Friday, 3 December 2021

 Despite two very busy days I have managed to snatch some short periods of birding albeit at Harrington Airfield and Blueberry.  Yesterday the bushes at Harrington Airfield were absolutely heaving with Fieldfares and Redwings. There were hundreds of these winter thrushes and the sound of their chattering was quite deafening and the sight of so many was amazing.  Also joining in were large numbers of Bramblings and I estimated about 200 birds,  again quite an incredible sight and sound.                                                    However today's visit was so different,  far less birds and very quiet.  It would seem that there was an attempt at Hare coursing although not witnessed by myself which may have disturbed the birds.                                                                                                                                A Merlin has been seen on a couple of occasions. 

Nearby at Pitsford Reservoir the Wood Sandpiper remains in the Scaldwell Bay along with a  Green Sandpiper, Red Crested Pochards, Goosander and Great White Egrets.      

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Ducks, a few waders, egrets and a Water Pipit.


A breezy day with showers and rather mild provided a few birds locally.

Pitsford Reservoir hung on to some of the regular birds but the Wood Sandpiper wasn't seen (it can be elusive). The goose flocks still contained the Barnacle Goose and drake Mandarin Duck and other birds north of the causeway included nine Great White Egrets, thirteen Red-crested Pochard, thirteen Pintail, a Green Sandpiper, a Redshank, a Dunlin, two Ravens and two Bramblings. Two Sparrowhawks quickly caught avian prey almost simultaneously at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station this morning.

A Water Pipit on the scrape at Summer Leys LNR was a good find today; in recent years it has been difficult finding one in the county that has stayed put.

Five Cattle Egrets were again in a field between Brightwells Farm, Irthlingborough and the Lakes and Meadows reserve and six Goosanders were further west on the same Ditchford Pits complex.

A Barn Owl was hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning with a scattering of Bramblings there and in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M




Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Winter begins tomorrow


The topsy turvy weather continues with a mild and breezy day but cooler conditions are again around the corner.

With two days outside ringing I spent much of today catching up on admin etc but a wander up to Harrington Airfield this afternoon initially didn't find much in the way of the birds. The big numbers of thrushes were scoffing the hawthorn berries at the far north end of the complex and a large flock of about ninety Bramblings flew in from the west and their calls echoed out from the bushes, particularly the nasal calls of the males. 

Birds in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir included the Wood Sandpiper still plus at least four Great White Egrets, thirteen Red-crested Pochard and eight Pintail. A Green Sandpiper and a pair of Stonechats were at Upton Country Park this afternoon.

Two Great White Egrets were noted at Thrapston Pits today but there was no sign of any Cattle Egrets at Ringstead Pits this afternoon. A pair of Blackcaps were seen in Hollowell village and a pair of Ravens remain visitors to the village here at Hanging Houghton.

Birds at Stanford Reservoir today included a Great White Egret, an Egyptian Goose, a Green Sandpiper, a Kingfisher and a Chiffchaff.


Neil M


The humble Robin
holds territory throughout
the year, albeit that the 
winter territories might be temporary.

Red-crested Pochards.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Birds of Harrington Airfield.


The wintry conditions from yesterday persisted overnight into this morning and then dissipated during the course of the afternoon. In many respects it provided the ideal opportunity for ringing thrushes at Harrington Airfield and this is what a small team completed today. Hundreds of Redwings and good numbers of Fieldfares were swirling around yesterday afternoon and again today and we caught and processed six handsome Fieldfares, forty-five Redwings (surely one of the ultimate migrants), a Song Thrush and ten Blackbirds. Most of these birds will have emanated from northern or north-east Europe and were taking advantage of the plentiful hawthorn berries locally before moving on in typical nomadic style. Smaller birds included twelve Bramblings, a couple of Chaffinches and Goldfinches and five Greenfinches and six Yellowhammers.

All these birds were a fraction of the birds present with a mobile flock of Bramblings this morning for a short time estimated at one hundred and seventy birds and with small numbers present in the bushes all the time we were up there. Redwings numbered up to four hundred and at one stage early this afternoon there was a similar number of Fieldfares. A Golden Plover and a few Siskins were heard calling at dawn but the best birds came later with three very vocal Hawfinches that flew low over the disused airfield heading west at 8.55am and a very vocal and low-flying Water Pipit that cut across the fields heading north-east at 9.20am.

