Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Yet more from late October

A walk on the moors at Titlington Mount today (30th) saw us put up two Woodcock and a Short-eared Owl that got up from right beside the track through the dead bracken.

One of the few plants still looking really healthy and still in good flower is Climbing Corydalis (Ceratopcapnos claviculata).  I can't make head or tail of the flowering pattern of this species - I've seen it in flower in every month of the year and some years in high summer when you might expect luxuriant growth it sometimes seems to be struggling.  But it's certainly looking good at the moment.

In the garden this morning two Stoats were so intent on chasing each other that they almost ran over Jane's boot.

Finally there's a good bracket fungus on the trunk of an Ash on Titlington Lane.  The photos show it a few weeks ago when it was at its best.  I'm fairly sure it is Shaggy Bracket (Inonotus hispidus) but if anyone can confirm or put me right on that I'd like to hear your ideas.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

26th, 27th & 28th October

A trip outside the area to Geltsdale RSPB reserve was very interesting.  The trees were in full autumn colour and looked their brilliant best.  The main interest was the huge numbers of fieldfares (one flock was over 1000), and smaller numbers of redwings and bramblings.  A woodcock was flushed and there was a good number of long-tailed tits.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

A visit to Heighley Gate garden centre should not produce any wildlife quandries.  But two sparrows feeding outside the cafe looked as though they were hybrids between tree and house sparrows.  They exhibited features of both species; little black bib, greyish cap, pale cheeks etc.

A quiet walk around Branton Ponds on Sunday produced 5 whooper swans, 1 male pochard, good numbers tufted ducks, goldeneye and mallards.  There were small numbers of goldcrests, long-tailed tits and siskins.  No sign of the kingfisher

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Late October

Today (25th) a very dark-coloured Red Squirrel ran up the middle of Titlington Lane in front of the car.  From the size, probably this year's juvenile. Two Roe Deer narrowly avoided hitting the car in front of me by Broome Park as they chased each other across the road - two young bucks I think.

On the Titlington Mount bird tables the last week in particular has seen a big influx of Tits - particularly Blue and Coal.  Tree Sparrows have been present regularly in groups of up to seven at a time and today saw the first Brambling of the winter here.  Great Spotted Woodpeckers are very regular and we often have three or four at a time on the different feeders.

The two stubble fields have started to get their evening flocks of Greylags, but so far in nothing like the numbers of the past two autumns - but then the barley crops here this year were pathetic and there may be comparatively little spilled seed available.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

22nd & 23rd October

Walk down the Wooler Water on the 22nd october produced a kingfisher, 2 goosander, grey heron and several flocks of redwings.  There were also tracks of both otter and American mink.

On the 23rd there were large flocks of redwings passing overhead at Wallington and small numbers of brambling feeding on beech mast.  Common knapweed, ragwort and yarrow were all still in flower.

A barn owl was seen in the Beanley Plantation area in the evening on the 23rd.

Monday, 22 October 2012

October 20th & 21st

What a beautiful weekend.  Northumberland looked at it very best with the autumn colour.  A number of people have said to me that the autumn colours appear to be later than usual.  I would be interested in anyones views.

A trip to Cocklaburn, south of Berwick-upon-Tweed produced 12 red throated and 1 black throated divers, 7 common scoter, small numbers of guillemot and razorbill as well as a small selection of waders; knot, oystercatcher, turnstone, curlew and redshank.  There was also a small amount visiable migration (viz mig) which included lapwing (120 south), skylark (12) and meadow pipit (4).

A report of little owl in a Glanton village garden was an excellent find on Sunday.  Tree and house sparrows were much in evidence on Sunday afternoon on my allotment.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Heath Groundsel

A walk along our farm road and along part of Titlington Lane yesterday (20th) revealed 21 species of plant still in some form of flower.  I'll not bore people with the full list, but one particularly good spot was in a gateway churned up this summer by logging lorries.  There was a prolific patch of a less-usual Groundsel species.  Most people will be fully familiar with our standard Common Groundsel, but Titlington Pike has both Sticky Groundsel and Heath Groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus).

