Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013...

I feel obliged to do a 'From the Notebook' Hootenanny style post in the closing minutes of extra time.

Looking back on 2013, I wont bore with endless highs, mainly because I didn't have too many, but here is a short summary of my naturalist year.

The weather was certainly a change on recent years with a dreadfully cold and bleak spring followed by the best summer for ages.

Birding. Well this year has been my poorest on the Howick patch since I moved here in 2009. Great White Egret, Siberian Stonechat and another Barred Warbler in the garden were my highlights.

Great White Egret at the Pond Field, Howick.
These meagre offerings were eclipsed slightly further afield when I added Cattle Egret, Collared Flycatcher and Ivory Gull to my Northumberland List. Again, I didnt do any national twitching....In 2014 I might keep a low key year list, something I've not done for years.

Collared Flycatcher ( Ian Fisher)
On the downside locally, some usually annual birds were missed such as Redstart, Garden Warbler, Grey Plover etc

Holidays. Three weeks away shared equally between Suffolk, Catalonia and Ardnamurchan added a lot of interest, with several new moths, plants and lichens to identify. 2014 will see us away to the Outer Hebrides for the first time...

Nettle Tree Butterfly, Catalonia, Spain
Moths. My best year ever despite several missed spring species such as Pine Beauty, Oak Beauty, Engrailed etc. I ended up with 369 species of Lepidoptera in the garden. I even managed a few trips out to upland habitats mothing that added to the interest plus a successful public event held here at our village hall.
Garden trapping will continue unabated during 2014, with, hopefully, another public event in the summer...

Chocolate Tip, Suffolk, a real contender for highlight of the year.
So, what has been the highlight of 2013? After some consideration, it is not the expected bird or moth but a mammal that takes the honours. A Minke Whale seen well, off my home patch in the summer, was only my third and a first for me in Northumberland. To see it surfacing on an oily calm sea, un-noticed by a good few other 'users' as the warm afternoon sun shone down will remain etched in my memory....

Happy New Year everyone, enjoy yourselves what ever you get up to....stay well. X.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I see today there has been a report of a 'probable' Steller's Eider in Lothian that flew off south.

Anyway, lets hope it ends up in Amble or Seahouses Harbour eating chips...

The mention of it today brought back a nice wave of nostalgia of the day in November 2000 when ADMc and myself took the unusual decision to go twitching up to Inverness-shire on a Saturday, rather than go on our usual day, Sunday. The birding gods looked down on us that day for sure, because as soon as dusk approached Mrs Steller's flew off shore never to be seen again. The Sunday twitchers dipped.

A supporting cast of 20+ Long tailed Duck, Hooded Crow and a few Crested Tits on Speyside, dusted with the first snows of winter made for an excellent day out. I must do it again sometime...


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


You won't have noticed this but in the right hand column is a box linked to Bubo, the listing website that I keep my county list on. For a milisecond I was on 331 for Northumberland, until this email arrived...

Dear BUBO listers

As many of you will no doubt be aware, the BOURC has reviewed the 1998 Druridge Bay Slender-billed Curlew record and now no longer considers it acceptable - announcement is here http://www.bou.org.uk/british-list/recent-announcements/changes/

As a result, we've removed the species from BOU and "Britain+Ireland" authorities in BUBO Listing, and those of you who had the species on your lists with those authorities will now find yourself one species fewer. Apologies if this upsets!

There are also a number of records in BUBO Listing on World lists and Western Pal lists that either clearly specify Druridge Bay, or don't give a location. Obviously, we're not removing the species from the underlying World and Western Pal baselists, and we're not planning to unilaterally remove your Druridge SBC records from World or Western P lists either. However, some of you may wish to do so yourselves, particularly if you wish to be consistent with your British lists. Up to you really.

Best wishes

Brilliant. Now technology is so ingrained and tight that we are no longer in control of our own lists!

