Thursday, 29 August 2013

Two for the price of one!

Over the years, I have managed to see and/or hear a range of widlife from my office at Haugh Head, Wooler.  Highlights have included a ghost moth, zebra (jumping) spider, twite and even a house mouse that decided to take a rather large jump! That story is for another day.

Today, I found a new species in the office but on a very unlikely host. Whilst scanning a document, i noticed a house fly feeding on my desk.  Closer inspection revealed that it was carrying an unwanted guest - a tick.  You can see from the photograph that the tick is quite large (between the front legs) and appears to be attached just under the wing area.  This was something that I have not seen before.  hopefully it is of interest.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Low Newton 27th August

After all the crowds of a Bank Holiday Monday thought today would be a bit more quiet, it was but also on the wildlife front. I first spent a couple of hours seawatching at Newton Point but fog out to sea made it tricky to see birds, I did however manage to pick up a single Manx Shearwater,an Arctic Skua and even better a small group of 3 Bonxies (Great Skuas) as they cruised by looking menacing.
On to Newton Ponds and flash which held a few Mallard and a couple of Curlew Sandpipers amongst a group of 12 Dunlin .Other wildlife included numerous Wall Brown butterflies and a single Speckled Wood also a number of Grasshoppers making quite a racket in the undergrowth.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Druridge Bay 24th August

In between showers we decided to check out some of the birds seen in the Druridge Bay area, first we tried East Chevington where we soon noted a Little Stint feeding on an area of mud along with a Curlew Sandpiper. The call of another wader flying in alerted us to a Spotted Redshank which eventually became three, one of them still showing some breeding plumage.other birds on the site included 2 Ruff,a juvenile Little Gull,,a Little Egret,some 200+ Lapwings and I shouldn't forget more extensive views of the Spotted Crake as it lurked in the reeds. For our final bird of the day we should thank Mick McMahon for telling us about a possible Booted Warbler at Hadston Carrs, 15 minutes later we were on site with about 20 other birders watching it  as it skulked in a patch of Ragwort, a small pale warbler which is a very good sighting for Northumberland.  

Friday, 23 August 2013

Holy Island 23rd August

As expected there were very few birds but lots of tourists,we had a look in the new visitor viewpoint which is very posh and looks to have cost a bit but the views aren't great as you seem too low down.
There was plenty of visible migration in the form of streams of Hirundines passing through the dunes and this probably accounts for the Hobby Keith found on the Snook. The dunes themselves held large numbers of Grass of Parnassus and on the insect front several Black Hawkers.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Insects all around

A lunch time walk on Weetwood Moor produced an array of insects.  Butterflies included 7 peacocks, 2 small heaths, 6 larg whites, 4 small whites, 2 wall browns and a small tortoiseshells.  There were also 4 black darter dragonflies (presumably from Cold Martin Lough), 4+ dor beetle (dung beetle with vivid metallic under-parts), several species of saw-fly and numerous winged insects.

I was wondering whether any one could shed light on something I saw today.  Several large white butterflies were flying 10 to 15 feet above the ground and flying quickly in a westerly direction.  Both the butterlfies were being persued by at least 8 large black flies which were keeping slightly underneath the flying butterfly.  i would have saif this was nothing of interest and yet it happened on two separate occassions.  The flies were similar to St Mark's flies and were 'hanging' out on the bracken and heather.  They did not appear to persue other species of butterfly.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Trying to catch up!

Sunday late afternoon was spent walking around Branton Ponds.  There was a good selection of duck and a large flock of greylag geese.  There was an amazing flock of 450+ lapwing, 9+ little grebes and at least 7 goldeneye.  There was a good selection of warblers especailly close views of garden warblers and blackcaps feeding on raspberries and brambles.

A merlin was sitting on a fence post north of Mindrum on Monday night.

There was a good selection of autumn butterflies on the River Aln at Lesbury.  These included red admiral (2), painted lady (1), wall brown (3), green-veined white (many) and small tortoiseshell (5+).

