Sunday, 25 September 2016

My daily visit to Harrington airfield was a little more productive today. The bushes were very quiet and the only warblers I could find were Blackcap and Willow Warbler.  The freshly harvested and ploughed fields were attractive to the birds. There was a decent mixed flock of Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Linnet and this in turn attracted a female Merlin who put on a good chase as she tried to catch her breakfast. She perched briefly on a bunker before going off in pursuit once more.   
Other raptors included double figure numbers of Red Kite, numerous Common Buzzard, several Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk enjoying the breezy sunny weather.
The 3 Stonechat remain at Blueberry as well as 2 Whinchat and a cream crown Marsh Harrier.
This afternoon found me loitering in a gateway near Sywell . It was well worth it as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight consisting of a Hurricaine, Spitfire and Lancaster gave an amazing display, quite magnificent.

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 23 September 2016

Round Up

Although I have been out and about during the week I have failed to see very little.
I have visited Harrington Airfield every day and it has been very quiet. On Tuesday 20th there was a small flurry of birds, 2 Brambling, Redpoll, Crossbill and a few Siskin flying over plus a decent number of Meadow Pipit and Skylark feeding on the newly worked fields.  It is good to see that the Grey Partridge families are doing well.
On my daily visits to Blueberry Farm area I regularly saw 3 Stonechat and up to 6 Whinchat. A cream crown Marsh Harrier was seen on several occassions, usually late afternoon.
The valley area below Hanging Houghton has been attracting large numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Corvids including up to 4 Ravens foraging the fields.  There has also been the noticable presence of good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Skylark.  Other birds of note have been Wheatear and a male Peregrine.
Whilst out running along the Brampton Valley Way the other morning there was Brambling and Common Redstart at Merry Tom Lane.
I end on a sad note as Jo Knowles of Blueberry Farm died last week from cancer, only a few weeks following the death of Stephen. Such a lovely couple who welcomed so many of us onto their land to enjoy and share in the wildlife.  Jo was equally as welcoming and enthusiastic as Stephen and between them they have created a unique and almost "magical" place.  A place which is special to so many of us and it is fitting that it will also be their final resting place as their ashes will be scattered at the top of "Blueberry Hill" and a stone bench erected in their memory.
Thank You Stephen and Jo, rest in peace.
Our thoughts and sympathy are with their family at this sad and difficult time.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Stortons Ringing


More bird ringing at Stortons Gravel Pits this morning provided 51 captures, 44 of which were new birds. These included 8 Reed Warblers, 6 Blackcaps, 3 Cetti's Warbler, 10 Chiffchaffs and 3 Bullfinches. John Woollett reports that they have now caught 66 new Chiffchaffs on-site this year which is up on last year and more Reed Warblers too.

Other members of the Northants Ringing Group headed west today on the first stage of travelling over to Skokholm, an island off the Pembrokeshire coast. The weather conditions suggest we will successfully land on Tuesday, the fourth year in a row when members of the NRG have contributed to the migration watch and bird ringing on the island.

A stop at Symond's Yat overlooking the River Wye was a good move, the stunning scenery looking even better in the strong and warm sunshine. Two Goshawks were the avian highlight, fairly brief views of an adult female in an autumn display flight and a juvenile female grappling with the local Common Buzzards a good few hundred feet up! A pair of adult Peregrine, a juvenile Hobby and the usual Nuthatch, Mandarin Ducks and Ravens made up for an enjoyable wildlife spectacle.


Neil M

Chiffchaffs. One of the warblers
seemingly currently on the increase...

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ringing recoveries


A couple more recoveries have been sent through recently of birds ringed in the county...

Ring number Z604156 was placed on a juvenile Reed Warbler at Stortons Gravel Pits on 5th July 2015. It is very likely that Stortons was the location where this youngster was hatched. On 3rd July 2016 this bird was caught at Stanford Reservoir and gave the indication that it was breeding there. The distance between the two sites is about 24km but of course this bird would have wintered in Africa between these dates.

A juvenile Tree Sparrow was caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 6th October 2012 and on 1st September 2016 it was found recently dead at Walgrave. Although this bird may not have travelled far, four years is a good age for a Tree Sparrow (1426 days between ringed date and being found dead). Not all the Tree Sparrows feeding locally in the county during the winter originate from Northamptonshire. There are now at least three instances of birds initially ringed in East Yorkshire in the autumn being subsequently controlled here in the East Midlands, suggesting that some birds in north England  (predominately juveniles?) move south and winter in this region.

This afternoon (Saturday) and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was with Lesser Black-backs in fields in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and a Kingfisher was on the Brampton Brook.

