Saturday, October 31, 2009

Calm before the storm...

Today was a lovely day, warm and sunny with a light southerly breeze.

First thing outside this morning I was pleased to get a garden tick in the form of a male Stonechat perched on the phone wires above our drive. I've never had this species on any of my garden lists so its a good record. They are usually down along the coast path at Howick Haven about half a mile away. It flushed before I could retrieve the camera.

After breakfast we had a walk to the pond to feed the swans and back by the hall. On the route were 2 Gadwall on the pond still, 64 Pinkfeet and 30 Greylags flew south, 3 Redpolls and a few Siskins were in the woods. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes have arrived in force over the past couple of days with large numbers in all hedgerows / woods etc. The sun even prompted 2 Song Thrushes into song. Later, 5 Skylarks and about 80 Lapwings flew south.

This Kestrel, above, spent a while in the village too later seen harassing the local Buzzard.

In the wood this Japanese Maple was stunning...

Two butterflies today, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. If the weather forecast is right they might well be the last...

Above - Shaggy Inkcaps or Lawyers Wig in varying stages of growth and decay.

Above - This is the moth I thought might be Autumnal Moth?

Later we went to Craster for lunch and I had to take the picture below. An Aston Martin Vantage on the drive of an ex-council elderly persons bungalow. Imagine them popping to the shops in it. Its a better class of pensioner in these parts you know... :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Caught on 26th...

Epirrita autumnata Autumnal Moth 1
Agrochola lota Red-line Quaker 1
Agrochola macilenta Yellow-line Quaker 1
Conistra vaccinii Chestnut 1
Chloroclysta siterata Red-green Carpet 2
Epirrita dilutata November Moth 2
Acleris sparsana Acleris sparsana 2

10 moths of 7 species.

Please note, the November / Autumnal Moths are nigh on impossible to seperate without extracting their 'nads under a microscope, so my identifications might be, er, less than perfect...

Basically I follow the text in the guides and take a punt from there...

Some must be right? But, as for Pale November Moth - thats just silly.

More thrushes arriving in the dark last night, Blackbirds and Redwings mainly but with the odd Song Thrush . Tawny Owls still in full hoot in our woods...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Black, its Black...

Home from work tonight, don the headlamp and take Bunty for a walk. Saw and heard nothing. Thats pretty much how it goes now until Saturday...

But. All is not lost.

On my way to work this morning I just rounded the corner at our lane end to see a Red Squirrel flopping along the path, a picture of russet in amongst glowing beech leaves and mast before clambering up the tree. Lovely.

I hope it doesn't get flattened by some rally driver wannabee...

Yes, its pretty black...

Oh and I've added some new links to my lists right. Tim Wooton is a proper artist in the blog list but the otheres are further down in 'other sites I like'...Enjoy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All change...

The clocks went back an hour last night. That means no more daylight hours at home until the weekends. It's going to be a long four months...

As the wind was in the west today, I decided not to do very much at all and only had a couple of walks onto the patch morning and afternoon. As it happens there were a few birds to be seen...

In the garden, a Tree Sparrow was with 40+ House Sparrows at the feeders along with 7 Goldfinches.

We walked Bunty down to the pond where Jane fed the swans some breakfast. On here 3 imm type Goldeneye lifted and circled around before heading off east. This was the first time I've seen them on here. 2 Buzzards soared and called overhead, while Marsh Tit and Kingfisher were heard only. On the way back, 25 Redpolls and 8 Siskins were drinking from a ditch in the village wood and 3 Redwings flew over.

In the afternoon we were sorting through some stuff in the loft when a pager message came through about 2 Firecrests down the Howick Dene at the end of the Long Walk. I wonder if I missed them on Thursday or are they new in? Anyway, off I went for another walk down to see if I could add them to my list. Although they were elusive it didnt take too long to locate them both, cracking males too, in some bare srub where they showed well for 15 minutes before moving on. Thanks to the finder for putting the news out promptly.

Also here 1 Jay and 15+ Long tailed Tits.

