Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Domestic beasties

A while ago we occasionally started to find tiny round flattened 'bugs' on our bathroom floor.  At first I assumed they were dead dessicated ticks that had got caught in our clothing while out on the moor, but closer examination suggests they are mites.

They appear to be living in the cracks between the wooden flooring and the skirting boards and recently we've been finding some live specimens.  I had assumed that all mites were parasites of animals or plants, but these must be living on dust (which in a bathroom will be largely dead skin flakes).  What they do for moisture is anyone's guess.

I've emailed the photo to FERA (Defra's sceintific arm) to ask them for an identification, but if any of our members has seen these and knows what they are then do please let me know.  The size of individuals varies from 1.5 to 3mm across.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Back from the south!

The last week has been spent out of the County in Lincolnshire - with no internet access.  The highlights included a flock of 70+ snow buntings on Cleethorpes Beach, lots of little egrets everywhere, two red kites over the A1, in the York area on the way home and Smaug the dragon in the Hobbit!

A walk on Boulmer beach today produced a good selection of birds in stormy conditions.  Highlights included red-throated diver (3), purple sandpiper (6), grey plover (18), bar-tailed godwit (1), sanderling, turnstone, knot, oystercatcher, golden plover (120), lapwing (230), curlew, ringed plover and dunlin.  There were two stonechats and a selection of rock pipits and pied wagtails.  There was a good passage of auks (guillemots, razorbills and a puffin), kittiwakes, Manx shearwater (1n), gannets (6+), and at least 2 little gulls.

It is good to be back in the north!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Boxing Day in Kielder

On Boxing Day we were in Kielder walking up the Lewis Burn.  It was cold and the path surfaces were frozen, but there was no hoar frost.  However in various places small dead wood branches showed this ice phenomenon.  Our daughter said that in Kielder it is known as Angel Hair, but googling that gets you only nonsense beauty product sites or references to vermicelli pasta.

Does anyone know what causes this particular extrusion of ice crystals?

The third photo was taken in the ruins of Low Long House where there is a range of memorial stones and mini-monuments.  I just wondered if I had missed George's demise?

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day birding

With the weather looking settled at last we had a walk around Branton Ponds, a Pink-footed Goose joined the resident Greylags, Coot numbers reached about 40 and were joined by a large number of Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Teal, small birds included Bullfinches, Lesser Redpoll and Siskins.
After lunch we decided to drive to Bamburgh for a reported two Grey Pharlaropes of which there was no sign, however there were still good numbers of birds including Long Tailed Ducks, Eiders, Slavonian Grebe, Red Throated Diver, two very large flocks of Common Scoter and to top it all a winter plumaged Great Northern Diver just off the Lighthouse.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Return of the prodigal

My New Year Resolution will be to return to the early days of our AWG Blog when I used to post with some regularity.  But for some reason I lost the habit and was embarrassed to have to ask Stewart how to access this posting screen!  But I thought if I put formal notification of my intention to resume periodic contributions, then I'd be forced to go through with it

Recent sightings of note have been:
*  seven Buzzards over our house at Titlington Mount on 16th December.
*  while in the hide on the southern shore of Cresswell pond on 18th December there were c. 350 Pink-footed Geese (from the reputed several thousand in the area at present); many hundreds of Wigeon and Lapwing;  plenty of Redshank, many moving about by repeated hopping on one leg with the other tucked up;  a nice pair of close confiding Merganser.  But perhaps best of all was that on the western shore, some distance away from the hide, was a large adult Otter happily eating something - probably a fish since this time of year doesn't really offer much in the way of young chicks to catch.  It stayed put for a good five minutes so all in the group I was with had plenty of time to get decent views, but not close enough to get any useful photos.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A festive scene....

This unusually festive scene was sent in by Michael & Marian Hall from Ellingham who commented 'There's no truth in the rumour that wood pigeons like brussels sprouts!'

It certainly makes a change from the obligatory Robin ( nice as they are). Looks like the pigeon is about to blame a Magpie for stealing the Christmas dinner!

Thank you....

Friday, 20 December 2013

Colour from Summer...

This photograph above was kindly sent in to the blog by group member Gordon Plews from Eglingham. It shows a lovely scene in his garden in May this year of a mixed flock of Siskins, a male Blackcap, a pair of Lesser Redpolls ( look at that male!) and a Greenfinch. Delightful.

Superb Gordon we hope to see more pics in future...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Wildlife over the last few days

Last Thursday (12th Dec) was spent on a farm in the Angerton area.  Highlights include little egret (1), woodcock (1), marsh tit (2), willow tit (1+), grey wagtail (1), jay (2) and bullfinch (4+).  Tree sparrows, greenfinches and great tits were common on the bird feeders in front of the bird feeders.

There were 275 barnacle geese, and 300 golden plover in grass fields on Ross on the 13th December. Good flocks of linnets (150+) and goldfinches were found on Elwick on the same day.

