Friday, 30 November 2018

Friday sightings...


Not much opportunity for birding today but a walk at Harrington Airfield this morning yielded plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings and a calling Siskin and some Golden Plovers somewhere. The nearby Draughton Pool was teeming with wildfowl including very good numbers of Wigeon.

Eleanor's run around Pitsford Reservoir south of the causeway provided views of two Great White Egrets but not much else. This afternoon there was a Barn Owl or two hunting in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton plus a couple of Ravens.

Geoff Douglas confirmed the continuing presence of Whooper Swans in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford today plus the Black-tailed Godwit, a Green Sandpiper, a Ruff and a Great White Egret and Adrian Borley saw the first year Scaup on Town lake at Thrapston Pits and a juvenile Whooper Swan still on North Lake there. Kim Taylor espied another Great White Egret at Summer Leys Nature reserve this morning.


Neil M

Drake Wigeon courtesy
of John Tilly.

Barn Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Great White Egret.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Wet and windy 2!



A day of visiting and restocking feed stations today in breezy, sometimes wet and very mild weather conditions. The Marsh Tits were pleased to see me at Scotland Wood and escorted me down to the feeders where they received their free sunflower seeds!

Pitsford Reservoir next, but this time it was a Firecrest that shouted at me from the hedge alongside the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station! Initially there was no sign of any Whooper Swans but later in the morning all eleven had arrived back in the Scaldwell Bay (nine in particular were very flighty). Other birds included a single Great White Egret, at least sixteen Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Ruff and a Redshank. A Stoat was a nice sighting!

A single Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Water Treatment Works and the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton was once again the hunting area for a male Merlin pursuing Skylarks and three Bramblings with Chaffinches on the seed there. The gull roost at Pitsford Reservoir provided views of two Yellow-legged Gulls - an adult and a first year. The adult was attacked by a Great Black-backed Gull and may have been injured as a result.

Nick Parker was at Thrapston Pits today and managed to locate a first year Scaup on Town Lake plus a couple of Egyptian Geese and a pair of Raven over. Eric tried out Stanwick Pits and again succeeded in seeing all three species of egret with a Cattle Egret on the east side of the complex and Little and Great White Egrets on the Main Lake.


Neil M



Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Wet and windy!


A rather wet and horrid day out there today and bird sightings were perhaps unremarkably quite limited!

Jacob ventured a little way in to the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir and saw a Great White Egret, five Whooper Swans, four Pintail, a hundred and forty Pochard and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Eric braved the conditions at Titchmarsh Reserve and was pleased to discover three Chiffchaffs along Harpers Brook. A few Little Egrets plus the usual raptors and wildfowl added some variety and a visit to Deene Lake provided views of six Snipe, five Green Sandpipers and eight Shelduck.

Eleanor's walk at Harrington Airfield this afternoon was enough to locate a rather soggy Short-eared Owl which flushed up from the rough triangle of vegetation just east of Bunker 1.

The forecast for tomorrow doesn't look any better so some more images from the south of France...


Neil M

Common Cranes.


Greater Flamingo.


Tuesday, 27 November 2018



Not much opportunity for birding today but a dozen Bramblings were on seed/grain in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning.

In our small garden today I estimated that a hundred Goldfinches were visiting the feeders plus decent numbers of continental Chaffinches, a male Brambling and of course large numbers of tits!

Some images from the south of France follow...


Neil M

A golden Goldfinch!
Image courtesy of
Chris Payne.

Camargue White Horse.

Western Swamphen in the rain!


Common Cranes.

Tree Frog.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Pitsford Reservoir on Monday.


It seemed like all eyes were on Pitsford today with a steady stream of birders visiting in an effort to track down yesterday's Ring-necked Duck. There has to be a good chance it is still there somewhere but no-one managed to find it!

Birds north of the causeway included at least ten Whooper Swans, at least two Great White Egrets, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, sixteen Red-crested Pochard, at least sixteen Pintail and something of a wader fest with singles of Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit and at least five Green Sandpipers. Other sightings included a male Brambling and three Stonechats and a ringing session around the main feeding station provided 74 captures made up of a Chiffchaff, two Goldcrests, six Long-tailed Tits, two Blackbirds, twenty Blue Tits, thirteen Great Tits, two Dunnocks, two Robins, two Goldfinches, seven Chaffinches, thirteen Tree Sparrows and four Yellowhammers.

The gull roost was checked off the Sailing Club this afternoon and provided views of an adult Mediterranean Gull, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and two Red-crested Pochard.

The Bramblings were again by the farm barn in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton today with eight birds there this morning and three there this afternoon.


Neil M

Male Yellowhammer.

First year male Goldfinch.

Tree Sparrow.

Adult male Chaffinch.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

November birds


Yesterday (Saturday) Chris Payne opened a mist net in his garden at Greens Norton briefly and caught 28 Goldfinches and a young Magpie. Debbie and Eric paid Titchmarsh reserve near Thrapston a visit and noted a Raven and plenty of Goldcrests.

