Sunday, 22 May 2016

Holystone Woods 22nd May

With warm sunshine and little breeze Sunday morning was ideal for a visit to Holystone Woods before the afternoon's heavy rain. The clear felled area just before the main woodland produced singing Tree Pipit which then indulged in a spot of parachuting, the Oak woods themselves were carpeted with Bluebells, Greater Stitchwort, Dog Violet and a few Yellow Pimpernel. Above in the canopy Nuthatch and Redstart called, whilst in the undercover Spotted Flycatcher flitted around after insects and Treecreepers scurried up the trunks. As we skirted along the edge of a wooded ravine a Green Woodpecker called out from the far side but remained unseen, next to the ford near South Yardhope and following quickly on the trail of our third Red Squirrel of the day we came upon a stunning male Pied Flycatcher, no Wood Warblers but not a bad haul for the morning.

Bolam and beyond.........

Four intrepid souls met in the Bolam Lake Country Park at 10 am on Saturday morning.  Prior to meeting up a Cuckoo was seen on Longframlington Common and a Stoat was watched climbing 4 ft into a tree at the entrance to the car park at Bolam Lake.

The walk around Bolam Lake produced little of interest except for common species.  We discussed the identification features of Western hemlock fir especially its aromatic scent and the merits of some of the plants for lepidoptera larvae.  The main highlight was the discovery of 4 Red-eared terrapins (or slider) on a dead branch in the lake.

We moved onto Corridge Farm and were met by Richard Thompson.  A quick look at the woodland surrounding the parking area produced a Spotted flycatcher, Tree sparrows and a good selection of common resident species.  We arrived at the wetland which was alive with birds.  A female Mute swan was on a nest and there was a good number of Sand martins with a smaller selection of Swallows, House martins and Swifts.  A male Gadwall was a good find and this was a new species for the wetland.  The highlight was a pair of Yellow wagtails that fed in front of the hide.  These were joined by a second male.  There were lots of Reed buntings, Meadow pipits and Skylarks with smaller numbers of Sedge warblers and Willow warblers.  33 species of bird were recorded on our visit to Corridge.



We thanked Richard and the group parted company.  I decided to visit Holystone Wood on the way home.  There I had cracking views at least two male Pied flycatchers.  Other species of interest included at least 2 Crossbills and large numbers of Wood ants.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

I need a time machine

At this time of year a time machine would be very handy and this morning proved the point. The choice was get up at 3 am to drive to Etal for the Bird club dawn chorus , with the added bonus of bacon butties afterwards or get up at a more reasonable hour and go to Holy Island to do some late spring birding. I decided to do the latter and was rewarded with a number of really good birds, the first was a smart looking female Bluethroat which was hopping around feeding off the turf at Chare Ends. Next a visit to the Crooked Lonnen  produced a distant Dottrel, the Straight Lonnen came up trumps with 2 Pied Flycatchers and another more elusive Bluethroat, this time a male with a limited amount of blue on the throat. Finally the star of the day in the form of a very active Subalpine Warbler feeding energetically on flies in a Hawthorn, there was much debate over what form but it was finally identified as a Western Subalpine Warbler. A great end to the day which would have been even better if I could have also fitted in the Dawn Chorus, maybe next year.
                                                    Female Bluethroat

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Eventually spring has started to arrive

Reports from the Cheviot Hills suggested that both Shepherds and the birds had a tough time in the snow last week.  One day last week there was 8 inches of snow in parts of the hills.  There were very good numbers of Ring ouzels (at least 30) at low levels in the College Valley on Thursday 28th April. These have now dispersed or moved on.

An afternoon walk in the Breamish valley on the 2nd May produced at least 6+ Little ringed plovers, 2 pairs of Ringed plovers and a summer plumage Dunlin.  Garden and Willow warblers were very much in song.

The evening of the 3rd May saw a distinct increase in hirundine numbers in the Glanton parish.  Late on in the evening these were joined by two Swifts.

An evening walk along Warkworth Beach (4th May) produced a nice selection of species. Highlights included at least two male Grasshopper warblers in song, a male Lesser whitethroat signing in the car park, 3 Stonechats, 1 Little egret and at least 40 Dunlin in mixed stages of summer plumage. Common scurvy-grass is in full flower along with Wych elm.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

You wait ages for a bus, then .....

Almost as soon as I'd published my previous post I then had another Redpoll and, much better, a female Blackcap which I managed to get on film.


Spring sightings

Two good sightings on our home bird feeders.  Several times over the last few days we've had single Redpolls with our usual mass of Siskin, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow and Chaffinch on the seed feeders. 

Then yesterday we had a first - a male Blackcap appeared on the feeder tray and stayed, on and off all day.  It's very rare for us to have had a Blackcap in the garden at all, let alone on the feeders.  No photo I'm afraid - the window was just too covered in seed mess!

This morning Jane and I had a long walk around the Low Hedgeley site.  We've never seen hirundines in such numbers.  All the gravel ponds were swarming with Sand Martins and Swallows hawking over the water and there were a few House Martins with them.  The river had a pair of Common Sandpiper and we got a good close view of a Dipper.

Monday, 25 April 2016

AWG Etal.

Over the last couple of years, AWG members have been carrying out some wildlife surveys for Lord Joicey on Ford and Etal Estates, particularly around Slainsfield Moor and Ford Moss.

As a thank you, he invited up those who had worked to provide data on the wildlife of the area, to have an informal introduction to the estate, led by Lord James himself, then back to the village hall for some food, drink and a right old jolly.

Twenty of us arrived at 4.30pm where we were introduced to our host, then made our way to the village hall for a short presentation on the life of the estate. I particularly like it when Lord Joicey described how his great grandfather became a Lord in 1908 after donating a large sum of cash to the then liberal government!

Lord Joicey giving his introduction.
The present incumbent, Lord James Joicey has a much more enlightened and modern approach as a large landowner. He is keen to see all users and visitors get the most from the area. The villages of Ford and Etal are immaculate in appearance with a range of small private businesses ranging from artisan bread makers to the small miniature railway line.

St Mary's Well, believed to date back to the 1300's
Geology - a cement stone seam visible from the path is 350 million years old!
There are several notable wildlife areas, including those mentioned above plus a Ramsar site in Holborn Moss near Kyloe. As visitors are actively encouraged to call in ( small signs welcomed visitors, dogs and residents to walk the pathways) try to get this on your summer outings agenda this year, I'm sure you wont be disappointed. Don't forget to report your nature sightings to Alnwick Wildlife Group.

 

Alnwick Wildlife Group in front of Etal Manor the home of the Joicey family.

Snakeshead Fritillaries in the lawn at Etal Manor.

An unusual variety of Wood Dock with 'blood veins'.
After the presentations and a very interesting guided walk around the village of Etal, we returned to the village hall that had been transformed in our absence into a restaurant. Here we were treated to a delicious homemade  2-course dinner with wine. The food was so nice a few ( inc yours truly) had seconds, before we said our thanks and bade our farewells and headed home.

We will definitely be back here on a nice summers day to see what other wildlife can be located...