Sunday, February 28, 2010


Although the weather was not too bad today, I havent done much to write about. A short seawatch first thing was poor with only 35 Gannets, 7 Razorbills, 1 Guillemot and a hundred plus mixed Guilliebills too far off to sort out. Not a sign of a Puffin yet.

After that I did an atlas tetrad, my last winter one, where the best was, yep you guessed it, 2 Woodcock.

5 Pale brindled Beauty were on the Spar wall...

Ho hum...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Breakfast Marauder.

This morning was icy again down to -3 but clear and sunny. Up at the coast field yesterdays Fieldfare flock appeared very agitated and approached much closer than last time. A scan of the field showed the cause of their concern.

The Peregrine had already reduced their number by one and was getting stuck in to breakfast. After about 20 minutes he flew over head towards the Old Rectory and settled in the trees in their garden where it could be heard calling. Crows piled in to further annoy the marauder causing it to fly, this time circling to gain hieght. One crow pushed his luck too far. When it mobbed the Peregrine out of sight behind the trees I thought that was it gone, but seconds later both crow and peregrine came racing back out the otherside, but roles were reversed. The Peregrine made some great playing stoops at corbie, calling all the while before relaxing and drifting away.

I bet the crow will think twice about who he picks on in future.

After the excitement, the whole village remained in a hushed silence for a while, as if the birds were thinking 'thank god that wasn't me'....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Seen nothing like this...

Alan Gilbertson sent me this photo today of a strange lemon and white bird taken in a garden in Widdrington.

His frist guess was an albino Chaffinch but then changed his mind to Canary. A reasonable enough assumption. I mean a Chaffy with lemon and white colouration? Never.

Look closer though.

Bill - Long and pointed. Canary has short and conical, regadless of type.
Head - Square naped witha hint of crest. There is a demarcation line between the lemon back and the paler nape shadowing that of the normal bird above.
Wing structure - Primary length actual and in relation to tertial length fits. Canaries generally have a shorter wing.
Rump -  Flight shots show the pale bird to have a yellow rump in the same position a normal Chaffinch would be bright green.

And what the photo doesnt show is that this bird has been around now for two winters, I havent known an escaped canary last more than a week! ( I used to breed them when I was younger).

Alans first impressions were right, this is a leucisitc Chaffinch.

A hunt on Google images for leucisitic chaffich showed a few examples but none as extreme as this one....

Here are few more images...

Still freezing...

On holiday today and tomorrow. For no reason really, I'm just using up leftovers before the new hols start in April...

The day dawned very cold, -4, but clear and sunny. By mid day the sun was quite warm, but it was back to freezing by late afternoon. I timed Bunty's first walk well, because the first bird I saw this morning was a nice adult Peregrine, a male I think, with a heavy crop, flying low overhead towards the Village Wood.

No doubt he had been taking advantage of this lot, below. The coast field had a large flock of Fieldfares, Redwing and Starlings with a few Golden Plovers thrown in, numbering a couple of hundred birds. 

Mid morning I did an atlas square not far away, at Stamford, near Rennington. Only 25 species were seen but that included the now obligatory Woodcock flushed from a stream closely to be followed by a single Snipe.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WeBs Count...

Friday and Saturday gave us a fresh two inches of snow overnignt. This morning it had frozen into concrete with an air temperature of -5. I cant bring myself to post any more 'scenic' christmassy snow scenes, certainly not until December! However the day was crystal clear and sunny early on so I headed off on foot to walk the coast counting the birds as far as the Fishing Boat Inn, Boulmer.

Not only was I doing the survey, I was hoping to add some ommissions to my On Foot From Home list too...

Although there was nothing as good as last months Shorelarks, there was plenty to see all the same.

The list included -

Goldeneye 6
Red breasted Merganser 7
Wigeon 17
Eider 31
Shelduck 6
Red throated Diver 5
Curlew 333
Grey Plover 9
Golden Plover 46 inc one in breeding plumage.
Lapwing 115
Knot 8
Dunlin 99
Bar tailed Godwit 8
Sanderling 10
Ringed Plover 4

In addition to the count species there were-

Rock Pipit 6
Meadow Pipit 5 inc 2 moving north
Linnet 41 and 15
Skylark 22 at cattle feed and 60+ at sheep feed plus two in full song overhead.

Brown Hare 3 'boxing'
Grey Seal 2.

Not a bad walk then with 6 new species of bird and one mammal for the list.

