Sunday, 31 May 2020

Last day of May


More glorious sunshine, this time in association with a lovely cool northerly breeze was the background weather for today.

Early morning finds today included a Marsh Harrier flying north east at Summer Leys and two Cattle Egrets with cattle on the main lake at Stanwick Pits. A little later and a Caspian Tern was located in flight at Stanford Reservoir but stayed only a matter of minutes, but time for the single observer to obtain some images. Congratulations to Chris Hubbard for his exciting find.

A Caspian Tern was seen at three sites along the Hampshire coast this afternoon - these nomadic terns are known for their long distance wanderings and ability to cover miles very quickly so it could easily be the same bird.

Visits to Harrington Airfield and Pitsford Reservoir today didn't produce anything out of the ordinary. It is anticipated that Pitsford Reservoir will open on Tuesday 2nd June with public access to the south side as usual and permit holders only to the north of the road causeway (as usual). It is possible to apply for a free permit if you are a member of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, otherwise permits are available from the Fishing Lodge, and self vending day permits should be available again soon from the small hut at the road entrance to the Fishing Lodge.

A ringing session at Harrington Airfield is planned for this coming Tuesday during which time access to the bunker and old runway section will be restricted. Footpaths and the concrete track will still be accessible.


Neil M

A pair of Swifts in their
nest box with two eggs
courtesy of John Hunt.

Many Great Spotted Woodpecker broods are on
the verge of fledging, so it will be busy and potentially
noisy at peanut and fat feeders soon!
Images courtesy of John Tilly.

Over half the broods of Great Tits
are out now but there are some still
 to fledge.

Image courtesy of John Tilly.

It's all very well him
taking a photograph of
us, why doesn't he come over
and swat some of these flies!

Great Crested Grebe
Blatherwycke Lake.

I reckon if I crouch
down like this he'll
never see me...!

What did I tell you, he didn't
see a thing!

Little Owl at Polebrook Airfield.

Ragged Robin
Deene Lake.

Banded Demoiselle
Blatherwycke Lake.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

A day out!


The brilliant sunshine, warm temperatures and gentle breeze is helping to bring forth multitudes of insects, at least that was my impression after a full day out in the county today, most of which I spent in the Oundle area.

In the meantime gardens have been pulling in more insects with both John Hunt in Spratton and Karen Bright in Little Brington attracting Broad-bodied Chasers and Beautiful Demoiselles to their respective gardens.  

Steve and Gina located the Spotted Flycatchers at Beck Dairy (Cottesbrooke) today and Eleanor encountered Dingy Skipper and a large hatch of fresh Small Tortoiseshell butterflies in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. Grizzled Skipper was the best of a haul of butterflies seen by Matt Hazleton at Sharnbrook Summit this morning and good numbers of Black Hairstreaks were on show and behaving themselves at Glapthorn Cow Pasture. Large Skippers and Meadow Browns are now out and about in small numbers.

David Arden saw an Osprey at Pitsford Reservoir this morning (Scaldwell Bay) but unfortunately this site still remains closed to the general public and permit holders alike. Deb and Eric notched up a Great White Egret and the rufous form Cuckoo again at Thrapston Pits.

My initial foray took me north east where I checked out areas near to Barnwell, Hemington and Polebrook which provided early morning sightings of a Tawny Owl, three Barn Owls and a Little Owl, Cuckoo and plenty of summer migrants and resident birds alike. Skirting around the edges of Ashton Wold and taking the bridlepath through the complex was good for three singing Spotted Flycatchers, large numbers of Speckled Wood butterflies and a just emerged Blue Emperor dragonfly.

After a pleasurable time at Glapthorn watching the hairstreaks I maneuvered around to Blatherwycke Lake where bird of the day was a female Pochard with six ducklings! Other birds included three Black Swans and a Kingfisher and plenty of things whizzing around over the water included my first Black-tailed Skimmers of the year. I spent quite a bit of time around Deene Lake and nearby ponds, locating two pairs of Shelduck, a party of six Ravens and lots of dragonflies which included Hairy Hawker, more Blue Emperors and good numbers of Black-tailed Skimmers and Four spotted Chasers. And yes I saw absolutely loads of Red Kites all day long!

Two Barn Owls were again hunting this evening between Blueberry Farm and the Brampton Valley Way below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

The only stand of Field Elms I
know of in Northants.

Black Hairstreak.

Broad-bodied Chaser courtesy
of Karen Bright.

Broad-bodied Chaser courtesy
of John Hunt.