Oh well, I suppose its the right thing to do. We need a base line even if they are wrong.

(They have thrown out a good record. That bird WAS as Slender-billed Curlew, its only griping politics that have seen it off....)

There will be no more said on the subject.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Gone, but not forgotten.

I headed up to Beadnell this morning at first light hoping to get involved in the twitch for the Ivory Gull siblings, with much less panic than yesterday, cool in the knowledge, they were already UTB.

Now I knew these birds were not going to be a roll over from yesterday, mainly because there was no fixed food source to attract them. Gulls in harbours or fish quays are one thing, feeding on fish scraps, but birds on the shore or nearby fields looking out for a food supply is an altogether different proposition. Still, with many eyes looking, it was a matter of time before they turned up. Surely.

As time passed, the theory that they must be on the Farnes feasting on drowned seal pups was mooted until word came that these islands had been checked by a boat owning birder, who only had a single Iceland Gull to report from the archipelago.

That leaves us wondering now, where are they? Well to me, one ( the little'un) didnt seem too clever before roost, so maybe its succumbed to the waves, but the other seemed fit enough. I'm sure, well, hopeful anyway, that one or even both will turn up again. But where? There is a lot of unwatched coast line from North Northumberland into Lothian that could hide the pair...

What can we hope for next? Recently this stretch of coast has had Glauc, Iceland, Little, Bonapartes and Ivory in the space of a few weeks. I hope there's Captain Ross's out there waiting to be discovered...
Sunderland, many years ago...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Ivory Twins...

The basic drawing was in the field with a quick colour added at home...

What can be better than a pre-Christmas gift in the form of an Ivory Gull?

Two Ivory Gulls, thats what!

Festering around the house today chopping logs and tidying up, I was oblivious to the excitement unfolding just along the road at Beadnell, until I sat down for lunch to watch 'Wild Burma' and checked my phone. Loads of messages had come through from Gary, Ian and Steph telling me that there was an Ivory Gull at Seahouses golfcourse.

There was such a scatter, as I grabbed my gear, Clouded Leopard and Sun Bear were left playing and I jumped into the car and headed north. The light was already fading and I knew I wouldn't get on site until about 3pm, with adrenalin kicking in.

After two false starts, that saw an overweight almost 50 yr old running up and down dunes to get some bearings, I eventually saw a group of birders gathered near Beadnell, scoping a skeer just offshore. A quick drive along and I was out of the car and onto the birds immediately. One asleep, looked smaller than the other. Snow white with grubby looking patches, they sat quite unconcerned waiting until the tide pushed them off to roost.

What a superb pair, they should really be on the pack ice waiting for the cast offs from a Polar Bears dinner, but here they sat in a balmy, pleasant Northumberland winter.

The last one in the county was on 23rd December 1979 when Mike Hodgson saw one arrive from the east at Seahouses harbour only a mile from here. These twins are a county tick for just about every one and are well overdue.

I hope they stay awhile so all can catch up with them. I think I'll return for seconds in the morning....

PS - Looking at the literature, Northumberland has had the following records of Ivory Gull...

Adult shot off the Tyne prior to 1874
Two adults Holy Island 3rd Feb 1887
Imm shot Beadnell around 1897
Imm Tyne Estuary 18th December 1970 - 23rd February 1971
Imm Seahouses harbour 23rd - 25th December 1979

This makes today's birds the 7th and 8th county records.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Showing characters of...

Above Top - My field Notes ( I hope the welsh bloke did some during his 5 minutes) and bottom a tidier version. Sorry I didnt have a camera then.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu....

The Druridge Slender-billed Curlew has finally bit the dust ( maybe too literally).

Its great to see loads of comments on twitter from people who didnt see it saying 'there I told you so' and one who did see it say 'I looked at it for 5 mins, wasted my time then drove back to Wales' . I do hope he spends such a long time poring over the other rarities he twitches. Unless his expertise is so great he knew immediately it wasn't one. Maybe he should have told the BBRC and saved them 15 years?

