Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Seeing the old year out

As the weather was dry and mild we decided to go for one last birding walk in 2014, we headed for Ross Back Sands and naturally took the dog with us.
The sea was grey and quite choppy but there were a few birds out there including a total count of 21 Long Tailed Ducks , most of them stunning adult males. Cormorants ,Eiders and Common Scoter flew past but no sign of any Divers. There were 2 Porpoises steadily making their way towards Holy Island and as we took a last look before leaving the beach we noted a group of 6 Slavonian Grebes.
Our day was completed with the briefest sighting of a Fox as it's bushy tail disappeared into the dunes, this certainly livened up the day for our dog.
A fitting end to another great year, lets hope for more of the same in 2015, all the best and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Looking for geese and counting dunlin

Sunday was another WeBs counting day.  First stop was Budle Bay where 350 barnacle geese, 300 lapwing, 100 golden plover, 209 greylag and 99 pink footed geese fed in pastures around the edge of the Bay.

Lunchtime at Fenham le Moor and the tide was on the turn.  What was interesting was the lack of light bellied brents (370) and the large reduction in wigeon numbers (<1000).  There were good numbers of dunlin (950) and shelduck (1270).  Other birds of interest included 2 black-tailed godwit, 6 little egrets, 27 twite, a female merlin, a shoveler, 2 long-tailed ducks and a male American wigeon. Good views were had of the last species as the tide reached its peak at Teal Hole - its pale cream forehead and the broad dark green stripe through the eye was very prominent.  The bird flew off to the south with about 200 wigeon.

The American wigeon was not the only interesting sighting at Teal Hole.  Many of the birds were very nervous and it turned out that there was a female peregrine hunting.  It managed to kill and fly off with a redshank.  At this point, the bird was mobbed by a very persistent common buzzard.  It looked as though peregrine was going to lose its prey.  Then in from the south appeared another very vociferous male peregrine.  This peregrine continually mobbed the buzzard which included a bit of talon grappling.  The buzzard eventually gave up.  The second bird must have been its mate.  I had not realised that pair bonds were maintained through the winter.  Is this true or is there another explanation - I am off to my BWP and Poyser!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another wetland along the Wansbeck.

An early morning walk around a wetland south of Scot's Gap produced 40+ snipe, 2-3 jack snipe, 3 mute swans, 1 green sandpiper, 30+ reed buntings, 1 kestrel, 1 grey wagtail and a water rail.

Tree sparrows and nuthatches were in trees around the farm.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Unusual Stonechat.

This unusually marked female Stonechat has been present along the coast path opposite Howick Village for 6 weeks now. It is showing a very distinctive white throat which is really an 'albino' patch of feathers. Many species can exhibit aberrant plumages, but this is the first time I have seen a Stonechat do so...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Dippers galore ......

A lunchtime stroll along the Wooler Water produced 7 dippers from the Chatton road to just beyond the sewage works.  There were at least three pairs and two of the males were singing.  A male with white secondaries in the right wing was also present - this bird has occupied a territory in the bowling green area, all year.

There was also a flock of 110 fieldfares that were accompanied by 26 redwings, 2 song thrushes and 12+ blackbirds.  Other birds of interest included a female goosander and a mixed flock of tits that included a treecreeper and several goldcrests.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Late summer migrant ..........

A late afternoon stroll around Branton Ponds produced a few birds of interest including 26 teal, 42 wigeon, 7 female goosander and 3 female goldeneye.  There were no greylag or Canada geese and other duck numbers are greatly reduced from a week ago.  No little or great crested grebes could be found.  Do these birds know something that we do not?  An adult lesser black-backed gull was on the water with 7 herring gulls.

There was a kingfisher on the river, charms of goldfinches and greenfinches were going to roost in the scrub.  Reed buntings and yellowhammers were making their way to the reedbed at the western end of the site.

The highlight of the walk was finding at least 1 chiffchaff and there may have been as many as another two.  These birds were in the scrub close to the sluice on the northern side of east pond.

Wild carrot, nipplewort and gorse were still in flower.

News from the weekend

A buzzard, stoat and brown hare were on the road at the Bridge of Aln early on Sunday morning.

A barn owl flew over the A697 at Roseden and a common frog hopped over the minor road at Lilburn.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A late Sibe

First thing on sunday we headed off to Brierdene in Whitley Bay, a number of birders were already present and soon we picked up the call of our target bird. Flitting constantly looking for food was a tiny Warbler all the way from Siberia, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, a super little bird which showed well to all those present. Our next port of call was Snab Point just north of Newbiggin, where there was very little on the sea but a couple of Black Throated Divers were noted flying south. Next we called in at East Chevington where we soon got onto the female Smew which has been present for a couple of days, also present were 30+ Goldeneye, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 50+ Greylags which also included 2 Bar-headed Geese, a small group of 13 Whooper Swans flew over and on the lake 2 Otters seemed to be making great inroads into the local Eel population. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Waders, waterfowl and a lot more

A rugby disrupted weekend meant that my WeBs count (Fenham Flats) had to carried out on Monday 10th Nov.  The count was not to disappoint and probably one of the largest November counts that I have carried out in 15 years.  The first comment was that there was a huge number of birds.  Wigeon number up to 10,500 and there were at least 1277 light-bellied brent.  These waterfowl were accompanied by 997 shelduck, 5 shoveler, mallard, pintail (97), teal, long-tailed duck (1), great crested grebe (1), red-necked grebe (1), 136 eider, 12 goldeneye, 3 goosander and 6 red-breasted mergansers.  Gate-crashers included two flights of whooper swans (32), 62 barnacle geese, pink-footed geese and 10 mute swans.

Exhausted after counting the above, there were grey plover (149), lapwing, curlew, dunlin (800), turnstone, oystercatcher, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit (7), knot and redshank (258).  These was a huge flock of golden plover off Chare Ends on the Island.

The best of the rest include 8 little egrets, a female merlin and 25 twite.

