Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ruddy v Common Darter...

After Nigel's comment on yesterday's post I think I better put some features down -

Male Ruddy Darter ( compare against pic below) -

Smaller than Common.
Club ended tail made obvious by narrow waisted apperance. Common is more straight parallel bodied.
Darker red in colour deep and rich. Common more orange red.
Face red. Common has yellowish on there.
Plain black fore legs. Common has some yellowish on legs.
The thorax is more or less a dark burgundy brown, not as patterned as Common.

On a personal note I think these Ruddies are great little beasts with loads of character. Easier to get close to than Common?

I hope that helps....

I recieved this reply tonight from Harry Eales the Northumberland and Durham Dragonfly recorder...

"Hello Stewart,

Thanks for sending me the photographs. I can confirm they are Ruddy Darter. I saw some nice mature males today myself. This species has only been in Northumberland for less than a decade but it can be found at most low level ponds as far north as the River Aln and probably a bit further north...



Harry Eales"


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This afternoon became warm and sunny after the dull drizzle this morning.

I had a half hour to spare so I popped into the Community Woodland at Ashington to look for dragonflies, in particular I was hoping to see ruddy darter, a relatively new species this far north and one I had not seen before.

Along the ride to the pond were 20+ Meadow Browns and a couple of Small Skippers. Down at the pond it was very sheltered and red hot in the sun. On my way in through the trees a few Common Darters were buzzing around and sunning themselves on the foliage. Once I got to the pond edge, at exactly the same spot as I saw the Four spotted Chaser in June, a small bright red dragon caught my eye. It looked very bright and I could get down to 3 or 4 feet from it, quite easily. It flew off but returned to its favourite spot, allowing me to get these photos ( click on them, I'm pleased with the results).

I suspected that it was a Ruddy Darter but when I got home I emailed a couple of friends who know about these things more than me. I was pleased to see that the replies so far are unanimous, agreeing with my initial id - a male Ruddy Darter - a lifer.

Also here were 6+ Emerald Damsels including a mating pair and a few Blue tailed Damsels.

I only spent about 15 minutes at the spot. Cant be bad eh..

Above - Male Ruddy Darter. Click for a larger image.

Above - Common Darter. Immature male I think? It was hooking its abdomen as if it had been mating....Ian's comment on this post explains that this ia a female Ruddy too...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Today I popped in to Cresswell to see the White rumped Sandpiper that had been found by Ian Fisher this afternoon. Although it was barely visible in the mist, it was reasonably close with a party of Dunlin. A nice little wader with a very sharp attenuated rear end as a result of of its very long primaries, this is the third at this spot in recent years, and my fifth in Northumberland. They are becoming like Pec Sands!

Late July is a peak time for them on east coast Britain (see this blog 18th July post), and the prize is surely there to be found for those who carefully sift the Dunlin flocks.

In response to the anonymous visitor to the dragonfly post, below, I have removed the site name. I was unaware that a permit was required and was freely guided to the spot by a local householder. Point taken.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Go West...

This weekend has been warm and sunny with odd patches of mist and fog with very little wind. It was this settled pattern that prompted me to pack camera, bins, Jane and Bunts ( not necessarily in that order) into the car and head off to a place near Carlisle that I hadn't been to before. The Moss (above) will from now on remain unmentioned, is the haunt of one very special species of dragonfly that is only found in a handful of sites, mostly in the highlands of Scotland...

We arrived at lunchtime and met up with Roger F after I tipped him off about the site through the week. After a short walk through woodland the site opened up into a lowland bog covered in heather, cross-leaved heath and sphagnum moss. It was very wet underfoot and wellies were essential. At one point I nearly did a David Bellamy and sank almost up to my knees. As Roger says, you could lose a horse and cart in here. We soon came across a small (bottomless) pool about the size of a snooker table and dragonflies were everywhere.

First off were these nice little Black Darters (above) and Emerald Damsels in the heather beside the pool. Pairs of Common Darters were egg laying and defending territory here as were Four spotted Chasers and a couple of Common Hawkers.

Above, top, this newly emerged Common Hawker looked ghostly in the rushes before flying off strongly. I investigated the spot and found this 'exuviae' where it had been perched. It is the shed larval case like a chrysalis after the adult emerges.

Then came the real prize of the day. At least 6 White-faced Darters (below) were on territory around the pool margins. Only one female was seen egg laying but the males performed well. There were several tussles between them and Common Darters. Dan Powell's book states that they like to perch on white objects such as bleached wood or even tee-shirts, so I found a worn dead branch and lay it in the pool. They soon found it to their liking and took to it like a duck to water giving us great photo opportunities.

We spent an hour with the dragons but several birds were also noted. A family party of 4 Crossbills were seen a couple of times in the trees nearby, a family of Buzzards were 'mewing' overhead, Tree Pipits were calling their buzzing flight note around the clearing and a Great spotted Woodpecker flew over.

