Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Ringing recoveries


Not much opportunity for birding today but a couple of excursions into the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and up to Blueberry Farm provided a few birds.

The singing birds were in full voice with plenty of Skylarks, fresh-in Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and already a few Yellow Wagtails on territory. A single singing Meadow Pipit on a field headland is all that is left of the significant population that once bred here during the set-aside days. No less than five singing Grasshopper Warblers indicates it is quite an amazing spring for them; we shall see how many will remain or are perhaps still on migration.

As usual a Barn Owl was hunting the valley this evening.

Two Ring Ouzels were on show at Newnham Hill today, two Grasshopper Warblers were 'reeling' at Harrington Airfield and a Garganey and a Whimbrel were at Summer Leys.

Recent interesting ringing recoveries from Northants Ringing Group activities are as follows:-

A first year Blackbird was ringed at Holme Bird Observatory, North Norfolk on 29th Feb 2016 and turned up at Astcote, South Northants on 3rd April 2019 when caught by John Woollett. This bird will be four years old if it survives to the summer and is assumed to have originated from the continent.

A Cetti's Warbler was caught and ringed in the West Mids on 4th November 2015 and was caught again at Stortons Pits, Northampton on 14th April this year when assessed as being an adult female. 1257 days had elapsed between ringing and re-capture, the bird moving 55km in a ESE direction.

A juvenile Chiffchaff was ringed at Stanford Reservoir on 25th July 2018 and was caught again at Stortons Pits on 14th April this year, 263 days later. Although only 24km between the ringing and recovery site, it is likely that this bird has travelled a significant distance during the relevant period.

A young male Goldfinch was caught and ringed at Astcote on 30th October 2017 and was sadly found dead floating in a pond on 15th April 2019 at Old Pool Bank, Pool in Wharfedale, West Yorkshire. 532 days elapsed between the two records with the bird travelling 196km in a NNW direction.


Neil M

Blackbird courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Cetti's Warbler.


Goldfinch courtesy
of John Tilly.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Grasshopper Warblers


Some ringing at Linford Lakes this morning provided an excellent 65 captures of twenty species including eight species of warbler. The total was made up of 6 Wrens, 2 Robins (including a juvenile), 6 Dunnocks, 2 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 3 Blue Tits, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Bullfinches, a Goldfinch, 4 Reed Buntings, 5 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Cetti's Warbler, a Reed Warbler, a Grasshopper Warbler, 15 Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats and 2 Garden Warblers.

A ringing session at Harrington Airfield was much more modest and provided just 36 captures of eleven species including four species of warbler. The total was made up of 4 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 3 Dunnocks, a Chaffinch, 4 Yellowhammers, a Blue Tit, 4 Long-tailed Tits, 12 Willow Warblers, 4 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler and a Whitethroat. Four of the re-trap Willow Warblers were first ringed there in June 2017, three of them as adults and one as a juvenile.

Other birds on-site included a male Wheatear, at least one singing Lesser Whitethroat, two 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers and a 'purring' Turtle Dove.

Two singing Grasshopper Warblers were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today and two more 'reelers' were located at Sywell Country Park, this latter site also hosting six Common Terns, a Cetti's Warbler and a Grey Wagtail.

A fine Ring Ouzel was located at Newnham Hill near Daventry today, another Grasshopper Warbler was showing well at the car park at Summer Leys reserve and at least one Nightingale continued to sing at Thrapston Pits. This evening Phil Horsnail watched a female Hen Harrier quartering ground near to Polebrook Airfield, the bird disappearing over the old airfield at about 6pm. Two singing Nightingales were on the private reserve there yesterday afternoon (no public access).


Neil M

Juvenile Robin
courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Grasshopper Warbler
at Summer Leys courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Birds of Sunday


There were plenty of new Common Whitethroats in at Harrington Airfield today and other birds included a Turtle Dove 'purring' briefly, a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler and a male Wheatear. Tomorrow there is a ringing session planned at this site and access to the old airstrip and bunkers is restricted. Access to the footpaths and concrete track remain unaffected.

