Saturday, 26 November 2016

East Chevington 26th November

Shore Larks are one of those birds which are either here in small numbers at this time of year or totally absent, so when 7 turned up at East Chevington it would be churlish not to go and have a look. The birds were soon located but getting good views were not easy as the number of people on the beach meant that they were very flighty. It is the most we have seen at any one time in the county but not for some favoured locations, north of the border at John Muir Country Park there has been a flock of up to 35 birds for the last few days, lets hope they stay for a while longer so more people can enjoy these stunning little birds.


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Waxwing Winter

This week has seen a large movement of that favourite of winter visitors into the county - the Waxwing. The last Waxwing Winter was in 2012, so lets hope this is a good one, its certainly started well.

Birds have been reported in the following locations - Cramlington [200], Ashington / North Seaton [350], Alnwick Moor [30], Amble / Warkworth [35], the A1 between Alnwick and Morpeth [3 flocks largest 200], Cragside [7] with many others scattered around.

Why not check out your nearest Rowan that still has some berries or even Yew's, they always seem to eat these before moving on to other types of berry.

Part of a group of 60 at North Seaton Cemetary today. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Double Issy

What an autumn it has been on Holy Island, at this rate it will be rivalling Fair Isle, so with this in mind and determined that I would not miss out on the action after Keith got the Accentor yesterday whilst I had to work, we headed off to Holy Island and crossed as soon as was safe. On parking we headed straight for the area of beach where the Accentor was watched yesterday, several others were already there but no sign of the fabled sibe. This wasn't a problem as 100 yards along the beach the assembled crowd watched a very approachable Isabelline Wheatear, only the second for the county, it showed really well down to a few metres as it searched the tideline for scraps. We then spent some time searching the dunes for the Accentor with no success, at which point we headed to the Half Moon slack and were soon scoping a very pale Isabelline Shrike which had been found the previous evening, it was mobile but by keeping back and keeping still views were possible. What a two weeks it has been with 3 new birds for the Island's list and lots of happy birders who will always remember this Autumn.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Exotic Accent

Yet another busy day turned upside down by news of a Siberian Mega.As anticipated from recent news a Siberian Accentor was found on Holy Island, a county first! I made my way to the island via delays by slow traffic, roadworks & closed railway crossings. On arriving at the North shore, just west of Snipe point I found about 30 fellow birders waiting for views. A few brief fluttering glimpses of a bird dropping into the dunes wetted the appetite and we were not disappointed since the bird eventually hopped out into the open and gave brilliant views down to about 10 feet! Amazing! When the bird flew back  into the dunes everyone gave a big sigh of relief and very nearly a cheer of delight. Being time constrained I made my way from the island to arrive home to news that another first for the island, in the form of an Isabelline Shrike had been found at the Snook!  But it didn't spoil my day.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

A Pallas for lunch

An early start on Holy Island saw us checking out the excavations with little success however as we headed towards the Quarry it was obvious there were still migrants about mainly in the form of Redwings and dozens of Goldcrests. Whilst checking Reed Buntings amongst the dunes a Great Grey Shrike suddenly exploded from a bush, scared the Buntings and headed over the next dune. Our next point of call was the Willows at the north end of the Straight Lonnen, here a Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing well along with a Lesser Whitethroat, further along the Lonnen we came  upon a second Red-breasted Flycatcher and on the wires a second Great Grey Shrike perched. At this point along with Alan Hall we headed off too the Vicars garden to stand by the wall and consume our Turnbulls Steak Pies ( other pies are available), we could hear a Yellow-browed Warbler and when a small bird came into sight we all though that is what it would be, then we saw the un-mistakable crown stripe and realised that it was in fact a gorgeous little Pallas's Warbler. It then proceeded to endlessly forage amongst the leaves just above our heads before finally flying across the garden to give more distant views, more birders arrived and some did manage to get views. We headed back to the car via Chare Ends where we finished off the day with a Common Redstart.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

