Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I know you're in there...

This morning dawned foggy and very autumnal. It was cool and quiet. After I took Bunty for her walk I put her back in the house and took a wander over to the back hedge to see if there were any migrants about. There weren't.

As I strolled back trying to take photos of fog and dew, it dawned on me that there was some frantic calling going on, coming from the sycamores behind our shed. 'Tiissswissp!' was the cry, again and again for maybe a minute. Yellow-browed Warbler! I tried to get some bearings on it, but as I approached my usual watching spot it went quiet. So, I moved back into the garden where some thin sunshine was warming to garden edge of the trees. Surely this would get the siberian active?

I waited for maybe an hour, checking not only the garden but neighbours gardens too, but no joy. The Russian had slipped the net, leaving only a female Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests in the wood. Overhead 2 Redpolls and a Grey Wagtail with 10+ Skylarks flew south....

It might be still around here somewhere....

The calls came from those trees on the far left....

Monday, September 28, 2015


While sitting in protecting the painters from terrier attack, a few Chiffchaffs were still loitering around the garden with the female Blackcap. Plenty of Redpolls around too with 9 S and another 6 in the village wood.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


I'll split this post in two halves, firstly I started out here at home for an hour, then popped down to Warkworth to meet John, then back here to loiter around the garden again as yesterday. A lovely sunny day, a bit cooler, but a cracker of an autumn day all the same.


This morning was out before sunrise down to the Bathing House area just to see if there was any viz mig and to get a sunrise photo.

70 Golden Plovers were roosting in Tommy's field, while 300 Pinkfeet flew south over head. 3 Swallows, a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits also moving south shortly after it got light.

At 7.30am I headed off to Warkworth, see below, returning at 12.30pm.

This afternoon I spent a lot of time just watching what was going on around our garden. There were loads of butterflies again as well as many Silver Y moths. As the sun was quite bright, I kept the camera handy to get some shots of the butterflies as they appeared....


Small Tortoiseshell


Red Admiral

In addition to these four, there were Speckled Wood, Large White and Small White.

The roving party of Long tailed Tits came back, this time bringing a Treecreeper and 8 - 12 Chiffchaffs. Two Blackcaps fed in the yew and elder bushes. Still no striped sprite...


The time spent at Warkworth was equally lazy but this time sitting at a picnic bench drinking tea and scoffing Bakewell Tarts while watching the birds pass overhead. We had a steady stream of Skylarks ( 50+), Meadow Pipits, 9 Redpolls, 6+ Pied Wagtails, 3+ Swallows, 250 Pink-footed Geese, a few Linnets, Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows. A Snipe bucked the trend by going North.

In the scrub were 4 -5 Chiffchaffs, 2+ Blackcaps, 1 Reed Warbler, 10+ Blackbirds.

Reed Warbler
  We ended down at the estuary where things seemed a bit quieter. The juv Black tailed Godwit was there but there were only 2 Knot with the masses of Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew and Lapwing. Two Little Egrets and 18 Teal were above the weir.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Around the garden and village.

Long-tailed Tit feeding on aphids below elder leaves.

Grey Dagger caterpillar.
I'm off work now for a couple of days for no reason really, I just fancied it.

As the weather has been quite nice yesterday and today ( yesterday best, today was a little bit dull) we've been catching up on some gardening and just generally mooching around the village with Bunty.

On Thursday at dusk my first Pink footed Geese of the autumn flew south over the house, about 100 birds in total.

Yesterday arrivals continued with 30, 65, 70 all going south. I thought that the low cloud today would bring a better count but I only saw one party of 60 all day.

A few phylloscs have been hanging around, with 8+ Chiffchaffs and a single bright Willow Warbler associating with 13+ Long tailed Tits, 2 Goldcrests and the usual commoner garden dwellers. Long tailed Tit is not that common in the village, usually being found in the wooded areas along the road. I've been grilling this flock until I am boss-eyed trying to find a Yellow-browed Warbler. Maybe next weekend...

Over head some viz mig has produced   a few Redpolls, Skylarks and Grey Wagtails with one or two Song Thrushes newly arrived from the east.

