Thursday, May 28, 2020

Small fry...

Since last weekend's gales the weather has been typically dry as has the rest of the spring, but today and onwards it looks like warming up a bit. Being located on the east coast, it is always a few degrees cooler here than inland, but I'll take it.

When the weather is like this my attention turns from birding to the local invertebrates to be seen. There is always something new to photograph and of course the moth trap count is still building up.

Our village green looking good.

The lane into our village lined with clouds of cow parsley.

For the first time this week we have been treated to the pair of Barn Owls out hunting together in daylight.She is very much darker than him, here she is below, the first time we have seen her. In the 11 yrs we have lived here I think this is the first time we have had a pair out together, usually its just the male that puts a show on.

Female Barn Owl hunting the back field, photo taken from our drive.
After these, its back to the inverts. In my dotage I forget which ones I have previously identified and which are new so it pays to take some shots and work them out later.

This is a parasitic Tachinid fly, Gymnocheta viridis. When fresh it looks a bit like a standard greenbottle but the long hairs on the body seperate that. It is older now and has gone a nice pinkish, copper colour. It is a parasite of moth larvae.

Hoverflies are getting more abundant as the days get warmer. This is Merodon equestris, the Narcissus Bulb Hoverfly.
 The best moth catch was of 120 moths of 47 species this weekend, with a few highlights below.

Green Silver lines, scarce here. I had my eye on the grey lichened twigs for a while now I get the chance to let the grey show off the green.

Nutmeg. Another very scarce moth in this area.

Scorched Wing, 2 taken on one night this week.

Esperia sulphurella, only my second garden and first trap record.

Chinese character

Grey Pug

Pale Prominent

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A garden surprise.

Yesterday morning as I sat outside counting the moth trap, a niggling little sub-song was going on in the front garden. I thought it might be a Garden Warbler, its a long time since I had one on patch let alone in the garden, but often I think this, to find on investigation that the songster is a new starting Blackcap before he gets in tune.

I went back to the moths. I popped inside for a new pen and said to Jane, 'you know, there's a bird out there singing a bit like a Reed Warbler, I am hoping its a Garden'.,..

As the moths were done and dusted I went quietly to the gable corner with my bins for a look. The singer was in our dying currant hedge, the home of numerous sparrows making finding a warbler difficult. Then, a still or slightly moving shape caught my eye. A drab bird, back facing me, bent over right preening its shoulder. Mmm, looks good for Garden Warbler. Some spuggie nonsense followed and my target jumped along the hedge towards me and began singing, this time in open dead twigs.

It wasn't a Garden Warbler at all. It was only a goddamn REED WARBLER! In my garden! What on earth? I was just thinking out loud when I said to Jane the quiet song was like Reed Warbler, I never thought it actually would be one. We have no phragmites for 6 miles around me and in Northumberland Reed Warbler is a scarce breeder, as you would imagine, fixed to the few reed beds we have.

The Reed Warbler then flew up into a tall sycamore of all places. I wondered about Marsh Warbler but the song had no mimicking in it. Marsh would possibly be just as likely as Reed here. I rang my neighbour Geoff Sample who is a known wildlife sound recordist to have a listen. The bird 'chug-chug-chug, chit-chit-chitted' He confirmed that it was a bog standard Reed Warbler. Later it returned to the hedge and sang on and off til about 11.10am when it was not seen or heard again afterwards.

Reed Warbler is garden tick #135. One in an autumn fall would be more likely but a spring singer, I'll take it!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The path untrodden...


There isn't anywhere in this jam packed country of ours that can be classed as truly wild, but on a local patch level I am talking about the bits and corners you never visit. All local patches have these and today I had a couple of hours visiting two areas of mine. It comes as no surprise that these spots were in woodland and well sheltered from the now 3 day gale, we have been getting hammered by.

My first stop was to see if I could get the Spotted Flycatchers in better light, but despite having looked 3 times today, they remain unseen. Gone? Maybe.

From here, I was off to the woods.  This hidden area is a quiet relaxed place and the reason I don't go is not because I don't like it, but it is a deliberate way to leave a quiet undisturbed corner that the wildlife can retreat to in safety. It looks a nice spot for a Roe Doe to leave her fawn and I wouldn't want to frighten them if she did. On today's venture I trod carefully on deer walks and did not step into areas of cover just in case.

