Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bank Holiday Sunday.

What a lovely morning its been . The sun was shining giving everything a lovely autumn glow, it was calm and mild, just the day to be pottering around the Warkworth patch.

Before that though, John came to seek me and we popped up to the field flash alongside the A1 at North Charlton. The rapidly dwindling water body held a good few waders with 3 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers, 13 Ruff and a Greenshank with the 100+ Lapwings.

From here it was back down the coast to avoid the Great North Cycle Ride that causes chaos on the roads every August Bank Holiday. We began at the Warkworth Beach car park area where we enjoyed a surprising number of common migrants under these conditions, best being a nice female Redstart and 2 Reed Warblers with 3 Blackcaps, 5 Sedge Warblers, 6 Whitethroats, 6 Chiffchaff and 18+ Willow Warblers. A steady movement of hirundines flew south while oddities included a Nuthatch and a family of Bullfinches in the car park scrub. The Nuthatch in particular is very unusual on the coast.

As the car park filled with day trippers we headed off down to the Marina car park to look for waders.
A massive tide had left the place looking like someone had pulled the plug and consequently all of the birds were scattered to the four corners. 2 juvenile, gingery, Black tailed Godwits were with the usual fare, but there seemed less than last week. Also of minor note were 8 Grey Herons and 5 Little Egret fishing while a female Sparrowhawk came down river in full hunting mode.

It was off home at lunchtime now the cyclists had migrated south. In our garden, 2 yellow juvvy Willow Warblers were with a male Blackcap in the elder.

I'm off work now for a couple of days and there may be the possibility of some seawatch weather in the offing. Here's keeping everything crossed and hoping for some overdue patch ticks...

A quick sketch done as soon as I got in the house, totally from memory. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Its an ill wind...

This weekend has seen a real mish mash of weather and with it some very dodgy weather forecasting too. Overall we have had strong easterly winds, two spells of overnight torrential rain and a couple of very nice warm, humid days. Not bad, a real hint of summer...

Beginning on Friday evening, a short seawatch from Craster was largely uneventful, but there was one highlight, a distant Bonxie, low over the waves flew south, followed later by second even more distant individual, but I might just wait for a better view of one before I add it to the patch year list ( cool or what). Other wise, 9 Swallows S, 1 Whimbrel S, 3 Common Gulls S, 20+ Turnstones on rocks, and a Goosander on the sea.

No birding on Saturday, but a light easterly had started to make things a bit interesting. A few 'hooweets' and 'tacks' came from deep in cover around the garden. Overnight there was lashing rain and a light SE wind making hopes high for the morning...

On Sunday I was out early and wandering Craster by 6.30am. I was surprised how quiet it was, but still believed that there would be some bird interest, somewhere. All I had here were lots of hirundines, a scattering of phylloscs and a few Blackcap and Whitethroat. I left them to it and drove south to meet John at Warkworth for 8am.

All areas were covered with the following highlights noted - 1+Whinchat and 1 Wheatear were down the dunes, 5+ Little Egrets up Old Water, where we heard convincing tales of up to 15 being present plus a Bittern yesterday. We gave the reed bed a short stake out but the boomer remained hidden.

Down on the proper mud flats there were masses of waders, 126+ Curlew, 1 Black tailed Godwit, 73+ Knot, 56 Golden Plover, 61+ Ringed Plover, sev hundred Dunlin, 1 Sanderling, 2 Turnstone,   150+ Redshank, 260+ Lapwing and a Common Sandpiper was heard. Not bad for a small estuary.

I left John  and headed home at lunchtime joking that the now increasing breeze might ground something around Howick for me.

Pied Flycatcher, both pics of the same bird, one of two present. The other remained quite high up.
Not much happened until late afternoon, when a flickering wing in the small oak next to our shed caught my eye. Peering through the greenery I could see a small bird lifting one wing and waving it in the air - a Pied Flycatcher! An excellent garden tick and a good bird for the patch list too. While trying to get some photos, one bird was quite showy at eye level while a second individual was flycatching higher in the sycamores. Two birds! Pied Fly isnt annual on my patch, its presence being wholly reliant on an easterly weather pattern between mid August and mid September, so I was well excited by these two.

