Friday, 31 August 2018

Friday's forays


Little opportunity for birding from the McMahon household today, but Eric and Debbie strode around Titchmarsh LNR and successfully located two Great White Egrets again!

Neil H paid Pitsford Reservoir a visit today and saw a Raven, a Hobby and three Pintail. Butterflies on the wing included Small Copper and Small Heath. Remedial work has been completed on the Bird Club hide, and the Willow Hide (also in the Scaldwell Bay) has been replaced by a much nicer hide which is now available for use. In addition a viewing screen has been constructed in Christies Copse (Walgrave Bay) to provide an opportunity for close views of birds visiting the winter feeding station there (October - May). Seats will be added to complement the screen in due course.

A reminder that bird ringing will be taking place at Harrington Airfield tomorrow (Saturday) and access to the bunkers and scrubby areas will be restricted until operations are complete. We are not anticipating anything unusual but ringers operating at nearby Stanford Reservoir enjoyed a Common Redstart today and the ringers at Rutland Water trapped and ringed a Barred Warbler, a very rare bird inland!


Neil M

Small Copper butterfly.



Thursday, 30 August 2018



Eleanor's patrol of the footpath that leads from Bridle Road, Old village and runs east between the village of Walgrave and Pitsford Reservoir provided views of at least four Redstarts in the field hedges, three of which were males. This ridge of hedges is a traditional migration stop-over for this species and often attracts other birds too.

Four more Redstarts were also at Blueberry Farm today, two near Blueberry Lodge and the horse fields (with a Spotted Flycatcher) and two more in the bottom hedge line of the Big Field.

Ringing at Harrington Airfield was a much quieter affair today with 34 captures which included a Chiffchaff, four Blackcaps, five Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Sedge Warbler, a Yellow Wagtail and nine Linnets.

A Tree Pipit and a Whinchat were around Bunker Three today and my first migrant Meadow Pipits of the autumn were beginning to filter south over the old airfield. A fresh hatch of Speckled Wood butterflies joined the Small Heaths and Common Blues there today and there was at least one Brown Argus too.

No ringing is planned for this site tomorrow (Friday) but the final session for this period will take place on Saturday when access will again be restricted.

The south end of Pitsford Reservoir was heavily disturbed this evening with lots of water craft etc but there were at least nine Yellow-legged Gulls at roost plus two Little Egrets, a Common Sandpiper and a Curlew.


Neil M

Lesser Whitethroat.

Juvenile Linnet.

Sedge Warbler.

All images courtesy
of John Tilly.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Harrington ringing...


Birds in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton were a little tamer this morning - the best being a Wheatear, two Ravens and six Golden Plovers.

A period of ringing at Harrington Airfield provided 68 captures of 15 species of which only nine were of birds caught there previously. The highlight was a female Common Redstart and other birds amounted to three Blackbirds, a Wren, two Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, nine Dunnocks, three Robins, ten Blue Tits, thirteen Blackcaps, a Lesser Whitethroat, four Whitethroats, three Chaffinches, two Goldfinches, thirteen Linnets and two Yellowhammers.

Six species of hunting raptor included a Peregrine and at least one Hobby.

The area off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir was productive again this evening with the Osprey arriving and catching a fish before being chased off west by a Great Black-backed Gull (7.05pm - 7.20pm), an adult Caspian Gull, at least six Yellow-legged Gulls, a first winter Mediterranean Gull, about fifteen Common Terns, a juvenile Black Tern, several Little Egrets and a Common Sandpiper.


Neil M

Juvenile Whitethroat
courtesy of Lynne Barnett.

Lesser Whitethroat
courtesy of Rich Goswell.

Common Redstart.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Autumn migration in full flow...


The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton made a nice change of scenery from Pitsford this morning and it started well with a cracking male Ring Ouzel hopping around on the scuffed fields, quickly followed up with quality migrants in the shapes of a Whinchat and a Wheatear.

