Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Week 6..

Sometimes I wonder if the planet is actually facing the apocalypse? I know the population has survived serious pandemics before, but maybe the collapse of the economy is what does it, not the disease? In the great Spanish Flu pandemic of a century ago, people didn't have much anyway and there was not the share holding consumerism of today.

On the News this week airlines are reporting that they are haemorrhaging money and may go bust, the hospitality industry looks like it will be in tatters and all of this impacts on other things too such as property ownership and renting etc plus all of the small businesses reliant on these larger sectors. The Government cant pay all of this forever...

Maybe the plug has been pulled and we are slowly spiralling our way down the drain...

On that cheery note, birding crack seems a bit frivolous, but here it is.

This week I have added ...

Sandwich Tern. On call only, though it is already on the garden list from sight records. I had seen 6 birds fishing just off our coast path and when I got home I realised I could hear them calling as they chased around!

Reed Bunting 1 female was on the wires along our drive. I wonder why they and yellowhammers don't come to my feeders that border the back field? Birds fly overall the time and are present only a hundred metres away in hedges. Youd think the flock of sparrows would pull them in, but I haven't had one at seed for about 7 years!

Moorhen. I heard the kek-kek-kek call clearly about 3 or 4 times while I was in the bathroom at 11.30pm. Coot was my first reaction until I listened to some nocturnal calls on xeno-canto that clearly showed my caller to be a Moorhen. I've never seen a moorhen in or from my garden, but at least I did hear it so its going on the list.

This takes my full list to 134 species seen or heard from the garden. I have had 3 new garden birds during lockdown, with Teal, Moorhen and White tailed Eagle added. I also took, retrospectively, Guillemot on call ( not on the lockdown list). That's not as bad as it sounds because every August I can hear the fledged juvvies calling for the adults on a calm sea nearby, I've just never thought of them as garden birds before. But, as long as there are folk ticking scoter from a recording, I'm having it.

What a Moorhen 'tick'should look like...
I also have to confess to something.

This week I have had two seawatches. 'What!' You exclaim. 'You're not following lockdown rules there!'

Well, I have been noting that birders across the land are out all day long 'excercising' tens of miles from home and just happening to take in any good bird that has been around, so I thought sod it, I am going for a look at the sea.

For me this involves walking 540.63 mtrs or, in old money, a third of a mile. Measured on Google Maps as accurately as possible. As the crow flies, or as the guillemot calls, the shortest distance from my garden to salt water is 236.82 mtrs. I then sit down a slope, alone, for 1 hour and walk back. Cullernose Point can wait til autumn.

Two decent spells this week had 15 Black tailed Godwit N ( patch mega), 2 Long tailed Ducks N, 1 Arctic, 4 Common and 9 Sandwich Terns N on one visit and on the other 4 Scaup S , 1 Puffin N, 2 Red throated Divers N plus good numbers of Gannets and Razorbills with many more auks further out. Not bad for spring.

For a while I forgot the shitshow taking place around us and enjoyed some normality. 

Stay safe all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Week 5.

This is getting to be as long as the kids summer holidays. Providing we are all keeping safe I am getting quite used to it too. The thing about COVID is that we don't really know if we are safe because it has an incubation period of two weeks, so God only knows what is in store for us in May.

The weather has been kind since March when all we seemed to get was rain and storms, now we have wall to wall sunshine. Living on the East coast means it is still quite cool in the breeze from the sea, but in sheltered spots its very nice.

I am really enjoying this garden watching. Usually when work beckons we never know what has gone on or over our small territory and even working from home often means we are stuck indoors for long periods but, for me, it means I am in the field at 4pm instead of 6.30pm and sprinkle in some lunch and tea breaks the area is nicely covered.

In the sunny weather the invertebrates have taken centre stage lately though there have been some good patch birds since my last outing on here.

New to the list include -

14th April - Peregrine 1 fine adult soaring over the field behind us flushing everything .
16th - Raven 1 low over the garden N, heading back to its nest site.
17th - Short eared Owl 1, a true quality patch bird here and only my 4th in 11 yrs. I was watching the back when everything lifted. I scanned and couldnt see anything then quite high up I put the glasses on a flapping circling bird that turned out to be the Owl. It continued to climb higher, almost into clouds before I lost it to the West. A bird obviously on return migration and a very acceptable addition here.
17th - Sand Martin 1, inevitable at some stage.
19th - Merlin 1 female. On Sunday a friend has two Avocets flying North over Boulmer. That means they were heading my way! I was out in the garden in no time but they must have hugged the shore and remained out of sight. As I viewed from my 'seawatching' spot, pandemonium broke out in the wood and I scanned up to see a close Merlin dash along the wood edge and out of sight. A patch year tick too.
19th - Mute Swan 1. The 'whoosh, whoosh' of wings attracted me to the distant swan as it flew low over the woods .
20th -  Whimbrel 3 flew N out the back calling as they went.

These take my LockdownGardenList up to 74 species including 6 species of raptor since 20th March.

 Still no Collared Dove or Mistle Thrush.

As for insects, I have been taking a keen interest in all, manner of creepy crawlies with a few new species for me and the garden...

Harpactea hombergi a tiny woodlouse spider look-a-like found in our bath, as you might expect. New to me.

Above -  Male and Female Hairy Footed Flower Bees. Find of the year in the garden surely, well after White tailed Eagle, but these tiny fairies are usually found south of Leeds and there are only a few Northumberland records, so I was over the moon with these.