I saw it twice, but then again it was only 3 miles from home. First time was in drizzle at distance when it didn't look like anything different, then the next time it was in good light at a nice range with other Curlews. This bird was like no Common Curlew or Eastern Curlew etc, thats for sure.

As for Evans saying its the same individual that was at Minsmere, what a load of bollocks. Just google images of both and see what you think .His chin was wobbling when he dipped it on the Friday ( as seen on TV local news with Tom Tams laughing in the background)

After seeing the bird, some of us were quite privileged to see a skin of a first year female SBC at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle that looked identical.

So why was it booted? I've no idea but have to bow to the greater knowledge and experience of those experts who feel it isn't fit for inclusion.  Maybe it was just too rare to be a possibility...I suppose I'll have to remove it from my lists?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Well, that's the holidays booked for next year....

Apologies for stealing copyrighted images off the internet. If any are yours let me know and I'll pay for it .
(Of course I won't, but it will be removed...sheesh, some people have no respect. Its not like I've used them for profit for goodness sake, get over it. )

Monday, December 02, 2013

Loose Ends....

The wonders of having flexible working hours means that you can extend the weekend once in a while.

Today was one such chance, but, being December, there wasn't too much happening. First of all I had to carry out my community service work ( no I haven't been arrested, its just voluntary) and headed off to the Village Hall to clean the external windows. That took about an hour and a half so it was time to get out with Bunty.

The local birds seemed mostly concentrated around our feeders with 3 Great spotted Woodpeckers, 40 Sparrows, both House and Tree and 2 Sparrowhawks. Out over the back field 6 Snipe squeaked away from a damp patch and a couple of Redwings dropped in to roost in village wood. Nothing of note was seen on the sea.

This made me wonder, where has this Ivory Gull gone?

My hopes that it was scavenging at the bottom of Cullernose point came to nothing. In fact, the day would have been very quiet with little breeze, low cloud and subdued local birdlife had it not been for some ambient racket going on. The Boulmer Sea-king was doing circuits of the village, while above it RAF tornados or whatever they use now, roared overhead. The quarry was blasting and tipping rocks into lorries a mile inland but it sounded like it was on the doorstep and a few cars on the coast road were in rally mode. So much for the quiet rural life. Any self respecting Ivory Gull would have given here a wide berth and headed straight back to arctic silence!

Maybe it has gone the way of so many passage seabirds seen, heading north, south of the Tyne - the South Shields / Tynemouth triangle seems to have taken another victim...

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Plot Lost....

Long time no see.

Do you remember when I used to blog regularly? I always had plenty to say, but now for some reason I don't. Maybe I can blame Twitter?

Maybe its time to call the whole thing off....

Its only the years of posting on here that stops me doing just that. I have seen blog colleagues come and go and come back again even stronger than before, so for now they remain my inspiration.

Right, time to snap out of it and get something written....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Swallow doesn't make a summer...

So the saying goes.

Not in November anyway. This morning I was out with Bunts in the early light, as the mercury stayed rigid at -1 when a flickery winged bird came low towards me over our roof. At first glance I thought it was just a Starling leaving roost, until it got a bit closer but no bigger, when I thought...no, surely not...a hirundine!

It skimmed right over head, a first winter Swallow. Very late here and it needs to get cracking if it is to find food in this weather.

I am trying to dispel the niggling image I have of a thick, black, stuck on tail...?

As what is surely the last Swallow sighting of 2013 a 'first' was lying in wait. By 10am the snow was falling very hard indeed. The first of winter. Bang on time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Up the coast...

JWR and myself headed up to see the Lesser Grey Shrike this morning, a new bird for him in the UK, and one I am pleased to see again after its great performance yesterday.

It was in a more lethargic mood this morning but still showed very well to all comers. It seems that its staple diet is now mealworms provided by Jimmy and Gary trying to build it up for its continued migration.

