Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Moths...

Cochylimorpha straminea

Small Autumnal Moth ( The only Epirrita sp on the wing this early)

Bulrush Wainscot (male)

Large Yellow Underwing ( not new, the most common ubiquitous moth in the UK found everywhere. Its taken until today for me to get around to photographing one).

Despite the cool and clear night 49 moths of 20 species were recorded, including the new ones above. This takes me to 298 sp for the year in the garden. Now that the Yellow Underwing species are going over, large catches have gone with them. Still, that leaves room for some nice new autumn species...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The lonely sea and sky...

Out for a 6.20am seawatch start with high hopes. The wind was a strong N after yesterday's gusty NW with squally showers. At least the rain has stopped.

It was immediately obvious that there was a large movement of birds was taking place with string after string of Gannets, flocks of Kittiwakes and a few Fulmars. My first good bird appeared at 6.30am, a winter or imm Black Guillemot hove past at about quarter range, showing well. Only my third in Northumberland, my last was at Boulmer in 2005 and before that one past Newbiggin, both birds summer plumaged. Suprisingly, all three have been in July / August.

After this initial excitement, things settled into the more usual passage birds -

Wigeon 51N
Teal 110N
Common Scoter 13N
Arctic Tern 5
Sandwich Tern 11
Common Tern 4
Manx Shearwater 1N
Bonxie 4N
Goosander 4N
Shag 17N
Shoveler 2N a suprising find, but shortly to be eclipsed....
Bar tailed Godwit 2N
Red necked Grebe 1 possible juv showing a smudged white cheek N very close in.
Red throated Diver 1N
Grey Plover 1 summer N

But the most unusual species  of the morning I have never seen on a seawatch before -
Little Egret 1N ! Just 30 yards out above the rock edges was eye level with me as it passed.

Three OFFH ticks in two hours cant be bad.

The rest of the day was just spent pottering about the garden and wood area.

1 each female Sparrowhawk and female Merlin flew over the garden mobbed by Swallows in the afternoon.

My neighbour Julie, brought me a Spider she had found in some grapes today. Intrigued I took some photos and did an internet search and find that it was a False Widow. A naturalised species from the Canary Islands now established on the south coast of the UK. It is poisonous and can give a nasty nip...It is variably marked but the pale mosaic like band around the body is diagnostic.

False Widow

Eudonia angustea found in the kitchen, a new addition to the moth list.

Sunflower in the garden...

Some of our Beans and Carrots...

   A worn Wall Brown  on an echinacea.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Twenty Plume Moth

Pale Mottled Willow

A slower night on Wednesday due to the clear cool weather. 140 moths of 27 sp with the Pale Mottled Willow being the highlight, a new species for me. The Twenty Plume was in our kitchen. I've had a few of them this year but none to photograph so this one was more obliging its just a pity about the flash.

On the way to and from work this week I've noticed a Little Egret on the Coquet Estuary between Warkworth and Amble on three occasions. Its funny, I didnt even stop the car. Twenty years back and the car would have been abandoned with the doors left open while we scrabbled for a look!

Another real autumn sign this week. A Robin has started its melancholy song in the garden. Oh dear...

Never mind, the Bank Holiday is here so I have 4 days off!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Moths...


Frosted Orange

Pine Carpet

Brown Spot Pinion

Epinotia nisella

Acleris aspersana

Agriphila geniculea

Friday and Saturday produced 942 moths of 60 species. These were the new additions to the list taking me to 293 for the garden this year.

The SW winds slowed down the patch birding this weekend. A family party of 4 Buzzards were over the pond field, and that was the highlight. A Sparrowhawk took a House Sparrow in our garden right in front of us. It was lucky not to end up as Bunty fodder! She isn't keen on birds flapping around, anything bigger than Starling is seen as fair game...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Centre Barred Sallow

Lobesia littoralis

201 moths of 36 species last night.

Centre Barred Sallow is new for the year and a start to proper autumn moths.
The micro is new and as yet unidentified. If you know please tell me!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The bizarre world of the 'twitch'...

There's always one isn't there. This strange chap kept saying something about a hand grenade in the bushes??? He'll be tucked up in bed by now.

Apaches gathered before attack.

Never have so many good plants been flattened by so few...

All for this.
(Nice pic from Alan Gilbertson, Thanks)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yikes! Its a ...

Looks good for...Sykes.?

Another two visits today to see our stray warbler at Hadston Links added a little bit more to my knowledge. Whilst my RBA pager has confidently mega alerted not one but 2 Sykes Warblers in two days, I'm not sure how they do it.