The route home was via the coast path. This was largely uneventful with only 1 male Goldeneye, 1 female Stonechat and 2 Red throated Divers going into the notebook.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

After the birding excitement of yesterday it was time to 'chillax' ( see I'm down with it) with some garden mothing...

Chestnut 4
Common Wainscot 1
Large Yellow Underwing 2
November Moth 3
Common Marbled Carpet 1
Autumnal Moth 1
Grey Pine Carpet 1
Red-green Carpet 2
Rush Veneer 3
Garden Rose Tortrix 2
Light Brown Apple Moth 2

A total of 22 moths of 11 species. The Autumnal Moth is a new one for the garden. I'll get a photo tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It came from the East...

After my prediction of some birds arriving this week I took Thursday morning off and checked the coast from home to Howick Burn. And saw 1 Blackcap and 1 Kingfisher. Thats it. Hardly a thrush to be had. I also saw the only Goldcrest in Northumberland, but no Firecrests ( they are all at Newton).

So, imagine the shock last night at 10pm when the pager gave a shrill MEGA alert tone and I find that a first for Britain is about an hour away down the road. Problem was, I had to be at Newcastle today for an exam and there was no way out ( short of suicide).

Luckily I got through the exam and away by 2.30pm so it was straight off down to South Shields where the Eastern Crowned Warbler was showing very nicely indeed. What a bird too, quite an unusual phyllosc doing Red eyed Vireo impersonations as it clambered around the small scrubby area in Trow Quarry in front of 120+ visitors who had driven many miles for a meet and greet.

The twitch was even shown on BBC News tonight at 6pm!

So here it is -

Notes from me, photo from Ian Fisher...

A Brit Tick after a couple in China last spring, this takes me up to 392...
Oh, its a shame but a nice little Yellow browed Warbler in the same trees was hardly looked at. Two nice birds!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well, well, well, some birds have arrived. Firecrests mostly. None for yours truly I'm afraid as the day was spent propping up the economy...

Gary rang me from Newton to say he had found 4 of the bobby dazzlers on his patch. 4! Firecrests aren't that common up here, its not Dungeness you know. After coming out of a lengthy retirement, 'The Blogger formerly known as The Grocer' got in on the act too with one at Newbiggin plus a Lap Bunt ;)

So, inspired by these successes, I might turn in late for work tomorrow, weather permitting, and check some local bushes...

Thursday pm or Friday might be the best after the foul weather dries up...Guess where I'll be. I'm not bitter. Not much.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sleeping Satellite...

This is a Satellite. A new species for me, I quite like it, very distinctive.

As well as this I also caught -

Brick 1
Red Green Carpet 3
November Moth 3
Light Brown Apple Moth 1
Chestnut 1 again on Ivy flowers. I see much more of this species on Ivy than in the trap...

News on the weather, tonight at 6.15pm it was almost dark. At our road end the wind was a solid SE 6 - 7 with some squally showers. Come on.

Its just that the isobars over the north sea dont look too direct, but lets hope eh...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weather Forecast...

Do I spy some migrant dropping conditions later on this week? Mmmm...

Tue 20 Oct
Day 11 °C SE 30 mph, Gusts 45 mph, Vis Very Good
Night 11 °C ESE 24 mph, Gusts 34 mph Vis Good

Wed 21 Oct
Day 12 °C ESE 26 mph Vis Poor, Rain
Night 9 °C SE 28 mph Vis Poor, Rain

Thur 22 Oct
Day 12 °C ESE 20 mph Vis, Poor, Rain
Night 11 °C ESE 12 mph Vis Very Good

Last updated: 2201 on Sun 18 Oct 2009

From the Met Office website for NE England Boulmer RAF Weather Station...

Another mint choc chip!

Last night was clear and cold hence the hint of frost this morning. I knew things were quiet at the moth trap when there were no midges or anything by 9pm. Box empty. Then at 10pm one moth, and thats him above - Merveille du Jour, my second garden record. By midnight only another three moths caught - Brick, Yellow line Quaker and Rosy Rustic.

Today JWR and myself headed back to Craster to check out a small wood behind Dunstanburgh Castle heughs. Although it was quiet and took us quite a while to walk there, a few bits and pieces were noted en route.

