Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Brown behind the Blue...

This weekend we had our annual visit into Scotland to look for butterflies. Its not as pioneering as it seems as we only go 5 miles over the border, a total of about 35 miles from home...

The sites were Lamberton and Burnmouth and our targets, Small Blue and Northern Brown Argus ( I will keep calling them Argos...). You can park in a good sized car park on the cliff tops east of Lamberton then walk north for a mile taking in the scenery, before reaching the nice Small Blue colony on some scree slopes.

As we arrived quite early our subjects were not even up, so we pottered about until the sun warmed sufficiently to put some blues on the wing. We ended up seeing about 13 individuals with some females egg laying. Also here were 20+ Small Heath, 6+ Wall Brown, 1 Grasshopper Warbler reeling, a Cuckoo and a Peregrine nest with 2 well grown chicks.

Small Blue habitat.

Female Small Blue on Kidney Vetch. 

Male Small Blue

Small Heath mating pair.

Kidney Vetch
Wood Vetch I think?
Our next stop was just a minute along the road at Burnmouth. Although it was now dull and breezy we still checked suitable rock rose and valerian sites where surprisingly we found 4 Northern Brown Argus.

Above -  Northern Brown Argus

Drinker Moth caterpillar

Plum Tortrix were on the wing in good numbers today.

Wall Brown.
Metallina segmentata a small orb weaver spider.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Horton hears a ...

The Dr Seuss book came to life yesterday in the field behind us when each buttercup flower was dotted with the micro moth - Cocksfoot Moth Glyphipterix simpliciella. In a square metre I counted easily a hundred moths, so multiply that and there will have been thousands present...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Yardhope Oaks.

A trip west into Upper Coquetdale where the ancient woodland of Yardhope was our destination on Sunday morning. We dont have much woodland in North Northumberland other than massive pine plantations, so this is always a place I look forward to visiting.

Before we left, down at Alnwick, the roadside near the pastures was full of dandelion clocks and the brightest Red Campion ever. This resulted in a short stop. Sometimes the commonplace, are just as nice as those rarities we chase after so keenly...

Up at Yardhope we had 6+ Redstarts, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 2+ Tree Pipits, 2 Garden Warblers and 60+ Crossbills. A Roe Buck came close but was off too quickly for my camera though John might have done well. A Cuckoo called and a Buzzard flew over but there was little else of note, but not to worry, its just being out here in the wilds that makes the day...

Above - Yardhope Oaks. The lime green grassy patch was a wet spring in the forest. It really was that illuminous!

Redstarts always remain quite distant and flighty.

Tree Pipit displaying from song perch.

Common Cow-wheat. Not common at all.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Another goodie...

And no I'm not on about Tim Brooke-Taylor, I am on about today's Red-rumped Swallow at Druridge Pools. Luckily its presence coincided with lunch time so I dashed along for a 20 minute sample then back to work, not bad! This is my 3rd for Northumberland, the last being on Holy Island back in 2000 so it was long overdue a revisit.

Cracking birds, Red rumps, they seem so much more exotic than our own Swallows. Dashing around in the lee of the baffle bank at Druridge with 50+ mixed hirundines, sometimes coming right up to the hide then vanishing for a minute or two before resuming its circuit. As I arrived back at work, ADMc found a second bird with this one, 2 Red rumps together is a red letter day!

What a good year we are having in the county...I think Northumberland is up there with the best. Imagine what would be found if we had as many birders as Norfolk?

Too wet for the camera, and I had forgotten my notebook so some rough lines were drawn on scrap paper as a reminder then these done back at home... 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Green Lights....

This morning I met John at Alnwick Homebase and we headed down to Lynemouth Flash to see if the Citrine Wagtail was still around. It only took 5 minutes to realise it had departed overnight, so we headed up into Druridge Bay. First stop was quite interesting.

As I pulled into the roadside next to the pool north of Cresswell Pond causeway, I said to John, its a good time for Temminck's Stint this. Also this morning I commented to John Atkinson on Twitter that the shower overnight was good for grounding waders...so we scanned the muddy edges. Soon John said, 'Theres a small wader over there'. I soon saw the white belly giving it away and it immediately appeared small, so I suggested we need to get the scopes on it and bailed out of the car.

As soon as I got on it I could see it was a Temminck's Stint! Worse though, it was crouching and looked ready to flush. After a few seconds, it seemed to settle and began to feed then preen and bath in the shallow water, so I put the news out. I looked up at John briefly and then back at the bird only to see an empty patch of mud where it had been. We hadn't even seen it fly off, but there was no further sign by the time we left...

Anyway, I managed a drawing and some notes, then added colour back at home -

We celebrated with breakfast in the Drift Inn Cafe and very nice it was too...

Checking Druridge Pools and Bells Pools we had 3 Black tailed Godwits, 1 male Ruff in breeding plumage, 1 Little Owl showing well, good numbers of Swifts, and a couple of Wheatears.

Little Owl
The sun began to shine so we decided to have another look up Alnwick Moor for Green Hairstreaks despite not finding any here for a few years. Rather than checking just the known spot we ranged half a mile further over and were please to find a couple of males holding territories in the birch and bilberry scrub. Also here a Cuckoo showed well calling next to the car park.

The view west...

Green Hairstreak habitat.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Work birds...

Before I left home this morning I hesitated, then thought I had better take my birding kit in the car with me to work, just in case. After all it is mid May and the wind is swinging east...

Sitting at my desk, drinking tea, waiting for an 11 o'clock appointment to arrive ( they never did) and my phone vibrates twice... Citrine Wagtail, Lynemouth Flash!

Now, Lynemouth Flash is all of about 3 miles from my office, so, I necked my tea, made some lame excuses to work colleagues and dashed off on some, er, visits.

A line of cars indicated the spot, a scruffy looking flash pool on a field, liberally scattered, with piles of fly tipping and mongrel horses dotted around. The flash runs right next to the road, just north of a travellers site, hence its condition. As soon as I parked up, gathered the gear and wandered along to see the familiar faces, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bird could hardly be feeding any closer. It was along the muddy fringe, just over the wall from the road, a nice female Citrine Wagtail.

Straight away it looked the part, showing dove grey upperparts, two broad white wing bars with coverts and tertials edged white. The yellow face bordered the greenish ear coverts, and face on, it sported a nice olive-coloured, spangled, gorget of a necklace.

As if to say have you got everything, it flew up onto some bushes and called a harsh sharp note, rougher and more hoarse than flava wagtails do.

It fed very actively right around the edge of the small pool, performing admirably for the small crowd.

Up until 2015 there had been 10 records from Northumberland, mostly in autumn.This is my third here, after an adult female in May 1991 at Hauxley and a juv at Alnmouth in September 2005, so it was about time for another.

A very nice bird to get, and I managed to get back to work scarcely half an hour after I left. I'm so pleased I put my stuff in the car...    

Monday, May 08, 2017

Some winter birds...

With the north wind still blowing the spume from a crashing sea, the bitter cold, salt laden spray stung my face as I headed out to the Beacon Point at Newbiggin Golf Course. First circuit drew a blank for my target species, but did find 20+ summer plumaged Purple Sandpipers, 10+ summer plumaged Sanderling and several Common Terns roosting out the high tide. Up to 10 Wheatears scattered in all directions along the route, but it was on my return back towards the car that I found the summer plumaged male Snow Bunting running around the short turf of the fairway.

My first breeding dress Snow Bunt in Northumberland, they are a rare bird this late in the spring. This one was quite flighty due to being buffetted by the gale...

Snow Bunting
Eventually it flew another 50 yards along the golf course so that was me away back to work...

Later on my way home from work I called in to Druridge Budge Fields to catch up with another showy winter visitor,  Jack Snipe. Also here were 1 Channel Wagtail with a Yellow Wag, 2 Ruff inc one summer plumaged The Jack was bobbing around like a sewing machine feeding on invertebrates out of the mud. 3 Swifts fed with 100+ hirundines across the fields.

Channel Wagtail

Jack Snipe.
Not a bad little tally on a work day...

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Join the Dots...

Before I get on to this weekend, a little catch up from midweek. On Wednesday as I came back home from Bunty's walk before work, I noticed a large bird slowly heading towards us along the lane, coming from the direction of the pond field. At first, heron springs to mind, but the bowed wing shape just wasnt there even though the wing span was quite similar. Its angular appearance rang bells and I could see it was heading low across our village where a neighbour was waiting with her son for the school bus. I shouted, 'Lynsey!' 'OSPREY!' and pointed above her as it languidly travelled straight over her head. Although I have never heard her talk about natural history, she did seem interested in the large raptor continuing its migration...This is the 4th I have had in the area since 2009 and its my second garden record.

Right, back to this weekend.

Saturday started very early at 4am, when I got up to go and lead a Dawn Chorus walk at Howick Hall, just up the road. At first it seemed quiet outside then a Blackbird began proceedings, followed from our garden by Skylark, Grasshopper Warbler and Wren, while a Barn Owl carried prey over the back field to a nearby nest.

The walk started at 5am continuing until 7am. It was ticket 'do' with breakfast included for the 30 or so attendees. The walk was sold out I'm glad to say, as we limit it to this number. Any more would detract from the very reason people turn up at that time in the morning. 44 sp were recorded during the time and guests even managed a bonus Red Squirrel from feeders at the tea room as they ate breakfast. Bird highlights included Lesser Whitethroat, Gadwall and Tawny owl, all new for these, now annual, early wanders.

I spent the day in tired daze despite having a couple of hours dozing when I got home.

At 7pm, I was just about to leave home to collect Jane from the train station, when news came through of three Dotterel just down the road at Boulmer, so I carried out my taxi duty and off we went to see if these harlequin plovers were still there.

Luckily they were, in the same field as those Shorelarks from the other week, and we were well pleased to see that all three were lovely bright females. Dotterels carry out role and plumage reversal during breeding. Like phalaropes, it is the male who is dull and carries out all domestic duties while the female is brightly flamboyant. Unfortunately they were too distant for anything other than a record photo, but they really brightened up the field as they periodically ran around, punctuated by prolonged rests down in the barley. I dont think I have seen adult Dotterel in the county before but have seen several juveniles. Its a long while since my last one...

Dotterel in the gloom...
Today the North wind strength has increased making it more like March than May ( we say that every year) resulting in the need for two coats early on.

A return to Boulmer this morning for better pics of the Dotterel failed as they had departed overnight. Some compensation was had by the presence of a male Whinchat and 4 Wheatears, while 145 and 70 Barnacle Geese flew N along the shore. One male Wheatear struggled with a beetle, possibly a vine weevil, that had become entangles in some sheep wool...

Wheatear with beetle seen here in the sheeps wool...

Some of the migrating Barnacle Geese today.
After being frozen on exposed Boulmer Steel. we headed off to Low Newton to see if there were any more migrants there.

Really the wind had us defeated, but we tried, coming up with Grasshopper, Sedge and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. A female Wheatear was on the pond edge while a female Brambling was held up on her way north by this awful wind.

A fw fem Brambling, looking tired near the Long Nanny car park.

And while northern birds are still migrating, this juvenile Song Thrush shows an already successful breeding season for its parents...