Sunday, 30 April 2017

Waders and terns...


What a fantastic day to be birding in the county today! The conditions conspired to provide some excellent visible migration with particular concentrations of waders and terns on the move in the Nene Valley and at our county reservoirs.

By way of example, Pitsford Reservoir attracted a Little Tern, 23+ Black Terns, at least 2 Arctic Terns, 8-9 Whimbrel, an injured Knot (which was colour-ringed), 2 Grey Plovers, about 6 Ringed Plovers, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Dunlin, a Little Gull, an Osprey, a pair of Red-crested Pochard and a White Wagtail.

Summer Leys pulled in 2-3 Whimbrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit, a Wood Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks, 6 Redshanks, 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Turnstones, a Black Tern, a Little Tern, 4 Shelduck, a Peregrine and a Wheatear.

Six Black Terns were at Thrapston Gravel Pits with the Titchmarsh Reserve attracting singing Nightingales, a singing Grasshopper Warbler and a drake Red-crested Pochard.

Harrington Airfield managed just four Grey Partridges!


Neil M

Hobby at Summer
Leys yesterday courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Peregrine with prey
at Summer Leys yesterday
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Little Gull courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Little Tern at Pitsford
Reservoir today courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Grey Plover at Pitsford
Reservoir today courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Knot at Pitsford Reservoir
today courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

A very oddly marked Peregrine
at Summer Leys today, sporting
a pale brown upperside and very
pale underside...

Waderquest coming to the Bird Club


This coming Wednesday (3rd May) is the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club and the guest speakers are Elis and Rik Simpson who will be providing an insight into Waderquest, a small organisation set up to support shorebird conservation (more details at

As usual the meeting will commence at 7.30pm at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir, just off the Brixworth Road outside the village of Holcot (NN6 9SJ). Hot drinks and biscuits will be available and for those wader enthusiasts, there may just be a wader or two to look at on the edges of the reservoir before the meeting commences, such is the current low water level!


Neil M

Pectoral Sandpiper.

Bar-tailed Godwits.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A busy day at Pitsford Reservoir!


The advertised Pitsford Reservoir dawn chorus event was held this morning, starting at 4am! I was very impressed that all participants attended at this unearthly hour and we were not disappointed as the conditions were almost perfect to appreciate the multitude of songs and calls making up the chorus just before and after dawn. It was still, relatively mild and the ground mostly dry as we listened to the early morning calls of Fox, Tawny Owl and predictable early songsters such as Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush. Other common residents joined in and were joined by the warbler family which included Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler.

Early morning sightings included Muntjac, Little Egrets and a couple of bats and the provision of muffins, pastries, fruit and hot drinks made it a very convivial affair! Thank-you to the volunteers from the Pitsford team and Mischa Cross for organising the event!

Also this morning at Pitsford, Jacob Spinks was conducting a Common Bird Census and whilst doing so located a splendid singing Wood Warbler in the Walgrave Bay, which spent the early morning in waterside trees near to the Old Walgrave Road.

Twenty-four birds were caught and quickly processed during a two and half hour ringing session at Christies Copse (in the Walgrave Bay) and included two Willow Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Willow Warblers, a Blackcap and a Garden Warbler. One of the Willow Warblers was first ringed in the Scaldwell Bay as an adult male on 27th April 2015 and the Garden Warbler was first ringed as a juvenile and also in the Scaldwell Bay on 8th August 2013.

Other birds noted at Pitsford today included a dozen Common Terns, an Arctic Tern, a pair of Shelduck, as many as five Little Egrets, a female Redstart, a Little Ringed Plover and two Common Sandpipers.

Eight or nine Wheatears were well spread between the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm this afternoon...


Neil M

Wood Warbler at
Pitsford Reservoir today...

Friday, 28 April 2017

Migration on-going...


A walk around the Harrington Airfield complex this morning confirmed the presence of plenty of on-territory Willow Warblers and Whitethroats plus a singing Lesser Whitethroat and three passage Wheatears.

A Barn Owl was again hunting field margins in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon and a couple of Swifts had made it back to their breeding quarters in Mears Ashby village.

Jacob's tally of birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included singles of Yellow and White Wagtail, an Arctic Tern briefly, two Shelduck and one or two Common Sandpiper(s), and he witnessed a huge flock of over three hundred Black-tailed Godwits heading north- west over Scaldwell village late this evening...


