Tuesday, 30 July 2013

South East Northumberland 30th July

A trip down to South East Northumberland was very productive, I started at Newbiggin where Terns and Gulls were to be found in reasonable numbers, including a number of Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns plus a single Roseate Tern on the breakwater. There were also several Mediterranean Gulls of varying ages, the sea was covered with Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins.
Cresswell Pond held 56 Lapwing, 1 Greenshank and 13 Avocets(many of which were juveniles). Next to Druridge Pools where the main interest were the Butterflies and the Bees along the track to the hides, including Green Veined Whites, Meadow Browns and a single Common Blue.
Finally to East Chevington where amongst a huge flock of about 1000 Lapwings was a single Curlew Sandpiper.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sollas....29th July

Yesterday we located a dark sword grass on the outside of the cottage.  An evening walk produced a golden eagle, 1 otter, 7 red deer, 4 greenshank and a sparrowhawk.

Today's trip was out to Sollas dune system (about the size of Lindisfarne).  A wide range of species were seen an found including 2 quail, 3 corn buntings, 3 summer plumage great northern divers, a pair of red-throated divers, 1 whimbrel, 5 rock doves and a good passage of small waders such as dunlin and ringed plover.  There was a good selection of day flying moths and butterflies including archer's dart, two species of burnet moth and a red admiral.  The star plant was a stem of frog orchid.

Tonight there was a male hen harrier hunting along the hedge in the garden of the cottage - within 4m of the observers.   I will add some photos.

Slainsfield Moor

On Saturday night a few of us went up on the moor mothing, a trip arranged by Richard with Lord Joicey the land owner, as part of a general survey of the wildlife on this little visited piece of land.

We ended a short session from 9.30pm - midnight with 548 moths of 74 species. The warm humid overcast night plus an excellent light set up from Fiona and Maurice Aungier boosted the catch...

With that amount of light we couldnt fail.
We also ran 2x 125w MV Robinson traps not far away.

Included in a great selection of species were -

0728 Monochroa cytisella. 2 caught were the 2nd and 3rd records for Northumberland. 
1147 Willow Tortrix, the first in the county since 1994.

18x Antler Moths
65x True Lover's Knot
2x Ear Moth sp ( 4 sp impossible to separate by eye)
Dark Spinach
10x Purple Bar
The icing on the cake though was a fantastic Long eared Owl watched down to 10 yards for 5 mins sat infront of the car headlights on a gate post!

A fantastic night out...Thanks all.

Speyside 2013

A weeks holiday on Speyside was unusual in that it was hot and dry, which seemed to reduce the numbers of species seen but not the quality, it was also almost midge free.

Day one saw us exploring Insh Marshes,normally good for insects and plants but this year they were in short supply,we did find a number of Scotch Argus and Dark Green Frittilary.

 Day two found us at Loch Garten where the Ospreys had fledged the week before and were much harder to spot,we did however find quite a few Crested Tits and Crossbills. Of just as much interest was a small boggy pond in the trees with a boardwalk leading to it, this proved to be Dragonfly heaven as we were surrounded by 100's of Four Spotted Chasers, Common Hawkers, Black Darters, Large Red Damselflies and Emerald Damselflies.

Day three saw us in the Northern Corries of Cairngorm or more specifically Coire-an-t-Sneachda,on reaching the corrie itself we managed to locate a female Ptarmigan with several very young chicks,as we sat down for lunch panic set in as a juvenile Snow Bunting decided to join us, unfortunately after checking our rucksacks for food it moved off before I could get the Camera out.    

The final few days of our visit  were spent on trips to Channonry Point where we were enthralled by views of at least six Bottlenosed Dolphins just off the point,a sight which is enjoyed on a daily basis by large crowds of people. We also had a trip up the Findhorn Valley for raptors but again they were in short supply and on the the day we only managed to see one Golden Eagle.                                                                                                    
All too soon our holidays were at an end but the memories will last forever  

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A view from a far........North Uist for two weeks

The ferry to the Isles, last night, was uneventful except for the mist coming down half way over. This restricted the view of the cetaceans and seabirds.  Species seen included 8 common dolphin, 2 storm petrel, black guillemots, lots of manx shearwaters and other seabirds.

