Sunday, May 31, 2009

Head for the Hills...

This has been a lovely weekend, weatherwise. Today was best of all being hot and sunny all day. Thats the thing about good weather though, no time for blogging! Its light until 10.30pm so I never have time at the computer...

Just time for sitting in the garden with the terrier...

Right back to the job in hand.

As promised the other day, these are the Star of Bethlehem in flower on the cliff path. Nice when open. As soon as the sun goes in they shut tight.

Today JWR and me headed off up the Cheviot Valleys again in preparation for Tuesday, but more of that later in the week...

We had a good morning with some interesting birds showing quite well.

Above - This is one of two Ravens that flew close over head. Both were well into moult...They flushed quite a few birds up from the moor including ... least 2 pairs of Ring Ouzels with this bright female ( she did not have the silver wing flashes of the male, and he was singing nearby anyway) with a beak full of food for nestlings showing particularly well. She was 'chacking' at us so we must have been close to the nest before we left her in peace...

Also up here were a few pairs of Whinchat, a pair each of Stonechat and Wheatear, a pair of Green Woodpecker at the nest hole, a few Lesser Redpolls including a very bright red male and a few Buzzards. 2 male Red Grouse were in dispute on the hill, and a female Red Grouse briefly had us in the Greyhen camp before we finally saaw sense. 2 Small Heaths were the only butterflies seen...

Above - Following on with the fish list these two Perch were in the river Breamish at Powburn on our way home. Come on bloggers, get more fish images out there!

Back home, a nice walk at tea time to the pond was very warm..

...the pond was a tranquil place to be.

Nothing new on the bird front but a hyper active Painted Lady was in the meadow alongside these two moths that were slightly easier to get close to...

Above - Silver Ground Carpet and...

...Chimney Sweeper.

11pm edit - Oh I forgot to add, as the month comes to a close, on Friday night 35 Canada Geese(93) dropped into the pond and tonight at 10pm a Common Sandpiper was calling on the rocks below the coast path (94)...94 species in May, I wonder what June brings...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A sad ending....

I didn't mention this on last nights post because it was a bit upsetting....

Yesterday morning Jane went off to walk Bunty as usual as I was getting ready for work. When she returned, earlier than normal, I knew something was up. She had found a Badger on the road that had been hit by a car and badly injured.

I got ready quickly and dug out our old dog cage and blankets threw them in the car and drove around to the spot where an adult, quite old looking, Badger was lying near the verge. It lifted its head to look around but was in great difficulty. There were no visible signs of injury but it couldn't walk.

As I stopped and put the hazards on, a lorry was approaching from behind. The driver stopped and kindly blocked the road and gave me a hand. We soon lifted the animal into the cage and onto a soft blanket. It was huge heavy adult and it filled the cage. I placed it in the car and went home to ring the vet at Alnwick who was put on stand by to await our arrival.

Alnwick is about 4 miles from here though and the Badger was having difficulty in breathing.

We got as far as Denwick, about two thirds of the way, when the poor Badger started to cry like a baby in the back. Unfortunately it soon went silent...

On arrival at the vets I ran to get the cage but was too late, the Badger was still and silent.

'It was probably internal injuries' the vet said as he handed me the empty cage...

I hope the driver of that car is happy with themselves after the hit and run. I get sick of people driving too fast on the country lanes...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Short but sweet...

Tonight an adult summer Mediterranean Gull (92) flew N very close in along the coastal path, and I finally found about 50 spikes of Star of Bethlehem in flower along the same area. I'll get some pics tomorrow....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Inspired by Warren at Pitswood Birds I thought I would keep a list for May on my patch. I'm not sure how long I can keep it up but one things for sure, June won't have as many as this month...

