Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Little Erne...

No not this one-

A call from the 'Grocer' today informed me of an immature White tailed Eagle at Prestwick Carr, not too far from where I work. Unfortunately I was unable to get away to see it, but I was somewhat relieved to hear that it had been tagged more times than an Ashington chav, so I can rest easy...Still it would have been nice to see in the county.

Equally interesting, to me anyway, is the number of Black Redstarts that have appeared on our coast the last few days. There must be a dozen or more. Lets hope I can get a local one this weekend...

My only sighting today was of a Barn Owl that flew over the road not far from home on my way back from work. Still not near enough for my list though. I was in the car...again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bleak...typical spring weather.

Every year its the same. Someone gets an early Wheatear or two, a Sand Martin maybe and thats it, folks are out looking for Redstarts!

In Northumberland, take it from someone who knows, believe me I've been caught out for more years than I care to remember. Usually about 19th March ( these are average generalisations based on previous experience) a few springsters arrive. 'Thats it' we cry, the dark is over, migration is in full swing! Then, by early April the wind has a northern vibe to it, sleet prevails and we find a Glaucous Gull on Cresswell pond, an Iceland Gull at Longhirst Flash and its back to Long tailed Ducks and Waxwings before you can say Bob's your uncle.

This scheme runs until, oh, say 10th April when our first summer visitor for a month is the Willow Warbler scarcely audible above the rain and gales outside the back door.

But, dread not, another week later and the wind drops a bit, the sun is up and a chattering Swallow is overhead while you scope the yellowest living thing on the planet wandering beside Cresswell causeway, a male Yellow Wagtail, with his monochrome relations nearby.

And suddenly, those Redstarts aren't that far away.

Its spring alright.... 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

 Windy, sunny, cool, heavy shower this afternoon.

The weather did little to encourage me out today.  A walk to the pond with Bunty was notable for its lack of interest! 6+ Chiffchaffs were seen including 4 singing birds. I managed one snap of one low down along the lane...

I tried to check some mature birches for Orange Underwing, a day flying moth, after being spurred on by Dean but this habitat doesn't seem quite right. I have some better sites in mind for when we get some more suitable weather.

A few flowers brightened things, including Lungwort and Common Scurveygrass ( oh dear that is scraping the barrel).

Now that the light nights are here, hopefully there might be more to see... Oh I almost forgot. Snow forecast for Tuesday night / Wednesday morning...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Twins! Well, Twin anyway...

Last nights Garden Moth Survey catch was my best of the year so far, a very respectable 56 moths of 11 species.

The weather was mild 8 degrees, overcast, looking like rain with a light SW3.

The haul was -

672 Parsnip Moth 1 new for the garden but believe me, not worth a photo!
688 Agonopterix heracliana 2
1663 March Moth 2
1926 Pale brindled Beauty 1
2139 Red Chestnut 1
2182 Small Quaker 3
2187 Common Quaker 18
2188 Clouded Drab 13

Above - Twin spotted Quaker.

2189 Twin spotted Quaker 1 new for me and the garden. I thought I was too far north for these so its a
very welcome addition. PS I have just heard that this is a first for VC68, North Northumberland!
2190 Hebrew Character 13
2256 Satellite 1 (white spotted)

This morning was bright and clear but much cooler with a blustery NW wind.

At 9am I was going out with Bunts and noticed a 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull flying around the back field with a couple of Black headeds. It was in full summer plumage but with black in the wing tips. After only a few minutes it flew off SE over the village and wasnt seen again. A nice one ofr the garden list!

OFFH Birds 108
OFFH Moths 20

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Last night I put the moth trap out at 7pm. By 8pm it was pis... pouring with rain. This continued all night. Luckily the wind was very light from the SE and the trap was sheltered on our gable end, so I thought I would see how it performed in the wet. 125w mercury vapour bulbs burn quite hot so rain is never a good option, but there were no problems.

Despite the rain I still attracted  -

March Moth 1
Common Quaker 4
Hebrew Character 7
Satellite 1 of the white form.

Total 13 moths of 4 species...

Monday, March 22, 2010

First thing this morning, a Buzzard was going three rounds with a Carrion Crow over the Heugh. I was looking there again at 8.45am and the crow was battling with another dark bird that looked different enough to warrant a binocular check. It was the Raven! After a back flip or two, the big lad flew off towards the Hall and wasn't seen later. Funny pattern this crow has. Present with its mate for the first 3 weeks of January, then one visit by the pair in mid February and now this glimpse...

ADMc and RF visited today to check out the area. Although it was blustery the rain held off, mostly, and we had a wander around the estate. 4 Buzzards were together behind the Heugh and a drake Tufted Duck was on the pond, an OFFH addition. The track to the pond was covered in pairs of mating Toads, so much so we had to watch the ground to stop treading on them. In the Arboretum my first Coltsfoot and Primrose were in flower....

This evening a female Reed Bunting was feeding from our peanut feeder ( cant say I've seen that before) and it was ringed. Who is ringing my buntings! I suspect that the Snow Bunting was from a good distance away, while this Reed Bunting most likely was ringed at Low Newton, maybe by Gary Stringer?

