Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Last day of May


A wander at Harrington Airfield this morning was pleasant but lacking birds somewhat with just a couple of pairs of Grey Partridge of note. The Common Spotted Orchids are just beginning to bloom and many other flowers won't be long. Three Hares gallivanting about were fun and insects included Common Blue and Small Heath butterflies. Please note that it is likely that there will be a bird ringing session at Harrington on Friday and the old airstrip and bunkers will be out of bounds during this operation. The concrete track and official footpaths remain unaffected.

A singing Grasshopper Warbler remained in it's weedy field between Lamport and Blueberry Farm and Pitsford Reservoir this evening attracted two Turnstones, a Dunlin and a drake Mandarin Duck all between the Old Scaldwell Road and the Bird Club hide. A Little Owl was nearby and plenty of Chimney Sweeper Moths were fluttering around the Scaldwell Meadow with any number of Muntjac Deer feeding on the foreshore. The pair of Oystercatchers now seem to have just two chicks...


Neil M

Common Spotted Orchid.

Brown Hare.


Common Terns.

Drake Mandarin Duck.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A day out at Lakenheath


John Gamble visited the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath on Sunday and took the following images to prove it!


Neil M

Barn Owl.


Marsh Warbler.

All images courtesy
of John Gamble.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Bank Holiday Monday


A rather later than anticipated visit to Harrington Airfield this morning provided some interesting sightings of two Turtle Doves, at least three pairs of Grey Partridges, a singing Sedge Warbler (not a common bird here!) and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, only the second recorded here this year. So some late passage warblers it seems amongst the established Whitethroats and Willow Warblers. 

We were just preparing to leave when the distinctive calls of a Hawfinch could be heard distantly but coming closer, and then the sound of a second bird too. They appeared overhead and flew strongly in a north-east direction, still emitting the distinctive 'syheep' call followed by the clipped 'tick' sound at precisely 9.47am! Something we wouldn't have seen had we visited earlier as per our best intentions!

I heard a Hawfinch calling and flying over Harrington a couple of autumns ago but just couldn't see it; so these represent my first sight records in over thirty years of visiting this disused airfield.

Other bits and bobs during the day didn't quite match the Hawfinches but there were three Grey Wagtails at Beck Dairy, Cottesbrooke and Spotted Flycatchers at Maidwell village church and Dale Farm (between Maidwell and Haselbech).

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir amounted to a Grey Plover in the Scaldwell Bay for most of the day, a Ringed Plover, two Little Ringed Plovers, six Oystercatchers (three adults and three chicks), a moulting drake Mandarin Duck in the Scaldwell Bay and two Yellow-legged Gulls (2nd summer and 3rd summer).


Neil M

Male Chaffinch
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Jay, courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Red-legged Partridge,
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Starling, courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Great Crested Grebe,
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Free second-hand optics

                                     NOW ALL GONE!


John Tilly has been in touch and would like to offer up some second hand optical equipment free of charge. He would prefer it if the recipient was a young birder in need of a telescope/binoculars and is offered on a first come first served basis and with no warranty. The items would have to be collected from a Yardley Gobion address in South Northants at an agreed time.

1. Kowa TSN2 telescope with two eyepieces (30x and 20-60 zoom) in good condition with a weather-proof sleeve. Comes with a Slik tripod fitted with a Cullman Pan head;

2. Bushnell 10x50 binoculars;

3. Sirius 16x50 binoculars;

4. Tento (Russian) 20x60 binoculars.

If you are interested please email John at with 'Kowa' in the header.


Neil M

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Spring Bank Holiday week-end


Yesterday (Saturday) and Debbie and Eric Graham and Nick Parker visited Thrapston Gravel Pits, spending much of their time on the Titchmarsh Reserve. Collectively they saw a pair of Egyptian Geese (Elinor Lake), one or two Hobby, at least two Cuckoos, Oystercatchers with young, still a singing Nightingale and lots of warblers, butterflies and dragonflies. It would seem that the Wildlife Trust tern rafts are being used by plenty of Common Terns this year.

Kenny Cramer and team have been conducting bird ringing operations at Linford Lakes over the week-end, two days work providing an impressive 118 captures. A large proportion of the captures involved summer migrants with an excellent 29 Reed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Cuckoos. More sedentary birds were made up of 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Goldfinches, 2 Greenfinches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Dunnocks, 3 Wrens, 11 Robins, 7 Great Tits, 13 Blue Tits, 17 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and a Treecreeper. Other wildlife noted included 7 Grass Snakes, Toads and a Great Crested Newt.

An evening visit to Naseby Reservoir (Sunday) failed to locate any birds of note and a gentle walk around Welford Reservoir provided views of an Oystercatcher and an audible 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler. Another Grasshopper Warbler was singing from a weedy field between Lamport and Blueberry Farm this morning.


Neil M

Another Honey Bee swarm
as photographed by Jim Dunkley,
and still no stings to date!

Reed Warbler. No less than 29 birds
were processed at Linford Lakes over
the Bank Holiday week-end.

Fineshade - the writing is on the wall

A message from 'Friends of Fineshade'...

'Dear Friends

You may be already aware of the news that we published last week on the website and via social media – there is a very real chance that Fineshade could be taken off the so-called Exclusivity List – the Forestry Commission’s list of sites for possible future exploitation by Forest Holidays. This summer, staff in the FC Central District Office in Sherwood will be drawing up a list of “potential opportunities for Forest Holidays sites” in their area. This was last done, in secret, in 2012 and resulted in Fineshade being added to the Exclusivity List, with the subsequent aggressive Planning Applications that with your help were beaten off.

It seems that, 5 years on, that list is being revisited by those high up in the Forestry Commission, but this time we know it’s happening and there is an opportunity for us, the public, to influence those decisions. It seems unlikely that FC will be engaging in an actual Public Consultation – we’ve written to ask for one, but are not holding our breath for an answer! However, with your help, we are in a position to make this consultation public and, in particular, to remind FC managers of all the reasons why Fineshade (like other parts of the Public Forest Estate) should no longer be seen as a potential opportunity for private exploitation.

We believe that there are very many arguments to oppose development here (see the list below) and that, probably, FC will not put Fineshade on the renewed list. But it seems a really good opportunity to get this threat to Fineshade dealt with once and for all, so we are enlisting your help to influence FC decision makers. Here are two things you could do now - there may be more later in the summer.

 The writing’s on the wall. 

We’re creating a wall on the Friends of Fineshade website with short, signed expressions of support and highlighting particular arguments. This will start now and can be on-going throughout the summer with lots of opportunities for social media and press coverage. See here for the draft page so that you can get the idea: We’ll publish it properly as soon as we get a few more signed messages. Please send us your contribution to the writing on the wall.

 Contacting key FC staff

We know from experience with our local councillors how powerful individual letters can be, so if you feel able to start now there are three Central District staff who we think will be involved with the decision. Their details are below. Later we could also send an open letter summarising all our arguments, copied to the media and signed by as many people as possible, to the Chief Executive of Forest Enterprise.

There are, no doubt, other possible ways of highlighting the fact that, if FC make the right decision, the threat could be finally removed this summer. Do let us know if you have any advice and ideas about how to proceed.

 But, for now, please email us your message for the Forestry Commission - let's get lots of writing on the wall!

 Friends of Fineshade - enjoying and protecting Fineshade wood

14 Reasons why Fineshade does not have potential as a FH site:

Key FC decision makers in Central Region

         Office address
         Central District Office, Kings Clipstone, Mansfield, Notts, NG21 9JL
         0300 067 4340

 Andy Medhurst, Forest Management Director, Central Forest District  (Responsible for putting Fineshade on the list in 2012.  We understand Andy has been seriously ill and is on long-term sick leave. Not clear who is handling his workload and emails.)

Jo Atkinson, District Head of Recreation and Public Affairs, Central England

Adrienne Bennett, Ecology & Heritage Manager, Central Forest District (Knows Fineshade, the key person in promoting Back from the Brink, likely to be very supportive of Fineshade’s case)'

Neil M

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Ringing Round Up

My birding opportunities have been somewhat limited this week. The Turtle Doves remain at Harrington Airfield, a Grasshopper Warbler near to Blueberry Farm and at Pitsford Reservoir Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatchers and a rather splendid Great White Egret.

Dave Francis conducted a CES ringing session on Wednesday 24th May where 39 birds were caught including the first juvenilles of the season. Dunnock and Long Tailed Tit.
Birds caught : L T Tit 7, Blackbird 6, Chiffchaff 4, Wren 3, Blackcap 3, Garden Warbler 3, Blue Tit, Dunnock 3, Reed Warbler 1, Bullfinch 1,Marsh Tit 1, Robin 1, Great Tit 1, G S Woodpecker 1
A retrapped Great Tit was 7 years old !! Whilst not a national record which is 11 years, it is still a very good age for a small bird. The bird was a female with an active brood patch.

Today Chris Payne was at Stortons Gravel Pit where 55 new and 12 retrap birds were caught.
A good variety of new birds : Reed Warbler 11, Sedge Warbler 5, Garden Warbler 5, Whitethroat 4, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Cettis Warbler 1, Reed Bunting 6, Blackcap 1, Robin 2, Dunnock 2, Wren 4, L T Tit 1, Blackbird 1, Great Tit 6 pulli.
A retrap Garden Warbler was originally ringed at Pitsford Reservoir 14/7/09.
Three retrap Reed Warblers were ringed in 2012, 2013 and 2014.....I wonder how many miles these birds have flown !!!

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Weekend Round Up

From my point of view my birding has been quiet over the weekend. I have visited Harrington Airfield on both days and have enjoyed good views of 2 or 3 Turtle Doves who are also very vocal with their gorgeous "purring" call. Other birds include Cuckoo, Grey Partridge and Yellow Wagtail.
Yesterday the usual rowdy Ravens were entertaining us at Staverton
This morning I was at Pitsford at 06.00hrs and there was a Sanderling, 2 Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper on the spit at the entrance to the grange bay.

I have only seen a couple of Hobby so far this spring, although there was one at Harrington this afternoon which I missed. 
It sounds as if I should have been at Titchmarsh today where potentially as many as 16 Hobby were seen by Eric Graham who writes " Ken and myself spent some time on the reserve this morning locating 6 Hobby at the south end and a further 10 at the north end, WOW. Also all the usual warblers seen and heard although only the briefest views of Cetties and Nightingales.  
Plenty of dragons and damselfly and my first brown argus butterfly".

Regards  Eleanor

Friday, 19 May 2017

Stortons GP


Yesterday Chris Payne and John Boland spent some time at Stortons Gravel Pits committing to some general bird ringing and checking the nest boxes there...

The attached images depict some of the results!


Neil M

Great Tit and Blue Tit nestlings.

Garden Warbler.

Reed Warbler.

Very much a
juvenile Robin!

Logging in Denton Wood


The following is a message from local naturalist Jeff Blincow...

'The Forestry Commission is currently logging in Denton Wood in the bird breeding season. Several people have expressed their concern and the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust for BCN are involved. I am surprised it got as far as newts (there is a significant colony of Great Crested Newts on-site) before the Police became involved.

I was hoping that other people could contribute. 

If you are members, please contact the RSPB and Wildlife Trust to show concern or offer support.

Contact the Forestry Commission -  this is the thin end of the wedge - once they can do it and get away with it then it will start happening elsewhere.

Contact Carly at the Chron & Echo who has yet to get back to me. 

Make positive suggestions and please forward this to others that may be interested...


Neil M

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Spotted Flycatchers are here!


A morning walk in the sunshine at Harrington Airfield this morning resulted in some good views of at least two Turtle Doves and at least one pair of Grey Partridge. A Nuthatch in scrub near to the first bunker was a surprise - maybe a wandering failed breeder or a gleaning bird travelling further afield in search of food?

Single Spotted Flycatchers were in Lamport and Maidwell villages.

