Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Migrant finches


This morning there was a pair of Stonechat and a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and birds around the village included a pair of Raven, 8 Siskins and 3 Bramblings. Another Brambling visited Diane Freeman's garden at Rectory Farm, Old.

A visit to Harrington Airfield this afternoon succeeded in locating two Hawfinches feeding on berries by the second bunker but they may have flown on. Other migrant finches were made up of 4 Bramblings, 10 plus Siskins and 2 'Redpolls'.

A ringing recovery received today relates to a juvenile Grey Wagtail initially ringed by Lynne Barnett at Brixworth Treatment Works on 23rd July 2017. This bird, assumed to have been hatched locally, was caught again by members of the South Manchester Ringing Group at Knutsford Moor, Cheshire on 7th September 2017, 46 days later with the bird having travelled 145km in a north-westerly direction!


Neil M



Grey Wagtail.

Monday, 30 October 2017

A Cool Monday!


Yesterday (Sunday) and Eric and Debbie Graham saw 3-4 Great White Egrets on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston and good numbers of Little Egrets plus five 'Redpolls'.

Today and Kenny Cramer marshaled an extra ringing session at Linford Lakes resulting in the capture of 118 birds of which 70 were new of 11 species. Tits dominated with 54 Blues, 29 Greats and 2 Coals. Other birds were made up of 5 Goldcrests, 6 Redwings, a Song Thrush, a Wren, 6 Robins, 2 Dunnocks, 7 Goldfinches and 5 Chaffinches.

Jacob, fresh back from a week at Spurn, slung up a few nets at Pitsford Reservoir today catching 18 birds which included a couple of Tree Sparrows. However a Snow Bunting flew over in a northerly direction easily making it Jacob's best viewing of the day! His birding activities provided an excellent cast of birds made up of a Caspian Gull, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 Great White Egrets, 2 Whooper Swans, 18 Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit, at least 2 Golden Plovers, 2 Redshanks, 2 Ruff, 2 Green Sandpipers, 7 Dunlin, 4 Snipe, 2 Ravens, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Bramblings. One of the Little Egrets was bearing rings indicative of Spanish origin.

A quick walk at Harrington Airfield first thing this morning provided a flock of 19 Golden Plovers and 3 Grey Partridges. Good numbers of Starlings and Woodpigeons were passing over but other migrants seemed to be in relatively small numbers and were made up of Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds, finches and Meadow Pipits.


Neil M


Meadow Pipit.


All pictures courtesy
of Robin Gossage and some
lovely sunny, autumnal weather!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting


The next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club will be this coming Wednesday evening starting at 7.30pm at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir. We are trying something a little different and committee member Robin Gossage has invited members to provide a snapshot of digital images of their choice. So on Wednesday the first three presenters will be Bob Bullock, Dave Jackson and myself, each spending about 25 minutes with a selection of photographs and offering a personal view on their images and linked experiences.

As always there will be hot drinks and biscuits available and the meeting is open to all!


Neil M

Glossy Ibis.


Pitsford WeBS count


Yesterday evening's gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir was mostly a disturbed affair with lots of sailing craft displacing birds, but two adult Caspian Gulls eventually showed well.

Today started well this morning with a trilling Waxwing flying south along the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, followed shortly afterwards by a Hawfinch. The third good bird was a Ring Ouzel in hedging with a migrant flock of Fieldfares and Redwings and birds moving through the valley included many finches including at least 12 Bramblings.

However a strong breeze soon picked up and by the time we started the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir much of the early morning migration had already ceased. Three Great White Egrets were still present but there was no sign of any Whooper Swans. The Little Egret total was about 28 birds with 17 together in the Moulton Grange Bay and waders were well represented with two Ruff, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Redshanks, a Dunlin, three Green Sandpipers, a Snipe and a Jack Snipe. Wildfowl included a Black Swan, 27 Pintail, 9 Goldeneye and a drake Mandarin Duck. Passerines were not inspiring and were made up of singles of Redpoll, Siskin, a Grey Wagtail and three Stonechats. Two Yellow-legged Gulls are currently part of the scenery!


Neil M

Little Egret.

Yellow-legged Gull.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Yet more Hawfinches!


The unprecedented Hawfinch invasion continues apace and today it seemed that Northamptonshire was very much the place to be if you wanted to see one, albeit that most of them were flying over in a south or south-west direction.

