Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Birds of the rain and murk!


Yesterday Neil Hasdell took a stroll around Harlestone Heath and saw three Ravens, a small flock of Siskins and a Grey Wagtail. Today he was at Pitsford Reservoir and located a female Red-crested Pochard, two Redshanks and a few Pintail north of the causeway.

Today Cathy Ryden was pleased to see her first Siskin this winter on her garden feeders near Guilsborough. A flock of ten Waxwings were in the village here at Hanging Houghton this afternoon, seen initially at 1.30pm and then again at 4.45pm.

A very murky gull roost this afternoon at Pitsford Reservoir was clear enough to reveal an/the adult Caspian Gull and two Grey Wagtails on the shoreline.


Neil M

Image taken recently in
Scotland courtesy of
Helen Franklin.

Caspian Gull.
This image was taken
at Pitsford Reservoir in
March 2016.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Brixworth ringing


A modest ringing session at Brixworth Water Treatment Works today netted 54 birds, 41 of them new. Not surprisingly Pied Wagtails dominated with 17 caught and processed and other birds included a single Meadow Pipit, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Goldcrests and three Blackbirds.

Other birds seen on the complex included a Snipe, four Chiffchaffs, a redpoll sp, a couple of Siskins and two or three Grey Wagtails.

Two hundred Golden Plovers were again present on the top fields at Harrington Airfield today.


Neil M

Pied Wagtail.
Cracking little birds!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Sunday round-up


A mixture of weather today which I think is going to be the feature of this coming week...

Eric Graham visited Blatherwycke Lake in the north of the county today and located a pair of Egyptian Geese and at least 12 Mandarin Ducks.

A morning walk at Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows reserve in the Nene Valley provided good numbers of common birds including a Common Buzzard feeding on what appeared to be a dead goose on one of the islands. A Kingfisher and a Water Rail and three Cetti's Warblers were all audible but sadly didn't show themselves but a mixture of common wildfowl showed well and a Siskin and a Red Fox were noted briefly.

Jacob was again at Pitsford Reservoir after completing his RSPB Big Garden Watch and located a drake Smew in the Walgrave Bay, a Great White Egret, two Green Sandpipers, two Redshanks, five Pintail, two Ravens and two Grey Wagtails. An adult Caspian Gull was chased from the afternoon gull roost by a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls. A Grey Wagtail and a Water Rail were noted at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and a male Brambling was again in the garden at Hanging Houghton.

Nick Parker found a flock of 38 Waxwings in Kettering this afternoon, at the junction of Mary's Road and Linden Avenue and Hugh Matthews located a flock of about 25 Waxwings in Northampton in the vicinity of 14 Bush Hill near Abington. Bob Bullock later relocated 21 of them at the junction of Silverdale/Ferndale Road. These birds were reportedly seen flying north at about 4.55pm.

Ringing efforts by Sarah and Kenny Cramer at Milton Keynes over the week-end at an old orchard proved very effective with 79 birds caught which included a very high number of 36 Blackbirds, 10 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares, 3 Goldcrests, 7 Long-tailed Tits and a Woodpigeon.


Neil M

Common Buzzard.

As some of the prey dwindles and the seasons
begin to tilt, Common Buzzards become more
obvious alongside our roads and wander into each
other's territories. Skirmishes and interaction
become the norm and the opportunity for close
views increase.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

As you were...


Little evidence of anything new locally despite Jacob Spinks spending much of the day at Pitsford Reservoir concentrating his efforts on the reserve north of the causeway and locating two Willow Tits, at least three Marsh Tits, one or two Redshank, two Green Sandpipers, a Great White Egret, a Grey Wagtail and at least five Ravens.

Amanda Fraser saw a male Blackcap in her Kingsthorpe garden again today, still finding the cotoneaster berries palatable and Jacob watched two Lesser Redpolls first thing in his Scaldwell garden this morning.  

Two Hundred Golden Plovers were on the top fields at Harrington Airfield and Thrapston Gravel Pits hosted a Peregrine, eight Little Egrets, four drake Goosanders and a selection of finches on the feeders there included Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and six Lesser Redpolls (observations courtesy of Eric Graham).

It was quiet at Ditchford Gravel Pits on the pits west of Ditchford Lane this afternoon, the only birds of note being a Great White Egret, a Water Rail and a Kingfisher. A Short-eared Owl showed briefly at Neville's Lodge (near Finedon) at dusk and there were two calling Grey Partridges and a Woodcock was reported.


Neil M

Goldcrest at Pitsford Reservoir.

Goldeneye at Pitsford Reservoir.

Great Crested Grebe at Pitsford Reservoir.

All images courtesy of Jacob Spinks.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Northants Bird Club Photographic Competition.


Very limited opportunities for birding today and nothing of note seen on my wanderings.

The very cold night last night reinforced the need to provide food-stuffs for small birds and of course this week-end is the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!

