Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Ringing recoveries


Some recent ringing recoveries have been received as a result of Northants Ringing Group activities as follows:-

1. A first year Garden Warbler was caught and ringed at Beachy Head, East Sussex on 16th August 2017. This bird has been caught three times at Pitsford Reservoir this month on the 4th, 6th and 16th when assessed as being a breeding female. It is about 194 km between the two sites but of course she has been to Africa and back on two occasions inbetween!

2. An adult drake Mallard was caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 24th July 2014. This bird was reportedly shot between Kopnino and Svechino, Perelavik, near Moscow in Russia on or about 26th April 2019. The distance from Pitsford is about 2578 km in a general east direction, 1737 days elapsing between the two relevant dates. Catching adult Mallard at Pitsford in the summer is not in itself remarkable but most of our recoveries of these birds relate to birds shot locally and we have never had a bird travel so far away. The origins of this bird are not known - was it a Russian bird summering and moulting here in 2014 or a British bird deciding to travel east?

3. A first year Reed Warbler was trapped and ringed in Spain at a place called Balsa Guarda, Bardenas near Navarra on 19th August 2017. This bird was caught again at Stanwick Pits/Lakes on
22nd June 2019 when assessed as an adult male. This is another bird that between these records has wintered on two occasions in Africa - it is about 1119 km north between the ringing and recovery sites with 672 days elapsing between both episodes;

4. A first year male Goldfinch was caught and ringed at Astcote, Towcester on 24th November 2018 and 242 days later was found dead and wedged in a radiator grill of a car at Dunbar, East Lothian on 24th July 2019. This record mirrors many other Goldfinch records indicating that many Scottish breeders winter and pass through Northamptonshire.

It is hoped to commit to some bird ringing at Harrington Airfield this coming Friday and Saturday and if anyone wants to come along to observe proceedings please let me know. This will ensure that access to the old airstrip and bunkers will be restricted to members of the ringing team and invitees (conditions imposed by land owner). Access to the concrete track and footpaths remains unaffected.


Neil M

Garden Warbler.


Reed Warbler.

Goldfinch courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

A very wet Tuesday!


Plenty of variation in the weather today but the afternoon was especially wet and windy, particularly for July!

Pitsford Reservoir this morning recorded a Whimbrel flying south over the dam, a juvenile Arctic Tern lingering off the Sailing Club and an Osprey fishing south of the causeway. Other birds included three Yellow-legged Gulls and a Common Sandpiper.

Stanwick initially hosted a single Cattle Egret, a Dunlin, a Little Ringed Plover and three Common Sandpipers. Later the Cattle Egret total increased to three and gulls included a Caspian and five Yellow-leggeds. Five Cattle Egrets were noted at nearby Ringstead Pits.

The Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston harboured three Garganey today plus a Green Sandpiper. The Brampton Valley near Hanging Houghton pulled in an early morning Marsh Harrier, a Common Redstart and a Grasshopper Warbler with nearby Blueberry Farm attracting another Common Redstart, two Whinchats and a Grasshopper Warbler.

Jonathan Cook's evening visit to Hollowell Reservoir provided sightings of 4-8 Common Sandpipers, a Dunlin, a movement of Common Terns and the Ruddy Shelduck.


Neil M

Cattle Egret.

Common Redstart.

Common Sandpiper. Good numbers
are currently passing through the county.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Fermyn insects


A tour around Harrington Airfield this morning provided plenty of common birds including quite a collection of Linnets and assorted warblers including a singing Grasshopper Warbler. A juvenile Common Redstart was in bushes towards the northern end of the concrete track.

Bits and pieces from elsewhere included three Cattle Egrets, a Dunlin, six Common Sandpipers and three Green Sandpipers at Stanwick early this morning and a Black Tern, a Ruff and ten Yellow-legged Gulls this evening. Adrian saw a juvenile Mediterranean Gull at Summer Leys this morning, they seem to be a bit late coming through this year. Nick Parker located one of the Garganey at Titchmarsh Reserve today plus a Spotted Flycatcher and noted quite a movement of gulls including Yellow-legged Gulls.

A family of Spotted Flycatchers were at Beck Dairy, Cottesbrooke today but a foray in to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening only provided a pair of Grey Partridge.

This afternoon we spent some time in Fermyn Wood and the adjacent country park in warm sunshine. No birds of note found but to be fair we were watching insects most of the time. Plenty of butterflies on the wing but it seems that the Purple Emperors have now finished - we didn't see any and other people looking drew a blank too. Two White Admirals were reported but the best of the rest included excellent numbers of Silver-washed Fritillaries and a few Purple Hairstreaks. Odonata included Blue Emperor, Brown and Migrant Hawkers, Common and Ruddy Darters and Emerald Damselfly. The homemade cake at the Skylark Cafe is still very good!