An Osprey was seen at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon and other birds included two Oystercatchers and two Swifts.

Peter Finden's efforts at Summer Leys today provided views of two Garganey, a Hobby, two Swifts and a Grasshopper Warbler. Two Mediterranean Gulls were seen in flight by Matt Hazleton flying through Summer Leys towards Mary's Lake.

Two Nightingales were singing and showing well at Thrapston Pits, again either side of the river at the metal bridge that connects Town Lake with the Titchmarsh reserve. A Swift was also present.

A Barn Owl was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening


Neil M

Common Swift
courtesy of Jacob.

Common Whitethroat
courtesy of Jacob.

Turtle Dove
courtesy of Robin.

Northants Bird Club meeting 1st May


This coming Wednesday (1st May) will be the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club when the club chairman Bob Gill will provide a presentation on the wildlife of Mallorca. Bob and his family have been regular visitors to this Mediterranean island for a number of years and he will be presenting some digital images detailing some of the wildlife to be found there.

The meeting starts at 7.30pm at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir with free parking next to the lodge and an overflow facility nearby next to the fishing boats. The Fishing Lodge is situated off the Brixworth road outside the village of Holcot. Hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening and members and non members alike are very welcome!


Neil M

Great Reed Warbler.

Clouded Yellow butterfly.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

A cool and windy Saturday


A rather cold and very windy day suppressed the activities of many birds locally but there were at least a few birds on show.

A wander around the Blueberry Farm complex near Maidwell was good for finding a male Common Redstart sheltering in the comparative shelter of a hedge at the bottom of The Hill field. Nearby there was a singing Grasshopper Warbler, defying the unpleasant conditions. 

A Peregrine was seen in flight at Lamport and a visit to the south end of Pitsford Reservoir this evening provided sightings of four Oystercatchers and a couple of Common Terns were keeping an Arctic Tern company in the Pintail Bay.

Summer Leys at Earls Barton Pits hosted a Whimbrel, a Bar-tailed Godwit, four Ringed Plovers and two Stoats, all sightings courtesy of David Parker. Ken Prouse saw the Great White Egret at Daventry Country Park this morning but it seems that yesterday's Black-necked Grebes had departed overnight.


Neil M

Common Redstart.


Arctic Tern.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Titchmarsh ramble


A walk around Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Pits today (26th) provided views of the long staying Whooper Swan on Elinor Lake, two Pink-footed Geese in the adjacent wheat field, two Egyptian Geese, three or four Little Egrets, a Hobby, at least one showy Cuckoo, an Oystercatcher, two Nightingales singing either side of the River Nene by the metal bridge that connects Town Lake to the reserve and large numbers of common warblers of eight species. Butterflies included Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green veined White, Orange-tip, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell and there were large numbers of blooming Primroses.

Eleanor's visit to Harrington Airfield was fruitful with a Ring Ouzel again at the northern end of the rough section near Bunker Three, a Cuckoo and two reeling Grasshopper Warblers. A Turtle Dove and a Peregrine were seen earlier in the day.

Please note that bird ringing operations there this coming Monday will restrict access on to the old airstrip and bunker areas but access can still be obtained to the public footpaths and concrete track. Please let me know if you would like to see this process in action.

Jacob counted a whopping 65 Blackcaps on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir today as part of the on-going Common Bird Census on the site and the dam hosted a couple of Oystercatchers and a Common Sandpiper this evening.

Gary had a great find at Daventry Country Park today with four fine summer plumage Black-necked Grebes (and a Great White Egret later) and other birds included a Bar-tailed Godwit and two Common Sandpipers at Clifford Hill Pits.


Neil M


Cuckoo courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Grasshopper Warbler.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Provence and return...