The first morning was spent sorting through a large catch of moths.  Moths included a Scotch annulet, 1 brown rustic, 3 white-line darts, 5 ling (wormwood) pug, 24 tiger moths and 35 other species.

Food shopping was the main itinerary today but this meant a visit to 'Stinky' Bay on Benbecula.  This site is well named due to the accumulations of seaweed.  It is also a good place to see waders and gulls.  There were good numbers of sanderling, dunlin and ringed plover but few other waders.  There were also 2 great northern divers on the sea and a corncrake calling in meadows inland.

The sun was still shining when we got home to Kelp Cottage and I spent an relaxing hour watching hen harriers, merlins, ravens, red breasted mergansers with chicks, greenshanks (4), red deer and common seals all from the garden.

One of the strange things this year - there are very few if any midges!

Spotted Sandpiper

An adult summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper is showing well this afternoon on the R. Aln, Foxton Bends, Alnmouth viewable from the top road to the gold club. This is a very rare wader in Northumberland, the American version of our own Common Sandpiper. Dressed in breeding plumage this bird has a heavily spotted breast, giving it avery different appearance to our Common Sandpipers. Its well worth a look....

Spotted Sandpiper like the Foxton bird ( Courtesy of the Web)

Dunstanburgh Butterflies

I have now changed from being a bad bird watcher to a bad butterfly watcher and as I walked along the dunes north of Dunstanburgh Castle there they were in all their beauty.....ringlets, meadow browns, skippers, don't know whether small or large, small tortoiseshells, common blues, green-veined whites, other whites all enjoying the flowers and sunshine with me.  Great!!!!  Also saw about 50 goosanders off the coast at Boulmer last week.  The coast is a lovely place to be just now with the waders returning also.

Mora Rolley, Alnwick.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Moth heaven!

This has been one of the best periods for moths that I can remember.  Last night my little actinic trap caught 38 species in my garden (4m x3m) with buildings on three sides.  Highlights have included swallow-tailed moth (1), Lempke's gold spot (1), drinker (1), common swift (2), willow beauty (4), mottled beauty (2), beautiful golden Y (1), plain golden Y (1), grey dart (3), dotted clay (2), lychnis (1),  six striped rustic (2), double square-spot (5) and much much more.

Late news.......

Further vegetation monitoring was carried out in the College valley last week  A small number of interesting species were seen including a large heath butterfly and a number of northern eggar moths.  The higlight was finding a relatively large patch of staghorn club-moss in an area of felled woodland to the south of Mount Hooley.  The patch was about 20m long by about 2m wide and on an old track.

Staghorn club-moss growing amongst bilberry
i have added the record to the BSBI record scheme.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cheviot 18th july

This was my 3rd walk of the week with pupils from Wooler Middle School and today was not only hot but also up Cheviot, we all prayed for a cool breeze on the top.
As we set away from Langleeford the heat was intense but this didn't seem to effect the flowers, magnificent Heath Spotted Orchids mixed with Bog Asphodel,Common Cottongrass and Hares Tail Cottongrass. Higher up as we tramped up beside the burn, Whinchats called, a Dipper flew out from under a bank and a large family of Wrens exploded in front of us, one chick flew between my legs.
On reaching the fence which leads up to the ridge I came across a small patch of Dwarf Cornel in more or less the same place we had found it several years earlier, nice to know that it is still hanging on. The walk back over the summit of Cheviot was uneventful, enlivened by a lovely greenish coloured Common Lizard and quite a few unripe Cloudberries basking in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wader of the woods

A computer gliche has meant that I have not been able to contribute.

Two days last week were spent in the College Valley carrying out vegetation sampling.  Highlights were two pairs of stonechats, a pair of whinchats, three ravens, several pairs of common sandpipers and oystercatchers with chicks and numerous juvenile wheatears.  There was also a very obliging female common lizard that was ready to give birth.  Meadow browns and small heath butterflies were everywhere on the north side of Cheviot.  Other species of interest included at least 10 mountain bumblebees and one large heath butterfly.

