Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sprosser or Tosser?

Or Thrush Nightingale to be more accurate. Since childhood I always wanted to see the bird sometimes called a Sprosser and wondered why it was called that? A quick google search threw me into The Leicester Llama blog where Andy McKay says it is just the German name for Thrush Nightingale and we should all have body parts removed if we dare use this word in an elitist type of way. So Sprosser, you are now known by your Sunday best again-  Thrush Nightingale.

This morning a message came out saying that Steve Rippon had found a Sprosser Thrush Nightingale on the beach near Emmanuel Head, Holy Island. At first I thought, no chance, by the time I get there it will have been booted to the Snook and back and wont be seen again. Then a message came out with those teasing words 'showing well'. That was enough, into the car and off.

Fast forward a half hour drive followed by a half hour yomp over rabbit pot holed dunes and we meet a well ordered team watching from a nice distance along the strand line with no bird to be seen. 'You should have been here earlier...' etc 'it hasn't been seen for a while but is still in that cover over there' were the comments on offer. A tense wait followed but sure enough our target popped out, furtively at first, then by deploying some Navahoe-esque field craft we all got great views of the Sprosser Thrush Nightingale as it ran mouse like over some stones to begin feeding out on the dry seaweed. In some ways its movements recalled a Gropper Grasshopper Warbler  as it lay flat and ran like a rodent between the stones and weeds. We all took lots of photo's in the open of a bird more used to sitting in a dark forest in Fenno-Scandia Scandinavia than out on a sun drenched Northumberland beach.

This is a full lifer for me, never having seen the species in the UK or abroad so it was great to finally catch up with it. Nice for the county list too, my first since last September's Red footed Falcon!

British List - 406 Northumberland - 336

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Crappy Moth Photographs.

Now that many more people are becoming interested in moths and moth trapping, the internet and social media is saturated with images of the lovely insects being caught. Quite rightly, people who have never seen a Peppered Moth would be well pleased to find one in their trap in the morning, and are keen to capture it for posterity and to confirm their identifications with other like minded observers.

But is it too easy? The reason I ponder this is that there seems to be little care taken over these images of stunning lepidoptera. I mean, when would someone catch a Red Admiral, put it in a plastic pot then take its photo above last nights edition of the Evening Chronicle? Never. It would look awful, seeing a beautiful butterfly against a scruffy bit of plastic wouldn't it, so why would a moth be any different? I even see photos of clearly dead and knackered specimens that have been just left through neglect. Even common things with legs in the air, there's just no need.

Now, I'm not preaching here( maybe I am a bit) because I too am guilty of this. We all are to some degree. Scroll through these pages and you will find moths on old egg boxes and through dirty old pots, and I suppose this will happen for those species that are rare or locally scarce needing a record shot before they fly off. But why on earth would you take a photo of a Buff Arches or Poplar Hawk-moth on an egg tray? You cant get them to fly if you try so why not just take a few minutes to make them look as nice as any butterfly by positioning them carefully on a nice background.

Here are some examples of crappery that I have used in the past -

Both of these are common enough here, so I could have done better than this surely.

If you catch moths why not try this - look for any nice fresh specimen in your trap, something that may catch you eye. If the weather is nice with some good light, use a small stick or something ( I use coffee stirrers, like thin lolly sticks) to gentle slide under the moth, and lift it somewhere that will show it off to its very best. This can just be a large flat leaf or a bit of twig, what ever, experiment with different things. Some will work, others may not, but its worth a try.

Then, take a good few photos, after all, they cost nothing now, from differing angles and sides until you get something that looks nice. After all we are catching wild life here, so we should treat them with some respect...

So, I will say that from now on, I will only post crappy egg box shots or pot shots on here of a species that  a) It is likely to fly off  or b) I've not seen before or is new for the garden and is likely to fly off! Otherwise I will be trying to get something decent of it.

You don't need expensive camera gear, even a phone will do if you just take a little more care.

This is what I am trying for now -

Shoulder striped Wainscot from the summer.

Above - An autumn selection box of Pink barred Sallow, Frosted Orange, Brown spot Pinion, Black Rustic and Bulrush Wainscot.
Next time I post a micro in a hairy scruffy dull plastic pot, feel free to chastise me. We should really try harder!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Curlew Sandpiper

This has been a good autumn so far for Curlew Sandpipers in Northumberland. Down on the shore at Boulmer there are still 4 juvs with 300 Dunlin, 36 Ringed Plover and a few Turnstone feeding on a mound of rotting seaweed. The birds change over on a daily basis so it is worth keeping an eye on such a concentration because they may just carry something even rarer. Close scrutiny today, however, didn't reveal anything else.

Juv Curlew Sandpipers can be tricky to find in a large flock of Dunlin.

But here we can see the taller, paler bird. 

Here is a good comparison.

Feeding on seaweed maggots.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


As I drove home from work I passed Warkworth and saw that the increasing tide was already a shade too high for birding, so I popped home then headed down the road to Boulmer. Its a while since 'Boulmer Birder' has actually been on site due to some nasty environmental changes there, but it is still a good site for waders so I gave it an hour this evening.

