Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Eve ringing


Jacob was down at Pitsford Reservoir again today and notched up a Great White Egret, three Red-crested Pochards, two Green Sandpipers and a Siskin. 

Dave Francis was ringing again at Pitsford and his efforts produced 72 captures at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station, 37 of them being new birds. Goldfinches dominated with 13 birds and of 7 Moorhens caught, two were individuals first ringed there three years ago. Other birds of note included a Tree Sparrow, a Marsh Tit, 5 Reed Buntings, five Yellowhammers, a Fieldfare and a Starling. A Weasel was in hunting mode, seeking out rodents on the edge of the feeding station.

Another New Year's Eve ringing session took place at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and resulted in 83 birds being caught and processed. Large numbers of Pied Wagtails were present and we caught 33, all of them being new birds. A bright male Grey Wagtail, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Magpie and 4 Meadow Pipits were other highlights. Other birds noted on-site included 5 Snipe, 1-2 Water Rail(s), a redpoll sp and a few Siskins.

Birds at Harrington Airfield today included at least 200 Golden Plovers and the pair of Stonechat were again in the river valley below Hanging Houghton.

Happy New Year!

Neil M

Pied Wagtails come in a bewildering
array of plumages and ageing and identifying
the gender of many individuals is problematic,
even in the hand! Adult males, juveniles and
most first year females can be assessed with some
confidence - but many cannot!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Birds of the fog


Today it was fogbound in our part of the world so observations remained minimal. Jacob endeavoured to find birds at Pitsford Reservoir and managed to pick out a Green Sandpiper and a Chiffchaff in the murk. Eleanor saw four Woodcock at Blueberry Farm, these birds possibly displaced by nearby shooting at Haselbech. The pair of Stonechat remain in the valley below Hanging Houghton.

Jacob visited Roade village this afternoon, locating seven Waxwings which are currently in gardens alongside the main A508, almost opposite the village garage. Three other birds joined this flock as they flew out of view...


Neil M

A pair of Brambling
are currently in residence
at Steve Bennison's house
on the outskirts of Duston,
 Northampton. And these images
from Steve depict the male of the
pair on his garden feeders.

Waxwings at Roade today
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Blue Rock Thrush at
Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire.
This vagrant bird, apparently an
adult male, for some reason has
abandoned its traditional
Mediterranean-based home and
is currently living in the gardens
and rooftops in the Cotswolds!

Images courtesy of
Jacob Spinks.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Birds of a cold Thursday


Plenty of birds around today with Debbie and Eric Graham watching a Bittern at Thrapston Gravel Pits this afternoon (from the hide on the Titchmarsh Reserve Heronry Lake) and Cathy Ryden noted a Stonechat at Hollowell Reservoir and three Great White Egrets at Ravensthorpe Reservoir.

Eleanor and Jacob Spinks spent some time at Pitsford Reservoir today, birds noted included 2-3 Great White Egrets, the Slavonian Grebe again, a female Pintail, 4 plus Little Egrets, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2-3 Redshank, a few Snipe, 2-3 Ravens, a Siskin and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The valley below Hanging Houghton continued to host a pair of Stonechat and a Barn Owl whilst Harrington Airfield produced good birds in the shape of a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier (probably a female), 200 plus Golden Plovers, 2 Ravens and at least 2 Bramblings.

The cold weather has caused the birds to be active in the garden here at Hanging Houghton and the scarcer birds were made up of a Reed Bunting, 3-4 Tree Sparrows, 2 Nuthatches and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers with several Siskins flying over.


Neil M


Mute Swans.

Grey Heron.

