Sunday, 5 July 2020

Gusty Sunday


A very windy but bright day hasn't yielded much in the way of local bird sightings.

Eric spent some time at the Titchmarsh Reserve over the weekend and found both Gadwall and Tufted Duck broods on the reserve. A Pyramidal Orchid was found near Palmer Hide.

Adrian visited Hollowell Reservoir again today and saw the female Ruddy Shelduck, a Great White Egret, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two Common Sandpipers. Eleanor found another pair of Grey Partridges in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning and they were looking after eight small chicks.

A Hobby has been dramatically chasing the Swallows again around the village and a visit to Pitsford Reservoir this morning provided sightings of an Osprey and a party of five Ravens over the Scaldwell Bay. The insects were corralled in sheltered areas behind vegetation and included a good range of common butterflies and small numbers of dragonflies and rather more damselflies. This evening the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard was visible again from the Bird Club hide.

Tom managed to find a Dark Green Fritillary hanging on just south of Old Sulehay.


Neil M 

Fly-by Raven.

Small White butterfly.

Seven spot Ladybird and
Common Green Capsid.

Black-tailed Skimmer.

Comma butterfly.


Mallard family. This female
has done extremely well and
raised nine almost full-sized

Marbled White butterfly.

All images taken at Pitsford
Reservoir today.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Super Saturday?


A grey and windy day in the county with the odd blustery shower and occasional glimpse of sunshine.

This morning Spotted Flycatchers were still in New Covert, Kelmarsh but were difficult to see due to the foliage and nearby along the Brampton Valley Way there were quite extensive clumps of fabulous Field Scabious - unfortunately it was too dull for the butterflies to come and enjoy one of their favourite nectar-infused flowers. A pair of Grey Partridge were with two young in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and a Hobby was vocal.

An afternoon foray up to Harrington Airfield was a breezy affair but still with Marbled Whites and other butterflies active in the sheltered areas. A pair of Grey Partridge were present and an Osprey flew over low to the west.

Early morning birding at Stanwick Pits brought rewards with the Bittern seen in flight again, plus up to five Mediterranean Gulls on view and a Yellow-legged Gull. Summer Leys LNR attracted a Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper.

Hollowell Reservoir is on form currently with the Ruddy Shelduck present (and presumably moulting), a Great White Egret, a fishing Osprey and at least one calling Crossbill by the Sailing Club.

This afternoon an adult male Peregrine was at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.


Neil M

Field Scabious.

The off-white version of
Common Spotted Orchid
(Harrington Airfield).

Marbled White courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Six-belted Clearwing moth
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Hornet Clearwing moth
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Bits and bobs at Pitsford


The planned ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir was cancelled due to the high winds but there was still an opportunity for some birding there today. 

A summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit (injured leg) was on the shoreline between the Maytrees and Bird Club hide this morning but appeared to fly off and an eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard was visible from the Bird Club hide. A female Tufted Duck showed off her just-hatched brood of nine ducklings!

This afternoon at the southern end of the reservoir an Osprey flew in and began patrolling the water and after several aborted dives and three immersions he finally picked up his trout prize and flew off. The usual third calendar year Yellow-legged Gull was there, escorting the Osprey for a while, a Whimbrel flew south at 4.30pm and a Hobby and a Common Sandpiper were present too.

At Hollowell Reservoir Jonathan notched up the Ruddy Shelduck and Great White Egret again and Richard located the Common Redstart at Harrington Airfield this morning in the usual place.

Stanwick Pits was an eventful place again today with a Bittern seen in flight, two adult Cattle Egrets, three Mediterranean Gulls, a Black-tailed Godwit and singles of Green and Common Sandpiper. Two juvenile Cattle Egrets were still at Kinewell  Lake, Ringstead Pits and the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Pits hosted a Hobby and a Green Sandpiper.

This evening there was a Dunlin and a Black-tailed Godwit with a damaged leg (presumably the Pitsford bird) at Summer Leys LNR.

Barn Owls have been active the last few days at Hanging Houghton, Lamport and near Hellidon.