Saturday (14th Dec) morning was spent on Fenham Flats carrying out the WeBs count.  Highlights were 12 ringed plover, good numbers of dunlin, redshank and bar-tailed godwit and grey plover as well as shelduck (850+) and eider (265).  There were 3 peregrines; 1 adult female hunting waders off Teal Hole, 1 male hunting waders off the Causeway and yet again a juvenile female trying to hunt shelduck off Elwick - this is the second time I have seen this bird trying to kill shelduck (the young female must be successful sometime!). There was a little egret at Fenham Mill as well as 20+ whooper swan with mutes in an oilseed rape field.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fenham Flats 15th December

Once again it was time for my monthly WeBS count at Fenham Flats, the weather was sunny but with a blustery wind. The mudflats held large numbers of birds and the highlights were as follows- Lapwing 300, Shelduck 236, Golden Plover 235, Redshank 202, Knot 250, Dunlin 230, Bar-tailed Godwit 130, Curlew 192, Sanderling 138, Black-tailed Godwit 1, also present were 760 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 150 Eider Duck. On reaching Guile Point I noted 4 Long-tailed Ducks and 2 Red Throated Divers, I had expected to see a large number of Oystercatchers on the island just off the point, it was however remarkably quiet, a careful scan revealed the answer as sitting on the rocks in the middle of the island were a male an female Peregrine. Whilst watching them my attention was drawn to some trilling overhead and out of the clear blue sky came a flock of 15 Snow Buntings of all ages and sexes, what a great way to end my 2013 surveys, lets hope next years are just as productive..

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Arctic beauty

We had just started around Branton Ponds when a friend called and said a juvenile Ivory Gull had come up on his pager and was at Seahouses Golf Course,que panic and mad dash to Seahouses.
Fortunately we were in luck and we joined a group of about 20 birders scoping a superb juvenile Ivory Gull at a distance of about 60 yards. Occassionally it came closer and gave great views to everyone there, the group gradually grew and when we left numbered some 40 birders with more turning up all the time. Even more astounding was when a second bird appeared,which is staggering bearing in mind the last Northumberland bird was 34 years ago.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Westerly movement

The last few days have been spent on the western side of the Pennines.  7 male blackcock with a few red grouse was a good start to Monday.  The afternoon was spent walking a limestone ridge, east of Cartmel.  Many of the plants were tucked up for the winter but salad burnet, yew and blue moor-grass were all very visible  On the way back down we went through an area of native woodland that produced a couple of ravens and a hawfinch.

I ventureed furtther south into Lancashire to sepnd a night in the company of Seumus Eaves (October speaker).  The following day we spent a very cold morning scanning geese, duck and wader flocks on Morecombe Bay.  Highlights included good numbers of snipe and rock pipits pushed up with the high tide, a jack snipe, peregrines and large numbers of black-tailed godwits and pintail.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Branton Ponds 4th December

A spare hour and a lovely crisp morning proved too hard to resist, the ponds were relatively quiet but there were still good numbers of Wigeon and Teal smaller birds included Bullfinch and Goldfinch. On the west pond 3 male Goosander were joined by a stunning male Goldeneye, on reaching the far end something set up all of the birds on the ponds, the culprit was soon spotted in the form of a large female Peregrine which cruised around looking for prey but left hungry.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Birdwatching on a farm in the Rothley area.

I am always surprised by some farms for their diversity of birds.  Today was no exception.  Game-cover held a very large flock of linnets (200+) with smaller numbers of chaffinch, greenfinch, yellowhammer and reed bunting.  Male grey partridge were calling from red clover leys.  Permanent pastures held a flock of 400 starlings, 35 lapwing and 120 fieldfare.  3 snipe were flushed from a wet corner and there was a party of 100 Canada geese were on the lake.  A flock of house sparrows (12) were joined by wrens, robins and chaffinches on the edge of the silage pit.

Woodcock and owls

Evening of the 27th November, saw at least 4 woodcock flying out of Kyloe Wood (western side).  There was a further bird feeding in an area of mud on the side of the road.  On the same stretch of road, a long-eared owl flew into Kyloe from a neighbouring conifer shelt belt.

A barn owl flew over the A697 at Haugh Head, south of Wooler, later in the evening.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Accidental sighting and the owls of Glanton

Short days and rugby ahve been restricting my nature rambles.  One or two birds of interest from last week include 3-5 probably 'northern' bullfinches at the Once Brewed car park (21st Nov), a water rail in a wetland south of Longhoughton (22nd Nov) and 3 light bellied brents (flew north) off Boulmer on the same day.  The male bullfinches were strikingly pink-breasted with slatey grey mantles and their calls were very different to our native birds.  On the 23rd November, there was a good collection of wigeon, mallard, teal, mute swans, greylag and 1 barnacle goose in flooded fields south of Branton.  Branton Pools were relatively quiet .

