Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!


It was the day of the Raven today with a single at Kelmarsh village, four in flight near Sywell Country Park and another at Staverton. John Woollett placed the last of his turkey remnants in his garden today hoping to attract a passing Red Kite but instead was visited by two Ravens which enjoyed the festive treat and a new bird for John's garden at Astcote!

Mike Pollard's birding in the south of the county today yielded two Corn Buntings between Sulgrave and Thorpe Mandeville, the birds being viewable at SP545443.

Neil Hasdell visited Pitsford Reservoir today and topped up the bird feeders and also saw three Pintail and a Redshank. The recent precipitation has very quickly increased the water level here!

Eric Graham was active in the east and north of the county, seeing a Kingfisher and an Egyptian Goose at Barnwell Country Park and a Hawfinch and 13 Mandarin Ducks at Blatherwycke Lake.

Happy New Year and enjoy your birding in 2018!

Eleanor and Neil

Water Rail captured at
Stortons Pits on 23rd
December. This bird
was first captured there
in 2012 when it was
deemed to be an adult
female. The aberrant grey
feathering appears to have
been acquired during the
last five years.
Image courtesy of
Chris Payne.

Water Rail captured at
Linford Lakes also on
23rd December.
Image courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Male Tawny Owl caught
and ringed at Linford Lakes
on 23rd December.
Image courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

The Raven, the biggest
passerine in the world
and now very much with
us here in Northamptonshire!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

NBC Meeting 3rd Jan 2018.


A brief wander around at Harrington Airfield this morning in the mud and melt water provided a view of a flushed Woodcock but not much else. A Raven was noted at Kelmarsh village and the late- forming and relatively small gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir seemingly failed to attract a specific gull of interest.

This coming Wednesday (3rd January 2018) is the Northants Bird Club's first indoor meeting of the year at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir. The meeting starts promptly at 7.30pm and the speaker for the evening will be club member and accoladed photographer Dave Jackson.

Dave will be presenting on the Birds and Wildlife of the Gambia, this fabulous little country situated on the west coast of Africa and packed with easy-to-see birds and some other great wildlife too. A must for those that have already been and of course for those that have the Gambia on their list of places to go!

Hot drinks and biscuits will be available on the evening, we look forward to seeing you there!


Neil M

Western Reef Egret.

Abyssinian Roller.

Sunday, 24 December 2017


We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone both at home and abroad for following our blog, and we hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.
Thank you to everyone who has said hello to us when we have been out and about , to the many folk who have sent us comments, sightings and the wonderful images which have really enhanced the blog, it has been very much appreciated.

We hope that you all have a lovely Christmas however and wherever you spend it.  Wishing you all a very happy and bird filled 2018 xx

Regards Eleanor and Neil 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Pre Christmas birding and ringing

It is that time of year when there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get all the jobs done, errands completed and time for birding.  Consequently my birding has been limited.
Yesterday morning I was out just as dawn was breaking and came across at least 4 Brambling  and 20 + Tree Sparrows roosting in a hedge below Hanging Houghton . A Barn Owl was also out hunting the wide grassy field margins.  No further birding until just before dusk when I walked the dogs in fields adjacent to the Brampton Valley Way heading towards Brixworth. Again there was a Barn Owl hunting and this was joined by a Short Eared Owl.
Today it was more of the same as both Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl were again hunting this evening.   Earlier in the day I had visited Harrington Airfield which was rather quiet apart from 2 Hawfinches in bushes near the last bunker and 4 Grey Partridge.  
There was a single Hawfinch flying around Hanging Houghton village this morning.
I have checked the hedges for my earlier sightings of Long Eared Owl but haven't relocated them. Their appearance coincided with the cold snap of weather but there is no suitable hunting habitat so I suspect that they have moved on.

The ringers have been busy over the last couple of days.
Yesterday 22/12/17 Dave Francis and Jacob were ringing at the feeding station at Pitsford .  It was a quiet session, few birds, probably as it is so mild.  21 birds were caught which included 6 new Tree Sparrows which is the main target bird.
New Birds:   Tree Sparrow 6, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 1,
 Goldfinch 1, Yellow Hammer 1.
Retraps: Blue Tit 4, Robin 2, Dunnock 2, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, and Great Tit 1

Today Kenny Cramer and his helpers were at Linford near Milton Keynes.  This was the final ringing session at this site for 2017.  
A total of 53 birds were caught with 22 retrap Blue Tits and 16 Retrap Great Tits making up the bulk of the catch.
There were two new species caught today for the Linford ringing list. The first bird to hit the net was a dangerously cute adult male Tawny Owl !!  and at the end of the session a rather handsome male Water Rail caught in the potter traps.

