Monday, June 29, 2015

Gold Swift.

A short walk this evening in our tiny village wood found 12 male Gold Swifts doing their pendulum display dance along the rides. There were two groups with 6 in each, but they didnt find me a female....This is a scarce moth here so I'm pleased to find them at this spot each year. It is only one or two hundred yards from my garden but I've never caught one in my trap...

No camera with me this evening so this is a pic from a couple of years ago...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Our Garden....#2

What a lovely day to sit around the garden today. Jane is away to Newcastle with friends so I've pottered around cutting the grass and taking some pics...

 Above - This is our 'no mow' bit of lawn, its full of Cats Ear, Clover, Daisies and some Bugle.

This Red tailed Bumblebee is doing a good job pollinating the flowers.

Above - Our hedge. We planted this from odds and sods and its coming along well. It has held Barred Warbler in the past ( have I mentioned that before?)

Above - This is the far end of the hedge in the other shot. Just planted a year ago, the dog roses are flowering for the first time this summer.

Above - The hebe is covered in bumblers, including Early Bumblebee ( above), Tree Bumblebee, White and Buff tailed Bumblebees and Common Carder Bee.

But a real exciting bit happened as I was cutting the grass. This Sparrowhawk dived through my neighbours shrubs and emerged witha juvvy Starling to eat on the lawn!

I was out of its line of sight behind the sweet peas so I dashed inside, grabbed the camera and stalked carefully back to get some shots before it flew off, taking its meal with it. Lovely!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rain Flowers...

On Sunday I met up with John at the Warkworth Beach Car Park. First thing it was sunny and pleasant but this soon deteriorated into dull cool and some spots of rain.

A wander down the old water towards the estuary was very quiet for birds, the only highlight being a particularly violent Carrion Crow that caught and killed a juvenile Black Headed Gull, in flight, and 3 Little Egrets.

A few young birds were in the scrub, Chiffchaff, Robin, Mistle Thrush etc.

As it was slow going we decided to check out some flowering plants in the dunes, but even this was stymied by the overcast conditions. Will we ever get a summer I wonder?

Maiden Pink
Poppies in a low yield barley crop near the golf course.

Top - The adult Robin just peeps in....then finally delivers the goods.

A trip over to Mull...

Whenever we visit this part of Scotland we like to have a day trip over to Tobermory on the island of Mull. We take the small roll on roll off ferry from Kilchoan as foot passengers and have a stroll around the picturesque harbour at Tober.

Kilcoan is a very remote part of the world, so much so that a barman in Tobermory said to us, 'Its like London over here compared to there!' Maybe not quite, but Kilchoan is quite out of the way, its probably easier to do your shopping after this ferry trip than to drive over to Fort William.

On these trips we are generally lucky with the weather and this year was no exception, being sunny, but cool.

Almost as soon as we stepped on to the ferry, Jane noticed a bird coming from behind me and pointed it out. It was a nice adult White-tailed Eagle, very close. By the time I got the camera out, the bird was going in an opposite direction to the ferry, it was just a speck, but soaring right over where we had left the car! Bugger.

White-tailed Eagle over Kilchoan.
Harbour Porpoises
Well thats enough of the holiday snaps for one trip, what with small parties of Curlews arriving to the fields next to home, you know whats just a short few weeks away...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ariundle Oakwoods, Strontian....

During the week away, we made a couple of visits up to Ariundle Oakwoods to look for butterflies. This is a lovely spot with some ancient atlantic oak wood still left hidden behind some younger forestry type planting. Unfortunately during the time of our visits, butterflies were quite scarce. It was sunny at times but often breezy and cool.

Ariundle Oakwoods, Strontian.

Above - The views along the Strontian River.
While checking a spot nearby for Marsh Fritillary, we came upona single Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth nectaring on Bluebells. It looked a bit like a Hummingbird Hawk-moth but the clear black lined wings on the orange and black striped body were very distinctive. Face on it looks like a mini red-legged partridge! 

