Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Nene Wash

Could not have planned a better way to end the birding year with cold, frosty and atmospheric wander around various locations on the Nene Wash between Whittlesey and Guyhirn in wintery sunshine. Arrived early and soon well cladded surrounded by owls and our visit just got better as the day progressed.

Barn Owl 4 between Eldernell Car Park and Lord Holts Wood
Short-eared Owl 4 all from Eldernell car park
Long-eared Owl probable hounded by corvids from its roost site
Bittern flew over car just after sunrise
Common Crane 5 seen on our second visit to Eldernell in front of Decoy Wood
Hen Harrier ringtail
Marsh Harrier 3
Buzzard 6 including a very pale bird claimed as Rough-legged by other birders
Merlin 2
Peregrine 1 Eldernell
Sparrowhawk March Farmers
Whooper Swan 1000+ east of decoy wood slowly dispersed to nearby feeding grounds
Bewick’s Swan a few amongst the above
Tundra Bean Goose 2 Goose Tree Farm but distant with mixed wild swan flock
Pink-footed Goose 6 Goose Tree Farm but distant mixed with wild swan flock
Stonechat 8 with 2 March Farmers and 6 west of Lord Holts Wood
Snipe and Redshank many at March Farmers

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Long way to come to be mobbed

Back from a Christmas break in Greece to freezing conditions at Draycote Water at first light with just the male Smew on show as we walked out to the spit where the 2 female Common Scoter could be seen attached to the Tufted Duck flock in toft bay. As we stood chatting Dave picked up a Merlin mobbing a flyover Grey Plover which continued north west over the reservoir while the Merlin turned back heading towards the visitor centre before reappearing on her way towards toft shallows. Distant mist prevented a decent count of Goosanders but 4 Little Egret and 2 Yellow-legged Gull noted. Napton Reservoir had Sparrowhawk, 3 Snipe, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas eve steam

Having missed them last week in Peterborough LMS Class 5MT 4-6-0 nos 44871 and 45407 have finally finished hauling steam specials down south and are heading back north on December 24th and due in Rugby at 08:51 and departing at 09:01 towards Nuneaton. Unfortunately I won’t be around due to Christmas get away.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Arrivals at last

Finally had the birding gods on our side for a change when on our arrival at Draycote Water this morning a Short-eared Owl flew over the entrance low heading east. Doubled back and searched the southam rd fields but no luck. Light was still poor when we returned to draycote and set out for our walk to farborough spit realising that there were still thousands of gulls present and scanning the reservoir constantly as visibility improved we managed an adult Caspian Gull, 5 adult Yellow-legged Gulls and at least 800 Greater Black-backed Gulls which is a reasonable number for here. Long distant views from the spit produced 22 Goosander so some were missed and 4 Gadwall but another surprise awaited us with a male Smew located as we returned not too far out but remained asleep. It was the same with the female Common Scoter by the pontoons who also refused to show herself. At least 20 Meadow Pipits noted. Very little at Wormleighton with Marsh Tit Raven and 13 Moorhen under the feeders.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Pink-footed Goose

A blustery visit with a Pink-footed Goose found among the 80+Greylag and no doubt of dubious origin. Other sightings included 3 Little Egret, fem Pintail, 32 Goosander, 15 Pochard, 10 Tree Sparrow, Raven and Grey Wagtail. Low Tree Sparrow number due to disturbance from tree cutters and the shooting brigade out bagging Pheasants.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Had a change of scenery and county visiting Eyebrook Reservoir, Leicestershire where we had a Mink showing well by the bridge, 12 Red Kite, Little Egret, Little Owl and 8 Dunlin among the Lapwings that were present before checking out the dam area of Rutland Water. By this time the wind was gale force so we struggled to see anything till we found shelter by the monument then located 2 Black-necked Grebe, Great-northern Diver and a Little Egret before we needed to head home

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Common Scoter

Managed 30 Goosander, 3 Little Egret, female Pintail, 20 Pochard , over 200 Great-crested Grebes and 600 Greater Black-backed Gulls in the post roost at Draycote Water till Bob rang with news of a female Common Scoter off farborough bank so obtained views from the sailing club.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Nene Wash and Union of Souh Africa

With winds gusting to 47mph overnight we set out for Cambridgeshire knowing that due to the re-timing of the Cathedrals Express steam excursion from Peterborough to Oxford we would either miss her or only see her in the dark so we were more interested in getting to the Nene Wash while it was still dark hoping to be in time for any owls that were still hunting and the rain to stop. Might have made the train if there were not so many speed restrictions about but it paid off at the Eldernell car park as dawn broke with 2 Barn Owls hunting in front of us being battered by the conditions and joined by a Short-eared Owl briefly. Lots of Whooper Swans leaving their roost and heading for the fields along the A605 where over 500 were counted later and thousands of Wood Pigeons also leaving their roost.. Female Hen Harrier made a brief appearance. After breakfast in the Big Chill we hunkered down and froze our bits off waiting for LNER Class A4 No 6009 Union of South Africa as she passed Turves. Did not disappoint though despite blue sky’s my images were a bit dull. Gave March Farmers a look but little water and too much disturbance from ditch digger so went back to Eldernell where unfortunately work on the dyke walls means you can’t get on to any high ground but we did have better views of the female Hen Harrier and a Red Kite.
over twenty foot river, Turves

