Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Scillies


Yesterday (Saturday) saw us take the Scillonian III ferry to the Isles of Scilly, something of a logistical nightmare with two dogs, bird ringing equipment, ourselves and all our luggage for three weeks!

The weather was kind to us with sunshine and mild-mannered seas and even some birds in the shape of Arctic Skuas, a Great Skua, Mediterranean Gulls and Kittiwakes, several Manx Shearwaters and a couple of Balearics too. Gannets were in good numbers, we disturbed a feeding Grey Phalarope and we encountered several pods of Common Dolphins which mostly kept their distance. A Pomarine Skua and two Great Shearwaters were reported by others on board. A tired Chiffchaff landed on the ferry for a short time - I hope he/she made it!

On making landfall on St Marys we staggered to our chalet accommodation, completed some grocery shopping and of course fitted in some mist net erecting and land birding too! The weather was sunny and the conditions mild and it was great to be back!

Undoubtedly the best bird was a stunning juvenile Ortolan Bunting which fed confidingly on the coastal path not far from Hugh Town. The subtle colours and beautiful feather margins and it's relative tame nature made for a fabulous forty minutes. Other birds were standard fare and included Stonechat, Wheatear, Blackcap, Siskin and Rock Pipit.

Today (Sunday) and things were generally quiet on St Marys and we enjoyed relatively common birds such as Spotted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, a variety of waders, a tamish Water Rail, Siskin etc.

Ringers operating in Northants during the week-end were busy, Kenny and Sarah were managing the Linford Lakes site on both days and caught well over a hundred birds including over thirty Blackcaps, fifteen Chiffchaffs, a late Reed Warbler and several Cetti's Warblers including a bird originally caught somewhere else in the UK. Other birds featuring included a couple each of  Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting.

John Woollett and team worked the nets at Stortons Pits today, catching forty-one birds which included nine Blackcaps, five Chiffchaffs, four Cetti's Warblers and a cracking Green Woodpecker!


Neil M



Balearic Shearwater.

Chiffchaff hitching a ride!

The Ortolan Bunting.

Song Thrush. In some respects
the iconic bird of the Scillies.

Bird Club Meeting 3rd Oct


This coming Wednesday (3rd October) is the next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club at the usual venue of the Fishing Lodge at Pitsford Reservoir.

The speaker on this occasion is Brian Eversham, a brilliant naturalist and conservationist who also happens to be the Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants. Brian will be reflecting on the past in relation to nature conservation and also providing his personal outlook on what the future will hold for our birds, insects and many others. 

The meeting begins promptly at 7.30pm and hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening and everyone is welcome. Come along and listen to a talented orator and be inspired!


Neil M

Long-tailed Tits.
Courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Barn Owl.
Courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Cornish birding


Walking around the outskirts of Penzance just after dawn didn't produce any birds out of the ordinary but a couple of Grey Wagtails were nice.

A visit to the RSPB reserve at Marazion after breakfast provided records of Tree and Rock Pipits, Siskins, Cetti's Warblers, a calling Water Rail and Stonechat and Wheatear.

A little later we took a run out to the beautiful cove of Porthgwarra and spent three hours or so exploring the area and completing a little sea-watching. Gannets and Razorbills were plentiful and passing in good numbers but other sea-birds included three Balearic Shearwaters, six Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes and three Arctic Skuas. A few pods of Harbour Porpoise showed themselves occasionally.

Birds along the cliff included Raven and six Chough and other land-birds amounted to Wheatear, Stonechat, a Red Kite (not common here), Grey Wagtail and Siskin.

As we left Porthgwarra we noticed a flock of Starlings perched on some wires and there among them was a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling! I managed a couple of tardy images before the whole flock took off and promptly disappeared. Apparently this bird had been reported earlier.

Our last venue was the lovely Kenidjack Valley near St Just, a gentle walk takes you down to the sea past the remnants of Cornish mines and it is possible to see the peninsular of Cape Cornwall nearby.

'Summer' migrants seem to be in short supply but we managed Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher and other avian highlights were Grey Wagtail, Rock Pipit, Wheatear and Stonechat and we heard another Chough.