Regards  Eleanor

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Thursday's birds...


A quick wander around Harrington Airfield this morning was sufficient to witness a fresh arrival of migrant Redwings (they never really stop moving), plus three Siskins flying over and a couple of Golden Plovers.

Jacob was out and about at Pitsford Reservoir today and saw two Great White Egrets, a Shelduck, a Pintail, 5 Redshanks, 56 Golden Plovers, 2 Ravens, 2 Stonechats, 2 Grey Wagtails and 3 Siskins.

Eleanor saw 2-3 Hawfinches in Cottesbrooke village this afternoon, in trees off Station Road by the entrance to the park at a sharp turn in the road. Two birds showed well at 2pm and a third bird was suspected...

Small numbers of Siskins were at Kelmarsh in Scotland Wood and near to Kelmarsh Hall this afternoon.


Neil M

Male Siskin.

Golden Plovers.

Drake Pintail.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mild weather is here!


A small band of intrepid ringers completed some bird ringing at Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Reservoir today, catching and assessing 77 birds of 8 species. Fifty-four of these birds were re-traps, reflecting the efforts at this micro-site over the years and the fact that it is in the middle of a pretty intensive nest box ringing scheme too.

The best bird, which always makes such a session exciting, was the capture of a new male Sparrowhawk. The other birds were made up of 40 Blue Tits, 4 Coal Tits, 20 Great Tits, 3 Long-tailed Tits, a Treecreeper, a Robin and 7 Chaffinches.

Other birds noted in the Walgrave Bay included a Great White Egret, a Smew, a Redshank, a Green Sandpiper, four Woodcock, 12 Siskins, a Redpoll and a Brambling.

I finished the last WeBS count section of Ditchford Gravel Pits this morning concentrating on the Wilsons Pits and the Main Pit between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough. A drake Smew was on the main pit (eastern end) and a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was in willows at the river overflow near Broadholme Treatment Works. Other birds included a Green Sandpiper, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Little Egret, 6 Water Rails, just 2 Kingfishers, 6 Cetti's Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Grey Wagtails and 2 Lesser Redpolls.

A brief visit to East Carlton Country Park this afternoon provided good views of two Hawfinches in the small copse behind the big house in the middle of the park from 2.30pm onwards. Other birds included at least four Siskins and nearby there was a Green Sandpiper in the Welland Valley below Cottingham.


Neil M

Image courtesy
of Helen Franklin...

First year male Sparrowhawk
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Pitsford WeBS count


Today saw a small group of us complete the monthly Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count of birds utilising the site. About 20% of the reservoir was ice-affected which meant a reduction in birds north of the causeway and the loss of some shallow-feeding birds like Pintail.

Two Great White Egrets were north of the causeway and there was a 'redhead' Smew in the Walgrave Bay and a drake Goosander flying around. A Lapwing took evasive action when a male Peregrine nearly scooped it up, the plover only surviving by seeing the attacking falcon at the last second and cartwheeling straight into the water! The Lapwing composed itself and took flight and evaded two further stoops before flying to freedom.

Other birds included just three Little Egrets, 2-3 Redshank, a Green Sandpiper, just 5 Snipe, a couple of Grey Wagtails, a flock of sixty Meadow Pipits on the mud in the Walgrave Bay, a male Stonechat, about 8 Siskins and 2 Redpolls. Mammals enjoying the wintery sunshine included Hare, Fox and Muntjac.


Neil M

Grey Heron at Pitsford
Reservoir today...

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Pitsford ringing...


A short ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir today (curtailed by the weather) provided 43 captures which included a Moorhen, a Fieldfare, 8 Blackbirds, 4 Robins, 5 Dunnocks, a Wren, 8 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, 3 Tree Sparrows, 2 Goldfinches, 3 Chaffinches and 2 Reed Buntings. Interestingly the Moorhen was originally ringed at the same place back in November 2011.

Eleanor visited Harrington Airfield and fed the birds today, 3 Bramblings joining the throng on the concrete track. Two Woodcock were flushed between the first and second bunkers.

Eleanor's purple patch with owls continued when she found two more Long-eared Owls at a private site today, and also saw her usual Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

This morning's sunrise.
 'Red sky in the morning
shepherds warning', and so
it proved to be with rain
from lunchtime...

Fieldfare in a Dog Rose.

Jaeger, the latest edition
to the family and now 7
months old...will he ever
stop growing?

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Cold winter birding!


