Monday, 31 August 2015

Another rainy day!

Leaden Spider Wasp
pompilus cinereus
Courtesy of Pete Gilbert

Trichrysis cyanea
Courtesy of Pete Gilbert

Brood of nestling Swallows courtesy
of Chris Payne. Many Swallows have already
left the country and on their way to Africa - others
haven't even fledged yet!


After the rain today birds came out to feed and Eleanor located 2-3 Redstarts at Blueberry Farm this afternoon at the southern end of the complex, plus 6 Whinchats and a Wheatear.

At Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon three juvenile Shelduck were north of the causeway and the sky was full of hirundines, particularly House Martins. At the dam-end of the reservoir birds included the pair of Ruddy Shelduck, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, two Hobbies successfully intercepting hirundines over the water, a male Peregine and 2-3 Dunlin.


Neil M

Courtesy of Pete Gilbert

Bird Club Indoor Meeting


This Wednesday evening (2nd September) sees the start of the next period of Northants Bird Club indoor meetings. As usual our venue will be the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir which is found off the Brixworth road just outside the village of Holcot (NN6 9SJ), and we commence proceedings at 7.30pm.

Our speaker for the evening will be Dr Mark Avery who will continue with his theme from the January meeting associated with conflict in the uplands of Britain associated with grouse shooting and linked economical and environmental interests. Mark has recently released two more books and it is likely that these will be on sale during the evening, one book entitled 'Inglorious' which is associated with his presentation.

As usual hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening, car-parking is free around the lodge with an overflow facility to park down by the fishing boats or on the road causeway. Members and non-members are welcome and we hope to see as many people as possible at our first meeting of the new period!


Neil M

Red Grouse
Courtesy of  Dave Jackson.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Migrants in the rain!


At Harrington Airfield this morning birds included a Tree Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, a Redstart, 2+ Ravens, several Siskins and a pair of Grey Partridge.

The Blueberry Farm area continued to retain migrants in the shape of a Marsh Harrier, a Grasshopper Warbler, 1-2 Redstart(s), 2 Whinchats and a Wheatear. This evening a Redstart was in hedging at Lamport Hall at a spot which has proved a traditional stop-over area for a number of years.

Some ringing at Brixworth Sewer Works today provided some 43 captures which included seven Pied Wagtails, ten Swallows, ten Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, six Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers and a Magpie. At least six Grey Wagtails were also present.


Neil M

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Intense Migration!


The county ringers from the Northants Ringing Group were busy today and were split in to teams for operations at Stortons Gravel Pits, Pitsford Reservoir and Harrington Airfield.

John Woollett presided at Stortons where the team were responsible for catching 140 birds, over a hundred of which were warblers. A staggering fifty-seven of the total were Blackcaps and other warblers consisted of six Garden Warblers, twenty Reed Warblers, six Whitethroats, three Cetti's Warblers, three Willow Warblers and seven Chiffchaffs. Other birds included a re-trap Kingfisher from last year and two Sparrowhawks enlivened the day!

Ringing in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford was managed by Dave Francis and seventy-nine birds were caught of 23 species. A Kingfisher was a control from elsewhere and the pick of the rest included 10 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Reed Warbler, 4 Tree Sparrows, a Yellowhammer, a Willow Tit, a Marsh Tit, a Green Woodpecker, 3 Mallard, 3 Pied Wagtails and 4 Treecreepers.

Harrington Airfield provided 57 captures and where a flock of Chaffinches arrived from somewhere resulting in 15 being caught and ringed. Other finches included 7 Linnets and a Goldfinch but warblers were restricted to 5 Whitethroats, a Blackcap and a Willow Warbler. Seven Yellowhammers and four Reed Buntings also hit the nets and a new Green Woodpecker was the seventh to be ringed at this site during 2015. The ringing highlights for most of the ringers however was a single Tree Pipit and two Redstarts. Other birds noted at Harrington included a Hobby, a juvenile Whinchat, an additional fly-over Tree Pipit, a couple of Siskins and following the harvesting of the wheat crop the local raptors congregated and included several each of Red Kite, Common Buzzard and Kestrel gleaning what they could from the fields.

Migrants were moving through the garden at Hanging Houghton this morning, mostly Blackcaps and Willow Warblers, and overhead a couple of Siskins, four Crossbills and two Ravens flew over.

