Monday, 30 September 2019

Rain, a little sunshine and plenty of birds!


Yesterday (Sunday) and a check of the dam area at Pitsford Reservoir in the morning provided closer views of the second winter Mediterranean Gull that has been around for a few days now. At least two Yellow-legged Gulls were present there and Adrian later added a female Ruddy Shelduck and a drake Mandarin. North of the causeway and Adrian saw a Great White Egret, another Yellow-legged Gull, eight Pintail, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Clifford Hill Pits was the venue still for two Slavonian Grebes, a drake Red-crested Pochard, two Whinchats and two Stonechats. The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton came back to life after a quiet period and produced sightings of a Marsh Harrier, two Golden Plovers, two Whinchats and a pair of Stonechat.

This morning (Monday) there was a fabulous reprieve from the wet weather and the still conditions and broken sunshine provided an opportunity for a ringing session on land at Woodford Halse. In total 126 birds were caught and processed of 14 species of which only three were bearing rings from previous efforts. The number was made up of 2 Wrens, 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 51 Blue Tits, 36 Great Tits, a Marsh Tit, 2 Coal Tits, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Blackcaps, a Robin, 8 Dunnocks, 2 Nuthatches and 3 Chaffinches.

A pair of Raven were about as were several Grey Wagtails and a Clouded Yellow butterfly.

Also this morning Nick Parker saw an Osprey overflying Thrapston Pits and the birds at Clifford Hill today again included the two Slavonian Grebes, a Red-crested Pochard, a Common Sandpiper, a Hobby and two Whinchats.

A visit to Borough Hill Country Park early this afternoon coincided with a flock of fifteen Crossbills flying over heading NW plus an overflying Siskin and a handful of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Not too far away the Little Stint and a Green Sandpiper were at Boddington Reservoir and Pitsford Reservoir hosted a Great White Egret and a Rock Pipit not far from the dam this afternoon, both birds arriving ahead of a serious band of rain!

Harrington Airfield provided a Short-eared Owl this afternoon being pursued by corvids, a Common Redstart near Bunker One and a pair of Stonechat at Bunker Three. Two Whinchats were at Shrike Hedge in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Leucistic Great Tit.

Meadow Pipit.

Images courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Northants Bird Club Indoor Meeting


Wednesday 2nd October is the date for the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club at the regular venue of the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir (just off the Brixworth road outside the village of Holcot).

Club member Dave Jackson will be providing Part 1 of his illustrated talk on the Birds of New Zealand which I'm sure will be full of excellent photos!

The meeting will commence at 7.30pm with a few notices and then it is over to the main presentation. Hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening and the meeting is open to members and non members alike.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Neil M

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Blustery Saturday


The pairs of Raven were vocal at both Hanging Houghton and Staverton villages today as they bond for nesting efforts next year (hopefully).

Mike Alibone today relocated the two Slavonian Grebes at Clifford Hill Pits and a Red-crested Pochard was there later too. Five Pintail were present at Summer Leys today and birds at Pitsford Reservoir included a Great White Egret, the leucistic drake Pochard (stunning bird), in excess of eight Yellow-legged Gulls, two Greenshanks, three Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe, two unidentified calidris waders in flight and a Grey Wagtail.

Eleanor's afternoon visit to Borough Hill Country Park, Daventry provided an excellent haul of passerines feeding in the lee of the wind and included six Stonechats, two Whinchats, a Wheatear, three Common Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher.


Neil M

First year Common Gull.

First year Black-headed Gull.

Greenshanks courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Pitsford WeBS count


Today a small team of us completed the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir and we were lucky to miss the heavier showers.

A Ruddy Shelduck was seen briefly in flight and two Great White Egrets were still in residence (Walgrave and Holcot Bays). Over 1800 Tufted Ducks were present, the majority south of the causeway and scarcer ducks included a drake Mandarin Duck by Catwalk Bay, two Goldeneye, eleven Pintail (between causeway and the Bird Club hide) and a Red-crested Pochard hybrid (not sure what it's exact parentage is but it was with Mallard). Other birds included eleven or twelve Little Egrets, six Yellow-legged Gulls, two Greenshanks, two Common Sandpipers, three Green Sandpipers, a Snipe, three Ringed Plovers, a juvenile female Peregrine, a Kingfisher, four Grey Wagtails and quite a flurry of House Martins passing through and plenty of Chiffchaffs in the bushes.

Yellow-legged Gull.

A second winter Mediterranean Gull arrived in the gull roost fairly early in the evening off the Sailing Club.


Elsewhere and the Little Stint was apparently present still at Boddington Reservoir...and Little Owls were visible at Delapre Park, Northampton and visible from the entrance road towards the abbey (a species that is much more difficult to see locally these days).


Neil M

Cormorant. Sadly one of
these birds was flying around
with fishing line and a pike lure
protruding from its beak at Pitsford
today, quite a common occurrence at
this site since coarse fishing has been
permitted at the reservoir.
Image courtesy of Robin.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Birds of the breeze and sunshine...