Back in Northants, Eric's foray today to Thrapston Pits provided views of plenty of wildfowl, plus two Yellow-legged Gulls, a Common Sandpiper and Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers.


Neil M

The Jackdaw in general
appears to be doing rather
well at the moment and my
impression is that they are gradually
increasing. There have always been
good numbers of them in the west
of the UK and in the west of Cornwall
they take advantage of various redundant
human-made structures (such as the old
mining chimneys and buildings) to nest as
 well as natural sites...

Rose-coloured Starling with

Images from Kenidjack
Valley this evening...

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Birding South West


Today we took a journey down to the south west of the country, stopping briefly in Gloucestershire and Devon before arriving in Penzance, Cornwall. A beautiful, sunny day with high temperatures in the afternoon, the mildness overnight and lack of a breeze also causing some lingering morning fog and mist.

The excellent Gloucester Services on the M5 just south of Gloucester do a mean breakfast and also provided avian entertainment in the form of a Grey Wagtail and tame Moorhens on the pool there.

Our next stop was Great Haldon Forest near Exeter where we were greeted by a party of Common Crossbills in the visitor car park. Other finches included plenty of Siskins and a few Redpoll and Nuthatches were vocal as we trekked the Raptor Trail. The only raptor we did see there were Common Buzzards! Feeders by the cafe attract Nuthatch, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker etc.

Travelling deep in to Cornwall along the A30, we stopped at the Hayle Estuary, a favoured venue of ours since the eighties. Up to ten Mediterranean Gulls were easy to see among their more common cousins, the best of the waders were Whimbrel and Spotted Redshank and several Blackcaps flitted in the brambles. The beach at Long Rock near Penzance was busy with people and dogs but birds on show included Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Grey Wagtail and Wheatears.

And so our autumn holiday has begun...


Neil M

Three Mediterranean Gulls
with a Black-headed Gull in
the foreground.

Adult Mediterranean Gull.

Juvenile Common Crossbill.

Grey Wagtail.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

September sunshine birds


A beautiful autumn day with plenty of sunshine and cool temperatures at the start and end of the day...

Eleanor's morning visit to the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton provided plenty of visible migration, again dominated by Meadow Pipits. A pair of Stonechat were right on cue and two Ravens were visible too. A walk around the bunkers and top fields at Harrington Airfield was a mostly quiet affair with just a Redpoll and a Golden Plover of note.

There was no sign of the Grey Phalarope at Pitsford Reservoir today, although Jacob did see a Greenshank and Green Sandpiper around the dam area.


Neil M

Tufted Duck
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Goldeneye, courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Black Tern courtesy
of Dave Jackson.
All the above images
were taken at Pitsford
Reservoir yesterday.

Cattle Egrets.
Great White Egret,

Little Egret.

All the egret shots were taken
by John Gamble whilst on a
recent excursion to Dorset.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Daventry was the place!


Birds at Pitsford Reservoir this morning included a fishing Osprey off the dam at 10.10am and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls north of the causeway plus two Siskins flying over south.

This afternoon there were seven Yellow-legged Gulls in the roost, a late Tree Pipit flew south at 6.35pm and other birds included Raven and a Greenshank.

A Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton funnelled Meadow Pipits and Skylarks south with feeding birds including a Wheatear and two Whinchats.

However it was Daventry Country Park that was on fire today, Gary Pullen witnessed five adult Common Cranes circling over the site, and other birds there included the still-present Grey Phalarope, a Great White Egret and a Little Stint!


Neil M

Adult Yellow-legged Gull
at Pitsford Res today...

Monday, 24 September 2018

Pitsford Grey Phalarope


There was plenty of evidence of migration in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning, south-bound birds including the first Redpoll of the autumn, two or three Siskins, Grey Wagtail and plenty of Meadow Pipits. Two Whinchats were in the ditch vegetation and four Golden Plovers were on the fields.

Nearby, Brixworth Country Park hosted a couple of Raven and two or three Siskins. A cracking juvenile Grey Phalarope was located at Pitsford Reservoir, for a time showing closely just off the dam during the early afternoon. 

