Monday, August 31, 2009

Bank Holiday Weekend.

Above - This Bank ( Holiday ?) Vole was eating a pear on our drive on Saturday....

Didnt get far, spent some time doing the garden and wandering locally with Bunty.

Some highlights -

Friday evening -

Along the coast path had 2 Whimbrel, 2 Wheatear, 21 Eider. In the village 2 Sand Martins and 7 House Martins were with the local Swallows. Moth trapping was slow due to the cool blustery weather with only 25 caught of 7 species. Nothing new in there.

Saturday -

Along the coast path 9am. 2 Stoats were showing well dancing around in the middle of the road. Fearing another casualty, I strode on towards them where they hopped into cover and safety. Hirundines were moving south in some numbers and in the 20 minutes out I saw upwards of 200 in small groups. In with them later this afternoon were 3 Swifts, pity they werent in September....

On the shore were 1 Whimbrel and 1 Common Sand while 1 Golden Plover flew S.

Sunday -

Butterflies along the coast path were down on last weekend but there were still 39 Painted Lady, 10 Wall, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Peacock and a Small Copper.
A walk in the Village Wood found my first 2 Spotted Flycatchers here this year.

Above - Spotted Flycatcher, one of two.

Sunday -

Out with JWR today and was pleased to pop down to Amble to meet up with Steve from 'Kingsdowner' blog. It was nice to put a face to the name, so we gave him a morning touring some of the North Northumberland coast from Amble to Craster.

Steve's night spent in Amble 'The Friendliest Port', yes, thats the tagline, was less than its name suggested when Bank Holiday revellers had a 'smashing' time in the pub opposite the guest house!

Above - 'Kingsdowner' Steve investigating the ancient Red Loopoe of Boulmer...

Although the morning was a quiet one for birding our first stop at Foxton Bends had a nice Spotted Redshank on a flash in the field and 5 Greenshank and 1 Common Sand on the river. 4 Goosanders gave a nice flyby in the morning sun.

At Boulmer, 1 Whimbrel, 1 dark phase Arctic Skua and 3 Wheatears were the best on offer and a luckless search for Red Squirrel in our Village Wood gave us only 3 Speckled Woods in compensation ( possibly rarer than Red Squirrels up here).

A new moth in the trap last night - Brown Spot Pinion..

Above - Dotted Clay ( Arrrggghhh, no its not. Its a Brown spot Pinion. Thanks to Skev and Mike Hodgson for educating me on it. Its good that some one does, other wise this blog would be more stringy than a tramps vest! Thanks lads:)

And thats about it but as a write this there is a torrential deluge outside, a fine way to end the weekend...

The long range weather forecast for next weekend look ok for some seawatching on Friday - ish with a low moving over north Scotland giving us some long awaited northerlies...fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No moth trapping but these two were at the kitchen window last night, top, Dun-bar and below one of my favourites, Antler Moth. The wings look luxurious like Henry VIII's cloak!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Before work and after work around the garden (like a teddy bear...) a few things of note -

While feeding the birds this morning 8 Golden Plover flew south over head calling, my first of the autumn here.
This evening sat outside it was very pleasant, I might try the moth trap for a while later...
Yellow Wagtail 1 heard over head but unseen.
Sand Martin 1 S, was quite late.
Grey Wagtail 1 over.
Sparrowhawk 1 hunting our garden both morning and afternoon.
Kestrel 1 still in the wood. The young seem to have dispersed.
Buzzard 1 heard mewing in the top pines then a Jay was heard screeching.
Great spotted Woodpecker 1 juv hopping up the stone gable end of Julies house pulling the sand cement out!
House Martin 1 over.
Sandwich Tern 4 S from coast path as well as...
Oystercatcher 8
Redshank 3
Common Sandpiper 1.

Here is a scan of my notes from last night when I got home...

