Sunday, 20 May 2018

Catch Up

I haven't been able to get out and about birding as much as I would have liked. The only birds which I have seen regularly during the week are Turtle Doves, Grasshopper Warbler, Barn Owl, Cuckoo and Grey Partridge at Harrington.
Yesterday {19th May}as I was driving along between Fotheringhay and Warmington I heard a Nightingale in full song !!!  However it would not show itself and remained hidden in the hedge.
Also yesterday Eric Graham visited Titchmarsh Reserve and writes " warbler numbers greatly reduced, but still managed Willow, Sedge, Reed, Cettis and Garden Warbler , Whitethroat and Chiffchaff.. We watched a pair of Cuckoo, he was flying around her calling and she was giggling like a teenager, it was fun to see the interaction. There was a pair of Oystercatcher on the Long Island and plenty of Swift and at last hundreds of Martins hawking low over Aldwincle mixed with good numbers of Swallows.  As we walked along brancy brook we looked up to see a Great White Egret fly over head and land on Thorpe Lake ".

Over the weekend some ringing has taken place. Yesterday Kenny Cramer was ringing at Linford where 20 birds of 8 species were ringed including 6 Reed Warblers, 2 Blackcap and 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker.  5 Greenfinches were caught, maybe an encouraging sign that this species is on the increase at Linford.  Interestingly 2 of the Reed Warblers were retraps of birds originally ringed in 2016 and encountered again 2017.
Today John Woollett undertook a ringing session at Stortons gravel pits where 23 birds were processed. Wren 1. Chiffchaff 2, Song Thrush 2, Blackbird 3, Garden Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 4, Cettis Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 2, and Robin 3.
Highlight was a retrap Reed Warbler from 2014.

Regards Eleanor

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Tuesday's Travels !

I was awake before 5am this morning so decided to get up and get out and about. I literally threw a few things into the car along with my dogs and off we went. 
It was a beautiful morning, clear blue skies and the deafening noise of bird song greeted me as I walked at Harrington Airfield. A Turtle Dove was purring in the bushes at the middle bunker and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling nearby. I haven't seen many Cuckoo's yet this spring but there was one flying low over the vegetation between the 1st and 2nd bunker intent on looking for an unsuspecting host. A Barn Owl was hunting and there were at least 2 pairs of Grey Partridge present.
I made a spur of the moment decision to drive to the coast and take the dogs to the beach and headed for Holkham.!!!!  I did wonder whether I had made a mistake because the coast was shrouded in a dense sea mist . I had to put plenty of layers on as it was quite cold and drizzly.  However the boys enjoyed themselves and had a good walk and plenty of games.  Birding was quite difficult as the birds were just vague shapes looming in and out of the mist and the calls of the Little and Sandwich Terns sounded very eerie.
I couldn't visit the coast without indulging in fish and chips from Wells. My excuse was that I was waiting to see what the weather was doing !!  As the sea mist showed little sign of lifting I decided to make my way home. The sun was shining once I had driven past Kings Lynn.
My plan was to visit a few old haunts on my way back.  First stop was Ashton Wold where there was at least one Nightingale singing well, a Turtle Dove and a Cuckoo.  Next , Titchmarsh Reserve were there were numerous Cettis Warblers, 2 Hobby, Little Egret and a very showy and vocal Nightingale by the footbridge which links the reserve to the main lake. I could here this bird singing long before I saw it as it was quite deafening.
Final destination was Twywell Hills + Dales. Plenty of common warblers but very little else.

Regards Eleanor

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Sunny Sunday

Eric Graham counted nine species of singing warbler around the Titchmarsh reserve including a reeling Grasshopper Warbler showing very well. A Nightingale was again singing at the footbridge and 2 Hobby were hunting over town lake and probably the same birds were seen over Aldwinkle. 2 Cuckoo were also noted.

There were 2 Turtle Doves at Harrington Airfield this morning, one purring in the bushes at the end of the track and the other on the ground at the bunker next to the track.   There were also 2 pairs of Grey Partridge.   However the "best" bird was a very low flying Lancaster Bomber which came over my head, looking magnificent with it's very distinctive sound.
A wander around the fields below Hanging Houghton this evening produced a Hobby, Barn Owl and a Grasshopper Warbler against the backdrop of a stunning sunset.