I'm just back from an eight day tour of the Provence region in France, the last two days being spent in the Camargue. It might have been the south of France but the weather over the Easter week-end was definitely warmer here in sunny Northants! Nevertheless we witnessed some interesting wildlife which for a change included some good mammals (Wild Boar, Chamois and others) and smart birds such as Citril Finch, all four European vultures and good views of Red-footed Falcon, Montagu's Harrier, Little Bustard and flocks of Wood Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks as well of course the pink army of Greater Flamingos!

On arrival back home this afternoon I was met with several Yellowhammers feeding on the lawn including the very bright males that always look good but positively shine at this time of the year!

Yesterday (24th) and Eleanor's visit to Harrington Airfield confirmed the arrival back of a Turtle Dove (one of the very few summering sites locally), the male Common Redstart still, two Wheatears, a Cuckoo and two reeling Grasshopper Warblers.

Today (25th) and the county continues to enjoy some pretty good wader passage with birds such as Turnstone, Ruff, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Common Sandpiper all on show in the Nene Valley and with Little Terns putting in an appearance at Thrapston Pits and Boddington Reservoir and a Black Tern at Clifford Hill Pits. A pair of Garganey remain at Summer Leys NR - a long-staying drake has been here since early spring.

Pitsford Reservoir (sometimes the poor relation to the Nene Valley in the spring) supported sightings of Osprey, Common Sandpiper and three Arctic Terns this evening.


Neil M

Griffon Vulture.

Wild Boar.

Eurasian Scop's Owl.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Catch Up

It has been a rather busy week which has left very little time for birding.  As the week progressed and the temperatures rose due to the change of the wind direction to the south then so did the numbers of migrants increase.
A Common Restart was present at Harrington Airfield earlier in the week and despite several visits there it has been quiet. But today saw a few new birds, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, one of which was showing well in the roadside bushes a short distance from the main entrance. There were 2 Northern Wheatears around the bunkers plus a Sedge Warbler, Willow Warblers, Yellow Wagtails and a pair of Grey Partridge.
This morning I had an early morning wander around Blueberry area and there was a Common Redstart, Cuckoo and 2 Grasshopper Warblers, one of which was sitting out in full view.   I have noticed that the first arrivals tend to sit perched out in the open.   Other birds included Grey Partridge , Tree Sparrows and 10 Fieldfares.
We still have plenty of Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings visiting our garden and today there was a superb male Brambling.  A Cuckoo was calling from a nearby hedgerow and it was still calling this evening from the same place !!!

Yesterday [19th] Eric Graham visited Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston and had a good selection of birds. Pink Footed Geese and adult Whooper Swan in a field behind Aldwincle Marsh.  3 singing Nightingales by the footbridge, 2 adult Little Gulls , Great White Egret and plenty of warblers including Garden Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, Sedge Warblers, Cettis Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaffs.

Some of you will have met one of our dogs Tor who often accompanies me whilst I am out birding and/or running.  He also competes in agility under his posh name " Spot the birdie twitcher Tor", quite apt as he has a good birding list !!  Yesterday he took part in the Rescue Dogs Agility Final where he put on an awesome performance earning him a 2nd place in jumping, a 1st place in agility and an overall 1st place for the day.  He has been putting his paws up today !!!

Regards Eleanor 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Today has been a strange day where I have literally bumped into some good birds whilst out and about doing chores. However the day started on a very quiet note with nothing seen on my early walk followed by a run.
I headed to Pitsford Reservoir with my young pup in tow and decided to walk part of the bigside with her hoping to meet lots of runners, cyclists, people etc so that she gets used to them.  I was not disappointed with the lovely weather bringing everyone out.  Of course I took the opportunity to do some birding and I was amazed to see a Great Northern Diver present just beyond the Pintail Bay. Whilst scanning I picked up an Osprey coming in over the dam . I didn't see it catch anything but it was certainly interested.
Back home and a quick change before heading out but I was side tracked by a huge flock, approx 400 strong, of Fieldfares feeding in the field behind our house.
Early afternoon whilst visiting relatives in Sywell I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling well from small spinney close to the road.
Then it was time to feed the birds at Harrington Airfield. The rough area/bunkers was quiet so I decided to complete a circuit taking in the main track.  I came across a male Ring Ouzel in the bushes around the shooting wall and a further two birds flew over. 
I finished the day with a Barn Owl hunting below the village but no sign of the Great Grey Shrike today.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 15 April 2019



