Friday, 12 February 2016


Early morning around Branton Ponds had a feel of winter, the ponds themselves were 80% frozen. This helped to concentrate the birds onto the small areas of open water, Wigeon are still in good sized numbers along with Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard and 2 Pochard. Siskins ,Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll and various members of the Tit family fed greedily amongst the Alders. In stark contrast when the sun came out and the air warmed up a bit we came across our first Adder of the year, a small male which was our earliest ever by 2 days, could spring be just around the corner?  

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Singing larks

A lunch time stroll along the cycle path to Doddington, today, produced a few species of interest. Two Skylarks were briefly in full song.  A Peregrine was hunting Wood pigeons on neighbouring fields. Two Meadow pipits fed in a small wetland at the side of the path.  Small flocks of Pink-footed geese were commuting between tasty fields.  The largest accumulation of birds were about 500 in a grass pasture just down from the village.

Hawthorn was coming into leaf next to the path!  Obviously continental plants.  Older, more established plants are still in tight bud.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Arctic Redpoll

For those who fancy a a touch of the exotic, or should I say a touch of the Arctic, it is worth visiting Warkworth . Birling area to see the Coues Arctic Redpoll that has been present since the new year. It is favouring a game crop with 30+ other redpolls a mix of Mealy Redpolls and Lesser Redpolls.

Here it is second from the left, a much paler bird that the others in the flock....
It often fluffs up to show the lovely white rump and flanks.
This is a rare bird in the UK and in Northumberland its the first for a good few years. If you fancy a short walk it is easy to get to just follow the dotted line on the map and watch the fence line....

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Is spring here?

On 30th Jan we were at Branton ponds and found two or three Hawthorns already in leaf.  Then the following day along the track from our house one of the Larches that usually come into leaf early had broken its leaf buds.  In the past when I've seen this tree showing leaves in mid Feb I've been amazed, but before the end of January is exceptional.

Then today I was in Chillingham and during a circuit of the park put up three Woodcock and an excellent pair of Fallow Deer does.  There was also an very good selection of unusual conifers near the Castle and some of these will be the subjects of my Plant Corner article in the February newsletter.  But given that storm Henry was still raging it wasn't surprising that there was a great deal of wind-blown fallen timber throughout the park.  The wind also nearly blew me over up on Ros Castles.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A wintry scene

Finally winter has hit us with a vengeance, we woke up this morning to about 2 inches of the white stuff. It does have some benefits , the first was in the form of a male Brambling feeding with Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows on the ground at our back window. Next to the Ponds where the snow revealed numerous footprints which included Red Squirrel scampering across the snow and further around where an Otter had come out of the burn and crossed over to the ponds, you could even see where it had stopped and then slid down the bank and into the water, who says animals don't have fun.
The ponds themselves held quite a few wildfowl including Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye, we also noted a small flock of 6 Redwing feeding in the treetops.  

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Milfield Plain

This afternoon was spent walking the River Glen from Akeld Bridge to the confluence with the River Till.  There were a large number of birds in the area due to all of the lying water.  The Pink footed goose flock is between 4,000 and 5,000 birds - no other species could be found except a lone group of Greylag (24)  Interestingly a small number flew off north west presumably to the Hoselaw Lock roost.  There would also be at least 500 dabbling ducks consisting of mainly Teal and Wigeon with smaller numbers of Mallard.  At least 2 Gadwall were found and there were 2 female Goosander.

Waders were the most interesting with anything between 6 and 8 Green sandpipers (4 in one flock), 2 Greenshank, 6+ Redshank, 5 Snipe, 2 Woodcock, 160 Lapwing and 15 Golden plover.

Other species of interest included a female Barn owl, a Dipper and a good selection of passerines including a possible Water pipit.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Back blogging

A change of PC meant that Google ceased to recognise me as an author on our Blog - but Stew has now sorted me out.  It explains why some of these comments are rather out of date.

Away for Christmas, but coming home on 27th we stopped the car right on top of Bilsmoor, (immediately north of Elsdon) to admire a Short-eared Owl that was sitting on a road-side fence post.  It all seemed a bit bleak up there for the bird not to have retreated closer to the coast.

Then on 28th we were treated to a big flock of Lapwing circling overhead at Low Hedgeley - our estimate was 400/500.  There was plenty of variety on the main pond, including 12 Gadwall and six Goldeneye.  Two Dippers chased each other up the river towards the road bridge.

On 29th we had our first, and so far only, bird table Brambling of the winter.

Finally on Friday this week a quick visit to Buston Links with the tide coming in gave us the biggest flock of Sanderling we've seen for a long time.  We counted 85 birds strung out along the strand line, plus a dozen or so Ringed Plover.