Down behind the Fishing Boat Inn were 100+ Dunlin, 20+ Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 nice Little Stints and 3 Curlew Sandpipers ( 2 juvs and 1 adult).

Three Yellow Wagtails flew from the rotting seaweed pile. I then had a walk along to Seaton Point where more Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were up the tide line with 35 Turnstones and a Whimbrel. By now the light was going so it was time to head home for tea...

Two out of three Curlew Sandpipers with Dunlin.

A duo of Little Stints.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A good morning...

The road to Warkworth Beach...
This morning started bathed in lovely sunshine, a great improvement to yesterday's deluge, so we met up at Warkworth top car park at 6.30 hoping for a few migrants. Well we certainly got a few migrants but not of the kind we expected!

The rain and easterly yesterday looked as if there might be a Pied Flycatcher or even a Barred Warbler to be found but the clear night put paid to that idea. But as we searched, a very respectable list built up slowly and surely, with the help of our friends of course.

'Bush bashing' around the car park, a metaphorical term to describe searching thick scrub for birds, turned up 1 Wheatear, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Chiffchaff, 4+ Willow Warbler, 7+ Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 1 Sedge Warbler and 2+ Reed Warblers. On one of the circuits a female Marsh Harrier appeared briefly over head as did 2 Little Egrets and a couple of Swifts as they headed south.

A walk down to the estuary initially seemed a dead loss until we poached some luck from Barbara and her husband, a nice couple of Warkworth residents, who stopped for a chat. At this point we found 4 juv Curlew Sandpipers and a very low flying juvenile Osprey heading up the Old Water. This is my first Osprey at this site despite many hours of coverage over the years, so it is a definite highlight of the year so far.

From the north side, I was checking the distant Dunlin and noticed an different looking bird with them, facing away and remarked to John. 'Its only half an hours walk around, we can check from the south side' was the reply. A good idea. But, the best laid plans and all that, the Osprey, Curlew Sands and a nice group of 9 Black tailed Godwits shook the thought from my mind...

From top left clockwise - Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Caspian Gull and Osprey.

A young Roe Buck just starting to bud his little antlers.

A juvenile Sedge Warbler
 Back at the car, info came through about the annually visiting Caspian Gull in Amble Harbour had been joined by an juv Yellow legged Gull ( found by Birdwatch mag editor Dominic Mitchell no less) so we decided to check them out.

The Caspian Gull posed well on arrival but we were too late for the YLG so had to make do with two 99's with monkeys blood instead. Well, when mingling with tourists we could hardly refuse...

Three juv Curlew Sandpipers continue migration.
 A short stop in an estuary lay-bye along the road to see if the gull was roosting upriver proved fruitless, but as I scanned with Johns scope I checked the Dunlin...again at a little distance, was a strange looking bird, this time head on. Ah, its just a juvvy Dunlin, I casually thought and lunch was now calling, so we decided to call it a day.

No sooner had I lifted my gear into our house 20 minutes later than a message came over the phone from the eagle-eyed ( and clued up) young Mr Farrooqi Jnr to say that he had found a White rumped Sandpiper on the Coquet estuary... ( groan....), so it was all about-turn and off I went again...
The one on the right is a White rumped Sandpiper, honest.
 A small crowd had gathered at Amble Marina by the time I arrived and the White rumped Sand was showing very well just across the rising tidal river with a few Dunlin, and now an adult Curlew Sandpiper and 5 Knot inc 3 sum plum adults. It was a nice moulting adult too and overdue for the site. Thanks to Jonathan for getting the news out so quickly, a great record for the Coquet...

Friday, August 19, 2016

At last, a bird!

Last night a brief stop on my way home from work to scan the Coquet Estuary from Amble marina didnt look promising. The tide was high and a kid was messing around in a rubber dinghy on the water. I'll give it a few minutes, I thought. Then I noticed that the tide was just beginning to drop and the bespectacled teen in the boat was grounded on the prime wader feeding area.  His outboard had packed in, so he used his oars to punt himself into deeper water before rowing off into the SE breeze.

Over on the far bank waders began to gather including 50+ Dunlin a summer plumaged Knot, 2 Sanderling and a nice juvenile Curlew Sandpiper when all of a sudden, Harry Potter had magically restarted his outboard and was heading back around flushing the lot. Oh well, time for tea...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Moth

I was over the moon to find this lovely Dusky Sallow Eremobia ochroleuca as the very first moth out of the trap this morning. It is the first for VC68 and only the 4th for Northumberland. County Recorder Tom Tams thought it might even be the most northerly UK record to date!

Its not often I get a new macro moth for the garden these days, but there may have been two new species in this mornings trap but the jury is still out an a particular Pug that I fancied may be Slender? [Consensus seems to agree with me, Slender Pug it is, a two new macro day can't be bad!]

Dusky Sallow
Slender Pug, another new species for me and the garden....