Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Images from Scotland


A few images from the West Highlands of Scotland!


Neil M

Common Seal.

Dark Green Fritillary.

Red Deer.

White-tailed Eagle.

The Heat drags on !

It has been a hot couple of days which has influenced the amount of birding I have been able to do.  Yesterday a slow steady walk through the bushes on the rough area produced a superb male Common Redstart and an immature Common Redstart, plus a couple of Clouded Yellow butterflies.

As I was up early this morning I decided to run around the big side at Pitsford reservoir.  It was a beautiful morning and everywhere looked so tranquil and serene. As I ran along the dam at 06.30hrs a Spoonbill flew low infront of me and headed southwards. I assume that this is the same individual that has been doing the rounds of the local gravel pits and reservoirs.  The only other birds of note were 4 Common Sandpipers.

A walk around Blueberry produced 2 Whinchats, a Common Redstart and several Clouded Yellows.  These butterflies seem to be attracted to several "nectar" strips between Hanging Houghton, Blueberry and Cottesbrooke.   Also seen on my walk were 2 stunning Roe Deer who were trying their best to melt into the background as they stood like a couple of statues and I could imagine them saying "don't move and she wont see us "...... how wrong they were !!  As usual I had some of the dogs with me and suddenly Tor the hound tried to run off in fright which was quite difficult as he was attached to me whilst my young collie Rouzel literally jumped 3 ft in the air and all her hair stood on end.  They had found a Grass Snake sunbathing.  Eventually it slipped slowly away. Never a dull moment!!

Regards Eleanor 

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Weekend Wildlife

Yesterday [Saturday] I walked the same route as the previous day and saw a few of the same species but in a different place.  Blueberry was very quiet and I didn't see anything of note until I was in the area between Hanging Houghton and Cottesbrooke. Here there was a Northern Wheatear, 2 Whinchat, Common Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Cuckoo. There is a hedge which crosses the main track and it seems to act as a magnet for migrating birds at this time of year. Although today I couldn't find a single bird in this hedge, but that's birding, no two days are alike !
Today I managed very little birding. However this evening I found myself on a footpath leading from Beck Dairy Cottesbrooke. I actually didn't get very far across the first field before a large herd of cattle appeared from the corner of the field so I beat a hasty retreat with the dogs in tow. As I neared the car I could hear Spotted Flycatcher calling. With one eye on the advancing cattle I watched a family party of Spotted Flycatchers flitting about in the hedge and bushes. A Common Redstart flew through my field of view.
I ended up walking the dogs by the stream below Hanging Houghton and just as my spaniel was about to launch himself into his favourite swimming area I just caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.....an otter, which then slowly melted away.  I'd no sooner recovered from this when a couple of Kingfishers flew past and a Barn Owl started hunting in front of me.  Amazing end to the day and to the weekend.

Kenny and his team were busy ringing yesterday on the bund at Linford near Milton Keynes.
72 birds caught of which 62 were new and 12 species represented. 
Warblers dominated with 26 Reed Warbler, 10 Willow Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 6 Sedge Warbler , 6 Garden Warbler and 5 Chiffchaffs.
Star bird was a control Garden Warbler wearing a Spanish ring with the inscription Madrid Icona.
Non avian sightings included 5 Great Crested Newts, a Common Newt, 2 Toads and a Frog.

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 7 August 2020

" Autumn" Feeling

Today certainly had that " Autumn" feeling. I was up early and out by 06.30hrs to take the dogs out before the predicted hot weather arrived.  Mind you it was already feeling quite warm at this time.
As I headed down to the valley area below Hanging Houghton I really thought that I had fast forwarded into Autumn as the mist hung over the valley . It looked stunning and I even stopped to take some pictures.
Even the birds joined in the "Autumn" feeling as there was a Northern Wheatear and Juvenile Marsh Harrier in the area infront of the old cattle shed.
By the time I reached the highest point at Blueberry the mist had completely disappeared enabling me to sit and enjoy the magnificent views over the rolling Northamptonshire countryside towards Cottesbrooke and beyond Northampton.  Another photographic opportunity.  Joining me at this high point was a Whinchat and Grasshopper Warbler.  
Continuing my walk along the hedgerows I saw a fem/imm Common Redstart and plenty of common warblers.
Then it was back home to pick up my two old crocs and take them for a slow sedate walk.  By now it was beginning to warm up nicely and the butterflies had woken up.  There were at least 2+ Clouded Yellow butterflies on the planted nectar strip opposite the old cattle shed.
I can never resist a visit to Harrington at this time of year so breakfast had to wait whilst I headed up there.  A slow steady walk through the bushes on the rough strip produced another Common Redstart and Grasshopper Warbler plus 8 Crossbills flying over.  There were also several Clouded Yellow butterflies.  
The farmers are beginning to start on the harvest and already one of the fields had been cut and cleared and was being ploughed.  This field attracted a flock of approx 100 Lesser Black Backed Gulls whilst I was attracted to the lovely earthy smell.
Back home for a late breakfast and no further birding until this evening when a short walk across the fields below Hanging Houghton produced Little Owl, Barn Owl and Hobby.
The only other bird of note today was a Turtle Dove.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Pitsford Day Tour and Greens Norton ringing


A cloudy but humid day at Pitsford Reservoir as we completed another Naturetrek day tour of the reserve. Specimens of moths on show following overnight trapping included Tree Lichen Beauty, The Drinker and three species of Hawk-moth. Large dragonflies on the wing included Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Blue Emperor and Migrant Hawker with the smaller ones being mostly Ruddy and Common Darters.

