Friday, 30 November 2012

White Beauties 30th November

On a crisp,frosty winters day nothing is more evocative of this time of year than truly wild swans.This was the case today at Branton Ponds,an early morning walk with the dog turned up large numbers of Tufted Duck,Teal ,Wigeon and a couple of stunning male Goldeneye.As we neared the village a distinctive honking call could be heard in the sky above us,and there flying southwest were 6 Bewick Swans,with their shorter necks and more goose like appearance.What a great start to the day which was ended by a fly over of 5 Whooper Swans,a real taste of wilderness.  

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Late Flowers + Geese

On 26th Nov a large skein of about 150 Pink-footed Geese flew south over Beanley Moor.  Then the following day three more skeins totalling more than 700 birds followed the same flight path.

Along the road verges at Titlington Mount the following species were still showing some flower on 27th:
Gorse, Yarrow, White Deadnettle, Red Deadnettle, Pineappleweed, Common Groundsel, Heath Groundsel, Common Chickweed, Hogweed, Shepherd'sPurse, Prickly Sow-thistle, Annual Meadow Grass, Cocksfoot Grass.  My photo of Cocksfoot was, of course, taken in the summer rather than this week

Goose counting has started

Early afternoon of the 29th November was spent counting geese, ducks and waders in particular fields around the Lindisfarne reserve.  Highlights included 182 Barnacle geese on grass fields at Ross, an adult Peregrine trying to flush Teal from a wet patch in a field at Easington Demesne and a Little egret on the scrapes at Beal Sluice.  There were 10 Whooper swans at Fenham Mill in an oilseed rape field and a further 18 at West Weetwood, east of Wooler.

More waxwings

At least one waxwing flew east over the Powburn petrol station at 8:15 am on the 29th November.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Snow on Cheviot

The morning of 28th November were spent surveying vegetation on the lower slopes of Cheviot.  There was not a lot to report with the exception of a light dusting of snow on the upper slopes.  Birds were almost anonimous with the exception of good numbers of red grouse and one vocal wren

Climbing corydalis, creeping buttercup and bell heather were still in flower.  A fox moth caterpillar was also found.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Late news from the 24th November

Saturday morning was a picture of perfection on Fenham Flats.  Cold, flat calm and plenty to see.  This is why I so enjoy birding at this time of year.  Below is a summary of the species that I saw in three hours on the foreshore between Teal Hole and The Cages:  2 merlin (chasing eash other), adult peregrine, two little egrets, 4 whooper swans, 1 black-tailed godwit, 21 ringed plover, 7 scaup, 36 long-tailed duck, 1 red throated diver, 2 slavonian grebe, 10 red-breasted merganser, 1 female common scoter, 14 goldeneye, 538 eider, 43 twite, 2 rock pipits, 3 tree sparrow, 1 yellowhammer and a good range of commoner waders, ducks and passerines.  There was also 1 common seal (which was the first one I have seen in the 13 years I have been counting this stretch) with a small number of grey seals.

A long-eared owl and barn owl were seen between Bellshill and Chatton Bank in the evening.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


A fairly quick visit to the Reserve and then the beach at Hauxley on Saturday brought nothing unusual, but for us the Whoopers (5), Little Grebe (6) and Gadwall (1 pair) on the reserve were good.  There were also lots of Greylag and a group of perhaps 40 Canadas, but we couldn't find any less-expected interlopers with them.  A single Sparrowhawk flew low along the path in front of us.

The beach was somewhat disturbed with dog walkers, but a group of 3 Purple Sandpiper sat still at only about 10 metres range and 7 Sanderling more or less ignored us along the tide line.

Back on the reserve the feeding table area just inside the gate showed 2 Brown Rats and a bit further on a Stoat ran across the path.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fenham Flats 24th November

The calm before the storm saw us doing my WeBS count on Fenham Flats, good conditions for once produced many birds including a small ,swift and agile Merlin chasing Goldfinches whilst a Little Egret drifted by on the wind. Doing a bird count on Fenham Flats is really about large numbers,this was re-inforced by some of the wader counts including 130 Golden Plover,151 Curlew and 100 Redshank. Ducks and geese were impressive too, 388 Wigeon, 123 Eider, 157 Shelduck and 630 Pale Bellied Brent Geese, all in all a very satisfactory day.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A walk up the Wansbeck

Today's work involved river survey work along the River Wansbeck, from Low Angerton to Wallington before the rain.  One car was parked near Wallington, where a waxwing flew overhead.  Further waxwings were in yew trees at Low Angerton along with great spotted woodpecker, tree sparrow and nuthatch

There were relatively few birds along the river corridor with the exception of small parties of teal, reed bunting (5), kestrel (2), cormorant (1 imm), siskins and lesser redpolls.  Bizarrely a snow bunting flew overhead calling!  Possibly a first for this part of the County!  Small numbers of freshwater white-clawed crayfish were found, althougth most had been 'scrunched' by otters.

