Tuesday, 29 September 2015

'Tis the Scilly Season!


My apologies for the lack of posts recently.

Eleanor and I are now on the Scillies after travelling down on Saturday and sailing over on the Scillonian III. Common Dolphins and a Basking Shark were the highlights, the birds were quiet with three Mediterranean Gulls, a Balearic Shearwater and common sea-birds about the best.

Four days of warm sunshine has been most impressive and the birds have included a Red-eyed Vireo, Richard's Pipit, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lapland Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Firecrests (three caught and ringed), and Yellow-browed Warblers and the usual supporting cast of common migrants.

Eleanor found a first for the islands - a Swallowtail butterfly!


Neil M






Friday, 25 September 2015



A super autumnal day today and with some warm sunshine too. Sadly neither of us had time to venture far today. However Eleanor came across a group of at least four Stonechats at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, the birds in brambles bordering the southern-most field.

Yesterday evening (Thursday), and seven Yellow-legged Gulls were present in a fairly sizeable gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir just off the dam.


Neil M

Male Stonechat
by Eleanor

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Portrait of a Sand Martin


Little opportunity for birding today and nothing of note to report. I forgot to mention that yesterday Eleanor saw a/the juvenile Marsh Harrier twice during the day in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton, presumably the same bird that has been seen regularly at Blueberry Farm.

In relation to my blog of 18th Sept, I have now heard from an authoritative member of the Portuguese birding scene that a Steppe Eagle has been seen in the Castro Verde area for about a month now, so it seems we came across and photographed the same bird. It's provenance is questionable though and I think it is generally regarded as an escapee...


Neil M

Sand Martin portrait
by Robin Gossage

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Pitsford Waterbird Count


A WeBS count was completed at Pitsford Reservoir today in pleasant sunny conditions. A Great White Egret was present in the Walgrave Bay and other birds included a juvenile Shelduck, four Red-crested Pochard, three Pintail, a Goldeneye, a Hobby, four Ringed Plovers, four Green Sandpipers, four Snipe, two Yellow-legged Gulls and as many as eighteen Little Egrets. Passerines included Marsh Tit, Siskins, a couple of redpoll sp and three Grey Wagtails.

A brief visit to Naseby Reservoir this afternoon produced two Little Egrets and two Green Sandpipers.

Chris Payne was ringing at Bradden in South Northants today and caught almost forty birds including a Nuthatch. Birds in the area included two overflying Ravens.


Neil M



Spitfire and friend!

Courtesy of Chris Payne

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Still a couple of Redstarts...


Very little to report today as a day mostly of no birding. Eleanor managed to walk over to the field hedges between Walgrave and Pitsford Reservoir and was able to locate just two Redstarts still...


Neil M

A portrait of Swallows by
Robin Gossage. On the bottom
image the two juveniles were
watching dragon-flies flying
above them!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Just a little birding...


This morning Eleanor again visited Blueberry Farm, Maidwell and spotted the juvenile Marsh Harrier plus a pair of Stonechat and six Whinchats. All the birds were in The Hill field.

Just after 10am this morning an Osprey was over the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir and then headed south over the causeway...


Neil M

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Overt Migration


A ringing session at Harrington Airfield today resulted in the capture and processing of 79 birds of 19 species which included 3 Chiffchaffs, 9 Meadow Pipits, a Coal Tit, a Reed Bunting, 4 Linnets, 6 Goldfinches, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, 16 Yellowhammers and a Green Woodpecker.

Jacob Spinks saw a Wheatear and a Whinchat briefly but his main prize was a low-flying Honey Buzzard by the Chippings Compound at 5.25pm which then flew south. The low cloud and mist first thing ensured that migrants were all at low-level and included some 50 Siskins, about a hundred Meadow Pipits and small numbers of 'Alba' Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails and redpoll sp. Flocks of House Martins and Swallows flew over the old airfield at various stages of the day before moving off south.

John Woollett and his team were ringing at Stortons Gravel Pits this morning and caught 76 birds which included 22 Blackcaps (including a 'control' from elsewhere), 2 Sedge Warblers, 3 Reed Warblers, a Whitethroat, a late Garden Warbler, 2 Cetti's Warblers and a Magpie.

Two Redstarts remain off the footpath between Walgrave village and Pitsford Reservoir and Blueberry Farm hosted a pair of Stonechat, 4 Whinchats, a female Peregrine and a juvenile Marsh Harrier, all in The Hill Field.


Neil M

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Autumn sunshine


This morning was spent at Ditchford Gravel Pits completing the WeBS count. Super weather with plenty of sunshine provided ideal conditions for end-of -season insects with plenty of dragon-flies and butterflies on the wing. The calls of Meadow Pipits, Siskins and Chiffchaffs were constant all day today as these passerines move through our county in large numbers.