A barn owl was seen late in the evening of the 11th Nov. at Mindrum Mill

A water rail ran over the A697 today (12th Nov) just south of my office at Haugh Head, Wooler. This was probably too far away to be counted on the office list that stands at 97 species.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Holy Island 1st November

We decided to pay a visit to Holy Island and weren't disappointed, we were checking out the Sycamores opposite The Lindisfarne Hotel and spotted 3 Blackcaps, as we watched another bird appeared similar in shape but bigger and bulkier, our immediate thought was Barred Warbler and this was confirmed when we saw the obvious barring on the undertail coverts. We observed this bird for about 5 minutes when a second bird appeared, yet again a first winter both of which were constantly harassed by the local Robin and House Sparrows. Keith headed off towards the Heugh where he met Mark Winter who got him onto 2 Black Redstarts and I managed a small number of Goldcrests near the coach park, also present on the Island was a single Mediterranean Gull by the Harbour and a Woodcock along the Straight Lonnen

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hello all, this is the Deaths Head Hawk-moth at Howick as discussed by the Davison brothers below. Reared from a caterpillar found in the wild down in Northamptonshire in September, this is a very rare species in the UK and is certainly the 'holy grail' to moth trappers everywhere.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Bittern sweet

We had an early morning walk around Branton Ponds today to see if the Slavonian Grebe was still there. Whilst searching the east pond we moved down to an area of Bullrushes, no sign of the grebe but much to our astonishment a Bittern flew up in front of us and proceeded to flap awkwardly around the pond chased by a group of Black Headed Gulls, it eventually flew over trees in the direction of the west pond and was lost from sight. We had no further views but it may have landed in a dense area of reeds at the far end or it may have just kept on going, whatever happened to it this is yet another new bird for the ponds and the second new one in a week.
From the ponds we went on an unusual twitch in the form of a Death's Head Hawkmoth at Howick village hall, provided by Stewart Sexton and much appreciated by the assembled crowd.
This is all just too much to take in,I shall have to go and have a lie down in a darkened room, and as a footnote the Slav was seen again on the east pond later this morning.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Grebe heaven

As usual we were out for our early morning dog walk around Branton Ponds, the air was still and clear, the sun had just poked over the horizon and the ponds were alive with autumn birdlife. Teal squabbled near the reedbeds and Wigeon numbers are building each day with their distinctive calls,and 3 Water Rail belted out their pig like squeals from the rushes.
As has been the case all year Little Grebe numbers have risen to almost plague proportions with at least 13 individuals on the ponds at the moment. The Great Crested Grebes are still there but in diminished numbers ( only 4 at the moment) even they will disappear at the first sign of a freeze over, today however they were joined by something much more interesting in the form of a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe, it's contrasting black and white plumage with stunning white cheeks and straight rather than upturned bill gave us a new bird for the site and one which is remarkable bearing in mind the ponds are at least 12 miles inland.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Our first garden Speckled Wood

At Saturday's Recorders' Conference at the Hancock, Dave Stebbings from Butterfly Conservation was talking about species that have appeared and increased in the North East in recent years.  Speckled Wood showed 2 records in each of 2002 and 2003.  By 2010 the sightings had increased to over 4000.

By total coincidence today we had this first ever sighting in our garden.  Perennial Wallflowers (Erysimum sp.) have proved to be fantastic butterfly-friendly plants this year and in mid October it is still attracting plenty of Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock as well as this special visitor.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Bracken beds

Most of the day was spent in bracken beds in College Valley.  Birds were very few.  Highlights included 3 Ravens, 2 Reed buntings, several Meadow pipits, 7 Mistle thrushes, 1 Robin and several Wrens.

Plants in flower included Tormentil and Harebell.  There were some interesting fungi including very large clumps of yellow Fairy clubs, Meadow waxcaps and Larch bolete.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

1st October.......

A lunch time walk along the Wooler Water, produced 3 Dippers (one of which had a white flash in the right wing and was singing), a Stoat, 1 Speckled Wood butterfly (my first for the site), 1 Grey heron, 4 Tree sparrows and a selection of finches and buntings.

The water levels are very low and there was no sign of any migratory fish.  Rosa regossa is still in flower as well as Autumn hawkbit and Upright hedge parsley.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Holy Island 21st september

Holy Island 21st september
Having been on Holy Island 3 times in the last week and being gluttons for punishment we decided to go back again today. The numbers were well down on our last visit, no Red Backed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warblers or Greenish Warbler this time, but we were still treated to an elusive Firecrest in Alders beside the Lough along with a much more obvious Siberian Stonechat on a fence nearby.
The willows at the end of the Straight Lonnen held a Common Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat, an Arctic Skua menaced Gannet's off Emmanuel Head and in the Vicars garden Spotted Flycatchers were joined by a gorgeous Wood Warbler.
Our day was made complete with a first for our garden in the form of yet another Lesser Whitethroat.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The bunting is out.....

Sighting from the last few days include a Barn owl flying over the road at Alnwick Moor on the 15th September.  At least two Redwings flew over Alnwick yesterday evening (16th September).

Today there were 2 Ravens flew towards the Cheviots calling loudly, 2 Kestrels, 5 Skylarks and parties of Meadow pipits on Weetwood Moor. There were also 42 Reed buntings (mostly in one flock).  The majority of these birds were feeding on the seeds of Purple-moor grass and Heath rush.  A Dor beetle was found on one of the grassy tracks along with several Red Admirals and a White-tailed bumblebee.

Monday, 8 September 2014


If you are interested, there is a particularly showy Wryneck at Hadston at the minute. Found yesterday by Dave Elliott, it is in the small rubbish tip on the south edge of the boat compound. This is situated near the T junction from the minor road east, just south of Amble.

Its well worth a visit...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Fenham Flats again

The year moves on and WeBS for September was today, the sky was clear and there was a warmth to the air. As happened last month the first birds picked out were a small group of 3 Little Egrets and as I moved out to the point more birds made their presence known, including a single Greenshank as it "chew,chew,chew'd" overhead. More unusual for the site was a single Green Sandpiper in the dunes, when I reached the point I was greeted with the sight of a huge flock of 770 Oystercatchers on the sand, on the island just offshore were gathered a mixed flock of 354 Bar-tailed Godwits and 222 Redshank along with smaller numbers of Knot,Eiders and yet more Oystercatchers. A noisy interlude was provided by 21 Arctic Terns and a small group of 5 Little Terns. As I headed back I could hear an unmistakable sound which heralds the  autumn as a flock of 340 Pale-bellied Brent Geese landed on the flats, this autumnal feel was reinforced by the sight of 940 Wigeon on the water near Elwick hide, what other time of year could you get Arctic Terns and Brent Geese on the same walk.   

Monday, 1 September 2014

An evening stroll

The Dodds clan went for a stroll around Branton Ponds on Monday evening.  There was a beautiful sunset which accompanied one or two birds of interest.  These include a little egret that flew upstream, a kingfisher, two green sandpipers flew high overhead and a late sedge warbler calling from the reed bed at the western end of the West Pool.  Reasonable numbers of both willow warbler and chiffchaff were calling from the scrub along with several goldcrests.

There was a reasonable selection of waterfowl including several wigeon, great crested and little grebes. Ian and Keith were also in view for a short period.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Fenham Flats

Today was my monthly trip to Fenham Flats to do a WeBS count. The day started well with a flock of 7 Little Egrets just east of Elwick hide, the weather seemed to be holding as I headed in the direction of Guile Point, by the time I got there the sun was out and I spent well over an hour counting birds, the highlight being 17 Little Terns secreted amongst the larger group of 43 Arctic Terns and 3 Common Terns. Numbers of waders really have increased since my visit last month and included 172 Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Ringed Plover, 96 Curlew and smaller numbers of Grey Plover, Sanderling, Knot and Redshank. No sign of any early Geese but a Peregrine was seen hunting over the dunes.  

