Sunday, June 24, 2007

Above - Lesser Butterfly Orchid and its habitat, the plants surrounded by Dyer's Greenweed ( the bright yellow flower).

Above - Common Twayblade, another orchid in the same area.

Small Heath Butterfly, slightly blurred...

Another distant Spoonbill shot.

Today was very warm and mostly suuny with odd cloudy spells. I spent the morning Orchid hunting in the dunes at East Chevington and generally chewing the cud with the lads down there. A good way to spend the morning when the birding is quiet.

Apart from when the Spoonbill flew in from the south there was very little of note on the pools. A Grey Partridge gave a great show when it 'nutted' a magpie that decided to look for its chicks. Needless to say Magpie made its excuses and left. .

As for the flowers, a dozen Lesser Butterfly Orchids were still in flower, loads of Common Twayblades nearby but no sign of the Bee Orchids seen by Nigel last week? I'll try a more reliable site next week. One or two Dune Helleborines were budding and will be open in a week or so depending on the weather. Around the dunes were 2+ Small Heaths and the odd Common Blue butterfly.

This afternoon we checked the pastures near Alnwick Castle for Banded Demoiselle ( Damselfly) without luck. They were reported here last July, reliably, so I'll keep checking. Later on Jane, Bunty and I had a pleasant wander around the Seaton Point at Boulmer. There was no sign of yesterday's Bar tailed Godwit, or anything for that matter. Home via the Coach Inn at Lesbury where a Leveret dodged along the road and a pair of Oystercatchers had a fleged chick in the compound at the Boulmer RAF Radar Site. It should be safe enough in there, I mean, how many oykers have an armed guard and an ICBM listening device watching over them...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


At high tide this evening I was walking Bunty around the old airfield at Boulmer and could hear such a raucous noise of seabirds calling from the Seaton Point beach area. I could hear Kitty's, gulls and terns etc making such a row I thought I should take a look.

I was impressed to see the small bay south of Seaton Point choc-a-bloc of seabirds. There were ( guesstimates) 2000+ Guillemots, 1000+ large Gulls, a few hundred each of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Common and Black headed Gulls, plus smaller numbers of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Puffins, Razorbills, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 17 Common Scoters, 3 Goosanders, 30+ Eiders and a single Roseate Tern.

The scene above was taken on my phone about 300 metres offshore and stretched for half a mile or more in tight little ( big) groups. The place sounded like the Farnes! There must be a good showing of sandeels at the minute...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Boulmer Birder Bumper Holiday Special...

Ardnamurchan, West Highlands...

Hello again, we are back now after a lovely week away from it all in the west of Scotland. Unlike the rest of the UK, the West Highlands basked in lovely sunshine with light winds for the whole of our week. The worst we faced was some lightly overcast skies and a few drops of drizzle on Tuesday evening at dusk. After this, sun tans, heat haze and midgies were the order of the day. The second half of the week was a bit cooler, making the air even clearer and the midgies less aggressive.

We spent our time walking and relaxing, taking in the scenery and wildlife at our leisure, and very nice it was too.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

Above - Our base, a cottage in Arevegaig. Very homely and nicely remote, set in its own large gardens.

The access road over Kentra Moss, a large peat bog, covered in cotton grass and sedges. Not a sound could be heard from this road, not even a car engine. Only the displaying Lesser Redpolls, Meadow Pipits and Cuckoos broke the silence.

In our garden were two bird tables. The visitors book said that Pine Martens had been regular visitors to the food put out so, as this was one of my main reasons for visiting this part of Scotland, I couldn't believe my luck. Out went bread with jam or marmalade or peanut butter or even mashed banana and sometimes a mixture of the lot in the hope of attracting a view of this shy creature. During the subsequent evenings we were visited on four of them, best of all by two Pine Martens together on Thursday resulting in some frantic chasing and chattering around then much scent marking before they took a table each and finished the meal. Timings were irregular and could be anywhere from 6.30pm until dark at 11.15pm. These pics were taken at about 10pm hence the blurring through the kitchen window where the animals were down to 6 feet away. One of my absolute highlights watching wild creatures.

Other visitors includes many Siskins including family parties and two Wood Mice, this poor devil only had one eye...

This is an Emperor Moth caterpillar found just outside the cottage on the Moss...

Cuckoos were every where during the first few days then strangely disappeared. This one was mobbed by a Meadow Pipit just outside the garden.

Some of the lovely views from the area looking towards Eigg, Rhum and Skye...

These four are Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. Tremendous little butterflies and we saw them at serveral roadside stops, but one was even in our cottage garden...

Large Heath Butterflies were common on the moss around the cottage. They are of the form polydama and seem to be on the wing several weeks earlier than in Northumberland. Also here were 6+ Green Hairstreaks, 1 Speckled Wood and 1 Dark Green Fritillary...

Common Sandpipers and Tiger Beetles were found nearby. Dragonflies were impossible to photograph as they didnt land for more than a split second. We had good numbers of Gold-ringed Dragonfly and 4-spotted Chaser, with hoardes of Large Red Damsels.

Red Deer were common, with 50+ along the Ardnamurchan Penninsular. We also had a female Otter and her cub and a sub adult Golden Eagle showing well here. Another Otter was seen on the moss near the cottage.