A patch of giant hogweed was found - this will have to be dealt with in 2013.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


This is a Hard Fern Blechnum spicant a new species for me.

It was by the track side in the wood at Harehope. I dont think its a rare plant, its just that ferns are new to me, so I'm pleased to have identified one!

On Sunday gone we took a walk up here and back over the moor. We didn't see too much but the clear sunny conditions made the views even more spectacular than usual.

On the way back to the car, I side stepped to avoid a descending cyclist, and a movement in a bush caught my attention - a Waxwing. A lone immature bird eating rosehips.

Upper Coquetdale - again!

Another visit to Upper Coquetdale today - this time with a group of botanists.

The only botanical find of note were specimens of Lesser Sea Spurrey (Spergularia marina) in gateways on Clennel Street.  This species was, until 20 years ago, known in Northumberland only from coastal areas.  In more recent years it has increasingly been found by Forestry Commission tracks in Kielder and other FC mature plantations.

In the air we saw 7 Ravens, a Buzzard, a Kestrel and a pair of Bullfinch at Battailshiel Haugh.  And there was a Dipper on the Coquet at Shilmoor.  Altogether a poor bird haul for a 4 hour walk.  But then you can't expect flocks of thrushes when there are no Rowans or other fruiting bushes or trees.  Still, at least the weather was fantastic and from the tops we had excellent views up to the Border Ridge and down to Simonside and Tynedale beyond.

Barn owls........

A barn owl flew over the A697 at Haugh Head on the 19th Nov.  Another bird flew over the A697, at Canada Farm, north of Lonframlington on the 20th Nov.

Today has been spent walking large tracks of heather in the north of the County.  There were good numbers of red grouse, most of which had paired up for next years breeding season.  Walking off the hill (3:30 pm), a female hen harrier was seen flying quickly south and there was a small party of twite (32) which appeared to be feeding on soft rush seeds.  A possible female goshawk was quartering a rough pasture.  The odd bit heather was still in flower.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Branton 19th November

Leaving the house at 7.00 am this morning I was delighted to see the ghostly shapes of 2 Barn Owls flying silently around the village.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

17th and 18th November

A lovely sunny Saturday saw us in Harwood Forest where Crossbills flew around in family parties, a Buzzard was noted over the treetops. Back at Harwood village 4 Red Squirrels fed greedily on peanuts in one of the gardens.

Sunday morning saw us wandering around Branton Ponds where we were entertained by small groups of Siskins and Long Tailed Tits feeding in the Alders. A group of 14 Waxwings were noted in trees around our garden and whilst watching them we were distracted by the sight of a large female Goshawk flying over.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


This morning at 9.30am a pod of 20+ Bottle nosed Dolphins were offshore between Cullernose Point and the Bathing House, Howick. They were scattered from very close in to half a mile offshore, so there may have been many more than 20+. The group included at least 4 small calves (?). Some adults were seen head-butting fish along the surface of the flat sea. After about 10 minutes they began making their way south.


Friday, 16 November 2012

Raptors etc

A least one waxwing was flying around Glanton calling at first light this morning.

A probable rough-legged buzzard flew over my head this morning in the Seaton Burn area.  At first it looked like an 'odd' buzzard with long wings.  As it got closer, the belly was very pale with dark splodges either side of the breast and brown flecking between the darker areas.  Its flight gave the impression of a very large marsh harrier and the black/dark brown carpal areas were very obvious.  The tail appeared long and as it moved away the well-defined dark grey/brown band to the lower tail was very apparent against the white upper tail.  The bird flew towards Prestwick Carr at about 8:45 am.  I am sure that there will be debate about this bird as there are common buzzards with pale bases to their tails and dark tips to their feathers.

Within 10 minutes a female goshawk come out onto the sunny side of birch woodland and was present for about an hour.  It was occassionally being mobbed by a very brave carrion crow.  Other birds in the area included nuthatch, siskins, lots of robins and 6 meadow pipits feeding on a muck heap.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

And some insects...

Green Carpet
December Moth
A mild night encouraged me to put the moth trap out in my garden at Howick. Some early ( or late?) risers here with the latest county records of Green Carpet , by a month, and Rosy Rustic by two weeks!

1041 Acleris sparsana 1
1631 December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) 3
1760 Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) 3
1769 Spruce Carpet (Thera britannica) 4
1776 Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 1
1799 Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) 1
2258 Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii) 1
2264 Yellow-line Quaker (Agrochola macilenta) 1
2306 Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) 11
2361 Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea) 1
2441 Silver Y (Autographa gamma) 1

28 moths of 11 sp. An excellent catch for this time of year.

