Little Owl Athene noctue ©Richard Bedford Website
Birding Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire (abbreviated Northants) is a county in the East Midlands of England with a population of 723,000 (2-15). It is known as ‘The Rose of the Shires and covers an area of 2,364 square kilometres (913 square miles), Northamptonshire is landlocked between eight other counties: Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the south-east, Buckinghamshire to the south, Oxfordshire to the south-west and Lincolnshire to the north-east (England’s shortest county boundary at 19 metres). It is the southernmost county in the East Midlands region.The county contains the watershed between the River Severn and The Wash while several important rivers have their sources in the north-west of the county, including the River Nene, which flows north-eastwards to The Wash, and the Warwickshire Avon, which flows south-west to the Severn. Two major canals – the Oxford and the Grand Union – join in the county at Braunston. Notable features include a flight of 17 locks on the Grand Union at Rothersthorpe, the canal museum at Stoke Bruerne, and a tunnel at Blisworth which, at 2,813 metres (3,076 yd), is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network. A branch of the Grand Union Canal connects to the River Nene in Northampton and has been upgraded to a ‘wide canal’ in places – known as the Nene Navigation. It is famous for its guillotine locks. The highest point in the county is Arbury Hill at 225 metres (738 feet)Although as far from the sea as any county in Britain, most of the birding in Northamptonshire and the surrounding area revolves around water. A large percentage of the major reserves in Northamptonshire are man made reservoirs, hosting thousands of wildfowl in the winter months.

The main sites that are worth visiting when you are in Northants or the surrounding area include, Pitsford reservoir, Hollowell reservoir, Stanford reservoir, Thrapston gravel pits and Summerleys Nature reserve.

There is also a variety of woodland that is worth visiting, Crossbills, Hawfinches and Treecreepers can be found in the woods at the right time of the year. Rare and scarce birds that have appeared in the past include Bohemian waxwing, Eurasian Thick-knee, Sociable Plover, Bridled Tern, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Parrot Crossbill and Woodchat Shrike.

Top Sites
  • Badby Wood and Fawsley Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Comprising of largely deciduous trees, near the wood is Fawsley Park, comprising of two lakes attracting large number of Mute Swans in the winter. In spring the wooded areas host Redstarts and Wood Warblers as well as all the common woodland species.
  • Boddington Reservoir

    Satellite View
    A medium sized lake with mature trees, reed beds and scrub attractive to Sylvia warblers. Winter is productive for the large numbers of wildfowl. In spring and autumn waders and terns are likely to be seen.
  • Daventry Country Park & Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    Residents include Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler, Canada Geese, Pochard and Tufted Ducks. In the winter sea ducks are likely to occur including Long tailed Duck , Eider, Common and Velvet Scoter. Large plover flocks in winter.
  • Ditchford Gravel Pits

    Satellite View
    Possible the best birding site in Northants, the site has attracted Sooty Tern, Red Rumped Swallow, Alpine Swift, Broad Billed sandpiper, Night Heron, Ringed Billed Gull and Sabines Gull. Reliable site for seeing Water Pipit, up to half a dozen in the winter.
  • Hollowell Reservoir

    Satellite View
    Attracting Scaup, Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver and Red Necked Grebe in the deep water near the dam. The winter gull roost can be productive, Mediterranean Gull, Iceland and Glaucous gull may be found in amongst the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls.
  • Pitsford Reservoir

    Satellite View
    A man made lake attracting a large number of wildfowl in the winter, Waders in spring and autumn. Red Breasted Merganser and Smew regularly turn up in the winter months. The gull roost can hold rarer species. Such as Yellow-legged, Mediterranean and Iceland Gull.
  • Summerleys Nature Reserve and Earls Barton Gravel Pits

    WebpageSatellite View
    Summer Leys is an example of how to create the right conditions for a variety of wildlife. This important wetland within the Upper Nene Valley Special Protection Area is made up of flooded gravel pits, flood meadows, species-rich neutral grassland and mature hedges. Wading birds use the scrape and the shallow lake margins. Oystercatcher, ringed plover, little ringed plover and redshank stay to breed, whilst whimbrel, turnstone and common sandpiper pass through during migration. One of the most obvious breeding bird species is the common tern; numerous pairs nest in a colony on the islands where they are safe from predators. During the winter large numbers and a wide variety of ducks can be seen, including teal, wigeon, shoveler, pochard and tufted duck. They are joined by large numbers of golden plover, sometimes over a thousand, which roost on the islands and fly out to nearby fields to feed.
  • Thrapston Gravel Pits and Titchmarsh Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hosting nearly five thousand wildfowl every winter, including Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Goosanders and lesser Numbers of Goldeneye. There is the chance of seeing American Wigeon and Blue winged Teal if you are lucky.
  • Thomas Barker


County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 315 species + 16 races

    County Bird - Little Owl Athene noctua
    [because of the UK introduction scheme commenced by Lord Lilford in Northants in the 1880s]
Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in the East Midlands

    | By Rob Fray | Christopher Helm | 2006 | Paperback | 320 pages, 33 line illustrations, 62 maps | ISBN: 9780713675306 Buy this book from
  • Banbury Ornithological Society

