Wednesday, 23 September 2020

End of the 'Indian Summer'


Limited opportunities for birding today but the Ravens were noisy around the village this morning!

A change in the weather clearly influenced the number of passerines seen today and Eleanor's wanderings didn't produce any lingering Common Redstarts or chats.

Steve Fisher managed to count an excellent ten Cattle Egrets leaving their roost at Stanwick Pits this morning, the roost also included nineteen Little Egrets and two Great Whites too.

Yesterday's Wood Sandpiper was still on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR this morning as was a Great White Egret.

A flock of eleven Ring-necked Parakeets in the grounds of St Andrews Hospital, Northampton was notable.

A Dunnock ringed as a juvenile in Greens Norton village on 9th May 2012 was taken by a cat in the same village on or about 19th September this year. An all too familiar outcome for these ground-dwelling birds but this Dunnock was very long-lived at over eight years old (the current longevity record in the UK is ten years seven months).


Neil M

The humble Dunnock.
Image courtesy of
Dave Jackson.

Ring-necked Parakeets
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

The fabulous Blue Tit.
With the adults just concluding
their post-breeding moult and the 
youngsters just finishing their post juvenile
moult, these familiar little birds are
 once again looking glamorous!
Image courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and surely
a passage individual is due to be found in
 the county any day now?
Image courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Pitsford WeBS count


Today was chosen for the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir, which was rather nice in the last of the warm, sunny and still conditions. Quite a lot of disturbance made for difficult counting but the counters persisted and made the best of it! At least five, and possibly six Great White Egrets were present north of the causeway and other birds on the reserve included seven Pintail and a Green Sandpiper, and four Yellow-legged Gulls included one on the reserve. Two Ruff were on the water's edge just south of the causeway car park. Passerine migrants on the move overhead included Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtails, Swallows, House Martins, Siskins and Redpolls. Butterflies included Red Admiral and Comma.

One or two Common Redstart(s) remained at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and the Black Redstart was reported again at Borough Hill Country Park. At Stanwick Pits the Cattle Egret count was eight and Hollowell Reservoir hosted a Great White Egret and a couple of Snipe.

The ringers at Stanford Reservoir again located the best bird in the county today in their mist nets with the capture of a Yellow-browed Warbler - anticipated but still a great find locally!

A Wood Sandpiper at Summer Leys LNR this afternoon was another good find.

Ringing at Linford Lakes (Milton Keynes) this morning was eventful too with over a hundred captures which included a Common Snipe, a Kingfisher, a Cetti's Warbler, ten Reed Warblers, eighteen Blackcaps, fifteen Chiffchaffs, an excellent sixteen Reed Buntings, seven Meadow Pipits and eight Redpolls. Perhaps the most remarkable of the captures was that one of the Meadow Pipits was a re-trap from 2018 - very unusual for a species that doesn't breed in any real numbers locally. Other birds seen on-site included another four Snipe, two Green Sandpipers and a Dunlin. A Poplar Hawk-moth caterpillar fell out of the canopy and the usual Grass Snakes, Common and Great Crested Newts were still present and correct!


Neil M

Ruff at Pitsford Reservoir
today. Note the swollen right
knee. Images courtesy of
Dave Jackson.

Poplar Hawk-moth caterpillar
courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Common Snipe courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Lesser Redpoll courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Monday, 21 September 2020



With a day of virtually no wind I decided to commit to a little garden ringing this morning, a rare luxury to catch and process the birds coming to the garden whilst also appreciating home comforts! I was pleased with the number and variety that found the garden mist net, and not surprisingly the Blue Tit was the most common. All the tits seemed in good health but I did see a Blue Tit the other day at Pitsford Reservoir that was clearly unwell - fluffed up and hopping around on the ground - and it reminded me of the scare in the spring of a virus or similar affecting Blue Tits on the continent and with reported cases in the UK too. I hope this is not something which will become a widespread issue!

