Little Owl Athene noctue ©Richard Bedford Website

The recording area of Northamptonshire (Watsonian system area number 32) is the same as the ceremonial county of Northamptonshire (abbreviation Northants), a county in the East Midlands of England with a population of three-quarters of a million people. It is known as ‘The Rose of the Shires and covers an area of 2,364 square kilometres (913 square miles), It is landlocked between eight other counties: Warwickshire to the west, Leicestershire and Rutland to the north, Cambridgeshire to the east, Bedfordshire to the southeast, Buckinghamshire to the south, Oxfordshire to the southwest and Lincolnshire to the northeast (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 northwest of the county, including the River Nene, which flows northeastwards to The Wash, and the Warwickshire Avon, which flows southwest 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 Canal at Rothersthorpe, the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, and a tunnel at Blisworth which, at 2,813m (3,076 yards), 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 225m (738 feet).

Birding Northamptonshire

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 the 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 Eurasian Thick-knee, Sociable Plover, Bridled Tern, Pallas’s Sandgrouse and Parrot Crossbill.

Top Sites
  • Badby Wood and Fawsley Park

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

    WebpageSatellite 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

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    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

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    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

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    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: 324

    County Bird - Little Owl Athene noctua
    [because of the UK introduction scheme commenced by Lord Lilford in Northants in the 1880s]
  • A Checklist of the Birds of Northamptonshire

    Checklist PDF
    The checklist below follows the systematic order, nomenclature and taxonomy of the IOC World Bird List and covers all 323 species officially recorded in Northamptonshire up to 31st December 2019. Subspecies are also included in a lighter text.
  • Recording sheet

    Excel Checklist
    Fully updated to include both the IOC British List and an additional new tab outlining all local recording requirements, plus red and amber list species, the Northamptonshire Bird Recording Spreadsheet v.2020.1.1 is an Excel file which allows easy data input prior to periodic submission. Based on the use of pre-formatted cells, instructions on its completion are part of the package. This sheet is not viewable online and can be used only after downloading.
Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Heart of England

    | A 60-Year Study of Birds in the Banbury Area, covering North Oxfordshire, South Northamptonshire and South Warwickshire 1952-2011 | Edited by Trevor Easterbrook | Liverpool University Press | 2013 | Hardback | 202 pages, 70 colour photos, 30 colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9781846318856 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in the East Midlands

    | By Rob Fray | Christopher Helm | 2006 | Paperback | 320 pages, 33 line illustrations, 62 maps | Out of Print | 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
  • Beds, Cambs & Northants 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

    Northamptonshire Bird Club, a birdwatcher and naturalist club based in Northamptonshire, central England.
  • Northants Ringing Group

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

Abbreviations Key

  • *Northamptonshire Nature Reserves

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    Explore our Northamptonshire nature reserves
  • LNR BCN Harlestone Heath

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    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.
  • LNR 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.
  • LNR Barnes Meadow

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    A mosaic of wetland habitats attracting an abundance of wildlife
  • LNR Pitsford Water Nature Reserve

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    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.
  • LNR Stanwick Lakes

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    The Trust manages Stanwick Lakes in partnership with North Northamptonshire Council. It is a 750 acre former sand and gravel quarry which has been transformed into a nature reserve and countryside attraction.
  • NNR Collyweston Great Wood and Easton Hornstocks

    WebpageSatellite View
    This unique ancient lime woodland, rich in wildlife, is part of the historic Rockingham Forest. By agreement with the owners, access is by permit only and dogs are not permitted, except registered guide dogs. You can obtain permits from the senior reserve manager.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • 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.
  • 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)...
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Barry Boswell

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

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