Sunday, 31 March 2013

On a tightrope....

Have you ever watched a Woodpigeon trying to balance on a telephone wire?  If not you have missed something truly uplifting.  There it was, outside the bathroom window, precariously trying to balance at right angles to the wire like a tight-rope walker facing the wrong way.  Its tail was twitching up and down, it's wings were being used to steady it, it even turned round to see if that would help.  It didn't.  Eventually, after a very wobbly few minutes it did what it does best and flew off to join its buddy on a more substantial perch in a tree.

I really enjoy the woodpigeons that visit the back yard.  This one enjoyed cooling down in the birds drinking water, but that was quite some time ago when it was HOT.

Mora J Rolley, Alnwick

Brooding and building

Today I discovered a Blackbirds nest in my garden, tucked away in the top third of a large Privet hedge. The female bird was brooding the nest, sitting tight and low so obviously on eggs. In another part of my garden I watched a second female collecting nest material so it looks as though I will have two broods at least this year.

                                                       Blackbird nest building today

Possible White tailed Eagle...

Today at 11.20am our friends, Heather and Dave Steele saw what they believe to be a White tailed Eagle flying over Howick towards the quarry. They were alerted by the calls of Buzzards that were mobbing the bird overhead, and in size comparison they were dwarfed. The eagle circled the quarry a couple of times high up before disappearing off to the west.

Although Heather and Dave are not birders, they are reliable and have seen sea eagle before on the western isles. It may be worth keeping an eye skywards for the next day or two to see if it passes your area.

I came home at 12.00pm just in time to hear what I had missed!

This morning myself and JWR took a wander along the disused railway line near Overthwarts farm, Lemmington. It was very cold and wintry, but slowly and surely spring is filtering through. Many birds were in song including a pair of Crossbills, several Yellowhammers and Nuthatch. 4 male Lapwings were performing their tumbling display flight in the damp meadows.

Although no flowering plants were blooming, these two fungi were found on a fallen tree over the Edlingham burn -

Scarlet Elfcup

Southern Bracket I think?
Edlingham Burn

Friday, 29 March 2013

A little life and colour


A walk around Shilbottle today looking for signs of life in the hedgerows inspired by Wednesday nights talk at the Wildlife Group meeting. I found this welcome patch of Coltsfoot in a sheltered field corner. Further along towards Buston Common Scurvy-grass seemed to be fresh and thriving and showing some flower heads, growing through last years dead grass and withered thistle stems. Common plants, but for me interesting and not easy to identify.

                                                        Common Scurvy-grass

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cormorants & Sparrowhawks

Just been around Branton Ponds this a.m. and saw a Cormorant that has been around the area for a while. It has the indications of a "sinensis " sub species with very white head & neck markings & green tinging to the plummage, however my reference book indicates best way to confirm is the angle of the gular pouch ! I'm afraid my binos wheren't up to the task, so if any body gets a better view please let me know.
Meanwhile, following last nights meeting, and Stewarts incisive info on Sparrowhawk eye colour, I was inspired to read my Poyser book on Sparrowhawks. It seems they hatch with dark eyes but have pale yellow ones by fledging. As they become adults they all darken, but males tend to be the darkest sometimes becoming wine red as the photo showed.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Branton unsprung

Branton ponds were very cold on Sunday afternoon.  There was little sign of display amongst the ducks and geese and very little if not no song from the passerines.  Goat and grey willow were trying to open their catkins.  New growth on  shrubs such as hawthorn and elder were frosted and turning brown.  Black-headed gulls and oystercatchers were trying to get into the spring spirit but this was short lived. 

