Monday, 31 August 2020

Bank Holiday Monday


The relatively still and cloudy conditions today were perfect for more ringing. At Stanford Reservoir the ringing team there caught an astounding 468 new birds today which included four Common Redstarts, four Grasshopper Warblers, a Sparrowhawk, a Lesser Redpoll and a Meadow Pipit.

At Stortons Pits 51 birds were caught with Blackcaps dominating at sixteen but also five Whitethroats, six Reed Warblers, four Sedge Warblers and four Cetti's Warblers among more common fare.

At Linford Lakes near Milton Keynes the ringing session produced over a hundred birds which included two more Kingfishers (with another yesterday), a Grasshopper Warbler, forty-two Blackcaps, twenty Reed Warblers, six Sedge Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler, eight Willow Warblers and nine Chiffchaffs.

An adult Grass Snake was in preparation of changing it's skin with a thin membrane over the eyes and amphibians included Common and Great Crested Newts.

Birds seen in the county today included more bumper numbers of Common Redstarts with birds at Harrington Airfield (probably four), Blueberry Farm, Ashby St Ledgers, Borough Hill Country Park (two) and the footpath between Pitsford Reservoir and the villages of Old and Walgrave (at least three).

Pitsford Reservoir attracted one or two Shag(s) and two Great White Egrets and Hollowell Reservoir hosted a Ruddy Shelduck, a Redshank, 2-4 Common Sandpipers, a Whinchat and a Wheatear. More Whinchats were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton (four), Borough Hill CP and  Blueberry Farm (four).

A Marsh Harrier was again in the valley below Hanging Houghton, there was a Tree Pipit at Blueberry Farm, four Spotted Flycatchers were at Borough Hill CP and this evening a Short-eared Owl flew over Harrington Airfield where a ringing session will take place tomorrow (restricted access).


Neil M

Grass Snake.


Grasshopper Warbler courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Spotted Flycatcher courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Migration in full swing


Stanford Reservoir Ringing Group were operating again today and again did well with 139 new birds caught and 22 birds re-trapped from previous sessions. Obvious highlights among the captures were singles of Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart and three Grasshopper Warblers. Down at Linford Lakes on the edge of Milton Keynes, preparations were made for a ringing session tomorrow morning. However in the course of setting up the nets this afternoon a Spotted Flycatcher and a Kingfisher were caught as well as small numbers of Reed Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Other wildlife on show included Grass Snakes, Common and Great Crested Newts and other birds noted on-site included Green Sandpiper and Water Rail.

Plans are afoot for another period of ringing at Harrington Airfield during the morning of Tuesday 1st September when I'm afraid the old runway and bunker areas will be out of bounds during the session. A wander around there this morning confirmed two Common Redstarts as still being present between the Chippings Compound and Bunker One. Three Siskins flew over and a trickle of Meadow Pipits overhead signaled the start of their migration south over the county.

Sadly a juvenile Common Buzzard was found in a crumpled heap at the side of the A508 between Hanging Houghton and Brixworth - the corpse will be sent away for tissue analysis by the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) that regularly assess any toxic build up of chemicals in the tissue of birds of prey and owls.

A Shag was still at Pitsford Reservoir this morning in the vicinity of the causeway plus a Common Sandpiper and a Swift. At the southern end of the reservoir this evening there was a second winter Mediterranean Gull, six Yellow-legged Gulls and a Curlew flew south.

Three Whinchats were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today and a Common Redstart and two Spotted Flycatchers remained at Lamport Hall. Ian Dobson found two Common Redstarts at the traditional passage spot at Fawsley Park at the top of the track near the Granary.

Two Peregrines were using St Mary's church at Higham Ferrers as a resting spot today and in the Nene Valley today there was a Greenshank and a Whinchat at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows LNR and a flock of gulls using Kinewell Lake at Ringstead Pits to bathe in included at least fourteen Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M


Anaglptus mysticus Longhorn Beetle
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Apple Fruit Weevil courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Scarce Seven Spot Ladybird
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Egrets, Whinchats and a Short-eared Owl


More strong winds and rain this afternoon made for unappealing conditions for wildlife watching!

Nevertheless there were things still out there to see and birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included a juvenile Shag, two or more Yellow-legged Gulls, two Garganey, a Great White Egret, a Hobby, a Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper and a Swift. One of the local Common Buzzards has made the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station it's regular spot and can be found sometimes perched on the bird table there where it brings prey for butchering (most of the time Brown Rats)!

Stanwick Pits provided views of six Cattle Egrets plus a Great White Egret, a Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Little Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and a Whinchat. Another Whinchat was found in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and Gary Burrows found a Short-eared Owl at Harrington Airfield this morning (Bunker Three).

The weather forecast for the coming week indicates that the weather will calm and it is anticipated that county ringers will again be active on Monday and Tuesday which again might provide captures of scarcer migrants.


Neil M

Common Buzzard.

Short-eared Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Cattle Egret.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Stormy weather again!


