Friday, 27 March 2015


Inspired by Shaun Hackett's talk I took a close look at the bees on our garden heathers in the sunshine this morning.  My first two sightings were White-tailed and Buff-tailed.

Then I spotted a bee that I'd never knowingly seen before, but I remembered Shaun's slide and realised this was a Tree Bumblebee.  Sadly by the time I'd dashed in for the camera it had disappeared so I can't show a photo to prove it, but it had an un-banded orangey-yellow thorax and a white tail and was unmistakable.

Finally, I'd almost given up on the bumblebees when a smaller bee came into view.  My photo is not the best, but I'm pretty certain this was an Early Bumblebee.

Also on the heathers were a number of small bees, all the same species as far as I could tell.  My first thought was that they were honeybees, but I'm not so sure.  They may well be a species of solitary bee - too big for Colletes spp. - but I'd appreciate any suggested identification, even if it is honeybee.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Titlington Mount Eclipse

Armed with pinhole camera (well, a piece of paper with a pinhole in it), Jane and I started watching the eclipse at 8.55am.  The pinhole images are fine but very small, so as the clock reached 9.30 we thought we were going to lose the finale as a large cloud moved in front of the sun.

In practice that was a vast bonus because the sun was behind only the fringes of the cloud and it meant we could look directly at it and get the images below at the maximum 97% eclipse coverage at 9.35.  The range of colours in the upper edge of the cloud were better in reality than the second photo shows

The other two images of our garden were taken at 8.55 and 9.35 and they show the significant change in the quality of the light.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

A late edition from the weekend.....

It is getting towards the end of the rugby season and more time is spent on the side of the pitch rather than with binoculars in hand.  Last Sunday was a good example.  Alnwick U14's were playing a plate semi-final cup match against Berwick.  We were travelling north towards Doddington and there were at least 1500 Pink-footed geese in fields to the north of the road.  We did not have time to look for vagrant geese.

This was a good start but it was just about to get better.  We had just passed the turn off towards Wrangham and I noticed two large birds flying parallel to the road.  At first glance (I was driving), I thought they were geese but these two birds were much larger.  They were the wrong shape and colour for swans.  Herons - again they were the wrong shape and their necks were extended. Common cranes!  Their long necks, slim bodies and extended legs were visible as they got closer and their languid wing beats with occasional soaring were a further identification feature.  The call went up to stop and admire the birds and there was a further cry of 'why do you not carry a pair of binoculars in your car'.  Yes, I need to address this. My point shoot camera could not do the scene justice as the birds passed in front of the wind turbines north of Red House Farm.

The rest of the journey produce a good number of Kestrels, Yellowhammers and Alnwick U14's did beat Berwick to reach the plate final.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Ford Moss 10th March

Another trip to Ford Moss for a bird survey, the weather sunny but cool and still breezy, there was a real feel of spring in the air,quite literally in the form of singing Skylarks as they rose higher and higher into the blue of the sky. Winter is still not finished as witnessed by a mixed flock of 36 Fieldfare and 18 Redwing. 3 Roe Deer bounded across the moor and in several puddles Frogs were gathered in small numbers surrounded by large clumps of Frogspawn. No warblers or real spring migrants yet but 25 species were seen on the day.  

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Warkworth Dunes

Warkworth Dunes is the place to visit at the minute if you want to see owls. There have been 3 Short-eared Owls (above) and a Barn Owl hunting the dunes area to the south of the car park. Afternoons seem to be best. Also Kingfisher and several pairs of Stonechat in the area.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Branton Ponds 20th February

Is spring just around the corner?, today provided more evidence in the form of our first Adder of the year at the ponds, only two days later than last year.

Wild goose chase......

For last 10 weeks I have been making regularly visits to the farmland west of Fenham Flats.  These visits are part of research work looking at the feeding behaviour of Light bellied brents once they move off the mudflats.  As I have reported previously, there is a mixed flock of Pink-foots, Barnacles and Brents.  This flock totals about 2,700 birds with an additional 300 Greylags joining the flock when they visit Budle Bay.  The most interesting feature is that this flock can go missing especially when you consider that the Brents will rarely stray more than two fields from the shore.

Evidence shows that the Brent are increasingly preferring temporary grass rather than winter-drilled cereals.  It is also fascinating that when the Brent first come onto fields in late December, they do not mix with other species of geese.  By mid February they are quite happy mixing with their bigger relatives especially the Barnacles.  Barnacles are also interesting - when they first started to over-winter they could always be found in and around Budle Bay.  This winter they could be found early on in Budle Bay but increasingly have spent their time at the southern end of Fenham Flats.

Other counts from yesterday include a flock of 14 Tree sparrows and 24 Linnets at Elwick and a good passage of Gannets off-shore.