Friday, 31 May 2019

Pitsford CBC


Today I committed to the fifth Common Bird Census of the season on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir. The weather was dull but mild and dry but didn't really inspire the insects to show themselves. However there were plenty of young fledged birds about.

A singing Spotted Flycatcher remains close to the Fishing Lodge but was the only one noted on the reserve. A Little Egret was in the Walgrave Bay, the two Oystercatchers were quite mobile, and the first indication of 'autumn' was in the shape of a returning Lapwing! I counted 43 active Cormorant nests and the singing Cetti's Warbler remained (present since March). Blackcaps occupied at least thirty-nine territories and Garden Warbler twenty-two. Three Willow Warbler territories were mapped but there were no Sedge Warblers and just a handful of Reed Warblers.

Large numbers of juvenile tits dominated the plantations and bushes but sadly there was no sign of any Willow Tits. Four active Great Spotted Woodpecker nests were located. Black-headed Gulls have bred successfully.

Butterflies amounted to Speckled Wood, Large White, Small Copper, Small Heath, Common Blue and Large Skipper and day time flying moths included Chimney Sweeper . No dragonflies were seen but reasonable numbers of Common Blue Damselflies were about as were a few Beautiful Demoiselles...

Further singing Spotted Flycatchers noted today were at the Brampton Valley Way north of Draughton Crossing and Maidwell village (near to the churchyard).


Neil M

Garden Warbler.

Cercopis vulnerata or
Black and Red Froghopper
...thank-you to Simon and Gill
and Richard for identifying it!

Common Blue Damselfly.

Great Crested Grebe.

Beautiful Demoiselle.

All images taken at
Pitsford today.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Garden feeding and ringing recoveries...


This morning I took a wander around Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate, the most interesting birds being a brood of just-fledged Chiffchaffs and two singing Spotted Flycatchers. This evening a short walk at Harrington Airfield provided views of a Grey Partridge and three Brown Hares.

Our small garden is very busy with birds currently, the most noisy being a large flock of adult and juvenile Starlings and good numbers of adult Jackdaws. Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Collared Doves and still several Yellowhammers are coming in for scattered seed, and reasonable numbers of Goldfinches and just a few Chaffinches and Greenfinches are still feeding from the sunflower and niger feeders. The village House Sparrows are gleaning a mixture of food and Pied Wagtails, tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers add a little more variety. Bigger birds include Carrion Crow, Magpie and the occasional visit from a Sparrowhawk.

A few more ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

1. A Blue Tit ringed as a nestling at Stortons Pits on 22nd May 2016 was killed by a cat in St James, Northampton on or about 7th May this year. This bird probably never did stray very far from its natal area, a total of 1080 days elapsing between both records;

2. An adult female Mallard was ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 17th August 2015 and 1348 days later, on or about 26th April this year, was apparently killed by a dog in adjacent Brixworth Country Park. This record aligns to similar data suggesting that our local Mallard do not stray particularly far;

3. A first year female Goldfinch was ringed at Hanging Houghton on 27th November 2018 and was caught again by a ringer at Damhead Farm, Carluke, South Lanarkshire (south of Glasgow) on 12th April this year. It seems that Scottish breeding Goldfinches regularly winter or pass through middle England. Carluke is 420 km NNW from Hanging Houghton, 136 days elapsing between the two records.


Neil M

Blue Tit
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Female Mallard and ducklings

courtesy of John Tilly.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

CES Ringing


On Monday evening I returned from an eight day tour in the West Highlands of Scotland - we saw all the main highlights of the tour which included daily sightings of Pine Marten, several Otters, both species of eagle, lots of close-up sea birds including Puffins, plenty of deer and a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. The Strontian American Black Duck put in a couple of guest appearances and our visit coincided with the first emergence of Chequered Skipper butterflies.

Yesterday (Tuesday) and a quick gallop around Harrington Airfield failed to identify much different there but a pair of Grey Partridge is always a treat. Common Blue, Small Heath and Orange-tip butterflies were on the wing. 

I checked the woodland around the Brampton Valley Way just south of the Kelmarsh tunnels where a singing Wood Warbler had been present at the week-end, but didn't hear or see it. On territory birds included Spotted Flycatcher, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.