The Hanging Houghton Great Grey Shrike was back along the brook in the Brampton Valley below the village this morning and a Peregrine was coasting around the Blueberry Farm area. Nearby the bare earth field that has been set for new grass alongside the A508 just south of the village continues to attract birds, particularly Fieldfares which numbered at least 900 today.

A singing Brambling was at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and a Common Sandpiper was on the causeway. A look around at the dam end of the reservoir provided the usual Yellow-legged Gull and a Common Tern and two Common Sandpipers on the dam itself. A couple more Bramblings were singing in the trees at the Sailing Club.

Small numbers of passerines feeding on the grass below the dam included a band of Meadow Pipits, a Wheatear and several singing Skylarks. One of these Skylarks almost drowned out the call of a Woodlark as it undulated past David Arden and I and flew strongly off towards the Moulton Grange Bay. It kept low in the strong easterly breeze and continued to call as it disappeared from view. I think the only previous record for Pitsford was a well-watched bird in a field next to the Scaldwell Bay probably three decades or more ago!


Neil M

Common Sandpiper.

Fieldfare courtesy
of Jacob.

Woodlark courtesy
of Robin.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Stortons ringing


It seemed a quieter day for birds in the county today, or maybe it's the local birders fed up with the cold northerly winds!

A ringing session at Stortons Pits today recorded -3C temperatures on arrival but the small band soon put up the nets and caught some quality birds consisting of five Chiffchaffs, six Blackcaps, an excellent six Cetti's Warblers, two Dunnocks, two Wrens, two Treecreepers, two Great Tits, a Song Thrush, two Blackbirds and three Reed Buntings.

One of the Chiffchaffs and one of the Cetti's Warblers were bearing rings from ringing efforts elsewhere, no doubt we will find out from where and when in due course.

Harrington Airfield doesn't seem to have attracted a notable bird for a long while now and today was little different with the best on show being three Grey Partridges, a Swallow and a Yellow Wagtail.

This evening and the Great Grey Shrike was relocated back to it's original hedge and field at Hanging Houghton, about half a mile west of the Brampton Valley Way.


Neil M

Reed Bunting at
Stortons Pits today
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Great Grey Shrike
near Hanging Houghton

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Pitsford CBC


The cold northerly winds we are experiencing seem to be blocking the passage of birds seeking to move north and east, today providing examples where these birds are amassing and awaiting a conducive air flow.

The Great Grey Shrike still present near Hanging Houghton today should be on its way any day now but is probably one such bird waiting for good weather before migrating back to the breeding grounds.

I conducted a Common Bird Census on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir today beginning at 6am and finishing at 1pm. It was cold for the first couple of hours but the sunshine made it pleasant to be out and about.

A single Willow Tit was found in the Scaldwell Bay opposite the ringing hut and Marsh Tits were pretty widespread. Two Nuthatch territories were in the same places as last time and in excess of twenty Bramblings were feeding and singing in tall trees behind the Bird Club hide in the Scaldwell Bay and at Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay. At least one Lesser Redpoll was attracted to the feeders in Christies Copse and the singing Cetti's Warbler remained on territory nearby. Blackcaps are aplenty now and a few Willow Warblers were singing at three spots. The pair of Oystercatchers were joined by three other birds today. The white Peacock first observed last year was in the Walgrave Bay, the occupied Cormorant nest count has now reached forty-five and various colonies of Ashy Mining Bees were active on the tracks around the reserve.