I will try to add a few more species over the next week or so.  Forgot to mention a juvenile cuckoo at Biddlestone on Friday and 2 pairs of whinchats with a fledged broods in College Valley on Thursday.

Shear numbers

We decided to head off to Budle Point today hoping for some early passerines,we were not optimistic and this was the case. The day began to liven up when we walked back along the beach, whilst scanning offshore a Sooty Shearwater came gliding into view, it's pale underwing panels showing up well. What happened next was even more stunning as our attention turned to a fast moving flock of dark birds which were involved in a feeding frenzy just beyond Stag Rock, it was a flock of at least 120 Manx Shearwaters and in amongst them we counted another 2 Sooty Shearwaters, the morning was made complete when 3 Porpoise cruised past just in front of us. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

A mixed bag

Saturday evening saw us in less than ideal conditions doing a spot of mothing, numbers were low and produced nothing out of the ordinary,amongst the catch were several Square Spot Rustics, a couple of Mother of Pearl and what looked like some bird poo on a window near our light, on closer inspection it turned out to be a rather cute looking Chinese Character.
Sunday saw us making several visits around Branton Ponds, where there seemed to have been a small increase in the numbers of Common Blue Damselflies, Common Darters and a few Common Hawkers, sadly the Hawkers eluded the camera. Butterflies were also about and included Small Coppers and a single Comma.
Monday saw us down at Druridge Bay Country Park, there were plenty of Peacocks and Common Hawkers but the most impressive were the large number of Speckled Woods flying about.
Our day out was rubber stamped by the sight of an Osprey at Hedgeley Bridge near Powburn,it first landed on the Bridge railings then took off and headed down river towards Hedgeley Ponds with a Common Sandpiper in hot pursuit, meanwhile a Kingfisher stood silently on a rock at the rivers edge.     

Friday, 16 August 2013

Low Newton 16th August

We decided to have a morning at Low Newton and arrived there early before it got too busy. Our first port of call was the flash where Greylags outnumbered all the other birds which included a Yellow Wagtail and 2 female Pintails. Next to Newton Pool where high water levels meant the was very little except for a small number of Mallard. The path along to the pool was more productive with Wall Browns, Small Coppers and a single Migrant Hawker. We then headed back along a now crowded beach and out to the point where apart from a few Sandwich  and Arctic Terns was a flock of 55 Golden Plover, a quiet day but the scenery was fantastic.
                                                    Migrant Hawker

                                                   Wall Brown

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Branton Ponds 14th August

Today a walk around the ponds felt very much like late summer/early autumn,around the east pond were a number of Common Blue Damselflies and one or two Blue Tailed Damselflies. On the path a Common Darter settled and a Southern Hawker hunted over the reedbeds and amongst the trees.
As I walked further round I became aware of Bullfinches in some lower branches, on closer examination I saw they were all juvenile birds feeding on cherries. The bird theme continued around the west pond where at least 100 Lapwings were on the muddy west end, whilst overhead a Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper flew over calling.
                                               Southern Hawker
                                               Common Darter

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Moth Night - The Event.

The line of traps into the distance...
Moth Night is not strictly correct, as last nights session was two-part event.

On Saturday night, Alan Fairclough, John Rutter and myself set up 2x 125w MV Robinsons, 1x 160w blended Skinner and a 15w actinic Skinner trap, in a line along the western edge of Howick Village Green. The weather was good, dull and mild with little breeze and hopes were high. On the night a total of 19 guests attended from 9pm - midnight, then on Sunday 23 guests attended from 8.30am until the moths were done.

My partner, Jane, played a blinder providing apple cake, chocolate cream cake, and teas, coffees and hot chocolate for all attendees. In the morning, they were treated to freshly cooked cheese scones for brekkie!

Every one seemed to enjoy the event, more so the beginners who have not seen a moth trap in operation before. I hope some might be inspired to have a go.

Many thanks to all who participated in making it such an enjoyable event.

