Saturday, 30 November 2019

Freezing fog!


The challenging weather conditions this morning with freezing fog moving in pre-dawn ensured that any initial ringing at Harrington Airfield with mist nets was cancelled.

Dave Francis managed a little ringing at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday afternoon and this morning catching 55 birds which included a Redwing, a Song Thrush, three Blackbirds, a Marsh Tit, a Goldfinch, two Tree Sparrows, two Chaffinches, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and three Yellowhammers. Eleven Dunnocks feeding at the feed station were all re-traps from previous sessions and included several which were four or five years old.

Birds at Thrapston Pits today included at least one Great White Egret, the Whooper Swan, five Pintail and a Kingfisher and a Water Rail. Three Goosanders flew off from Sywell Country Park.


Neil M

Black Redstart.

Alpine Accentor.

Black-winged Stilt.


Two of three vagrant
Great White Pelicans.

Greater Flamingos.

A rather distant Wallcreeper!

Images from the recent trip
to the Camargue, France.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Harrington ringing


A cold morning at Harrington Airfield pre-dawn but it was great to again see the stars rather than cloud and gloom! And when the sun came out it turned into a lovely early winter day. A small number of mist nets were used to catch and ring birds as part of our on-going studies and a small band of us were kept busy with the capture of 133 birds of nineteen species.

Always difficult to catch using mist nets, the best bird of the session was a Woodcock which remained long enough in the top shelf of a net. In all likelihood this bird has come a long way to reach Harrington, very likely from central or even eastern Russia. The lack of feather wear and pattern of the primary coverts indicated it was an adult bird. Another infrequent capture was a female Kestrel which we judged to be a bird hatched this year.

However the session was dominated by thrushes with 66 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, a Song Thrush and 7 Blackbirds all newly ringed. Other birds included 2 Starlings, a Meadow Pipit, a Robin, a Wren, a Dunnock, 2 Goldcrests, 14 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, 3 Tree Sparrows, 7 Chaffinches, a female Brambling, 9 Reed Buntings and 11 Yellowhammers.

Other birds seen on site included a couple more Woodcock, three Common Snipe, a Barn Owl, a couple of Golden Plovers and a covey of twelve Grey Partridges. A further ringing session is due again tomorrow and general access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted.

Eleanor saw three or four Woodcock at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and there are anecdotal reports of large numbers in our wet woods during the last couple of weeks...


Neil M

Woodcock courtesy of
Chris Payne.





Tree Sparrow.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Pitsford WeBS count


This morning was taken up completing a rather late November WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir, taking just under five and a half hours to complete (with a team of four people). The water levels remain at 100% with some very wet margins which suits some birds.

The two Great White Egrets remain, and there were 21 Little Egrets south of the causeway. A Yellow-legged Gull remains on-site and other birds included 25 Common Snipe, a female Goosander, 60 Goldeneye, 1355 Tufted Ducks, 132 Pochard, just 33 Little Grebes, a Grey Wagtail and two Chiffchaffs.

A Barn Owl was hunting at Harrington Airfield this afternoon where it is hoped there will be ringing sessions both tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday. Access opportunities will be restricted to the footpaths and concrete track during these periods.


Neil M

Drake Goldeneye courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Drake Pochard.

Barn Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Feeding the birds!


At least one Grey Wagtail and a Water Rail were at Brixworth Water Treatment Works this morning and a visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon provided views of a Great White Egret and sixteen Little Egrets flying to roost, a third winter Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher.

With bird food running out it was time for a visit to Eyebrook Wild Bird Feeds at Great Easton, Rutland. We came away with literally a ton of bird food which filled Eleanor's vehicle and will help to keep the ten active feeding stations going for December and much of January...and the garages are now officially full of split peanuts, mixed seed, sunflower hearts, black sunflower, nyger seed, wheat, dried mealworms, oil seed rape and various fat/suet products !


Neil M

Male Chaffinch.

Stock Dove.

Two of the species catered for
at some of the active feeding
stations this coming winter.
Images courtesy of John Tilly.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

November gloom


The last two days have been dark, gloomy, wet and mild and it has been hard work finding much out there!

Yesterday (Monday) and a wet walk at Harrington Airfield provided a fly-past of nine Golden Plovers plus the usual passerines. There were plenty of birds coming to the various feeding stations despite the milder conditions but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

The water level at Pitsford Reservoir is now at 100% with brown water gushing over the overflow.

Today (Tuesday) and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir just didn't materialise, the only birds of interest this afternoon was a Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher.  Two Ravens were at Hanging Houghton today.

