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.