1. Red throated Diver
2. Little Grebe
3. Fulmar
4. Manx Shearwater
5. Gannet
6. Cormorant
7. Grey Heron
8. Mute Swan
9. Greylag
10. Shelduck
11. Mallard
12. Eider
13. Red breasted Merganser
14. Marsh Harrier
15. Sparrowhawk
16. Buzzard
17. Kestrel
18. Grey Partridge
19. Pheasant
20. Moorhen
21. Oystercatcher
22. Lapwing
23. Whimbrel
24. Curlew
25. Turnstone
26. Black headed Gull
27. Common Gull
28. Lesser black backed Gull
29. Herring Gull
30. Great black backed Gull
31. Kittiwake
32. Sandwich Tern
33. Common Tern
34. Arctic Tern
35. Guillemot
36. Razorbill
37. Puffin
38. Stock Dove
39. Woodpigeon
40. Collared Dove
41. Cuckoo
42. Barn Owl
43. Tawny Owl
44. Swift
45. Great spotted Woodpecker
46. Skylark
47. Sand Martin
48. Swallow
49. House Martin
50. Meadow Pipit
51. Yellow Wagtail
52. Grey Wagtail
53. Pied Wagtail
54. Wren
55. Dunnock
56. Robin
57. Stonechat
58. Wheatear
59. Blackbird
60. Song Thrush
61. Mistle Thrush
62. Sedge Warbler
63. Lesser Whitethroat
64. Whitethroat
65. Garden Warbler
66. Blackcap
67. Chiffchaff
68. Willow Warbler
69. Goldcrest
70. Long tailed Tit
71. Coal Tit
72. Blue Tit
73. Great Tit
74. Nuthatch
75. Jay
76. Magpie
77. Jackdaw
78. Rook
79. Carrion Crow
80. Starling
81. House Sparrow
82. Tree Sparrow
83. Chaffinch
84. Greenfinch
85. Goldfinch
86. Siskin
87. Linnet
88. Lesser Redpoll
89. Bullfinch
90. Yellowhammer
91. Reed Bunting

For May there are no real suprises in there. Best for the area I suppose are 2 Marsh Harriers ( ad male and imm female), 8 Whimbrel, Barn Owl and Cuckoo.

Biggest miss has to be Julie's Turtle Dove, not one I'll get back in a hurry.

There are a few things I could have seen but didn't such as Little Tern, more waders such as Dunlin, Ringed Plover etc, but all in all, quite agood variety for the area.

While I'm listing -

Mammals -

1. Rabbit
2. Hare
3. Hedgehog
4. Pipistrelle
5. Noctule Bat
6. Grey Seal
7. Badger
8. Short tailed Field Vole
9. Roe Deer

Butterflies -

1. Large White
2. Small White
3. Green veined White
4. Orange Tip
5. Small Copper
6. Speckled Wood
7. Peacock
8. Small Tortoiseshell
9. Wall

No I'm not doing other insects or flowering plants!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A very nice sunny and warm bank holiday Monday...

We spent most of today outside either gardening or walking through the Howick Hall estate.

Although the light was good there weren't too many photo opportunities...

Above - These Rudd were gathered in a tiny pond on the estate. We heard an enormous splash that we think came from something much larger but unseen...Coarse fish are quite unusual in Northumberland, so this is a goody for the fish list....

Above - The Scarlet Pimpernel, not so damned elusive after all...

Above - Its a pity I found this Star of Bethlehem just after it had gone over. There was only the one, though I had one not far from here on the coast path afew years back, but this is only the second one I've seen.

Above - An Ichneumon Wasp possibly Amblyteles armatorius but some features are not quite right...Other insects around today were 10+ Wall Brown, 1 Small Copper, another different Speckled Wood, 1 male Orange Tip and a few Green veined Whites. My first Common Blue Damselflies were at the pond too...

This evening I popped down to the coast path for a half hour sea watch to see if I could boost my May patch list. I have not even pointed a scope seaward since moving in, so I was bound to add something...

Manx Shearwater 1 N 2 S (88)
Razorbill 3 (89)
Puffin 1 (90)
Red throated Diver 1 fs on the sea (91)

Plus an assortment of commoner species such as Gannets, Sandwich and Arctic Terns, Eider, Kittiwakes, Fulmar etc...

Speaking of which, there were another 4 or 5 Kitti eggs in the wood this morning...

Thanks to Mike Hodgson for sending this distribution map of Mother Shipton Moth in Northumberland, showing the recorded sightings. It is quite a scarce moth, but our local lepidoptera expert, Harry Eales, sayd that he sees them just about annually now but mainly on the coast...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A nice sunny warm day with an ever so slightly irritating SW5 breeze...

Last night there were 3 Brown Hares feeding in the back field. As my sister in law has not seen one she suggested I take a photo for her...