The smell of damp vegetation and the sound of the wind high in the trees were a constant companion. Bluebells, now fading and past their previous glory, edged the track. 

As expected, this nice little Roe doe saw me coming. I have seen her before and she is not too afraid. When she saw me, I dropped my gaze and slowly turned to put my full back towards her and softly stepped away while remaining in her view. She followed me a short way to watch, inquisitively, then continued her browsing undisturbed...

Roe Doe

Tawny Owl
In the same spot, the agitation of some small birds drew my attention and as I gazed across the small valley a Tawny Owl was sat fully alert high up in a tree opposite, watching me. Although distant I raised the camera and she was off. This is about the best shot I got...for such a common bird here my sightings are scarce so this was a brief treat.

I left the glade and its inhabitants in peace and moved to a second 'woodlot'. This spot I have never been into in 11 yrs, but I see it regularly. Shooters visit here in the winter but it is still totally undisturbed by the public.

As I wove my way through ferns and across a burn, fauna remained hidden. Back out on the main path and I did a slow return home by a more conventional route..

Once back in the village, a Wall Brown flitted fittingly (try saying that after a few sherries) on a stone wall bordering the Old Rectory paddock and in the garden a brood of Tree Sparrows greeted me by peering out of their nestbox. They'll soon be on their way...

A Wall on a wall.

A new generation of Tree Sparrows faces the big bad world...


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Well spotted...

It is easy to get complacent and down with your local patch when you are hearing about good birds other people are finding on their chosen location. This week a Red footed Falcon flew over East Chevington and Holy Island, without stopping. These great sites are North and South of me so I wonder if it flew high over our village? Probably I suppose.

My home patch does not compare with these top birders haunts, but when it gets a singing Golden Oriole or 20 second White tailed Eagle, they are all the more exciting and usually I get them to myself or maybe a couple of others.

When out birding at good spots I have targets in mind. Its May so a Bluethroat or a Wryneck maybe, would be great finds on the coast, but at home I keep my goals much more achievable usually not involving a rarity but a local scarcity would do.

This year I hope I get a Redstart. You would think living on the East coast, this would be a shoe-in in September, but I haven't had one for several years now. A Garden Warbler would be an adrenalin rush for me. My last one here was in the garden about 6 or 7 years ago, so when 'patching' you need to 'cut your cloth' accordingly.

So it was into a mild, almost-gale that I wandered out with Peggy this afternoon, along the lane runs an recently cleared drainage ditch. It is now growing over and has a trickle of water with mud in the bottom that is hooching with flies. Nearing the end, something flickered across the vegetation into some cut off willows. Its flight looked interesting, different to the usual garden birds along here, so when I raised the bins, I was pleased to find the culprit was a Spotted Flycatcher. Last year in my record breaking patch year list I didn't get one or a Cuckoo for that matter, but I did have one calling here last weekend.

After I had emptied the dog, I took her home and returned with the camera to document a scarce patch year tick. Its never that easy is it. I sat for ages without sight or sound, then a call, a single sharp note drew my attention and it had returned or better still I should say, they had returned. A pair of Spotties is a good record here these days, so I am crossing my appendages hoping they might raise a brood and entertain my dog walks all summer... 27/05/20 Update. They have not been seen since...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The view from the garden.

We are lucky to live in a location that means some form of wildlife is present at anytime I care to look. Since March most of my time has been concentrated on the garden and the area visible from it and two months on I am still finding things to interest.

After doing Steve's Lockdown Challenge for several weeks and ending on 80 species, yesterday was a similar thing but it was Darren Archer's 'Garden Bird Race'. At this time of year most counties have teams out doing 24 hour races where they can amass as many species as possible over the 24 hour period in the name of friendly competition, but that isnt possible at the minute, so Darren came up with this limited exercise.

I have never done a May race because it always seems to be giving yourself a good hiding for species you can see in a more relaxed manner. After all, a 20 hour day covering many miles in the car is a task, but a race doing just your garden is a much more sedate affair.

I decided I would not employ the all out approach, but just try my usual Saturday stance and see what is available when I can be bothered.

I had 5 minutes at 04.40 when i covered the moth trap from the sparrows and went back to bed for a couple of hours. I then watched from windows, watched while cutting the grass an planting some annuals and had a few short spells just sitting around.

