Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday's birds

My birding today was restricted to when I was out and about with the dogs or trying to tidy the garden !
This afternoon at Harrington Airfield there were plenty of birds about. There was quite a noticable presence of winter thrushes, a very scaly Ring Ouzel and 5 Fieldfare together in the bushes around the second bunker and plenty of Redwings dotted around in the bushes.  Also there were more Blackbirds and Song Thrushes about today.
There was definitely a movement of finches etc this afternoon with Hawfinch, 2 Brambling, 4 Redpoll, 4 Crossbill and 10+ Siskin flying over.
Other birds included 100+ Golden Plover, 5 Grey Partridge ,2 Grey Wagtail and a female Merlin.

My "gardening" birds included 3 Ravens, Brambling, Siskin and Blackcap.
At dusk as I walked the dogs around Blueberry area we flushed a Short Eared Owl and 2 Woodcock.

Regards Eleanor

Thursday, 19 October 2017

More Hawfiches !!

Another misty dull day but the birds made up for this.
At Brixworth Country Park, where I was supposed to be training my young pup I was somewhat distracted by the presence of 4 Hawfinches feeding on berries where the birdwatching hide/feeders used to be.  Amazing sight and they were not too bothered by people walking close by.   Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll were also present as well as good numbers of Redwing also feeding in the bushes.
There was at least one Hawfinch flying around Hanging Houghton and perched on top of a conifer close to our house.

Meanwhile Jacob was birding at Pitsford Reservoir where there were 3 Whooper Swans, adult Mediterranean Gull, a Caspian Gull and 3 Yellow Legged Gulls.
Pitsford still looks excellent with low water levels and plenty of muddy margins, but at this time of year and with these weather conditions birds can and do turn up absolutely anywhere.  
So keep your ears and eyes wide open !!!
Of interest a rare Dusky Warbler was trapped and ringed at Stanford Reservoir this morning. I would loved to have seen the look of shock on the ringers faces when they realised what they had caught.  Sadly for us the bird was seen on the Leicestershire side of this close !!

Regards Eleanor 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Migration in dull, grey conditions!


A revisit to Harrington Airfield this morning in dim, drizzly conditions with light rain wasn't ideal, and although there was evidence of visible migration overhead it was nothing like yesterday. Small numbers of Woodpigeons, Redwings and Starlings were swirling around with singles of Siskin and Redpoll too. The Golden Plover flock had risen to 120 and there were small flocks of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moving around.

The Grey Wagtail maintained its presence in our garden today and a pair of Stonechat were in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton.

A brief visit to Pitsford Reservoir this afternoon yielded a Water Pipit in the vicinity of the causeway and Maytrees Hide, some of the time in company with flighty Meadow Pipits. Other birds visible from the Old Scaldwell Road Feeding Station included a Whooper Swan, three Great White Egrets, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull.


Neil M

Water Pipit.
This bird is in summer plumage,
the bird at Pitsford today was in
the more typical winter plumage.

Adult Mediterranean Gull.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

More websites


Some websites worthy of your attention and managed by local wildlife enthusiasts are as follows:-

1. Jacob Spinks

2. Pete Gilbert

3. Neil Hasdell


Neil M

Lapland Bunting.

Hawfinches and more...


This morning Jacob witnessed a Hawfinch flying low south over his house in the village of Scaldwell.

A little later and Harrington Airfield was buzzing with birds, the highlights being three Hawfinches in hawthorn bushes by the second bunker, a male Ring Ouzel by the shooting wall, at least one Brambling, four 'Redpolls', 2-3 Siskins, 2 Chiffchaffs, 70 Golden Plovers and 5 Grey Partridges. Redwings and Starlings were passing over constantly together with smaller numbers of Skylarks.

Our small garden at Hanging Houghton attracted a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail.

The Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton this afternoon provided views of a Peregrine, 6 Grey Partridges, 2 Bramblings and 10 Tree Sparrows, and Redwings were still on the move!


Neil M

A Wheatear at Hollowell
Reservoir today...
Courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

Hawfinch. The last week or
so has seen an invasion of this
normally scarce and localised
species to the UK...

Monday, 16 October 2017

Migration studies


John Gamble visited the RSPB reserve of Minsmere (Suffolk) on Saturday and his images of the day follow the narrative of this blog.

Yesterday (Sunday) and an avid band of ringers spent some time working at Stortons Gravel Pits on the outskirts of Northampton where they managed to catch and process 102 birds of which 76 were new. The hoped-for Redwings and Goldcrests didn't materialise but 17 different species was a nice selection as follows - 5 Wrens, a Treecreeper, 12 Long-tailed Tits, a Chiffchaff, 31 Blue Tits, 19 Great Tits, a Bullfinch, 6 Chaffinches, 5 Reed Buntings, a Cetti's Warbler, a Robin, 13 Greenfinches, a Blackbird, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Dunnock, a Song Thrush and a Magpie.

Today (Monday) saw Jacob completing a visible migration ('vismig') session at Pitsford Reservoir whereby he attempted to collate the numbers of birds moving into or over the site (with assistance from other observers), mostly apparently on migration heading in a south westerly direction between 7.35am and 12noon:-

2 Greenshank, 25 Woodpigeons, 69 Skylarks, 1 Swallow, 923 Starlings, 316 Redwings, 10 Song Thrushes, a Grey Wagtail, 3 'alba' wagtails, 28 Meadow Pipits, 50 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, 5 finch sp, 2 Bullfinches, 2 Linnets, 8 'Redpolls', 13 Goldfinches, 9 Siskins and 2 Reed Buntings.

Just shows what you can find sometimes by looking up and concentrating on the distant horizon!


Neil M



Little Stint.

Bearded Tits.

All images courtesy
of John Gamble.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Cornish valleys


This morning was spent on the coastal cove of Porthgwarra, with low cloud and mist and occasional sunshine and with a fair number of migrants flying around. Even before we arrived we had notched up four roadside Firecrests and there appeared to be at least another seven Firecrests in the bushes in the valley together with good numbers of Goldcrests, a few Chiffchaffs and at least one elusive Yellow-browed Warbler. Other visible migrants included Siskin, Redpoll, Skylark, wagtails and pipits - and a Merlin and a couple of Peregrines were there to try and intercept them.

A couple of Red Deer were unexpected but a flock of five Chough were not.

This afternoon, and with the weather conditions deteriorating, we tried Kenidjack Valley and straight away found a Hawfinch, which then became two and then three! The drizzly, grey conditions prevented any realistic photo opportunities I'm afraid. Other birds included another Firecrest, a Yellow-browed Warbler and a flock of nine Choughs...


Neil M

Sparrowhawk. A first
year male photographed
yesterday on St Mary's.

Wolf Rock lighthouse,
4 miles south west of
Cornwall. A dangerous
place to be tomorrow
according to the weather

Not a good image of a
Peregrine as it flew over
carrying prey in grey conditions
 - the bird in its talons appears to
 be a Pied/White Wagtail.

Firecrest. They seem to be
everywhere down here at
the moment!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Scillies from the west


Three weeks on the Isles of Scilly comes to an end, and it has been another tremendous period of birding, walking, boating, mixed weather and yet another quite different season to any other. Last autumn saw a huge eastern influence on the isles with large numbers of Robins, Jack Snipes, Yellow-browed Warblers and plenty of vagrants from eastern Asia. Quite different this year with very much a western influence which included American land birds such as Cliff Swallow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing and Red-eyed Vireo and also a sustained influx of Goldcrests and a small invasion of Hawfinches!


Neil M

Mediterranean Gull.




Thursday, 12 October 2017

Common birds of The Scillies


The common birds on the Isles of Scilly are still common! There are good numbers of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins and often they are tamer than birds on the mainland and often provide easier photographic opportunities...


Neil M

Robin, still singing
and territorial even at
this time of year.

Once a common garden bird
throughout the UK, the Song Thrush
is now scarce across much of it's
range, but is still in good numbers
on the Isles of Scilly.

Rock Pipit, a common bird
on the rocky coastline of the Isles.

White Wagtail. The continental White
Wagtail probably outnumbers the 'British'
Pied Wagtail four to one on the Scillies at
this time of the year.

Common Snipe. A large influx of these
birds to the Isles today with birds flying
overhead and being flushed up from a variety
of vegetation.

Small Copper butterfly.
Even in October there are plenty
of common butterflies on the wing
down here...

Spotted Crake and not a common bird
anywhere in the UK! This confiding
bird comes quite close but is in deep
vegetation and awful light so my
apologies for the image quality.

Ringing at Bradden


Chris Payne and John Woollett spent some time today ringing in South Northants at Bradden. They caught 75 birds made up of 39 Blue Tits, 24 Great Tits, 2 Coal Tits, 5 Goldcrests, 3 Chaffinches, a Dunnock and a Blackbird. The vast majority were new birds indicating that a good number of common birds are already making use of this woodland feeding station.

Down on the Scillies, bird migration has been much quieter this week so I thought I would post some images of typical sea mammals regularly found around the shores...


Neil M

The Scillonians generally respond
 favourably to the changing of the season
 as the birders arrive! A 'Stonecrow'
 birder on St Agnes...

Harbour Porpoise - as usual
incredibly shy!

A female Grey Seal...

...and her pup!

Common Dolphins - definitely not
shy and often the wildlife highlight of
a day on the Scilly Isles!

Monday, 9 October 2017

Scilly sea-birds


Pelagic trips on small boats are frequently possible around the Isles of Scilly, Joe Pender and his boat the Sapphire perhaps providing the best opportunities. I managed a trip during the last week of September and a shorter trip yesterday around the islands looking for birds and other wildlife...


Neil M

Yellow-legged Gull.


Great Black-backed Gulls.

Grey Phalarope.

Sooty Shearwater.

Local ringing

Courtesy of Robin Gossage.


Yesterday (Sunday) saw Kenny, Sarah, Laura and Rory commit to some more ringing at Linford Pits on the outskirts of Milton Keynes following last week's excellent result.

It was another very good day with 54 birds processed of 14 species, only three of them being re-traps.

Goldcrests seem to be everywhere at the moment and the team ringed 14 new birds plus a Meadow Pipit, a Blackbird, 9 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps, 2 Dunnocks, 3 Great Tits, 10 Blue Tits, a Long-tailed Tit, a Goldfinch, 3 Robins, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Kingfisher. In addition a Stonechat was a surprise, not a species regularly caught in mist nets.

Twenty or so Redwings were seen flying over and non avian creatures included 3 Great Crested Newts, a Toad and a Common Shrew!

Early this morning (Monday) saw Jacob and Helen setting up some mist nets at the Old Scaldwell Road, Pitsford Reservoir and among the usual suspects they also caught and ringed a Stonechat! Other birds of a total of 39 birds included a Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper, 5 Tree Sparrows, 2 Goldfinches, a Reed Bunting, a Marsh Tit and a Blackbird showing characteristics of continental origin.

Chris Payne completed some garden ringing at Greens Norton today where his whopping Goldfinch flock ensured he caught 62 of them -  amazing! Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Robins, tits and even a Collared Dove caused his day ringing total to swell to 93 birds. Whatever Chris feeds his garden birds I want some!


Neil M

Stonechats (female upper image,
and male lower image caught at Pitsford
Reservoir today).

Courtesy of Jacob and Helen.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

More Scillies Birding


Plenty of memorable birding experiences (of both common and rare birds) continue on the magical isles, as depicted below...


Neil M

American Cliff Swallow.


Male House Sparrow.

Yellow-legged Gull.


The wonderful Gannet!