Matt Carey watched a juvenile Gannet overfly Clifford Hill GP this morning as it flew along the river and it or another was later reported in flight between Holdenby and Chapel Brampton.

Further east and Eric saw a Great White Egret at Thrapston Pits and notched up eight Cetti's Warblers and plenty of Chiffchaffs. Marsh Harrier and Spotted Flycatcher were reported from there too.


Neil M

The juvenile Grey Phalarope
at Pitsford Reservoir today.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Wet morning, sunny afternoon...


Birds in the rain north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir this morning (courtesy of Neil Hasdell) amounted to a Great White Egret, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Green Sandpiper, four Pintail and a Grey Wagtail with plenty of migrant hirundines skimming over the water.

The gull roost off the Sailing Club this evening included twelve Yellow-legged Gulls and an adult Caspian Gull.

I completed the last bit of the WeBS count at Ditchford Pits this afternoon in pleasant conditions. There was little of note, the best birds being two juvenile Common Terns, two Kingfishers, two Water Rails, a couple of Cetti's Warblers and singles of Siskin and Grey Wagtail.


Neil M

Speckled Wood butterfly.

Moonrise over the
gull roost at Pitsford.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Pitsford Ringing


A ringing session took place at Pitsford Reservoir today at the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station.

In total 94 birds were processed of 12 species of which twenty were birds previously ringed. This total was made up of a Magpie, six Dunnocks, four Robins, two Wrens, three Chiffchaffs, sixteen Great Tits, thirteen Blue Tits, twenty-two Tree Sparrows, twenty-three Meadow Pipits, two Greenfinches, a Chaffinch and a Reed Bunting.

Other birds seen during the period included an Osprey, a Great White Egret, three Yellow-legged Gulls, a first year Mediterranean Gull, a Grey Wagtail, a few Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Siskins.


Neil M

Sunrise at Pitsford!



Meadow Pipit.

Tree Sparrow.

All images courtesy of
John Tilly.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Plenty of bluster!


Blustery conditions again today and Gary Pullen found the anticipated Grey Phalarope, a first year at Daventry Country Park and still present late in to the afternoon...

I visited the west end of Ditchford Pits this morning and part-completed a monthly WeBS count. Numbers of wildfowl were generally low and with no surprises, the best birds being a juvenile female Peregrine, three Grey Wagtails and a handful of calling Cetti's Warblers. A Water Rail was heard calling and there were plenty of Chiffchaffs in the bushes.

Sheltered rides out of the wind were good places to see Speckled Wood and Red Admiral butterflies and dragonflies included Common Darter and Migrant Hawker.


Neil M

This juvenile female Sparrowhawk
still has a little to learn about catching
House Sparrows, as she missed all of
them on our back lawn this afternoon!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Autumn birds


Out and about a bit today but not much to show for it!

A wander at Harrington Airfield between the bouts of rain provided good numbers of common birds including several Chiffchaffs. A Golden Plover was flying around and a small flock of Skylarks flew around calling.

A visit to the main feeding station at Pitsford Reservoir was sufficient to see the Black Tern and the regular loafing adult Yellow-legged Gull. There appeared to be an influx of Chiffchaffs here too and at nearby Brixworth Water Treatment Works there were more plus a Grey Wagtail.

The best birds in the garden here at Hanging Houghton were singles of Chiffchaff and Blackcap.


Neil M


Grey Wagtail.

Red Admiral butterfly...
all typical autumn creatures!

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Autumn gales


Eric and Nick Parker visited Thrapston Pits today including a walk around the Titchmarsh Reserve in blowy conditions. Birds of note included a Great White Egret, a couple of Kingfishers, two Cetti's Warblers and four Spotted Flycatchers.

The Black Tern was still at Pitsford Reservoir today, visiting the gull roost in the evening. Other birds of note included four Yellow-legged Gulls and at least one Common Sandpiper. No obvious wind-blown birds as yet!


Neil M

Grey Phalarope.

Sabine's Gull.

Strong and sustained westerly gales can
sometimes produce exciting sea-birds, even
in land-locked Northamptonshire!