Saturday, 31 October 2015

Pitsford Ringing and Birding!


A ringing session in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir concluded at about lunch-time today resulting in the capture of 91 birds of  20 species. These birds included 2 Moorhens, 16 Goldcrests, 12 Redwings, 4 Treecreepers, 4 Lesser Redpolls, 3 Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Willow Tit, a Blackcap, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Kingfisher. 

Other birds seen on-site included 5 Great White Egrets still, the juvenile Slavonian Grebe (diving continuously in shallow water near to the remnants of the Bird Club hide), 6 Pintail, 7 Red-crested Pochard, the Ferruginous Duck x Red-crested Pochard hybrid still, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Raven, a Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail and at least 2 Green Sandpipers. Small numbers of Siskins and redpoll sp trickled over all day.

Birds noted between Staverton and Catesby today (just west of Daventry) included at least 6 Ravens, 4 Bramblings, 30 Siskins and 6 redpoll sp. Nearby at Borough Hill Country Park, birds of note on view amounted to 2 Ravens, an adult male Peregrine, 2 Bramblings, 20+ Siskins and a few redpoll sp. 

Please note that further ringing is anticipated at Harrington Airfield this coming Monday and Tuesday. This occurs on the old airstrip near to the old Thor missile bunkers and access is restricted as requested by the landowner's agent during this period. Anyone wishing to enter on to this private site with a view to watching ringing activities on Monday and Tuesday is asked to contact me beforehand. Access to the main concrete track and the footpaths is unaffected.


Neil M

Friday, 30 October 2015

Additional brightness required!


A bit of a dull and dreary day today with rain on and off. The shortened days of daylight make it difficult to squeeze in sufficient birding at this time of the year. I thought I would add a little colour to the blog this evening with some excellent butterfly images from earlier in 2015 courtesy of Simon Hales...


Neil M

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Next Bird Club meeting...


This is a reminder to members of the Northants Bird Club and an invitation to non-members that we hold our next indoor meeting next Wednesday (on 4th November 2015). Our guest speaker will be Mark Thomas who works as an investigator for the RSPB and his presentation is entitled 'The Wildlife Detective'.

The meeting starts at 7.30pm at our usual venue of The Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir, Brixworth Road, Holcot NN6 9SJ. Hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening. Parking is available next to the Lodge with overflow opportunities on the road causeway and off the track that leads down to the moored boats.

I hope to see you there!

Neil M

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Ringing in South Northants


Yesterday (Tuesday) saw Chris Payne commit to some bird ringing at Bradden and Greens Norton, catching 116 birds in total. Common tits predominated but other birds included 17 Goldfinches, 2 Coal Tits, 4 Chaffinches, 2 Nuthatch a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest.

Birds in our garden here at Hanging Houghton are pretty modest currently, but the sunflower hearts feeder is busy with common tits, a couple of Nuthatch and small numbers of Goldfinch coming regularly.

Please note an additional Tab on this blog entitled 'Brazil Revisited'. This is devoted to images taken by Robin Gossage on our trip to Brazil in 2012. Most of these images have not been shown before and the insects in particular are quite amazing. More images will be added in due course...


Neil M

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Bird Feeding Stations


Little opportunity of any birding today, although a stop on the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir late this afternoon was sufficient to note that all five Great White Egrets were still present on the reserve.

Some additional images have been added to Robin's Wildlife Images Tab, mostly from the NBC car trip to Titchwell last Sunday...

We took delivery today of the first big order of bird food for the autumn and winter as I prepare to again maintain a number of wild bird feeding stations in the centre of the county. As in previous years, three will be on the Kelmarsh Estate with others at Brixworth, Harrington and Pitsford.

The main feeding station at Pitsford is situated on the Old Scaldwell Road and is managed primarily by Dave Francis, myself and Neil Hasdell. Another is managed by myself and John Warner the groundsman at the Sailing Club and the third, a more seasonal one, is managed by myself and Diane Freeman in Christies Copse in the Walgrave Bay. Eleanor presides with the feeding of the birds at Harrington. My thanks to everyone who helps out on this initiative.


Neil M

Monday, 26 October 2015

Local bird images


A selection of images from local naturalist Cathy Ryden...

Robin in front
of the red moon
from a few weeks ago.

Look closely, a Blackcap is
looking at you!