Usually Heath Groundsel has finished flowering by September, but this patch was in very vigorous flower.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

18th October

The rain has kept me inside for most of this week.  The only highlight were two swallows flying south, over Glanton, on Monday evening.

A break in the rain clouds meant that we were able to get some field work carried out in the Cheswick area.  Highlights included a party of 42 snipe, 1 jack snipe and 24 skylarks flushed from a wet part of an arable field that had not been cut.  There were also a small number of 'continental' blackbirds, 8 yellowhammers and 3 reed buntings.

At least six species of waxcap fungi were found in areas of 'fixed' sand dune but unfortunately there was also a patch of pirri-pirri bur.  A flat calm sea produced only 2 shags.  At 4pm, a large flock of 3,000+ starlings had started to gather to the north of Goswick Golf Club.


Monday, 15 October 2012

More late flowers.

Today Jane and I walked a different part of our patch and I can add some more plants that we found still with some flowering heads.

Creeping Buttercup and Autmn Hawkbit (Schorzoneroides autumnalis) were in the rough grazing fields.  Toad Rush was in the wetter parts.  A few Harebells were among the dead bracken stems.

In the Titlington Burn Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot (Ranunculus trichophyllus) had a few flowers as did Small Sweet-grass (Glyceria declinata) in a burn-side pool.

In that same pool was quite a quantity of Autumnal Water-starwort (Callitriche hermaphroditica).  It probably wasn't in flower, although it would be hard to tell because the Water-starwort flowers are tiny things in the leaf axils.  I mention it because it is a fairly uncommon species in North Northumberland and worth recording and also because it gives me the excuse to add another horribly long Latin name to frighten Stewart.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

12th & 13th October

Belated news from Branton Pools where there were 4 Common scoter (2 male, 2 female) which are a first for the site.  They were floating around with a group of tufted duck. Other species of interest included a common darter dragonfly, 3 pochard, 5 little grebes and at least 3 chiffchaffs.

Today the two Georges had a trip to the coast.  There were 2 snow geese with 750 pink footed geese in stubble fields at Fenham le Moor.  Three peregrines of different ages gave a good display with talon grappling and an immature catching a teal.  Other birds of interest on the Flats included 4 scaup, 1 little egret, 1000 barnacle geese, slavonian and great crested grebe, a good selection of waders including a black-tailed godwit and a very high count of eider (520).  There were also some migrants in the bushes including a flock of 30 twite, 1 male blackcap. 2 chiffchaffs and at least one brambling.  There were also two small tortoiseshell butterflies moving south.

A late lunch at Stag Rocks, Bamburgh produced 1 arctic skua, 2 arctic tern, 1 sandwich tern, 19, common scoter and a heavy passage of auks and gannets out at sea.
Still in Flower

A walk this morning (13th) on our home patch at Titlington Mount revealed quite a number of species still in flower - that's proper flower, not just old seed heads.

Out on the moor were all three heather species, Ling, Bell Heather and Cross-leaved Heath.  Tormentil was still showing and best of all were the dense flowering patches of Climbing Corydalis.

Closer to the house were Chickweed, Red Deadnettle, Groundsel, Procumbent Pearlwort, Creeping Thistle and Annual Meadow Grass.

I'm always in two minds about whether to add the Latin names of common species.  Rigour says I should.  Instinct says most people will think it unnecessary.  Perhaps I should use just the Latin names and force people to check their books to see what the plants actually are!

There were a number of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks on the moor and we put up two Snipe.
The bird tables at the moment have up to six Tree Sparrows at a time, but the Siskins which had started to return to the tables in mid-September have disappeared again.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Viz Migging!

Viz migging is the pastime of watching and counting the numbers of birds flying overhead when migrating - visible migration, hence viz migging.