Neil M



Common Tern.

 All these images were taken
 at Pitsford Reservoir today
by Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Grasshopper Warblers and Black Terns


Eleanor came across a singing Grasshopper Warbler showing well at Blueberry Farm this morning, but with the lack of available habitat it is likely that this is a returning bird from last year that will quickly move on... A hunting Barn Owl was also present.

This afternoon Eleanor was at Harlestone Heath and saw at least two Siskins in the trees. A wander around the rough fields and scrub between Harlestone Heath and Kings Heath provided two more singing and visible Grasshopper Warblers, a Cuckoo and an adult male Peregrine.

There were two Black Terns visible from the dam at Pitsford Reservoir this evening and Robin Gossage saw another today at Summer Leys Nature Reserve at Earls Barton.


Neil M

Black Tern today at Summer Leys
 NR courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Mid week round up

Although I have been out and about during the last couple of days I have not really seen many birds of note.
A Barn Owl was again hunting in the valley below Hanging Houghton at 07.00hrs and 20.00hrs today. Other birds included a pair of Grey Partridge, Sedge Warbler and a party of 4 Fieldfare heading north.
I have bumped into both Blackbird and Song Thrush out with their newly fledged young, starting out on the most dangerous part of their life. Fingers crossed that they will survive.
I always find this time of year quite exciting in the county as you never know what you might bump into. Birds on migration can turn up in the most unlikely places.  Chris Dobbie reports hearing the distinctive song of a Nightingale at dusk on 23rd April next to the Grand Union Canal Leicester Line approx 200m NW of Norton Junction.
It really is a case of ears and eyes wide open and you just might find a good bird in an unexpected place.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 24 April 2017

Weekend Ringing

Whilst most of us were out and about enjoying the lovely weather , searching for migrants or perhaps catching up with the gardening the ringers were busy at Pitsford and Linford.
Dave Francis reports that at Pitsford there were a steady flow of 38 birds. 15 Yellowhammer, 11 Tree Sparrow, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Blackbird, 2 Robin , and 1 of Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Lesser Whitethroat.
Kenny Cramer at Linford reported 43 birds, of which 26 were new birds and 17 retraps of 11 species. Spring migration was in evidence with 11 new Blackcaps and 4 new Sedge Warblers. A new female Cettis Warbler was caught with a well developed brood patch indicating that this species is continuing to successfully colonise the area.
Notable retraps included a female Blackcap ringed 9/7/16, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler both ringed 7/5/16.  Whilst it is always nice to see returning migrants it is also good to encounter resident old friends such as HHL503 a Long Tailed Tit ringed on the very first session at Linford on 13/4/14 making it at least 4 years old !!

Hope that you find this interesting.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Restful Sunday

Today was a much quieter as I had very little "birding" time, most of it being confined to an early morning visit to Harrington Airfield. I actually went there to feed the birds but ended up wandering about for two hours. We were planning on reducing the amount of times we are feeding the birds but with the cold weather forecast for the coming week we will continue. 
The most surprising bird on my walk round was a singing and very showy Grasshopper Warbler in the roadside bushes. This bird was clambering about on the top of a bramble bush but I had left my camera at home !! In the past I have found that these warblers show themselves very well when they first arrive.
Other birds seen were 2 Northern Wheatear, 2 or 3 pairs of Grey Partridge, 4 dapper summer plumaged Golden Plover a Lesser Whitethroat, several Willow Warbler and plenty of Whitethroat. 
This evening I managed a walk with the dogs below Hanging Houghton where the Barn Owl was again hunting and a Sedge Warbler singing from its perch on top of a field hedge.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bluebells and Birds

