Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Wild Bird Feeding Stations

Great White Egret at
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

I spent most of today visiting wild bird feeding stations and ensuring there was plenty of food on offer in these cold temperatures. A Siskin was present at Kelmarsh Hall but otherwise it was quiet; Scotland Wood was the venue for some very vocal Nuthatches and the Marsh Tits came straight in for broadcast sunflower seeds.

Birds visible from the Old Scaldwell Road feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir at lunchtime amounted to just a single Great White Egret, three first winter Scaup and a couple of Pintail.

At least one Grey Wagtail was present at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and a pair of Stonechat remain in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

An afternoon walk at Harrington Airfield was a great way to appreciate the amazing colours created by the setting sun but the birds were mostly absent with just five Golden Plovers whizzing about.

CNX338 is a ring number read on a Goldcrest at Pitsford Reservoir on 13th November and it transpires that this bird was first caught and ringed at Theddlethorpe St Helen, Mablethorpe on the Lincolnshire coast on 11th October 2016. This bird exhibited top of the scale biometrics when processed at Pitsford and the circumstances suggest that this was a continental bird still very much on a SSW bearing. It took this little mite 33 days to travel 139km from Mablethorpe to Pitsford.

Confirmation has now been received that the Grey Wagtail caught at Pitsford Res on 13th November already bearing a ring was originally ringed as a nestling at Stanford Reservoir on 14th July 2016. This bird clearly hasn't travelled too far since fledging on the Northants/Leicestershire border.


Neil M


Relatively few around so
far this season but they are
likely to increase in the back
half of the winter...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A cold morning at Pitsford Reservoir...


Dave Francis and team conducted some ringing at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and assessed 57 captures which included 6 new Blackbirds, 4 new Song Thrushes, 2 new Redwings and a re-trap Fieldfare which was first ringed at Pitsford in January 2015 (but has obviously travelled many hundreds of miles since then). Other captures involved two new Marsh Tits, 4 Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer.

Also this morning a Kingfisher and a pair of Stonechat were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and birds south of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir included two drake Goosanders, a Green Sandpiper, two Grey Wagtails, six Siskins, two redpoll sp and a Little Owl again.

Birds visible at Harrington Airfield this afternoon were eighty Golden Plovers, an immature female Peregrine, two Woodcock and a Short-eared Owl.


Neil M

A close up of a Goldcrest
caught at the week-end at
Harrington Airfield. The dark
 malar stripe extending downwards
 from the base of the bill has a tendency to
 make Goldcrests look sad...

Image courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

An image of Pitsford Reservoir
at dawn on the coldest morning
of the season so far...

Image courtesy of Lynne Barnett.

'Redhead' Smew south of the
causeway at Pitsford Reservoir

Images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Drake Teal

Drake Shoveler

Both images taken at Pitsford Reservoir
today by Cathy Ryden.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Reservoir Birding


Neil Hasdell birded at Pitsford Reservoir today and notched up three Great White Egrets, a Common Scoter and four Scaup all north of the causeway and two Little Owls and a Green Sandpiper south of the causeway.

This afternoon Cathy Ryden was at Ravensthorpe Reservoir again and saw two Great White Egrets which were pretty mobile, and two Otters on show too...


Neil M

Little Owl at Pitsford
Reservoir courtesy
of  Neil Hasdell. Image taken
by iphone through a Leica

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Images this afternoon from
 Ravensthorpe Reservoir
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Brampton Valley birds


Didn't have to travel far today to come across good birds! The remains of the sunflower crop in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton attracted a Greenfinch flock numbering about sixty birds, with much smaller numbers of Goldfinch and Linnet. It was probably these that attracted a female Merlin this morning as she hunted the open expanse fields at the usual high speed Merlin pace!

Also present was the Short-eared Owl again and one of the pairs of Stonechat put in an appearance.


Neil M


Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.