Over at Stanford Reservoir the ringers on-site identified a big influx of Chaffinches and caught and ringed many of them plus a Brambling, again no doubt migrants from the continent. Other birds noted there included two more Bramblings, c20 Siskins, a Chiffchaff, a Kingfisher, four Ravens, a Water Rail, an Egyptian Goose, four Great White Egrets and an impressive 172 Great Black-backed Gulls in the roost. 

In the Nene Valley today there were five Cattle Egrets between Irthlingborough and the Lakes and Meadow complex with a Great White Egret on Higham Lakes and two Great White Egrets at Summer Leys LNR. Stanwick Pits attracted three more Great White Egrets, about fifteen Little Egrets and a flock of Siskins around the feeding station. The long-staying Dark-bellied Brent Goose was still at Clifford Hill Pits plus a Great White Egret, a Stonechat and a Snipe.

The Pink-footed Goose was still at Ravensthorpe Reservoir today with a Great White Egret, a Snipe and four Stonechats at Hollowell Reservoir. Approximately twenty Bramblings were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and small numbers were flying around and vocal in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again, with two Ravens in the village again.


Neil M




Images courtesy of
Bethan Clyne.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Ringing at Kelmarsh Hall


A ringing session at Kelmarsh Hall today recorded one hundred and fifty captures and provides an insight into how many birds are attracted to the feeding station there. Most birds were newly ringed and first year Blue Tits predominated but three Coal Tits, nine Long-tailed Tits, two Marsh Tits and eighteen Great Tits were also processed. The habitat attracts many woodland birds and we caught two new Nuthatches and three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Jay too. A few finches attracted to the feedstuff included a Bullfinch, three Chaffinches, four Goldfinches and two Siskins.

Other birds noted on-site included a vocal Kingfisher, a pair of Raven, a Brambling and up to twenty further Siskins.

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included the Wood Sandpiper, two Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin, ten Great White Egrets, fifteen Red-crested Pochard and ten plus Pintail north of the causeway with two female/immature Common Scoters south of the causeway. 

An initial scan over Boddington Reservoir failed to locate a Common Scoter or the Pale-bellied Brent Goose this morning in icy conditions. Stuart attracted a male Blackcap on apples in his Duston garden.

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose was again at Clifford Hill Pits today plus two Great White Egrets and thirteen Golden Plovers. Birds at Thrapston Pits included six Great White Egrets and a pair of Stonechats.

The Brambling flock appears to have increased again at Harrington Airfield to over fifty birds this afternoon, a Woodcock flushed up and a Peregrine was harrying the Fieldfares there. Tomorrow (Monday) there is likely to be a ringing session around the bushes and bunkers in the morning and this area will have restricted access during that time but the concrete track and main footpath is unaffected.


Neil M



Nuthatch courtesy
of John Tilly.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Snow, rain, wind...and birds!


It was a case of walking into the headwind and snow showers as I stalked over Harrington Airfield this morning to feed the birds. Good numbers of Chaffinches also carried small numbers of other finches and up to twenty-five Bramblings and the bushes were full of thrushes with about three hundred Redwings and over a hundred Fieldfares with much smaller numbers of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. A small flock of fourteen Golden Plovers were also present.

About ten Bramblings were blown around on top of Blueberry Hill and a covey of four Grey Partridges were there too. Single Grey Wagtails were noted at Lamport and Brixworth.

Birds at Pitsford Reservoir included a Curlew flying south over the dam, the adult Yellow-legged Gull on a buoy there and singles of Redpoll and Siskin. The Scaldwell Bay contained eleven Great White Egrets, sixteen Pintail and eighteen Red-crested Pochard.

Hollowell Reservoir this afternoon held two Great White Egrets and five Little Egrets and a Pink-footed Goose was with the Greylag flock at nearby Ravensthorpe Reservoir.

A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was found at Boddington Reservoir today and I believe is the first time this race has occurred in the county. A Common Scoter was there too and yesterday a Caspian Gull and four Yellow-legged Gulls were also seen.

Birds at Stanford Reservoir today included a Pink-footed Goose, two Egyptian Geese, a Peregrine, a Green Sandpiper, a Kingfisher, a Cetti's Warbler and a Siskin.

