Thursday, 28 February 2019

Ringing and Willow Tits.


Our apologies for the lack of blog messages recently, we have been off-line for several days!

Last Friday (22nd) a bird ringing session took place at the feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir which successfully caused the processing of over a hundred birds. This total was made up of eight Mallard, a couple of Blackbirds, a Robin, four Dunnocks, nine Blue Tits, ten Great Tits, six Tree Sparrows, four Chaffinches, a Brambling plus a staggering twenty-nine Reed Buntings and twenty-nine Yellowhammers. An Oystercatcher was loudly proclaiming it's presence in the Scaldwell Bay!

A ringing session was then completed at Stortons Pits on Sunday 24th Feb, the group successfully netting 68 birds of thirteen species made up of eleven Great Tits, twenty-four Blue Tits, three Long-tailed Tits, three Robins, a Blackbird, a Song Thrush, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Cetti's Warbler, a Bullfinch, seven Greenfinches, six Chaffinches, two Goldfinches and seven Reed Buntings.

A major drive in the UK to try and successfully map our remaining Willow Tits is underway with localities in Northamptonshire among them. Last week a survey was completed at Pitsford Reservoir and the pair of birds known to be in the Scaldwell Bay were located using the playback method. Last year it seemed that we only had one pair on-site - further work will be completed to see if any more can be found this year.


Neil M

Willow Tit at Pitsford
Reservoir courtesy of
Dave Jackson.

Curlew courtesy of
Cathy Ryden. The next
two months should see
a trickle of Curlews moving
through the county...

Yellowhammer courtesy
of John Tilly.

Reed Bunting courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Crossbills, Cattle Egret and Chiffchaff!


The amazing weather continues!

At least a few of the Crossbills have maintained a presence at Irchester Country Park during the week and were still present yesterday (Thursday).

Also yesterday it seems that a Cattle Egret was photographed in the Nene Valley, possibly near Wellingborough but the full details are not known. Today (Friday) and Neil Hasdell saw one of the Great Northern Divers at Pitsford Reservoir, about 200m west of the causeway car park at about 10.30am.

Some more bird ringing recoveries have filtered through during the last few weeks which included a Chiffchaff ringed at Linford Lakes on 2nd Sept 2018 which was then caught again by a ringer operating at Chalk Farm, Willingdon, East Sussex 24 days later, this warbler having moved 160km in an expected SSE direction.


Neil M

With spring weather in the
air the normally quarrelsome
Coots become even more so!
Images courtesy of John Tilly.


Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Mapping Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Mute Swans!


Unseasonably warm weather in the UK and Northants is hardly the conditions we expect in February and it doesn't seem to have produced any different birds locally.

Yesterday (Monday) and six Crossbills were still present at Irchester Country Park and at a time of the year when they should be breeding! Today (Tuesday) there were still at least three present, this time by the woodcutters huts.

The Great Grey Shrike wasn't reported at it's usual haunt between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke both yesterday and today despite being looked for. A Corn Bunting, fifteen Tree Sparrows and two Bramblings were in the general area today...

Also today two Great White Egrets were at Summer Leys NR with three Red-crested Pochard on nearby Mary's Lake (courtesy of Kim Taylor).

News of the Great Spotted Woodpecker caught at Glyn Davies Wood at the weekend indicates that it was initially ringed as a young bird in August 2018 as far away as Wiltshire! This seems a rather unusual movement although is not unprecedented as a few years ago a bird first ringed in Hertfordshire as an adult in the breeding season (and colour ringed) was then seen in a Crick garden.

For a little while now Mute Swans have been ringed and had orange plastic darvic rings placed on a leg at the Embankment at Wellingborough. During the last month a couple of these birds have been re-sighted at Ditchford Pits and the ringers involved invite further reports of birds should you see them (visit the BTO website>click on Ringing on LHS of page> click on reporting a colour ringed bird). Grid references are requested if possible.


Neil M

Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Mute Swan.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Weekend's birds!


Yesterday (Saturday) and some ringing at Glyn Davies Wood to the west of the county took place which resulted in some good numbers of tits and other common birds, and helps to indicate how many birds are attracted to the well maintained feeders there...

Over 120 birds were processed made up of 7 Long-tailed Tits, 63 Blue Tits, 4 Coal Tits, 45 Great Tits, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 2 Chaffinches. One of the woodpeckers was apparently a bird first ringed elsewhere so we will find out in due course where it has come from. Other birds noted on-site included Marsh Tit and Nuthatch and a couple of Woodcock. Sadly this seems to be another local site that has lost its Willow Tits during the last year or two.