Over night easterlies with very heavy rain resulted in good conditions for such a movement of birds over Howick this morning.

After checking a woefully quiet moth trap, it became apparent that birds were dropping in around the garden. Its days like these when work seems to get in the way, but I stood on our drive counting from 07.45am - 0815am before the work bell rang....

Redwing 428 ( in groups of up to 80)
Fieldfare 5
Blackbird 30
Song Thrush 12
Lapwing 8
Snipe 1

All newly arrived from Scandinavia, amazing.

Lapwings on the move.

News this evening  - Red breasted Flycatcher at Low Newton, Black Redstart Newton Point, Olive backed Pipit Farne Islands.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thurs 11th oct

A quick walk after lunch, east of Wooler, produced a few species of interest.  Cat's ear and yarrow are still in flower.  Two chiffchaffs were still calling in young woodland.  2 herring gulls, 3 grey wagtails and a meadow pipit were loitering around the sewage works.

Earlier in the day there was a reasonable passage of common gulls (600+) down the Till Valley as well as a small movement of siskins.
Up the Breamish Valley yesterday (10th).  Sadly most items of interest were dead.  Two Slow Worms squashed on the road between Linhope and Ingram.  Three dead Brown Hare on the hills around Grieves Ash - no obvious signs of injury, so perhaps starvation.  The suggestion is that the nutritional content, especially protein, in the fodder available may be very low this year, so perhaps these animals have been having quantity and not quality of feed.

A flock of Meadow Pipit and four Skylark around Reavely Hill deserted farm and a couple of Kestrel above the Cunyan Crags ridge.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Sleeping Satellite...

These lovely clear cold days have certainly reduced moth catches at Howick. Only one in there the other day, but a nice one, the Satellite -

2256 Satellite, Howick ,07/10/12
Fresh individuals are found from now and can be caught right through until March if the weather is favourable. It also comes in a white spotted version ( below). Both are about equally common here. It is named from the two tiny dots either side of the large wing patch. Please click on the image for a larger view.

Another Satellite, a white spotted one this time.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Autumn beauty

Today has been spent carrying out vegetation surveys in the College Valley.  The Estate is at its stunning best.  There are a few plants still in flower including lesser hawkbit, tormentil, heather and grass of parnassus. 

Relatively few birds were seen but highlights included at least 3 ravens, red grouse (24), merlin (1), common buzzard (3), meadow pipit, skylark (1) and lesser redpoll (1).  2 red-legged partridge east of Goldscleugh were unusual but problably have escaped from the neighbouring estate.

A small number of waxcap fungi were also found.


October's best

Frosty mornings and clear blue skies - this is my type of weather

Green woodpecker (1) and a stonechat at Debden, Rothbury were a great addition to the general ambiance of the early morning.  There was also a large flock (15+) of mistle thrushes in the same area.

Jack Daw

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Arran, Islay & Jura

Just back from ten days away on Arran and then to Islay & Jura.

Climbed Goat Fell on Arran (874m).  Higher levels had lots of Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago), Alpine Lady's-mantle (Alchemilla alpina) and Viviparous Fescue Grass (Festuca vivipara).  Lower levels had Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) still in good flower.

Birds v disappointing - only a few Ravens and a couple of Meadow Pipits.

Two other good finds (for me) were Black Bog Rush (Schoenus nigricans) in Glen Catacol at the north end of Arran and Oyster Plant (Mertensia maritima) still in flower on Kilmory beach at the south end of the island.

Then on to Islay.  On 2nd October the Barnacle Geese were just starting to arrive and by 5th there were at least 20,000 on the fields and flats at Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve.  White-fronts were slower to appear and by 5th there were still only tens of birds present, but small skeins beginning to appear by dusk on that day.

We had two good Hen Harriers - a male on Jura and a ring-tail on Islay - but were disappointed not to see any eagles, either Golden or White-tailed.