Friday, April 19, 2019

At last!

... spring has sprung!

But, lets pause. On the TV weather forecast I am seeing those inland people with temps up to 22+ degrees. Within sight of the Northumberland coast, here, we did have 12 degrees but the wind was still sharp. The key was to get into a sheltered spot.

During the day, I hung around the garden and through our village wood to the pond field. This was my first butterfly day of the year with 7 Peacocks, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 female Orange Tip, 1 Small White and best of all, 3 Holly Blues in the garden. Last year i had my first confirmed Holly Blue in August here but it was too quick to photograph but thes eones, 2 males and a female, were a bit more cooperative...

Its great at this time of year to see more biodiversity on the local patch...

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Dark edged Bee-fly

Kidney spot Ladybird

Mute Swan, cob.

Female Orange Tip

Our garden this morning

Primrose bank near the pond field


Germander  Slender Speedwell ( see comments)

Common Violet

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Continental Stonechat? Maybe?

Tonight I had a walk down to the Howick Burn moth and back by the shore with the intent of looking for a Black Redstart on patch. A couple have been seen in the county today and these east winds might have brought some more.

As I walked from Seahouses Farm, south along the old 'tee-pee track', I flushed an odd looking Stonechat. It was a very brightly marked male, and quite unlike the few local birds we have here. It behaved differently too, being very flighty indeed, not allowing me anywhere near it whereas the local birds feed as close as garden Robins on most days.

Our locals, Saxicola torquata hibernans, are very brownish bodied with the chestnut breast reaching all the way down to the lower belly and up to the flanks. This bird showed characteristics similar to the Continental Stonechat Saxicola torquata rubicola . This form is not officially recognised on the British list, not becasue it doesnt occur here, in fact it is believed to have bred in the UK on more than one occasion, but because many authorities dont recognise them as seperate forms at all. Only the most distinctive specimens seem to stand out.  Compare my bird to these on Birding Frontiers...

Today's bird showed the following 'pro' rubicola features -

Broad extensive white collar patches, making the black head seem almost capped in appearance.
Very black upperparts.
Orange breast restricted to the upper centre, with the flanks and lower belly being white.
Upper tail coverts were white.
The white inner greater coverts were clean and extensive in flight.

Unfortunately the bird kept low so I didnt see the underwing at all.

Although there is no way to be sure, I do think this bird is at least a migrant and not a local breeder. We never get them looking like this as early as this. Its behaviour too was more migrant like, being very flighty and dashing off long distances.

Its not going to get the twitchers going but it brightened my evening, and was quite thought provoking.

I didnt find any Black Redstarts....

Possible Continental Stonechat S t rubicola. Typical view this evening. Note capped appearance, restricted orange in breast with white flanks. 

Two truly awful flight shots but if you squint you can see white upper tail covs that were more obvious in life.

A crop of the fist shot. Compare with a local male Stonechat St hibernans, below. See the brownish less advanced look, more extensive orange chestnut below covering all underparts except the undertail coverts. Easier to approach too.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cold Spell

Usually when we want easterly winds we cant get one! Now, when a southerly might actually be of some help ( unlike in September) its easterlies all the way and rather cold with it.

Today we went inland a short way up onto the Alnwick Moors as the coast seemed very quiet and the wind was irritating, but up on the moor it was still hand numbingly cold.

The weather veered from hail to sunshine but it was too cold for much wildlife activity. All morning we saw just a couple of bumblebees with no other inverts whatsoever. Even the Adders remained under cover.

Still, we walked up the the highest point, seeing a pair of Ravens, 15 Golden Plover with 1 Lapwing but the highlight was a close fly by from a pair of Sparrowhawks, the male had his undertail fluffed out in display. He then returned to chase off a second male who was hoping to get in on the act. Lovely.

Apart from being accompained by Meadow Pipits and Skylarks that was just about all the noteworthy activity for the day.

At least the cloud and sun made for some nice dramatic scenery...


Monday, April 01, 2019

Marching on...

Since the February summary one or two predicted list additions have appeared on site. My partner in crime from Surrey, Steve Gale is going great guns for an inland patch. Steve is running two patches, a big one and a more localised little'un. As I have the sea on hand, it is his 'Uber patch' that I am competeing with and at the end of March we are pretty much neck and neck.

I seem to have had a miss count somewhere with 103 species in my notebook but only 102 on a small checklist I am using. I'll have to go with the list rather than book as the notebook is just handwritten so I cant see where I've gone wrong. Anyway, it'll all balance out in the end I'm sure.

My new species for this month are Chiffchaff on 8th March, 2 days earlier than my previous patch first arrival, Lesser black backed Gull 1 on 17th over the village, still my only one this year, Canada Geese, 2 N along the coast path on 26th, Mediterranean Gull, a first summer with Black headeds on the plough on 28th.

102 species / 201 all time = 50.74%

Last sunrise of March 2019 on patch.