Narrow bordered Bee Hawk-moth, near the Ben View Hotel, Strontian.
Down in the woods, there were no Pearl bordered or Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, but a couple of Chequered Skippers took advantage of sheltered sunny spots along the main path to forage. I see these nice little butterflies most times we visit the area but never tire of them. Great little things...
Along the path side, a few plants in flower including Cow Wheat, Bluebells, Stichwort and a new one for me, Marsh Violet.

Chequered Skipper. I couldnt get it to land on a bluebell this time.
Marsh Violet.
A Red Deer stag without antlers...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Back from me hols...(Edit)

[Hello all. If you have already read this edition prior to Sunday 14th June, please accept my apologies. This was a 'lazy' post, and I'm going to change it.]

We have just returned from a week away up to our regular haunt in Scotland, the Ardnamurchan. The house we have stayed on on four occasions now, again came up with the goods. We had a great week, filled with clear blue skies and sunshine, all be it, a bit cool, but as long as the rain stays away, its a bonus!

There are too many highlights to write about this week, so I'll let the photo's do the talking...

We arrived at Acharacle last Saturday afternoon in strong winds and heavy rain. The landscape looked about as uninviting as it possibly could, but the weather forecast for the next five days seemed to be improving slightly so we weren't too despondent.

Our cottage was just as we left it on our last visit in September 2013 and long may it stay so. It has an old fashioned quiet charm inside that instantly makes you feel at home in a peaceful, remote landscape.

Allt Beithe, Arivegaig, Acharacle. The view from the moss...

Allt Beithe.
We bought some bird seed and nuts a local shop ( I must bring my own mix next time as the stuff available locally was mostly corn rubbish) and stocked up the feeders at two bird tables, front and side. They were soon frequented by familiar garden residents, but family parties of Siskins and some wild Rock Doves and Hooded Crows indicated that we were further away from Northumberland than usual. A bit of small bird activity under the shade of some beech trees in the garden soon revealed the presence of a Chiffchaff nest with young.

One morning I got up and looked from the kitchen window to find a Red Deer stag standing on the lawn! I have no idea how he got in or how he left the scene as the land is well fenced and hedged off from the moss.

Siskin. Families regularly at the feeders.

Not a ring or scruffy black one amongst them. Rock Doves.

Chiffchaff breeding in the garden.
Each time we visit, we hope to catch up with the elusive Pine Martens that live nearby. In 2007 we had some nice views of two, in 2010 we had one glimpse and in 2013 no sight at all. We were not disappointed in 2015's showing.

From Saturday to Tuesday the jam and bread was removed from the bird tables and ground during the brief hours of darkness leaving us a tad frustrated. So, on Weds morning I got up at 5.30am to replenish the missing food, after only putting out a small amount on the evening previously to attract attention.

I sat glued to the kitchen window, camera in hand until by 9am a robin was developing a taste for raspberry jam. No sign of the mystery mustelid. It was time to let Bunty out into the garden for her morning ablutions. As she left the side door I heard and saw a scrabble of gravel on the drive and a tirade of yapping from the trusty dug. I jumped around the corned to see the Pine Marten legging it across the lawn, tail spiralling like a helicopter with Bunty in pursuit! A sharp yell from her master put paid to the chase and all I was left with was the rattling of rhododendron bushes as the poor creature escaped. It had been below the kitchen window all along...

Surely that was the end of our chances this week, no sensible marten would venture back in daylight after that happened....

I then thought I would try my luck by constructing a temporary marten table near the side bushes where he might sneak out for a sweetie snack in the knowledge that cover was a leap away. I replaced the bait at 10am and we went out for the day.

On return at 5pm the bread was still untouched, even the robin didn't fancy it. I just left it be thinking our mate would take it over night if at all.

By 8.30pm I wandered back into the kitchen for a top up and to do the dishes when I took a casual glance out the side window. No bread! Little sod had been in  while we were eating and taking the loot. Right, get some more out straight away.

I left it unchecked until about 9.15pm. When I looked I was over the moon to see a small pointed face peering out from the side of the bushes, and called Jane and Lillian ( my sister in law was staying with us for one evening) for a look...

