Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year!


A ringing session took place at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday afternoon and this morning in the vicinity of the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station. This end of the year operation provided 67 captures of 13 species made up of two Moorhens, a Fieldfare, three Blackbirds, twenty-five Blue Tits, eight Great Tits, a Long-tailed Tit, a Treecreeper, four Robins, a female Stonechat, seven Tree Sparrows, a Bullfinch, two Reed Buntings and eleven Yellowhammers.

A Short-eared Owl popped up again at Harrington Airfield this morning, flushed and then in flight between Bunkers Two and Three. Other birds there included four Ravens and eleven Golden Plovers.

Adrian visited Ditchford Lane today and espied a Cattle Egret and nine Egyptian Geese.

Happy New Year!

Neil and Eleanor

Short-eared Owl
courtesy of Robin.


Golden Plover courtesy
of Dave Jackson.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Lucky Barn Owl

I always find this period between Christmas and New Year has a bit of " a no man's land" feel about it. The big day is behind us and we look forward to the New Year and starting our bird lists all over again.  I find it a frustrating time as you cannot get anything sorted out and the whole world seems to be out and about on the roads or walking around some of my birding sites.  I intended to walk around Sywell Reservoir this morning but both car parks were full so I drove away thinking I would stop at Pitsford, but again due to the amount of people I didn't bother.
Even the valley below Hanging Houghton didn't escape as people were everywhere and then about 20 4x4 vehicles full of shooters and dogs arrived at the big barn before heading off around the fields.  No chance of a peaceful walk and needless to say I saw no birds of note today.

On a different note, my other main hobby is dog agility. At the weekend I went to a competition called the " Festive Challenge" in Warwickshire.  As I was driving to the venue a car travelling towards me hit a Barn Owl which landed in the road in a heap. I quickly stopped my car and opened my drivers door and scooped it up before the next car arrived. I literally threw it onto my front passenger seat where it fluttered and then went quiet. I thought that it had died.  I continued to drive to the venue and it was about 07.45hrs and just getting light when I arrived.  When I looked at the owl I was very surprised to see it trying to sit up albeit very wobbly.  A quick check revealed no obvious injuries so I made it safe and comfortable in my car whilst I carried on to compete with Tor and Jaeger.  I think its fair to say that both dogs were full of the festive spirit as Jaeger didn't listen and made his own courses up whilst Mr Reliable Tor decided to party around.  Needless to say they were both useless !!!!!
Late afternoon when the competition was over I checked the owl and he/she had spent the day asleep and had left me a present behind of a very fresh regurgitated pellet.   
On my way home I was able to stop along the stretch of road where I had picked it up in the morning. I sat him/her on a fence and kept my fingers crossed. He/she sat there for a couple of seconds before flying off across the fields.   I was very relieved.  Whilst I had not had one of my best days at competing the sight of the Barn Owl flying across the fields more than made up for it.

Regards Eleanor 

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas Eve

This morning I popped into town very early to pick up last minute shopping and took the opportunity of visiting Harlestone Firs on my way home.
It was just beginning to get light as I entered the woods and the birds were just thinking about waking up !!!  As I walked the sun rose and the birds started their "winter dawn " chorus. It was quite amazing to simply listen as more and more birds joined in. Already the most vocal of the birds were the Siskins and during my walk around Siskins were dotted all through the wood.  The most I saw together was a flock of 60 near the railway line.  Other birds included several Nuthatches, Marsh Tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
I also explored the large rough area adjacent to the Firs and accessed via a footpath from the Firs.  It looks an interesting area and I quickly came across two pairs of Stonechats. 
The fields between the Firs and this rough area were full of feeding birds. I easily counted a flock of 52 Pied Wagtails and 70 Linnets. Other birds included large numbers of Rooks, Jackdaws and Stock Doves.
As I walked back into the Firs it started to rain and this produced a beautiful bright rainbow.   My quick walk ended up being a 2 hour amble and I hardly saw another person and most of the time it felt as if I had got the whole place to myself, well apart from my young collies !!  Bliss
At lunchtime it was the turn of my other dogs to go out so I took them on a slow wander around the fields below Hanging Houghton. Lately it has been very quiet in this area but today there were more birds about, namely Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers.  There were plenty of Common Buzzards and Red Kites enjoying the sunshine and wind and I nearly missed the Ring Tailed Hen Harrier as it came through and went off across the fields towards Cottesbrooke.


Monday, 23 December 2019

Out and About

Another nice day with plenty of blue skies and sunshine and I was able to get out and about more.
I started the day with an early morning run where I saw a Barn Owl as dawn broke and flushed at least 2 Woodcock from the hedgerows near to Blueberry.
Later in the day I managed a quick look at Pitsford and saw the male Smew and a Great White Egret north of the causeway.
An equally brief visit to Hollowell and a better look at the 2 Velvet Scotors in good light.  My previous view of the scotors had been just as the light was fading so it was good to see them in sunshine today.  They are lovely looking birds and well worth a trip over.
Early afternoon found me at Harrington to feed the birds. As I was leaving the car a flock of about 200 Golden Plover came over, circled around calling before continuing heading southwards. 
I'd no sooner started walking again when I could hear the corvids getting excited about something and when I looked I could see that they were harassing a Short Eared Owl.  They all disappeared from view towards the third bunker and despite walking around there with my 4 legged helpers I failed to locate the owl.    Otherwise it was very quiet at Harrington.
Non stop today as we have lots of birds visiting the garden and we are replenishing the seed daily.  Today's visitors included male Blackcap, male Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Grey Wagtail and Sparrowhawk.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Despite being out and about today in the pleasant sunshine the birds were few and far between.  The fields remain saturated with large areas of standing water which has caused the feeding winter thrushes and passerines to temporarily move out.  Even the hedgerows are strangely silent.
At Pitsford there was a male Smew off the fishing lodge and a Peregrine and Yellow Legged Gull at the dam.
A Grey Wagtail and Water Rail were present at Brixworth Treatment works whilst at nearby Hollowell Reservoir the 2 Velvet Scotors remain.

Regards Eleanor

Birds of Saturday...


Neither of us had time for much in the way of any birding yesterday (Saturday) with Ravens in Hanging Houghton being the only birds of note.

Other birders in the county picked up on a small increase in Smew locally with a drake being seen close in to the eastern shore near the dam at Ravensthorpe Reservoir, a 'redhead' still at Summer Leys and an elusive 'redhead' at Hardingstone Pits (also known as Ransome Road Lake). Nick Parker saw a Great White Egret at Thrapston Pits but has been unable to find the Whooper Swan in recent days.

The Velvet Scoters were reported from Hollowell Reservoir again and other birds for Summer Leys included a Great White Egret and a Peregrine.

Some basic analysis of the birds processed which had been previously ringed at the ringing session at Pitsford Reservoir last Wednesday identifies quite a number of tits being at least six years old and still going strong. The proportion of adult Great Tits far exceeded those of the youngsters, and in fact newly ringed Great Tits were low in number. I have noticed quite a number of slow, lethargic and clearly sick Great Tits locally for some weeks now and it seems that there is something of a die-off going on.

The fortunes of the Great Tits seems to be at odds with the more arboreal Blue Tits which are in very high numbers this year with the numbers of fresh first year Blue Tits out-numbering the adults. For both Great Tits and Blue Tits, many of the birds encountered last Wednesday were originally ringed as nestlings in the 200 plus nest boxes on-site. Ringing tells us that it is not unusual for a proportion of the birds to remain in their natal area but it also tells us that a significant proportion spill out into neighbouring areas and a few birds travel extraordinary distances within the UK.

News has reached us of a Cetti's Warbler originally ringed at Linford Lakes, Milton Keynes on 4th November 2018 and then being caught again on 20th October this year but this time at Ingrebourne Valley in Greater London (350 days later). This young female travelled 92km in a south-easterly direction, proving again that the UK population of this once-thought sedentary species travels around this island of ours quite extensively before settling in to a territory.


Neil M

Great Tit.

Blue Tit.

Images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 20 December 2019

What a wet lot!


'Intermittent light rain' it said when we planned our Pitsford Reservoir WeBs count for today! Well it rained all day and mostly it wasn't light but we managed to complete our count nevertheless. Fortunately it wasn't cold and there was very little wind. The reservoir is well above it's water retention capacity and much of the waterside furniture/bushes/trees are underwater.

Bird-wise it seemed quiet, the highlights being a Great White Egret, four Little Egrets, a drake Mandarin Duck, forty-one Common Snipe, five Stonechats in the end, a Chiffchaff and two Grey Wagtails. A calling goose at dawn sounded like a White-fronted Goose but the Greylag flock remained in the fields and mostly obscured during the day so it wasn't possible to check them through properly. A Stoat was active south of the causeway and road-side Barn Owl sightings the last couple of days include the A361 at Fawsley and the minor road between Ravensthorpe Reservoir (dam end) and Teeton.


Neil M

Willow Tit.

Marsh Tit.

Images courtesy of
Robin Gossage.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Ringing at Christies Copse, Pitsford Reservoir


A ringing session took place today at Christies Copse at Pitsford Reservoir where a small team processed 206 birds of 17 species. Just over half this total were new birds, the majority of the re-traps being resident tits. The catch was made up of a female Green Woodpecker, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, six Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, five Redwings, two Robins, three Goldcrests, two Wrens, fourteen Long-tailed Tits, ninety-six Blue Tits, fifty-one Great Tits, eleven Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Grey Wagtail, seven Chaffinches, a male Brambling and two Reed Buntings.

Several Woodcock were present in the copse, a Kingfisher was seen and a few more Bramblings were about. A drake Smew was seen in the Scaldwell Bay today.

Another ringing session at Stortons Pits was successful in catching a Water Rail among other birds.

Two Ravens were seen at Moulton College today, the two Velvet Scoters and a Great White Egret were at Hollowell Reservoir and Hardingstone Pits hosted a 'redhead' Smew and six Goosanders.


Neil M


Grey Wagtail.

Pied Wagtail.

Part of the Pitsford Ringing
team hard at it!

Images courtesy of
Pete Gilbert.

Female Green Woodpecker.
Water Rail courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Male Brambling.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Monday's musings


An early morning meander around Harrington Airfield this morning provided a covey of seven Grey Partridge and a Woodcock with another Woodcock flushed along the Brampton Valley Way south of Draughton Crossing.

The Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning supported a Great White Egret, a drake Goosander, a Redshank and a pair of Stonechat.

The male Blackcap re-appeared here in the garden at Hanging Houghton and was observed eating from suet blocks. A male Reed Bunting was the first in the garden since the late spring.

A Great White Egret showed at Hollowell Reservoir but the Velvet Scoters were not reported today.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tits.


Images courtesy
of John Tilly.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Cool and breezy Sunday - but sun too!


I'm afraid I had very little opportunity for any birding personally today and Eleanor was away eventing with the three collies.

I did notice a male Blackcap in our small rear garden this morning. I wasn't sure what he was eating but I have now added some more 'cut in half apples on sticks' which he may come and sample. We are still receiving regular visits from Marsh Tits, Nuthatches and three Pied Wagtails but the Bramblings seemed to have now moved on. Small flocks of Skylarks were on rape-drilled stubble fields near to Hanging Houghton today (flocks of 18 and 12) and the hedges that have not been massacred by flails continued to provide their berry crops for Blackbirds, Redwings, Fieldfares and a few Song Thrushes.

Other observers today located the long-staying Great Grey Shrike near Crick next to the DIRFT3 complex and Hollowell Reservoir continued to host the two Velvet Scoters plus a Great White Egret and the mobile Ruddy Shelduck.


Neil M

Adult male Blackbird.

A fair proportion of the
Starlings around locally
are likely to be migrant
birds from Russia, intending
to spend the winter here before
winging back north-east in the

All images courtesy of
John Tilly.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Creatures of Abington Park


The best birds found in the county today were undoubtedly the two Velvet Scoters found by Mark Piper at Hollowell Reservoir. Despite some disturbance from watercraft these birds remained all day and were still present just gone 4pm. With the current overnight rain there has to be a good chance they will still be present tomorrow.

Summer Leys today still hosted five Ruff, three Snipe, a Red-crested Pochard, a 'redhead' Smew and a female Brambling at the feeding station. Nine Goosanders were on the ski pit at Ditchford Pits and the Ruddy Shelduck appeared at Ravensthorpe Reservoir today with Canada Geese.

Raptors today included a Peregrine over Hartwell and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier showing well over the rough grassy area at Kentle Wood near Daventry this afternoon (plus two Ravens).

A pair of Stonechat were in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir this morning and the regular third winter Yellow-legged Gull was near the dam.


Neil M

Feral pigeon (Rock Dove)


Grey Squirrel.

Ring necked Parakeets.

Recent images from
Abington Park, Northampton
courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Ditchford WeBs Count


Yesterday (Thursday) and Chris Green returned some excellent counts of birds at the large Broadholme Water Treatment Works just off Ditchford Lane. He estimated there to be a thousand Pied Wagtails present on the filter beds which must have been an amazing spectacle, together with 96 Meadow Pipits, 500 Starlings, 7 Grey Wagtails and 3 Green Sandpipers.

Together with a little feed station maintenance, today was mostly taken up completing part of the Ditchford Pits WeBs count. High water levels and with several of the pits and the river having broken their banks there was water everywhere! Getting around was problematic and yet again more wading was required through swirling cold, brown water but this time only to knee height rather than up to the thighs last time! The stiff wind was cold and the sunshine didn't show as much as I would have liked! Nevertheless a few birds presented themselves, the best being at least twelve Egyptian Geese, six Goosanders, four Kingfishers, twelve Common Snipe, a pair of Stonechat, three Grey Wagtails, a Chiffchaff, a Raven and a handful of Cetti's Warblers.

A brief foray at Harrington Airfield this afternoon produced sightings of a Little Owl and a flock of about twenty-five Golden Plovers.

Summer Leys was badly affected by flood water today but there was a very good record of five Ruff  associating with the Lapwing flock. Other birds included Peregrine and Great White Egret.


Neil M

Carrion Crow.


Great White Egret.


All images from Summer Leys
courtesy of John Tilly.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Ringing at Scotland Wood.


Today provided a short relief from the on-going wet and windy weather and a small team of ringers ran a ringing session in Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate.

One hundred and eleven birds were processed made up of a Woodcock, two Blackbirds, three Nuthatches, three Dunnocks, a Robin, twenty-six Great Tits, thirty-two Blue Tits, four Marsh Tits, nineteen Coal Tits, three Long-tailed Tits, two Treecreepers, nine Goldcrests, three Siskins and three Bullfinches.

All three Siskins were males and one of them was bearing a ring and ringed elsewhere. The Woodcock was a bird hatched this year, probably one of a reasonable number in this wet woodland. Among the more common birds were several quite aged individuals of Dunnock, Coal Tit and Great Tit.

A Great White Egret. a Red-crested Pochard, a female Brambling and three Snipe were present at Summer Leys today.


Neil M

Adult male Siskin.


Drake Red-crested Pochard
at Summer Leys courtesy
of John Tilly.

Cock Pheasant
courtesy of John Tilly.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Yet more wind and rain!


Another difficult day for birding with strong winds and regular showers. Eleanor's run around Blueberry Farm caused two Woodcock to spring from one of their regular hedges.

The water levels at Pitsford Reservoir are again above 100% with water lapping over the overflow and the latest rain has ensured that the water remains very brown. The gull roost is now almost non-existent but the third year Yellow-legged Gull was still present today.


Neil M

Kingfisher in Abington
Park, Northampton. I hope it
doesn't become entangled in the
fishing line visible in the last
two images.

Images courtesy of
John Gamble.

'Tis the season for
Canine Cross eventing and
Eleanor and Tor are
ardent competitors!

Monday, 9 December 2019

Birds of a windy and wet December


Birds for yesterday (Sunday) in the county were a bit scant but included two 'redhead' Smew at Summer Leys and a Great White Egret, two Pintail and a Yellow-legged Gull at Pitsford Reservoir.

I took a wander at Upper Harlestone but it was probably too windy to find or hear the Firecrest from the day before. Still it is a smashing walk around the cottages of this traditional Northamptonshire village and there were two Goosanders on the lake there and a Raven playing around in the wind.

A Lesser Redpoll was in David Arden's garden on Saturday, attracted to a nyger seed feeder. So far this winter Redpolls of any description have been scarce locally.

Today (Monday) and the Brent Goose at/near Stanford Reservoir has been waddling and flying around either side of the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border! Summer Leys is still the home of an adult male Red-crested Pochard and there was a Brambling at the feeding station there.

Grey Partridges today included a covey of twelve at Harrington Airfield, five in a field near Lamport Hall and a male calling in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton at dusk.

The south end of Pitsford Reservoir still retained the third winter Yellow-legged Gull and a female 'aythya' duck off the Valve Tower is probably a Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrid (first seen in November).


Neil M

Skylark courtesy
of John Tilly.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Storms and egrets!


Yesterday (Friday) and if you liked Great White Egrets and powerful storms it was a good day!

The Great Grey Shrike was still at the DIRFT3 site near Crick again and Summer Leys continued to host two Great White Egrets and a Red-crested Pochard. Two Great White Egrets flew into the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir in the afternoon and a Yellow-legged Gull stoically sat on his tree stump through all that violent and very wet weather!

The bird of the day though was a Firecrest found by Ken Prouse in a hedgerow in the pretty village of Upper Harlestone.

Today (Saturday) and Summer Leys still had two Great White Egrets, the drake Red-crested Pochard and the long-staying 'redhead' Smew. Stanwick Pits hosted another two Great White Egrets and a Goosander and there were 200 Golden Plovers off the A45 at Earls Barton.

At Thrapston Pits there were two more Great White Egrets, seven Little Egrets, a pair of Egyptian Geese, a Kingfisher and a Stonechat.

Bob Bullock relocated a Brent Goose that has been seen a few times briefly at Stanford Reservoir over the last couple of days. This time it was with Canada Geese 300m inside Leicestershire from the entrance of Stanford Hall.

Eleanor located a pair of Goosander and eight Siskins on the small lake at Marston Trussell and the gated road between Marston Trussell and Clipston (a lovely piece of Northamptonshire countryside) attracted a female Merlin and large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares. 

Two Ravens were at Hanging Houghton today and we are lucky enough to enjoy three Pied Wagtails coming to our garden currently. Birds in the Brampton Valley below the village this afternoon included a Barn Owl, two Woodcock and two Bramblings.


Neil M

'Redhead' Smew.


Images courtesy of Robin Gossage.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Tits galore!


Yesterday's (Wednesday) birds reported in the county were pretty minimal but Pete Finden saw the Great Grey Shrike near Crick plus a Stonechat. Chris Green noted seven Goosanders at Ditchford Pits and Tom Green notched up a Jack Snipe and a Short-eared Owl at Neville's Lodge near Finedon.

Today (Thursday) and the pace didn't exactly quicken but Tom saw a Jack Snipe again at Neville's Lodge and Bob Bullock saw two Great White Egrets at Summer Leys.

I visited Brixworth Treatment Works today which produced my best bird of the day which was a Willow Tit coming to the feeders there. Two Grey Wagtails and a Snipe were also present.

Raven was the best bird at Hanging Houghton today and Pitsford Reservoir hosted two Great White Egrets, a Goosander, a Yellow-legged Gull and a Kingfisher plus a small murmuration of 300 - 400 Starlings - all these birds at the south end of the water.


Neil M

Blue Tits.

Great Tit.

Willow Tit.

All images from Brixworth
Water Treatment Works today.