Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year!


A ringing session at Woodford Halse today successfully processed forty five birds of eleven species made up of nine Long-tailed Tits, a Treecreeper, nineteen Blue Tits, seven Great Tits, a Nuthatch, a Chaffinch, a Goldfinch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Mistle Thrush (a rare capture), a Redwing and three Dunnocks. Amongst other birds two Grey Wagtails were present on-site.

Birds at Brixworth Water Treatment Works today included a Cetti's Warbler and a Grey Wagtail.

Debbie and Eric spent three hours at Thrapston Pits today and confirmed the presence of three Great White Egrets (all on Aldwincle Lake), a pair of Goosander and a pair of Egyptian Geese.

A Peregrine was seen over Maidwell village at 10.40am this morning and the birds at Pitsford Reservoir today included the two Great Northern Divers feeding in Pintail Bay and in The Narrows near the Holly Tree and the drake Ring-necked Duck which this afternoon was in the mouth of the Walgrave Bay and at dusk was swimming just in front of Maytrees Hide. The regular supporting cast included four Great White Egrets and fourteen Red-crested Pochard north of the causeway and a Raven by the dam.

Happy New Year!

Eleanor and Neil

Mistle Thrush.


NBC Indoor Meeting 2nd Jan


The next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club is this coming Wednesday 2nd January, our speaker being Dick Newell.

This talk will cover information about Common Swifts, their lifestyles, their migrations and their decline in the UK. As one of the main causes of the decline is loss of nest sites, the talk will cover a wide range of nest boxing solutions from off the shelf products to custom solutions. Dick is with Action for Swifts and has developed many ideas and designs to help Swifts. Many of these are documented on

In 2016, Dick and AfS were given a Marsh Award for Innovative Ornithology.

This will take place at the usual venue of the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir. The meeting starts at 7.30 and tea and coffee will be available.

All welcome!

Neil M

Sunday, 30 December 2018

As you were!


Just back in from an eight day tour of the Algarve in Portugal which provided us with some super weather and birds too!

Locally a Barn Owl has been busy around the village both last night, this morning and again this afternoon and several Bramblings were calling below the village in the Brampton Valley first thing this morning. Two Ravens were on the north side of the village early on and a Brambling was visiting gardens in the village late morning.

Away from Hanging Houghton and a Woodcock was flushed at Harrington Airfield but it was otherwise quiet there for birds.

Geoff Douglas located the drake Ring-necked Duck in the Walgrave Bay at Pitsford today and Adrian's efforts at Thrapston Pits provided sightings of the juvenile Whooper Swan, two Great White Egrets and a pair of Red-crested Pochard.

Both Great Northern Divers were visible at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon, one in The Narrows/Holly Tree area and the other in and around the Pintail Bay where there was also a Yellow-legged Gull.


Neil M

Booted Eagle.


Western Swamphen.

Purple Sandpiper.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Odds and Ends

I always find the period between Christmas and New Year a bit of an odd time as nothing seems to happen and everything appears to be "on hold" before life returns to normal.
This also appears to be the case where the birds are concerned as I have only been seeing the same old regulars, Bramblings and Barn Owl below Hanging Houghton and Ring Necked Duck, Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swans, Red Crested Pochards and Great White Egrets at Pitsford Reservoir.
Eric visited Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston today and reports a Whooper Swan on Elinor Lake, 2 Great White Egret and a stunning drake Goosander at Aldwinkle end, a nice flock of Goldeneye on Town Lake and 5 Little Egrets and a couple of Cettis Warbler dotted about.
The birds seem to have disappeared from our garden and Harrington Airfield has been very bleak with nothing to report.
At least the days will be getting longer as we head towards a new year which we hope will be bird filled for everyone.

Regards   Eleanor

No pictures of birds I'm afraid but there is a birding theme !!          This is " Spot the birdie twitcher Tor" and he has qualified for the Rescue Dogs Agility final next year and he also came top of the league in his category beating all the fast collies !!! not bad for a hound that nobody wanted.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Greetings

Very little to report for my efforts over the last two days. Yesterday I only managed 4 Red Crested Pochards in the mist at the sailing club Pitsford Reservoir.  
Harrington Airfield seems extremely quiet and rather bleak.  
There are several Brambling still feeding with a Chaffinch flock infront of the old cattle barn below Hanging Houghton village. They roost in the hedge next to the barn and their numbers fluctuate during the day.  Also a Barn Owl regularly in the area.
Eric Graham reports that it was quiet at Titchmarsh Reserve, Thrapston today with the only birds of note being Great White Egret and a pair of Egyptian Geese.


Eleanor + Neil

image courtesy of Robin Gossage

Friday, 21 December 2018

Festive birds


A mild but wet and breezy affair today but the birds were still pleased to see me at the usual feeding stations!

The Ring-necked Duck managed to stay hidden at Pitsford today despite plenty of people looking for it! The regular birds seen included the eleven Whooper Swans, the adult Bewick's Swan, sixteen Red-crested Pochard, a few Pintail, three Great White Egrets and a pair of Stonechat. A drake Smew and the two Great Northern Divers were reportedly still present.

Thrapston Pits also kept its usual birds today with two Great White Egrets, the juvenile Whooper Swan and the Scaup all still present (courtesy of Nick Parker).

A Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Treatment Works today and the usual Bramblings and the Barn Owl were still in situ at Hanging Houghton.

The Hen Harrier was again see fleetingly between Ringstead and Stanwick this afternoon.

A flurry of more ringing recoveries have proved interesting as follows:-

A first year male Blackcap was caught and ringed at Stortons Pits on 28th August 2018 and then captured and released again on 30th September 2018 at St Margarets, Dover in Kent. Presumably on its way to warmer climes this bird had travelled 201 km in a south easterly direction and taking up to 33 days to complete it.

A young drake Mallard caught and ringed at Pitsford Reservoir on 23rd December 2003 was found dead with an injury at Towcester on 20th December 2018 at the ripe old age of fifteen years!

Finally a first year Blue Tit ringed at Linford Lakes (Milton Keynes) on 29th September 2018 was caught and released at Deangarden, Buckinghamshire on 20th December 2018, travelling 52 km south within 82 days.


Neil M


Sparrowhawk courtesy
of David Arden.

A Robin is always festive and
the Sparrowhawk is trying it's best!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Ringing recoveries


Jacob finally managed to see the drake Ring-necked Duck at Pitsford Reservoir today, initially picked up in flight and then in the vicinity of the mouths of the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays. This has been a difficult bird for many local birders to connect with and like all the feeding 'aythya' ducks on the reservoir it clearly moves around a bit!

At least six Bramblings were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton early this afternoon, again in the vicinity of the large barn.

Stanwick Pits hosted the six White-fronted Geese and the Pink-footed Goose on the Roadside Pit but efforts at seeing the Hen Harrier at the eastern end of the complex between 10.30am and 12 noon proved negative.

Some ringing data has been received reflecting the activities of bird ringing locally and elsewhere...

EZ55626 was a ring placed on a nestling Kestrel near Stanwick on 1st June 2018 and despite fledging successfully sadly this bird was found dead (cause unknown) near Twywell on 6th December 2018.

FH95075 was a ring placed on a leg of a juvenile Carrion Crow at Hanging Houghton on 25th July 2018, not a species we ring very often. This bird was reportedly shot at nearby Lamport in early December 2018.

GV11773 was a ring used on an adult drake Mallard at Pitsford Reservoir on 28th July 2018 and this bird was then shot near Brixworth in November 2018.

Sadly these bigger birds didn't fare too well but better news has been received of the following two much smaller birds...!

Z976742 was the ring placed on a juvenile Blue Tit at a place called Caer Du, Howey in Powys on 19th October 2017 and this little mite turned up in a mist net at Bradden, South Northants on 9th December 2018 by which time it was an adult bird! A 160 km journey for a Blue Tit is pretty astonishing and I wonder what the stimulus for flying almost directly east was -and where is it now and where is it off to next?

AYD7995 was more of a conformist - a ring that was affixed to a first year male Goldfinch on 21st October 2018 at Anglers Country Park, Wakefield, West Yorkshire - this bird was re-caught by Chris Payne at Greens Norton, South Northants on 26th November 2018 having travelled 168 km in a southerly direction.


Neil M


Carrion Crow.

Mallard courtesy
of Jacob Spinks.

Blue Tit.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A quiet day...


Birds at Hanging Houghton today included three Bramblings in our garden and others heard calling below the village in the Brampton Valley. A Raven was heard too.

Efforts at locating the Ring-necked Duck at Pitsford Reservoir today didn't pay off but presumably it is still there somewhere! Other birds noted included the adult Bewick's Swan, the eleven Whooper Swans and a drake Smew all north of the causeway, courtesy of Jacob.

Harrington Airfield seemed quiet this afternoon and has been for some time...just resident species and winter thrushes are the current norm.


Neil M


Mute and Whooper Swan.

Whooper Swans.


All recent images from
Pitsford Reservoir courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Birds of a windy and then wet day!


Eric paid Blatherwycke Lake a visit today and notched up two pairs of noisy Egyptian Geese, a pair of Black Swans and three pairs of Mandarin Ducks. Deene Lake just down the road hosted an excellent six pairs of Shelduck, another pair of Black Swans, four Snipe and a Green Sandpiper.

Nick Parker saw three Goosanders at Ringstead Pits today on Kinewell Lake (this species seems scarce this winter) and Eleanor saw four Bramblings in the Chaffinch flock in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

I undertook the remainder of the WeBS count at Ditchford Pits this morning concentrating on the more central pits. A female Red-crested Pochard was present and other birds included just one Kingfisher, a Snipe, a Cetti's Warbler and two or three Chiffchaffs.

In pretty inclement conditions this afternoon a Great Northern Diver was in the Pintail Bay at Pitsford Reservoir and a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull was also present.


Neil M

One of the juvenile
Great Northern Divers
at Pitsford Reservoir.

Red-crested Pochard.

Images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Pitsford WeBS count


It took six hours and four observers to complete the Pitsford Reservoir WeBS count today, the day of the month when we attempt to count all birds utilising the waterbody. We managed to find all the known scarcer birds with the exception of the Ruddy Shelduck (if still present).

The drake Ring-necked Duck was with other diving ducks and quite mobile between The Point (between the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays) and towards the Lagoon Hide. Although closer to the eastern shore, the best place to watch it is from the Maytrees Hide area. A female Scaup was in the Walgrave Bay and the eleven Whooper Swans and the adult Bewick's Swan were mobile between the Scaldwell and Walgrave Bays. Six of the Red-crested Pochard were in the Walgrave Bay with ten more off the Sailing Club near the dam. Most of the Pintail seemed to have left us with just three birds found today.

A Great Northern Diver was seen in the Pintail Bay and an individual was by the dam - both birds were not seen simultaneously but there is probably still two birds! Four Great White Egrets were present north of the causeway but there appeared to be only one or two Little Egrets.

Waders included a Redshank, a Ruff, two Green Sandpipers and fifty-seven Snipe. Ninety Little Grebes was noteworthy and two Grey Wagtails and a pair of Stonechat were present too.

Elsewhere birds at Thrapston Pits consisted of two Great White Egrets, the juvenile Whooper Swan, a pair of Red-crested Pochard, a Peregrine, a Little Owl and a Stonechat. A Great White Egret remained at Summer Leys Nature Reserve.

The male Hen Harrier was seen again north east of Stanwick Pits this morning, hunting over fields and rough ground between Mallows Cotton derelict farm buildings and Stanwick Quarry.


Neil M

Marsh Tit.
Scotland Wood, Kelmarsh Estate.

Little Grebe. Ninety birds
were present at Pitsford today.

Ruddy Shelduck...may still be
present but we didn't see her today!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Long stayers


Today Pitsford Reservoir remained the focus for many local birders with some excellent long-staying species on show. The drake Ring-necked Duck materialised again north of the causeway and eventually showed well. All eleven Whooper Swans were still present plus the adult Bewick's Swan, a Scaup, at least nine Red-crested Pochard, several Pintail, three or four Great White Egrets and two Green Sandpipers. South of the causeway both Great Northern Divers were seen simultaneously and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was present in the currently tiny gull roost.