Beautiful Demoiselle on
dog rose by John Hunt.

Spratton outlook by
John Hunt.

Blue Emperor
Ashton Wold.

Scarce Chasers.

Common Buzzard.

Red Kite.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Exotic Starlings, ringing recoveries, butterflies and moths!


Another sunshine-filled day but little in the way of reported bird sightings today. Yesterday evening there were hunting Barn Owls at Blueberry Farm and with another across fields between there and the Brampton Valley Way.

Locally we had three Ravens over the garden this afternoon and Eleanor again saw two Kingfishers this morning along the Brampton brook below Hanging Houghton.

The downside of bright sunlight and clean windows is bird strikes and despite having plenty of blinds and plastic outlines on the windows we suffered several today. Much of it is young birds only just out of the nest and not realising the dangers of glass. Sadly two of the juvenile Starlings suffered fatal injuries.

Talking of Starlings it seems that the UK may just be on the brink of a bit of an invasion of Rosy Starlings (or Rose-coloured Starling if you prefer) from the east. It seems that yesterday flocks of these exotic wanderers from Asia were seen in the south of France with a couple then being seen on the Atlantic coast. One was seen on the Welsh island of Skomer yesterday and today one was reported in Cornwall, one or two were on the Isles of Scilly and two were reported in Ireland. Time will tell if these pink wanderers are seen in middle England but if they do turn up they normally socialise and flock with our Starlings.

A few ringing recoveries have been received as follows:-

1. A first year male Blackbird was ringed at Priors Marston just outside the county boundary on 23rd January this year and found freshly dead there on 16th May;

2. A Reed Warbler was ringed at Marston Vale Millenium Country Park, Bedfordshire on 16th April 2017 and caught again at Linford Lakes on the edge of Milton Keynes on 17th May this year, having completed at least eight trips to or from Africa during it's time!

3. A young male Goldfinch that was ringed at Woodford Halse in the west of the county on 14th December 2018 was caught by a ringer in Scotland on 4th April this year at a place called Cragie, Jellyholm Road, Clackmannanshire. The distance between the two sites is 470km and 477 days elapsed between the two captures;

4. A first year male Greenfinch was ringed at Astcote, South Northants on 22nd March this year and taken by a cat on or about 22nd May at Blisworth six km to the east.

A Dark Green Fritillary was seen at Ring Haw, Old Sulehay yesterday and Black Hairstreaks have been seen at Salcey Forest today.


Neil M

Buff Tip moth.

Pale Tussock moth.

Poplar Hawk Moth.

Large Elephant Hawk Moth by
Robin Gossage.

Lime Hawk Moth by
Robin Gossage.

Cheeky Jackdaws by
John Tilly.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Butterflies, flycatchers and Nene Valley birding


More stunning weather today and with more to come it seems!

Reasonable numbers of birds in the garden again today, many birds taking advantage of the suet pellets, suet blocks and dried mealworms on offer. One or two Yellowhammers are still visiting for the seed and of course the Jackdaws are here for everything! A Broad-bodied Chaser was depositing eggs into our bigger pond - it'll take a year or two before we see the results!

Butterflies are in the news with Black Hairstreaks found today at Fermyn Wood Country Park and again at Glapthorne Cow Pastures and a Clouded Yellow and plenty of Wood Whites at Yardley Chase in the private section. Nationally some other butterfly species from the continent have been recorded and with a high weather system over northern Europe it's likely more will follow. I'm sure that people with moth traps will enjoy similar experiences with their specimens!

Spotted Flycatchers used to be one of the most common summer migrants to this part of the world but now they are rather scarce and localised breeders, often singing and holding territory for a couple of days and then moving on. Today they were recorded at Beck Dairy (Cottesbrooke), Hanging Houghton village, Glyn Davies Wood and New Covert, Kelmarsh.

Nene Valley birders were out and about today and sightings included a Great White Egret, a Hobby, an Osprey and six Cuckoos (including a rufous form female) at Thrapston Pits and a Garganey and a Great White Egret at Stanwick Pits. At least one Garganey remained at Summer Leys LNR today.


Neil M

Red Kite
courtesy of John Tilly.

Sedge Warbler at Stortons Pits
by Paul Crotty.

Four spotted Chaser
by Robin Gossage.

Red-eyed Damselfly by
Robin Gossage.