The scarcer birds at Ditchford today included 16 Egyptian Geese west of Ditchford Lane, a flock of seven Red-crested Pochard on a small pit between the main pit and Irhlingborough, a Green Sandpiper, two Snipe, seven Little Egrets, two Water Rails and seven Kingfishers.

At Pitsford Res, a Great White Egret was present in the Walgrave Bay and there were at least six Little Egrets north of the causeway early this afternoon. Two Willow Tits were present in the Scaldwell Bay and a Raven flew over the Fishing Lodge.

This afternoon birds in the vicinity of the southern end of Blueberry Farm included two male Redstarts, four Whinchats and a Wheatear and Harrington Airfield hosted a Wheatear, two Ravens, calling Grey Partridges and a Barn Owl.

Please note that there will be a ringing session at Harrington Airfield tomorrow which means there will be no general access to the old airstrip and bunkers. All the footpaths and access to the concrete track remain unaffected.


Neil M

Juvenile Song Thrush

Egyptian Geese


Friday, 18 September 2015

Portugal Day 8


Last day in Portugal with the morning spent birding the Santo Andre area before departing from Lisbon. Quite a cool start to the day but it soon warmed up and it seemed as if there had been quite a fall of migrants with an increase in the number of Pied Flycatchers and other migrants such as Redstart, Nightingale and even a flock of Ortolan Buntings.

We said good-bye to the Iberian Magpies, Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills and other birds of the marsh...


Neil M

Greater Flamingos

Pied Flycatcher

Double figure Redstarts !!!

Another glorious Autumn day and I was lucky to spend most of it outdoors. I have lost count of how many Siskins which I have seen and heard today. This morning there appeared to be quite a significant movement.
At Harrington Airfield it was a case of birds everywhere. The Linnet and Goldfinch flock had doubled overnight and the air was filled with their jangling calls. Again there was evidence of migration happening with a constant stream of Hirundines, Meadow Pipits, Siskins, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2+ Crossbill and 2 Grey Wagtails overhead.  
Around the bunkers there were 4 Whinchat, goodness knows where they were hiding yesterday and a Wheatear. But the most surprising find was a total of 5 Common Redstarts, one around the bunkers, 3 in the bushes at the end of the main track and another single at the shooting wall. !!!!
The fields leading down towards the pond were rather attractive to a large flock of Lesser Black Backed Gulls who actually looked rather stunning . 
The weather was perfect for raptors and the Common Buzzards and Red Kites did not disappoint with their ariel displays and evocative calls.
This afternoon I walked across the fields from Walgrave and there were at least 4 Common Redstart in "the hedge". Again they were very vocal and flitting about along the fence posts and dropping onto the grass.  I never tire of watching these birds "shimmering" and showing off.  Whilst I was watching these birds the Blades aerobatic team were practicing above and making big heart shapes with their smoke trails. Seemed quite fitting as I love these gorgeous little birds.
Of course the day would not be complete without a visit to Blueberry.......and guess what ? more Redstarts !!. Where have they all come from ?  There were 2 Common Redstarts and a Spotted Flycatcher together moving along the hedgerows and at least 6 Whinchat dotted around the fields. The Siskins continued their passage and a flock of 10+ Crossbills headed towards Haselbeech.

Regards Eleanor

Portugal Day 7


This morning we drove from the Atlantic coast of Portugal to the inland plains east of Castro Verde, this my fourth time to this fabulous area. We managed to find some Great Bustards but true to form they very much kept their distance. Passerines in this area included plenty of Corn Buntings and Stonechats with numerous Southern Grey Shrikes, Iberian Magpies, House Sparrows, Crested Larks and similar fare. Warblers were made up of Sardinian, Dartford, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

On this particular day it was the raptors that stole the show with sightings of Griffon and Black Vultures, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and an absolute cracking Bonelli's Eagle. Black-shouldered Kite and both Kestrel and Lesser Kestrel added some finesse and two 'aquila' eagles flying around together caused some identification head-scratching!  I am confident one is a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle but it's partner is causing something of a conundrum as it displays a significant feature more akin to Steppe Eagle. Anyway the following images depict both birds so I would welcome views as to whether this really is a Steppe because if it is then it's out of range by a huge distance!


Neil M

Castro Verde plains

Red-rumped Swallow

Cattle Egrets. These birds all flew up
in a bit of a panic following an attack by
a Common Buzzard which killed one of
their number.

Great Bustard

Juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle

'aquila' eagle sp

Both eagles 'together'!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Redstarts Remain !