While here, apart from being physically mugged by a Peacock ( that took one of my ginger snaps without even asking) it was good to meet up with some long term birding mates that I don't see nearly of much of as I should.

From here we headed up to Bamburgh with little hope of connecting with the elusive Bonaparte's Gull. As expected, it was a no show, but we did enjoy 4 Slavonian Grebes, 10 Long tailed Duck including many nice males, 10 Red breasted Merganser, 200+ Common Scoter and 50+ Purple Sandpiper.

A short stop down at Seahouses gave us a few more Purps plus a stonking Great Northern Diver just off shore still retaining some remnants of summer plumage about the neck.

All in all a very nice morning out.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Winter doesn't usually arrive like this...

The 1952 Monk's House Lesser Grey Shrike by Eric Ennion.

In Northumberland, winter arrives around about 15th November and generally lasts until Valentines day (unless you look at this year and it lasted until May).

So, in winter with very few moths and flowers to look at, its the birds that take centre stage once again. At this time, we can look out for Twite and Snow Bunting with grebes and divers along the coast or maybe a large finch flock or a raptor further inland.

If we are very lucky a Great Grey Shrike might take up wintering territory in the forests, but this delight is usually saved until March or April. It is no wonder then that the report of one at the Long Nanny car park, High Newton caused Gary, the local patch stalwart, some consternation. Could this be a Steppe Grey Shrike? After all, Great Greys don't usually linger for days on the coast here. I'll let him explain more thoroughly HERE.

As it happened, Gary found the bird and re-identified it as a much rarer species altogether - a Lesser Grey Shrike! It is easy to see how the mistake was made, as this was in first winter plumage and lacked the black forehead of a spring adult. The main features that give the game away are the long wing projection with a huge white flash at the primary bases, the shorter, thicker bill, the shorter tail and the darker greyish mantle with an off-white/ pinkish hue to the breast.

This morning, it showed really well to an appreciative audience, flycatching and actively dashing around the cattle paddocks next to the car park. This is the second LGS in Northumberland this year after a spring bird on Holy Island. For me, this is my second county and British LGS after a full summer adult at this very same site in June 2008. It shows that lightening can strike twice...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Its a mystery....

Earlier this week, I came home to find a voicemail left from a lady in Longhoughton asking my opinion on an unusual bird she had seen in the village. Unable to check it out mid week, I had forgotten until yesterday so I rang her back for some detailed directions. News was, the bird was still present yesterday at 2pm, so this morning I popped along for a stakeout....

After 45 minutes, there was no sign of anything unusual, so I left hoping that it was probably feeding in a garden nearby, but it may return to the wood later to roost.

At 1pm I returned and, just as she told me, there it was waiting for me on the fence as you enter the wood!

From her description I fancied it would be maybe a Brambling ( orange face, white near tail etc) or maybe an escaped cage bird. Leucistic birds are also a good bet, but I didnt think of this....

Even the bill is two toned. Like Glaucous Gull!

You dont see many Robins like this on Christmas Cards!
This Robin was quite elusive hiding under thick conifers. Maybe its embarrassed? One things for sure, he WILL have a white Christmas!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


This morning dawned nice and clear with a thick white frost over the car. I collected JWR from home and we headed down to Warkworth to check out the Coquet Estuary for a change.

The tide was full on arrival so we took our time strolling down the north side, checking the newly created pools near the caravan park. The floods had good numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Redshank plus a few Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings.

The light was excellent so I took this panorama shot on my phone to show the scene -

This is the area we used to catch a few Snipe for ringing a some years back. The marsh and phragmites area look excellent now, and , being set back a hundred metres from the east coast, must surely pay dividends to anyone who regularly checks the area during passage periods. During our time of regular visits we managed Red backed and Great Grey Shrikes, Yellow browed Warbler, Black Redstart, American Wigeon, Long billed Dowitcher etc.

