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.