Chiffchaff 1 still singing.
Blackcap 1
Redwing 6+
Brambling 1
Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins and Chaffinches around every corner, must have included some immigrants.
Redpoll 2 S
Skylark 15 S
Willow Tit 2
Peregrine 1 imm chasing a Woodpigeon unsuccessfully.
Buzzard 4 together chasing worms in a ploughed field at Howick Scar Farm.

At home this weekend around the village on dog walks had a few skeins of Pink footed Geese S, 3 Red throated Divers on the sea together.

In the Village Wood and Pond Field were 1 Green Woodpecker, seen this time but briefly as it flew off, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 6 Redwing, 2 Jay, 1 Buzzard , 2 Little Grebes, ad and juv, and 1 Red Squirrel at the beechmast very high up.

A few butterflies were on ivy flowers - 2 Red Admirals and 1 Small Tortoiseshell.

Below - Some shots around our village...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Above - Light Emerald. See rusty coloured spots on wing tips..

Moths from last night.

Light Emerald 1 a late record of this species, the first in my garden.
Spruce Carpet 6
Grey Pine Carpet 1
Red-green Carpet 1
November Moth 4
Setaceous Hebrew Character 2
Chestnut 1
Red-line Quaker 1
Yellow-line Quaker 1
Rosy Rustic 2
Common Wainscot 1
Light Brown Apple Moth 1

22 of 12 species. Not bad for this late date.

Last night Redwings were calling overhead as they dropped into the wood through the mist and low cloud. It was flat calm and Tawny Owls could be heard from miles away.
In the last light of the day the only thing I could find on our walk was a Chiffchaff on the coastal path scrub...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This weeks moths...

Above - Mottled Umber.

Above - Pink barred Sallow

Above -Red Line Quaker

Above - November Moth. Makes Square spot Rustic look like Gurneys Pitta.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Or something....

On yesterdays post I indicated that I would be birding away from the madding crowds today. Birds on Holy Island and Druridge brought a focus to those dedicated to chasing the news so JWR and myself took the middle ground. Craster.

We started off looking in the wood around the car park and the whole place was eerie in its absolute lack of anything resembling a migrant.

Next stop was to go over the road and follow the cover north behind the Heugh. JWR took the left lane and followed the sunny nicely grown hedgerow while I followed the main path in the shade.

It was from my slightly elevated position a saw a bird fly towards John, across a five bar gate opening and into the hedge about fifty yards ahead. Even this flight view looked different and I called to John to check the hedge. The bird was that in between size, smaller than thrush but bigger than Dunnock that we don't see too much of in this country. I had my suspicions....

Sure enough after waiting a few minutes for it to lumber through the foliage, a Barred Warbler apeared. It was typically sluggish in its movements. climbing around the upper twigs of a hawthorn giving short but clear views occasionally before it flew into thicker cover behind us.

A great bird, I love Barreds. We managed another two brief views and more flight glimpses before it made off further down towards the road and out of sight. We should have summoned the Druridge Raddes twitchers who could have tape lured it or torched the bushes for a better view...

The only other birds of note here were a male Blackcap and a singing Chiffchaff. We never did find a Yellow browed, thats for another day...

Back home there was some viz migging first thing with 10 Siskin, 5 Tree Sparrows 3 Redwings and a good scatter of Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings overhead. Later in the afternoon 2 Twite south and a Brambling in the village added a littel bit of quality to the show...

On the Ivy, butterflies continued to show an interest with 10 Red Admirals, 2 Small Tortoiseshells and a nice Comma while a Painted Lady was in our garden.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn proper...

After last nights stormy spell, I thought I would have a look around the garden and village first thing to see if anything was happening. 9 Crossbills, north, over the garden and 4 Bramblings west were a good sign, though things gradually petered out after that. At least some thrushes arrived with 35 Redwings and a couple of Song Thrushes in from the east. I flushed 2 Snipe off the back field. Other viz migging highlights were 3 Siskin N, 2 Skylark W and 1 Pied Wagtail S witha few Meadow Pipits.

A short look at the sea had 50+ Teal, 20+ Common Scoter and a female Goldeneye all north, while a single Red throated Diver was on the sea.

