Sunday, December 27, 2015


Time flies at this time of year. Its been nearly two weeks since I posted about the Chiffchaff, so here is a little update of what I have been seeing since then.

On the 19th it was a very mild 15 degrees so the moth trap was put out. I was pleased to catch my earliest ever Hebrew Character as well as a Chestnut. A Red Squirrel dashed across the road at our lane end, the first I've seen here for a little while.

The 23rd brought an early Christmas present when a nice Merlin dashed past me while I walked Bunty. It perched up on a fence a couple of hundred yards away giving good binocular views. This brings the patch year list to a round 150 species.

On 24th a hint of de ja vu came when a Peregrine over flew the exact same flight line as yesterdays Merlin. A Barn Owl hunted for half an hour outside our kitchen window and 2 Bramblings were with 100+ Chaffinches in the rectory stubble field.

No white Christmas this year though and on the big day only a lone Siskin and 8 Pink feet flying south made it into the notebook.

Last night while returning home from visiting the 24 hour long rain deluge had finally stopped leaving us with seriously flooded roads. No sooner had the rain abated the owls came out, with a nice Long eared Owl sitting on a hedge lit by the car headlights, then a Barn Owl near home sitting the same way.

Thats us up to date. Today I popped out to see John at Warkworth for a wander around the estuary area. Apart from the usual crack, it was uneventful bird-wise until a group of 19+ Twite flew in to the salt marsh. This was a regular traditional site for them some years ago but now they seem to prefer the Druridge Bay links.

Back home, 20 Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll fed in alders, while 7 Stock Doves were with other birds in the rectory stubble, but there was no trace of the Bramblings...

Twite creeping through the grass like mice...
Lesser Redpoll
150. Merlin

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I've taken a day off today to give Jane a lift to the station where she will get the train to Peterborough to visit her sister. The day is very overcast and dark, one of those that makes you long for the sight of a snowdrop or something, just a hint that spring isnt too far away, but, in reality, we are in the middle of winter for a long time yet.

As I went out with Bunty at lunchtime I thought I heard a Chiffchaff calling in the wood next to our garden, so, on our return, I grabbed bins and camera and hung around at the end of the house to see if it would emerge. I waited for a good 15 minutes and was about to give up when up it popped just next to our garden wall. It then fed the same circuit as my various other garden migrants recently, venturing along the sheltered  SW corner, around my small sallows and brambles especially planted for the purpose.

It looked to be a dark individual but called just like our own Chiffs, so I assume its a 'collybita'?

Regardless of its race, it was a welcome reminder of autumn to punctuate these grim winter days.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Car update....

Well that was a relief. I drove straight to the Volks Centre in Blyth, a garage that deals only with VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat. I've been going here for the last 7 years and have found it to give excellent service. So much so, that this may even effect my decision on car species when I next change! I used to hate and distrust all car dealerships but this small family run firm is excellent.

Today, they gave the usual tip top service. Dave, the owner, gave the car a check over and came back to announce nothing wrong with brakes or fluid, it was a broken sensor wire and he just twisted it back together, temporarily until he could get a new one from the scrappy. All for no charge. What a  star...

When your car has 198,000 miles on you need a garage you can trust....

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Car Troubles....

Out with John around the Coquet estuary this morning turned up literally nothing of note. Well, a male Blackcap in yews in Warkworth, 2 drake Red breasted Mergansers in the estuary, 2 female Goosanders upstream and thats about the lot really. The only other excitement came when the car indicated that my brakes were going dodgy, maybe a reduction in brake fluid, that will result in a visit to the garage in the morning...

Some Herring Gull photos in nice sunshine....

Monday, December 07, 2015

Lesser Redpolls

A day off to catch up with some bits and pieces so no proper birding done at all today. Still, while walking Bunty at lunchtime we came across a nice little flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls feeding on seed heads of Rosebay Willowherb along the ditch next to the lane. Although it was a very dull day, I still thought it would be worth recording them on camera. The images are very 'noisy' as you would expect, but it shows the birds doing what they do....


Lesser Redpolls every last one...

Sunday, December 06, 2015

A nice winters day....

The day started with heavy rain and a strong wind, but this soon eased to a calm day with patchy sunshine.

As the sun rose, almost our first bird of the day was a first winter Glaucous Gull flying into a group of Great black backed Gulls on the Coquet Estuary. It was a real lunker too, in flight equal to the Great black backs. It only stayed for about 15 minutes just giving us time to go back for the camera before it flew off north. It probably roosted on Coquet Island with the other gulls and came in to the fresh water to bath and drink. 

Also here were 3 Black tailed Godwits and the usual selection of waders. We checked up at the harbour to see if anything else had arrived but it was very quiet. The Eiders looked nice in the calm water, when not fighting for bread, so I took a few snaps. 

I like this one. It is a full frame, uncropped pic. 300mm with 1.4x converter f7.1 , 1/320, ISO800, as the bird steamed towards me.
While wandering the harbour, a Snow Bunting flew along the north pier and off north along the beach. 25 ish Whooper Swans were along the river in fields opposite the wier.