Above - 2 Hares for Lillian, in habitat...

Above - and closer up...

Then it was off up the Harthope Valley with JWR for a wander...

Above - The views up the Carey Burn were spectacular...

Above - All of the Hawthorns were in blossom but this bush had more blossom than leaf. It was laden down with it...

Above - A few Beetles were on the track, a nice shiny Dung Beetle that reminds me of a blackcurrant fruit gum, and this metallic green thing...

Above - Then JWR spotted this, a Mother Shipton moth, a lifer for me. I have often looked in silent envy when Dean posts one on his blog. I didn't even think they occurred in the county. They get their name from the wing patterns that look like two witches facing each other. I'll look out for them more often now.

Above - My first Small Copper of the year. We had 3 Small Heaths too, but none good enough to photograph...

Above - Tree Pipit and Whinchat near Langleeford. Birds were elusive today with most being heard with fleeting glimpses - 2 Green Woodpecker, 6+ Lesser Redpoll, 2 Whinchat, 2+ Tree Pipit, 6 Redstarts singing, 2 Cuckoos, 3 Buzzards and a single Red legged Partridge. Both Blackcap and Garden Warbler were singing, but there was no sign of any Ring Ouzels...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The weather today was split into three. Early, sunshine with a light S3, noon, 100% cloud S5 spots of rain and evening clear blue skies with sunshine.

This morning we walked to the Pond Field. The meadows here are starting to come along nicely with many Northern Marsh Orchids in flower ( above).

On the pond itself, the Mutes have hatched out 4 cygnets, the Little Grebe is building for a second time after its first nest was flooded out and the young Herons sound very large now and are making such a racket in the trees.

Best thing though for me, was this battered looking Speckled Wood butterfly. My first in Northumberland and long awaited. they are very rare this far north on the coastal strip, I'll be looking out for a better specimen when the second lot are on the wing...

This afternoon a mystery was finally solved in the Village Wood. Over the weeks I have noticed eggs of Woodpigeon and Song Thrush lying on the paths and wondered where they have come from.

Today there were 9 Kittiwakes, 1 Pheasant and 2 Woodpigeons all broken and drained.

This bottom image shows two punture marks where the Carrion Crow has caried the eggs from the Kitti colony back home for breakfast...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Link...

Please check out the new blog link in my Artists column on the right - Wildlife with Pen and Brush from Stuart Brocklehurst in Yorkshire ( not far from Dean Stables?). Great fieldwork right up my, where's that sketchbook, its been too long.

This morning Jane was out with Bunty in the Village Wood and noticed two Red Squirrels up a pine. One seemed a tad too adventurous and went to the very tip of a topmost branch before falling off, and 50 feet to the ground below!

Jane dashed, panic stricken, to rescue the daft tufty that must surely now be in a bad way, only to see it leg it back up the tree to meet its friend and carry on as before...

Made of stern stuff these lads....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Above - 'Blood-veined Dock' a variety of Wood Dock Rumex sanguineus var sanguineus. A rare 'hortal' found in the woods at Howick...

Above - Birds Nest Orchid in three stages. Sprouting, in flower and gone to seed from last year. There were 10 spikes in the area mentioned a couple of weeks back. This time there was no 'creaking' in the woods.

3 Whitethroats were in the Village Wood along with two Roe Does, one in reddish summer coat the other just beginning to moult out of its greyish winter coat.

A Buzzard flew from the wood just behind our shed and away to the Heugh...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sorry no pictures today, not much time, then when we went out at dusk the light had gone...

A few interesting things today started with a Cuckoo (87) calling in the Village Wood. Heard both morning and evening but when I looked for it, it went all quiet and refused to reveal itself.

Above - Cuckoo taken in China last year. Despite full measurements we still couldn't decide 100% what species it was! Looked like ours though...

Also today, a Great spotted Woodpecker flew from a ditch after taking a bath, 2 Stock Doves, 1 Whitethroat and a Kestrel were in the Village Wood.

Tonight we have just come back from a walk to the Pond. Not much birdlife at this late hour but 4 Noctule Bats were hawking around overhead. Much larger than the common Pipistrelles ( 2 were in the village), when looked at closely in flight they seemed much slimmer winged and even had a long necked appearance. They were about Swift sized. They called distinctively too, a sharp 'tzzzick' like a smaller Dipper call...

