Friday, 31 May 2013

A walk in the woods 31st may

Finally a warm,dry,sunny day and what better place to go at this time of year than Holystone Woods.Our target species was Wood Warbler but the air was full of sound everywhere. As we made our way through the oak woodland the bubbling calls of Cuckoo's seemed to be everywhere and two were noted chasing each other around a tree. Tree Pipits were calling from the tree tops along with numerous male Redstarts, a male Pied Flycatcher made a brief appearance whilst a Spotted Flycatcher provided us with a more leisurely view. After the oak woodland we came to an area of beech and conifer, here the air was filled with the calls of Treecreepers,Nuthatch and Goldcrests a fitting end to a glorious morning.  

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Spoonbills at Druridge Pools

I saw a report of Snow Geese of "unknown origin" at Cresswell Pond this morning:

As I've never seen a Snow Goose, wild or escaped, I thought I'd take a look:

 there was no sign of them by the time I arrived:

 I drove back to call in on Druridge Pools and was immediately recompensed by the sight of 2 Spoonbills, one of which was definitely in breeding plumage - they were both actively feeding and occasionally making each other's acquaintance!

Not far away 6 Black- tailed Godwits first slept, then briefly rose in the air, to confirm that they were Blackwits rather than Barwits!

Thank you Ian for chiding me back into blogging

Monday, 27 May 2013

First flowers

Ridiculous that it's nearly June and I'm only just reporting some first flower sightings.  It should have been at least 3 weeks ago that the first Chickweed Wintergreen flowers appeared, but today was the first I've seen on our moor at Titlington Mount this year.  Similar for Heath Milkwort.  It must have been this past weekend that has done it - finally woken them up.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Botanising at Wark

On Wednesday 22nd I was down at Wark (the one on the North Tyne, not on the Tweed).  About 400m up river of the bridge (still under repair and open only to pedestrians) there's a wooded island in the river called Gold Island.  It's close enough to the east bank to wade across providing the river isn't in flood.

At the moment the woodland floor has the best mass covering of Bluebells I've seen in years.  My photo doesn't really do it full justice.

Then at the west end of Wark Bridge there were three specimens of a plant that hasn't been recorded in Northumberland since 1987 - Celandine Saxifrage (Saxifraga cymbalaria).  It's a beautiful little thing and quite good enough for you to want some in your own rock garden.  It has probably reappeared here as the ground has been disturbed by the bridge works.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Holy Island yet again

After work and dinner we decided as it was a lovely evening to take the dog to Holy Island.On reaching the Snook Keith and the dog went through the dunes and soon found a female Red Backed Shrike and a Short Eared Owl,I headed for Snook House a picked up a second Short Eared Owl and a Lesser Whitethroat. We both moved on to the Half Moon slack where there was no sign of the Bluethroat but we did find a very confiding Spotted Flycatcher who was struggling to dispatch a very large moth.In the wonderful late sunshine we headed back across the dunes and soon discovered another Red Backed Shrike,this time a stunning male.  

Monday, 20 May 2013

Cuckoo's galore

I was hoping for sunshine on Sunday to accompany me on my bird survey of Black Lough.  The visability was not too bad at Glanton but as I parked up the mist / fog came down on the crags - this was not going to be easy or should I cancel.  I decided to persevere and I am glad I did.  There were at least three male whinchat in song, two pairs of stonechats, displaying snipe and a common sandpiper (I think diorientated with the fog)

The star bird of the morning were the cuckoos.  One male was calling vociferiously throughout the survey.  A second male was calling in the area around the Black Lough with a third male on the edge of the plantation to the west of the site.  I managed to call in one of the birds, who kept flying over my head inspecting me.  The mimicing also managed to attract a female.  All in all four cuckoos in the Black Lough area.  A further bird was heard in the Debden area.

Later in the afternoon, a quick walk around Branton Ponds produced 3 common sandpipers, 1 redshank, 1 ringed plover, 1 great crested grebe and very good views of garden warblers.  The cowslips are in full-flower and well worth a look.  A leech sp was also found in the area of the outfall.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

More Holy Island migrants

An early start on Holy Island saw us wandering around the Snook looking for migrants, there were a few about mainly Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Our next port of call was the main car park, where we had reports of a Lesser Grey Shrike, this was soon located sitting on a fence next the car park, it was a very smart individual with some pink colouration on the breast. From there we headed off along the track from Chare Ends and located a second member of the Shrike family, a stunning male Red Backed Shrike, as it hunted for food along a fence line. Next we walked back along the Straight Lonnen, which was alive with small birds, the highlight being a bush full of Lesser Whitethroats, we saw 5 in total. The bad weather of Saturday must have brought in many waifs and strays as we heard later that other birds found included, Rustic Bunting, Icterine Warbler and Common Rosefinch.      