From here we checked the north side, old water area, where a nice Kingfisher gave us the runaround on the tiny trackside pool by flying off and returning later when we tried to get a photo. I think John did ok.

And that was that really apart from a few Long tailed Tits and me knocking my glasses off never to be seen again, a typical local winters day. We do alright here if we can get a nice day...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cartoon Birds...

Being up north in the UK, Northumberland often misses out on some of the more southern specialities. Birds such as Firecrests, Black Terns and Honey Buzzards are genuinely hard to come by up here and things like Serin are the stuff of dreams, I still haven't had one in this country making it probably the commonest bird missing from my British List.

Still, living up here in a county with a very long coastline that faces Scandinavia does have its plusses. Little Auks, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls are annual, Long tailed Duck and Purple Sandpiper are common enough winter visitors and we do get more than our fair share of Waxwings.

In a big invasion year we can get many hundreds of them, and they turn up almost anywhere. This year though seems to be a slow one for the Waxwing. Luckily I managed one on patch back in May as they were returning, but the presence of a few in Ashington where I work was worth a detour all of one mile to attend a meet and greet.

A lone bird was typically lethargic hanging around ASDA petrol station in the town, feeding on the remnants of some rowan berries. Watching this one, I believe a first winter female, I realised that they are quite comedic birds? Curtseying, gargling and raising an eyebrow at passing blackbirds gave it a strange impression, a bit Chaplin-esque!

After taking some poor pics in dreadful light conditions I left her to go to her roost in peace...lovely.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Another poor day...

Top - a real winter squall over Amble Harbour and a few minutes later the sun came out...

Not much doing this morning or during the weekend on the bird front.

Highlight for me was a nice finch flock along our lane end that contained about 150+ birds, mainly Linnets and Chaffinches but also had 6 Brambling, 2 Lesser Redpoll and a Bullfinch. 30 Siskins fed in alders nearby.

This morning was spent helping Jane get to the Xmas Fair at Howick Hall before popping down to Warkworth for a chat with John. It was mixed weather there with some quite serious stormy spells curtailing any attempts a bird finding ( Above)

Jane's stall at the Fair...

And my only attempt a bird photograph this weekend...

Monday, November 23, 2015


Long time no see. I've been a bit too busy to blog lately but here is a catch up.

Since we last met all manner of things natural have been happening. Starting off a couple of weeks back we were in a late autumn heatwave, on the 10th it was a whopping 18 degrees here, a temp we hardly see in June let alone November!

Thursday 12th I had a day off and managed to get out on the patch for a couple of hours. Actually I'm always on the patch as I live in it, but you know what I mean. Hoping to add to my year list I decided on a sit and wait approach down at the Rumbling Kern where a nice flock of 5 Snow Buntings tinkled south along the cliff edge. Another wait and see was adopted at Craster where a Black throated Diver flew N close in with 3 Red throated Divers for comparison, 2 Bonxie, 9 Common Scoter and 12 Curlew.

On 15th, another mild day I had 3 Red Admirals and 2 Common Wasps on Ivy near the village hall. A Chiffchaff was nearby, set for wintering? While standing with Bunty, 36 Whooper Swans were a magnificent sight as the flew south low over the village.

Another week passes and the 20th was much cooler. A NW breeze seemd to ground some late migrants with 20+ Blackbirds, 10+ Fieldfares, 8+ Redwings and a Goldcrest all along the coast path where yesterday there were none.

Craster seawatching.
   As the wind increased to a storm force NNW seabirds began to be reported so I was up early on Saturday gone for a seawatch at Craster.

07.35 - 09.10 then home for a foil blanket and sustenance -
Little Auk 24
Great Northern Diver 1 summer plumaged
Red throated Diver 8
Pale bellied Brent Goose 6
Long tailed Duck 2
Red breasted Merganser 2
Teal 3
Wigeon 126
Goldeneye 26
Goosander 2 males
Shelduck 1
Razorbill 11
Purple Sandpiper 9
Dunlin 132
plus usual gannets etc.

On the way home a found a dead Short eared Owl on the roadside. Poor thing, newly arrived and quite emaciated.
Short eared Owl

What a difference a few weeks can make, a heatwave a few weeks ago and snow flurries and ice this weekend. Its all a part of our wonderful seasons...

How is the patch list standing after that -

147. Snow Bunting
148. Black throated Diver
149. Great Northern Diver


Monday, November 09, 2015


An impromptu day off work today to take our ageing Chinchilla to the vet to get his teeth looked at. At 10 yrs old, he is getting on a bit, maybe even 'long in the tooth!' So, £39 lighter, I brought him back home none the worse for his ordeal...

Wandering around the village today was generally quiet. A couple of small flocks of Pinkfeet flew S, a Fieldfare was sub-singing on top of the village cherry trees and there is a nice patch of Wood Blewitts are coming out below the village hall pines now... and thats about it really...

