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.