Last nights moth totals were reasonable and included a new one for me-

Pine Beauty 1 what a nice little creature....
March Moth 10
Common Quaker 5
Red Chestnut 1
Hebrew Character 10
Clouded Drab 2

29 moths of 6 species.

OFFH Birds 107
OFFH Moths 18 I'm sure the moths will catch up in the summer....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More snow....

This lovely white male Snow Bunting showed well near the cattle feed at Low Steads, Longhoughton. You can see its ringed on its left leg...

The WeBs count area. 10am on a Sunday, the beaches are their usual crowded selves... The headland is Howick Haven and Rumbling Kern, with Seahouses Farm viewed from Sugar Sands.  

It was cold and frosty last night so I didnt bother with the moth trap and headed out early to do Julie's WeBs count from Howick Burn to the Fishing Boat Inn, Boulmer. I thought it was due this week but I'm actually a week late. ( Sorry Julie). The morning was nice and clear with only a light SW breeze.

Still, the birds showed little signs of spring other than 2 Chiffchaffs, one singing in Howick Dene, the other in the cliff buckthorns. Some nice birds were noted but none new for the OFFH list. -

Merlin 1 female sat out on a small hawthorn after I flushed it off a fence post. It looked well in the scope but too distant for a photo.
Shelduck 9
Goldeneye 3
Eider 32
Redshank 51
Oystercatcher 36
Grey Plover 3
Curlew 110
Turnstone 7
Purple Sandpiper 3
Knot 10
Dunlin 44
Bar tailed Godwit 6
Sanderling 9

Lots of Linnets were around including groups of 25 and 40, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were song flighting from territories, 2 Buzzard were over the dene, 10 Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting were near Seahouses Farm. The male Snow Bunting above, was with a few Linnets and Pied Wagtails in a cattle feed area at Longhoughton Low Steads, seen both on my way and on my return. 

I think that the April count will show a lot more changes...

This afternoon I planted out 10 Hazel saplings into my garden where my first Bumblebee of the year was on crocuses....

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Well, 2 of one species. This evening 2 Chiffchaffs were vocal in the Village Wood, one showing very well low down in a sallow. Not much else on the bird front despite checking the coast path for Wheatears and Black Redstarts...

Moth trapping was much better than expected. The rain just about held off, it was calm, overcast and about 6 degrees -

688 Agonopterix heracliana 2
1663 March Moth 1
1926 Pale brindled Beauty 1
1934 Dotted Border 1 a very small individual, looked like a carpet...
2187 Common Quaker 8
2188 Clouded Drab 5
2190 Hebrew Character 16
2243 Early Grey 1 only the second record for VC68 after one I took off the Spar shop last spring. A good one for the garden (below).

35 moths of 8 species.

OFFH List 106

705 Agonopterix umbellana.

I forgot about this one. Its dead, but it was in the trap on Wednesday, but its taken until now to identify it correctly I hope.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A box of moths!

Last nights catch was the best of the year so far, by far....

1663 March Moth 17
2139 Red Chestnut 2 a new species for me and what a cracker.
2182 Small Quaker 1 another new moth for me.
2187 Common Quaker 11
2188 Clouded Drab 1
2190 Hebrew Character 12
2256 Satellite 2 one of each colour form.
2258 Chestnut

Total 47 moths of 8 species....

Top left - Red Chestnut , right, Small Quaker
Bottom left - Clouded Drab and right, Satellites

This morning the trip to work was quite eventful with a Peregrine over the road at Longhoughton and 12 Whooper Swans flew N at Warkworth.

Tonight we had to go on Toad crossing patrol at our lane end. We rescued 26 but another dozen were already pizza'd by the time we arrived. We released the saved ones nearer to their destination, well away from traffic... 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last nights moths...

Above Left - March Moth, Right - Dotted Border.

Last nights mothing  -

March Moth 1
Dotted Border 1
Hebrew Character 3

5 moths of 3 species.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Early Bird...

I had ADMc on the phone yesterday for a chat and he told an interesting tale.

The other day he had two Tawny Owlets in a tree in Morpeth. The chicks, recently fledged, branch out like this and are still adult dependant. This is very early this year. Andy has checked the dates of fledging and believes these two to be 5 weeks old. Along with a 4 week incubation period, means that this pair had a nest with eggs anwhere round about the 10th January .

Can you remember what the weather was like on 10th January?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Moth Trapping

Thats better! At last some moths (proper ones) in the trap this morning.

Pale Brindled Beauty 1

Common Quaker 1 (above)

Hebrew Character 1 (above)

Chestnut 3 ( above - these two show the normal and darker forms caught together. The dark one shows a worn trailing edge that could make it look like a Dark Chestnut soon)

March Moth 1

7 moths of 5 species. Unfortunately the March Moth flew off before I could deploy the camera...3 new species for the year list.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Agonopterix heracliana...

...snappy, eh. Bound to get more hits on the blog that heading is.

