Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve


This morning Eleanor grabbed Tor the hound and took him for a run around the south section of Pitsford Reservoir. Not sure what Tor thought of that but Eleanor saw some birds which included the Red-necked Grebe back at it's original position between the dam and the Moulton Grange Bay. Three Great White Egrets were standing together in the Catwalk Bay with two Little Egrets and a fourth Great White Egret was north of the causeway. A pair of Goosander were in the Pintail Bay and two Ravens flew over the reservoir.

A ringing session was completed at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today which provided an opportunity of assessing 108 birds of 14 species, 50 of which were new birds and 58 were re-traps from previous efforts. Highlights included 12 Coal Tits, 4 Marsh Tits, 15 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, a Goldcrest, 3 Nuthatches, a Redwing, 3 Blackbirds, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 8 Chaffinches. Other birds seen in the wood included up to 6 Woodcock, a few each of Siskin and redpoll sp and a Willow Tit.

Happy New Year!

Neil M

Great White Egret at
Pitsford Reservoir

Lapwing on the causeway
at Pitsford Reservoir

Above two images courtesy of Jacob Spinks.


Courtesy of Robin Gossage

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Windy and wet!


Windy again today and the rain hit this afternoon so nice and boggy again for tomorrow!

A visit to Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate this morning provided views of a flying Woodcock.

The weather closed in at the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon but not before it was possible to pick out the adult Caspian Gull again, last seen earlier in the month...


Neil M




Recent images
courtesy of
Robin Gossage

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Sunny but quiet for birds


A nice pleasant day and spent much of it out and about but few birds of note to mention. A Brambling first thing at Hanging Houghton had probably roosted overnight in garden foliage but it wasn't seen again. A female Peregrine was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon and a small party of Siskins remain at Kelmarsh Hall...

So some more images of birds from Portugal...


Neil M

Audouin's Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Iberian Green Woodpecker

Monday, 28 December 2015

Festive Newt!


Just back in from a week away in The Algarve, South Portugal. Waiting for me was an email from Jim Dunkley with some images of a Common Newt active in his garden on Christmas Day (please see below). Wet weather and mild conditions often cause these amphibians to go hunting for invertebrate prey even in the winter but I don't think I have ever seen one on Christmas Day! Such is this winter's wild and wacky weather!


Neil M

Common Newt

Courtesy of Jim Dunkley

Yellow-legged Gulls


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings

At this time of year it is always difficult to get out and about and do some "serious" birding. Other things get in the way and birding has to take second place. 
I did manage a couple of hours around the Blueberry Farm area before the rain started. I was there at first light and was lucky to witness both Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl hunting the same
 field . This particular Barn Owl is very pale and looked very much like a ghost against the winter sky, absolutely beautiful.
I haven't seen any Stonechat for a while but today there were two pairs so goodness knows where they have been hiding.
There was a female Peregrine again in the area and showing off her power as she went into hunting mode after the wintering thrushes. There are good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing in the field hedges and also busy feeding on the very damp fields. No shortage of food for them at the moment and as a result no shortage of food for the Peregrine.
There are times when I'm watching the birds that I wonder where they have come from, what encounters they have had along the way, their favourite places and food etc.  In the majority of cases we simply do not know the answers. However there are times when we get a glimpse into their world through bird monitoring. I have just received notification of a Fieldfare which was caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir January 2011.  This same bird was recorded in Morbitan, France January 2015 a distance of 497km from Pitsford. Sadly it had been shot. But I wonder where it had been during those four years and whether it had even visited this area again.

Now, how many of you were looking skyward at just after 5.20pm this evening and waving to Major Tim and the crew of the International Space Station ??? !!  It was a perfect sky for viewing tonight and it showed very well as it went on its way...........or was the bright light really Santa on his sleigh ???

We would both like thank each and everyone of you for reading our blog. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and send our best wishes for 2016. May you enjoy your birding whether it be from your armchair or from intrepid travels.

Regards Eleanor and Neil 

Monday, 21 December 2015

The shortest day...


Jacob Spinks enjoyed a good birding session on the reserve at Pitsford Reservoir this morning, connecting with a third year Caspian Gull, two Smew (one drake), two Goosanders (one drake), a Great White Egret, 3 Kingfishers, 2 Green Sandpipers, eleven Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll.

A Short-eared Owl was still present at Harrington Airfield this morning and about ten Siskins were at Kelmarsh Hall. Blueberry Farm near Maidwell produced sightings of a female Merlin and a Barn Owl this morning and a female Peregrine this afternoon.

An adult Mediterranean Gull graced the gull roost at Pitsford Res this afternoon.


Neil M


Courtesy of  Pete Gilbert

Drake Goldeneye

Courtesy of Robin Gossage

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sunday's birds...


Barn Owls visible and out hunting early this morning included singles near Spratton, near the A508 between Hanging Houghton and Brixworth, in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and near Scaldwell village.

A ringing session in Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today netted 76 birds of 10 species, made up of 30 Blue Tits, 14 Great Tits, 9 Coal Tits, a Nuthatch, 4 Treecreepers, 3 Goldcrests, 7 Chaffinches, 4 Redwings, 3 Robins and a Wren. Other birds seen in the wood included a Woodcock and a few Siskins.