In the Nene Valley there were two Jack Snipe at Thrapston Pits on the Titchmarsh reserve and at Summer Leys there was a Ruff, a Dunlin, a pair of Pintail and a Great White Egret.


Neil M

Black-headed Gull.

Little Egret.


Wood Sandpiper and
 Green Sandpiper.

All images from Pitsford Reservoir
from last week courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Storm Arwen on it's way


Harrington Airfield was our first venue this morning and about thirty Bramblings were still present and coming down for mixed seed. Winter thrushes included c300 Redwings and 180 Fieldfares and there were at least forty Yellowhammers on-site plus a few Siskins, ninety Golden Plovers and a covey of nine Grey Partridges.

A few Siskins were calling at Scotland Wood and Kelmarsh Hall this morning and a Barn Owl was again hunting the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon and there were hundreds of Fieldfares feeding on the valley fields following today's showers.

At Pitsford Reservoir the Wood Sandpiper was still present in the Scaldwell Bay early this morning and other birds noted included a Green Sandpiper, six Great White Egrets, fifteen Red-crested Pochard, nine Pintail, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Siskin. A flock of about twenty Bramblings were in trees next to the Sailing Club this afternoon, some birds showing interest in the suspended feeders there.

Windy, cold and wintry weather conditions are forecast for tomorrow so we'll see what that produces!


Neil M

Red Kite carrying a firework|
Image courtesy of Don West.


Drake Tufted Duck. With the
'aytha' ducks just concluding
their annual moult it now becomes
a little easier to pick out different
species in amongst them!

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Sightings, Swifts and Ringing


A walk up to the summit of Blueberry Hill above Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning provided fifty Bramblings feeding on a strip of wild bird cover and a couple of Woodcock. Bramblings were still present at Harrington Airfield today but a number was not estimated.

The long-stayers at Pitsford Reservoir today included a Wood Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, eighteen Great White Egrets, eighteen Pintail, fourteen Red-crested Pochard and a Yellow-legged Gull, most of these birds centred around the Scaldwell Bay.

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose was again at Clifford Hill Pits today and Martin estimated the numbers of Red Kites at the Laxton pre-roost gathering to be about two hundred and fifty birds this afternoon!

If anyone fancies a quick trip across the border the long-staying Ring-necked Duck remains at Eyebrook Reservoir (Rutland) today with three Scaup and a Smew there too.

Touching base with local naturalist John Hunt who works tirelessly trying to create nesting opportunities and monitor breeding Swifts in the village of Spratton, it transpires that one of his nest box pairs of Swifts was still feeding young in the nest into September with the nestlings fledging on 11th/12th September and the adults hanging around for a few days before fleeing south. This is much later than generally associated with our local breeding population with many leaving by the end of July and just a few stragglers during August. I wonder how many local birders saw Swifts flying in September or expected to see them!

The Bird Ringing Tab or Page has been updated today to incorporate a short report and maps/images from Nick Wood the Northants Ringing Group Secretary.


Neil M

Swift courtesy of
Lewis Aaron.

With plummeting temperatures
and natural invertebrate food now at a
premium, our garden has an invasion
of Blue Tits!

A new addition to the 
garden in recent days
is this Red-legged Partridge!

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Winter weather birds.


Yesterday's (Tuesday) foray to Harrington Airfield yielded c200 Bramblings, c25 Golden Plovers, a Redpoll, a few Siskins and four Woodcock.

At Stanwick Pits two Cattle Egrets were seen in flight over the complex and c100 Pied Wagtails was a decent-sized roost or pre-roost around the Visitors Centre.

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose was again at Clifford Hill Pits plus two Goosanders, two Ravens and a Ring-necked Parakeet. The two Smew were still at Ringstead Pits.

Today (Wednesday) and the Brent Goose was still at Clifford Hill Pits but the Smew were not to be found at Ringstead Pits but there were five Cattle Egrets and a Great White Egret there. Twelve Goosanders at Sulby Reservoir today was a good early winter count. Again a Caspian Gull was seen for a short time at Hollowell Reservoir and the regular Barn Owl has continued to show the last few afternoons in the Brampton Valley Way below Hanging Houghton.

