Saturday, 31 August 2019

Birding the last day of August...


I woke this morning listening to the croaking of Ravens in the dim light of dawn...

Birds noted at Summer Leys reserve today included two Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers and a Snipe. An Osprey was at Titchmarsh Reserve today and an excellent find just down the road was a Pied Flycatcher at Barnwell Country Park. Five Whinchats were found next to the River Nene near Wollaston Sewer Works today and Hollowell Reservoir hosted the Ruddy Shelduck, a Greenshank, three Common Sandpipers and four Little Ringed Plovers.

An unconfirmed report of a Nigh Heron at Ditchford Pits sounds intriguing, the venue of the last long-staying accessible bird in the county - map references SP925683 and SP930680 apparently are the observation spots.

Two Common Redstarts were again near Twywell village in a hedgerow along the footpath towards the Country Park. Another Common Redstart was in field hedging just south east of Lamport this afternoon with a Spotted Flycatcher nearby and there were two Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Water Treatment Works.

Pitsford Reservoir was busy this evening, birds north of the causeway including a fishing Osprey, a Garganey, two Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper, three Snipe, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Hobby, a juvenile Little Gull and a Common Redstart. Later observations from the Sailing Club yielded a fishing Osprey (possibly the same bird from north of the causeway), ten Common Terns, six Yellow-legged Gulls (one colour-ringed) and a Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

Great White Egret at
Summer Leys reserve
today courtesy of
John Tilly.

Pied Flycatcher.

Common Redstart.

New petition for banning driven grouse shooting

A message from Dr Mark Avery...

The petition was set up by Chris Packham and had already gathered over 72,000 signatures in just over a week. That's good going. But time is short because we need to get past 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in the Westminster Parliament to raise the profile of this issue. Although in theory we have until 13 February to get to 100,000 signatures it isn't that simple as, if a general election is called (as seems likely some time this autumn) then all petitions are closed and we'd have to start again!

So I am asking for your help, please, whether you agree with the petition or not, to spread the word to your friends and colleagues.

There are two ways that you can help, please:

  • sign the petition yourself
  • forward details to friends, family etc
I'd be very grateful, and so would Chris, for any support. 

Dr Mark Avery


Meadow Pipit.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Friday's birds


I'm just back from two weeks in the West Highlands of Scotland based on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular. Although warm it was very wet and a far cry from the weather systems in sunny Northamptonshire! A pair of Raven welcomed me back at Hanging Houghton - even though they have been resident in the county for some years now I'm still thrilled to see and hear them!

Dave Francis completed the last of the Constant Effort ringing sessions of the season at Pitsford Reservoir today catching 53 birds of 16 species made up of  12 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, 2 Marsh Tits, a Coal Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, 5 Wrens, 3 Dunnocks, 4 Robins, 4 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 3 Goldcrests, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcaps and a Reed Bunting.

Eleanor visited Twywell Hills and Dales Country Park this afternoon and located three Common Redstarts and two Whinchats and two Spotted Flycatchers.

Summer Leys reserve was lively today with two Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, a Wood Sandpiper, a Snipe and a Common Sandpiper. Two Whinchats were on-site at Sywell Country Park in the north-east arm and another was seen at Neville's Lodge, Finedon. Three Yellow-legged Gulls and about ten Common Terns were visible at Pitsford Reservoir this evening.


Neil M

Wood Sandpiper courtesy
of Robin Gossage.