Now, I think it scarcely gets a glance.

Back to today, we covered the whole length down to the pier. There was a single Snow Bunting on the beach at the pier base, 6 Black tailed and 1 Bar tailed Godwit, many other waders including Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Lapwing and Ringed Plover. Two Buzzards squabbled overhead while a Sparrowhawk took a Redshank from right in front of us.

We then moved over the road side of the estuary where more wildfowl had gathered including 15 newly arrived Whooper Swans. Several skeins of Pink footed Geese flew south.

 As we left, the sky began to cloud over and the temperature began to drop...

Winter is knocking...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Been there, seen that....almost.

A quiet weekend for wildlife here. With the recent St Jude storm along the south coast, in particularly the west, we are possibly in the worst place in the UK to stand a chance of any of those wind driven yanks appearing. Still, I know those small trees at Porthgwarra where the Hermit Thrush is living, quite well...

Back up north, I didn't manage to catch up with the 'Robson Green' in the field, and had to make to with him singing the praises of our finest Northumberland on the telly. Like the Hermit Thrush, I am very familiar with the spots he frequented up the coast.

At Craster, a nice relaxed check of the Arnold and the bus car park didnt reveal much of note, but there had definitely been an arrival of migrants with many Blackbirds, a few Goldcrests and a couple of Song Thrushes new in ( by the way there was a Song Thrush in full song in our garden yesterday morning, not something I expect up here til the end of January at the earliest) and a Chiffchaff that was quite pale and 'eastern' looking.

Along at Boulmer a second winter Med Gull was dozing on the rocks as the waders gathered at high tide. There were 90 Dunlin, 3 Sanderling, 4 Bar tailed Godwit and many Redshank and Oystercatchers. Nearby at Longhoughton Steel, 1000+ Golden Plovers and 400+ Lapwings filled the skies in a stunning glittering display before vanishing as they landed blending perfectly with the rocks and seaweed.

The only other things into the book this week have been single Redpolls in our garden briefly before flying high south when flushed on two mornings....

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stewchat meet Sibechat!

A busy weekend, left limited time for birding. Most of my time was spoken for but a few well timed dog walks resulted in a few new patch challenge additions.

Firstly came late yesterday afternoon when a very quiet walk to the pond field was livened up by a gang of mixed thrushes plundering some ornamental rowans and hawthorns. Mainly Blackbirds, but with them were single Song Thrush, Redwing and Ring Ouzel. As usual for this time of year, the Ring Ouzel was  a drab first year bird with no collar but nice silvery wings and that distinctive 'chacking' call. 

This morning started with a nice feel to it, a mild south easterly breeze with some light spots of rain and a leaden sky, that soon became more broken.
Instantly I could see, and hear birds moving over head so I wandered up the road to the Cullernose laybye for a quick count. 

In an hour or so I had - 

Skylark 161
Redwing 7
Song Thrush 1
Siskin 8
Brambling 2
Coal Tit 8 ( two parties of 5 and 3 coasting high up)
Great Tit 1 (even more unusual than the Coal Tits, high flying down the coast)
Swallow 1
Linnet 19
Lapland Bunting 1 with 30 Skylarks.
Meadow Pipit 24
Curlew 11
Golden Plover 17
Reed Bunting 1
Goldfinch 12
Lapwing 92.

An excellent showing. I really enjoy viz migging when stuff is on the move...

At lunch time things really did kick off. Several messages came to me from friends both up and down the coast ( thanks all) asking if I had found a Siberian Stonechat south of Howick Village. There were conflicting messages from the info services, one said south of the village, the others said south of the burn mouth. This is quite a big area, so there was nothing for it than to start at the south end and work back north.

