Sunday, 18 February 2018

Spring in the air?


Definitely a spring-like feel to today even if the temperatures were cold first thing. A couple of Frogs were in our tiny garden pond and a fly-over Grey Wagtail suggested some passage going on. And the Song Thrushes are in good song now!

Nick Wood committed to some impromptu ringing today at Chase Park Farm which is close to the fabulous woodland of Yardley Chase. Just one forty foot net caught 72 birds made up of 44 Blue Tits, 22 Great Tits, 3 Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit, a Nuthatch and a Robin. Among the re-traps two of the Great Tits were birds initially ringed as nestlings in nearby nest boxes in May 2017 and two of the Blue Tits were first ringed in July and October 2015.

Kenny Cramer and gang were busy today too, ringing at Linford Lakes (near Milton Keynes) and capturing 115 birds of ten species. This total was made up of 40 Blue Tits, 30 Great Tits, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Wrens, 6 Robins, 11 Dunnocks, 3 Blackbirds, 5 Greenfinches, 8 Chaffinches and 8 Goldfinches. An impressive trio of herons were on-site made up of a Great White Egret, a Cattle Egret and a Bittern!

I spent most of today at Ditchford Gravel Pits completing the monthly WeBS count. A female Scaup was on the Watersport Pit just west of Ditchford Lane, a Great White Egret was also west of Ditchford Lane and other birds included three Little Egrets, a Shelduck and four Goosanders. Waders were in short supply but an Oystercatcher, 15 Snipe and two Jack Snipe were present and other birds included 5 Water Rails, 3 Kingfishers, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a Siskin. The Grey Herons and Cormorants were busy on their nests and mammals included Fox, Muntjac, Mink and an Otter!

Eleanor and Tor competed in a canine cross event near Castle Ashby this morning and somewhere along the 12km course Eleanor saw four Grey Partridges! A visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon confirmed the continuing presence of the Slavonian Grebe in the Pintail Bay and a Stonechat in the Scaldwell Bay.


Neil M

Blue Tit.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Male Chaffinch.
Courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Grey Herons in the
winter sunshine.
Courtesy of John Tilly.


Adopting the 'ringer's
grip' in this way permits
an opportunity to examine
the finer points of the
plumage and is comfortable
for the birds too! In fact on
cold days we transfer body heat
to these small birds and warm
them up a bit!
Images courtesy of
Kenny Cramer.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Some of the birds of Saturday!


Eleanor's early morning recce of the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton produced the usual Barn Owl but nothing else of note.

Birds located at Thrapston GP today included a Great White Egret on Aldwincle Lake, five Goosanders and 48 Goldeneye (the latter mostly on Town Lake) - combined observations from Nick Parker and Debbie and Eric Graham.

Andrew Tyrrell flushed a Jack Snipe at Harrington Airfield today and Eleanor saw her regular pair of Raven at Staverton.

Ravensthorpe Reservoir hosted at least three Otters showing on the small side at about 2.45pm plus a Great White Egret and three drake Mandarin Ducks and there were two Hawfinches on show at Cottesbrooke this afternoon, again near to the church.


Neil M

Drake Goldeneye.

Great White Egret.
Courtesy of John Tilly

Drake Mandarin Duck.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Recent ringing records


Ring FP30251 was affixed to the leg of an adult Woodpigeon which was caught in the Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir on 6th May 2013. We have now received some belated information that this bird was shot near the village of Old 'sometime in 2016'.

On 12th February this year John Woollett caught an adult male Blackbird in his garden at Astcote near Towcester bearing ring number LH61808. This bird was first caught and ringed at Holme Bird Observatory on the Norfolk coast on 1st March 2016, 139 Km away and 703 days earlier. This information suggests this bird is a continental bird that visits the UK to winter...


Neil M


Male Blackbird.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Grey and cold Wednesday!


Jacob and Bethan visited Rushton Landfill Site this morning and espied two Yellow-legged Gulls there (adult and first year).

Harrington Airfield continued to host a flock of 120 Golden Plovers in a field opposite the concrete track entrance this morning and a male Brambling was with the feeding flock on the seed.

A visit to Cottesbrooke village this afternoon provided views of a Raven and a female Hawfinch showing rather well near to the church. This latter bird perched up in deciduous trees between bouts of feeding under a yew in a private garden.

A couple of ringing recoveries include just a ring being found in Towcester on 23rd December 2017 by someone using a metal detector! It transpires that ring S983807 was placed on a juvenile Blue Tit's leg on 15th September 2017 just a few miles down the road at Greens Norton. It would be fair to suggest that this little mite is probably no longer!

Ring Z668066 was placed on a Cetti's Warbler's leg on the Marsh Lane reserve in the West Midlands on 4th November 2015. This bird was caught in a mist net at Stortons Pits on the outskirts of Northampton on 4th February 2018 where it was confirmed as an adult female. This is a movement of 55km in a ESE direction.


Neil M

Adult and first winter
Yellow-legged Gulls.

Birds of Uganda


I was most fortunate to be provided the opportunity of visiting Uganda for two weeks last month as part of a Naturetrek tour. The focus was the wildlife of this land-locked country, the main target being some of the primates and other animals but of course the birds too!

The following images depict a few examples of some of the birds on offer...


Neil M

African Fish-eagles.

Snowy-headed Robin Chat.

Long-crested Eagle.

Ross's Turaco.

Squacco Heron.

White-winged Tern.


Birds for Tues 13th Feb


Birds located on Tuesday 13th Feb included four Hawfinches during the morning again in Cottesbrooke village, this time by the church.

Pitsford Reservoir provided views of the Slavonian Grebe again, this time seen in The Narrows as well as the more usual spots in the Pintail Bay and by the Sailing Club. A female-type Common Scoter was in the Pintail Bay during the early afternoon but couldn't be found later. Two Stonechats and a couple of Golden Plover were north of the causeway and there were two Bramblings in Brixworth Country Park.


Neil M


Slavonian Grebe.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Glaucous Gull


Dave Francis completed a little bird ringing today in his garden on the outskirts of Northampton catching twenty-two birds made up of two Blackbirds, two Bullfinches, five Goldfinches and thirteen Siskins, all of which were new birds.

Jacob and Bethan were out and about today and paid Rushton Landfill Site a visit and found a juvenile Glaucous Gull and three Yellow-legged Gulls there.

Later birds at Pitsford Reservoir included an adult Yellow-legged Gull and the Slavonian Grebe again between Yacht and Pintail Bays. One or two Barn Owl(s) were seen between the villages of Scaldwell and Hanging Houghton.


Neil M

Eurasian Wigeon.

Red Kite.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull.

All images courtesy of
Bethan Clyne.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Four counties birding


Kenny and friends conducted a ringing operation at Linford Lakes today, successfully catching and processing 99 birds of 10 species. This total was made up of 32 Blue Tits, 36 Great Tits, 4 Long-tailed Tits, 6 Dunnocks, 5 Robins, a Blackbird, 2 Bullfinches, 8 Goldfinches, 3 Chaffinches and 2 Siskins. Other birds noted on-site included a Cattle Egret and a Great White Egret.

Eric Graham's efforts on the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston provided observations of a Great White Egret and an early returning Oystercatcher. Eleanor spent some time at Cottesbrooke today and saw two Hawfinches, initially in Station Road and later in trees around the playing field. A pair of Raven were there too and the Hanging Houghton Barn Owl put in another appearance.

A small team of us travelled down to Dorset and Hampshire and after a bit of a wait successfully saw the wintering Stilt Sandpiper at Stanpit Marsh. Other birds there included Firecrest, Spoonbill, Spotted Redshanks and a couple of Water Pipits. Off then to inland Hampshire and some pig fields attracted large numbers of birds with lots of Ravens, other corvids, Starlings and gulls. A Thayer's Gull showed briefly and promptly disappeared and we enjoyed views of Yellow-legged, Caspian and Mediterranean Gulls. A Hawfinch showed briefly in nearby woodlands.

Our last main venue was Blashford Lakes where the two youngest of our party expertly picked out an adult Ring-billed Gull amongst Common Gulls from the main hide. And then shortly afterwards the Thayer's Gull caught up with us and landed on the water not too far and provided excellent views both settled and in flight. Despite the cold wind and wintry showers with some lovely sunshine in between we saw 91 species during our day out ''down south'!


Neil M

Great White Egret.

Courtesy of John Tilly.

Great Tit.
Courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Wet and windy Saturday!


Birds visible at Pitsford Reservoir today included two drake Goosanders, two Redshanks, three Snipe, two Stonechats and a second winter Caspian Gull. Eight Mallard and four Coots were caught and processed as part of the ringing scheme at Pitsford Reservoir. 

Harrington Airfield was again quiet today but provided observations of one hundred and twenty Golden Plovers and three Grey Partridges. At home today I noticed a ringed Tree x House Sparrow hybrid in the garden which was presumably the same bird caught and ringed last year. A Raven was watched displaying near Brixworth...

Eleanor saw her usual two Ravens at Staverton this morning and her afternoon visit to Ravensthorpe Reservoir provided views of a Great White Egret, the juvenile Whooper Swan and the two Otters again - splashing around at the back of the small side.


Neil M



Thursday, 8 February 2018

A grey February day...


A walk at Harrington Airfield this morning saw plenty of birds waiting to be fed. By way of example twenty Blackbirds immediately came down on the concrete track even before I had finished putting the food down! The only birds of note appeared to be a flock of sixteen Golden Plovers and a calling Grey Partridge plus singing Skylarks. The Hanging Houghton Barn Owl was hunting in daylight conditions again in the Brampton Valley this afternoon.

Jacob's efforts at Pitsford Reservoir today yielded sightings of the Slavonian Grebe in the usual spot, two Ravens, two Pintail, fifteen Golden Plovers, two Stonechats and a Siskin. The gull roost off the Sailing Club was productive with views of two Mediterranean Gulls (first and second winters) and a Yellow-legged Gull and a Caspian Gull. Three Redpolls were in the grounds of the Sailing Club and Jacob enjoyed watching eight in his garden at Scaldwell.


Neil M

First year Mediterranean Gull.

Adult male Blackbird.
The county is awash with
hungry Blackbirds at the
moment, many of them
from the continent...

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Birds of a cold and sunny day!


Single Ravens were visible and audible at both Kelmarsh and Hanging Houghton today and two Woodcock were at Blueberry Farm and a Long-eared Owl was confirmed on private land nearby.
A Barn Owl was in it's usual spot below Hanging Houghton village today.

Neil Hasdell spent some time looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Lings Wood this morning and succeeded! Two birds were calling and drumming in the south east section of the wood about 100m along a track between Lings House and the adjacent playing field. This site remains one of the most reliable places locally to see this rare and elusive species.

Neil went on to Summer Leys LNR and saw a Great White Egret, three Ravens, a Peregrine and a Dunlin.

The Slavonian Grebe was still present at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon, again between Pintail Bay and Yacht Bay. Single Redpolls were vocal at Hanging Houghton and Pitsford Reservoir.

Chris Payne and John Woollett completed some ringing at Bradden in South Northants today, catching 55 birds of 12 species. Highlights included a Nuthatch, two Goldcrests, five Goldfinches (including a ringed bird from elsewhere) and two male Siskins.


Neil M

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Male Siskin, courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

On the cusp - of snow and Ravens!


Eleanor's time out and about today yielded a Woodcock at Harrington Airfield and two more flushed from hedgerows at the old Blueberry Farm complex near Maidwell. The regular Barn Owl was hunting in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton both this morning and this afternoon. An 'asio' owl flushed from a nearby hedge was suspected to have been a Long-eared Owl but showed very poorly and wasn't relocated...

I noticed a pair of Raven in the grounds of St Andrews Hospital, Northampton today - it looks as if they are on the cusp of becoming an urban bird as the resident population in the county (particularly the south west) continues to increase!


Neil M

The wonderful Woodcock.

Raven and Common Buzzard
courtesy of Robin Gossage.
Both species have returned back
to the county during the last couple
of decades...

Monday, 5 February 2018

Wagtails and Long-tailed Tits!


A ringing session at Brixworth Treatment Works today provided 42 captures made up of 26 new birds and 16 re-trapped individuals of 12 species. This total was made up of a Magpie, a Dunnock, seven Great Tits, eight Blue Tits, six Long-tailed Tits, a Goldcrest, a Chiffchaff, two Grey Wagtails (of four present there), twelve Pied Wagtails including a re-trap from 2016, a Chaffinch, a Greenfinch and a Reed Bunting. Other birds noted on-site included five Snipe and a Water Rail.

Other birds noted today included a Barn Owl between Hanging Houghton and Brixworth, two Ravens over Brixworth Country Park and the Slavonian Grebe again at Pitsford Reservoir between the Pintail and Yacht Bays...

Yesterday Helen Franklin caught a Long-tailed Tit in her Priors Marston garden bearing ring number EJL702. Helen first caught and ringed this bird on 30th March 2012 and has re-trapped it on three occasions in total. In June 2012 this bird exhibited features suggesting it was a breeding female and she will be at least seven years old this summer. Very impressive considering the oldest known British Long-tailed Tit was a bird aged as eight years eleven months set in 2014.


Neil M

Long-tailed Tit.

Grey Wagtail.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Northants Bird Club Photographic Competition.


The Northants Bird Club hosts its annual photographic competition this coming Wednesday (7th Feb) at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir. The fun starts promptly at 7.30pm with the evening dedicated to peruse the images taken during the last year and submitted by members for our enjoyment.

The images have been assessed by a professional photographer independent of the club and the winners of each category have been identified. Members will be asked to vote on the overall winner on the night.

Hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening, come along and enjoy the photos!


Neil M

Red-necked Phalarope,
courtesy of Dave Jackson.

'Tis cold out there!


John Woollett and team completed a ringing session in cool, rather breezy conditions at Stortons Pits this morning. Thirty-eight birds were caught and released made up of 20 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, a Greenfinch, 3 Goldfinches, a Reed Bunting, a Dunnock, 2 Robins, a Blackbird, a Cetti's Warbler (a female first ringed in 2015) a Treecreeper and a Long-tailed Tit.

Eric Graham scoured the Titchmarsh Reserve at Thrapston today seeing a Great White Egret on Heron Lake, two Little Egrets, three Goosanders on Aldwincle Lake, four singing Cetti's Warblers  and a Water Rail.

A walk at Harrington Airfield this morning was rather cool and the only birds of note were a small party of twenty Golden Plovers. A walk around Cottesbrooke village failed to locate any Hawfinches although a pair of Raven were on territory. A Barn Owl was in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this morning and a Grey Wagtail was at Brixworth Treatment Works.

A cool, grey and breezy gull roost this afternoon at Pitsford Reservoir finally paid off when a first winter Kittiwake was located among the Common and Black-headed Gulls.


Neil M

First winter Kittiwake.

Female Blackbird,
courtesy of John Tilly.

Courtesy of John Tilly.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Wildlife of a cold, wet day...


Pitsford Reservoir is now full, but with water rather than birds! As is usual in the latter part of the winter, many of the waterbirds are no longer present as the food available to them has in the main already been consumed. For dabbling ducks the increase in the water level and the fact that the water is now filtering in to the margins where there is food available as seed and vegetation becomes accessible. The minimal number of fish-eating birds suggests that fish stocks are now low and we seem to have lost the Great White Egrets and most of the Little Egrets too. Birds noted on-site today included the Slavonian Grebe still plus a Pintail, a Redshank and two Ravens. The gulls at roost showed well but nothing different could be picked out.

Two Ravens showed as usual at Staverton this morning but Daventry Country Park seemed very quiet. Eleanor dropped in to Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon and enjoyed excellent views of two playful Otters from about 4.45pm onwards. They were viewed from the road causeway between Ravensthorpe and Coton looking on the 'small side' where there were also two Great White Egrets.

This afternoon I noticed at least seven Reed Buntings looking for seed in our back garden, an increase from the couple that have been around for the last couple of weeks, and reflective of the fact that natural seeds are now in very short supply. The 'hunger gap' period for many birds is now upon us...


Neil M


Reed Bunting.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Scotland Wood ringing


A ringing session was undertaken at Scotland Wood on the Kelmarsh Estate today which resulted in the capture of 107 birds of 13 species (56 new and 51 previously ringed). The total was made up of 4 Blackbirds, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatches, a Treecreeper, a Goldcrest, 18 Great Tits, 43 Blue Tits, 15 Coal Tits, 2 Marsh Tits, 6 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Robins, a Bullfinch and 9 Chaffinches.

One of the Blue Tits was originally ringed at Harrington Airfield in June 2017 and another Blue Tit processed today was first ringed at Stortons Pits in November 2017. The Great Spotted Woodpecker and one of the Blackbirds was first ringed at Scotland Wood in 2015.

Other birds noted in the wood included a Raven, a Woodcock, two male Bramblings and about a dozen Siskins.

Eleanor's wanderings at Harrington Airfield today provided views of two Grey Partridges and a Woodcock. A visit to Brixworth Country Park confirmed the presence of two Redpolls and the Slavonian Grebe was still visible in the Pintail Bay at the adjacent Pitsford Reservoir.


Neil M

Blue Tit.

Images courtesy of
John Tilly.