The first one flew low over our garden at Hanging Houghton calling loudly at 7.50am and whilst I was pottering around the house and garden at least another seven passed over before I left home at 8.30am! Other migrants included a 'Redpoll' and at least three Bramblings passing over as well as plenty of more common finches and with 15 Tree Sparrows just outside the village.

Eleanor was over at Staverton this morning and saw at least four singleton Hawfinches flying over in a south-westerly direction plus small numbers of Bramblings, Siskins and Redpolls going over in the same direction. The usual two Ravens were present too and plenty of Starlings flew over going south.

Eleanor paid Borough Hill Country Park a visit this afternoon and found at least six Hawfinches in bushes at the golf course before they flew off high. Other birds included a male Peregrine hunting Starlings, a pair of Stonechat and both Brambling and Redpoll flying over. Ravensthorpe Reservoir attracted a Great White Egret and three Green Sandpipers.

Pitsford Reservoir this morning north of the causeway provided views of a Great White Egret, two Ruff, a Black-tailed Godwit, six Pintail, two Goldeneye, a Black Swan, three Shelduck, a Raven, a Siskin and a pair of Stonechat plus flocks of Redwings, Starlings and Woodpigeons moving over south-west.

Kenny, Sarah, Richard and Gill committed to some ringing at Linford Lakes today and caught about 59 birds of 14 species which included 13 Redwings, 3 Song Thrushes, 2 Blackbirds, 5 'Redpolls', 2 Bullfinches, 7 Goldcrests, 2 Treecreepers, 3 Wrens, a Robin, 2 Dunnocks, a Great Tit, 12 Blue Tits, 5 Long-tailed Tits and a Kingfisher. Other wildlife noted included 2 Great Crested Newts, a Common Newt, a Common Toad, a Common Shrew and 2 Muntjacs.


Neil M


Lesser Redpoll.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Birds from the north


A beautiful day locally with some stunning sunshine and very low wind speeds. A walk at Harrington Airfield this morning produced singles of Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling and there were relatively small numbers of Redwings and immigrant Blackbirds in the bushes. Overhead, passage birds were made up of the usual species such as Woodpigeon and Starling but also joined by some small flocks of Lapwing, perhaps displaced by colder weather filtering into northern Europe.

Birds on the ground included three Grey Partridges, eighty plus Golden Plovers in two flocks and plenty of Skylarks and Yellowhammers. A Nuthatch and a Brambling were the best birds around the garden at Hanging Houghton this morning. Two Yellow-legged Gulls were present off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir early this afternoon and Brixworth Treatment Works attracted a Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff.

Late this afternoon birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton included a pair of Stonechat, a couple of Golden Plover, 30 Skylarks and a Brambling. A flock of approximately two hundred high-flying Fieldfares plummeted down to roost in bushes just before dusk.


Neil M




Thursday, 26 October 2017

October offerings


Just back from a week's tour on the fabulous Scottish islands of Islay and Jura where as a group we managed to find plenty of otters, deer, eagles and of course lots of geese!

During the last week Eleanor has seen two different migrant Ring Ouzels at Harrington Airfield and yesterday (Wednesday) saw a Merlin and two Bramblings there.

This afternoon (Thursday) and David Sharp enjoyed watching a Black Redstart in Orlingbury village on his neighbour's building and managed a distant shot of this still very scarce visitor to Northants.

Eleanor and I completed a late WeBS count at Ditchford Gravel Pits today in very mild, grey conditions. Not much to report with most of the migrating passerines flying over very high up and often barely audible or visible. Birds on and around the water included two Egyptian Geese, a Goldeneye, six Water Rails, plenty of Cetti's Warblers and Chiffchaffs and Kingfishers, a Green Sandpiper, three Stonechats and three redpoll sp.

Some of our local ringers were active today in perfect conditions for mist-netting. Efforts at Pitsford Reservoir ensured that 80 birds of 20 species were assessed, the highlight being two new Stonechats. Other birds were made up of 20 Blue Tits, 13 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, 6 Tree Sparrows, 6 Dunnocks, 5 Wrens, 5 Robins, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Meadow Pipits, a Redwing, a Song Thrush, a Blackbird, 2 Goldfinches, 5 Chaffinches, a Reed Bunting and 3 Yellowhammers.

Chris Payne and John Woollett committed to some ringing at Bradden where common tits proved to be the mainstay of 77 birds caught (38 Blue Tits and 27 Great Tits), and other birds included Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch and Chaffinch. Ravens were noted in the immediate area.