MEGA - White's Thrush on Holy Island

I was about to go around the Ponds and Keith had the car packed to do some work when I decided to check the computer, good move as the first thing up was a White's Thrush on Holy Island, it had just been found so I rang Alan Hall who I knew would be there, what came next sounded like- yes,pant ,pant, pant, Straight Lonnen,pant ,pant, heading there now. By this time Keith had cleared the car and within minutes we were away, at this point I should say no speed limits were broken during this blog.40 minutes later we were walking very quickly up the Straight Lonnen , we finally reached the willows at the north end where a group of fellow birders were scanning the trees. Almost immediately the bird appeared and showed well to the assembled group for quite some time, a large thrush with  very distinctive markings and when it flew the underwing barring showed up very well.At this point we decided to leave the bird and head home as we both had work to go to, we felt very smug as we headed back along the Lonnen with groups of birders running in the opposite direction knowing that we had seen probably the Holy Grail of birds,lets hope many more saw it too.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Kyloe Quarry

A small group of us checked out Kyloe Quarry on Sunday morning. Next year, members of AWG will be carrying out a survey of the wildlife of this unusual spot for Lord Joicey, in a similar way the the one we did of Ford Moss last year. It is much more compact of course, so there will be less biodiversity, but you never know what we will find. The quarry has not been worked for 40 years and has still not been overgrown with vegetation. Listen out for more information at the monthly indoor meetings...


Saturday, 1 October 2016

Boulmer Bairds

We headed off to Boulmer this morning for a Bairds Sandpiper seen last evening on the beach, a small group of birders had gathered to pay homage and the bird in question was soon picked out amongst a group of Dunlin. Only slightly smaller than the Dunlin it showed a heavily scaled back with short legs and most obvious a long primary projection giving it a very attenuated look at the rear. The question was how long would we be able to view it, the answer not very long as after about 10 minutes a Peregrine decided to start stooping on the assembled waders hoping to spook them into flight, this had the desired effect as the group disappeared out of sight and the Raptor left empty handed, hopefully the bird will be back at high tide. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Rosy at Roseden

We were going seawatching this morning but decided to first try for a Rose-coloured Starling which had been reported at Roseden on fatballs. On arrival at the site we met the local farmer and had a good chat about the whereabouts of this bird, he had not seen it and couldn't think of anyone in the village with feeders out but he did suggest trying a cottage on the other side of the A 697. This looked more promising as the garden was full of feeders with lots of birds but no Starlings, after about half an hour we decided to go and come back later. As we reached the main road a number of Starlings appeared in the hedge and one of them was very pale, on getting better views we noted the pale buffy plumage with dark wings and a pale yellowish bill, it was the Rosy, not a stunning bird but worth looking for and perhaps greatly overlooked amongst Starling flocks. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Complete Angler

I was in the hide at Branton Ponds early this morning, the island held 12 Common Snipe and there were 133 Lesser Black-backed Gulls loafing on the water, but what attracted my attention was the shrill piping call of a Kingfisher. The bird soon appeared and landed briefly on a  branch in front of the hide, the camera came swiftly into action only for the dreaded sound of the battery running out , I changed batteries and thought my chance had gone. However a few minutes later the piping was heard again and 3 Kingfishers flew into view chasing each other, luckily 1 landed on the branch for about 30 seconds and I finally got my shots.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

High's and Low's

We were on Holy Island first thing this morning looking for the juvenile Pallid Harrier which had been seen on Thursday and Friday, unfortunately even though the island was well covered with birders there was no sign of this elusive bird. The island was generally quiet however a slow day was enlivened by several Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs, a Lesser Whitethroat at the excavations was a bonus, however things improved when at the half moon slack we got onto a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Our day wasn't quite over, on returning home we received a call from a birding friend to say the Franklin's Gull was still at Whittle Dene reservoir, this resulted in a hurried dash down the road. Things didn't look good when on arrival there was no sign of the bird, after about 2 hours we decided to head home, once more good fortune shone on us as the bird appeared in a field next to where everyone's cars were parked, giving good views to all present.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Low Newton 10th September