Birds noted in the county also yesterday included the Hanging Houghton Great Grey Shrike, Merlin and Barn Owl plus plenty of Skylarks, Yellowhammers and some Tree Sparrows. Martin Swannell was driving between Overstone and Moulton and saw an unidentified ibis species fly south (presumably a Glossy Ibis). The Nene Valley Ring-necked Duck showed up at Summer Leys NR and was viewable on the main lake from Rotary Hide and eight mobile Crossbills continued to entertain at Irchester Country Park. Neville's Lodge near Finedon has proved consistent this winter and yesterday afternoon a Short-eared Owl and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier again showed in the late afternoon.

Today (Sunday) and birders were active in the county with a Great Northern Diver being seen off the dam and sailing club at Pitsford Reservoir and the Great Grey Shrike was again mobile around the hedges between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke.

At least three Crossbills were about still at Irchester Country Park (courtesy of Adrian Borley) next to the compound/woodcutters yard at 11.20am, although these birds were vocal they were mobile and rather elusive. Adrian also notched up two Great White Egrets and three Red-crested Pochard at Summer Leys NR but couldn't find the Ring-necked Duck there today.

Eric's efforts at Thrapston Pits provided threes of Pink-footed Goose, Great White Egret and Goosander and a nice mixed flock of Siskin and Redpoll...


Neil M

Grey Heron.

This is a critical time of year for
the Yellowhammer when natural food
resources are exhausted and they suffer
a 'hunger gap' with little in the way of grain
and other seeds to eat. The provision of broadcast
 mixed seed is enough for them to survive the winter
 and spring in Northamptonshire.

Prospecting pairs will be gradually building
at a number of county sites...

Another regular breeding
bird in small numbers in the county
(mostly the Nene Valley), the first few
are back already...

All images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 15 February 2019

February sunshine...!


The stunning weather continues with bright sunshine stimulating plenty of insect activity which included a Brimstone butterfly at Maidwell yesterday. The Hanging Houghton parish Mistle Thrush was singing strongly first thing this morning and there were several singing Skylarks at Harrington Airfield late morning.

Yesterday (Wednesday) and the Great Grey Shrike showed itself a few times between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke with as many as four Corn Buntings being seen and the usual hunting Barn Owl. Late last night another Barn Owl was active between Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell and with possibly the same one near Brixworth too.

Two Great Northern Divers and a drake Red-crested Pochard were visible from the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday afternoon with a second winter Yellow-legged Gull coming in at the now very small gull roost there a little later. Also yesterday an unspecified number of Crossbills were still present at Irchester Country Park, fifty yards from the first car park. Three Bramblings visited our garden again.

Today (Thursday) and the Hanging Houghton Great Grey Shrike was still present at about 8am as were two Corn Buntings. Of interest, Stuart Baker noted a drake Wood Duck on Shelfleys Lake on the south side of Northampton this morning and a Great Grey Shrike has been reported at the inlet end of Hollowell Reservoir (via Birdguides).

Other birds for today were seen at Thrapston Pits by Eric Graham and amounted to the juvenile Whooper Swan on Town Lake, two Great White Egrets, two Little Egrets, a pair of Goosander, a pair of Oystercatcher and a Peregrine. Kim Taylor located two Great White Egrets at Summer Leys NR today


Neil M

Barn Owl.

Male Brambling
courtesy of John Tilly.

Common Buzzard.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Spring weather


Local spring-like weather today caused plenty of birds to sing which included Skylark, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Great Tit.

Eric's efforts at Thrapston Pits today produced sightings of an adult Peregrine, two Great White Egrets, a Kingfisher and a pair of Oystercatchers.

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included a drake Ring-necked Duck in the Pintail Bay, two Great Northern Divers south of the causeway near to The Pigs and nine Red-crested Pochard in the Walgrave Bay.

The Great Grey Shrike was in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke today but was again elusive, a male Merlin flew through and a Corn Bunting and a Brambling were there too. Three Bramblings fed in our garden this morning and three Siskins were at Scotland Wood.

Elsewhere the eight Crossbills were seen again at Irchester Country Park and the 'ringtail' Hen Harrier was seen again at Neville's Lodge, Finedon.


Neil M

Song Thrush.

Mistle Thrush.


Great Tit.

Early harbingers of spring
or premature singing?

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Birds of mid Feb


I'm just back from a birding trip in Jamaica where of course it was warm and humid. The weather here today seemed pleasant but a little cooler than I'm used to!

Eric paid a visit to Blatherwycke Lake today and notched up three Black Swans, ten pairs of Mandarin Ducks, a flotilla of thirty Little Grebes as well as the usual Red Kites. Nearby at Deene Lake there are still over a hundred Teal, a pair of Black Swans and four pairs of Shelduck.

