Monday, April 05, 2021

Good Monday.

 

The route across Tommy's field to go seawatching, on foot from home. All 300 yards of it.

The good news is, our awful vaccination side effects have gone, 36 hours after the needle. That's not too bad, for getting protection against the killer virus. Still, I hope vax II the sequel is more about the effects than the side effects.

With some relief that we are feeling back to normal, we still didn't do much today as the weather had rewound back to January. A light snow covering greeted me when I looked out of the window backed by a strong NW6 that nithered to the bone. Its incredible to think that at the beginning of this weekend I was photographing bees and  saw the first Orange Tip of the year!

This afternoon I ventured down to the coast path for a short hour seawatch to see if I could add to my patch list.

Apart from a steady trickle of Gannets at about 400 per hour, a few Kittiwakes and Fulmars, interest was slow in coming. 2 Sandwich Terns were the best and my first of the season, while a female Wheatear pitched in beside my watching spot before moving on, hopefully to a better, more sheltered area  than the one it has come to. Single Common Scoter ,3 Eider and a family of 2 adult and 1 juv Bottle-nosed Dolphins were the only other things into the book. 

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Vaccine blues...

 Yesterday Jane and myself headed up to Berwick for our first COVID jab. It all went like clockwork and we were back home before lunchtime. I had read about the aftermath of the injection and all the people I had spoken to had suffered some side effects to a greater or lesser extent, but its all worth it in these times of pandemic.

I felt fine until after about 9pm last night when the shivering started. My fingers went white and I couldn't keep my legs still for nagging aches. Despite taking paracetamol this continued all night and this morning I felt like I had a big hangover. Still, I thought I better try and shrug it off and get out for a walk to Boulmer.

The morning was beautifully clear and sunny if a little cool. Yesterday, both John and myself had opted not to twitch the 20 miles south for the pristine Citrine Wagtail at Lynemouth. Even though it was a stunner, I've had a few in the county, so would have preferred to see something more local.

As it turned out, it was a very quiet morning bird wise. Nothing was moving at sea and land migrants were equally sparse. Still, the first Wheatear of the year was flitting around Longhoughton Steel and a few Sand Martins trilled overhead. Otherwise, 13 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Grey Plover, 250+ Pinkfeet N and a singing male Greenfinch were all the headland had to offer.

I turned over a few stones on the dune edge and found a Hairy Rove Beetle Creophilus maxillus, but didn't have any pots or lens to get a shot.

Young Grey Seal


Male Wheatear.

Around the garden yesterday and today, Hairy-footed Flower Bees were active, still all males, alongside, Garden, Tree, Red tailed and Buff tailed Bumblebees. An early Orange Tip was in the village wood.

The reason why they are called Hairy footed Flower Bees.


 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Garden Moths page update

 Along the page bar above I have updated my garden moths page after finding out that I could embed a PDF report showing my whole garden species list with numbers of individuals caught. 

Click here

If you look at the report and click the top right hand corner it opens in a better sized new window.

Below the list I have added some photos of rare and scarce garden species, some may be common moths further south, but are beyond normal range up here.

Enjoy...


Pine Beauty from yesterday morning...


Monday, March 29, 2021

The Garden Serengeti...

 

Early on Saturday, the house was quiet and I was drinking my first coffee of the morning as the sun shone through the living room window. The idyll was soon shattered by an almighty commotion of Jackdaws at the feeders outside our kitchen window.

Suspecting the subject of their attention to be one of the local Sparrowhawks dropping by for breakfast, I went to investigate.

The shocking frieze unfurling on the ground below the feeder pole was totally unexpected. At first it was difficult to make sense of what was on show, but a Jackdaw was fanned out like an open umbrella at the pole base and appeared to be being pulled into a hole by an unseen adversary while it was surrounded by half a dozen very agitated flock members in full mobbing mode.