This pattern kind of continued on Thursday and Friday too with the Pine Marten showing best on Friday at 8pm. What a star, even though he was only on show for a few minutes at a time, it was a great pleasure to share a meal with him. Tremendous, Pine Martens are just the dogs danglies....

Pine Marten. Same individual. Top two - 300mm f4 1/400th at ISO 3200, Bottom two - 300mm f7.1 at ISO 800 . 

Around the house is Kentra Moss and Kentra Bay (below). Its a great area for wildlife with Otter, Red Deer, Raven, Greenshank etc all seen.

Just down the lane, Kentra Bay.

Carnivores in the damp ditches. Butterwort...

and Sundew.

This Otter ran towards me and up a culvert under the track.
To be Continued...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Its all down hill..

A day of two halves today. Out birding with John this morning under heavy rain filled skies, seeing very little then out to Craster this afternoon in much sunnier conditions.

But first, one of the years highlights for me, came not by staking out a mining subsidence pond in the Northumberland coalfields, no, but just by having a five minute sit in the garden.

I remembered at about 6pm last night that this weekend is Garden Bioblitz time, so armed with a bottle of 'Sol' and a notebook, we took a wander around our acreage. Now, its not the hanging gardens of Babylon so the said stroll took no more than half an hour in total. During that time 83 species were recorded! Mainly plants, but also birds, insects and moths from the trap.

However, a little mystery appeared to be struggling amongst our non-native bluebells. It was a Bumblebee with a  huge rusty red rear end and a yellow stripe at the front of the thorax.

Mystery Bee...
I could see it has too much red to be red tailed so the field guide was brought into play. This didn't really help either, as this patterning just didn't fit for any likely garden species of bumbler. I consulted with John this morning and after some 'chimping' on the phone during a particularly heavy shower, he suggested Bombus monticola, the Mountain Bumblebee? The habitat in my garden isn't right, we are right on the coast not up a mountain. But see here...

So this evening I have consulted some experts on Social Media ( no, real ones!). Ryan Clarke on Twitter said monticola and called me lucky, while on FB the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Soc said exactly the same! Everyone concurs so it must be right.

Amazing. Cant be many coastal records surely....

Mountain Bumblebee Bombus monticola but not up a mountain...
 So if I can get Mountian Bumblebee here, can I have Wallcreeper next please?

Right, back to today.

Highlight of our intermittent forays away from the car and flask this morning was a nice patch of Early Purple Orchid in the dunes at Warkworth. With 100+ spikes it was a pity they were all but over. I'll try earlier next year...

Early Purple Orchid
This afternoon I fancied my luck seawatching at Craster to try and end May with a flurry, and what a good decision that was. An hour or so gazing east had only a few birds but 4 of them were patch year ticks. 3 Little Tern, 2 Arctic Tern,  1 Roseate Tern and 8 Sanderling were all appreciated. In particular the Little Terns and Sanderling both not annual here...

Nearby the Craster rock edge was a vision in blue with loads of Spring Squill in flower. This is a rare plant in Northumberland, and it favours right down to the rock edges on the whin sill rock. Very nice...

Spring Squill at Craster
119. Little Tern
120. Arctic Tern
121. Sanderling
122. Roseate Tern 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Black-winged Pratincole. 2nds.

Today dawned bright and sunny, so I cadged a lift with Gary Woodburn and headed down to Bothal Pond for some frame filling Prat action...

I thought we would get there and the star of the show would behave as yesterday, casually hawking insects down to only a few yards on the near edge of the pond. On arrival the pratincole was hunkered down out of a March wind in a depression in the mud on the opposite bank. Time to get the gear ready. It'll need to feed soon and join the Swifts over in our corner.

Two hours later and the Black winged Prat was just that. It hadn't moved other than to do a bit of casual preening. A Jackdaw kicked it into a very brief flight when it landed almost immediately, then, another hour later, it wandered for 50 yards along the shore, took off and flew straight back to its 'hoof mark' and settled down again!

I think it was too cold for larger flying insects so the poor thing was just waiting it out...Never mind, good scope views were had.

Black winged Pratincole. As close as it got.
The usual position this morning as seen through the scope...