Friday, 31 July 2020

It's a scorcher!


Birds reported today in the county included three Great White Egrets at Summer Leys LNR plus five Green Sandpipers, a Marsh Harrier and four Snipe.

Hollowell Reservoir attracted an Osprey, six Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper and a Clouded Yellow butterfly.

The Lesser Emperor dragonfly was found again in the Holcot Bay at Pitsford Reservoir but then a pair were located dropping eggs so there may have been up to three individuals!

A Clouded Yellow butterfly was seen at Yardley Chase yesterday plus four Wood Whites, Silver-washed Fritillaries and Purple Hairstreaks. During the week Dave Jackson located Willow Emerald and Small Red-eyed Damselflies on the Abington Meadows reserve off Weston Mill, Northampton.

More Wood Whites (second hatch) are on the wing at Bucknell Wood, Hazelborough Forest and Salcey Forest.


Neil M

Ringing Barn Owls
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Blue Emperor.

Garden Warbler.

Pine Hawk-moth

Privet Hawk-moth.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Pitsford Reservoir Naturetrek tour


A Naturetrek day tour of Pitsford Reservoir began with a selection of twenty species of moths that Mischa had kept for us following use of the reserve moth traps. Favourites such at Bufftip, Yellowtail and Ruby Tiger are common captures but perhaps the Pine Hawk-moth and Privet Hawk-moth were the most impressive. A Horned Leafhopper was an interesting bycatch species!

A warm day on the reserve with a nice breeze provided observations of 15 species of butterflies and there were good numbers of dragonflies on the wing including lots of Brown Hawkers, Blue Emperors and Ruddy Darters. There were smaller numbers of Black-tailed Skimmers, Common Darters, Southern Hawkers, Migrant Hawkers and a single Lesser Emperor patrolling the water edge in the Holcot Bay with a possible Downy Emerald seen too. Emerald Damselflies were present at one spot.

The birds included a juvenile Marsh Harrier which showed in the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays, a Red-crested Pochard, the drake Goldeneye, at least one Hobby, three Kingfishers and three Common Sandpipers.

Elsewhere and the wandering Spoonbill was reported at Thrapston Pits this morning but not seen subsequently and other birds included an Osprey and two Yellow-legged Gulls. Summer Leys LNR hung on to three Great White Egrets this morning.

Lots of flying ants this afternoon provided food for gulls and a build up of Swifts wherever the hatches occurred and included a juvenile Mediterranean Gull over Wellingborough and a Hobby there going after the build-up of Swifts.

A ringing session at Linford Lakes today provided 82 captures of fifteen species and included a very impressive 31 Reed Warblers, 6 Sedge Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler, a Whitethroat, 6 Blackcaps, 4 Garden Warblers, 7 Chiffchaffs and 5 Willow Warblers. Five Sand Martins and a Swallow were as a result of targeted ringing and three Green Sandpipers were on-site. A Water Shrew and two Great Crested Newts were excellent non-avian wildlife sightings plus signs of an Otter.

Another ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir provided 46 captures and included 12 Mallard, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Sedge Warbler, a 'control' Reed Warbler, a Chiffchaff and 7 Tree Sparrows.

Ringing will be carried out at Harrington Airfield this coming week-end and there will be access restrictions on-site.


Neil M

Juvenile Sand Martin
courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Juvenile Swallow courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Dark Bush-cricket
Wakerley Wood.

Silver-washed Fritillary
Wakerley Wood.

Sedge Warbler courtesy
of Helen Franklin.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Spoonbill, Crossbills and Silver-washed Fritillaries


A trip to the north of the county for a walk around Wakerley Wood was good for a variety of wild flowers and insects and absolutely loads of Silver-washed Fritillaries on the wing. We saw a couple of Purple Hairstreaks, plenty of common butterflies and plenty of other mini beasts - with many still yet to identify! Half a dozen Crossbills were noisy in the larches by the car park on our arrival but soon moved off and several Siskins were vocal as they flew around the complex.

