Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Great Grey Shrike and other birds!


Both yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) it was great to see flocks of thrushes combing fields and pastures in search of worms. With most of the berries having being consumed, Redwings and Fieldfares are on the look out for invertebrate food and are prepared to hop around in flocks in open areas. Starlings, Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds were joining them, clearly feeling braver in their company despite being rather exposed to raptor attacks.

Yesterday I noted a female Brambling in our garden and Eleanor saw eight by the barn in the valley below the village and of course the hunting Barn Owl was there too.

Also yesterday Ruth Ward relocated the Earls Barton drake Ring-necked Duck, this time on the western pit called Grendon Lake. Johnl Hunt saw the female Scaup on Dragonfly Lake at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows, two Short-eared Owls were again at Neville's Lodge, Finedon and birds at Hollowell Reservoir included two Shelduck and two Green Sandpipers.

Today and Eleanor's daily visits to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton paid off with the discovery of a newly-arrived cracking Great Grey Shrike. This bird coincided with a big influx of passerines into the valley which included Skylarks, Tree Sparrows and finches and buntings. These in turn attracted a male Merlin which paid a fleeting visit and there were Bramblings by the barn again.

The shrike was watched on and off all day, enjoying brambles and hedgerows about half way between the Brampton Valley Way and Gamboro' Plantation, a traffic cone placed along the track indicates the best place to stand! Although active this bird wasn't reportedly seen to feed so we will have to wait and see if this area provides sufficient food for this bird. Three Ravens and a Barn Owl were also in the valley and nearby a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was calling well in Cottesbrooke village. Eight Bramblings were counted in our garden today and a male Blackcap was seen in a Moulton garden.

The WeBS count at Ditchford Pits today started in cold but bright and sunny conditions but this afternoon the conditions deteriorated with falling snow and sleet. Three Great White Egrets were present, two west of Ditchford Lane with another at Wilsons Pits. At least ten Little Egrets were also present as were eight Snipe, a Jack Snipe, a pair of Egyptian Geese, two/four Goosanders, a first year female Peregrine, two female Stonechats, a Grey Wagtail, four Cetti's Warblers and a Chiffchaff.

I also found a keep net immersed in the water containing live and dead fish. This appeared to be a deliberate act to trap and kill Otters following a previous net find at Ditchford containing fish and a dead animal. Please be aware that with an increase in Otters there is sometimes conflict with fishing interests and it seems that leaving keep nets or similar in water baited with fish is a deliberate effort to dispose of Otters. I removed the net today and released the fish.

Other birds reported today included a hybrid drake Tufted Duck x Pochard on Grendon Lake at Earls Barton Pits and two Short-eared Owls were near to bunker one at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.


Neil M

The Hanging Houghton
Great Grey Shrike. Images
courtesy of Martin Swannell
(top two) and Robin Gossage
(bottom three)

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