Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Hard weather birds


Hard weather movement was evident today, Jacob counting 269 Lapwings and 72 Golden Plovers moving south west over Moulton College. Flurries of winter thrushes and Lapwings were encountered in a variety of places today, seeking refuge and food from the ruthless weather.

Our garden served as a feeding site for about fifteen Reed Buntings, two Fieldfares and a Redwing plus an influx of Starlings, and a couple of crab-apple trees near the village of Old provided a feeding frenzy for seventy Fieldfares as witnessed by Diane Freeman. No doubt gardens are providing important feeding and resting areas for countless birds in the county.

Eleanor ran around Sywell Country Park twice today with Tor the hound. Birds were in short supply but the vocal Cetti's Warbler was still alive and kicking! Just two drake Goosanders were seen by Eleanor at Pitsford Reservoir today, no other noteworthy birds being located.


Neil M



Male Reed Bunting,
courtesy of John Tilly.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Brampton Valley birds and scenes


A couple of visits today to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and extending up to Blueberry Farm produced views of two hunting Barn Owls, an adult Peregrine, three Woodcock, a dozen Snipe in the ditches and a pair of Stonechat. Yesterday a pair of Raven visited Hanging Houghton and today a pair were in Kelmarsh village.

Walking the rounds at Harrington Airfield today to feed the hungry birds at four sites also provided views of seventeen Golden Plovers and a Woodcock.

Eric Graham's visit to the Titchmarsh Reserve today confirmed the continuing presence of a Great White Egret and two Little Egrets.


Neil M

Brampton Valley
seasonal scenery!

Northants BTO Quarterly Newsletter

Northants BTO Quarterly Newsletter - Winter 2017 / 2018
View this email in your browser

From Barrie Galpin and Ben Reeve, Regional Representative and Regional Ambassador for the BTO in Northants

Hi all,

We're proud to announce the second of our quarterly newsletters for the BTO in the Northants region. The winter edition includes a brief overview of the regional team, some really interesting information on some of the BTO surveys undertaken in the county (including bird ringing - a glaring omission from last quarter's newsletter, sorry all!), and other interesting information including BTO Training Courses and the brilliant BTO Bird ID videos.

The newsletter can be viewed by clicking on the following link -

Northants BTO Winter 2017 - 2018 Newsletter

Or by typing the following web address in your browser -

We do hope you enjoy the newsletter and if you have any feedback including suggestions for things you'd like to see in the the next newsletter we'd love to hear from you!

All the best,

Barrie and Ben.

Barrie Galpin
BTO Regional Representative for Northants
15 Top Lodge, Fineshade, Corby. NN17 3BB
01780 444351
07717 446417

Ben Reeve
BTO Regional Ambassador for Northants
7 Rectory Close, Crick, Northants, NN6 7SY
Twitter: @NorthantsBTO
Personal Twitter: @BeardWarbler
01788 824413
07961 038455
Copyright © 2018 BTO, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

7 Rectory Close
CrickNorthamptonshire NN6 7SY
United Kingdom

Stock Doves.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ahead of the 'Beast from the East'!

Long-tailed Tits, courtesy
of Jim Dunkley.


Eleanor's daily morning foray in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton provided a pair of Stonechat and a Barn Owl.

A WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir today in cold conditions provided only low numbers of wildfowl. Highlights were an Oystercatcher, two Redshank, four Snipe, a pair of Raven and sixty Siskins (fifty in the Pintail Bay). The Slavonian Grebe wasn't located but it does sometimes move around the reservoir.

The gull roost in the afternoon saw good numbers of gulls with an estimated total number of just under 10,000 birds. Mostly they kept their distance but we were able to confirm two first year Yellow-legged Gulls.

The feed station at the Old Scaldwell Road was very busy, particularly with high numbers of Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings plus good numbers of Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows too.

Our garden at Hanging Houghton is bringing in plenty of Reed Buntings and several Yellowhammers in addition to more common fare and Jacob's feeders at Scaldwell attracted at least eight Redpolls today.

Jim Dunkley has been enjoying the birds in his Sywell garden with visits from an apple-loving Blackcap, Goldfinches feeding on the seeds of his Verbena butterfly plant, Long-tailed Tits and Reed Buntings.

An afternoon revisit to the Brampton Valley and a hike around the public sections of Blueberry Farm provided views of fifty Golden Plovers, two Woodcock and four Snipe.


Neil M

Female Eurasian Wigeon,
courtesy of John Tilly.

Snipe, courtesy
of John Tilly.

Reed Buntings, courtesy
of Jim Dunkley.

Goldfinches on Verbena,
courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Male Blackcap feeding
on apple, courtesy of
Jim Dunkley.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Sunny Sunday's wildlife


Eric Graham's efforts on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston today provided views of a Great White Egret, six Little Egrets and two Oystercatchers.

Neil Hasdell and John Tilly visited the Summer Leys reserve today and between them espied two Great White Egrets, an Oystercatcher and a female Brambling showing well at the feeding station.