There is an old buddleia growing here, right up against the wall. Behind the trunk is where, when we get them, rats often appear. Although I’ve not seen a rat for months now, it looked as if one had returned, re-opened its hole and was pulling the distraught bird into it.

Being no fan of rats in my garden, I dashed out to end the violence. Armed with a garden hoe I approached the bird, whose head remained unseen, to look for the predator. A quick jab with the implement, luckily missed both predator and prey, jarring short against the buddleia trunk. Then, below the crow, a ginger and white piece of fur was showing.

Last night we were walking near the coast path and had nice views of a Stoat so, with it being only a couple of hundred metres away, I assumed it would be the same animal. Mustelids are scarce here with only a couple of sightings in any given year so it must have made its way along the field while hunting the local rabbits.

This was clearly going to be something of an epic struggle, so I left them to it and dashed indoors for my camera.

By the time I returned, the grim dance was continuing out in the open near the bird bath, but it was still very difficult to see what was happening. The mammal was holding the bird by the head, above its right eye, while it frantically struggled to free itself by grabbing with its feet.




As they wrestled, snatched views showed not the expected Stoat but a much smaller Weasel on the attack. This was a first for our garden and only maybe the third on the patch in 12 years. They were common when we lived in SE Northumberland on brownfield sites but up here the field sports fraternity seems to be doing its best to make all small predators extinct by placing a kill trap at the bottom of every blue pheasant feeder bin, and there are a lot of those.  

Photographs were hastily taken of the scene through the porch window, but after only a minute or two, the Jackdaw managed to fly off around the gable corner out of view. At this point I assumed the Weasel would be running around the drive wondering where its substantial meal had got to but there was no trace of it either, just an empty patch of grass.

What has happened? On checking the shots I had taken on the back of the camera, the answer was almost unbelievable.

In only one shot the Weasel’s face can be seen in a grimace, while the Jackdaw’s feet are clutching its head. One toe of the Jack’s left foot appears to be in the corner of the Weasel’s jaws while the next shot in the sequence shows the Weasel at full 6 inch standing height reaching up with legs and paws outstretched and finally a 1000th of a second later, its gone, with only a curled back in the top of the frame showing of it. The predator had locked its grip on to the birds foot and had been carried away into the air as it escaped!

The right toe of the birds left foot is in the Weasel's gape.

The Weasel is not letting go of its prize.

Just up along the top edge of this shot you can see the curled back of the Weasel off on its maiden flight.


I checked around the garden but there was no trace of them anywhere. The whole thing was so reminiscent of that famous photograph of a couple of years ago when a Weasel was riding on the back of a Green Woodpecker as it flew off.

It makes you wonder how often this happens and what danger the Weasel is in by tackling prey several times larger than itself?

The whole drama was over so quickly I returned to my coffee and it was still hot enough to drink. What a start to the day…

 

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Misper.

 Or Missing Person if you like. Misper is the code used by police when someone is reported missing. Its not as serious as that but I haven't seen the Hooded Crow since Sunday? Jane saw it yesterday briefly late afternoon, but despite putting food out it was a no show for me.

There have been a few other things seen casually around the village without having to go looking really. As usual Barn Owl has been a feature though very unpredictable in the hours it keeps. On Monday in full bright sunshine at 9am the female was showing very well from our kitchen.



The more elusive male we have found out, after being photographed well by a neighbour, is from a nest of six young ringed in June 2020 in a natural tree hole nest site near Lesbury / Hawkhill about 4 miles away as the owl flies.

Various birds have been heading north this week, Whooper Swans in particular though I didn't see them this time due to work, but also a few Pink footed Geese Here is one flock of 79 from the garden...

Pinks.

 Some more early butterflies have been out this week with Small Tortoiseshell and Comma being seen and even better, a male Hairy-footed Flower Bee feeding on a flowering currant on our drive. I'm pleased to see them again after last years debut.