Saturday morning saw us parking up at Low Newton, the village itself had a fly over Peregrine and the track along to the scrape held a family group of 5 Stonechats. Our next destination was the scrape where 2 Little Stints fed eagerly with a small group of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, also on the scrape were, Lapwings, Redshank  and a large mixed flock of Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls. We then checked out the wooded area which proved quiet apart from several Chiffchaffs and a single Lesser Whitethroat, the beach was more productive as 2 Yellow Wagtails fed with Pied Wagtails Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits, 3 Purple Sandpipers and a very noisy flock of Starlings. We then headed out to the Point which was very quiet, the sea being calm, not good seawatching conditions, the real highlight being the 400+ Golden Plover sunning themselves on the rocks at the Point. 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Fenham Flats 21st August

Today was my monthly WeBS count, the weather was warm and sunny but there was a blustery wind, not ideal for counting. However it did get off to a good start with a Greenshank in front of Elwick Hide and it continued at a pace with next a group of 19 Ruff, 3 of which were larger males and one had the remnants of his ruff. Moving further on a stunning brick red Knot was added to the list followed soon by 2 flocks of Whimbrel totalling 22 birds, breeding plumaged Grey Plover numbering 96 birds added a touch of class which was followed by 170 Bar-tailed Godwits some still in breeding plumage. On reaching Guile Point I began counting Oystercatchers and soon ran out of fingers when the number reached 699, other waders, ducks and gulls were added to the list on what turned out to be a much better day than I had expected. On the return journey I noticed something reddish/brown about 50 yards in front of me and heading in my direction, it turned out to be a Fox feeding on scraps along the high tideline, so I sank down into the long grass and waited, sure enough about 5 minutes latter it had come within 4 metres of me and only then realised I was there, at which point it shot off like Usain Bolt in the opposite direction, a fitting end to a super day.    

Monday, 15 August 2016


We had an early morning walk around the ponds with the dog, it's always a good time of day to see Adders before the have really warmed up. It paid off today when we found 3 basking at different points around the walk, what was even better was a group of 3 Slow Worms huddled together for warmth on a sunny bank. It has been a great year for Slow Worms, we have found a number around the ponds, but what is also interesting is the number of dead ones on the roads around the village has almost reached double figures, which surely means we are only seeing a relatively small proportion of the overall numbers.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Return passage of waders seems to have started and there is few better places to check it out than the flash at Low Newton. One of the first birds we came across on arriving there was a lovely clean looking juvenile Little Stint showing well with summer plumaged Dunlin. Larger waders in slightly deeper water included Ruff and 11 Black-tailed Godwits in vastly differing plumages. Next our attention was focused on the call of a Greenshank, it was soon located along with a second bird, as we watched 2 more Greenshanks flew overhead and headed off towards the pools, our wader watch was completed with the addition of 1 Common Sandpiper,1 Green Sandpiper plus several Ringed Plover and Redshank. It wasn't all about waders, a single Yellow Wagtail hunted for insects around the water's edge and a pair of Stonechat's called noisily from the fence line. A walk out to the point proved unproductive but we did hear later that a Wood Sandpiper had been seen at the roadside flash at Charlton Mires. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Old Ladies

When checking our moth trap last night we found an Old Lady hanging around, so we potted her up and placed her in the fridge to settle down. Before anyone contacts age concern about ill treatment of a pensioner it must be stressed that this Old Lady is a large chunky brute of a moth, so much so that the call rang out "I think we need a bigger pot". Although not rare it is a first for our garden and is quite scarce in this area, it continues a run of "not scarce but nice " moths which we have had over the last few weeks. This is a big change from earlier in the season when any moth was a bonus, the warm humid nights have helped and lets hope this continues into the autumn.
Old Lady          

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Wader counting.

