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.