Friday, 31 January 2014

Waterlogged Birding


Okay so it's raining well now but there was actually a break in the weather this morning when it actually wasn't raining.  Amazing!

I was in neighbouring Cambridgeshire today but managed to spend an hour or so birding at Paxton Pits, an interesting old gravel pit complex managed as a nature reserve just off the A1.  An early morning Smew trio included two very smart drakes and a couple of Goosanders were present too.  Just like the birds in Northants, the Grey Herons and Cormorants were busy sorting out their nests, the herons in particular being very vocal.

Eleanor managed to find some dry time to enjoy a walk around a waterlogged Blueberry Farm and confirmed that the usual birds were somehow still surviving the deluge and included the pair of Stonechat, a Barn Owl and two Red Kites.

A quick foray at Pitsford Res this afternoon provided views of a Great White Egret in the Moulton Grange Bay and the Great Northern Diver still in the vicinity of the Holly Tree.

Comparatively little bird ringing has taken place in the county so far this year due to the wet and windy conditions, but a couple of ringers are attracting good numbers of Reed Buntings in their respective gardens.  Several ringing records and recoveries of this species last winter proved very interesting inasmuch that several local birds were clearly mobile around the county and were recorded visiting several sites including gardens, and then later found back at the original ringing venues.  Clearly the provision of feedstuffs in the latter part of the winter and spring is proving crucial to their survival.

In one local garden red millet feeders are proving very attractive to this species and if you want to attract Reed Buntings to your garden you may wish to try this food too!


Neil M

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Hosepipe ban imminent?


Well with continual rain from dawn to dusk today was never going to be a good day for birding, and it was a pretty wet and muddy affair as we tramped around the local wild bird feeding stations!

A Grey Wagtail was present at Brixworth Sewer Works and it was possible to see six Red-crested Pochard through the murk in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Res.

This afternoon a wet walk in the vicinity of the Moulton Grange Bay at Pitsford Res provided views of a drake Scaup (near the Holly Tree), three Little Egrets, four Goosanders and a Kingfisher.  A couple of foxes were very vocal.


Neil M

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Soggy dogs !!

A rather wet day made birding difficult and I seemed to have spent my time drying out my optics and wet dogs !!  .
My only birds and wildlife of note were at Harrington Airfield late this afternoon.  As soon as I put the food out at least 6 Bramblings mysteriously appeared out of thin air !! . Two Redpoll sp and a huge flock of Fieldfare flew over.
Our latest canine addition Tor has a lot to learn and is already proving to be a challenge !! He seems to be a tiny percentage collie with the remainder of his make up a hound ? beagle  ? foxhound. So he goes into sensory overload when he is out and the selective deafness takes over. 
This afternoon he was clearly excited over a scent he could smell and disappeared into the bushes. Imagine my surprise when 3 superb Roe Deer walked out from behind the bushes......but where was Tor ?  , he was more interested in a Pheasant which flew up and away leaving a very bemused dog looking skywards.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 27 January 2014

Otter odyssey


A return to Market Harborough was the order of the day, and our attendance during the late morning coincided with two Otters being located straight-away near to the Sainsbury's supermarket.  They were active for some minutes but then disappeared up on to the opposite bank and seemingly went off for a kip!

Some feeding station top-ups took up most of the day and we struggled to see any birds of note.  A couple of Woodcock flushed at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) were fairly predictable.

The gull roost at Pitsford Res was monitored this evening, but no gulls of note were seen.  The Great Northern Diver was viewable distantly off The Pines between Moulton Grange Bay and The Holly Tree.

A Barn Owl was still present at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell yesterday afternoon.


Eleanor and Neil

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pitsford WeBs Count


This morning and early afternoon was taken up completing the WeBs count at Pitsford Reservoir.  This was in mild spring-like weather and the bird song was often quite deafening!  Cormorants were ensconced on their nests and the Rooks were patching up their stick nest colony.  The Great Crested Grebes were displaying and Little Grebe and Coot were seen carrying weed and sticks.

The water levels are very high and much of the water north of the causeway is brown and these conditions probably caused the complete absence of Shoveler and Pintail.  Nevertheless there were plenty of water birds present, the majority having been present since the late autumn.

