Sunday 25 February 2024

A rather old Great Spotted Woodpecker!


A ringing session at Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today yielded fifty-seven birds of nine species today made up of twenty-seven Blue Tits, nineteen Great Tits, four Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Nuthatch, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Robin, a Dunnock and a Chaffinch. One of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers was a re-trapped male, first ringed at the same wood in December 2014. The exact age was not established in 2014 but this individual is at least nine years old and the national longevity record is eleven years and ten months.

Five Smew were at Eyebrook Reservoir today and birds at Summer Leys LNR today included two Cattle Egrets, at least four Great White Egrets, two Pintail, two Redshanks, two Oystercatchers and twenty-five plus Pochard.

A male Blackcap was in a Weston Favell village garden and two Common Snipe and twelve Grey Partridges were at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.

Two Woodcock were at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this morning and a Green Sandpiper and four Stonechats were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

The Starling murmuration at Stortons Pits this evening was again impressive and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was off the dam at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon


Neil M

Adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker
at Sunderland Wood, Kelmarsh today, he is
 at least nine years old!

Images courtesy of
Lewis Aaron.

Great Crested Grebes.

Mute Swan.

Above two images taken at
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Ringing at Scotland Wood today.


After a cold start (-3C) and moonlit night, today developed into a lovely winter's day with plenty of sunshine.

A ringing session took place at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today in somewhat wet and muddy conditions and after a slow start with ice-bound mist nets a reasonable number of 151 birds were processed of thirteen species. The star of the catch was a stunning-looking Tawny Owl and other birds were a Song Thrush, a Dunnock, five Robins, two Wrens, a Goldcrest, forty-four Great Tits, seventy-one Blue Tits, nine Coal Tits, three Marsh Tits, two Nuthatches, three Chaffinches and eight bright Siskins. At least two Woodcock were present.

A Short-eared Owl was hunting next to the old Beck Dairy on the outskirts of Cottesbrooke this morning, a 'redhead' Smew was still at Eyebrook Reservoir and two Cattle Egrets were on Hawthorn Island at Summer Leys LNR where there were also two Pintail, two Great White Egrets, two Oystercatchers, two Redshanks, sixty-five Golden Plovers and at least three Chiffchaffs. Approximately thirty Siskins were in alders along the path to the Double-decker hide.

A Goosander was on the fishing lake in Wellingborough opposite Sainsbury's on the Northampton Road and four Great White Egrets and a Grey Partridge were at Ringstead Pits. A further influx of Siskins included at least twenty in a garden in Creaton and three in our garden at Hanging Houghton where there was also singles of Brambling and Reed Bunting. A pair of Stonechats were at Borough Hill Country Park, Daventry this afternoon.

Five Waxwings flew NW over Stanford Reservoir at about 4.10pm, hopefully the first of a late winter/spring passage as they consider moving back to the continent.


Neil M

Tawny Owl at Scotland Wood
 today courtesy of Bethan Clyne.

Nuthatch at Scotland Wood
today courtesy of Bethan Clyne.

Male Siskin at Scotland Wood
today courtesy of Lewis Aaron.

Marsh Tit at Scotland Wood today
courtesy of Lewis Aaron.

Friday 23 February 2024

A dry(ish) day!


A much better day's weather today but with cooling temperatures during the night.

Two pairs of Stonechats and a Green Sandpiper were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today and at nearby Blueberry Farm a single Short-eared Owl was seen this afternoon, perched in a field before being moved on by a Carrion Crow. Two Woodcock were noted here too.

A male Blackcap was again attracted to apples in our Hanging Houghton garden today and a Raven was heard nearby with the usual pair at Lamport village. Three Snipe and up to three calling Grey Partridges were at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.

The run of Cattle Egrets continues with two just east of Ditchord Lane in alpaca fields at Ditchford Pits and two again at Summer Leys LNR where there were also two drake Pintail. A Stonechat and two Oystercatchers were at Quarry Walk, Earls Barton.