Locally there seems to be a problem with Woodpigeons with a number being found simply sitting quietly and lethargic and then subsequently dying. I have seen a number of dead birds that give the impression of simply sitting on the ground and it isn't until you are close that you realise they have died. There is no obvious physical trauma and they don't seem to be showing the symptons of trichomonosis, which is a regular avian disease caused by a parasite associated with finches and doves/pigeons.

Helen Franklin over at Priors Marston was also ringing in her garden this morning and caught and ringed a stunning Grey Wagtail.

Bird-wise the day belonged to the chats and allies - with at least six Stonechats and a Common Redstart at 'shrike hedge' in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning (plus a small falcon seen poorly that may have been a Merlin) and a Corn Bunting, and four Stonechats and one or two Wheatear(s) and a Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove all at Harrington Airfield. This afternoon the Stonechats in the Brampton Valley were nowhere to be seen but were replaced with a Wheatear and a Whinchat (Common Redstart still present). Two more Common Redstarts were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning.

Over at Borough Hill Country Park, the Black Redstart from yesterday remained and was seen during the day around the BBC buildings at the summit. A Wheatear was present too.

This evening there were twelve Yellow-legged Gulls in the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir (off the dam).

Nene Valley birding was still good at Stanwick Pits today with a Marsh Harrier and two Great White Egrets present this morning and a Mediterranean Gull, four Yellow-legged Gulls and a Dunlin there this afternoon.

The Lammergeier was reported in Oxfordshire today, now south of us, so if it did waft over Northamptonshire it seems no-one managed to witness it!


Neil M




Common Redstart.

Black Redstart.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Ditchford WeBS count


I completed a WeBS count at Ditchford Pits today, starting west of Ditchford Lane where an adult male Peregrine was perched on pylons. Juvenile Woodpigeons perched next to him on the wires but he was clearly not hungry!

On a count which was busy with people wherever I went, wildlife was in pretty short supply but other birds west of Ditchford Lane included a Curlew and nine Egyptian Geese and a Kingfisher plus three Cetti's Warblers and a couple of Grey Wagtails.

The older pits east of Ditchford Lane didn't yield much that was significant, the Battle of Britain commemorative flight of a Hurricane leading a trio of Spitfires was the undoubted highlight!

The main pit between Irthlingborough and Higham Ferrers was busy with wildfowl, the shallow water and abundant water weed attracting 4 Pintail, 190 Gadwall, 50 Shovelers and 110 Wigeon. More Grey Wagtails, a couple of Kingfishers, a Hobby hawking dragonflies and small numbers of Siskins and Redpolls were the best of the rest! A Brown Hawker is very much at the end of their flight period.

Elsewhere and Gary Burrows was having a good time at Borough Hill Country Park this afternoon with finds of a Black Redstart, a Common Redstart, a Whinchat and at least nine Stonechats! Four more Stonechats were watched in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton by Jonathan.

Stanwick Pits today was still hanging on to nine Cattle Egrets plus a Great White Egret, five Pintail and a Ringed Plover and the Peregrine was atop St Mary's church again in Higham Ferrers at 10am.

Interestingly, the Lammergeier (or Bearded Vulture if you prefer) which has been summering in the Peak District wasn't reported there today but there was a sighting of it at 2.30pm in neighbouring Leicestershire flying SE over Thornton... which begs the question did it come into Northamptonshire airspace?


Neil M

Egyptian Geese.

Grey Heron.

Highland Cow, or if you are
north of the border, Highland 
Coo! A small herd of these
animals manage the sward and
coarse grasses of the Ditchford
Lakes and Meadows reserve.

All images from Ditchford Pits today.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Sightings for Saturday


Eleanor's visit to Lamport Hall and Harrington Airfield produced no birds of note today with the bushes pretty much empty of birds. However Terry saw a Merlin chasing Skylarks at Harrington Airfield and Hollowell Reservoir's Little Stint re-appeared this afternoon in company with two Ringed Plovers, and a Stonechat was present too.