WeBs count at Fenham le Moor was a matter of importance today.  A falling tide is never the best to count - never mind.  Highlights on the mud included 8 Little egret, 587 Dunlin, Whimbrel 2, Curlew 529, Knot 15 and Greenshank 1.

A female Marsh Harrier was feeding in fields around Fenham le Moor and a juvenile Wheatear was on the shore.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Sunshine at last ..........

It is good to get and do some fieldwork especially when the sun is shining.  A walk down the River Glen was no exception today.  There was a reasonable selection of birds with 2 Green Sandpipers, 6+ Common sandpipers and handfuls of Oystercatchers and lapwings gracing the edges of the river. Other birds include Kingfisher (1), Goosander (1) and a female Tufted duck with a brood of three.

Passerines seen were Blackcap feeding young, Reed bunting, Sedge warbler (male singing) and Lesser redpoll (4+).

Other species include a Southern hawker dragonfly, Large red damselfly, several Speckled wood butterflies and a good selection of common butterflies.  There were a good number of reasonably sized Sea trout in the larger pools with Grayling and Sticklebacks seen in other parts of the reach.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

AWG Moth Trapping at Branton... 02/07/16.

As part of a mixed Bioblitz, several of us spent the night and early morning catching moths at Branton Gravel Pits near Powburn.

We used 5 traps on a clear and cool breezy evening, but we still managed a reasonable total of 362 moths of 75 species.

The following species were recorded including Coronet only the 5th for VC68 and the first since 1997. Mr Fairclough added to the moth trapping list with a few colephoras etc.
Coleophora species (Coleophora sp.) 1
Marbled Minor agg. (Oligia strigilis agg.) 4
02.001 a moth (Dyseriocrania subpurpurella) 4
03.003 Map-winged Swift (Korscheltellus fusconebulosa) 1
03.005 Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli) 1
35.040 a moth (Bryotropha terrella) 1
37.006 a moth (Coleophora gryphipennella) 1
41.002 a moth (Blastobasis adustella) 1
41.003 a moth (Blastobasis lacticolella) 3
49.025 Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana) 2
49.026 Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis heparana) 1
49.031 Timothy Tortrix (Aphelia paleana) 10
49.091 a moth (Pseudargyrotoza conwagana) 7
49.156 Marbled Orchard Tortrix (Hedya nubiferana) 4
49.157 Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana) 1
49.166 a moth (Celypha lacunana) 4
49.292 a moth (Notocelia cynosbatella) 2
49.298 a moth (Notocelia trimaculana) 6
63.037 a moth (Udea olivalis) 1
63.064 a moth (Scoparia ambigualis) 7
63.066 a moth (Scoparia pyralella) 10
63.067 a moth (Eudonia lacustrata) 4
63.080 Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella) 4
63.093 a moth (Agriphila straminella) 5
65.010 Figure of Eighty (Tethea ocularis) 1
69.003 Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) 10
69.016 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) 3
70.054 Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) 45
70.059 Yellow Shell (Camptogramma bilineata) 2
70.061 Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata) 5
70.068 Beautiful Carpet (Mesoleuca albicillata) 1
70.093 Barred Straw (Gandaritis pyraliata) 10
70.100 Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 6
70.176 Freyer's Pug (Eupithecia intricata arceuthata) 1
70.183 Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 1
70.190 Grey Pug (Eupithecia subfuscata) 2
70.207 Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata) 22
70.226 Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 10
70.252 Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) 2
70.265 Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata) 7
70.277 Common White Wave (Cabera pusaria) 4
70.278 Common Wave (Cabera exanthemata) 7
70.283 Light Emerald (Campaea margaritaria) 17
71.021 Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina) 4
72.002 Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis) 2
72.003 Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) 3
72.019 Buff Ermine (Spilosoma lutea) 2
72.020 White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) 1
72.026 Garden Tiger (Arctia caja) 1
73.001 Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita) 1
73.016 Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina) 14
73.047 Coronet (Craniophora ligustri) 1
73.102 Brown Rustic (Rusina ferruginea) 10
73.114 Small Angle Shades (Euplexia lucipara) 2
73.147 Small Dotted Buff (Photedes minima) 2
73.154 Dusky Brocade (Apamea remissa) 5
73.156 Clouded-bordered Brindle (Apamea crenata) 5
73.156 Clouded-bordered Brindle [melanic form] (Apamea crenata ab. combusta) 1
73.159 Small Clouded Brindle (Apamea unanimis) 1
73.162 Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) 2
73.176 Middle-barred Minor (Oligia fasciuncula) 3
73.264 Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina) 4
73.267 Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea) 5
73.281 Lychnis (Hadena bicruris) 1
73.298 Clay (Mythimna ferrago) 1
73.317 Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 3
73.328 Flame (Axylia putris) 5
73.329 Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) 8
73.332 Purple Clay (Diarsia brunnea) 10
73.342 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 9
73.343 Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata) 1
73.351 Double Dart (Graphiphora augur) 4
73.353 Dotted Clay (Xestia baja) 1
73.361 Double Square-spot (Xestia triangulum) 16
73.368 Gothic (Naenia typica) 1