Painted Lady
On Monday, I was up for work at 6.15am to find a North Northumberland speciality at work, or not - a power cut. Unable to get ready for work or even have a coffee, I did the only decent thing, rang in a days leave and went birding.

The morning was calm, warm and clear. Up at Craster, 8 Whitethroats, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, 6+ Chiffchaff, 2 Siskins S, 3 Grey Wagtails N were all I could winkle out.
Back home to photograph a rare moth taken from our bedroom wall last night, an Annulet. This is my second from only 4 records since 1976 in the county. It must have been blown into our house from the sea cliffs on that strong easterly.

A bit of luck does sometimes help when birding and today it gave me two patch ticks in a short time, the first was while photographing the moth, a distinctive call revealed a Green Sandpiper flying over the back field from the small ditch, later a Greenshank, 'pew pew pew'-ed as it flew south along the coast. Both excellent birds for this area.

Around the garden the south east breze and warm weather had brought more butterflies to the garden buddleias - 3 Painted Lady, 1 Red Admiral, 5 Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Peacock, 1 Wall ( 6 were on the coast path), Large Whites and Small Whites in goo numbers.

As the evening came, I took a stroll up the hedge to see if the Green Sand was still around or to try and find a shrike or something. No rarities or waders, but two Whinchats were nice to get in a rough area of marshy ground. A good finish to the weekend for me...

Annulet. My second. A very rare moth in Northumberland.

Ypsolopha ustella

Agonopterix kaekeritziana a new species for me.
131. Pied Flycatcher
132. Green Sandpiper
133. Greenshank
134. Whinchat.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Last night was warm and muggy with some drizzle and overcast skies. Ideal for a big moth catch. I didnt realise just how big though til this morning when I did the count. I had 1197 moths of only 48 species in one trap! A record count for me here.

Pity about it though was that it wasnt a pretty sight. The whole Robinson was choc-a-bloc with Large Yellow Underwings, a minimum count revealing 868 of the blighters!

However, a wade through them did produce some tasty records -

Great Brocade, only my second after one on 24th July 2011. A scarce migrant.

Archer's Dart. Annual here but only in odd ones each year. What a belter!
Butterbur. My 7th in 6 years, once believed to be almost uncatchable at light...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Something is amiss...

I've just been down to Craster for a seawatch. There is a hint of NNW in the air but as its swirling from the east, hopes weren't high, and as it happened I was right. There was no passage at all, just the local birds loitering and feeding on what looked like sprats rather than sandeels. There were good numbers of Gannet, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern, with a few Fulmars and Shag thrown in. I gave it 30 minutes before coming home.

What is more concerning is the lack of certain species now. For example Arctic Skua and Merlin. 10 years ago at this time you could look out to any calm sea and within a  short time you would pick out a dark Arctic Skua chasing a kitti or tern in the distance. I'm still waiting for one this year.

Merlins too have changed. Was a time when once late July came they were a day bird up the coast here. Right until November, when numbers dropped and the birds took up the familiar wintering sites along dune lined sandy beaches. I'm now lucky to meet one or two in a full year, and again 2015's patch list has a blank space that requires a tick.

I have no idea what has changed with these two species, but I know that something is not quite right out there...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

After the rain all day on Friday I was keen to see if there were any migrants around, on both patches. The Farnes and Holy Island between them held Red backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale and 2 Greenish Warblers so maybe we would find something of interest.

On Saturday morning I headed to the north end of my patch at Craster, where there were a few common migrants to look through but that's all.

Today was a lovely sunny morning down at Warkworth where a few more birds were in evidence. The beach car park was a hive of avian activity first thing with 6+ Whitethroat, 6+ Blackcap, 6+ Willow Warbler, 4+ Chiffchaff and a Sedge Warbler. This theme and list continued around Birling Carrs and Amble Marina.