Today (Wednesday) and a trio of ringers were operating at Pitsford Reservoir in the Scaldwell Bay, the Constant Effort Session yielding 64 captures in total. These were made up of 16 Long-tailed Tits (all new birds), 6 Blue Tits, 5 Marsh Tits, 3 Great Tits, 2 Treecreepers, a Wren, 4 Dunnocks, 6 Robins, a Song Thrush, 6 Blackbirds, 3 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps, 3 Garden Warblers, a Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting. There was a large emergence of Chimney Sweeper moths near the Ringing Hut and Beautiful Demoiselles were on the wing (a recent colonist to Pitsford).


Neil M

Treshnish Isles.

Chequered Skipper
Strontian, West Highlands.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Sunday ringing


Two teams of local ringers were in operation on Sunday (26th) working at Stortons Pits and Linford Lakes.

John Woollett and team were at Stortons and managed 39 captures of eleven species before the increasing wind strength concluded business. Nine new Reed Warblers was good and a Linnet was something of a surprise. Three nestling Reed Buntings were also ringed as well as a selection of common birds.

Down at Linford Lakes the breeze also hampered operations, particularly with tree debris (mostly willow catkins) clogging up the nets! Nevertheless it was a very productive session with 94 birds caught of an impressive 22 species. A surprise catch was an adult Common Tern! Other birds included a couple of Kingfishers, nine Blackcaps, five Garden Warblers, five Whitethroats, four Reed Warblers, four Chiffchaffs, a Sedge Warbler, two Cetti's Warblers, six Starlings and seventeen Long-tailed Tits.

Birds noted on-site included Barn Owl, Oystercatcher and three Cuckoos.


Neil M

Common Tern.

Images courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Quiet ??

On the surface it would appear that everything has gone " quiet" but the reality is that the birds are simply getting on with breeding. In our garden both the Blue Tit and Pied Wagtail adults are very busy collecting food for their youngsters.  The Pied Wagtails are not at all put off by the dogs and literally run around them whilst they are playing.  Over the last couple of days we have been inundated with young Starlings who are extremely vocal and entertaining to watch. They have such cheeky expressions on their faces. I could watch their antics all day.
Yesterday I went on what I call a " Forest Gump" run as when I start out I have no idea of where I'm going or how long I will run for.  My route took me along the Brampton Valley Way towards Market Harborough.  When I reached the tunnels at Kelmarsh I couldn't decide whether to run through or not and whilst deliberating I heard a Wood Warbler singing in the small copse and could see it shaking as it sang from the top of a small tree. 
I decided against running through the tunnel and instead headed off to Harrington Airfield where a Grasshopper Warbler and Turtle Dove were present.   Other birds on my run included Raven, Grey Partridge, Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo and loads of warblers.
There are always plenty of other things to look at. There have been some stunning sunrise and sunset skies.  Plenty of butterflies around and today large numbers of Orange Tip and Brimstone.  At Harrington Airfield there are a few very fresh Common Spotted Orchid out in flower . I've been lucky enough to bump into my favourite, the Brown Hare, as well as Fox, Badger, Roe Deer and Munjac.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Local bird ringing


John Woollett and Chris Payne were ringing at Stortons Pits today and captured a very good total of 81 birds of eighteen species which included seven species of warbler. The total was made up of three Willow Warblers, an excellent eighteen Reed Warblers (which included a bird ringed from elsewhere), three Sedge Warblers, three Blackcaps, three Garden Warblers, four Cetti's Warblers and three Whitethroats. Other birds included nine Long-tailed Tits, three Blue Tits, a Wren, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, six Blackbirds, two Song Thrushes, five Dunnocks, two Robins, six Goldfinches, a Bullfinch and eight Reed Buntings. A Cuckoo and two Hobby were seen on-site.

Down the road at Linford Lakes, four ringers led by Kenny Cramer caught 45 birds of 15 species and included 25 birds not previously ringed. The total was made up of four Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, a Sedge Warbler, nine Reed Warblers (including three returning birds from previous years), a Chiffchaff, four Great Tits, two Blue Tits, seven Long-tailed Tits, four Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Song Thrush, a Blackbird, a Dunnock, two Bullfinches, six Reed Buntings and a cracking male Sparrowhawk. A Cuckoo and a Hobby were noted here too.

Two more Hobby were noted between Lamport and Harrington Airfield, a Raven was seen at Kelmarsh and a Peregrine was seen over the A45 at Stanwick Pits.