An evening visit to the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir failed to locate anything much different - the Ruddy Shelduck was there as well as at least two Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M

Reed Warbler

Tree Sparrow

Migfest 2016


Last week-end saw the fourth annual celebration of bird migration at Spurn on the east coast of Yorkshire, known as Migfest:-

Nine of us trundled our way north on either the Friday or Saturday and despite the continuous rain on the Saturday, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A visit on the way to Alkborough Flats in North Lincolnshire was called for, this comparatively new and extensive reserve hosting a rare Purple Swamphen (or Purple Gallinule if you prefer). Eventually this bird put in an appearance and the shallow wetland attracted a wealth of other birds including 550 plus Avocets, large numbers of common waders, eight Spoonbills, a couple of Marsh Harriers and Peregrine and Hobby.

At Spurn the wind was really in the wrong direction for any rare passerines, but the waders put on a tremendous show and many provided excellent views including Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper and even a Kentish Plover. Passing sea-birds involved Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, a variety of terns and ducks and plenty of Red-throated Divers.

Visible migration was very evident on the Sunday with thousands of Meadow Pipits flitting southwards supported by smaller numbers of hirundines, wagtails, Reed Buntings, Tree Pipits and others. Quality birds in the bushes included Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and plenty of common warblers and chats.

The event celebrated migration and there were demonstrations of bird ringing, visible migration watching, moth traps and tips on sea-watching and other field work skills including art, digi-scoping and species identification. Open access was provided to all the main birdwatching sites and there was a procession of talks and presentations to support the event as well as plentiful refreshments.

Local birder Jacob Spinks was one of four young birders nationally to be recognised for their talent in birdwatching skills and during the event was presented with a trophy and a selection of quality books. Well done Jacob!

This was a Northants Bird Club event and I would like to record my thanks to Mark Williams in organising our excellent long week-end away which will surely be repeated in future years.


Neil McMahon

Convolvulus Hawk-moth
on Migfest baseball cap!


Mediterranean Gulls were in
good numbers around the Spurn area...

A rather soggy Wheatear on the Saturday!

Juvenile Swallow.

Saturday morning birds...


A walk at Harrington Airfield in the rain this morning didn't yield very much with just a handful of Chiffchaffs, a Grey Wagtail and a Snipe.

Eleanor fared better at Blueberry Farm with three Stonechats, two Whinchats, a Wheatear and a Redstart.

A blustery Pitsford Reservoir this morning provided a few birds for Jacob Spinks with an adult Caspian Gull, two Red-crested Pochard, two Pintail, two Ravens, three Snipe, a Green Sandpiper and a Kingfisher.


Neil M

Blue Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Willow Warbler

All images courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Pitsford yesterday and today...


Birds visible from the Sailing Club area at Pitsford Reservoir today included the Ruddy Shelduck (it was in the Holcot Bay on Wednesday), three Yellow-legged Gulls, a Hobby chasing the House Martins, a couple of Common Sandpipers and a rather unseasonable Oystercatcher.

Two Ravens overflew Hanging Houghton village this afternoon heading north...

The images below were taken by Robin Gossage at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday...


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull

Great White Egret


Grey Heron.

Red Kite



All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Pitsford Reservoir today...


The WeBS count was completed at Pitsford Reservoir today and a Great White Egret was located in the Walgrave Bay and subsequently it moved in to the Scaldwell Bay. Other birds included a dozen Little Egrets, as many as seven Kingfishers, two Ruff, five Snipe, a Pintail, two female Red-crested Pochards, the hybrid Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck still, the Ruddy Shelduck (still in wing moult) and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

This evening extra birds included two or more Common Sandpipers, three Green Sandpipers, two Snipe with eight Ringed Plovers south and the gull roost included six Yellow-legged Gulls and a juvenile Little Gull.


Neil M

Roesel's Bush-cricket.


Avro Lancaster. One third
of the Battle of Britain
Memorial flight which came
 over Pitsford today.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Back on line!


Our apologies for the lack of blogs recently. We completely lost our Internet connection at home but have finally been reconnected...

Last Friday (9th) saw two Redstarts between Old and Walgrave and on Saturday (10th) Harrington Airfield hosted a Turtle Dove, two Redstarts and two redpoll sp.

On Sunday (11th) a Marsh Harrier was hunting fields in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Yesterday (Monday) and a WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits was mostly quiet for birds but interesting sightings included seven Egyptian Geese, a fine drake Mandarin Duck, three Yellow-legged Gulls, a Hobby, a Green Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, a Ringed Plover, a Snipe, at least eight Kingfishers and small numbers of Grey Wagtails and Cetti's Warblers. There were plenty of Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies and a large unidentified Pond Turtle was the first seen at this site for a couple of years.

Today (Tuesday) and birds in the Brampton Valley/Blueberry Farm area included a juvenile Marsh Harrier, a Wheatear, two Whinchats, one or two Redstart(s) and two Grey Wagtails. Harrington Airfield attracted two Whinchats, one or two Wheatear, two Redstarts, a Spotted Flycatcher and two Hobbys.


Neil McMahon

Fishing Little Egret
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Migrant Hawkers.

Common Darter.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The migrants return...


Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) and a juvenile Marsh Harrier was hunting fields at Harrington Airfield where there were also two Hobbys in attendance plus a family party of Grey Partridge.

Today and ringing sessions at Pitsford Reservoir culminated in the capture of 74 birds, perhaps the most interesting being 10 Tree Sparrows, 2 Treecreepers, a Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warblers, 3 Reed Warblers, 4 Blackcaps, 5 Chiffchaffs and a Kingfisher. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was on it's usual tree stump in the Scaldwell Bay and a Ringed Plover was heard calling whilst flying over south pre-dawn.

A walk in the early morning drizzle at Harrington Airfield this morning was good for a juvenile Ring Ouzel in bushes near to the chippings compound. Two Redstarts were on the old airstrip and a juvenile Peregrine passed over.

A walk along the footpath between Bridle Road, Old and Walgrave provided views of two more Redstarts in the regular field hedgerows plus a Spotted Flycatcher and a Whinchat. Blueberry Farm attracted two Redstarts and two Stonechats and the nearby Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton attracted a juvenile Marsh Harrier and an adult male Peregrine.


Neil M

Treecreepers caught at
Pitsford Reservoir today,
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting Wednesday 7th Sept


A reminder to Northants Bird Club members and invitation to non-members that the next indoor meeting of the NBC will be tomorrow evening (Wednesday 7th Sept) starting at 7.30pm prompt. As usual the venue is the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir, just outside Holcot village on the Brixworth road (NN6 9SJ).

Our popular speaker is Tim Newton who will be presenting 'An Introduction to the world of Parasitic Wasps'. Anyone out and about during the summer months will see a myriad of flying insects, and looking just a little closer will identify groups or families of insects. We enjoy good numbers of these parasitic wasps locally and Tim will provide an insight in to their identification and behaviour.

The meeting will begin with notices and any announcements and then it is over to Tim to deliver his presentation.

As usual hot drinks and biscuits will be available throughout the evening. 

I hope you enjoy your evening!

Neil M

Monday, 5 September 2016

More migrants this afternoon...


A modest ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir this morning netted just 33 birds in drizzly conditions. Warblers included 7 Chiffchaffs, 4 Blackcaps and 2 Reed Warblers and more sedentary species included 2 Willow Tits, 2 Bullfinches, a Yellowhammer and 5 Greenfinches.

The hybrid female Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck remained in the Scaldwell Bay and birds near to the dam again included the Ruddy Shelduck and 4 Yellow-legged Gulls.

This afternoon the juvenile Marsh Harrier again showed in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, quartering fields over towards Brixworth. 

Blueberry Farm was much better today with a cracking male Redstart, 3 Stonechats, 6 Whinchats and a Tree Pipit all present this afternoon (none of these birds being seen in the morning). Harrington Airfield remained very quiet today...


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gulls

Sunday, 4 September 2016

It seems quiet out there!


Some early morning ringing at Stortons Gravel Pits this morning provided a catch of 27 birds before 10am in sometimes blustery conditions. Warblers again dominated with 10 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps, 6 Reed Warblers, and a Sedge Warbler.

More ringing is contemplated at Pitsford Reservoir tomorrow morning, concentrating in the Scaldwell Bay.

A Hobby was hunting Swallows at Draughton this morning and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was in a field near to the village. 

Scanning at Pitsford Reservoir north of the causeway this afternoon yielded an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a good scattering of Little Egrets. Common wildfowl were present in good numbers but otherwise it did seem particularly uninspiring for migrants and Lapwing was the only wader seen!

Birding the Brampton Valley, Blueberry Farm, the fields between Old and Walgrave and Harrington Airfield provided no birds of note today. We hope for another new pulse of birds very soon!


Neil M

Golden Eagle



Red Deer

Some more images from
the Ardnamurchan Peninsular...

Saturday, 3 September 2016



Not a lot to report from the Brampton Valley and Blueberry Farm today in a mix of weather; a visit to Pitsford Reservoir in the evening provided views of the Ruddy Shelduck, at least five Yellow-legged Gulls and a first winter Mediterranean Gull.


Neil M

Sunflowers and nectar-bearing
flowers planted in the Brampton
Valley below Hanging Houghton.
Images provided by Eleanor.

Dunlin at Hollowell
Reservoir courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Little Stint and friends


Visits today to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, Harrington Airfield and the hedgerows between Old and Walgrave all drew a blank for interesting migrants. Either they were keeping a low profile or have moved on.

Birds viewable from the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon included the Ruddy Shelduck and three Yellow-legged Gulls.

Blueberry Farm emerged out of the doldrums this evening and provided views of a juvenile Marsh Harrier, three Stonechats and two Whinchats.

Cathy Ryden confirmed the presence of a juvenile Little Stint at Hollowell Reservoir yesterday (Thursday) evening. Please see images below...


Neil M

Little Stint with Dunlin
at Hollowell Reservoir
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.