Wader Sightings..

If you are out and about this month, now is the time to go looking for waders starting their southbound migration.

Ruff, left and Spotted Redshank.

Today, the ponds around Druridge Bay held a nice selection-

Cresswell Pond -

Stilt Sandpiper 1 still, present now for 2 weeks.
Spotted Redshank 1
Greenshank 3
Ruff 4
Avocet 4
Common Sandpiper 4
Snipe 30
Dunlin 20
Lapwing 50


Druridge Pools -

Snipe 20
Wood Sandpiper 2
Green Sandpiper 1
Common Sandpiper 2
Greenshank 2
Ruff 1

Amble - Warkworth R Coquet -

Redshank 200
Dunlin 100
Curlew 20
Spotted Redshank 1
Turnstone 3
Sanderling 3
Grey Plover 1

Other places to try are - Hauxley Nature Reserve and Beach, Aln Estaury and Foxton Bends, Bothal Pond, Bells Pond ( between Cresswell and Druridge), Castle Island, Newton Pool, Monks House Pool, Hoppen Kiln Pool, Branton Gravel Pits, R Tweed Estuary, Holy Island Rocket Fields and Harbour...

From now until mid September is best with a regular turn over of birds with each tide. Changeable weather will ground more interesting species too...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Green-veined Yellows??

In the grazing fields at Titlington Mount yesterday we came across these two Green-veined Whites, presumably mating.  They sat still to be photographed, but what I liked was the nice distinction between the quite yellow underwing colour of the female with the 'normal' colour of the male.

Long-eared bats

Last week I went into the large roof space of a house near Alnwick and came across this huddled group of day-time roosting Brown Long-eared Bats.  If you carefully count the ears there are six individuals here and they didn't react at all to the camera's close presence or even to the flash.  There were two other individuals flitting about.

I've seen occasional individuals before in flight, but never come across them roosting.  Really quite exciting, even though the species isn't uncommon according to the Northumbrian Mammal book published last year.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cheviot at its very best

Yesterday, 23rd of July was spent on the top of Cheviot.  All around us was a carpet of low lying cloud on the landscape below but above the clouds it was clear and bright - an unbelievable experience.

Wildlife highlights included a golden plover with at least 2 young, merlin, snipeperegrine, and red grouse.  There was a good selection of moths and a lot of small tortoiseshells and red admirals on the wing.  Stiff sedge, cowberry and cloudberry were in abundance and velvet bent could be found in patches.  The most extraordinary find was a patch of common cow-wheat on a peat hag quite close to the plateau.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Moths and waders.

A thundery weekend produced a good selection of moths in two locations in Glanton.  Friday night at Front Street generated interest in the form of 1 Elephant hawkmoth, 1 Poplar Hawkmoth, 1 Swallow-tail moth, Heart and Dart, Willow beauty to name but a few.

The Saturday night was spectacular in numbers.  A trap was set in Playwell Lane and there were over 350 moth - mainly Large yellow underwings and Dark arches but species of interest included a Broad bordered yellow underwing, Iron prominent, Pebble prominent, Barred straw, Poplar hawkmoth, Lesser broad bordered yellow underwing, The clay etc. etc.

George and I spent Sunday afternoon on the coast looking for birds.  Cresswell held 4 Spoonbills, 5 Little egrets, 10 Avocet, 2 Ruff, 12+ Black-tailed godwits and a number of Common Sandpipers. Druridge Pools held a Curlew sandpiper, 30+ Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper and a good selection of other birds.  East Chevington was relatively quiet but there were 2 Marsh harriers and a Barn owl carrying a prey item.

N.B.  Saturday evening produced a flock of 19 Common Sandpipers at Branton Ponds!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Black Darters

This afternoon I wandered up to the shooters' decoy ponds near our house to check out the bog vegetation while the water levels were fairly low.  I didn't find anything startling botanically - in fact nothing I've not seen here before - but the margins of the ponds were almost buzzing with small damselflies.  The ones that settled so I could get a clear view were like the one in the photo (not mine, I'm afraid).  A bit of internet searching suggests that I was looking at immature Black Darters (Sympetrum danae or, previously, Sympetrum scotica).  If I've understood the info correctly the adults lose the golden colouring on the abdomen.

I've no idea how common these are in our area, but I don't recall having noticed them before.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Botany Day at East Lilburn

Sunday saw Richard, Keith, Ian, Jim and Mick (where were the intrepid women, I ask?) setting out in the pouring rain to do a botanical circuit of East Lilburn Farm.

Fortunately the rain only lasted about an hour and after that things dried and warmed up nicely.  There was a good range of habitats from dry grazed neutral grassland to very squelchy marsh areas, crop field edges, mixed wet woodland, a section of the Roddam Burn and a decent sized pond.

Previous botanical records ran to 177 species and the recorders included Professor Swan, a chap from the BSBI's current national committee and the County Botanical Recorder for Durham.  Despite the fact that we were in only a small strip of this varied tetrad we still managed to find 51 species that are additions to the existing list.  I shan't try to list the species, but look out for the short Field Trip report in the July Newsletter.

Waren Burn

A walk down the Waren Burn yesterday produced a number of interesting.  A Kingfisher flew up-stream at Lucker and at least one pair of Spotted flycatcher graced the church yard in the village.  There were good numbers of Bullheads and Stone loaches in the stony sections.  A Freshwater limpet was a good find along with several species of stone-cased Caddis-fly.  There were good numbers of flowering Giant bellflower in riparians areas that have been fenced off.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Land of Prince Bishops

Thursday was spent on farmland east of Durham.  The day made me appreciate what a wonderful environment north Northumberland can be.  The rivers were laden with car tyres, the lanes had there fair share of fly-tipping and the traffic was continuous.  Both giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam were in evidence on most watercourses.

Walking the areas of farmland produced a few interesting species including large groups of giant puff-balls, patches of field scabious were in flower on the magnesium limestone, kingfishers were on the Old Durham Beck and there were a good selection of farmland birds on the last farm on the day. These included a corn bunting - a very rare bird in Northumberland now (they may even be extinct as a breeder), tree sparrows, skylarks and lapwings.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Golden Ringed Dragonflies

A walk around Branton Ponds this morning produced yet another Golden Ringed Dragonfly, this time a female, it differs from the male in having a thicker waistline. What was most obvious was the long pointed  ovipositor and more interestingly it was covered with mud at the tip, the reason for this is that this is the only native Dragonfly that forces it's eggs deep into the mud, using it's ovipositor like a Pneumatic drill, this ensures that the eggs aren't washed away and indicates probable local breeding.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Banded Demoiselles

Living in Lesbury I spend a lot of time near the Aln and I remember George mentioning in one of his blogs last year that the had seen BDs near Bilton Mill

As this is where I walk regularly I have been looking for signs of them for several weeks

I came across 3 males on June 18th - but subsequently I have only ever seen a single individual male at any one time

I finally came across a female on July 7th but the male seems to have gone missing - not before posing for the camera - enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Greenleighton jewels

It has been a long time since my last post...... Moving house, change of computer, surveys and busy at work. etc..........Sorry...........