An excellent day!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Remember my White billed Diver from Boulmer last autumn?(above). I'm pleased to see that according to the BBRC website it has been accepted and later classed as the same individual seen by Tariq at Cullernose as it flew off...

On another topic, on tonights BBC local news there was a photo of a 4x4 washed out by the tide at our local beach, Howdiemont Sands. The owner had driven down the dunes, off road, onto one of the most scenic beaches you will come across to launch his boat. Off they went for several hours only to find, on their return, the Isuzu or whatever up to the windscreen wipers in sea. Lets see if low ratio will get it to pull away now!

Last summer a similar incident found two 4x4 racers bogged down on the sand. They went to the nearby farm for assistance and were refused. By the time they walked far enough to get help and finally extracted it was 8 hours later.

Sympathy? None. These good people can see no wrong in haring up and down churning up our dunes and its ecosystems. Laugh? Oh yes, did I. Nearly as much as when Ipin Roppa and I saw a chap on a Trail Bike get washed into the drink by a tide surge at Druridge...

My only disappointent is that I can't find the picture they showed on the news on Google to show you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Today was hot and sunny only tempered by a cool E breeze.

Out with Bunty tonight around the north end of Boulmer had a nice juv Whinchat perched up in a stand of ripe corn , probably a local - ish bird. On the shore were 7 Sanderling with 21 Dunlin, 30 Turnstone, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Bar tailed Godwit and 7 Knot. A dozen Sandwich Terns were sitting the high tide out. I didn't get time for a seawatch, not that I'm too bothered, July is quite early though today was definately the time to get a Storm Petrel, a scarce bird up here.

On my way to work this morning 3 Little Egrets were roosting in bushes on the far bank near Warkworth Wier. The Coquet Estuary is looking more 'southern' every day...

Sunday 20th July...

Above - An early start at Boulmer was serenaded by this Sedge Warbler. During a short seawatch I had a few Manx Shearwaters, 3 Common Scoters and 3 smart adult summer Little Gulls all N. 8 Goosanders were on the sea.

Above - The first Knot of the autumn was back at Boulmer. Always nice in breeding plumage, this one looks quite exhausted.

Above - Masses of Gulls were feeding on the washed up weed as were 1000 Starlings, Pied Wagtails, Rooks etc.

Above - Closer inspection of the hoards revealed this nice adult Mediterranean Gull beginning to moult out of its black head...

On the way south I checked the weir at Warkworth for Little Egrets but there were none. I was suprised when this massive bull Grey Seal surfaced like some monster salmon at the bottom of the waterfall...

Above - I caught up with the Little Egret at Hauxley nature reserve. It was taking a rest up the bank...I reckon they'll be nesting up here in the near future...While taking this picture I looked in my bag for something and when I looked back the bird had turned into a Rabbit! Bunny there, Egret gone....

above - Hauxley Nature Reserve Car Park...

Above - At the nature reserve car park many wild flowers were out including these Saw-wort, a thistle without spikes and new to me.

Above - From the top, Great Burnet ( a fave of mine, a very nice plant all too scarce now), Maiden Pinks, and bottom, Scabious and Musk Mallow.

And all of those flowers had the butterflies in attendance. Above - Small Heath, Common Blue and Small Skipper all in good numbers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Returning from Jane's sisters we stopped at Harwood forest to walk Bunts. I didn't hold out much hope of seeing any butterflies as there were quite a few heavy rain showers. The sun soon came out though and within a few minutes there were dozens of Ringlets and this nice fresh Dark Green Fritillary on the wing.

We walked along a ride next to a clearfell just north of the village. There were loads of flowers in the ditches and open spots including Sneezewort(above), Cross leaved Heath, Lesser Spearwort, Welted Thistle, Meadow Vetchling and Ragged Robin. There were loads of Raspberries (above) growing wild in amongst the tree stumps, but they seemed to be rain damaged. I bet you could have picked a lot last week when they were fresher...

On our travels today we visited Jane's sister down near Wallington Hall. She lives on a farm and the local kids had bred these Polecat Ferrets. We used to have one as a pet and when Jane saw these kits she couldn't resist getting to grips with them. They are cute, I must admit...


Today was humid and showery with odd sunny spells. At Seaton Point this morning a few Cinnabar Moth caterpilars were feeding on Ragwort, and this Bumble bee looked a bit different. It was small and plain black without the usual stripes. It was whitish towards the tail but thats about it really. Does anyone know what it is? It was the only plain black one here that I could see, though there were many red tailed, and white tailed Bumbles around.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Working lates today hence this early post. Some of you may have noticed the distinct lack of birding from yours truly of late and even less at Boulmer. As our summer season is so short up here, I make no apologies for spending most of June and July seeking out plants and insects around about and I've really enjoyed it this year, seeing quite a few new species for me.