Next Wednesday evening (can you believe it is nearly 1st February already?) is the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club. And it is the club's annual photographic competition at our venue of the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir. All submitted images from club members which met the criteria will be shown and the audience selects the overall winner of the Graham Soden trophy from the winners of all the categories. The meeting starts promptly at 7.30pm and all are welcome.


Neil M

Male Bullfinch
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Male Bullfinch
courtesy of Clive Bowley.

The Bullfinch is very
much a garden bird that
has adapted in more recent
years to take dispensed mixed
seeds, often on bird tables or
quiet areas of the garden, but
sometimes from suspended
feeders too.

During the cold and still conditions
recently, some birds have succumbed
at Pitsford Reservoir and provide food
for others.

Here Jacob Spinks has photographed
a Carrion Crow taking advantage of an
avian casualty frozen in the ice.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

John Gamble images


Birding opportunities were minimal today in very raw weather conditions, but Eleanor came across a flock of eight Waxwings in the front garden of 57 Northampton Road, Broughton this afternoon. It seems they had been reported just a short time before in nearby Carter Avenue. Eleanor went on to Kettering to then bump into a flock of about ten Waxwings, this time feeding on an ornamental Rowan tree outside Claremont Nursing Home, Holdenby, Kettering NN156XE.

Other birds today amounted to a Brambling here in the garden at Hanging Houghton and another single with Chaffinches along the concrete track at Harrington Airfield.


Neil M

Abington Park, Northampton.

Little Egret
Abington Park, Northampton.

Pitsford Reservoir.

Pitsford Reservoir.

Great White Egret
Rutland Water.

Wigeon and Teal
Pitsford Reservoir.

Pintail and Common Gull
Pitsford Reservoir.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Foggy Day!


Very foggy day all day today prevented very much birding so the morning was taken up visiting and re-stocking feeding stations. A Woodcock was flushed up at Scotland Wood and Brixworth Water Treatment Works continued to host three Chiffchaffs and at least one Grey Wagtail.

There was no sign of the Waxwings at Hanging Houghton today, the dwindling berries probably being insufficient to support a large flock.


Neil M

White-billed Diver - images
courtesy of Robin Gossage.
This species is rare in the UK
and most records refer to birds
flying past headlands or fishing
Scottish waters. This juvenile
however was photographed on the
River Witham in Lincolnshire,
hopefully this doesn't mean this 
fine-looking bird is ill or injured.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Waxwings at Hanging Houghton.


A little ringing in Christies Copse at Pitsford Reservoir this morning provided 87 captures made up of 5 Long-tailed Tits, 16 Great Tits, 49 Blue Tits, 5 Coal Tits, 6 Robins, a Dunnock and 5 Chaffinches. A Willow Tit was attracted to the feeders there and other birds seen in the Walgrave Bay included two Great White Egrets and a couple of Bramblings.

Hanging Houghton village was again host to a flock of Waxwings this morning but the mobile flock of 14 birds were not seen after about 1.15pm. A male Brambling was in the garden and a pair of Stonechat were again below the village in the Brampton Valley.


Neil M

Sunrise at Harrington Airfield

Waxwings at Hanging Houghton
all images courtesy of Eleanor.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Pitsford WeBS count


Phil Horsnail was pleased to see two Ravens east of Polebrook Airfield today, close to the Cambridgeshire border. These are the first Ravens Phil has managed to find this far east in the county and they remain very scarce in the Oundle area. Quite different to the west of the county where you expect to see several during a day's birding.

Jim Dunkley watched a female Blackcap coming to apples in his Sywell garden today and Chris Payne committed to some ringing at Bradden in South Northants where a short session provided over fifty captures which included a fine female Green Woodpecker, a Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit.

Six of us tried our best at counting the waterbirds at an ice-affected Pitsford Reservoir today but despite the cold conditions we didn't find anything new. The Slavonian Grebe was in the Pintail Bay and other birds included a drake Goosander, one or two Great White Egret(s), six Little Egrets, ten Pintail, two Redshank, a Green Sandpiper, forty Snipe, four Kingfishers, a Grey Wagtail and a Brambling. Checking the gull roost this afternoon provided a view of a first year Caspian Gull.

A return home to Hanging Houghton this afternoon was necessary for a welcome cuppa, and the big surprise was a flock of Waxwings in the trees behind our garden! In all we counted sixteen birds and they came in to our garden, seemingly attracted to Guelder Rose berries. They stayed for a little while but then flew off and were perched in a tree off the A508 south of the village. Fourteen of them returned again later in the afternoon and a Brambling was noted too...


Neil M

Female Blackcap
courtesy of Jim Dunkley.

Marsh Tit at Bradden
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Female Green Woodpecker
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Male Blackbird courtesy
of Steve Bennison.

Song Thrush courtesy
of Steve Bennison.

Snowdrops at Pitsford Reservoir.