A subsequent visit to Harrington Airfield continued the same theme with a Tree Pipit, a Redstart, a Wheatear, a Turtle Dove, a Hobby and two coveys of Grey Partridge all present. Ringing sessions at Harrington are planned for tomorrow, Thursday and Saturday when general access to the scrubby areas and bunkers will be restricted - my apologies if this affects your plans. Official footpaths and the concrete track will be open to all and unaffected by ringing operations.

An excellent ringing session at Stortons Pits this morning started well when the first capture was a juvenile Kingfisher! Other birds were made up of a Lesser Whitethroat, eight Whitethroats, three Garden Warblers, a high total of thirty-six Blackcaps, three Willow Warblers, three Chiffchaffs, a Cetti's Warbler, four Sedge Warblers, twenty Reed Warblers, four Wrens, five Robins, a Dunnock, three Blue Tits, two Great Tits, eight Long-tailed Tits, a Blackbird, three Goldfinches and a Reed Bunting. The vast majority of these birds were new and not previously ringed (only five re-traps), further reflecting the fact that there is significant migrational movement going on among our passerines.


Neil M

Kingfisher at
Stortons Pits today
courtesy of Chris Payne.

Common Buzzard.

North American Mink. This image was
taken in Scotland last week but these animals
are present along most waterways here in
Northants. Never before have we experienced
so much variety of  'mustelids' locally...the Weasels,
Stoats and Badgers now being joined by Mink,
Polecat and Otter and in all probability one day
also Pine Marten which are spilling out of Scotland
and Wales and are marching south and east...

Monday, 27 August 2018

Bank Holiday birding


Eric was again at Thrapston Pits today and saw an Osprey, two Great White Egrets and a Hobby. Eleanor popped in there this afternoon and added a juvenile Marsh Harrier and an additional Hobby.

The number of Yellow Wagtails locally has risen with the arrival of more migrants, the small flock at Hanging Houghton now up to twelve birds and with smaller numbers at Pitsford Reservoir and Harrington Airfield.

A wander at Harrington Airfield this afternoon was quiet for birds, a covey of four Grey Partridge being the best. A good hatch of Common Blue butterflies were coping well with the blustery conditions and a few Small Heaths were still on the wing too.

At Pitsford Reservoir today there were 40-50 Tree Sparrows at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was loafing north of the causeway.

This evening an adult Osprey was again fishing south of the causeway from 6.30pm, moving off north at 6.45pm. A Ruff and a Black Tern were also south of the causeway and the gull roost contained an adult Caspian Gull again and at least six Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M

Yellow Wagtail.

Small Heath butterfly.

Common Blue

Caspian Gull.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Pitsford today


I spent much of the day on and off around Pitsford Reservoir today, and not always successfully avoiding the rain!

A Tree Pipit flew over the Walgrave Bay at 6.45am and two Ravens were mobile north of the causeway. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was perched up in the Scaldwell Bay as usual and as the rain became more persistent, the hirundine flocks began to grow with Sand Martins dominating north of the causeway and the House Martin flock by the Sailing Club increasing during the afternoon.

A male Ruff appeared near to the Maytrees Hide mid-afternoon presumably brought down because of the inclement weather.

The gull roost took a long time to materialise, the early gulls dispersing when a fishing Osprey successfully plunged in and flew off with a trout at 7.15pm and a Great Black-backed Gull flew after it in pursuit. The gull flock reformed and contained an adult Caspian Gull and four Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M


Sand Martin,
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Back from the Highlands


I'm just back from an eight day tour of the Ardnamurchan Peninsular in the West Highlands of Scotland where we managed plenty of views of Otter, a regular Pine Marten and both Golden and White-tailed Eagles amongst plenty of other wildlife. Rather wet up there though!