At Harrington Airfield today the Brambling flock seemed to be much-reduced to about seventy birds (six birds caught and ringed), and there were c50 Golden Plovers but the only visible migration seemed to be restricted to winter thrushes and Starlings.


Neil M

Pied Wagtail courtesy
of John Tilly.

Brambling today at Harrington
Airfield courtesy of Lewis Aaron.


Monday, 22 November 2021

The wonderful Red Kite


Perhaps not surprisingly my first venue of choice this morning was Harrington Airfield with another bucket of mixed seed. A large number of finches were again present but well spread and difficult to count but there were a minimum of two hundred mobile and noisy Bramblings which at times showed very closely in the hawthorns. Good numbers of Greenfinches, Linnets and Chaffinches were also present with smaller numbers of Goldfinches and Siskins. Not surprisingly plenty of birders were on-site today to see the spectacle and a Ring Ouzel was reported amongst the plentiful winter thrushes. Please note that a period of bird ringing is planned for the bunker area on Wednesday this week and access will be restricted - the concrete track will be unaffected.

My next venue was East Carlton Country Park which was full of autumn colour and standard birds included Raven, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Grey Wagtail and Siskin.

On next to the Welland Valley and below Cottingham the more interesting birds in this under-watched valley included three Egyptian Geese, two Little Egrets and plenty of Red Kites, corvids and winter thrushes. Gretton Weir was quieter and the lack of recent rains means the valley is currently very dry and with no standing water. Another twenty Red Kites were gleaning the valley fields between Harringworth and Wakerley and the car park at Wakerley Wood seemed very quiet with just several vocal Siskins of note.

Fineshade Top Lodge attracted plenty of common birds plus a Grey Wagtail, a Redpoll, a Brambling and a few Siskins and Blatherwycke Lake just down the road held two Kingfishers, four Little Egrets, two Black Swans, forty Mandarin Ducks, four Egyptian Geese and more Siskins. A quick scan over Deene Lake provided two Shelduck.

My last venue was Laxton village and the traditional Red Kite gathering and roost. A sizeable flock of finches here contained an unknown number of Bramblings late afternoon but the Red Kites are the main attraction here with about a hundred birds gathered together (this number should increase as the winter progresses). These amazing raptors interact with each other right overhead and the noise is almost deafening!

Small numbers of Brambling were at Blueberry Farm this morning and a Barn Owl was again hunting the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. Four Bramblings were feeding in our garden this afternoon.

The Pink-footed Goose had moved from Hollowell to Ravensthorpe Reservoir today and a Great White Egret was also at Ravensthorpe. Birds for Hollowell Reservoir included a Caspian Gull, three Great White Egrets and two Stonechats.

At Pitsford Reservoir today there were two Stonechats below the dam and north of the causeway birds included the Wood Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, thirteen Pintail, fourteen Red-crested Pochard, seventeen Great White Egrets and a Yellow-legged Gull.

Birds at Stanford Reservoir today included a Caspian Gull, an Egyptian Goose, seven Goosanders and a Pintail and the two Smew remain at Ringstead Pits on Brightwells Lake.


Neil M

East Carlton Country Park.

There are several examples
of European Spindle Tree at
East Carlton CP.

The Welland Valley 
below Cottingham.

Common Buzzard.

Red Kites.
All images taken today.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Brambling invasion


A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning was pretty special. Cooler temperatures and a gentle breeze with periods of cloud and sunshine was the setting and Woodpigeons and Stock Doves were on the move coming south and a couple of hundred feet above, at least until a female Peregrine climbed up to meet them and caused some flocks to divert.

Passerines were initially few in number but as I walked towards the bunker bushes the calls of Bramblings, lots of them, permeated through the cool air. About thirty flew up from the ringing ride next to Bunker One and perhaps another thirty were in bushes between there and Bunker Two with eighty moving around the bushes between Bunkers Two and Three. An unseen raptor spooked these birds which hurtled towards the concrete track and a large flock of finches erupted from the bushes behind me made up predominately of Bramblings, Greenfinches and Chaffinches. Together with a good number of Redwings and Fieldfares, the finches circulated around the complex with flocks settling and permitting some more accurate counting. On the walk back approximately a hundred Bramblings were feeding in the Bunker One ringing ride again. I estimated in total about three hundred Bramblings and about a hundred each of Greenfinch and Chaffinch plus fifty Linnets and ten Siskins.