Birds 102
Mammals 5

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Waxing Lyrical...

On my way to work this morning I bumped into a bicycled ADMc near Linton scanning the local Whooper flock. After exchanging pleasantries, and exact Waxwing locations, I was on my way. Later on I was passing the churchyard in Ashington frequented by the tufty munchers and turned in. I was lucky to see the birds straight away, loafing in a tall tree between meals. This flock of 33 is part of a minor movement along the east coast, very late in the season, after a massive influx into Scandinavia a couple of weeks ago. Its great to hear their tinkling calls after a poor show this year.

Today I didnt even have my binoculars let alone a camera so this is a shot from last winters proper invasion....   See John Malloy's photo's for proper quality.

A strange message was on the pager this afternoon. A report of  a Sabine's Gull at East Chev raised an eyebrow. Now, recent September's have made these birds quite regular in the county but one in February! I'd love to see the photo's....

Call me a cynic....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lovely Day...

I had an impromptu days holiday today to wait in for the heating engineer. When he'd done his stuff I pottered around here taking Bunty for a walk or two. The weather has been lovely and clear, sunny with blue skies though a tad cool. The sea was flat calm too but there wasn't much to see...

Above -  A phone snap of the view from the coast field at lunchtime today. 

29 Curlew in the coast fields included one in full moorland song, a great sound.

At lunchtime on our walk I was suprised to hear a Raven calling. As I turned, one flew south behind the village followed by its mate. Its a full month since my last sighting, so they definately aren't staying around here. Maybe they are at Newton ;)...

At dusk we had a wander to the pond. 9 Moorhens and a dozen Mallard were to be expected but suprise of the day came when an immature drake Shoveler flew out at my feet to land on the far side. Rare indeed here as we have no open marshy ponds for them in the Boulmer / Howick/ Longhoughton area. A full Howick patch tick and one I cant see me repeating this year...

The herons were very vocal in the nesting trees and 3 Stock Doves flew over. Along the lane, 6 Lesser Redpolls were in the alders and two Woodcock flushed underfoot...

All in all a pleasant day off...

OFFH List  - 96

Monday, February 15, 2010

Public Moths.

Today I called in to the Spar and had 2 Pale brindled Beauty and an Early Moth. Elsewhere, John was cruising the phoneboxes locally and had two Early Moths ( above).

He comments - 'check out the lovely lacey hind wing on this "flattened with the Evening Chronicle" shot'

Meanwhile, last night at the ranch, the Robinson drew another blank...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sea and Snowdrops...

Today started clear and frosty with a very light NW2. I headed for the coast for a half hour seawatch to see if I could add to my OFFH list. In the 30 minutes I had -

Gannet 45 N
Auks ( no Puffins but some Guillemots and a couple of Razorbills close enough to identify ) 80+
Red throated Diver 2 S
Curlew 62 N
Common Scoter 6 N
Shag 1 N
Fulmar 20+
Eider 6 on the sea
Herring Gull a steady light passage N include an adult...
Lesser black backed Gull, my first of the year. They are very scarce in Northumberland in winter with only maybe single figures to be found, so I'm always pleased with my first spring migrant.
Meadow Pipit 1 S
Grey Geese sp 25 S unable to id and silent as they flew high over. Probably pinks.

Above - Dunnock in song.

After this I headed to Alnwick to do an atlas square. Although only 25 species were seen in the hour many were in full song and the sun was shining. Nothing unusual, just typical farmland birds though what was strange was the absence of  Magpie, Pheasant and Coal Tit. 

Back Home for lunchtime so we took a walk up to the hall to see the snowdrops in better light.

Above -  Snowdrops and Winter Aconites lighting up a dreary wood.

While up here, 2 Crossbills flew over head 'chipping', 1 Marsh Tit was in Village Wood and a party of Long tailed Tits contained the obligatory Treecreeper.

Our neighbour Julie told me this morning that she had seen a female Blackcap in our garden midweek. I'll be looking closer next time...

I quite like the new blogger posting thing that allows bigger photos...

OFFH List - 95

Saturday, February 13, 2010

After the rain eased early on this morning the sun came out and, despite the cool breeze, made it a pleasant day. We walked along to the pond field this morning as I havent checked it out since it was frozen. Although there wasnt much happening I added two new additions to my On Foot From Home List. They were 4 Stock Doves, in pairs, in the arboretum and a single Little Grebe on the pond. A few Buzzards were about and very vocal, but I didnt see much else.