A red wing-tagged Marsh Harrier was seen at both Stanwick and neighbouring Ditchford Pits today and other birds at Stanwick included four Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret. An Osprey was seen flying west over Ditchford Pits and a Peregrine was on St Mary's Church at Higham Ferrers.

A first year Mediterranean Gull and a Great White Egret were at Summer Leys LNR this morning, two Crossbills were mobile in Wakerley Wood and three Yellow-legged Gulls were at the south end of Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon.

Debs and Eric enjoyed their walk around the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Pits today, catching up on two Great White Egrets, a Kingfisher and two Hobbies showing well as they hawked dragonflies


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull at
Pitsford Reservoir this

Friday, 18 September 2020

More ringing recoveries


Quite a number of ringing recoveries have come through recently, reflecting the efforts of Northants Ringing Group members and those nearby and in surrounding counties...

1.    An adult Reed Warbler was ringed at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park in Bedfordshire on 16th April 2017 and re-trapped at Linford Lakes on 30th July and 8th August this year. The two sites are only 17km distance but of course this bird will hopefully be on it's way for at least a fifth winter spent in Africa!

2.    A juvenile Reed Warbler ringed at Linford Lakes on 8th August this year was re-trapped at Icklesham, East Sussex on 19th August, a distance of 166km within 11 days in a predicted south easterly direction;

3.    A Reed Warbler caught and ringed as a juvenile at Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire on 13th August 2017 was found in a mist net at Pitsford Reservoir on 30th July this year, 1082 days elapsing between the two records. This bird will hopefully make it to Africa for a fourth successive winter!

4.    A Blue Tit ringed as a first year male at Hanging Houghton on 31st October 2019 was caught again on 4th September this year by Colin Graham of the Rockingham Forest Ringing Group. Colin operates a ringing site at Southwick and this bird was re-trapped in a mist net there, some 33km from Hanging Houghton;

5.    Another Blue Tit which was ringed at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate as a first year female on 9th March 2020 was re-trapped on 10th September at Rectory farm, Tingewick in Buckinghamshire, this being 185 days later with the bird having traveled 46km in a SSW direction;

6.    A juvenile Blackcap initially ringed at Hillesden, Buckinghamshire on 14th July this year was re-trapped 21km away at Linford Lakes on 24th August, the bird having traveled 21km in a north-easterly direction;

7.    A Garden Warbler caught and processed at Linford Lakes on 8th August this year was first trapped and ringed on 1st September 2018 at Bolea, Huesca in Spain when assessed as a juvenile bird. There is a distance of 1093km between the two sites but of course this bird has traveled thousands of miles during the 707 days between;

8.    A male Sparrowhawk was ringed as a nestling by John Woollett on 1st July 2010 at Eastcote near Towcester. This bird was then caught in a mist net by Chris Payne at Greens Norton on 25th November 2015. More recently this bird was reported as freshly dead at Towcester on 5th May 2020. Ten years is a good age for a Sparrowhawk, the evidence suggesting it remained close to it's natal area during much of it's life.

At Hollowell Reservoir this morning there was a Great White Egret, a Dunlin, a Snipe and a Stonechat and this evening new birds in included a Little Stint, five Dunlin and two Ringed Plovers.

At Pitsford Reservoir birds on the reserve this afternoon included at least four Great White Egrets, a Garganey, a possible Caspian Gull, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Hobby, a Green Sandpiper and a Dunlin.

Stanwick Pits again held nine Cattle Egrets, two Great White Egrets and a Common Tern this morning and this evening there was an adult Caspian Gull and seven Yellow-legged Gulls present on the Visitor Centre Lake. 

A Spotted Flycatcher was located at Daventry Country Park and a pair of Stonechat were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Reed Warbler.

Blue Tit.


Garden Warbler.


Thursday, 17 September 2020

Naturetrek Pitsford Day Tour


A very bright and sunny day with a cool NE breeze made for very pleasant conditions for the Naturetrek day tour around the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir today.

After our 9am muster it was time for Mischa to show off some of the moths that had been captured in the moth traps. The autumn moths at Pitsford have become more exciting as the years have gone by and today was no exception with some stunning autumnal specimens which included dazzlers such as the scarce Merveille du Jour and the rare Clifden Nonpareil.

After this excitement we took an anti-clockwise walk around the reserve and the Holcot Bay provided a very brief view of a Stoat, the first Goldcrests of the day and great views of various dragonflies and a bold Spotted Flycatcher. Siskins were whizzing around everywhere with an estimate of about eighty on the reserve plus three smart Lesser Redpolls. 

In the Walgrave Bay we espied the first two Great White Egrets of the day and subsequently saw four in the Scaldwell Bay but could only be sure of five birds overall. Little Egrets and Cormorants were easy viewings and an adult Great Crested Grebe made short work of a Jack Pike! More dragonflies were busy sunning themselves or hunting in the lee of the trees and there was a surprising number of Common Blue Damselflies on the wing too. Butterflies included some smart Small Coppers, a fresh Comma and Red Admiral. A Hobby was catching insects along the west section of the bay and the Roesel's Bush-crickets were both visual and audible despite the meadows being cut and baled.

We sat in Willows Hide in the Scaldwell Bay where one of the Great White Egrets posed. We could hear two Kingfishers calling but couldn't see them. All the birds on the bund flew up and we picked up on a juvenile male Peregrine hunting over the water. He disappeared and then came back again and we last saw him in hot pursuit of one of the Kingfishers and closing fast. Both birds disappeared from view behind the willows and we didn't see either of them again. After this the second Kingfisher emerged from his bush and we enjoyed 'scope views in bright sunshine.

Plenty new waterfowl were in including numbers of Wigeon and Shoveler and the Bird Club hide was good for additional views of birds already seen. Tree Sparrows fed from the feeders at the Old Scaldwell Road and an adult Yellow-legged Gull argued with a Lesser Black-backed Gull over rights to a dead fish. Three Common Sandpipers were chasing each other along the road causeway. All in all an enjoyable walk and some great autumnal wildlife!

Elsewhere and Hollowell Reservoir hosted a Great White Egret, five Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper and Stanwick yielded six Cattle Egrets, a Great White Egret. a Common Tern and two Yellow-legged Gulls.

Two Common Redstarts remained at Harrington Airfield today, Lamport Hall fielded one or two Common Redstart(s) and a Spotted Flycatcher and there were twenty-one Yellow Wagtails with the cattle at Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Clifden Nonpareil

Merveille du Jour which 
apparently translates as 
'wonder of the day'!

Common Darter.

Greylag Geese.

Migrant Hawker.

Spider sp and Common 
Blue Damselfly.

Spotted Flycatcher.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Brixworth Ringing


Yesterday's (Tuesday) excursion to the north Norfolk coast was a warm and pleasant affair. The sea and sea shore held some birds of interest but we didn't see a great deal of particular note. Five Common Seals fishing closely in a small creek were probably the highlight...

In the county yesterday the highlights included a Spoonbill briefly in the morning on the Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadow reserve at Ditchford Pits and at least eight Cattle Egrets again at Stanwick Pits plus two Great White Egrets and two Pintail.

Hollowell Reservoir supported a Great White Egret and a Stonechat and Harrington Airfield's best birds were two Common Redstarts, a Wheatear and a Turtle Dove.

Today (Wednesday) and Stanwick Pits hosted nine Cattle Egrets, two Great White Egrets, two Pintails and a Monk Parakeet and later six Yellow-legged Gulls.

At Pitsford Reservoir there were three Great White Egrets in the Scaldwell Bay plus two Pintails and a Green Sandpiper. Two Greenshanks were found in the new workings next to Whiston Lock this evening.

A Common Redstart was at Lamport Hall this evening and another individual was in a hedgerow at Hanging Houghton in the first grass field alongside the A508 north of the village.

At Brixworth today there was another ringing session which provided 118 captures of fifteen species, the highlights perhaps being ten Meadow Pipits, twelve Chiffchaffs, fourteen Blackcaps, two Reed Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler, two Goldcrests, seven Lesser Redpolls and twelve Reed Buntings. A Hobby was also on-site.


Neil M

Common Seal.


Lesser Redpoll.

Monday, 14 September 2020

BOS Autumn Day Count SP54


Ten hours of a particularly warm and sunny day in September were spent birding the 10 x 10 km SP54 tetrad in the deep south of Northamptonshire as part of the Banbury Ornithologists Society (BOS) survey process.

The most obvious birds first thing were plenty of Siskins and Meadow Pipits on the move, and the movement continued all day. Lesser Black-backed Gulls adorned many fields and the abundance of flying insects including Crane Flies ensured they were clumsily hawking insects in the still conditions. Chiffchaffs were also very common today, their calls and some song from the juveniles ringing out from hedges and copses wherever we went.

Kingfishers were found at three sites and Grey Wagtails at four and Yellow Wagtails at five. Little Grebes still feeding young were at Trafford Bridge and Great Crested Grebes were feeding a youngster at Edgcote Lake. Two Little Owls were calling near Greatworth, two Spotted Flycatchers were in trees not far from Thorpe Mandeville, two Redpolls were seen along the River Cherwell near Edgcote and a Raven was heard calling there. A covey of five Grey Partridges were a good find between Culworth and Sulgrave.

Butterflies included Red Admiral, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and Small Heath and plenty of dragonflies even included a late Brown Hawker.

At Market Harborough today an Otter was seen well but briefly in the River Welland behind Waitrose and the river also attracted a swimming Grass Snake and a Kingfisher.

The birds at Stanwick included the full complement of nine Cattle Egrets and six Crossbills were in Wakerley Wood but only seen in flight close to the car park.

At Harrington Airfield there were two Common Redstarts again plus a Whinchat, a Turtle Dove and Hobby and Pitsford Reservoir hosted four Great White Egrets in the Scaldwell Bay plus a Red-crested Pochard, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a Hobby.

Nick Wood completed some ringing at Chase Park Farm (near Yardley Chase) today with forty captures of 15 species which included eight Chiffchaffs, four Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and a Lesser Whitethroat.

The ringers at Stanford Reservoir were again busy today with over 300 birds processed which included 28 Meadow Pipits, 10 Reed Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 197 Blackcaps, 30 Chiffchaffs, 2 Siskins and 10 Redpolls. However the star of the show today was yet another Wryneck, the second caught and ringed at Stanford this autumn.


Neil M

Hornet Hoverfly, the largest
hoverfly in the UK and an 
excellent mimic of the Hornet!
Image courtesy of Nick Wood.

Coupled Migrant Hawkers
courtesy of Eleanor.

Lesser Black-backed Gull.


Meadow Pipit.


Sunday, 13 September 2020

Warm and breezy September Sunday


Breezy, warm and sunny today but not great for birds it seems! Reports from around the county were limited today as the temperature soared...

Yesterday (Saturday) and Eric's walk at Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston Pits provided views of a Yellow-legged Gull, two Great White Egrets, two Peregrines, a Hobby and five Ravens.

Today (Sunday) and the nine Cattle Egrets were again at Stanwick Pits plus two Great White Egrets and a Green Sandpiper. Nearby five of the Cattle Egrets were later at the eastern end of Ditchford Pits plus a Caspian Gull, two Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Tern.

At Hollowell Reservoir a Great White Egret was present this morning and the Ruddy Shelduck was on the dam at Ravensthorpe Reservoir.

Stonechats (numbers not known) were reported from near Irchester today and birds at Harrington Airfield included two Common Redstarts, fifteen Tree Sparrows and a Barn Owl. Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included three Great White Egrets, a Goldeneye, a Hobby and a Yellow-legged Gull all in the Scaldwell Bay.


Neil M

Yesterday's Greenshank
at Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Dave Jackson.