Monday, September 12, 2022


 Before the post, apologies for no further mentions of the loss of the Queen. At 96 it shouldn't be such a shock, but it was to a lot of us. Still, I dont think my thoughts on it will add to this blog, so we will continue as normal.

Over the weekend we've had a good bit of rain, backed by light north easterlies since Friday, all looking good for some passerine action along the coast. 

As per usual over recent years, I am too long in the tooth to be suckered in to high mainland expectations these days, all of the action in Northumberland was focused on Holy Island, and then some.

Try this lot on Saturday...

Red necked Phalarope, Dotterel, 3 - 4 Rosefinch ( inc a photo of 3 together), 4 Wryneck, Red breasted Flycatcher, Red backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, Black Redstart, 2 Wood Warbler, Lapland Bunt, Hen Harrier, Osprey with good counts of common migrants too such as 65 Wheatear, 30 Spotted Fly, 35 Redstart, 16 Tree Pipit, 23 Garden Warbler, 28 Pied Fly, 24 Whinchat ...

Those stats match up with the likes of Spurn or Flamborough . 

So what was I to do on Sunday? I asked the oracle that is Twitter, for a laugh. Should I get up to the Island, a half an hour drive from me, or should I stick local and go to Boulmer as per. The results were eerily familiar as you might expect with a referendum. Out of 280 votes, 52% were for Holy Island and 48% for Boulmer . Interestingly, the battle scarred premiership bird finders, to a man, said stay with it at home.

So, just as with the last referendum that had an effect on me, I backed the 48%ers and drove 3 miles to Boulmer. Who needs a barrow load of scarce anyway...

Before I get on to what we found, I can mention my home village patch was quite pleasing this week with my first Black Tern here since 2011 feeding close in off Rumbling Kern and on Friday a male Redstart and a weak looking Pied Fly at Cullernose, again good records for here. Viz migging has been active each morning during Peggy's walk with lots of Hirundines , Meadow Pipits and a few Yellow Wagtails and Tree Sparrows.

Back to Sunday.  We arrived at 6.30am, first light and spent the whole morning covering to south side as far up as the village. We weren't wading through a magic carpet of birds but we had a few to keep us going in these impoverished times.

We began at Seaton Point golf course layby as Meadow Pipits streamed overhead. 4 Siskins put in an appearance arriving from the east as did a lone, very high Song Thrush. Roadside scrub held a nice Pied Flycatcher, a Whitethroat, 7 Chiffchaffs ( no willows I could see). A Yellow Wagtail moved south over head.

A new route along the replacement coast path across the golf course looked interesting. Here were had 4 Wheatears but little else.

Dropping down on to the beach, a Spotted Flycatcher looked damp as it perched on the sand and seaweed where there were flies aplenty.

Next, we headed along to Seaton Point. It was nice to see more Private signs erected. You cant get enough Private signs in Boulmer, the most unfriendly village.

Near one of them, a second Spotted Flycatcher preened from a fence. Another dozen Phylloscs here included at least two Willow Warblers, while another Whitethroat moved around the brambles. It was while standing here, the loud 'peeez' of a Tree Pipit called overhead. in a flock of 6 or 8 Meadow Pipits.

Spotted Flycatchers above.

Once we arrived at the eastern end, the sparse hedge that runs north had another Pied Flycatcher, flicking from bush to fence and to Hogweed stems and a female Redstart flushed and flew off into thick cover. A Wheatear was on the plough with more pipits.

Pied Flycatcher.

The return journey covered more of the same with a new Blackcap and a male Redstart as additions .

Poor shot but its a Redstart.

We weren't too disappointed that we couldn't unearth anything rarer as this scatter of drift migrants is a lot better than we usually get. Should we have gone to Holy Island? No chance. There had been a big clear out up there anyway so it was much better to find our own stuff down here.

The weather looks like it might give some tasty seawatching conditions from Thursday this week so watch this space...


Thursday, September 08, 2022

Rare moths...

 As I am writing about something as trivial as moths, an ill old lady has the eyes of the world trained on her health up in Scotland. Will this be the end of an era? Time will tell...

It feels like I shouldn't be doing this at the minute but without any disrespect, the world turns.

Back to garden insects.

The other day I posted some pics of a lovely Convolvulous Hawk-moth I'd found on the road verge. Well, almost daily since then, rare and scarce migrant moths have been found in my moth trap. Its a novelty here as we are a long way north for moth migration.

Here they are - 

4th Sept
I've been looking for Beet Moth (Scrobipalpa ocellatella) this week without luck until this morning. I saw Tom and Ian both had first and second Northumberland records respectively so I was pleased to come in bronze position when I saw the target on the second tray from the trap.

