Sunday, April 26, 2015

More bees...

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum
White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum 
Out down at Warkworth this morning. It was clear and sunny but a white frost coated the grass first thing, and a cold  northerly breeze put the dampers on things.

Before I discuss the birding, we were checking out the bumblebees on a patch of Yellow Archangel and White Dead Nettle. At first glance the two above look pretty much the same, but the Garden Bumbler has three yellow bands while the White tailed has two. That is very simplistic, and to be honest bumblebee id is not that straightforward. I am sure the top id is correct but the bottom one? Mmm...If you know any different please leave a comment...

So what was on offer bird-wise? Straight out of the car added Common Whitethroat to Johns year list with two singing males. Nearby a Grasshopper Warbler reeled for a moment but thoughts of a photo were dashed when it didnt sing again and we couldnt find it. Next, in similar fashion, a Reed Warbler croaked off a few notes but remained concealed. Blackcaps were everywhere and there had been a certain increase in Willow Warblers over the week.

Down on the estuary, 89 Dunlin were coming into breeding plumage, 19 Knot, 11 Ringed Plover and 2 Little Egrets were of note.

The only thing back home were 2 Whimbrel south as I left the house, first thing.

113. Whimbrel 


Saturday, April 25, 2015

After being stuck in an over heated office all week when the weather outside was glorious I was really looking forward to the weekend. Then when I got up and looked out, it was as if we had gone back to March. It was dull, cold and raining with a light NW breeze. Great.

Still, you have to make the best of what you have so today I've been out on several dog walks around the patch, the last one was even bathed in afternoon sunshine.

This mornings stroll was around the coast path, to the Rumbling Kern and back. Common Whitethroat was the best on offer and quite early for here. A lone Red throated Diver flew south and 3 Sandwich Terns N. A nice Greenland Wheatear was on the muck heap next to Tommy's farm.

A lunchtime walk took in the pond field and lane end. I was pleased to find a Coot sitting on a nest here, the first I have confirmed breeding I think, while Little Grebes have hatched young and Mallard have 9 ducklings. The heronry is making all kinds of god awful noises.

Finally this afternoons walk was a combination of the two earlier ones, down the teepee track to the burn mouth and back by the Long Walk and Pond. A Sand Martin was finally added to the PWC list, hawking with Swallows above the pond and Blackcaps were chasing around in just about every bit of wood and scrub available.

111. Common Whitethroat
112. Sand Martin 

Friday, April 24, 2015

On Reflection....

After a tip off from a work colleague, I called in to Warkworth Lane Caravan Site first thing this morning to check out the two drake Mandarins that have been here for the last three days. One was very vocal and kept flying around the pond, while the other was more relaxed. In the morning sunshine they looked a real vision of colour, its just a pity I could get them both in shot together...

Quite scarce birds, Mandarins, up here and with a mystery provenance but what show stoppers they are regardless of their status. I love them!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Snakes and bees..

Yesterday I arrived at Rothbury for a meeting about 15 minutes early so I took  a short walk along the river with the camera. Three Goosanders and a Grey Wagtail were the only things of note bird-wise but a fluke shot of a Buff tailed Bumblebee at Snakeshead Fritillary made me pleased I had bothered taking my gear!

Snakeshead Fritillary and Buff-tailed Bumblebee


Outside of the village Willow Warblers were everywhere but there were no Green Hairstreaks despite the 16 degrees on the mercury...

Willow Warbler

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Good evening...

You know those evenings when your patch seems to be the best in the world? It was one of those tonight. Certainly not because of the birds seen, there were no new year species or anything, but it was sunny, mirror calm and very quiet. Lovely.

Down at the Rumbling Kern there were still no Sand Martins, but Swallows were more in evidence. A small wader roost was quite wintry looking - 45 Oystercatcher, 10 Turnstone and 2 Purple Sandpipers. 11 Common Scoter flew N....a pair of Grey Partridges were being harassed by some very young calves.

The stroll back via the lane end, had a few singing Chiffs and Willow Warblers and little else...

Turnstones and Purps.

Monday, April 20, 2015


A day late with this post, but there is no rush as Sunday provided very little inspiration for writing. I met with John, as usual, at Warkworth on a wintry like morning. It was overcast windy with odd cold showers and short bright spells. Summer migrants had stopped arriving as if someone had turned the tap off.

A light north passage of Linnets and Meadow Pipits, with odd Swallow and Sand Martin, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Goldcrests were the highlight here.

Later on in the afternoon, the sun had come out and the wind had blown the clouds away so I headed down to Craster for a seawatch. A local resident took umbridge at me parking on a hardstand outside an electric / telecom box where a sign proclaimed 'No Parking'. She asked what would happen if some one wanted in? Apart from being highly unlikely on a Sunday afternoon, I said I would move immediately to allow access. I wasn't going to leave the car. At this she said I was ignorant and left. Unperturbed, I continued my hour long seawatch without further interruption.