The highlight of the weekend was seeing a barn owl in the Glanton parish on the 23rd November.  This is the first barn owl that I have seen in the parish since the snowy winter of 2010/11.  On the 24th Nov, a little owl was calling west of the village and there were at least 3 male tawny owls calling within the southern side of the parish.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Newton Point and Long Nanny

We parked at Links House car park where the Lesser Grey Shrike was still showing well, which is a bit worrying as it should be in Africa. From here we headed off to Newton Point where we noted 5 Long Tailed Ducks, 2 Red Throated Divers and a flock of about 1500 Wigeon in Beadnell Bay. Next we walked along the beach towards Long Nanny which was very quiet only 3 Sanderling on the tideline but no Twite or Snow Buntings, the only other thing of interest was a Merlin chasing small birds in the dunes.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Lunch break

A lunch break at Boulmer produced 2 red-throated divers, 3 light bellied brent geese moving north with a flock of 25 eiders and 3 red-breasted mergansers.  The rocky shore prodiced a good selection of waders including 3 grey plovers, 12 redshank, 15 dunlin and good numbers of oystercatchers and curlew.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Stormy Seawatching.

A half an hour seawatch from the car before work this morning at Craster had -

Great Northern Diver 3 ( inc 1 on the sea)
Red throated Diver 8
Velvet Scoter 2
Goldeneye 2
Wigeon 50+
Pintail 1 ad drake with Wigeon
Golden Plover 100+
Purple Sandpiper 2
Dunlin 100+
Gannet 20+

In the right weather, its nice just to sit and gaze seaward from the comfort of the car, scope balanced precariously on the drivers window...I might even go back tomorrow for a Little Auk?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mora Rolley kindly sent in this pic from her garden of two Collared Doves eating niger seed put out for Goldfinches! Looks like they will need to wait their turn....

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Harwood Forest 17th November

After our success with the Lesser Grey Shrike yesterday we decided to head off to Harwood Forest to see if there were any signs of it's larger cousin the Great Grey Shrike. The sky was dull and grey befitting our quarry, however the forest itself was also silent, our only bird sightings were 7 Crossbills,2 Lesser Redpoll and 12 Goldfinch, after much time spent scanning the new felled areas we came away without a shrike sighting, not to worry our day was topped off with the sight of 2 Red Squirrels at a feeder in Harwood Village

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Shrikes and Gulls

We were out with North Northumberland Bird Club at Bamburgh today but decided to go via Low Steads car park(as one does) and there as promised was a very smart looking 1st winter Lesser Grey Shrike. It performed well for all those present throughout the day, next on to Bamburgh where at Budle Bay we had 2 Peregrines out on the mudflats,whilst at Stag Rock there were Velvet Scoter, Long tailed Duck and an unexpected bonus in he form of the much twitched Bonapartes Gull.

Lesser Grey Shrike

A Lesser Grey Shrike has been present at the Long Nanny car park in the dunes just north of High Newton village for the last three days. The bird frequents the paddock on the south edge of the car park but flies around the edge occasionally. It is a stunning black and white bird in flight as it makes sallies high into the air to take a flying insect. I hope it moves on before next weeks cold spell or I fear its days are numbered....

Monday, 11 November 2013

White Christmas...

This partially albino / leucistic Robin has been present at Longhoughton for almost a month. I've never seen the like, even the bill is two toned !

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


At least one waxwing was present with redwings and fieldfares in woodland to the north east of Weetwood Avenue, Wooler.  The bird/s were heard and one was located feeding amongst rowan.

Monday, 4 November 2013

2nd / 3rd November

A quick walk around Branton Ponds located 2 Davisons and a Tindle in their winter plummage. The ponds were relatively quiet with highlights including 4 gadwall (2 pair), 1 lesser black-backed gull, 3 herring gull, 5 goosander and a good selction of wigeon, teal and tufted ducks.  Coot numbers appear to have increased recently.  Three bullfinches and a party of eight siskins were found in scrub.

A walk around the remoter parts of the Glanton parish located honey, meadow and snowy waxcaps.  Wavy-hair grass, sheep's fescue and tormentil were new species for the parish.  Good numbers of yellowhammers (8) were located in an area of gorse. Eight greylag geese headed south west towards Caistron.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Grisly goings on at Budle....

Sorry I haven't been blogging for some time but I had an interesting visit to  Budle Bay on Tuesday. 

There were hundreds of Barnacle Geese and many waders,  but I spent a long time watching a Great black-backed Gull, two Crows and a Buzzard and an unidentifiable corpse.  

When I first saw the latter, the gull was enjoying a meal with the crows hanging around.  When I next looked a Buzzard had arrived on the scene and had the corpse in his grasp while the gull had moved off and the  crows were attacking the Buzzard, who was not amused.  

It tried to fly off, but perhaps the corpse was too heavy for him as he'd just manage to flutter a short way before landing to be again buzzed by the crows.  This went on for some time before the Buzzard gave up and went to sulk on a rock while the crows pecked at the body.  

When I eventually had to leave, the gull had moved in again while the crows and Buzzard had flown off.  Maybe he had more patience than the others. Gulls do seem to hang around a lot of the time... 

Mora Rolley, Alnwick.

Another Great Black backed Gull eating carrion, this time a Hare - Howick ( S.Sexton)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Branton Ponds 1st November

After a morning looking for fungi around Beanley Woods I decided to take the camera around Branton Ponds. On reaching the East Pond my attention was drawn to some movement under the trees, there in full view were 2 Brown Hares neither of which appeared to be bothered by my presence.