Grey Partridge is obvious at the minute with 2 pairs in the back field constantly squabbling. Yesterday I tried to photograph them from the bathroom window but they were too quick running back and forwards croaking and churring at each other.

One unwelcome wildlife encounter occurred at lunchtime yesterday when our dog, Peggy, got a bit too friendly with a Toad. Our other dog used to sniff and ignore them but not this Patterdale. She had a lick and instantly reacted with a foaming salivating mouth and trying to wipe her face with a paw. I had to get into her mouth with my hand and wipe the saliva away. Luckily the incident went without further drama, but it just shows what can happen. The Toad was fine and no the dog has not learned a thing from her encounter.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

March Brown or Worm?

 While sitting at my PC yesterday at work I was day dreaming, as you do, and I got to thinking about the date, the 22nd March. 

I knew it rang a bell. 40 odd years ago, before I left school at 16, the 22nd March was one of my highlights of the year. It is the first day of the Brown Trout fishing season on our rivers. For weeks before, I would be gathering bits of cheap tackle from Woolworths and our local tackle shop, McDermott's. Size 14, 12 and 10 hooks, line, shot, small drilled bullets, perch bobber floats etc for bait fishing on the stretch of free water on the River Wansbeck in Morpeth. Some years I would even try a wet fly on the syndicate water down stream of the town, using a team of March Brown on point with Snipe and Purple, and Partridge and Orange on the droppers. There wasn't a great deal of finesse.

The day was like Christmas to me, I couldn't wait for it. The weather would be variable from sunny spring like days with bees on catkins to deep snow covering bank sides, to brown, milky tea coloured, spate. If a flood was running off, I'd stand a good chance by rolling a worm along with the current right into the bank sides. If there was low, clear water the flies might be better...

The sound of a Dipper singing, Butterbur flowers just beginning to pop up in the sandy gravel banks and overly excited Mallard in gangs causing a commotion all come flooding back. I didn't catch much. A big fish was 12 inches, mostly they were no more than 8 inches but it was the feel of the day that made it so good. Winter was over regardless of the weather.

I haven't fished a river now for years. Woolworth's is no more and bank sides are grown with willows or tidied up. Those years have gone in all but memory, but its nice to think back. Happy times...




Monday, March 22, 2021

The Weekend

 What a glorious weekend that was. Lovely sunny days and calm with it, but despite the conditions, nothing new was found for the 5kmr patch.

On Friday, a pair of Collared Doves below my feeders then displaying around the village were noteworthy in a local patch context. These are the first I've had on the deck this year. It is much much easier to see a Barn Owl, Fulmar, Kittiwakes etc here than Collared Dove. Imagine then, when numbers increased to 3 birds on Saturday. I was well chuffed! 

As the weather was nice, Saturday was spent gardening and keeping an eye on the sky overhead. From here I was lucky enough to get in on the Whooper Swan passage that has been a feature over Northern England over the past couple of days. The first flock was over 100 birds in a string, moving along the coast path, followed a bit later by 50 birds. Not the big numbers seen in some places but 150 Whoopers from the garden cant be bad.

While pottering, my first butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell, was seen and a Tree Bumblebee too.

Sunday morning was spent along at Boulmer. For the second weekend in a row, no new birds were noted but we did dip out on Snow Bunting and Sandwich Tern. They should be added during the year so no real concerns here.


Boulmer Village and haven from the south.
From Seaton Point in the South to Longhoughton Steel in the North we had 19 Bar tailed Godwits,  3 Grey Plover, 27 Sanderling, 6 Ringed Plover, 50 Dunlin, 42,14 and 2 Whooper Swans N, 9 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 2 Common Scoter, 1 Red throated Diver, a pair of Red breasted Merganser, a Barn Owl and 3 Stonechat.


Whooper Swans on passage.


 

Back home, 2 pairs of Grey Partridge were in the back field.

The weather is going to deteriorate this week so in might be a while before there are any local hirundines, despite two Swallows and a few Sand Martins in the county yesterday.