A small band of AWG members had a great day out with Paul Hewitt from the National Trust at Wallington or should I say the Greenleighton area.  The Greenleighton quarry was resplendent in its yellow and purples of Cat's ear, Mouse-eared hawkweed, Common bird's foot-trefoil and Common spotted orchid as well as a range of other  plants.  The small numbers meant that we could all jump into off-road vehicles and travel out to the 'Moss' where we found lots of Round-leaved sundew, Bog Rosemary and Bog asphodel. At least two Large heath butterflies were a real treat.  There were also Meadow browns, Small heath and Green-veined white butterflies and at least two pairs of Curlew.

Finally a trip to Rothley lakes also created a stir with the shear beauty of the site.  You would not know that the landscape had been designed with some input from Capability Brown.  Wildlife highlights included four species of dragonfly / damselfly; Four-spot chaser, Common blue damselfly, Blue-tailed damselfly and Large red damselfly.  Interesting plants included Skullcap, Enchanter's nightshade and good numbers of Common spotted orchids and Amphibious bistort.  Birds included good numbers of Little grebe and Nuthatch and Goldcrest.  Once again thanks go to Paul and the The National Trust for being an excellent host.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Howick National Moth Night 2014

Well, on Saturday night, Sunday morning a reasonable turn out were faced with mixed results on the moth front. Possibly the coolest July night for donkey's years couldn't have been predicted. This dropped the catch to a meagre amount, that for some of us was very disappointing. When we left on Saturday night, it was only 8 degrees, dropping even further to 4 degrees at dawn, forcing the local lepidoptera to have a lie in for a day. The previous evening I managed to catch 295 moths of 80 species in one trap. On the event night we had 88 moths of 35 species in 5 traps.

Despite the challenges all visitors in the morning seemed to enjoy the species on offer, and we all enjoyed the session and a good laugh.

Three pics above courtesy of John Rutter

Wildlife highlights seen were 13 Garden Tiger moths, 3 Poplar Hawkmoths, Peppered Moth, Elephant Hawkmoth, 5 Drinker moths and a single Clouded Brindle ( a rare species in the county), plus Hedgehog and several Pipistrelle bats over the traps.

Two escaping cows, made things a little more 'interesting' as they jumped a wall and ran up the road next to the trap site...

There might be  a change in format for the 2015 Moth Night...

Elephant Hawkmoth
Peppered Moth

Clouded Brindle


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Garden list addition

After a lovely day at Greenleighton Quarry looking at Flowers and Butterflies it was back to the garden for something new. As we stood watching young Chiffchaffs and Blue Tits our attention was drawn to a small red tailed bird on the window ledge only a couple of feet away, it was a female Redstart, soon she was joined by a second female. What happened next was unusual ,in that they both then proceeded to feed a speckled looking juvenile Redstart which had appeared on the gravel. Over the last few days we have seen glimpses of a Redstart in the garden but never more than one, so this behaviour was a real bonus. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Little Breeders!

Tree Sparrows have been visiting our garden feeders regularly for the last four or five years, but until last week we hadn't had any definitive evidence that they've bred.  The photo is very poor - taken through none-too-clean double glazing - but at least it's proof.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Nocturnal activities

On a warm, dry evening with a light breeze we headed off to Holburn Moss, once we had settled down in shelter of the trees with good views across the moss we picked up the yaffling call of Green Woodpecker amongst the screeching calls of gulls on the wetter area. As the midges began to build we finally picked up the distinctive churring call of a Nightjar on the fenceline , this was then joined by the calls of another bird nearer the middle of the Moss. After a brief search we picked it out sitting on the top of a small tree,  a few minutes later it decided to fly and we were able to see its long narrow wings and it's distinctive flight.The time was 11.00pm so we headed home and spent a further 2 hours moth trapping, which we had set up earlier, this too was productive, catching a good number of moths including a Small Magpie and our second Elephant Hawk Moth of the year.


Small Magpie...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A trip down south

As it was the last day of our holidays we decided on a trip to Wykeham  Forest near Scarborough, we arrived at 10.15 about 15 minutes later than we had hoped due to traffic, note the time it is important.
On reaching the raptor watch point we were soon viewing a low flying Honey Buzzard, this was soon followed by several Goshawks some of them at quite close range as they circled ,swooped and dived at great speed , territory marking with their white lower tail coverts spread. The morning raced by with Common Buzzards putting in an appearance along with more views of Goshawk, meanwhile Tree Pipits sang from the surrounding branches.
After a brief lunch break we walked along the road into the forest in the direction of the tree nursery and were soon hearing the soft purring calls of Turtle Dove, a species which is under real threat but seems to be fairly reliable at Wykeham.
Back to the view point but very little to see, the clear sunny morning turning into a sultry, hazy afternoon,but a Green Woodpecker was heard from the valley below.
Finally why was it important to remember our arrival time?, well at 10.03 , 11 minutes before we got there some lucky observers were treated to a fly over White Tailed Eagle, isn't traffic annoying!  

Monday, 19 May 2014

Insects galore

With the warm, humid days of spring upon us the activity in the insect world seems to be increasing on a daily basis. A late night due to a spot of moth trapping brought the bonus of 5 new moths for our garden including Scorched Wing and Spectacle( and yes it does look like it is wearing spectacles).

Scorched Wing
A walk around Branton Ponds next morning produced the day shift and our first Damselfly of the year in the form of Common Blue.

Common Blue Damselfly
What was even more interesting was a Scorpion Fly(probably Panorpa communis) which is in the same group of insects as Lacewings, apparently the male at mating time is sometimes killed by the female, so to placate her he brings her a small ball of spit which to Scorpion flies is the same as a bunch of roses or a box of chocs, who says romance is dead.

Scorpion Fly

Monday, 5 May 2014

Holystone Woods 5th may

Wood Warbler
Bank holiday Monday and we decided to get as far away from the coast as possible so we headed to Holystone Woods,when we arrived the air was alive with bird song. We could hear Chiffchaff,Willow Warbler and Redstart, the ground was carpeted with Violets and Primroses but as we reached the oak woodland we could hear the distinctive call of Wood Warbler and soon we were in the middle of his territory, as he sang every part of his body shook. Moving on we left the oak woods and headed for more open Birch woodland where Tree Pipits called from the tree tops and parachuted from the sky, a few more species were added including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cuckoo and Jay but nothing could eclipse the shear magic of the little sprite of the woods.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

More in the pipeline ?