Seamus eaves, birding and fantastic east coast landscapes

Seamus and I set off on thursday (31st Oct) morning to locate the Sardinian warbler at St Abb's Head.  The sun was shining and the cliffs were at their spectacular best.  Ravens and peregrines were seen cruising the hillsides.  A party of 8 whooper swans flew over with numerous small flocks of fieldfares, redwings, starlings and skylarks.  Eventually, we located the site for the warbler but it was not playing ball.  After 2 hours of watching the bushes we located this charismatic bird through its call.  Supporting cast included 2 blackcaps, at least 2 chiffchaffs, 5+ bullfinches and good numbers of reed buntings.

The afternoon was spent trying to find the Bonaparte's gull at Stag Rocks, Bamburgh.  We failed but we did see a Mediterranean gull, 250+ common scoter, 3+ red throated divers, good numbers of gannets, shags and cormorants.  There were about 30 purple sandpipers and 60+ turnstones on the rocks and these were accompanied by small numbers of redshank, curlew and sanderling.  A flock of 60 knot dropped in at one point.  1 little egret and a grey heron flew north into Budle Bay.  Small parties of fieldfares and starlings still appeared off the sea.  One fieldfare only just made it over the breakers and landed with a bump on the dunes!

Fenham Flats - 1st November.  Seumus and I had a very pleasant three hours at Fenham Flats enjoying the waterfowl and waders as the tide came in.  Highlights included 300 barnacle geese, 5000+ wigeon, 15+ long tailed duck, 10+ goldeneye, 1 red throated diver, 1 black-tailed godwit, 12 ringed plovers and a good range of other common species.  There is a very confiding robin at the hide which was quite happy to sit on your boots and feed between your legs!  One common hawker dragonfly was also found. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Birding home and away

The day got off to a really good start when 9 Grey Partridge appeared in our garden, they ran and jumped about in typical gamebird manner but stayed still long enough for a few photos through the kitchen window. After breakfast we headed off to Stag Rock to look for a Bonepartes Gull reported yesterday, after a scan around the lighthouse we headed off towards Budle Point. Just offshore from the sandy spit were a group of Black Headed Gulls feeding, one bird was smaller and showed an all grey nape and head. On getting the scope onto this bird we realised it was the Bonepartes Gull, a dainty little bird with a black bill, a grey mantle,a dark cheek patch,limited black on the primaries and pale pink legs. What a delicate looking bird to have flown all the way from North America.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Nature laid bare

Autumn not only is a bright,colourful time of year but it also reveals things which have been hidden during the summer months. A good example was this wasps nest found around Branton Ponds today,at the height of summer invisible as it is cloaked in the seasons leaves, but after a strong wind and cooler weather it is exposed to all.

A walk in the woods

With autumn in full swing and a week's holiday we felt it was just the right kind of day to go to Holystone Woods. On the way across we noted 3 Bramblings on a hedge near Biddlestone, once into the woods themselves we soon heard the chatter of Jays as they forage around for the huge numbers of acorns lying on the ground. The Oak trees were just starting to change colour and the spring sounds of warblers were replaced by Blue Tits, Nuthatches and crunching leaves. As we headed on a bewildering array of Fungi were there to be photographed including Russula's, and many kinds of bracket fungi, some of which looked remarkably like streaky bacon, if anyone can identify some of the photos it would be much appreciated.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

And now for something a bit different...

Hello all,

Just a quick note to say this smashing Siberian Stonechat has been frequenting the cliff top about 50 -100mtrs south of the Howick Burn footbridge for the last few days. Found by a visiting birder from Wales on Sunday, his first day up here on holiday, it has been showing very well, feeding around the tops of scrub and umbellifers. It can be seen flycatching quite easily, I have even seen it from my patch by looking from the north end of the bridge!

It is a lot paler than our own Stonechats, looking more like a Whinchat but without the white eyestripes. These birds breed way out to the east of Asia and are rare visitors to the UK. Its about 12 years since I last saw one in Northumberland, but they were reasonably common in China when I was there in 2008...

At the time of writing I haven't heard if it has been seen today but it was still around yesterday. Its well worth a try to see if it is still there...

Stewart. ( Photo courtesy of Ian Fisher)

24th October

Most of the day was spent vegetation surveying in the College Valley.  Birds of interest included a female hen harrier drifting south, 7 twite and a good selection of thrushes.  Ring ouzels had been seen in the Valley until the middle of last week!  There was one swallow (adult) flying around Hethpool in the late afternoon.

There was a good selection of waxcaps on the west side of Coldburn Hill.  These include meadow, crimson, heath, parrot and snowy.  There were also good numbers of yellow fairy clubs and a patch of earth clubs.

Our first sample point produced heath grass (illustrated in the las AWG newsletter).  Other plant highlights include heath groundsel, thyme, mouse-eared hawkweed and thyme-leaved speedwell.