Above - Two views from Corby Crags on route to Branton in dramatic evening light.

The Coronet

Double Dart

The trapping site.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Unusual species in an unusual habitat....

Fieldwork in the College Valley has started in earnest.  Whilst putting our boots on, I could believe my ears - a male Quail was calling from the Bracken to the west of Cuddystone Hall (30th June). The bird was calling for at least an hour as we surveyed the vegetation.  This is the first time that I have heard this species in Bracken.  They are normally a species of cereals and grassland.

Other birds in the area were Whinchat (2), Meadow pipit and Stonechat with young.  Neighbouring plantation held Crossbill (3+), and singing Song thrushes and Willow warblers.  

Dor beetles were out in force with some piles of sheep dung having up to 20 beetles trying to roll balls.  A young Adder was also found.

Some of the upland plants were in full flower.  Where there were shallow soils Thyme, Heath Bedstraw, Mouse-eared Hawkweed and Pignut were in full bloom.  Both Common vetch, Bitter-vetch and Bell Heather were also in flower.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Holystone Woods 22nd May

With warm sunshine and little breeze Sunday morning was ideal for a visit to Holystone Woods before the afternoon's heavy rain. The clear felled area just before the main woodland produced singing Tree Pipit which then indulged in a spot of parachuting, the Oak woods themselves were carpeted with Bluebells, Greater Stitchwort, Dog Violet and a few Yellow Pimpernel. Above in the canopy Nuthatch and Redstart called, whilst in the undercover Spotted Flycatcher flitted around after insects and Treecreepers scurried up the trunks. As we skirted along the edge of a wooded ravine a Green Woodpecker called out from the far side but remained unseen, next to the ford near South Yardhope and following quickly on the trail of our third Red Squirrel of the day we came upon a stunning male Pied Flycatcher, no Wood Warblers but not a bad haul for the morning.

Bolam and beyond.........

Four intrepid souls met in the Bolam Lake Country Park at 10 am on Saturday morning.  Prior to meeting up a Cuckoo was seen on Longframlington Common and a Stoat was watched climbing 4 ft into a tree at the entrance to the car park at Bolam Lake.

The walk around Bolam Lake produced little of interest except for common species.  We discussed the identification features of Western hemlock fir especially its aromatic scent and the merits of some of the plants for lepidoptera larvae.  The main highlight was the discovery of 4 Red-eared terrapins (or slider) on a dead branch in the lake.

