Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Deep winter birds


Cool and breezy today with an occasional wintery shower and a fabulous orange super moon rose very slowly over the horizon late this afternoon...

This morning Eleanor ran twice around Sywell Country Park with Tor the hound and noted a few birds of interest - the female Scaup, a Water Rail, two Grey Wagtails, a pair of Stonechat and about thirty Siskins.

I paid Christies Copse at Pitsford Reservoir a visit today to add some more foodstuffs for the active feeding station there. In addition to common birds, four Woodcock flushed up from the scrubby vegetation. A Barn Owl was again hunting in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.

Dave Francis has committed to some garden ringing on the north-east outskirts of Northampton during January with plenty of Goldfinches and also three Siskins, a couple of Nuthatches and more common birds. Chris Payne likewise has been conducting some bird ringing in South Northants at his sites at Bradden and Greens Norton. Goldfinches have dominated here too but he has been experiencing an influx of Redpolls to both feeding stations too...


Neil M

The stunning Starling, first
ringed in August 2016 and
re-captured by Chris this month.

Another re-trap for Chris from 2016, a male

Lesser Redpolls caught and ringed by
Chris Payne.

All images courtesy of Chris.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Hawfinches galore !!

The weather forecast predicted a glorious winter day with sunshine, blue skies and gentle breeze and for me that was a "green " light to head north and visit some of my favourite haunts.
As dawn broke there was a dramatic red sky which was quite eerie at times.  First stop was a frosty East Carlton Country Park . A walk around the park produced 10 Siskin, 2 Lesser Redpoll, several Marsh Tit and Nuthatch.  During my walk I had seen 2 Hawfinches in flight heading towards the big house so I spent some time loitering around this area. I could hear Hawfinches calling and managed to track down 6 birds which showed well. At one point they were feeding on the ground alongside some Redwings near to the car park.
I took a slow drive along the Welland Valley to Wakerley .The drive took longer than anticipated because as I drove through the village of Gretton I saw the distinctive silhouette of 2 Waxwings perched on top of a bush opposite the church. As I watched them they gave their lovely trilling call before flying further into the village. I continued driving but stopped again at Harringworth Viaduct because there was a large area of flood water which was full of birds, mainly Wigeon, Lapwing and approx 200 Golden Plover. Scanning the birds revealed a Shelduck and an Egyptian Goose.
I eventually arrived at Wakerley Great Wood where a good walk round produced very little. In fact it really was a case of " the silence was deafening". Quite bizarre, not a single bird could be seen or heard !!.  The highlight of my walk was a group of 12 Bullfinches sitting together which looked like jewels shining in the bushes.  
One place which always seems to attract good numbers of birds is nearby Blatherwycke Lake and today was no exception. The lake itself and nearby fields were very "busy" with birds.  There were at least 28 Mandarin Duck present with some of the males showing off their colourful plumage to the females they were trying to impress.  There were also 4 Shelduck in this area of the lake. 
I have discovered that if you walk the short distance to the churchyard you get a different view of the lake and from this vantage point I saw a Black Swan, 2 Little Egret, 2 Goldeneye, Water Rail and 2 Grey Wagtail.    The churchyard itself attracts good numbers of birds and along with Coal Tits, Great Tits etc there were 2 Hawfinches. These two birds were initially sitting in a Yew Tree before dropping to the ground and feeding .
I can highly recommend the Skylark Cafe at Fermyn Wood Country Park, especially the home made soup and cakes, which I treated myself to before heading off for a good walk.  I noticed that they have a camera monitoring the bird table and the pictures can be viewed from the comfort of the cafe on a TV screen.  Whilst I enjoyed my lunch I watched the antics of the Robin, Chaffinches and Blue Tits which visited the bird table. Worth keeping an eye on as you never know what might appear.
Whilst walking from the car park towards the wood I checked the bushes and noted that there were quite a few Redwing and Fieldfare about and I saw 2 Hawfinch perched on the top of a bush.  As I walked closer I could hear at least a couple more calling. Unfortunately for me a party of school children were rapidly approaching and as they drew level with the bushes at least 6+ Hawfinches flew out and headed towards the wood.
As I walked through Lady's Wood I noted that there was a great deal of forestry work that had been done and was still being done. This is an area which is very good for Purple Emperor, White Admiral and Hairstreak butterflies so it will be interesting to see whether this work will have an impact on these.
The only other birds of note seen during my walk were 4 Ravens and a few Siskins.
It certainly was a lovely day to be out and about and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so. Throughout the day I was accompanied by Red Kites wherever I went and their evocative calls filled the air.  But it wasn't just the birds who were the stars, it was also a stunning male fox, a couple of hares racing around after each other, both fallow and roe deer watching me from the depths of the wood, the stunning carpet of snowdrops at Blatherwycke and finally as I drove home I saw some very young lambs standing with their mother enjoying the last of the day's sunshine.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Sunday's birds


Eric Graham was at Thrapston Gravel Pits this morning and watched a Peregrine making some half-hearted passes at ducks there. He also saw 7 Siskins and a Great White Egret was reported on Aldwincle Lake.

Eleanor's late morning visit to Cottesbrooke today provided nice views of six Hawfinches in trees between the church and the bus stop on Station Road. There was a Grey Wagtail at Brixworth water treatment works and Jacob saw Pintail, Redshank and Redpoll at Pitsford Reservoir today (Slavonian Grebe, Merlin and Hen Harrier all reported there today by other observers).

I spent much of the morning maintaining feed stations in very spring-like weather and apart from flocks of Redwings at Sunderland Wood and Kelmarsh Hall I didn't see a great deal. A hunting Barn Owl was again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.

Kenny Cramer led a modest ringing session at Milton Keynes Community Orchard this morning catching eleven new birds which included a Goldcrest, a Coal Tit, a Blackbird and a Woodpigeon.


Neil M

Woodpigeon courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

From Africa to Abington...


Back in yesterday evening from a two week trip to Uganda which was pretty special!

Today was certainly much cooler than I have been used to! A walk up at Harrington Airfield this morning was really all about keeping the birds fed in four distinct places as I paraded around with my bright yellow bucket of mixed seed! A single Raven flying over was about the only bird of note.

Early this afternoon I paid Abington Park in Northampton a visit with the primary objective of playing football and trying to wear out the 8 month collie puppy Jaeger...I think it was me that was worn out! Birds in the park included a group of typically noisy Ring-necked Parakeets with six together in plane trees not far from the boating lake. Three Goosanders were showing nicely in the upper-most and larger lake...


Neil M


Ring-necked Parakeet.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

 Yesterday I saw the Slavonian Grebe just beyond yacht bay at Pitsford and infact it was in the same place today. It does seem to be loyal to that area.
A Barn Owl has again been hunting the field margins below Hanging Houghton. I seem to bump into him/her each morning and evening. This morning he/she was so intent on hunting and successfully catching its prey that I was within touching distance of it. Quite a special moment and even my 4 legged helpers were captivated too.
I visited Harrington this afternoon and initially it seemed very quiet. It wasn't until I had reached the 3rd bunker and with a little help from my 4 legged companions  that I saw any birds of note and within the space of five minutes I saw a Short Eared Owl, 2 Woodcock and 6 Grey Partridge.
I made a brief visit to Cottesbrooke where at least 4 Hawfinches were perched up and looking quite splendid in the winter sunshine.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 20 January 2018

A quiet week !!

It has been a very quiet week.  However I did manage to catch up with the Scaup at Sywell Reservoir and today with the Slavonian Grebe in front of the sailing club at Pitsford.
I have visited Cottesbrooke village every day with varying degrees of success with the Hawfinches. Yesterday [Friday] I saw 8 birds showing well, but earlier in the week I only saw 1 or 2 birds.  Sometimes I could hear others calling as they were feeding out of sight.
A Barn Owl has been hunting the field margins again below Hanging Houghton and this evening there were 2 birds.
Harrington has been bleak and devoid of birds.
The garden has been busy with birds which is ironic as we have taken the feeders down and are giving the garden a break. A decision we made in response to the presence of sick and dying finches as they succumbed to Trichomoniasis. A horrible disease for them which is easily transmitted from bird to bird as they use the feeders or in close proximity to each other on the ground.
Hopefully the weather will remain mild so that the birds are not heavily reliant on the garden feeders to survive.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The only birds of note for me today was a Barn Owl again hunting below Hanging Houghton and at least 12 Hawfinches showing well in Cottesbrooke village this morning.  

Meanwhile Kenny Cramer sent a very interesting account of his ringing session at Milton Keynes Community Orchard.  He writes "not knowing what to expect, I had assumed the mild conditions and absence of any substantial thrush flocks would result in a meagre catch.  It turns out I was very wrong.......we caught 85 birds [all new] of 10 species and one very big {literally}surprise.
Several tit flocks through the morning made up the bulk of the numbers with 34 Blue Tit, 13 Long Tailed Tit, 9 Great Tit, and 1 Coal Tit. On the thrush front we caught a decent 13 Blackbird and 5 Redwing. Completing the passerine catch were 5 Robins, 3 Goldcrest and a Chaffinch.
The big surprise of the day came when I spotted a Common Buzzard flying away through the orchard close to the ground....and straight towards one of our net runs.  I made a run for it and emerged from the dense tree line to find it in the bottom corner of the net.   Iris colour, tail pattern and retained juvenille coverts identified it as a first winter bird. Sex was indeterminate due to the large overlap in size between the sexes although wing length and weight were both at top end of male "

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 13 January 2018

My "regular" Saturday Birds

Whilst at agility training this morning at Staverton there were at least 4 Ravens flying around or sitting perched on the top of the conifers . They were very vocal and probably having a good laugh at our antics.
On the way home I stopped off at Ravensthorpe and saw the Whooper Swan and 1 Great White Egret.
By the time I reached Cottesbrooke village the light was fading but there were at least 4 Hawfinch still present.
My final bird of the day was a Barn Owl hunting the field edges below Hanging Houghton.

Regards Eleanor

The Algarve, Portugal 2


A few more images from The Algarve at Christmas...!


Neil M



Yellow-legged Gulls, an
assortment of ages and plumages!

Thekla Lark.

Crag Martin.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Algarve, Portugal


I was fortunate to spend a week over the Christmas period touring The Algarve in Portugal. The weather and light quality is a far cry from the very dull and dank conditions we seem to be suffering from here at the moment.

Below are a few images from the trip...


Neil M




Friars Cowl.

Black-winged Stilt.

Little Egret.

Drake Pintail.

Red-crested Pochard.

Glossy Ibis.

Cattle Egret.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Recent ringing recoveries...


Rain in the morning, lovely sunshine in the afternoon and fog by evening, such is the diversity of British weather!

Today a Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and Eleanor noted a Water Rail, a Cetti's Warbler, a Little Egret, a pair of Stonechats, a flock of fifty Siskins and a few Redpolls at Sywell Country Park. A Water Rail was heard calling at Hardingstone Gravel Pits and a single Siskin was the only noteworthy bird at Delapre Park this afternoon.

A few ringing recoveries of locally-ringed birds are as follows:-

ANA0524 was a ring placed on a Goldfinch by Chris Payne at Greens Norton on 9th October 2017. This bird was caught and released by another ringer operating down in Chilworth, Surrey on 9th December 2017, this being 61 days later, 109 km away in a SSE direction;

ATB6162 was placed on a young male Siskin by Chris Payne at Bradden on 5th December 2017. Sadly this bird hit a window pane and died in Towcester on or about 19th December 2017, only about 4km from where first ringed;

RZ54506 was a ring placed on a young Redwing at Harrington Airfield on 3rd November 2017, one of quite a number ringed at this site during the autumn. This bird was taken by a cat at Milverton, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire on 14th December 2017 - 41 days later, 50km away from where initially ringed in a WSW direction.


Neil M

Image courtesy of
Chris Payne.



Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Back from the Brink project


A message from Susannah O'Riordan...

I’m one of the Project Officers working on Back from the Brink, an initiative supported by The National Lottery which has 19 projects across the country working towards saving a number of rare and threatened species.  I’m based in Rockingham Forest, leading the ‘Roots of Rockingham’ project which is focused on improving woodland habitats in Rockingham for 15 priority and 11 secondary target species including birds, plants, moths, butterflies, bats and reptiles.  5 of our 15 priority species are birds, namely Willow Tit, Marsh Tit, Lesser Redpoll, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Spotted Flycatcher.  You can find out more about the project here

To gain a better idea of the distribution of the target species and to monitor the impact of habitat management work being carried out, we are aiming to survey as many of the target woodlands as possible and are looking for willing volunteers who’d like to get involved in this work.  We’ve got a couple of training workshops coming up soon that will inform people about the target species and how we are going to survey for them, and allow people to sign up to help. These are being led by one of our project partners, the RSPB. I’ve attached information on these workshops to this email and they can also be found on our website

If there are people that would like to get involved in the bird surveying but can’t attend either of the workshops, they can contact me directly as we could still use their help.  

If you’d like any further info, please let me know

Thank you

Best wishes
Susannah O’Riordan 

Rockingham Forest Project Officer - Back from the Brink

Tel 01780 444067 Mobile 07483 039324 (limited reception)

Based at: Forestry Commission Office, Top Lodge, Fineshade, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 3BB

Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP
Company limited by guarantee, registered in England (2206468). Charity registered in England and Wales (254937) and in Scotland (SCO39268).

Back from the Brink – Inspiring collaboration to save England's most threatened species

Back From the Brink
Heritage Lottery Fund
Butterfly Conservation

Monday, 8 January 2018

Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count


The monthly WeBS count was completed at Pitsford Reservoir today in quite raw conditions. An increase in the water level on the reserve means that seeds and other food is now available to surface feeding ducks dabbling in the margins with plenty of Wigeon and Teal in particular taking advantage.

A single Great White Egret was seen in flight and other birds north of the causeway included a Shelduck, a pair of Pintail, a Redshank, eleven Snipe, a male Peregrine, two Caspian Gulls (third year and fourth year), two Ravens and two Stonechats.

Jacob visited Cottesbrooke today but didn't see any Hawfinches, just a couple of Ravens. He went on to see a Great White Egret and the juvenile Whooper Swan at Ravensthorpe Reservoir. A single Barn Owl was present in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.


Neil M

Drake Eurasian Wigeon.

Drake Teal.

Images courtesy
of John Tilly.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

SP55 Short Day Count


A small team committed to complete a BOS Short Day count in SP55 today, spending the first couple of hours at Fawsley Park. Birds noted here included a Barn Owl, a Little Owl, two Ravens, four Mandarin Ducks, a couple of Water Rails, a Jack Snipe, a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail, 1-2 Brambling(s) and 40 plus Siskins. A Cetti's Warbler is likely to be a new species for this site and possibly this 10km square...

Plenty of Ravens were seen in the Catesby and Byfield areas and we encountered a fine adult male Peregrine and 1-2 Brambling(s) nearby.

Eric and Debbie Graham located a Great White Egret on the Aldwincle Lake at Thrapston Gravel Pits and at least ten Hawfinches were on show at Cottesbrooke including a group of six near the telephone box at the Haselbech-end of the village. Haselbech Grange was good for a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Siskins, a Short-eared Owl was at Harrington Airfield between the first and second bunkers and the two Barn Owls were still in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.


Neil M


Fawsley church.

Fawsley Park looking
towards Badby Woods.

The mud is rather deep
at Fawsley Park near to
the lakes...
Jacob's wellingtons
are still there!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

SP54 Short Day Count.


Early this morning saw at least one hunting Barn Owl between Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton and Eleanor's regular visit to Staverton provided views of a pair of very vocal Ravens.

Today four of us completed the Banbury Ornithological Society Short Day Count in the 10km square of SP54 in the south west of the county. Half the day was spent walking around the Edgcote and Trafford Bridge area which includes the upper reaches of the River Cherwell. Three Hawfinches were seen briefly and other birds included a Brambling, 2-3 Redpolls, 3 or more Siskins, a Kingfisher, 1-2 Woodcock, six Ravens, a Chiffchaff and a couple of Grey Wagtails.

This area of the county still has relatively few Red Kites but today there were at least half a dozen birds around Edgcote and we saw them elsewhere in the square too.

Four Grey Partridges were located between Sulgrave and Thorpe Mandeville where there was also a flock of about 150 Linnets. A female Merlin accelerated past us over fields between Chacombe and Thenford, the exact same place where we saw one last year!

At Thenford itself we couldn't locate any Hawfinches sadly but bumped in to a Peregrine, at least two Ravens and a flock of forty Greenfinches, a big flock by modern-day standards. Nearby there was another pair of on-territory Ravens at Marston St Lawrence and a flock of forty Greenfinches were presumably the same ones from Thenford?

This afternoon Eleanor watched an Otter at Ravensthorpe Reservoir showing well from the causeway on the 'small side' plus two Great White Egrets, the juvenile Whooper Swan and two Green Sandpipers. Four Hawfinches were showing well in trees opposite the playing field at Cottesbrooke at 3.45pm this afternoon and the two Barn Owls had found each other in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon.


Neil M


Red Kite.


Friday, 5 January 2018

Birds of early January


Yesterday evening (Thursday) a Barn Owl flew over the A428 near Harlestone village and this afternoon (Friday) a Barn Owl was showing in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton (different bird to the usual individual).

Jacob was out and about today and visited Hollowell Reservoir and located a Caspian Gull, a Great White Egret and at least one Stonechat. Later in the day at Pitsford Reservoir he spotted a Great Northern Diver (presumed bird from Hollowell) and at dusk saw an unidentified 'rare' grebe in the Yacht Bay (Slavonian or Black-necked).

Several observers visited Cottesbrooke village again today and up to five Hawfinches were visible, at times in cherry trees near to the playing field.


Neil M

Hawfinches at Cottesbrooke
courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Barn Owl.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Storm Eleanor!


A visit to Harrington Airfield yesterday (Wednesday) was sufficient to see five Grey Partridges and fifty Golden Plovers but nothing else of note. Jacob saw a Shelduck and a Stonechat at Pitsford Reservoir.

Storm Eleanor has made birding conditions rather difficult and this morning's forays on the Kelmarsh Estate provided a couple of Siskins but little else. A Woodcock flushed up at Sunderland Wood this afternoon.

A visit to Cottesbrooke this afternoon provided brief views of the Hawfinches, the maximum number visible at any one time being just three birds. Local information suggests that the main flock is currently deeper on the private area of the estate and not viewable from any public areas.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon yielded a first year Mediterranean Gull and an adult Caspian Gull.


Neil M

Blue Tit.

Song Thrush.



Whooper Swan.

Great White Egret.


All images courtesy of
Cathy Ryden.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Images from John Tilly


Pretty awful weather out there today! Eleanor and Neil Hasdell braved the rain to have a look at the Hawfinches at Cottesbrooke this morning and saw three or four birds but the viewing conditions were rather wet!

John Tilly has kindly sent through some recent images of local birds for your enjoyment...


Neil M

Goldfinch on teasel.

Long-tailed Tit.



Reed Buntings.


All images courtesy
of John Tilly.