A brief visit to Blatherwycke Lake provided views of two Great White Egrets, eleven Little Egrets, two Black Swans and a vocal Kingfisher.

At Pitsford Reservoir today the Scaldwell Bay saw plenty of action with a Marsh Harrier, the drake Goldeneye, a Red-crested Pochard, two Hobbies, an adult Arctic Tern (this evening), a Green Sandpiper, two Common Sandpipers and an adult Yellow-legged Gull plus at least one adult Common Gull.

It was Hollowell Reservoir's turn to pay homage to the travelling (presumed same) Spoonbill as it touched down and fed briefly before moving off south at 9.40am - well done Adrian! Other birds there today included a Ruddy Shelduck and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull (with a Whinchat there yesterday).

The Earls Barton Pits complex was good for at least three Great White Egrets today plus Hobbies.

Chris Payne enjoyed some more ringing at Greens Norton today, processing some 65 birds of fifteen species which included warblers, tits, finches, Treecreeper, Goldcrests and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Advance warning that there is likely to be ringing operations at Harrington Airfield this coming week-end and access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted. The concrete track and other official footpaths will be accessible as normal.


Neil M

Juvenile Wren.

Large White.

Willow Emerald damselfly
Abington Meadows today courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Willow Warbler.

Juvenile Bullfinch.

Juvenile Coal Tit.

Above four images
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Osprey, Common Cranes and a trail camera!


Yesterday evening (Monday) and a venture back to the south end of Pitsford Reservoir after all the rain provided views of dramatic, cloud formations and bright lavender skies. An Osprey came out to fish and despite being harried by the merciless attentions of the local Common Terns, finally caught his/her prize and flew off with a trout. A Sparrowhawk successfully hunted down one of the Starlings going to roost and a Kingfisher flashed by. A female Gadwall with five almost adult-sized ducklings is the first confirmation of this species successfully breeding at Pitsford this year. It's tempting to think it is the same female that has produced a succession of small broods during the last five years or so. Three Foxes were playing in a stubble field near to the reservoir and were having a great time!

In the meantime Eleanor was out in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton admiring the same amazing clouds and coloured skies when something light against the brooding landscape turned out to be two flying Common Cranes! These birds were silent and methodically flapped south towards Brixworth in line with the A508. I waited for them to potentially appear at Pitsford but sadly they must have stayed following the valley south and I didn't see them. A Hobby was also cruising around the valley.

A recently acquired trail camera was deployed in the front garden last night for the very first time. I'm not technically-minded and I wasn't totally confident I had set it up correctly but this morning there was evidence that I had done something right and that technology produces results! It had successfully recorded a cat, at least one Hedgehog and a Fox (the latter which I didn't even know was visiting the garden)!

Today (Tuesday) and John Hunt at Spratton realised that his two young Swifts had fledged from the nest early this morning. There is evidence to suggest that once flying it is thought that recently-fledged youngsters begin their flight south to Africa almost straightaway - I wonder where they are now?

Birds in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir early this afternoon included a Hobby, a Yellow-legged Gull, a drake Goldeneye and a Common Sandpiper. Although windswept the Scaldwell meadow attracted plenty of butterflies including Small Heath, Small Copper, Common Blue, Brown Argus and Essex Skipper.

Ken Prouse had a flock of eight Crossbills over Upper Harlestone this morning and later saw a male Common Redstart between Whilton and Little Brington. Twenty Crossbills were still at Bucknell Wood again this morning and in the Nene Valley Stanwick Pits attracted two Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper and at least seven Yellow-legged Gulls whilst at Earls Barton Pits there were three Great White Egrets, a Hobby, a Green Sandpiper, two Dunlin and two Little Ringed Plovers. Kinewell Lake at Ringstead Pits hosted a Hobby this afternoon plus a couple of Mandarin Ducks and two Common Sandpipers.

Hollowell Reservoir is a favoured venue at this time of the year and Martin's list included five Black-tailed Godwits, a Common Sandpiper and a pair of Egyptian Geese.