Sixteen species of Butterfly were on show including at least one Purple Hairstreak. The best of the birds in the Scaldwell Bay were two Red-crested Pochard, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper.

Eleanor saw a Common Redstart at Blueberry Farm today (in hedgerow at the bottom of Hill Field) and a Hobby and several groups of Clouded Yellows between there and the Brampton Valley Way.

Interesting insects at the MOD section of Yardley Chase included a Clouded Yellow, 13 Wood Whites and a Purple Hairstreak.

Chris Payne completed some ringing near Greens Norton and among more common fare caught a Sparrowhawk, a Kingfisher, two Lesser Whitethroats, a Reed Warbler, four Willow Warblers, six Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps.


Neil M

Juvenile Swallow.

Juvenile Blackcap.

Lesser Whitethroat.

Lesser Whitethroat.


All images courtesy of
Chris Payne.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Marsh Harrier, Common Redstart and Clouded Yellows


An admin day for me but I started with a walk up at Harrington Airfield in blustery conditions - not surprisingly the birds were keeping their heads down and a Raven was the only bird of note. Back at Hanging Houghton there have been a couple of Ravens about but otherwise it has been 'confined to barracks' for me!

Eleanor's morning run route picked up on a Common Redstart in trackside hedging between the Harrington Airfield Museum and the Brampton Valley Way (close to the BVW) and a Wheatear on the other side of the BVW along a footpath that leads to Maidwell village.

This afternoon's check of the Brampton Valley and the fields at Blueberry Farm provided views of a Marsh Harrier flying towards Cottesbrooke and a couple of concentrations of Clouded Yellow butterflies associating with nectar crop strips. These fast flying and robust butterflies seem to cope very well with the windy conditions of this summer, and in all probability it is this very element that has brought them here! The same area was good for Hobby and Little Owl today.

The Earls Barton Pits complex has today hosted a couple of Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, three Common Sandpipers and a fly-through Curlew.

The continued large movement of Lesser Black-backed Gulls through the county continues apace!


Neil M

Hoverfly chrysotoxum festivum
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Greenfinch courtesy of
John Tilly.

Goldfinches courtesy
of John Tilly.

Grey Heron.

Phasia hemiptera

Wheatear at Pitsford
Reservoir yesterday
courtesy of David Arden.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Pitsford day tour


Today was another Naturetrek day tour at Pitsford Reservoir with a wander around the reserve section. First we looked at the moths that had been caught by Mischa amounting to twenty species with perhaps the highlights being three species of Hawk-moth - Pine, Poplar and Privet. In addition a Purple Hairstreak butterfly was on the buddleias at the Fishing Lodge which were inundated with Red Admirals.

A female Gadwall with grown up ducklings and adult and juvenile Little Grebes were good breeding records but the cool breeze and showers initially suppressed the larger insects with no larger dragonflies along the water edge. As it began to warm up we connected with a couple of Southern Hawkers and Ruddy Darters and the common butterflies emerged.

Breeding warblers were difficult to see but Marsh Tits were calling all around the reserve suggesting a good breeding season. A single Crossbill was calling in flight at the juncture of the Holcot and Walgrave Bays and Little Egrets were mobile and probably numbered about ten birds. 

In the Walgrave Bay we located Emerald Damselflies, heard Nuthatches and watched both Brown Hare and Muntjac. On the west side of the bay we saw the first of several Common Blue butterflies and watched three fledged juvenile Sparrowhawks in the trees. Red Kites and Common Buzzards were riding the strong breeze and a Marsh Harrier was doing much the same thing over the fields between the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays. An adult Yellow-legged Gull found something dead in the water and Spotted Flycatchers were at the back of the Scaldwell Bay.

Viewing from the Bird Club hide today yielded six Red-crested Pochards and David Arden also saw a Redshank, two Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper and a Wheatear. Small Heath butterflies remain in the Scaldwell Meadow, Tree Sparrows are visiting the feeding station at the Old Scaldwell Road and a female Tufted Duck was minding three small ducklings off the causeway.

Eleanor saw a juvenile Marsh Harrier and three Clouded Yellows in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today.

Summer Leys and the Hardwater Lake at Earls Barton again attracted the wandering Spoonbill this evening and other birds on the gravel pits complex included four Great White Egrets, a Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, a Peregrine and a Hobby. Stanwick Pits held three Cattle Egrets, a Common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers. A large flock of over seven hundred Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in a ploughed field between Clopton and Bythorn.


Neil M

Common Tern.


Great Crested Grebe.


Poplar Hawk-moth.

Privet Hawk-moth.

Tufted Duck and ducklings.

