Sunday, April 25, 2021

Seeing Red...

Act I.

On Friday the weather continued in a similar vein as recently with a high pressure giving a cool, clear and sunny morning at 2 degrees first thing.

The first dog walk of the day resulted in a new one for the year list as a Sedge Warbler sang from blackthorn on the coast path.

I was working at the computer in the bedroom when a WhatsApp from Gary Woodburn came through telling of a Red throated Pipit he had just found at Newton Pool.

Now, Red throated Pipit is possibly my commonest full lifer outstanding from my list. Other birds I have seen abroad but I cant think of anything on the British List more regular that I have not seen anywhere, so my ears perked up at this message.

In Northumberland there has not been a properly twitchable one for about 30 years so I wasn't holding out much hope for this early bird. I fully expected it to have flown off high, North, calling within 10 minutes, so a direct message to Gary asking for a Sit Rep ( Line of Duty there) was quickly dispatched. Surprisingly the reply was positive though mixed. The bird was still present on Embleton Golf Course but the greens were filling up rapidly with Pringle sweaters. Would they scupper my chances?

As the bird was only 5 miles from home, I quickly clocked off work and headed off up the road. I arrived after a road block stoppage, to find only 4 birders present and the bird not seen for 20 minutes having last been watched about 300 yards away on the other side of the course. 

The heat haze was building and the golfers were buzzing here and there when miles away a small bird in short grass looked different. At 50x zoom in the Swaro, it looked 'warmer' than the other pipits dotted around. We sat in expectation waiting for the golfers to flush the flock when one of two things would happen. They would fly closer and land, or they would do a bunk altogether. Unbelievably the first option won, with the 6+ Meadow Pipits, 1 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Yellowhammers plus the 'bird' all lifted and flew at least 50% closer onto the nearer fairway. We soon picked it out, still very distant but now confirmed as my lifer Red throated Pipit!

This was the pattern for the next hour but generally the bird stayed a bit too far to be called a good observation. Tickable views but hardly satisfying.

Above, Top, the Golf Club house where I parked.Bottom the view just off the golf course to Dunstanburgh Castle.

Thats it above the gorse...

Act 2.

 Saturday was another glorious cold morning. I was up at 5.50am to collect my Bucket Moth Trap from out Village Wood. When I got back, Gary rang me in error from his coat pocket. From the garbled voices I knew he was back on the golf course. Maybe the bird was still there? All of a sudden Gary messaged me saying if I wanted a second view the Pipit was showing very well on the green with no golfers yet.

This was too good a chance to miss, so off I went for a look. On arrival from the south end this time, our rusty faced Anthus was back in the same place as yesterday, out on the edge of science, miles off!

Ah well, I'll give it a chance , at least I had already seen it.

As we waited a Barn Owl, one of two here, winged along the far edge of the course lifting the small birds and they flew, again half way out. Today the haze was much less so even this was a good view in the scope, When the first round of Arnold Palmers arrived they helped coax the bird even closer now on the nearest fairway giving nice views. All of a sudden they lifted again and landed right out from us on the nearest green! We manged a few shots here, but missed a great opportunity when the Pipit landed only 12 feet from Gary. As we fumbled in panic, the bird lifted again and headed North towards the main pool ending our audience for the morning.

Still it was a much better performance than on Friday and some record shots were a bonus.

Red throated Pipit UK List 421 , Northumberland List 354 .


Above -  Red throated Pipit, Embleton Golf Course 24/04/21

Tuesday, April 20, 2021



A corner of the garden...

Just a few invertebrates from the weekend....all from the garden except the fly at the bottom that was on Alnwick Moor on Sunday.

Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornis

One of the Cuckoo Bees either Bombus bohemicus or Bumbus vestalis ?

Buffish Mining Bee Andrea nigroaenea 

A male Tawny Mining Bee, the jazzy orange females wouldnt sit still.

Tachina ursina Fly.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Ouzels and a start...

 First bird this morning as I looked out of the kitchen window was the Brambling that had decided not to cross the North Sea just yet. After a brief show on Friday evening, Saturday evening and today it has been much more forthcoming spending the time chasing Chaffies from the bird table in between resting up and singing his Greenfinch like wheeze above the feeders.

For the first time this year, John and me headed inland all of 5 miles or so to Alnwick Moors. Thin cloud cover meant the day was still very cold though the frosts of recent days did not materialise this morning.

Before 9.30 we had seen 5 daylight hunting Barn Owls including two together at one site. 

We stopped at two random non birded spots for a look as we usually do and were pleased with a nice male Redstart in full song and a hatful of Willow Warblers with an odd Blackcap for good measure. One of the Barn Owls floated around serenaded by the Redstart overhead.

Male Redstart in song.

Our next stop was generally to look for insects but it was a bit cool so we had a yomp around not seeing much, until John gave a whistle and waved me up the hill. He had found a nice flock of 6 Ring Ouzels along a dry stone wall. There were 5 males and one female all seen together as they flew off high west only to circle around and drop back in to the same spot. All the while calling like a squeaky rubber ball. One male was partially leucistic, being dotted with white spots. We stalked for a photograph but they remained distant so here are some record shots.

Also here were 20+ Redpolls, 23 Fieldfare and 2 Stonechat.

When migrant birds are coming and going from all parts, its good to be out. 

5 of the 6 Ring Ouzels, we didnt see where No6 sloped off to...


Friday, April 16, 2021

Broken record.

 Its cold again. Frosty this morning at 0 degrees. Still no Willow Warblers etc etc.

Last night around 6pm a nice male Brambling dropped into our feeders for 10 minutes. Its not around today so I assume it could be in Norway by now, where it might be warmer than here.

Brambling at our feeders

Up near the main hall car park, the 3 mtr patch of lungwort is the place to be for insects. 12+ Hairy Footed Flower Bees but only 2 females were great to watch as they scrapped and chased through the dead stems, Garden Bumblebee, Common Carder Bee, Red tailed Bumblebee and 4 Dark edged Bee fly were all filling up at the nectar station.

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

Male Hairy footed Flower Bees

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Still cold...

 The week progresses but its still bloody freezing. Every morning when I get up the place is white with frost, today -2 degrees again. The sun is beautiful though, bright and crystal clear but there is little warmth. I am sick of feeling 'tight' with cold when I go out, roll on a day when its a straight 12 degrees with no reduction for wind chill.

Little has changed on the bird front around the village. There are still no Willow Warblers but with 400 arriving at Portland yesterday they are surely on their way.  There are more Blackcaps now with 4 or 5 singing locally but the Swallows have gone and who can blame them.

Out in the village wood on Peggy's walk at lunchtime, the blossomed sallow, mentioned last time, is still attracting a few hardy insects with 2 Comma, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell in the vicinity. 

Yesterday was my first visit to the barbers since mid December, so maybe that is how I am feeling the cold...

Dark edged Bee Fly



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Spring Snow.

 I have seen snow in April on occasion, but this year the cold spell is getting pretty irksome now. Most of the month has been filled with cold northerly winds and a subsequent lack of birds. 

It is now approaching mid-April so this blocking weather will change. Bird migration will continue regardless, eventually.

Yesterday 3 Swallows arrived back over our house, twittering and mobbing the Barn Owl. Our shed door is now left open until October to allow them to nest.

What the Swallows felt this morning at below freezing temps with a half an inch covering of snow remains to be seen, but its enough to say, there are no Swallows here today. Hirundines can just move back south again until they find a mild enough climate to feed in. they then come back, following a mild therm north.

At Boulmer first thing it was colder than most days over the Christmas holidays, yet a single Swallow flew around the village. Up on the beach a male Greenland Wheatear looked very smart as it sheltered from the northerly. It will probably face worse conditions on its breeding grounds. Back at the car, a tinkling Snow Bunting moved north distantly, unseen .