The highlight of the two days was nearly standing on a female woocock sitting on a nest.  We were trying to find a vegetation sampling point in a woodland using GPS.  I was closing in on the site and was just about to take a step when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the woodcock's head move slightly.  The camoflage was exxceptional with the nest being close to the base of a 20 year old Scot's pine.  I backed off and left the bird in peace. This was an eureka moment for me as it is something that I thought that I would never see in my life-time.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A hot day in the Cheviots 13th july

A very hot sunny Saturday saw us walking with friends in the Cheviots around Wooler, the heat felt where we left the cars was replaced by a pleasant breeze as we climbed higher. Lunch stop was at Langley Crags overlooking the Harthope Valley, the air was filled with the sounds of Curlew and Skylarks. Time to head back via Middleton Old Town ,where a hot, dry,sunny bank held a good selection of plants including Maiden Pinks, Harebells, Spear Thistle and Bird's-foot Trefoil.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Newton Point 11th July

An evening visit to Newton Point for a spot of seawatching was worthwhile as we watched a steady stream of Gannets heading north, they totalled well over 200 birds .Also tagging along were 23 Manx Shearwaters some of them gliding in very close to the shore, a single Arctic Skua harried the many Arctic and Common Terns fishing just offshore. Our visit ended with a walk along to Low Newton where we noted 3 Whimbrel on the rocks. 

Noisy Youngsters

Our next door neighbour kept telling us that she thought an Owl was roosting on her roof, this was confirmed when it floated down on silent wings onto her lawn and showed itself to be a Tawny Owl.
We were sitting watching t.v when we noticed an Owl hunting in the garden, as dusk fell the air was filled with a squeaky call which sounded like PSEE-ep, we recognised it as the begging call of a young Tawny Owl, on going outside we could see the culprits, as 2 young Tawny's sat on the ridge tiles begging for food. This went on for some time even after we had gone to bed, it was great lying there listening to them knowing the were calling from just outside our windows. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Butterflies at last

Finally a walk around Branton Ponds produced some Butterflies, we noted a large number of Ringlets plus Meadow Browns, Common Blue, Large Skipper and Small Skipper. Also of note were many Common Blue Damselflies, a single Blue Tailed Damselfly and a very menacing looking Southern Hawker Dragonfly which seemed to be "cruising for a bruising".The birdlife is looking a bit dowdy at the moment as the wildfowl continue with their moult, but there are lots of young birds on the ponds including a very cute looking baby Little Grebe with it's very attentive parents. Also of note were two Adders on one of the paths near the hide.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A wander along the lower Aln

Work took me to the lower Aln yesterday.  Birds were relatively quiet but there was a male lesser whitethroat singing close to Bilton Mill and reed warbler singing towards Lesbury. Other birds included good numbers of tree sparrows, greenfinches and swallows.

The highlight of the walk was a male banded damoiselle dragonfly - first for the year.  It would be interesting to know if these have been seen regularly on the lower Aln.  Butterflies of note were 3 orange tips, 1 ringlet and several large and small whites.  Both silver y's and silver-ground carpet moths were also on the wing.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Tern up for the books

The scene - the bird news channels show that a rare Bridled Tern had turned up on Inner Farne and we were too late for the boat, however a boat was being organised for the following morning, so we booked up.
The next morning saw us with about 40 others from as far away as London by the harbour wall at Seahouses ready to board our 6.00 am boat to paradise. Word had come from the island that it was still there, the tension mounted as the 20 minute crossing seemed to take hours. On our arrival we were greeted by head warden David Steele, who informed us that the bird was showing well next to the jetty,cue a mass exodus from the boat which began to list at an alarming angle. For the next 15 minutes all of the stress was worth while as we enjoyed great views of this supremely elegant dark grey and white bird, after a while it disappeared further over the island, at this point we got onto the boat and headed back happy to the mainland and were home for 8.30 am, just in time for breakfast,then out with the dog around Branton Ponds where you've guessed it a Tern was flying over the water, but due to the poor views we would have to put it down as a "comic" Tern , just proves that the early bird really does catch the worm.