Yesterday evening (Thursday) and additional birds included a Marsh Harrier flying along the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton towards Brixworth and a flock of nine Knot seen flying along the dam at Pitsford Reservoir but they apparently didn't linger. Stanwick Pit was the venue for twenty-two Yellow-legged Gulls and a juvenile Caspian Gull plus eleven Snipe, four Common Sandpipers, two Little Ringed Plovers, three Cattle Egrets and two Great White Egrets - quite a haul!

Today (Friday) and the weather deteriorated significantly with periods of heavy rain and the return of gale force winds again this evening.

Pitsford Reservoir today hosted three juvenile Shags, three to five Yellow-legged Gulls, a Common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers. Two Common Redstarts remain between the Chipping Compound and Bunker One at Harrington Airfield.


Neil M

Hoverfly Chrysotoxum festivum.

Hoverfly Chrysotoxum cautum.

Snail sp.

Spectacled Moth.

All images courtesy of
Dave Jackson. Macro 
photography certainly makes
the humble snail quite something!
Dave has a couple more macro
photography workshops coming up
next month (9th and 16th), the
  venue being Pitsford Reservoir.
Should you wish to learn more
please book your place via the 
Naturetrek website

Thursday, 27 August 2020

County autumn ringing


Yesterday (Wednesday) and Pitsford Reservoir attracted three juvenile Shags, a Common Sandpiper and a Tree Pipit at the dam end in the morning. Just one Common Redstart was located along the footpath between Pitsford Reservoir and Walgrave village and there was a Wheatear and three Whinchats in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. A few Swifts were still flying over Far Cotton, Northampton and Summer Leys LNR hosted a Garganey, a Great White Egret, four Egyptian Geese, a Greenshank, a Ruff and a Common Sandpiper.

In the evening there were two Common Redstarts, three Spotted Flycatchers and two Crossbills at Lamport Hall and a Whimbrel was trilling evocatively as it flew south over Harrington Airfield and a pair of Hobbies were chasing Swallows.

Today (Thursday) and county ringers were active, making the most of dull, still conditions sandwiched between the storms of the last few days and an incoming band of rain.

The Stanford Reservoir team encountered and processed over 600 birds which was a staggering effort, the birds included a Spotted Flycatcher, eight Common Redstarts and the star bird a superb Wryneck!

Dave Francis tried a session around the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir producing 68 birds of sixteen species which included a particularly lively Sparrowhawk, ten Robins, nine Tree Sparrows and small numbers of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Whitethroats.

Chris Payne was over at Greens Norton where he managed 65 birds of 13 species which included a Kingfisher, an excellent twenty-six Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, eight Willow Warblers, eight Chiffchaffs, a Reed Warbler and five Goldcrests.

Harrington Airfield was also tried and provided 89 captures of 21 species with the highlights being six Tree Pipits, four Willow Warblers, five Chiffchaffs, seven Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, a Grasshopper Warbler, two Whitethroats, eight Swallows and four Tree Sparrows. The Tree Pipits were part of a movement of perhaps 12 -15 birds moving through. Two adult male Common Redstarts were also present and three flocks of Siskins flew over.

Away from ringing and a Quail was heard calling in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and an Osprey was seen flying south there. Nearby a male Common Redstart, two Spotted Flycatchers and a Wheatear were along south bordering hedges/fields of Lamport Hall this afternoon in rather wet conditions and the Yellow Wagtail flock at Hanging Houghton exceeded twenty birds.

Two juvenile Shags at Pitsford Reservoir today have been regionally eclipsed by the numbers (in their twenties) at Draycote and Rutland Waters. An Osprey was seen there too and in the Scaldwell Bay there were two Great White Egrets and a Common Redstart.


Neil M

Male Kestrel at Pitsford Reservoir.

Tree Pipit Harrington Airfield.

Painted Lady butterfly
courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Images from Robin



Little Egret.






Grey Phalarope.

Common Tern.

Brown Hare.

All images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Autumn has come early!


Yesterday (Monday) a ringing session was undertaken at Linford Lakes on the edge of Milton Keynes. This was a successful session but the sheer amount of quality wildlife on offer was amazing with a Water Shrew being seen as well as Bank Vole, four Common and eight Great Crested Newts, nine Grass Snakes, two Common Toads and two Common Frogs! Birds seen included an Osprey, a Great White Egret, three Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin and two Tree Pipits.

Sixty-nine birds were caught and processed made up of twenty-one Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, twenty-one Reed Warblers, two Sedge Warblers, six Chiffchaffs, four Wrens, eight Blue Tits, two Great Tits, two Long-tailed Tits and two Yellow Wagtails (this latter species is only caught in very low numbers locally).

Also yesterday evening three juvenile Shags could be found at the southern end of Pitsford Reservoir where the gull roost harboured ten Yellow-legged Gulls, half of which were juveniles. Eleanor's visit to the Brampton Valley in the evening very quickly provided views of a Marsh Harrier, two Wheatears and a Whinchat. Other observations during a pleasant, still evening included three Great White Egrets roosting in trees in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Reservoir and two or three Great White Egrets, two Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper at the Earls Barton Pits complex.