Lunchtime walk

A quick walk along the Wooler Water on the 15th november produced a calling chiffchaff (at the sewage works), 2 herring gulls and a small number of lesser redpolls, siskins and yellowhammers. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Branton Ponds 14th November

7.00 am saw us wandering around the ponds with the dog,a warm breeze encouraged several Bats (probably Pipistrelles) into a hunting frenzy,no doubt sensing colder weather on the horizon. We were also treated to our daily dose of Kingfishers as they flew noisily over the water and more unusually a late Chiffchaff hunted for insects amongst the willows.
Ian and Keith  

14th November

A trip to the Bamburgh dune systems to map pirri-pirri bur produced a number of surprises today.  There were several plants still in flower including harebell, cat's ear and autumn hawkbit, sea mayweed and sea rocketPolypody fern was much in evidence in the dunes east of the castle.

On the bird front a waxwing flew inland from the Farne Islands.  There was a large mixed flock of both linnets and twite sunning themselves at 'Stag' Rocks and a strong passage of siskins moving north, with over 100 counted in six differrent flocks over 3 hours.  Other birds included 3 stonechats, 9 male long-tailed duck, 9 common scoter, 6 red-throated diver and good numbers of both purple sandpipers (42) and turnstone (64).

Monday, 12 November 2012

Waxwing update.

This morning, 143+ Waxwings were feeding on apples in Howick Village. Morning or late afternoon seems best for them and there are maybe another two or three days food left ( depending on how many birds turn up, the number seems to increase daily!)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Upper Coquetdale

In the hills today to the east of the Usway Burn in Upper Coquetdale, between the burn and the edge of the Kidland Forest.

Along the burn there was a male Stonechat, a Robin and a cruising Kestrel, with a solitary Buzzard high overhead.

Then in the hills to the north of Saughy Hill I put up single Woodcock and Snipe, while a noisy group of four Ravens were in a valley below me.

Botanically it was good to see the single large naturalised bush of Entire-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster integrifolius) in apparently good condition and with plenty of berries, on the bank of the burn.  Incidentally this species is also known in different books as Small-leaved Cotoneaster or Rock Cotoneaster which does emphasise the importance of using Latin names as well as English for less usual plants.

This image is taken from the website, not from my camera!

Newton Point and Long Nanny 11th November

Yet another glorious morning saw us looking out to sea at Newton Point, Common Eider, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone were all seen. Our next stop was the salt marsh at the mouth of the Long Nanny Burn,whilst watching a small flock of Twite a solitary Short Eared Owl flew over the wardens hut. The next area to be checked was the Long Nanny Burn itself where the 1st winter Long Billed Dowitcher was noted amongst the Redshanks, it's plain rather than patterned tertials being noted.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Waxwing update

Numbers of Waxwings are increasing at Howick, mainly because there is still a few apples left on two trees in a garden. 100+ were present at 9am this morning. They departed at about 9.30am, and did not return until 3pm when 52+ came back. They seemed to roost nearby.

Can you see how many are in this shot? No prizes...

Also here 2 Crossbills were in the Pond Field Wood.

Waxwings reported today also from the entrance to Hulne Park (45) and Whittingham (75). Warkworth yesterday (10).

Friday, 9 November 2012

Branton 9th November

Our feeding flock of Tree and House Sparrows has been joined recently by a very greedy Pheasant,today however he had a bit of a fright when a Stoat leapt out of the hedge and made a grab for him as he took to the air,luckily for him his reactions were the quicker.

The Wild West

Out for four hours in the part of Kielder west of Bellingham on 7th Nov.  It was cold, windy and increasingly wet.

We were looking for unusual ferns and found a good patch of Tunbridge Filmy Fern (Hymenophyllum tunbridgense) plus (possibly) a patch of Kilarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum).  This latter is very odd.  All ferns have two generations in their life cycle - a minute sexual generation called a gametophyte and a much larger frond stage called a sporophyte which produces the asexual spores.  Kilarney Fern in Northumberland has only ever been found as the gametophyte which looks like a green patch of "brillo pad" fibres close pressed to wet rock.  Some in the group were convinced that what the leader was pointing to was what we were looking for.  One or two of us were more doubtful!  The photo is NOT what we saw, it's an official image of Kilarney Fern gametophyte from the official fern society website.

The only higher plants we found in flower were Climbing Corydalis and Heath Groundsel.

Very few birds - a single Buzzard and a Raven.  But back in our daughter's garden at Lanehead, about 4 miles west of Bellingham, there was a group of at least 40 Waxwing.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

and more...........