Monday, August 24, 2009


Goes the Mega alert on the pager. Not much good when mine is in the car. Thanks to Gary 'Newton Stringer' for the call alerting me to one of my most sought after british birds - Yellow breasted Bunting on the Farnes.

Now the time was 2.40pm and the charter boat was leaving at 4pm. I was 40 miles away in the office so a decision had to be made, that saw me pulling in favours and having an early finish.

The drive north was made with heart pounding and hands a quiver so it was with some relief that I found a parking space for the bargain price of £4.40 only 50 minutes later. A short dash down to the harbour and another 12 quid lighter after buying a ticket then I could relax. Its one thing missing a rarity but missing the boat was something I could never live down.

A small but friendly turn out was waiting and included Ipin and Janet, TAC and Mu, Andy C, Alan C, Ian F, Newton Stringy, Mark L, Mike P and another 4 or 5 who I didn't know. ( Thants me and Gary 'Newton' up there on the right. Oh and despite what Ipin would have you believe, no donuts were consumed on this trip. Honest. Ta to Ian Fisher for the phone pic.)

The bird was still showing as we headed seaward into a swell like that on the film 'Perfect Storm'.

Spirits were high as we were met by David Steel the senior warden who described the birds whereabouts and habits on route to the place on the Inner Farne. It was in an area of Fat Hen and Dock about the size of a football pitch surrounded conveniently by boardwalk for us to wander around.

After about 15 minutes there was still no sign, but there had clearly been a small fall of migrants with 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Garden Warblers and a rusty looking young Cuckoo that was very confiding.

Then a frisson of excitement further along the track. The bird had flown out onto the rocks. Quickly getting it in the bins then the scope, sure enough a bunting but not a mega rarity. The bird was a juvenile Ortolan. Slight disappointment at my 4th county record turned to guilt as I realised that a good bird was not being given the respect it deserved. On any other day an Ortolan is a red letter county find, but not today, with bigger fish to fry.

It was then the wardens admitted that they had made an error and were almost apologetic, though they needn't have been. We left the islands still in good fettle with a few drift migrants in our notebooks and for at least two people, the bunting had been a lifer.

Would I do it again? Yes of course, but not tomorrow or Wednesday. I'll be busy at work making up the time...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thats better!

What a difference it makes when you close the trap up properly. It took me two hours this morning to go through the moths, and I could probably spend another two trying to correct my identification mistakes!

Below are some of the best...

Above - Flame Carpet.

Above - Six striped Rustic.

Above - Setaceous Hebrew Character.

Above - Small Square Spot.

Above - Swallow Prominent ( compare with my photos of Lesser SP below..)

Above - Grey Chi. Now expert help needed. Am I correct in thinking the one on the right is of the form olivacea ? Late Edit - Some of the lads have kindly given me a lesson with these two. The one on the right is a Flounced Rustic. The left caused some debate but taking all into consideration it appears to be a Grey Chi, a species that can look very like grey Flounced Rustics. Blyths Reed is a doddle compared to this. Its asteep learning curve I think...

Above - What a stunner - Gold Spot.

My list goes -

Large Yellow Underwing 171
Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing 27
Square spot Rustic 19
Lesser Yellow Underwing 10
Common Marbled Carpet 8
Dark Marbled Carpet 1
Dark Arches 5
Rosy Rustic 5
Common Rustic 9
Shuttle shaped Dart 4
Small Phoenix 3
Silver Y. 3
Grey Chi 1
Flounced Rustic 1
Mouse 2
Centre Barred Sallow 1
Gold Spot
Swallow Prominent 1
Lesser Swallow Prominent 2
Small Rivulet 1
Least Yellow Underwing 2
Setaceous Hebrew Character 1
Garden Carpet 1
Flame Carpet 1
Six Striped Rustic 1
Small square Spot 1
Willow Beauty ( or mottled ? it was worn) 1

Plus quite a few left unidentified for one reason or another....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Schoolboy Error...

The trap was out at 9pm and ran well until half past midnight. As it was bouncing with moths I thought there would be more than enought to be going on with so I bunged up the entrance with old towels, turned off the light and went to bed, thinking of the search through the underwings in the morning.

Up and out for eight, I removed the cloths with some sense of excitement. Imagine my face when I lifted the egg trays out one by one to find zero moths, none, nowt zilch, bugger all. They had only 'gone under the wire'. The lot had escaped!There was more in the phone box...

Well all except half a dozen assorted Underwings.

So, I have fitted the trap base now and will be sealing the trap off when I'm finishing up. I'll take out some specimens as and when I see them to hold in pots for examination in the morning. That way I should at least have something to photograph...

One that stayed back to cover the tracks of the escape committee. A Common Marbled Carpet.

This morning as it was sunny I took a walk around the coast path and was suprised at the number of butterflies on the wing. I had 147 Painted Lady, 37 Wall, 13 Peacock and 1 Small Copper plus abundant Large Whites.

No birds though....

Above - The Village....note tiny bulrush patch next to gunnera plant, between foreground willows, for Bulrush Wainscot...

Above - Peacock butterfly...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yellow Rain...

Above - This might be the last of the phone box moths for a while. A nice, but worn, Pebble Prominent...

Above - top , Least Yellow Underwing and below, Lesser Yellow Underwing...

...because tonight Tom Tams kindly let me borrow one of his moth traps for the rest of the season. I gave it a blast last night for an hour to test it out then it began raining so I packed up. In that hour the box filled with Large Yellow Underwings, dropping from the sky like manna from heaven. In the sea of 'loggerheeds' as my dad would call them before they were flung unceremoniuosly outside, I could find 5 Least Yellow Underwings and half a dozen Lesser Yellow Underwings and quite a few Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwings.

In addition there was a Common Marbled Carpet, a Dark Marbled Carpet, Square spot Rustic, Marbled Minor, Common Rustic and Shuttle shaped Dart.

It looks fine tonight so I'll give it a proper session. I might have to dig the trap out of the heap of LYU's...

If you are interested in Moths, give Toms website a try here (and see link on the right). He has an excellent series of photos of both macro and micro moths that would help anyone wanting to i.d a mystery!

I've added Mike Hodgson's site too here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I was pleased with this phonebox find last night in the village, a Bulrush Wainscot. Almost as large as a Large Yellow Underwing, it was like a giant Smoky Wainscot. We have a few small patches of Bulrush or Reedmace nearby so it must have come from there. A new one on me and one I didnt even register on the radar...

Semi - P...

Above and below - Both photo's courtesy of Tom Tams. I didn't have my camera, and they wouldn't be as good as these anyway. Its nice to see my notes compared to the pic after the event. I haven't made too many errors...

A nice suprise came today when yesterday's Little Stint at Cresswell Pond turned into a Semi-palmated Sandpiper!

The news came through first thing that the bird was flighting between beach and pond, so as I work only about 7 miles away, lunch was spent 'on the twitch'.

This bird was only Northumberland's second confirmed record after the bird on the Farnes in 1992 and was a county tick for everyone. Another Semi P had been claimed from the Blyth estuary several years ago but didnt make it on to the national record. As a result today just about every Northumberland birder was suddenly available to down tools and head to Cresswell.

The bird showed nicely on the small pool north of the causeway with a few Dunlin and Sanderling. It was a worn adult showing typically pale monochrome colouring as it poddled around feeding. On site I had to scribble notes into a work book and do them up at home. I must go out more equipped in future, after all autumn is here!

That brings my Northumberland tally up to 318, I think, and it was my second British Semi P after the bird at Saltholme Pools a couple of years back. Now, where's that Sharpie?...

Oh, with all the excitement I forgot that there was an Otter out feeding in the main pool and an adult Mediterranean Gull too...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The House on the Shore...

A voice mail was left for me this evening about a reported Sharp tailed Sandpiper on Monks House Pool this afternoon - there, thats got you interested!

The sighting was reported by a novice to someone who should know better who decided on a verbal description that the bird could be nothing other than a Sharp tailed Sand. Maybe he should have suggested to the beginner that the mystery bird might have been a Wood Sand or something, but not one of the rarest siberian shorebirds on the British List.

Anyway, as a precaution I drove the dozen miles to check, just to be on the safe side you understand.

Quite a few waders were on the pool but non with a mongolian accent I'm afraid. There were 3 juvenile Ruff, 4 Dunlin, 6+ Snipe, 1 Black tailed Godwit and a good few Lapwings. A female Sparrowhawk caused some upset as it flew by. And thats about it.

Back to last nights moths. Using an outside light I had a good hour with -

Square spot Rustic 3
Shuttle shaped Dart 1
Lesser BB Yellow Underwing 2
Large Yellow Underwing 1
Common Rustic 1
Small Rivulet 3
Dark Marbled Carpet 2
Garden Carpet 2
Centre barred Sallow 1
Silver Y 3
Rosy Rustic 1
Mother of Pearl 1

Above - Small Rivulet.

Above - Centre barred Sallow.

Above - Rosy Rustic.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quiet Places...

Above - Fenham Flats, Lindisfarne, looking towards Holy Island...

Above - Little Grebe juv. A very unusual road casualty on the A1 today. Maybe it mistook the wet road for a water body...

Before going out this morning with JWR, I took some photos of last nights moth catch. None on sugar as it was quite windy, but late on there was quite a good turn out at various windows. Apart from those below I also had Riband Wave, LBB Yellow Underwing, Tawny Speckled Pug, Garden Carpet, Common Rustic and Large Yellow Underwing .

The Lesser Swallow Prominent is the best though, what a stunner. On the wall of the phone box in the village when I took Bunty out at midnight.

We headed northwards again this morning in dull breezy conditions. A moderate SW6 isnt the best for birding in Northumberland. First stop was some wet woodland near Bamburgh where a large flock of passerines came through the cover and passed us on a circuit. It held many Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Blue, Great and Long tailed Tits, 2 Willow Tits, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Blackcap, 3 Lesser Redpolls and a couple of Grasshopper Warblers in the edge scrub. A Buzzard soared overhead. Brown Hare and Roe Buck were both seen briefly as they made off.

Next stop was fleeting at Monks House Pool. Here were 3 Common Sandpipers, 1 Snipe and a single Swift flew south overhead. Will it be the last one of 09?

Then on to Budle Bay. The tide was well up here pushing birds into the edge vegetation but we managed to find a single Greenshank and a Black tailed Godwit. 1 Goosander fed in the main channel.

To avoid the holiday makers we went off -piste, so to speak, and checked a little known corner of the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve at Fenham Flats. This was quite good, with the first Wigeon of autumn when 10 birds flew N, 2 Black tailed Godits, 1 adult Mediterranean Gull, 157 Mallard, 100+ Curlew and many assorted gulls of the commoner species.

Some scrub edging the salt marshes held 1 Whinchat, 1 Whitethroat and a few Willow Warblers.

So not a bad day then....

Above - Dark Marbled Carpet.

Above - Small Phoenix, I think.

Above - Small Square Spot.

Above - Lesser Swallow Prominent showing how an obviously patterned moth can be camouflaged in the right setting. I caught this one in the telephone box last night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A pug of a response....

I have recieved some good advice from Harry Eales our Dragonfly recorder and, it has to be said, an entomologist of some eminence -

Hello Stewart,

Now you know why thousands of records of Pugs submitted to the old BRC were simply labelled Eupithecia spp.

I've always hated the Pugs and long ago came to the conclusion that apart from one or two very obvious species the rest should be ID'd by their genitalia. That's the only certain way to be sure.

I have both books on the British and Irish Pugs as well as many other moth books. None are really of any help and life sized pictures are really a waste of time, what is needed is a book with the insects shown four or five times their actual size. Pugs are so variable and many species have dark or melanic forms especially here in the NE.

One struck me as Foxglove Pug but the grey one, that's definately a 'nads job'.

I wish I could be more helpful, but I'm afraid I'm not too well up on them at all.




And Toms Tams our moth recorder adds -

Hi Stewart

Your first moth looks okay for White-spotted Pug

Who suggested Tawny-speckled Pug race cognata because I think he is spot on with the id, I have looked on mapmate and we have plenty of records for Tawny-speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata subfulvata but none for this race as yet, but this does not mean it has not occured before as some recorders class them all under Eupithecia icterata sp

I take it you know the other is a Rosy Minor



So thats that then. I'll look at the easy ones in future and as for the others, well, short of 'dadding' them with a rolled up Daily Mirror I'll give them a miss.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Above - Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing, thats a gobful! A common moth.

Above - Now then I'm going for it in public. White spotted Pug.? It is, isn't it. I think so? Or is it.

Last nights pug that I thought was Common Pug has been reidentified. Twice. Josh fancied it might be a Foxglove Pug, but it doesnt look uniform enough in its patterning for me, but many thanks to Josh for his assistance. Skev has a more technical solution, that it is another Tawny speckled Pug of the race cognata. If I was on 'Call my Bluff' I would go with Skev's answer, he seems to know his stuff.

Now if anyone has any tips for that White spotted Pug....according to the old Parrack / Dunn info it is rare in North Northumberland....

Right, now something I do know what I'm on about.

Waders. One or two in wholly unsuitable rocky habitat on our coastal path today -31 Redshank, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Common Sand and 3 Dunlin. The best count of the year so far.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sweet Success...

Well at last some 'minor' success at the sugar posts. One Rosy Minor and one Common Rustic (above) were actually eating that claggy mixture I made. Times must be tough.

Above - The aforementioned Rosy Minor (top) with a Common Pug (bottom) in the holding pot. I used this because despite a night in the fridge, the Pug flew off one second after I snapped the photo. I have guessed at the pug i.d so if anyone can tell me it is something else please feel free ( in fact I insist, I need the help). The Pug wasn't at the sugar, I took it off the kitchen window.

This one is a Brown China Mark. In our kitchen.

Whilst the mothing might be slow to mercury vapour trappers, the one or two I do get are often new to me so its still quite good. Those old victorian collectors must have really worked hard for their collections before electricity. I might get a trap this month to see if I can catch anything decent, being on the coast and all that....

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Lucky Icky.....

and maybe not so lucky too....

Out with JWR this morning, we headed up the coast to Fenham le Moor to look for waders on the Lindisfarne mud flats. The day was nice and fine with some darker looking clouds. The weather was humid with a hint of south east breeze. On arrival the tide had turned and the birds on the flats were all too distant, so, not wanting to be beat we headed north of the hide, along a farm dump track to look from there where the light was much better. The birds weren't. Great if you like Curlews and Redshank but there was nothing else with them.

John has recently splashed out on a new digital SLR with a 400mm zoom lens and was keen to give it a go. As it was quiet we chatted while he dabbled with aperture settings and phrases such as 'sweet spot' and 'F stop' kept cropping up. We were getting quite bemused with all this techno-babble so he rattled a few butterfly shots off because the birds were too distant.

A movement in the hedge behind me caught my eye as a small bird flipped up onto the top right in the open. With the naked eye I could see it was a yellow warbler, so I flippantly said 'Icterine there' and lifted my bins. This is where the shock came. In my view, right out in the open, in nice sunshine was not the expected juvvy Willow Warbler. It was a belter of an Icterine Warbler! My camera was in the car, so I got John onto the bird and suggested that he get some shots before it moved. Instead of just pointing an shooting, John began a cautious stalk towards the hedge. Big mistake this, as the bird jumped over the back and vanished without so much as a click of the shutter...a grand's worth of camera and nothing to show except for some Wall Browns!