Two Great White Egrets were still in the Moulton Grange Bay and the Great Northern Diver had been pushed in to the Moulton Grange Bay from the Holly Tree area by the many yachts on the water.  Two Smew were present - a drake just off the causeway and a 'redhead' in the Holcot Bay.  A single drake Goosander flew in to the Scaldwell Bay and at least five Red-crested Pochard were mostly hidden in the waterside willows in the Walgrave Bay.

Waders included about a hundred mobile Golden Plover, a Green Sandpiper, two Redshank and c78 Snipe.  A Peregrine kept them watchful.  A Chiffchaff was in bushes near to the causeway and a pair of Willow Tit were a welcome sight in the Scaldwell Bay.  Half a dozen flighty redpoll sp were south of the causeway.

A recce at Blueberry Farm this afternoon was brought to a swift conclusion with dramatic and powerful weather hurtling in from the west and south which included very strong gusts, rain, hail and lightning and thunder!  We managed two Red Kites and a Woodcock before retreating to the car.

A period of ringing at Stortons Gravel Pits this morning with John Woollett and team resulted in 73 birds being caught, 43 of them being new birds.  Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Blackbird and Great Tit were the most common species captured.


Eleanor and Neil

Little Grebe at Pitsford Res
Courtesy of Jacob Spinks

Friday, 24 January 2014



Eleanor took a wander around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon and at risk of sounding repetitive saw a female Peregrine, a Barn Owl and a pair of Stonechat, all these species being consistently present since late autumn.  A pair of Raven were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today and were in much the same place yesterday.


Neil M

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Kumlien's Gull....maybe!


Most of today was taken up completing the WeBs count at Ditchford Gravel Pits.  The conditions under foot were very, very muddy!  Good numbers of birds were present west of Ditchford Lane including hundreds of big gulls moving between the flooded pits and the nearby landfill. 
An interesting individual juvenile was located amongst Herring Gulls in the field immediately east of the Viaduct Pit which superficially resembled a Kumlien's Gull.  The size and structure was similar to Iceland Gull and the general colouration and patterning was similar to a juvenile Iceland.  The primary tips were not white at all but biscuit coloured with the subtle shadowing and were classic Kumlien's.  However, we dismissed the bird as a hybrid-type bird as the bill was all dark and possibly a touch long.  However subsequent research suggests that juveniles can display all dark bills and plenty of on-line images of birds apparently depicting Kumlien's closely resemble this bird.  This bird was rather distant; it is hoped that this bird might be seen again at closer range and that an identification might be clinched.

Kumlien's Gull is generally treated as a race or form of Iceland Gull, but potentially could be a New World inter-grade between Iceland and Thayer's Gull.

Other birds seen west of Ditchford Lane include the drake Scaup on the Watersports Pit, two mobile Great White Egrets, five Little Egrets, two Egyptian Geese, two adult Peregrines and a Green Sandpiper.  Other birds present on the overall complex included an apparent influx of ten Chiffchaffs, two Kingfishers, four Grey Wagtails, two drake Smew (Skew Bridge Pit), two Goosanders, a Water Rail and three Cetti's Warblers.

A Brambling was flying around our garden at Hanging Houghton this morning.


Eleanor and Neil

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Lowick Great Grey Shrike


Yesterday Phil Rogers relocated the Great Grey Shrike that was first seen several days ago near to the village of Lowick off the A6116 between Thrapston and Corby.  The bird is generally viewable from the footpath (also a vehicle track with a metal barrier) that starts from the A6116 on the opposite side of the road to the village (grid reference approximately SP978813).  It can be tricky to see if it is mobile but Phil has seen in several times by simply being patient and remaining on the footpath and scanning the field hedges and trees.

Walking the footpath from the A6116 towards the blocks of woodland on the hillside, the bird tends to show in hedgerows that cross the fields to the right.  The first hedge almost parallels pylons that cross the field, the second hedgerow is a little further up (about SP980815).  Please do not enter the fields.

Phil has kindly provided guidance and comments as follows:- 

'The bird is very mobile and disappears from view for long periods.  When it does show, it shows well and can be seen clearly from the footpath. I saw it three times today in two hours at midday.
The best viewing spot today is as follows:-
Walk up the track for approx 200m until you reach a large gap in the right hand hedge just before the overhead power lines. The bird showed on top of the hedge directly in front of the gap and also in the half dead tree along the hedge line. If the bird is in the tree it will be viewable distantly from the barrier at the start of the track. My first sighting today was in the hedge to the far left of the field looking from the gap. This is where I located it on Saturday.
Apparently birders have been walking into the fields to get closer or to try and locate it when it is out of sight. This is not necessary, a bit of patience is all that is required.'