It was very quiet here again, so we popped a couple of miles down to Alnmouth to look for the 4 Avocets Tom Cadwallender found here yesterday but they had gone too. 2 Whooper Swans dropped in and while we chatted to Tom and Muriel, an Osprey came in off, quite low, and flew over the river Aln and headed off north west.

Back home at lunchtime, a wander in our village wood was a bit more sheltered and the sun had a bit of heat to it. A fully flowered Sallow was quite active with bumblebees and an odd hoverfly.

Criorhina ranunculi was a new hoverfly for me. Two were on the catkins.

Another new species was Eristalis intricaria in the same bush.

I think this one is Bombus hortorum, Garden Bumblebee,

Later in the afternoon walking back along the lane with Peggy, a surprise female Brambling hopped out of the roadside ditch right in front of us. My first this year, this bird is a returning migrant on its way to Scandinavia, as soon as the wind changes.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Good Monday.


The route across Tommy's field to go seawatching, on foot from home. All 300 yards of it.

The good news is, our awful vaccination side effects have gone, 36 hours after the needle. That's not too bad, for getting protection against the killer virus. Still, I hope vax II the sequel is more about the effects than the side effects.

With some relief that we are feeling back to normal, we still didn't do much today as the weather had rewound back to January. A light snow covering greeted me when I looked out of the window backed by a strong NW6 that nithered to the bone. Its incredible to think that at the beginning of this weekend I was photographing bees and  saw the first Orange Tip of the year!

This afternoon I ventured down to the coast path for a short hour seawatch to see if I could add to my patch list.

Apart from a steady trickle of Gannets at about 400 per hour, a few Kittiwakes and Fulmars, interest was slow in coming. 2 Sandwich Terns were the best and my first of the season, while a female Wheatear pitched in beside my watching spot before moving on, hopefully to a better, more sheltered area  than the one it has come to. Single Common Scoter ,3 Eider and a family of 2 adult and 1 juv Bottle-nosed Dolphins were the only other things into the book. 

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Vaccine blues...

 Yesterday Jane and myself headed up to Berwick for our first COVID jab. It all went like clockwork and we were back home before lunchtime. I had read about the aftermath of the injection and all the people I had spoken to had suffered some side effects to a greater or lesser extent, but its all worth it in these times of pandemic.

I felt fine until after about 9pm last night when the shivering started. My fingers went white and I couldn't keep my legs still for nagging aches. Despite taking paracetamol this continued all night and this morning I felt like I had a big hangover. Still, I thought I better try and shrug it off and get out for a walk to Boulmer.

The morning was beautifully clear and sunny if a little cool. Yesterday, both John and myself had opted not to twitch the 20 miles south for the pristine Citrine Wagtail at Lynemouth. Even though it was a stunner, I've had a few in the county, so would have preferred to see something more local.

As it turned out, it was a very quiet morning bird wise. Nothing was moving at sea and land migrants were equally sparse. Still, the first Wheatear of the year was flitting around Longhoughton Steel and a few Sand Martins trilled overhead. Otherwise, 13 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Grey Plover, 250+ Pinkfeet N and a singing male Greenfinch were all the headland had to offer.

I turned over a few stones on the dune edge and found a Hairy Rove Beetle Creophilus maxillus, but didn't have any pots or lens to get a shot.

Young Grey Seal

Male Wheatear.

Around the garden yesterday and today, Hairy-footed Flower Bees were active, still all males, alongside, Garden, Tree, Red tailed and Buff tailed Bumblebees. An early Orange Tip was in the village wood.

The reason why they are called Hairy footed Flower Bees.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Garden Moths page update

 Along the page bar above I have updated my garden moths page after finding out that I could embed a PDF report showing my whole garden species list with numbers of individuals caught. 

Click here

If you look at the report and click the top right hand corner it opens in a better sized new window.

Below the list I have added some photos of rare and scarce garden species, some may be common moths further south, but are beyond normal range up here.


Pine Beauty from yesterday morning...