Chris went on to ring in his garden at Greens Norton for a couple of hours in the afternoon and added another 42 captures made up of 14 Goldfinches, 18 Blue Tits, 4 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Great Tits, a Coal Tit and a House Sparrow.


Neil M

Black Redstart at
Orlingbury today
courtesy of David Sharp.

Stonechat at Hollowell
Reservoir courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Common Buzzard.

Little Grebes.

Above images of the Common
Buzzard and Little Grebes taken
by Steve Bennison at Brixworth CP/
Pitsford Reservoir.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday's birds

My birding today was restricted to when I was out and about with the dogs or trying to tidy the garden !
This afternoon at Harrington Airfield there were plenty of birds about. There was quite a noticable presence of winter thrushes, a very scaly Ring Ouzel and 5 Fieldfare together in the bushes around the second bunker and plenty of Redwings dotted around in the bushes.  Also there were more Blackbirds and Song Thrushes about today.
There was definitely a movement of finches etc this afternoon with Hawfinch, 2 Brambling, 4 Redpoll, 4 Crossbill and 10+ Siskin flying over.
Other birds included 100+ Golden Plover, 5 Grey Partridge ,2 Grey Wagtail and a female Merlin.

My "gardening" birds included 3 Ravens, Brambling, Siskin and Blackcap.
At dusk as I walked the dogs around Blueberry area we flushed a Short Eared Owl and 2 Woodcock.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 19 October 2017

More Hawfinches !!

Another misty dull day but the birds made up for this.
At Brixworth Country Park, where I was supposed to be training my young pup I was somewhat distracted by the presence of 4 Hawfinches feeding on berries where the birdwatching hide/feeders used to be.  Amazing sight and they were not too bothered by people walking close by.   Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll were also present as well as good numbers of Redwing also feeding in the bushes.
There was at least one Hawfinch flying around Hanging Houghton and perched on top of a conifer close to our house.

Meanwhile Jacob was birding at Pitsford Reservoir where there were 3 Whooper Swans, adult Mediterranean Gull, a Caspian Gull and 3 Yellow Legged Gulls.
Pitsford still looks excellent with low water levels and plenty of muddy margins, but at this time of year and with these weather conditions birds can and do turn up absolutely anywhere.  
So keep your ears and eyes wide open !!!
Of interest a rare Dusky Warbler was trapped and ringed at Stanford Reservoir this morning. I would loved to have seen the look of shock on the ringers faces when they realised what they had caught.  Sadly for us the bird was seen on the Leicestershire side of this reservoir.........so close !!

Regards Eleanor 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Migration in dull, grey conditions!


A revisit to Harrington Airfield this morning in dim, drizzly conditions with light rain wasn't ideal, and although there was evidence of visible migration overhead it was nothing like yesterday. Small numbers of Woodpigeons, Redwings and Starlings were swirling around with singles of Siskin and Redpoll too. The Golden Plover flock had risen to 120 and there were small flocks of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moving around.

The Grey Wagtail maintained its presence in our garden today and a pair of Stonechat were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

A brief visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon yielded a Water Pipit in the vicinity of the causeway and Maytrees Hide, some of the time in company with flighty Meadow Pipits. Other birds visible from the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station included a Whooper Swan, three Great White Egrets, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull.


Neil M

Water Pipit.
This bird is in summer plumage,
the bird at Pitsford today was in
the more typical winter plumage.

Adult Mediterranean Gull.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

More websites


Some websites worthy of your attention and managed by local wildlife enthusiasts are as follows:-

1. Jacob Spinks


2. Pete Gilbert


3. Neil Hasdell



Neil M

Lapland Bunting.

Hawfinches and more...


This morning Jacob witnessed a Hawfinch flying low south over his house in the village of Scaldwell.

A little later and Harrington Airfield was buzzing with birds, the highlights being three Hawfinches in hawthorn bushes by the second bunker, a male Ring Ouzel by the shooting wall, at least one Brambling, four 'Redpolls', 2-3 Siskins, 2 Chiffchaffs, 70 Golden Plovers and 5 Grey Partridges. Redwings and Starlings were passing over constantly together with smaller numbers of Skylarks.

Our small garden at Hanging Houghton attracted a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail.

The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon provided views of a Peregrine, 6 Grey Partridges, 2 Bramblings and 10 Tree Sparrows, and Redwings were still on the move!


Neil M

A Wheatear at Hollowell
Reservoir today...
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Hawfinch. The last week or
so has seen an invasion of this
normally scarce and localised
species to the UK...