Back here in the county I saw plenty of Red Kites and Common Buzzards riding the air currents today but didn't really have time to commit to much birding. An evening visit to Harrington Airfield provided brief views of a covey of six Grey Partridge but little else.

During this coming week it is hoped to commit to some more bird ringing at Harrington Airfield and general access to the bunkers and old airstrip will be restricted on both Wednesday and Thursday. The footpaths and concrete track remain unaffected.


Neil M


Pine Marten.

Golden Eagle.

White-tailed Eagle.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Both Eric and myself have been back to our respective favourite "local" patches of Titchmarsh and Harrington respectively.
At Titchmarsh there were 2 Osprey , one bird being harassed by terns on the Aldwincle Lake and the other bird flying over the field north end of Elinor Lake.  There was a steady stream of hirundines moving through and small mixed flocks of young warblers on the move.   The Great White Egret was still at the north end of Aldwincle Lake and a Green Sandpiper was showing well from it's  perch on the tern rafts.  Plenty of vocal Red Kites and Common Buzzards.
Harrington Airfield seemed quiet for birds but it was very busy with a constant stream of people, kids and dogs walking through the "rough" area. Goodness knows why they chose to walk through there. This amount of disturbance was a bit off putting so I spent most of my visit simply standing still and scanning the fields, bushes and sky for birds. Common Redstart, Whinchat , Turtle Dove and Marsh Harrier was the sum total of my visit 
The only other birds of note today were 2 Ravens and 6 Golden Plover in the valley below Hanging Houghton.

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Mid week birding

I started the day at Harrington Airfield. a place you either love or hate. For me it is the former . After a pleasant wander around I had notched up 2 Whimbrel which flew over calling, a Northern Wheatear, Whinchat , Turtle Dove and 5 Grey Partridge. A large mixed flock of Linnets, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers and Reed Bunting remain and there were Whitethroats and Willow Warblers in the bushes.
Despite being out and about for most of the day I saw very little else of note.  Plenty of Common Buzzards and Red Kites in the air and feeding on the freshly cut and scuffled fields.

Eric visited Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston and says " a real good day on the reserve considering the time of year. 1 or maybe 2 Hobbies at the south end of the reserve but no sign of the Osprey today.    A large mixed flock of tits and warblers with plenty of young Willow Warblers among them.  There were singing Lesser Whitethroat, Willow, Sedge and Garden Warblers and a Chiffchaff calling.     A Kingfisher flew up river.
Viewed from the north hide a Great White Egret was perched in a tree and good views of a superb Marsh Harrier as it dropped in by the Peter Scott/ open backed hide."
Eric also commented that " birding in Northants is tough sometimes but it is not all about megas and rarities"  . Sentiments that I can relate to as I trek around the field hedges etc.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

An early morning meander around the fields below Hanging Houghton produced a Northern Wheatear, Common Redstart, 5 Grey Partridge and 4 Golden Plover flying around calling before finally settling on a recently scuffled field.  These are the first ones I have seen for months, another sign that Autumn is rapidly approaching which is my favourite time of year. I always find it an exciting time for birding as you just never know what you might find.  I had a little taster of this today.   Due to the hot weather my running has suffered so I was determined to go for a long run this morning.  As I went along the Brampton Valley Way between Lamport crossing and Draughton crossing I was literally stopped in my tracks by the sound of a singing Cettis Warbler . Initially I thought I was hearing things but I stopped and listened and it soon obliged by singing again and I managed a glimpse of the bird as it moved through the hedge. 
This afternoon I checked a hedgerow between the villages of Walgrave and Old as in recent years it has picked up Common Redstart on migration. This is the first time I have checked this hedge for a while and there were at least 4 Common Redstart flitting about along the hedgerow and landing on the fence posts and field. Whilst they were not very vocal they were shimmering and shaking their tails.  In the same hedge were 2 Spotted Flycatcher, several Blackcaps, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.
I spent some time simply watching these birds as they moved along the hedgerow. It always amazes me how loyal birds remain to certain areas and year after year use the same hedgerows etc as they migrate.