A peacock butterfly was seen close to the entrance ot the Valley.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Golden & grey

A quick walk around Whinney Hill, Longhorsley produced a flock of 40+ golden plover, 2+ male grey partridge, 20+ tree sparrows, 30+ yellowhammers and 10 reed buntings.

Snowy, meadow and parrot waxcaps as well as good numbers of fairy clubs

Monday, 21 October 2013

Garden visitor

I was sitting at the computer this morning with a feather in hand looking at a bird book and mulling over emarginations, luckily at this point my attention was drawn to a commotion outside and a thump as a large bird hit the window. As I looked at the powder impression left on the glass I noticed a juvenile Sparrowhawk perched in a tree just outside, it was quite recently fledged and still had a number of white feathers on it's mantle and wings. After a short rest it flew off, later in the morning my attention was drawn to Wrens and a Robins making a real racket down the garden, I was expecting a cat but there on the hedge was the juvenile Sparrowhawk looking very subdued, it must have flown into another window as it remained there some time, long enough for me to get one or two photos before it flew off. Many people would not be pleased to see such a bird in their garden, but as the top avian predator I think it is a privilege and shows a healthy population of small birds.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Reds, white-tails and martins

Old news. Last week was spent on the Movern peninsula,east of Mull. The weather was very good and the wildlife was fantastic. The Rahoy Estate is tucked away at the end of a 7 mile single track road. No TV, emails or mobile reception - bliss! The red deer stags were in full cry in the evening. A number were strutting their stuff outside of the cottage. The bellow of a stag amongst the autumn colours of the trees with blue sky is something to behold. Another visitor to the cottage was at least one pine martin on several nights. Lure of raisins was too much. These also attracted a female red deer and her calf. This all happened within three feet of the cottage door! This part of Scotland is a very good place to see white-tailed eagles. We were not disappointed with four birds being seen during our stay. One adult flew over my head (within 30 feet) being pursued by a couple of ravens. Other highlights included seven species of waxcap, a passage of whooper swans on the 8th / 9th Oct, harbour porpoise (7), many species of lichens, a good selection of common passerines including redwing and fieldfares, good numbers of greenshank and of course otters

Monday, 14 October 2013

Something stoatally different

Whilst on a short morning's visit to Holy Island we were watching the area around the first white cottage on the Crooked Lonnen hoping to see a Great Grey Shrike, when we noticed a Stoat running across the field and entering the garden. A few minutes later it came back out and ran across the field carrying what looked like a yellow tennis ball, when we got better views we realised it was in fact an apple. This is something I have never seen before and wondered if anyone else has seen such behaviour?, and to carry on the tennis theme,the Shrike wasn't playing ball!.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fenham Flats 13th October

Today was my monthly WeBS  at Fenham Flats, the weather wasn't too promising, damp and breezy, but the birds didn't seem to mind. The Wigeon numbers have really started to build up and todays count was 2570, the sight of so many birds taking off at once is awesome and the sound they make made me think of a friend who was born on Holy Island and told me that Islanders called them "Hugh's" as that is the sound they make, their call is a repetitive "Hugh,Hugh,Hugh". Geese numbers were also impressive today, with totals of 723 Pale Bellied Brents and 400 Barnacle Geese. It was also nice to see 3 Little Egrets feeding on the salt marsh and also all the small wadres taking to the air when a single Merlin flashed across the Flats. On the way back I came upon a Seal pup with an injury to it's mouth, it was also at least 500 metres from the colony, but it did look very well fed and obviously had hauled up at high tide, gone to sleep and been left behind. Fortunately my last view of it was of a Labrador sized slug flopping it's way along the beach in the direction of it's friends.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Early snowflakes

As we headed off around Branton Ponds this morning with the dog the sky was a stunning bright blue and the slight breeze gave the day an autumnal effect. This was enhanced when we caught the distinctive call of Whooper Swans and soon we had 10 perfect white snowflakes banking over our heads and landing on the ponds. We have Mute Swans here all year round but nothing can compare with the sight and sound of true wild Swans which have spent the summer on the Arctic Tundra.
Numbers of other birds also seem to be on the increase, especially Wigeon ,Teal and Goosander which can number up to 100 birds, but alongside all of these winter visitors there were still 30+ Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the west pond today, maybe with the huge number of Rowan Berries the next thing to look out for is Waxwings, watch this space.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Last week..........

A few records from the last week include a fly-over brambling at Glanton on the 31st September.  There was a small passage of redwings, song thrushes and blackbirds on the 2nd October.  A woodcock flew over the office at Haugh Head on Thursday.

A snow bunting was on the beach at Low Newtown yesterday with a possible shorelark.  Both birds flew out to rocks and could not be located.  There was also a large flock of golden plover (250+) and good numbers of white wagtails (7).  Newtown Pool held a female pintail, little grebe and a selction of commoner ducks.