In the Village Wood mid morning a Green Woodpecker 'yaffled' loudly, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker flew over, a Jay squawked, there were 3 Bullfinches, 1 Chiffchaff singing, 1 Goldcrest and 10 Skylarks flew south while 3 Grey Wagtails flew north.

A walk down past the pond to the sea and back by the coast path this afternoon added to the earlier list with 17 Moorhen, 12 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 1 Wigeon, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Buzzard, 2 Red Squirrels, 1 Roe doe ( below) and a Migrant Hawker quatering the pond field and showing well.

After last years 'Raddes Fest' in China and I've had at least 4 I can think of in the county, I wasn't tempted to Druridge or Holy Island. In fact, those birds have encouraged me to try and look somewhere different in the morning to see if we can find our own Yellow brow or something...

All pics - Lovely colours on the trees and a Roe doe watching the watcher...

Friday, October 09, 2009

A day late...

Last evening I took a dusk walk down to the Howick Teepee and back by the coast path with the little terror.

A flock of 22 Grey Partridges was the only thing of note on the way but on the return it picked up a bit.

A Kingfisher whistled past my ear as it flew south down the coast path off the rock pools. At Howick Haven a large wader roost had gathered with 211 Oystercatchers, 200 Lapwings, 20 each Redshank and Turnstone and a single Dunlin.

Walking up from Rumbling Kern a female Merlin dashed up the rocks then south.

Tawny Owls are vociferous this week with up to 5 birds hooting or keewicking from all over, even in my garden. A Barn Owl can be heard hissing at times too.

Tonight the wind is rattling the windows in time with spattered rain drops. It is ever so slightly SE so you never know it might drop a migrant in. The way its been this month I would be pleased with a few Redwings...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Don't need it...

Olive backed Pipit, that is...Woodhorn Church is canny for it. Look there. Well, it was in October 1990:)

What on earth is an OBP doing here in a westerly clear spell with not a sniff of another overseas migrant in sight? No mainland Yellow brows or even Fieldfares and Redwings come to that. At least the 1990 bird was grounded during a massive fall period..

I quote from Birds in Northumbria 1990 -

" In these classic conditions the county enjoyed its best 'fall' for many years producing truly memorable birdwatching. Huge numbers of Fieldfares, Redwings and Blackbirds arrived together with Ring Ouzels, Great spotted Woodpeckers, Black Redstarts, Robins and Goldcrests. Sought after rarities included the county's first Booted Warbler, second Great Reed Warbler, Pine Bunting, Olive backed Pipits, Dusky, Raddes and Pallas's Warblers. Great Grey Shrikes, Firecrests, Rustic Bunting ( Scarce!) and Siberian Stonechats all added to the excitement. A Waxwing Invasion began and the Terek Sandpiper remained."

Happy Days...

This year someone has hit the lottery...

Above - Chestnut from yesterday's post...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


This is Blair's shoulder Knot. On a quiet cool night this was the highlight in the trap. Whilst it is no looker, it is the second for vc68. Some of these moths are well on the march northwards. At the minute it seems that I am having a good run of records but I think thats only because in North Northumberland you could count the moth enthusiasts on one hand, so I'm bound to add to the record books along the way...

Another prowl around the flowering ivy produced a nice fresh Chestnut last night. I've hung on to it for some pics if the sun comes out tomorrow...

If anyone liked the look of the Merveille du Jour yesterday, have a read of Harry Eales email to me below, he has some tips on how to find one without a trap -

The MDJ is a beautiful moth and I can understand people enthusing over it when they capture one, but, I have never found this moth to be at all scarce in any area where there are mature Oaks. The pupae are quite common in late August to middle September if you dig around suitable trees and the adult moths aren't difficult to find, all you have to do is look onOak tree trunks for an elongated triangle of Lichen.

I find this moth quite commonly every year I look for it, you dont even need a moth trap, just look at the trunks of Oaks from about 10.0am onwards, anywhere from ground level to about 10 feet up.