Little Egret

Pied Wagtail

Tufted Ducks


Sunset at Pitsford Reservoir

Ditchford WeBS


Northants Ringing Group members were in action yesterday (Sunday) with sessions at Linford Lakes and Woodford Halse. Birds captured, ringed and released at Linford included a Lesser Redpoll, a Siskin, five Redwings, three Goldcrests and a Treecreeper amongst 75 captures.

Woodford Halse, a new site, provided 76 captures which included four Coal Tits, three Marsh Tits, a Nuthatch, two Goldcrests and ten Chaffinches.

Today (Monday) and a visit to Ditchford Gravel Pits to complete the monthly WeBS count provided views of a pair of adult Peregrine, 16 Egyptian Geese, a Goldeneye, six Cetti's Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, a Water Rail and small numbers of Grey Wagtails, Siskins and redpoll sp.

The relatively warm and sunny conditions at Ditchford brought forth plenty of insects including Common Darter and Migrant Hawker dragonflies and a few tardy butterflies. An active and rather large Grass Snake was something of a surprise!


Neil M

Carrion Crow.
One of two birds at Ditchford
Gravel Pits today exhibiting aberrant
plumage colouration. Both birds
appeared to be first year birds with
grey/coffee coloured feathering and barred
wing feathers. Carrion Crows regularly exhibit
white and silver in the wings but these birds are
certainly different. For many years, a metallic almost
bronze-coloured bird was present at Ditchford
Gravel Pits and it's tempting to think these birds
might be related!

Egyptian Geese.
A displaying pair

Grey Heron.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Birding to the north...


Yesterday (Saturday) and Eleanor noted a Little Egret and two Green Sandpipers at Ravensthorpe Reservoir and the usual group of six Ravens which are regularly at Staverton near Daventry.

Today (Sunday) and some birding in the north of the county was called for, particularly in the under-watched Welland Valley. East Carlton Country Park and surround provided views of a single Brambling, small flocks of Siskins and redpoll sp and common woodland birds including Nuthatch and Marsh Tit. Various stops in the valley produced sightings of Little Egret, Kingfisher and a flock of about c200 Golden Plovers in fields between Harringworth and Wakerley. Good numbers of Red Kites and Common Buzzards adorned the fields and hedgerow trees.

A visit to nearby Eyebrook Reservoir provided views of the hoped-for adult American Golden Plover which has been present on and off for several days. Wildfowl included Pintail and Goldeneye and a couple of Dunlin were present too.

A couple of hikes around the Wakerley Wood and Harringworth Airfield complex produced just more winter finches and thrushes and of course Jays raiding the oaks for acorns. Blatherwycke Lake hosted three Black Swans, a couple of Chinese Geese, four Little Egrets, two Kingfishers, common wildfowl and plenty of finches and thrushes.

Our last venue was the Brampton Valley where we recorded five Stonechats between the Brampton Valley Way and the southern boundary of Blueberry Farm.


Neil M

Red Kite
Blatherwycke Lake

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Quiet wet day


Pretty miserable weather today, but a wander at Harrington Airfield this morning before the worst of the weather hit was useful simply to assess that it was pretty quiet up there. The only visible migration were a couple of large flocks of Starlings flying low and fast in a south-westerly direction and small numbers of thrushes and finches moving against the southerly breeze, which included several redpoll sp and Siskin.

This afternoon a Barn Owl and two Stonechats were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir (off the dam and Sailing Club) contained a first winter Mediterranean Gull and four Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M

Friday, 23 October 2015

Pitsford WeBS Count


Birds yesterday (Thursday), included a single late Swallow winging it's way south between Walgrave and Pitsford Reservoir at lunch-time. Other birds included a pair of Stonechat in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton with three more in the southern-most field of the Blueberry Farm complex.

Most of today (Friday) was committed to completing the wetland and waterbird count at Pitsford Reservoir. Five Great White Egrets were the highlight, at one stage with all the birds standing together on the point between the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays. Other counts included a site record of 25 Little Egrets, 5-8 Green Sandpipers, 25 Snipe, two Barnacle Geese, 24 Pintail, 5 Goldeneye, 17 Red-crested Pochard, an unusual hybrid in the shape of a female Ferruginous x Red-crested Pochard, a single Ruddy Shelduck, a Shelduck, a dozen or so redpoll sp and a similar number of Siskin, half a dozen noisy Marsh Tits, 3 Grey Wagtails and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

The evening gull roost included five Yellow-legged Gulls including one adult with a marginally darker upper-side and a streaked head.

This afternoon there were three Grey Wagtails at Brixworth Sewer Works and Blueberry Farm attracted a male Stonechat, an adult male Peregrine and a group of twelve foraging Red Kites.