Neil M

Birds are not the only things
attracted to the seed distributed
at the Pitsford feeding stations.
The female Muntjac has an unusually
shaped left ear which should aid
 identification to the future!

Common Terns.
It's a long wing to preen!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Black-tailed Godwits


Well it seems that Black-tailed Godwits were the migrant of the day in the county with an initial single seen at Summer Leys first thing (together with two Mandarin Ducks and singles of Green and Common Sandpiper), followed by another single at Stanwick Pits (plus three Mediterranean Gulls, a Cattle Egret and two Little Ringed Plovers) and then five on Dragonfly Lake on the Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadow reserve.

This afternoon and there were three Black-tailed Godwits on the scrape at Summer Leys and then an excellent record of about forty flying into Stanwick Pits just after 6pm. Most of this flock moved on leaving five birds in situ.

This afternoon the Ruddy Shelduck was reported again at Hollowell Reservoir with a Great White Egret present too.

Yesterday (Wednesday) evening and I went back to Market Harborough to look for Otters. At 9.35pm (when it was raining and dark) an Otter materialised and gave good close views for about fifteen minutes at the confluence of two channels near to the railway station. Although the Otter is not seen every evening, there is a small group of local naturalists who are there most evenings hoping to see this animal (it seemingly often appears at about 9.30pm).

Today and a small band of ringers completed a session at Stortons Pits where there were 65 captures recorded including good numbers of warblers. One re-trapped Reed Warbler was first ringed in 2011 and another was a bird ringed elsewhere. There was also eight Sedge Warblers, two Lesser Whitethroats, three Cetti's Warblers, a token Willow Warbler and good numbers of Reed Buntings.

A lengthy ringing session at Harrington Airfield today provided 130 captures of twenty species, 108 of these were newly-ringed birds. Highlights included a young Green Woodpecker, two Lesser Whitethroats, nine Common Whitethroats, two Garden Warblers, eleven Willow Warblers, twenty-three Yellowhammers and plenty of common finches. No birds of particular interest were seen on-site but there were still small numbers of Marbled White butterflies checking out the clover flowers.


Neil M

Otter at Market
Harborough yesterday

Lesser Whitethroat.


Sedge Warbler.

Song Thrush.

All above bird images taken
by Chris Payne at Stortons Pits
this morning.

Young male Green Woodpecker
at Harrington Airfield today.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Mid-way 2020


Yesterday evening (Tuesday) a revisit to the River Welland at Market Harborough didn't produce an Otter sighting. Speaking with some of the local naturalists on-site it seems there is a reasonably healthy population of Water Voles along this section and sure enough I did see one. Sadly though a Grey Heron had seen it first and my only view of the adult vole was it struggling in vain in the heron's bill, before being doused in the water, subdued and swallowed!

Also yesterday evening an excellent count of 15 Common Sandpipers (plus three Oystercatchers) was made at Stanford Reservoir, a high number of returning (and presumed failed breeding) birds so early in the season.

This morning (Wednesday) and a walk at Harrington Airfield produced a distantly calling Quail (audible to the west of the concrete track), a Barn Owl, a couple of Siskins and the Common Redstart again (this time some 300m north of the chippings compound towards Bunker One). There will be some ringing on-site tomorrow morning during which time access to the old airstrip and bunkers will be restricted. Another ringing session is planned for Stortons Pits tomorrow morning with likely a short session at Pitsford Reservoir on Friday morning. In due time we are hoping to be able to invite observers to these sessions but at the moment the Covid -19 conditions necessitates restrictions on attendees.

Steve Fisher's efforts at Stanwick Pits this morning provided views of a Cattle Egret, three Mediterranean Gulls, three Little Ringed Plovers, two Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper. The usual third calendar year Yellow-legged Gull was off the dam at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon.