Neil M

Ruddy Darter.

Brown Hawker.

Blue Emperor.

Migrant Hawker.


Painted Lady.

Silver washed Fritillary.


Small Skipper.


Jaeger and Eleanor.
Jaeger is the one on
the left...

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Birds of a wet week-end!


The heavy rain of the last two days has provided an opportunity to see some of the birds that would normally pass through the county unseen. Yesterday evening (27th) a Wood Sandpiper and a Garganey were located on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Pits.

At 6am this morning two drake Common Scoters were located at Pitsford Reservoir off the dam and they meandered off to the east shore where they fed just a few feet off the bank. A little while later three drake Common Scoters swam out of the Pintail Bay into the main basin and later drifted north towards the causeway. Two adult Arctic Terns joined the Common Terns there and a Dunlin flew in. Three Yellow-legged Gulls were on the buoys and a family of Spotted Flycatchers were in hedging by the Sailing Club entrance. A Green Sandpiper and two Common Sandpipers were north of the causeway this evening.

Stanwick Pits/Lakes provided an impressive list of birds today including three Cattle Egrets, a Sanderling, a Dunlin, a Whimbrel, three Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper, two Black Terns and five Arctic Terns with a possible juvenile Citrine Wagtail being seen by local guru Steve Fisher (the bird was distant and elusive). The Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston yielded two Garganey and a passage of Arctic Terns totalling seventeen birds. Summer Leys Reserve at Earls Barton attracted a Black Tern, a Sanderling, a Dunlin, a Green Sandpiper, four Common Sandpipers and a Greenshank and Clifford Hill Pits harboured three Arctic Terns this afternoon.

Finally birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening included a juvenile Marsh Harrier, two Whinchats and a Common Redstart.


Neil M

Arctic Tern.

Black Terns.


Saturday, 27 July 2019

The wader season is here again!


An early morning wander in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton yielded a warbler flock in 'shrike hedge', a hedgerow that runs south to north across the track that leads from the Brampton Valley Way to Cottesbrooke. Every year this hedge is a magnet for passerine migrants and this morning birds in the hedgerow included two Common Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher. At least one of those Redstarts was still present this afternoon.

A juvenile Marsh Harrier was subsequently seen quartering over the island of fields north of Brixworth and sandwiched between the A508 and the parallel road leading from Brixworth to Scaldwell villages. This hunting bird headed off gently towards Pitsford Reservoir.

An afternoon visit to Hollowell Reservoir yielded a fishing Osprey which arrived shortly after I did and then left twenty minutes later having caught nothing. Other birds included the long-staying Ruddy Shelduck, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, three Little Egrets and five Common Sandpipers.

Nearby Ravensthorpe Reservoir hosted three Yellow-legged Gulls, two Little Egrets, two adult Dunlin, four Green Sandpipers and three Common Sandpipers. Several Yellow-legged Gulls were again off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon.

In the meantime Eleanor was at Blueberry Farm and had a juvenile Marsh Harrier cruise past heading south...

Steve Fisher's two visits to Stanwick today provided views of three Cattle Egrets, a Black-tailed Godwit, four Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers and a Redshank.


Neil M

Dunlin courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Green Sandpiper courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Insects on parade!


Yesterday evening (25th) and there were no less than three 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Not much opportunity for birding today but Harrington Airfield was quite productive this morning with two Common Redstarts lingering around the first ringing ride near to bunker one, two Turtle Doves at the end of the concrete track, a pair of Grey Partridge and a singing Grasshopper Warbler by bunker two. This afternoon at least one of the Redstarts, a juvenile male, was still showing intermittently on the edge of the ringing ride.

Two Ravens overflew Hanging Houghton this morning and five Yellow-legged Gulls were off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this evening.

Elsewhere a Cattle Egret was at Stanwick this morning plus two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a Little Ringed Plover and eight Common Sandpipers. Nearby at Ringstead Pits there were still four juvenile Cattle Egrets this afternoon and a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper at Summer Leys.

This evening at 10.20pm the local Barn Owl could be heard calling as he roded around the village.

Due to the uncertain weather forecast for tomorrow (Saturday 27th), the ringing demonstration due to be held at Pitsford Reservoir close to the Fishing Lodge is now cancelled.


Neil M

Marbled White butterfly

Phasia Hemiptera.

Marmalade Hoverfly.

Silver-washed Fritillary.

Ruddy Darter.

Four spotted Chaser.

Figwort Weevil.

Hawthorn Shield Bug.

Insects of July courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Crikey that was hot!


Well the billing for the hottest day of the year proved accurate, thank goodness there was a breeze for much of it. Not surprisingly the majority of bird activity was confined to the early morning and evening.

A juvenile Common Redstart was in field hedging in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning, access by walking along the hedge that runs behind the large barn near to the Brampton Valley Way. A singing Grasshopper Warbler was nearby. Steve Fisher's daily venture to Stanwick Pits/Lakes also produced sightings of three Cattle Egrets, two Common Sandpipers and a Snipe.

Three Yellow-legged Gulls were on buoys off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon with another north of the causeway. A Common Sandpiper and a Goldeneye were also in the Scaldwell Bay.

At 8pm this evening a Turtle Dove began purring in trees two gardens along from our house at Hanging Houghton and is still purring now as I type! Somewhat bizarre but perhaps it can't find a mate and is attracted to the village Collared Doves?


Neil M

Great Crested Grebe.

Little Egret.


Common Tern.

Great Crested Grebe.

Common Terns.

More images from Pitsford
Reservoir courtesy of
 Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Pitsford ringing


Bird ringing activity at Pitsford Reservoir today concluded with a total of 112 birds being processed which included a boat trip out to the tern rafts and ringing 16 Common Tern chicks. Other birds of another twenty species included a Kingfisher, a Blackbird, a Song Thrush, 6 Dunnocks, 9 Robins, 10 Wrens, a Treecreeper, 2 Goldcrests, 4 Willow Warblers, 8 Chiffchaffs, 5 Garden Warblers, 8 Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, 5 Reed Warblers, 17 Great Tits, 9 Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, 2 Marsh Tits, 4 Long-tailed Tits and a Bullfinch.

Other birds noted on the reserve included a Great White Egret, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and three drake Red-crested Pochards.

Hollowell Reservoir today supported waders in the shape of a Dunlin, three Green Sandpipers, five Common Sandpipers, a Redshank and a Little Ringed Plover. Stanwick again hosted a Cattle Egret today plus two Green Sandpipers and five Common Sandpipers.

A walk in the cooling evening at Harrington Airfield was good for two moulting juvenile Common Redstarts (by the Shooting Wall and at the ringing ride near to Bunker One), a Turtle Dove, a pair of Grey Partridge, a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler, an influx of Willow Warblers and a juvenile Sedge Warbler trying it's best to sing! A Hobby raced past the garden here at Hanging Houghton this afternoon in pursuit of Swallows and a male Sparrowhawk was punching above it's weight with it's capture of a Collared Dove.


Neil M

Furtive Grasshopper Warbler
at Harrington Airfield this evening.


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Pitsford events


Today I undertook the last Common Bird Census of the season around the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir, starting at 5am this morning. An unearthly golden glow and banks of mist awaited and enthralled me as I meandered north of the causeway. Although it was pleasant temperatures right from the word go it didn't become hot and sunny until I was about half way around.

Being towards the end of the season this last session is all about mopping up on late breeders and seeing evidence of productivity rather than mapping territories. Even now though there were odd Robins, Song Thrushes, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs still singing and holding territory but of course all the tits and many of the warblers, Treecreeper and Goldcrest offspring were gleaning the trees and bushes in large roving mixed flocks. Willow Tits were noted in the Scaldwell and Holcot Bays. Fresh-in migrants included juvenile Willow Warblers and a juvenile Grey Wagtail, and juvenile Sedge Warblers will be from elsewhere (none breeding on the reserve at all this year).

Great White Egrets were noted south of the causeway and in the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays, probably just two mobile birds being involved in these sightings. Some fifteen Little Egrets were present as were nearly four hundred moulting Gadwall and reasonable numbers of Tufted Duck and Pochard. Kingfisher and Common Sandpiper added a little more variety and two eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard were today in the Scaldwell Bay. No doubt the summering Goldeneye is still there somewhere but I didn't see it.

Larger breeding birds included five broods of Mute Swan, two broods of Great Crested Grebe, four broods of Tufted Duck, three Common Buzzard families and two family groups of Sparrowhawk. 

The very warm conditions brought forth a host of insects which included 15 species of butterfly (perhaps the best being Purple Hairstreak) and 14 species of odonata which included Beautiful Demoiselle and another Lesser Emperor dragonfly. A fairly worn Hummingbird Hawk-moth showed well in the Holcot Bay.

The week of events celebrating fifty years of conservation at Pitsford Reservoir continues and there is an excellent free photographic exhibition at the Fishing Lodge illustrating some of the wildlife on-site including images from Robin Gossage and Dave Jackson (open 9.30am - 4pm every day up to and including Sunday 28th July). Weather permitting there will also be a bird ringing demonstration near to the Fishing Lodge on Saturday 27th July with a drop-in opportunity of coming along anytime between 8.30am and 12.30pm.


Neil M

Pitsford early this morning...
a combination of sunrise and
 overnight mist.

Great Crested Grebe.

Grey Heron.

Little Egret.

Common Blue Damselfly.

Common Darter.

Azure Blue Damselfly.

Blue Emperor.

Juvenile Grey Wagtail.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

All images today at
Pitsford Reservoir.