Luckily when  I got to the Howick Burn I could see Alan Hall and the birds finder, David Astins, intently watching the scrub up the bank.
They soon got me lined up and the cracking peachy coloured little Sibechat was down to 20 feet at times. Looking very whinchat like but without the eye make-up, this is my fourth for the county, but first since 2001 when I drew one for the cover of 'Birds in Northumbria'... 

 A St Mary's Island bird...
After giving it a good look on foreign soil, I retreated back to patch and looked back, it could be seen quite easily flycatching and tail flicking up the hill. A nice addition to the list...

This is the Howick one (below) from today, pics kindly supplied by David Astins ( cheers David, a great bird!)


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekend Round up...

After some success seawatching before work on Thursday, Friday morning began in much the same way.

50 minutes worth of the sea from Craster found another 3 patch ticks and some good 'padders' too.

Bonxie 23
Pintail 1
Wigeon 52
Goldeneye 1
Red throated Diver 5
Velvet Scoter 1
Common Scoter 6N 8S
Teal 6
Fulmar 5
Pale bellied Brent Goose 1
Sooty Shearwater 4
Red breasted Merganser 3
Manx Shearwater 1
Slavonian Grebe 1 this one is a full patch tick. Nice to get a new addition.

Being fired on by regular twitter posts from the work-shy telling how much they're seeing, I headed up to Snab Point for half an hour at lunchtime.The highlight here was a Great Northern Diver along with a nice selection similar to those above, including another 15 Bonxies and 8 Sooties.

Back home in the evening, a quick dog walk out while it was still light added a fourth patch year tick - a nice Snow Bunting running along the coast path ahead of us. More frustrating was the small passerine that lifted off the path and dropped into short grass ahead of us. It looked like a locustella or acro, but despite me zig-zagging around the field, it steadfastly refused to be flushed again.... must have been a lancy ( not a gropper or Reed or Chiffchaff or....)

After this, Saturday was a bit of an anti-climax. Seawatching had tailed off a bit, with an adult Mediterranean Gull N at Craster being the best. Another ( or the same?) Snow Bunting at Cullernose Point and a few more Redwings and Goldcrests upped the anticipation but that's where it ended.

Today was almost bird free other than 5 tardy young Swallows, west, over our garden.

I had planned a day off tomorrow but have decided I'll keep it for better conditions...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The North Wind Doth Blow...

Last night the wind was a banging NNW, maybe a force 7. It gradually swung up to a direct northerly, the first we have had this autumn.

Not wishing to miss out on some good conditions, this morning I headed to the north end of the patch at Craster to do some seawatching from the car before work. There has been little opportunity for this, one of my favourite birding pastimes, this autumn.

In a buffeted 40 minutes I managed two patch year ticks - 3 Velvet Scoters and 4 Barnacle Geese plus 1 Sooty Shearwater, 2 Goldeneye, 3 Red throated Divers, 2 Purple Sandpipers amongst commoner species. I think it is still a bit too rough for a good passage, so maybe tomorrow will be better?

With the wind staying in the north east / eastern quarter until Monday at least, we might get a few more patch additions yet...I've already booked that day off work...

Monday, September 30, 2013

The one where...

I find a Pied Flycatcher.

Now before you poo-poo this lets see it in context. This is only my third Pied Flycatcher on the patch, and the first since 2010. Rarer than Yellow-browed Warbler, Pomarine Skua, Waxwing, Little Auk etc and equal to Barred Warbler and Osprey.

Yesterday morning I was out early to check the thick wooded cover at the Craster Arnold Reserve, the northern end of my Patch challenge patch (?). It was clear and calm early on and the grass silver with dew. The sun later became warm and a lot of birds were calling and flickering about in dense sallows and sycamores.

The first bird I got on to was a bright little Yellow-browed Warbler, followed by a Lesser Whitethroat, that came up from a ditch calling. Chiffchaffs and Robins seemed to be all over and 3 male Blackcaps added variety. Then a call from higher up the bank made me stop and listen. Now, I often get Pied Fly and Redstart mixed up as I only see them infrequently but knew this was one or the other. Its 'sweet sack' 'sweet sack' tone seemed very active moving from tree to tree quite high up. It took me the best part of an hour before the bird finally came into view and showed well in full agitated wing-flicking mode.