All images taken today
and courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Ringing Round Up

RINGING at LINFORD 27/12/16 {Kenny Cramer}
Today's session at Linford produced 75 captures comprising 38 new birds, 37 retraps of 16 species.
Of the newly ringed birds, goldfinch was most numerous with 9 new birds. Perhaps surprisingly, the next most numerous species was chiffchaff with 8 new birds ringed. Could be a sign of hard weather in the north pushing the wintering population down?
Other notable birds included 2 redwings, a siskin, a lesser redpoll, and a green woodpecker

Redwing 2
Chiffchaff 8
Robin 2 (1)
Goldcrest 2 (2)
Great tit 2 (7)
Blackbird 2 (1)
Blue tit 7 (19)
Bullfinch 1 (1)
Goldfinch 9
Siskin 1
Green woodpecker 1
Lesser redpoll 1
Wren (1)
Long tailed tit (1)
Dunnock (3)
Chaffinch (1)

We caught a total of 51 birds this morning, with a reasonable mix of species. The sunny conditions were not ideal but Pitsford did look good in the sunshine! The catch details were:

Species    New    RT
Grefi         8           1
Bluti          3           4
Dunno      1           5
Tresp        5           1
Goldf        5           0
Reebu      3           1
Robin       0           4
Blabi        3            0
Field        2            0
Yelha       2            0
Greti        0            1
Wren       1            0
Moorh     1            0

Our main target species at the feeding station are Tree sparrow, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting, because of their declining numbers nationally.  The 2016 totals, at present, are 115, 223 and 55 respectively for these three species.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Catch Up

Sorry for the lack of activity on the blog recently, due partly to Neil being away leading a tour and myself dealing with family issues.
My birding has been limited to when I'm out and about walking the dogs or watching the birds in the garden.
A pair of Stonechat are still present in the valley below Hanging Houghton.  The fields here are currently very attractive to good numbers of Redwings, Fieldfare and Common Gulls. I have seen a female Peregrine hunting these thrushes on two occassions, each time giving a breath taking display of sheer power and speed.
I have flushed a Short Eared Owl a couple of times from a ditch where it has obviously been roosting.  I believe that this bird is trying to hunt in the Blueberry area but, due to the change in the land management there it simply doesn't know where to go. I wonder whether this bird has previously hunted successfully at Blueberry and has returned hoping to spend the winter here. Sadly it will be disappointed and I expect will not linger.
Yesterday there were two male Bramblings feeding on the food at Harrington Airfield and a flock of approx 300 Golden Plover sparkling like jewels in the winter sunshine.   Other birds included 8 Grey Partridge, 2 Woodcock, 2 Ravens and a female Peregrine, presumably the same bird that I see regularly in the valley below Hanging Houghton.
At Brixworth Country Park I disturbed at least 6 Brambling  roosting in the bushes. Other birds seen there regularly include Siskins, Redpolls and Ravens.
Over the last couple of days our garden has been extremely busy with birds. They obviously knew that we were expecting some cold frosty weather. Tree Sparrows, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatches have all visited along with increased numbers of Blackbirds and Starlings.
Just before 1pm today there were 2 Waxwings in a nearby garden. I was trying to get a photo of them when two of the neighbours came out and started talking, bad timing, as the Waxwings then flew over our house and I had to leave. I looked for them on my return but no luck. Will keep my ears and eyes open tomorrow.

Regards   Eleanor

Wednesday, 21 December 2016



Jacob Spinks was out at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon and managed a good series of observations which included a Great White Egret, two drake Smew in the Walgrave Bay, a Green Sandpiper, a Woodcock, a Chiffchaff and two Ravens.

The pair of Stonechat remain in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and the Golden Plover flock at Harrington Airfield today numbered one hundred and twenty.

We have received notification of another ringing recovery, this time a Chiffchaff first ringed at Stortons Gravel Pits on the outskirts of Northampton. This is one of those species which appears to be on the increase in the UK and the BTO's preliminary figures suggest it is the second most common bird to have been ringed in 2016 (second only to Blue Tit)!

This young bird was ringed at Stortons on 2nd October this year and then caught again at Landguard Bird Observatory on the Suffolk coast. This bird travelled 158km in eight days, progressing in a ESE direction.


Neil M

The race of this particular
bird is questionable but almost
certainly not the British
race 'collybita'.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Pitsford in winter sunshine...