(Image taken Scillies 2015).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Sunday ringing


John Woollett and team enjoyed a successful ringing experience at Stortons Gravel Pits today with 65 captures made up of 38 new birds and 27 re-traps. Highlights included two new Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff, 7 Goldcrests, 4 Blackbirds and 8 Redwings.

A second day of ringing at Harrington Airfield succeeded in 86 captures dominated by migrant thrushes. Flock after flock of Redwings streamed in from the south-east, most flocks also including plenty of Fieldfares. Several hundreds of birds were involved as we watched some of them funnel down into the berry bushes on the old airfield with others lingering briefly and then passing over.

As a result we managed to catch and ring 66 new Redwings and 7 Fieldfares. None of the birds caught yesterday were caught again today, further proof of the nomadic behaviour of these birds during the autumn and winter. The vast majority of the Redwings handled and assessed during the last two days have been young birds hatched this year.

Other birds noted at Harrington Airfield amounted to about seventy Golden Plovers, a Barn Owl and a fly-over Siskin.

We managed to find time to watch over the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon and picked out two Caspian Gulls (adult and a third year) amongst the 8,000 or so gulls roosting there plus the usual Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

Caspian Gull at Pitsford
Reservoir (image taken in
March 2016)

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Thrushes galore...


This morning four Stonechats and a Barn Owl were in the Brampton Valley again below Hanging Houghton and later in the morning Staverton hosted at least four Ravens. A wander around Borough Hill Country Park (Daventry) provided views of a high-flying Short-eared Owl being mobbed as it passed over the hill towards Daventry town and two Woodcock were flushed from a hedgerow there.

Chris Payne caught 34 Goldfinches in his Greens Norton garden today in addition to several common birds and watched a male Blackcap feeding on apples there. Chris has caught and ringed 410 Goldfinches this year, the majority coming to feeders in his garden.

More bird ringing at Harrington Airfield today provided 87 captures, the majority of them being thrushes, made up of 42 Redwings, 2 Song Thrushes, 14 Blackbirds and 8 Fieldfares. Two re-trap Green Woodpeckers added a splash of colour and a Woodcock was caught and ringed.

Other birds noted included three distant and unidentified 'wild' swans flying distantly to the north (Bewick's or Whoopers), two calling individuals of Waxwings flying south over the complex (at 8.40am and about an hour later), several small flocks of Golden Plovers probably amounting to over fifty birds, visible migration of big gulls and Woodpigeon flocks, a couple of Siskins and two Ravens.

At about 3pm this afternoon it was possible to see two Otters and two Great White Egrets (together) from the causeway at Ravensthorpe Reservoir.


Neil M


Green Woodpecker
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Birds caught and ringed
at Harrington Airfield today.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Black Friday birds


A Grey Wagtail remained at Hanging Houghton this morning and birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton included a Short-eared Owl (morning only), a Barn Owl and two pairs of Stonechat. Two Ravens were over Brixworth Country Park heading towards Brixworth village.

Single Siskins were at Kelmarsh Hall and Scotland Wood this morning and this afternoon Harrington Airfield hosted a Woodcock, approximately thirty Golden Plovers and a Siskin or two. Ringing will take place over the week-end in an effort to monitor winter thrushes and parts of the complex will be out of bounds (public footpaths and the concrete track not affected).

John Woollett re-trapped a Goldfinch in his Astcote garden on 23rd November which he first ringed in the garden in December 2011. John has caught it on two other occasions during this period so this five year old finch must make a bee-line for John's garden every winter!


Neil M

Golden Plovers


Thursday, 24 November 2016

Birds of Thursday...


Cathy Ryden visited Hollowell Reservoir on a couple of occasions today and notched up a Great White Egret, a Barnacle Goose and a pair of Goosander.

This morning Eleanor located a Short-eared Owl and two pairs of Stonechat in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, between the Brampton Valley Way and the Gamboro' Plantation.

An afternoon visit to Harrington Airfield didn't turn up the Hen Harrier but a Peregrine was there eating prey (probably a Golden Plover). Just over a hundred Golden Plover were present but not surprisingly were very nervous...