A recent ringing recovery relates to a Greenfinch which was caught and ringed at Harrington Airfield on 20th October 2019, a first year female. She was found dead on or about 8th November in Parwich, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, having travelled 96 km in a North West direction within 19 days. The cause of death isn't known but I'd love to know where she originated from...

Plans are afoot to commit to some ringing at Harrington Airfield on Friday and Saturday this coming week. Should anyone like to come along to watch activities please let me know. Access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted during these two days.


Neil M

Golden Plovers.


Images from RSPB Titchwell
courtesy of John Gamble.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Photo Competition - Northants Bird Club


NBC members are reminded that the club's photographic competition is due to be held on Wednesday 5th February 2020.

All entries must be with committee member Robin Gossage no later than close of play on Wednesday 18th December 2019 (the date of the club's social evening at The Spinney Hill, Kettering Road, Northampton).

All entrants are asked to check through the competition rules which can be found on the NBC blog-site address:-

Regards and best of luck!

Neil M

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Sunday's sightings


Northants Ringing Group members were out in force this morning, taking advantage of relatively still and dry conditions. Kenny and team were at Linford Lakes (Milton Keynes) and they caught over thirty birds of eleven species. These birds were made up of 2 Robins, 2 Great Tits, 12 Blue Tits, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Song Thrushes, a Fieldfare, 9 Redwings, a Kingfisher, a Chiffchaff, a Cetti's Warbler and a spectacular Tawny Owl!

Chris and team were at Bradden where their session was quite different and totally dominated with the capture of no less than 91 Blue Tits! There were also 40 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits and a Robin. These numbers of tits in recent years are unprecedented and I'm convinced we don't know exactly what is happening. Very few of the tits were re-traps from previous sessions, the vast majority were new birds which suggests that many are new to the area...

Debbie and Eric paid Aldwincle Lake (Thrapston Pits) a visit today and notched up two Great White Egrets, five Little Egrets, two Water Rails and several Cetti's Warblers.

Summer Leys hung on to two Great White Egrets and a drake Red-crested Pochard today; Stanwick Pits also attracted two Great White Egrets, a Cattle Egret, a Peregrine and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Pitsford Reservoir hosted a drake Red-breasted Merganser which was initially off the dam but was disturbed and an adult Mediterranean Gull and two Yellow-legged Gulls. Stanford Reservoir was visited by a herd of nine Bewick's Swans, an excellent record by modern standards.


Neil M

Tawny Owl courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Pied Wagtail
courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Grey and grimy Saturday!


I have been away for several days in the south of France tracking down Wallcreepers and other special birds of the region.

Chris Payne caught and ringed a male Sparrowhawk in his garden at Greens Norton on 21st November and then the following day he caught another (younger male) also in his garden!

Today (23rd Nov) and Summer Leys seemed to be the 'in' place with a Firecrest (near the feeding station), two Great White Egrets, a 'redhead' Smew and a Red-crested Pochard and a Stonechat. Thrapston Pits hosted two Great White Egrets, the Whooper Swan, a Peregrine and a Stonechat. Pitsford Reservoir managed a Great White Egret, a female Red-crested Pochard, a Brambling and a male Stonechat. Another Great White Egret was at Dragonfly Lake, Ditchford Pits.

Harrington Airfield still hung on to one Brambling and a couple of Golden Plovers this morning with two Woodcock flushed at Borough Hill Country Park this afternoon.


Neil M

First year male
Sparrowhawk courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Jackdaw with aberrant
plumage courtesy of
Pete Gilbert.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Catch Up

Apologies for the lack of blogs this week which has been as a result of lack of birds and problematic laptop !! 
It has been a quiet week for me. Plenty of passerines in the fields and hedgerows below Hanging Houghton which in turn have attracted a male Merlin and female Peregrine.  Most days I have seen a pair of Stonechat, several Brambling, 4 Grey Partridge and a Barn Owl.  I have also flushed a couple of Woodcock as I have walked the field hedges.
Harrington Airfield has been very quiet with highlights being 2 Grey Partridge, few Brambling and 15 Golden Plover.

Over the past couple of days there has been some ringing activity.  At Pitsford reservoir Dave Francis had an overall catch of 91 birds of 14 species.  There were 59 new birds and 32 retraps, the most interesting of which was a Great Tit originally ringed at the feeding station in 2014.
John Woollett was busy at Stortons where 43 birds were caught. 24 were new and 19 retraps.  Here too a retrap bird had been ringed in 2014, this time it was a Reed Bunting.
Chris Payne did some ringing in his garden in Greens Norton and this produced just under 40 birds including a stunning male Sparrowhawk and 2 Nuthatches.[ pics below]

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Classic November birds


This morning David Arden saw a Woodcock in his Spratton garden, another bird on David's long list of garden birds!

