales. A lovely sight.  This was just after 5pm.  As I stood scanning I could see a Cream crowned Marsh Harrier over the back of the Walgrave arm.
I have also noticed more Siskins, Meadow Pipit and Blackbirds about today.

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Wild West show continues...


Highlights of an eight day wildlife tour on the fabulous Ardnamurchan Peninsular include close views of White-tailed Eagle, watching a dog Otter feeding at close range, the athletic antics of a couple of Pine Martens coming every night to eat a variety of specially prepared food and of course the stunning landscape. Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, Common Seals and close views of three types of deer have provided close encounters and it has been fun trying to elicit views of the impossible-to-see Scottish Wildcat!

I'm fortunate to be able to lead another Naturetrek tour starting tomorrow, where we will again endeavour to find the exciting wildlife associated with the 'Wild West of Scotland'!


Neil M

Glenborrodale Castle

Wild Goat

Common Seal


August ringing


Kenny Cramer initiated some more ringing at Linford Lakes (Milton Keynes) on Sunday (21st), catching 60 birds of 14 species in the shelter of the foliage. Of these 46 were new birds not previously ringed and the bulk of the overall catch was made up of warblers with 12 Reed Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, a Whitethroat, 4 Willow Warblers and 10 Chiffchaffs. Other birds included 2 Bullfinches, a Treecreeper and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Passage migration was evident with a build-up of both Sand and House Martins.

John Woollett was active at Stortons Gravel Pits today (24th), catching 45 new birds and 11 re-traps and processing a control Reed Warbler. Other birds included 10 Blackcaps, 2 Garden Warblers, 3 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers, another 4 Reed Warblers, 10 Chiffchaffs and 3 Whitethroats. A roost of some 800 Starlings was evident in the reed-bed but no sign of any Swallow roosts which occurs in some years.

Dave Francis worked the bushes around the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir today, catching 36 birds which included 10 Tree Sparrows, 6 Chaffinches, 6 Robins, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap, a Swallow and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Efforts at this location during the last few weeks have provided the capture of 57 Tree Sparrows, the majority of them juveniles hatched this year.


Neil M

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Ooops a daisy!
Juvenile Moorhen.

Male Yellow Wagtail.

All images courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

More Autumn birds

As the weather forecast was for a very hot day I thought that I'd get out early with the dogs.  So round one with the gammy legged dogs was a short walk along the valley below Hanging Houghton.  There was a Little Egret fishing in the brook but it had competition in the form of 2 Kingfishers.  A Barn Owl was hunting and already the young Common Buzzards were extremely vocal.
Then it was time to swap dogs and take the youngsters out so I ran around Sywell Reservoir before everybody else had got up and before it became too hot.  There were 3 Common Sandpipers on the dam a Cettis Warbler and Water Rail calling from the back of the bay and a few Siskin flying 
I always find Sywell full of surprises and this morning was no exception as an Osprey came in and started to fish. However it made a right "pigs ear" of fishing and left with nothing, heading off over the dam in the direction of Wellingborough.
I didn't venture out again until late afternoon/early evening and visited Blueberry area.  At 17.00hrs I watched a cream crowned Marsh Harrier quartering the rough fields before it headed off across the crop fields towards Cottesbrooke.  I had actually taken my camera with me but only managed some record shots.  Other birds included a Redstart, 2+ Whinchat, Hobby and Ravens.
I think that there are significantly less butterflies about this year probably due to the long cold spring, but I did see 2 Clouded Yellows this afternoon, no doubt helped here by the southerly winds.
Again a very autumnal feel to the day with mist hanging in the valley this morning and an stunning sunset over the harvested fields this evening.   My favourite time of the year.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Catch Up

