Saturday, June 28, 2008

We're off !

Thats us packed, see you in a week or so...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tonight the wind is getting up again. Our walk took me and Bunty around the North end at Boulmer. Of note were 4 Goosanders N and a good 'passage' of Swifts all going south on a broad front, with 50% out to sea. I had about 140 S in 10 minutes. While watching them I saw one that looked different, more patterned. I could see white on it! Then Bunty bumped me and I lost it for a second ( never take a dog birding, they're not very good at it). I dropped her lead to steady my bins. There was my bird coming straight south towards me in off the sea looking slightly larger than the Common mind was racing. What was it? A swift but what kind? A small wader perhaps?

No. It was a Little Tern. Its a bugger that!

I went home for tea, pleased with the Tern...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Down at Seaton Point tonight the tide was well up. The sea was choppy again thanks to the easterly breeze. A few waders here included 9 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover but suprisingly 2 Grey Plovers were still here. I say 'still here' because usually all have gone by now and returning birds don't appear until August so I can't see these being on their way back so early.

Quite a few gulls and odd Sandwich Terns were loafing around including 30+ Great black backs.

Stonechats, Linnets and Reed Buntings are all feeding fledged young in the caravan site...

Thanks to Ipin for a loan of his new 'Watching Dragonflies' book for my hols. You never know I might even buy my own copy ...( Steady...not until his is all dog eared!) :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Above - 2 Brown Hares in the meadow.

Above - Gulls gathering on Longhoughton Steel.

Above - Golden Plovers flying off.

Above - Gulls coming in.

A much better day today, mostly dry and mild with the odd light shower.

Bunty's walk was to the Boulmer north end this evening. I took the camera to photograph some plants that have had me pondering for a few days. In the end I didn't take the picture I wanted, because I'm still confused about their identity. The plants are either Lesser Meadow Rue or Sand Meadow Rue. I suspect that Lesser will win the day...

I found last years sole Pyramidal Orchid looking worse for wear. I think it has been trod on...

Watching the tide come in over the steel, some waders were gathered. 97 Oystercatchers, 2 Whimbrel, 3 Curlew and 22 Redshanks were typical mid summer fare, though 10 Golden Plover were a bit early ( or late?).

I believe that the 23rd June is the witches sabbath? Tomorrow is officially midsummer day ( not to be confused with the solstice that was Saturday)...its all down hill from here, I better start Christmas shopping....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Not much to report from today. Nothing in fact.

The weather has been windy with some rain later on, so I decided not to bother with much. I walked Bunty around the quarry where an Oystercatcher had 2 large young. This afternoon I painted the Lesser Grey Shrike (above) based on my photo's.

I'm looking forward to next weekend when we are going down to Suffolk for the week. I hope the weather has improved because I have a good list of Dragonflies, Damselflies and Butterflies to look out for...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Going 'commando'.

Today I went out into the field naked.

I took Bunty for her walk along a disused railway line at Alnwick and I dared to leave my bins, camera, notebook and even my phone ( with camera for emergencies) in the car. Oh yes, when you are a naturalist, leaving these items behind is akin to naturism. Do so at your peril.

So, we wandered through some excellent untouched scrub and vegetation hearing and glimpsing Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackcaps, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Marsh Orchids and Yellow Rattle grew amongst a profusion of Dog and Field Roses.

But I really reached down for my camera ( and my emergency phone when I realised I didn't take the camera) when, as we strode through some long meadow grass, a Grey Partridge leapt up and did the broken wing distraction thing up ahead. I pulled Bunts close too and froze to the spot. I knew that young Partridges can fly off at a very early age even before their wings are fully developed, so I reasoned that either its chicks were very small or a nest was nearby.

I scanned around at my feet without moving and there she was, only a metre away from me. The female Partridge, huddled nice and comfy in a grassy hollow. As our eyes met she too up and clattered around, leaving below her a dozen or so tiny, day old, fluffy chicks scarcely bigger than conkers. They soon ran off to hide and we left them in peace incase a crow was watching...

What a photo I could have had for you.

Could have...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mmmm 'Champion' thinks Roppa....

China updates on t'other blog ( see top left)...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just wandered around some of the local quarries and Boulmer this morning.
It was nice and sunny but the NE breeze had a cold edge to it.

Above -Azure Damselfly found at Littlehoughton Quarry this morning. Typical. My first mid week now they are on my doorstep.

Above - At the same quarry, a pair of Buzzards soared overhead calling and 12+ Crossbills flew low overhead.