Today (Tuesday) and a predicted wild and wet affair proved to be an accurate forecast! At least two Shags were to be found this morning at the south end of Pitsford Reservoir as were up to five Yellow-legged Gulls and a Swift. A Peregrine was seen over the Moulton Grange Bay and birds still from yesterday included the two Common Redstarts still in the hedge en-route to the Bird Club Hide in the Scaldwell Bay and two Dunlin, a Green Sandpiper and a Ringed Plover on the shoreline. An afternoon Shag number assessment with at least one bird still in the Scaldwell Bay was that five birds were present at the reservoir today.

Chris Green saw two Swifts over Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve today.

Two or three Otters were on show on the swollen River Welland at Market Harborough this morning behind the Waitrose and Aldi supermarkets...


Neil M

Bank Vole courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Grass Snakes courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Yellow Wagtail courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Otter at Market Harborough today...

Ooops! A Hot Air balloon
made an impromptu landing
on the water at Pitsford Reservoir
yesterday but successfully managed
to lift off and drift away! 

Black-headed Gull
Pitsford Reservoir.

Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Pitsford Reservoir.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Pitsford WeBS count.


It was the turn of Pitsford Reservoir to receive the WeBS count treatment today although there were plenty of wildlife distractions along the way!

A trio of counters wandered in to the Scaldwell Bay first, encountering various local naturalists along this migration throughfare! On the avian front two Common Redstarts (first year male and female) in the hedge on the left hand side en-route to the Bird Club hide pulled in a few observers. The shoreline held a Green Sandpiper (one of two present), two Dunlin, three Snipe and a Ringed Plover and two Redshanks were observed in flight. The Bird Club Hide provided the ideal venue to see a Marsh Harrier flying off into the Walgrave Bay and a Garganey feeding next to the stumps to the left of the hide. Three Great White Egrets were initially all together in the tangles left of the hide but one by one dispersed during the morning.

In the meantime the four juvenile Shags were located by Eleanor swimming around between the dam and Moulton Grange Bay and spectacularly the later total seen by Nick Parker was seven birds! A juvenile Osprey flew south from out of the Scaldwell Bay, two drake Red-crested Pochard were showing distantly in the Walgrave Bay and a single Crossbill flew south over the Fishing Lodge this afternoon. A Painted Lady, a Large Red Underwing moth and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth were around the flowers by the Fishing Lodge and Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue were active in the Scaldwell Meadow.

Nearby the Common Redstart count along the footpath between Walgrave village and Pitsford Reservoir went up to five birds this afternoon and two more Common Redstarts were in hedging on the south side of Lamport Hall.

Stanwick Pits today provided two Cattle Egrets and mating Small Red-eyed Damselflies and Clifford Hill Pits produced a Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover and three Ringed Plovers. Jim Dunkley watched an Osprey fly over his Sywell garden this afternoon, the bird heading for the Nene Valley.

Yesterday evening a Clifden nonpariel (or Blue Underwing) moth was captured at Cogenhoe and also yesterday a Barnacle Goose was seen at Thrapston Pits.


Neil M

Ditchford Lakes and Meadows reserve.

Garganey Pitsford Reservoir.

Osprey at Pitsford Reservoir.

Migrant Hawker
Pitsford Reservoir.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Pitsford Reservoir.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Ditchford WeBS Count


Ditchford Pits was the venue for much of the day, completing the August WeBS count. As is usual for this time of the year it was quiet for birds, the best west of Ditchford Lane was an adult female Peregrine with pigeon prey, an Egyptian Goose and two Green Sandpipers.

Cetti's Warblers were dotted about the complex as were common warblers and a couple of Kingfishers and odonata included Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

Pitsford Reservoir continued to attract birds and birders with a juvenile Shag still north of the causeway, plus a Garganey and a Common Redstart, two Great White Egrets, two Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin. To the south of the causeway a Sandwich Tern was seen early in the afternoon and the juvenile Arctic Tern was still present plus four Common Sandpipers. This evening there was a party of four juvenile Shags off the dam and two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were in the pre-roost gathering. Several Yellow-legged Gulls included an adult with a still begging juvenile in tow!

Nearby a male Common Redstart and a Wheatear were seen along the footpath between Cherry Hill and Pitsford Reservoir next to the small horse paddock. At Stanwick Pits there was a Wheatear and a Whinchat, two Cattle Egrets, two Great White Egrets, two Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper with a Spotted Flycatcher at Barnwell CP. A single Wheatear was along the footpath between Collingtree and Blisworth and another individual was west of Little Brington on the track to Brockhall. Two Wheatears were noted at Clifford Hill Pits and Summer Leys LNR today supported two Great White Egrets, two Greenshanks, a Common Sandpiper, a Ruff and a Hobby.

Harrington Airfield this afternoon hosted three Common Redstarts (two between the Chippings Compound and Bunker One), a Wheatear and a Tree Pipit.


Neil M

Banded Demoiselle.

Juvenile Chiffchaff.

Common Blue Damselflies.

Peregrine with pigeon prey.

Peregrine with Kestrel
and Crow chaperone, but
she kept the pigeon for 

Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

All above images taken at
Ditchford Pits today.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull
at Pitsford Reservoir this evening.