    Founded in 1952, the Society studies the bird life in the twelve 10km squares surrounding Banbury and includes parts of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Fieldwork is the core of BOS activity, however, the Society also holds regular monthly meetings, publishes a monthly newsletter and Annual Reports, manages 5 bird reserves and is pro-active in local conservation matters
  • Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust

    Find out more about how the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire works with local communities and business supporters to protect local wildlife across our three counties.
  • Northamptonshire Bird Club

    The Northamptonshire Bird Club was founded about 40 years ago by birding enthusiasts in Northamptonshire as a means of sharing the pleasure of wild birds and birding. We try to cater for all levels of interest from local birds to world-wide birding. We have members interested in recording bird sightings, in ringing, in doing regular surveys or bird counts, in photography and in travel.
  • Northants Ringing Group

    Contact Nicholas Wood, 07974980220 or for Rockingham Forrest Derek Holman 07903105299

Abbreviations Key

  • Pitsford Water Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Pitsford Reservoir was built to supply Northampton with water in 1955. Today the Trust leases the northern section of the reservoir, managing the area for wildlife in partnership with the owners, Anglian Water. This designated area can be enjoyed by obtaining a permit.
  • Rockingham Forest Trust

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Rockingham Forest Trust is a registered charity which was formed to promote a thriving countryside in Rockingham Forest. Its primary concern is environmental management: explaining what makes the Forest special and working with local people to conserve its landscape, traditions and rural way of life.
  • WT BCN Harlestone Heath

    WebpageSatellite View
    A small strip of acid heathland, which is very rare within Northamptonshire. This small site was left as a fire break between the Firs conifer plantation and the railway line. It has since developed into a secluded little reserve and is one of the few last remaining areas of acid heathland in the county. A stream runs through the reserve and there is also a pond, a marshy area and two different types of grassland, which gives a great variety of habitats for such a small site.
  • WT BCN Summer Leys

    WebpageSatellite View
    This large, ex-gravel pit is made up of a main lake with gently sloping banks, shallow areas of water and ponds, low lying islands, a large scrape and a fringe of reeds surrounded by grassland and wet woodland. This is ideal habitat for wintering birds: goosander, wigeon and gadwall reach nationally important numbers, joined by large numbers of roosting lapwing and golden plover.
  • Wild Woods at Top Lodge Car Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Red Kite viewing…
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Northants Birds

    I’d been running the Northamptonshire Bird News webpage for almost ten years and the time had come for a change. The news page, while being purely functional, was rather limited in content and restricted in terms of what it delivered. This new, blog-based site, launched in May 2011, sets out to provide more detail behind the occurrences of birds locally, while at the same time providing the opportunity for discussion of the wider issues of status, conservation, identification and other related topics.topics within the county of Northamptonshire, UK.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
Other Links
  • Birdline East Anglia

    What's about? Simply phone 09068 700245. Please report your bird sightings to phone/text 07941333970 or e - Calls to 09068 700245 cost 60p/min from a BT landline other networks may vary
  • Northamptonshire Garden & Wildlife

    All Things Garden And Wildlife
  • Mark Avery

    Mark Avery is a scientist by training and a naturalist by inclination. He writes about and comments on environmental issues. Mark worked for the RSPB for 25 years until standing down in April 2011 to go freelance. He was the RSPB’s Conservation Director for nearly 13 years. Mark lives in rural Northamptonshire and is a member of Cheltenham Racecourse, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the BTO, the National Trust and the Labour Party.
  • My interest in natural history is mainly in the world of birds but like many people who have an appreciation of the natural world, I have broadened my horizons to include other areas, particularly odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and cetaceans(whales, dolphins and porpoises (very few appear in the county!)).

    I've had a love for wildlife all my life, but since 2005 I have taken wildlife watching to another level and apart from my family it has become my principle passion in life. I love it all from birding, twitching and mammal watching to chasing butterlfy's through a meadow trying to get a photo
  • Northamptonshire Birding

    I am a retired police officer who has maintained an avid interest in wild birds and other wildlife all my life. I am familiar with most of the well-known birdwatching sites in the county of Northamptonshire and with Eleanor have travelled extensively throughout the UK. The wonder of migration and the challenge of bird identification stimulates much of my interest. I am licensed to catch and ring wild birds and am a voluntary warden at Pitsford Reservoir. Here my regular tasks include the maintenance of wild bird feeding stations and committing to survey work such as Wetland Birds (WeBS) and Common Bird Census (CBC)...
  • Paul Gosling - Gosling's Wildlife

    Welcome to the Gosling's Wildlife Website. Here you'll find pictures, writings and a host of other things related to the Gosling Family's interest in the natural world. The family comprises (R to L) Paul (Dad), Madeleine (8), Francesca (11) and Annette (Mum).
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Barry Boswell

    Website of British and European birds photographed by Barry Boswell
  • Photographer - Douglas McFarlane

    Facebook Page

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content