Sunday, 25 August 2019

Odds and Ends

Whilst the very hot weather has been welcomed by many, it can be hard work for others. Birding can seem an effort and my own birding has been confined to early morning and late evening rambles around the fields at Blueberry or Harrington Airfield.  Every day I am bumping into Common Redstart. These are "regular" at Harrington. I've no idea whether these are new birds moving through or the same ones staying put for a while as sometimes they are sitting in full view and at other times remain elusive. Other birds that I have seen on an almost daily basis are Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler, Turtle Dove and Tree Pipit.
Plenty of good birds [ not seen by myself] have turned up at the reservoirs and gravel pits including Black, Little and Sandwich Tern, Cattle and Great White Egret, Wood Sandpiper and Pied Flycatcher.
The ringers have been busy. John Woollett caught 49 birds at Stortons gravel pits with Blackcap being top of the list at 25.
At Pitsford Dave Francis caught 104 birds of 17 species and noted that the numbers of Blackcaps have already dropped off considerably with only 3 birds caught.  In previous sessions Blackcap have been top of the list of the totals.
Interesting observations from these ringing sessions about the Blackcap numbers from two sites which as the bird flies are not far from each other.
I have been watching a Barn Owl regularly although it/they have become more elusive which seemed strange as they had young to feed and when they were hunting they were catching plenty of food. Anyway I decided to check the nest site and was saddened and dismayed to find two well grown chicks lying dead on the ground underneath the nest.  I have no idea why this happened but it was very sad to see.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Round Up !!

I always enjoy being out and about at this time of year. Already it is feeling very "Autumnal" with mist hanging over the fields early in the morning, the crisp clear air and the drawing in of the evenings.
The hedgerows are heavy with the ripe plump blackberries and the cereal fields waiting patiently to be harvested.
There are still plenty of Painted Lady butterflies about as well as good numbers of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock.
I continue to bird the hedgerows and regularly bump into Common Redstart, Whinchat and Whitethroats.  This afternoon there was a Common Redstart showing well near the first bunker at Harrington Airfield. Other birds included Northern Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Grey Partridge and Turtle Dove.

The ringers have been busy. A couple of days ago [18th Aug] Kenny and his team caught 105 birds, 93 of which were new at their site near Milton Keynes. A total of 15 species including 26 Bluetit, 19 Greatit, 19 Reed Warblers, 12 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler and a Sedge Warbler.
Today John Woollett and his team enjoyed a very productive session. A total of 66 birds caught, 46 new and 20 retraps.  Over half [12] the retraps were Long Tailed Tits.  17 different species were caught with Blackcap being the most numerous {15} followed by Reed Warbler at 9.
You never know what is going to end up in the net and today it was the turn of a racing pigeon !! After phoning the number on its leg the owner was contacted.  The pigeon came from a loft in Grimsby.

Regards  Eleanor

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

And it rained again...!


A very wet day here in Northants today, and if the weather produced extra birds then nobody found them!

Nick Parker saw the Turnstone again at Titchmarsh Reserve and Steve Fisher located six Black-tailed Godwits and two Common Sandpipers at Stanwick on the main lake. A Raven was at Hanging Houghton and this evening's performance at the Pitsford Reservoir gull roost was disappointing with just three Yellow-legged Gulls (most of the gulls were very distant) and a Common Sandpiper.

A few ringing recoveries as follows:-

A Great Tit that was ringed at Pitsford Reservoir as a nestling in a nest box on 23rd May this year has been reported 243km to the north in Redcar and Cleveland! The bird was re-trapped by a ringer on 2nd August (71 days later). If the ring was read correctly, this represents an unprecedented rapid movement almost direct north. At it's new or transitory home the birds was marked with colour rings, presumably as part of a specific study;

On 7th August 2017 a first year Reed Warbler was caught and ringed at Icklesham in East Sussex. This year this bird was re-trapped at Stanwick on 3rd and 8th August when assessed as an adult female and possibly breeding on site. She has already made two return journeys to Africa and these small birds can be long-lived;

One of the many Goldfinches that Chris Payne catches every year in South Northants was re-trapped at Walney Bird Observatory. This young male was originally ringed at Greens Norton on 9th October 2017 and was caught again at South Walney on 7th May 2019, 255km NNW from it's ringing site. This is further confirmation that the bird feeders in middle England service the needs of northern Goldfinches in the winter, this bird presumably on it's way to north England or Scotland for the breeding season.

After such a dull day I think we deserve a splash of colour...!


Neil M

A stunning portrait of a Kingfisher
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Migrants on the move


Very pleasant weather today but only a limited amount of birding time sadly but nevertheless we managed to see a few bits and pieces as the day went on.