The same theme continued with Blueberry Farm providing views of five Ravens, a juvenile Marsh Harrier, a Redstart and several Siskins and a single Wheatear. This evening a small pocket of migrants in field hedging between Hanging Houghton and Scaldwell included two Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher.


Neil M

Sparrowhawks at Stortons GP
Courtesy of Chris Payne

Tree Pipit

Redstarts at
Harrington Airfield.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Migrants galore!


A visit to Harrington Airfield this morning to prepare for the week-end ringing proved timely when a Wryneck jumped up in to a bush not far from the chippings compound. The bird seemed intent on spending time looking for ants on the trodden path but was soon displaced as further birders arrived trying to see it. Two vocal Redstarts were quite elusive again just south of the first bunker.

Ringing operations at the weekend causes the old airstrip and bunkers (all private land) to be out of bounds but the concrete track and linked footpaths are unaffected. My apologies if this affects your plans for Saturday and Sunday.

Other migrants located today included three Redstarts in field hedging between Walgrave village and Pitsford Reservoir, a Wheatear in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and two juvenile Marsh Harriers at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell (at 3.30pm).


Neil M

Wryneck at Harrington Airfield
Courtesy of Bob Bullock

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

'Tis the time for chats and Redstarts!


This morning a quick check of the dam area at Pitsford Reservoir provided views of the two Ruddy Shelduck, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a Swift.

This afternoon the Brampton Valley directly below the village of Hanging Houghton hosted a Redstart, a Wheatear and two Whinchats. At Harrington Airfield this evening there were two Redstarts in bushes just south of the first bunker.

Ringing sessions are planned for Stortons Gravel Pits, Pitsford Reservoir (Scaldwell Bay) and Harrington Airfield this coming Saturday should anyone like to come along and observe. All these operations are weather dependent and just like bird-watching there is no guarantee of catching birds or of any particular species! In respect of the Harrington site, observers can only be catered for if pre-arranged as this is on private land and with restricted access.


Neil M

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

It's migrant time!


The changeable weather conditions today definitely had an effect on migrants endeavouring to fly over our fair county or stopping for a breather and refreshments before going on again.

Pitsford was again the place to be with a Great White Egret and plenty of common waders on show in the morning, which were then eclipsed when David Arden and Jacob Spinks espied a migrant Pied Flycatcher next to the Bird Club hide in the Scaldwell Bay.

This evening the birds on offer there included seven Red-crested Pochard, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls, three Ruff, a Snipe, eight Common Sandpipers, three Green Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, four Dunlin, two Hobbies, two Ravens and two Swifts

A certain hedge in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton but close to the southern perimeter of Blueberry Farm can be a real migrant trap and so it proved again this afternoon with a large number of common warblers present plus at least two Redstarts, six Whinchats and two Wheatears in the drizzly rain.


Neil M

Chiffchaff courtesy of
Cathy Ryden

Siskin courtesy of  David Arden.

This bird was feeding on natural food from a
garden Silver Birch, but already
migrant summer Siskins arriving from
this June have been seen on garden
feeders. This year their summer
movements have been mirroring
that of Common Crossbill.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Pitsford birds


Eleanor spent a short time at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and noted an Osprey fishing south of the causeway at about 10.30am. Other birds included 2 Ruff and 4 Common Sandpipers. I spent some time by the dam in fairly inclement conditions this evening but the only birds of note I saw was a single Swift and 2 Black Terns.


Neil M

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Local images...


After spending much of the day at the British Birdwatching Fair today we don't have much to report with regard to local wildlife, although it sounds like Pitsford has been lively with two Great White Egrets, three Wood Sandpipers, a Marsh Harrier and Black-tailed Godwits all reported today.

Some images below of recent images taken by local naturalists...


Neil M

Goldfinch courtesy of
Cathy Ryden

Ruff courtesy of
Cathy Ryden

Silver-washed Fritillary
courtesy of John Gamble

Great White Egret at
Rutland Water courtesy
of John Gamble

Little Egrets courtesy
of Robin Gossage

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Common Tern Trail Camera


During the breeding year of 2014, the tern rafts at Pitsford Reservoir were well populated by Common Terns but they seemed to suffer egg and chick predation to the degree that few youngsters successfully fledged. It was thought that they lost eggs to the pair of Oystercatcher that were also on the same rafts and possibly from big gulls. It is possible that chicks were being lost to a female Sparrowhawk that was seen inspecting the rafts on one occasion.