Neil M

Thursday, 22 October 2015

County bird ringing


During the last few weeks members of the Northants Ringing Group have been active in and around the county. Chris Payne has been ringing down in South Northants at Bradden and Silverstone and has been catching a nice selection of birds including some stunning Nuthatches. John Woollett has been catching birds at Stortons Gravel Pits with team members and birds caught have included Redwings which are arriving and passing through in good numbers now. Kenny Cramer has been working hard at his new site down at Linford Lakes on the edge of Milton Keynes and has been catching good numbers of a variety of species and this new site is now looking very productive. Dave Francis in the meantime has been busy at Pitsford Res with his trainees, and the feeding station is producing good numbers of Tree Sparrows, a couple of Redwings and some latish Chiffchaffs among others.

Our colleagues over at Stanford Reservoir have been spending long periods of ringing and this has paid off with some scarce birds including a couple of Firecrests, a Yellow-browed Warbler and an 'eastern' Lesser Whitethroat as well as a hat-full of more common species, particularly warblers.

On 1st November a ringing demonstration is planned for the old railway reserve at Woodford Halse over in the west of the county, and it is hoped to carry out some more ringing soon at Harrington Airfield.

We have been informed of a number of recoveries from the Ringing Unit at the BTO recently. One of these referred to a Lesser Redpoll, a species particularly renown for producing excellent data. This individual was first ringed as a first year bird at the village of Spratton in March 2013 and was caught again by a ringer operating at Leighton Moss Silverdale, Lancashire on 12th October 2015. An excellent example of the nomadic nature of some birds, even tiny ones like Lesser Redpoll!


Neil M




All images courtesy
of Chris Payne

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Pitsford Birding


Neil Hasdell has been out birding on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir today and in addition to seeing an Otter in the Walgrave Bay, saw the following birds - 3 Great White Egrets, 13 Little Egrets, 4 Pintail, 9-13 Red-crested Pochard, a Goldeneye and a Willow Tit.

There is currently quite a bit of disturbance on the reserve due to on-going management work which in the medium term will further enhance the reserve. Recently waterside willows were removed between the causeway and Bird Club hide in order to keep this section clear and prevent it growing up as in other sections of the reserve.

Work is now underway to create new ponds on the reserve to further improve the habitat for insects, amphibians etc and the Bird Club hide in the Scaldwell Bay and the main Walgrave Hide are in the process of being dismantled and replaced with new hides.

Eleanor paid a brief visit to Harrington Airfield early this afternoon and saw just c80 Golden Plovers and a covey of 10 Grey Partridge of note.


Neil M

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

24 hours later !

Today was very quiet in comparison to yesterday and despite spending many hours out in the field I saw very little.  Although there were still lots of passerines present around the Blueberry Farm complex they were only a fraction of the number of birds which were there yesterday.  There were 3 Stonechat in the southern most field, 2 Bramblings and the female Peregrine went over.
Whilst at Walgrave I saw 2+ Ravens and small flock of 4+ Brambling.
So a much quieter day.....but who knows what tomorrow might bring ??

Regards Eleanor

Monday, 19 October 2015

Blueberry pm

This afternoon I spent a couple of very pleasant hours meandering around the southern most fields of the Blueberry Farm area. 

It was a stunningly beautiful autumn afternoon, warm sunshine, intricate cloud formations, rich golds/browns of the fallen leaves and the air buzzing with the chattering of finches and thrushes. Definitely my favourite time of the year.

I didn't walk very far, but simply stood or sat and watched the wildlife around me. The hedges and fields were certainly alive with birds so there was no shortage of birds to look at and enjoy. 
The sheer number of passerines attracted the attention of both a female Merlin and female Peregrine who both caused panic and chaos, but neither appeared to catch anything.

Passerines included a pair of Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Tree Sparrows, 2+ Brambling and 10+ Siskin.  There was also a flock of approx 100 Goldfinches and literally hundreds of Fieldfares.

Prior to leaving two Short Eared Owls started to fly around and at times they were quite vocal which I suspect indicated that they had just arrived.  I wonder if they were the same two birds which I had seen at Harrington earlier today?

Neil managed a brief visit to the north end of Blueberry Farm and saw a Barn Owl and Grey Partridge.......told him that he should have come with me !!!

Regards Eleanor

Harrington update...


Eleanor has just returned from a birding foray at Harrington Airfield this morning. Still plenty of migrants on-site but less thrushes than yesterday. The highlights included a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier, two in-coming Short-eared Owls, a male Stonechat, eight Bramblings and lots of Siskins flying over plus four redpoll sp...