This tiny bee on a shrub in our garden is Andrena haemorrhoa Orange tailed Mining Bee. New.
Holly Blue made a welcome return one day later than last year. Still rarer than Yellow browed Warbler here...
Vestal Cuckoo Bee Bombus vestalis was a good id lesson that I am pleased to have got right first time, confirmed by Steven Falk of the Bee Field Guide fame.
Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornis on our gable.
Zebra Jumping Spider Salticus scenicus, not new to me, but new here the first in 11 yrs of this common spider.

What diversity we have in the house and garden if only we choose to look...

Monday, April 13, 2020

Week 4. Lockdown.

As we now enter week four of the Lockdown, this must be the quietest Easter Weekend in living memory. Its like a mad vision of the future with people referring to the movie 'Contagion' as if it were some sort of documentary. I feel so lucky in that we live in a very rural area with access to our garden and views across open countryside. What it must be like to live in a flat at this time doesn't bear thinking about for me.

The fine weather over the weekend has resulted in hours sat out in the garden recording the wildlife seen, and I feel that I have even learned a little bit. For a start, here, the best times to watch are from dawn until 9am and again from 6pm until dark. Now we all kind of knew this but to have it confirmed when the mid part of the day is almost devoid of life is a good thing. Almost all new species are recorded within these periods.

In the week since my last posting a lot of spring migrants have come through here to be added on to the garden lockdown list. Personally I am only including birds seen or heard from the garden and not from my walks out with Peggy. This has encouraged some ingenuity in order to keep things ticking along.

For example, in 11 years I did not know I could seawatch from the garden!

Balanced on some boards on top of the wall near the compost dump..

Or on the ground facing up the hill and towards the coast path.

Another angle on my precarious position. I just stand up there behind the scope, on the wall.

The view NE. A Kittiwake from the cliff colony is in shot. The problem is, that bit of sea is too far out to identify anything but Gannets.

I did hit on a nice male Wheatear for the garden list though.
Since the last post, I am now on 67 species for the Lockdown period. A couple of Garden Firsts in the lot are Teal calling over in the dark and 54 Gannets N this morning from the seawatch of about 10 minutes. Also included are Swallow, House Martin, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Fieldfare, Brambling, Siskin, LBBG, Common Gull, Kittiwake, Nuthatch, Barn Owl and Wheatear. I think I will post a full list as I get my counts and list numbers mixed up...

Amongst other wildlife in the garden or from it are Brown Hare, Rabbit, Wood Mouse, Bank Vole, Hedgehog, Roe Deer and Pipistrelle . The warm spell improved the moth and butterfly numbers too..

Bank Vole coming to an apple left for it.
Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Small White seen.

Tree Sparrows have started nesting.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Lockdown Weekend again.

As we enter week 3 of working from home I thought an update is in order. As with last weekend apart from an odd dog walk most of the time has been spent in the gardening. I am in danger of making it too tidy! It will soon revert to its happy unkempt style as summer progresses...

Down to wildlife. Like every other birder in the UK I did fancy a Common Scoter on the garden list as many were on the move, migrating N in the darkness, only detected by call, but didn't have the commitment to sit for hours in the dark on the off chance, so I just popped out for a listen occasionally. I was out for a duck on this front, hearing only Golden Plover, Curlew, Tawny Owl and possibly Teal but cant be sure on that one.

The Nocmiggers all did well while they were in bed. I've seen some great comments on that front too. The best for me was one that said something along the lines of 'Of course you can tick it, after all you have gone to the trouble of setting the equipment up outside then listening back to it' . Mate, you have not seen or even heard that bird, you have heard a recording!

Another comment suggested that 'Observatories count them so yes you can tick them' Durrr... er no... the obs add them to the site record which is different altogether. Say, if you move into a house where the previous owner recorded 100 species before you. You wouldn't add them to your list but they would be the start of a house list because they had been recorded on that site.

Is it just me? this isn't rocket science. Imagine on a day in early May and you have a team out doing a county bird race and you are going for a new record. Just get half a dozen sets of nocmig kit borrowed, set them up at midnight on local migration hotspots etc and the next day add the species to your actual list. You will obliterate the record!

To be fair, I am quite interested in the night time stuff, but its the reaction of the people that irks. I will approach this subject again I bet...

Right enough of that, back to the real stuff.

Leveret in its form.
The adult Hare and the leveret.

Grey Partridge from our drive.

On Saturday, 31 Pink footed Geese flew N, followed later by a pair of honking Canadas. A Linnet flew south while the mammal list was quite good. We had 2 Hedgehogs, 4 Roe Deer, a Brown Hare and its leveret and a Bank Vole.

First thing on Sunday a line of 4 ducks was flying fast N. A quick glance with the bins was quite surprising with 4 imm redhead Goosanders, only my second record for the garden after a pair flew south one New Years day some years back. At the same time, a female Kestrel flew south, then later a male was out the back field. My first Peacock butterfly of the year was the only insect.

Lockdown Garden List stands at 50 now and am still missing Mistle Thrush, Siskin, Redpoll Common and Lesser black backed Gulls and most summer migrants though a single Swallow and a Willow Warbler were only a few hundred metres away when I took Peggy for her walk to the coast path this morning so they wont be long in becoming additions. Hopefully.