The final tally is as follows -

Coleophora species (Coleophora sp.) 1
0216 Cork Moth (Nemapogon cloacella) 1
0246 Tinea semifulvella 1
Cherry Fruit Moth
0420 Cherry Fruit Moth (Argyresthia pruniella) 1
0424 Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella) 5
0464 Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella) 22
0644 Borkhausenia fuscescens 1
0658 Carcina quercana 2
0688 Agonopterix heracliana 1
Agonopterix angelicella
0713 Agonopterix angelicella 2
0792 Mirificarma mulinella 1
0873 Blastobasis adustella 16
0874 Blastobasis lacticolella 1
0886 Mompha ochraceella 2
Limnaecia phragmitella
0898 Limnaecia phragmitella 2
0937 Agapeta hamana 1
0970 Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana) 1
0972 Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis heparana) 1
1021 Flax Tortrix (Cnephasia asseclana) 4
1076 Celypha lacunana 2
1126 Ancylis badiana 12
1205 Bud Moth (Spilonota ocellana) 1
1304 Agriphila straminella 3
1305 Agriphila tristella 24
1316 Catoptria falsella 3
1334 Scoparia ambigualis 6
1388 Udea lutealis 45
1390 Udea prunalis 1
1405 Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis) 12
1454 Dioryctria abietella 1
1551 Green-veined White (Pieris napi) 2
1653 Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) 1
1702 Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata) 14
1713 Riband Wave [non-banded form] (Idaea aversata ab. remutata) 3
1722 Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata) 1
1728 Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 1
1732 Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata) 7
1738 Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata) 1
1759 Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata) 1
1764 Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 3
1765 Barred Yellow (Cidaria fulvata) 2
1777 July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata) 6
1802 Rivulet (Perizoma affinitata) 6
1803 Small Rivulet (Perizoma alchemillata) 5
Barred Rivulet
1804 Barred Rivulet (Perizoma bifaciata) 1
1834 Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 1
1837 Grey Pug (Eupithecia subfuscata) 1
1838 Tawny Speckled Pug (Eupithecia icterata) 3
1906 Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 2
1917 Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria) 2
1962 Barred Red (Hylaea fasciaria) 2
2007 Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula) 1
Buff Footman
2049 Buff Footman (Eilema depressa) 1
2050 Common Footman (Eilema lurideola) 2
2107 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 155
2109 Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) 7
2110 Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata) 2
2111 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua janthe) 57
2112 Least Yellow Underwing (Noctua interjecta) 11
2123 Small Square-spot (Diarsia rubi) 1
2128 Double Square-spot (Xestia triangulum) 5
2130 Dotted Clay (Xestia baja) 18
2133 Six-striped Rustic (Xestia sexstrigata) 14
2134 Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) 11
2136 Gothic (Naenia typica) 1
2176 Antler Moth (Cerapteryx graminis) 2
2193 Clay (Mythimna ferrago) 1
2198 Smoky Wainscot (Mythimna impura) 16
2274 Sallow (Xanthia icteritia) 1
2318 Dun-bar (Cosmia trapezina) 2
2321 Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) 22
2335 Slender Brindle (Apamea scolopacina) 4
2337x Marbled Minor agg. (Oligia strigilis agg.) 1
2342 Rosy Minor (Mesoligia literosa) 6
2343x Common Rustic agg. (Mesapamea secalis agg.) 27
2353 Flounced Rustic (Luperina testacea) 7
2360x Ear Moth agg. (Amphipoea oculea agg.) 3
2361 Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea) 5
2434 Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis) 1
2441 Silver Y (Autographa gamma) 7
2443 Plain Golden Y (Autographa jota) 2
2477 Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) 2
2489 Fan-foot (Zanclognatha tarsipennalis) 2

639 Moths of 82 species.

Late finish,early start

Saturday evening saw us at Howick village hall for a moth trapping session organised by Stewart Sexton, the evening went on till after midnight and was enjoyed by all, especially the wonderful cake and refreshments. A large number of moths were caught and a large crowd gathered for the unveiling the next morning and we weren't disappointed, we will leave that information to Stewart but we must thank him for all the effort he put into the evening.
After Howick we headed to East Chevington for a juvenile White Winged Black Tern, when we got there we learned it had flown out to sea at 8.30 am and hadn't been seen since. It did not re-appear but for consolation we were entertained by a female Otter and her two cubs as they played and hunted for food just in front of the hide, at one point the female caught and dispatched a large eel,as she held it in her mouth one of the youngsters tried to pull it off her, this just added to the charm of the sighting.