A couple of Clouded Yellows were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon, attracted to the flowers in the nectar crop that was sown earlier in the year.


Neil M


Red Fox.

Coot and Cootlet!

A rather worn Essex Skipper.

Gatekeeper or Hedge Brown.

Black-headed Gulls and 
Common Terns at Pitsford 

Monday, 27 July 2020

Monday's reported wildlife


Some proper autumnal weather with hearty gusts and showers on and off and with periods of warm sunshine too!

I took a morning outing to Market Harborough but devoted less than an hour to an Otter search which proved negative. An adult Little Egret was fishing very successfully under the railway bridge and taking advantage of the plentiful supply of minnows and a Water Vole showed briefly as did a Blue Emperor dragonfly.

At Pitsford Reservoir today there were at least three Red-crested Pochard and six Little Egrets in the Scaldwell Bay plus singles of both Common and Green Sandpiper, plus three Yellow-legged Gulls off the dam.

The birds at Summer Leys this morning remained good with now three Great White Egrets, a juvenile Marsh Harrier still plus two Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper. Presumably it was the same Marsh Harrier seen by Adrian quartering the grass fields below Great Doddington.

Several Grey Wagtails were near Brixworth today.


Neil M

Lauxanild Fly Sapromyza
sexpuncata courtesy of John Tilly.

Juvenile Starling courtesy
of John Tilly. Like most
of the juvenile Starlings now this
bird is moulting through to it's
winter and nuptial plumage illustrating
the characteristic spots of the species.
These spots wear off during the breeding
season and the adults look all dark. Both
adults and juveniles are currently undertaking
complete wing and tail feather replacement.


Emerald Damselfly.

Green-veined White
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Oystercatcher courtesy of
Dave Jackson.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

The wandering Caspian Tern.


The return of the Caspian Tern to the county caused equal amounts of excitement and dismay as it was first seen at Stanford Reservoir just before 8am but quickly flew on in an easterly direction. It was subsequently seen at Summer Leys LNR where it was seen by a couple of the regular birders before it was off on its travels again!

Other birds noted at Summer Leys included a Marsh Harrier, a Great White Egret, twelve Black-tailed Godwits, two Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers.

Stanwick Pits recorded a Cattle Egret, a Curlew, three Dunlin, four Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers, a Caspian Gull and eleven Yellow-legged Gulls.

Hollowell Reservoir hosted two Ospreys, the Ruddy Shelduck, two Common Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover and at Pitsford Reservoir an Osprey showed up plus five Dunlin and two Red-crested Pochards. A Common Sandpiper was at Naseby Reservoir.

A female/juvenile Common Redstart was along the Brampton Valley Way at the Draughton Crossing as were at least two Spotted Flycatchers. Further Spotted Flycatchers were seen in Scaldwell village and Mantles Heath. Bucknell Wood was today home to about twenty Crossbills and about five Siskins.


Neil M

Meadow Pipit.

Juvenile Wheatear.

Red Kite courtesy of
John Tilly.

Seven-spot Ladybird
courtesy of John Tilly.

Chrysotoxum sp hoverfly
courtesy of John Tilly.

Eupeodes sp hoverfly
courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Breeze, sunshine then showers... and some birds too!


A morning wander at Harrington Airfield produced no birds of note but Fiona manged to lure in a Six-belted Clearwing moth, believed to be the first record from this site of any clearwing moth.

The Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir was the place to be this morning with a juvenile Marsh Harrier that showed well a couple of times plus three Red-crested Pochards, two Yellow-legged Gulls, a drake Goldeneye and a Green Sandpiper.

Summer Leys LNR proved attractive to two Great White Egrets, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Green Sandpipers, a Peregrine and a Marsh Harrier too. A couple of Clouded Yellows were seen at Earls Barton Pits yesterday and one was seen at Mary's Lake today.

Thrapston Pits was quiet for birds today but there was a Hobby and a Mandarin Duck at Kinewell Lake, Ringstead Pits.

