Saturday, 7 December 2019

Storms and egrets!


Yesterday (Friday) and if you liked Great White Egrets and powerful storms it was a good day!

The Great Grey Shrike was still at the DIRFT3 site near Crick again and Summer Leys continued to host two Great White Egrets and a Red-crested Pochard. Two Great White Egrets flew into the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir in the afternoon and a Yellow-legged Gull stoically sat on his tree stump through all that violent and very wet weather!

The bird of the day though was a Firecrest found by Ken Prouse in a hedgerow in the pretty village of Upper Harlestone.

Today (Saturday) and Summer Leys still had two Great White Egrets, the drake Red-crested Pochard and the long-staying 'redhead' Smew. Stanwick Pits hosted another two Great White Egrets and a Goosander and there were 200 Golden Plovers off the A45 at Earls Barton.

At Thrapston Pits there were two more Great White Egrets, seven Little Egrets, a pair of Egyptian Geese, a Kingfisher and a Stonechat.

Bob Bullock relocated a Brent Goose that has been seen a few times briefly at Stanford Reservoir over the last couple of days. This time it was with Canada Geese 300m inside Leicestershire from the entrance of Stanford Hall.

Eleanor located a pair of Goosander and eight Siskins on the small lake at Marston Trussell and the gated road between Marston Trussell and Clipston (a lovely piece of Northamptonshire countryside) attracted a female Merlin and large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares. 

Two Ravens were at Hanging Houghton today and we are lucky enough to enjoy three Pied Wagtails coming to our garden currently. Birds in the Brampton Valley below the village this afternoon included a Barn Owl, two Woodcock and two Bramblings.


Neil M

'Redhead' Smew.


Images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Tits galore!


Yesterday's (Wednesday) birds reported in the county were pretty minimal but Pete Finden saw the Great Grey Shrike near Crick plus a Stonechat. Chris Green noted seven Goosanders at Ditchford Pits and Tom Green notched up a Jack Snipe and a Short-eared Owl at Neville's Lodge near Finedon.

Today (Thursday) and the pace didn't exactly quicken but Tom saw a Jack Snipe again at Neville's Lodge and Bob Bullock saw two Great White Egrets at Summer Leys.

I visited Brixworth Treatment Works today which produced my best bird of the day which was a Willow Tit coming to the feeders there. Two Grey Wagtails and a Snipe were also present.

Raven was the best bird at Hanging Houghton today and Pitsford Reservoir hosted two Great White Egrets, a Goosander, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher plus a small murmuration of 300 - 400 Starlings - all these birds at the south end of the water.


Neil M

Blue Tits.

Great Tit.

Willow Tit.

All images from Brixworth
Water Treatment Works today.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Ringing at Glyn Davies Wood.


At Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon David Arden spent some time in the Scaldwell Bay noting a Great White Egret, 5-6 Pintail, a Chiffchaff and a Water Rail.

Nick Parker was at Thrapston Pits today and saw the wintering Whooper Swan, two Great White Egrets and an 'aythea' duck hybrid (possibly a Tufted Duck x Pochard).

I saw the DIRFT3 Grey Great Shrike this afternoon, albeit distantly from the very wet Lilbourne Meadows Nature Reserve. I struggled to find anywhere to park on the industrial estate even though I could see the bridleway so decided for a wander around the reserve instead. Other birds included a Short-eared Owl sparring with a crow, a pair of Stonechat and a couple of Snipe.

A ringing session took place at Glyn Davies Wood in the far west of the county. This is a small plot of ancient woodland owned by the Banbury Ornithological Society but sadly a proportion of this woodland is expected to be lost if/when High Speed 2 progresses.

Some 160 birds were caught of eleven species today dominated by tits attracted to the woodland which included three Marsh Tits, seven Coal Tits and ten Long-tailed Tits. Other birds included four Goldcrests, five Nuthatches, a Song Thrush and ten Redwings.


Neil M

Great Tits are susceptible
to growths around the face,
head and belly...

Adult Blue Tit with an
aberrant bill growth. This
bird was newly ringed today
so we don't know at what
stage it's bill began to grow.
This bird was slightly underweight
and is probably very reliant on
the feeders maintained in the wood.

Images courtesy of Helen Franklin
and Chris Payne.

Monday, 2 December 2019

A cold start to December


Another cold morning in the county and our early morning foray to Harrington Airfield produced good numbers of common birds including plenty of overflying Redwings, gulls and Woodpigeons from the north and the east. A Woodcock and a Common Snipe were flushed.

Pitsford Reservoir today provided two very mobile Great White Egrets, two Goosanders, a Redshank, a Yellow-legged Gull, a couple of Stonechats, a Kingfisher and two hunting Barn Owls to the south of the causeway on the Brixworth bank (one flying around in broad daylight this morning and two late afternoon). A small Starling murmuration of perhaps just 400 - 500 birds around the Brixworth Country Park this afternoon would be spectacular if it grew in numbers!

The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton awoke from it's slumber this afternoon and delivered another Barn Owl, very large numbers of winter thrushes, a pair of Stonechat and a covey of eight Grey Partridge.

Chris Green found three Green Sandpipers and a Redshank at Broadholme Water Treatment Works (adjacent to Ditchford Pits) and a Grey Wagtail and a Water Rail were again at Brixworth Water Treatment Works.


Neil M

John Tilly had to endure over
six hours waiting in the cold
during three visits to finally
photograph this Bittern which
was then only on view for a
couple of minutes! Bird and
images taken at Calvert Reserve,
Bucks. Well done John!

NBC Indoor Meeting 4th Dec


The next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club will be this coming Wednesday (4th) when the speaker Chris Ward will be presenting Part 1 of his talk on the wildlife of the USA National Parks. Chris will return in May 2020 to deliver the second part. Chris has been an almost annual speaker at the club and we look forward to many excellent images.

The meeting commences at 7.30pm, the venue being the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir. There will be hot drinks and biscuits available and the meeting is open to both members and non members alike. We look forward to seeing you there!


Neil M

American Redstart.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Birds of Sunday


Yesterday (Saturday) and three Goosanders were seen by David Arden at Pitsford Reservoir and today (Sunday) Fiona Barclay noted 24 Golden Plovers at a very muddy Harrington Airfield.

A Great White Egret was seen at Daventry Country Park this morning and a stubble field near Walgrave contained a flock of at least sixty Skylarks (a large flock by modern day standards).

Hunting roadside Barn Owls this afternoon were near Scaldwell and between Creaton and Brixworth.

A ringing session today at Stortons Pits netted 43 birds which included seven Redwings, a Blackbird, a Robin, two Reed Buntings, a Chaffinch and plenty of Blue and Great Tits.

Linford Lakes, Milton Keynes was the venue for Kenny Cramer's ringing efforts this morning which was all about quality if not quantity. The catch included two Water Rails, a first year Sparrowhawk, a Kingfisher, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, a Blackbird and eleven Redwings.


Neil M

Water Rail.



All images courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Freezing fog!


The challenging weather conditions this morning with freezing fog moving in pre-dawn ensured that any initial ringing at Harrington Airfield with mist nets was cancelled.

Dave Francis managed a little ringing at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday afternoon and this morning catching 55 birds which included a Redwing, a Song Thrush, three Blackbirds, a Marsh Tit, a Goldfinch, two Tree Sparrows, two Chaffinches, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and three Yellowhammers. Eleven Dunnocks feeding at the feed station were all re-traps from previous sessions and included several which were four or five years old.

Birds at Thrapston Pits today included at least one Great White Egret, the Whooper Swan, five Pintail and a Kingfisher and a Water Rail. Three Goosanders flew off from Sywell Country Park.


Neil M

Black Redstart.

Alpine Accentor.

Black-winged Stilt.


Two of three vagrant
Great White Pelicans.

Greater Flamingos.

A rather distant Wallcreeper!

Images from the recent trip
to the Camargue, France.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Harrington ringing


A cold morning at Harrington Airfield pre-dawn but it was great to again see the stars rather than cloud and gloom! And when the sun came out it turned into a lovely early winter day. A small number of mist nets were used to catch and ring birds as part of our on-going studies and a small band of us were kept busy with the capture of 133 birds of nineteen species.

Always difficult to catch using mist nets, the best bird of the session was a Woodcock which remained long enough in the top shelf of a net. In all likelihood this bird has come a long way to reach Harrington, very likely from central or even eastern Russia. The lack of feather wear and pattern of the primary coverts indicated it was an adult bird. Another infrequent capture was a female Kestrel which we judged to be a bird hatched this year.

However the session was dominated by thrushes with 66 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, a Song Thrush and 7 Blackbirds all newly ringed. Other birds included 2 Starlings, a Meadow Pipit, a Robin, a Wren, a Dunnock, 2 Goldcrests, 14 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, 3 Tree Sparrows, 7 Chaffinches, a female Brambling, 9 Reed Buntings and 11 Yellowhammers.

Other birds seen on site included a couple more Woodcock, three Common Snipe, a Barn Owl, a couple of Golden Plovers and a covey of twelve Grey Partridges. A further ringing session is due again tomorrow and general access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted.

Eleanor saw three or four Woodcock at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and there are anecdotal reports of large numbers in our wet woods during the last couple of weeks...


Neil M

Woodcock courtesy of
Chris Payne.





Tree Sparrow.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Pitsford WeBS count


This morning was taken up completing a rather late November WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir, taking just under five and a half hours to complete (with a team of four people). The water levels remain at 100% with some very wet margins which suits some birds.

The two Great White Egrets remain, and there were 21 Little Egrets south of the causeway. A Yellow-legged Gull remains on-site and other birds included 25 Common Snipe, a female Goosander, 60 Goldeneye, 1355 Tufted Ducks, 132 Pochard, just 33 Little Grebes, a Grey Wagtail and two Chiffchaffs.

A Barn Owl was hunting at Harrington Airfield this afternoon where it is hoped there will be ringing sessions both tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. Access opportunities will be restricted to the footpaths and concrete track during these periods.


Neil M

Drake Goldeneye courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Drake Pochard.

Barn Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Feeding the birds!


At least one Grey Wagtail and a Water Rail were at Brixworth Water Treatment Works this morning and a visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon provided views of a Great White Egret and sixteen Little Egrets flying to roost, a third winter Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher.

With bird food running out it was time for a visit to Eyebrook Wild Bird Feeds at Great Easton, Rutland. We came away with literally a ton of bird food which filled Eleanor's vehicle and will help to keep the ten active feeding stations going for December and much of January...and the garages are now officially full of split peanuts, mixed seed, sunflower hearts, black sunflower, nyger seed, wheat, dried mealworms, oil seed rape and various fat/suet products !


Neil M

Male Chaffinch.

Stock Dove.

Two of the species catered for
at some of the active feeding
stations this coming winter.
Images courtesy of John Tilly.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

November gloom


The last two days have been dark, gloomy, wet and mild and it has been hard work finding much out there!

Yesterday (Monday) and a wet walk at Harrington Airfield provided a fly-past of nine Golden Plovers plus the usual passerines. There were plenty of birds coming to the various feeding stations despite the milder conditions but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

The water level at Pitsford Reservoir is now at 100% with brown water gushing over the overflow.

Today (Tuesday) and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir just didn't materialise, the only birds of interest this afternoon was a Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher.  Two Ravens were at Hanging Houghton today.

A recent ringing recovery relates to a Greenfinch which was caught and ringed at Harrington Airfield on 20th October 2019, a first year female. She was found dead on or about 8th November in Parwich, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, having travelled 96 km in a North West direction within 19 days. The cause of death isn't known but I'd love to know where she originated from...

Plans are afoot to commit to some ringing at Harrington Airfield on Friday and Saturday this coming week. Should anyone like to come along to watch activities please let me know. Access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted during these two days.


Neil M

Golden Plovers.


Images from RSPB Titchwell
courtesy of John Gamble.