Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where is this summer...

Although it was still quite warm today was overcast and windy, from the SW. Not good for anything really.

JWR and myself did his WeBs count at Branton and Hedgely Pits where the highlights were an adult Cuckoo and 2 Green Sandpipers, supported by 2 Goldeneye and very little else.

After this we had a plan to head up onto the moors to search for Lesser Twayblade. Now this is a tiny, underwhelming orchid that hides on bog under rank heather, and today it did just that, remained hidden. While stooping and searching under the vegetation, a few other bits of interest were found - 12 Crossbills ( not under the heather, but very low overhead) 2 juvenile Buzzards hoping not to get poisoned, lots of Cranberry and Cross leaved Heath with a  few Round leaved Sundews and Bog Asphodel.

Speckled Longhorn Beetle Pachytodes cerambyciformis was a new species for me on Hogweed nearby.

Speckled longhorn beetle Pachytodes cerambyciformis

Round leaved Sundew

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Not gone far...

Not out of Howick to be precise.

As the day was one of those all too rare sunny ones, most of the day has been spent out in the garden or village, loafing about.

A while back I saw someone discussing the area required to create a wild flower meadow. Above is mine. Its a triangle of about a metre across. Nothing has been planted, I have just not mown the grass for about 6 weeks. What a show of, er, Rough Hawkbit? I think. There are lots of plants in this family that all look alike so forgive me for not trying harder to id them. Today the flowers were covered in bees and even an odd Ringlet dropped in for a look.

Another area in the garden was a trench excavated to repair a drain. It is 2 mtrs x 0.5mtr. The backfill was just clay and stones so a 'wildflower mix' containing no wild flowers but several hardy annuals was thrown on and raked in. This is the result. Mallows, Poppies, Daisies, Escholtzia and Phacelia all attract insects and look better than soil.

So, you dont need a paddock to create some interest. Have a go!

Not long ago Speckled Wood was a 'holiday' butterfly if you lived in Northumberland, but now I get them in the garden. A few butterflies appeared today - Green veined White, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral. Makes a nice change.

This afternoon I had a walk to the coast path for a short seawatch.

1 hour on a flat calm high tide was quite fruitful - 

Sooty Shearwater 1
Manx Shearwater 7
Pomarine Skua 1 ad complete with a set of spoons, a nice early one, my first skua of 2012.
Roseate Tern 6 inc 5 together and 1 S.
Black tailed Godwit 10 S were a patch tick for here.

Also rans were Good numbers of Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot, Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes, Shag and Cormorant, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns.

2 juv Grey Wagtails fed in a runnel over the rocks and a lone Porpoise showed briefly.

A very pleasant day.


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Northumberland Endemic.

A trip up to Holy Island was almost thwarted when on arrival JWR announced that he had left his bins in the car - at Alnwick. We almost decided to give up when a plant theory came to mind. And what a fantastic idea, the dunes of Lindisfarne are a botanists dream with lots of rare and scarce species and even a plant so special that it is found nowhere else on the planet. Its a shame we aren't botanists and struggle to identify our flora, but we gave it a go.

The dunes were very wet underfoot, but maybe this was a benefit to wetland plants such as Cotton Grass and the various Orchids.

The Snook, Holy Island clouds of Cotton Grass
 We found many hundreds if not thousands of Marsh Helleborines and full bloom, a fantastic sight.

The flatter areas near Snook House and Tower were covered in Marsh Helleborines.

Marsh Helleborine
 But on the lower slopes of small dunes was the star of the show - the Lindisfarne Helleborine. This was once thought to be a form of Dune Helleborine, but analysis has found it to be different enough to award it species status.

  A new species for both of us, and one that orchid hunters would be well jealous of. A small well hidden plant, we cheated really, because the best way to find one is to look for the tiny wire mesh fences to keep rabbits off.

Lindisfarne Helleborine

Common Spotted Orchid maybe of the form 'alba'?
 Another plant of wet flushes, the Brookweed is very rare in Northumberland being found in only a few locations, including Howick Cliffs but I've not seen it there.