It has been a lovely sunny day and for once I've managed to be out and about for most of it.
First stop was Ravensthorpe Reservoir which was very quiet apart from an Osprey going over heading towards the village. On to Daventry Reservoir which was equally as quiet.
I decided to visit Badby Wood as I knew that the bluebells would be out which are one of my favourite flowers. I parked at Fawsley where there was a Water Rail, Sedge Warbler, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and 2 Siskins. I then headed across the fields towards the wood following the Knightley Way which gives some stunning views across the rolling south Northamptonshire countryside. As I entered the wood I was not disappointed as I was met by a rich carpet of blue, dappled sunlight and the sweet heady perfume smell of the bluebells, a truly wonderful sight.  A good walk round produced 2 Brambling, 2+ Siskin, 4 scruffy looking Raven, Marsh tit,numerous Nuthatches and two Roe Deer.
I then headed towards my agility training at Staverton and took the gated road to Upper Catesby. It is quite an interesting area and over the years we have seen some good birds along this road. This morning there were at least 6 Northern Wheatears and a male Ring Ouzel feeding in a sheep field.
Tor was his usual self at agility, making everyone laugh whilst I was pulling my hair out and the resident Ravens were entertaining .
I decided that we both still had a bit of energy left so I had a wander around Borough Hill where there was a male Common Redstart and 2 Northern Wheatear.
This evening there was a Barn Owl, 2 Northern Wheatears and a pair of Grey Partridge in the valley below Hanging Houghton.
Tomorrow will definitely be a quieter day for myself and the dogs.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 20 April 2017

It was grey and drizzly when I went out this morning, perfect for a good bird at Harrington ............wrong, as all I could find was a Wheatear.
I thought that I would try my luck at Pitsford Reservoir. Firstly I ran around the big side with my hound but it was quiet apart from a Redshank and a Ringed Plover on the shoreline near the causeway carpark. Then I checked the small side. In the Scaldwell arm there was a Shelduck, 2 Oystercatchers and several displaying Goldeneye. There were also good numbers of Swallows and at one point they were sitting in rows on the fence chattering away. You could almost imagine the conversations they were having about their recent migration journey to get here.
This evening in the valley below Hanging Houghton there was a Barn Owl, 2 Wheatears and a flock of about 200 Fieldfares which were heading northwards.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Young herons and migrant wagtails...

A curious image of
a Coot hitching a ride
on the back of  a Muscovy
Duck at Abington Park,
Image courtesy of Phil Davies.


Yesterday evening Nick Parker paid Thrapston Gravel Pits a visit and located 4 Wheatears, a couple of Yellow Wagtails, 250+ Sand Martins, 23 Common Terns, 2 Redshank, 2 Shelduck and a pair of Egyptian Geese. This morning Eric Graham was there and also saw the Egyptian Geese and two drake Red-crested Pochards.

This morning Eleanor saw a stunning summer plumage Grey Plover flying around and calling in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, but the bird sadly didn't linger.

Jacob has been at Pitsford Reservoir this evening and has picked out a male 'Channel Wagtail' at the dam amongst some 50+ Yellow Wagtails. Other birds on-site include a Rock Pipit, two White Wagtails, a Wheatear, two Little Ringed Plovers, three Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper.


Neil M

Nestling Grey Herons
at Abington Park, Northampton,
courtesy of John Gamble and Phil Davies.

Purple Thorn Moth
courtesy of John Gamble.

Great Crested Grebe courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter sightings


Yesterday morning at around 7am Dave Burnapp was lucky enough to see an Otter in the River Nene in Northampton at the marina next to Beckett's Park, so it seems that our urban Otters are still there!

Also yesterday a small band of ringers were active at Linford Lakes on the outskirts of Milton Keynes where they caught and processed 45 birds made up of 18 new birds and 27 re-traps of 14 species. Highlights included a Jay, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Greenfinches, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff first ringed there in July 2016.

A couple of Cuckoos were present and two Great Crested Newts were also seen.

Eleanor saw a Whitethroat and four Grey Partridges at Harrington Airfield yesterday.

Today and a singing Lesser Whitethroat was near Arthingworth and Brixworth Sewer Works attracted a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a small swarm of Swallows.

An influx of passerines at Pitsford Reservoir in the vicinity of the dam this afternoon and evening included at least ten Bramblings feeding in the trees at the Sailing Club, a Wheatear, a Rock Pipit and a flock of forty plus Yellow Wagtails, courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Other birds noted at Pitsford by Jacob today included a White Wagtail, a Grey Wagtail, a Kingfisher, 2 Common Terns, a Little Ringed Plover, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Four more Bramblings and a Wheatear were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening.


Neil M

Grey Heron River Nene,
Northampton courtesy
of John Boland.