Up to 3 Roe Does, or it may have been the same one, were seen at varying times.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Turtle Disaster!

An early start this morning. Up at 5.30am and away by 6 had me on Holy Island at 6.30am before the tide closed the crossings. I like this state of tide because it leaves you stranded without the hordes of tourists that flock here.

The weather was fine and bright with a moderate SE5, not the ideal weather we wanted for migrants. In recent days there have been Bluethroat and Icterine Warbler on here and I was hoping for similar!

Above - Some habitat shots first. A lot of new starters often query the whereabouts of locations on the island, so the top two are of the Excavations and the bottom one is the lonnen behind the school.

There was a nice scattering of commoner migrants in the dunes but the rares didn't materialise. The best though was a real suprise when a Nightjar flushed from the Vicar's Garden and then flew back and forward along the main island road before vanishing over the car park! I've never had a migrant 'jar in the county before...

Other birds of note were a nice Wood Warbler, a male Pied Flycatcher and a Spotted Flycatcher at the Snook, a few Garden Warblers, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffs dotted around, an imm female Marsh Harrier flew N, 4 Whimbrel were seen but birds were heard all morning and the causeway was lifting with 226+ Ringed Plover, 107+ Grey Plover with more Dunlin and a few Sanderling.

Above - Marsh Harrier looking like a black kite....

Above - Pied Flycatcher.

Above - Wood Warbler ( eating a St Mark's Fly!)

Above - Northern Marsh Orchid.

Above - Some of the Grey Plovers on the mud flats. Nice.

Not such a disaster you might think, but Jane rang me at 10am to say that my neighbour Julie had seen a Turtle Dove bathing in a puddle on the road less than a hundred yards from my house at 9.30am and you might get where I'm coming from. I was back looking for it at 11.40 but there was no sign. I have stocked the garden with plenty of seed in the hope it might join the Collared Doves in the morning...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Despite the BBC weather forecast on Radio4 saying that England had been grim, dull, overcast and rainy while some sunshine had been in Scotland, our whole day was clear sunny and warm with a light E3.

A pair of Lapwings (86) turned up in the back field today, the male tumbling and calling all over, the hum from his paddle shaped wings could be clearly heard.

Along the coast path a single Whitethroat was the only thing of note.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dukes and Pearls.

A day off work today to head of to the west on a butterfly mission. I met Roger at his house before heading off to Gait Barrows, a woodland / limestone pavement reserve in North Lancs near Morcambe Bay.

Two special targets were on offer for me, Pearl bordered Fritillary and Duke of Burgundy butterflies. The Duke in particular is a very rare and declining species that needed to be looked for before its too late...

Our first stop was a wood on the other side of the hill to Gait Barrows above Leighton Moss, where we found our first Pearl bordered Fritillaries. We had about 5+ pristine individuals including a mating pair that allowed a very close approach.

Above - Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.

Also here were 1 Speckled Wood, 4 Orange Tip, 1 Small Heath and 1 Large White. A cool easterly breeze kept the butterflies into sheltered sunny corners. 6+ Speckled Yellow Moths defied photography attempts.

From here it was only a very short drive around the hill to Gait Barrows for our second and main target of the day - the Duke of Burgundy. A tiny butterfly with a wing span of no more than an inch, it proved more of a challenge to locate. With the help of some local knowledge we were soon in the right spots and found at least 4+ individuals defending tiny territories in the wood.

Above - Duke of Burgundy.

There was a good selection of butterflies here including 2 Brimstones, 1 Green Hairstreak, 2 Dingy Skippers and 2 Speckled Woods with a few more Pearl bordereds thrown in for good measure.

Another highlight in here was a large Slow Worm that made off too quickly for a photo!

Above - Dingy Skipper.

Above - One or two of these tiny micro moths were flitting around too, I think I've seen them on Dean's blog? Dean can you help with the i.d? [Its Pyrausta purpuralis - Thanks to Skev for the i.d...]

Above - We had a few Early Purple Orchids in the wood and at Silverdale...

Above - And about 50+ Green winged Orchids that were just past their best in the Silverdale meadows, a new plant for me.

A successful day then and all in beautiful scenery and bright sunshine. Nowt finer!