Best of Luck!

Neil M

Monday, 20 January 2014

Monday Musing's

The weather today felt very spring-like, rather than the middle of winter.  Blue skies, sunshine, insects buzzing about and splashes of colour thanks to Dandelions, Red Nettle, Groundsel, Aconites and Snowdrops.

We even sat out in the garden to eat our lunch listening to the evocative calls of Red Kite and Common Buzzard and then to the lower base notes of a couple of cronking Ravens.

Prior to this Neil had seen 3 Grey Wagtails and a Water Rail at Brixworth Sewer Works, whilst I had been far more energetic and had ran around the big side of Pitsford Reservoir, where the Great Northern Diver and at least one Great White Egret were seen.

This afternoon a walk around the Blueberry Area produced a female Peregrine Falcon, 2 Red Kites, 2 or 3 Woodcock, a Barn Owl, pair of Stonechat and the rather stunning "white" Buzzard.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Wildlife showcase


Neil Hasdell had another go at watching the Otters at Market Harborough today.  It seems that the animals weren't seen at all in the morning, but two finally appeared at about 1.30pm and were viewable on and off for the rest of the afternoon.  This time they were mostly downstream from the Sainsbury's car park and went a long way past the railway station.  A Kingfisher showed several times and a Grey Wagtail was also in residence.

At Blueberry Farm this morning there were four Red Kites, two Ravens, a Barn Owl, a pair of Grey Partridge and the pair of Stonechat still.  A few Siskins were noted at Hanging Houghton and half a dozen Bramblings were present at Harrington Airfield plus a couple of Red Kites and a mobile flock of a hundred or so Golden Plovers.

An hour or so looking for the Great Grey Shrike at Lowick this afternoon proved to be a failure despite pleasant viewing conditions.

The Bird Ringing Demonstration at Barnwell Country Park today was well attended and it was good to see many children and young people enjoying seeing wild birds close up.  This event was a joint effort between the Northants County Council Country Park Rangers, the RSPB and Northants Ringing Group volunteers aimed at inspiring people of all ages to appreciate wildlife and take part in wildlife recording initiatives.  Only four static nets were erected but it was sufficient to catch over two hundred small birds.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the Blue Tit was the most common bird with plenty of Great Tits and smaller numbers of Coal Tits and Long-tailed Tits plus a couple of Marsh Tits.  Chaffinches and Goldfinches were well-represented together with a single Siskin.  The Great Spotted Woodpecker and three Treecreepers were much admired and of course the common favourites of Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird and Reed Bunting look different again in the hand.

Other birds seen or heard included at least one Egyptian Goose heard calling from fields the other side of the river, a couple of Kingfishers, two singing Cetti's Warblers and a reasonable-sized flock of Siskins.


Neil and Eleanor

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Otterly fantastic!


This morning Neil Hasdell and I ventured to Market Harborough in an effort to see the otters.  Two animals were very showy, mostly up-river in Welland Park and it was possible to be within ten feet of them as they played and fished, gradually moving against the current.  Some images are below.  A Kingfisher was fishing the river.

Eleanor ventured in to Brixworth Country Park at lunch-time and saw half a dozen each of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin and two Grey Wagtails as well as large numbers of Redwings.  The Great Northern Diver was viewable distantly on the adjacent Pitsford Reservoir, again by the Holly Tree.

This afternoon a male Peregrine and two Grey Wagtails were around Brixworth Sewer Works.


Neil M

Otters at Market Harborough
courtesy of Neil Hasdell.  They
mostly ignored the people and dogs
watching over them from the
riverside paths!

Friday, 17 January 2014

It's all happening!


Yesterday afternoon (Thursday) saw Eleanor hiking around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and she was able to confirm the continuing presence of the pair of wintering Stonechat (in the southern-most field) and a Barn Owl.