Brixworth Water Treatment Works this morning attracted a Snipe, two Grey Wagtails and two Chiffchaffs and my walk at Harrington Airfield was quiet for birds with just a pair of Grey Partridge being of any note.

Eleanor's observations today included the resident pair of Raven at Staverton with Ravensthorpe Reservoir hosting a Great White Egret, the juvenile Whooper Swan, two drake Mandarin Ducks and two Otters again.

Jacob and Bethan made the long journey down to the Dorset coast today to see the stunning adult Ross's Gull which is currently showing there...


Neil M

Adult Ross's Gull
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Redwing courtesy
of John Tilly.

Female Brambling
courtesy of John Tilly.

Raven courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

The Forest of Dean.


Eleanor's visit to Staverton this morning provided views of a pair of Raven and a subsequent visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir yielded sightings of a Great White Egret and the juvenile Whooper Swan.

A merry band of us headed down to the Forest of Dean area in Gloucestershire today, the latter half of the day endorsed by blue skies and sunshine! An initial visit to Parkend was good for a flock of Hawfinches numbering at least twelve birds. With the sun poking through the clouds and a breeze becoming more consistent we headed for New Fancy View watchpoint in the middle of the forest where we saw two displaying Goshawks, a Peregrine, a Merlin plus the usual Common Buzzards, Ravens, and Siskins plus a few Crossbills.

We then drove the 12 or so miles to Symonds Yat Rock and at the watchpoint there another Goshawk was on show on our arrival and  showed well. At least four Peregrines were in dispute with each other and birds on the river below us included several Goosanders. Ravens showed well and were in some numbers...

Our next venue was Crabtree Hill ridge back in the forest where we caught up with the wintering Great Grey Shrike, another Hawfinch and a small flock of Crossbills, a Stonechat and more Goosanders plus three Bramblings and plenty of Siskins. A quick visit to Cannop Ponds and we counted 23 Mandarin Ducks, adding a bit more colour to the day!

Our final venue was a return to Parkend and we found a Dipper on a small stream running through the village; another Merlin overflying the M5 motorway on our way back was our last good bird of the day.


Neil M

Adult Peregrine carrying
what appears to be a Great Tit!

Displaying Raven.

Drake Mandarin Duck.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Friday's musings!


This afternoon two Woodcock were seen in Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate and a walk at Harrington Airfield provided another Woodcock and two Grey Partridges.

Some quick analysis of some of the captures at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday suggests that we caught several quite old birds but perhaps the most spectacular individual was a Great Tit which if it survives through to the summer will be nine years old!

Another observation at Pitsford yesterday on the reserve north of the causeway was the arrival of large flocks of Woodpigeons, in total thought to be in excess of two thousand birds. It is tempting to think that this may be a cold weather movement associated with the cold air affecting the continent currently (and looming towards us).

Despite imminent cold winter weather, this is the time to think about repairing and clearing out old nest boxes and erecting new ones. Chris Payne reports that there is already a Blue Tit sitting tight in one of the tit boxes at Stortons Pits, but this is truly exceptionally early!


Neil M

A newly-erected Kestrel
box courtesy of Chris Payne.

Great Tit.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Male Greenfinch
with a telling peck!
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Pitsford ringing today...


Bird ringing operations took place at Pitsford Reservoir today ahead of a hard weather forecast just around the corner...

Nearly 170 birds of 16 species were captured today made up of a Mute Swan, a Mallard, a Coot, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Blackbirds, 6 Dunnocks, 5 Robins, a Marsh Tit, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 10 Coal Tits, 28 Great Tits, 56 Blue Tits, 4 Tree Sparrows, a Chaffinch, 15 Reed Buntings and 29 Yellowhammers.

The Slavonian Grebe was in the mouth of the Pintail Bay this afternoon, a Redpoll was nearby and 3 Woodcock were flushed in Christies Copse. A Barn Owl was between Holcot village and the A43 this morning.

Eric Graham visited Blatherwycke Lake this afternoon and saw four Hawfinches in the nearby churchyard. The lake attracted a pair of Black Swans and nearby Deene Lake held an impressive 25 Shelduck.


Neil M


Marsh Tit.

Long-tailed Tit.

Coal Tit.

All taken at Pitsford Reservoir
today courtesy of John Tilly.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Ringing at Kelmarsh Hall.


With the weather rather grey and cloudy, a small band of us committed to a period of bird ringing at Kelmarsh Hall today resulting in 81 birds being captured and processed (57 new birds and 24 previously-ringed birds) of eleven species.

These birds were typical of the site and were made up of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Dunnock, a Robin, a Nuthatch, 2 Coal Tits, 24 Blue Tits, 14 Great Tits, 3 Siskins, 24 Goldfinches, 2 Greenfinches and 8 Chaffinches. One of the Goldfinches was a bird originally ringed at Pitsford Reservoir - it's perhaps not surprising that this bird relocated as the niger feeders at the main feed station at Pitsford were stolen recently!

Other birds noted at Kelmarsh Hall today included Raven and at least one Grey Wagtail. Some more ringing is planned for Pitsford Reservoir tomorrow...