Other birds of interest included 1 kingfisher, 1 great crested grebe, 3 grey herons, 5 lesser black-backed gulls (wishing they were still in the Mediterranean) and good numbers of wigeon (80+) and goldeneye (12).  There were very few passerines with the exception of a good flock of yellowhammers (20+) and reed buntings (3) on the road between Branton and Branton Middlesteads.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Lesser Black Backed Gulls

A nice little flock of Gulls to day in flooded fields near Beadnell. Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull and my first Lesser Black Backed Gulls of the year.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

21st March - It must be Spring

Well, not quite ! At Branton today the sky was grey and omminous while the muddy paths involved your feet travelling in all directions at the same time. But wait, Mute Swans were begining to build their floating nest. and while only a handful of Black Headed Gulls have returned to the nesting site a flock of 60 Oystercatcher were present ready to move to their various nest territories in the valley. Some residents were also evident, with a small group of Bullfinch and then the flash of bright blue and orange of a Kingfisher flying low over the water with it's distinctive outline. Further on tracks on the muddy path showed a Roe Deer had passed by, and then a Brown Hare bolted from grass nearby without the dog even realising. While typing this I can hear a weather forecast confirming I was wrong it is still winter !!!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

And now for something a little different...

A wander around some upland woods, west of Alnwick, today found a strange selection of the weird and wonderful...

Some Fungi....

Birch Polypore
Hairy Curtain Crust
Some Lichens...

Cladonia portentosa
Possibly Ramalina canariensis ?
 And the down right bizarre!

Dogs Vomit Slime Mould ?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Out of our area

Yesterday was spent in the south west of the County.  A visit to a farm south of Ninebanks (West Allendale) produced a male black grouse outside the kitchen window!   As well as good numbers of upland waders displaying including lapwing (making scrapes), curlew and golden plover.

A farm survey near Lambley Castle produced evidence of black grouse, lots of brown hares (7+), good numbers of fieldfares (90) and redwing (20).  Leaves of common dog violet, betony, rough hawkbit and cat's ear were much in evidence along a dismantled railway. There were at least three tree sparrows around the farm buildings.

Back home in Glanton, I tried looking for the comet in the west after sunset but to no avail.  There was, however,  a good selection of birds either calling or singing.  Two song thrushes and a blackbird were in full voice as darkness fell.  They were joined by two male grey partridge calling from arable fields, and golden plover (at least 3) circling over the village.  Other birds of interest in the darkening, were a male mallard (rare in Glanton Parish), little owl (calling from the west side of the village) and finally at least two tawny owls were the last to be heard.  All these species from my bedroom window - I need to do this more often!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Branton and Hedgeley 13th March 2013

With a cold biting wind we decided to have a walk down to Hedgeley Ponds via Branton Ponds.
As we walked along the road we soon picked out 2 Adders sheltered from the Arctic blast on a sunny
south facing slope. A quick scan of the ponds showed several male Goldeneyes displaying to females
along with a pair of Pochards and a pair of Gadwall.
Our next stop was the river Breamish next to Hedgeley Ponds,where a Green Sandpiper flew up from the riverside looking like a giant House Martin, we noted where it had landed and slowly got closer and closer until finally good views were obtained.
Back home and a more unusual sighting of a Moorhen in our garden which appears to have taken up residence,coming out to feed on the grass when things are quiet then sneaking back into the undergrowth when disturbed.   


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mammals on the local patch

Since coming to live in Northumberland last July, my sightings of mammals has mainly been limited to Brown Hares and Roe Deer. Gradually by walking my patch, I have developed a sense of where I am likely to see the two without them hightailing off at my approach.
On Tuesday afternoon I set out to try to get pics of them both. I came across the Brown Hare first of all. While scanning a group of mole hills - one turned out to be lepus europaeus!
From the same vantage point, I then got sight of a buck Roe Deer in nearby stubble, with its antlers still in velvet. I was especially pleased that I was eventually able to leave the scene with both creatures still in situ.

Counting birds or snowflakes ?

Sunday was, as Ian D, describes (below) the day for WeBS survey on Lindisfarne.  For the most part visibility was good and then the snow showers rolled in and shelter was sought.  There were no real highlights with the exception of 2 little egrets, 4 long-tailed ducks, 7 goldeneye, 153 pintail, 4 ringed plovers as well as the range of the usual waders.  I may have missed a few birds due to steamed up binoculars and telescope!  Interestingly, there were no passerines in the hedges or scrub on the shore.  Common scurvey-grass is becoming more apparent in the grassland along the shore. 

An observation from the rest of the weekend is that lesser black-backed gulls have started to appear both on the coast and inland.  One bird was west of Alnwick and another in a flooded field west of Chatton.   There area also good flocks of both common and herring gulls in inland fields.  Adult common gulls look very prim and proper at the moment.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Fenham Flats 10th March 2013

Sunday saw me undertaking a monthly bird survey. The weather was variable with glorious sun if sheltered from the bitterly cold wind, and occassional snow showers that at times were heavy. The birds were numerous on the mud flats with counts including 158 Shelduck, 237 Curlew, 297 Bar Tailed Godwit and 66 Grey Plover. This part of the count was taken from a sand dune sheltered seat which was most appreciated, especially by the 3 Short Eared Owls that flew up as I approached. The bird numbers at the point were low, probably since the neighbourhood had been disturbed by about 400 Grey Seals that were lounging about on the small island opposite the point.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Nature - red in tooth and claw

Tuesday afternoon with the sun shining and the temperature pleasant, I had a steady stroll from Lesbury down to the Aln estuary mouth and returned on the other side of the river.

All seemed at peace - mini  high spots were those keystone cops of the shoreline, a group of Sanderlings on Alnmouth beach and I also enjoyed good views of half a dozen Goldeneye still well up river, as I returned.
The only small birds I was able to get anything on was a small flock of Lesser Redpoll,  but they were too flighty for me to be able to go searching for a Mealy!

Not two hundred yards from home, I noticed a statuesque bird stood on a small pile in the horse paddock, backing on to where I live.
My bins quickly told me that it was a female Sparrowhawk stood atop its prey - a Wood Pigeon

As I put my scope up to try and get a pic of events, the Sprawk hopped a few yards away but with the Woody very firmly embedded in its talons - no way was it leaving!

So I had an interesting ten minutes observing the eating habits of a bird of prey having its tea  - it was five o'clock!
 It quite put me off the Shepherd's Pie that was waiting for me at home!

A moth or two this week...

Click on the picture for a bigger image...

A slightly milder spell means that I have been running the moth trap in my Howick garden over the weekend. Of the [very] few caught here is a selection - 

Pale brindled Beauty showing its excellent camouflage.

Clouded Drab  An unusual colour variation, normally they are greyish.

A micromoth of the Agonopterix family, most likely to be 'heracliana'.

Clash of the Titans

7.00 am saw us walking around Branton Ponds with the dog,the air was cold and crisp with a heavy layer of frost on the grass.We had just reached the north west corner when two Roe Deer came charging in to view,one chasing the other,we assumed a buck and a doe.We soon realised that it was two bucks involved in a territorial dispute,after running around they ended up about 50yards away from us.After squaring up to each other a full blown battle ensued,head to head the pushed against each other their muscles and sinews straining to gain the upper hand.Soon it was over as suddenly as it had started,the victor chasing it's rival out of the area,was this just a minor territorial dispute as our books show the Roe Deer rut takes place in august! who knows? it certainly beats watching Simon King on the t.v.  

Friday, 1 March 2013

Branton 1st March

At a time when we are all looking forward to spring migrants it is a sobering thought to see all the winter visitors still in the area including Redwings,Fieldfare and birds such as this Brambling seen around Branton for the last few days.Spring may have sprung today but winter is still holding on.

Another day on the coast!

A second morning sward measuring was spent in the Elwick area - adjacent to the shore.  There was a large flock of 450+ pink footed geese, bean goose (1) and smaller numbers of light-bellied brent (52) feeding mainly on grass fields.  Good numbers of curlew were found in the pastures and there was one flock of 20 golden plover.

There were few passerines but up to 5 male skylarks were singing in one stubble field.