Monday, 16 October 2017

Migration studies


John Gamble visited the RSPB reserve of Minsmere (Suffolk) on Saturday and his images of the day follow the narrative of this blog.

Yesterday (Sunday) and an avid band of ringers spent some time working at Stortons Gravel Pits on the outskirts of Northampton where they managed to catch and process 102 birds of which 76 were new. The hoped-for Redwings and Goldcrests didn't materialise but 17 different species was a nice selection as follows - 5 Wrens, a Treecreeper, 12 Long-tailed Tits, a Chiffchaff, 31 Blue Tits, 19 Great Tits, a Bullfinch, 6 Chaffinches, 5 Reed Buntings, a Cetti's Warbler, a Robin, 13 Greenfinches, a Blackbird, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Dunnock, a Song Thrush and a Magpie.

Today (Monday) saw Jacob completing a visible migration ('vismig') session at Pitsford Reservoir whereby he attempted to collate the numbers of birds moving into or over the site (with assistance from other observers), mostly apparently on migration heading in a south westerly direction between 7.35am and 12noon:-

2 Greenshank, 25 Woodpigeons, 69 Skylarks, 1 Swallow, 923 Starlings, 316 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, a Grey Wagtail, 3 'alba' wagtails, 28 Meadow Pipits, 50 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, 5 finch sp, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Linnets, 8 'Redpolls', 13 Goldfinches, 9 Siskins and 2 Reed Buntings.

Just shows what you can find sometimes by looking up and concentrating on the distant horizon!


Neil M



Little Stint.

Bearded Tits.

All images courtesy
of John Gamble.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cornish valleys


This morning was spent on the coastal cove of Porthgwarra, with low cloud and mist and occasional sunshine and with a fair number of migrants flying around. Even before we arrived we had notched up four roadside Firecrests and there appeared to be at least another seven Firecrests in the bushes in the valley together with good numbers of Goldcrests, a few Chiffchaffs and at least one elusive Yellow-browed Warbler. Other visible migrants included Siskin, Redpoll, Skylark, wagtails and pipits - and a Merlin and a couple of Peregrines were there to try and intercept them.

A couple of Red Deer were unexpected but a flock of five Chough were not.

This afternoon, and with the weather conditions deteriorating, we tried Kenidjack Valley and straight away found a Hawfinch, which then became two and then three! The drizzly, grey conditions prevented any realistic photo opportunities I'm afraid. Other birds included another Firecrest, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a flock of nine Choughs...


Neil M

Sparrowhawk. A first
year male photographed
yesterday on St Mary's.

Wolf Rock lighthouse,
4 miles south west of
Cornwall. A dangerous
place to be tomorrow
according to the weather

Not a good image of a
Peregrine as it flew over
carrying prey in grey conditions
 - the bird in its talons appears to
 be a Pied/White Wagtail.

Firecrest. They seem to be
everywhere down here at
the moment!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Scillies from the west


Three weeks on the Isles of Scilly comes to an end, and it has been another tremendous period of birding, walking, boating, mixed weather and yet another quite different season to any other. Last autumn saw a huge eastern influence on the isles with large numbers of Robins, Jack Snipes, Yellow-browed Warblers and plenty of vagrants from eastern Asia. Quite different this year with very much a western influence which included American land birds such as Cliff Swallow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing and Red-eyed Vireo and also a sustained influx of Goldcrests and a small invasion of Hawfinches!


Neil M

Mediterranean Gull.




Thursday, 12 October 2017

Common birds of The Scillies


The common birds on the Isles of Scilly are still common! There are good numbers of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins and often they are tamer than birds on the mainland and often provide easier photographic opportunities...


Neil M

Robin, still singing
and territorial even at
this time of year.

Once a common garden bird
throughout the UK, the Song Thrush
is now scarce across much of it's
range, but is still in good numbers
on the Isles of Scilly.

Rock Pipit, a common bird
on the rocky coastline of the Isles.

White Wagtail. The continental White
Wagtail probably outnumbers the 'British'
Pied Wagtail four to one on the Scillies at
this time of the year.

Common Snipe. A large influx of these
birds to the Isles today with birds flying
overhead and being flushed up from a variety
of vegetation.

Small Copper butterfly.
Even in October there are plenty
of common butterflies on the wing
down here...

Spotted Crake and not a common bird
anywhere in the UK! This confiding
bird comes quite close but is in deep
vegetation and awful light so my
apologies for the image quality.