Two Yellow Wagtails flew south.

This Sedgie was not yet on passage, feeding fledged young nearby.
Waders continue to provide interest on the estuary with 228+ Dunlin, 58+ Ringed Plover, 11 Knot, 7 Golden Plover, 3 Sanderling, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Juv Ruff ( probably the day's highlight) and a few Turnstone. Redshank numbers were high but not counted. It was just the cherry from the top that remains missing...

Knot are difficult to approach...

10 Goosander, 3 Little Egrets ( 'Egberts', er, no. This isn't even an abbreviation!) and a Common Tern added to the show.

Out to sea, a large group of dolphins were leaping right out of the water but they were way too far out to identify. A few butterflies were seen -Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Wall Brown and the Whites.

So no really noteworthy birds on offer today, but that's the beauty of patch watching...there is always tomorrow.

Small Copper

Small Tortoiseshell
On the home patch this week a few new additions to the list are beginning to trickle through -  a juv Spotted Flycatcher on Tuesday, 2 Dunlin and a Knot with 336 Golden Plover on Thursday. Not a year tick here but only the second on patch was a female Shoveler on the pond this evening hiding under the overhanging trees. A good bird for here but I'd have swapped if for a Gadwall...

128. Spotted Flycatcher
129. Dunlin
130. Knot

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A few recent moths...

Last nights moth trap was abit of a disaster really. There was heavy rain most of the night, then when I got up, a bird, most likely a Wren, had been in eaten a few and crapped on a few then made off. So I didnt do a full count but picked the new arrivals for the year...

I believe this is 0421 Argyresthia bonnetella, a new species for me and the garden list. If you know better give me a shout please.

After a good run of Dark Sword-grass when we first came here with 4 in 2010, 13 in 2011 and 3 in 2012 I became a bit blase about them. That soon changed though after Oct 2012 when no more came until last night, almost 3 years later!

The two above are, top, Sallow and bottom, Feathered Gothic. Autumn species making their first showing this year. The autumn moths are some of my favourites and these two fit in that list somewhere.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Took a flexi day off today and it just happened to coincide with one of the most glorious summer mornings we have had this year.

 Met up with JWR at Amble first thing to cover the Coquet Estuary patch. Although the primary goal was to look for waders, this turned out to be a bit slow, so attention was diverted elsewhere. As we scanned the couple of hundred Dunlin out on the mud, a Peregrine flew right over our heads, putting everything to flight.While around the car park lots of young tits and warblers etc had grouped up to feed in the warm sheltered hedges.


juvenile Chiffchaff
A call into Amble to check the harbour found no sign of the Caspian Gull, but a moulting adult Mediterranean Gull was in its usual spot along the Little Shore and a Kingfisher made a brief appearance right in the harbour car park!. Up to 12 Goosanders were in the area. After a very short call into the CO-OP, John was just commenting on the blooms on a privet in the car park when we noticed a Comma feeding there. This was very short lived as it dived over the embankment never to be seen again.

A walk from the Warkworth beach car park down the north side was very pleasant but quiet bird wise. Best were 3 Little Egrets, a Sanderling, sev Turnstones and a few Common Sandpipers.

Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Life goes on...

I forgot to add, in the excitement of the Tom Jones concert, when we came home, I popped out for a stroll with Bunty. It was almost midnight and all was quiet as we crept along the lane near the village hall. As I glanced up, a round, tubby shape was sticking out from the otherwise straight trunk of an old Scots Pine. I wondered...

Creeping closer with the headlamp, I pointed up to see the lovely round shape of a Tawny Owl looking back at me. Its head swayed side to side, making wonder who was actually watching who ( hoo hoo). He then flew off, silently over head to continue his evening in peace.

The owl wasnt in the least concerned about health and safety at Alnwick Castle...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Mama told me not to come...