I saw a Raven at Harrington Airfield this afternoon (but nothing else of note) and Eleanor saw the Great Grey Shrike distantly between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke this morning plus a Barn Owl and a Corn Bunting. The regular Merlin chasing the small birds had been replaced by a Sparrowhawk today!

Both the wintering drake Ring-necked Ducks in the county were seen today, Alan Coles seeing the Pitsford Reservoir bird in the Pintail Bay and Mike Alibone finding the Nene Valley bird on Grendon Main Lake just off the clubhouse. Other bits and pieces seen today included eight Crossbills at Irchester Country Park (attracted to a puddle and larches between the main entrance and the playground), a Great White Egret at Summer Leys NR, two Oystercatchers already back at Stanwick Pits and a Peregrine over Balmoral Road, Kingsthorpe, Northampton.


Neil M


Black Swans.


Sunday, 10 February 2019

The weather today, wet and windy, was not the best for birding, however the dogs didn't care and still wanted their walks.
The Great Grey Shrike was perched up on a hedge early this morning. Sadly it was quite distant and was located more over towards Blueberry.
As soon as the rain stopped I headed off to Harrington Airfield [ early pm] where a female Peregrine put on a fantastic acrobatic display as she hunted a small flock of Golden Plover. I don't think she caught anything.  Once I'd recovered from this I continued my walk on the rough area and around the bunkers and flushed a Short Eared Owl and 2 Woodcock.
Because of the weather I spent more time watching the birds in the garden and we still have a few Bramblings, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers visiting.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Bits and Bobs

The Great Grey Shrike is still present between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find. It seems to be exploring hedgerows further away from the weedy field and requires much patience and persistent scanning to locate it.
The weedy field remains attractive to large numbers of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Skylarks as well as smaller numbers of Tree Sparrows, Brambling and at least 2 Corn Bunting.  A Barn Owl and Merlin are daily visitors.
A small number of Brambling continue to feed with the Chaffinches in front of the old cattle shed.

Over at Titchmarsh a Whitefronted Goose, Pink Footed Goose, 5 Great White Egret and 5 Goosander were present a couple of days ago [Eric].

Whilst at Staverton agility training a pair of Raven were very vocal and very active collecting nesting material . A super female Peregrine Falcon came through the area at a very low height which caused a commotion.

As mentioned in my previous blog it was the members photographic competition at the Northants Birdclub.  A very good evening with excellent images of birds, other wildlife and habitat.  

The winning image was taken by new Bird Club member Matt Hazleton from the British Birds category.

Sanderling by Matt Hazleton.
The judge said, a unique and comical moment captured in great light and from a good viewpoint. The main individual is well placed between the out of focus background birds that they don't distract from the subject.

A very Well done to Matt.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Quiet Times

A visit to Titchmarsh Reserve by Eric and Nick a few hours apart produced 5 Great White Egret, Peregrine Falcon, 3 Goosander, 3 Pink Footed Geese, 19 Little Egret and a Whooper Swan.
Meanwhile I was walking/running the area between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke.  The Great Grey Shrike was hard work today and I only saw it briefly on two occasions . At least 2 Corn Buntings remain and the Merlin put in an appearance.
I couldn't locate any Brambling at the cattle shed and there wasn't any visiting our garden today, so not sure if they have moved on.

Tomorrow is a whole new day .....

A reminder that the Northamptonshire Bird Club meet tomorrow evening at 7.30pm at the Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir.  It is one of the highlights of the year , the " Photographic Competition". 
Please come along if you simply enjoy looking at bird, wildlife, insect and landscape images.  Everyone is welcome. Tea/coffee and biscuits provided.      See you there .

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 4 February 2019

This morning the Great Grey Shrike was perched on its usual hedge watching the world wake up around it.  As I stood and watched, the hedgerows and weedy field soon became alive with the sound and sight of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Linnets, Skylarks, Tree Sparrows and several Corn Buntings. These birds were literally flying in from all directions which in turn proved to be a magnet for a super male Merlin who gave them all a fright. 
The regular Barn Owl also put in an appearance and this was all before breakfast !!
Early afternoon I visited the dam/ pintail bay area at Pitsford Reservoir. By this time the weather was stunning, blue skies and sunshine and warm enough to ditch the fleece and gloves. There was a surprisingly large amount of insect life about.   On the water there were 3 drake and 1 female Red Crested Pochard and a Great Northern Diver.
Late afternoon I returned to the valley where the Great Grey Shrike had moved further around the fields but at dusk it had returned to its favourite hedge.  The Barn Owl put in an appearance again and there was a noticable increase in the number of Skylarks present.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Fabulous winter weather


Another stunning winter's day with cold temperatures but fabulous sunshine.