Apologies for late posting of my bird sightings but my laptop is really playing up and has nearly got thrown out of the window on numerous occassions !!!
Due to family commitments my birding has been confined to three main areas, Blueberry, Walgrave and Harrington.
I have certainly noticed a real "Autumnal" feel , with mist hanging in the valley below us each morning, the fields once golden now cut and turned brown after the ploughing, the hedgerows dripping with blackberries, the beautiful sunsets and the stunning new moon.  The birds moving about in noisy flocks , the gulls feeding on the fields, the air filled with the calls of the young Buzzards and the movement of Redstarts ,Chats and Marsh Harriers, all signs that Autumn is here.
On Wednesday 17th there had obviously been a "fall" of birds around the Blueberry / Valley area including a Wheatear, 2 Whinchat and a Redstart.  Two Stonechats and a Grasshopper Warbler remain at Blueberry.  Other birds seen in this area during the week include a Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Barn Owl, 2 Little Egrets fishing in the brook, 2 Ravens, Golden Plover and a significant movement of Meadow Pipit and Hirundines.
Last Autumn I discovered a very good hedgerow between the villages of Old and Walgrave leading towards Pitsford Reservoir.   I have been checking this hedge fairly regularly but it seemed quiet. But also on Wednesday 17th there were 2 Redstarts and a family party of Spotted Flycatcher.  Today I checked this hedge again and initially it seemed quiet. I had walked across the fields from Walgrave with the two old collies so by the time we reached the hedge they needed to rest their paws !! During our 30 mins rest I heard and saw a Redstart and a Marsh Harrier flew over heading to the back of the Walgrave Bay.
Harrington Airfield has been very disappointing during the week. All I had seen was a Turtle Dove and 3 families of Grey Partridge, which I'm pleased to say are doing well.
I decided to visit Harrington this evening , not ideal birding conditions as it was very windy and gloomy, so it was more of a dog walk and if I saw anything it would be a bonus.  There was a Turtle Dove in the usual bare trees mid way along the track and then rather bizarrely there was a group of 4 Turtle Dove flying around together at the end of the track as I stood scanning the fields looking across to the A14.   Also in this area was a Wheatear on the scuffled field and at least one Redstart in the bushes.
As the weather was so poor for photographs I decided not to take my camera ........big mistake!! Whilst walking along the track I heard a very distinctive noise and turned around to see the Red Arrows heading straight towards me, low and slow, giving me a brilliant view, but sadly no pictures. 

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 19 August 2016

Ringing results


Details of recent ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

D992237 was a ring placed on a young Reed Warbler at Squires Down in Dorset on 4th September 2015 and was re-trapped at Stortons Gravel Pits, Northampton on 17th and 31st July 2016, some 173km distance;

S324121 relates to a juvenile Garden Warbler ringed at Paper Court Marsh, Surrey on 6th July 2016 which was then re-trapped at Stortons GP on 6th August 2016, a surprising NNW movement of 108km;

Z475789 was a ring placed on a juvenile Cetti's Warbler at Stortons GP on 7th June 2015 and then the bird was re-trapped as a breeding female at Newbriggs Flash, Derbyshire this year, displacing 118km in a north north-westerly direction;

TT94502 refers to a Greenfinch ringed as a young male at Greens Norton on 29th September 2012 which was found dead at Pimlico, Brackley on 7th August this year. Four years is actually a good age for a Greenfinch in recent years.

Further news of the colour-ringed Common Tern at Pitsford Reservoir seen on 5th August this year was that it and a sibling were spotted in the Bay of Cadiz, Spain on 29th July 2015 (initially ringed as a nestling in London in 2014).


Neil M

Male Greenfinch.

Juvenile Swallow.

Adult Swallow.

Painted Lady.

All images courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Pitsford Ringing


Visit 11 of the Pitsford Reservoir Constant Effort ringing session took place today with an excellent catch of 68 birds of 23 different species. Warblers included 7 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Reed Warblers, 4 Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. A Spotted Flycatcher was a rare capture and good local birds included 2 Kingfishers, a Willow Tit, 2 Marsh Tits and a re-trap Tawny Owl which is at least 12 years old.

The Ardnamurchan Peninsular has enjoyed good weather the last two days and with Pine Martens active on both evenings at Glenborrodale...


Neil M

Tawny Owl at
Pitsford Reservoir
courtesy of Lynne Barnett.

Pine Marten.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Sad News

I received the sad news today that Stephen Knowles of Blueberry Farm had died peacefully in his sleep this morning. He had been unwell for a few months.

We first met Stephen quite a few years ago when a Common Crane was discovered on his land and as you can imagine this attracted a large number of birders. I can remember Neil plucking up courage to go and talk to Stephen and his wife Jo to arrange access and parking.  But he need not have worried as Stephen was so welcoming and also very interested in this "strange" bird on his land.  

As many of you know both Neil and I have spent quite a bit of time birding around Blueberry over the years and have enjoyed many interesting conversations with Stephen and Jo, both of them hugely passionate and interested in all the wildlife found on their land.
I think that many of us experienced their enthusiasm and warmth a few winters ago when we witnessed a truly magical event of the huge numbers of Short-eared Owls, the sight of which I will never forget.  Again Stephen and Jo welcomed huge numbers of birders and people onto their land, keen to share these beautiful birds and let them be inspired and wowed by the experience.

As I've said both Stephen and Jo welcomed folk onto their land and they even erected some benches on the top of "Blueberry Hill" so that you could sit and enjoy the marvellous view of the countryside as far as the eye can see.  Stephen called it the "best view in Northamptonshire", and I tend to agree.

Many birders, walkers, runners etc will have their own memories of this lovely, softly spoken "gentle" man, who always had a twinkle in his eye and time to talk.  I used to meet him on his regular trots around the fields on his trusty horse. We would exchange bird notes, and despite me using binoculars he would inevitably see more than me and he loved to grip me off with his eye level encounters of roosting owls which he saw from his horse!!

