Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Once was a time when every late Summer through Autumn we would look forward to regular bouts of hypothermia, sat glued to a spot staring out east. In recent years it seems that these opportunities are becoming ever more infrequent, so, it was a pleasure to get out this weekend, on the deckchair, eye screwed into the scope to look for seabirds.

In Northumberland we are spoiled really.

In Suffolk last week I looked out to the sea from Minsmere and all I could see was a sepia looking, wet patch, practically devoid of bird life. If I looked out just down our road, in any month during a flat westerly there would certainly be more birds than down there.

Recent posts on social media, show birders enthusing over '500 Gannets! a record!' or 'Arctic Skua 2, and a Kittiwake, a good patch day'. Up here we don't have time to count Gannets, Kittiwakes or Fulmars. They are present most of the time, like Black headed Gulls. I am not trying to be smug here, not at all, this is just how it is. Its horses for courses really, its just that our county is a great sea watching area, maybe not up with the likes of Cornwall, but over a full year, not far away. We may not do spring, but seawatching, when weather allows, makes up for it I think.

So, on Saturday morning, I took up position at Craster soon after 6.30am and waited. The wind was a moderate NW4, maybe not the best for us where a straight Northerly or North easterly is best, but at least the thick cloud cover prevented the glare from a rising sun.

First bird past was a nice Sooty Shearwater, quite close in too, always a good sign, closely followed by a juvenile skua that looked suspiciously small. As it came closer it was joined by an Arctic Skua and showed an excellent size comparison - a juv Long tailed Skua!

From then on things were steady as she goes with a nicely building list with nothing earth shattering happening until at 7.20 - Great Shearwater! Only my second county record, it came through at close range, indeed the closest bird of the day, so all features could be seen. Superb. At 8.10am it wwas time for home as we had other commitments...

  On Sunday,John and myself headed up to Beadnell where the point should get us closer views of the sea bird passage. We camped out from 07.15 until 11.45 and had a grand morning, with nice birds, but unfortunately, no cigar...

Later in the afternoon, reports were still coming through of good numbers passing with some better species too, so I though I'd give it an hour back at Craster...it paid off with a juv Sabine's Gull N, albeit, a bit distant but ok...

The lack of detail is deliberate in my notes as this was the view I had. My first patch Sabine's too, so seven and a half hours staring across the waves was really worthwhile. Lets hope there are more northerlies in the near future!

For a further impression of my view, see Jonathan's blog in the side bar, he has some video of what may have been the same bird, though a few were reported during the day.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Last week we were off down to Suffolk on holiday. We stayed in a nice bungalow in Westleton, our seventh visit here, though not to the same house. In this village we have stayed in 5 different properties over the years but we like the area, being quite central for some nice places around about.

Most years we try one week in the north of Scotland and another in the south. Being from Northumberland, a colder, quite dry, county, it makes a change to sample some of the milder climate the south has to offer. On this occasion, however, it did not want to play ball. The week was mixed with some nice fine autumnal spells and some odd heavy rain storms. Luckily we didnt get caught out in one.

On the wildlife front, there is always something of interest for me so far from home, things that might be commonplace to naturalists who live south of the Humber, but do not or very rarely occur in Northumberland. This visit was no exception.

I didn't really put myself out to go seeking out new things, but just kept an open mind to see what would turn up... 

Above - Our digs for the week...
Unfortunately, this happened on several occasions.

Above - When the sun came out though, it was very nice, these pics are the hamlet of Shingle Street.
Blood Vein. A common species over much of England, but I've never seen one at home.

The Dusky Thorn was one I hoped to get in the trap down here. On our first night, the first moth to arrive was this. 

Hornet. What a fantastic beast. I have seen them at Westleton before but have never got close enough for a photo, so one in the moth trap was very welcome.
The Vestal. A scarce migrant moth, rare at home and new for me. This one was caught during the day as it fluttered across the lawn.
Even pest non native species are welcomed in our garden...Rosemary Beetle. New to me.
Brown Argus was a lifer for me having only seen Northern Brown Argus before.

Even the storms were good to see. Very dramatic. 
Sizewell to Minsmere, lovely despite the Nuclear Powerstation!


Sea Holly 
Parasol Mushroom. Not new and found regularly at home, but I liked this location...

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sugar table...

In less than optimum conditions my tray of mashed fruit and beer attracted a star turn the other night - a Red Underwing. Only my second after one in 2009, this may be the furthest North Red Underwing in the UK! Note my comment about this species in the previous post, now, where is that Old Lady?

Taking a photo in near black darkness is tricky, so I lit the moth with my headlamp and manually focussed on it with the on camera flash set. I took half a dozen shots and one came out sharp...

Still on the moth theme, decent records continue to arrive this week to more conventional means with 2 Butterbur in the same trap and my first Scarce Bordered Straw, a nice fresh darker specimen....

Scarce Bordered Straw

Butterbur is annual here, but usually only one at a time. This is my first multiple occurrence in the trap. Here with two Rosy Rustics for size comparison.

Grey-Chi seem to be getting scarcer year on year...