Today local birder Dave Jackson watched and photographed a Lesser Whitethroat coming to a garden feeder in his Kingsthorpe garden.  This is a species we consider as a summer migrant to the UK, and any individual that pops up at this time of the year will always attract considerable interest as there is a reasonable likelihood that it might be an eastern race bird.  Images of this bird are below and I think we have to be grateful that it pitched up in the garden of such a good photographer!

It seems that the Otters at Market Harborough are continuing to perform with further sightings for yesterday and today!

A female Peregrine was present at Harrington Airfield today, but the site is currently busy with trucks using the concrete track entrance and the finch/bunting flock is being disturbed.  A few Brambling were present but feeding them is proving difficult with vehicles moving through the feeding area.

Three of us conducted some bird ringing at Kelmarsh Hall today and we were fortunate to catch 90 small birds, the close quarter highlights being two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Nuthatches, a Marsh Tit, seventeen Goldfinches and a smart male Lesser Redpoll.  At least one Siskin was present but not captured.

Finally a reminder that this Sunday there will be a Bird Ringing demonstration at Barnwell Country Park near Oundle (details below)!


Neil M

Lesser Whitethroat
Northampton courtesy
of Dave Jackson

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Otters again!


Pat and Geof Douglas popped over to Market Harborough today and saw a couple of otters after waiting about 90 minutes - the images below illustrate what they were up to (the otters that is)!

Neil M

Otters at Market Harborough
Courtesy of Pat and Geof Douglas.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Otters at Market Harborough


A visit to Market Harborough today in an effort to see the otters was interesting.  Plenty of Northants birders about and the otters were present but somehow we managed to miss them (the otters that is)!

It seems that they are seen daily by the town-folk going about their usual business and we spoke to many who regularly saw these animals.  Up to four animals were on show yesterday but they can move up and down the river very rapidly.  Dave Thomas managed over two hundred images yesterday and reported that they were fishing, playing etc very close to the Northampton Road bridge.

Two animals were seen on an off this morning up until just short of 12 noon, but I don't think there were any sightings between then and 2pm.  They are seen anywhere along the stretch of the river between Welland Park and the train station, with the most regular sightings between the Co-op and Sainsburys.  This bias is perhaps because this is the busiest section with people so hence more sightings.  Fortunately there are tarmac paths alongside the river and many foot bridges so the viewing opportunities are ideal.

I think we were unlucky today and I think if you are prepared to spend a couple of hours there in the morning I think you would stand a good chance of seeing them.  A Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail were perhaps the most interesting birds seen there today.

Best of Luck!

Neil M

Images courtesy of
Dave Thomas

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Winter birds in situ


Dave Francis committed to some more bird ringing at Pitsford Res today, catching and processing 66 birds.  Six Moorhens were amongst this total as were small numbers of Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers.  Eleanor saw the Great Northern Diver early afternoon, viewed distantly from the dam. 

Birds feeding at Harrington Airfield by the concrete track entrance included 12+ Bramblings, and two Ravens and two or three Red Kites were present with a couple each of redpoll sp and Siskin flying over.

Blueberry Farm only conjured up a Barn Owl and a couple more Red Kite.


Neil M



This morning local naturalist Diane Freeman enjoyed excellent views of two Otters on the River Welland at Market Harborough which is just over the county boundary in Leicestershire.  Last winter there were regular sightings of Otters utilising the river here and it seems that there have been regular reports this winter too (as reported recently in the Harborough Mail).

Today two animals spent about an hour in the area under and around the bridge that carries the Northampton Road (A508) over the river, and one caught and ate a fish in full view of observers.  Both animals then swam along the river and headed off towards the back of Sainsburys.  At least one Kingfisher was fishing the river too.

Although Otters are believed to be relatively widespread these days, locally they are still very difficult to see and appreciate.  I know that Diane was delighted with her observations today and this location appears to represent the best opportunity locally to see these normally shy and retiring creatures.


N & E

Monday, 13 January 2014

Welland Valley and back


We meandered towards the north of the county today, taking advantage of more winter sunshine before the next wet front.  Despite our efforts it was a quiet day with little out of the ordinary.

The first birding session was around East Carlton at the south end of the Welland Valley and we strolled around the rough area off Wire Lane and also the country park.  Good numbers of common birds were present in this area, particularly thrushes and woodland birds.  A dozen Siskins fed in the alders with half a dozen Lesser Redpolls by the ponds in the country park.