Anyway, last night was my Garden Moth Survey and things looked promising. We went out in the car shortly after dusk, and a good few moths were seen in the headlights not far from home. The first two Pipistrelles of the year flew along the lane, and a Barn Owl was near Hemmel House. Although only a few hundred yards from home, we were in the car so they dont go on to the OFFH lists for obvious reasons.

This morning I was out sharp and keen to see what the trap held. Egg boxes were carefully removed and examined for choice lepidoptera, but as disappointment after disappointment came, the trap was empty with no result. Then I saw a movement on the bare plastic base of the trap. A moth!

Agonopterix heracliana

Not much to look at but I did need to get the books out... better luck next time.

After all that, I headed north to a a little watched forestry area where I have had Goshawk in the past to see what I could find. This area is no Harwood or Kielder but it has no other observers either so it suits me.

After a walk of about 5 miles the only raptor seen was a lone Buzzard being harassed by a crow. Plenty of Crossbills brightened the day and the forest was ringing with their calls. The largest group I saw was of about 40 birds.

Further into the wood I was suprised to see a Brown Hare loping along the ride toward me. I fumbled the camera and only managed a few head shots before it went under the trees. Unusual to see a Hare in the middle of a wood. No sooner had the Hare gone then my eyes focussed on a spotslightly further away to meet with the gaze of this Roe Buck. His antlers are still in velvet. 

The wind has dropped a bit so the trap is on again....

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Above - Early Moth. A garden first, on the wall next to our outside light last night.

Cooler than yesterday, and duller. But fair and quite pleasant.

I walked over most of the patch today on several outings. The first sortie was with Bunty down to the pond where I had two new species for the OFFH list.

Teal 3 male and 1 female, calling from the typha beds. They have been here most of the year, but this is the first time I have actually caught sight of them.
Little Grebe 2
Kingfisher 1 showed really well fishing from a twig on the far side of the pool. It was still there on my afternoon walk.
Jay 3 were calling raucously, but only one was seen as it flew over and into the pond willows.

Above - Jay. I'm not sure if I've used this one before? but it was for the 2008 NTBC annual report.

Siskin 17 flew N
Nuthatch 1
Great spotted Woodpecker 2
Green Woodpecker 1 heard yaffling again.

Two Roe Deer were in the Village Wood. The buck's antlers were half free of 'velvet'. The top half was bloodied and looked sore.

In the afternoon I had a visit from Gary 'Newton Stringer' Woodburn who had been visiting some local farmers as part of his RSPB duties, so I gave him a whistle stop tour of the area. We walked up the Heugh and back by the woods and down to the pond again. Of interest were 2 Buzzards, Crossbills heard calling and 2 Goldcrests displaying, the male with his crown fully spread giving a great show.

OFFH List 105

Monday, March 08, 2010


On holiday today. Didn't do much other than potter around, really. I was returning home from the shops and as I left the car a Green Woodpecker called, clear and ringing, from the copse next to our garden. I spent the next ten minutes looking into the leafless trees but there was no sign. I had just about given up, when it called again, this time much further away over the back field. I soon picked it up, very distantly, sat right at the top of one of the hedgerow trees, gazing around. After a while it flew towards the Heugh where I just managed to see it doing a 'wallcreeper' up the rock face before moving out of sight.

To all of you who live south of Yorkshire, Green Woodies must be quite mundane, but in Northumberland they are relatively scarce, so casual sightings like this one are always appreciated.

About 60 Kittiwakes have returned to the cliffs along the coast path this weekend and they can be heard calling even from the garden.

A wander to the pond with Bunty was very springlike, with small birds in song all over. Two pairs of Bullfinches looked immaculate as they nipped the buds from some willows, a Marsh Tit flew along the ditches and the Heronry is at full volume. 53 Curlews stopped off in the back field for a while yesterday.

OFFH List 103

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Garden Moth Survey results now in...

Trap on from 18.00 until 05.00. Min Temp 4 degrees, breezy and semi overcast.

Total trapped -  0

Friday, March 05, 2010

Garden Moth Survey

Tonight is the first night of the 2010 Garden Moth survey. Temp is about 4 - 5 degrees but th wind is a choppy NW4 too blowing straight into the garden. Still the trap is out and it will be until dawn. Lets hope the forecast rain doesnt come until after 7am. I'm not holding out much hope of catching anything but the season must start somewhere...

The survey is every Friday until Bonfire night. I wonder if we will get a suitable night between now and then, it certainly doesnt feel like it....

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

One or two things...

But dont get excited.

Our local Goldfinch roost has had a dramatic intake this week. Its gone from 8 birds to 46 overnight.

Yesterday I was home early enough to walk bunty in daylight and was lucky enough to meet half an Ermine on the road. Its a pity the other half of it was a Stoat. Fortunately after I got a reaosnable view by squaeking it down to a few yards before both halves dashed off into some Rabbit haunted gorse bushes for tea....

This morning some swans flying north out from our kitchen window proved to be 12 Whoopers. Spring has sprung...