Decisions, decisions........where to start the day !!!  My calculation is usually based upon the weather, what if any birds I can hear flying over the garden and which combination of dogs I will take out first. !!
This morning I started with a good yomp at Blueberry Farm with the younger dogs. Small flocks of birds , mainly Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Whitethroats,  Reed Buntings and Finches were moving around in the hedgerows . There was also 2 Spotted Flycatcher, at least 2 Common Redstart , 6 Whinchat and a Wheatear.
Plenty of Siskins, Meadow Pipits and Hirundines constantly flying over as well as a couple of Grey Wagtails and Lesser Redpolls.
Then it was a bit of a slow saunter with the older dogs at Harrington Airfield.  Whilst having a "rest" I watched a Hobby catch and eat insects just in front of me and a Tree Pipit flew over.
Otherwise it was much quieter here today, apart from Siskins constantly flying over.
Whilst at Walgrave late in the afternoon I managed to walk across the fields to check the "hedgerow" and there were at least 5 Common Redstart present. There were two superb males who were being constantly chased around by the resident Robin and 3 female types which he totally ignored.
As I walked back following the stream there was a Wheatear and 2 Whinchat.........and of course more Siskins.!

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Catch Up !

Over the past few days most of my birding has been confined to Blueberry, Harrington and Sywell Reservoir. 
Birds seen around the Blueberry complex include Common Redstart, up to 6 Whinchat and a Wheatear. The Raven's have been plentiful and vocal as have Red Kite. It is sometimes hard to believe that Red Kite were "rare" in the county and we used to travel each year to mid Wales to watch them, but now I see them every day over the garden, wonderful !  
At the weekend I made several trips to the highest point at Blueberry and stood around scanning the vast expanse of sky around me. I wasn't looking for birds of the "feathered" variety but aircraft !!!  I wasn't disappointed as both the Vulcan and Red Arrows came right over my head.  But I did also pick up a juv Marsh Harrier, female Peregrine and Barn Owl.
I always enjoy a walk around Sywell Reservoir. I think that it is very under watched but has the potential to pick up a goodie. The water level is dropping and there is quite a decent muddy margin in places.  I was surprised to see so many Wigeon present. Other birds included Spotted Flycatchers, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtails and Siskins everywhere. At one point there was a flock of 60+ birds flying around filling the air with their wonderful call.
Infact there are Siskins everywhere and there really does seem to be a huge movement of these birds. Each time I venture out I hear Siskins flying over and they have already been on the feeders in our garden. 
This morning when I looked out and saw the low mist I felt that Harrington was calling.  I was not disappointed. I timed it to perfection as the mist was just lifting as I arrived and had cleared by the time I left.  Today was a good day for Harrington as there was definitely a movement of birds. This is one of the best area's I know to witness active migration as you can see and hear birds flying over.  There was a constant stream of Hirundines literally a few feet off the ground. Two Tree Pipits , Wheatear, 4+ Whinchat and Common Redstart were in the bushes on the rough area with a further Common Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher at the shooting wall.  Again good numbers of Siskin flying over along with 2 Lesser Redpolls , 2 Crossbills, Brambling and several Grey Wagtails.  The covey of Grey Partridge remain around the bunkers and a couple of Raven's were flying around and generally enjoying themselves.
Whilst visiting my parents I took the opportunity to walk across the fields to the hedgerow near Walgrave which has been a magnet for Common Redstart. I haven't checked this hedge for a few days and I wasn't really expecting to see any. However as I approached the hedge I could hear one calling. I saw 2 female type and a superb male Common Redstart. I have a distant photograph of the male thanks to an irritating Robin which kept chasing the male Common Redstart every time it came close to where I was standing. I've no idea whether these are new birds moving along this hedge or whether these birds have been here for some time. I'm sure that it will not be long until the hedgerow is empty.
Other birds in the general area included more Siskins, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 4+ Crossbill , 2 Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Grey Wagtail.

Regards Eleanor

Portugal Day 6


Rain hit Portugal during the night and particularly this morning, so with a showery but sunny afternoon we birded the Santo Andres beach areas and western edge of the lagoon.

A heavy passage of gulls heading south down the Atlantic coast were mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls no doubt fresh out of the UK and other countries to the north. Among them were a scattering of Yellow-legged Gulls presumably of Eastern Europe origin. A couple of the adults were sporting quite significant flecking around the head and were migrating despite being in full primary wing moult.

Most of our bird sightings were of species encountered on previous days, but this was the first time we had espied an Egyptian Mongoose, an introduced species which is quite common in damper areas on the Iberian peninsular.

Small flocks of hirundines contained Red-rumped Swallows and the raptor list of the day included Osprey, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Hobby.

Tomorrow hopefully sees us travel inland to the Castro Verde area looking for birds of the central plains...


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gulls

Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Egyptian Mongoose

Red Signal Crayfish