This is where things go belly up... I got a pot and was about to pot the moth when I noticed another, larger micro near it. A pyralid.
My hesitation cost dearly as the Beet Moth flew off and away up the drive! Bugger.
Now, getting back to the cause of my distraction, the pyralid was duly potted. I knew I had not seen this species before so was keen to get on with identifying.

Imagine the shock when I find the moth in the Manley Guide and double check it on various moth sites etc and see it is very unexpected indeed. This time a gold medal winner, a first for Northumberland and a 'very local' species nationally.

Here it is -

1. Ancylosis oblitella Saltmarsh Knot-horn
Ancylosis oblitella

Knowing the invasive Beet Moths were out there, the trap was deployed again the next night. Sure enough, my 2nd and 3rd Beet Moths were secured this time. Firsts for vc68, 5th and 6th for Northumberland.

2. Beet Moth (Scrobipalpa ocellatella)

Beet Moth (Scrobipalpa ocellatella)

Accompanied by a few Rush Veneers as support.

Then as if to top it off on 6th the first moth I saw in the trap was this belter, a dark form of Box Tree Moth, another first for vc68 ( are you keeping up, 3 vc firsts in 3 nights!) but around the 16th for Northumberland as a whole ( vc67 and 68). It was accompanied by another 2 Beet Moths, my 4th and 5th.

3. Box Tree Moth

Box Tree Moth

Finally, last night I left the magic light on again. No tales of Oleanders or Beautiful Marbleds but another good migrant, a Scarce Bordered Straw, only my 3rd  ever and again with a Beet Moth. My 6th. 

4. Scarce Bordered Straw

Scarce Bordered Straw

So what a good mothing week its been, maybe my best. I wonder if there is anything else to catch out there?

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

A local Easterly...

 Busy, busy, busy now that Autumn is in full swing and the wind has been from the eastern half over the past week. There is never enough time to do everything.

On 31st August I managed a couple of short seawatches at The Bathing House. An hour in the morning resulted in some decent birds with 1 ad Pomarine Skua, 1 close in juv Long tailed Skua, that bonked one of 25 Arctic Skuas on the head forcing it to land before moving away north. A great comparison of size and structure could be had during the interaction. 1 drake Velvet Scoter was a surprise  along with small numbers of Common Scoter, Wigeon and Teal.  It really is that time of year. 80 Manx Shearwaters completed the show.

It felt good so after work I popped down to Cullernose, but an hour and a half showed that most passage was now over. Still, 2 Long tailed Skuas, 14 Arctic Skua, 1 poss Pom but too distant and 30 Manx made it still worth while.

On Saturday 3rd September rain and easterlies looked good for an arrival of migrants to off we went to check the coast path area. Up at Holy Island and the Isle of May birds were falling in with plenty of scarcities too, but a random bit of mainland isnt really like that. We just hope for scraps this case, I didnt even get those. No migrants at all, not so much as a Chiffchaff. Some compensation was had on the way back when I flushed a lovely Convolvulous Hawk-moth from the verge. It was soon pocketed and taken home for photos then released after dark.

Convolvulous Hawk-moth, one of our largest moths. 

Sunday 4th dawned foggy and mild with a light south easterly breeze. I met John at Boulmer where we were filled with hope of what the morning might uncover, after all this is a big headland into the North Sea.

The final tally is less than inspiring so here are the highlights - Curlew Sandpiper 1 juv on the beach with Dunlin, 3 Black and 1 Bar tailed Godwit flew S, 9 Brent Geese N at sea. The only passerine that got us going was an 'educational unstreaked acro' in a ditch near the car park. Doesnt that phrase make your heart sink? All I wanted was a Wryneck, not of this educational nonsense ( a phrase used to try and get some meagre enjoyment from stringing a common species). The acro turned out to be  Reed Warbler no matter how hard we tried. It is still a decent bird on this patch really, Ive only ever seen maybe 4 or 5 in the area.

Above -  Reed Warbler, top 2 mine, bottom one is by JWR a much nicer shot than my efforts. 

As the wind was set firmly from the east,a couple of days annual leave were booked for Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday a half hour sea scan had 8 Red throated Divers and 3 Arctic Skuas S with 1 Arctic N, but the glare from the sea was appalling so I gave up and went along to check Craster. On route back, a juv Peregrine went over N and a Whimbrel S .This is the north end of my patch and its not been visited much this year.

A good yomp around Craster Village fuelled with numerous juicy Brambles at last had a few birds.

Pied Flycatcher 2, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Blackcap 2, Calling phylloscs 12, non seen but 1 Willow Tit showed well. More insect migrants included 6 Red Admirals and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

The moth trap has produced some good stuff this week too but thats for another post...





Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sunrises and Sunsets a varied week...


Top - A Cullernose sunrise, and a quick Sooty Shearwater sketch.

Over the last week or so as summer begins to ebb away there have been no great wildlife highlights but there has been some variety that's for sure . Please bear with me as this post might drift off a bit...

Last week there was a window of seawatching opportunity as the wind swung into the North briefly.

Manx Shearwaters were a feature with 500+ N on one day but other pickings were slim. 7 Sooty Shearwaters, a few Arctic Skuas a couple of Bonxies were to be expected but a watch on the 17th had a few oddities too with Merlin harassing Kittiwakes a mile offshore, 1 Little Gull and a Greenshank that flew N close in. The following day a juv Marsh Harrier came low overhead as I walked the dog along the coast path first thing.

On 22nd my, so far, last 2 Swifts were with hirundines over our village and the first singing Robin of autumn woke us up in the morning. 

Little Stint with Dunlin, centre.

This weekend, visits to Boulmer on Sunday and Monday, early on the former, later on the latter to avoid Bank Holiday visitors was quite nice.  A single Little Stint was with 300+ Dunlin in front of the pub while a Peregrine tried its best to thin the flock out a bit.

Dan found a nice juvenile Dotterel in the wintering Golden Plover flock that seems to be hanging on a while. On Sunday we had reasonable views but distant. I went back yesterday evening for a better look when it was closer but still not quite close enough...

Dotterel juv, Longhoughton Steel, Boulmer

Top, Field sketches of the Dotterel distant on seaweed covered rocks, and last night in the sheep field.  

While watching the Dotterel on Sunday  we had 4 Raven, 1 Wheatear, 1 Roseate Tern, 100+ other Terns ( three species) 6 Wigeon in-off, the first of autumn, 16 Whimbrel, 100+ Curlew, 8 Arctic Skua, 1 Pintail N, 10 Teal N.

Yesterday's early evening visit was quiet though we did have 80+ Manx Shearwaters, 6+ Arctic Skuas, 1 very distant high flying Pom that dropped down on to the sea, but we couldn't nail it.

Boulmer sunrise.

To round off, here are some Invertebrates that have kept me busy mid week - 

Palloptera muliebris a Picture winged Fly, scarce up here apparently, maybe be the first record for VC68.

Feathered Gothic

Totally knackered but this Oblique Carpet is new for me. Scarce in Northumberland.

Platyptilia gonodactyla

A Mirid Bug, Stenoderma calcarata

Sitona obsoletus

Phycitodes binaevella


Another new moth for me and rare up here is Small Mottled Willow, first for VC68. 

Moving into the dark art of Diptera we have Dolichopus griseipennis displaying around our drain.

Barred Chestnut

Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

Copper Underwing on sugar ropes.

Another Grey Chi 

This was a right pain. I thought it was a Gem, but it wouldnt open its wings other than to fly around like a nutter for the first 12 hours. Finally it sat out for this shot then I lost it in the kitchen! It has yet to emerge... oh yes its another first for me Red Twin Spot Carpet.

Sunset from the kitchen.

Monday, August 22, 2022


 Me and John were out and about around Boulmer and the Aln Estuary yesterday morning. We began early at 06.30 when it was quite peaceful. The wind was a light SW3, it was clear and sunny but there was an early autumn chill in the air.

Boulmer, before the masses.

Before I get on to what we saw, I've got to say, we were up against it. It seems that every corner of the patch is getting more like Blackpool every week. Just to run through, while watching the waders on a weed strewn muddy north end at Boulmer it began with a chap wearing a Toon top kicking a football along the shore. Thats a new one on me here. We then had dog walkers with those throwing sticks that get the ball to cover as much wader habitat as possible. This was before the standard bemused tourists arrived who walk straight down the muddy haven to the waters edge to stand, gazing, not knowing exactly why they came or what to do next.

Soon after as we sat on the north seat, the lovely, dulcet tones, of the countryside could be heard when a dozen tossers on off road motorbikes came along the track north, forcing the way through the gate. WTF? I took some snaps of reg plates but on checking back home this track is open to all traffic, despite pedestrians, dogs, kids, sheep, cyclists etc. I'll remember that next time I fancy a seawatch in the pouring rain.

Despite this, we did see a few birds. Off the north end were 300+ mixed terns that included mostly Sandwich, Arctic and Common in that order but in with them were 5 Roseates. There had been up to 4 Black Terns the night before but there weren't here this morning.

A female Merlin came low overhead, south, past the village while a Sparrowhawk hunted the starlings. A couple of Yellow Wagtails flew south overhead.