A small team of us completed the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir today in pleasant conditions and there were plenty of wildfowl present. Scarcer birds included a drake Smew in the Walgrave Bay, three Great White Egrets, ten Little Egrets, the Slavonian Grebe by the Holly Tree again, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, seven Pintail, a drake Goosander, three Kingfishers, a Curlew, two Dunlin, a Redshank, a Green Sandpiper and thirty-seven Snipe. Other birds included a Raven and a Chiffchaff.

Dave Francis completed some more ringing on-site today with 49 captures which included 11 Yellowhammers, 6 Goldfinches, 4 Chaffinches, 3 Reed Buntings, a Tree Sparrow, a Marsh Tit and singles of Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Starling and Moorhen.


Neil M

Slavonian Grebe
Pitsford Reservoir.
Courtesy of Eleanor.

Adult Great Black-backed Gull
at Pitsford Reservoir courtesy of
Robin Gossage. This bird was
watched stealing fish from Cormorants
as they were surfacing with larger

Monday, 19 December 2016

Garden Birds


Birds south of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir this morning included a diver sp in flight which wasn't seen subsequently on the water, two Great White Egrets which flew to the north of the causeway, a Slavonian Grebe by the Holly Tree and a Grey Wagtail. Yesterday (Sunday) Wendy and Robin Gossage saw a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir.

Other birds today were an audible Water Rail and a couple of Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Water Treatment Works, two Ravens and a pair of Stonechat in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, with Harrington Airfield hosting a flock of about 210 Golden Plovers and three Grey Partridges.

Jim Dunkley's garden birds at Sywell have included a male Blackcap, a Stock Dove and a small party of Long-tailed Tits and our garden is currently enjoying regular visits from a Nuthatch and today a Tree x House Sparrow hybrid.


Neil M

Male Blackcap.

Stock Dove with Woodpigeon.

Long-tailed Tit.

Above images courtesy
of Jim Dunkley.

Tired Turnstones!

Sleepy Sanderling!

Above wader images taken by
Cathy Ryden in Norfolk at the

Yesterday's late afternoon sky
over the Walgrave Bay at
Pitsford Reservoir.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Sunday's sightings


The first venue this morning was Sywell Country Park where the relatively long-staying adult Whooper Swan was just off the dam, well it was until a testosterone-fuelled Mute Swan decided he didn't want it on his patch! The Whooper received the message and the swan swam off in to the middle of the water in still murky conditions. A Cetti's Warbler and a Grey Wagtail were also in the vicinity of the dam.

Next was Ditchford Gravel Pits and specifically the pits west of Ditchford Lane. Birds here in dull conditions included a Great White Egret, eight Egyptian Geese, an adult female Peregrine, a Green Sandpiper, a Kingfisher and a couple of Cetti's Warblers.

A visit to the village of Bozeat at midday was next where some photography in slightly better light was necessary to capture the spangled colours of the humble Starling and a possible Nordic Jackdaw.

An afternoon at Pitsford Reservoir attracted sightings of a Great White Egret and a drake Smew in the Scaldwell Bay (courtesy of Jacob Spinks) and two pairs of Red-crested Pochard and a roost of 155 Cormorants in the Walgrave Bay.


Neil M

Whooper Swan
Sywell Country Park

It may only be early winter but
Cormorants aged three years and over
will now begin to acquire their
resplendent breeding plumage ready
for pairing and nest-building in February.

Not the right day to take photos
of Pochard on grey water, but many
of the wildfowl present at Sywell
Country Park are so used to seeing a
constant stream of people and dogs
progressing around the water that they
barely move away from the water's edge...

Egyptian Geese at
Ditchford Gravel Pits

The stunning Starling. It is likely that the Starlings
we see currently in the county are a mixture of local
and foreign birds. The white spotted 'winter' plumage
begins to wear during the early spring to the point that
they are back to being glossy again. And the Starlings are
singing now, another birds that initiates the breeding cycle
a season early! Most adult males are already beginning
 to sport a bluish base to the bill and the females pinkish
(please see above).

A possible 'Nordic Jackdaw' at
Bozeat today. Small numbers from
northern Europe appear to winter
 in the UK.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Birds of fog and mist...


With thick fog all day yesterday in our neck of the woods there was nothing to report!

