Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Halloween Birds


Another cracking weather day today but not a huge amount of time for birding!

Thrapston Pits still features with the continuing presence of the six first year Velvet Scoters and Eric also espied 50+ Goldeneye, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, a Water Rail, a Brambling on the feeders, plenty of Goldcrests, several Cetti's Warblers and still some dragonflies and Red Admiral butterflies.

A couple of Brambling were here in the village at Hanging Houghton this morning and a female joined the Chaffinches feeding on seed on our back lawn. At 10.15am three calling Crossbills flew low east over the houses and away.

The eleven Whooper Swans were still in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir late morning but were quite flighty at times. At least two Great White Egrets were on show, the flock of Red-crested Pochard had risen to twenty birds (now with two leucistic individuals), and they had transferred to the Walgrave Bay.

The gull roost off the Sailing Club/dam is counted at least once a month and amongst the 9000 plus birds there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two Mediterranean Gulls (adult and first year). A Scaup was patrolling the shore and diving regularly between the dam and Moulton Grange Bay and a pair of Raven were at Brixworth Country Park.

Elsewhere there were forty Golden Plovers and a covey of nine Grey Partridges at Harrington Airfield and another covey of eight Grey Partridges and a Barn Owl in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

The Thrapston Velvet
Scoters courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Nearly November!


Eleanor popped down to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon and scanned from the Old Scaldwell Road. The fabulous flock of eleven Whooper Swans were still present as were four Great White Egrets all on show at the same time. At least six Red-crested Pochard were visible in the Scaldwell Bay as were half a dozen Pintail.

Single Grey Wagtails were noted at Hanging Houghton and at Brackmills, Northampton and Barnes Meadow LNR hosted 10 - 11 Snipe. A number of the scuffed fields in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton are attracting large numbers of birds, the most obvious today being gulls, Skylarks and hundreds of Fieldfares. A huge passage of Starlings was again obvious today with birds arriving in big flocks from the east and flying quite slow and streaming west at low level.


Neil M

Little Grebe.

Great White Egret.


Whooper Swan.

Meadow Pipit.

All images taken at Pitsford
Reservoir yesterday and courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Autumn birding in the county


With such an excellent weather forecast I decided that it would be a day out and about in the county. I started at Polebrook Airfield and the immediate area, the most obvious birds being the hundreds and hundreds of Starlings flying west, often low with some of them stalling to feed and rest. Thrushes and finches were on the move in good numbers and there were plenty of vocal Skylarks spiralling around the large flat fields. The only birds of note were a single Stonechat, a Chiffchaff, a couple of Bramblings, a few Redpoll, a Siskin and three Golden Plovers.

On next to Thrapston Pits where six first year Velvet Scoters looked spectacular as they were swimming and diving on Town Lake. There was no sign of the other two individuals from yesterday and I took a walk around Town Lake locating a first year Scaup, a couple of Kingfishers and three Cetti's Warblers but little else.

I then popped over to Ditchford Pits and finished the WeBS count off there, concentrating on the main pit between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough which was absolutely packed with wildfowl including over 500 Gadwall, over 500 Wigeon and 162 Mute Swans - amazing stuff and a very colourful scene in the beautiful October sunshine. The only birds of note were three Kingfishers, three Cetti's Warblers and a Chiffchaff.

I finished at Pitsford Reservoir and after filling the feeders for the Tree Sparrows at the Old Scaldwell Road I completed a little scanning. The Scaldwell Bay in particular was full of birds which included eleven Whooper Swans (two juveniles), eight Red-crested Pochard, a Shelduck, the usual adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Curlew, a Green Sandpiper and at least one Stonechat.

Eleanor's walk at Harrington Airfield this afternoon provided views of a hunting Barn Owl, two Woodcock, two Bramblings, a few Redpolls and Siskins with a Peregrine over the A14 just east of Kettering.


Neil M

Velvet Scoters.


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Northamptonshire Birding


A couple each of Redpoll and Brambling touched down briefly at Scotland Wood (Kelmarsh Estate) today and a pair of Raven were very vocal at Kelmarsh Hall. The usual pair of Raven were at Staverton today and a brief stop at Ravensthorpe Reservoir provided views of a Ruddy Shelduck, a Great White Egret and four Pintail.

Eric was at Thrapston Pits again today and an excellent suite of ducks on Town Lake included six Velvet Scoters, two Common Scoters and a Scaup, and that was after he had earlier heard a Yellow-browed Warbler near to his house in Corby (bird not seen).

A ringing session at Linford Lakes this morning by Kenny and Sarah provided 76 birds of which 45 were new. In addition to the usual tits they caught 14 Goldfinches, 4 Chaffinches, 2 Redwings, a Blackbird and a Goldcrest.


Neil M

A Blackbird hatched this
year but the colour of the
bill, pale edging to feathers
and no doubt the biometrics
suggest this bird is from the
continent and probably intends
to winter in the UK.

Close up of the rictal bristles
on this Redwing, relatively
easy to see on members of the
thrush family...