The woods here are starting to brighten up with drifts of snowdrops. Always a pleasure to see, another week should see them at their best. They even featured on local BBC news last week here. Howick Hall has so many naturalised galanthus that new forms are being discovered by those in the know...

Tomorrow I might try an early look at the sea before doing an atlas tetrad. There are a couple sea birds to add to my list that aren't too difficult...

No moth trap tonight again. We could do with just one 24 hour period where the temp stays above 5 or 6 degrees. Not long now...

OFFH List 90

Friday, February 12, 2010


This morning I checked the Spar wall on my way to work. Only two visitors - 1 each of Early Moth and Chestnut. Better than nowt I suppose...

These posts are struggling, mainly because I haven't been seeing much, but still, the blog is starting to look like Twitter!

Must do better....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Formerly known as...

...Boulmer Birder.

Rather than scrap the whole blog and reinvent, I've just changed the name. This is to be none specific. I only visit Boulmer occasionally now, and many of my posts are from a variety of places so here it is....

Welcome .... 'From the Notebook...'

It does what it says on tin. Everything on here is in the notebook first....

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

'cock pictures exclusive!

At last, some pretty poor images of the molehill Woodcocks taken by holding my 'million candle power' torch and terrier with one hand and my camera in the other. In the dark with a northerly wind freezing my face off is it any wonder the shots are so dire. Still you get the drift.

And if anyone has arrived here due to the heading above, shame on you...

Sorry, but these birds are just crying out for innuendo. They set them up and I'll put them away...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Not much to post but out with Bunty tonight, 2 Woodcocks were in molehill mode in the usual spot. Both were in the same spot light! I left them to it without flushing...One has been there now since 16th January. I wonder how long they'll stay...Its quite mysterious how many of these birds are out there, quietly going about their business unseen.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Early Moths...

The weather has been quite reasonable this weekend. Its all relative really. Its been dull overcast with some drizzle and brighter spells, but compared to last weekend it felt like spring.

On Saturday morning a flock of 10 Fulmars headed off inland over the Village Wood to prospect around the local quarries. It always looks strange, such a pelagic bird flying over land.

I popped over the Longhoughton Spar to see if anything had been attracted and was pleased to find 1 Pale brindled Beauty, 1 Chestnut and, a new one for me, an Early Moth, below.

On the garden feeders today 2 male and 1 female Siskin were new arrivals with the usual 8 Goldfinch, 6+ Tree Sparrows, 30+ Chaffinches and 30+ House Sparrows. 2 male Great spotted Woodpeckers were fighting in a dead tree next to the garden.

Above - The niger feeder is busy...

A walk along the road with Bunty was quiet for birds but a Red Squirrel ran over the road and 4 Roe Deer were in the wood.

After this mornings moth success, I stuck the trap on from 6pm until 11.30pm. Only 1 Pale brindled Beauty for my trouble. It seems that the Spar is better than the trap!


Off to do two atlas tetrads but first I called in to the Spar. The same Pale brindled Beauty was present, Chestnut moths have gone up to 3 and another new one for me, a Dotted Border below.

The atlas tetrads were at Boulmer, Seaton Point and Field House Farm. Highlights were - waders, loads, 144 Curlew, 47 Redshank, 82 Oystercatcher, 44 Turnstone, 51 Grey Plover, 5 Purple Sandpiper, 83 Dunlin, 82 Sanderling, 9 Bar tailed Godwit, 5 Knot and 5 Ringed Plover.

22 Grey Partridges, 10 Stock Doves and 17 Tree Sparrows were good on the farmland too.

This Grey Seal youngster was in bad shape. At first I thought it was just sleeping but as I went closer I could hear it struggling to breathe. Many pups die in their first year. Poor things...

Monday, February 01, 2010

Jan stats...

I've just been looking at the other blogs and see one or two monthly stats from Dean and Warren and others.

Now its all relative depending on your patch location and size and all that. Tonight I've just been checking the Howick tetrad on the Bird atlas and find that it has 91 winter species during the last couple of years, with almost all records coming from 2 observers ( Julie mostly, with me now). So with that as a base line, January OFFH list has been quite good. I know it extends a mile or so either side of Howick but 88 is a good percentage of the total possible.

I dont know if I'll do this each month, but I might try again in May. Last May I had 92 species locally. That might take some beating...But thats way ahead of myself, what might February bring?