It seems that much of the flooding in the Welland Valley had subsided but there were good numbers of Lapwings and Common Gulls and Fieldfares on the wet fields.  Near to Gretton they were joined by about five hundred Golden Plover.  A little further north near Harringworth, a pair of Shelduck added to the mix.

Wakerley Wood and adjacent areas remained stubbornly quiet for birds, the best being a pair of Raven and two Woodcock and half a dozen Siskins.

Next was Blatherwycke Lake where a first for me was watching a Hare swim the width of the lake, and fast too!  Birds of interest included a 'redhead' Goosander, a Barnacle Goose, eleven Mandarin Ducks and singles of Siskin and Brambling.

Fermyn Wood Country Park was our last venue but despite plenty of scanning and walking around the site, we couldn't find anything of note.


Neil M

Welland Valley
from Cottingham Hill

Goldcrest - which had
just consumed a long-legged

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Winter delights


This morning a guided walk at The Wildlife Trust's  new Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve coincided with some pleasant winter sunshine.  The water levels remain high on-site and the flooding attracted geese and gulls.  A vocal Chiffchaff was probably the scarcest bird seen and a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers remained hidden.  A Treecreeper delighted the group as it crept around hedgerow hawthorn and ash and a calling Water Rail preferred the cover of some reeds rather than showing itself!

The gull roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon attracted a stunning adult hybrid gull which appeared to be a Yellow-legged x Lesser Black-backed, and also a near-adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Local birder Martin Dove found a dead Coal Tit at Pitsford Res yesterday bearing a ring.  Records indicate that this bird was first ringed at Pitsford on 21st June 2009 when it was aged as a juvenile (hatched that year).  It was re-trapped again at Pitsford on 5th October 2009, 7th October 2012 and finally on 26th May 2013.  Four and a half years is long-lived for a Coal Tit and it would be easy to speculate that this bird lived its whole life associated with habitat around the reservoir.

John Woollett and his company of ringers at Stortons Gravel Pits this morning caught some eighty birds which included a re-trap Water Rail and a male Bearded Tit first ringed at Stortons late last year, suggesting that the pair have been present throughout.


N & E

Water Rail

Bearded Tit.  Images
courtesy of Chris Payne

Saturday, 11 January 2014



Some feed station maintenance was required today on the Kelmarsh Estate and in very boggy conditions we took the opportunity to wander the woodlands at Kelmarsh Hall, Sunderland Wood and Scotland Wood.  Despite the mild conditions the birds are conditioned to consume the food stuffs within three or four days!  Despite the wet conditions today's winter sunshine infiltrated the woodlands and the cool and fesh air meant it was a pleasure to be out and about.

Nothing out of the ordinary was seen in Sunderland Wood, Kelmarsh Hall sported a couple of Siskins and Scotland Wood hosted 4 Woodcock and half a dozen Siskins.

Eleven Bramblings were watched feeding with Yellowhammers and others on the concrete track entrance at Harrington Airfield this morning.

This afternoon we wandered around a squelchy Blueberry Farm which provided views of 1-2 Barn Owl(s) and a couple of Ravens.


N & E

Ringing Demonstration


On Sunday 19th January 2014 an event at Barnwell Country Park near Oundle is planned to prepare for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.  Part of the event will include a bird ringing demonstration which will provide an opportunity to see common birds close-up.  Members of the Northants Ringing Group will be on hand to catch and ring wild birds (weather permitting).  Please come along if you would like an opportunity of learning more about birds and seeing the plumage and identification features at close range.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Pitsford ringing


Pitsford Reservoir was the venue for some ringing at two different locations on the reserve today.  Some 148 birds were caught and processed with perhaps the most interesting species being a Willow Tit, 4 Coal Tits, a Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 6 Yellowhammers, 4 Tree Sparrows, 4 Reed Buntings, 4 Goldfinches and 2 Moorhens.  Other birds noted on-site included a pair of Red-crested Pochard in flight, a Chiffchaff, 3-4 Woodcock and a couple of Lesser Redpolls.

Nearby at Sywell CP there was a Water Rail and several Siskins.