All images courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Pitsford WeBS count


Yesterday (Friday) Eric yet again toured Thrapston Pits, his avian highlights being four Red-crested Pochard with the drakes looking stunning in the autumn sunshine. Other birds included a couple of Little Egrets and five calling Cetti's Warblers.

Today (Saturday) and Chris Payne opened his mist nets at Bradden for just a couple of hours this morning and caught 52 birds which were made up of a male Siskin, three Goldfinches, two Nuthatches, a Dunnock, two Robins, a Treecreeper, 17 Blue Tits, 22 Great Tits and 3 Coal Tits.

Today was spent completing the WeBS count at Pitsford Reservoir which resulted in two Whooper Swans in the Scaldwell Bay (two further birds reported later in the day too), probably as many as six Great White Egrets, just five Little Egrets, sixteen Red-crested Pochard (including a leucistic female), a Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid, sixteen Pintail, fifteen Goldeneye, a drake Mandarin Duck, six Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, a Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail and several Redpoll and a couple of Siskins.


Neil M

Male Siskin courtesy of
Chris Payne.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Ringing in Glyn Davies Wood


A ringing session was completed at Glyn Davies Wood today with 136 birds being caught and processed, 124 of which were new birds. This small woodland is in the far west of the county (near Boddington village) and in due course will be adversely affected by the HS2 project. In the meantime though the feed stations maintained by the Banbury Ornithological Society provides supplementary food for many woodland birds and provides an opportunity to assess how many birds make use of this splintered but ancient woodland. A small party of Siskins and a single Redpoll were noted in the wood.

The birds processed today were made up of 49 Great Tits, 46 Blue Tits, 6 Coal Tits, 4 Marsh Tits, 7 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Treecreepers, 3 Wrens, a Robin, 11 Goldcrests, 2 Blackbirds, 4 Nuthatches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

One of the Great Tits and one of the Long-tailed Tits were first ringed there in December 2015 and one of the Blue Tits was recently ringed at Priors Marston.

A short visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon provided views of a Green Sandpiper, a Snipe, a Chiffchaff and three Siskins. This afternoon a Grey Wagtail was in our garden examining the new garden pond!


Neil M


Great Tit. This young female
bird is exhibiting what appear
to be rapidly developing growths.
She was otherwise in good condition
and a healthy weight but these lesions
are likely to grow and reduce life

Adult male Blue Tit. Of the 46
Blue Tits handled today this was
the only adult - all the others were
birds hatched this year!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Ditchford WeBS count


I spent some of the day completing part of the monthly WeBS count at Ditchford Pits today. Although it was quite a blustery westerly wind, the sun came out and it was very pleasant out and about, so much so that large insects such as Hornets, butterflies and Common Darter dragonflies were on the wing in reasonable numbers.

A strong passage of Woodpigeons was evident moving down the Nene Valley pushing into the westerly airstream and the various sized flocks numbered just less than a thousand individuals. Much smaller numbers of Stock Doves were moving at the same time. A calling Grey Plover also moved through west at 9.18am followed by a low-flying and calling Rock Pipit also going the same way at 9.50am. Other birds of interest included an adult Peregrine, nine Little Egrets, just two Kingfishers, two Redpolls, five Siskins, a Stonechat, three Grey Wagtails, six Cetti's Warblers and just two Chiffchaffs.

A quick visit to Pitsford Reservoir early this afternoon to fill up the feeders at the Old Scaldwell Road was sufficient to note three Great White Egrets and an adult Yellow-legged Gull in the Scaldwell Bay.

Finches on the move in the Brampton Valley this morning included small numbers of Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling and there was a covey of twelve Grey Partridges at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.


Neil M

Carrion Crow.

Long-tailed Tit.

Adult Peregrine at
Ditchford today. From
the size of it's crop I
think it had just eaten!

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Back home!


Breezy but pleasant weather back in the county today but not really any time for birding as it was all the usual 'back home' chores to attend to!

Eleanor's morning walk down in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton provided plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings and two Bramblings; a Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and the gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir didn't provide anything out of the ordinary.

Yesterday Eric's efforts at Thrapston Pits resulted in a Marsh Harrier plus more common raptors, a couple of Little Egrets, four Cetti's Warblers and a Chiffchaff.

Chris Payne completed a little ringing at Bradden on Sunday with 53 birds from one net in three hours which included Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff.


Neil M

Album of images
from the Bradden
ringing session -
Blue Tit, Chiffchaff
and Treecreeper LHS
Long-tailed Tit, Coal
Tit, Goldcrest and
 Nuthatch RHS

Green Woodpecker as caught
and ringed at Stortons Pits
nearly a month ago. Handling
birds provides the opportunity
of seeing aspects not easily seen
in the field, note the barbs on the
end of the woodpecker's tongue.
Presumably this adaption makes it
easier to extract those ants and their
larva from their underground home.

All images courtesy of
Chris Payne.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Cornish birding


A visit to some rough pasture and scrub this morning near Lands End provided views of a Grey Catbird, an American bird dumped in Cornwall almost certainly the result of Storm Callum. He/she was lively if a little skulking and has already learnt that Blackberries are nice to eat!

We also visited the beach at Sennen, birded the habitat around Porthgwarra and finished the day walking the valley at Kenidjack near St Just.