At least while I waited a Willow Tit kept me company.

Further along, a second calling Yellow-browed remained elusive and a steady high movement of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks flew south...

"Oh Evie, do come quick and bring your gun, there's a dear little Piedy Fly on the lighthouse wall..."
Miss Leonora Rintoul, Isle of May...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eastern Promise...

Mid week saw a huge arrival of Yellow browed Warblers into the UK. By Wednesday Northumberland was decked out with them, with massive totals - Holy Island 17, St Mary's 10, Farnes 9, Low Newton and Druridge 4, Hauxley 2 etc. I finished work early and visited the north end of my patch at Craster where Yellow brow habitat abounds without a sniff. The highlight here were a couple of juvenile Ringed Plovers that were new for the year, but passerines were almost non existant.

Since then, each morning I have listened out before work to see if I could get one calling in the copse next to our garden, but every day has been quiet.

Until this morning. I was out doing the moth trap when that distinctive quiet 'tssswissp' call came from a hedgerow sycamore across the back field behind our garden. Over I went, and the calling stopped. It seemed as though the bird had flown but then a flicker low down caught attention and there it was, a nice little stripey Yellow browed Warbler all the way from Siberia. It showed well in the morning sunshine feeding around the hawthorns in the company of two Chiffchaffs and a male Blackcap.

No matter how many of these you see ( here they are about annual) you can never be blase. The first and commonest of the sibes, lets hope their numbers continue to increase and arrive here each autumn.

This afternoon 3 Bramblings flew over calling, showing that the easterly winds are moving birds over us. If only we had some rain to ground them...

Now, where's that Richards Pipit?    

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Holiday time...

Well that's our last week's holiday of 2013 finished. We have been up to Allt Beithe, Arevegaig near the Ardnamurchan peninsula for the week.

The weather was mainly good with sunny,clear days except for Wednesday and Thursday when overcast skies and rain took over. Our time was spent exploring the area, a place we know quite well now, this being our third visit since 2007 and just getting into a relaxed mood away from it all.

When avoiding the omni present scottish midgies, I was on the look out for the usual specialities of the region and trying to get an introduction to the fungi, something that is quite new to me. A few were identified but many more were admired and left unnamed. Highlights of the week included a young White tailed Eagle on the Morvern peninsula that soared from cloud height all the way down to eventually land on the hill opposite us giving great scope views. Two Golden Eagles gave similar views near the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, both showed similarly well, perched yards apart on a rock not too far from the road ( well scope range anyway).

An Otter fed in the bright sunlit, oily calm, waters of Loch Sunart one day, but our garden Pine Martens refused to play ball. They came each night and cleared the food, once while we were watching TV, but we didn't see them. 35 Red Deer hinds and calves were on the mire outside the garden gate. A group of Bottle nosed Dolphins were off Kilchoan shop one day, while later a group of Porpoises, 4 adults and 4 young fed in a bay more suited to otters than cetaceans well up into the loch.

These plus Rock Doves that looked just like a Rock dove should, daily Ravens, Buzzards and Hoodies, Common and Grey Seals, flower dotted verges and damp, ancient oak woods made for an excellent trip.

The moth trap came with us, the results of which go into detail here.

So, now back home and work, its time to get back out to see if I can add to the patch list, autumn is racing away now...


Our cottage, Allt Beithe nestled in the trees with no neighbours. Excellent!
View from the drive.
Our nearest neighbour..what a landscape.
The Lochaline Ferry to Mull. We visited from Kilchoan.
Trapoleum or something, a climbing nasturtium in the garden.
Highland Darter, a lifer or maybe not...
Peacock on Devils Bit Scabious
Tree Lungwort, Lobaria pulmonaria, a scarce epiphyte covered the Sunart Oak trees.
Plums and Custard
Hoof Fungus
Angels Wings
Common Lizard with two Ticks under its foreleg
Flat calm sea across on the ferry to Mull

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Punk's Back!

