Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Rescue Mission...

After the Hedgehog rescue at the weekend, another good deed came about as I was coming home from work this evening. Near Longhoughton, as I drove along, the car in front flushed a Lapwing from the roadside? Strange, I thought, and as I passed I could see chicks huddled in the gutter grit!

(Image from anon)
An abrupt stop and reverse, and I soon located 3, day old Lapwings about to be flattened on the road, so I scooped them up and, to a chorus of alarm calls over head, forced my way through the hedge and let them into the field where they scuttled off on sturdy little legs. Within a minute or two both parents were standing guard over them.

A success! Its nice to see lowland breeding Lapwings for a change, a rare sight nowadays...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our mate....

Meet 'Vince'. This is a Bank Vole that lives in some logs along our drive. I posted a picture of him a while ago, but the sun was shining today so I couldn't resist another go. Scatter a bit of seed or some apple and he is there within 5 minutes. About 5 feet away, a Wood Mouse lives below the bird table, but its much more secretive and tends to come out at dusk. I'll try and get some pics one of these days.

While waiting for the vole, this Dunnock was an opportunity not to be missed, albeit only for one shot.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Isn't spring brilliant!

Redstart - Longframlington
Yesterday, we found a sickly Hedgehog on our drive so I quickly gathered it up and delivered it to a rescue centre at Longframlington ( donating £20 for its upkeep too). On the return journey, a wooded roadside near a bridge over a burn looked tempting so I gave it 10 minutes. A lovely male Redstart was singing from the tree tops, my first of the year and always nice to see.

Today we started off at Newton Pool, but only gave it an hour so we could be off before the bank holiday hoards arrived. Swallows are much in evidence here now with a few singing on territory. The two Ruff were still on the scrapes as was a White Wagtail briefly, but there was no sign of the Avocet that dropped in last night.

Over near the golfcourse, a Lesser Whitethroat played hard to get in the thorn scrub as it rattled its song out, and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling near the pay car park. While checking the dune cover a nice female Marsh Harrier dropped in for a short visit before gaining hight and flying off south west. Also noted were 1 male Blackcap, several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.

Swallow - Low Newton
Marsh Harrier - Newton Pool
From the coast we headed up inland a short way to Ros Castle where the scenery was outstanding. From one spot we could see the Cheviot and Hedgehope, then looking right, Lindisfarne and Ross Back Sands! It was quiet on the bird front, but some Green Tiger Beetles showed well, if a little flighty ( are there any other beetles that fly as readily as these!) and a few wasps on bilberry caught my attention. They have turned out to be Norwegian Wasp Dolichovespula norwegica. I think I'll be looking a wasps a bit closer in the future.

View North West from Ros Castle.
Green Tiger Beetle
Norwegian Wasp


A lovely and sunny weekend so far but there is a bite to that easterly wind. The blossom on the cherry trees at home ( top) and on blackthorns in the lanes (bottom two) is at its peak. The blackthorn in particular is like candyfloss!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Evening Hares...

Some Brown Hares from this evening. As one runs past, a quiet 'purse of the lips' squeak and he stops, looks around to see what the noise was, and he's off again...if I had been a poacher, he may not have gone to box another day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spleens, Garlic, Stinking Hellebore and the Gyppo...

Sea Spleenwort
A varied morning began with a  brief visit to the sea cliff bottom just a couple of hundred yards from home to photograph a new plant for me - Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum.  Not having heard of it before, I only stumbled upon it by accident on the internet this week, then found that it could be seen on my doorstep. It is found on rocks and buildings within the range of salty sea spray, so it is quite easy to locate. This fern has a more westerly distribution generally and is scarce in Northumberland.

While taking some pics, a Yellow Wagtail flew in-off, calling, and a Sand Martin flew overhead.  

Next stop Newton Pool for some migrants. As Gary noted, I have been visiting his patch most weekends recently. The main reason being, that I have a hankering for some wetlands again. For years, Druridge and Cresswell were my weekend haunt, but now those places are busy constantly, and are quite a drive south, so Newton has it all, only 6 miles from home. My home patch now, is still very nice, but the habitat is more designed for pheasants, than waders and wildfowl.

Egyptian Goose, front, with Greylag.
 The first thing I noticed down on the scrapes was Gary standing on the track, phone to his ear. Mmm, was he ringing out news of some overshot vagrant? A quick glance at the marsh revealed the object of the excitement - Egyptian Goose!

Only my second in the county, so it would be rude not to get some snaps. Gary had the nerve to suggest that he didn't want a Greylag in shot as it made the gyppo look 'plastic'! Birders eh.... ;) We were soon joined by Mr Steele, who, despite protestations, came especially to twitch the goose. Yes he did. Dont let him tell you different.

Also here were 2 Ruff, a steady passage of Sand Martins, my first Swallow of 2014, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Out on the point, a Whimbrel and a few Sandwich Terns were new year list additions, but Skylarks and Meadow Pipits the only passerines.

After leaving Newton, with a little time to spare, I called in briefly at Embleton Quarry. This overgrown scrubby corner has a pool too, though it looks polluted, there were a few ducks present, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Shelduck, Mallard.

Another couple of plants new to me were nice to see. Although naturalised escapes, in the world of botany (new to me), I think they are still ok to add to the list.  Good numbers of 7 Spot Ladybirds and a Peacock butterfly were noted.

Stinking Hellebore
Few flowered Garlic
7 spot Ladybird

Sunday, April 06, 2014

I can see clearly now....

After a week of darkness and poor visibility when everything looked like Beijing, the weather finally changed on Friday night. So, full of optimism, I was off out at 6.30 this morning to check for migrants at Low Newton. A lovely morning was had, but migrants were, as I expected, thin on the ground.

From the hide, the early sunrise was giving a nice glow to the wildfowl. Out on the scrapes, things haven't changed much with good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and Shelduck all present along with Redshank, Oystercatcher and 9 Bar tailed Godwit. Only 2 female Goldeneye were left from the five or six present a few weeks ago.

As I left the hide, the sad tones of a Willow Warbler came from the scrub just to the south. Only one, the first of his kind through here this year flitted about singing from tree tops, sometimes being chased off by the now settled Chiffchaffs. A Fieldfare flew west high overhead, calling.

Next stop was along to Newton Point and Football Hole. A single Wheatear flitted about even more flighty than last week's bird, though this time it was a female.

 At home, the moth trap had done well last night ( see here) but I thought I would get a photo of this Ophion obscuratus ( I think). We catch several species of Ichneumon flies in the trap but I dont usually look at them closely. Check this out, it literally has eyes in the top of its head! They look a bit like chopper motorbikes to me...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Roaming in the gloaming...

What a change since last weekend. Gone are the clear blue skies and sunny days. Instead of basking in summer temps with sun like more southern counties, Northumberland and east Scotland are about the only areas of the UK to have proper March weather.  At the minute, day time temps are not exceeding 8 degrees, and down to 5 at night. It could be July before we see a 20.

As we have an easterly breeze causing the fog and cool temps, I thought there might be the chance of a migrant or two, but the coast is very quiet.

Over the last couple of days I have walked the Howick to Craster stretch, Low Newton and Newton Point, the Long Nanny and Boulmer with little to show really.

While listening to the congregation singing in the Tin Church at Low Newton (above) 2 Willow Tits called nearby.

Migrants came in the form of several Chiffchaffs on the coast, a lone Wheatear at Newton Point, a Black Redstart at Boulmer ( courtesy of Dave Dack), 2 Redwings sub singing at Low Newton Pools and some littoralis Rock Pipits at all sites.  A Fieldfare dropped into the copse beside our garden this morning.

This Powdered Quaker was a new addition to the garden moth year list on Friday night.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A cold but sunny weekend, with a sharp northerly wind.

This morning we had another visit to Low Newton to try for an early Wheatear on the point, but first of all we looked at the Tin Church, Village, Scrape, Pool and shore.

Low Newton
A few migrant Chiffchaffs were around with 4+ singing, mainly near the church. On the scrapes, 2 Ringed Plovers were checked for their summer cousins, but I suppose the most interesting bird was a nice drake Goosander on the main pool, the first I've seen here I think.

Down on the beach, Jimmy, Gary, Chris and Mike were woosh netting pipits on the seaweed, looking for those littoralis, but most of the well marked birds had moved on. There were still good numbers of 'duller' Rock Pipits present with a few Pied Wagtails. 5 birds were ringed, mostly of indeterminate race. A pair of Stonechats were on the fence line.

Out on the headland, it was very nippy, and there were no summer visitors. The air was full of skylark and meadow pipit song though as compensation.

Rock Pipit
Back home, our first Kittiwakes were back on the Howick cliffs on Friday, but I thought I would wait until they were nicely established before I closed in for some pics, however these Fulmars don't mind being investigated.

Yesterday morning our first garden Siskin of the year, a nice male, was on our feeders with a big count [these days] of 3 Greenfinches for company.

This evening, a Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff were in the back hedge, one on its way out, the other just arriving...

Siskin through the kitchen window

Friday, March 21, 2014

A catch up...

Rock Pipit
A Friday off this weekend, instead of Monday.

I was pleased when we got a visit from my old friend ADMc this morning. We were so engrossed in catching up with the news, we nearly didn't get out at all. Before we moved up here out of the 'birding loop' I really enjoyed being part of the regulars down at 'the bay', where we would sit and pontificate while putting the world to rights. We were even known to be critical of one or two local bird records! Can you imagine that.....

Can I just say to all of the old school ( you know who you are), I wish you well and must get 'down the coast' for a change!

So, back to the job in hand, we eventually took a trip up to Low Newton to check out the pool and scrape. Quieter than usual, there were 10 Gadwall, a pair of Shoveler, 2 Goldeneye and a singing Chiffchaff, whilst on the shore, quite a few Rock Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Starlings were feeding on the insects in the tideline rotting seaweed. There were one or two nicely plumaged littoralis Rock Pipits, but I didn't try to get close enough for a photo. The local bird above just happened to walk past...

Back home, Brown Hares are becoming more evident, one even walking past in the back field while I was chatting with Andy and the Long tailed Tit nest up the lane seems complete and there was no sign of the birds. Maybe she has laid the first egg... Isn't spring great!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In line with Tom's new thinking on Agonopetrix heracliana / ciliella, I have lumped them together below. They are unidentifiable without dissection. He has sampled some recently and found gen detted heracliana with 5 lines in the hindwing cillia, supposedly a ciliella feature?

Back to the drawing board...

6 degree min.

  Agonopterix species (Agonopterix sp.)  4
1775  Mottled Grey (Colostygia multistrigaria)  2 NFY
1934  Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)  2 NFY
2139  Red Chestnut (Cerastis rubricosa)  2
2179  Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea)  2
2187  Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)  15
2188  Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)  1
2190  Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)  21
2243  Early Grey (Xylocampa areola)  7
2258  Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii)  1

57 Moths of 10sp

Mottled Grey
Dotted Border