Neil M

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Bits and Bobs

Today has found me snatching a bit of birding here and there. Firstly a gentle walk through the village with my two limping collies produced 2+ Bramblings and several Siskins. Next it was time for a  run, where 2 vocal Ravens and a Red Kite near Cottesbrooke were the only birds of note.
At lunchtime a short walk at Brixworth Country Park produced 2 Bramblings and I heard a Kingfisher calling from the sailing club.
Mid afternoon found me "sales shopping" in Northampton and I took the opportunity of popping in to the Nene Barrage, an area that I don't visit very often.  I parked in a small carpark on the Bedford Rd, close to the large roundabout.   Obviously with all the rainfall the barrage is pretty full of water and there seemed to be plenty of birds present.  I didn't really do this place justice as I did not take my scope and didn't have time to walk far.  Nevertheless I saw at least 6 Goosander, a pair of Smew and a male Peregrine causing chaos with approx 200 Golen Plovers.
On arriving back at Hanging Houghton there were 2 Red Kites .

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Siskin influx


I took a drive over to Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows (part of the Ditchford GP complex) this morning as part of preparation for a guided walk there this coming Sunday.  It perhaps goes without saying that the Nene Valley is flooded and access is problematic at some points.  Standard birds here included a Little Egret, half a dozen Cetti's Warblers and a Water Rail.  Both a male and female Sparrowhawk were endeavouring to flush out passerines from flooded bushes and the male soon caught an unfortunate individual.

I then went on to Ditchford Lane and tried to walk westwards but the usual paths were flooded.  Many of the waterbirds appeared to have been dispersed due to the excessive brown water.  An adult Mediterranean Gull was on the Watersport Pit and still present to at least 1pm.

Closer to home, Pitsford Res yielded a Great White Egret this afternoon by The Holly Tree north of the dam and two Red-crested Pochard in the Scaldwell Bay.

Eleanor visited the Kelmarsh Estate feeding stations where she noticed there was an influx of Siskins in all three woods.  Scotland Wood attracted 15 Siskins, a couple of Red Kites and the usual Nuthatches, Marsh Tits etc.  A monster tit flock at Kelmarsh Hall included 30 Long-tailed Tits and there were at least 8 Siskins present too.  An unidentified raptor moved over Sunderland Wood (the view was obscured but it appeared to be a Hen Harrier) and birds in the wood included Marsh Tits, Nuthatches and 10 Siskins.

Harrington Airfield provided views of a female Peregrine, c100 Golden Plovers, a Woodcock and 10+ Bramblings.

Provisional bird ringing totals for Pitsford Res for the year 2013 came to 2411 ringed individuals.  Singles of Common Buzzard and Grey Heron were new species ringed on-site.  Flagship birds such as Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer totalled 172 and 158 respectively.  A great deal of effort is made on the reserve to try and support these nationally declining species with food provided all year round and managing suitable breeding areas during the summer.  An on-going Constant Effort (Ringing) Site endeavours to accurately assess breeding success and survival rates of passerines using the Scaldwell Bay in the summer, and as one of the largest schemes in the UK contributes to the national assessment.


Neil M

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Brief Birding Exploits

Another one of those days where birding was restricted. A very blustery walk at Harrington produced a female Peregrine, 2 Red Kites and numerous Common Buzzard enjoying the wind and sunshine.  After putting the food down it wasn't long before at least 10 Bramblings, many looking stunning in the winter sunshine.
Whilst eating my sandwich and watching the birds in our garden a male Sparrowhawk paid a visit and took a Goldfinch for his lunch!
This afternoon, the Great Northern Diver was half way down the big side of Pitsford , whilst 5 Smew were sheltering against the causeway. 
The water level is extremely high and the three distinct bays on the small side are rapidly becoming one huge bay.!!!  There were 4 Goosander and 2 further Smew in the Holcot arm, 4 Red-crested Pochard in the Walgrave arm and a further 2 in the Scaldwell arm.
I couldn't see any sign of the Great White Egret's today, but I did notice a couple of Cormorants building a nest !!

A reminder of the Northamptonshire Bird Club Meeting tomorrow evening. It is the Annual Photographic Competition, and this is always a lively meeting as we disagree with the judge's choice !! But it is always a good meeting to start the year, so come along, sit back, relax and feast your eyes on images of birds and other wildlife.

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 6 January 2014

A wet and blustery Pitsford!