Eleanor took a wander around the Titchmarsh reserve at Thrapston Pits this afternoon and amassed a reasonable list of birds which included two Hobby, two Cuckoos, a Curlew, a couple of Oystercatchers, a visual singing Nightingale and plenty of Cetti's Warblers.

A Hoopoe was reported in a field with livestock off Ditchford Lane this morning but wasn't seen again.


Neil M

Male Sparrowhawk
courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Hobby courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

France, Pitsford and Desborough!


I arrived back on Thursday evening following a period of 16 days in the Camargue and Provence area of South France. The weather was sunny and dry but with persistent and at times extremely strong northerly winds. The last part of this period was as part of a thirteen strong gang from the Northants Bird Club and we scoured numerous sites and habitats in our search for birds, beasts and insects. There were numerous highlights and with over 160 species of birds recorded we did as well as could be expected. On top of the wildlife we were fortunate to enjoy a good hotel, great camaraderie and were able to sample traditional Camargue cuisine and wines. The photographers were kept busy and no doubt we will see in due course the fruits of their labour. In particular I would like to thank Bob Gill for his assistance in making it happen which included driving one of the mini-buses and co ordinating the picnic lunches.

Yesterday morning (Friday) and I noticed a couple of vocal Crossbills flying around the trees and gardens here at Hanging Houghton first thing in the morning but haven't seen them since so just a momentary drop in session I would think. A quick wander around Harrington Airfield didn't locate anything different and the best birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton amounted to Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit on territory.

Today (Saturday) saw a wildlife event at Pitsford Reservoir as organised by the Desborough and District supporters branch of the Wildlife Trust. Several of the Pitsford volunteers and staff were on hand to provide a little guidance for the excellent turn out, and with a buffet lunch and displays thrown in it made for a very pleasant and convivial affair. Nigel Lingley and his Desborough enthusiasts were particularly generous and provided a donation towards the wild bird feeding initiative that I co-ordinate in central Northants. Thank-you all very much indeed for your support.

Thankfully the wildlife behaved and we saw interesting birds in the shape of a Black Tern and a Hobby both hawking in the Scaldwell Bay, an Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper, a pair of adult Tawny Owls and some very showy Spotted Flycatchers both by the Fishing Lodge and earlier I noted some in the trees next to the Sailing Club. Red Kites, Common Terns, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers and Great Black-backed Gulls added some more variety. Butterflies included Small Copper and eventually other insects began to appear in quite sultry conditions this afternoon.


Neil M

Greater Flamingo

White Stork

Tawny Owl
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Spotted Flycatcher
courtesy of Jacob.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The weather has improved, sunshine and blue skies but the movement of waders, terns etc has slowed down considerably.
Over the last few days visits to Pitsford has produced Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Common Terns and a long distant view of the 2 Common Scotors which made a brief stay.
Harrington Airfield has been equally as quiet with Turtle Dove, Grasshopper Warbler, Northern Wheatear, Peregrine and Grey Partridge being the only birds of note.
Today I visited Sywell , but again all seemed quiet.  A Cettis Warbler was in full song and the tern raft busy with squabbling Common Terns and a Cormorant sitting in the middle of them !!
Not much to report from the valley below Hanging Houghton apart from Barn Owl, Grasshopper Warbler and Northern Wheatear.

Eric has been keeping an eye on Titchmarsh where the usual birds are still present. Great White Egret, Hobby, Peregrine, Cuckoo and plenty of warblers.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Wandering Waders

The cold, wet and somewhat dreary weather conditions persist and the waders etc continue to be on the move.
During several short visits today I notched up a drake Garganey, Black and Arctic Tern, Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Whimbrel. Ringed and Little Ringed Plover but missed Grey Plover and Bar Tailed Godwit .  Quite a list for Pitsford where the water level is high. The best places to see these waders is the dam and causeway.
The Nene Valley, especially Clifford Hill and Summer Leys, are undoubtedly the best places to see good numbers and variety of waders and terns. 
There was a Barn Owl and Grasshopper Warbler below Hanging Houghton village this evening.