Eleanor visited afterwards and saw similar numbers but also saw a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier flying from the shooting wall down towards the Brampton Valley.

A Barn Owl was hunting the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon with small numbers of mobile Siskins and Bramblings.

At Pitsford Reservoir today the birds in the Scaldwell Bay included the Wood Sandpiper still plus a Green Sandpiper, sixteen Red-crested Pochard, thirteen Pintail, sixteen Great White Egrets and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

The pair of Smew were still in situ at Ringstead Pits today but with an absence of Cattle Egrets and at Earls Barton Pits there were two Green Sandpipers and a Common Snipe at the New Workings plus a Stonechat.

Six Redpolls were caught and ringed at Braunston this morning and other finches present included one hundred and sixty Linnets and several Bramblings.


Neil M



Drake Red-crested Pochard.

All images from Pitsford Reservoir
last week courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Saturday's ringing


The dull, mild conditions promulgated ringing sessions at Linford Lakes and Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) this morning.

Kenny and Keith's efforts at Linford Lakes provided quality captures in the form of three Chiffchaffs, seven Redwings, four Goldfinches, two Goldcrests, a Siskin and a Kingfisher plus more common fare.

At Scotland Wood we watched Woodcock flying into the wood pre-dawn from their night-time forays and processed about ninety-one small birds of fourteen species which included two Blackbirds, just a single Redwing, fourteen Goldcrests, a Blackcap, sixteen Coal Tits, three Marsh Tits, a Treecreeper, a Nuthatch and two male Lesser Redpolls. Small numbers of Siskins were in the wood. One of the Marsh Tits was an old bird first ringed in December 2014 and not recorded since 2018 and is at least seven years old (the national longevity record is eleven years three months).

At Pitsford Reservoir this morning the Wood Sandpiper was still present in the Scaldwell Bay and there were at least fourteen Great White Egrets and fifteen Red-crested Pochard. This afternoon extra birds included a Barnacle Goose and a drake Mandarin Duck with the goose flock plus a few Siskins, a Brambling and a roost flock of approximately two thousand Jackdaws.

Two Woodcock and a scattering of Bramblings were at Blueberry Farm this morning plus a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and at least one Brambling in the village.

Birds visible at Sywell Country Park included 400 - 500 Golden Plovers and a Stonechat, the two Smew were still at Ringstead Pits, two drake Goosanders were on Eastfield Park Lake, Northampton and the Dark-bellied Brent Goose was again reported from Clifford Hill Pits.

Let's see what the cooler temperatures and clear skies provides for us!


Neil M

Chiffchaff courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Goldfinch courtesy
of Kenny Cramer.

Treecreeper courtesy of
Lewis Aaron.

Male Lesser Redpoll
courtesy of Lewis Aaron.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Fishing at Pitsford


At Harrington Airfield this morning there were still plenty of Bramblings, probably around the fifty mark, and spread over the complex. Other birds included a Woodcock, two Ravens and 15 Siskins and a high-flying flock of c100 Golden Plovers. At Kelmarsh Hall a Kingfisher was seen and there was a Grey Wagtail and c20 Siskins with 12 Siskins, a Redpoll and c10 Bramblings at nearby Scotland Wood. A few Siskins and a Raven were at Hanging Houghton.

At Sywell Country Park today there were two Cetti's Warblers, over a hundred Siskins, a Water Rail, a Kingfisher and c400 flying Golden Plovers. Birds at Pitsford Reservoir amounted to a Wood Sandpiper, thirteen Great White Egrets and unspecified numbers of Pintail and Red-crested Pochard, mostly in the Scaldwell Bay.

A pair of Smew was a good find at Brightwells Lake at Ringstead Pits today with eight Cattle Egrets at nearby Kinewell Lake.

The birds at Hollowell Reservoir included a third winter Caspian Gull plus the Pink-footed Goose, five Great White Egrets, eleven Little Egrets, four Stonechats and five Siskins.


Neil M

A Cormorant dispatches a Pike.

A Great Crested Grebe
trying to swallow a Tench.
It's a tough life being a fish!

Great White Egrets.

All images taken at Pitsford Reservoir
 this week and courtesy of Robin Gossage