A concerted effort was made this morning to try and locate the Hume's Leaf Warbler from last month. There was a decent slot of weather this morning but sadly there was no sign or sound of our quarry.  It is possible the bird is still present but is now presumed gone.  There will be regular visits to the venue during the winter and if the bird is located viewing opportunities will be organised.

It was hard work birding at Pitsford Res today with regular heavy showers and a blustery strong wind.  Birds located as a result of a co-operative effort between Andrew Tyrrell, Eleanor and myself amounted to the Great Northern Diver still, eight Smew (three drakes) between the causeway and the Catwalk Bay, 4 Goosanders, three Red-crested Pochard in the Walgrave Bay, a drake Pintail, 2-3 Kingfishers, 2-3 Grey Wagtails and 6 Lesser Redpolls.


Neil M

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Short Day Count SP55


Eleanor kindly visited some of the feed stations locally whilst I was committed to the west of the county. Broadcast seed at Harrington Airfield was sufficient to attract at least six Bramblings.

A visit to Blueberry Farm at Maidwell produced sightings of a Barn Owl, four Red Kites and the pair of Stonechat.

In the meantime I completed a BOS Short Day Count in SP55 to the south and west of Daventry.  Nearly half of the day was spent at Fawsley Park and Badby Wood.  This area is particularly good for a variety of species due to the variety of habitat - lakes, streams, reed-beds, woodland and parkland.

The cold frosty morning helped produce a stunning red sun-rise, all the more dramatic when back-lighting the stark fingers of winter trees.

The birds were vocal, perhaps anxious to shake off the dreary wet weather from the day before and I quickly seized upon the calls of Water Rail, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail - all species difficult to record elsewhere in the tetrad.  About a dozen Siskins inhabited the alders and Nuthatch and Treecreeper were both active and vocal first thing.  Waterfowl were present in small numbers but 17 Pochard was a good total for the site.

Gulls quickly arrived from the north-west and included the standard five species in some numbers.  A male Lesser Redpoll was feeding on flooded Rosebay Willow-Herb.

I then took the Knightley Way up to Badby Wood.  A nice surprise was a flock of 20 - 25 Bramblings in the beeches en-route.  A circular and muddy wander in Badby Woods added Marsh Tit, Raven and a few more common species.

After brunch back at Fawsley Park, I then drove slowly via Badby village to Lower Catesby, one of my favourite sites.  An interesting falcon disappeared behind some woodland (why do they never appear the other side?) and other birds of interest included Raven, a monster flock of Redwings and a single Brambling contained within a Chaffinch flock. A Greylag was a bonus bird and Grey Heron is locally very scarce in this square so a fly-over individual was very welcome.  A couple more Ravens were located near Hellidon and a walk around Byfield Pool added the third Kingfisher of the day.

An afternoon cup of tea at local birder Ian Dobson's house was appropriate as his feeding exploits provided me with my only Tree Sparrow of the day and at least four Lesser Redpolls on suspended feeders (a possible Meally Redpoll didn't show itself while I was there).  My final birding of the day was on open ground near Cannons Ashby where I failed to locate the anticipated Skylark but was happy with a flock of about 70 Golden Plovers, several Common Buzzards and a couple more Ravens.

During the lull in the wet and windy weather this morning, local ringer Chris Payne spent a short time ringing in his garden at Greens Norton where he captured several Reed Buntings coming regularly to food.  An image of one of these stunning little birds is below...


Neil M

Sunrise at Fawsley

Reed Bunting
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Saturday, 4 January 2014

NBC Photographic Competition.


This is a reminder to members of the Northants Bird Club and an invitation to non-members that this coming Wednesday evening (8th January 2014) the club will be holding it's monthly meeting which on this occasion is the annual photographic competition. This will be held at our usual venue of Moulton Village Hall, Pound Lane, Moulton commencing at about 8pm.  Members will have submitted digital images from wildlife experiences during the previous twelve months in a variety of categories.  These images have been assessed and will be shown during the evening for all to enjoy.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Eleanor and Neil

A soggy Short Day Count!


On a very wet day, Eleanor popped out to Pitsford Res this afternoon and spent some time birding in the Scaldwell Bay.  Birds noted included two Great White Egrets, two Egyptian Geese, four Goosanders, two drake Smew and a pair of Red-crested Pochard.