Ringing operations are planned for Harrington Airfield this coming week-end and therefore access to the old airstrip and bunkers will be affected. The concrete track and public footpaths remain unaffected. Anyone wishing to help or watch the session are invited to make contact beforehand.


Neil M

No not a double-headed goose,
but a Barnacle Goose standing in
front of a Canada Goose!

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden,

Goosander at Hollowell Res
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Portrait of a drake
Pintail by Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Pitsford WeBS count

Recent images from
David Arden of the Otters
at Ravensthorpe Reservoir


Chris Payne continues to monitor the turnover of Goldfinches at his ringing sites in South Northants and on Saturday he caught and ringed twenty more birds at Greens Norton and today ten more at Bradden, together with ten Chaffinches, a Goldcrest and other common birds.

Today a small band of us completed the Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count and although there were no surprises there was a good haul of interesting species. We could only be sure of four Great White Egrets (there could have been five) and counted 16 Little Egrets, four Scaup north of the causeway, a drake Goosander, 24 Pintail, two drake Red-crested Pochard and a pair of Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrids (male and female). Waders were made up of a Redshank, two Green Sandpipers and 27 Snipe.

An adult male Peregrine was also present plus the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull, two Ravens, four Kingfishers and at least one Stonechat. Other birds included three Grey Wagtails, two Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap.

Cathy Ryden again located an Otter at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon and again the Great White Egret and a Kingfisher were also present.


Neil M

Great White Egret



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hen Harrier


No birding for me today and Eleanor's opportunities were limited due to other commitments. However she managed a circuit of Harrington Airfield and was rewarded with a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier flying around at about 3.45pm and a female Peregrine flying over. A pair of Stonechat were again between the Brampton Valley Way and Gamboro' Plantation west of Hanging Houghton.


Neil M


 Variable in size and plumage, and with a difference
 in 'jizz' it is normally possible to identify
the gender of your Peregrine. The males
are nimble and athletic and regularly take
on more manoeuvrable prey such as waders,
Starlings and a variety of passerines up to
size of pigeons. Occasionally they attack birds
such as Teal and in coastal areas they regularly
take petrels, shearwaters etc. The heavier and
larger females can take larger prey and sometimes
'run down' less manoeuvrable prey such  as larger
wildfowl, gulls, Fieldfares and the like. However
the supreme hunting skills of  the Peregrine means that
no bird is safe and they have been known to take prey
ranging in size between the diminutive Goldcrest
right up to geese, herons and the like. We now see the
Peregrine far more regularly in Northamptonshire
and it is clear that some individuals probably spend
long periods of time here during the non-breeding
season and a few summer too.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Wet start of the week...


With such a dry October it was inevitable that the rain would eventually arrive, and it certainly did today!

Birding in the deluge was difficult as reflected with just a pair of Stonechat in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and two Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Water Treatment Works being the best of this morning's sightings.

This afternoon the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir materialised rather late and contained within a second winter Little Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. The regular Grey Wagtail was present too...


Neil M

Goldfinch flock on sunflowers in the
 Brampton Valley below Hanging
between the Brampton Valley
 Way and Gamboro' Plantation.

Male Stonechat in the Brampton
Valley below Hanging Houghton.

Both images taken yesterday and
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Storm Angus around the corner?


A grey, dank and rather cold day but a whole lot better than what is forecast for tomorrow!

This morning and a visit to Ditchford Gravel Pits west of Ditchford Lane provided views of a Great White Egret, four Little Egrets, an immature female Peregrine, two Egyptian Geese, a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe, a couple of Water Rails, a Chiffchaff, a Cetti's Warbler and a Siskin.

Jacob Spinks was at Pitsford Reservoir today and three Black-tailed Godwits were late but welcome additions to his patchwork challenge year list. He also saw a Barn Owl at Blueberry Farm this afternoon.

This afternoon was spent visiting and topping up wild bird feeding stations, with more of the same in the deluge tomorrow !