Like Dr Who, Madonna and David Bowie, Dean Stables has a habit of  vanishing and coming back to blogging fully invigorated and revamped. Long timers will remember 'Mostly Macro' and more recently 'Deans Daily Diary' now we have 'Photos as and When'

I'm sure his new incarnation will be every bit as good as his last, so please give him a follow and leave a comment or two to cheer him up.

Hope all goes well in future Dean...

Cheers Stewart.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Barred 1 Booted 0

Well what a day. I spent 5 hours this morning staring at a patch of ragwort and peering into impenetrable bushes, on Hadston Links, seeing several dunnocks, blue tits and willow warblers, but yesterdays Booted Warbler had clearly been booted too far and was not on show today.  Disappointed at missing an excellent county bird I came home with little hope of salvaging anything from the day, other than some good crack with the lads.

After a late breakfast, we took Bunty for a wander, noting how quiet things were and thinking to myself that the village willows looked nice for a wryneck. On our return we walked past our neighbours garden where half a dozen House Sparrows were on her finely manicured lawn, below her bird bath, when I had to do a double take. Sitting with the spuggies was an altogether bigger bird, paler and 'different looking'. Through the bins, my milisecond view registered 'Barred Warbler' before it flipped up and into our garden hedge next to the bedroom window!

Now after last years brief sighting of Barred, I thought that people are going to give me such a stringing tag for this, so I went for a slow look around the garden.

No sign.

Then Jane came out waving for me to come inside. The bird had been sitting about two feet from our bedroom window! I crept through, but, it had gone. I waited half an hour with no further sightings when we had to leave to visit my sister.

Fast forward to 6pm. We came home and I didnt hold out much hope, but ever the optimist Jane went and looked from the bedroom and came back to say, it was still there! Now, my neighbours garden was busy with chatting people so I thought surely not, it must just be the local spuggies, the Barred must be long gone.

I waited for a few minutes when - bang - there it was in the open, four feet away through the window, a tremendous juvvy Barred Warbler!! It flew back and forth along the hedge giving glances before sitting up in the back hedge near the sparrow flock. What a cracker, the best view of my third garden record of Barred Warbler in four years...

As you know my photo skills are not the best and through a small cottage window this is bound to be a disaster but here goes...

A snatched shot as it blundered into the hedge.
Sunning in the hedge
Barred Warbler.
This makes Barred Warbler commoner than Garden Warbler in my garden!

Oh I'm sorry, it cant be seen from public areas so there is no opportunity for a twitch.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Up to the woods...

Well no sign of any Two-barred Crossbills, Crossbills or even birds really, but that doesn't mean there aren't any, they're just hiding for later in the autumn....

So without any rare distractions JWR and myself had to concentrate on other wildlife in the wood.

 A lot of butterflies were around, especially Speckled Woods with 47 seen on a couple of miles walk. To go with them were 9 Wall Brown plus several Whites, Peacocks , Small Coppers etc.

Wall Brown
Southern Hawkers showed well hunting along the tracks, but only a female sat for a pic.
Further up the wood a lovely large female Adder dashed across the track before I could get the camera out of my bag, but a couple of Lizards were more obliging...

Common Lizard
There is no prize but click on the above pic to enlarge and see what is unusual about this Lizard...I've never seen the like. It must have had an injury at one time...

Eyebright sp
 Although they are unidentifiable to the lay person, Eyebrights are always nice to see.

Marmalade Hoverfly
Although sunny and warm , it was quite windy in open places, but the light did have an autumn feel to it. 


Any help with the identification of these would be of assistance and gratefully received.