Sunday, November 24, 2019

We never talk about Pipe Club...

What a grim weekend! Rain all day yesterday and today it was misty with mizzle and it barely got light all day.

I met John (on his birthday) and had a wander around Branton Pits near Powburn.

Everywhere was soaking wet underfoot but it was mild and calm so we did a lap of the pits. A few birds were of interest, a pair of Pochard, rare for me these days and what a shame, they used to be commonplace when I was a kid, 11 'sinensis' candidate Cormorants sitting in alder trees looking like wind blown umbrellas, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Kingfisher, 7 probable Waxwings flew over at first light and there were good numbers of commoner wildfowl too. A big flock of Siskins followed us around with over 200 birds, but unusually only a couple of Lesser Redpolls with them.

A particularly interesting fungi caught our eye along the western edge of the pits near the west hedgerow. It took more experienced people than me to name it as Macrotyphula fistulosa var contorta or Contorted Pipe Club to us. This fungi has a restricted split distribution  -

But it doesnt seem to have any records near Northumberland so its worth recording.

Above - Contorted Pipe Club Macrotyphula fistulosa var contorta
Here is the location - NU4321650

I've been enjoying the fungi over recent weeks, so I'll try and post some more soon.

Remember, the first rule of Pipe Club.... 

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Its not all birds...

This year the blog has had less posts than normal and most of those are birding related, so its time to diversify.

I have been moth trapping here now for just over 10 years, in all seasons and weathers. The main thing that I always find amazing is that even after this length of time, new species still arrive. And not just obscure dissected micros either, full on furry bodied, proper, macro moths. How can you trap for 10 years and never see a species only for one to turn up out of the blue? Even more interesting is when more than one individual is caught!

Now that November is upon us, it is unlikely that any further new additions will be made this year, though a Sprawler wouldn't go amiss. Here are the new garden additions for 2019.

35.032 Pexicopia malvella  Hollyhock Seed Moth 

One taken on the 9th August was not only a garden addition but a first for Northumberland too!

35.129 Caryocolum viscariella

One on 16th August was the 5th county record and the first since 2015.

37.108 Colephora salicorniae

 It was a surprise to find this large plain Coleophora in the trap on 2nd August when its nearest saltmarsh habitat is 4+ miles away. The first adult taken in the county, but the 2nd record due to several larval cases being found on one occasion in 2014.

49.195 Bactra furfurana

One on 29th June was the 15th county record.

49.298 Notocelia trimaculana 

A more expected addition with 185 county records of this hawthorn feeder. 2 caught.

49.359 Grapholita janthinana

With 38 records in the county, this one may be scarce but was likely to arrive at some stage. Mine came on 16th July.

62.005 Achroia grisella Lesser Wax Moth

Only 19 county records of this one that was never even on my radar. One on 22nd July.

70.211 Macaria notata Peacock Moth

The first new 'macro' moth in the list was on the 27th July. It was the 2nd for Northumberland after Martin Kitching caught one in Choppington 25 miles further south in 2017.

72.013 Euproctis similis Yellow-tail

A moth from further south really with 66 individuals in Northumberland. This one was a favourite a real litlle cracker! 27th July and 28th July. Two different individuals.

72.042 Atolmis rubricollis Red-necked Footman

Now a common species in our upland pine plantations with 3900 individuals recorded this is the first I have had on the coast since seeing one arrive over the sea in 2007 at Boulmer!  10th July 2019. It flew off before I could get a photo. Here is the 2007 individual...

72.063 Lygephila pastinum Blackneck.

A great year for these in the county. Of the 15 individuals in the county, 11 were this year. Mine was the first for VC68 and the furthest north to date. 22nd July.

73.222 Apterogenum ypsillon Dingy Shears.

One I should have had before now, but two different ones on consecutive nights was nice. With 140 individuals in the county only 5 are from the north VC68. 27th and 28th July. Both certainly different as the first was still in the fridge when I caught the second!

73.331 Diarsia dahlii Barred Chestnut

Another common species but more so further inland. I was pleased with this one on the 29th August.

These 14 new ones for 2019 take the garden list up to 603 including aggs etc. All of these above have been accepted by Tom Tams county recorder and where required gen dets were carried out by him.

The trap has hardly been out in November but if we get a mild spell I'll have a go over the winter...

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

First storm of winter or last one of autumn?

The view from my Craster seawatch spot.
The North East wind last night was a roaring animal, bending trees and stripping them clean of foliage. By the time I took Peggy for her first walk this morning, the rain had stopped and the wind, whilst still strong, had dropped slightly. The sea was enormous and roaring as the rollers smashed into the rocky shore. Balls of ivory foam were blowing along the coast road and over the fields.