The frozen Walgrave Bay
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Stanwick Lakes


The bird ringing demonstration at Stanwick Lakes today was successful with plenty of people enjoying the spectacle of birds close at hand even if the initial day temperature was minus five centigrade! About a hundred birds were caught and processed all made up of common birds of eleven species, perhaps the most noteworthy being a Redwing, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and several Goldcrests. Other birds on-site included up to seven Goosanders, a Snipe, a couple of Water Rails, a Chiffchaff, a Brambling and a Siskin.

The Short-eared Owls were playing hard to get at Neville's Lodge near Finedon and were seen very late afternoon when somebody accidentally flushed up to six birds. Up until then the birds had frustratingly kept hidden on the ground with no apparent hunting or flying around.

Harrington Airfield hosted about fifty Golden Plovers this morning and a Robin couldn't wait for the bird food to be dispensed and landed on the bucket rim whilst Eleanor was walking along! A pair of Grey Partridge were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tit.

Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Blue Tit.

All images taken recently at Summer Leys
Nature Reserve by Robin Gossage. All these
 species put in an appearance at today's ringing
demonstration at Stanwick Lakes.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Saturday round-up


Debbie and Eric Graham were at their beloved Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston GP today and notched up a Great White Egret.

Two Ravens were again at Hanging Houghton and this afternoon another one was visible near Harlestone village.

Birds visible at Borough Hill Country Park (Daventry) today included a Short-eared Owl (being mobbed as it sat on a field hedge), an adult female Peregrine and a pair of Stonechat. Nearby Daventry Country Park hosted two Ravens flying towards Borough Hill and eight Goosanders.

Two Otters were showing at dusk at Ravensthorpe Reservoir and the birds were made up of a flock of 46 Goldeneye just off the dam, 2 Great White Egrets and 2 Grey Wagtails.

Jacob spent all day at Pitsford Reservoir and his hard-earned list of birds included a Great White Egret, a female Red-crested Pochard, 10 Pintail, 2 Redshanks, a first winter Mediterranean Gull, 2 Caspian Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Ravens, a Little Owl and a Grey Wagtail.

Some ringing at Sunderland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate provided 97 captures from just one mist net. This total didn't include a Great Tit sporting a grotesque growth and five Chaffinches with the all too familiar leg disease (these birds are immediately released following extraction at the net).

The total was made up of a Blackbird, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Dunnock, 25 Great Tits, a Treecreeper, 48 Blue Tits, 7 Coal Tits, 4 new Marsh Tits, a Robin, 6 healthy Chaffinches, a Bullfinch and a Nuthatch.


Neil M

A Great Tit with a head growth at
Sunderland Wood today. This first year
female was perky but is clearly seriously
challenged and can have no forward
vision in its right eye due to the extent
of the growth.

Raven and Common Buzzard
over Summer Leys yesterday
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Marsh Tit at Summer Leys
yesterday courtesy of Robin Gossage.
 The habitat here is far from ideal for the Marsh Tit
 but the plentiful supply of food makes it irresistible!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Thrushes on parade


A small team of ringers led by John Woollett undertook a ringing session at Nether Heyford yesterday catching over thirty birds which included a Woodpigeon, two Redwings and two Fieldfares.

Cathy Ryden was at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon and managed views of three Otters, just a single Great White Egret and a Green Sandpiper.

Robin Gossage was a Summer Leys Reserve near Earls Barton today and saw Raven, a drake Scaup and two Great White Egrets.

A quick walk at Harrington Airfield in frosty conditions this morning provided views of about 150 cold-looking Golden Plovers but little else of note.


Neil M


Fieldfare and Rosehip berries.

Female Blackbird.

Male Blackbird.

All above images taken at
Summer Leys today, courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Drake Red-crested Pochard in
the Moulton Grange Bay at Pitsford
Reservoir today, courtesy of Clive Bowley.

Robin at Pitsford Reservoir
today courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Clearly the winter sunshine has lured
our local photographers out with their
big lenses!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Robin on the move!


A single Barn Owl was noted at Hanging Houghton on Tuesday evening, making plenty of noise as it flew around the houses after nightfall, and another one was similarly noisy at Brixworth early yesterday morning. This slurred and soft eerie screechy noise appears to be emitted by individuals endeavouring to confirm their territory for the forthcoming breeding year.

Eleanor watched an industrious Otter working flooded ditches in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.

Details have come through of a Robin recovery which was first ringed at Pitsford Reservoir by Colin Graham on 5th September 2016. This first year bird was caught by the Wicken Fen Ringing Group at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire on 20th December 2016, travelling 79km in an easterly direction. The Robin has enjoyed good breeding success in the UK during the last two years and we ring them in good numbers locally but rarely hear of a recovery.


Neil M


More recent images from
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Robin Gossage. The new
Bird Club hide in the Scaldwell
Bay is proving popular with