Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Its all a blur...

After all the excitement yesterday, I knew I should have put the optics in the car. On my way to a meeting, a call came through from Gary at Low Newton about a Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell pond.

I am quite cool with these having seen the one Gary found at Newton scrapes in 2012 and a juvenile in Cumbria a short time earlier than that, but it is a good bird and isn't really one to ignore, especially when it is so close. So, meeting completed, I took a short detour via Cresswell back to the office.

A good turn out was already watching the bird as it roosted over on the main spit. I couldnt say good views were had, because the shadows and heat haze made for a dark bird that looked like a rock. As the sun went in, more flank barring could be seen and some dark feathers in the scapulars and mantle and it even raised its head a couple of times showing the long, slightly decurved at the tip, dark bill.

It didn't look like it was going to do much, so it was back to work for me...

Two great birds in two days locally. What next I wonder....

Monday, July 28, 2014

What a Prat!

A call from Dave Dack this afternoon sent me scuttling off through Ashington, across the River Wansbeck and along towards Cambois to view Castle Island from the south side where this cracking little Collared Pratincole had dropped in.

Only the third for Northumberland after one at Holywell in 1966 and a fly-by at Beadnell in 1983 this is the first twitchable Collared Pratincole in the county in a generation. An what odds on it being in the same year as Northumberland's first Black winged Pratincole too, amazing.

I casually strolled down, cool as, [running, me, as if!] with out a hint of optics, having to commandeer ADMc's scope for half an hour. Cheers Andy. The bird was sitting out, showing well through the scope, running around as if it really was a proper wader and being bullied into flight by Lapwings. Here its copper underwing [too many moths, I know] could be seen as well as the white trailing edge to the secondaries. Another feature to eliminate the mega Oriental Pratincole was the tail being longer than the primary projection.

As I was unarmed, I snatched this photo on my phone. Its not the best, but you get the gist of it...

It soon got up and flew a great distance to feed high over Stakeford with Black headed Gulls probably on flying ants. At this point I had to leave, but I think it returned back to the island later on.

If you are going, go to the south side as many birders were going from the Ashington side. This involves a long walk and chances are the bird will be hidden from view or distant at best.

Puts me on  331 for the county...Nice.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beauty and the Beast..

A trip out this morning to look for inverts after last nights deluge. Dragons were on our mind, but some butterflies will do nicely too, after all, there will be plenty of bleak fall conditions to look forward to in the autumn, so its time to make the most of the insects.

Willow Warbler

A couple of short wetland stops on route to a favoured woodland area, were also quiet, only giving us a good scattering of Snipe, a Common Sandpiper and a nice Fox doing the 'walk of shame'.

As you can imagine, a wooded area inland is bound to be quiet at this time of year so this Willow Warbler was the only bird to point a camera at. A few Jays glimpsed, plus Great spotted Woodpeckers and calling Buzzards did little to add to the interest.

In the lea of a south facing ride, lots of butterflies were making the most of the warm weather - 10+ Green veined Whites, 10+ Small Skipper, 6+ Meadow Brown, 6+ Ringlet, 4+ Speckled Wood, 4+ Common Blue, 1 Peacock and a 1 Small Copper all looked shining in the warm sunshine.

Common Blue
Small Copper
Some other invertebrates though are more difficult to id. A Wood Wasp or Horntail flew past but this little froghopper thing was new -

Cicadela viridis thanks to Peter and Dave...
One of the strangest things seen though was also the most fearsomely ugly critter I've seen for some time...

Tachina grossa.
This fly was nigh on an inch long, dwarfing bumblebees nearby. For sure you wouldn't want it in the car with you. Anyway, it is a parasite on large moth caterpillars, in particular the Oak Eggar but I bet up here its the Drinker that is the target. While taking pictures, we were targeted by Clegs and ticks...urgh!

Of the odonata, 2 hawker sp were seen that were likely to be Southern along with a few Common Blue damselflies.

Relieved to get back home in tact, this view was from our kitchen window, so excuse the photos...

The Buzzard had taken something quite large, a rabbit probably, and the Magpies were determined to get their share. The raptor was properly irritated by them, and scattered them like a Lion with vultures!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bedstraw Hawkmoth!