I believe that it is more because the moth trappers operate less in October than in earlier months that the impression of it being a scarce local species has become prevelant. Larvae are also common from late May onwards if you beat any Oak tree that is reasonably mature.

The MDJ is always a pleasure to see, and I enjoy breeding them occasionally just to admire their pristine beauty when they have just emerged.

Thats the way to do it...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Wonder of the Day...

or maybe wonder of an autumn day.

JWR and myself began with an ill-advised seawatch from Cullernose Point where we scraped together -

Red throated Divers 3 N and 3 on the sea.
Arctic Terns 11+ around were late birds as was
Sandwich Tern 1.
Common Scoter 10 N
Bonxie 1 N
Peregrine 1 female glided along the cliff and off west.
Teal 1
Grey Plover 1
Red breasted Merganser 1
Shag 3
Harbour Porpoise 3 close in.

If the winds had been more northerly we might have had a better time of it...

Above - Bonfire smoke in the late sunshine and 20+ Red Admirals feasting on ivy flowers. We also had 1 Painted Lady at Craster and 1 each of Small Tortoiseshell and Large White in our garden.

Above - A few Common Darters were around at Craster and a singing Chiffchaff in the sunshine had a melancholy feel about it..

Above - During the morning 620+ Pink footed Geese flew south plus 35 Barnacle Geese.

Above - Micro moths are tricky. This tiny specimen on Yarrow is Anthophila fabriciana or Nettle Tap to you and I.

This evening 7 Lesser Redpolls flew south over the garden calling.

But moths were the 'wonder of the day'. Literally. In French anyway....Read on...

As so many Red Admirals were feeding on Ivy I reasoned that after dark the moths would take over, so as soon as the sun dipped I was out lurking around the village walls. I soon found 3 Silver Y's and an Angle Shades feeding. Then I found a new species for me, Yellow Line Quaker, below-

So on went the trap. By 11.30 pm it was very cool and there didnt look to be much activity so I went out to pack up and noticed something fluttering against our shed door. It looked larger and different so it was potted up and taken to the light....

MERVEILLE DU JOUR! Yes, thats its name, translates roughly into 'Wonder of the Day', Only the most beautiful and sought after of moths right in my garden. What a turn up. Click on the pictures for a better look.

Mothing doesn't get better than this...

Saturday, October 03, 2009


As in blowing a.....

Gale force westerlies today made birding a non starter here in Northumberland. At this time of year, this is just about the worst weather we can have. My sole item of note today was a House Martin over Alnwick.

Earlier this week the forecast showed this westerly to swing round to the north. Now if this happened we would get some good seawatching, but it doesnt look too promising. The wind may be slightly NW tomorrow but thats about it.

My plans are to be out first thing to give the sea an hour just in case...I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Well, a moth that looks like one...

After yesterdays blurred fridge shot of the Red Underwing, here's its passport photo. A camera can't do justice to these things. In flight this morning it was as near as I'm ever likely to get to a Wallcreeper in Northumberland!

I fancied it might be a VC68 North Northumberland first but I was wrong. Its not even the furthest north. That accolade goes to 2 stringy specimens from Lucker, near Bamburgh in 1886. Well its the first modern record and the first photographed!

Its one of my highlights of the year on this patch, even better than the Golden Oriole and thats saying something...

Also in the catch last night -

Spruce Carpet 1
Silver Y 1
Rosy Rustic 2
Frosted Orange 1

This morning 80 Pinkfeet flew south over the house...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October highlights so far...

What a month this has been so far.

All one day of it. This morning I took Bunty for her walk and had 32 Barnacle Geese circling the coast path followed by 54 Pink feet S.

This evening we walked her down the coast from home to the Howick Teepee and back. A very brief glance at the sea with bins had a tight group of 4 Pomarine Skuas, all adults, N at half distance. Superb. Then on our way home 13 Whooper Swans coasted south at what I find is an early date for them.

But the icing on the cake is not feathered.

One moth so far in the trap on this cool evening but its a huge, pristine Red Underwing, my first ever. An absolute belter too, up there with the hawkmoths I reckon. Photos tomorrow...

Edit - I cant resist it, one snap from the fridge door. Note Branston Pickle is not its usual food...