This afternoon a large Fieldfare flock in excess of the 745 birds counted were feeding on a bare earth rolled field next to the A508 just south of Hanging Houghton. I watched them for some time and despite the dry conditions they were successfully pulling lobworms from the manicured top soil. Plenty of other birds were finding bits to eat in the field and included about six Redwings and a female Brambling.

Birders working the lakes and vegetation at Earls Barton pits today saw an overflying Osprey, the drake Garganey still, fifty Fieldfares, a Great White Egret, a Dunlin, a Common Tern, an early singing Reed Warbler, a House Martin and a Yellow Wagtail.


Neil M

It was sometimes rather
noisy at Pitsford today!

Muntjac Deer.


Friday, 12 April 2019

Skokholm cameras, more Harrington ringing and a Crane!


Eric's sustained efforts at Thrapston Pits today yielded a perched Osprey surveying Elinor and Aldwincle Lakes, three Pink-footed Geese, two Egyptian Geese, a Great White Egret, six Common Terns, a pair of Oystercatchers and plenty of early warblers.

Stanwick Pits attracted a migrant Knot today plus an adult Little Gull and the Summer Leys reserve continues to hold on to it's drake Garganey (Gull Island) and a Great White Egret was on the scrape.

Some bird ringing took place at Harrington Airfield during the last two days which provided the temporary capture of eighty birds of fifteen species. This number was made up of 33 Yellowhammers, 3 Reed Buntings, 14 Linnets, 4 Chaffinches, a Goldfinch, a Robin, 8 Dunnocks, 2 Wrens, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, a Long-tailed Tit, 3 Great Tits, a Blackbird and a Song Thrush.

Two of the Willow Warblers were ringed there as adults on 3rd May 2018 and 14th June 2017 so have presumably returned to breed on the scrubby habitat around the bunkers. Several of the Yellowhammers were also several years old and are likely to breed close by. A Raven was seen to over-fly the old airfield but nothing else of note was seen.

The long-staying Great Grey Shrike was seen a couple of times in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today, showing better in the morning (as did a Barn Owl). I was there late this afternoon but couldn't locate it, but was rewarded with a fly-by Swallow, then two Ravens and then a high-flying Common Crane flapping slowly north over the village.

Up to a hundred and fifty Fieldfares were flying over Hanging Houghton this afternoon (probably held up by the northerly winds) and our garden was brightened up with at least seven feeding Yellowhammers.

A strong relationship exists between members of the Northants Ringing Group and the diminutive but very special Pembrokeshire island of Skokholm. Chris Payne has cemented this further, using his entrepreneurial and technical skills to successfully apply for a grant and build and utilise high tech camera equipment to remotely record the antics of breeding sea-birds on the island. Chris has just returned from the island where he has sought to set up and maintain cameras as activated by hand-held digital devices. These cameras can be used to monitor the activity of adults and nestlings, thus preventing physical intervention/disturbance and will be used with species such as Storm Petrels, gulls and auks. Chris will be returning during the year to ensure smooth progress and quality data collection.


Neil M

Willow Warbler.

Reed Bunting.





All images above courtesy
of John Tilly.

Guillemot ledges.

Herring-bone design
'petrel station' wall purposely
built for breeding Storm Petrels.

Camera monitors set up
and running!

Images from Skokholm courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Harrington ringing


The Hanging Houghton Great Grey Shrike was on show again today, sometimes showing well along the brook and hedgerows below the village and viewable from the hard standing next to the large barn. A Peregrine was on show over woodland towards Cottesbrooke.

Birds at various places within the Earls Barton Pits complex today included an Osprey over east, a male Redstart (in bushes north of Mary's Lake) and a Grasshopper Warbler at the back of the screen hide, Quarry Walk.

Bird ringing will be taking place at Harrington Airfield tomorrow and access to the old airstrip and bunkers will be restricted during this time. The footpaths and concrete track will remain unaffected.


Neil M



Willow Warbler.

Preliminary ringing this afternoon
at Harrington Airfield provided captures
 of these three species.