Thursday, 7 July 2022

Kelmarsh Hall Evening Walk


Yesterday evening was the club's outdoor meeting at Kelmarsh Hall. Sixteen members met up for 7pm and we took a gentle stroll to look at the Orangery, the stunning Walled Garden and further afield around the trees next to the River Ise and the lake and then a walk back up to the Hall building itself. It was rather breezy and cloudy but the sun broke through on several occasions and it turned out to be a very pleasant walk. After looking at the Orangery and hearing how birding on the estate helped to finance the rebuild, we walked towards the Walled Garden and saw a small group of Purple Hairstreak butterflies battling against the breeze around tall oak trees. Once inside the garden a Scarlet Tiger moth showed nicely in flight and birds included Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Blue Tit and Chiffchaff with brief views of Nuthatch and Blackcap.

Ravens were heard calling some distance away and a family party of Spotted Flycatchers in the mature trees towards the river initially were difficult to see but then a couple of juveniles showed nicely and proved their adeptness at already catching their own insects. Down by the river and lake we heard Kingfisher, Treecreeper and Goldcrest but they remained hidden. A wary female Gadwall hid her ducklings in waterside vegetation and another female posed before flying off. A Common Buzzard and a distant Brown Hare were further wildlife on show as we walked the edge of the main lake, seeing a Grey Heron and two flying Little Egrets as we did so. The pair of Mute Swans had an excellent brood of eight cygnets. A Kingfisher shot past Richard and calling birds included more Blackcaps and Nuthatches with a couple of House Martins and a Swift overhead.

A little further on and the members ahead had the Kingfisher perched up and we were all fortunate to see it sitting in a part-submerged branch albeit at some distance. We talk a walk up the slight incline towards the Hall and one of the adult Spotted Flycatchers showed very nicely. At the Hall we saw a female Blackbird carrying food for her youngsters and one of the items in her bill was a still wriggling Scarlet Tiger moth!

I think we all enjoyed our two hour dawdle on a reasonable summer evening in the peaceful environment of Kelmarsh Hall gardens and grounds!


Neil M

Members in action courtesy
of John Hunt.

British White Cattle.

The 'Ugly Duckling'...

...and proud Dad!

Kelmarsh Church.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

The Wildlife of Finnmark - our first 'live' meeting since 2020!


At last, our first 'live' meeting since 2020! Please join us at the Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir on Wednesday 4th May 2022 when club member and all round wildlife guru Jeff Blincow will be presenting his talk on 'The Wildlife of Finnmark'. This is the most northerly and easterly part of Norway and the illustrations will reflect on some of the wildlife highlights of this special region.

The meeting commences at 7.30pm and we will again be providing hot drinks and biscuits on arrival which will be available just outside our usual entrance so as not to cause a bottleneck and provide a free flow access and egress to the building (plus more ventilation than normal).

We want to be social but responsible and for everyone to feel comfortable back in our club venue surroundings. 

The club committee welcomes you back!

Neil M

Drake Eider.

Arctic Skua.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

New Visitors' Centre at Summer Leys

The new Wildlife Trust BCN visitors' centre is now open, details in the link below. Amongst activities planed there will be an Opticron 'try before you buy' optics event on April 7th and with Jack Snipe and up to four Garganey there now might be a good time to visit!

Female Garganey, Summer Leys April 5th 2022. Dave J.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Members' Photographic Competition

For anyone who missed the Bird Club’s photographic competition or if you’d like to view again the Zoom link is here (Passcode: *hsfQx5F)

Unfortunately, not all the submitted photos were included for judging and the committee would like to apologise to anyone who entered photos that were missed from the competition. If those affected would like to send their missing images to davidjac (@) they'll be posted on the home page. We’re taking steps to ensure the same doesn’t happen next year when we should be back to our normal face-to-face meetings.

Many thanks to Jeff for judging the competition, it’s always a difficult and thankless task with so many excellent photos entered, and well done to Matt Hazleton who gets his name on the Graham Soden Shield for the second time. 

Winning entries here 

Missed photos;

Goldeneye, Black-headed Gull, Stonechat and Little Stint. Birds in Northants by Robin Gossage

Fly Agaric, Plants & Fungi by Dave Jackson

Pheasant and Fox Cub, Birds or Animals in Their Environment by 
Dave Jackson

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Two Events For Your Diaries

Bird Club Photographic competition, Wednesday 9th February and an exhibition in Northampton Museum - 10 Years of the British Wildlife Photography Awards

Friday, 4 February 2022

The Kingfisher Screen at Pitsford

Work has been completed on the Kingfisher screen at Pitsford Wildlife Reserve in a quiet corner of Scaldwell Bay. It could be a month or two before the perches are in regular use as Kingfishers have only been photographed once in 6 visits since December from personal experience. 

This is the first purpose-built photography hide available to Wildlife BCN members and permit holders in Northants!

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Global Bird Fair


Yesterday it was announced that a Global Birdfair event will take place this year on 15th/16th/17th July at the Rutland Showground, Oakham, Rutland LE 7TW. Tickets will be available from 14th Feb 2022 and the format will be similar to the previous British Birdwatching Fair. Indeed Tim Appleton a co-founder for the Birdfair is behind this latest project too.

You can find out more by visiting:-

Neil McMahon


Black-tailed Godwit.


Thursday, 30 December 2021


Hi all,

A quick reminder that 31st Dec is the closing date for entries to the NBC Photographic Competition. You can send your entries to Jeff Blincow, 9 Churchill Road, Earls Barton, Northants, NN6 0PQ or to Bob Gill, 41 Mountfield Road, Northampton, NN3 6BE.

It is probably too late to be posting memory sticks to either Jeff or Bob to arrive by this deadline, but if you reply to this email with your entry details and notify us that your entries are on the way we will still accept them. You should notify us of this approach by 31st Dec. Any entries / notifications after this deadline will not be accepted. It is preferable of course that you deliver your entries into Jeff or Bob in person.

The categories and rules of entry remain the same as last year and are as presented on our blogsite at

Important feature to remember is that images should be entered in a JPEG format no larger than 1.5 Megabytes, they should NOT contain any text or borders. Jeff will not have time to resize or format images and so any images not complying with this request will be rejected.

Nick Parker

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Northants Ringing Group update


Northants Ringing Group (NRG).


Currently the group has twenty-one members comprising fourteen qualified ringers, of whom five have training endorsements, and seven trainees.

The main ringing sites are Pitsford Reservoir, Stortons Nature Reserve, Harrington Airfield and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve, which although it is in Buckinghamshire is only about two miles from the County border and BTO allows it to be within the Northamptonshire figures. There are other numerous sites where ringing is conducted within Northamptonshire by group members.

This year, so far, the group has ringed over 7,009 new birds and re-trapped 1,780 birds. Of the 1,780 birds that have been re-caught only fifteen were ringed by other groups/individuals either within the County or farther afield. Interestingly Linford Lakes Nature Reserve has been a good place for control Reed Warblers this year with four having been ringed outside the county, one from Rutland Water, one from Marston Vale Country Park Bedfordshire, one from Baden Down Farm Wiltshire and one from Girande in France. The French bird was originally ringed in August 2017 as a juvenile, possibly having been hatched in the UK and on the start of its migration, and by the time it was caught at Linford in July it will have made eight journeys to and from sub–Saharan Africa.

Map 1 below shows the original ringing location of birds caught by NRG members, known as controls, although the bulk were originally ringed in the UK.

Map 2 below shows the location of recoveries for birds that were ringed by NRG members. The Red flag indicates that unfortunately the bird was found dead. In the UK, the bulk of the ‘Red’ recoveries were the result of predation by cats.

Map 3 below shows the detail that is entered on Google maps when plotting controls or recoveries. These maps are currently only available to NRG members.

In July two members of NRG made what has become, Covid notwithstanding, an annual pilgrimage to the island of Skokholm, known as Dream Island by the wardens. Chris Payne had previously installed some cameras into a specially built Storm Petrol nesting wall, known as the Petrol Station. This year Chris obtained some excellent footage of the comings and goings of the Storm Petrols and next year plans are in the making for Chris to visit with two sound recordists to place at least eight cameras and microphones into the wall to continue their research into the secretive life of this amazing little bird.


Map 1

Map 2

Map 3

 Night-time view of Storm Petrol curtesy of Chris Payne.

The totals for NRG since 2002.

The 2020 decline is the result of the inability to ring due to Covid-19 restrictions.


Nick Wood
Group Secretary

Northants Ringing Group

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Birdfair - The End of an Era

Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust regret to announce that they will no longer run the annual Rutland Water Birdfair.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Pitsford Nature Reserve Kingfisher Viewing Screen

Work has recently started on the Kingfisher viewing screen at Pitsford Nature Reserve overlooking a quiet backwater away from the main reservoir. The screen is being built with photographers in mind with openings at low levels as well as for general viewing from sitting or standing positions and is big enough for 5 or 6 people social distancing! 

There's evidence that the area in front of the screen is being used by both Great and Little Egrets from the 'whitewash' on the bare bank opposite and from the number of birds attempting to land while we were working there and Great Crested Grebes, Reed Warblers and dabbling ducks favour the varied habitat at different times of the year.

There will be perches set at various positions to allow for fluctuating water levels and it's hoped that Kingfishers will find it to their liking. More news including the location will be published when it's completed and ready for use. Watch this space.

Permits are required to access the nature reserve side and are available from the fishing lodge for £5 or free to Wildlife Trust members with a permit obtained through the head office.

The Wildlife Trust are also introducing car parking charges for Summer Leys very soon which will be free to members but you must register your car's number plate beforehand.

Kingfisher - Dave Jackson

Sunday, 8 August 2021

NBC Outdoor Meeting Wednesday August 4th

It was a long time coming and there were times when we wondered if it would ever happen – the Bird Club’s first gathering back at Pitsford since February 2020 for a barbecue in perfect weather. 

Well done for all involved and thanks to all who made it a great social occasion after all this time, it was strangely strange and strangely familiar at the same time. 


We’re not out of the woods yet and the September 1st meeting could be another Zoom event as we’re not sure if Anglia Water, or indeed, our members are ready for an indoor meeting just yet.


With a number of countries opening up for double vaccinated visitors thoughts have turned again to a Bird Club trip abroad and Poland could be back on the agenda. The Pyrenees and Iceland have also been suggested and the committee will be meeting over the coming months to consider all options.


In the meantime keep well, stay safe and we hope to get the indoor meetings back on track before the year end.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

NBC Outdoor Meeting to Kelmarsh Hall


Yesterday evening (Wednesday) saw the club's evening outdoor meeting to Kelmarsh Hall. Presumably there would have been a few more of us if England hadn't been playing Denmark in the Euro semi-final!

On arrival an adult Spotted Flycatcher was feeding at least one fledged youngster near to the overflow car park and the adult was still present when we finished the walk at about 8.45pm. British White Cattle were grazing in the adjacent field as we admired the flourishing plants and flowers within the Walled Garden. Red Kites and Song Thrushes were noisy in the distance. We took a look at the Swift Tower erected earlier this year and seconds later saw two Swifts gleaning the skies above - no interest in the tower yet but maybe one day...

We then walked through the mosaic of managed hedges and trees, a Yellow Wagtail shouted as it flew over, and we headed down towards the lake. Treecreeper was probably the best bird encountered. At the lake the female Gadwall was furtive (possibly her ducklings were in the reeds) and Coots and Mute Swans showed off their respective young. As we crossed the wooden causeway between the lakes, a Kingfisher flew towards us and cut across the grass - we heard and saw it a couple more times but glimpses only. A couple of Red Kites clattered out of the trees and a Grey Heron waded through the silted edges of the lake. Nuthatch was heard and one of a couple of singing Blackcaps flitted past us. A distant Common Buzzard was perched in a hedgerow tree overlooking the event field.

On our walk back up to the Hall and Orangery, a Common Newt stood in the middle of the path, initially unseen by the people heading our little group!

The weather looked moody but we stayed dry, the wind dropped and it was a very pleasant evening - and so concluded our first outdoor meeting for two years. Oh and England won the football! 

Here's hoping that the BBQ planned for next month also attracts decent weather!


Neil McMahon

British White Cattle
are managed on the
Kelmarsh Estate.

Cob Mute Swan
on Kelmarsh Hall Lake.

Thursday, 15 April 2021


Garganey are a scarce summer visitor to the UK and their arrival is eagerly awaited by county birders. They are small ducks, slightly larger than a Common Teal and it takes a keen eye to spot a lone female or an eclipse plumaged drake in Teal flocks as they feed amongst vegetation. 

Three pairs have been reported in the county this spring and birders have had close views of this species from the hides at Summer Leys and Pitsford with some of the best photos attained in Northants of this attractive duck. 

Friday, 26 February 2021



Lockdown may be coming to an end but it will be a few months yet before we can resume indoor meetings. In the meantime, Neil has been busy filling the programme with Zoom meetings with some unmissable talks coming up. If you haven’t joined one yet the next one’s the AGM on March 3rd with an important proposal for membership fees, followed by Neil’s Birds and Wildlife of Cambodia which I can thoroughly recommend.


With temperatures rising and the first buds of spring appearing don’t forget to share your garden wildlife photos with other members on the blog, details here. 


The For Sale/Wanted tab is for members to advertise their items free of charge for the benefit of other members. 

Bob Mason is still on the lookout for a moth trap and if you’re thinking of upgrading your photography gear I’m selling my practically new Canon 90D and Canon 70-200L lens, details here.

Short-eared Owl taken by Dave Jackson on his Canon 90D

Friday, 29 January 2021

Golden Plover and Lapwing Survey


Natural England, the Wildlife Trusts for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire Biodiversity Records Centre are carrying out a survey to better understand the habitats used by wintering populations of Golden Plover and Lapwing, particularly in the Upper Nene Valley. The study area is focused on feeding and roosting locations around the Special Protection Area (SPA) gravel-pit sites.

Help is required to gather Golden Plover and Lapwing records within the SPA and within the 10km of the surrounding area to the SPA. Additional records within Northamptonshire would be useful too.


Due to Covid 19 there is currently no active surveying, but existing records are requested. There may be an opportunity for a co-ordinated survey next winter.


Please send Golden Plover or Lapwing records to the NBRC via their website or via email


Records should include:

-              A count of each species (if possible)

-              Activity – feeding/roosting (if known)

-              Date and time

-              Location – grid reference 6 figure or above , map & description

-              Habitat type – grassland/arable (if arable also a crop type and stage if known)

-              Name of observer

-              A photograph may be useful but is not essential


Neil M


Golden Plover.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

2021 Presentations


I'm delighted to announce that preparations for the annual club Photographic Competition are almost complete and this will be conducted on-line using Zoom from 7.30pm on Wednesday 3rd February.

More details can be found on the Programme but we are now embarking on a series of on-line Zoom presentations by club members until such time as we can resume our attended meetings at Pitsford.

The first two presentations are also on the Programme and will be an illustrated talk on the Birds and Wildlife of Cambodia on Wednesday 3rd March and the Birds of South Africa on Wednesday 7th April.

An email with the link to the meeting will be sent to all members prior to the commencement of the meetings. If you wish to join these meeting and are not yet a member please email

Please do not be put off by concerns of the technical implications - once you have received an invite link on your device, click on the link and you will enter the meeting. If your device has a camera (most laptops do for instance) you can decide whether you wish to be visual to other attendees. The host will manage the process and will control opportunities for you to speak or text questions.

Best Wishes

Neil M

Cape Sugarbird SA.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Our friend JP-S

John Price-Stephens, affectionately known as JPS, has sadly and suddenly passed away. In recent years Bob Bullock spent some time with John and has written the following:

John Price-Stephens died on December 30th aged 75. 

I first met John in early autumn 1976 on the causeway at Pitsford reservoir which at the time was nearly empty north of the causeway after one of the driest years on record. I pointed out to him a Temminck’s Stint which was hiding behind a rock sticking out of the mud. I told him about the Northants Bird Club and he joined sometime after. He had a young family then and always made an effort to see any new bird for his Northants list. 

He was best man at my wedding and godfather to my daughter Katie. A few years later he got heavily into twitching and together in various combinations with Steve Mawby, Richard Johnson, Andrew Cook and I, went for every new bird we could, apart from once when Sue, his wife, said ‘If you go for that bird (Paddyfield Warbler at Walney Island in September 1992) I won’t be here when you get back’. It took him many years to get that one back! 

In 1990, with his family, he did a year-long house and job swap with a family in Brisbane and we visited him over there in the summer holidays, there he had a worrying episode where in the outback he wandered off into the bush to look for a bird and got totally lost for several hours before being discovered by a passing motorist. Together we visited most counties in Britain and a number in Ireland in pursuit of new birds. He amassed a total of more than 540 species. He also went on Bird Club trips to Panama, Finland, Gambia and twice to South Africa which he thoroughly enjoyed and often spoke of the night he spent in the same room as Bob Gill and Phil Horsnail and listened to so many jokes and stories he got no sleep. Until he retired from his job as a Special Needs teacher he wasn’t able to go on any other NBC trips but instead visited USA, Bermuda, Venezuela and much of northern Europe in school holiday time. With our wives we went on a camping trip to southern Spain and Portugal and on a Red Sea cruise visiting Jordan and Egypt combining birding with some culture. In September 2018 we went again to South Africa with our wives and drove the Garden Route and visited sites around Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. 

John was also an Arsenal and Welsh Rugby Union team fan as well as a plane spotting fanatic and on every foreign trip was keen to see any of the local planes, and regularly visited airshows in USA and Europe in his campervan, he also flew over ‘area 57’ in Nevada to log all the stored aircraft in the desert. Latterly he renewed his old interest in fishing and liked to take his grandchildren along. He also joined a fishing club with me to catch some larger carp and catfish and caught his first catfish in 2020 including four in one day. Our last twitches together were for the Brown Booby and Paddyfield Pipit at the end of 2019 in Cornwall where it was apparent that he had a heart problem. We went on our last fishing trip at the end of September last year and he had open-heart surgery in October, twice cancelled at the last minute and seemed to be making good progress. 

His sudden death was a shock to everyone and completely unexpected, he will always be remembered for kind, gentle and good-humoured nature and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. My sympathy goes to wife Sue, daughters Eleanor and Clare and to their families.  
Bob Bullock.

Thank you Bob. 


One of my fondest memories of John was passing his home in Pitsford one morning. Just in time to catch him cussing at a misbehaving lawn mower. Unexpectedly, for John I stopped and asked if he was alright. John looked at me, smiled and asked if I'd like a cuppa and a chat, "as long as there's a biscuit in it" I replied. Everyone who knew John and from all at the NBC, echo Bob's sentiments and offer heartfelt condolences. John's legacy will remain in our memories forever.