Monday, 3 August 2020

The Welland Valley


I spent some time today alongside the upper reaches of the River Welland in Market Harborough and latterly downstream at Gretton and briefly at Cottingham. I didn't manage to see any Otters on my travels but in Market Harborough the river is shallow and accessible and I was able to photograph three species of fish and crayfish (presumed Red Signal Crayfish) and saw a Grey Wagtail and odonata that included Blue Emperor, a few Banded Demoiselle and Emerald Damselfly.

Further down at Cottingham there were rather more Banded Demoiselles and two Green Sandpipers.

A walk alongside the river at Gretton Weir provided sightings of a Common Redstart, a juvenile Cuckoo and two Ravens plus a Grey Wagtail and odonata included Banded Demoiselle, Brown Hawker and White-legged Damselfly.

Yesterday (Sunday) and David Arden again saw the juvenile Marsh Harrier north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir plus a Grey Wagtail and a Lesser Emperor in the Holcot Bay, and I noted a Common Sandpiper and a Yellow-legged Gull in the evening. Today (Monday) and birds at the south end of the reservoir included four Yellow-legged Gulls, two Ravens and a Kingfisher.

A juvenile Marsh Harrier, two Whinchats and at least one Clouded Yellow butterfly were in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm today.

Summer Leys LNR sported a Great White Egret, a Common Redstart (railway track), a Greenshank and a Common Sandpiper.

A Raspberry Clearwing moth was attracted to a pheromone lure at Cogenhoe today.


Neil M

Brown Rat.

Presumed 'Red Signal' Crayfish.



Emerald Damselfly.

White-legged Damselfly.

Grey Wagtail.

Juvenile Cuckoo.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Birds and insects of Sunday


A much more modest ringing session today at Harrington Airfield provided 36 captures which included another Green Woodpecker, seven new Willow Warblers and three more Swallows. Grey Partridge and Hobby were on-site and interesting insects included a Clouded Yellow butterfly and a Six-belted Clearwing moth which was attracted to a pheromone lure.

At least seven Clouded Yellow butterflies were attracted to nectar crop strips in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm today including at least one in the strip next to the Brampton Brook close to the Brampton Valley Way (whatthree words patrolled.occurs.dragons).

Eleanor's run around the south side of Pitsford Reservoir this morning (between the causeway and dam) produced sightings of a Great White Egret (the first I believe at Pitsford for quite a while), a fishing Osprey and two Green Sandpipers.

Birds at Summer Leys LNR today amounted to a Great White Egret, two Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper. John Friendship-Taylor witnessed two Crossbills fly over his Brackley garden this morning, at about 8am heading in a north-west direction.


Neil M

Six-belted Clearwing moth
courtesy of Fiona Barclay.

Six-belted Clearwing moth
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Juvenile Common Whitethroat.

Large Skipper.


Saturday, 1 August 2020

Ringing at Harrington Airfield


A ringing session was conducted at Harrington Airfield today which provided 110 captures of twenty-two species. Twelve of these birds had been ringed on a previous occasion, the remainder were new. Not surprisingly for the time of the year young birds predominated. The highlights were an adult female Common Redstart in full moult and an adult male Grasshopper Warbler. A juvenile Tree Sparrow found the mist nets and other warblers were made up of eleven Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Garden Warbler, two Blackcaps and eleven Common Whitethroats.

Harrington Airfield is a good site for Linnets and we caught thirteen today but Chaffinch was the most common capture with twenty-one birds processed. The Yellowhammer is perhaps the flagship bird and ten birds were mostly fresh juveniles. Three Swallows, a Magpie, a Green Woodpecker and a Great Spotted Woodpecker added more variety. Two Curlews were seen to fly south over the complex during the early morning.

More ringing is planned for tomorrow and general access to the bunkers and old airstrip has to be restricted whilst this occurs.

Pitsford Reservoir today provided some good birds and insects with the Scaldwell Bay pulling in the juvenile Marsh Harrier again, a Peregrine, two Hobbies, two Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper and a Red-crested Pochard. In the Holcot Bay a Lesser Emperor dragonfly was again seen this afternoon and a Clouded Yellow butterfly was seen to fly through this morning.

Over at Thrapston Pits Eric notched up a Hobby, an Oystercatcher, a Common Sandpiper and three Little Egrets.

Summer Leys LNR today again hosted a juvenile Marsh Harrier, two Black-tailed Godwits in flight and two Curlew flew through with another Curlew through at Clifford Hill Pits. 

Birds at Hollowell Reservoir today included two Crossbills and singles of Green and Common Sandpiper with the Ruddy Shelduck at nearby Ravensthorpe Reservoir before flying off.

On the butterfly front six Wood Whites were in Salcey Forest south of the Horse Box car park and up to a dozen Clouded Yellow butterflies were on a series of nectar crop strips in the Brampton Valley between Hanging Houghton and Blueberry Farm.


Neil M

Juvenile male Green Woodpecker.

Magpie, although with
it's erect posture it looks
more like a penguin!

Adult male Linnet.

Clouded Yellow butterfly.