I popped down to Pitsford reservoir this morning and spent a couple of hours collecting seed and restocking the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station. Whilst there I scanned around to see what was on offer, there were certainly plenty of Tufted Ducks with rafts of them close to the Maytrees Hide. Many more flocks arrived from south of the causeway and the overall number must have been close to a thousand birds. Tomorrow is the WeBS count so we will see how many we count!

A Great White Egret was fishing in the Scaldwell Bay which also hosted a Common Sandpiper, four Pintail and four Yellow-legged Gulls. The moderate to strong breeze and broken sunshine was perfect for raptors and other larger birds to cruise about, to the point where it was hard to leave as there was always another new bird on the horizon to look at. At least a dozen Common Buzzards and six Red Kites showed on and off and two Hobbies were hunting dragonflies around the leeward side of the trees. Two Ravens and other corvids joined in the fun! In the meantime Neil Hasdell had located a Greenshank and three Ringed Plovers at the dam and Moulton Grange Bay shoreline.

A revisit to Pitsford this evening to count the roosting gulls, this time up at the Sailing Club, provided distant views of a second winter Mediterranean Gull and twelve Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing else of note. A pair of Raven were again very obvious in Hanging Houghton village today.

The weekly visit by local naturalists to the MOD section of Yardley Chase paid off today with the discovery of two Pied Flycatchers (this is strictly a private site). At Summer Leys/Earls Barton Pits, birds included a Great White Egret, a Green Sandpiper, a Ringed Plover, a Hobby and a Pintail, and yesterday's Little Stint was still present at Boddington Reservoir today...


Neil M

Common Buzzard.

Red Kite.

Hobby (with House Martin).


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Pitsford Showcase


Sunshine and showers today and a very autumnal feel but still warm. Pitsford Reservoir was the venue for a Wildlife Trust supporters day with indoor presentations from Sarah and Mischa showcasing the reserve. A bird ringing demonstration was the outside presentation near to the Fishing Lodge. Some eighty-six birds were processed which included four Mallard and a Moorhen from a static trap with the remainder of the birds being caught in mist nets. The total was made up of a Dunnock, a Blackcap, a Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, three Wrens, twenty-three Great Tits, twenty-nine Blue Tits, three Coal Tits, two Marsh Tits, seven Long-tailed Tits and ten Goldcrests.

Other birds noted at Pitsford today included a Great White Egret, two Greenshanks, a Ringed Plover, a Hobby and a Raven.

Gary Pullen found a Little Stint at Boddington Reservoir today, a Great White Egret remained at Summer Leys and two Common Redstarts were found at Harrington Airfield by Neil Underwood.


Neil M

Coal Tit courtesy
of John Tilly.

Little Grebe,
courtesy of Robin.

Green Sandpiper,
courtesy of Robin.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Pochard, Barn Owls and more!


Little opportunity for birding today but others braved the elements and saw a few things out there!

Birds reported at Summer Leys today included a Great White Egret, two Snipe, a Common Scoter, a Green Sandpiper and a Hobby. Nick Parker witnessed a Marsh Harrier flying south over Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston at 11.10am and this afternoon Gary Pullen located a Rock Pipit on one of the tern rafts at Daventry Country Park.

A few interesting recoveries of ringed birds as follows...

Roger Eads successfully photographed a female Pochard at Pitsford Reservoir on 5th September 2019 sporting a nasal saddle inscribed LLP. This bird was ringed at Saint-Philbert-De-Grand-Lieu France on 19th January 2017 and seen there again on 10th May 2018. This is one of several such marked Pochard that have emanated from France and then subsequently been seen at Pitsford.

A Blue Tit that was ringed as a nestling in a box at Hargrave, Northants on 11th May 2019 was recaptured by a ringer at Old Weston, Cambridgeshire on 13th September. Although in a different county this bird travelled just 10km in a north easterly direction.

A juvenile Garden Warbler ringed at Stortons Pits on 5th August 2018 was re-captured at Queen Mary Reservoir, Surrey on 7th August 2019 (367 days later), presumably on its way south to Africa for the second time in its short life.


Neil M

Pochard courtesy
of Roger Eads.

Chris Payne has been checking
nest boxes in the south of the county
today and found a healthy brood of
Barn Owls at one site!
 Images courtesy of Chris.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Chiffchaffs, dragonflies and Storm Petrels.


A morning walk first thing confirmed the presence of good numbers of freshly-arrived Chiffchaffs in the hedges, their distinctive shrill calls seem to have been everywhere I have today...

A couple of Ravens returned to Hanging Houghton and a quick check on a couple of sections of the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir in sunny weather this morning confirmed the presence of plenty of late season dragonflies seeking prey of their own; Migrant Hawkers seemed particularly numerous. A Hobby by the Fishing Lodge was chasing and catching the said dragonflies. Scanning the Scaldwell Bay shallows provided views of four Pintail but nothing else of note.

The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir off the Sailing Club this evening attracted a second winter Mediterranean Gull and at least five Yellow-legged Gulls.

