Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Border Blues....

A day off after a Bank Holiday Monday is always a good thing. Today I met up with John and we headed north of the border, all 5 miles of it, to the Lamberton / Burnmouth area, not far along the A1 past Berwick. This place is only 35 miles from home, so for us its considerably closer than swathes of SW Northumberland.

With a reasonable weather forecast in the offing we were hoping to catch up with the colony of Small Blue butterflies residing on the cliff slopes here. The sun soon emerged from some scattered low cloud to create a warm pleasant afternoon, ideal for butterfly hunting.

We parked at the small car park for the cliff top nature reserve just east of Lamberton and walked north along the scenic coast path. This dramatic and picturesque coastline, in days past,was home to smugglers and seabirds, but now, the smugglers have gone leaving the area to the wildlife. This piece of coast is good for Peregrines, Small Blues, Yellow Meadow Ants and true cliff nesting House Martins, and today we saw them all, quite easily.

Added to those, we also had several Small Heath, Wall, Peacock, Green veined White and a Ruby Tiger moth.

Smugglers den...
Slope where we had 3 or 4 Small Blues...

Above - Small Blue butterfly. 
Down the road at Burnmouth, Spotted Flycatcher, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were the only birds of note, while a showy Orange-Tip was best of the inverts... 

Above - Orange Tip.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


What a poor spring its been for moth trapping in the garden. Its been cool and windy more often than not so I've put in a lot less effort this year. Last night though seemed promising and I was pleased to find a small but tasty selection waiting for me this morning...

Best of the catch were two completely new species for the Howick list -

The Herald was first up.  I've only met this species two or three times before and never in the garden, so I was well pleased to find it this morning. What a stunning moth it is too...

Next was not quite so glamorous Eriocronia subpurpurella. A tiny caddis looking creature, but they all count so -

Finally I must include the Buff Tip. There were 2 this morning and they never disappoint -

Tonight I'm off up to Ford Moss for some off piste moth trapping, so here to my first Scarce Prominent! Fingers crossed....

Friday, May 22, 2015


Another call in to Ashingtons QEII park on my way to work this morning was finally a success. I must have popped in 5 times in recent weeks to see this first summer Iceland Gull. Pretty much out of season, but nice to see locally. It soon swan to be the most distant gull out of 80+ present, so off to work...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Garden....

I've been pottering about with some photos and it got me thinking, about how much time I spend out in the garden. Mainly in the lighter evenings, we spend nearly as much time outside as in, so I think I'll do a periodic series on here with some garden images.

This one shows one of our garden sheds. It must be a hundred years old as it appears in some very old photographs on display in our village hall. Its a bit ramshackle but it has lots of character. Near us, the Old School House is now a holiday cottage, and on a couple of occasions the visitors have asked if we would mind if they sat and sketched the shed. We give them our blessing, especially when we are out at work they can pop in without any disturbance.

The only wildlife associating with the shed, is mainly mice inside and small solitary masonry bees that use small holes to nest in. One took up residence in a screw hole in the old door handle one year. Just to the left you can see one of my nestboxes on a small oak tree. It is occupied by Tree Sparrows this year but has had Great Tits in the past.

It is quite pleasant just to sit at the door with a beer and gaze over the fields behind. Hares, Curlew, Barn Owls and many more are often present.

Til the next instalment of 'Our Garden'...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Up the valley...

On Friday, John suggested that we have a change from the usual coastal spots and head inland this weekend. So, today we met up at Homebase in Alnwick and headed off up the Coquet Valley between Bilsmoor and Holystone, making a couple of stops on route.

Despite the poor weather, it was cold and windy with odd spattered showers, we eaked out a good day from very little prospect.

In a line of old, twisted Alders a couple of Redstart sang on territory, as did a single Tree Pipit and a Cuckoo. A pair of Treecreepers were feeding young somewhere nearby and a marshy field had Lapwing and Curlew in display mode.


After a while here we took a detour around Rothbury to stock up on refreshments and returned to the upper valley with a stop at Yardhope Oaks.

The ancient upland oak woods here are excellent, a nice change as woods of any kind are in very short supply on the coastal plain. There was not a leaf on the oaks yet. It looked like early April rather than mid May, but down in the shelter of the valley bottom some bird song could be heard over the wind.

Here we had 2 male Pied Flycatchers, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, another Redstart, a female Crossbill plus others heard, and a Tawny owl was mobbed by one of the Pied Flys.

Entrance to Yardhope

The Oaks

Bilberry flowers

A Wood Ants nest in full swing.

Pied Flycatcher
On the way home we stopped at Corby Crags to check for Green Hairstreak but it was a bit cold, then down to Alnwick Castle pastures ( Tom Jones is on here in August), where several Orange Tips refused to sit for the camera.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


A tip off from Robert, the estate head gardener, about an unusual duck on the pond the last few days, sent me along there this evening to see what was what. I half expected a dodgy 'call duck hybrid' or something but was pleased to find a nice drake Shoveler loafing around the lillies.

This is only my 4th since 2009 here with 2 being on the pond and one with other ducks on a seawatch, so it is a nice record and addition to the Patch Challenge list.

Unusually, he was paying some attention to a female Mallard and her ducklings, head nodding and grunting at her. He even chased off a drake Mallard that ventured too near to his new mate...I dont think the ducklings are his? But who knows maybe she came from another patch after mating...lets wait and see...

118. Shoveler

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


As I arrived home this evening, this Swallow was on a low wire just outside our porch. As it had a background other than sky, I thought I would get a few pictures...