Above - This Kestrel was hovering near the seawatch seat at Boulmer. It has a broken left leg but still managed to catch prey right in front of me. A young rat I think?

Above - Eider and Shelducklings sharing the same pool on the beach. All together now...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Mole...

Oh I forgot earlier, on our way home from Alnwick, just outside Alnwick Garden, a strange looking Siamese Cat was chasing something across the road. Fearing for its safety I stuck the hazards on and stopped.

The cats victim was a young Mole and it was making a good way along the road. I chased the cat off and picked up the unfortunate Mole in a paper bag I had in the car. Despite squeaks of protest I wasn't going to handle the little velvet gentleman because I'd read somewhere that they can pack a bite.

I gave the bag to Jane to hold while I got the camera for a snap. Before I could say 'apperture level' the Mole had dug its way out of the bag with its powerful little hands, dropped to the ground and buried itself out of sight.

Nicely in some of the Duchess's newly planted trees. He should be safe enough in there...

Upper Coquetdale...

Above - Jane and Bunty taking it easy in the sunshine...

Above - Bygate, Upper Coquetdale.

Above - Quickening Cote, Upper Coquetdale.

Above - Hay Meadow, Quickening Cote.

Above - Yellow Rattle et al in the Hay Meadow picture above.

Above - Ichneumon Wasp Lissonota setosa. I think.

After our stop at Callaly for the Orchids we carried on up the Coquet valley beyond Alwinton. It was nice and quiet up here with few visitors. The hay meadows are looking well with large amounts of flowing plants including Yellow Rattle, Pignut, Red and White Clover, Meadow Buttercup, Germander Speedwell plus many more. They were absolutely buzzing with many insects, unlike our coastal monoculture.

On the streams were a few pairs of agitated Common Sandpipers that must have small young hidden nearby plus a few Grey Wagtails, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits.

The insect above is one of the parasitic Ichneumon Wasps that lives around dead timber. Its impossibly long 'tail' is an ovipositor for laying eggs in timber boring larvae living in the dead wood.

Plant Twitch...

Thanks to an email from Tim and Janet Dean midweek we took a trip out to Callaly, between Whittingham and Thropton. The mature beech woods grow along the road side just before Callaly from the Whittingham end and we soon found the spot near Owlet Hall where there were 6 Birds Nest Orchids. These are saprophytic plants ( they grow on the roots of others in this case probably Beech trees) and dont have any green colouring in them. They were very obvious growing right along the roadside but could be mistaken for a dead plant due to their off brown colouring...Other than that the only thing of note in this pleasant spot was a Redstart still in song...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Damsels and Dragons.

As any local naturalist, who lives in the county, will tell you, we are very impoverished when it comes to insects. We get very few Dragonflies and Butterflies. But that doesn't stop me looking. The other day when we were out looking at Damsels I was frustrated when I came back and found that ST had great pictures of Azure Damselfly on his blog. This was made worse when you read that it was taken in Ashington near where I work.

There was nothing for it, Ashington Community Woodland was going to get a visit. Yesterday I struggled to find the ponds let alone the insects, but today I had more lunchtime to wait and watch.

I stood at the small overgrown pond above and was very suprised when the first thing I saw was a large chaser sp. Through binoculars I guessed that it would be Four-spotted Chaser, but then it was chased from its perch by an altogether bigger beast, that I suspect was a female Broad bodied Chaser! A very rare creature indeed up here. Unfortunately it didn't linger, but I will try and be more prepared next time...

Above - Four Spotted Chaser. I saw two of these together eventually.

Above - Top - Azure Damselfly. Cheers Steve! Look closely ( click picture) at the segment next to the tail tip. It has an amount of black in the blue. Then check the segment where the wings join the body. Here is a thin U or H shape.
Bottom - Common Blue Damselfly. Second tail segment is solid blue and the wings / body segment has an 'ace of spades' mark. Two very difficult insects to seperate in the field.

Above - Maybe the commonest, Large Red Damselfly.

A great lunchtime.

Oh and I forgot, on the way to work this morning a nice male Marsh Harrier flew over the road near the Boulmer Radar Base...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What a beauty....

to us anyway!

Top - 'Do you mind I'm asleep'
Bottom - 'Look at me in my garden'
Even warmer and sunnier than yesterday with a light W3.

For a change, I decided to have an early start and was up and away for 5am. This used to be a regular thing in our youth when we would meet up in a hangover haze after the excesses of the night before. It should be easier getting up now in a more sober condition...