Wheatear at Pitsford
Reservoir today, courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Odds and Ends

The last couple of days have been fairly quiet on the birding front. The only birds of note yesterday were 2 Wheatears at Blueberry Farm and a Raven near Walgrave.
Today was the more productive of the two days.  At 07.30hrs I was watching an adult Otter fishing at Ravensthorpe Reservoir. 
Next venue was Daventry Country Park where a walk around the reservoir was disappointingly quiet with nil birds of note. The only excitement was the presence of a large group of runners and Tor baying loudly as he wanted to run with them !!
I then went to Borough Hill and parked with great difficulty as every available space was taken, it seemed as if the whole world was there, and it did feel as if I was walking down Oxford Street at times.  But despite this I managed 2 Wheatears and 2 Common Redstarts.
At Staverton the pair of resident Ravens were very vocal and put on some spectacular acrobatic displays as Tor was clowning around on the agility course. I don't know who caused us to laugh the most the Ravens or Tor !!

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 14 April 2017

Potential developments for Freight Terminals and loss of habitat

Below is a message we have received regarding proposals to site two Rail Freight Terminals on the outskirts of Northampton and of  the possible implications for the wildlife. I have included it on our blog site to raise awareness and to provide the opportunity to contact Brian for further information and/or sign the petition if you so wish. 
Whilst I am not very familiar with the area in question alot of my birding is done on farmland and I know just how important our farmland is in supporting our birds and other wildlife. Any loss of this habitat will have a significant impact on our birds and once it has gone it will be too late for some of the species we take for granted.

My name is Brian Sumpton and I have been a RSPB volunteer for over 30  
years. I am currently working on wildlife issues for a group called stop  
rail central. I am sure many of your members will know about the proposals  
to site two massive Rail Freight Terminals near junctions 15 and 15A of the  
M1. If these go ahead almost1,200 acres of farmland will be lost to  
wildlife. Whilst this area is not of major importance for birds it is  
classed as supporting habitat for the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA.  
Notable birds include overwintering Golden Plover, (500+), Lapwings and  
Skylarks. As a part of our fight to stop these proposals going ahead we  
have a petition that will go to the Secretary of State for Transport. Could  
I ask if your members would be prepared to sign our petition,I can send a  
paper based version, or on our website at
Andrea Leadsom our local MP and SoS for the Environment is supporting us
Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss.
Brian Sumpton |

Link to the petition 

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Another odd mix !!

Another odd mixture of birds today. One minute I was watching our winter visitors and the next our summer visitors and sometimes both together in the same field of view.
Early morning there were 2 Wheatears and a Cuckoo in the valley below Hanging Houghton. Already this year I have seen three Cuckoo's which I think is more than I saw during the whole of Spring/Summer last year.
This afternoon at Harrington Airfield there was a super male Common Redstart in the bushes close to the compound, 2 Wheatears and 4 Grey Partridge around the bunkers. Whilst walking around the bunkers I literally stumbled over a Short Eared Owl which was sitting on the ground seemingly asleep in the sun !!
Blueberry Farm area was quiet apart from a Wheatear, Fieldfares and Redwing feeding on the short grass in the horse fields.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Exciting Times

I think that I have just about recovered from our amazing trip to Argentina and Chile. More details and pics to follow after we have sorted through the hundreds of images taken !!
My birding has been snatched in between the many jobs, errands etc that I have needed to undertake to catch up with what has been happening.
It has been great to come back to such lovely weather and see the signs of spring . I have been amazed at how many butterflies are already on the wing, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell are in abundance.  The hedgerows are bursting into new growth as well as bursting into song with large numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap.
It is also the time when our winter and summer visitors overlap. This morning I was watching Fieldfares and Redwing feeding in the grass field behind the house whilst a Cuckoo was calling nearby and Swallows flying overhead.
It was a similar scenario at Harrington Airfield with more Fieldfares and Redwings preparing to leave and 4 Wheatears and a male Ring Ouzel around the bunkers.  Other birds included 2+ Brambling, 4 Grey Partridge, Willow Warbler and Swallows.
There were also 2 Wheatears in the valley below Hanging Houghton this morning and a Common Redstart this evening.
Yesterday I came across 4 Brambling sitting in a hedgerow in the valley below Hanging Houghton.
Exciting times as birds are on the move and you just never know what you are going to ears and eyes wide open !!

Regards   Eleanor

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Spring surprises


Debbie and Eric Graham had a fabulous surprise this morning with their weekly walk around the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston when two Spoonbills flew in and around and then flew on. Although it is assumed this species will gradually become more common and easier to see in the UK, it is still a rare bird here in sunny Northants!