Today (Sunday) and Eric's visit to Blatherwycke Lake provided views of winter thrushes, two Snipe and a Green Sandpiper and nearby Deene Lake hosted 14 Snipe, 3 Green Sandpipers and 100 plus Teal.

Four Bramblings were near the barn in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton again this morning with at least two there this afternoon with two in our garden in the village.

John Friendship-Taylor located a fine adult Caspian Gull just south of the A422 roundabout between Middleton Cheney and Warkworth today, three Yellow-legged Gulls and twenty Tree Sparrows also being seen in the same area.

A ringing session at Stortons Pits today provided 54 captures of 13 species, the total being made up of 2 Chiffchaffs, a female Blackcap, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 9 Great Tits, 11 Blue Tits, 12 Goldfinches, a Wren, a Cetti's Warbler, 3 Dunnocks, a Robin, 4 Redwings, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Reed Buntings.

A parallel ringing session at Linford Lakes, Milton Keynes provided 59 birds of 9 species, the total being made up of 36 Redwings, 7 Fieldfares, a Blackbird, 6 Blue Tits, a Treecreeper, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Bullfinches and 2 Siskins.

Pitsford Reservoir came up trumps today with the discovery of a drake Ring-necked Duck in the Scaldwell Bay. A variety of observers including Adrian Borley, Bob Bullock and Tom Green came up with an excellent supporting cast of a Ruddy Shelduck, a Scaup, four Great White Egrets, eleven Whooper Swans, fifteen Pintail, at least ten Red-crested Pochard, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Redshank, a Ruff and two Stonechats.


Neil M

Drake Ring-necked Duck -
a captive bird photographed
at Slimbridge.

Red-crested Pochard.

 A notoriously difficult bird
to catch for ringing purposes,
Kenny and team managed to
catch and process seven of
them today...

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Wildlife of a dull November day


I arrived back last night from a nine day trip to South France, centred around the Camargue but with a view to finding birds including the fabulous Wallcreeper in the Apilles regional park. We were successful in our search but am now back for some county birding!

This morning there were approximately eight Bramblings around the grain store in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and later there were two males coming to feeders in the garden (in association with Chaffinches and Goldfinches).

Eleanor saw her usual two Ravens at Staverton today and this afternoon watched two Otters splashing about on the 'small side' of Ravensthorpe Reservoir.

A Golden Plover was heard calling at Harrington Airfield and birds at Pitsford Reservoir included nine Whooper Swans, four Great White Egrets, sixteen Pintail, thirteen Red-crested Pochard, a Redshank, a Ruff and two or three Yellow-legged Gulls.


Neil M

Male Brambling courtesy
of Robin Gossage.


Drake Pintail.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

This morning I enjoyed a very pleasant walk around the Blueberry / valley below Hanging Houghton area . Everywhere glistened due to the overnight frost and initially bright sunshine which sadly was short lived and it was another dull November day.
Plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares eating the berries in the hedgerows whilst on the fields Skylarks, Chaffinches and Yellowhammers in good numbers.  However there is one less skylark as a male Merlin caught one for his breakfast. The Skylark put up a good fight and whilst it was fantastic to watch this duel at close quarters I felt quite sad when it was out witted by this fearsome falcon.
I flushed a Barn Owl from a hedge where it sat enjoying the brief spell of sunshine and further on a couple of Woodcock from the bottom of the same hedge !!
There was a pair of Stonechat along one of the overgrown ditches. These are new arrivals as I walk this area most days and they were not there yesterday.  
Other birds of note were at least 4 Bramblings, a Siskin and 8 Grey Partridge.
A visit to Harrington this afternoon was quiet apart from a Short Eared Owl and 2 Ravens.

Regards Eleanor 

Monday, 19 November 2018

Monday's Musings

I managed to get out and about today, Despite several visits to Sywell I have managed to avoid seeing the White Fronted Geese which have been there for a while.  This afternoon I saw one White Fronted Goose which appeared to have a damaged wing and the geese were definitely on edge, possibly as a result of the shooting that was taking place nearby.   Nothing else of note on the water itself but a nice flock of Siskins and Redpolls in the alders at the back of one of the bays.
A brief look at Pitsford produced 11 Whooper Swans, 2 Great White Egret and 10+ Red Crested Pochards north of the causeway.
I visited Harrington Airfield late this afternoon, but my gentle amble turned into more of a gallop as I tried to beat the incoming rain. However my pup and gammy legged dog slowed me down and we all got a good soaking.  Prior to the rain I saw a male Merlin and 2 Short Eared Owls. The bushes were full of chattering Fieldfares and Redwings and  there were plenty of Skylarks and other passerines on the fields which were obviously attractive for the Merlin

Regards Eleanor

Kenny Kramer had a productive ringing session in the Milton Keynes area over the weekend
A light frost and a misty start was more inkeeping with the time of year compared to the recent mild conditions.
As predicted, as soon as the sun hit the nets and the wind picked up, we almost immediately stopped catching, but not before we had processed 74 birds, 56 new birds of 17 species.
Redwings were the top secies of the day with 17 new. There was a definite influx of blackbirds with 9 caught. Two song thrush and our first fieldfare of the season completed the thrush contingent.
Yet another blackcap was a surprise as were 3 chiffchaffs and 2 cettis warblers.
2 redpoll added to the wintery feel.
4(!) Magpies went in the net together but all managed to get out before we could reach them, as did a green woodpecker.
Sarah spotted a water rail skulking along the Great Ouse and a flock of around 80 siskin was sticking stubbornly to the treetops.
Non-avian sightings included a common toad and a weasel that popped its head up by the ringing table, perhaps curious to see what we were doing (or looking for a free meal.)
A sad recovery was blue tit D870645 which was ringed as an adult in 2015, making it at least 4 years old and retrapped 5 times since, most recently in October this year. It was found dead inside the woodland hide, perhaps having become trapped inside, or was possibly sick and roosting in the hide.
A good crowd of visitors turned up for the open day and many were thrilled to see some nice birds in the hand.


Blackcap 1
Reed bunting 1
Cettis warbler 1 (1)
Redwing 17
Fieldfare 1
Blackbird 6 (3)
Robin (1)
Wren 4 (2)
Great tit 1 (3)
Blue tit 8 (3)
Dunnock 1 (1)
Song thrush 2
Goldcrest 2
Redpoll 2
Chiffchaff 3
Long tail tit 6 (4)

Friday, 16 November 2018

Birds in the Mist !

It is that time of the year when the daylight hours for birding are so precious and I struggle to find enough time to fit everything in. Today the hours seemed even less as it was a very dreary, grey November day.  Most of my birds were heard rather than seen. A large flock of Golden Plover were flying around Harrington Airfield with their evocative call penetrating the mist. As I walked the fields with the dogs, the hedgerows and fields were full of chattering Fieldfare and Redwing which became "shapes" in the mist as they disappeared.
Yesterday Eric Graham visited Blatherwyke Lake area where there were large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing moving through and a 100+ Golden Plover circling before heading off west. 
Other birds present included 6 pair of Mandarin Duck, 3 Black Swan, 3 Little Egret and good numbers of Wigeon and Gadwall.
A visit to nearby Deene Lake produced 4 Green Sandpiper and over a 100 Teal on the exposed mud and several Shelduck have arrived.
Meanwhile Chris Payne and his helpers enjoyed a good ringing session at Bradden where 76 birds were ringed. These included 27 new and 10 retrap Blue Tit, 14 new and 7 retrap Great Tit and 1 new and 1 retrap Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Regards Eleanor

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mid-week at Pitsford


Birds today at Hanging Houghton included a pair of vocal Raven and a Grey Wagtail.

Eric's patrol of Thrapston Pits today yielded just a single Velvet Scoter on Town Lake, a Great White Egret and a Kingfisher plus the usual throng of winter wildfowl, thrushes and raptors.

Birds specifically in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir as seen by Jacob amounted to the eleven Whooper Swans still, three Great White Egrets, ten Red-crested Pochard, sixteen Pintail, the adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Stonechat, a Willow Tit and a Grey Wagtail. The trees around the reservoir attract large roosts of corvids with many in the Scaldwell, Walgrave and Moulton Grange Bays and Jacob estimated Jackdaw numbers to be as many as 5000!

The gull roost at Pitsford this afternoon provided views of a first year Mediterranean Gull and a first year Yellow-legged Gull.


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull.

Black-tailed Godwit courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Stonechat courtesy
of Robin Gossage.


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mid November sunshine and birds


Birds north of the causeway at Pitsford Reservoir this morning included four Great White Egrets, eleven Whooper Swans, at least eleven Red-crested Pochard, a number of Pintail, the usual adult Yellow-legged Gull, a Black-tailed Godwit and at least one Stonechat. A Red Admiral butterfly was flying around rather feebly in the stunning sunshine.

Jacob heard a Hawfinch calling from a tree at Brixworth Country Park this morning and noted a Brambling and Siskin too. Small numbers of Siskins were at Scotland Wood this afternoon, seventy Golden Plovers were at Harrington Airfield and there was a Redpoll at Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

More images from Iceland this summer...

Harlequin Ducks.

Iceland Gull.


Great Black-backed Gull.

Lots of waterfalls
in Iceland!

...but not many Arctic Foxes!

Arctic Tern.

Pitsford WeBS count


The WeBS count was completed today (Monday) at Pitsford Reservoir in sunny conditions. At least four Great White Egrets remain (four seen simultaneously on a couple of occasions) but there may be more, the eleven Whooper Swans also remain and other interesting wildfowl included twenty Red-crested Pochard and twenty Pintail. Waders were well represented with thirty-one Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit and two Green Sandpipers. A rather strange-looking Peregrine was active all morning and other birds of note included eight Little Egrets, the usual adult Yellow-legged Gull, a couple of Siskins, up to six Grey Wagtails, a Chiffchaff and three Stonechats.


Neil M


Tufted Ducks.

Great White Egret.

Grey Heron.

Nine of the eleven Whooper
Swans enjoyed a little fly
around today!