We moved onto Corridge Farm and were met by Richard Thompson.  A quick look at the woodland surrounding the parking area produced a Spotted flycatcher, Tree sparrows and a good selection of common resident species.  We arrived at the wetland which was alive with birds.  A female Mute swan was on a nest and there was a good number of Sand martins with a smaller selection of Swallows, House martins and Swifts.  A male Gadwall was a good find and this was a new species for the wetland.  The highlight was a pair of Yellow wagtails that fed in front of the hide.  These were joined by a second male.  There were lots of Reed buntings, Meadow pipits and Skylarks with smaller numbers of Sedge warblers and Willow warblers.  33 species of bird were recorded on our visit to Corridge.

We thanked Richard and the group parted company.  I decided to visit Holystone Wood on the way home.  There I had cracking views at least two male Pied flycatchers.  Other species of interest included at least 2 Crossbills and large numbers of Wood ants.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

I need a time machine

At this time of year a time machine would be very handy and this morning proved the point. The choice was get up at 3 am to drive to Etal for the Bird club dawn chorus , with the added bonus of bacon butties afterwards or get up at a more reasonable hour and go to Holy Island to do some late spring birding. I decided to do the latter and was rewarded with a number of really good birds, the first was a smart looking female Bluethroat which was hopping around feeding off the turf at Chare Ends. Next a visit to the Crooked Lonnen  produced a distant Dottrel, the Straight Lonnen came up trumps with 2 Pied Flycatchers and another more elusive Bluethroat, this time a male with a limited amount of blue on the throat. Finally the star of the day in the form of a very active Subalpine Warbler feeding energetically on flies in a Hawthorn, there was much debate over what form but it was finally identified as a Western Subalpine Warbler. A great end to the day which would have been even better if I could have also fitted in the Dawn Chorus, maybe next year.
                                                    Female Bluethroat

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Eventually spring has started to arrive

Reports from the Cheviot Hills suggested that both Shepherds and the birds had a tough time in the snow last week.  One day last week there was 8 inches of snow in parts of the hills.  There were very good numbers of Ring ouzels (at least 30) at low levels in the College Valley on Thursday 28th April. These have now dispersed or moved on.

An afternoon walk in the Breamish valley on the 2nd May produced at least 6+ Little ringed plovers, 2 pairs of Ringed plovers and a summer plumage Dunlin.  Garden and Willow warblers were very much in song.

The evening of the 3rd May saw a distinct increase in hirundine numbers in the Glanton parish.  Late on in the evening these were joined by two Swifts.

An evening walk along Warkworth Beach (4th May) produced a nice selection of species. Highlights included at least two male Grasshopper warblers in song, a male Lesser whitethroat signing in the car park, 3 Stonechats, 1 Little egret and at least 40 Dunlin in mixed stages of summer plumage. Common scurvy-grass is in full flower along with Wych elm.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

You wait ages for a bus, then .....

Almost as soon as I'd published my previous post I then had another Redpoll and, much better, a female Blackcap which I managed to get on film.

Spring sightings

Two good sightings on our home bird feeders.  Several times over the last few days we've had single Redpolls with our usual mass of Siskin, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow and Chaffinch on the seed feeders. 

Then yesterday we had a first - a male Blackcap appeared on the feeder tray and stayed, on and off all day.  It's very rare for us to have had a Blackcap in the garden at all, let alone on the feeders.  No photo I'm afraid - the window was just too covered in seed mess!

This morning Jane and I had a long walk around the Low Hedgeley site.  We've never seen hirundines in such numbers.  All the gravel ponds were swarming with Sand Martins and Swallows hawking over the water and there were a few House Martins with them.  The river had a pair of Common Sandpiper and we got a good close view of a Dipper.

Monday, 25 April 2016

AWG Etal.

Over the last couple of years, AWG members have been carrying out some wildlife surveys for Lord Joicey on Ford and Etal Estates, particularly around Slainsfield Moor and Ford Moss.

As a thank you, he invited up those who had worked to provide data on the wildlife of the area, to have an informal introduction to the estate, led by Lord James himself, then back to the village hall for some food, drink and a right old jolly.

Twenty of us arrived at 4.30pm where we were introduced to our host, then made our way to the village hall for a short presentation on the life of the estate. I particularly like it when Lord Joicey described how his great grandfather became a Lord in 1908 after donating a large sum of cash to the then liberal government!

Lord Joicey giving his introduction.
The present incumbent, Lord James Joicey has a much more enlightened and modern approach as a large landowner. He is keen to see all users and visitors get the most from the area. The villages of Ford and Etal are immaculate in appearance with a range of small private businesses ranging from artisan bread makers to the small miniature railway line.

St Mary's Well, believed to date back to the 1300's
Geology - a cement stone seam visible from the path is 350 million years old!
There are several notable wildlife areas, including those mentioned above plus a Ramsar site in Holborn Moss near Kyloe. As visitors are actively encouraged to call in ( small signs welcomed visitors, dogs and residents to walk the pathways) try to get this on your summer outings agenda this year, I'm sure you wont be disappointed. Don't forget to report your nature sightings to Alnwick Wildlife Group.


Alnwick Wildlife Group in front of Etal Manor the home of the Joicey family.

Snakeshead Fritillaries in the lawn at Etal Manor.

An unusual variety of Wood Dock with 'blood veins'.
After the presentations and a very interesting guided walk around the village of Etal, we returned to the village hall that had been transformed in our absence into a restaurant. Here we were treated to a delicious homemade  2-course dinner with wine. The food was so nice a few ( inc yours truly) had seconds, before we said our thanks and bade our farewells and headed home.

We will definitely be back here on a nice summers day to see what other wildlife can be located...

Friday, 22 April 2016

Home, home on the range(s)

Jane and I made our annual visit to the Otterburn Ranges today while they are open for the lambing month.  For once it wasn't a howling gale or sleet and 6C was an acceptable temperature.

Driving along Coquetdale there were Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and the first couple of Wheatear for us this year.

Then up by Ridlees Cairn there were the first signs of spring.  Common Whitlow Grass (Erophila verna) was flowering well by the roadsides.

Both Cotton Grasses were showing their early flower buds, with the single heads of Hare's-tail Cotton Grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and the developing multiple heads of Common Cotton Grass (E. angustifolium)

On the bog pools there were plenty of Common Pondskaters and a few Whirligig Beetles on the surface.  One pool had a writhing mass of hatched Frog tadpoles.

The birdlife included a male Reed Bunting and a passing Raven.

One rock had a minute but attractive stalk of one of the common Cladonia lichens - probably C. diversa but I wouldn't be certain about that.

Monday, 18 April 2016

AWG Ellingham....

Ellingham - The route is marked in red and began in the village, working roughly clockwise.
On Sunday morning, a good turn out of 17 members of AWG came for a wander around the local patch of Michael Hall, a resident of Ellingham. The name of the village may confuse some, as there is an Edlingham, an Eglingham and an Ellingham all in the Alnwick area, not including Ellington 20 miles to the south just to make matters even worse! So, please forgive me if I've got it wrong on here, at least we all turned out at the same place.

We met at 10am in the centre of the village, a very picturesque setting, to be guided by Michael around the lanes and tracks he usually walks with his dogs. The route was generally on the level and took about a couple of hours, including stops and chats.

Although it was bright, the cold breeze curtailed the arrival of many spring migrants, the only ones noted being 1 House Martin, 3 Swallows, 1 Blackcap and many Chiffchaffs. We also noted displaying Lapwings, Buzzard, Song Thrushes, Yellowhammers and singing Skylarks amongst others.

Skylark. Image taken on another day... 

A lame Roe buck made a sorry sight as it hobbled away across a field towards the Priestdean Burn.

The whole area looks nice for wild flowers and, on a warmer day, invertebrates such as Butterflies, Bees and Moths would be worth a look.

