Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Recent days around Branton Ponds have seen an influx of warblers, first we had the Chiffchaffs which were then overtaken  by the Willow Warblers, now Blackcaps are here in large numbers, there seems to be a bird on territory almost every 50 yards. This evening we came across the first Garden Warbler of the year, sounding a bit like Blackcap but a bit more monotonous, on Monday we had a first for the ponds in the form of a Wood Warbler with both it's very distinctive shape and song which sounds like a spinning coin gradually coming to rest on a table, it was still there this morning. Another warbler which just arrived yesterday is the Common Whitethroat with one bird calling from the gorse, this evening there were a further two birds, so all we need now are Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler then the set will be complete.

Monday, 27 April 2015


The warm weather of last week has be replaced by a much cooler air from the north.  Not a lot to report from the weekend but the majority of Swallows appear to have arrived in the last 4-5 days.  A Cuckoo was seen on the south side of Longframlington Common on the 26th April.

Tthe first flower heads of Meadow saxifrage have appeared on lowland acid grassland next to the Wooler Water today (27th April).  A pair of Common sandpipers have also taken up residence.  Numbers of Sand martins appear to have dropped since they first arrived.  Buff-tailed, Red-tailed and White-tailed bumblebees were much in evidence visiting the flowers of Lesser Celandine.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

cuckoos and tigers

Walking in the fields near the cottage this morning I came across a small caterpillar with a bright orange head and very long, silky- looking hairs on its back.  I hadn't a camera so had to look it up when I got home and it identified as the larva of a Garden Tiger Moth.  These moths have a wide distribution in Britain but it was a first for me.  The other first was a cuckoo calling in the wood beside our cottage.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Peking Duck...

Two lovely Mandarin drakes have been present on the small pond at Warkworth Lane Caravan Site, Ellington over the past few days. They looked really stunning on the calm water in yesterdays morning light...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Migrants start to appear

Little to report from the WeBs count on Sunday but for a passage Whimbrel, two Pale-bellied brent and a female Pintail.  Waders were scarce and there were few migrants lingering in the scrub.

Monday morning was spent on the moorland edge just south of Blanchland.  It was an idyllic morning with displaying Lapwing, Curlew, Golden Plover, Snipe, Redshank and Oystercatchers all within three or four fields.  Added extras were a female Black grouse, a Short-eared owl and a very dapper male Ring ouzel.  Leaving the farm a Red kite was hunting close to some farm buildings in a horse paddock.  The first Green-veined white butterfly was seen close to Riding Mill.

This morning was spent carrying out the last of the tree planting on the banks of the River Pont. There were several male Redstarts in song as well as Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

An Orange-tip butterfly flew across the A697, in the Wooperton area.

Black and White

No this isn't going to be a rant about the current failings at Newcastle Utd, it will be about much more watchable creatures. First thing today we decided to take the dog for a walk up the Hawsen Burn, we did have an ulterior motive in the form of Ring Ouzels. We weren't disappointed, as soon as we left the car a female was seen flying up the burn, further on chacking alerted us a further 4 Birds, we didn't go very far up the Hawsen as they appeared to be spending most of their time in the lower fields nearer to the car. Our other black and white sighting was much less expected, on crossing a small burn something moved in the water, closer examination gave us views of a Water Shrew as it hunted the burn, looking silvery in the water but black and white when it emerged on the bank.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Upper Teesdale in spring

A fairly early start saw us at Langdon Beck at the sensible hour of  7.00 am, some may say that is too late but a showing of 24 Blackcock and 6 Greyhens proved that the early bird doesn't always catch the worm. The noise was incredible on a very still, crisp and sunny morning, not only were there Black Grouse but also Curlew with their beautiful "bubbling" call, Redshank and even a Woodcock which looked totally out of place. We then headed to Cowgreen Reservoir where more Black Grouse were to be found ( the total for the day was 43 Blackcock and 11 Greyhen), overhead Common Snipe were "drumming"as the air vibrated against their outer tail feathers, the Wheatears were almost too numerous to count as they "chacked " away on the hillside. The next to appear on the stage was a Short Eared Owl, silently quartering the moor, setting up nervous Red Grouse and all to the constant, plaintive whistling of Golden Plover. The day ended as it had began with a Black Grouse, this time a very impressive male standing on a picnic table near the reservoir, a great end to a stunning morning.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Branton Ponds 15th May

It's that time of year when everything seems paired up, at Branton Ponds this morning Tufted Ducks were sorting out their pairs for the season, the Grebes were still displaying and a pair of Shovellers kept in close contact as they swam across the pond. Of more interest was a sight we hadn't seen before and that was a pair of Weasels chasing each other, the one behind exactly mirrowing the one in front in much the same way Brown Hares do,until finally they were lost from sight.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

News from the last few days....

The weather has taken a turn for the worse.  It is no longer 'short-sleeved order'!

First of all congratulations to all of the editorial team at the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club. After having time to digest a fraction of the information, 'The Northumberland Bird Atlas' is a truly exceptional production.  If you have not got a copy it is well worth ordering one before stocks are sold out.

College Valley on Friday produced a number of interesting wildlife in the Goldscleugh area.  This included several large patches of Stags horn club-moss, a couple of Common lizards, 3 female Crossbills and a Merlin.  No Ring Ouzels were heard but it is only a matter of time.

There was a good selection of waders on a very windy beach at Boulmer on Saturday morning.  The highlights were 35 Sanderling, 1 Grey plover, 6 Bar-tailed godwits and a large party of Dunlin in mixed plummages.

House martins returned to Glanton on Monday 13th April but no Swallows yet!

Saturday, 11 April 2015


Well spring must have finally sprung, a walk around Branton Ponds  this morning in less than ideal conditions (cold and windy) revealed a number of spring migrants, the best being more than half a dozen Swallows feeding over the water with at least 100 Sand Martins. Also of note were a small number of Meadow Pipits heading for the hills, a singing Blackcap and numerous Chiffchaffs doing what it says on the tin, meanwhile on the water Little Grebes were calling and a pair of Great-crested Grebe were doing their courtship display.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Where are all the swallows......?

The temperature is in the early 20's and the sun is shining - Peacock and Small tortoiseshell butterflies are almost everywhere and queen bumblebees of at least four species are energetically going about their business.  But to-date I have only seen three migrant bird species; Chiffchaff, Sand martin and Sandwich tern.  You would think that this great weather would have been an impetus for an influx of migrants.

Looking back in my diaries, Swallows are normally in the County by by the first week of April and one of my earliest was on the 31st March in Glanton, a few years ago.  Even species such as Blackcaps have yet to start singing with their normal gusto.  Let's hope that the weather has just been as kind to our migrant, on their passage north, as it has to us.

A flock of at least 22 Sand martins on the Wooler Water, today, suggests that other migrants may be on their way!  There were also 3 Lesser redpolls displaying and a singing Dipper.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Just a quick post to say that the piebald leucistic Robin is still at the far north end of Longhoughton this afternoon...its very elusive though only allowing one shot..

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Spring firsts

In Easter Sunday's beautiful weather we had our first Bee Flies and our first Comma in the garden.

Last week I posted some pics of bumblebee queens on our spring-flowering heathers, but I'd failed to get a shot of the Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum.  So here are two from today on Aubretia.