A few more ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

1. A Long-tailed Tit that was ringed at Brixworth on 24th January 2019 found a mist net again at Stanford Reservoir on 7th June this year, 500 days later with the bird having travelled 17km in a NW direction;

2.  A first year female Blackbird was ringed on the outskirts of Northampton on 20th December 2017 and was found dead (believed to be a road casualty) at Weston Favell, Northampton on 12th June this year, 905 days later and about 4km from where first ringed;

3.  A juvenile Garden Warbler was caught and ringed at Beachy Head, East Sussex on 23rd July 2019 (presumably as a departing bird beginning it's journey to Africa). This bird was extracted from a mist net at Chase Park Farm, Yardley Chase on 19th June this year when assessed as a breeding female. This is not the first county Garden Warbler to have used Beachy Head as a stop-over site, which is about 176km SSE of Chase Park.

Finally Neil Hasdell is currently working on adding further birding location maps to the Birdwatching Site Maps Tab/Page on this blog and we'll be reviewing the current maps to see if they need to be amended.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tit.

Female Blackbird.

Garden Warbler.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Harrington Airfield


I spent a bit of time at Harrington Airfield today, initially with a walk this morning to feed the birds when I encountered the male Common Redstart from two days ago, about 200m from the Chippings Compound towards Bunker One. This bird is still in good plumage but I fully expect it to stay around for a while whilst it undergoes the moult process.

This afternoon there were plenty of active insects, particularly when the sun came out and a few Marbled Whites were probably the best on view. Martin Swannell and I watched as an Osprey overfly the disused airfield heading roughly WSW. Prior to that I disturbed a Stoat on one of the tracks carrying something. It dropped it's prey and ran off. It had obviously raided a nest as the prey was a fledgling Linnet. Guessing it would come back I waited and the warning calls of birds became louder as they tracked something on the ground under the bushes and sure enough the Stoat popped out, grabbed the dead Linnet and ran off, all too quick for me and my camera!

Please note that there will be no access to the old airstrip and bunkers on Thursday due to ringing operations - the concrete track and footpaths will be unaffected.

A first summer Yellow-legged Gull was off the dam at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and birds at Hollowell Reservoir included the Ruddy Shelduck and a Green Sandpiper. Two Black-tailed Godwits and a Common Sandpiper and six Little Ringed Plovers were on the Summer Leys LNR with a Common Sandpiper on nearby Hardwater Lake.


Neil M

This Stoat was photographed
at Harrington Airfield in 2017,
a Rabbit being the prize on
that occasion.

Little Ringed Plover
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

A pair of Ruddy Shelduck at
Pitsford Reservoir way back
in 2014!

Monday, 29 June 2020

Hobbies, Grey Wagtails and Cattle Egrets.


I popped up the road to Market Harborough this morning and watched the summering Peregrine that is treating the spire of St Dionysius' Church as home. This bird is a large first summer female but she wasn't very photogenic today, mostly asleep or preening almost at the very highest part of the spire. All the locals seemed to be aware of her presence and were happy to see her.

A wander up and down the upper reaches of the River Welland in the town in the hope of coming across an Otter was less successful but I did find a few signs suggesting there is still one present. A cracking male Grey Wagtail was the best bird but locals regularly see a Kingfisher.

At least two Grey Wagtails were at Brixworth today and a female Red-crested Pochard was in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir. Hollowell Reservoir continued to host the Ruddy Shelduck today and also two Egyptian Geese, an Osprey, two hundred Swifts and 1-2 Hobbies. Hunting Hobbies were also at Hanging Houghton and Maidwell today and at the latter location a female Blackcap is coming to a garden feeder and taking food away to feed it's young - a further development to how this species is adapting to being a garden bird all year around.

Cattle Egrets in the Nene Valley included one at Stanwick Pits flying through at 5.40pm and four birds at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead Pits.


Neil M

Lesser Black-backed Gull
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Purple Loosestrife at
Pitsford Reservoir
courtesy of John Warner.

Privet Hawk-moth courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Ringlet butterfly
courtesy of Eleanor.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Summer storms


A very blustery day with periods of sunshine and some showers. The birds in the village have been on high alert throughout the day with several forays from the local Sparrowhawk and Hobby, the fledged Swallows being successfully targeted by both raptors.