A lunch time walk down the Wooler Water (close to the sewage works) produced a very confiding flock of 32+ waxwings.  They were mainly feeding on hawthorn berries but also fly-catching.  On occassions they dropped down to the river for a drink and bathe in the shallow pools.  A worthy hour was spent watching their behaviour.

Two male goosander flew past the office window.

7th November

At least two waxwings were calling over the Tankerville pub in Eglingham as I replaced someone flat tyre.  I didn't get great views but from all reports, it won't be long before I see more.

There was also a dead tawny owl on the side of the A697 near Roseden.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


More Waxwing sightings at Howick today. This afternoon 14 were in the Village showing very well, then a neighbour told me of 53 in the Howick Hall gardens near the Bog Garden feeding on Yew berries. Interestingly the ones in the Village today were actually eating cotoneaster berries, something I have read everywhere but have never seen before. I have always seen Waxwings, in order of preference, on Rowan, Hawthorn, Rosehip, Whitebeam and Apple. Flycatching comes between Hawthorn and Rosehip!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Early Christmas Present 6th nov

We decided that today was the ideal time to go Chrismas shopping,little did we know that it would turn into a birding treat.Whilst waiting for the metro at Kingston Park we were treated to a swirling,noisy group of 18 Waxwings, their clear trilling calls not drowned out by the city traffic.

5th November

A visit to the River Wansbeck in the Bothal area produced a kingfisher, 3 grey herons, good numbers of grey partridge (15), tree sparrows and yellowhammers. A large patch of Japanese knotweed was also found - some control will be required next year.

A barn owl flew over the A697 at Roseden.  It is good to see this bird returning to some of its favoured haunts of the past.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Hedgeley and Branton Ponds 5th Nov

Too good a morning to stay in saw me walking up by the River Breamish from Hedgeley to Branton hoping for 2 Waxwings which had been reported .Sadly my luck wasn't in but I did see a number of Jays  foraging for acorns amongst the beautiful autumn colours of Beech and Oak  .The rest of the walk was quiet but enlivened by a Kingfisher hunting for minnows in Branton Ponds

3rd & 4thNovember

The weekend was spent cider making and watching junior rugby.  Our bird table in Glanton was very active considering it is in a tiny, shaded garden (3m x 3m) and at least half concrete and plant pots.  The feeders attracted 12+ house sparrows, 2 starlings, 1 jackdaw, at least 4 coal tits, 1 great tit, 2 blue tits, 1 robin, 2 dunnocks and a male blackbird in half an hour. 

A walk around Branton Ponds on Sunday afternoon, produced 60+ tufted duck, 25 mallard, 70+ teal, 35 wigeon, 7 goldeneye, 16 goosander, 2 mute swans, 35 greylag, 1 little grebe, 5 cormorants and 3 grey herons.  Small birds were is short supply but there were two flocks of redpolls and a movement of siskins overhead.  The seed heads of hare's-foot clover is much in eveidence close to the river.  There were also tracks of roe deer and otter.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Invaders from the North...

As I arrived back home at lunchtime today, a small group of birds caught my eye as they flew up into a tall tree. I suspected they were Waxwings, and as I took a closer look I was pleased to find four of them, 'trilling' and even flycatching in the sunshine near my house in Howick Village.

They soon flew down to a neighbours apple tree where they hacked into the over ripe fruits. It was only some children coming out to play that flushed them, and they flew high south...I hope they come back.

Seaburn Twitch

A quick dash down to Seaburn proved successful when a superb European Bee-Eater was encountered hawking for insects around a housing estate in Seaburn,successful for the bird too as it managed to catch and eat five wasps whilst we were there. 

Titlington Mount walk

In the beautiful weather with no wind we walked out this early morning to the moorland above Kimmer Lough.  It is quite disappointing that there was almost no bird activity - one Meadow Pipit was all we could see.  Not even any corvids.

On the way back past a stand of mixed larch and spruce we had two Robins, two  Goldcrest, two male Bullfinch, one Wren and the usual annoying number of Woodpigeon clattering out of the trees.  The place is also awash at the moment with Pheasant which the local shoot has not yet started to decimate.

Branton Ponds...

A Green Sandpiper was on the west pond first thing this morning before flying off on to the R Breamish.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Speaking of Fungi...

Here are three I have managed to identify, I think. Please feel free to correct me if they are wrong. I am keen to learn them but their identification is quite tricky. Even the latin name changes between various books and websites, let alone the vernacular.

These ones were found on Craster Heughs last Tuesday... Click on image to enlarge.

Golden Waxcap Hygrocybe chlorophana

Meadow Waxcap Hygrocybe pratensis

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera