Saturday, June 27, 2009

I never did get to go over to Bolam for the singing Nightingale. An excellent county bird and it would have been a new one on that list for me, but I've seen loads in other places so what with one thing and another, the journey was too far out of my way. Now if it had been a Sprosser...




Instead last night, this Map winged Swift came to our window. A nice moth and good to compare with the Common Swift from the other night...

Tom Tams confirmed that my Mullein caterpillars were the first for Vice County 68 ( North Northumberland) and he has put them onto the national data base...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nearly New...




I got all excited today when I read the Moths in Northumberland website. It said that the Mullein Moth hade never been recorded in Northumberland, and the last record for Durham was in 1979. Last night I found 15 caterpillars of this moth on a few Verbascum ( Mullein) plants growing wild in our drive!

Due to the rarity I wondered if I had jumped the gun with my id but after consulting with expert colleagues they are indeed Mullein Moth larvae.

Tom Tams, County Moth recorder states that he knows of one other county record from Allerwash in the Tyne Valley in 1997. Bugger, pipped to the glory slot!!!

Still a very good record though I'm well chuffed...

Tonight down the coast path, still no Dolphins but an adult Cuckoo flushed from the rocks next to my seawatch spot...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solstice Day...

I had a plan that I would get up before dawn this morning and get some sunrise shots on this pagan festival day. But, the best laid plans and all that... the night was completely overcast so I laid in until about 7.30am before heading off to see if the dolphins were still in the bay.




Above - My seawatch spot. Its no Newbiggin but I'm looking forward to the autumn...The shot below is of Sea Plantain. It grows plentifully here...

Although I sat for an hour or so, there was no sign of the flipper family. The best the seawatch could offer was a fs Little Gull N, 12 Manxies,4 Common Scoter, boat loads of Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots, Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes with smaller numbers of Arctic and Sandwich Terns. On flickery winged bird was almost certainly a Roseate, but the early morning light and distance prevented clinching the i.d.



Above - While I sat, a Rock Pipit displayed overhead nearby...



Above - Last night a Common Swift came into our kitchen. A Common Swift Moth that is, not the bird. After photos this morning it was released unharmed.

Mid morning the sun came out and the day turned hot and sunny so I headed west all of 2 miles to check out Little Mill ex quarry. This is a small NWT reserve and consists of a small pond with about a field of meadow. The grassland was full of Yellow Rattle, Meadow Vetchling and Birds foot Trefoil. It was here I had 21 male and 3 female Common Blue Butterflies, a good count.






Above - This Willow Warbler's nest full of young was in the meadow at the base of a small hawthorn...


The pond had lots of Common Blue and Blue tailed Damselflies and was edged with Celery leaved Crowfoot, Water Plantain, Greater Spearwort and various rushes.

In the garden later a Large Skipper and a pair of Siskins was noteworthy while I cut the grass and the Barn Owls put on their usual show from the drive.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

At about 7pm it was a nice warm sunny evening after the heavy showers down in Morpeth this afternoon so we took Bunty along to the coast path. We were gazing at the nice calm sea when a swirl on the water not far out caught my eye. We were then treated to a great display of acrobatics from at least 4 Bottle nosed Dolphins.

They were larking around, sometimes loafing on the top but for a few minutes they were cart wheeling in the air, just like Flipper! After about 15 minutes they slowly moved further offshore and became more submerged so we left them to it.

Back home the Wasps are still active in my boot and in the same room, the Swallow now has 5 young sticking their heads out along the nest edge. The wildlife is slowly pushing us out of house and home...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Weelea - weeleooee...

...or something like that. So the books reckon...

This morning Jane had to go to work early so that left me to take Bunty for her walk. We headed into the Village Wood and I wandered around, in the sunshine, in an tired stupor, not taking any particular notice of my surroundings. I was pondering rare butterflies and dragonflies I might see on my upcoming trip to the New Forest.

Then a vaguely familiar sound drifted into my head. Weelea - weeleooee... it went. I stopped and gazed up to where the noise had come from, high in some tall oaks. Weelea - weeleooee... it went again. Now was this some thrush playing silly beggars, after all I was still half asleep. Weelea - weeleooee... Ok, I'm awake. Its grabbed my attention. It couldn't be, could it? Surely in this open wood I would see it fly.