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included two Great White Egrets, a 'redhead' Smew and at least one Stonechat. Stanwick paid host to a Bearded Tit, a Great White Egret and three Cattle Egrets and nearby Nick Parker found a Siberian Chiffchaff at Kinewell Lake (Ringstead Pits). Alan Coles saw an Otter and a Great White Egret at Summer Leys and this evening two Great White Egrets were present as was a Starling murmuration (courtesy of Geoff Douglas). A flooded Thrapston Pits provided a Little Egret, two Kingfishers and a Chiffchaff for Eric and family.

John Friendship-Taylor was at Croughton Quarry in the south of the county and located a Merlin, a Brambling and a Chiffchaff.

Mike Alibone located a Great Grey Shrike at the DIRFT 3 Development Site near Crick, on rough ground opposite Kinaxia Logistics this afternoon and Neville's Lodge near Finedon hosted a Peregrine and two Short-eared Owls also this afternoon.


Neil M

Short-eared Owl.

Great White Egrets.

Drake Goldeneye.

Images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Bramblings, Ravens and Woodcock.


Birding opportunities were limited today due to a stricken vehicle so any birds recorded were very much local.

Half a dozen Bramblings were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again this morning (they roost in the hedging behind the big barn) and a pair of Ravens again spent a while in the biggest trees here in the village at Hanging Houghton. A Brambling was also in the village and two Woodcocks were flushed from a ploughed field adjacent to Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) this morning.

Elsewhere and Adrian couldn't find either of yesterday's Siberian Chiffchaffs at Ditchford Pits but found a pair of Blackcap whilst he was searching, and then went on to see 2-3 Short-eared Owls at Neville's Lodge, Finedon.


Neil M

Siberian Chiffchaff - a
particularly tame bird
at Spurn yesterday -
image courtesy of Jacob.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Ditchford WeBS count


Eleanor's two visits to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton paid off today with a female Merlin, a pair of Stonechat and six Bramblings in the morning, and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier there this afternoon.

Despite the floods in the Nene Valley I had a go at completing the monthly WeBS count at Ditchford Pits. It wasn't a great start with Ditchford Lane closed for bridge repairs and the river and the pits had broken their banks at numerous points. It didn't take long before I was pretty wet and completing plenty of 'U' turns in an effort to find alternative routes around the complex. In the end I was wading up to my thighs simply to get around; Jaeger the dog I had with me wasn't impressed!

The floodwater caused spiders, snails and insects to climb to the tops of nettles, voles didn't know where to go and many of the water birds were displaced.

I spent some time checking through the numerous roving tit flocks (as always) and started to find a few Chiffchaffs. The distinctive, loud and metallic (almost Dunnock-like) calls of Siberian Chiffchaffs could be heard from the willows and two of these pretty distinctive grey birds were roaming around in the willows, one seemed to be with the tits and the other seemed more sedentary on the little causeway separating the Coton Reel and The Perch Pits (both birds being between the main pit and Irthlingborough). In the end I saw about six Chiffchaffs within the complex.

Other birds there today included twelve Egyptian Geese, eight Snipe, a Water Rail, a Raven, two Grey Wagtails, three Kingfishers, a female Stonechat, seven Cetti's Warblers and singles of Siskin and Brambling.

Elsewhere and a Barnacle Goose and a Pintail were on the floods at Bozenham with a Raven there too, and a Short-eared Owl was seen  at Neville's Lodge, Finedon at dusk.


Neil M


Egyptian Geese.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

There has been some rain!


I think the talking point today was definitely the weather with rain all last night and again all morning! Many local roads became rivers, a few trees uprooted and many fields were awash with flood water. With cold temperatures and a lively breeze it wasn't a great day for birdwatching in the county!

At least one Grey Wagtail was at a flooded Brixworth Treatment Works and Harrington Airfield was sodden and the only birds of note was a single Siskin and a Woodcock sheltering behind some straw bales!

At Pitsford Reservoir there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull briefly off the dam this morning, a pair of Red-crested Pochard were in the Scaldwell Bay and the gull roost off the Sailing Club attracted the ailing (but possibly recovering) adult Mediterranean Gull.

With all this wet and cold it made me think of the warmer parts of the world...the images below were from a short trip to the very warm country of Gambia in January 2015!


Neil M


Spur-winged Plover.

Monitor Lizard.

Broad-billed Roller.

Royal and Caspian Terns

Violaceous Turaco.

African Harrier-hawk.