Friday, 9 August 2013

National Moth Night 2013

Ruby Tiger - One of the Moth Might target species.

Hello all, 

National Moth Night takes place this year from 8th - 10th August. This is where mothing sessions are arranged for anyone who has an interest to attend, to see how its done and basically meet a few moths. Its ideal for anyone hoping to get into moths to ask a few questions and for local residents who may have seen the bright glow from our house to see what its all about...

So, I'm am inviting  Alnwick Wildlife Group members and Howick Estate Residents to attend a couple of open sessions at - 

Howick Village Hall, Howick Village, just down from Howick Hall....

Saturday night 10th August 2013 from 9pm until midnight.

Meet at the Village Hall 9pm sharp. The traps will be in operation, and weather permitting there should be some moths attracted, and maybe some bats too.

Sunday morning 11th August 2013 from 8.30am until 10.30am

Come and see the traps emptied, the catch recorded and (hopefully) identified. There should be some opportunity to get some photos of the catch if you wish.

Feel free to come to one or both. There will be tea and coffee available with biscuits ( maybe a cake?). As we will be using the Village Hall electrics, donations of £1 per head would be gratefully received.

All guests should bring a torch, and suitable clothing for outdoors, Children must be accompanied by an adult, sorry no pets. 

In the event that the weather forecast is for torrential rain ( drizzle is ok) or blowing a gale ( a light breeze is ok) please contact me. 
For further information please email me at stewchat(a)  

Stewart Sexton, Howick 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Stormy Uists

The last three days the Uists have been lashed by gale force winds and driving rain - noting unusual in this part of the world.  Many of the wildlife have gone to ground but there has been a few things to see.  The isle of Berneray produced 5 bonxies (great skuas), 3 arctic skuas, good flocks of golden plover, dunlin and oystercatchers as well as frog orchid (2), bog pimernel and flowering devil's bit scabious.

Nearer to the cottage, there were 10 crossbills, chaffinch (4), common hawker and common darter dragonflies in Langass Plantation.  Woodland passerines are few and far between!

Yesterday's winds brought sandwich terns, sooty shearwaters and more waders.

Friday, 2 August 2013


Common Lizards
AWG member Sandra Webster kindly sent in this nice shot of two Common Lizards in the dunes at Bamburgh beach, taken last night as she walked her dogs.

To me, it looks like they are either pairing up or squaring up to each other...

What's the Crake

Last day of my hols and decided to try and connect with the juvenile Spotted Crake which had been reported at East Chevington. The signs were not good as when I arrived at the site there seemed to be a mass exodus of birders, one of them had last seen it at about 9.15 am and it hadn't been seen since,this was 3 hours ago. On reaching the hide there were about 10 people there,I had taken a seat and after the first hour I was glad of it. There were about 300 Lapwing plus a number of Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and a single Arctic Tern on the mud, suddenly they all took to the air and someone shouted Peregrine, as the bird got closer it lacked the bulk of a Peregrine and seemed to have narrower wings, as it flew past in front of us it showed off it's orangey/red vent which instantly identified it as an adult Hobby. Time passed slowly and we were about to give up when someone shouted Crake and there it was a tiny little bird which emerged for about 5 seconds and then disappeared only to be seen once more for an even briefer view. Longer views would have been better but this is the more typical sight of a crake, something which probably makes them more attractive to birders is their difficulty to see well. Also of note were 4 Greenshanks, 4 Ruff and one splendid looking Dunlin in his summer finery.