To simplify things, this bird shows several pro-Sykes's features - long bill, pale colouring, plain wing, long tail. The only thing stopping it is that most features of Sykes's overlap with Booted. But. This bird hasn't got any pro-Booted features, such as Phyllosc like appearance, flared supercillium, shortish bill, no this bird was reminiscent of Blyth's Reed Warblers, particularly around the head.

Today the big guns toting 500mm lenses were out in force so hopefully the images wil solve this riddle, but I think the best way would be to trap it...

Back to reality, some good moths over the weekend at home, despite the cold weather -

Acleris forsskaleana
Butterbur ( with Rosy Rustic left for comparison)
First VC68 record since 1899!
Grey Chi
Mouse Moth

Garden Moth year list now stands at 284. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.... How to separate Booted and Sykes Warblers.

A call from Gary Woodburn and Tim Cleeves tonight about a 'funny' warbler at Hadston Links was intrigueing. Not enough to get me into the car until a second call confirmed that the bird was definately one of the Booted / Sykes Warbler pair. That was it, down tools and a short drive later had me on site with a crew of big Northumberland listers all needing this one.

Yes I saw it. And saw it well too. But still dont really know what it was. My total experience of the little hippolais warblers comes from 3 Booted Warblers, one on Shetland was thought to be a Sykes by better birders than me, until it was trapped when it turned out to be Booted. Long billed appearance counts for nothing in the hand.

So, I came home and read Birding World Vol 16 pages 400 odd seperating calligata from rama.

 Conclusion? I think our bird might be a Booted.

Have a read, its quite interesting... I hope someone has some good photos to sort this one out. Where were  Mssrs Fisher, Tams, Malloy, Dunn et al when needed? Mr McElwee arrived camera free! 

What ever the outcome, I'll be happy to add one of them to my county list...

Proper blog post with moths'n'that tomorrow...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday 13th...

Unlucky for some...

The weather today, on my day off, was truly shocking. Strong NNW 7 with very heavy rain squalls. Luckily it wasnt too cold.

As I left the house to go seawatching 2 Greenshanks flew over the garden, west, calling. A nice addition to the list in an area with little fresh water for waders.

I watched the sea from 8.15am until 9.30am. By then the birds had tailed off. I intended to try again this evening but the rain put a stop to that idea.

Apart from many Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Sandwich Terns I had -

Bonxie 3N ( one above)
Arctic Skua 1 ad dark phase and 2 juvs N
Sooty Shearwater 4 N inc 3 very close in.
Manx Shearwater 9 N
Puffin 13 N
Common Scoter 7N
Velvet Scoter 1 drake N
Razorbill 4 on the sea
Arctic Tern 3+N
Shag 4N
Golden Plover 3N
Teal 7N

With more of the same weather forecast  for the forseeable, and I'm off on Monday lets hope something interesting shows...(I see Hartlepool has taken my Wryneck!)

OFFH List 140

Thursday, August 12, 2010


With the wind into the north, I finished work a bit early and had 45 mins seawatch when I got home. Unlike Newbiggin the only dishevelled birder there was moi.

Still relatively quiet apart from hoards of Gannets, I managed 3 Bonxies, 2 pale adult Arctic Skuas, 1 Manx Shearwater and a single Bar tailed Godwit N.

Heavy rain and NE tomorrow might just drop in more than seabirds if we are lucky. Bird of the weekend  / week might just be a wryneck...  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A plea...

... to anyone who catches moths in Northumberland.

Tom Tams, Moth Recorder, is crying out for your records. Any and all are most welcome. Think along these lines, there are 200+ bird recorders out there who submit to the county record. Moths, well, try about 20 between Teesside and Berwick. 20! Divide that into Northumberland only and there are about half a dozen.
In North Northumberland ie north of the Coquet, there are, 2. To this add a few who submit occasionally.

Is it any wonder that a novice (me) can add about 7 species to the VC68 list in the last year.

So, I hope you are either a) Inspired glory seekers hoping to get your name in lights submitting unpronouncable species on a monthly basis , b) Guilty feeling local naturalists who feel a connection to the history of the county, or c) Novices like me who are unsure if your contribution will be worthwhile. It will be!

Go on get stuck in....

This is a great opportunity to add significantly to our county record. Chances are, you will be able to send in records from places completely unrecorded previously.

Please email all of your records to Tom, preferably on a monthly basis.

Plea over.