Dave photo bombed me pic

bye bye

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Steam Train Update for tomorrow

Unfortunately the double header LMS Class 5MT 4-6-0 no 45407 and 44871 which will be hauling the Cathedrals Express excursion from Peterborough will leave at 6:51am so will pass Turvy in the dark 45 minutes earlier than we had planned for. Never mind as LNER Class A4 No 6009 Union of South Africa is scheduled to pass Turvy at 10:25am.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Local birding has become predictable and with a trip abroad just around the corner we needed to do something different and sharpen our observation skills so visited Ravensthorpe, Hollowell and Pitsford Reservoir. Biggest delight was the amount of wildfowl seen at Ravensthorpe and Pitsford and enjoyed the fun of picking different species out however far away and a painful reminder of how Draycote use to be. A colourful sunrise as we entered Northamptonshire and our first port of call at Ravensthorpe showed the small side nearly frozen over but there were good numbers of Wigeon and Teal present with a female Smew just off the causeway being our first of the winter with a Red Kite over as we went back to the car. Next stop was Hollowell where we had 2 Stonechat at the narrow end and a Yellow-legged Gull but heat haze affected us checking the duck out so failed to find the Scaup that was present. Finally Pitsford was to us just full of duck with plenty of Pochard, Wigeon, Teal with other commoner species dotted amongst them. Highlight here were 2 Great White Egrets with one at a reasonable distance, 2 Little Egret and a Peregrine chasing the pigeons.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Steam update and pond

LMS Class 5MT 4-6-0 no 45407 and 44871 will be hauling the Cathedrals Express excursion from Peterborough to Oxford via March on December 11th with the train advertised to leave at 7:45am. On the same day The Railway Touring Company are planning The York Yultide Express between Norwich and York via Peterborough hauled by LNER Class A4 No 6009 Union of South Africa which will approach on the same line except from a different direction. It's due in Peterborough at 10:40am. We plan to view both expresses near Turvy so will be handy for some winter birding on the Nene Washes and of course the Big Chill is not far away for blow out breakfast

Late start at the pond this morning started with a quick chat with Keith then a walk to rainbow corner producing Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Little Egret, 2 Raven, female Pintail, 20 Goosander (6m), 25 Goldeneye, 7 Pochard, 30 Meadow Pipit and Kingfisher. Over 400 Redwing at Napton Reservoir and 3 Gadwall along with 6 juvenile Mute Swan.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Scaup in the gloom

One look at the pond this morning and there was no chance we would see the valve tower let alone a common scoter so we cleared off. Just our luck the mist and murk lingered for most of the morning and so had very little on Napton on the Hill while Napton Reservoir produced 3 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall the first female Goldeneye of the winter here, Sparrrowhawk and hundreds of winter thrushes. Popped back to Draycote Water in the afternoon after Bob gave a heads up on two male Scaup he had located when the gloom lifted.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Birding in the gloom

Another wet dreary dull overcast morning though not as cold as yesterday and decided on trying around the fields between Draycote village and Birdingbury concentrating on the thick hedgerows of draycote hill, the various set-aside strips and the numerous pheasant feeders some of which can be seen from Draycote Water. Unfortunately not all are on public footpaths so had to do a bit naughtiness. Despite the conditions birds were plentiful with hundreds of Fieldfare & Redwing along with a single Corn Bunting, 22 Tree Sparrow, 2 Jay, Sparrowhawk, 100 Stock Dove, 12 Bullfinch, 90 Skylark 8 Reed Bunting and 120 Yellowhammer. Bird of the morning was a Woodcock flushed from draycote hill set-aside strip. A brief look at the pond between the valve tower and rainbow produced a female Common Scoter, Little Egret, 9 Goosander, 5 Tree Sparrow, 8 Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher and 2 Siskin. God forbid but McDonalds was the nearest driest place to chill out in and must admit there kindness was appreciated as they dried my coat out-bless.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Due to the fog we gave Draycote a miss and tried our luck at Wormleighton which we had not been to for some time. Plenty of activity on the feeders though it looks like they don’t put feed down in the hedgerow any more so only managed one Tree Sparrow briefly appearing on the road accompanied by 4 Bullfinch. Best of the garden was Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Marsh Tit. Plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing as we walked to reservoir where the water level was surprisingly low but apart from a male Teal and 3 Goosander (1m) not much else was seen. Trawled the lanes to Staverton but visibility was poor and at Skylark Farm spent too long trying to consider whether I should go back to the car for the camera as a Raven sat perched for 20 minutes

