Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Month 1. Done.

Last year I was going all out to do a patch year list with my Blog Pal, Steve Gale at ND&B and in doing so had some great birds and broke my own patch year record which can't be bad. January 2019 ended on 89 species including such local megas a Red necked Grebe and Firecrest.

Fast forward to 2020, a new decade. I have not been hammering things as much due to less work days off ( I had extra last year due to a holiday reshuffle) and pretty crap weather at weekends. So, I ended January on 76 species. Not too bad I suppose with only one bird that I didn't see last January. The best was the long staying Water Rail in the wet wood, 2 Kingfishers on the pond, several Barn Owls and a single Chiffchaff on one day only.

What this means really is that I have several common species I should have seen by now, waiting until a quiet February day to boost the total... I bet Ringed and Grey Plover don't play by the rules...

The first quarter of any year here is much quieter than the final quarter so I am sure things will balance out by November...

An old pic of a Water Rail, it was too dark in the wood to get one this year but the current bird is fem/fw like this one...



Monday, February 03, 2020

A Wet Rossicus.

The forecast didnt look promising yesterday morning when I met with John at Alnmouth Cricket Club. It was calm and cold but heavily overcast. Drizzle was just trying to get through.

We had decided to check out the Coquet Estuary as we hadn't been for ages and there had been a lot of gulls in the mornings this week, as I was passing on my way to work. You would think they knew. This morning at the weir, it was high tide so the actual weir was totally submerged and there was only a lone Black headed Gull on the shore. One. On Friday there were 300 or more assorted gulls but not today. Highlight were two Foxes chasing each other on the far bank , 6 Roe Deer, 1 Little Grebe, 15 Mallard, 2 Goldeneye and 3 Herons. A Song Thrush was in full song, my first of the year and a portent of things to come.

We moved along to the Marina. Here we fared a little better with 94+ Curlew, 36 Knot, 14 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 2 Shelduck and a Snipe.

At Amble Harbour the slow theme continued. Even the local Med Gull wasn't on its usual rock. We did have 1 Purple Sandpiper, 8 Red throated Divers, 1 fem Red breasted Merganser, 18 Eider and 10+ Turnstone though.

After a stop for some snacks in Warkworth we headed up to Birling Carrs ( you might remember the posts on here about the Arctic Redpoll a few years ago? There.) The redpoll field had been ploughed recently so there was nothing here either. Then the rain started.

We decided to check the sea, getting wet in the process... viewing was good but we didn't do better than 15 Red throated Divers and 2 male Red breasted Mergansers,

Back at the car we noticed that the field to the north was stubble with some rape plants and Groundsel growing through. A few Reed Buntings were active along the track so we decided that we couldn't get more wet and to give it a blast.

As we wandered the stubble hoping for a Lap Bunting, we had a good flock of 40 - 50 Reed Buntings, 40 Meadow Pipits, 38+ Skylarks ( with one smaller one with them that we followed around but couldn't make it into anything other than a wet Skylark.)

As I climbed over the hill I flushed a single goose that flew towards me very closely. Head on it had an orange and black bill. I shouted to John that it could be Bean Goose and we watched as it circled giving us enough on it to confirm indeed a Tundra Bean!  The upperside was generally dark brown with a grey wash on the primary coverts but no pale grey forewing shown by Pink footed. The bill was longer and the bird seemed a bit larger. It began to call as it circled. I had no idea what Bean Goose called like, but noted that it was a deep nasal double or single 'ang-ang' and 'ack'. Not Pinkfoot either. As it left, John checked the call on his phone from Xeno-canto and sure enough the voices matched. A bona fide Tundra Bean Goose at close of play. A good record here.

Near by 4 Whooper Swans and 3 Bar-headed Geese just brightened things a bit more before it was time for home...


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Not going out...

If Lee Mack was just loafing around his flat all day he could do worse than look for spiders! I was just locking up before bed late last night and saw a tiny spider walking over the kitchen chopping board. It was not much bigger than a money spider and it looked nothing much but I decided to have a closer look. I am pleased I did because he is a right beaut!

Meet Pachygnatha degeeri, a common spider that usually lives outside...




Sunday, January 19, 2020

Walk - Detchant Woods to Holburn Moss circular.


Map of Walk. Stars are - Top right -  Car Park on verge, Bottom edge - St Cuthberts Cave stop and Greensheen Hill Trig Point stop.
Today dawned frosty clear and clam, an ideal morning for a wander in the North Northumberland hills.

As you would imagine for the time of year things were quiet but we did see one or two bits of interest and of course the views are always superb. We had fresh air, excercise, natural history, ancient history and some sunshine. Just the job.

Park at NU 0823 3730 Walk Distance - 11.37km / 7.06 miles Going - Good paths with some low hills.

Of note we saw Treecreeper, a few Goldcrests, several finch flocks of up to 200 birds each containing Goldfinch, Linnet, Siskin and Redpoll, a Goshawk was calling strongly in the forest but quietened on our approach and remained unseen, Crossbill 12+. On the ponds were 100+ Teal, 10+ Wigeon, 20+ Mallard, 1 Tufted Duck. 1 Raven sat on the trig point before we got up there, 12+ Red legs flushed from St Cuthberts Cave and a Jay was calling in the woods. 2 Buzzards flew around calling.

In the 7 miles walk we only passed one group of three people with two dogs who chatted and were soon on their way.


The beginning is through mixed woodland.

John or maybe Freddie Kruger....


Dow Crag Lough

Dow Crag Lough facing East towards Holy Island, Lindisfarne.

St Cuthberts Cave


Above -  Old graffiti.


Above - Hibernating Bat , experts decree this to be one of the Myotis species likely a Whiskered Bat.


Above - St Cuthberts Cave

View East from Trig Point at Greensheen Hill taking in Lindisfarne, The Farnes, Bamburgh Castle and Budle Bay.

From the same spot as above, the view West takes in the Cheviot Hills.

Holburn Moss had a decent number of wildfowl on it.

Track down.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Y2K Bug....

Remember 20 years ago when planes would fall from the sky, famine and disease would ravish the land and we would all die because a glitch in the worlds computers would kick in at midnight on 01/01/2000.

Well, here we are in 2020 without hover cars or tin foil catsuits and I am facing a similar dread.

My Windows 7 operating system is now no more. Defunct. Obsolete. I am open to all kinds of malware, and Russian hackers are queueing up to have a bit of me.

One day I will get a nice shiny new Windows 2010 PC, but until I have £800 spare, I'll just have to sit here on death row awaiting my fate...

This might be the last post...

Monday, January 06, 2020

Holy Diver and the Rorschach test.

The farthest north reaches of Northumberland have some great under watched areas for wildlife and none more so than the mighty River Tweed and the Berwick beaches to the south of its estuary.

This morning we began with a scan offshore at Cheswick for the now annual Black Scoter. From our vantage we could not find any scoter let alone an American one, so we quickly scanned north and in the distance was a veritable oil slick of birds, way too far off to identify. There was nothing for it, we needed to change vantage points. A drive up the road soon found us on a high point at Cocklawburn Beach where the raft of scoter were feeding not too far out.

There were masses of them, I didn't count, but well over a thousand I'd say. It wasn't possible to get a full, uninterrupted, scan of them all without 40% diving then resurfacing on the other side of the birds on the top, a bit like a split shuffle of a deck of cards.

It was just a case of carefully checking through the birds that remained on show. Alas, no Black Scoter was to be found. Where is he? In the constantly shape shifting 'Rorschach' patches of birds, who could say. 80% of them seemed to be females or immature drakes so I think we would have seen him if he had been there. I managed to pick out  15 Red throated Divers, 1 female Velvet Scoter, 1 each of Guillemot and Razorbill, dozens of Shags, a pair of Goldeneye and best of all, a lovely Black throated Diver complete with its S shaped swans neck and cobra-like, dove-grey, hood . Shame it didn't stay on view very long before submarine-ing it with the duck.

Black throated Diver with Common Scoter

Further up the coast in the Tweed Estuary, the sun was shining, lighting up 102 Mallard, 29 Goldeneye, 2 Red throated Divers, 2 Little Grebe and 1 drake Goosander. A party of 14 Grey Herons roosted on a mid river island along side good numbers of Canada Geese and Lapwings.

Back on the home turf in the afternoon, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, and Tufted Duck were added to the year list.

A trip down to Amble at dusk visiting family, I was surprised to see a single Pipistrelle sized Bat fly steadily over the cemetery until lost to view.



The Tweed Estuary, Berwick upon Tweed.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

2020 vision.



A look at my 2019 blogging activity shows that I posted the least number of times since the blog began 13 years ago. Now that it is at rock bottom, the only way to go in 2020 is onwards and upwards, so before blogging, I'll need some material to blog about... What to do this year, well...

1. The Patch List will be ongoing, not only to keep up with Steve at North Downs and Beyond, but to give some focus locally that can be done whenever I have a minute spare.

2. Its not just about birding here at chez Stewchat, I will be mothing, butterflying, spidering, botanising, fungusing and any other 'ing' that will draw me into the natural world.

3. Try to do some more drawing and notebook stuff in the field. I must push this!

4. Out and About. Nowadays I mainly concentrate on VC68 or North Northumberland, the area between the River Coquet to the south and the River Tweed in the North. There are endless opportunities for new discoveries in the very underwatched area for natural history (other than birding).

5. Farther afield. Mmm, now...I do fancy a trip north for one very special moth but that will be kept in the planning stage for the moment, plus there will be holiday cottages in Suffolk and Scotland hopefully where some unfamiliar faces can be found.

And that is about it really, there is always something of interest to look for. I recently read someone on Twitter say that they had 'lost their birding mojo'. This came from someone who hasn't been birding for very long either so what can you say to that. 

As a good friend once said to me about another, 'Stewart, they aren't birders like us', and I knew exactly what was implied. For some, natural history observation is a hobby to pick up and drop whenever the going gets tough. For others it is a lifelong quest that can never be satiated. The possibilities are infinite in the relatively short span of a human lifespan.

So, in the new decade, get out there and live amongst fellow earth beings, in the sound knowledge that if your day seems quiet or near to boring, then its time you upped your game!

Happy New Decade everyone, I will definitely post more this year!