I spent the day out in the rain completing a Banbury Ornithological Society Short Day Count.  This is an annual event whereby efforts are made to search a tetrad and record as many wild bird species within the square as possible.  SP54 which encompasses villages and countryside in the south west of Northamptonshire is a regular tetrad which I cover.  I started within the parishes of Thenford and Middleton Cheney at 8am and then moved in to countryside in and around Thorpe Mandeville, Culworth and Edgcote before concluding with some scanning over fields near Sulgrave and Weston.

It's not often that I spend all day in the rain and despite good clothing by the end it was beginning to soak in! I managed to locate 62 species, perhaps the most common 'misses' included Red-legged Partridge and Meadow Pipit!  Mind you I could only find one Pied Wagtail and had to wait until 2.37pm to find it!  In addition I only saw one Linnet and found only one flock of Tree Sparrows which continues a worrying trend.

In contrast there were Redwings and Fieldfares everywhere, all taking advantage of the waterlogged fields and mild temperatures to hunt for worms.  By the afternoon many of them were singing from hedgerow trees and bushes, obviously content with their lot and in stark contrast to the previous two winters.

There was some serious flooding around the Trafford Bridge and the River Cherwell valley areas, some roads not being drive-able unless you were in a four wheel drive or similar.

Scarce birds included a Raven between Thenford and Middleton Cheney, two Lesser Redpolls at Edgcote and a Siskin at Trafford Marsh.   Kingfishers were located at Thenford and Trafford Marsh (two birds), these birds no doubt desperate to locate clear, unsullied water in order to fish successfully (rather difficult at the moment I would think).  Calling Tawny Owls were noted at two sites, and a single Snipe and a Grey Wagtail were near Thorpe Mandeville.

Another count in a different tetrad tomorrow - I hope my clothes have dried out in time for the next deluge!


Neil M

Friday, 3 January 2014

Parakeets at Pitsford

Due to both dogs unable to walk any distance, mundane errands and a trip to the vet, my birding was somewhat limited.
At Pitsford Reservoir where I had to wrestle with my scope to keep it steady the Great Northern Diver was viewed distantly from the dam and a Green Sandpiper remains on the flooded field below the dam.
A somewhat blustery walk across the causeway produced a pair of Smew sheltering against the bank.
From the feeding station 2 Great White Egret, 6 Red Crested Pochard, 2 Goosander and a further 2 Smew were noted. 
As I stood looking around I could hear the next birds long before I could see them........2 noisy Ring Necked Parakeets going over with the strong wind helping them along !!
The Hume's Leaf Warbler was looked for today but not seen or heard, but the Long Tailed Tit's who have been absent were back on site, so we haven't given up and will continue to regularly monitor this site.

Regards  Eleanor

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A day to be out and about!


Today a ringing session took place at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate which resulted in 110 birds being examined and released.  Over sixty of these birds were birds not caught and ringed before, but it was also gratifying to catch and identify birds from previous years including several birds at least three years old. One Blue Tit was originally ringed elsewhere and will count as a 'control', albeit preliminary research suggests it was ringed within the county.

The highlights for the three ringers today included 3 Marsh Tits, 5 Coal Tits, 2 Goldcrests, 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Jay. Other birds noted in the wood included 3-4 Siskins, a Willow Tit and a couple of Woodcock.  On departing, a male Peregrine flew over the A508 just north of Maidwell. 

My thanks to Chris Payne and Jacob Spinks for giving up their time to assist with this on-going project on the estate which seeks to assess woodland site fidelity.

Eleanor in the meantime visited Harrington Airfield this morning and enjoyed a good walk around the site. Birds of note included an adult female Peregrine, 2 Red Kites, about a hundred Golden Plovers, hundreds of Fieldfares and Redwings worming on the sodden fields, 10+ Bramblings and a pair of Grey Partridge.

At Blueberry Farm this afternoon Eleanor enjoyed views of a female Merlin, 6 Red Kites, lots of Common Buzzards, a Barn Owl, the pair of Stonechat still and 4+ redpoll sp over.


Neil M

Scotland Wood
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Years Day


An excursion to Pitsford Reservoir this morning confirmed the continuing presence of the Great Northern Diver still near the Holly Tree plus also a drake Smew south of the causeway.

Two Woodcock were again flushed at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) this morning.


E & N