There were also plenty of early singing warblers which included both Sedge and Reed, Swallows, Common Terns and two drake Red-crested Pochard (Elinor and Aldwincle Lakes). An array of butterflies included Orange-tip and Speckled Wood.

Eleanor was at Blueberry Farm this afternoon where there were singing Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps and she bumped in to a relatively early singing Cuckoo too...

The last few days has seen a flock of spring Waxwings arrive in the vicinity of Rushmere Road, Northampton and spilling over towards Abington Park and sub-urban areas nearby with up to 31 birds present...


Neil M

Waxwings in the vicinity
of Rushmere Road, N'pton
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.
The patterning on the wings
of the bird above suggest it is
an adult male. The top bird
is colour-ringed and Cathy has
hopefully captured sufficient
details with her camera to
identify this individual...

Grey Herons at Abington Park,
Northampton courtesy of John
Gamble. John reports that a pair
have attempted to nest here three
times during the past four years.
They have already produced
 young this year...

South America and back...


Just back in from a long haul trip to Argentina with brief excursions in to Chile and Brazil.

Together with Wendy and Robin Gossage, our long-suffering travelling partners for many years, we spent twenty days away in South America utilising nine flights to visit Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the Valdez Peninsular in Argentina and the Iguazu Falls at the juncture of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. We also spent some time around Buenos Airies which served as a staging post for the three main destinations. A little weary now and my apologies for the lack of blogs from Eleanor or I.

Our thanks to Diane Freeman, John Warner, the Spinks family, Neil Hasdell, Dave Francis and Helen Franklin for maintaining the respective feeding stations in our absence. Thanks are also due to Neil and Diane in assisting with issues when our return plans didn't go quite as planned and of course to Neil again for maintaining the blog in our absence. Thanks also to the regular contributors continuing to forward their birding experiences and images during the last three weeks.

The British spring seems to be unfurling beautifully here!


Neil M

The spectacular Iguazu Falls...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Pitsford ringing

Dave Francis conducted a ringing session over Sunday evening and Monday morning at the. Scaldwell Road feed station. The weather on Monday was windier than expected leading to an earlier than anticipated finish.
A total of 42 birds were processed with good numbers of target species: Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. Details are as follows:

Yellowhammer 15
Tree Sparrow 8
Reed Bunting 4
Dunnock 4
Wren 2
ChiffChaff 1
Chaffinch 2
Robin 1
Meadow Pippit 1
Great Tit 1
Goldfinch 1
Blue Tit 1
Greenfinch 1

Monday, 3 April 2017

Summer Leys

A very pleasant walk day for a walk around Summer Leys this morning.
Not a huge amount of new birds in today, plenty of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers singing all over the reserve with a solitary Sedge Warbler vocal near to the Marigold pond.
A Peregrine was perched up on a pylon distantly behind Mary's lake and the drake RCP was in it's preferred spot on Pete Wylde's lake, viewable from the top gate.
3 snipe were visible from the screen hide with up to 5 Redshank dotted about the reserve.

Yesterday at Titchmarsh reserve 3 RCP were noted in front of the south hide and later the Palmer hide. Plenty of common warblers were singing including the first Sedge Warblers. A pair of shelduck were present along with a pair of Goldeneye and a few Wigeon and Teal.

MK ringing

A ringing session took place at Hanson's Pits on Sunday with the following report from Kenny.
We had quite the team today with Chris, Helen, Rory and Laura (a new potential trainee) joining Sarah and I (Kenny) so we took the opportunity to try a few new nets at the far end of the reserve.

These proved to be quite productive, and combined with the feeder site produced 52 captures, 39 new, (13 retraps) of an impressive 16 species.

Highlights included 4 chiffchaff, 3 blackcap, 5 reed bunting, 3 treecreepers, a jay, a great spot and a retrap cettis warbler.

A grass snake was a nice non-avian sighting.

Chiffchaff 4
Wren 4
Dunnock 2
Robin 1
Blackcap 3
Jay 1
Blue tit 2 (4)
Goldfinch 4
Reed bunting 5
Great tit 3 (7)
Long tailed tit 2 (1)
Treecreeper 3
Blackbird 1
Chaffinch 3
Great spotted woodpecker 1
Cettis warbler (1)