Now that we are past mid July though, there seems to be a turnaround starting. At Seaton Point with Bunty this morning there was a nice flock of early returning waders, 42 Dunlin complete with black bellies, 5 Ringed Plover and 3 Grey Plover. Dunlin were thoroughly checked because this is a great time to find White rumped Sandpiper. A male Yellow Wagtail was flying around the caravan site and a spotty juvenile Wheatear was on the beach.

The other day there were two of these very young birds at the north end.It makes you wonder if they are locally bred? I could have easily missed the adults as I haven't been giving it that much cover recently...

Once August is here birding will be back in full swing with loads of seawatching, waders and drift migrants on the coasts...d'you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Going to and from work today a Little Egret was on the River Coquet near the Warkworth weir. This morning I only got a flight view as I drove past, but tonight it could be seen stalking stealthily along the opposite bank above the weir. While they are common now in the south, they are still a good bird to see up here.

I remember my first in the 80's at Cresswell Pond. I would visit the pond at dawn before work by bumming lifts from people who worked shifts ( I didn't drive then) and after about 5 attempts I finally caught up with it. Today I didn't even stop the car! Shame on me....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Brown Fields...

Click on the picture for a bigger image...

Often when I post on this blog I try and show what a lovely, dramatic and scenic area Northumberland is, but, as with most areas of our over crowded lttle island, this county does have its 'dark side'. These pictures are of an old railway site that once fed coal to a large power station in the south east of the county. Fly tipping and grafitti are commonplace on railway parapets and stock yards, and spotty baseball capped youths criss cross the wastes on mopeds, looking to see what swag they can flog to the scrap man next time he's around.

But all is not lost. Paradoxically, these brown field sites often have a more diverse plant and animal life than the green deserts that we call countryside. This area does not get sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. Ditches don't get drained and hedges are left un-flailed. There are no resident fox hunt here, yes those baseball capped dispicable little characters who put their mopeds away and return with lamp and lurcher at night will take a toll, but it isn't systematic.

Wild flowers are all over. Ones with poetic names such as Wild Mignionette, Tall Melilot, Centaury and St Johns Wort( above), Scarlet Pimpernel and Creeping Cinquefoil, Restharrow and Mallow mix in with Thistles and Nettles and various umbellifers. Reedmace ( Bullrushes to you and I) share the ditches with the unusually named Celery-leaved Crowfoot. All backed by a scrub of Willow, Bramble, Dog Rose and Privet.

But those plants are not the reason I came here yesterday lunchtime. I was here for the Butterflies. One in particular, the Grayling ( above, centre) is very scarce in the county, its nearest colonies being up at Lindisfane and down in Durham. One or two were on the wing here with Small Skipper ( above left) Common Blue ( above right), Red Admiral and Meadow Brown. Large Red Damselfly was seen too and every thistle held black and pink Burnet Moths, both 5 and 6 spotted varieties ( below)...

I bet soon this area will be'improved' with shiny black tarmac and new buildings...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boulmer Birder is 2 years old today...doesn't time fly.

Starting off with about 30 hits a week, it now sometimes exceeds 1000, averaging at 800+.

I hope some of you enjoy it...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Odds 'n' Sods...

Last evening we took Bunty for a walk down the Low Steads road. The Little Owl showed well on wires and telegraph poles almost up to Longhoughton Football field.

This morning I was at work in Ashington when 21 Crossbills flew west over the Technical College. Obviously migrants, there is absolutely nothing for them in East Ashington ( or for any other living creature for that matter!)

Tonight at Seaton Point one or two Whimbrels were whistling around the shore.

On yesterdays post I was too engrossed in looking for plants and butterflies I forgot the birds, not that there were many. In Corby Crags wood though there were a good few Lesser Redpoll families and a Siskin or two buzzing around the young conifer plantations. It seems that they have done well up here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We took a drive out west today as far as Ingram Valley sropping at Corby Crags near Alnwick on the way.

Above - The view north from Corby Crag Woods. Click on any image for a bigger one.

Above - The track into the wood with flashy interpretation board. The info on it is not strictly correct. One of the tracks we tried to find to the small pool was now missing due to logging operations last winter... The track edges were covered in drifts of Selfheal, Tormentil, Foxgloves, Crossleaved Heath and many different small sedges and rushes ( they're beyond me?)

Above from the left - Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Large Skipper butterflies could be seen.

Above - This fungi looked like a brown version of the familiar fly agaric. I checked my book at home and think it is called The Panther. It is very poisonous and can be fatal.

Above - Large numbers of Common Spotted Orchid were in bloom and made a great show backed by the short darker blue of the Selfheal.

Above - The River Breamish near Ingram, banks covered in Meadow Sweet and Meadow Cranesbill.

Above- I was well impressed by the visitor centre at Ingram. Very modern and 'interactive'. This wall carving was just inside the doorway.

Above - Monkey Flower Mimulus sp, Forget me Nots and Meadow Sweet along the small stream near the Information Centre.

Above - Marsh Woundwort and Meadow Cranesbill.