Harrington Airfield yielded a male Common Redstart between the Chipping Compound and Bunker One with the more secluded spots in the scrubby areas presenting a mosaic of purples, pinks and yellows of clover, Bugle, orchids and other flowers which in turn housed Small Heath, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Marbled White butterflies. A Barn Owl also showed nicely early morning.

In the Nene Valley Eric Graham has spent both days of the week-end patrolling the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston Pits locating up to three Little Egrets, five Oystercatchers, a Redshank, a Cuckoo and plenty of warblers, Swifts and hirundines. At Stanwick Pits this morning and Steve Fisher could see two juvenile and one adult Mediterranean Gull, two Green Sandpipers and a Peregrine. Four juvenile Cattle Egrets were reported at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead Pits today.

Adrian's visit to Hollowell Reservoir confirmed the continued presence of the Ruddy Shelduck and a fly-over Osprey was already carrying a fish, perhaps from nearby Ravensthorpe Reservoir. A single Turtle Dove maintains a lonely presence again at one site in the county. A pair of Spotted Flycatchers at Pitsford Reservoir are now feeding young in the nest.

For the lepidopderists among us, Purple Emperors were on view in small numbers in the Fermyn Wood complex and the now common Silver-washed Fritillaries in our larger woods contained the variant female 'valezina' types at both Weekley Hall Woods and Bucknell Wood today.

The Osprey photographed at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday was confirmed as a Rutland project bird, apparently a male hatched in 2016 which last year spent much of it's time in the Oundle area.


Neil M

Summer views taken yesterday
of the Brampton Valley
from Merry Tom Lane.

Platyrhinus resinous.

Platystomos albinus.

Both weevil images
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Sightings for Saturday.


There was no sign of the Avocet at Pitsford Reservoir today and there didn't seem to be much new in the Scaldwell Bay albeit that the Gadwall flock has now reached one hundred and fifty.

At the other end of the reservoir three Yellow-legged Gulls included a new bird joining the two regulars and perhaps signified the start of the traditional summer immigration of this species. A Spotted Flycatcher was in the trees next to the Sailing Club, a Hobby worried the House Martins and this afternoon an Osprey flapped steadily into the strong head wind as it scoured the waters below for a fish snack. The blue plastic ring confirms this as a bird from the Rutland Osprey scheme. 

Birds for perusal at Stanwick Pits included the pair of Mediterranean Gulls now with two juveniles, a Cattle Egret, twelve Black-tailed Godwits, two Curlews, a Common Sandpiper, two Barnacle Geese and four Siskins and five Crossbills passing over.

Down the road at Earls Barton Pits a Black-tailed Godwit was on Hardwater Lake and Summer Leys harboured a Greenshank, a Dunlin, two Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper.

The female Ruddy Shelduck was again at Hollowell Reservoir this morning.


Neil M

Collared Dove courtesy of
John Tilly.

Osprey at Pitsford
Reservoir today.

Yellow-legged Gull at
Pitsford Reservoir today.

A pair of Swifts with
two young courtesy of
John Hunt.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Hot Friday


Another hot day out there today with an increasingly strong breeze during the afternoon.

Summer Leys LNR today attracted returning waders in the shape of a Wood Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, a Redshank, a Greenshank and five Black-tailed Godwits.

The Fermyn Wood/Park complex today attracted large numbers of Marbled Whites, approximately fifteen White Admirals, Silver-washed Fritillaries in profusion and up to seven Purple Emperors (including Lady and Souther Wood). More common butterflies included some fresh Commas and Red Admirals. At least one Crossbill was heard calling at Lady Wood where there were also two Siskins and two Ravens.

Small numbers of Marbled Whites and a large hatch of Ringlets were at Harrington Airfield this afternoon and Bradlaugh Fields was alive with Marbled Whites and Small and Essex Skippers.

Spotted Flycatchers were at Cannons Ashby today and a Birdguides report suggests that the Ruddy Shelduck was still present at Hollowell Reservoir and a Great White Egret was there briefly.


Neil M

Yesterday's Avocet at
Pitsford Reservoir, at one
point being pursued by a
Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Pink-footed Goose at Pitsford
Reservoir yesterday evening.

Blue sky Woodpigeon!