A modest ringing session today at Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate provided 47 captures made up of a Treecreeper, 3 Goldcrests, 4 Dunnocks, 5 Robins, a Blackbird, 7 Great Tits, 22 Blue Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Coal Tit and 2 Nuthatches.

The birding was better quality with a Hawfinch flying north over the wood at 8.50am, a Redpoll, a couple of Siskins, 1-2 Woodcock, a Barn Owl and 2 Tawny Owls. One or two Siskins were noted nearby at Kelmarsh Hall and Scotland Wood.

A third year Caspian Gull showed again in the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon, the only other noteworthy bird seen being a Grey Wagtail.

Eleanor saw 6 Ravens and 2 Bramblings at Staverton, the juvenile Whooper Swan, 3 Great White Egrets and 2 Green Sandpipers at Ravensthorpe Reservoir and her daily patch birding in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton successfully located the Long-eared Owl again (flight only), the usual Barn Owl and 2 Woodcock.


Neil M

Blue Tit exhibiting a
significant 'crossbill'
deformity. However this
bird was a normal weight
so is clearly adapting to this
aberrant bill growth.

Male Nuthatch
Sunderland Wood.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday's birds


Yesterday (Thursday) and Jacob saw a male Brambling with a large flock of Chaffinches at Moulton College.

I carried out a part-WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits today, checking the pits between the Bailey Bridge and viaduct west of Ditchford Lane. Some of the pits were still affected by ice and the wildfowl numbers were generally low as a result. Highlights included a Peregrine, four Goosanders, a Black Swan, four Snipe, a Raven, two Kingfishers, two Cetti's Warblers and three Stonechats.

Eleanor saw her usual Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below  Hanging Houghton but also accidentally flushed a Long-eared Owl from a hedge. This species is both sensitive and scarce, it will be interesting to see if this bird settles to winter or as is more usual, never be seen again!

Jacob caught a Tree Sparrow at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station, Pitsford Reservoir back on 2nd December bearing a ring we didn't recognise. It transpires that this bird was ringed as a nestling at Stanford Reservoir on 15th July 2017. This is one of several Tree Sparrows over the years that have moved between the Tree Sparrow colonies at both reservoirs, both populations supported with on-site feeding stations.


Neil M

Male Bullfinch.

Female Bullfinch.

Common Buzzard.

Carrion Crow enjoying
a wash!

All images courtesy of
John Tilly.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A rather grey and wet Wednesday!


Birds north of the causeway this morning at Pitsford Reservoir included two Great White Egrets, a Shelduck, a Redshank, a Siskin and two Stonechats. The gull roost this afternoon attracted a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull and a third year Caspian Gull, and there was a Grey Wagtail on the shoreline.

Birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today included a Barn Owl, a Woodcock, six Grey Partridges and a couple of Redpolls.

A couple of ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

Z310685 refers to a Blue Tit first ringed at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate on 18th February 2015. It was aged as a bird hatched in 2014. This bird was caught in a mist net at Stanford Reservoir on 15th November this year, 1001 days later and 14km west of where first encountered, this bird now being over three years old.

GR73927 refers to a drake Mallard that was caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 1st April 2016. This bird was shot near Lamport on or about 6th December this year. This accords with many of the Mallard which have been ringed at Pitsford over the last fifteen years or so, the majority do not seem to travel far and end up being shot!


Neil M

Blue Tit.

Drake Mallard.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Marsh Tit.


No birds of note seen today so some images of one our scarcer birds to be found in the woodlands of Northamptonshire, the Marsh Tit. This is a species which nationally is on the decline, but not as much as the rapidly vanishing Willow Tit which it closely resembles. However in Northamptonshire the Marsh Tit appears to be holding its own and is still to be found in most mature woodlands and indeed in sub-optimal woodland habitat too. 

Strongly territorial, once birds establish themselves following post-breeding dispersal, these birds will stick to 'their' wood or part of a wood if a large woodland complex. However they regularly visit feeding stations in the winter and will venture away from their preferred habitat to do so (birds were regular visitors to the Summer Leys nature reserve feeding station last winter).

Visually these birds are easy to overlook but audibly they are rarely quiet and like most tits have a significant repertoire of calls and rather less variation in their songs. The biggest Marsh Tits overlap the smallest Blue Tits in size but are generally smaller than the Blue but bigger than the Coal Tit. Like all tits they will use holes in trees and sometimes will take to standard tit boxes to rear their young; they like to partly excavate or physically manipulate a nesting site but generally do not excavate or create a nest site to the extent of the industrious Willow Tit.

Sunflower seeds (with or without husks) are their favourite artificial food and birds quickly tame up where this food is offered. They will also consume bird fat, peanuts, niger seed, mealworms and other seeds too. It is likely that this species is present in all reasonable-sized woods in the county which offer at least some mature deciduous trees, hazel, thorn bushes (with berries) and standing rank vegetation with seed heads or similar.

Precocious, noisy, expeditious and full of bounce, these birds always make me smile when they come bounding along a woodland ride in the winter to see what I have for them, or later in the spring singing their rich if repetitive song from the cover of new buds and  leaves...


Neil M

Marsh Tits at
Scotland Wood,
Kelmarsh Estate.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Snowy landscapes


Well I don't think the snow is going anywhere just yet! So I spent the morning visiting feeding stations on the Kelmarsh Estate, the deep snow making it a much slower process than normal! Many tree branches were lowered to the floor, bearing the weight of the snow, and after tonight they will have the extra burden of ice too! Snow-bound trees look especially beautiful with un-coppiced hazel seemingly taking centre stage.

Bird-wise it seemed quiet, a single flying Woodcock at Sunderland Wood being the only noteworthy bird on my morning saunter. Toiling through the snow and clearing ground for the birds to feed at Harrington Airfield soon had me sweating; the birds were quiet here too with just three Golden Plovers and two Snipe being the only observations of note.

Jacob spent some of the day at Pitsford Reservoir today in iconic wintery weather. His bird tally amounted to two Great White Egrets, eight Pintail, two Goosanders, a Barnacle Goose, two Redshank, six Snipe, two Woodcock, seven Golden Plovers and a Grey Wagtail. The gull roost contained an influx in Common Gulls but a reduction in Black-headed Gulls plus also a first year Mediterranean Gull and a first year Yellow-legged Gull.


Neil M

Scotland Wood,
Kelmarsh Estate.

Pitsford Reservoir, courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Harrington Airfield
courtesy of Eleanor McMahon.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A snowy December day!


Late last night there was a Barn Owl active on the outskirts of Old village, no doubt looking for food before the dump of snow which began a few hours later...

An organised walk at Pitsford Reservoir today had to be cancelled at short notice, such was the amount of snow puthering down. It was almost impossible to birdwatch in any event, such was the amount of snow coming down and the dull murky conditions combining to make it almost a waste of time raising binoculars.

Clearing snow for birds on the main feed station also proved difficult, no sooner had I cleared an area and the snow covered it again! Hopefully most of them managed something to eat! Six Snipe were the only birds of note I saw.

In the garden here at Hanging Houghton the birds flocked in for food, particularly Blackbirds and finches. A Mistle Thrush and a Redwing were eating the Guelder Rose berries and a Redwing and some Fieldfares came in for some apples.

A visit to Harrington Airfield this afternoon was hard going in the deep snow and flocks of 17 Golden Plovers and 20 Skylarks looked very forlorn in the big 'white-out' of the top fields. A single Snipe was seen in flight and there were still Fieldfares trying to find the very last of the berries. Harrington Airfield is often described as being bleak, it certainly was today!


Neil M

Wintery weather
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Harrington Airfield
in the snow!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Incoming cold weather


Jacob reported that Pitsford Reservoir seemed quiet today but he still found a third year Caspian Gull, a Great White Egret, a Shelduck, eight Pintails, two Redshank, a Green Sandpiper, a Raven and a Grey Wagtail. Eric Graham visited the Titchmarsh Reserve today and saw a Great White Egret there too plus a Redpoll.

I spent some of today topping up bird feeders in anticipation of the severe frost tonight and snow during the early hours of tomorrow. Whilst doing so I heard a Hawfinch calling at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) and saw a Siskin and a Woodcock there. Nearby there was a flock of at least twenty Siskins at Kelmarsh Hall.


Neil M

Great White Egret.
Freezing temperatures
and ice may well displace
our wintering GWEs onto
streams and brooks...

Male Siskin on a nyger
feeder. These small finches
can turn up on garden feeders
at any time of the year but
the late winter/early spring
is the period when they flock
to feeding stations.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Friday's sightings


An early morning and rather cool walk at Harrington Airfield failed to find much of interest although a flock of 23 Golden Plovers were flying about.

Eleanor took a walk around Sywell Country Park early this afternoon and noted a Little Egret, a Water Rail, a Kingfisher, three or four Grey Wagtails, a pair of Stonechats, a Cetti's Warbler, thirty Lesser Redpolls and about twenty Siskins.

A Barn Owl was hunting in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again this afternoon.


Neil M

Some of the grounds at
Lamport Hall.

Lesser Redpoll.
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Courtesy of Steve Bennison.