Regards Eleanor 

Monday, 20 August 2018

Monday's Musings

Yesterday I visited the Bird Fair at Rutland Water . I had a lovely day catching up with friends both local and from overseas as I wandered around the 8 marquees full of fabulous displays, information, optics, clothing, bird food , books etc and the many tempting offers on view.  I didn't listen to any of the huge variety of lectures on offer but I did watch the pantomime !!!!  It was a "take" on the well known story of "Wind in the Willows" and it was hilarious with some well known TV folk taking part. 
 I was pleasantly surprised to find a lack of crowds so it was quite easy to move around and view things. Apparently Friday was "manic" there.   I did witness a sudden movement of birders who migrated quickly to the BTO ringing demonstration when it came over the tanoy that a Grasshopper Warbler had been caught and could be seen in the hand , a bird which many folk have never seen at such close quarters.

This morning it felt as if there should be something about, or maybe it was simply wishful thinking on my part. With this in mind I headed for Harrington Airfield where I saw absolutely nothing !!! It was almost a birdless zone.
This afternoon I fared a little better in the valley below Hanging Houghton/ Blueberry Area where I bumped into a Northern Wheater, Whinchat, Common Redstart and a Curlew.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Saturday Selection

After all the activity in the valley below Hanging Houghton, this morning it was eerily quiet, no combine harvesters and no birds !!
I took two of the dogs to Staverton for their agility training and a couple of Ravens were rather amusing with their acrobatics and strange vocal calls . They were clearly enjoying themselves or perhaps just having a laugh as they watched us !!
Birding at nearby Kentle Wood area produced a male Peregrine and 2 Northern Wheatears on a newly scuffed field whilst at Borough Hill there were 2 Common Redstart and a Whinchat.
On my way home I stopped off at Ravensthorpe where I was surprised to see so many wildfowl present including a male Wigeon and a female type Red Crested Pochard, a stark reminder that Autumn is rapidly approaching.
My final outing was to Harrington just before dusk where there was a Turtle Dove, Common Redstart and Whinchat.

Regards Eleanor

Friday, 17 August 2018

A bit of movement

After the recent hot spell it was nice to get out and about and feel that "Autumnal Nip" in the air.  This morning I wandered around the Blueberry area where a "cream crowned" Marsh Harrier was hunting over the big field on the hill.  As I walked through the farm itself I was attacked by two puppies !!!  so I just had to stop and play with them and in doing so could hear a Common Redstart calling. I had to prise myself away and a male was calling and tail flicking in the hedge leading up to the house.  A further 2 Common Redstarts, this time juveniles were found in a different hedgerow on my walk round.
This afternoon I took my young collie to watch the harvest being gathered in but he wasn't at all phased by the giant combine harvesters and tractors etc.  The newly cut fields were a magnet for the hirundines, mainly swallows which swooped low over the fields and the Red Kites which came down to forage.  There was obviously a bit of movement as I came across 2 Whinchat, 1 Wheatear, another Common Redstart and at least 8 Whitethroat.  I also saw the same Marsh Harrier again.
A late evening visit produced a Barn Owl which is the first one that I have seen in the valley for a few months.

Eric has been birding at Titchmarsh again where he reports " plenty of young warblers around of at least 6 different species. An Osprey was again fishing on Elinor Lake and after two attempts at fishing it gained height and headed south,   perhaps that's it for another year ?. The 2 Great White Egret remain at the north end of Aldwincle. 

Regards Eleanor 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Garden birding


Very little opportunity for birding today and nothing of particular interest when we did venture out!