One of life's rare characters, loved and respected by many but I'm sure that his spirit will live on around Blueberry.

Our thoughts are very much with Jo and the family at this sad time. A time which is even more difficult for the family as Jo is very ill at this time.

Thank you Stephen and may you rest in peace xx

Regards   Eleanor

The Ardnamurchan - Scotland's Wild West!


The last few days I have been up on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular on the west side of Scotland, in preparation of leading a couple of wildlife watching tours on behalf of Naturetrek. The weather both today and yesterday has been breezy but sunny and often warm...

Much of it was re-visiting sites from a couple of years ago and finding a couple of new ones too, and requesting the wildlife when I found it to remain in situ for the next little while... Of course not much of it will!

I've been fortunate to have found an Otter, seen two Pine Martens and enjoyed views of both species of eagles. There are still summer migrants in the shape of Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat present but they are thinning out as August rattles along.

A few images below of sightings on the Ardnamurchan during the last two days...


Neil M

A very worn Dark Green Fritillary.

Scotch Argus.

Downy Emerald Dragonfly

Meadow Pipit.

Red Deer.

Tornado jet in front
of the island of Eigg.


Rock Pipit.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

County Bird Ringing


The two planned ringing sessions went well today in almost perfect conditions. The effort at the main feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir provided 51 captures which included 20 Tree Sparrows, 6 Robins, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats, 2 Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Sedge Warbler, a Reed Warbler plus more resident birds.

Stortons GP performed well with nine species of warbler being caught. Of the 89 birds processed 56 of them were warblers made up of 15 Reed Warblers, 4 Sedge Warblers, 3 Cetti's Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, 7 Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, 13 Blackcaps, 2 Willow Warblers and 10 Chiffchaffs.

Other birds included a control Treecreeper, 9 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Wrens, a Goldcrest, 7 Robins, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Great Tits and a Blackbird.


Neil M

Juvenile Sedge Warbler.

Common Chicory.

Both images taken
today at Pitsford Reservoir
courtesy of Lynne Barnett.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Saturday birding


Two Ravens were showing rather well this morning in a field between Kelmarsh and Arthingworth.

Eleanor saw two Ravens as usual at Staverton and a walk around Borough Hill Country Park at Daventry provided views of a Redstart and two Whinchats.

Pitsford Reservoir hosted three Green Sandpipers and three Kingfishers in the Scaldwell Bay and the Ruddy Shelduck was still in Yacht Bay. This evening's gull roost attracted about eight Yellow-legged Gulls...


Neil M

Ravens between Kelmarsh
and Arthingworth this morning...

Friday, 12 August 2016

Pitsford stuff


On 5th August an adult Common Tern bearing a colour ring was perched up on one of the fence posts in front of the superb new Bird Club Hide at Pitsford Reservoir in the Scaldwell Bay. It was exhibiting a yellow ring on the left leg with the inscription C26 in black letters. The BTO Ringing Unit processed this report rapidly and it transpires that this bird was ringed as a nestling on 2nd July 2014 at Bedfont Lakes, East Bedfont, Greater London. It is not clear if this was a breeding adult utilising the tern rafts at Pitsford.

Other Pitsford news includes the completion last week of an intentionally planted Phragmites reed-bed between the Holcot and Walgrave bays, in the shallow lagoon in front of the Lagoon Hide. This 100m x 2m strip is screened to try and protect it from grazing geese and will hopefully flourish into a viable permanent reed-bed.

Ringing sessions are planned locally for this coming Sunday with John Woollett making a 6am start at Stortons Gravel Pits meeting in the small fisherman's car park off the roundabout below the Sixfields Stadium, and Dave Francis is hoping to try the main feeding station on the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford Reservoir. Warblers should present themselves at both sites and there should be Tree Sparrows active at Pitsford.


Neil M

Ruddy Darter
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.
"I want to be a swan!"
Cormorant 'playing' with
a swan feather courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.
Spotted Flycatcher courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Green Sandpiper at
Pitsford Reservoir
by Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Pitsford WeBS count


The August Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count was completed today in pleasant conditions, the best of the birds being the Ruddy Shelduck, a female Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, a Goldeneye, four Wigeon, two Green Sandpipers, six Common Sandpipers, a Dunlin and a Ringed Plover. Passage passerines included a Redstart in a field hedge near to The Pines and several Siskins. Other birds included thirteen Little Egrets, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two Kingfishers.

Three or four Grey Wagtails were at Brixworth Sewer Works, a singing Grasshopper Warbler was at Blueberry Farm and other birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon included a Hobby, two Whinchats and a Wheatear.


Neil M

Common Tern and
Mute Swan

Thick-headed Fly

All images taken by Robin
Gossage at Pitsford Reservoir