Last night we had a family outing to Alnwick Castle to see the iconic Sir Tom Jones. Even a few months back when we bought our tickets, something wasn't quite right. At every other summer concert at the castle it is a family affair with groups of friends and relations carrying chairs and tables or blankets and full picnics into the pastures. It doesn't matter whether you get a good view or not, you can hear the band, eat, drink and be merry. We've enjoyed Jules Holland, Quo and 10cc in the past and were looking forward to this summer special.

That is, until the word came out that no food or drink was allowed into the ground. What? People were up in arms with various letters to the Northumberland Gazette etc, but all to no avail. We had our picnic outside the perimeter fence, before being frisked at the gate for drink. Weapons were ok, but a bottle of  Prosecco was a step too far. Oh and another thing, there is usually a massive firwork display after the headline act, but not this time I'm afraid.

When we got inside, the lay out was different to other years, being very narrow at the front, corralled in by beer tents on the east and west flanks. As the mixer tower was in its usual central spot this made viewing very tricky.

Anyway, we sat through a couple of mediocre acts whose name escapes me, at a range that required the Hubble telescope, with a sound system that would make Motorhead sound like Lonnie Donegan.

Sir Tom was due on at 8.30pm. At 8.25pm I sloped off from the family and squeezed through the crowds down to the front half to get some photos when our man came on stage. Being fashionably late, Tom's band emerged to rapturous applause and cheers while theatrical red lights fired up. However, before our be-knighted vocalist could show his face, there was a pop, and all lights and sound was extinguished. The generator had gone. Great.

Ants ran around the stage trying to get it sorted. They were ready for attempt No2 at 9.10pm, and all seemed well as 'The Voice' came out and did his thang. We weren't disappointed. The wait was soon forgotten and Sir Tom engaged the crowd with light hearted banter, working through an excellent repertoire as ladies hurled items of underwear stagewards. Jane thought one sizeable pair of knicks was a Woodpigeon on a collision course!

50 minutes passed by and the whole front few rows that could hear it ( sound at the back was no better) were jumping. Sir Tom was getting well into his stride with 'You can leave your Hat on' for a recording, when the place went black again. Another outage.

This proved to be a cut to far for our seasoned crooner, we could almost hear him saying 'this would never have happened to Elvis' who downed tools and legged to back to Vegas or Swansea or somewhere...  

My thoughts on the matter are like this -

1. No picnics so that a profit could be made by flogging watered down drink at massive prices.
2. An 'Amstrad' sound system was used, so the crowd had to be funnelled into a small area to hear the bloody thing.
3. The generator was not up to the wattage from all the kit used in a gig of this size.
4. There were no mid way speakers to throw sound right to the back.
5. The narrow lay out and close proximity of tents and vans made viewing very poor and moving around even more difficult than usual.

I am looking forward to hearing what the press release from Loose Cannon Productions will say as the whole crowd were baying for blood.

I have only one last thing to say to Loose Cannon...

...that aint no way to have fun, son...

Monday, August 03, 2015

Casper the friendly Gull....

Even I am starting to get a bit bored with gull posts on here, but with out doubt yesterdays highlight was the returning Caspian Gull, now an adult, to Amble Harbour. That alone shows how things are at the minute.

In the bottom photo, the structural differences between the two gulls are quite apparent. The Caspian shows long sloping back, Long , pale lemon bill with dark beady eye. The legs are longer too and not as pink.

I arrived at Warkworth Gut at 6.30am in lovely calm sunshine, but by 7am it was spotting with rain. This soon became heavy and by the time I was viewing from Amble Braid, I was under an umbrella.

Of note around the estuary were 1 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 40+ Dunlin, 1 Turnstone, 7 Little Egrets ( inc 6 together in a dead tree) and a party of 4 Shoveler, a scarce bird on this patch, circling around the Old Water reed bed before moving off towards Alnmouth.

I headed back home at 10am, rained off.

The sun came out later as I did last nights moth trap, so here are a couple to be going on with...

Buff Arches.

Pinion streaked Snout, restrained or it would have flown off.
Grass Emerald, a raggy worn individual.