Tawny Pinion. Halloween 2009. First for VC68, 4th for Northumberland.

Mullein caterpillars. June 09. Only one previous Northumberland record of  a single adult, yet I found them breeding in my garden (15 cats). I still haven't seen the adult though...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Long Tale...

Last night the breeze was from the north so I popped down to the coast path to check the sea out. Plenty of water but no birds. So, I thought I would give the wind time to have an effect. I was back at the same spot in dull conditions at 7.30 this morning where things had picked up a little. An hour had me noting  -

Arctic Skua 4 loafing and moving N. 3 pale ads and 1 intermediate phase.
Manx Shearwater 74 N
Sooty Shearwater 2 N
Bonxie 2 on the sea
Roseate Tern 1 ad 1 juv together
Puffin 20+

plus the usual Gannets, Razorbills and Guillies ( with chicks loafing close in), Fulmars, Shags, Sandwich and Arctic Terns etc.

I was left scratching my head at a small skua that drifted south just too far out to id properly. A pale phase bird, it was very relaxed and casual in its flight making me think that this was a Long tail. The breast was pale but I couldnt see the extent of it.  If this was Newbiggin...

Walking back up the field my first Merlin of the autumn flew north along the coast path.

A few new moths were added to the list...

Honeysuckle Moth

Spindle Ermine I think? It looks very white?

Acleris emargana

Slender Brindle (Gotcha!)

Ear Moth sp. Any takers?

[See email -

Dear Stewart,

If I caught this moth at my site I would have no hesitation in recording it as Large Ear. The reniform is narrow because the basal segment of it is filled in with brown, leaving just a tiny satellite of white at the top. This is very characteristic of Large Ear and the shape and rich coloration fit this species too.

Regards, Roy

Roy Leverton, Moth Recorder, Banffshire, author of 'Enjoying Moths']

If thats what Roy thinks it is that'll do for my list. Large Ear it is.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


A cool breezy clear night reduced the moth catch significantly last night but I was pleased witha few new ones for the garden.

Double Lobed

Purple Thorn

Flounced Rustics

Of 114 moths of 26 species, these are noteworthy -

Flounced Rustic 5 NFY

Double Lobed 1 new. Well, not really. I caught one last week and released it as a Common Rustic despite 'grilling' it for some time. I knew it was different! Its a good job this one has made an appearance.Lesson 1 learnt.

Slender Brindle 1. Caught before bed last night but, again, I though Common Rustic and dropped it in the trap. This morning another going over was faffed and it flew off just as I was realising what it was! Bugger, back to the drawing board. This is a rare species up here... 

Purple Thorn 1 new, another good species up here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Kleeping Oykers!

Sitting here at my computer half an hour ago a commotion outside seemed to be getting louder? I could hear Oystercatchers 'kleeping' away to each other and I thought it must be a family party. Then, our Lovebird near the window called back and the Oykers got even louder so I thought I'd take a look to see what the racket was about.

An OSPREY was circling, not 50 feet above our neighbour Julie's garden! I shouted in a panic to Jane then rushed outside. The bird was slowly going south and appeared to land in the Village Wood or near the pond field. The local kids out playing had great views of it, its just a pity I couldnt get the camera on time...

If you are on the Northumberland coast tomorrow keep a look out cos I'm sure our bird will be coming your way....

Another belter for the garden list ( seen from inside the house list!!!).

OFFH List 135.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Blog Neglect

Hello all.

I'm still here. I've slipped into a moth induced stupor lately where my eyes now have a 12 inch focal point. I must start to get out again now that autumn is here ( oh yes it is). Tonight a Golden Plover whistled mournfully as it flew over the garden.

This is our village wood. Its called Village Wood. Over the past week or two its been a riot of cloudy scented flowers of  Meadow Sweet and full of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers.

As my vision are still in close focus these caught my eye...

At least 16 spikes of Broad Leaved Helleborines were in flower though some have been eaten off by Roe Deer.

This Longhorn sp was in there too...[Strangalia quadrifasciata. Thanks Dean].

But, back to the job in hand....

A lot of new species for the garden this weekend.

Orange Swift

Argyresthia goedartella

Cherry Fruit Moth

Argyresthia albistria

Carcina quercana

Agonopterix nervosa

Cnephasia longana ( 1st -3rd records for VC68)

Pearl-band Grass Veneer

Scalloped Oak

Small Wainscot

1497 The name looks like I've fallen asleep on the keyboard!
Amblyptilia acanthadactyla!

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing (female)