Above - The Aln estuary and Alnmouth at sunrise.

I decided to head down to Druridge and Cresswell to see what's around.

Above - Top, The Budge Fields, Druridge, and bottom, the main pool at Druridge looking west towards the old preceptory ( no, I don't know what one of those is, see Ipin's blog, he'll tell you. )

Along the track to the hides at Druridge were quite a few nice flowers out, the most impressive being these Vipers Bugloss and Common Spotted Orchid.

On the Budge fields, 2 Garganey, 1 eclipse male and 1 female ( I hear that there is still a breeding plumaged drake this week so there are 3 birds here), 1 Barn Owl showed well hunting the marsh and a nice adult female Marsh Harrier was mobbed off by Lapwings. It was nice to hear the Snipe 'drumming' high overhead, backed by a chorus of Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats and Willow Warblers.

The highlight here though was a cracking Long eared Owl sunning itself in a willow at the west end of the main pool. Its not often you get such clear prolonged views, it must have sat there for an hour.

Down to Cresswell, 9 Little Gulls ( above) were with 27 Sandwich Terns on fenceposts at the causeway, the Druridge Marsh Harrier was seen again and there were two broods of Shelduck, with 8 and 10 ducklings.

So, combine that lot with some chat with the lads and it was an all round pleasant morning...

I heard today that the 'Nanny Shrike had finally moved on and had been replaced briefly by an adult Rose coloured Starling! If it reappears I'll definately be interested in that one...its a good few years since we had the last influx, when we had three adults in one summer.

Saturday 7th June...

A lovely sunny and warm day.

No birding as such but we did call in to this redundant quarry near home to look for damselflies. Not too many about, but I did get snaps of these Blue Tailed Damsels and Common Blue Damsels...

The shallows were full of millions of 'toad'poles....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Whats happened?

Something strange has happened. My blog looks different and not very good. The text seems to have been cramped up for some unknown reason. I'm sure that it used to be double line spaced?

Does anyone know how to rectify it? I'm beat...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What a difference...

a day makes.

After the deluge of yesterday, today was a nice summers day. I thought that I would pop up for second helpings of the Lesser Grey Shrike to see how he has polished up, and I wasn't disappointed.

For those who think we are just manic 'twitchers', take a look at this bird. If you have the most moderate of interests in birds you must surely come and see this. In the evening sunshine the delicate hues of pink and dove grey were astounding. Easily Bird of the Year...

Now that he has dried out, the forehead is solid black, so it could be an adult male after all. Watched singing and munching on bumble bees, he well desreved a second visit...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What can I say....

Sitting in the office, at work this morning, complaining about the dismal service provided by our IT section, gazing out of the window at a grey rainy day when the phone rings.

I glance down and see who its from. Gary Woodburn. Now this provokes some interest from my sapping miserable person, as when Gary calls it usually means he's seen something interesting. Wondering what it could be, I answer and Gary asks where I am. I tell him then comes the punchline. 'I've just found a Lesser Grey Shrike at the Long Nanny' he says.

To go from being morose to being kicked up the rear into action took about ten seconds of silence. I couldn't speak. Gary even asked if I was still there! Oh yes, I was still here but my mind was racing. This was a British lifer for me and was only 7 miles from my house but I was 25 miles away at work. Nothing for it, get a half day flexi booked in and off I went...

Straight home in torrential rain, get changed from the shiny shoes and tie into waterproofs, let Bunty into the garden and back out up to the 'Nanny where a few of the lads had the target staked out.

Above - Shrike site. Click on it and the bird can be seen as a white dot five fence posts from the right...

Above - Does anyone work!

Above - Imagine walking through the dunes and lifting your bins to this...

Above - Reed Bunting doesn't like it...

Above - Its off...

The bird was very bedraggled at first but soon perked up when there was a short easing up of the rain and even began to sing quietly to itself. We watched him ( at first I thought it was a female due to the broken grey black forehead until the singing started, I now think it was probably a fs male) down to 30 yards in the open for over an hour before the rain got the better of us.

All the features required could be seen easily. Grey mantle, nape and crown, black mask and forehead, white throat contrasting strongly with the blush pink underparts. It was very long winged with a huge white flash at the primary bases.

What a bird. My second lifer in under a week ( I've seen several in Turkey, Hungary and Slovakia but they're just holiday birds, they dont count!).

British List 388
Northumberland List 318