Monday, 24 November 2014

Plenty at the pond

After yesterday’s morning rain which the only bird of note was a day-flying Barn Owl along the west side of the old Railway Station at Flecknoe then today was in total contrast. Started the morning out early looking at the Orion Nebula which was brilliant through the scope with a Little Owl for company then it was a walk to the inlet at Draycote Water with Dave in minus conditions with mist lifting off the surface. Plenty to see with Little Egret in the inlet channel, at least 14 Goosander (4m) 120 Golden Plover over heading north, 80 Stock Dove, 15 Tree Sparrow, 80 Yellowhammer, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Redpoll, 3 Raven, Peregrine, Goldcrest, 6 Reed Bunting and 10 Long-tailed Tit. Unfortunately very little seen in the valley or at Napton Reservoir.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bittern and the Duchess

I don’t think I have seen two separate steam trains at Rugby since the early 60s and judging by the size of the crowd on Rugby Station and Myson House I wasn’t the only one getting excited. 60019 Bittern arrived first and took on water as her admirers crowed on too platform one & three for better views while 15 minutes later 46233 Duchess of Sutherland arrived to be met by hoots and whistles from Bittern and excited chatter from the many kids present. Unfortunately a freight train blocked everyone's view but luckily as I moved pronto to platform 5 she left and then everyone could enjoy the mean green fighting machine. She was also taking on water from the tanker in the college grounds and once she had the road in her favour she was away – pure bliss.


Duchess of Sutherland

Friday, 21 November 2014

Stock Dove increasing

Counted 600 Stock Dove mid-day at Millholme Parc Farm on our way to Staverton for lunch plus Raven, 5 Buzzard but very few passerines around. Further down the road approaching Flecknoe we had the same flock of Golden Plover seen by Paul C which we also recorded at 83. Only a single Raven at Skylark Farm but the rain and murk made visibility really crap.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Barn Owl & Merlin

Early start looking for owls this morning paid off with a Barn Owl hunting along Hill Rd in the grandborough valley then as day light brightened we tried our luck at Millholme Parc Farm and treated to a prolonged view of an adult Merlin trying every trick in the book to catch a Skylark but luckily it managed to avoid its fate. Later while chatting to Cym the Merlin returned chasing another Skylark though this one was more sensible and dived in to cover. A few Stock Dove around but did not see the main flock. After breakfast the mist rolled in so viewing was difficult at Napton on the Hill but the place was alive with Blackbirds and Redwings plus a single Nuthatch. Ended the morning at Napton Reservoir where there were 4 Shoveler, Gadwall, 2 Wigeon, 2 Snipe, 90 Common Gull and a Great-spotted Woodpecker

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Another walk to the inlet at Draycote water produced roughly the same birds as yesterday, 11 Goosander (2 males), Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard, 2 Grey Wagtail and 26 Tree Sparrow. The flock of Stock Dove near Millholme Parc Farm remains at 400 while a Sparrowhawk flushed at least 300 Skylark and 150 Yellowhammer. The feeders at Millholme Parc had Great-spotted Woodpecker and 20+ Tree Sparrow with 3 Buzzard and a Raven overhead.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Steam trains in Rugby on the 22nd

Two Steam specials are due to arrive at Rugby on Saturday 22nd November when the Cathedrals Express from London Euston to Chester will be hauled by LNER A4 Class 4-6-2 no 60019 Bittern [4464] arriving at Rugby at 10:06 and scheduled to depart at 10:29.stopping at Nuneaton 10:50 departing 10:58. On the same day Stanier Class 8P Coronation Class 4-6-2 Pacific No 46233 Duchess of Sutherland will be hauling a special from Sheffield to London Euston. Pathing times have just been published which shows she is due to stop at Birmingham New Street at 09:25 departing 09:51, thru Coventry at 10:05 and stopping just outside Rugby Station at 10:19 departing at 10:43 which should mean both will be in Rugby at the same time. As per usual theses are scheduled times and can alter on the day so be early.

Impressive flocks

A very pleasant walk to the inlet at Draycote water in wintery sunshine with a cool easterly breeze meeting up with Paul. Could not locate the merg but 12 Goosander (3 males), Little Egret, Red-crested Pochard, 3 Jay, Raven, 17 Tree Sparrow, and 2 Grey Wagtails made up for it. Interestingly we bumped in to one of the regular walkers we see daily who had photographed the legs of a dead gull (presume LBBG from the little bit of wing seen) Ringed in Jersey with a metal ring No 0698 and a davic ring No 1AN1. Unfortunately STW have been picking up the dead after comments from the public so did not see it ourselves. After breakfast Napton on the Hill could only give us a flyover Grey Wagtail though the churchyard was full of Blackbirds and Redwings. Paul went off to photograph the Tree Sparrows at Millholme Parc while we checked on Napton Reservoir finding 3 Snipe, 2 Raven, 20 Yellowhammer and 10 Reed Bunting. A call from Paul had us diverting on the way home to see a very impressive flock of Stock Dove. Don’t often see large flocks around here so this one of 400 birds was well worth seeing, even better the same field held 150 Skylark and 150 Yellowhammer with a few Chaffinch, Tree Sparrows and Linnets thrown in for good measure.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Another female RBM

Conditions were very murky at the pond this morning so had to be content with a hovering Kingfisher, 6 Goosander (one male) till a female Red-breasted Merganser flew past us to settle in rainbow corner. Although not counted Goldeneye seem to have increased and Great-crested Grebe are nearing 200. Unfortunately Napton on the Hill was shrouded in mist with very little seen while Napton Reservoir was a little better with 300 Common Gull loafing around and a female Shoveler.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Skylark & Millholme Parc Farm

Spent a wet morning in Sainsbury's then out with Dave to Skylark Farm for lunch where there were 10 Raven overhead. Came home via the grandborough valley but little seen apart from Great-spotted Woodpecker at Flecknoe till we reached Millholme Parc Farm. Twenty minutes here brought us 40+ Yellowhammer, 15 Tree Sparrow, 2 Buzzard, 2 Raven, a few Chaffinch and 300 Lapwing over.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Different Peregrine

After feeling rough yesterday I well and truly overslept this morning so Dave had to drag me kicking and screaming from under the duvet which meant we arrived at the pond later than usual. Quick chat with Bob and Keith then as they toddled off to toft we ambled to rainbow corner. The first winter male Red-crested Pochard was in rainbow corner while overhead 80 Lapwing circled for some time till the large juvenile Peregrine that was patrolling the fields behind rainbow cleared off. A real chunky monkey. Six Golden Plover went over east. Only other birds of note were 7 Goosander, 15 Goldeneye, 5 Pochard, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, 8 Tree Sparrow, 50 Stock Dove and hundreds of corvids, Wood Pigeon, Fieldfare and Redwing on the west side of reservoir. Just 2 Bullfinch on Napton on the Hill and 2 Sparrowhawk between Gibraltar bridge and Broadwell.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Heavy rain

Spent the first hour at Draycote Water under the visitor’s centre canopy due to heavy rain which did not help at keeping the early morning chill out. Our eventual walk to toft shallows did not produce much with Peregrine over the grandborough valley, 3 Goosander, Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff in toft shallows along with 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Still a few winter thrushes in the hedgerow and a small passage of Starling.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

another Brent

Arrived at Draycote Water 7:30 to find a juvenile Brent Goose off farborough bank but alas it left at 7:40 to the SW before we could get any closer. A walk to the inlet produced 6f &2m Goosander, a few Goldeneye, juv male Red-crested Pochard in rainbow corner and 8 Tree Sparrow around the feeders. Although there was little visible migration two large flocks surprised us with 2000 Starling over at 7:45 and 400 Fieldfare over rainbow at 8:30. After a flock of 300 Fieldfare flew over us at Southam we gave Napton on the Hill a look but apart from 50 Blackbird and a few Redwing, Fieldfare and Chaffinches around the churchyard we saw little else.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Red-crested Scots Gaurdsman

A nice party of 7 Red-crested Pochards (4m&3f) were off toft bank till flushed by a walker and drifted in to an approaching fishing boat and took flight eventually being re-located off hensborough bank loosely joining last week’s immature male. Also seen were 50 Meadow Pipit, 13 Goldeneye, 6 Goosander, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. Surrounding hedges had a few Fieldfare and Redwing with more present in the car park. Napton on the Hill had 330 Fieldfare, 50 Redwing and 30 Blackbird grounded with at least 8 Mistle Thrush, 3 Raven and 2 Buzzard around. Napton Reservoir is all most full now and the only wildfowl of note was a female Shoveler and a male Gadwall. More winter thrushes in the surrounding hedges.
Fridays heavy rain put paid to seeing LMS Royal Scot Class 7P 4-6-0 no 46115 Scots Guardsman being transferred from Carnforth to Southall so took the opportunity to see it on its way back north when it stopped at Rugby for water this afternoon.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

Steam is coming

November is good for steam trains locally with LMS Royal Scot Class 7P 4-6-0 no 46115 Scots Guardsman being transferred from Carnforth to Southall and is due to stop at Rugby Friday 7th November at 15:58 before departing south at 16:51. Plenty of time for photos if the forecasted rain clears off.

The same train is due to take the Robin Hood, London St Pancras-to Lincoln via Corby and Nottingham on Sunday 9th November before returning a different route to London Kings Cross meaning she will be going over the Harringworth viaduct approx. 12:15pm.
She will be returning to Carnforth from Southall on Monday 10th November but no details have been published yet. Meanwhile two separate steam hauled excursions are due in Rugby on Saturday 22nd November but again too early for times to be published so will keep you posted.

Further away and in December on Thursday 11th December another Cathedral Express from Peterborough to Oxford and will pass just a couple of miles from Nene Wash/ March Farmers area. Will be early and due to be a double header with a couple of Class 5s. This one will go down well with a bit of winter birding and a visit to the Chill Out Café.

Late House Martin and a good supporting cast

Bloody cold this morning so dug out the long Johns and in the context of local birding then Bob and I had an absolute blinder of a visit to Draycote Water this morning with plenty on offer, a bit of luck and a few flyovers. Our walk started off slowly with 55 Meadow Pipit on farborough bank and distant views of the male Red-crested Pochard in biggen bay and plenty of other duck in rainbow corner. Two immature swans arriving off the valve tower caused the blood pressure to rise before common sense made them in to Mutes but not before I had walked back to the spit for a closer look. I continued on clockwise meeting back up with Bob at the inlet which gave us great opportunity to go through the duck finding 4 female Pintail ( a 5th female was resting on the inlet with Mallard) 5 Goosander, 25 Wigeon, 4 female and one male Shoveler, 12 Pochard, 6 Gadwall and 6 Goldeneye before a fishermens boat flushed the lot. Kingfishers in toft and on the inlet, Little Egret on the inlet, 2 Raven, 10 Tree Sparrow, 30 Fieldfare, 80 Skylark, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Siskin and 30 Stock Dove kept the list ticking over nicely. As we returned then the first of 3 good flyovers took us by surprise with a very late House Martin feeding between inlet and rainbow corner before continuing on south then two groups of Golden Plover flew over south totalling 26 birds with 5 circling for a while followed by 5 Dunlin also going south over the outlet. The House Martin is my second latest record here. Our list finally ended with a Green Woodpecker and the last 2 of 9 Bullfinch seen clearly to be on migration as they were not intent on stopping and all going in a NE to SW direction which is unusual for the pond.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Goosander numbers building

Yesterday’s group of Red-crested Pochard at Draycote Water did not remain but the female Pintail did and there was an overnight increase in Goosander numbers with 6 female & 2 male present. Other sightings included a Little Egret by the inlet, Rock Pipit on farborough spit relocated to the end of toft bank, male Blackcap near the hide, Peregrine hunting over grandborough valley plus 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Raven, 6 Goldeneye, 6 Gadwall, 2 Pochard and a Kingfisher. Plenty of Meadow Pipits but the Wood Pigeon passage of 300+ birds on our arrival soon fizzled out by mid-morning.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Ruby Tiger at Draycote Water by Bob Hazell

posing Kingfisher at Draycote Water by Bob Hazell

hope all is well for who ever needed the air ambulance this morning at Stockton Marina taken from the adjacent Napton Reservoir this morning looking for a place to land

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Robo wars comes to town

Looked like we stumbled on to the set of robo wars when we arrived at the pond this morning but there was a serious side to the event held by BALI (British Association of Landscape Gardeners) who were hosting a health and safety led event investigating the risks and different methods involved in vegetated embankment management using specialised equipment. Certainly the in place to be if you’re a lawn mower geek.

Unfortunately it meant that disturbance was high along farborough bank so Bob, Keith and myself struggled to nail down a flighty Ringed Plover and never got to grips with a possible Rock Pipit.  After yesterday’s winds the visit was disappointing with just odds and sods seen including Little Egret, 2 Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest, 4 of 6 Goldeneye that were present, 2 Pochard and a calling but unseen Golden Plover. There was a massive movement of Wood Pigeon from first light but that petered out as the breeze got up and included a few winter thrushes and skylarks. No sign of yesterdays Rock Pipit on hensborough bank.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A birdy pond

A birdy morning between visitor centre and inlet produced no sign of the Red-breasted Mergansers but there were Kingfisher, Little Egret, 3 Dunlin, 3 Tree Sparrow, 3 Raven, Sparrowhawk, 3 Jay, 2 Grey Wagtail, immature male Goldeneye, 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker and Rock Pipit though now Napton Reservoir is nearly back too normal water levels it was hard work and all we could find was 5 Teal, 2 Gadwall and 3 Snipe.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Red-breasted Merganser

A very poor visit species wise but 2 immature Red-breasted Mergansers off the sailing club at first light plus Little Egret and Gadwall saved the visit. Nothing of note on Napton on the Hill. Napton Reservoir had 2 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and 3 Snipe.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Not a lot

Great Skua still at Draycote Water and a Golden Plover circled before heading east. Plenty of vis mig – mainly Redwing, mipits and Skylarks but soon trailed off. Vapourer Moth and adult Yellow-legged Gull at Napton Reservoir.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Brent & Bonxie part 2

A very atmospheric start to the day. The Great Skua remained and another Brent Goose dropped in briefly – juvenile this time but both were not very photogenic. Also noted were Kingfisher, Little Egret, 4 Gadwall, 3 Pochard, 2 Grey Wagtail, Raven while biggen bay had a patrolling Peregrine. Missed the Ringed Plover.

Brent Goose and Ringed Plover by Bob Hazell
There had been a few mipits and Skylarks going down the valley but hardly any were seen from Napton on the Hill, plenty of Red Admirals seen – with 9 counted. Napton Reservoir had 8 Shoveler, 2 Teal and 3 Snipe while butterflies included Brimstone, Speckled Wood, Large White and 5 Red Admiral. Another Brimstone was at the old Napton and Stockton Railway Station.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Brent and Bonxie

Not quite the day I thought it would be with very little seen on my walk to toft shallows with Bob and Paul apart from plenty of mipits on the banks, a trickle of Skylark going south and a Little Egret in toft shallows. As Paul and I returned passing farborough spit a Brent Goose appeared from nowhere and flew in to toft but then continued east and away. After coffee I joined Bob on hensborough bank where 3 Rock Pipit were present while a thinning of the low cloud produced hundreds of Redwing with 800 over plus the odd starling flock and 200 more Skylark. Song Thrushes were more noticeable today on the deck. Just as we approached the wind surfing area Bob spotted a Great Skua near the inlet before it gave us the run around as it toured the reservoir before spending a bit of time loafing in toft where those present caught up with it. Contrary to pager reports we believe it to be a different bird to the three seen yesterday

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A trio of Great Skuas

There had to be something at the pond today so the lone goose which went over the car park when we arrived could easily have been a genuine Pink-footed Goose blown off course though a local feral species can never be ruled out – will never know. Did not see a lot by the time I had to leave for hospital appointment (Swallow 3, Sand Martin (probably my latest date here) and Rock Pipit) but we had hardly got in to Rugby when news came through of a Great Skua beating up the Coots. Luckily Bob came to the rescue and picked me up in the afternoon by which time there were three birds present (a record count for me since two were present after hurricane Charlie in 87) A Kittiwake adult went over while most birders present were warming up in the café. Though not seen by me there were some interesting counts today with at least 3 Rock Pipit present, Arctic Tern juvenile, a flock of 8 Kittiwake among some Common Gull arrivals, 3 Dunlin, 2 Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail. Winds look good for checking the bushes tomorrow – got to be a Yellow-browed in the county and who knows what else.

Bob Hazell did well to get theses images of the Great Skuas considering how dull it was and the distance involved.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Bloody windy

With the forecast for rain and gusty winds most of the day we donned our wet gear and plodded out to farborough spit, Draycote Water hoping for something mouth-wateringly good but all we had was 3 Rock Pipit, our first Goosander of the winter, Shoveler and 4 Pochard. Weather did not let up when we arrived at Napton Reservoir and saw only 4 Snipe, 2 Gadwall and 12 Shoveler. With news that local sites were picking up seabirds I went back out in the afternoon to the pond and it was horrendous so hunkered down amongst the sailing boats and rewarded with 2 first winter and one adult Kittiwake on the surface in front of sailing club.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Birding in the fog

Woke up road weary to thick fog so not worth doing Draycote Water and decided to look at Napton Reservoir briefly before chilling out in the Skylark till it lifted. Managed 5 Snipe, 4 Teal, Grey Wagtail, Brown Rat and Water Vole in the gloom. The Skylark café had a Raven and Buzzard perched among the free range chickens with many Skylark going over and 2 Chiffchaff. Napton on the Hill was very birdy – probably the best it’s been all year with 50 Skylark, 17 Redwing and 6 Swallow over with many Blackbirds Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches in the hedgerows while the churchyard had 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 20 Song Thrush and a large tit flock just in one hour of looking. Returned to Napton Reservoir where the visibility had improved slightly so added 7 Shoveler, 21 Tufted Duck and a Great-spotted Woodpecker to our previous visit.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Little, Steppe and Arctic

A cracking days birding if a somewhat tiring with an early morning drive to Suffolk for the Little Crake at the Minsmere R.S.P.B reserve stopping for an autumn gathering of Stone Curlew. The juvenile crake was as elusive as expected and only showed briefly. Great-White Egret, Bittern and Bearded Tit all noted then as there was negative news on the Bedfordshire Lesser Grey Shrike we decided to push on to the north Norfolk coast for the Steppe Grey Shrike at Burham Norton which performed well. Stopped at Titchwell R.S.P.B for a well-earned breakfast then did the reserve and shore-line with Yellow-browed Warbler, Little Stint, male Merlin, Firecrest, 2 Red-necked Grebe and 2 Slavonian Grebe the best on offer. I thought we would be spending the rest of the day here but news of the Artic Warbler at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire broke and two of our crew were desperate to try for it so with a promise that we would stop for a hot meal on the way home I agreed so it was back in the car heading further up the east coast than I had expected this morning. Luckily the bird was showing on arrival and kindly pointed out by the locals. Short-eared Owl seen briefly as we left. The steak, Scampi and chips went down a treat washed down with some nice local nectar and on cue the space shed was seen as it sped over France. Finally got home with over 400 miles done, some nice birds and a bum ache.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Merlin and Rail

A good passage of Skylarks over Draycote Water this morning with at least 70 counted while 14 Swallow’s in 3 groups fed briefly before pushing on south. The Wheatear remained on farborough bank and the Little Egret on the wind surfing shore-line. Bird of the day was a female/immature Merlin that attempted to take a Meadow Pipit over the country park before turning its attention to a Starling flock. With Paul C having 3 Chiffchaff and a Grey Wagtail on Napton on the Hill we decided to concentrate on Napton Reservoir and rewarded with a sulking Water Rail, 12 Tufted Duck, 7 Shoveler including an adult male, 4 Teal, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 4 Raven, Sparrowhawk and 4 Buzzard. Despite the cool wind and developing cloud the sun was warm enough to bring out 2 Red Admiral, Comma and a Hornet along with a couple of Common Darter and 5 Migrant Hawkers.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Rain stopped play

After a clear night with a very bright full moon there was a little bit of vis-mig first thing with Jay, 12 Skylark and my first 4 Redwings of the autumn over the garden before the rain clouds started to build up from the south east. After yesterday’s birdy efforts Bob and I were hoping for a similar day but the rain came in as soon as we arrived and we could not find any new arrivals. At least 4 Rock Pipit still including one with no tail and one of yesterday’s Wheatears. Only other birds of note were 2 Little Egret, 7 Raven, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Jay. Met up with Paul, Martyn and Bob H and listened to their tales of birding on Shetland last week. They had some stonkers but nothing I needed though their pictures certainly made you wish you had been there.

Little Egret by Bob Hazell
Wheatear by Bob Hazell

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Rocky 6

Draycote was cool and blustery this morning but at least it stayed dry for our visit and by the time we left it had been very birdy. A Marsh Harrier briefly showed over the perimeter tree line as it flew over the fields opposite the entrance flushing many duck, 100 Lapwing and 3 Golden Plover. At least 6 Rock Pipit were dotted around the reservoir along with 3 Grey Wagtail and 2 Wheatear. The various Tufted Duck flocks contained 2 Pochard and a female Pintail while overhead there were 2 House Martin, single Swallow, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and 2 Snipe with 2 more in toft shallows. Other sightings included Water Rail, Kingfisher, 8 Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff and 9 Raven. The Raven count does not include those seen near or over Napton on the Hill due to excellent visibility which would have added another 20+ to the count.

as usual my thanks go to Bob Hazell for sharing his pics

Monday, 6 October 2014

Rain and Wind

Despite the heavy rain and blustery conditions we managed Rock Pipit, Wheatear, Common Tern, 5 Grey Wagtail and 2 Little Egret at Draycote Water this morning on our walk to toft shallows. Decided to visit Napton Reservoir before going home to dry but with the wind in our faces it was not pleasant. Only 2 Shoveler and 3 Snipe for our efforts.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


Eight Pintail and 15 Skylark over Draycote Water this morning plus 2 Little Egret. Napton Reservoir had 6 Snipe, 10 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, 11 Raven, 2 Swallow, 2 Wigeon and 5 Shoveler plus single Vapourer Moth and 5 Red Admiral.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

GCW Autumn Steam Gala

The Great Central Railway were holding their annual Autumn Steam Gala at Loughborough with 9 engines in action so a great day out despite the heavy rain at times which thankfully did not stop the crowds attending in good numbers. Eventually the sun came out.
a damp Loughborough Station

BR 2MT No 78019

Standard BR 9F 2-10-0 No 92214

having been watered and coaled 92214 leaves Loughborough with a freight train

platform 2 Loughborough Station

sidings west of Loughborough Station

Friday, 3 October 2014

Mallow & Swallows

Not a lot going on at Draycote Water with 2 Little Egret, 6 Pochard and a Grey Wagtail so luckily Napton Reservoir was a lot more active with plenty of birds about. At least 12 Snipe, 40 Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Blackcap, 5 Song Thrush, 10 Reed Bunting and a single Shoveler. A Mallow in my moth trap was totally unexpected and is my 324th macro moth for the garden bringing my total garden moth list to 592.

Mallow by Bob Hazell

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Odds & Sods

Draycote Water had a Golden Plover circling overhead on our arrival, 5 Swallow. Rock Pipit, Little Egret, Pochard, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk with a small vis mig of Skylark and Meadow Pipits while Napton Reservoir had a very chunky Peregrine, 11 Raven, 5 Buzzard, 4 Shoveler, 4 Tufted Duck, 3 Snipe and Whinchat which today was very elusive. Plenty of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers still on the wing around plus single Common Blue Damselfly, 3 Vapourer Moth and Small Copper. Two Raven over the garden mid-afternoon and a Green-veined White flew through. Yesterday Skylark Farm, Staverton had an Old Lady that was flushed out of the grass in to the Chicken pens, Wheatear, Jay, Buzzard, Raven and 1000s of Wood Pigeon in fields opposite the entrance looking towards Flecknoe and Millholm Parc had 5 Buzzards all going over high south west in singles in a 10 minute period plus 10+ Tree Sparrows by the hide.



Monday, 29 September 2014

Rocks & Cops

Three Rock Pipit were together in toft bay along with one of the 7 Grey Wagtails seen today on our walk out to toft shallows. A few Skylark were going north, 8 Bullfinch near the boardwalk, 4 Raven over, Water Rail showed briefly opposite the hide, 10 Long-tailed Tit and elsewhere there were 4 Shoveler, Jay, Wigeon and 2 Little Egret.
Three Jays went north over Long Ichington and four Swallows south as we approached Napton on the Hill. Napton Reservoir had 2 Snipe, 4 Shoveler, and approx 50 Swallows heading south in small groups along with 4 Jay, at least 6 Raven and 4 Buzzards noted. Best of the insects on show here was a Small Copper.



Sunday, 28 September 2014

Buzzards & Jays are coming

Knew there was a sponsored something going on but forgot they would be setting up early so Draycote Waters farborough bank was busy when we arrived at 7.30am so had no other option than give hensborough bank a quick check then scarper before the hoards arrived. Greenshank still present but mobile plus single Little Egret, Kingfisher and female Shoveler while overhead we had 4 Grey Wagtail go over together south plus a few mipits. Car park nearly full when we left. The only vis mig from Napton on the Hill was 5 Skylark and 20+ Swallows heading south west and 3 Cormorant and 4 duck sp going north. Napton Reservoir still had the Whinchat plus 5 Shoveler, 2 Wigeon, 3 Jay, 2 Chiffchaff and single Willow Warbler which was tucked in with 22 Long-tailed Tits while overhead there were 5 Buzzard and 2 Raven. As we were just about to leave we found another 15 Buzzard soaring together very high up north of the car park and they drifted of east – may have been migrants. Comma and Red Admiral seen here. Four Sparrowhawks over the garden this afternoon including 3 together plus 2 Raven, 2 Buzzard (locals) and 5 Jays north between 4&5pm.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Water Rail still

Little Owl on roof of Ryefield Farm, Half Way Lane but in the few seconds it took me to reach the Draycote Water service road and look back it had done a bunk. Water Rail was still in toft shallows but no sign of any interesting grebes. Single Wheatear along toft bank and a Snipe over west. Only other birds of note were 2 Little Egret, 2 Shoveler, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 8 Wigeon, 2 Raven and a Grey Wagtail. In the afternoon my garden had Migrant Hawker and Vapourer Moth with Cormorant, Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker over and 2 Coal Tit on the feeders.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Rocky on hens

Rock Pipit on hensborough bank was the only new arrival though Meadow Pipits seemed more numerous and two groups of House Martin (5 & 18) flew south west. Otherwise it was 3 Little Egret, Kingfisher, Wheatear and Greenshank that went in the notebook. A probable Slavonian Grebe sighting had us in toft bay for an hour but alas there were too many boats but well worth keeping an eye out for.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Lesser Spot, Grey Plover and a pair of TWATS

My stroll to toft shallows turned out to be more productive than expected and certainly made up for the bollocks of a visit yesterday. Four Grey Wagtail were along farborough and toft bank while 2 more were in toft shallow pool (Bob had a further 12 on his circuit and even considering some double counting he certainly beat my best day total of nine easily). Only other birds noted on our walk was a fly by Dunlin, Little egret and Yellow-legged Gull. As we approached the hide we checked the exposed mud amongst the north shore vegetation and this time rewarded with adult Water Rail sulking out in the open before disappearing – first of the autumn so let’s hope it stays the winter though it may be some time before there’s water under the board walk. While Bob continued his walk I spent 30 minutes under the canopy of toft shallow pool where a large tit flock contained 16 Long-tailed Tit, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest and a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker which stayed a few seconds before flying in to the copse near Toft Manor. As I returned to the visitor centre 2 House Martin were over the old windmill at Thurlaston and a winter plumage Grey Plover flew over from the north calling before deciding to head east down the Grandborough valley. Also seen were 103 Greylag which is not to be sneezed at in patch terms, 15 Skylark, 30+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Raven and 2 Buzzard.

Unfortunately even with 600 acres of water to fish in these twats beggared belief and tried to get round the ban on fishing from the damn walls and not bothered what they flushed, soon scarped when they realised they were being photographed. Should have stoned um instead – they would bloody moan if we stood birding in front of them.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tranquil shank

With the perimeter road at Draycote Water still closed this morning our walk was very tranquil and productive with Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Snipe, 2 Kingfisher, 2 Little Egret, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Wheatear, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and 56 Teal.
Whinchat still at Napton Reservoir while a roving tit flock contained Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and 6 Long-tailed Tit. Other species of interest here included 2 Hobby, 2 Wigeon, Teal, 4 Raven, 4 Buzzard and Jay plus Weasel, Peacock, Silver Y and Red Admiral. Napton on the Hill had 15 Raven and 2 Buzzards over the windmill as the breeze picked up and 5 Teal flew north.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Insects and Chats

With visibility down to 20 yards early morning all we managed at the pond was 4 Grey Wagtail, 2 Little Egret, Wheatear and 20 Meadow Pipit.
Greenshank still present by Bob Hazell
Wheatear by Bob Hazell
Napton on the Hill was lacking in passerines and just had Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, 14 Raven, 6 Buzzard, Peregrine and a few groups of martins and swallows going over. Could not find the Stonechat at Napton Reservoir but Whinchat, Jay, 6 Raven, 6 Buzzard and juvenile Hobby made up for it. Two Wigeon also present. When the sun came out we managed 2 Comma and a Small Copper on Napton on the Hill and Napton Reservoir had plenty of Dragonflies with Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter and Common Blue Damselfly noted. Stoat seen on Napton on the Hill was my first there for some time.
Comma, Napton on the Hill
Whinchat, Napton Reservoir