Thursday, 27 August 2015

In search of Painted Ladies

The weather has been so "un-summery" most of the time in July and August that a large irruption of migrant Painted Ladies was always unlikely this year.

But determined to get a year tick, earlier this week, I spent a good few hours around Boulmer Steel trying to locate one or two.
The strong south westerlies led the few I saw, to seek the shelter of the boulder clay bank at the very edge of the shore.

But thankfully the lure of Knapweed nectar eventually enticed one individual into a photo -opportunity.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Holy Island early migrants

Looking at the weather charts we noticed a high over Scandinavia and a low over Britain with rain and northeasterlies yesterday, this promised maybe a few good birds for today, so early on we headed for Holy Island. Our first port of call was the Snook and after 10 minutes we were checking out the garden at Snook House, Keith caught a glimpse of an interesting warbler, which eventually came out into the open and proved to be an Icterine Warbler, our first in Northumberland since 2008, this was a great start and boded well for the rest of the day. Our next stop was at the Half Moon slack, here we carefully walked up either side of the bushes and eventually found our second rarity of the day in the form of a juvenile Barred Warbler, it flew into a bush and joined another bird which also turned out to be a Barred Warbler, we left them in peace and continued on only to come across a third bird. We next headed for the Village and gravitated towards The Straight Lonnen, very little was seen except a female Marsh Harrier cruising about over the nearby fields, on reaching the Willows at the far end we noticed several birds moving about, one was a Pied Flycatcher along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, the final bird of the day was, yes you've guessed it a Barred Warbler, our 4th of the day, bring on the autumn!.      

Monday, 20 July 2015

Waders on the move

July starts seeing large numbers of waders starting to move.  This was the case yesterday on the WeBs count at Fenham le Moor.  The first flocks of summer plumage Knot, Dunlin and Bar-tailed godwits were present on the mudflats.  The Knot and Dunlin were particularly vociferous - calling Knot is not something you hear everyday.  There were even some Dunlin display calling - obviously confused by the cool Northumbrian weather!  There were also reasonable numbers of local breeders such as Lapwing, Curlew and Oystercatcher.

Supporting cast included 2 Whimbrel, 2 Pale-bellied and one Dark bellied Brent, 1 Little egret, 2 Goosander, 2 Great crested grebes and three Grey partridge.  Good views could be had of Tree sparrows around the hide.

Two Yellow wagtails were on wires on the west side of Chatton.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Double trouble

Red Squirrels are cute at the best of times but when you get a glimpse of them really going crazy it is something very special. Today very early I was walking to start work at the school and on rounding a corner in the village I was confronted by 2 Red Squirrels chasing each other, this activity saw them end up in some shrubs and I thought that was the end of the entertainment. Wrong, as I reached the school gates they re-appeared and began chasing each other once again, this time however I was caught up in the middle as they ran in circles around my legs, through the gate then back around me.
Eventually common sense prevailed and the one with the pale coloured tail ran off into a nearby tree, the one with the dark tail leapt onto a wall next to me and from a distance of about 2 metres stared at me before also making it's exit into a nearby garden. The whole episode lasted only a couple of minutes but seemed to last much longer and it made me think how lucky I was but also how lucky they were that I wasn't a predator.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Arrows and kites

A red kite was seen flying along Glanton main street yesterday morning.  This is the second record of a kite in the area with another/same bird seen at the Bridge of Aln about two weeks ago.  The Glanton bird was wing-tagged but unsure of colour.

Vegetation surveying in the College Valley produced a number of species of interest.  A small wet flush on the side of St Cuthbert's Way held Quaking grass and Marsh arrowgrass.  The latter looks more akin to a grass than a flowering plant.  Other species of interest included my first small pearl bordered fritillary butterfly of the year, at least 3 whinchats, a wide range of micro-moths and a good range of beetles including a very large click beetle (unfortunately no photo)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Winged Wonders

In spite of the non summery weather and particularly the lack of sunshine, Banded Demoiselle damselflies have emerged on the River Aln near Lesbury, at roughly the same time as last year

Having spent 2 years as Larvae living in water and breathing through gills, there are now adults of both sexes, who have emerged from the water and taken on wings to breathe the same air as us

Their life expectancy as adults is between 2 and 8 weeks, just enough  time to breed and continue the cycle of life

They truly are winged wonders

Wednesday, 10 June 2015


A late evening visit to Beanley Moor proved very productive,as I sat taking in the sounds of Owls hooting and Grey Herons croaking as they flew over like something out of Jurassic Park, I slowly began to hear other things 3 Cuckoos calling from different places at the same time, the calls were mainly he familiar "cuckoo" but also a bubbling trill which would indicate a female. This went on for sometime before silence reigned once more, then as a final flourish just as I was about to leave came the unmistakable churring call of a Nightjar, all was silence apart from this one weird yet wonderful sound.