Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Eglingham Burn

A walk down the Eglingham Burn produces a range of different species.  It started with 6 wheatears (Greenland race) in an arable field (Shipley Lane) with a white wagtail and at least one pair of lapwings - all birds were still there in late afternoon.  Upper section held cuckoo (1), blackcap (2), lots of willow warblers and chiffchaffs, treecreepers and several brown hares.  A grey squirrel and peacock butterfly was spotted in woodland east of Eglingham.  There were good numbers of roe deer, brown hares, lesser black-backed gulls, redstarts as well as dried stem of centaury species in a wet flush.  On the lower section redstarts were ever present and yellow flag iris, marsh valerian and meadowsweet were coming into leaf.

A Tern up for the books

A quiet evening walk around the ponds at Branton with the dog was changed instantly when I noticed a Tern flying around the east pond hawking for insects.As stupidly I was bin-less I rushed home with the dog and came back suitably equiped.Fortunately the bird was still there,from the light bouncy flight ,limited black on primaries,short blood red bill and long tail streamers,I realised it was an Arctic Tern,a first for the ponds and a long way inland.I stood there with Hugh Tindle for about 30 minutes as it flew about sometimes chased by Black Headed Gulls,I realised the extremes of birding,two weeks ago the ponds produced a real winter visitor in Iceland Gull and this week a real summer visitor in Arctic Tern.

Monday, 29 April 2013

More migrants appearing

After a bird-less weekend, Monday morning was a welcome relief with 2 swifts, good numbers of swallows, sand martins and the odd house martins feeding along the Coquet at Catheugh.  There were lots of willow warblers and chiffchaffs singing as well as the odd blackcap and redstart.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Thrunton Woods 27th April

We decided to have a walk around Thrunton Woods this morning, which was a good choice as in the sunshine we were sheltered from the cold northerly breeze.The air rang with the calls of Willow Warblers,Chaffinches,Wrens and Dunnocks.Probably the best bird of the day was a stunning male Redstart,but it was also great to both see and hear several Tree Pipits staking out their territories. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

On a Whim....

Whimbrel (click to enlarge)

At last, there are a few spring migrants to be had, despite the still nagging reminder that winter is not too far behind us.

Around Howick this afternoon a short walk along the coast path to the Bathing House / Rumbling Kern area had 4 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Sand Martins and a Whimbrel on the rocks. The rocky shore here seems to attract Whimbrel every spring so this one did not come as too much of a surprise.

It takes my 2013 Patch Challenge list up to 103 species.

I finally saw my first butterflies of the year on Saturday with both Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell around our garden area.

Out with JWR doing his WeBs count at Branton and Hedgely this morning found many singing Willow Warblers and hundreds of Swallows and Sand Martins. Common Sandpiper and a nice Little Ringed Plover were both 'firsts' for 2013.

All we need now, is for this wind to drop and the sun to reappear...

Thursday, 18 April 2013

More signs of Spring

Our early morning walk around Branton Ponds re-inforced the sense that spring was finally here,the hirundine flock had been increased by at least 10 House Martins,Common Sandpipers were calling noisely from the waters edge and whilst scanning a small flock of Meadow Pipits we noticed a very dapper looking Yellow Wagtail.
It looks as if spring had been held up by the weather of the past few weeks and has suddenly been unleashed like a cork pulled out of a champagne bottle,a real reason to celebrate.

Windy Wednesday

Ian & Keith's previous post was entitled Wet Wednesday.  On the same day, but possibly earlier in the day, I did the Hulne Moor NEBS visit.  I hadn't really appreciated how windy is would be up by the Golfball, but I could hardly stand up in some of the gusts.

Nevertheless the highlights for me were the two Swallows hawking over Freeman's Gap pond - my first of the season.  Meadow Pipits were there in force - my count was 44.  The apparently poorer numbers of singing Skylarks (only 9) and Curlew (1) might well be explained by the strength of the wind keeping them skulking on the ground.  Otherwise there was little of note apart from a single Woodcock, 5 Red Grouse and 7 Red-legged Partridge and 6 Mallard.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Wet Wednesday

A very wet early morning walk around Branton Ponds was enlivened by a sudden influx of Willow Warblers as well as 50+ Sand Martins and a number of Swallows hawking over the water.Our attention was drawn to a dead fish lying by the edge of the pond ,this turned out to be a Perch which measured between 12ins and 14ins in length.
The rest of the morning was spent doing a bird survey at Kimmer Lough,we saw many Snipe,Meadow Pipits,Skylarks and 2 Woodcock,however the most surprising sighting was a very smart looking and early female Pied Flycatcher. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Migrants start to arrive over the weekend

Migrants have started to arrive in force over the weekend.  The first evidence was small numbers of sand martins on the Coquet (downstream of Felton) on Saturday morning along with a resident marsh tit, several brown hares and flowering opposite-leaved saxafrage and butterbur.

In the afternoon, all three species of or hirundine (sand martin, swallow and house martin) were present at Branton Ponds (none had been seen in the morning).  Other species of noter included a great crested grebe, 2 redshank and several species of bumblebees being blown around in the gales!

By Sunday afternoon there was a steady njortherly passage of swallows and meadow pipits on the coast at Fenham le Moor.  Other species of note were 14 summer plummage golden plover, 74 wigeon, 17 pintail and flowering common scurvey-grass.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A first for our bird feeders

The populations of visitors to our bird feeders at Titlington Mount vary during the year.  At the moment we're seeing particularly good numbers of Siskin and Goldfinch as well as the more usual species.  But on 10th April a group of seven Siskin were feeding on a tray when one of the females turned round and turned out to be a male Redpoll.  Never before in 16 years have I seen one of these birds in the garden, let alone on the feeders.

Sadly it didn't stay long because one of our resident Sparrowhawks chose that moment to cruise past.

AWG Field Work

I don't whether I should strictly use our Blog to publicise future events, but I'll risk it and people can tell me I'm out of order if necessary!

The April Newsletter will carry the following item, but since many of our keener members either contribute to the Blog or at least read it it seems a good idea to give you advance notice:


Branton Ponds A day is being arranged for interested members to spend several hours at Branton Ponds to concentrate mainly on plants. There is plenty there of interest for those with some botanical expertise, but we hope to make this a ‘training’ session for those who would like to get better at identifying plants.
This is planned for Sunday 23rd June. If the weather looks as though it will be foul I’ve pencilled in a reserve date of Sunday 30th June. We will aim to meet at Branton at 10.30am and the day will last as long as people remain interested. Plan to bring a packed lunch. Further details in the May Newsletter.

Slainsfield Moor AWG has agreed with Lord James Joicey to carry out a survey of this rather nice moorland site. We hope to cover birds, plants, butterflies, possibly moths (if Stewart Sexton can organise his trapping gear) and possibly mammals (if we can get Don Griss to come with his small mammal traps as he did for us at Ford Moss), reptiles and amphibia (if we can involve Stephen Block from Berwick) and potentially anything else that we feel we can reasonably cover.
Two dates are suggested: Saturday 15th June and Sunday 11th August. Again, check the May Newsletter for further details.


Spring in Branton

Today at last felt springlike,the sun was out and the air felt a touch warmer,with this in mind I headed to the ponds to look for reptiles.I wasn't disappointed,in the space of about 200 yards I came across no fewer than 7 Adders and 2 Slow-worms, the range of shades amongst the Adders was very marked, some were dark and some were very pale almost sandy in colour.The ponds themselves held a couple of Pochard,a Great Crested Grebe and the rest of the usual suspects.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Chiffchaffs at last!

My usual afternoon walk along the river Aln from  Lesbury to Bilton Mill:

After only 10 minutes, I become aware of at  least 2 Chiffchaffs at the water's edge, feeding at the base of pussy willows, even occasionally hovering over the river:

Further on, a pair of Grey Wagtails come in to full view on exposed rocks in the river, the male resplendent in breeding plumage:

By the main railway line embankment there is a brief Chiffchaff call but it is hesitant and soon dominated by a resident Chaffinch:

On my return to the river there is more Chiffchaff activity - no time for singing - eating is the only item on the agenda

The warmth of the sun is beginning to feel springlike and chiffchaffs are back!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Iceland Gull

A walk around Branton Ponds with the dog at about 5pm included checking the larger gulls, there have been up to 18 Lesser Black Backed Gulls recently, but I was a bit surprised to find a very pale le bird. With my binoculars I could see the white primaries that were quite attenuated it's comparative size with the other larger gulls visible at the time confirmed my sighting as a 2nd winter  Iceland Gull. This is a most surprising site for such a bird which presumably had followed other gulls inland. It flew off in an easterly direction with a number of the other large gulls, but may still be around.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Chiff but no chaff

Monday morning was spent walking then banks of the River Wansbeck near Low Angerton.  There were very few birds in song.  My first summer migrant appeared - a chiffchaff taking a drink in the river!.  From memory this is the first time that I have found a chiffchaff at the beginning of the seaon without hearing its song.  Other species of interest included 2 teal, 5 tree sparrows and a freshwater white-clawed crayfish.

The afternoon was spent around Netherwitton.  Highlights included a green sandpiper and a displaying buzzard (very quiet)

Sunday, 7 April 2013


At Boulmer this morning a nice male Ruff was on the rapidly diminishing pool behind the Fishing Boat Inn, and a Sandwich Tern flew north.

A Wheatear was at Howick this morning while 2 were at East Chevington and 2 at Druridge Pools.

A Bittern remains at Newton Pool, usually seen at dusk as it emerges to feed.

At least some migration is underway.

Branton Highlights 7th April

A relatively dull  overcast day still brought out 4 Adders to bask in the slight early sun. More interesting was the Slow Worm that joined them. The Slow Worm, about 14" long, seemed a lot more active & continuously flicked out it's tongue. While on the river a Grey Wagtail was feeding showing it's bright attire to good effect.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Chiffchaffs etc

Just a quick report, 2 Chiffchaffs were in song today at Howick, 1 in the Village Wood and one in the Pond Field.

I also had a report yesterday of a Ruddy Shelduck at Boulmer on Thursday, but a quick check yesterday morning failed to find it. It might be around somewhere, like Foxton maybe?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Foolish Behaviour at Branton Ponds

Just a quick walk around the ponds hoping to see an early spring migrant, but little in way of small birds at all. The ponds were 50% ice so the waterbirds were crowded into a smaller area and this led to some strange behaviour. The flock of Canada Geese were quite agitated with one agressively pursueing and attacking a more submissive bird. However, the latter obviously didn't want to leave the flock so it kept diving under the water and fully submerged would appear 10 yards away to the surprise of the attacker. On the edge of the melee amongst the other birds were 17 Goldeneye busily displaying. Further on I decided to check the river for Dipper, where it is nearest to the ponds, but was surprised, and concerned, to find a Mink hunting along the riverbank. The views from 20yards were very good and while I hope & believe it continued further down the river, it will obviously be wreaking some damage where ever it ends up.