Regards Eleanor

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Birds of Daventry


Eleanor's visit to Borough Hill Country Park in Daventry this afternoon was worthwhile with the discovery of a singing Wood Warbler in the mature woodland on the south east side of the park. The bird was in full song and was showy too.

Nearby there is a Woodland Trust plantation on a high area called Kentle Wood and a visit there provided two Turtle Doves, and three Wheatears in a sparsely-vegetated field on the upper slope.


Neil M

Wood Warbler.

 A few images from my trip to Poland in April...

Black Redstart

Long-tailed Tit
of the white-headed form.

Lesser Spotted Eagle.

Ural Owl.

Friday, 11 May 2018

End of week round-up...


I have been away since Sunday in the Camargue region of southern France, arriving back late last night...

During the last week Eric Graham and others have been playing regular visits to Thrapston Pits, particularly the Titchmarsh reserve. Large numbers of warblers have been present, some days with ten species singing their hearts out. A couple of Nightingales have also been proclaiming territories and a few Cuckoos have been regular too. The Hobbies have arrived there and there have been double figure numbers hawking insects on some days. Scarcer visitors have included a Wryneck for one evening and a couple of visits from an Osprey.

Last Sunday (6th May) and a ringing session took place on the south side of Stortons Pits. Thirty-six captures were very welcome as the majority were incoming and breeding warblers (seven species) and included a Willow Warbler, four Lesser Whitethroats, two Whitethroats, three Blackcaps, two Garden Warblers, seven Reed Warblers and six Sedge Warblers. One of the Lesser Whitethroats and two of the Sedge Warblers were re-traps from previous years.

Belated news has come through of a juvenile Reed Warbler which was ringed at Pitsford Reservoir by Dave Francis on 3rd July 2011. This bird was caught again 58 days later on 30th August 2011, but this time at Mata Nacional do Choupal, Coimbra in Portugal, a distance of 1463km heading in a SSW direction!

Eleanor has been visiting Harrington Airfield during the week and regular sightings include a Grasshopper Warbler, a pair of Turtle Doves, a pair of Grey Partridge and a Barn Owl...

I took a quick look at Summer Leys LNR at lunch-time today and noted four hawking Hobbies and singles of Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Redshank. A feisty (female?) Rabbit repeatedly ran at a Common Buzzard that was perched on the ground there - I suspect she had some small young hidden in a patch of nettles nearby...


Neil M

Singing Blackcap.
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Bluebells at Badby Wood.
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Reed Warbler.

Hobby hawking insects.
Courtesy of Dave Jackson.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Pitsford CBC


A Common Bird Census was completed on the reserve section of Pitsford Reservoir in remarkably warm and sunny conditions! As I started at 6am, Bob Gill had already finished sorting through and releasing the moths from the overnight catch and he was off home to see what his moth trap at home had caught! I think committed naturalists need to be insomniacs too!

The CBC took over six hours today with plenty of bird song most of the way around, dominated really by good numbers of Garden Warblers, most of them having just arrived from Africa. Blackcaps were in good numbers too of course plus the usual number of singing Chiffchaffs. On the negative side, only two singing Reed Warblers were detected and Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers were no-showers, a far cry from the eighties when both species were regarded as being common on the reserve. Sadly only one Willow Warbler appears to have stayed to hold territory, I would have expected more...

High and stable water levels are providing opportunities for Coots to potentially produce plenty of early broods, that is if they can keep the Carrion Crows at bay from stealing their eggs! At this time of the year the path around the reserve is littered with broken Pheasant and Mallard eggs where the crows have found the nests and consumed the contents.

I didn't see any birds out of the ordinary but a Little Egret was in the Scaldwell Bay and a Spotted Flycatcher by the Fishing Lodge, as was a Common Sandpiper on the shore there. Both Willow and Marsh Tits were recorded. Neil H walked south of the causeway but didn't find the Black-necked Grebe, but came across a Barn Owl and two Ravens by The Pines whilst looking for it.

Plenty of butterflies on the wing during the second half of the survey including plenty of the stunning Orange-tips, and my Muntjac count for the day was only eleven.