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Tits 'n' Tongues....

Can't beat a bit of old fashioned sitcom innuendo!

That's enough of that.

This morning I met John at Warkworth Top Car Park at 07.30. A stroll around in the half light was quiet with no thrushes or anything in the scrub. Viz migging was almost non existent too, so the morning didn't seem to be going too well. That is until we were chatting about the latest poor customer care from EE Broadband that John has been suffering from( all providers must be the same because BT is absolutely dreadful too when it comes to customer service).

In mid chat, I heard a very distinctive call across the salt marsh in the reed bed - Bearded Tit! Now Bearded Tit is a rare bird in Northumberland mainly because the habitat is very scarce too. My last were at East Chevington a good few years back so this one set the pulse racing.

We scanned the edge of the phrag without luck but the call continued, then all of a sudden John got onto it, a beautiful male sitting out in the open. What a cracking bird to brighten up the gloom. We watched it for a bout 10 minutes as it flew around even venturing across the open and doubling back at one point. A real highlight on this patch this year.

Male Bearded Tit, Old Water reedbed. 

After some tea, we headed down the north side towards the pier. Here a male Snow Bunting flew N low overhead, calling, while well over 600 Golden Plover were on the estuary.

On the way back through the dunes I was pleased to find lots of fungi, including three new species for me - 

Dune Waxcap, Black Earth Tongue and Rosy Bonnet. The latter is a woodland species mainly I believe, but some species occur in various old habitats.

Dune Waxcap

Black Earth Tongue Geoglossum cookeanum

Rosy Bonnet Mycena rosea Note the white tapering stem differs from Lilac Bonnet.
As the rain increased by 11.15 we decided to call it a day. I hope we get some nice fine winter days, I really hate this dark stuff...

Thursday, November 05, 2015


For the last two days our village has looked a bit like this. These pics were taken on Tuesday when it didnt lift at all. Still, a few interesting things were to be seen.

In those bushes below the tall pines, were 2 Chiffchaffs. One called a bit like a Sibe Chiff, with the hoarse piping tone, but the other was just standard Chiffchaff call. The thing is both looked very similar and I couldnt tell which was making what noise. The fog made the colours very tricky to confirm but one was definitely paler than the other.

This morning an ad Mediterranean Gull was with 300 Black-headeds in the top field, a new one for the year, a Brambling flew S and 2 Redwings were in-off.

Yesterday 35 Siskins were new arrivals along the lane, and I found a new fungi again below the tall pines. Its called the Grey Knight Tricholoma terreum  -

146. Mediterranean Gull

Monday, November 02, 2015

More fungi...

On holiday today, with thick fog on the coast I headed a short way inland to Shepherds Law to check out some waxcap grassland.

There were quite a few out but I still struggle with the identification...

Waxcap grassland
 I've never been to this spot before, but read that it was good for grass land fungi so gave it a try. It was excellent. To allow most waxcap species to grow the grass must not have artificial fertilisers for more than 50 years! Is it any wonder they are so rare...

The list is as follows -

Meadow Waxcap Hygrocype pratensis many
Scarlet Waxcap H. coccinea
Crimson Waxcap H.punicea
Golden Waxcap H. chlorophana
Heath or Honey Waxcap H. laeta or H. reidii
Snowy Waxcap H. virginea many
poss Blackening Waxcap H. conica

This isnt a waxcap....

Possible Blackening Waxcap? It was yellowish green and seemed 'burnt'.

Crimson Waxcaps. New for me.

Are these Heath Waxcap or Honey Waxcap?

Scarlet Waxcap

I thought this might be Fibrous Waxcap, but now think its more likely to be a mature Crimson...

Sunday, November 01, 2015

What a day....

November 1st. What a glorious day it has been. Sunny and warmish all day with only a light breeze. If only our summers were this good!

Out alone today, I took a trip to Craster and walked the heugh up to Dunstanburgh castle on the quest for fungi. Waxcaps to be precise. These lovely small mushrooms glow like jewels in short un treated grasslands, but are not something I am not too familiar with, only having found them rarely. I could have headed inland towards the Cheviots or Simonsides but thought I would stay local to see if I could find some near home.

As the weather was so good, I took a lot of pics, so I make no apologies for making this post very photo heavy. Craster is less than 2 miles from home, and on a day like this there cant be many better places to be in the UK.

Grasslands down to Dunstanburgh Castle
Add caption

Snowy Waxcap ( thanks to all who helped me with this one)...

Candle snuff Fungus in the dew.

Golden Waxcap

Above - Scarlet Waxcap, I only found two, one freshly emerged and one well open.

Golden leaves in Craster
Feathered Thorn, a new moth for the year.

Above - Red Admirals on Ivy in Howick Village

Speckled Wood with the Red Admirals.
In the warm sunshine the ivy along our lane in Howick was humming with insects including hoverflies, wasps, bees, 5 Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood.