Sunday, 15 July 2018

Over the seas and Farne away

Puffin.  Mark Williams.

The last time the Bird Club visited the Farnes the weather was not that great.
This time we still moaned, too hot, too bright, jeez never happy. Arranged by
 Mr Gill, Roger P, Barry B and Del-boy met Bob, Mark, Wendy
and myself in Teesdale near Langdon Beck.

Last time here Wendy saw a Merlin so we were hopeful this time. To be fair
it seemed rather quiet bird wise so we moved to the river bridge lower down.
There, as last time was our faithful Dipper and as last time keeping in the
shadows of the far bank.

Stoatally wonderfull Mark Williams

Watching from the bridge a family of Stoats came out from cover on the
near bank, Splashing, jumping and running in the river, then hiding only to come
out again and again to play in the water.
We were treated to this wonderful site for some ten minutes or so until they
eventually moved on. This was a fabulous encounter, a shame it did not last
a little longer.

Another 130 miles or so on, Bob steered us to our sumptuous lodgings in
Berwick, the..... Travelodge da, dar! Later feeding at the local pub.

Next day we each paid our £27.50 landing fee (National Trust) and our £40.00 boat fare,
Yes!..... we all thought the same but this will possibly the last time we do it.

Incoming, clear runway  Mark Williams

Phew! that was close  Mark  W.
Abort, abort landing. Mark W
For Wendy and myself it was the first time we had landed on both Inner Farne
and Staple island. It was absolutely fabulous, Staple, lacking the numbers of Arctic
Terns found on Inner Farne, was mesmerising Puffins every where, all trying to dodge
the Herring and Lesser Black Backs as they landed with food for their youngsters.
Time flew by as it invariably does when you are enjoying life.

I hear the pitter patter of tiny feet. Mark W

The boat crew were great helping us off the boat onto Inner Farne. Being later in the
day it was difficult trying to find the best place to photograph as the wind and the
sun opposed each other.

Head TERNing birds. Bob Gill

I'll get you.. scardy-cat Mark W

First things first a visit to the mens room then off to find a bench for a bit of nosh.
The Arctics did not seem to bother me on route to the loo's but coming back I
suffered a couple of quite hard attacks for what a close range is a small bird.
Taking my hat off in the shade to eat my rolls I noticed some blood inside,
the Tinkers!

A beautiful green eyed Shag. Mark W
I got one! I got one!  Guillimot Mark W.

Razorbill. Mark W.

I found it quite annoying that some photographer's were flouting the rules needlessly
by putting their large lenses the wrong side of the rope cordon's when the birds are so close.
I was also concerned by people rushing and not looking where they were treading,
with camouflaged chick's on the path edges, they were so vulnerable.

Time passed too quickly and before we knew it I was squeezing tomato ketchup
on my fish and chips, can life get any better?

Next day a morning stumble, for me at least around Budle bay put a smile on everyone's
face. I decided to sit where I fell, watching a female Merganser and her chicks.

Sandwich Tern RDG.

Merganser and chick RDG
Shelduck Bob G.

Awaiting the tide to recede we eventually made it across Holy Island, Lindisfarne.
I don't think Barrys' and Del boys' heart's were in it after all England were playing

No Barry its definitely grass Bob G.
Wheres the auto setting? Bob G.
We went looking for the rare Lindisfarne Helleborine, we found lots of beautiful Marsh
Helleborine's, Pyramidal and Northern Marsh Orchids.
Pyramidal Orchid RDG
Marsh Helleborine. RDG.

 Eagle eye'd Mark found our only Lindisfarne Helliborine.

Lindisfarne Helliborine Bob G.
On route there were lots of Dark-green Fritillary , Small Heath and several
Dune Robber-flies.  OMG! England has  Won.

Dark Green Fritillary. Bob G.

Dune Robberfly.  RDG
Walking on toward the castle or should I say scaffold well more scaffold than castle, nice views of common birds could be attained

Meadow Pipit Bob G.
House Sparrow Bob G.

A Morrisons breakfast then our crew were off to Bempton Cliffs, Baz, Rodg, and Del already
on their way home.

Gannet. Mark W.

I was not sure if I had ever been to Bempton before but it made no difference as it was a total
surprise to me. Walking by cliffs with Auks, we reached the Gannet Colony .

Gannet RDG
It took my breath away, Wow they soared and flew so close it was absolutely Brilliant! I
photographed for a couple of hours until my battery ran out, then made a pledge to return.

Gannet . Bob G.
Gannet. Bob G

Two and a half hours later Wendy and I were home, exhausted but totally satiated.

Wendy's  and my thanks go to Rodger, Barry, Del, Mark and Bob for being good company
and making a great trip even better.
Special thanks go to Bob for everything.

Mark Williams

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Warm Outdoor Meeting


A glorious summer evening greeted us at Pitsford Reservoir yesterday as a small band of members met for the traditional July outdoor meeting.

John Showers kindly set up his laptop and microscope in the lodge itself, the urn was singing to us and biscuits and nibbles were on hand for those a little hungry despite the very warm temperatures. Mischa from the reserve had left some moths from the earlier trap round for us to examine and then release.

Nick Parker led us off on a pleasant walk to the Bird Club hide and back, but not before we watched a couple of Spotted Flycatchers sallying forth from a couple of beeches next to the lodge. A hairstreak butterfly vanished before it could be identified and we then padded along the causeway where a Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail could be found.

A couple of Pike were suspended in the water with a vast shoal of fish fry moving around them and keeping a safe distance away!

Into the first part of Scaldwell Meadow and numerous butterflies included an excellent concentration of Marbled Whites. Waterfowl included both Mute Swan and Great Crested Grebes with healthy young and the six tern rafts in front of the hide were very busy indeed! Dragonflies were pursuing other flying insects and singing singletons of Sedge and Reed Warbler persisted in the glyceria at the water's edge.

On our walk back a Grey Heron and a couple of Little Egrets had found the fish fry shoals by the tunnel in the causeway and we disturbed them as we walked by.

An informal natter and drinks followed and with the approach of dusk we cleared up and pottered home!

Neil M

Spotted Flycatcher
courtesy of Jacob Spinks.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Outdoor Meeting 4th July


On Wednesday 4th July the club hosts it's annual outdoor meeting which will be at Pitsford Reservoir as usual. The meeting begins at the Fishing Lodge at 7pm for those that would like to meet up and go for an evening walk around the Wildlife Trust managed reserve. This may be a longish walk into the Scaldwell Bay or if it is really warm a shorter walk into the Holcot Bay as led by Nick Parker. This time of the year insects are on the wing and should be visible as well as the breeding birds and even a few transient migrants should be about.

In addition we hope to have microscopes and computers on hand to examine collected mini beasts in the Fishing Lodge and of course hot drinks and biscuits will be on hand too.

In the unlikely event that we experience rain (!!), there will be a digital presentation we can fall back on!

We look forward to seeing you there!


Neil M

Common Tern.

Great Crested Grebes.

Common Blue Damselfly.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

NBC Car trip

New fen viewpoint.    David Arden

The 24th saw BC Members descend at Lakenheath RSPB reserve.

Once the habitat for Golden Orioles, Lakenheath about an hour and a half from Northants.
Its a premier site for observing Bittern, Frequently seen flying across the fen and skulking at
the edge of the reed beds, giving good photographic opportunities.

Bitterns breed here and two or 3 youngsters could be seen from Mere hide whilst mum
was away feeding.

David Arden
Bittern youngster David Arden
Kingfisher can also be seen from Mere hide, normally at distance but can show well
in front of the visitor centre.

David Arden
For those interested in insects today was particularly good for Longhorn beetles especially
for Golden-bloomed Grey with Bob Gill finding a dozen or so individuals.

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn. Agapanthia villosoviridescens Bob Gill
Variable and four banded longhorns were also found.

Variable Longhorn Bob Gill

A great many Dragonflies were on the wing, Broad Bodied Chaser, Four-spot Chaser etc
along with numerous Damselflies including Variable and Banded Demoiselle.
Only a single Hobby was seen hawking.

Hobby David Arden
A very warm day but still very pleasant, sadly the Bearded Tits refused to show well but I'm
sure Richard (barford) will catch up with them soon.

Bob Gill

Thanks Mark for taking us.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Summary of Indoor Meeting 6th June


Elis and Rick Simpson provided the club with a presentation this evening associated with a love of plovers. Elis is the photographer of the team and the presentation contained many images of her work from all over the world. They are certainly a very well travelled couple! Rick presented the subject, explaining that as a boy he had always wanted to see a Lapwing, and to this day it is probably still his favourite bird. To Rick's mind it should have been the Lapwing and not the Robin recently voted as the nation's favourite bird!

He then provided an overview of what a plover is and where it sits in the complex classification world, and without being too scientific describing that behaviour plays a big part in assessing what really is a plover and not something similar. Using birds familiar with British birdwatchers, such as Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dotterel etc, he provided photographs of birds allied to the 'British plovers' and gave examples of behaviour, migration strategies etc.

I didn't know that the collective name for a group or flock of Lapwings was a 'deceit of Lapwings' and Rick introduced some theories as to how this may have come about. A group of plovers on the ground is apparently a 'congregation' and when in flight it is a 'wing of plovers'. He also explained that some birds where 'plover' is in their name in fact are not plovers at all - the most obvious perhaps being the Crab Plover which may actually be closer related to gulls than waders!

Rick clearly researches his subjects very intensely, but doesn't insist that his message is an absolute and offers his conjectures in a personable but convincing manner.

Like most families or orders of birds there were examples of species that were struggling, mostly due to human influences on the world, but also examples where species have exploited areas such as the Southern Lapwing in South America and where human communities or islands have influenced the status and breeding success of rare or vulnerable species with deliberate pro activity providing great success.

The talk ended with an excellent cross section of many of the plovers, lapwings and dotterels of the world and a summary of what Waderquest seeks to achieve very much on a world stage - all very impressive and driven by a determined, talented and committed naturalist duo. They deserve our respect and our support!


Neil M

American Golden Plover.

African Wattled Plover and
African Rock Python!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Indoor Meeting 6th June


This coming Wednesday's Indoor Meeting (6th June) sees the return of Waderquest's Elis and Rik Simpson. Following the success of their introductory talk last year they return to present 'A Plovers Lover's World of Delight' which no doubt will concentrate on one family or group of world-wide wading birds.

As usual the meeting starts promptly at 7.30pm at The Fishing Lodge, Pitsford Reservoir just outside the village of Holcot and there will be the customary announcements, raffle and hot drinks and biscuits. In the event of the car park around the Lodge being full, please consider parking down by the fishing boats.

Everyone welcome!

Neil M

Oriental Plover

Long-toed Lapwing.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Otmoor Under Threat

It hardly seems like a day goes by without another woodland or wetland being threatened by destruction or development. 

Over the border in Oxfordshire a much-loved reserve is under threat from a new road proposal. Many Northants birders will be familiar with Otmoor- it’s a regular venue for the monthly Bird Club car trips and regularly visited by others due to its relative proximity to the county.

Inconceivable as it might seem, a new road proposal is threatening to cut right through this marvellous reserve just as it’s reaching its prime.

More information and details of a Government petition can be found here.

Dunnock - Otmoor, Dave J.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Birds of Yunnan talk


Talks by Bird Club member, Jeff Blincow are for me, one of the
highlights in the calendar and this talk, looking at his three-week
winter trip to Yunnan, lived up to expectation.

In birding terms, Yunnan is not very well known, so this was a bit of an expeditionary birding trip made with his regular comrades Bob Bullock & Nigel Goodgame. They met up with a Chinese guide from Chengdu & then over the next few days drove south to Yunnan, a province in south-west China that borders Laos & Myanmar (Burma).

Jeff explained, that like most countries, China's landscape & wildlife has suffered from human activities such as deforestation & hunting, but pockets of good habitat still exist and are now protected. Within these parks, a number of species can be found. Some, like the Dusky Warbler, White's Thrush & Red-flanked Bluetail were familiar as they occasionally turn up in the UK, but many others like the Rusty-fronted Barwing and Scimitar Babblers are unique to Asia.

Seeing birds in lowland forest, with bamboo thickets can be hard work, so it was good to hear that the locals have seen a business
opportunity and set up feeding stations & hides. Where, for a small
fee, you sit & wait quietly and can get great views of a variety of
forest species that you would struggle to see, let alone photograph if you were walking the trails. The fact that the locals are involved
gives hope that these remaining forest areas will be well looked

Judging by the number of quality photos of species such as Pheasants, Babblers, Bulbuls, Barbets, Flycatchers, Laughing-thrushes, Minlas, Sibias, Leafbirds, Sunbirds & Thrushes it looked like the hides were well worth the £5 a day fee!

As with all of Jeff's talks, it was interesting, educational & not all
about birds. There were a variety of other species thrown in, Trees,
Fungi, Dragonflies and by visiting a local museum, even managed to include Dinosaurs!

But birds were the main theme and as well as discussing migration
routes, taxonomic splits and the identification of Phylloscopus
warblers, there were some gripper photos including Ibisbill,
Forktails, Chinese Rubythroat & Red-headed Trogon to name a few.

All in all, I thought this was one of Jeff's best illustrated talks
yet, which is remarkable considering he didn't even take his camera!

Mark Williams

Sunday, 29 April 2018

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

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. I’m hoping this may be of interest to the members of the Northamptonshire Bird Club.

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.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Indoor Meeting Wednesday 2nd May


Our next indoor meeting is on Wednesday 2nd May when club member Jeff Blincow will be providing an illustrated digital presentation 'Birding in Yunnan'.

This talk highlights the superb birds seen on a birding trip to South West China in the winter. At first this would seem an unusual idea but the remaining lowland forest along the Burmese border holds a strong resident avifauna and the region is the wintering ground for migrants from nearly all points of the compass.

The meeting starts as usual at 7.30pm and hot drinks and biscuits will be available during the evening.

Everyone is welcome!

Neil McMahon

White-rumped Sharma.

Rusty-fronted Barwing.

Both images courtesy of Jeff Blincow.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Dawn Chorus Event at Pitsford

Sunday 6th May 4am—6am

Celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day by rising with the larks and taking in nature’s symphony as the birds announce the start of a new day. Maybe you might also catch a glimpse of some nocturnal animals making their way back to bed. Enjoy a walk in the fresh morning air with The Wildlife Trusts’ Ant Smith as he guides you through the dawn chorus.

Booking essential   £7 per person, £2.50 for under 16’s.
Breakfast pastries and hot drinks are included in the price. Sorry no dogs allowed on the nature reserve.

The Fishing Lodge, Holcot, Northants. NN6 9SJ — Please bring suitable footwear for muddy, uneven paths, warm clothes and binoculars.

For more information or to get involved contact:  Mischa Cross on: 07734478473

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Summary of Indoor Presentation 4th April

On 4th April a packed meeting much enjoyed Part II of Chris Ward’s excellent illustrated talk “Birds and Wildlife of Australia”.
Chris and his wife Caroline spent 3 months down under during (our) summer in 2016 having cleverly arranged a house and car swap with a couple in Brisbane, who happily spent three months in Milton Keynes for the duration!

Having covered most of their time in Brisbane and it’s surroundings in Part I a few months ago, we were treated first to very close views of Humpback Whales in Hervey Bay where the females gather in the warmer water there to give birth every winter and guide boats guarantee close sightings due to the inquisitiveness of these whales when the boats approach.

Next the illustrated tour moved on to Sydney, where after a brief spell in the city they moved out to the western edge of the Blue Mountains, staying at a couple of the more rural sites recommended for their wildlife interest, particularly catching up with Kangaroos, Wallabies and Wallaroos, Duck-billed Platypus and the tiny shrew-sized marsupial the Yellow-footed Antechinus.  Slides of these mammals were complimented by lovely shots of the birds of the area, some looking a little drab in their winter plumage, some of everything from Eagles to Honeyeaters.

The scenery here was stunning, the amazing sandstone cliffs of the Capertee Canyon – said to be the widest canyon in the world – framing the scenic shots of the wilderness on the valley floor with some welcome slides throughout the talk showing us the accommodation and surroundings in the areas where they had enjoyed their driving and walks.

Next we saw views and animals and birds in and around Darwin.  The monsoons visit this area every year from October to April, but in July when they were there conditions were ideal, although that year some of the dams were on the dry side and some of the most intimate photographs were taken of birds taking advantage of a puddle under a standpipe in a camp site.  They also enjoyed a visit to the famous rock art sites in the Kakadu National Park although somewhat disappointed that some of them have been so obviously embellished in recent times. 

Like most places in the natural world, visiting water bodies is key to finding the birds and animals – here around Pine Creek and Bird Billabong.  Similarly, as in UK road accidents take their toll too, but an Agile Wallaby that had met with an accident had attracted a Dingo briefly which Chris was quick enough to snap before it retreated back into the roadside bushes.  Rare Hooded Parrots were spied here despite having a very restricted range and the magical Bower Birds.  And like true tourists they took a boat trip on the Yellow River to take shots of the Crocodiles and maybe one of the best shots of the whole presentation – a beautiful pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles flying across a perfect blue sky in tandem!

Lastly, Chris closed this thoroughly enjoyable and informative narrative with the “must do” shot standing beside a 7ft giant termite mound and an iconic sunset shot over the lagoon back at Laguna Lookout at Noosa outside Brisbane.

Helen Franklin