Spending time in the vicinity of the dam at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon until dusk provided views of the Red-necked Grebe, a Green Sandpiper and a Kingfisher.


Neil M

Redwing, Sunderland Wood

Image courtesy of Jacob Spinks

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Dog Vomit Slime Mould


Eleanor was in the Daventry area again today and saw four Ravens near Staverton. Daventry Country Park hosted at least ten Goosanders, a Green Sandpiper and about twenty Siskins. Many of the Siskins were attracted to feeders by the visitors centre and showing very well in the winter sunshine.

An adult female Peregrine was plucking prey with great gusto in a field between the villages of Long Buckby and Buckby Wharf, the possible prey item being a Fieldfare. A brief stop at Ravensthorpe Reservoir confirmed the continued presence of the Great White Egret and a single Green Sandpiper.


Neil M

First impressions of this 'mess' on a track-side
 verge near the village of Old are not great!
However on closer inspection it transpires that
this is a mass of living organisms making up a
congealed slime mould with the latin name of
'Mucilago crustacea', sometimes called 'Dog
Vomit Slime Mould'. Diane Freeman found a
number of these specimens and I'm grateful to Jeff
Blincow for confirming the identity.

Grey Heron

Male Chaffinch in winter plumage

The archetypical 'lbj' (little brown job)!

Above three images all courtesy
of Jacob Spinks (another local
photographer with a new lens)!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Winter images...


Eleanor was out and about today and noted two Woodcock and a Barn Owl at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell.

Below are some images of the Bewick's Swans at Pitsford Reservoir on Wednesday (thanks to Bob Bullock), and some more images from Cathy Ryden of subjects/low light shots from Guilsborough and Ravensthorpe Reservoir...


Neil M

Bewick's Swans at
Pitsford Reservoir

Courtesy of Bob Bullock

Grey Wagtail

Ravensthorpe Reservoir

Male Lesser Redpoll


Sunrise at Guilsborough

Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Robin and his new lens...


Robin Gossage has been out to Summer Leys LNR today trying out his new lens...

He captured some interesting behavior of a Mute Swan that was selecting Greater Reed Mace heads and bending them down in order to reach and consume the seeds...

In addition he photograhed a fly-past of the male Marsh Harrier that is currently wintering on-site, carrying what appears to be a Starling in it's talons...

All good stuff Robin, keep up the good work!


Neil M

Mute Swan

Marsh Harrier with prey

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Caspian Terns and friends...


No birding possible today. With the very mild start to the 'winter' it may be that we will have to wait until January and February 2016 for some proper cold winter birds of interest...

It's perhaps at this time of the year when we begin to review the previous 12 months, and I recall with fondness a week-long trip to The Gambia in January 2015. Neil H and I spent some quality time looking at the coastal and woodland birds of coastal Gambia, and for me the big, bold and vocal Caspian Terns were a definite highlight...


Neil M

Caspian Terns

Royal Tern

Royal and Caspian Terns

Bar-tailed Godwit

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Pitsford WeBS count


The monthly WeBS count took place at Pitsford Reservoir today in mild and pleasant conditions. We couldn't find any Smew or Red-crested Pochard but 1-2 Great White Egret(s) and 18 Little Egrets were still present. The Red-necked Grebe was showing well off the dam and the Ruddy Shelduck was south of the causeway. Two adult Bewick's Swans flew in to the Scaldwell Bay late morning and other birds included 6 Pintail, 3 Green Sandpipers, a Curlew, a Raven, a Kingfisher, 3-4 Grey Wagtails, 30+ Siskins and 8 Lesser Redpolls. A flock of about 500 Golden Plovers were up in the air further east towards Sywell Airfield.

Two Barn Owls were out hunting at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell this afternoon.


Neil M

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Great Northern Diver


No opportunity for birding today but I did notice a Raven near Hackleton at lunch-time..

Thankfully Bob Bullock has kindly saved the day by sending through some images of the Great Northern Diver at Ditchford Gravel Pits, taken yesterday...


Neil M

Juvenile Great Northern Diver
at Ditchford Gravel Pits.

Images courtesy of Bob Bullock.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Glyn Davies Wood


A rather intense ringing session took place this morning at Glyn Davies Wood in the far west of the county. This small section of ancient woodland is a gem of a spot and has been owned by the Banbury Ornithological Society for ten or so years. Sadly it seems that the planned high speed rail route is likely to cause significant issues and some of this site will be lost...

Today the reserve warden Mike Lewis kindly assisted us as we processed 158 woodland birds of 13 species, 122 of which were new birds. This total was made up of 75 Blue Tits, 33 Great Tits (but not many juveniles), 13 Long-tailed Tits, 5 Coal Tits, 6 Marsh Tits, 7 Nuthatches, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 6 Robins, 2 Treecreepers, a Goldcrest, 3 Chaffinches, a Bullfinch and 2 Redwings.

Other birds noted there included 2 Ravens and a handful of Siskins.

Afterwards a brief visit was made to Ravensthorpe Reservoir and the Great White Egret was still present together with 2 Green Sandpipers and a Grey Wagtail.

At Pitsford Reservoir today, Robin Gossage saw the drake Smew in the Holcot Bay (please see images below), and a visit to the dam area at last light provided views of the Red-necked Grebe near the overflow and the adult Caspian Gull in the gull roost.


Neil M


Little Egret

Drake Smew

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.