During this year there was again a good take-up from the terns and the pair of Oystercatcher were present again. Although there was some egg predation it was less than last year and there was little if any chick predation.

Dave Francis deployed a trail camera on the rafts this year to try and prove what might be responsible. No images of predation were recorded but the following images depict life on the rafts and the progress of the chicks...


Neil M

Hot Saturday!

A small Pike only about two feet long
at Ditchford GP today, but just the right
size and shape for a passing Osprey!


Very warm for much of today, with some resultant showers as I type this!

Eleanor paid Hollowell Reservoir a visit this morning and saw an adult Osprey, 4 Little Egrets, 12 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Greenshank, a Ruff and a Dunlin. There were 2 Green Sandpipers at nearby Ravensthorpe Reservoir. Two adult Hobby were over Maidwell village this afternoon.

I visited Ditchford Gravel Pits to complete the August WeBS count which took me over six hours in pretty sticky and humid conditions. Brilliant for insects though with the large hawker dragonflies in particular whizzing around in big numbers. Brown and Migrant Hawkers dominated but there were plenty of Emperors and a few Southern Hawkers too.

The viaduct pit west of Ditchford Lane attracted wader singletons of Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Dunlin. The wildfowl were unremarkable but there were six Egyptian Geese present. The whole complex is excellent for Kingfisher, with a mixture of streams, pits and the River Nene providing plenty of choice; there were at least 8 birds present today. Other birds of note included an adult Peregrine over the main pit between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough, 3 Little Egrets, a Grey Wagtail and 4 Whinchats on the east side of the Viaduct Pit.

At Pitsford Reservoir this morning, the ringing team in the Scaldwell Bay caught 63 birds of 21species, perhaps the more interesting being a Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcaps, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Treecreepers, 2 Marsh Tits and 2 Willow Tits.


Neil M

Juvenile Osprey at
Pitsford Reservoir yesterday,
sadly keeping its distance!

Lapwing. The road causeway at Pitsford
Reservoir is a traditional site for post-
breeding Lapwings to gather. They are a
mixture of moulting adults (the majority)
and a few juveniles.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Pitsford WeBS Count


It was time for the coordinated wetland bird count at Pitsford Reservoir today. The water level is quite low and the bird numbers were unremarkable but typical of August.

At least one Osprey was present early morning north of the causeway and two drake Red-crested Pochard were in the Walgrave Bay. Four Little Egrets were present as was an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher. Waders comprised of 3 Ruff, 5 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers and 2 Greenshank.


Neil M

Common Sandpiper

Yellow Wagtail

Great Black-backed Gull


All images taken at Pitsford
Reservoir courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Pitsford Events


Little opportunity for birding today and nothing seen of particular note.

The Pitsford Wildlife Trust team will be holding a moth catching and identification event at the Fishing Lodge on the evening of 12th September 2015, which coincides with the National Moth Night. Mischa Furfaro and team will be hoping to attract a variety of species for perusal and logging. If you would like to attend or require more information please contact Mischa -

In addition to the usual monitoring of the different disciplines of wildlife on-site, efforts at tracking and identifying bats on aligned transects have been completed and further efforts are planned for 29th August and 12th September (the latter the same as the moth night). Six species were confirmed on the last coordinated effort using bat detectors, with a possible seventh awaiting confirmation. Eleven species of bat are known to occur on the reserve.

From this month onwards until and including March next year, waterbirds using the whole reservoir are counted once a month and the count details are forwarded to the Wetland Bird Survey scheme (WeBS), as well as retained and analysed by the wardens on-site. If you want to play a part in this count, please let me know.

One confirmed recent sighting and the find now of several Otter spraints confirms the presence of at least one animal currently using the reserve, possibly spending much of its time in the Walgrave Bay. Something to look out for whilst scanning those rafts of moulting ducks!


Neil M

Common Tern


Grey Heron


All images taken at Pitsford
Reservoir during the last few
days courtesy of Robin Gossage.