There was a good selection of birds at Branton Ponds in the afternoon.  Counts included goosander 117, little grebe 12, wigeon 40+, lesser black-backed gull 55, great black-backed gull 2, chiffchaff 5+, kingfisher 1 and pintail.  A migrant hawker dragonfly was in the car park.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Southeast Northumberland 5th October

We set off early on Saturday morning for Druridge Pools, or more specifically a patch of Blackthorn about 200yds to the north. The bird we were looking for was a Subalpine Warbler, a small group of birders had gathered and after a short while the little beauty appeared(rubbish photo attached), it kept us entertained for quite awhile as it flew from bush to bush
All of this before 10 o'clock, we were on a role so we then headed to St Mary's wetland near Whitley Bay where we soon had our second little sprite of the day in the shape of a tiny little Firecrest which flitted endlessly amongst the upper branches of a Willow tree,whilst in another group of Willows we managed to find a Yellow Browed Warbler,other birds included a couple of Stonechats and at least 1500 Golden Plovers(but no American) on rocks north of St Mary's Island.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Budle Point 2nd October

We decided to spend the morning at Bamburgh, the weather looked promising with low cloud and a strong southeasterly. After parking at Stag Rock we headed off across the Golf Course, the bushes were full of birds ,mainly Reed Buntings but also a number of Redwings. At this point a small looking Skua flew over our heads, we immediately recognised it as a juvenile Long Tailed Skua.
As we headed further on we came across many Goldfinches and Linnets and the bushes near the old military defences produced a single Brambling. The journey back along the beach was also interesting as we picked up the distinctive trilling call of a flock of 4 Snow Buntings, which finally landed a short distance away( close enough to take some rather poor record shots ). Out to sea large numbers of Gannets were feeding along with a flock of about 100 Eiders, on land we also came across Rock Pipits more Goldfinches and at least 2 Stonechats.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

You can only grin.......

Thursday was spent in the College Valley.  There was a small movement of meadow pipits and swallows but there were few other birds with the exception of a pack of 20 red grouse, 3 ravens, 1 kestrel and two very noisy peregrines.  We had just finished our lunch and there was a loud chatter high in the sky.  This turned out to be a juvenile peregrine harassing an adult expecting to get fed.  This reminded me of my children when they want some money!  The adult kept climbing and left the scene - a good move.

There were good numbers of dor beetles especially where the sward was short.  I also decided to look at some lichens - one rock had at least 6 species (no species were determined).  In a recently burnt area hare's tail cotton-grass had started to flower again!  I had not realised that the 'flower' spike is held in a little sac at the base of the stem - it looked like a cacoon of a moth or butterfly

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Holy Island 25th september

The weather looked perfect for a trip to Holy Island, it was damp,miserable and murky,so off we set to our first port of call the Snook. The trees at Snook House held 2 Yellow Browed Warblers with another one in the dunes and a fourth at the Half Moon Slack plus a single Redstart. Next to the village which apart from visitors was very quiet, the Vicars garden only held one Chiffchaff. We then headed off to the Straight Lonnen via the Harbour where we failed to find a reported Little Stint, the Lonnen was also strangely quiet except for a small patch of Willows at the north end. We could hear and see birds flying about and soon got onto another 2 Yellow Browed Warblers, the best bird was still to come in the shape of a first winter Red Breasted Flycatcher, at first views were brief as it was being continuously chased by a Pied Flycatcher, but eventually it settled down on a low branch and we had much better views, lets hope for more miserable weather!.   

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ravens and more....

Three ravens were found 'croaking' away close to Longridge near Berwick, this afternoon.  There were also snipe (2) golden plover and pink-footed geese on the move south.  Devil's bit scabious, tormentil, yarrow, marsh hawk's beard are still in flower but there was very little evidence of waxcaps in an area of acid grassland.

Autumn roost

Arriving at work this morning (8am), there was a a huge amount of twitter around the office buidling and beyond.  Thre was a flock of at least 350+ swallows and house martins feeding in fields to the west of the site.  This is the largest concentration of hirundines that I have seen around the office.  It would suggest that they roosted close by in near-by willows on the Wooler Water or around the margins of a large pond to the south west.

A nuthatch also appeared.  This is a new bird for the office list!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Flocks gather

Wetland bird count started with a bang.  The first birds that were seen from Fenham le Moor hide was a black tailed godwit being persued by at immature peregrine!  Fortunately after a 3-4 minute chase the godwit got away.  This put a smile on my face as they are a favourite of mine.  The wigeon flock was at least 8,000 strong with supporting cast of pintail (29), light bellied brent (1239), pink footed goose (73) as well as a good selection of waders.

Other species included little egret (2), wall brown (5+), common dater (1) and a large number of grey seal (800+)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A hint of things to come

The weather forecasters keep telling us that we are in Autumn and today it certainly felt that way. A walk around Branton Ponds showed some leaves beginning to turn and ripe berries hanging heavily from the Rowan and Guelder Rose. The ponds themselves were alive with the sights and sounds of Autumn, hundreds of Greylags loitered about on the muddy edges whilst Goosander numbers seem to increase on a daily basis. Teasels were being picked over by Goldfinches,some of them juveniles still begging to be fed whilst back on the pond Lesser Black Backed Gulls settled down to bathe and over head hundreds of hirundines swooped on the last insects of Summer as they stocked up ready for their long journey south, at this time of year a sad sight to see, but one which was soon made happy by that sound of Autumn which everyone listens for, the "wink, wink" of dozens of Pink-footed Geese as they flew over heading south west . A sad time of year as our summer migrants leave us but also a fantastic and thrilling time of year as we look forward to old friends heading back to our shores from all points north.