Then, Weelea - weeleooee...in a totally different place, more distant with not a sign of the singer. It had moved further up the wood towards the Hall. I put a stride on and got to the track leading along the eastern edge of the main car park and again heard Weelea - weeleooee... This time the song was much closer, in a huge oak, sheltered and catching the full early rays to warm it up. The bird was singing its Weelea - weeleooee's constantly now, interspersed with some warbler like chattering. After a while a movement high up at the back caught my eye.

A GOLDEN ORIOLE! Oh yes, how often have I dreamt of that one waking me up at home, and now here it is! Not a full adult male, but a singing immature male is just as welcome believe me. Only my second in Northumberland after last years bird at Cambois, so to find it on the patch made it all the more satisfying.

I put the word out and was glad to hear that at least half a dozen good county birders connected with it before it stopped singing at 11am.

It remained typically elusive in these large trees where it looked very small so high up. When silent it would be impossible to locate.

I'll check tomorrow morning for any Weelea - weeleooee - ing and put the word out if its there...

( No photos for this one I'm afraid, the one above is from Slovakia a couple of years back )

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

White and Buff...

These two have similar colours really...





Above - This female White Ermine was at the Moth Shop this evening. My first visit here in ages and there was a canny selection tonight, with Dot Moth, 2 Brimstones, Pug sp, but only the Ermine was low enough to capture...




Above - More attempts at snapping the Barn Owl tonight. You wouldn't think it from these shots but sometimes it came very close to our house but I couldn't get onto it in time. It hunted on and off between 8.30pm and 10pm this evening but had quite a low strike rate...

Oh and I tried that 'Simon King squeaking' technique and it worked a treat. The bird was on the other side of the field when I squeaked and it homed in like a missile. Its a pity the dog didn't come to call as easy as that!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Disaster!

Now no laughing here...

I've just been into our boiler room and found a wasps nest...Wait for it...in one of my walking boots!!!! FFS! Thats that then until November...
They've been unlucky those boots, I sank through the crust of a human latrine pit in China when I was wearing them last year, and now this...I bet they carry swine flue virus too...

Summer Time...

Another nice sunny and warm weekend with an odd fine shower in the evenings...

I've taken quite a few photos this weekend because the light has been excellent. Today I left the house at about 7.30am and covered the coast and Long Walk through the Howick arboretum and back home. There wasn't much in the way of birds but it was still a pleasant walk, with plenty to interest...

I'll let the pictures do the talking ( or most of it anyway)...Click any picture for a larger one, the panorama is worth it...



Above - Two shots merged together here to form a panorama of Howick burn mouth . The point in the far right is Rumbling Kern...



Above - Summer in the City...our village yesterday morning....



Above - For those wondering, this is Rumbling Kern. A gap in the cliff where waves crash and boom in stormy conditions, though not today. I had a Grasshopper Warbler with food for nestlings this morning near here, but it didnt sit for a picture....




Above - Two angles of Howick Haven this morning...



Above - Hoary Plantain, I think, in full bloom.



Above - Ragged Robin...



Above - Large Skipper. Two today one at Howick burn mouth and one in Village Wood, my first of the year. I also had my first Meadow Browns today, 2, along with 4 Painted Lady and 3 Wall.



Above - Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis on Jane's finger...



Above - I have no idea what this grisly creature eating the Cranefly is, but it made sharp work of it...



Above - Yellow Shell moth in the Pond Field with 20+ Chimney Sweepers. Those small Great Burnets that had me confused earlier this week are now a yard high!



Above - Barn Owl dropping onto a vole from our kitchen window. Nice. Only one photo before it flew off to feed the family...




Above - A wet and a dry Yellowhammer one ( or different?) of 4 coming to our feeders at the minute.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mis-id...



Thanks to Warren and Steve for keeping me right with my Burnets! This picture is of Great Burnet, taken same day as the plant below that I thought was Salad Burnet. The Greats are about half a metre tall or 2 ft in old money with the heads just still in bud. The other plant was about 8 inches tall and in flower. There were quite a few too. Now, looking at the picture with the field guide and Google at hand, the first plant looks unlike either Salad or Great Burnet! Do the little'uns shoot up to be big'uns? Help!

Is Great Burnet so variable? I have seen them several times in the past and they are always tall lanky things... Any botanists out there that can tell me more...