Neil M

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Exciting migration


Back on home territory today, and a venture up to Harrington Airfield in classic autumn conditions this morning was exciting with swirling flocks of migrants dropping out of a grey overcast sky. The first section of the old airstrip was uneventful but from the first bunker onwards the sky was heavy with contact calls as flocks of a variety of species appeared out of the murk. A flock of 300 Fieldfare funnelled down to a scuffed field from a low cloud base, intermixed with smaller numbers of Redwings. Forty Skylarks looped around in small flocks and the bushes held more Fieldfares and plenty of migrant Redwings, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes.

Finches were well represented with flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets and Chaffinches with smaller numbers of Greenfinch, a couple of Bramblings and Siskins and at least one redpoll sp. Meadow Pipits,Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings flicked and called in the scrub and a Corn Bunting was flushed up near to the third bunker. Several Golden Plover flocks were mobile and vocal, probably amounting in total to about eight-five birds.

Of course all this avian activity attracts raptors and two Sparrowhawks and a juvenile female Peregrine were trying their best to catch a late breakfast.

This afternoon and the area around Blueberry Farm, Maidwell was also busy with in-coming and transient migrants. A female Merlin was in pursuit of Skylarks and a big movement of thrushes was again dominated with hundreds of Fieldfares and smaller numbers of Redwings. Again finches were busy moving with a couple each of Siskin, redpoll sp and Brambling among them. A pair of Stonechat were present in the northern-most field (Small and Big Redgrass).

A few images below of some of the rarer species experienced on The Scillies during the week, a bigger lens is definitely required when it comes to photographing distant rarities!


Neil M

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Siberian Stonechat

Blyth's Pipit

Portrait of a Snipe


Below are some images of a couple of Common Snipe photographed from one of the hides at Lower Moors, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly. I for one really enjoy the intricate plumage of birds that partly rely on camouflage to stay safe...


Neil M

Friday, 16 October 2015

Last blast on the Scillies!


Our trip to the magical Scilly Isles is almost over, and the last week in particular has been a good one for interesting and rare migrants. Recent sightings include a Hudsonian Whimbrel from the west and several birds from the east including another Red-throated Pipit, the Blyth's Pipit finally pinned down and showing well and an elusive Siberian Stonechat. Other good migrants we manage to connect with include Hawfinch, an influx of Jack Snipe, Snow Bunting, lots of Chiffchaffs including some candidates for Siberian Chiffchaff, more Yellow-browed Warblers and Firecrests, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Short-toed Lark, large numbers of common thrushes and finches, a Spoonbill, a Little Bunting and more Black Redstarts.

All these birds remain on high alert though as raptors patrol the islands including Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and this week singles of Hen Harrier and Osprey...


Neil M

Song Thrush

Jack Snipe

Black Redstarts.
The lower bird was photographed
on a sunny golden evening on Porthloo
Beach, St Mary's


Juvenile male Peregrine

Red-breasted Flycatcher
The island of Bryher
Potential Siberian Chiffchaff
(not heard to call)

Yellow-browed Warbler

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Birds from the East


The last few days has seen quite an arrival of birds to the Isles of Scilly, the majority from the east or north-east. We have spent most of our time on St Mary's but did pop over to St Agnes yesterday (Monday) to see a Red-flanked Bluetail that had been located on Sunday. Fortunate sightings for us have included a Red-eyed Vireo on Saturday afternoon, presumably the same Red-throated Pipit, a Short-toed Lark, brief views of an Arctic Warbler and better views of a Dusky Warbler at the same location. 

Firecrests remain in good numbers but actually there aren't that many Yellow-browed Warblers on the islands and the big numbers witnessed on the Northern Isles and mainland haven't really hit here.

As the autumn deepened so the birds change and there are now quite a few Black Redstarts and Redwings on the islands.

There are still plenty of butterflies on the wing, with a late rush of Painted Ladies, a few Clouded Yellows and still lots of Speckled Woods, Small Coppers, Red Admirals and Peacocks.

Common birds in good numbers here include Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Song Thrush, and Robin and presumably are a combination of residents and migrants. Scarcer migrants include Tree Pipit, Redpoll, Siskin, Lapland Bunting, Skylark, Wheatear and there are still a few Spotted and Pied Flycatchers around.


Neil M

Black Redstart



Red-flanked Bluetail


Ringed Plovers and Turnstones

Jack Snipe at dusk