At Hollowell Reservoir today noteworthy birds were two adult Caspian Gulls, a Jack Snipe, ten Common Snipe, eight Stonechats and seven Siskins. Stanford Reservoir hosted a Stonechat, a Peregrine, an Oystercatcher, a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler.

Two 'redhead' Smew remain at Eyebrook Reservoir and the 'redhead' was still at Clifford Hill Pits today. Two Goosanders and a pair of Stonechats were in the Stortons Pits/Sixfields Lake area and a Woodcock and three Siskins were at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate.


Neil M

Green Woodpecker.

Common Toad.

Common Buzzard.



All images from the Stortons/
Sixfields area today courtesy
of Tony Stanford.

Thursday 22 February 2024

A day of heavy rain


Very few reports of interesting sightings today which isn't a surprise in such appalling wet weather!

A Cattle Egret was again reported from Summer Leys LNR today and the pair of Stonechats remain in the very flooded Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton. Yesterday there was a Pink-footed Goose and four Goosanders at Stanford Reservoir.


Neil M



Male Water Rail.

Female Water Rail.

 Six new Water Rails have been ringed in
 the Nene Valley so far this year and they
and re-trapped birds continue to be 
fitted with colour rings too.

All images courtesy of
Tony Stanford.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

A wet couple of days (again)!


Rain for much of the day and potentially even more tomorrow!

At least one Cattle Egret was at Summer Leys LNR today and there was a repeat of the Starling murmuration over adjacent Mary's Lake.

At Clifford Hill Pits today a 'redhead' Smew was present as were two Oystercatchers.

A male Brambling and a singing Siskin were at Scotland Wood on the Kelmatsh Estate this morning and at least three Siskins were at Kelmarsh Hall.

A male Merlin was again in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon as were two Stonechats. The male Merlin was subsequently seen at nearby Blueberry Farm, Maidwell where it decided to have a half-hearted go at some gathering Starlings which have been feeding on the saturated fields there. Two Short-eared Owls came out hunting there this afternoon in-between the rain showers.

A subtle shift in the garden birds here at Hanging Houghton during the last few days with the arrival of a few Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer as well as the passage Siskins.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tit courtesy
of Bethan Clyne.

Lapwing courtesy of
Tony Stanford.

Reed Bunting.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Egrets galore!


Birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning included a pair of Stonechats, a Barn Owl, a Green Sandpiper, a Woodcock, a Grey Wagtail and a Peregrine.

A bit of a hotchpotch of a WebS count was completed at Ditchford Pits in very flooded conditions today but we were unable to gain access to a couple of the pits. West of Ditchford Lane there were five Cattle Egrets, two Little Egrets and up to three Great White Egrets, two Egyptian Geese, two Shelducks, two Oystercatchers, a Stonechat, a Cetti's Warbler and a Chiffchaff. East of Ditchford Lane birds amounted to a pair of Stonechats, two Common Snipe, two Grey Wagtails, a pair of Goosanders, a Green Sandpiper, three Chiffchaffs, a Little Egret, a singing Siskin and a Cetti's Warbler.

Earls Barton Pits, particularly Summer Leys LNR and Mary's Lake, attracted plenty of attention today which resulted in quite a list of birds prior to the main event which was the Starling murmuration of at least twenty-five thousand birds around Mary's Lake. Egrets on the reserve during the afternoon included three Great Whites, seven Littles and three Cattle with additional egrets flying in to roost towards dusk which boosted Great White Egrets to nine and Littles to fifteen. At least three Sparrowhawks were attracted to the gathering Starlings and nearby roosting thrushes and other birds included four Oystercatchers, a Redshank, a Dunlin, about one hundred and fifty Golden Plovers, six Siskins, large flocks of Chaffinches and Linnets, a Stonechat and a Chiffchaff. Unfortunately there were two sickly Greenfinches at the feeding station showing early signs of trichomonosis.