We were on our early morning dog walk around the west pond at Branton, the air was thick with Sand Martins as they skimmed the surface, a group of male Tufted Ducks squabbled and pairs of Shelduck flew around protecting their territory from intruders. As we walked along the pipeline Blackcaps and Garden Warblers piped out their similar calls and Whitethroats sang from the bushes.
We were about half way along when a ghostly shape came out of the mist in the shape of a Barn Owl hunting for it's breakfast, or optimistically a nest full of youngsters, we watched for a few minutes before it glided off towards the east pond. At this point we happened to look up and there above us heading east was a single Common Tern a great sight so far inland and a first for the site, after a spring Arctic Tern last year what will be next, we can only hope.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spring is sprung

We've had Bee Flies around our Aubretia for a couple of weeks now, which is always a good sign of true spring.  But today we heard our first Cuckoo of the year.  The end of April is about par for the course for Cuckoos at Titlington Mount, but it's always a relief when the first returnee makes itself heard.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


On the evening of 23rd April we decided to set up our moth trap in in the garden, the weather was mild and humid, perfect we thought, however the moths had other ideas. There were a few about but not in great numbers, mainly Common Quakers of which we had 5, others included, Hebrew Character, Water Carpet, Twenty Plume Moth, Diamond Back Moth, Powdered Quaker and a rather energetic member of the Agonopterix family. However the best moth typically wasn't caught in the trap , a stunning Herald moth which had been attracted to the light but had decided to rest on the window glass, a first for our garden and a real bonus, just like Christmas and Birthdays you are always surprised at what turns up. 


Monday, 14 April 2014

Upper Teesdale 14th April

The promise of fine clear weather saw us heading off to Langdon Beck at 5.00 am, when we arrived there the light was perfect and the Black Grouse were lecking. There seemed to be Blackcock everywhere but what was also encouraging was the large number of Greyhens. we continued watching for some time before heading off towards Cow Green Reservoir and yet more Black Grouse on the way, our final total being 28 males and 14 females.
Around the reservoir itself were many Red Grouse, all paired up,the calls of many upland waders rang through the early morning air, including Golden Plover, Curlew, Common Snipe and Lapwing whilst overhead flew a single Peregrine.
They say the early bird catches the worm and that was certainly the case today as a few birders arrived as we were leaving by which point the Blackcocks had dispersed and were much harder to spot.  

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Or should I say 'migrant'. My first Willow Warbler of the year was this bird, singing at Newton Pool this morning....

Thanks Keith

Thanks Keith for organising and leading the AWG Field Day excursion, on your own patch at Branton on Saturday

It was a very pleasant and friendly get together and the highlight for me was to see at least half a dozen Adders basking in whatever warmth was around, on south facing verges at the site

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Weekend 29 / 30 March

Saturday was spent walking out to the Oyster House on Old Law.  Highlights included long-tailed duck (12), common scoter (28), red breasted merganser (2), red-necked grebe (1), sanderling (44), ringed plover (9 - some birds were holding breeding territory) and grey plover (16).  A peregrine (immature female) was at the Oyster House, one stonechat and good numbers of skylarks.  There were at least 500 grey seals hauled out at the point.

An afternoon walk on Sunday at Branton Ponds produced shoveler (2), goldeneye (14), great created grebe (1), little grebe, sand martin (10+), water rail (1), good numbers of reed buntings, meadow pipits and commoner waterfowl.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Walking the strand line

A walk along the beach at Boulmer on Saturday morning produced one or two interesting species.  The tide was out and wader watching was confined to small numbers of ringed plover, dunlin, curlew, oystercatcher and bar-tailed godwit (26). 

Out at sea it was relatively quiet with gannets (6) passing north, black-throated diver (1), red-throated diver (2) and a female scaup.  There were very few auks and the usual congregations of shags and cormorants appear to have disappeared to their breeding colonies.

There were good numbers of rock pipits and pied wagtails along the strand line and a single Scandinavian rock pipit close to Seaton Point.  There were also a small number of buff-tailed bumblebees trying to make their way inland.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Vernal Equinox

In the last 2 days there have been numerous indicators of the changing seasons on my Patch around Alnmouth and Lesbury:

Yesterday I found myself helping Toads, avoiding being squashed by cars, as they crossed the Beach  Road on their way to mate in Alnmouth Marsh : Chiffchaffs were singing in the adjoining trees and as I walked up alongside the River Aln, back towards Lesbury, I was rewarded with a sighting of my first Sand Martin of the year.
Today, I observed my first Brambling  on our garden feeders, joining a family of Siskin, who have been regular visitors for a few weeks, perhaps indicating, that for these species, their natural food sources have become increasingly drained.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Rather early for raspberries

The very mild weather is really starting to show its effects on some plants.  Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) is coming into flower.  These young male flowers look startlingly like raspberries when enlarged as in this pic, taken today.  I reality they are only about 5mm long.

Windy weekend

It was another WeBs count at Fenham le Moor and Fenham Mill on Sunday.  The weather was bright but extremely blustery.  Wader numbers were relatively low (this often happens when there is a strong wind blowing off the land).  Highlights included 56 Pink-footed geese, 2 Dark-bellied brents, 61 Pale-bellied brents, 97 Wigeon, 7 Pintail, 6 Goldeneye and a selection of other waterfowl and waders.  One chiffchaff was calling in bushes close to the Fenham le Moor hide and a blue tit took offence to its reflection in my wing mirrors - this is the second time that this has happened in this spot (blackbird last time!)

Common scurvy-grass was coming into flower and the leaves of elder were starting to appear.

Four 'queen' buff-tailed bumblebees were visiting the blooms of flowering currant at Fenham Mill.

Two crossbills flew high over a farm to the south of Eglingham today towards Beanley Plantation.

Monday, 17 March 2014


Two sightings this weekend at Titlington Mount that say something about this strange winter.  Bumblebee queens are plentiful here, most years, but honeybees have been very scarce.  So it was good on Thursday last week to see a sizable group of Honeybees on our winter-flowering heathers.

Then yesterday the shepherd said he'd seen a couple of small birds around the steading that he didn't recognise.  We couldn't find anything unusual, but today there they were - a male/female pair of Snow Buntings.  We've never seen snow buntings here before and we're a good 15 miles from the coast.  Perhaps it's an omen for some late March snow.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Evening stroll

It was such a pleasant evening yesterday (12th March) that I decided to have a walk through Glanton parish at dusk.  This produced a number of rewards.  There were at least 3 tawny owls (two males) calling to the south of the village.  The little owl was calling in the same area.  A woodcock flew out of the woodland at Glanton Pyke and three golden plover were moving north west calling.  Lapwing continue to display in rigg and furrow fields just outside the parish and these were joined by a territory calling curlew.  Two male grey partridge were having a battle-royale in terms of volume as screeches became higher and higher before they started fighting.