A Grey Wagtail and a Siskin were at Kelmarsh Hall, four Ravens were at Walgrave and a hunting Barn Owl was again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Great White Egret.

Black-tailed Godwit.
Image courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Neither of these images were taken today or relate
to the same individual birds mentioned in today's blog.

Saturday, 19 November 2016



Two of us committed to some ringing at Harrington Airfield this morning, catching 41 birds which included migrant thrushes in the form of 16 Redwings, 2 Song Thrushes and 4 Blackbirds. Other birds seen included a Grey Wagtail and 3 Siskins and a Golden Plover was heard calling.

Some more ringing at Linford Lakes today was particularly productive with 70 birds caught made up of 52 new birds and 18 re-trapped individuals. Thirteen Goldfinches and 8 new Goldcrests boosted the total and Kenny and Sarah also caught a Redwing, two Siskins and a spanking Grey Wagtail.

Jacob Spinks and Eleanor Morrison were at Pitsford Reservoir today committing to further patchwork birding. Birds of note included a Raven, a Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Red-crested Pochard (2 drakes), 20 Pintail (14 drakes), a Green Sandpiper, 2 Snipe, a Redshank, 2 Great White Egrets, 3 Kingfishers and 6-7 Siskins. Robin and Wendy Gossage and Dave Jackson were at Pitsford yesterday and amongst other things saw a fine adult Peregrine and the Otter again  - see the account and images on the Northants Bird Club blog-site - 

This morning Debbie and Eric Graham were at Thrapston GP and saw the Slavonian Grebe from North Hide, a Great White Egret, an Egyptian Goose, a Kingfisher and great views of an Otter on Heron Lake.

News was received that the regular female Otter was again on show on the River Welland at Market Harborough yesterday and with at least three animals being seen regularly at Ravensthorpe Reservoir they seem to be popping everywhere!

This afternoon four Waxwings were on show for about half an hour at Staverton, mostly sitting in conifers and singing their hearts out! The usual two Ravens were also present. The Ravensthorpe Reservoir Great White Egret was again present this afternoon.

A hunting Barn Owl and again two Bramblings were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton late this afternoon.


Neil M

Great White Egret at
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

The spanking Grey Wagtail
 courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

The beautiful Redwing
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Friday, 18 November 2016

North of the county


An excursion today to some of our old haunts in the north of the county in cold but sunny conditions started with a visit to East Carlton Country Park and surround. Common woodland birds were present as usual and included a Brambling and several Siskins. We moved on to the Welland Valley and located a Little Egret near Cottingham and a flock of 370 Lapwings about a mile from Rockingham village, a large flock by modern day standards.

Wakerley Woods was next and a good walk around provided views of a Woodcock, several redpoll sp and several Siskins and two Bramblings. Several fruiting Service Trees in the car park were attracting plenty of birds including Bullfinches, Redwings and Blackbirds.

A short drive across the A43 and we were at Fineshade Woods which yielded several redpoll including three confirmed Lessers, several Siskins and two Ravens. We fed the Red Kites and moved on to Blatherwycke Lake which hosted good numbers of wildfowl, the most noisy being a staggering flock of about 740 Greylag Geese - definitely the biggest flock I have ever seen in the county (with another 70 just down the road at Deene Lake)! The Mandarin Duck flock was at least 64 birds strong and two Black Swans and two Chinese Geese and a Little Egret added even more exotica.

Deene Lake birds were made up of two Little Egrets, a drake Goosander, a Green Sandpiper, eight Snipe and a couple of Siskins and a Kingfisher.

We finished at Fermyn Wood Country Park watching over birds coming in to roost in the thorn bushes but didn't witness anything out of the ordinary.

Cathy Ryden again visited Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon and saw two or three Otters and a Great White Egret as visible from the causeway.


Neil M

Goldcrest at
Wakerley Wood

Red Kite
Fineshade Wood

Coal Tit
Fineshade Wood

Great Tit
Fineshade Wood

Blue Tit
Fineshade Wood