Waders, we had Bar tailed Godwit 4, Grey Plover in sum plum, Whimbrel, a Snipe in off, 53 Lapwing and several hundred Golden Plover on the rocks. On the mud, 100+ Dunlin, 50+ Ringed Plover, 50+ Redshank. A Wheatear was about the only passerine migrant. 

Lads enjoying the countryside. 

   So, to get away from the melee at Boulmer we headed down the road to view the River Aln from Foxton for waders. On arrival a cockeney had parked his camper van on the road verge as it was a tenner to use the car park. When I spoke to him he looked at me in a head twisting manner as if he had just found a lost tribe in the Amazon.

Off to view the river then. A few waders were here, but not for long, oh no. Firstly a husband and wife team in small rowing things were like the Oxford boat race moving down stream. She was clueless and kept veering off into the bank in a zig zag manner, while looking over her shoulder to see where she was going ( its a curved meander here). As they were leaving our view, they were passed by a lone canoeist coming the opposite way. Greenshanks were scattering all over. He was soon followed by a family in what looked like a boat that had crossed from Calais to Dover through the night and with them a bloke with his grandson on a paddle board using a bit of round plastic as a sail.

Before this lot appeared we had 5 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 6 Teal, a Pintail and a Goosander. 15 Black tailed Godwits flew N.

Finally were left the regatta to view the estuary from Tom's seat. The access cycle path was like Edinburgh Christmas market but as the tide dropped a few birds came out to feed. 

Black tailed Godwit 42, Curlew 172+ Knot 3, Greenshank 4, Snipe 2, Little Egret 8. A couple of Sedge Warblers were a bit late and a nice Lesser Whitethroat fed in brambles in the sunshine.

Roll on easterlies and rain I say...     

Monday, August 15, 2022

A catch up...

 Here we are two weeks into August and not a blog post. I've no idea where the time goes. 

As it happens, August has been a bit quiet so far but a few noteworthy things have come to hand.

Now the autumn is here, I've started to go back to Boulmer. This is often difficult due a few factors that I find irritating. The number of visitors now causes a lot of disturbance and the fact that these visitors are basically corralled onto the shore line because the whole headland is filled with parking restrictions and 'Private-Keep Out' signs. Even on the old runways where we could walk the dog without fear a few years ago, now closed off. This exacerbates disturbance on the shore because there is simply nowhere else for people to go.

Rant over for the time being. The last day of July turned up a few Roseate Terns at Cullernose and Boulmer along with a few returning shoreline waders at the latter. A short seawatch early morning was typically quiet but 35 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Common Scoters, 23 Lesser black backed Gulls (the least common of the regular species here) and 20+ Arctic Terns.

The Hummingbird Hawk-moth influx isn't over apparently as another graced our buddleia on the 31st.


August arrived and with it some nice summer weather. We've had warm days but not like the heatwave further south. More like a good summer I'd say.

On 1st a new moth for me and for VC68 was in the trap. An adventive moving north from Kent, this one, Pammene aurita had be stumped until Tom Tams came to the rescue.

Pammene aurita.

 After a spring absence this year, Holly Blue was pleasing to see back in the garden ( later seen egg laying on our Ivy flower buds) while on a dog walk in our village wood, a few interesting things were recorded. A new plant for me was found, Upright Hedge Parsley, common but previously overlooked as well as Broad leaved Helleborine, several Saxon Wasps and a Hoverfly Leucozona glaucia.

Broad leaved Helleborine

Leucozona laternaria

Saxon Wasp

Upright Hedge Parsley

A short look to Boulmer on 6th to meet Russ Boland and friends who were on a weekend visit to Northumberland from Barnsley . Russ is a birder and great artists/notetaker who I was keen to meet after having a bit of chat with on Twitter. We had a walk up to the North end where Russ finally found his lifer Roseate Tern and managed some excellent sketches to record the event.

The next day, John and myself returned to Boulmer. Birding highlights were few but 16 Black tailed Godwits S, 2 Arctic Skuas S, 1 Yellow Wagtail on the beach, 173 Curlew and a Peregrine hunting waders were the most noteworthy. A small brightly coloured Leaf Beetle Sermylassa halensis was new. If you use any of these identification apps such as Obsidentify, it gave two incorrect ansers both with 100% certainty for this beetle. I never believe them and do a bit of digging once I get a bit of direction. In this case the image doesnt show the green panel on the forehead well so the AI didnt pick it up, hence a different identification.


Sermylassa halensis

Holly Blue egg laying.

And finally, as if micro moths in the trap aren't difficult enough, this Fruit Fly was new to Northumberland!

Anomoia purmunda