Monday, 16 September 2013

A view from the weekend

Wandering around Glanton on Saturday morning there had been a definite increase in the numbers of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps. There are broods of both swallows and house martins still to fledge.
The afternoon was spent in Berwick. There were at least 56 goosander roosting at the mouth of the Tweed. A painted lady was feeding on budlia in Devon Terrace. The highlighted was a juvenile curlew sandpiper feeding with dunlin, redshank and ringed plover on Little Beach.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Back to the Point

We decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine the dog's evening walk with a spot off seawatching at Newton Point. The sea was quite calm but there was plenty of passage, once again large numbers of Gannets of all ages were heading north, we soon began seeing Arctic Skuas which finally totalled 8 birds, some pale and some dark morph birds. Amongst them we managed to pick out 3 Manx Shearwaters and a total of 7 Sooty Shearwaters, some of them taking advantage of a Gannet feeding frenzy about 800 yards offshore. The most interesting sighting occurred towards the end of our watch when about 400 yards offshore hundreds of Swallows were seen dipping delicately on the surface of the water, and the dog enjoyed her walk.  

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Low Newton 11th September

It looked like there had been a good passage of interesting seabirds on Tuesday so I decided to go to Newton Point and maybe find a few of my own. The weather didn't look too promising, what little wind there was appeared to be almost S.W., however there were birds out there, Gannets were streaming passed in small groups which added up to many hundreds of birds. An Arctic Skua was the next  bird to be noted along with several Manx Shearwaters( which eventually totalled 19 birds), after about 45 minutes watching 2 Sooty Shearwaters glided into view quickly followed by a Great Northern Diver still in breeding plumage, the final birds of note were 2 Red Throated Divers heading north.  From here I decided to head off in the direction of the hide at Low Newton, the tideline in front of the pub turned up a couple of Sanderling plus several Bar Tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover and Dunlins whilst overhead flew a flock of about 150 Golden Plover. My final port of call was the hide where Mallards and Teal lounged about and a very noisy Kingfisher made his presence known 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Seabirds and waterfowl

A trip to Stag Rocks, Bamburgh was in order after dropping off one of my sons.  This proved productive with the first bird being an adult pomarine skua.  There were a large number of seabirds with at least 500 gannets feeding, 10+ manx shearwaters, 8+ arctic skuas, common and arctic terns in abundance, 2 roseate terns, 1 black tern, 5+ common scoter, 2 adult (summer plummage) red throated divers and good numbers of kittiwakes and fulmars.

A quick stop off at Monk's Pool produced a black-tailed godwit, 5 shoveler, 3 gadwall, and a large number of teal  and mallard.

Holy Island 7th September

On Friday evening the weather looked good for migrants so we decided to go to Holy Island early on Saturday morning. We started at the Snook where apart from several Meadow Pipits, Whinchats and Wheatears the only other bird of note was a Barn Owl fast asleep in a Sycamore.
Next we headed off towards the Village, unusually the Vicars garden like everywhere else was very quiet as was the Straight Lonnen, so we decided to head back to the car, on our way back we were called across to a small bush by two other birders , on reaching them we were told they had a Nightingale or Thrush Nightingale in the bush. We had watched the bush for about 20minutes before we eventually saw some movement, at this point more birders turned up and the debate began as to what kind of Nightingale it was. At some times when in deep shade it looked quite grey, but when in the open looked more rufous brown , we felt it looked more like Common Nightingale but unless someone gets much better views or a good photo the debate will continue, watch this space!.  

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Stag Rock 1st September

A dull,grey, windy day saw us seawatching at Stag Rock, the sea was covered with birds of all descriptions, mainly Gannets and Auks but also a steady stream of Manx Shearwaters, we eventually came up with a total of 54 birds some of them flying through but many were piling in with the Gannets into invisible sources of food hidden below the surface. After a short while we noted a couple of Sooty Shearwaters heading past and then the jackpot with a small group of Manxies we picked out a single Balearic Shearwater. As more birds went through our totals mounted up and were added to with the passage north of 4 Arctic Skuas whilst on the rocks a group of Sandwich and Arctic Terns were joined by 2 Roseate Terns.  

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Two for the price of one!

Over the years, I have managed to see and/or hear a range of widlife from my office at Haugh Head, Wooler.  Highlights have included a ghost moth, zebra (jumping) spider, twite and even a house mouse that decided to take a rather large jump! That story is for another day.