Moschatel ( top) and Wood Anemone brightened the walk as did the first Bluebells just opening.
My personal favourite spot was the area around St Maurice's Church. There was a nice spring well uprising nearby that held Bogbean, Hemlock Water-Dropwort, Lords and Ladies, Butterbur and Marsh Marigold, while the churchyard has had Hawfinch, today a lone Nuthatch was the highlight.

The upwelling spring.

St Maurice's Church.
 On the walls here, a few Harts Tongue Ferns were given the once over by Alan Fairclough, looking for signs of breeding micro moth species. He struck gold with a first for Northumberland  - Psychoides verhuella, a  tiny moth with a purplish sheen, who's larva were living in the fern spores.

The furry looking blob in the centre is the larva disturbing the usual tram lines of spores.
 To see the moth and the actual larvae please click HERE.

We all returned back to our cars very pleased at the chance to explore such a lovely little village. 

If any members has other ideas or fancies leading a walk please let us know...

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Wishful thinking

As we were wandering through Hepburn Woods this morning on a Bird Club outing I was day dreaming about seeing an Osprey flying over, not as ridiculous as it sounds bearing in mind Chatton angling lake is only a short distance away and stocked with lovely fat, juicy fish. As one would expect of such idle dreaming nothing appeared, however after the walk we were driving home via Old Bewick and guess what flew over the car at treetop height, yes you've guessed an Osprey, I wonder if this works with the National Lottery?

Friday, 15 April 2016

Spring ?

It's hard to tell at the moment, we seem to be at that time of year when the weather is on a knife edge.
At Branton Ponds the wild life seems to be also unsure, whilst the trees are full of singing Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers we had 2 Whooper Swans fly over a few days ago and not unusually there are still one or two Wigeon feeding up on the grassy banks. However the season still battles on, male Tufted Ducks are forming groups and surrounding lone females, Sand Martins are hawking the water along with ever increasing numbers of Swallows and as if to show the spring is moving forwards and has not stalled we had our first Common Sandpipers of the year when 3 turned up on the west pond. Yippee here comes summer!.   

Monday, 4 April 2016

Natural history from the last few days

On Friday 1st April, there was a large movement of thrushes but not in the direction you would expect - in a south westerly direction!  There were at least 6 flocks of between 40 and 100+ birds of mainly Redwings and Fieldfares.  Presumably this movement was a result of easterly winds pushing migratory flocks back into the UK?

Saturday, Jill and I had a stroll along Warkworth beach.  Highlights included a good selection of common waders on the estuary, Little egret, 5 Whooper swans flying north, 1 Stonechat, 3 Sandwich terns and a Great crested grebe on the sea.

U15's rugby was in Newcastle on Sunday morning.  A detour on the way home via Druridge Bay produced 6 Avocets, adult male Peregrine and the Long-billed dowitcher at Cresswell.  The Peregrine was interesting as it was a couple of Dunlin and their slinking behaviour that suggested that there was a bird of prey in the air.  Sure enough, a Peregrine and Common buzzard were located circling north.  The Dunlin's eye-sight must be fantastic as the falcon was a mere dot to me.  The Dunlin maintained slinking behaviour well after the birds had disappeared.  This is not the first time I have found birds of prey whilst watching waders change of behaviour.

The Budge Pool, Drurige Bay NWT reserve produce a good number of Shoveler, a pair of Pintail, displaying Lapwing, 2+ Sand martins and a male Marsh harrier.  A Small tortoiseshell butterfly was seen in the dunes.

Sunday, 13 March 2016


After all of the sightings of Adders over the past few weeks today seemed an ideal opportunity to find some more, other members of the group had the same idea when Stewart Sexton and John Rutter arrived at the ponds,by mid-day the count was up to 12 Adders and there was the bonus of 2 Slow Worms enjoying the sunshine and warmth.