The female Ruddy Shelduck was still present at Hollowell Reservoir today and there were three Common sandpipers present too.


Neil M

Male Blackbird. Most adults
by this time of the year look
exhausted and have seriously
abraded feathers. However this
male photographed by John Tilly
looks in fine fettle!

Common Tern courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

A Cootlet by Dave Jackson.

Dusky Sallow moth
by Dave Jackson.

The Drinker moth by
Dave Jackson.

Six-belted Clearwing moth
courtesy of Fiona Barclay.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Butterflies, late broods and here come the gulls!


Yesterday (Thursday) and Fiona's visit to Souther Wood in the north of the county provided a bounty of butterflies which included female Purple Emperors still, a White Admiral and plenty of Purple Hairstreaks. Second hatch Holly Blues are on the wing now and today (Friday) second hatch Wood Whites were active at Salcey Forest with the Silver-washed Fritillaries including the 'valezina' version.

During the last week I've seen second/late brood Coal Tits just out with their parents and today I saw a just-fledged Great Tit with it's parent, both these species are known for sometimes producing second broods but it is rare in the case of the Blue Tit.

Three Cattle Egrets were at Stanwick Lakes this morning as was a Mandarin Duck and a Green Sandpiper and later there were three juvenile Mediterranean Gulls on the main lake and this evening a Caspian Gull too.

The adult male Common Redstart was still at Harrington Airfield this morning about 300m beyond the chippings compound and a Grasshopper Warbler was singing weakly by Bunker One. 

Two Red-crested Pochards and two Common Sandpipers were in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and an Osprey was present at 2pm and it fished both sides of the causeway. There was no gull roost as such at Pitsford this evening but there were three adult Yellow-legged Gulls, a Kingfisher and a flock of about a hundred Swallows dropped in, fed fervently for several minutes and then moved off south.

Earls Barton Pits produced a Great White Egret and a Marsh Harrier on the Summer Leys reserve and five Egyptian Geese on Hardwater Lake (including three fully grown youngsters).


Neil M

Silver-washed Fritillary
courtesy of Eleanor.

Platystoma seminotionis
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Bufftip moth caterpillars.

Miris striatus plant bug
courtesy of Robin Gossage.


Ruddy Darter.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Rambling around Pitsford


David Arden enjoyed a busy birding session in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning with four Red-crested Pochards on show from the Bird Club hide, a Green Sandpiper, a Yellow-legged Gull, a 9am Osprey but the best was a Spoonbill circling over the reserve at 9.30am before heading off west!

I spent much of the day leading a small Naturetrek group around the reserve but our bird sightings were much more humble! Showy Marsh Tits were just the job at a couple of places and in addition to David's birds we encountered a Common Sandpiper and a couple of Little Egrets but nothing out of the ordinary.

The insects were better and Mischa was kind enough to provide a selection of moths from the overnight moth trap catch for us to look at prior to release, totaling twenty-four species and including classics such as Bufftip, Drinker, Poplar Hawk-moth and Yellowtail.

Fifteen species of butterfly showed generally very well and included singles of Marbled White and Purple Hairstreak and the big dragonflies were out in force with good numbers of Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Blue Emperor and a single Migrant Hawker whizzing around. A couple of Four-spotted Chasers and rather more Black-tailed Skimmers and lots of Ruddy Darters all added to the show and damselflies included singles of Large Red and Emerald. Roesel's Bush-crickets were numerous and noisy!

Steve's gull watching at Stanwick Pits this afternoon provided a third summer Caspian Gull and at least twenty-two Yellow-legged Gulls. A Great White Egret was seen at Summer Leys LNR this morning and an Osprey was seen near Hollowell village.

A map of Salcey Forest has been added to the Birdwatching Sites tab as kindly compiled by Neil Hasdell.


Neil M

Ringlet butterfly
courtesy of John Tilly.

Great Crested Grebe
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Common Sandpipers.

Common Tern.

Southern Hawker.