This was too harsh for a Cullernose seawatch so I headed down to Craster where the view point is lower but has a bit of a wind break.

I watched from 09.15 - 10.30am. The passage was unremarkable, being so late in the season, but there was enough to keep the interest going. The list went like this with all birds going North unless otherwise stated.

Wigeon 8 N 9 S
Common Scoter 207
Velvet Scoter 1 fem
Long tailed Duck 3
Goldeneye 20
Red breasted Merganser 2
Goosander 1 adult drake 1
Red throated Diver 1 N 1 S
Great Northern Diver 1
Little Auk 3

All against a light movement of Gannets, Kittiwakes and larger Auks.

A female Velver Scoter moves N.
From here I decided to check the Craster Heughs for migrants before home for lunch.

First bird, not a migrant, but a bit of a patch mega these days was a Marsh Tit [161], calling and showing well, but I couldn't get a photo, it was too quick for me. This site is a Willow Tit hotspot with up to 6 birds present recently so where this lone Marsh has appeared from is anyones guess. A totally unexpected year list addition.

Real migrants were noticeable by their absence, but a few Blackbirds high in a hawthorn over the path were scrutinised. Then I saw that in the middle of them was a lone Waxwing! This will likely be the bird Ben had in the village on Sunday, but as it is a first for 2019 I was well pleased to get it. This makes Waxwing being added to every one of my patch year lists since I moved here in 2009 and this week is a prime time to get one.

Also here 500+ Pink footed Geese flew around to the west.

Above -  Waxwing, an adult male too. It never moved from this spot where every angle was obscured by twigs.
After lunch at home, I thought I had better just pop back out for an hour to Cullernose as the wind had dropped further and it had brightened up a bit.

From 1.10 - 2.10pm I had a nice selection even though most seabird passage had dried up.

Little Auk 6
Pomarine Skua 1 juv very close in, great views.
Common Scoter 7
Dark bellied Brent Geese 6
Long tailed Duck 6
Snow Bunting 1 imm male N then seemed to drop down onto the coast path further north, a good claw back after my off-patch birds on Sunday. [162]
Raven 1 over head.

So, not a bad day in the field really with 3 patch year ticks. At this late date, I'm sure my listing additions will be coming to a close...
Edit -I have just realised I am on 162, equalling my best year ever, 2010. Can it be, dare I say it... beaten?
Edit 2 - I have just updated my spreadsheet and it puts me on 163! After going through it species by species, I am confused... It looks like the record has been broken!!

The view south from Cullernose Point, the Howick Bathing House can be seen then Longhoughton Steel behind that.

Cullernose, the great whin sill cliff.

Goldeneyes and a Red breasted Merganser.

Monday, November 04, 2019


We are getting a lot of 'seawatching weather' recently. Some years we hardly get a day with a northerly. However, not all northerlies produce the goods and its a learning curve of experience to pick out good from bad.

I knew today would be a bad one. The wind was NE and gusty, and to the uninitiated seemed good, but, if you drill down a bit, it was coming off a low in the North Sea, not one that had tracked across the top of Scotland hence there was no pre-north westerly ( are you with me) to blow birds into the upper North Sea and then down further south so they can re-track North.

I know that sounds a bit garbled but I hope you get the gist.

We were on Cullernose from 07.30 until 0855.

It was slow.

Still, we managed 8 Little Auks, all nice and close, some landing in front of us, 1 Common Scoter, 2 Long tailed Duck, 1 Velvet Scoter, 2 Red throated Diver, 2 Goldeneye, 5 Fulmar inc a likely Blue phase going S but only see from its arse end as it disappeared, and 5 Eiders.  Gannets and Auks go without saying.

From here we headed along to Craster for some shelter and maybe some passerine action. We had the shelter.

There had been a reasonable fall of thrushes with 30+ Blackbirds, 8+ Redwing, 4+ Song Thrush, 3+ Fieldfare but no small stuff, not even a Chiff or Blackcap to be had.

Best of the walk were 3 Snow Buntings N, just about 300 mtrs out of patch boundary ( they flew from the patch but I was neither in it or saw them in it so they don't count. 6 Willow Tits are good by anyones standards these days and 7 Grey Partridge, 1 Treecreeper and 4+ Goldcrest added interest.

Time for home I stopped at Johns car back at Cullernose. A short scan of the flooded newly sown field had an adult and a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, then just before leaving the mega arrived! A Little Egret [160]no less flew low over the fields and off north! Thats patching for you, only my 4th sighting here in 10 years and one I didnt have any hope of adding to the 2019 year list...

Off work on Tuesday and the weather forecast looks dog rough.... wave watching likley...