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

Hello

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!

Regards

Neil McMahon


British White Cattle
are managed on the
Kelmarsh Estate.

Cob Mute Swan
on Kelmarsh Hall Lake.


Thursday, 15 April 2021

Garganey

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

Updates


 

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

Hello

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 https://northantsbrc.org.uk/record/submit-a-sighting or via email nbrc@northantsbrc.org.uk.

 

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


Regards


Neil M




Lapwing.

Golden Plover.



Wednesday, 20 January 2021

2021 Presentations

Hello

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 nmparker@virginmedia.com.

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
Cambodia.





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. 

Robin

 

Saturday, 28 November 2020

NBC Photography Competition Amendments for 2020


Hi everyone, 

The Covid situation has had and is having a large impact on most things we would like to do. The Bird Club has suffered, but things are changing and hopefully we will be enjoying Zoom meetings over the next few months thanks to Jeff, Neil and other committee members.

Covid has also had a bearing on our Photographic Competition, so things, as you might appreciate, will be run a little differently this year.

Our Guest Judge, Andy Astill has offered to preside over the proceedings again this year. However as well as judging the first, second and third in each category, Andy will also judge his top 3 from the winners in each category and the outright winner will receive the Graham Soden Shield to hold for another year.

All entries will be posted on the NBC Blog after Judging is completed.

As many of us have been in lock-down etc it's fairly certain many of us did not get away as hoped for. A few changes have been made with this in mind.

Rule changes for 2020, (these have yet to be updated on the blog page).

There are three options when entering images into the  Foreign Birds and Foreign Birds in flight Categories.

  • Those that managed to go abroad this year and would like to enter into said Categories can do so as normal.
  • Those that were unable to go abroad this year can enter images from 2019 in Foreign Birds and F B in Flight only, however these images must be of a different species than those you entered in 2019. 
  • Those not entering images in Foreign Birds and Foreign Birds in Flight may enter 1 extra image into any 2 other Categories, i.e. 26 in total, 5 in any two  Categories max.
You may choose only one of the above options, if you enter for example, Foreign Birds but not Foreign Birds in flight, you cannot enter any extra images in any other categories.

All other rules remain the same and can be found on the Northamptonshire Bird Club Blog Site.

PHEW! I hope that’s clear. don’t phone me, I’ll phone you. 

Please remember to include your paper copy for my reference,  containing image name, Category name, (no numbers as they will get deleted). Contact Name and details in case of a problem.

Don’t forget also your caption photo’s, we all need a laugh.

Send/deliver image medium direct  to Robin Gossage, 154 Acre Lane, Kingsthorpe, Northampton. NN2 8DF.

Entries should be received before December 23. 

Keep safe, 

Robin.


Saturday, 21 November 2020

BTO on-line lectures

Hello

This year's British Trust for Ornithology annual conference will be a virtual one but with a full timetable of quality presentations of fascinating subjects as set out below. The majority of these lectures can be accessed via the Zoom process from your laptop or similar device by first booking your place via the BTO... 

https://www.bto.org/community/events/bto-conference-2020

Monday 30th November

19:00 Tracking Short-eared Owls - John Calladine

Unusual amongst predatory birds, the numbers of breeding Short-eared Owls have declined markedly over recent decades. The talk will describe recent attempts to better understand what has arguably been one of the least understood birds in Britain and explore how that information could be used to secure their future. Included will be new and some very surprising findings on habitat use, movements and behaviour from ongoing satellite telemetry studies.

19:30 Cuckoos, conservation and the costs of migration - Chris Hewson

In this talk Chris will describe some of the extraordinary findings from our collaborative project tracking Cuckoos from their breeding grounds in Mongolia.

20:00 There and back again: A Shelduck tale - Ros Green

BTO research Ecologist Ros Green will present some fascinating new insights gained through tracking Shelduck.

20:30 Close

Tuesday 1st December

14:00 Curves for Curlew: Identifying breeding status from GPS tracking in Wales - Katharine Bowgen

It has proved near impossible to identify breeding status timings of cryptic species like Curlew without intense or expensive monitoring but this information is important to target conservation practices and management. Katharine Bowgen will share the insights gained from BTO’s work tracking Curlew in Wales. 

14:30 Curlews in the East - Harry Ewing

Across Europe, Curlew are declining as a result of unsustainably high rates of nest and chick failure. Harry Ewing will talk about his PhD studies monitoring Curlew nests in East Anglia. 

15:00 Using new technology to improve the UK winter population estimate of Jack Snipe - Colin McShane

BTO volunteer Colin McShane will explain how he and his colleagues have been using thermal imaging technology to improve our understanding of Jack Snipe. 

15:30 Close

Wednesday 2nd December

10:00 Red Sixty Seven: Art and Words for Britain’s Most Vulnerable Birds - Yolo birder/Kit Jewitt

Red Sixty Seven received a rapturous welcome when it was published earlier this year. The book contains 67 artworks and texts by leading artists, writers and celebrities, aimed at highlighting the plight of birds on the Red List of Conservation Concern. Kit Jewitt will explain what inspired him to start this project and what it has achieved. 

10:30 Chasing Skuas - Sarah Harris

The Arctic Skua is thought to be the most rapidly declining seabird species in the UK.  In this talk, BTO’s Sarah Harris will present the fascinating findings of a recent GPS-tracking project.

11:00 Can tracking Atlantic puffins at sea help us understand why they’re declining? Annette Fayet, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Annette Fayet will present some of her research tracking the migration and foraging movements of Atlantic puffins in Wales and throughout the North Atlantic, which has revealed new information about their ecology but also provides novel insights into the potential drivers of their population declines.

11:30 Close

Break

19:00 BTO Youth Advisory Panel update followed by a panel discussion on engaging young people in science and conservation

20:30 Close

Thursday 3rd December

14:00 25 years of Garden Birdwatch - Kate Risely

The BTO’s year round Garden BirdWatch project started in 1995, and today over 10,000 participants send in weekly lists of the birds in their garden. This is an incredible dataset: we have records from over 50,000 gardens, and over 8 million species lists in total. In this talk Kate Risely will describe some of the findings from BTO’s garden ecology research over the last 20 years, particularly on the effects of bird feeding and disease, as well as our plans for the future of Garden BirdWatch.

14:30 Garden Wildlife Health - lessons from BTO Garden Birdwatchers - Becki Lawson

In this talk Dr. Becki Lawson from the Zoological Society of London will discuss some of the key findings from the Garden Wildlife Health scheme, showing how BTO volunteers and the wider public enable a better understanding of wildlife and how we can protect it.

15:00 Tracking the migrations of Britain’s wintering Blackcaps - Benjamin Van Doren

Over the last 60 years, the number of Blackcaps wintering in Britain has increased dramatically. Benjamin Van Doren will discuss the origins of these winter visitors, how they spend their time, and why they are here.

15:30 Close

Friday 4th December

19:00 Digital ears - using audio recorders to monitor nocturnal bird migration - Simon Gillings

Every spring and autumn, millions of birds migrate under cover of darkness, secretly passing over us while we sleep. Many of these birds are detectable by recording their flight calls, giving birdwatchers and researchers a unique insight into nocturnal bird migration. Simon Gillings will discuss his own journey to the dark side and share what we are learning about this fascinating topic. 

20:30 Close

Saturday 5th December

AGM, panel discussion & Witherby lecture by Prof Caren Cooper


Regards

Neil M


Short-eared Owl courtesy
of Robin Gossage.



Saturday, 7 November 2020

Lockdown 2 Local Birding

With lockdown 2 upon us birders are restricted to local birding again albeit without the rigid rules of the first lockdown. The Wildlife Trust BCN's reserves remain open meaning Summer Leys, Pitsford etc. can be visited without breaking any rules providing they are within reasonable travelling distance for exercise.  

Abington Park remains a popular choice for winter birding with Goosander almost guaranteed throughout the winter months. The 1st winter female shown below arrived on November 6th and is surely to be accompanied by more of the same species as winter progresses. Grey Wagtails and Kingfisher are occasionally seen along the stream between the two main lakes and Treecreepers and Nuthatch are present in the wooded sections. 

A Woodcock was seen in flight during the first lockdown and Ring-necked Parakeets are now breeding residents as are Grey Herons. 

Wherever you go and whatever you do keep safe and we hope to see you again whenever the Covid threat has diminished. 







Saturday, 26 September 2020

INFO FLASH

 GOOD NEWS FOR ALL BUDDING MACRO SHOOTERS !

Take a look on the For Sale and Wanted Page.


Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Presentation on the Goshawk.

Hello

Members may recall Conor Jameson who has visited the club and provided illustrated talks on two occasions. The Goshawk is a bird that invokes plenty of passion and Conor has kindly provided the below link to a fifteen minute presentation on the Goshawk which was one of the presentations at this year's virtual Birdfair...

Neil M

https://virtual.birdfair.org.uk/index.php/friday-goshawk-is-it-out-of-the-woods-by-conor-jameson/



Thursday, 3 September 2020

The Pitsford Eurasian Shags

A juvenile Shag was found by Neil McMahon at Pitsford Reservoir on August 22nd from the Bird Club hide. Another, or perhaps the same individual, was seen later at the far end of the reservoir by the dam. A further 6 individuals were discovered on 24th matching David Arden’s 2008 record from the same location.

 

Numbers began to dwindle soon afterwards although at least 2 birds were still present on 3rd September where they rested by the causeway allowing close views giving perhaps the best opportunities for close study since the Abington Park bird from the last century! 

 

How long they stay will be anyone’s guess but records in the county are less than annual so there’s never been a better opportunity to get a photo or two of these obliging individuals.  

 









Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Creatures Great and Small pt 2

Well I hope you enjoyed looking at the images in part one and it has also inspired you to go out and take your own macro shots in this incredible, diverse and undeniably beautiful world of wildlife.

Taking macro images at a true 1:1 ratio would normally call for a dedicated macro lens. However your birding lens with a  good close focusing range can yield some great images of insects around the size of a Red Admiral. A lot of birder / butterfly photographers use these telephoto lenses.

Shooting smaller insects than a butterfly is a different kettle of fish and really needs a macro lens. A lot of insect photographers are happy with say just a small part of the image in focus, I like to get as much of the critter in focus as I can. To this end high f stops coupled with grim lighting makes this a much more difficult situation, especially with a lively critter.

Getting close to your subject through photography can make the creature much more personal, very endearing and very rewarding.

Marpissa muscosa              Jumping spider.

Take this spider for example, spiders are not one of those creatures that most people will relate to, but who could not fail to be inspired by such a gorgeous critter close up.


Misumena vatia           Flower Crab Spider

This spider may receive a slightly different response, dashing, robust and ready for action, 

Synaema globosum

I had never noticed this spider before i had visited The Camargue last year, aptly named the Napoleon spider.............for its abdomen pattern.

Comb-footed spider   Enoplognatha ovata

Another even smaller spider with a beautiful abdomen coloration. So you can see from just these few images the Spiders are very much something your photography will warm to.


About now lots of insects are mating, in doing so their single mindedness can give the photographer ample opportunity for some good images.


Guess who? Robberflies are another of the insect families i luv. They have wonderful hairy faces and barbed legs used for floundering prey protection and keeping hold of its meal. They hunt by sitting unobtrusively then dart after a near flying insect.  This is a pair of Kite-tailed robbers, quite common around Northants.


This pair of Hoverflies are probably Sphaerophoria scripta. They are quite common and have their slender bodies longer than their rested wings.


As above ...whispering sweet nothing.

Also about at this time are the 'Biters' Horse and Deer flies. They have incredible stealth by not being noticed as they fly and land on any bare parts of your anatomy, the first you know of it is when they insert their sucking parts into your skin. 

Most Biters possess beautifully coloured eyes which make them very photogenic.

The Notch-horned Cleg a voracious biter.


Quite a lot of insects have the colouration of a Wasp, a wasp mimic if you like. They can be very attractive and photogenic. The above is one of five similar beautiful Hoverflies this is probably Chrysotoxum verralli.

Another attractive and brightly coloured Hoverfly is Myathropa florea below it is very distinctive in its thoracic pattern. If you look carefully there is the mark of Batman.



Digger Wasps are quite impressive little critters but especially so the Bee-wolf. This is the only species of Philanthus in Britain.





Of course there are lots of wildlife macro subjects to try such as day flying moths for example. This is a gathering of Six-spot Burnet.

Wild Flowers, such as this Common Toadflax.

or a fabulous Reptile, the Common Lizard.

Dragonflies are in abundance now and can make some nice shots. 


Mating Black-tailed Skimmers, these were taken with my 500F4 .Above Ruddy Darter.

Lastly a couple of critters taken recently.

Weevils are great aren't they. This is fairly large for a Weevil and one of only two in its family Attelabidae  Hazel Leaf-roller Weevil. The other is Oak Leaf-roller Weevil.

Wasp mimic the Hornet Clearwing.

Thanks for viewing. If you have any questions about macro or critters why not drop me a line.

Also any images you have and would like shown on the blog again  robin.gossage@sky.com

Cheerz Robin.