Today the fog yielded to mist and then with occasional clearer periods so that observers did stand a chance of seeing something...

Eleanor saw two Waxwings at Staverton today, two birds showing well on conifers and on view from 11.30am to noon when they were flushed by some nearby shooting. These birds were in the exact same place as birds seen on 19th November and were equally vocal. Four noisy Ravens were also present.

A pair of Stonechat were again below Hanging Houghton village and Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon provided views of two active Otters, three Great White Egrets, a small flock of Crossbills (two seen but more heard) around the causeway and two Kingfishers.

Dave Francis was ringing at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and caught 105 birds of nineteen species which is an excellent variety and total. These birds were made up of 19 Yellowhammers, 16 Greenfinches, 11 Blue Tits, 8 Reed Buntings, 7 Dunnocks, 7 Moorhens, 6 Chaffinches, 5 Tree Sparrows, 5 Robins, 5 Great Tits, 4 Blackbirds, 3 Goldfinches, 2 Marsh Tits, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Wren, a Goldcrest, a Starling, a Green Woodpecker and a Pied Wagtail. Hopefully this number of Yellowhammers signals the start of the winter build-up of these birds reliant on the broadcast seed at Pitsford Reservoir; it is estimated that as many as 500 birds were coming to the food in the early months of 2016.

Another ringing session took place today at Glyn Davies Wood over in the west of the county under the leadership of Helen Franklin and this provided some 130 captures. More than two thirds were new birds with tits dominating, and fifty new Blue Tits suggests that this species in the west of the county enjoyed a better breeding season than those further east. Other highlights included three Marsh Tits, a new Willow Tit, three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, six Goldcrests and four Redwings. Other birds noted in this small area of relict woodland included a Woodcock, up to a dozen Siskins and a redpoll sp.

A visit to nearby Boddington Reservoir late afternoon concentrated on checking through the large gull roost there and birds of note were an adult Caspian Gull, a drake Goosander and a Grey Wagtail.

Eric Graham visited Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston this morning and was pleased to note a fly-over Raven, still a scarce bird in this part of the county.


Neil M




Willow Tit

Thursday, 15 December 2016



No birding opportunities today sadly and no first hand reports of interesting sightings I'm afraid. I guess with Christmas looming ever closer and people being busier than ever, birding tends to take a bit of a back seat at this time of the year...

Never mind, a couple of images have been kindly sent to me and this is a good opportunity for me to say a very big thank-you to everyone who has supported the blog site during 2016, whether by way of regular visits or by providing us with information, sightings, accounts and of course excellent images.


Neil M

Blue Tit.
 The Robin is our national bird but I
think the humble and widespread
Blue Tit must surely be it's deputy?

Image courtesy of Robin Gossage.

An excellent shot of a Water Rail
out in the open yesterday at Summer Leys
Nature Reserve at Earls Barton Gravel Pits.

Image courtesy of Steve Rappitt.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Ringing news


An early start this morning with a ringing venture again at Harrington Airfield provided a small mixture of birds but again the thrush family dominated with 18 new Redwings, 2 new Song Thrushes and 3 new Blackbirds. The Fieldfares avoided us and with the berries dwindling so are the thrushes! Birds noted on-site included several Golden Plovers and a single Woodcock.

The Short-eared Owl again showed itself briefly in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning as did one of the pair of Stonechat, and three Woodcock were located at Blueberry Farm.

A walk at Pitsford Reservoir south of the causeway in sunny and warm conditions this afternoon located two pairs of Little Owls, a pair of Raven, a Grey Wagtail and an adult Caspian Gull.

News has reached us of a ringing recovery relating to a Lesser Redpoll which was caught and ringed at Glyn Davies Wood (far west of Northamptonshire) on 29th October 2016. This male bird was re-captured at Castlemorton Common in Worcestershire on 18th November, travelling 69 km in a westerly direction. I wonder where he is now?


Neil M

Male Reed Bunting
Harrington Airfield.
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.


Kestrel in December sunshine.

Grey Wagtail.

Above images from
Pitsford Reservoir this
afternoon courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.