We briefly relocated it a few hundred metres to the south next to the hide before it carried on its journey through the hedges with 2 Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat for comparison...

A very early date for Icky, but the slight south easterly obviously had an effect.

Above - Notes taken immediately after the sighting hence the scribbled text....The pale wing panel was very obvious but maybe not as obvious as this?

Fired up we spent the rest of the morning on the Snook at Holy Island seeing not one migrant...

We had to make do with some flowers and dragonflies when two Common or Migrant Hawkers chased around the dune slack, and these Autumn Gentian ( top) and Marsh Helleborine (bottom)were in the dunes.

Back home... Enchanter's Nightshade (top) and Comma (below).

Friday, August 07, 2009

Night Chorus....

11pm. The night was cool enough to see my breath in the torch light and stars were twinkling as I looked for moths in the garden. Nothing doing, probably too cool.

Then I became aware of the birds calling. At least 4 Tawny Owls were hooting and kee-wicking all around the village and farmland. The Barn Owls hissed from the back hedgerow.

Then I heard it. 'Whit whit-whit, Whit whit-whit' subliminal at first as if I'd imagined it then clearer, a Quail was calling in the blackness. It sounded quite distant but absolutely unmistakable, the 'wet-my-lips' call is not something we hear too often so to get one calling on the garden list is fantastic!

I must pop back outside to listen again, Good night...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A lovely warm calm sunny day today.

At luchtime I had a half hour to kill at Newbiggin so I had a brief seawatch. 11 Manx Shearwaters flew south in one flock, 3 adult and 1 juv Roseate Terns flitted around the front and a flock of 13 Common Scoter held a single Teal.

Back home tonight I had a look for cetaceans as the sea was like an oily mill pond. None were showing but I could hear young guillies and razorbills begging and calling even when I got back into the village.

A lone Goosander was in with the young Kittiwakes floating close in to the bay and a single newly fledged Kestrel was begging for food from its mother on the back field. 30 odd Oystercatchers and a Dunlin flew south and one of the Whimbrel was still on the rocks too.

Many thanks to all who advised me on my sugaring techniqes. Roger reckons I should drink the ale and get Jane to make a cake with the rest, Andrew is getting me to soak my socks in it, Steve reckons I can creosote the fence and old crow reckons she must get some! If it wasn't for Dean I would have you lot all down as cynics...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sugaring...Any tips?

I've made a concoction to 'sugar' for moths. I don't have a trap so I thought I'd give this a go. I Put half a bottle of Broon Ale, half a kilo of broon sugar and half a tin of broon ( well black really, but I had a theme running) treacle into a pan, boiled it up and now have it in a jar to paint on posts etc.

But, what next? When, where etc. Have any of you out there ( Rob, Skev, Dean, Steve etc) tried it? Will I get results? I'm skeptical but all the books mention it so it must be worth a shot...

So far my moths come from me wandering about with a 'million candle power' torch ( Try 'You Tube' for Rhod Gilbert doing his theory on these torches during his stand up routine) looking at Buddleia and Ragwort in the garden.
Two very common moths in Northumberland tonight, firstly the Silver Y -

...and then, the Drinker. We are used to seeing the caterpillars in dunes but adults are more difficult to find. This male starts off looking like a hedgehog...

...then turns into a furry disney character!

Along the coast path tonight were 2 Whimbrel and 2 Common Sandpipers on the rocky shore, 6 Painted Lady and 1 Magpie Moth flitting around the vegetation, a female Sparrowhawk took prey into the wood, 2 Grey Wagtails and 60 Swallows were in the village and a Buzzard flew over Village Wood, mewing...

And a sunset tonight taken five minutes ago over the newly cut back field...