Bedstraw Hawkmoth
I got up this morning at 4.20am to cover the moth trap to prevent spuggie incursion, and found this chunky foreigner sitting on the top egg tray! Judging by the size of the abdomen I assume its a female Bedstraw Hawkmoth. I hope it can find somewhere to breed, but it may be futile as our winters are too cold for the pupae to survive.

This is a first for me, and was much larger than expected. I thought maybe a bit larger than Hummingbird Hawk, but it was about large Elephant Hawkmoth sized. Shortly after the top photo was taken it rose up into the air and off at great speed west...

According to Northumberland Moths this is the 26th adult in the county, but only the 10th in the last 35 years!

The best moth of the year by a long way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Its great being on holiday at home...especially on a day like this. After I cut the grass today, the garden looked well so here is a snap off my phone in panorama mode...

The local Blackbird is still around though he is keeping low due to the moult. The sun brought him onto the lawn, contorting into all sorts of shapes...

A couple of large moth catches this week with over 600 moths and up to 90+ species a night have included a new macro species - 

White Satin
With no recent VC68 records, this may be only the third or fourth record up here.

Lets hope the good weather continues, as I'm not back at work til Monday...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aye aye....

Above - all Small Skippers
A lovely evening outside now. A stroll along the newly cut back field behind our drive produced a few Meadow Browns, and 2 nice Small Skippers. The Small Skipper is a relatively new addition to North Northumberland, and are only here in small numbers, so it was pleasing to see these so close to the garden. One day one will hop the wall...

Oh and I've just looked, this blog is now 8 years old. An 8 yr old blog! Not many of the local blogging masses can boast that longevity ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nothing to Crow about...

What a bird...
 A very humid night continued through the day. The morning was misty and drizzly, but warm. Not weather we are used to here in Northumberland. By lunchtime it was hot and sunny.

We decided to check the coast between Amble and Boulmer for waders at various sites. First stop was Amble braid, where 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Knot and 3 Sanderling were with 100+ Redshank feeding on the estuary. In the car park, rubbish was strewn everywhere and we wondered about the mentality of the litter louts responsible, then this handsome Carrion Crow appeared. Clearly the guilty culprit, I suppose he is to be forgiven, when he was just looking for breakfast.

From here it was on to Warkworth Gut where the highlight was a group of 3 Little Egrets on the new pools. How long until they are a regular breeding bird here I wonder? Its only a few years since one would have caused a twitch!

Foxton Bends  only produced singles of Greenshank and Whimbrel early on, and two Common Sandpipers later. 50+ Swifts were screaming over the village.

Top - Merganser, bottom, Goosander. 

 At Boulmer, a day flying Barn Owl was at Seaton Point, but holiday visitors made the waders flighty. Summer plumaged Turnstones, Dunlin and Knot mixed with Redshanks and Oystercatchers on the shore.

A few Goosanders flew past the point alongside a single eclipse Red breasted Merganser for comparison.

A similar selection plus a few Ringed Plover were in front of the Fishing Boat Inn. Later this afternoon I popped down to Craster for a short seawatch, my first of the autumn(?). A hour produced 17 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Roseate terns plus the usual auks and Gannets. A Porpoise looked unusual lying like an alligator on the surface for a while before diving out of sight. Maybe it was eating something?

So, this week I am at work on Monday and Tuesday then off for a few days. Cant wait...

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Nothing much to report today, because of very heavy rain all morning, but I'm sick of seeing that spleenwort below so here are a few from recent days to brighten things up.

New moths for the garden list -

Pyla fusca

Evergestis pallidata
When I look at these two moths they are about as good as the spleenwort!

So this is better -

Small Copper
Six-spot Burnet
Meadow Brown

Friday, July 04, 2014

Very rare indeed...

Lady Clermont's Spleenwort.
Plants don't come much rarer than this one, or much more underwhelming either. This is Lady Clermont's Spleenwort Asplenium x clermontiae. This is the only one in the UK and is visited by keen botanists from across the country. While it is only half a mile along the road from our house, this is the first time I've seen it, despite looking. It has taken a local expert to show me its exact location, on a wall along the coast road. To its right is the much commoner Maidenhair Spleenwort, one of its genetic parents. The other one is the Wall Rue. Apparently these natural hybrids are so rare as the parents are a different genus, or something? [Apparently not - see comment]

Unlike hybrid birds, I think plant people can tick this one without guilt, so its now on my list.