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!

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Heatwave wildlife


A very hot day and birds in Hanging Houghton village included the singing Spotted Flycatcher and a Siskin with a Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher at the brook in the Brampton Valley (and large numbers of Banded Demoiselles).

A Broad-bodied Chaser, a Comma and still plenty of Scarlet Tiger moths were the best of the insects in the garden.

A flock of 14 nomadic Crossbills were seen at Harlestone Heath today as they flew over the clearing next to the saw mills and Steve Fisher was able to report a pair of Mediterranean Gulls with a juvenile on the Layby Pits at Stanwick Pits, together with the Red-crested Pochard and a Common Sandpiper.

Jonathan's visit to Hollowell Reservoir this evening provided views of two Great White Egrets, a Ruddy Shelduck and a Green Sandpiper.

On the butterfly front there were four Purple Emperors at Bucknell Wood this morning and good numbers of White Admiral too and Purple Emperors were showing at Fermyn Wood this afternoon too. A wander of the meadows between Short and Southwick woods was good for large numbers of Marbled Whites (these have really spread in the county during the last decade) with White Admirals actually in Short Wood.

A very pleasant evening in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir brought a surprise in the shape of an Avocet plus the Pink-footed Goose again and a fly-over Curlew. The Avocet remained until dusk, favouring the shoreline between the Bird Club and Maytrees hides and often swimming out on the open water.


Neil M

Male Reed Bunting at
Stortons Pits courtesy
of Paul Crotty.

Reed Bunting nest
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Sedge Warbler courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Marbled White at Stortons
Pits in evening sunshine
courtesy of Gary Burrows.

Kestrel nest near Astcote
containing three young
courtesy of John Boland.

This nest was evident when
a large branch of the tree came
away and the nest cavity was
completely exposed. The decision
was made to not intervene and
despite heavy rain and a very hot
sun to date these fluffy youngsters
have survived and thrived and now
have the beginning of their first

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Let there be sun, birds and butterflies!


A modest ringing session was undertaken in Christies Copse at Pitsford Reservoir this morning after setting up yesterday evening and provided just 26 captures (plus a Mallard in the duck trap). In the absence of quantity, quality birds included two Willow Warblers, two juvenile Marsh Tits, three Treecreepers. a re-trap Green Woodpecker and two re-trap Garden Warblers both of which are five or more years old.

A male Crossbill was there first thing and narrowly missed being captured and a Brown Hawker was another odonata species not seen yesterday.

Kenny in the meantime continued with his Cuckoo quest at Linford Lakes and caught and ringed his eleventh of the year this morning!

A small but merry ringing team at Stortons Pits this morning enjoyed a great session before the heat brought proceedings to a halt with an excellent 86 birds caught on the south side of the pits. Only 13 of these birds had been previously encountered on-site. Highlights included a Lesser Whitethroat and a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler, and there were good numbers of Blackcaps and Whitethroats.

Bucknell Woods proved a popular venue today and Martin Dove saw a flock of 16 Crossbills there which then flew west. A Purple Emperor delighted and landed on his trousers briefly and other butterflies on show there today included White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Wood White, Comma and a single White Letter Hairstreak. Two Purple Emperors were seen on the north side of Salcey Forest today and about six more were reported at Lady Wood.

Two Siskins flew south west over our garden at Hanging Houghton this afternoon and adult Swallows remained pensive with a Hobby lingering. A late May Bug (Cockchafer) in flight was quickly intercepted by a House Sparrow.

At Summer Leys LNR, two Black-tailed Godwits and a Green Sandpiper were on the scrape and Adrian's urban Wellingborough garden list is on the rise again after a flock of nine Crossbills flew over south-west at lunchtime. At Hollowell Reservoir this afternoon, Jonathan Cook saw an Osprey and a Common Sandpiper.


Neil M

Dark Green Fritillary
Ring Haw yesterday
courtesy of David Arden.

Silver-washed Fritillary
courtesy of David Arden.

Pyramidal Orchid
courtesy of David

Juvenile Grasshopper Warbler
Stortons Pits today courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Adult female Green
Woodpecker Pitsford
Reservoir today.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Pitsford's birds and insects


I spent most of the day at Pitsford Reservoir today, completing a Common Bird Census on the reserve this morning and back again this evening to set up for a ringing session there tomorrow morning.

It was an early start this morning and there were so many wildlife distractions that it took me an age to walk around the reserve (plus I'm getting older)! Bird highlights included a Curlew calling as it flew south and at about 8am four Crossbills were flying low around Christies Copse. Some fifteen minutes later and a nice male bird was seen flying around on his own, I'm not sure if he was in the original group or not but I didn't see any of them again after that.