The other site providing quality birds for some time is Stanwick Pits and today the sightings included a Marsh Harrier, a male Hen Harrier and a Merlin, the latter two possibly roosting in a hedge at the far east of the complex.

Mike Alibone located an adult Caspian Gull with other gulls around cattle sheds north of the minor road between Chacombe and the A361 and the Brambling count at Hanging Houghton was two on the feed in the Brampton Valley and a male again in our garden. And yes the Barn Owl was hunting the Brampton Valley below HH this afternoon!


Neil M

Whooper Swan.


Grey Heron and
Great White Egret.

All images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Storm Deirdre


This week-end sees our birds under stress as Storm Deirdre hits with cold and wet showers, strong winds and overnight temperature lows, so I was busy feeding the birds at the usual feeding stations. The local Common Buzzards often hunt the feeding station at the Old Scaldwell Road at Pitsford Reservoir in an effort to catch Brown Rats attracted to the bird food but this morning one was actually perched on the wooden bird table. Not surprisingly the rats were keeping a low profile!

Little in the way of opportunity for birding today but bits and pieces include the usual pair of Ravens at Staverton with a single at Great Oxendon.

A Great White Egret was still at Ravensthorpe Reservoir viewable from the causeway and of course after I said they had seemingly gone, the Chaffinch flock by the barn in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton re-appeared as fifty strong this afternoon and included at least eight Bramblings.  A male and a female Brambling were also in our garden this afternoon.

Ian Moore's efforts at Pitsford Reservoir today yielded the Bewick's Swan, ten Whooper Swans, six Pintail, three Great White Egrets and a Peregrine. Ian didn't see the Ring-necked Duck but another observer reported seeing it.

Steve Fisher again espied the male Hen Harrier at Stanwick Pits this afternoon, again at the eastern end of the complex.


Neil M

Common Buzzard.

Great Tit and Chaffinch
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Tree Sparrow courtesy
of Cathy Ryden.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Birds of mid-December


Yesterday (Thursday) and the search for the Cattle Egret seen at Pitsford Reservoir the day before sadly drew a blank. The Great Northern Diver was still in the vicinity of the dam as were a pair of Red-crested Pochard. To the north of the causeway on the reserve, much of the wildfowl was pushed up into the Walgrave Bay but wildfowl on show included the adult Bewick's Swan, eight Whooper Swans, four Great White Egrets and four Red-crested Pochard.

A Great White Egret was also seen at Summer Leys and Nick Parker saw the now regular birds at Thrapston Pits comprising of a first year Scaup, a first year Whooper Swan, five Little Egrets and a Great White Egret. Nick went on to see the male Hen Harrier at the very far east end of Stanwick Pits at 3.40pm.

Today (Friday) saw two male Bramblings in our garden at Hanging Houghton but it seems that the Chaffinch and Brambling flock in the Brampton Valley below the village may well now have dissipated.

A period of bird ringing at Woodford Halse today proved successful with the capture and processing of 77 birds of 12 species. The birds comprised of a Coal Tit, 30 Blue Tits, 21 Great Tits, 2 Robins, 6 Dunnocks, a Blackbird, 3 Redwings, a Grey Wagtail, 3 Chaffinches, 5 Goldfinches, a Nuthatch and 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. One of the Great Tits was already bearing a ring suggesting it is not a local bird.

A WeBS count at the western section of Ditchford Pits provided views of a Great White Egret, four Little Egrets, four Water Rails (heard only), a fly-over Crossbill. two Grey Wagtails, six Cetti's Warblers and a couple of Siskins.

At Pitsford Reservoir today the Great Northern Diver was seen in the Pintail Bay and birds to the north of the causeway included the Bewick's Swan still, eleven Whooper Swans and two Great White Egrets. The drake Ring-necked Duck was also reported, apparently in the mouth of the Walgrave Bay early afternoon.

The Barn Owl was again hunting in the Brampton Valley below HH this afternoon.


Neil M

Coal Tit.

Long-tailed Tit.

Marsh Tit.

The beautiful Redwing.

Blue Tit.



All the above images were taken
by John Tilly during the ringing
at Pitsford Reservoir on Wednesday.

Grey Wagtail Woodford Halse
today, courtesy of Chris Payne.