As you would imagine, I didn't have the bird lines ringing off the hook, but I did see or hear 44 species. My newly found sea watch spot is tricky now as its even more obscured by leaves but I still managed Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern, seen this time not just heard. I had a low spot here too as 3 small waders flew south but I only had bins so couldn't ID them. They were either Turnstones or Knot I am sure, either would have been a full garden tick. I made sure the scope was out next time I looked.

The local Barn Owl has been out hunting in daylight for a week now. It gives good views from the drive or kitchen window.

This Roe Buck showed well at dusk yesterday too and was a Bird Race highlight...

We usually only get Sand Martins in the village in autumn, but this year we have 4 or 5 flying around including two on the wires above our drive.
The weather has not gotten any warmer so the moth trap has been slow but I keep trying...

Agapeta hamana a common visitor, this one a bit early this year.

Flame Shoulder another expected moth at this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Blogger changes and some Moths...

Well I never. I was looking at great pics on other blogs and wondering how they get them so big when I can only do X large or original size? I then found this patch on Google -

.post-body img, .post-body .tr-caption-container {
padding: 5px;
max-width: 750px;

That can be cut and pasted into the Theme page, Then when posting images select 'Original' and they show at 750 pixels wide but it doesn't change the ability to click on the larger pic!    

There is bound to be a fault with this space, in the mean time here are a couple from the moth trap recently...

Lunar Thorn

Chamomile Shark

Nut tree Tussock
Purple Thorn

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Patch Golden-en.

I've not posted since week 6 while my blogging peers are going all out with tremendous content. Gavin Haig, Dylan Wrathall, Steve Gale et al all have me eagerly awaiting the next instalment while I am just floundering.

I better fill the gap...

In my last post I 'nocmigged' a Moorhen. The very next day as I took the dog out late, a Coot was yelling its metallic call loudly over the house! Another garden tick on call...I must say, the nocmiggers recording on Xeno canto of birds calling at night are a great help which has just reminded me I had a funny one the night before last that I need to look up...I have suspicions...

On the same night as the Coot, a torchlight check in the village hall pond found a couple of newts on show. Not the expected Smooth Newts I usually see, but two male Palmate Newts. I didnt have a clue they were here being a more upland species usually. Next spring I will be prepared with an aquarium to get some photos.

On Sunday 3rd I got up early and went out birding! Well I got up and had a walk around our village and to the coast path. The only thing of note in a couple of hours was a single Lesser Whitethroat that only stopped briefly before flying off inland. A Wall Brown was in the garden.

In lovely weather, there was just usual expected stuff for a few days the highlight being an influx of Sedge Warblers, not too common in my patch, but 6 arrived on 8th, there was even one singing in the wood beside our garden, that was odd, clearly a newly arrived bird getting its bearings.

It was on Saturday 9th that the real prize lay in store.

Jane and myself took Peggy for a walk down to the pond on a lovely sunny warm morning. It was quiet but very pleasant.

We were about to wander back for breakfast when a call in the trees stopped me dead. This is the standard recovery position when you hear an call that needs to be heard again.

A few seconds passed and then it came. I don't know how to spell 'phweelloo weeloo' but it was as clear as a bell up in tall lime trees behind us. I said 'No! cant be' , Jane said... 'Golden Oriole?' She has never heard one before only hearing  me on about them in the past but she just knew what the caller was... 'weeleeoo woo' again and again...we turned to follow.

I gave her the dog lead and I went ahead. As we walked along the path the bird called again but further off. We headed to where it was. As we neared, the squawking nasal squeal call came a couple of times, lower down across the burn in thick cover. The first time I have heard this call from a migrant. We took a different route to get a better angle but, after a couple of more cat calls, it went silent. The trail was lost.

Such a shame, not to have seen my 4th Northumberland and 2nd patch Golden Oriole, but it gave a great vocal performance in daylight (not on a hard drive) so I am very pleased to have it. For my first one see HERE . Its 11 yrs since that one!

Photo by Gary Woodburn of a bird John and myself found at Newton Pool a few years back. I wish mine had shown as well as this. 

An older drawing of my first Northumberland Golden Oriole that sat about on bramble bushes right in the open.

I cant believe I've had two on my own patch...