As I left I looked at my parking alternative. I could have moved on to a perfectly legal bit of road only feet away and caused more of an obstruction, so I think my sea watching will remain on the hardstanding...[Some people must have nothing to worry about!]

Anyway, what did I see - 1 Manx Shearwater, 5 Red throated Divers, thousands of Gannets, Auks, Kittiiwakes and seriously cocked up when a flock of small waders blasting south before I got my bins onto them. I still haven't had Dunlin, Sanderling or Ringed Plover..

Lest hope the 'tap' is turned back on next week...

Being laughed at by a Goldcrest...
110. Manx Shearwater

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On the patch...

Out early this morning to try and catch up with some spring visitors on the patch. First stop was Craster where the only sounds were the birds singing against the distant thrum of a boat engine off to collect the pots. The morning was crystal clear and sunny with a chilly NE nip in the air. Around the village were 12+ Chiffchaffs, 7+ Blackcaps, 3 Willow Warbler, 3 Swallow, 4 House Martins, 2 Willow Tits and 2 Bullfinch.

Four House Martins straight in at the nest site, quite early here, but still no Sand Martin...
Next, a short run along to the Rumbling Kern to check for Sand Martins proved fruitless, but 6 Sandwich Terns flew N close inshore, 3 Canada Geese flew south and 2 male Stonechats on territory put on a great show in the morning sunlight. A female Sparrowhawk dashed south along the cliffs.

Sparrowhawk, nearly sharp too!
Later a visit down to Howick Pond had Coot, Little Grebe and Mute Swan all sitting on nests, plus several more Blackcaps and another Willow Warbler along the lane.

The willow warblers wouldnt play so who could ignore these chaps, possibly the easiest bird to photograph after the robin!

107. Willow Warbler
108. House Martin
109. Sandwich Tern 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Little beauty...

Until this morning I thought this years moth trapping was to repeat that of 2013 when I failed to record one of my favourite garden moths, the Pine Beauty Panolis flammea. It was with some relief that on top of the egg trays was a single nice specimen of the moth, so no blank in 2015...

You can see from the list below that this is not a particularly abundant moth here, but it is regular. 2011 was an excellent spring for them, far outstripping the other years I've trapped here at Howick.

Qty    Date
1 22 Mar 2010
1   02 Apr 2010
3 09 Apr 2010
1 27 Apr 2010
2 28 Apr 2010
1 21 May 2010

1 23 Feb 2011
1 24 Feb 2011
1 20 Mar 2011
1 21 Mar 2011
7 22 Mar 2011
2 23 Mar 2011
1 25 Mar 2011
2 01 Apr 2011
1 02 Apr 2011
1 07 Apr 2011
4 08 Apr 2011
1 13 Apr 2011
1 15 Apr 2011
1 24 Apr 2011
1 06 May 2011

1 16 Mar 2012
1 20 Mar 2012
1 27 Mar 2012
1 01 Apr 2012

1 13 Mar 2014
2 17 Mar 2014
1 18 Mar 2014
1 09 Apr 2014
1 16 Apr 2014
1 28 Apr 2014

The trap is on again tonight so lets hope for a repeat...

Another good highlight today were the 3 Swallows that flew right over our house this evening and carried on north up the coast. My first for the year and bang on time, to the day.

106. Swallow.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Weekend...

This weekend has been a bit of a damp squib. After a glorious week of sunshine and proper spring temperatures while yours truly was stuck at work, as expected, the weekend reverted back to February status. It was cold, over cast, windy with some heavy rain, but, at this time of year we have come to expect such delights.

Howick - Our village from the back field....
A nice show of Red Dead Nettle in our neighbour's potato bed looks good for the early bees.
Yesterday was quite sunny, but the cold wind kept any thoughts of new migrants at bay, in fact the only summery thing of note was a Blackcap singing near the Hall gardens. The moth trap was ok though with 56 moths of 11 species, compared to today's paltry efforts with 11 of 3!

Red Chestnut
This morning was spent down at Patch No2, Warkworth,  with JWR, where he added four new species to the year list - Blackcap, Great spotted Woodpecker, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern. One of the Short eared Owls was still quartering the dunes early on and I managed a heard only Willow Warbler near the village the only other highlights.

Rain set in at 11am calling a halt to things, but later in the afternoon the sun came out again, so I popped down to the Howick Cliffs for some Kittiwake photos. Its a bit embarrassing but I have no idea how many pairs nest here, a colony only 300 mtrs from my doorstep! In June I'll do a survey i think...
Cullernose Point, sometimes the haunt of Robson Green...

Note the bird second from the right is wearing a yellow unmarked colour ring...Many of the birds were ringed, I read one as E12408.

Above - Kittiwakes

Friday, April 10, 2015

One for Mr Gale...