This mild summery weather has brought a lot of butterfly activity to the garden. There have been Red Admirals, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large and Small White, Speckled Wood and Wall Brown. Two Painted Lady were along the coast path.

This lot is all well and good but its not adding to the flagging patch list. Hows about a hint of easterly in the weather forecast please?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

When its dark...

Howick Village Hall in the moonlight.
 On Friday night, for the garden moth scheme, I had two moth traps running in the garden.

What I failed to realise was that the skinner I had positioned out to the front in a more open, south facing, aspect to entice a Convolvulous Hawk-moth, was also perilously close to a heavily fruiting yew tree. These soft red fruits has attracted the attentions of hundreds of Common Wasps, that were, in turn, drawn to the light from the MV bulb.

When I came to check the traps in the morning I found not only a few moths in this one, but about 500 groggy wasps! As it was cool early on I managed to gingerly lift each egg tray out and rescue some of the moths. The trays were replaced and the trap left for the squatters to escape in due course.

Illegal occupants of trap 1.

Luckily the other trap around the other side was less like a bomb disposal, containing only a few wasps from the ripe brambles, so I managed to get a few nice autumn moths. Who would have thought there would be danger in moth trapping?

Black Rustic, looks like a vampire's curtains...

Pink barred Sallow.

Great camouflage from the Angle Shades.

New for the year, 4 Canary shouldered Thorns brightened things up a bit.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Bill

An old sketch done in the field at Harwood Forest....

On Friday morning as I left the house for work, a familiar call greeted me. Several calls actually, with lots of chip, clip etc sounding like an aviary, I glanced up to see a nice party of 13 Crossbills circling and bobbing in flight overhead. It looked like they had come from the pines near the village hall and were moving off North. Crossbills are seen most years on the patch here, except for 2014. The best time is from around June and I fancied this would be another blank due to this late date, but they can occur at any time.

141. Crossbill

Sunday, September 13, 2015

It was still quite dark as I arrived at the top car park at Warkworth this morning to meet up with John.

After yesterday's heavy rain and SE winds hopes were high of something interesting in the car park scrub, but, like with Craster yesterday, it was very quiet. Still as the sun came up birds started to get active. An immature Marsh Harrier came from its reed bed roost, circled for a while then headed off north towards Alnmouth.

It soon became apparent that there were some birds on the move over head - VizMig...
Whilst we didn't do an accurate timed count quite a few birds were involved. From 7am - 10am we had -

Meadow Pipit - The main species involved - over 125 birds S.
Redpoll - 16
Grey Wagtail 3
Yellow Wagtail 1
Skylark 5+
Siskin 1
Swallow - began a bit later -  a slow passage south in small groups.

Skylark on the move south....
 Near the golf club  we got a surprise when a Roe doe and two yearlings ran past us. The adult cleared the fence without a problem but the youngsters weren't as athletic and  ran in the opposite direction. The doe was soon searching for them, so we left her in peace. I hope they were reunited...

The Roe Doe, the family ran in the opposite direction...

Little Egret
Down on the estuary, fewer waders than lately were on the flats. 1 Grey Plover, 7 Knot, 14 Ruff and a Black tailed Godwit, all juveniles, were the highlights here. A Sparrowhawk flushed everything including this Little Egret into a close fly past.

Up river, 6 Wigeon were of note.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Claw back...

Red-footed Falcon, Bells Farm, Cresswell - Druridge Road.

Red Footed Falcon is not a particularly rare bird in the UK being dropped from the BBRC list of species requiring notes in 2006. In some years there are massive influxes with well over 100 individuals in one year in the 90s, but very few occur as far north as Northumberland. Whilst we must have had getting on for 20 records in total, only birds in 1973 and 1980 could in any way be classed as twitchable for most people.

So when I was at my desk at work yesterday and heard a report of a fly by at Cresswell just after the Great British Tour had gone through, I kind of sneered at it, thinking, 'wonder what that was'?

Then, a short while later a nother report came through saying that a Red footed Falcon was on wires near Bells Farm, Cresswell!

I didnt take much persuasion to clock  off and dash along the road. On arrival, half a dozen county listers were watching the bird, a nice immature male, sitting on fence posts and bales only across a field corner. It looked a bit bedraggled and was seen to be in full moult. It showed well, dropping to the ground to pick up an unseen morsel, them back to its perch where it fluffed up and tail shivered. It looked quite settled until a Marsh Harrier gave a close fly by flushing our bird off the the NW horizon not to return that night.

This caused some concern for those unable to get up here in time, but their panic was unfounded as the bird was back on the bales first thing this morning and again at tea time.

What a great bird and one of my most wanted in the county having only seen one at Teesside previously ( as well as a good few in Hungary and Amurs in China)

This chap puts me on 335 for Northumberland. What is the next most sought after for me...A Honey Buzzard is way overdue....

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Yellow Card!

Right everyone, you bloggers out there need to get your acts together. Looking down my side bar to the right, I see that seven of the blogs I have linked here have not posted for more than a month, with Mr T the longest absentee with a  post about a Harlequin Duck 7 months ago as his most recent. Yep, more than half a year.

In the early days of this blog I used to have a regular 'cull' of blog links that were not updated for a month to make way for more interesting reading material. I can't have [almost] 200 members ( [almost] half a million hits since 2006 but I don't like to talk about it.... ;) ) thinking that I am resting on my laurels here.

So, time to jiggle things up a bit I reckon, change is afoot. I think everyone is spending too much time on Social Media these days, me included, so come on birders, naturalists, writers and fans of the great out doors, never mind posting pictures of your cat on FaceTwitter, get on with a blog.

Living in the back of beyond, as I do, I like to read about what my friends ( real and virtual) are getting up to in the world of natural history. Its better than BBC Wildlife Magazine and its cheaper too! If you are one of the magnificent seven, come on lets have an update, or if you read this and think I always look at this bloke's drivel, I can do better than that, I see loads of stuff, get blogging and send me a link so I can ad you to the side bar.

Take this as a warning, you have been Yellow carded. The clock is ticking...

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Summer returns.

The view south from Rumbling Kern.

And north from the same spot, the Bathing House and Seahouses Farm.

With John away for the weekend, I got up early and just went for a wander around the home patch. The seawatching seems to have come to an end for this weather system anyway. This morning the bright sun dazzled the seawatch off, so another short session this afternoon confirmed that birds were few and far between. That's not strictly true, there were still thousands of Gannets and Kittiwakes, but the more interesting species were in short supply. In 30 mins I had 4 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Sooty Shearwater and, suprisingly over a nice blue sea, a close in female Velvet Scoter.

Viz Mig showed there to be some light land movement going on with Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and a Grey Wagtail all going south.

Around the garden, the local insect population was doing its very best to get us inside, as millions of black fly ( aphids), flying ants and wasps were a proper nuisance. A good tip to stop wasps being a hazard at this time of year is to  lay out a slice of jam and bread not too far from where you are sitting. This attracts the stripey critters away from your own food and keeps them occupied for the whole day.

Common Wasps. The lad in the bottom shot looks a bit fiesty...

Down at the village hall pond a few Common Darters were on territory with a pair in cop and egg laying. A good sign.

Common Darter male. Pointing abdomen skywards to keep cool.
Just to diversify a little more, we rescued a young female Hedgehog yesterday. After a night with us on a hot water bottle, to help it get over hypothermia, she was delivered in a bit better condition to the Hedgehog Rescue Centre at Longframlington this morning.

'Pumpkin' the Hedgehog.
   What with the wind swinging around east again this coming week, there might even be some birding to be had....

Saturday, September 05, 2015

More seawatching.....

Another early start saw me down at Craster for 06.30. Weather wise, the wind was a moderate NW4 with overcast skies and dry. I was a bit paranoid this morning and double checked that I had turned everything off before leaving the car. We dont want a repeat of yesterday's fiasco.

This seawatch seemed quite slow, as usual during this spell but as time wore on, a reasonable tally was accounted for before I packed up to go home for breakfast at 8am.

Red throated Diver 8
Wigeon 46
Pintail 7 including a party of 5 with 12 wigeon, a good total for here.
Greylag 1
Common Scoter 9
Teal 1
Dunlin 25
Knot 25
Turnstone 6
Manx Shearwater 2
Sooty Shearwater 1
Bonxie 6
Arctic Skua 7
Common Tern 2
Razorbill a few specifically identified close in.
Golden Plover 4

All going north.

Whilst this total seems average, note should be made of the birds I didn't count.

Gannet 2000 per hour
Kittiwake 500 per hour
Fulmar 200 per hour
Sandwich Tern 30 per hour
Guillemots 500 per hour

These totals estimated by counting for one minute each and giving a rough multiplication. These species were never out of view, with multiples in the scope at any given time. Its great to see the skies full of birds!


Friday, September 04, 2015

Picking up...

After last nights meagre offerings of the pelagic kind, the wind got up overnight, so, I set the alarm to get me up early so I could catch an hour facing east before heading off to work.

I arrived at my seawatching spot at 6.00am and was in position and counting by 6.10. The wind was a moderate NNW5 decreasing, it was overcast with odd drizzly squalls coming in, reducing visibility.

Although it was no classic, there were clearly more birds on the move than yesterday. I watched until 7.15am, noting the following. -

Brent Geese 5N
Wigeon 39N
Teal 71N
Pintail 2N
Common Scoter 4N
Goosander 1N
Manx Shearwater 5N
Sooty Shearwater 1N
Puffin 1N
Red throated Diver 4N
Sandwich Tern 26N
Arctic Skua 2N

I put my gear back in the car and climbed in ready to drive off. It was now that I noticed a whirring sound? Hold on, I thought, that's the heating fan. I had only turned the ignition part way off, leaving the fan to nicely flatten the battery! Craster is not a good place to be stranded as there is no mobile phone signal at all due to the geology of the area. Luckily I caught the attention of a kind couple who let me into their home to use the land line.

To cut a long story short, after a bit of a faff, a mechanic from Alnwick ( that must be a Limerick somewhere) came to the rescue with a boost charger and had the car going in 10 seconds.

While he was gathering paperwork for me to sign, two birds caught my eye close in going north, lifting Kittiwakes all over - it was the 2 Arctic Skuas. First ones seen this year after a two month delay. I would have missed them if the car had worked properly :)

138. Sooty Shearwater
139. Pintail
140. Arctic Skua

These three patch additions leave my score at a clean 100% of last years total, so every new bird from now is a bonus. I wonder what will be next....?

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Same old same old...

This evening had another late dash to check the seawatching at Craster. This time the sea was much rougher, but the birding hadnt improved. All I had in 40 minutes were 21 Pale bellied Brent Geese and 10 Teal N.

Still the geese were a patch year tick...

137. Brent Goose.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky...

Craster. The north end of my patch shows the rocky shores typical of our coast here.
I have managed to fit in a few short seawatches over this Bank Holiday with not a lot to show for it really. Although the wind was from the NNW, there must be very few birds, other than the breeders of course, in the North Sea.

Yesterday, an hour from 08.45am had  -

Bonxie 2 ad N, big brutes together.
Roseate Tern 2
Teal 134 N
Common Scoter 1 N
Wigeon 10 N
Tufted Duck 3 N
Whimbrel 2 N

While another check from 4pm - 4.30pm was dead with only 5 Knot and 4 Dunlin going into the notebook.

This morning I ventured out for a 7am start. As you can see from my top photo the light was poor for viewing But a few more birds were on the go, but it was still a bit frustrating -

Gannet 50 N per minute, the whole north sea population seemed to pass.
Kittiwake 10 N per minute.
Manx Shearwater 2N
A possible Arctic Skua chased a bird on the horizon, but the more I think about this, the more I think the predator was a Peregrine, and not a skua at all!  Its behaviour was different with none of the twists and turns, just high flights and steep stoops. Shape looked right for Peregrine too, but it was too distant to call so we'll chalk that down to experience.
Carrion Crow ( yes thats right) 1 N at about half a mile range?

Back home 2 Wheatears were on the main road fence this morning.

Maybe this strengthening wind will have an effect by Thrusday? Hope so....

135. Bonxie
136. Wigeon