The Round leaved Wintergreen was in good numbers in a dune slack where we usually look for Wrynecks or Shrikes! 
Round leaved Wintergreen
Other plants noted include Common Spotted Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Lesser Spearwort, Eyebright, Common or Seaside Centaury, Piri piri Bur, Burnet Rose, Quaking Grass, Heath Speedwell and a very early small Autumn Gentian.
Dark Green Fritillary
While searching at ground level, a few butterflies were on the wing - 22 Dark Green Fritillary, 12 Small Heath, 3 Ringlet, 2 Small White, 1 Large White, and moths included 23 Yellow Shell, 2 Narrow bordered 5 spot Burnet and 1 6 spot Burnet

An excellent morning out, not bad for someone with optics left behind, its just as well he brought his camera.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mackerel are in!

After a tip off from Alan Gilbertson that there seemed to be good catches of Mackerel just up from home at Cullernose Point, I took a stroll up there this evening to try my hand.

Now Mackerel and I don't get on. I arrive, and they leave, simple as. I meet people coming away with some good fish, but all my efforts fail, until tonight.

I had already set up my rod and four glittering lures at home, so all I had to do was find a suitable rock edge and cast out. Cast 1, I snagged briefly then felt a telling nod on my light rod. After a good struggle the first fish was landed. Next cast gave me two at once, then the third, I had a full house of four rainbow coloured shimmering Mackerel all on one trace.

Once dispatched and bagged to eat, I felt this was enough for me, so after only half an hours fishing and half an hours walking I was back home.

I might have another try this week but using a small trout rod and a small spinner, what a fight these give on that gear...

Maybe some visitors here could take note. The only downside was that the rocks were like a landfill site with bags, beer cans, bait, guts etc all over the place. An absolute disgrace at this beautiful spot. I wish people would be happy with taking just enough then leaving the site as if they had never been...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Howick Hall Meadows...

I spent Sunday afternoon in a brief warm spell checking tall oaks in the grounds of Howick Hall for Purple Hairstreak butterfly. This is flogging a dead horse, but one was seen and photographed in Alnwick Garden last year, the first for North Northumberland so this place looked as good as there ( in my opinion the gardens are much better at Howick).

No joy with the Hairstreaks but I did see 1 Red Admiral, 1 Small White, 3 Meadow Brown, 35 Ringlet, 1 Comma and 1 Large Skipper. The uncut meadows here are excellent too and well worth a look especially if the sun is shining...

The Croquet Lawn, Howick Hall. Complete with uncut flower margins.

Howick Church. This is how church yards should look with lots of hidden over grown corners for wildlife.

The Croquet Lawn from the other way. Look closely at the short turf, its full of wildflowers too with Self Heal in profusion.

A Speckled Wood

Martagon Lillies were naturalised into the meadows.
Also noted were Chiffchgaff singing, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, 2 Buzzards, Jay, 1 Roe Doe.

Monday, July 02, 2012


Westleton Church
Just came back from a week in Suffolk. We stayed in Westleton, between Southwold and Aldeburgh, a handy locale close to a variety of nice habitats.

As this was the first time I have taken my moth trap south you can see the results here. I was very pleased with 32 or more new species with a couple more still to identify.

Apart from the moths, I didnt do any real birding, so all I had of note was a Hobby and a couple of Marsh Harriers.

Odonata is always an attraction for me down there as we have so few dragonfly species available in the north east. On Minsmere River at Eastbridge a few Norfolk Hawkers weren't new species but only my second while Hairy Dragonfly and Variable Damselfly took my list up to 30 species.

Eastbridge dragon habitat.
Variable Damselfly

Norfolk Hawker
The weather was warm enough to sit out on the beach and enjoy the plants of the shingle ridge such as Sea Pea and Yellow Horned Poppy.
Thorpness Beach

Sea Pea

White Bryony
The hedgerows were full of stuff such as White Bryony, Hop and Old Mans Beard.

Silver studded Blue going to roost.
On the heaths this was my only Silver studded Blue. In previous years I have seen 70 or more here.

All in all a lovely week in a great place. I think we'll go back next year. The weather is better than Scotland!