Today, I found a new species in the office but on a very unlikely host. Whilst scanning a document, i noticed a house fly feeding on my desk.  Closer inspection revealed that it was carrying an unwanted guest - a tick.  You can see from the photograph that the tick is quite large (between the front legs) and appears to be attached just under the wing area.  This was something that I have not seen before.  hopefully it is of interest.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Low Newton 27th August

After all the crowds of a Bank Holiday Monday thought today would be a bit more quiet, it was but also on the wildlife front. I first spent a couple of hours seawatching at Newton Point but fog out to sea made it tricky to see birds, I did however manage to pick up a single Manx Shearwater,an Arctic Skua and even better a small group of 3 Bonxies (Great Skuas) as they cruised by looking menacing.
On to Newton Ponds and flash which held a few Mallard and a couple of Curlew Sandpipers amongst a group of 12 Dunlin .Other wildlife included numerous Wall Brown butterflies and a single Speckled Wood also a number of Grasshoppers making quite a racket in the undergrowth.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Druridge Bay 24th August

In between showers we decided to check out some of the birds seen in the Druridge Bay area, first we tried East Chevington where we soon noted a Little Stint feeding on an area of mud along with a Curlew Sandpiper. The call of another wader flying in alerted us to a Spotted Redshank which eventually became three, one of them still showing some breeding plumage.other birds on the site included 2 Ruff,a juvenile Little Gull,,a Little Egret,some 200+ Lapwings and I shouldn't forget more extensive views of the Spotted Crake as it lurked in the reeds. For our final bird of the day we should thank Mick McMahon for telling us about a possible Booted Warbler at Hadston Carrs, 15 minutes later we were on site with about 20 other birders watching it  as it skulked in a patch of Ragwort, a small pale warbler which is a very good sighting for Northumberland.  

Friday, 23 August 2013

Holy Island 23rd August

As expected there were very few birds but lots of tourists,we had a look in the new visitor viewpoint which is very posh and looks to have cost a bit but the views aren't great as you seem too low down.
There was plenty of visible migration in the form of streams of Hirundines passing through the dunes and this probably accounts for the Hobby Keith found on the Snook. The dunes themselves held large numbers of Grass of Parnassus and on the insect front several Black Hawkers.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Insects all around

A lunch time walk on Weetwood Moor produced an array of insects.  Butterflies included 7 peacocks, 2 small heaths, 6 larg whites, 4 small whites, 2 wall browns and a small tortoiseshells.  There were also 4 black darter dragonflies (presumably from Cold Martin Lough), 4+ dor beetle (dung beetle with vivid metallic under-parts), several species of saw-fly and numerous winged insects.

I was wondering whether any one could shed light on something I saw today.  Several large white butterflies were flying 10 to 15 feet above the ground and flying quickly in a westerly direction.  Both the butterlfies were being persued by at least 8 large black flies which were keeping slightly underneath the flying butterfly.  i would have saif this was nothing of interest and yet it happened on two separate occassions.  The flies were similar to St Mark's flies and were 'hanging' out on the bracken and heather.  They did not appear to persue other species of butterfly.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Trying to catch up!

Sunday late afternoon was spent walking around Branton Ponds.  There was a good selection of duck and a large flock of greylag geese.  There was an amazing flock of 450+ lapwing, 9+ little grebes and at least 7 goldeneye.  There was a good selection of warblers especailly close views of garden warblers and blackcaps feeding on raspberries and brambles.

A merlin was sitting on a fence post north of Mindrum on Monday night.

There was a good selection of autumn butterflies on the River Aln at Lesbury.  These included red admiral (2), painted lady (1), wall brown (3), green-veined white (many) and small tortoiseshell (5+).

I will try to add a few more species over the next week or so.  Forgot to mention a juvenile cuckoo at Biddlestone on Friday and 2 pairs of whinchats with a fledged broods in College Valley on Thursday.

Shear numbers

We decided to head off to Budle Point today hoping for some early passerines,we were not optimistic and this was the case. The day began to liven up when we walked back along the beach, whilst scanning offshore a Sooty Shearwater came gliding into view, it's pale underwing panels showing up well. What happened next was even more stunning as our attention turned to a fast moving flock of dark birds which were involved in a feeding frenzy just beyond Stag Rock, it was a flock of at least 120 Manx Shearwaters and in amongst them we counted another 2 Sooty Shearwaters, the morning was made complete when 3 Porpoise cruised past just in front of us. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

A mixed bag

Saturday evening saw us in less than ideal conditions doing a spot of mothing, numbers were low and produced nothing out of the ordinary,amongst the catch were several Square Spot Rustics, a couple of Mother of Pearl and what looked like some bird poo on a window near our light, on closer inspection it turned out to be a rather cute looking Chinese Character.
Sunday saw us making several visits around Branton Ponds, where there seemed to have been a small increase in the numbers of Common Blue Damselflies, Common Darters and a few Common Hawkers, sadly the Hawkers eluded the camera. Butterflies were also about and included Small Coppers and a single Comma.
Monday saw us down at Druridge Bay Country Park, there were plenty of Peacocks and Common Hawkers but the most impressive were the large number of Speckled Woods flying about.
Our day out was rubber stamped by the sight of an Osprey at Hedgeley Bridge near Powburn,it first landed on the Bridge railings then took off and headed down river towards Hedgeley Ponds with a Common Sandpiper in hot pursuit, meanwhile a Kingfisher stood silently on a rock at the rivers edge.