Birds noted at Thrapston GP today by Eric Graham included seven Siskins, four Redpolls, several Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a pair of Oystercatcher and the Great White Egret still


Neil M

Adult male Siskin.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Still the birds of winter...


Yesterday John Hunt saw a couple of Hawfinches in Oundle, in tall hornbeam trees at the junction of South Road and Riverside Close. This was a traditional site from the eighties but no birds have been recorded there in recent years. As food sources dry up it is likely that the Hawfinches locally will be visiting fresh sites in pursuit of hard tree seeds.

A ringing session today at Glyn Davies Wood in the far west of the county was productive with 97 captures made up of 45 Blue Tits, 28 Great Tits, 5 Long-tailed Tits, a Marsh Tit, 3 Coal Tits, 2 Nuthatches, a Treecreeper, 2 Goldcrests, a Wren, 2 Dunnocks, 4 Robins and 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Two or three Woodcock were found sheltering in the wood.

The usual Barn Owl was seen at Hanging Houghton and two Ravens overflew the village. Two more Ravens were between Buckby Wharf and Daventry and the juvenile Whooper Swan was present at Ravensthorpe Reservoir. A Grey Wagtail was noted at Kelmarsh Hall and birds seen at Sywell Country Park included the female Scaup still, 2 Little Egrets, a Water Rail, a Cetti's Warbler and a pair of Stonechat.

Sightings at Pitsford Reservoir today included the Slavonian Grebe still, a Water Rail and the gull roost attracted a second winter Caspian Gull and two Mediterranean Gulls (adult and first winter). Ten Siskins were in the adjacent Brixworth Country Park.

On 21st December 2017 a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull was noted at Pitsford Reservoir by Jacob Spinks - it transpires this bird was ringed at Hamburg, Germany on 4th February 2012 - so it seems it has decided to winter 739km further west this time!


Neil M

Male Goldcrest.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Spring in the air?


Definitely a spring-like feel to today even if the temperatures were cold first thing. A couple of Frogs were in our tiny garden pond and a fly-over Grey Wagtail suggested some passage going on. And the Song Thrushes are in good song now!

Nick Wood committed to some impromptu ringing today at Chase Park Farm which is close to the fabulous woodland of Yardley Chase. Just one forty foot net caught 72 birds made up of 44 Blue Tits, 22 Great Tits, 3 Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Nuthatch and a Robin. Among the re-traps two of the Great Tits were birds initially ringed as nestlings in nearby nest boxes in May 2017 and two of the Blue Tits were first ringed in July and October 2015.

Kenny Cramer and gang were busy today too, ringing at Linford Lakes (near Milton Keynes) and capturing 115 birds of ten species. This total was made up of 40 Blue Tits, 30 Great Tits, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Wrens, 6 Robins, 11 Dunnocks, 3 Blackbirds, 5 Greenfinches, 8 Chaffinches and 8 Goldfinches. An impressive trio of herons were on-site made up of a Great White Egret, a Cattle Egret and a Bittern!

I spent most of today at Ditchford Gravel Pits completing the monthly WeBS count. A female Scaup was on the Watersport Pit just west of Ditchford Lane, a Great White Egret was also west of Ditchford Lane and other birds included three Little Egrets, a Shelduck and four Goosanders. Waders were in short supply but an Oystercatcher, 15 Snipe and two Jack Snipe were present and other birds included 5 Water Rails, 3 Kingfishers, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a Siskin. The Grey Herons and Cormorants were busy on their nests and mammals included Fox, Muntjac, Mink and an Otter!

Eleanor and Tor competed in a canine cross event near Castle Ashby this morning and somewhere along the 12km course Eleanor saw four Grey Partridges! A visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon confirmed the continuing presence of the Slavonian Grebe in the Pintail Bay and a Stonechat in the Scaldwell Bay.


Neil M

Blue Tit.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Male Chaffinch.
Courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Grey Herons in the
winter sunshine.
Courtesy of John Tilly.


Adopting the 'ringer's
grip' in this way permits
an opportunity to examine
the finer points of the
plumage and is comfortable
for the birds too! In fact on
cold days we transfer body heat
to these small birds and warm
them up a bit!
Images courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Some of the birds of Saturday!


Eleanor's early morning recce of the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton produced the usual Barn Owl but nothing else of note.

Birds located at Thrapston GP today included a Great White Egret on Aldwincle Lake, five Goosanders and 48 Goldeneye (the latter mostly on Town Lake) - combined observations from Nick Parker and Debbie and Eric Graham.

Andrew Tyrrell flushed a Jack Snipe at Harrington Airfield today and Eleanor saw her regular pair of Raven at Staverton.

Ravensthorpe Reservoir hosted at least three Otters showing on the small side at about 2.45pm plus a Great White Egret and three drake Mandarin Ducks and there were two Hawfinches on show at Cottesbrooke this afternoon, again near to the church.


Neil M

Drake Goldeneye.

Great White Egret.
Courtesy of John Tilly

Drake Mandarin Duck.