Above - Last years Great Burnet at Hauxley...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Light Nights...

As the title says, these long summer evenings are a real barrier to blogging. Instead of sitting here writing about not very much, I have stayed out there seeing not very much. Over the weekend the weather has been excellent, with Saturday in particular nice and sunny, if a little cool. The good weather has encouraged us to go for a wander in the evening so each night I haven't been getting in until after 10pm, hence the shortage of posts on here...

So whats been seen this weekend? Well, the time has been spent largely within half a mile of home, either in the garden or wandering the estate and coastal path.

A seawatch for an hour yesterday morning brought typical summer fayre with 15 Razorbills and 8 Puffins identifiable in the hordes of distant auks, 1 summer adult Red throated Diver N, a few Arctic and Sandwich Terns, 150+ Gannets per hour North, 11 Common Scoter N, plus the usual Fulmars and Kitts.

In the garden, 3 Painted Lady brightened the day briefly, a pair of Yellowhammers at the feeders with a pair of Sparrowhawks in attendance too.

Down at the pond field, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling on both days, but remained unseen. The meadow though is a real stunner ( below) with masses of Norhern Marsh Orchids, many hybrid orchids and the first Common Spotted Orchids, Salad Burnet, Great Burnet, Hawkweed, Pignut, Birds foot Trefoil, Ragged Robin, Sheeps Sorrel etc. As many as 30+ Chimney Sweeper moths lifted as a strolled through.



Above - Pond Field in all its glory. Click on the picture to get a better look.



Above - Salad Burnet, a scarce plant up here.

Best thing though has been the presence of a hunting Barn Owl at dusk from our kitchen window. On Sunday night I was outside and it flew to within 10 yards before it back pedalled. Tonight it was out in full daylight hunting the rough grass on the back field before leaving along the back hedgerow...

Friday, June 05, 2009

This Swallow has at least 4 eggs now in our outhouse. This is a first timer in here because we only put a new roof on in February, so last year the building would not be suitable. I wonder if they are young birds?

There are still one or two Painted Lady around the coast path but not much else. So far this month I have had 43 bird species on the patch but haven't managed a thorough look around yet. Maybe this rain tomorrow will ground something like a Rosefinch or a Black headed Bunting maybe! No, maybe not...

The news about the Brown headed Cowbird only 15 miles away at the beginning of May smarts a bit. Now why couldn't it have been in my garden. Then at least I could have blogged some photos after I'd supressed it! :)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rutter's Birding Mates...

Today was nice and sunny with only a light cloud covering on occasion. John Rutter and myself had taken a day off work to guide an RSPB group from Suffolk up into the Cheviots. A luxury coach loaded the group of 35 off at Wooler into two mini buses to follow us into the valley.





Our previous recce visits paid off and we managed to get them all onto some typical upland Northumberland birds that are either scarce or non existant in Suffolk. We had several Red Grouse pairs including some with young chicks, 3 male Ring Ouzels, Whinchat, Stonechat, displaying Tree Pipits and Redpolls, Cuckoo, Buzzard, Redstart, Dipper and Grey Wagtails. the only miss really was the Ravens we saw on Sunday...




Above - Singing male Redstart miles away....

The only downside of the trip was this...



Take a good look. It is a Green Woodpecker nest hole at the top and the square hole at the bottom is where someone has used a chisel to hack through to rob the nest of its eggs. I remember seeing this very hole many years ago but it was a suprise to relocate it today. The lengths some people will go to...

We had a very successful day with some very nice people. It was a pleasure to take them out.

A right bashing....

This Song Thrush was collecting snails on our drive and smashing them to smythereens before eating. It was very quick at it, consuming 3 or 4 in only 5 minutes. Its not something you see well very often...








The shell-less one at the end doesn't look too appetising to me...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Influx Arrives!



18,000 flew past Scolt Head Island in Norfolk the other day while 3,000 per hour arrived at Portland Bill. The Painted Lady influx into the UK is the greatest event ever of its kind and may be one of the natural events of the decade. A field of thistles in Sussex held 1,300 egg laying Vanessids lifting up in clouds to delight an observer...

Up here however, my photo, above, is of 50% of the influx on to the Howick Patch. Both of them were along the path in the Pond Field....