In fact the garden is difficult to beat at the minute with flocks of juvenile Starlings and House Sparrows arriving each day, which in turn are attracting other birds too. The Goldfinches and Greenfinches are bringing their fledged young to feed on the sunflower hearts and niger feeders and good numbers of juvenile Blue Tits are enjoying the peanuts and fat. Smaller numbers of Great Tits and Coal Tits are sometimes joined by a couple of Nuthatch and there are a few juvenile Chaffinches and still the occasional Yellowhammer coming for food too. A few Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds are a mixture of juveniles and moulting adults and a few warblers are occasionally moving through the garden, sometimes in the company of a roving tit flock. A small flock of Yellow Wagtails continually call from the grass field behind our house and occasionally join the Pied Wagtails that pop in and out of the garden.

Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Collared Doves are every day birds and Jackdaws, Magpies and Carrion Crows squeeze themselves in to our small garden too! Of course all this attracts visits from the Sparrowhawks which must hate the Swallows living next door because they nearly always see them incoming and they alert all the birds around!


Neil M

Great Crested Grebe including
catching and consuming a reasonable-
sized Perch!

Great White Egret.

Tufted Duckling!

All images taken at Blashford Lakes
courtesy of John Tilly.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Birds of Frampton.


This morning a ringing session was undertaken around the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station at Pitsford Reservoir. Initially it seemed really quiet and it took us some time to catch anything - but then a fresh momentum kept the birds coming until lunch time.

We encountered fifteen different species, the majority of birds being new and hatched this year. The 107 captures were made up of a Blackbird, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, four Dunnocks, two Robins, 19 Great Tits, 19 Blue Tits, two Long-tailed Tits, singles of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, four Whitethroats, 49 Tree Sparrows, a Chaffinch and a Sand Martin.

All the Tree Sparrows with the exception of a single adult were youngsters hatched this year, and many of these youngsters were very young indicating that they were the result of third or even fourth brood efforts. The Sand Martin was a nice surprise and an infrequent capture at Pitsford.

With all these small birds in and around the bushes, it isn't surprising that they were buzzed regularly by at least two different Sparrowhawks.

The summering Marsh Harrier put in a couple of appearances again today, initially seen before 6am when it was watched flying across the reservoir and resting on one of the tree stumps by the shoreline between the Maytrees and Bird Club hides. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was about as usual and Neil H saw a juvenile Mediterranean Gull in the Scaldwell Bay.

The gull roost off the Sailing Club this evening was disrupted due to sailboards but it was possible to count nine Yellow-legged Gulls before dispersal.


Neil M


Little Ringed Plover.

Black-tailed Godwit.


All images taken by John
Tilly on a recent outing to
Frampton Marsh.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count


It was the Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count today although in truth there were not many water birds to count. The summering Marsh Harrier was present on and off most of the morning and again at 6pm this evening, regularly spending time over The Point trees and along the foreshore between the Bird Club and Maytrees Hides. Other raptors included a Peregrine and a Hobby and other birds noted included at least seven Little Egrets, a Common Sandpiper, a Snipe, two Yellow-legged Gulls and a Raven.

Two Ravens were at Hanging Houghton again today and Eric found two Great White Egrets on the Aldwincle Lake on the Titchmarsh Reserve near Thrapston.


Neil M

Toilet humour
courtesy of Robin Gossage!


Small Spotty-eyed Dronefly.

parasitic fly Eriothrix rufomaculata

All images taken today by Robin Gossage
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Birds of Monday


Eric has been at it again at the Titchmarsh Reserve near Thrapston! Today he again saw three Ospreys on-site, the birds moving around between the Elinor Trout Lake, the Aldwincle Pit and Town Lake. There were still two Great White Egrets present too and other birds included four Little Egrets and two Yellow-legged Gulls and just two calling Cetti's Warblers.

Eleanor's visit to Harrington Airfield this morning provided views of a single Turtle Dove and four Grey Partridges and still good numbers of Linnets but not much in the way of migrant warblers etc.

A Whimbrel flew south over Draughton village at 7.25pm this evening 'trilling' loudly!


Neil M


Turtle Dove.