There was also activity on the bat front.  One bat appeared from the Old School House and then proceeded to fly quite high towards Whittingham.  This bat was definitely not using any flight lines!  There were two pipistrelle types were feeding along the road between Glanton Pyke and the village. Both seemed to be concentrating their feeding under the canopy of an ash tree which had ivy growing up the main trunk.  There were no obvious insects on the wing but their foraging strategy was intense!

Not bad for 45 mins walk in the dark!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Chiff and chaff

For the second day, it has been a glorious.  Unfortunately, most of the day has been spent in the office but a walk a lunchtime produced a few species of interest.  Top of the list were two male chiffchaffs singing at the sewage works at Wooler.  There were a pair of grey wagtails, a singing dipper and numerous other passerines in the riparian woodland in / along the Wooler Water corridor.  There was also a buff-tailed bumblebee looking for a nectar source.

Spring in the Wansbeck catchment

Yesterday was spent travelling around the Wansbeck catchment with a Defra official.  Highlights included a peacock butterfly, white-tailed bumblebee, wood anemone in flower, marsh tit singing and buzzards displaying.  It is amazing what sunshine will do for our wildlife.

A female merlin was seen within the Glanton parish on Sunday.  Grey and red-legged partridge were calling last night and a very noisy flock of lapwing passed west in the dark.  There were a range of calls including several males practicing their territorial songs!  An early moth was on the kitchen window in the evening.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Springtime at Branton

Springtime at Branton
What a superb few days weather, a real feeling of spring in the air and at the ponds the birds are answering the call, this morning we heard the distinctive call of Chiffchaff and discovered not one but two of these harbingers of spring. On the water the Coots were fighting for supremacy as were a noisy group of Shelduck, a quieter note was struck by Teal and Wigeon, not yet ready to depart. On the island Black Headed Gulls are staking their claims to territories along with Oystercatchers and the first Redshank of the year for the site, however as if to remind us that we are not totally out of winter's clutches 19 Whooper Swans overnighted on the west pond last Friday on their way back north,lets hope they have a safe journey, a successful breeding season and honour us with their presence next winter.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Today Chiffchaffs were singing at Howick [3] and Allerdene House, Alnwick [1].

Also, going the opposite way, 16 Whooper Swans, 150 Barnacle Geese and 80 Pinkfooted Geese N at Howick.

Other signs of spring at Howick, several species now nest building including Grey Heron and Long tailed Tit.
On the Long Walk, Primroses, Lungwort and Colts foot in profusion, attracting Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Marmalade Hoverfly.

Common Toad and Red Squirrel both noted over the weekend just not by me!

Long tailed Tit with nesting material

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Micro Magic

I've just achieved a first - for me.  I found a micro moth and actually identified it.  It's nothing exotic and according to the book is common, but since it was on our sitting room wall and it sat still to be photographed, it was a good spot.

I hope Stewart will confirm that it's a Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla).  If it's worth reporting then I'll leave you to do that Stew - it was at NU 101 163.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Low Newton

On the beach at Low Newton yesterday were masses of birds feeding on tide washed seaweed. Sanderling flocks swirled around and Purple Sandpipers scurried here and there, while Eider and Goldeneye dived in the small waves. I had a very pleasant hour sat on the beach in the sun taking on the pictures for a better view - try and count the species in the top photo!

On the Newton flash 3 White-fronted Geese were with the local Greylags...


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Ducking and Diving

An early start saw us at Long Nanny, there was very little in terms of small birds except 6 Snow Buntings on the beach, meanwhile offshore lingered 300+ Wigeon and a single Red Throated Diver, whilst scanning the Gull flock on the beach we picked out a single adult Mediterranean Gull.
Our next port of call was Stag Rocks, yet again this winter we were not disappointed, Birds offshore included a single Red Necked Grebe giving great views, also 11 Red Throated Divers, 4 Slavonian Grebes, 4 Long Tailed Ducks, 6 Red Breasted Mergansers and at least 500 Common Scoter.  

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Spring on the Snook

It didn't feel like spring on the Snook today, it was cool and damp with only limited sunshine, however spring must be near as nestled amongst the dunes was a single Primrose in flower, very early for this harbinger of spring. More seasonal were the 3 Short Eared Owls which came up from the grass at our feet and the 5 Snow Buntings picking away at seedheads washed up on the high tideline.

Yes, signs of spring!

Doing the NEBS survey yesterday at Townfoot brought an unusually high total of Dunnocks, which presumably is an indicator of the mild winter.  But even better was the fact that many of them were definitely paired up, with some involved in courtship behaviour.  And the Skylarks were up and singing.

Then later yesterday I went to check a small group of Larch at Titlington Mount which are often the first to show signs of leaf buds breaking.  I took the photo showing just the first sign of green, but then found a twig where the buds were really advanced and took the second pic.

So definitely spring, even if we've got March and then lambing storms in April to look forward to yet.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Signs of spring ?

There was a real springlike feel to the air today as I walked around Branton Ponds, this was reinforced by my very first sighting of the day, a very pale looking Adder stretched out on a south facing bank sunning itself, not the earliest I have seen one( about 15 years ago on the 14th) but still surely a sign of things to come. Another interesting sight was a single Lesser Black Backed Gull in amongst a large flock of Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls, again quite early for the site. There were also plenty of other things about including a single Willow Tit with a small noisy flock of Long Tailed Tits, several Yellowhammers and suddenly lots of paired up Reed Buntings. Another sign of better days is the increased numbers of Song Thrushes singing in the trees, birds which seem to have been totally absent for the past few months, all we need now is a few lambs in the fields and the transformation will be complete.