Elsewhere and Nick Parker located a Great White Egret on Town Lake at Thrapston Pits and Bob Bullock's visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir scooped two Green Sandpipers with a Dunlin, two Common Sandpipers, three Ringed Plovers, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, two Egyptian Geese and a Stonechat at nearby Hollowell Reservoir.


Neil M

Infra Red image of a Storm
Petrel and it's five week old
fluffy chick courtesy of Chris
Payne. More details can be
found in the British Birds
 e-newsletter (issue 53).

Redshanks courtesy of
John Tilly.

Common Darter munching
another insect.

Migrant Hawkers at Pitsford
Reservoir today...

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Sunday's birds


The first excursion this morning was up to Harrington Airfield where there were plenty of open country birds such as Linnet, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer and Skylark. A female Stonechat was at Bunker Three and there was a small family party of Grey Partridges plus a fly-over Grey Wagtail.

There are plenty of birds visiting our garden feeders at the moment with particularly good numbers of first year Blue Tits and Goldfinches plus a couple each of Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.

Stuart Munday saw a Great White Egret and a Snipe at Summer Leys today and Adrian Borley visited the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir and notched up two Great White Egrets, a Common Sandpiper, a Snipe and both Pintail and Goldeneye.

This evening a vocal Ruddy Shelduck flew south over the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir and the gull roost there contained an influx of Great Black-backed Gulls, at least five Yellow-legged Gulls and a first winter Mediterranean Gull.

Birds vocal in and around the village at Hanging Houghton after dark the last couple of nights have included Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Hobby, Gadwall and Wigeon.


Neil M

Curlew at Titchwell
courtesy of John Tilly.

Great White Egret
courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Saturday's birds


A day of chores today but the first dog walk of the day this morning was in stunning, golden light in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton where there were plenty of common raptors out hunting. A Common Redstart was in 'shrike hedge' and a Golden Plover was present in the fields for a short time. A large flock of Linnets and small flocks of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers suggest that the wild bird food crop and nectar beds may attract birds throughout the autumn. Fiona saw a Whinchat on 'shrike hedge' this afternoon.

Two Ravens were near Scaldwell village, a Hobby was over Delapre (Northampton) and Stanwick Pits again hosted six Cattle Egrets today plus two Hobby and two Yellow-legged Gulls. A Great White Egret and a Snipe lingered at Summer Leys today and Thrapston Pits supported a Dunlin, a Snipe, a Pintail and a Yellow-legged Gull.


Neil M

Long-billed Dowitcher.

Lapland Bunting.

Above images taken
in Dorset recently
courtesy of John Gamble.


Friday, 20 September 2019

Poland in Autumn


Earlier this week I returned home from a nine day trip to Poland. The main locations visited were the ancient forest of Bialowieza, the Biebrza Marshes and the Vistula Spit on the Baltic Coast. We were blessed with fine weather and the following images represent a small selection of the wildlife encountered...


Neil M

Brimstone butterfly.


European Beaver.

White-tailed Eagle.

Common Tern.


Second calendar year
Caspian Gull.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Seeing Red!


A second consecutive day of bird ringing at Harrington Airfield was planned to take advantage of the almost zero wind speed and fine weather. It was warmer again than yesterday and although strong sunshine showed up the mist nets the small team managed to catch and process 98 birds of 14 species. Only six of these birds were previously-caught birds and none from yesterday which suggests there are an awful lot of birds up there!

The obvious highlight was a beautiful female Common Redstart. Other birds included a Reed Bunting, five Yellowhammers, eleven Dunnocks, four Great Tits, twenty-two Blue Tits, a Lesser Whitethroat, a rather late Common Whitethroat, twenty-three Meadow Pipits, seven Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest, a Linnet, four Chaffinches and sixteen Goldfinches.

Other birds seen on location included a Golden Plover and a Whinchat, a Stonechat and a covey of ten Grey Partridges all at Bunker Three.

Elsewhere and Steve Fisher's morning visit to Stanwick Lakes/Pits provided views of six Cattle Egrets whilst at Summer Leys there was a Peregrine, a Hobby and a Pintail.


Neil M

Common Redstart.

Red Kite.

Chiffchaff courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Ringing at Harrington


A busy ringing session at Harrington Airfield today netted 156 birds of eighteen species, just ten birds having been encountered there before. A Lesser Whitethroat and a Tree Sparrow were perhaps the highlights but we managed to catch a useful total of 31 Meadow Pipits, 17 Yellowhammers and 35 Goldfinches. Other birds included a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Reed Buntings, nine Long-tailed Tits, nineteen Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, thirteen Great Tits, a Goldcrest, two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, seven Dunnocks, four Robins, a Linnet and nine Chaffinches.

A Common Redstart was around Bunker One and at least one Raven was present too.

Summer Leys attracted a few birds today comprising a Great White Egret, two Pintail, two Stonechats, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Hobby. Dave Jackson saw an unidentified large falcon at Clifford Hill Pits today plus a drake Red-crested Pochard.


Neil M

Lesser Whitethroat.


Long-tailed Tit.

All images courtesy
of John Tilly.