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Mid Week Birds

Over the last couple of days there has been a significant movement of waders and terns visiting our reservoirs and gravel pits.  Although we might not like this cool damp weather the birds certainly do and it has provided the opportunity to witness the wonder of migration as birds seemingly fall out of the sky for a breather before lingering or heading off.
I have managed a few snatches of this during several visits to Pitsford Reservoir. Yesterday I saw my first Black Tern and Arctic Terns of the spring !!  plus an Osprey which was seen several times. I've no idea whether it was the same individual bird or several visiting birds stopping off on their way north.
Today Pitsford was much busier with birds. The number of terns changing minute by minute as more came and went. During the early part of the afternoon there were at least 12 Black Terns, 1 Arctic Tern and several Common Terns near the dam.   On the dam itself were 2 Redshank and a Common Sandpiper. Earlier a Sanderling had flown through[not seen by myself].  More Black Terns [6] were viewed from the causeway along with 2 Dunlin, Ringed Plover, 2 Oystercatcher and a super flock of 18 Bar Tailed Godwits, not a bird that I see in such numbers at Pitsford.

I was hoping that the weather would be having the same effect on Harrington Airfield and produce a good bird, but sadly not the case. Yesterday I saw 2 Turtle Doves flying around but could only locate a single bird today. A lone Northern Wheatear and Grasshopper Warbler have been the only other birds of note.

Plenty of birds visiting our garden including 14 Yellowhammers and 2 Reed Buntings. I can't keep up with the amount of seed they are eating and currently am feeding them three times a day. The lawn has just been a mass of birds today with Pied Wagtails, Goldfinches, Starlings, Blackbirds, Jackdaws, Stock Doves, Wood Pigeon, Collared Doves, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker,Nuthatch, Crow all joining in the feeding frenzy.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 6 May 2019

I have done very little birding over the last few days due to taking part at an agility competition with "Spot the birdie twitcher Tor" and Jaeger "pirate in the skies". Both did well !!
There are still a couple of reeling Grasshopper Warblers near to Blueberry and a Barn Owl hunting below Hanging Houghton.

Dave Francis has been ringing at Pitsford Reservoir
Well the CES season has started!  Below are the overall totals for the first visit, which includes a very few birds caught while setting up on Sunday and the real CES catch on Monday.

Species  New   Retrap      Total

Blaca      10        1              11
Bluti        5          4                9
Wren      7          0                7
Treec      2          3                5
Chiff        5          0                5
Robin      4          1                5
Blabi        4          1               5
Lotti         1          3               4
Garwa     3          1               4
Dunno    4           0               4
Bullf        3           0               3
Wilwa     0           1               1
Reebu     1           0               1
Jay           0           1               1

Total       49         16             65

The overall total was 65 captures.  The species variety is typical of the CES site, comprising as it does, wet scrub and nearby mixed woodland/plantation.

The Garwa and Blabi re-traps were both originally ringed as adults in May 2015 and are thus 5+ years old.

The Jay was originally ringed in May 2013 and is thus 7+ years old.

The remaining re-traps are more recent.

This is a good start to the season but the catches will greatly increase in a few weeks with all the juvenile birds about!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Mid Week Birds

We are continuing to attract good numbers of Yellowhammers, Goldfinch and Chaffinch to our garden plus the odd Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow.  Yesterday there were 2 Fieldfares feeding in the grass field behind our house along with several Yellow Wagtails, quite a sight to see both winter and summer migrants together.
Also yesterday I visited Harrington and was just ambling through the rough area when I came across a Hawfinch perched on the top of a bush. I don't know who was more surprised , the bird or me !!  The Hawfinch flew around calling before perching on a different bush near to the compound.  Goodness knows what it was doing there.     Other birds included a Northern Wheatear, reeling Grasshopper Warbler, Turtle Dove and Hobby.

Eric was out and about at Titchmarsh yesterday where he saw and heard good numbers of warblers with their singing being deafening at times.  A Nightingale was again in full song and sitting in full view.  This bird certainly appears to be the easiest bird to see at the moment.  Other birds included 2 or 3 Hobby, Whooper Swan and a pair of Egyptian Geese.

Very few birds seen today. There are still 2 or 3 Grasshopper Warblers reeling in the Blueberry area . Other birds seen on my walk here this afternoon included a "scruffy" Peregrine, Hobby and pair of Grey Partridge.
John Woollett undertook a ringing session at Stortons Pits today and caught 44 birds, 30 of which were new and 14 retraps.  The retrap birds included returning Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and a 5 year old Reed Bunting.

Regards Eleanor