On the Moss, Heath Spotted Orchid, Sundews and Butterworts, the latter two are both carnivorous plants.

Hooded Crow with a fledgling. The adult seemed to be guiding it to food.

The coastal hay meadows were full of wild flowers, such as these Ragged Robin.

One of the highlights slightly further afield was this Chequered Skipper butterfly. This is the only area in the UK where this species can be found. This one was on the roadside six miles NE of Ardgour on the shores of Loch Linne. It was on tiny garden daisies, the type found in lawns, for a good size comparison. While I trudged off into a woodland clearing, Jane found this one where I had parked the car. Typical.

This hut was at Sanna, a beautiful sandy cove at Ardnamurchan point and miles from any built up area. The nearest supermarket is at Fort William, 70 miles away! Good to see that George Bush hasn't passed the crofters by...

Always end on a sunset. This was over Kentra Bay from our garden looking at Eigg and Rhum. A belter. Oh well, work in the morning...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

All quiet down at Boulmer this evening. The weather here is still cold and dull with a light NE breeze when the rest of Britain is basking in the heat.

At the Boulmer Radar Site on the road above Lesbury I was suprised to see a pair of Oystercatchers with a downy chick on the nicely manicured lawns. I was going to get a photo but then thought better of it, after all this is a strategic military base with armed guards. I dont want to end up like one of those plane spotters in Greece.

This is my last post for a week or so due to other commitments. Watch this space after next weekend...


Above - Large Cuckoo Pint Arum italicum. According to Blamey / Grey-Wilson this plant is found locally from Cornwall to South Wales. These were taken on the roadside at Lemmington Woods, Alnwick, Northumberland. I suppose they will be naturalised plants from who knows when. Even so, they look nice and exotic in a Northumberland wood.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Above - White-tailed Plover, Caerlaverock, Dumfries and Galloway, today. ( Richard Dunn). Breeding on the Russian Steppes and wintering in Africa, migrates through the United Arab Emirates. Not SW Scotland.

You can never be sure just what is around the corner in this game, so, be prepared as the scouts say, be prepared.Luckily for me, today I was and had my gear in the car ready to go.

At work this morning, my pager switched to silent, I happened to glance at the small screen at about 1.00pm and noticed the word 'MEGA' in the bottom left hand corner. As this signifies something way out of the ordinary I was intrigued and mentally tried to guess what it could be. Some fly by seabird off the Hebrides perhaps or a yank sparrow on the Northern Isles, as is usual in these cases? What a shock when I read the words 'WHITE-TAILED PLOVER, CAERLAVEROCK'!!!!

Now this is where the headless chicken routine starts. An absolute blocking mega on the mainland and only an hour and a half from home, what was I to do? 11 text messages were sent to my friends who may be available and interested in such a thing and soon replies bounded back. One, from Richard Dunn, really got me thinking for all of five minutes. 'I'm going in the next half an hour, do you want to come?' At work, pre-arranged appointments were hastily rearranged and colleagues were begged into doing some for me, the boss was persuaded and a half day off was duely booked. 'Rich, I'll be there in fifteen minutes.'

Other friends had already travelled the hundred miles and were climbing out of the car when they replied to me. This bird was a must see and was the first for 20 odd years.

Richard and myself were at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Center at 3.30pm and had already been beaten to the goal by birders from as far away as Southampton. The weather here was in stark contrast to the dull cold day we had left back at home by being hot and sunny. The Plover was showing on and off in the rushes of a damp field at the far end of the reserve. Our main stroke of luck came as we were a hundred yards from the main hide and a fifteen minute queue to get in to see the bird, when an old chap told us the bird was visible from the hide right next to us with no queue.

We were immediatly given good views of this stilted lapwing as it preened and stood in the open about 70 yards away. Over the next hour it flew even closer allowing us time to scrutinise its every detail both on the ground and in flight and what a treat it was. In some ways a bit courser like but always very striking, particularly in flight. An absolute stunner, this is the first since 1984 when a single bird was seen in two different sites and prior to that one in 1979 and one in 1975. None of these birds were widely available to the masses so it will be interesting to see how many people make it in time to see this one.

A Lifer for me - No 386 in Britain. Without a doubt, this will be one of the birds of the year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A short walk along the front at Boulmer this evening was largely uneventful until a Little Stint flew north along the tideline with a Sanderling for an excellent size comparison. The Stint was like a Sand Martin! Also at sea 13 Manx Shearwaters flew north and 500+ large gulls were sat out on the sea to roost.

123. Little Stint.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Another look...Lesser Scaups at Linton.

I thought I would add some more Lesser Scaup pics just to show some of the features a little more clearly.

Above - Male wing pattern again from underside this time. Oh, and the head shape is a belter even though the photo is blurred.

Above - Male size comparison with Tufted Duck, and the Lesser does indeed look smaller.

Above - The male, yes all the same bird showing, from the top, the differing head shapes according to whether diving or not. Note the coarse vermiculations on the mantle / scapulars against the very fine grey flank markings.

Above - Bill pattern, darker grey at base becoming paler blue grey towards tip with black nail.

Above - Female showing two head shapes one flat after diving, one 'field guide 'shaped.