Bob Bullock saw a Great White Egret at Summer Leys first thing today and Steve Fisher saw a juvenile Cattle Egret at Stanwick Pits. Nick Parker found a Turnstone and a Dunlin at Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston and Neil Underwood located a couple of Wheatears at Harrington Airfield around Bunker One.

Eleanor saw a/the Marsh Harrier in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning (plus a Cuckoo) and saw presumably the same harrier this afternoon near to the Shrike Hedge which also supported two Whinchats and a Common Redstart.

A reclusive but vocal first year male Common Redstart was at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon, initially in roadside bushes near to the causeway, but then moving down to the bushes along the reservoir perimeter fence between the causeway and Maytrees Hide. Two Stoats running around after each other and making a great deal of noise may be the reason why there has been a downturn in the number of rats frequenting the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station of late!

Later this evening Jonathan saw an Osprey at Hollowell Reservoir before it was pushed off by gulls, and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this evening held an adult Little Gull and nine Yellow-legged Gulls - a couple of Spotted Flycatchers were in bushes adjacent to the Sailing Club.


Neil M

Golden Plovers.

Wood Sandpiper. Much of the
wader passage has peaked early
this autumn with plenty of south
bound adults moving through the
UK since mid July. There have been
spectacular counts of Wood Sandpipers
down the eastern side of Britain.

Images courtesy of John Gamble.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Pitsford WeBs count


A small team of us completed the Pitsford Reservoir WeBs count today in calm weather conditions. There was one less Greylag Goose to count as yet another one had been hit by traffic on the causeway early this morning, and at high speed judging from the fatal injuries. I've lost track how many geese have been killed on the causeway this summer.

It was a quiet count and it seemed there were considerably less birds on-site than even yesterday when there were flocks of Gadwall and Pochard north of the causeway and these were mostly absent today. A Garganey was on the shoreline just south of the causeway car park, there were three drake Red-crested Pochard in the Scaldwell Bay, a Red-crested Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Greenshank, three Common Sandpipers, one or two Green Sandpiper(s), two Snipe, two Kingfishers, about fifteen Little Egrets and three Ravens. The meadow between the causeway and Maytrees Hide held freshly emerged Small Copper and Common Blue butterflies and Painted Ladies were still widespread.

At Stortons Pits today John Woollett and his team completed some bird ringing on the south side of the complex and caught 75 birds, 54 of which were new. Warblers made up the bulk of the birds as this is an excellent breeding area for a variety of scrub and reedbed specialities. Blackcaps totalled fifteen with four Garden Warblers, twelve Whitethroats, a Cetti's Warbler, twelve Reed Warblers and a Willow Warbler. Other birds included Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting.

A Raven was at Hanging Houghton today and at least one Whinchat and a Common Redstart were in Shrike Hedge in the Brampton Valley below the village. Another Common Redstart was again at Twywell Hills and Vales Country Park.

A Quail suddenly burst into song this afternoon, Eleanor hearing it quite clearly whilst visiting Fawsley Hall. It sounded as if the bird was calling from a nearby grass field containing sheep but was perhaps a little further away with the sound just carrying well.

Other birds reported today were two of the juvenile Cattle Egrets at Ringstead Pits with the other two juveniles with an adult at Stanwick Pits (plus a Ruff). Summer Leys attracted a Great White Egret (perhaps sharing this individual with Pitsford Reservoir as we couldn't find it today), a Spotted Redshank late this evening and a Green Sandpiper. The drake Common Scoter was again on the main barrage lake at Clifford Hill Pits but unfortunately the possible Marsh Warbler wasn't seen again.


Neil M

Painted Lady.

Common Blue.

Small Copper.

Tufted Duck. Female with five
well-grown ducklings approaching
full size.

Tufted Duck. Female with three recently
hatched ducklings. Five broods in total
have been seen at Pitsford this year. A female
Gadwall with two half grown ducklings
were also seen today...

Juvenile Common Gull. This species
does not breed regionally and is
likely to have flown quite a distance
during it's short life to reach us.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

A little exotica!


This morning I was trundling around the wild bird feeding stations but not seeing very much for my troubles - three Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Treatment Works were probably the best. Scanning the main basin and dam at Pitsford Reservoir suggested little in the way of new arrivals, with or without the assistance of the south westerly winds. Eleanor went for one of her long runs, for a couple of hours running around the Northamptonshire countryside with a couple of dogs by her side, but didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

Some shelter behind the trees near the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir provided an opportunity to study a small collection of Migrant Hawker dragonflies.

In the meantime Mark Williams located an interesting and rather cold coloured 'accro' warbler in hedging at the western edge of the Clifford Hill Pits/Barrage complex. He managed a couple of obscured shots of the bird which resembles a Marsh Warbler. After that it became an 'aggro' warbler and remained elusive, not helped with some heavy showers scattering would-be observers there this afternoon! Just maybe this bird might give itself up and show better tomorrow in forecast pleasant weather conditions.

A drake Common Scoter was present on the largest pit there and other birds included Hobby, three Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.

Stanwick today hosted two Cattle Egrets, a Greenshank, a Ruff, a Little Ringed Plover, two Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers and five Yellow-legged Gulls.

Birds today at Pitsford Reservoir included a Great White Egret in the Scaldwell Bay, a juvenile Osprey, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Turnstone, a Greenshank, up to four Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper and a Dunlin. A female Pochard was sporting a blue shield on it's bill but was a little too distant to read the numbers/letters.

A/the Sacred Ibis is still around today in the Braunston area and birds at Blueberry Farm this evening included two Common Redstarts and two Whinchats.


Neil M

Kingfisher courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Slavonian Grebe
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Migrant Hawker.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Strong winds but no birds (yet)!


Well despite being out and about quite a bit today I didn't find much of interest. The strong winds so far don't seem to have provided any extra birds for us...but sometimes it's the calm days after the stormy ones which provides the birds.

I saw a Hobby near Maidwell easily coping with the strong gusts and three Ravens with other corvids on fields near Hanging Houghton were not overawed by the conditions.

So the remainder of this blog posting is devoted to photos!


Neil M

Common Tern by
Phil Davies.

Yellow-legged Gull
by Robin Gossage.

Gold at the end of the rainbow!
Golden Plover by Robin Gossage.

Common Buzzard by
John Tilly.

Wren by
John Tilly.

Song Thrush
by John Tilly.

Friday, 9 August 2019



Not a great deal to report today...a couple of short excursions to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon and some walks in the Hanging Houghton area in increasingly blustery conditions was pleasant but many of the small birds were inconspicuous. At least there were plenty of the usual raptors and gulls up in the air enjoying the windy conditions.

Birds visible from Maytrees Hide early this afternoon looking into the Scaldwell Bay included an adult Yellow-legged Gull, two eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard, a Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Dunlin and three Snipe.

At the other end of the reservoir this evening there was a juvenile Mediterranean Gull with Black-headed Gulls near to Moulton Grange Bay.

The Wood Sandpiper re-appeared at Stanwick Pits today and this time remained on view for most visitors to catch up with it. Other birds included a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Down the road at Summer Leys another Wood Sandpiper was reported and the Great White Egret was there again.


Neil M

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull.

All images taken at Pitsford this evening. Will
the strong winds bring something a little more
out of the ordinary during the next couple of days?

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Ringing at Harrington and Pitsford


Today's weather was pleasant and warm with sunshine and cloud, and with reportedly volatile weather around the corner this represented the only day we could really ring safely this week. 

Dave Francis completed the Constant Effort Site ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir in the Scaldwell Bay, catching 53 birds of 19 species (37 new and 16 re-traps). A surprise catch was a Common Buzzard which flew up from the ground next to a mist net and occupied one of the pockets before being (carefully!) extracted and ringed and released! Other birds included a Song Thrush, two Blackbirds, seven Robins, three Dunnocks, five Wrens, six Great Tits, three Blue Tits, two Willow Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Long-tailed Tit, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Garden Warbler, thirteen Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, two Bullfinches, a Reed Bunting and a Yellowhammer.