A pair of Spotted Flycatchers are breeding on the reserve and waterbirds are faring well with several broods of Mute Swan and Great Crested Grebes. The summering Lapwing flock is over fifty birds strong now, the Gadwall are up to one hundred and twenty and the Pochard increased to seventeen birds today. One of the drake Wigeon is still present as is the pair of Oystercatcher which still seem intent on breeding.

Other birds today included a couple of Little Egrets, a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail and just one pair of Willow Warblers on territory this year. Although we have lost breeding birds such as Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler, there are now breeding Red Kites and Nuthatches.

Insects were in profusion in the sunny, warm conditions and dragonflies included Blue Emperor, Southern Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer, Four-spotted Chaser and Broad-bodied Chaser, plus a couple of Beautiful Demoiselles. Lots of butterflies included a good number of Marbled Whites between the Maytrees Hide and the causeway, Purple Hairstreaks in the oaks and two White-letter Hairstreaks near to The Point.

Elsewhere and Fiona found hitherto unknown colonies of Marbled White and Purple Hairstreaks in the triangle of land between Brixworth, Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell villages. Other good butterflies seen today included a Purple Emperor in Titchmarsh Wood and still three late Black Hairstreaks at Souther Wood. Fermyn Wood hosted a Purple Emperor, nine White Admirals and five Silver-washed Fritillaries. A colony of Marbled Whites near Gayton numbered 50/60 individuals. A Dark Green Fritillary was at Ring Haw, Old Sulehay today and a Silver-washed Fritillary was at Glapthorne Cow Pastures

Kenny's efforts at Linford Lakes this evening provided an opportunity of catching and ringing the tenth Cuckoo there this year!


Neil M

A shoal of about twenty-five
large trout were circulating in 
the water in the causeway tunnel
at Pitsford today...

Small Skipper.

Great Crested Grebe with
her two chicks.

Female Gadwall.

Four-spotted Chaser.

Common Tern selecting
and catching the correct
size fish for it's young. One
bird was actually seen with a
tiny Pike in it's bill!

Male Beautiful Demoiselle.

All images from Pitsford
Reservoir today...

Monday, 22 June 2020

Here comes the heat!


Well we started as the week is meant to go on with a warm, sunny if breezy day.

The predicted heat wave for this coming week should coincide with the emergence of some of our most spectacular butterflies and other insects and I'm sure the entomologists will be keen to go exploring!

Staying with insects and specifically butterflies, a Dark Green Fritillary was seen at Summer Leys LNR this morning on the small meadow in the north east corner, an excellent local record. Three Marbled Whites and a Clouded Yellow were on the old airstrip leading up to the bunkers at Harrington Airfield this afternoon. The Fermyn Woods complex is well-known for its butterflies and today there were Marbled Whites in the Country Park there, and at least eight White Admirals and three Silver-washed Fritillaries in the woods. Nearby at Souther Wood a single Purple Emperor showed well. Another Purple Emperor showed on the ground at Bucknell Wood at the other end of the county.

Bird news today included an Arctic Tern this morning at Hollowell Reservoir, an Osprey successfully fishing at Elinor Lake, Thrapston Pits just after midday and three Siskins moving over Harrington Airfield in a southerly direction this afternoon. Other birds on the move today included a small movement of Swifts moving south over Hanging Houghton, two flocks totaling about thirty birds.

A Turtle Dove was seen at a site in the county today and two Kingfishers were on the brook in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this evening.


Neil M

Silver-washed Fritillary.

White Admiral.

Dark Green Fritillary.

Juvenile Jackdaw. Lots of these
youngsters out and about now!
Image courtesy of John Tilly.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

A couple of hours at Pitsford...


A wet start to this morning followed by a breezy, sunny day was as forecast. 

This year at least one pair of Cattle Egret have bred successfully again at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead Pits and today Adrian was able to state that four or five young were on show among the Little Egret colony. Two Crossbills flew west along the valley there too.

At Pitsford Reservoir this morning there was evidence of the usual summer gathering of ducks beginning on the reserve with eleven Pochard, a couple of flocks of Tufted, two drake Wigeon, five Shoveler and over a hundred Gadwall in the Scaldwell Bay. At least three Little Egrets were present but it seems that again they haven't bred on-site. Plenty of Black-headed Gull and Common Tern chicks are jostling for position on the rafts there.

Geoff Douglas saw a Mediterranean Gull overfly his garden at Barton Seagrave this afternoon.

The first Purple Emperor butterfly in the county this year was seen at Salcey Forest today and the first Gatekeeper of the year was noted also.


Neil M

Black and Yellow Longhorn
Beetle, thanks to Robin for the

Large Skipper.

A young Red Fox.

Thick-headed Fly sicus furrugineus,
as identified by Robin again!

Female Red-eyed Damselfly and not
what I originally thought it was. My thanks to
Mark Tyrrell for the correct identification!

All images from Pitsford Reservoir
this morning.