Another Starling murmuration pre-roost this afternoon at Stortons Pits was assessed to be between ten and fifteen thousand birds and believed to be one of the biggest roosts there in recent years. A Cattle Egret was on Roadside Pit, Stanwick Pits this morning.


Neil M

Otter spraint at
Pitsford Reservoir today.

Siskins at Summer Leys
 LNR today courtesy of
Tony Stanford.

Golden Plovers at Summer Leys
LNR today courtesy of Tony Stanford.

Cattle Egret at Summer Leys LNR
today courtesy of Neil Hasdell.

Monday 19 February 2024

Birds of a flooded county


Birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today included a pair of Stonechats, a Grey Wagtail and at least seven Grey Partridges with a male Siskin again on our garden feeders in the village. A Grey Wagtail and a flock of at least forty Stock Doves were in the Brampton Valley below Brixworth.

A pair of Stonechats and an Oystercatcher were at Upton Country Park today and birds in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford Reservoir included a Woodcock in Christie's Copse and three Ravens.

A very large and impressive Starling murmuration was over Mary's Lake/Summer Leys LNR this afternoon and a Cattle Egret was on the nature reserve at lunchtime.

Seven Smew were again at Eyebrook Reservoir today and a first winter Caspian Gull was at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon.

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon two Short-eared Owls were at Neville's Lodge, Finedon and a Short-eared Owl was caught and ringed in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Stonechats courtesy of
Tony Stanford.

Short-eared Owl courtesy
of Michelle Spinks.

Sunday 18 February 2024

New Waxwings and Stonechats on the move


A flock of nine Waxwings was a great find for John Hunt out at Oundle with the birds still present at lunchtime in hedging alongside the A605 Oundle bypass.

The Cattle Egret was again at Upton Country Park as were a pair of Oystercatchers and birds at Clifford Hill Pits today amounted to a Peregrine, ten Goosanders, two Oystercatchers and two Stonechats.

Stonechats seem to be today's migrants following the Siskins and the Meadow Pipits with approximately ten Stonechats at Hinton Airfield where there was also a male Brambling.

At Summer Leys LNR there were two Cattle Egrets, good numbers of Golden Plovers and two Chiffchaffs.

A male Merlin was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton late morning and what was presumably the same bird was later seen flying from Maidwell towards Harrington Airfield.

Single male Siskins were feeding on suspended feeders at Scotland Wood, Kelmarsh Estate today plus in our garden at Hanging Houghton.

Two Short-eared Owls showed late on this evening at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell in a field near the horse paddocks. Seven Smew were at Eyebrook Reservoir this afternoon.


Neil M

Collared Dove.

Little Grebe.

Great White Egret.

Above images courtesy
of Tony Stanford.

Jaeger and Rouzel
were on form over the week-end
at a local agility competition.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Cattle Egrets and Starlings


A Cattle Egret was located at Upton Country Park this morning, two were still at Summer Leys LNR and another was in the vicinity of Stanford Reservoir. Two Goosanders were also at Stanford Reservoir and other sightings at Summer Leys LNR included a Weasel, a Great White Egret, a hunting Marsh Harrier, a Siskin on the feeders, fifteen Golden Plovers, two Oystercatchers, a Chiffchaff and another impressive Starling murmuration this afternoon.

More impressive Starling murmurations were at Crick village and Stortons Pits, so a couple of venues to choose from if you enjoy the swirly, smoke-like etchings against the evening light!

At Pitsford Reservoir there was an immature/female Merlin north of the causeway yesterday afternoon with an adult Yellow-legged Gull near the dam this morning and a Great White Egret north of the causeway mid-morning.

Two Ravens were at Lamport village and Siskins on village garden feeders today included locations at Brixworth and Walgrave. A flock of eighteen Meadow Pipits at Harrington Airfield suggested it wasn't just Siskins on the move today.