Eleanor saw an Otter at Ravensthorpe Reservoir this afternoon, visible from the Coton to Ravensthorpe causeway looking on the 'small side'!


Neil M

Tawny Owl. Mobbing
Blackbirds and other
birds help to pinpoint
these birds in the foliage.

Rook, this one clearly
carrying plenty of food
in it's pouch for hungry
nestlings. For some reason
the traditional rookery in
the covert in the Walgrave
Bay is smaller each year...

Coot. 2018 may be a good
breeding season for them!

Canada Geese. Both
Canada and Greylag
Geese goslings can be
seen on the reservoir now.


First year Great Black-backed Gull.
In recent years this species has summered
at Pitsford, taking advantage of dead and
dying fish. There are several of these big gulls
at the reservoir currently and plenty of dead Pike
(probably due to the spawning stress) are providing
food for them and Herring and
Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Male Orange-tip Butterfly.

Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower,
one of the food plants of the Orange-tip.

Oystercatcher. He/she approves
of the Bird Club hide roof as
 a look-out!


All images taken at
Pitsford Reservoir this

Friday, 4 May 2018

Harrington this evening...


Eleanor is just back in from a late evening stroll at Harrington Airfield which seemed quite productive... she had a very brief view of a Redstart in bushes between the chipping compound and the first bunker, a hunting Barn Owl, a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler and a 'purring' Turtle Dove near to the second bunker.

A Hobby in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton was the only other bird of note for us today...


Neil M

Turtle Dove.


Barn Owl.

All images courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

'Tis the nesting season!


Many of our birds are now ardently building nests, laying eggs and the early starters have young too! Checking nest boxes might seem quite mundane but local naturalists have come across a couple of surprises...

This tit nest as photographed
by Chris Payne indicates that
the builders have an attraction
to the material covering a yellow/
green tennis ball!

This tit nest as photographed
by Nick Wood contains 13
or 14 eggs! They may not all
be from the same female as
sometimes females will dump
eggs in other nests!

Mischa Cross at Pitsford Reservoir
had a surprise when she checked a
tit box on the reserve and found a
Nuthatch sitting tight! Assuming there
are eggs underneath her, this is the
first proven instance of breeding
on the reserve...

Yesterday (Thursday) and Dave Francis and Lynne Barnett checked the tern rafts at Pitsford Reservoir in the Scaldwell Bay. The terns had begun to scrape a few 'nests', the pair of Oystercatcher have three eggs and both Canada and Greylag Geese are at the egg stage on the rafts too...

Coot nest with eggs.

Oystercatcher eggs.

And the Cormorants nests have
plenty of sizable young in them

Above three images courtesy of
Lynne Barnett.

And finally modern digital photography and a skilled user behind the lens is making quite an impact in relation to our understanding of wildlife these days... the below images by local naturalist Dave Jackson of a Pied Wagtail watched feeding on the dam at Pitsford Reservoir provide us with an opportunity of ageing it as a first year male. Dave managed to record enough data on the metal ring (probably S984323) to suggest that this bird was an individual caught and ringed at Brixworth Water Treatment Works on 5th February 2018. Well done Dave!

Pied Wagtail
courtesy of Dave Jackson.


Neil M

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Harrington ringing.


A ringing session at Harrington Airfield today provided 104 captures of 15 species (66 new and 38 re-traps from previous sessions).

Easily the most encountered species was 55 Yellowhammers which dominated the session. Other birds were made up of a Green Woodpecker, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 15 Willow Warblers (including 8 returning breeding adults), 4 Blackbirds, a Song Thrush, 3 Dunnocks, 2 Reed Buntings, 7 Linnets, 6 Chaffinches, 3 Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, 2 Great Tits, a Greenfinch and a Robin.

Other birds noted included a pair of Grey Partridge, a 'purring' Turtle Dove and a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler.

Jacob again saw the Black-necked Grebe at Pitsford Reservoir today and Eric Graham has enjoyed excellent views of Hobby at Thrapston Pits both yesterday and today, potentially double figures feeding over the pits on both days. A Grasshopper Warbler was singing there yesterday.


Neil M

An adult female
Green Woodpecker,
this bird is at least
four years old.

A Spitfire was performing
acrobatics over NN6 today...

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Pitsford today...


I visited the dam area at Pitsford Reservoir at about midday today when it was raining quite hard and the weather provided a flock of nearly a hundred terns skimming the water surface, with at least eighty of them being the particularly graceful Arctic Terns and the remainder Commons. As the rain subsided and the sun came out the Arctic Terns thinned down to about fifty birds and by the time I left had reduced again to about thirty-five.

Jacob came along a little later and saw the Black-necked Grebe by the Holly Tree and then found a Sanderling on the dam (plus just two Arctic Terns). A Barnacle Goose was with a Canada Goose in a field below the dam.

A ringing session is due to take place at Harrington Airfield tomorrow (Thursday) and access will be restricted with no entry to the bunker and old airstrip area. Access to footpaths and the main concrete track will be unaffected.


Neil M

Arctic Tern.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Corn Bunting and friends...


My visit to the Kelmarsh area this morning provided only a view of a Raven and a slight increase in the number of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Eleanor noted two Wheatears in the Brampton Valley between the Brampton Valley Way and Gamboro' Plantation below Hanging Houghton.

The best local bird I heard about today was the discovery of a singing Corn Bunting near Moulton. Jacob found it today and it provides a glimmer of hope that maybe just a few individuals are still hanging on locally. The bird is on private land and access is restricted.

Finally news has come through of an excellent Goldfinch ringing recovery. A first year male was caught and ringed by Dave Francis in his garden on the outskirts of Northampton on 3rd March this year. It was next recorded by the North Solway Ringing Group when they extracted it from a mist net at Leswalt, Dumfries and Galloway on 27th April. This multi-coloured gem travelled 407km in a north-westerly direction within 55 days.

Avid feeders of garden birds providing niger, sunflower hearts and other seed are used to the phenomenon of fresh pulses of finches arriving on the feeders in the late winter and spring. Often these birds only last a day or two and disappear, using our gardens to rapidly replenish themselves and then move on to their final destination.


Neil M


Corn Bunting.

Courtesy of Chris Payne.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The migrants are still migrating!


Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and Bob Gill and Robin Gossage saw an Osprey at Summer Leys LNR.

Eleanor's revisit to Blueberry Farm, Maidwell today confirmed the continuing presence of the male Ring Ouzel in 'The Hill' field, very much in the south west corner, sometimes vanishing in the bordering hedge. A male Redstart was also in the same place today.

The Arctic Tern was with 25 Common Terns at Pitsford Reservoir (off the Sailing Club) this afternoon and this evening Jacob and Bethan saw a further eight Arctic Terns fly north-east plus a Common Sandpiper, six Yellow Wagtails and a Wheatear (all visible from the dam).

A few new singing Lesser Whitethroats were audible today so despite the strong northerly winds it seems that migrants are still moving through.


Neil M

Ring Ouzel.

Lesser Whitethroat.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

New Hookpod initiative to reduce albatross and turtle casualties...

A message from Becky Ingham from Hookpod...

I am contacting you to seek some support for a  project I am involved in to save thousands of albatrosses and turtles from a grisly death on longlines in the rich waters off the Brazilian coast. 

We are aiming to completely equip five Brazilian longliners with Hookpods. The Hookpod is an ingenious new British invention, which covers the barb of the hook during setting the lines in longline fishing operations, and thus prevents the accidental capture of seabirds, particularly albatross and also turtles. It then opens when it reaches 20m depth, beyond the diving depth of birds and the feeding depth of most turtles, to release the hook to begin safely fishing. In this way, fishermen catch fish and not birds or turtles. It is re-usable, durable for around 2-3 years and has no impact on either the fishing operation or the catch rate of target fish.

As you will see from the website we have the support of both Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham in delivering this project and are working closely with partners in Brazil to monitor the results. If we see the expected decline in turtle bycatch, the Hookpod will be the first EVER mitigation device to prevent cross-taxa bycatch in fisheries. 

We are seeking support in the form of any level of donation - every £1 will go towards the final total. However, as this is a crowdfunded project we have to reach our target of £57,000 to receive any funds at all! The link to the website is here:

Spreading the word about this project is also part of the help you could provide. Even if a donation is not possible, sharing this email, flier and information with anyone you know who might be interested in supporting this work would be incredibly helpful. 

If you have any queries about either the project or the work that Hookpod carry out, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are confident that getting Hookpods out into longline fisheries will make the difference between survival or extinction for some of our most iconic albatross species and I very much hope that you and the group feel able to support this in some way.

With very best wishes and thanks. 


Becky Ingham

CEO Hookpod Ltd

Find out more and donate at..

+44 (0) 1692 580068 | 07535 270077
Follow us on Twitter: @Hookpod

Black-browed Albatross.
Image courtesy of Dave Francis

Defying the weather!


Another cold, grey day and with some rain and drizzle at times. This caused issues with planned ringing sessions at Stortons Pits and Linford Lakes - the forecast had suggested far more appropriate weather conditions for this activity and both sessions concluded much earlier than usual. Birds processed at Linford included four Blackcaps, a Whitethroat, three Garden Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, five Reed Warblers, two Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a Swallow.

Phil Horsnail's visit to Polebrook Airfield today paid off with sightings of a male Whinchat, five Wheatears, a Little Owl, a couple of Cuckoos and a pair of persistent Ravens trying (unsuccessfully) to intimidate a brooding Greylag Goose so they could pinch an egg!

Plenty of birders were out there defying the conditions to try and find something a little different - Eleanor heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling in Station Road, Cottesbrooke and this afternoon watched a male Ring Ouzel foraging on the edge of the field called 'The Hill' at Blueberry Farm (Maidwell). The Arctic Tern was still off the Sailing Club at Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon where there were still large numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins (and some House Martins and Swifts) feeding low over the water. Two Common Sandpipers were flushed from the dam.

Nick Wood checked his nest boxes at Chase Park Farm (near Yardley Chase) today and was very pleased to find two Tawny Owl nestlings in a box only erected just over a month ago! Helen Franklin noted an early morning Barn Owl perched on a sign just east of Maidford.


Neil M

Image courtesy of Kenny Cramer.

Two Tawny Owl nestlings.
Image courtesy of Nick Wood.

Northants BTO Spring 2018 newsletter


The latest quarterly BTO newsletter for Northamptonshire has been released today and can be read by clicking on:-

Northants BTO Spring 2018 Newsletter

Little Egret
courtesy of Neil Hasdell.

Neil M

Saturday, 28 April 2018

A rather wet Saturday!


The last two days has seen large numbers of hirundines and Swifts feeding low over the water at Pitsford Reservoir, often during cold and wet conditions. A reasonable number of Common Terns have been present (including a pale bird with a mostly all-dark bill) both days and this afternoon there was also an Arctic Tern with them off the Sailing Club.

A Grey Wagtail appeared to be on territory at Kelmarsh Hall this morning and a male Redstart made a brief appearance next to the second bunker at Harrington Airfield this afternoon.

Eleanor went for a decent walk in the cool, wet conditions at Thrapston Pits this afternoon, the highlight being a singing Firecrest in ivy along the old railway line between Town Lake and the track that leads down to the reserve from the A605 opposite the Titchmarsh village turn.

Other birds included two trilling Whimbrel flying straight through, two Oystercatchers, two Hobbies hawking over Aldwincle Lake, 4-5 singing Cetti's Warbler, an easy-to-see singing Nightingale and two Cuckoos.


Neil M

Mistle Thrush nestlings
at Greens Norton.
Image courtesy of Chris Payne.

Male Starling.
Image courtesy of John Tilly.

Arctic Tern.

Singing male Firecrest.

Indoor Meeting Northants Bird Club


The next indoor meeting of the Northants Bird Club is on Wednesday 2nd May when local naturalist Jeff Blincow presents his illustrated talk 'Birding in Yunnan'.

This talk highlights the superb birds as seen on a winter birding trip to South West China. At first this would appear an unusual idea but the remaining lowland forest along the Burmese (or Myanmar if you prefer) border supports a strong resident avifauna and the region is the wintering ground for migrants from nearly all points of the compass.

The meeting commences at 7.30pm at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir and hot drinks and biscuits will be available. All welcome!


Neil M

White-rumped Sharma.

Rusty-fronted Barwing.

Both images courtesy of Jeff Blincow.