We saw plenty of Ravens and quite a number of Choughs, a Merlin, a Short-eared Owl, 3-4 Yellow-browed Warblers and huge numbers of corvids and pigeons/doves all west of Penzance. Common Buzzards were spiralling up and calling in beautiful autumn sunshine and the Starlings were flying high up catching insects.


Neil M

Mediterranean Gull.

Green grasshopper sp


Grey Catbird.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Visible migration


We arrived back on the mainland this afternoon, enjoying a sunny and calm cruise on the Scillonian III ferry. Sea-birds were minimal with plenty of Gannets and smaller numbers of Razorbills and Kittiwakes and a single Bonxie. Other creatures included some very impressive Tuna fish leaping clear of the water, these super predatory fish easily the size of a dolphin. Cetaceans included rather distant Harbour Porpoises and Common Dolphins and then a small pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins as we rounded in to Penzance itself.

During the latter part of the week we immersed ourselves in the wonderment of visible migration which is so easily to witness this time of the year with day-time movements of thrushes, wagtails, pipits, Skylarks and others. We spent two days on the under-visited island of St Martin's where other birds included Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrests, Ring Ouzels, Lesser Redpoll, a couple of Rose-coloured Starlings, Spotted Flycatchers, Woodcock, Snipe, Ravens, Blackcaps, large numbers of Chiffchaffs, Common and Black Redstarts, several Peregrines, all three chats and a Short-eared Owl.

Other birds on St Mary's showing for us during this week included a Little Bunting, a Lapland Bunting, a couple of Merlins, lots of new-in Yellow-browed Warblers the last two days, a Water Pipit or two, a Wryneck and another fall of Black Redstarts.

Kenny, Sarah and Helen were ringing at Linford Lakes in Milton Keynes this morning and processed 143 birds with a distinctly autumn feel associated with the twenty species caught.

Highlights included 11 Redwings, 2 Song Thrushes, 8 Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff, a Meadow Pipit, 3 Treecreepers, 4 Siskins and a Redpoll. Twenty-one Greenfinches were a surprise, this species is struggling with diseases so this was a potential mini upturn which hopefully will gain momentum.

Interestingly one of the Siskins was a bird first ringed at Linford in February this year, I wonder where it has been in the meantime?

Jacob spent some time monitoring visible migration over Pitsford Reservoir on Wednesday and was  rewarded with a fly-over Hawfinch for his four hour stint which included 2 Golden Plovers, 232 Skylarks, 7 Swallows, 185 Starlings, 29 Fieldfares, 243 Redwings, 4 Song Thrushes, 2 Tree Sparrows, a Grey Wagtail, 126 Meadow Pipits, 131 Chaffinches, 11 Bramblings and 2 Bullfinches. A subsequent fly-over Short-eared Owl after the vis mig period was another bonus bird!

Also on Wednesday Eric was out and about at Thrapston Pits and found a Yellow-legged Gull, saw 90 plus Golden Plovers fly over in a south westerly direction, located six Chiffchaffs around the reserve and saw three Bramblings too.

I just love this time of the year!


Neil M

Lesser Redpoll
courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Greenland Wheatear.

Adult Mediterranean Gull.

Common Snipe, often
a garden bird on the Scillies
(this one was photographed
under a garden hedge).

They're back!
The skies are again
full of the 'super migrant'

And there are Ring Ouzels
moving among the winter

Rose-coloured Starling.

Spotted Flycatcher...the warm
conditions ensure there are plenty
 of insects but the last of the
flycatchers need to be moving south now...


A female Stonechat
on her breezy perch!

Little Bunting.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Scilly adventure continues!


A mixture of weather down here on the Scillies during the last few days but generally pretty dry and still mild and with ridiculous numbers of interesting insects still on the wing. The people monitoring the moths are finding all sorts of rare specimens and there are Hummingbird Hawk-moths everywhere! The last few days have provided more records of Vagrant Hawker dragonflies, lots of butterflies and even a couple of stick insects!

Bird-wise it has been relatively quiet and some of the standard scarce migrants have been difficult with very low numbers of Firecrests and Wrynecks. Even the Yellow-browed Warblers are only here in small numbers and are definitely not showy!

Eleanor took a boat trip around the islands on Sunday and saw large numbers of Grey Seals, a party of four Grey Phalaropes and a variety of inshore sea-birds including auks, Common Scoters etc.

Blackcaps are moving through the islands in high numbers and even the winter thrushes have arrived with small numbers of fresh Redwings, Fieldfares and Ring Ouzels each day (and even a Mistle Thrush today which is scarce here). Scarce migrants seen most days include Lapland Bunting, Richard's Pipit, Red-backed Shrike, flycatchers and Common Redstarts and there has been a big arrival of Black Redstarts and White Wagtails. Several 'Yellow Wagtails' include some perplexing individuals. Merlins, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Peregrines whizz around the islands and keep things lively!


Neil M

Grey Seals
Eleanor McMahon.

Grey Phalarope
Eleanor McMahon.

Scilly fisherman.

Bums on the beach -
Tor and Jaeger enjoying

One of those 'Yellow