Two Peregrines were at Higham Ferrrers church today and single Short-eared Owls were seen at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and Neville's Lodge, Finedon this afternoon. Fifty Golden Plovers and two Grey Partridges were also noted at Neville's Lodge.

Three Smew were seen at Eyebrook Reservoir today and a large Waxwing flock at Milton Keynes near Wavendon (estimated in excess of seventy birds) were fly-catching today as well as eating berries.


Neil M

Cattle Egret.


Siskin courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Meadow Pipit.

Friday 16 February 2024

Songsters, amphibians, Peregrines and Starlings


The mild temperatures of the last few days and gentle weather conditions has stimulated much bird song with the thrush family perhaps being the most obvious responders with Blackbirds, and particularly Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes singing strenuously. Last night and this morning our garden pond was hosting the first few active Common Frogs and Common Newts.

On the down-side I watched six Chaffinches in the garden today, all six of them suffering to different extents with diseased legs and feet which makes landing and taking off a painful process. These birds learn to cope as the disease worsens but it effectively shortens their lives and is one of the main reasons why this once common bird has been reduced to the sidelines.

Two more Water Rails were caught and colour-ringed in the Nene Valley today as part of the long term project to understand more about the breeding habitats and dispersal of this secretive species.

At one site in the county today a pair of Peregrines were watched displaying at a potential breeding site and over at Summer Leys LNR a Peregrine was creating aerial art with the flocking Starlings as they came into roost this afternoon. A Barn Owl and a Cattle Egret were seen on the reserve too.

At Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon a second winter Mediterranean Gull was flying around north of the dam and two flocks of Starlings flew high to the east (about 1300 birds), perhaps enroute to Summer Leys LNR? 

Three Short-eared Owls were hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon - concentrating on the lurid orange weed-killed fields which are presumably due to be ploughed soon.

Four Smew (three drakes) and a Scaup were reported at Eyebrook Reservoir today.


Neil M

Peregrine and Starlings.

Barn Owl.

Images from Summer Leys LNR
today courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Very mild day in February


Very mild today and the high temperatures and some weak sunshine provided an opportunity for early butterflies to emerge in the county which included Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone and Comma at a variety of locations. Other insects included bumblebees on the wing too.

A Cattle Egret was on the Roadside Pit at Stanwick Pits today where there were also sixteen Goosanders on the main lake. Another Cattle Egret was in the near vicinity of Stanford Reservoir where there was also a Pink-footed Goose seen too.

Wicksteed Park hosted up to fifty Siskins along the river and other birds included a Little Egret and several Cetti's Warblers.

Short-eared Owls maintained their presence in the county today with four still at Neville's Lodge, Finedon and three at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell. A Grey Wagtail and two Green Sandpipers were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today, a few Siskins were at Kelmarsh Hall and a Raven near New Covert, Kelmarsh Estate.


Neil M



Golden Plovers.

All images courtesy
of Tony Stanford.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

A rather wet January (and February)!


I returned back from a Naturetrek 17 day expedition to Cambodia on Tuesday, my return not helped with an overnight flight followed by a car that wouldn't start at Heathrow Airport...oh well the trials of travel! I made it back eventually and have created an additional page or tab on this blog 'The Best of Cambodia 2024' where images will be displayed.

It has been a very wet and wild winter and even more of this dreary weather remains in the forecast, making it difficult conditions for walking in wet, muddy and slippery conditions.

A Brambling was heard calling in the village at Hanging Houghton this morning and a pair of Stonechats were in the Brampton Valley below the village. A singing Chiffchaff and a Grey Wagtail were in the Brampton Valley below Brixworth and a female Peregrine was hunting at Harrington Airfield.

Three Short-eared Owls were still at Neville's Lodge near Finedon this afternoon and two Cattle Egrets were at Summer Leys LNR.


Neil M

Short-eared Owls courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Greenfinch courtesy
of Tony Stanford.

Blue Tit courtesy
of Tony Stanford.

Grey Wagtail courtesy
of Tony Stanford.