Friday, 17 May 2013

Holy Island migrants

In view of the poor forecast we decided to pay a visit to Holy Island looking for stranded migrants.
Our first bird was a skulking Grasshopper Warbler in the dunes, from there we walked along the Straight Lonnen and picked up Common Whitethroat,Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart, the Rocket
Field only held a single Dunlin.To increase our tally we needed to check out the area around Snook
House,we weren't disappointed on reaching the buildings a small brown coloured bird flew up onto
a fence,flicking it's tail and showing off it's striking supercillium we realised we had found a female/1st winter Bluethroat.After watching the bird for about 5 minutes we headed off to the Half
Moon slack where we added Pied Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler and Short Eared Owl to the list. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mora's mouse...

We've been away on holiday for a couple of weeks and on our return found this little fellow had discovered the fatballs. I don't expect him to be back again as the rosemary in which the fatballs hung has obviously died and is now on a neighbour's bonfire so there is no cover. The birds are still visiting but I've not seen the mouse.  Hope he's found another source of goodies.

Mora Rolley, Alnwick

Long tailed Field Mouse

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Branton and Powburn 8th of May

Our early morning walk around Branton Ponds saw yesterday evenings "squealing" Water Rails replaced by a mini influx of Garden Warblers(our first of the year) many of which gave unusally good views.The male Blackcaps finally appear to have been joined by females and from the riverside scrub came the distinctive nasal buzzing call of a Willow Tit which obliged us by coming out into the open and showing us it's pale wing panel.The ponds hadn't revealed their final bird of the day until we reached the shallower west end where a faint melancoly call alerted us to a brief Little Ringed Plover.
After breakfast I was dropped off at what is locally known as the"killing shop"for a walk back along the old railway line towards Powburn,the first bird seen was a female Redstart,Which was soon followed by Blackaps,Nuthatches and Willow Warblers.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A good Skye lichen

On Skye a week ago brought my first sighting of a large lichen that I may have seen before, but never bothered to take note of.  Lobaria pulmonaria or Lungwort is quite common in the damp, comparatively mild western highlands.  It prefers sheltered damp lochside woodland.  It is now very rare in our north eastern areas.

My photo has some moss growing in the middle of the rosette, but the lichen is quite distinctive and large -  this rosette was about 12cm across.

Insect heaven

The garden insect scene has really livened up over the past few days at Titlington Mount.  We've had White-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees around, particularly on heathers, for at least two weeks, but now they've been joined by Red-tailed queens.  Plenty of Small Tortoiseshells and the occasional Peacock taking advantage of the Aubretia.  But my particular spring insect, the Bee-fly (probably Bombylius major) has been present in twos and threes since we returned from a short break in Skye last Tuesday.  Again it's the Aubretia it prefers.

Little upland gems

A walk up the Fallowlees Burn west of Fontburn Reservoir produced a range of interesting species.  The Fallowlees Burn is flanked by upland mixed deciduous woodland with ash and alder dominating.  Opposite leaved saxifrage and primroses were in full-flower and there was early evidence of both common and hare's-tail cotton-grassesCreeping willow was just coming into leaf.  Early and red-tailed bumblebee were on the wing searching out grey and goat willow flowers. 

There was a good selection of upland woodland birds with cuckoo (1), tree pipit (4-5 males), redstarts (10+ males calling), lesser redpoll, and treecreeper.  The star bird was a singing pied flycatcher - it took a while to find but the search was worth it for the views.  Several paries of roe deer were located close to Harwood Forest and a very obliging red squirrel was searching fo last year's hazel nuts.

Very little was seen on Fontburn Reservoir with the exception of 2 cormorants, 3 Canada geese, numerous hirundines and a yellow wagtail - rare for this part of Northumberland.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

A long day in the field

It was an early start this morning as we met up at Slainsfield Moor at 5 am for the North Northumberland Bird Club dawn chorus outing.After a chilly start the birds started coming thick and fast,with Redstart, Wheatear,Blackcap and Grasshopper Warbler topping the bill,after a delicious cooked breakfast at Heatherslaw Mill we headed back home.
After a quick cuppa it was off to East Chevington for a reported Purple Heron,the wait to see it was enlivened by super views of a food pass between a male and female Marsh Harrier,to our left a Grasshopper Warbler "reeled" in the reedbed accompanied by a less obvious Reed Warbler and then the main course as a tall ,elegant Purple Heron stepped out of the reeds and gave brief tantalising views of it's long stripey neck and dagger like bill.   

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

More spring arrivals

An early morning walk around the ponds at Branton turned up yet more Blackcaps "chacking" in the undergrowth and Common Whitethroat calling in scrub near the river.On moving to the west pond a small falcon like bird flew up onto a fence and then back onto the ground,on closer inspection it tuned out to be a Cuckoo with it's bright yellow eye gleaming in the early light.Further on and yet another spring migrant in the form of a dapper male Whinchat,foraging around on the ground near the ponies,probably new in and on it's way to breeding grounds in the hills.