Efforts at catching and ringing thrushes down at Milton Keynes proved successful today, Kenny and his team caught 62 birds of which 48 were newly ringed, made up of 10 Redwings, an amazing 32 Blackbirds, 10 Fieldfares, 3 Robins, a Woodpigeon, a Magpie, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Great Tits and 2 Blue Tits. Interestingly two of the Redwings and ten of the Blackbirds were birds caught in previous weeks so they have clearly made Milton Keynes their winter home!

Thrapston Pits was the place to be again today with the Bittern showing well on the ice this morning and a drake Smew was found on Aldwincle Lake this afternoon. Three Great White Egrets were counted at Summer Leys reserve and here at home four Bramblings came to visit the garden. 

A Raven seen twice was all I saw of note at Harrington Airfield today and two or three Short-eared Owls and the first year 'ringtail' Hen Harrier showed at Neville's Lodge this afternoon.


Neil M

Short-eared Owl.



Drake Smew.

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

NBC Photographic Competition


On Wednesday 6th Feb the Northants Bird Club hosts it's members annual photographic competition. Members are invited to submit images of wildlife and scenery taken in the preceding twelve months for the perusal of all, and the images are collated into a variety of wildlife discipline categories with a bias towards birds.

Images taken both locally and across the world will be offered up and members will be asked to select their favourites. The overall winner is presented with the Graham Soden Shield.

The meeting commences at 7.30pm at the usual venue of the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir and hot drinks and biscuits will be available all evening.

All welcome!

Neil M

Northern Wheatear
courtesy of Clive Bowley.

Mountain Hare
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

courtesy of Dave Thomas.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Saturday's sightings


The Great Grey Shrike in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke proved particularly elusive today but showed to people who were very patient! The first year male Merlin also put in an appearance early on (the adult male seems to have moved on) as did a/the Barn Owl. A Great White Egret flew over there this afternoon heading west, and is the third egret species to be seen in this effectively dry area over the last few years!

At Pitsford Reservoir today the drake Ring-necked Duck was again reported from the Pintail Bay, Neil Hasdell saw the two Great Northern Divers and six Red-crested Pochard south of the causeway and the Redshank was north of the causeway where four Great White Egrets were reported.

At Thrapston Pits today the Bittern was seen again as were the three Pink-footed Geese and the adult White-fronted Goose materialised at dusk. Four Great White Egrets remain and seven Goosanders were present too.

Other birds reported today included a Great White Egret at Mary's Lake, Earls Barton Pits, another at Thorpe Malsor Reservoir and six Mandarin Ducks were at Blatherwycke Lake. The 'ringtail' Hen Harrier showed up again at Neville's Lodge late this afternoon and Ravensthorpe Reservoir hosted a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Great White Egret, a Green Sandpiper, good numbers of Gadwall, a Grey Wagtail and four Siskins. Two Ravens were at Staverton and two more presented at Borough Hill Country Park this afternoon. Small numbers of Bramblings persist in and around Hanging Houghton often visiting gardens.


Neil M

Courtesy of John Tilly.

Courtesy of John Tilly.

Common Buzzard.
This bird was perched
on a road sign next to the
A508 pointing to the
Hanging Houghton turn!

Scotland Wood,
Kelmarsh Estate.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Cold and windy but the snow has gone!


Plenty of wild bird feed stations to keep up to scratch today in this cold weather with an opportunity for a little birding too.

The Great Grey Shrike was again present in hedges between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke this morning but was much more elusive this afternoon. Three Corn Buntings and several Bramblings were attracted to the wild bird crop in the same area and two Woodcock were flushed up at nearby Blueberry Farm. This afternoon a first year male ('ringtail') Hen Harrier flew low but rapidly west near to the shrike site.

At Pitsford Reservoir this morning there were a pair of Red-crested Pochard and two Yellow-legged Gulls (second cy and fourth cy) visible from the Sailing Club and a Stoat showed itself briefly.

Thrapston Pits hosted interesting birds again today, the star bird being a Bittern visible on the north section of Aldwincle Lake, initially showing well from North Hide and latterly at more distance from Kirby Hide. Three Pink-footed Geese were present near to Elinor Lake, it seems that the identification of two Bean Goose from yesterday and this morning was erroneous. Other birds included four Great White Egrets, four Little Egrets, a Water Rail and five or six Goosanders.

A male Blackcap was present in a Moulton garden this morning, the same garden hosting a female yesterday, and our garden continues to attract small numbers of Bramblings.


Neil M


Marsh Tit.

Winter sunset.

Tawny Owl.
Image courtesy
of Sarah Gibbs.