At Pitsford Reservoir today a CES ringing session provided 33 captures, not huge numbers but excellent diversity with 15 species - 5 Garden Warblers, 4 Treecreepers, 4 Blackbirds, 3 Wrens, 3 Great Tits, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Blue Tits, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Long-tailed Tit, a Goldcrest, a Chaffinch, a Dunnock and a Kingfisher.

An Osprey was fishing in the Scaldwell Bay at 12 noon and other birds included 3 Spotted Flycatchers in trees by the Sailing Club and two Common Sandpipers and a Ringed Plover near to the Moulton Grange Bay.

A drake Red-crested Pochard was at Naseby Reservoir, just off the dam this afternoon.


Neil M

Turtle Dove
at Harrington Airfield.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A very wet day!


Eleanor was at Sywell Country Park today and ran around twice with Tor the hound! In such inclement weather there was strangely no-one else there but the bird life included two Spotted Flycatchers and two Grey Wagtails in the dam area...

A ringing session at Brixworth Water Treatment Works provided 51 captures, the majority being new birds. These were made up of 2 Magpies, 12 Starlings, 4 Blue Tits, a Blackcap, a Grey Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtails, 2 Bullfinches and 25 Swallows. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard singing there briefly.


Neil M

Red Squirrel.

Pied Flycatcher.

Tawny Owl.


Roe Deer.

All images courtesy of
Jim Dunkley following a trip
to the Lake District and Cumbria.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

More ringing recoveries...


Another batch of ringing recoveries with birds initially caught by Northants Ringing Group ringers and then being recorded a good distance away.

The first three are all Siskins as follows:-

1. A male was caught by Chris Payne at Greens Norton on 4th March this year and was caught again by a ringer operating in Drummond, Inverneshire 50 days later on 22nd April. This bird had travelled 626km to get there, travelling in a NNW direction;

2. A male caught by John Woollett at Astcote on 29th Feb 2016 was caught again on 30th April this year, this bird turning up at Millhouse Bridge in Dumfries and Galloway. The distance between the two sites is 368km and this bird's latter location was also NNW of the original ringing area;

3. Another male caught by John at Astcote also on 29th Feb 2016 found a mist net at Cnoc in Argyll and Bute on 1st May this year. Again this bird had veered NNW and in 426 days (14 months) had travelled many hundreds of kilometres albeit that the minimum distance between the two sites is 508km.

These feisty little finches may be small but they certainly know how to travel!

Finally, Kenny Cramer caught a haul of Blackbirds and other thrushes at Milton Keynes Community Orchard on 29th January this year, and one of these (a first year female) was found predated near Leningrad, Russia some 77 days later on 16th April - 2073 km away! Some of our wintering thrushes clearly come quite a distance to avoid the severe winters further north and east but this is undoubtedly one of our longest distance migrants recorded to date (not surprisingly ending up ENE of the original ringing site).


Neil M

Cetti's Warbler.

Common Terns.

Dingy Skipper butterfly.


All images courtesy of John
Gamble following an excursion
to Dorset!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Breezy and wet Monday


Yesterday (Sunday) Debbie and Eric Graham were at Blatherwycke Lake and saw a pair of Egyptian Geese and several Shelduck as well as a hawking Hobby.

A morning foray to Harrington Airfield in the rain this morning confirmed the presence of at least two pairs of Grey Partridge. Last year they seemed to delay their breeding efforts and produced two broods of young which appeared to survive to full size. With this current wet spell let's hope they do the same this year! It may have been wet and breezy but it didn't stop Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat and plenty of Willow Warblers from singing their stuff!

Pitsford Reservoir, like many county sites, has had a cracking spring so it was a touch disappointing when this afternoon and evening there were just three Ringed Plovers and a Little Ringed Plover at the Moulton Grange spit.

Congratulations go to Gary Pullan who yet again found a Red-rumped Swallow at Daventry Country Park today. Gary has an amazing ability to find rare birds with a track record of stunning birds over the last couple of decades. Well done Gary!


Neil M

Lapwing. Very few pairs
seem to be holding territory
in the county this year...

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Bird Race results


The intrepid and slightly mad team of Phil, Bob, Jacob and I with support from Helen are a touch weary but still just functioning after the county Bird Race yesterday.

Starting at Midnight at Oundle, a nocturnal singing Sedge Warbler was the first bird but the regular Grasshopper Warbler remained silent! A Lesser Whitethroat also sang for us briefly and was the second species of the day! A drive around near Ashton Wold provided excellent views of a roadside-hunting Barn Owl and a vocal Tawny Owl was the first of several during the early hours. The song of Nightingale was next as three or four songsters banged it out at Polebrook Airfield. Something disturbed roosting Carrion Crows as they called to each other. A drive around the exterior of the old airfield and down to Barnwell was good for Hare and Rabbit but not much else.

A tiny roadside fawn Muntjac and a juvenile Tawny Owl were noted at Lilford and Wadenhoe hosted more singing Sedge Warblers, a singing Cetti's Warbler and singing Woodpigeon but not the hoped-for Curlew. Next it was the small Wildlife Trust car park at Aldwincle and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled continually - a short expedition on to the Titchmarsh Reserve secured a calling Water Rail, more Sedge and Cetti's Warblers and several Reed Warblers. The meadows at Thorpe Waterville were the venue for a calling and over-flying Grey Heron but again no Curlew. However to have secured five species of singing warbler by 2am is definitely a first for the bird race team! The full moon and bright, mild conditions were perhaps the stimuli.

A bit of a drive up to the Corby area resulted in some good views of roadside Fallow Deer and the Welland Valley produced some more quality mammal sightings. First was three tiny Red Fox cubs playing at the side of a minor road, and they remained curious as we stopped the car and watched them with torches. A little further on and a listening session was interrupted when a female Badger and three young came bimbling across the field and started sniffing Bob's wellingtons. They didn't seem to like them much and careered back off from whence they had come! Shortly afterwards, two young Badgers also came very close before they realised the errors of their ways and made off in the opposite direction!

By this time the sky was beginning to lighten and of course Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes began singing. Another Tawny Owl hooted as we made our way towards Fineshade. A roadworks diversion ensured we saw another hunting Barn Owl near Duddington.

At Fineshade Wood birds were awakening and we quickly added the warblers of woodland and scrub, another Tawny Owl, Cuckoo and the first of the tits. We were a little late in getting there for the prime time and consequently failed to connect with a roding Woodcock. However Siskin was a bonus bird and there were brief encounters with Nuthatch and Jay by individuals within the team. However everyone has to see and hear the bird and agree with the identification so these birds didn't count!

We decided to push on and Blatherwycke Lake yielded the hoped-for Mandarin Ducks, Shelduck, Kingfisher and more common fare. Nearby Deene Lake assisted with Grey Wagtail, another Kingfisher and Teal. Scrub and grassland adjoining an industrial estate at Corby produced our only Meadow Pipits all day.

It was time then for the Nene Valley and after a brief stop at Ringstead we moved on to Stanwick Gravel Pits which hosted an Egyptian Goose, but the long-staying Scaup and the waders of the previous day were not to be found! Nearby Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows provided us with a splendid Red-crested Pochard, our first waders in the shape of Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover and our first Sparrowhawk of the day.

The extensive old gravel pits at Earls Barton are critical to the bird race but were generally very quiet but we managed Hobby, Wigeon, Shoveler and Greenshank - none of which were seen anywhere else. A Little Owl near Grendon was much appreciated. The Nene Barrage at Clifford Hill was good enough for a pair of Barnacle Geese but again no hoped-for waders.

A spot of urban birding was called for next as we scoured Abington Park for Mistle Thrush (but failed) but did encounter Ring-necked Parakeet; Nuthatch and Jay were now seen by all the team!
By this time we still hadn't recorded a Green Woodpecker and our wader list was to stick stubbornly on only seven species for the duration.