My first Patch Wheatears of the year were down the teepee track this evening. A male with two hens looked bound for Greenland to me, being a bold brassy well marked individual. Still no hirundines though, maybe this weekend will turn up some more summer visitors, but I feel that another week will be needed to gee things up a bit here...

My Surrey colleague, Steve, is doing better than me on the percentages scale. This one puts me on exactly 75%. Maybe a bit more for the PWC list as I had a slow year in 2014...I am thinking things might slow up on his inland patch while things hot up here in the autumn...

105. Wheatear 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Here he is again...

Only the one shot of our mate the Piedbald Robin of Longhoughton. What a skulker it is...luckily this shot is better than my last one. This bird has been here now since at least November 2013....the skulking is paying off.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Here are couple more shots from Sunday when the sun was shining. Yesterday was shrouded with a cool fog all day on the coast...

Nice to hear the drone of Honey Bees on almond scented Gorse...

Monday, April 06, 2015

Happy Easter.

Jack Snipe.
What a glorious day Easter Sunday turned out to be. Being a Bank Holiday I met up with John at Warkworth an hour earlier than usual, 6.30am, to try and avoid the local crowds of tourists. This turned out to be a good decision, as all of our 'good birds' were seen in that hour.

Things began when John spotted a Water Rail running around the edge of the reed bed. I'm not sure but I think this might be the first we've seen here? Nearby a Chiffchaff was in full song, whilst a flock of 9 Magpies argued things out like a parliamentary debate. We began the walk from the car park into the rising sun, when a lovely Barn Owl flew in from the golf course. Back lit by the sun, its a shame it was too distant for photos.

From the track south, we scanned the sunny edge of the reed bed to see if the Water Rail was back out when something unusual caught our attention. You could tell that something was up by the silence. We weren't talking. A wader down in the reed detritus looked odd. It was John who spoke first, saying something like, 'Go on, say it'....I commented that this snipe did seem to have a short bill, but being just armed with binoculars, I couldnt be sure, it might be due to a muddy tip.

To resolve the conundrum, I wandered slowly closer for a better view while John watched. The bird, moved into the reed edge then lay down. We both stalked the target. At good range, a Common Snipe flushed from the spot, and called its scraping shout before vanishing. Thats that then, just a Snipe. Still suspicious John moved another few yards closer, when a second bird jumped up - a Jack Snipe! The two bird theory proved without doubt. The bird, flew lowish over the phragmites and dropped over at the other side, out of view.

What a start to the day! Jacks are a scarce bird up in these parts.

We continued down the track met by one of the wintering Short eared Owls being mobbed by a crow before viewing the estuary proper. An immature male Peregrine came in, low from the east, to make a dawn raid on the unsuspecting waders. He seemed unsuccessful.

The rest of the morning was largely uneventful but with 5 decent birds down at 'the gut' we couldnt complain. Maybe next time there'll be some summer migrants...

A very heavily cropped Peregrine attacking out of the sunrise...

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday Seawatch...

Buy a DSLR only to add a Toy camera effect filter! There is a cheaper option to this...
Just back from a couple of hours seawatching from the car at Craster. The weather today is really bleak, just as it should be for an Easter Bank Holiday weekend. I fancy that the moderate south easterly with rain might just drop in an odd bird or two but I'm not wandering about looking for it today. That job can wait til the weather improves.

The sitting-in-the-car-watching-the-sea bit was much more comfortable, but there was little on the move. The full totals are as follows -

Gannet 80 per hour
Kittiwake 35 per hour
Common Gull 7
Razorbill 3
Cormorant 3
Red breasted Merganser 1
Eider 5
Fulmar 10
Turnstone 1
Puffin 10
Common Scoter 1
Shag 1
Guillemot 7
Diver sp 1
Red throated Diver 1
Great black backed Gull 5
Whimbrel 1 probable but I fluffed getting a good view due to drinking tea and eating Easter Egg.

Highlight was a tiny Chiffchaff that just dropped from no where into a clump of dock and garden refuse. It flew off again after a minute. Migration is happening...

This afternoon we had a walk down to the pond after the rain had stopped. A loud metallic sounding call, very briefly, caught my attention. A scan around revealed the regular 6 Tufted Ducks a few Mallard, a Teal, 2 pairs of Little Grebe, the Mute Swans and then - a Coot! Nice one, Coot has only appeared in 4 out of 7 year lists here compared to Waxwing that has appeared on 5, and equalling both Twite and Yellow browed Warbler. A nice one to get on the team.  

104. Coot

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Its a rat trap - and you've been caught!

After taking this on Monday, good old ratty finally made his way into the live trap. It was duly moved on to pastures new about 5 miles away this morning. Good riddance!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Mirror mirror...

On my way out this morning, I noticed a bit of a 'to do' over at my neighbours car...the Dunnocks are not happy at the intruders into their territory.