Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Waders, waterfowl and a lot more

A rugby disrupted weekend meant that my WeBs count (Fenham Flats) had to carried out on Monday 10th Nov.  The count was not to disappoint and probably one of the largest November counts that I have carried out in 15 years.  The first comment was that there was a huge number of birds.  Wigeon number up to 10,500 and there were at least 1277 light-bellied brent.  These waterfowl were accompanied by 997 shelduck, 5 shoveler, mallard, pintail (97), teal, long-tailed duck (1), great crested grebe (1), red-necked grebe (1), 136 eider, 12 goldeneye, 3 goosander and 6 red-breasted mergansers.  Gate-crashers included two flights of whooper swans (32), 62 barnacle geese, pink-footed geese and 10 mute swans.

Exhausted after counting the above, there were grey plover (149), lapwing, curlew, dunlin (800), turnstone, oystercatcher, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit (7), knot and redshank (258).  These was a huge flock of golden plover off Chare Ends on the Island.

The best of the rest include 8 little egrets, a female merlin and 25 twite.

A barn owl was seen late in the evening of the 11th Nov. at Mindrum Mill

A water rail ran over the A697 today (12th Nov) just south of my office at Haugh Head, Wooler. This was probably too far away to be counted on the office list that stands at 97 species.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Holy Island 1st November

We decided to pay a visit to Holy Island and weren't disappointed, we were checking out the Sycamores opposite The Lindisfarne Hotel and spotted 3 Blackcaps, as we watched another bird appeared similar in shape but bigger and bulkier, our immediate thought was Barred Warbler and this was confirmed when we saw the obvious barring on the undertail coverts. We observed this bird for about 5 minutes when a second bird appeared, yet again a first winter both of which were constantly harassed by the local Robin and House Sparrows. Keith headed off towards the Heugh where he met Mark Winter who got him onto 2 Black Redstarts and I managed a small number of Goldcrests near the coach park, also present on the Island was a single Mediterranean Gull by the Harbour and a Woodcock along the Straight Lonnen

Monday, 20 October 2014


Hello all, this is the Deaths Head Hawk-moth at Howick as discussed by the Davison brothers below. Reared from a caterpillar found in the wild down in Northamptonshire in September, this is a very rare species in the UK and is certainly the 'holy grail' to moth trappers everywhere.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Bittern sweet

We had an early morning walk around Branton Ponds today to see if the Slavonian Grebe was still there. Whilst searching the east pond we moved down to an area of Bullrushes, no sign of the grebe but much to our astonishment a Bittern flew up in front of us and proceeded to flap awkwardly around the pond chased by a group of Black Headed Gulls, it eventually flew over trees in the direction of the west pond and was lost from sight. We had no further views but it may have landed in a dense area of reeds at the far end or it may have just kept on going, whatever happened to it this is yet another new bird for the ponds and the second new one in a week.
From the ponds we went on an unusual twitch in the form of a Death's Head Hawkmoth at Howick village hall, provided by Stewart Sexton and much appreciated by the assembled crowd.
This is all just too much to take in,I shall have to go and have a lie down in a darkened room, and as a footnote the Slav was seen again on the east pond later this morning.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Grebe heaven

As usual we were out for our early morning dog walk around Branton Ponds, the air was still and clear, the sun had just poked over the horizon and the ponds were alive with autumn birdlife. Teal squabbled near the reedbeds and Wigeon numbers are building each day with their distinctive calls,and 3 Water Rail belted out their pig like squeals from the rushes.
As has been the case all year Little Grebe numbers have risen to almost plague proportions with at least 13 individuals on the ponds at the moment. The Great Crested Grebes are still there but in diminished numbers ( only 4 at the moment) even they will disappear at the first sign of a freeze over, today however they were joined by something much more interesting in the form of a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe, it's contrasting black and white plumage with stunning white cheeks and straight rather than upturned bill gave us a new bird for the site and one which is remarkable bearing in mind the ponds are at least 12 miles inland.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Our first garden Speckled Wood



At Saturday's Recorders' Conference at the Hancock, Dave Stebbings from Butterfly Conservation was talking about species that have appeared and increased in the North East in recent years.  Speckled Wood showed 2 records in each of 2002 and 2003.  By 2010 the sightings had increased to over 4000.

By total coincidence today we had this first ever sighting in our garden.  Perennial Wallflowers (Erysimum sp.) have proved to be fantastic butterfly-friendly plants this year and in mid October it is still attracting plenty of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock as well as this special visitor.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Bracken beds

Most of the day was spent in bracken beds in College Valley.  Birds were very few.  Highlights included 3 Ravens, 2 Reed buntings, several Meadow pipits, 7 Mistle thrushes, 1 Robin and several Wrens.

Plants in flower included Tormentil and Harebell.  There were some interesting fungi including very large clumps of yellow Fairy clubs, Meadow waxcaps and Larch bolete.