It was mid-afternoon before we finally tipped up at Pitsford Reservoir and added Great Black-backed Gull to the proceedings as well as a measly three Tree Sparrows at the main feed station. A visit to the reserve's Christies Copse secured Marsh Tit and finally Green Woodpecker but a single Willow Tit was not seen/heard by the whole team and couldn't be included!

Next was Harrington Airfield and a bit of a hike claimed a pair of gorgeous Turtle Doves and three pairs of Grey Partridge. It seemed that the Wheatear from the morning had departed. A local Raven was the next bird to be added and then it was off to Stanford Reservoir where the very low water levels this spring have provided a series of excellent sightings including many waders. Not this time though! However some careful scanning was good in securing Pochard and Common Gull to the stuttering day list. A distant second year gull might have been a Yellow-legged but remained unconfirmed.

A quick scan at Hollowell Reservoir also failed to find any migrant waders and there was no sign of the White-fronted Goose which had been there the day before. A hunting Barn Owl was near Creaton as we progressed towards our last venue - the dam at Pitsford Reservoir. Scanning the Moulton Grange spit suggested no waders there and the large Common Tern flock just didn't contain any Arctic or Black Terns. Very much the last bit of scanning paid off though when we pick out a distant and very unexpected drake Long-tailed Duck, in all probability our best bird of the day!

Collectively we saw or heard 112 species of 'countable' birds. We also came across feral pigeon, Black Swan and Peacock! Our list included seven species of raptor and ten species of warbler but we didn't locate Corn Bunting, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodcock, Snipe or Curlew. Redshanks were only seen at one site and Lapwings at two. Other observers on the day in the county saw Redstart and Marsh Harrier. With more luck it should have been possible to see many more species of wader, a couple more tern species which have provided a strong passage this spring and other sporadic birds such as Garganey and Little Gull. Long-staying individuals of Whooper Swan, White-fronted Goose and Scaup were notably absent on the day in question!

A very big thank-you to the many birders out there who made contact during the day and provided us with information beforehand to help us in our endeavors.

Today (Sunday) and Pitsford was busy with birds again with a mixture of observers seeing a Curlew, a Whimbrel, a Little Stint, a Dunlin, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, two or three Black Terns, a Hobby, a pair of Mandarin Ducks and the Long-tailed Duck (still present this evening)...


Neil M

Friday, 12 May 2017

County Bird Race


A visit to the dam area of Pitsford Reservoir in the rain this morning suggested there was little that was new. Three Oystercatchers were in the grounds of the Sailing Club and the Moulton Grange spit attracted a Common Sandpiper, six Ringed Plovers and two Little Ringed Plovers.

A wander around Harrington Airfield late morning procured a Wheatear, three pairs of Grey Partridge and the very welcome sight and sound of a 'purring' Turtle Dove!

Tomorrow (Saturday) will be taken up completing a 24 hour bird race whereby four locally-based observers will endeavour to record as many bird species within the county boundary of Northamptonshire as is possible from Midnight to Midnight. So by Midnight tonight Phil Horsnail, Jacob Spinks, Bob Bullock and I hope to be at our first site trying to see or more likely hear the first possible bird species!

Having done this before a few times, I know how weary we will have become by early afternoon so hope to co-opt a safe driver (Helen Franklin) to prolong our effort (and agony) until we feel we cannot see or hear any more! May is the traditional month to try to find the maximum number of species albeit that the seasons seem to be becoming earlier.

There are always some relatively common species that prove to be difficult on the day, and of course our visiting waders and terns can be fleeting, but we aim to visit most of the prime spots in the county to record our feathery friends! However if you think you can assist by putting us on to a bird you know about or that you find during the day we would very much like to hear from you! If you are able please text me on 07905 596427...

Although it is a bit of fun, the serious side of this effort is that some familiar birds have become much scarcer in recent years and are often tricky to find. Some of course have increased and this day will highlight these variations.


Neil McMahon
07905 596427

Hobby at Summer
Leys. courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Osprey at Pitsford Reservoir,
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

We hope to see Hobby tomorrow but can
we see one of the wandering Rutland Water
project Ospreys?