Monday, 17 February 2014

From the other side of Fenham Flats

Conditions were good for counting waders and waterfowl from the Fenham le Moor area yesterday.  Geese and swans were scarce with only 4 light-bellied and 2 dark-bellied brent being counted.  There were good counts of other waterfowl including 487 shelduck, 254 wigeon, 67 pintail, 51 mallard, 208 eider, 10 long-tailed duck and 8 goldeneye.  Waders included 169 lapwing, 652 curlew, 440 dunlin, 310 bar-tailed godwit as well as smaller number of knot, redshank, grey plover, turnstone and oystercatcher.  There were 2 slavonian grebes just offshore, 2 peregrines (adult female and 1st winter) and a female/1st winter merlin.  A brambling and 2 rock pipits were at Fenham Mill.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Fenham Flats 16th February

Fenham Flats 16th February
Apart from a stiff breeze the conditions were perfect for my monthly WeBS count, as I set off from Elwick Hide I could see large numbers of birds on the mud flats including a rather large Peregrine which everything was giving a wide berth. As I headed towards Guile Point the numbers started to add up-650 Pale Bellied Brent Geese, 360 Curlew, 150 Oystercatcher, 409 Bar Tailed Godwit, 46 Grey Plover, 15 Sanderling, 950 Knot, 220 Dunlin and 88 Shelduck. On reaching the point I noted a single Red Throated Diver and 5 Long Tailed Ducks, as I headed back around the point a 1st winter Merlin flew up clutching what looked like a Rock Pipit, it landed about 30 yards away and proceeded to pluck it's prey eventually moving off into the dunes. On reaching the area known as the Wideopens I noticed a Snow Bunting on the track only 5 yards in front of me, once I had started to scan it I noticed there were 2 others which then suddenly turned into a flock of 25 which I watched for some time, the day was rounded off with a very clean looking Slavonian Grebe in front of the Hide at Elwick.    

Friday, 14 February 2014

In between the storms!

I was another goose counting day on the coast.  In and around Budle Bay there were 180+ barnacle geese, 450+ light bellied brent and small numbers of pink-footed and greylag.  In the Elwick area, there were up to 45 barnacles, 70+ light bellied brent and 70+ greylag.  From the Elwick hide, there 2-3 slavonian grebes, 8 grey partridge, 1 female goosander, 5 red-breasted merganser, 2 red-throated divers and good numbers of shags.  There were good views of parties of tree sparrows and yellowhammers close to the farm buildings.

Lunchtime was spent at Stag Rocks, Bamburgh.  There was no sign of the grey phalarope.  Common scoters were much in evidence with at least two flocks of 400+ birds.  Other highlights included 6+ red-throated divers, 1 black-throated diver, 1+ velvet scoter, 1 slavonian grebe, 1 guillemot and a puffin.  A small party of twite were in the field behind the car parking area.

On the way home, there was a flock of at least 15 brambling feeding on the road at Fowberry Tower.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Mole Catching

While doing the Kimmer Lough NEBS visit on Tuesday morning I had a brief chat with a chap who was driving a landrover around, slowly, in the Bannamoor fields on the north side of the site.

He'd seen that I was bird watching and wanted to let me know that he was about to start his mole catching. The reason this was relevant was that his method involves waiting in an area of mole hills until he spots slight movements of soil and then blasting the spot with a shotgun!  He reckoned he'd got 36 moles last year using this technique.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Stag Rocks (yet again)

After a morning spent doing a bird count within sight of Bamburgh Castle it would have seemed churlish not to have gone to look for the Grey Pharlarope yet again!. The conditions looked perfect when we got there, not too much swell, the tide right in and lots of birds feeding close to shore, but no sign of the quarry. This didn't deter us as we were soon having cracking views of 3 Little Gulls feeding very close in, also present were some large flocks of Common Scoter, Eiders, Purple Sandpipers and several Slavonian Grebes out beyond the breakers.At this point Keith noticed a small grey bird in the water 300 yards south of the lighthouse, it could be only one thing, the elusive Grey Pharlarope, we spent the next 20 minutes getting excellent views as it moved up and down the tideline delicately picking food items off the surface. This should have been a great end to a perfect day, however we decided to listen to the Tyne-Wear derby on the way home and the grey clouds descended yet again. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Stag Rocks 27th January

We decided to take advantage of a brief settled spell at the start of the day to have yet another look for the Grey Pharlarope at Stag Rocks, but as on the previous 4 occasions it did not appear. This didn't spoil our visit as there were many other things to look at including 200+ Common Scoter, several Red Throated Diver,1 Black Throated Diver,4 Slavonian Grebes,20+ Long Tailed Duck and the most unusual of all, a Kingfisher flying around the rocks beside the lighthouse and feeding in the rockpools.

Late news from coastal sites . .....

Friday (24th Jan) was spent counting geese around Budle Bay and the southern end of Fenham Flats.  The Barnacle geese remain in pastures around Budle Bay with a small number of light bellied brent.  The main activity were in grass pastures on Elwick and Smeafield where there was a flock of 1700 pink footed geese and 750 light bellied brent.  The flock also held 1 barnacle and 1 Greenland white-fronted goose.  Wild bird seed mix plots held at least 70 tree sparrows, 30 goldfinches and 60+ linnets as well yellowhammers, greenfinches and grey partridge.

The following day was spent walking around Ross Farm.  Highlights were 240 Barnacle geese, 1 long-eared owl, 14+ woodcock, 9 grey partridge, 2 common buzzard, 12+ tree sparrows and a flock of 40+ linnets.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Glossy pictures

Glossy pictures
We decided to have a day in southeast Northumberland and started at East Chevington where the predominant species was Goldeneye closely followed by Tufted Duck. From there we headed to Lynemouth Flash where we were lucky enough to get onto the juvenile Glossy Ibis which has been there for about 5 days, next to Cresswell Pond where there were large numbers of Wigeon and Teal.
Our final port of call was the Budge screen at Druridge Pools, again there were large numbers of commoner ducks which also included some very showy drake Shovelers and Pintail plus a male Green Winged Teal.

Don't tell the grouse men!

This morning we were walking on an area of moorland "to the north of Alnwick" when we had excellent views of a male Hen Harrier that circled around us at less than 200m and remained in view for a good couple of minutes before disappearing into the murk.  This is the first cock bird we've seen for several years.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Todays sightings....

Hi all, just a note to say that there is a Glossy Ibis in the Cresswell - Lynemouth area. It has been there for a day or two now but is quite elusive and mobile. Today it was on a flooded field just north of Lynemouth traveller camp along the coast road. Nearby a Green winged Teal and Little Gull were at Druridge Pools and further north a Sandwich Tern was at Stag Rocks!

Please click the links for pictures of these birds....

Cheers Stewart

Fenham Flats WeBS count

In really poor conditions I set out from Elwick Hide, visibility was rubbish and there was a constant battle to keep the optics dry. Nevertheless the birds were still there including 320 Shelduck, 119 Brent Geese of which 4 were Dark Bellied, 380 Eiders, 290 Oystercatchers,1320 Knot and 52 Grey Plover. On reaching Guile Point I could hear this distinctive yodelling call of Long Tailed Ducks as 15 drakes could be seen chasing 2 females on the water, whilst there I also noted 2 Snow Buntings. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wild goose chase

Another afternoon counting geese on fields around Budle Bay and Fenham Flats.  There was a large mixed flock of geese to the north of Chesterhill.  This included 460 greylag, 160+ barnacle, 135 pale-bellied brent and one pink-foot.  The rest of the area was very quiet.

From the Elwick hide, there was 264 curlew, 9 golden plover and 8 redshank in the flooded field to the south.  The tide was in and there were relatively few birds except for 2 slavonian grebes, 6+ long-tailed duck, 4 red-breasted merganser and 40+ mallard.  A male peregrine appeared to kill a jackdaw.  A wild bird seed mix plot held 34 yellowhammers, 8 tree sparrows and at least one grey partridge.


Over the past couple of years we've had the impression that Yellowhammers have been in significant decline on our home patch at Titlington Mount, both as wintering flocks and as calling, breeding birds.

It was therefore great this morning to see a flock of around 50 birds in a hawthorn hedge below our farm road.  There were one or two Chaffinches with them but the vast majority were Yellowhammers.  No camera with us I'm afraid and anyway it would have been hard to get any useful images as they flitted about in the hedge.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Out of the area......

Yesterday, Anna and myself were in the North Pennines surveying an area of moorland close to Blanchland.  As is the norm at this time of year, there was not a lot to see on the moorland with the exception of good numbers of red grouse and a small number of wrens.  On the in-bye ground there was a flock of 80+ lapwing and a smaller number of golden plover.  There was also a steady passage of immature herring gulls moving in a south west direction towards Lancashire.

The highlight of the visit was a bat flying around a neighbouring property at about 11:30 am in the morning.  It was probably one of the pipistrelle species.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

River Breamish 8th January

As I had a couple of hours to spare and the weather was spring like I decided to check out the riverside beside Hedgeley Lakes. What was obvious immediately was the number of Dippers on territory, singing and chasing each other up and down the river. On reaching the bridge which conveys the quarry haul road over the river I noticed a small dark coloured wader with a large white rump, it landed beyond the bridge and after a certain amount of stealthy movement I managed to get a couple of photos of a very smart looking Green Sandpiper

Monday, 6 January 2014

Grey skies, grey seas and a grey phalarope

Whilst most people were going back to work, I had to take a bit more time off to look after the kids.  A stroll along Bamburgh beach is a traditional 'teacher's training day' activity.  On the way to Bamburgh, there were 80+ wigeon in a flooded field close to Bradford Kame.

Stag Rock car park produced good views of great northern diver (1-2 one bird flew south), red throated diver (12+), black throated diver (1 flew south), long tailed duck (9+), red breasted merganser (3) and good numbers of auks and gulls.  There was a flock 30+ purple sandpipers, 10 turnstones, 3 knot and a party of twite (12).

A walk towards Budle Point produce good views of long-tailed ducks, common scoter (at least 300 in three different flocks), velvet scoter (5+ - four males and at least one female) and a good number of kittiwakes offshore.

Back at the car, we met Winnie, who had been looking for divers and grebes.  After a discussion, we decided to part - Winnie headed for the Golf course.  We were just about to leave, when a 'sanderling type' wader came into view and suddenly land in the sea, just offshore.  This was no sanderling but one of the grey phalaropes that had been lingering in the area.  The bird was watched for 5 minutes - landing in the sea and onshore.  Needless to say I went to find Winnie and we came back to search for this marine wader but the wind had picked up and viewing conditions were poor.

There were 7 purple sandpipers and 120+ lapwing on the rock to the north of Seahouses harbour.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


Add caption
On Sat. 4th at 1545 Bert and I arrived at the parking area between the East Chevington ponds to watch the hundreds of starlings swirling around before roosting in the reeds, the murmuration.  I could hear them before I spotted them but by 1645 all was still and silent.   It was a wonderful spectacle added to because of the beautiful sunset.  The image doesn't do it justice but I've only got a wee camera.  It really is a lovely experience, not as spectacular as those shown on T.V. but it is ours.

Mora Rolley, Alnwick.

Druridge Bay area 5th January

As it is back to work tomorrow we decided to have a day down south, in frosty conditions our first stop was at Newbiggin where a number of Common Gulls, Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls were joined by a couple of Mediterranean Gulls. On the way up the coast we stopped at a flooded field near Woodhorn where amongst a large number of Greylags we picked out 3 White Fronted Geese. Next to Cresswell Pond which appeared very quiet apart from the hundreds of Wigeon feeding in the surrounding fields, this may be because an Otter had been noted over the last couple of days, of interest were 2 Red Breasted Mergansers and at least a dozen Common Snipe in front of the hide. Our final port of call was at Hauxley were access to the lower hides was made difficult by flooding, the problems caused getting to the first hide were outwayed by the sight of a Slavonian Grebe only 30 metres away accompanied by a very cute Little Grebe.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ice phenomenon follow-up

Since I posted the pics of the "Angel Hair" ice in Kielder on Boxing day I've researched some more and appear to have found some definitive explanations.  There's a professor at Illinois State University who has become obsessed with ice formations and by following links from his blog I found a German article, fortunately with English summary sections.  The conclusions seem to be:

*  This type of ice is formally called Haareis or Hair Ice
*  It is caused by the presence of winter-active fungi in decaying hardwood
*  It only forms where the bark has been lost from dead twigs/branches
*  CO2 released by the fungi forces water, plus some organic material, out through small channels in the dead wood
*  The organic material acts as a freezing catalyst for rapid ice formation near the exit points
*  Thus happens at temperatures only slightly below zero
*  Experimentally, if the fungi are killed the ice formation no longer happens

Hair Ice is reported from various places in Europe and also from the Pacific North West of the USA

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Lothian away day

With a good forecast at least till early afternoon we headed off to John Muir country, our first port of call was Fidra where we also got the star bird of the day in the form of a female King Eider, it was swimming around with Common Eiders, Common Scoters and a few Teal. Next to Ferny Ness which didn't produce any Red Necked Grebe as it usually does but there were at least 6 Red Throated Divers offshore and a couple of Slavonian Grebes. Next to Lidl's at Prestonpans for some unhealthy sausage rolls a bar of chocolate and the hope of a Black Guillemot from the carpark, on this occasion no such luck. Our final port of call on the outward journey was at Musselburgh, no sign of the much talked about Surf Scoter but there were a number of cracking male Velvet Scoters. The trip home took us via Skatteraw where a large mixed flock of Herring and Black Headed Gulls wheeled about and on the shoreline Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot,Turnstone and Redshank fed along the tideline.

New year and more storms

Happy New Year. The last few days have been spent in Berwick-upon-Tweed.  The highlight of the 1st was a female long-tailed duck flying up river.  There were again good numbers of seabirds were off the mouth of the river.  These included gannet (50+), cormorant (100+), shag (30+), red-throated diver (at least 3), lot of auks including 2 little auks, kittiwakes and a large number of gulls.  Other highlights included 3 goosander, 3 red-breasted merganser, and at least 40 mallard on the river.  The collection of seabirds especially the gannets and kittiwakes is quite unusual for this time of year.  Further storms are likely to see more seabirds close in-shore.