Swallow nest by Chris
Payne. Yesterday Chris
found seventeen Swallow
nests with eggs in South

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Mid-week highlights


Yesterday evening (Tuesday) provided views of an adult male Marsh Harrier quartering the top fields at Harrington Airfield before cruising off towards Lamport.

Today (Wednesday) and a cool but gentle northerly breeze with some cloud cover and warm sunshine made for a fabulous day.

Eric Graham ventured to Thrapston Pits where he encountered an Egyptian Goose, a pair of Shoveler, eight pairs of Gadwall and a Great Black-backed Gull predating Black-headed Gull chicks on one of the islands. Steve Fisher found the drake Garganey on the main lake at Stanwick Pits this morning and Summer Leys catered for the continued stay of the summer plumage Black-necked Grebe and a Garganey. The Pink-footed Goose was still at Clifford Hill Pits today and a Turtle Dove was seen at a site in the county.

At Pitsford Reservoir an Osprey was seen over the Scaldwell Bay this morning and this afternoon the third calendar year Yellow-legged Gull was still at the south end of the reservoir.

Harrington Airfield supported two 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers today (150m along concrete track from Draughton Road entrance and Bunker Three) and another was located between Hardingstone Lake and the River Nene on the outskirts of Northampton. A Spotted Flycatcher was found at Wappenham by Graham Martin and a Birdguides report indicated the sighting of a north-bound Honey Buzzard over Islip at about midday.

Our bird list for the birds recorded from the garden currently stands at 57 for May, nowhere near the April total of 66 even though we have a few days to go yet!

The first Black Hairstreak butterflies of the year were found at Glapthorne Cow Pastures today - nationally a rare butterfly but with a couple of really good sites in Northamptonshire we do well for them locally.


Neil M

Record shot of yesterday's
Marsh Harrier at Harrington

Distant image of the Black-necked Grebe
at Summer Leys courtesy of Paul Crotty.

Blue Tit nestlings. Many tits have
now fledged but there are still families
yet to take flight.
Image courtesy of Chris Payne.

Robin nest by Diane Freeman.
Mimic Hoverfly Volucella
bombylans, this red-tailed
form mimics Red-tailed Bumblebee.

Mimic Hoverfly of the same species
as above but this form mimics the
White-tailed Bumblebee.

Hoverfly Volucella pellucens.

Hoverfly images provided by
Robin Gossage.


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Spring into summer


We seem to have entered a period of sunshine and warm temperatures but also a worrying lack of rain as our continental-style weather continues.

The Black-necked Grebe popped up again at Summer Leys after remaining hidden for most of the morning - the islands are fantastic for breeding and migrant birds there but they do have a habit of hiding what you are trying to look at! Steve Fisher's early morning jaunt at Stanwick Pits provided views of a Garganey on the Main Lake. A Peregrine showed well at Thrapston Pits today.

Up to three Hobbies have been on show at and over the village today and it's difficult to look up and not see a Common Buzzard or Red Kite. The head count of juvenile Pied Wagtails in the garden has now gone up to six and is presumably a mix of two different broods? They and the attendant adults have to be on high alert as the regular male Sparrowhawk is visiting the garden several times each day.

A couple of Broad-bodied Chasers have sallied through the garden today but not lingered and Fiona's moth trap caught plenty of interesting specimens overnight. The warm temperatures and calmer conditions have clearly stimulated more bat activity as we slip from spring to summer, but so far they seem to be just pipistrelle types.

Butterflies have been inspiring people locally and at the moment Salcey Forest is providing plenty of Wood Whites. It already seems to be a good season for Small Heaths with them being seen at a variety of sites and immigrants in the shape of Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow have been seen in the county during the last week or so. Black Hairstreak enthusiasts are awaiting their first emergence any day now!


Neil M

Black-tailed Godwit
at Summer Leys earlier
in the month courtesy
of Geoff Walker.

Fungus Beetle courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Ornate Brigadier by
Robin Gossage.

Canada Goose and family.

Mother Shipton (day
flying moth).

Singing Corn Bunting by
Cathy Ryden. Once a regular
if localised bird for us in
Northamptonshire they are
now very scarce but still quite
numerous to the east of us
in parts of Cambridgeshire and

Not everyone has a Rook
as a breeding bird in their
garden. It can be quite a
 noisy affair!
Image courtesy of
Jim Dunkley.

An image of an interesting
Common Buzzard taken by
Jim Dunkley recently. The tail is
severely abraded and this bird appears
 to be in active wing moult and
replacing the inner primaries. I'm
sure this tired-looking bird has an
 unusual story behind it!