David Arden found a Black-necked Grebe in the Scaldwell Bay this afternoon and it was still present at 6pm.

A ringing session at Harrington Airfield today was also successful with some 130 captures of eighteen species made up of two Blackbirds, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Robins, three Dunnocks, three Wrens, twenty-nine Willow Warblers, four Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, fifteen Whitethroats, two Lesser Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, four Swallows, eight Blue Tits, a Bullfinch, a Goldfinch, an impressive forty-one Linnets, two Reed Buntings and seven Yellowhammers.

A Tree Pipit was present and flying around at 6am but not seen subsequently.

Steve Fisher located some good birds at Stanwick again first thing today with a Cattle Egret, a Wood Sandpiper, two Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers and two Dunlin. A little later the Cattle Egrets had increased to three. Birds at Summer Leys included a Turnstone, a Great White Egret and two Common Sandpipers.


Neil M

An immaculate Lesser Whitethroat
having just completed it's post juvenile
moulting process...

Linnet. All forty-one
of the birds caught today
were juveniles suggesting
high productivity locally...

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Dorset insects


A quiet day for me wildlife wise - an early walk at Harrington Airfield provided a fishing Osprey over the airfield pool which was a nice surprise! A Turtle Dove was heard 'purring' briefly and the bushes held reasonable numbers of common warblers.

Breezy conditions and squally showers induced plenty of gulls on the move to spend time on ploughed fields and areas of water, with hundreds (and probably thousands) of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backs migrating through the county. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was at Pitsford Reservoir with one of these flocks this afternoon. Other birds in the Scaldwell Bay included an adult Yellow-legged Gull and singles of Common and Green Sandpiper. At 7pm this evening it was possible to see a fishing Osprey hovering over the reservoir north of the causeway (I was actually in fields east of Hanging Houghton at the time), such was the quality and clarity of the light.

Steve Fisher saw a Merlin fly over Stanwick Pits this morning plus a Cattle Egret, two Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper and Jonathan Cook's venture to Hollowell Reservoir this afternoon yielded six juvenile Shelduck, ten Dunlin and two Little Ringed Plovers.


Neil M

Brown Silver Lines Moth.

Silver-studded Blue.

Sloe Shield-bug.

Large Skipper.

Leather Shield-bug
Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Green Tiger Beetle.

All images taken in
Dorset by John Gamble.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Ditchford WeBS count


A wander around at Harrington Airfield this morning confirmed plenty of Willow Warblers on site plus a Hobby, but nothing else of note was seen. Another ringing session is planned here on Thursday when certain areas will have restricted access. Please let me know if you would like to come along to observe.

I then spent the remainder of the day over at Ditchford Pits completing the August WeBS count. I found it very quiet for birds with very few wildfowl on show and most of the small birds keeping a low profile. A few bits and pieces included twelve Egyptian Geese (including a pair with eight half size goslings), a Mandarin Duck, a Common Sandpiper, just one Kingfisher and three Grey Wagtails. Not surprisingly the Cetti's Warblers were mostly silent, a single Water Rail was heard calling and the tit flocks contained migrant Willow Warblers on their way south from Scotland.

A Pond Turtle, which is a very long-lived individual, was sunning itself in it's favourite spot and there were good numbers of odonata on the wing with particularly high numbers of Blue Emperors and Brown Hawkers. The highlight though was a fine Lesser Emperor holding territory on the west shore of the old Skew Bridge Ski Pit, access from the Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre. It was by the congregation of red buoys and not far from the successful Common Tern rafts.

Stanwick today yielded a Cattle Egret, a Dunlin, a Little Ringed Plover, a Redshank, two Green Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers and two Yellow-legged Gulls. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was also seen in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir and a male Common Redstart was at Twywell Hills and Dales Park, in a hedgerow that leads off towards Twywell village.


Neil M

Black-tailed Skimmer
Pitsford Reservoir.

Pond Turtle sp.

Common Tern.

Common Tern and
Mallard in eclipse plumage.

A distant record shot
was all I could manage
of the Lesser Emperor today...