Monday, September 27, 2021

Two Sundays.

 Back at work now and its as if our holidays had never happened. Still it could be worse we are working a mixed system of 3 days from home and two in the office.

I didnt get time to post last weeks Boulmer visit. The weather was calm, dull and mild maybe with a hint of a south easterly breeze. Although not a classic day, there was enough to keep the interest up. 

A few wildfowl were on the move with small numbers of Wigeon and Teal plus 6 Pintail and, scarce here, a flack of 7 Shovelers on the sea in the haven while another flew north with Teal. At least 7 Snipe were seen to arrive from high to the east during the morning. Its great to see these birds arriving after a sea crossing. 40 Common Scoter also moved N.

On the viz mig front, lots of hirundines were heading south intermittently with groups of say 100 House Martins and Swallows appearing then heading low along the shore leaving a quiet spell for a few minutes before another group would arrive. 4 Yellow Wagtails S and 1 on the shore might be the last I see this year.

Lots of waders were around but there was no trace of the Semi-Palmated Sandpiper I dipped by 5 minutes on the Friday evening. It would have been a great patch addition but at least Ive seen one in the county. This is the 3rd for Northumberland. . While scanning the waders for the Semi-P we had 300+ Dunlin, 20+ Sanderling, 14+ Bar tailed Godwit, 1 Knot, 2 Grey Plover.

A flock of 6 birds flying north just a bit too far in not good light were intriguing. I couldn't decide on Black Terns or Little Gulls, but 6 Black Terns here would have been unprecedented. They certainly weren't juv 'sterna' terns. A bit of revising convinced me that they were probably Little Gulls. So frustrating!

Later a brace of Skuas came low over the rocks, a dark adult Arctic and a juv or maybe first summer Long tailed Skua. The Long tail landed on the sea for a while allowing some scrutiny. Beside the Arctic it was very fragile and small looking.

We ended the morning with another 3 Arctic Skuas and a Bonxie.

 Yesterday we were at Boulmer for first light. It was very quiet. Despite coving a good area by lunchtime we had little of note. It was mild calm and damp but birds were thin on the ground.

An adult Mediterranean Gull on the rocks was probably best or maybe the singles of Bonxie S, Sooty and Manx Shearwater N. 8+ Wheatears were the only passerines of note and after last weeks swallow fest we only had a few local birds remaining.

I scanned through 2000 Golden Plovers on Longhoughton Steel in good light hoping for a Lesser or a Dotterel but found neither. Later Ross Ahmed found a Dotterel with Golden Plovers at Monks House! What can you do?

Otherwise in the notebook were 21 Grey Partridges in one covey, 3 Grey Wagtails S, 2 Red throated Divers N and 2S. 28 Bar tailed Godwits in the haven was a good number.

Lets hope for a change in weather to jiggle things up a bit.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Suffolk Part 2.

 As I have said in the previous post, while pottering around the Suffolk Sandlings area doing the tourist thing, visiting Southwold, Walberswick, Aldeburgh etc a few other creatures of interest to a Northern Naturalist were discovered. In no particular order here are a few..

Many of us who use a moth trap are familiar with a wide range of Ophions or Ichneumon species. They range from orangy yellow to black and white things and are generally tricky to id. Some just stand out from the crowd. This Enicospilus inflexus is one such specimen. Looking at the photo you might shrug and think you've had loads like that, but in life I had never seen anything like it that was quite so big. It was huge. You can almost make out that it was bigger than a cranefly and in flight was like a Common Darter. Apparently it is a parasite of the large Eggar / Drinker type moths. I wish I had taken its photo with a good size comparison now. On Google, sites show it to be quite sparsely distributed, but that is maybe due to a lack of recorders rather than it being a rare insect. Impressive.

Above, another parasitoid, Ichneumon sarcitorius was contrastingly, very common with up to half a dozen in the trap every night. I dont see these in the trap at home. Smart little things, unless you are a moth.

Finally for the hymenoptera were the Hornets around the garden. I like to catch up with them when we are here and they did enjoy the moth sugar. They were quite defensive towards trespassers such as Red Admirals who would be chased off by a short wing flicking open jawed charge from the Hornet. They're like terriers....


This large, blackcurrant Fruit Gum lookalike beetle Chrysolina banksii was quite a good record too. I dont really do beetles as they mostly need a microscope but this one was id'd from the Facebook beetle page. 

Dark Bush Crickets are common and can be heard stridulating from bushes under street lights and in gardens etc. There are no Bush Crickets in Northumberland.

Oak Bush Cricket was new to me found on the kitchen window attracted to the light. This one is a male. Smart.

A special visit to Carlton Marshes was required to see this one, the rare Fen Raft Spider, Dolomedes plantarius. We found three in a nicely vegetated ditch near the visitor centre. It is only found in 3 UK locations. This one can be seen with its feet on the water surface feeling for the vibrations of insect prey using it a bit like a web.

While we were here Wasp Spider was seen along with Brown Hawkers and Chinese Water Deer.

Chinese Water Deer looking more like a dog than most deer.

Then we come to some odds and sods - Bugs. True Bugs, not that Americanised slang for insects. 

Ant Damsel Bug.

Dock Bug final instar nymph.

Hawthorn Shieldbug 

To end with, although there wasn't much birding to be had, a morning on the heath with a flock of 8 calling Stone Curlews and a dozen Dartford Warblers is always appreciated.

A ringed Dartford Warbler, Dunwich.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Long Time No See.

 A bit of a gap between blog posts here due to being away on holiday for two weeks. We went to Suffolk, as is usual these days, but this time for two weeks rather than just the one. We couldn't get away in June this year so it was good to have a longer break.

It was great to hear locals both on TV and around villages on some days saying that winter was on its way and things like 'well at least we had one good week' etc when outside it was 23 degrees and sunny. One day at Dunwich there was a 15 minute shower and people were going around in big coats. Needless to say, like the cliche, we were in T shirts the whole was glorious!   What visitors to Northumberland from the South must think when they get here. It is usually dry but usually a few degrees colder than most of the country. A few times recently we have commented that on the TV weather forecast we are often the coldest in the UK including Shetland.

All the lovely days did little for the birding, so most of my wildlife watching was of the invertebrate kind. Northumberland  may be good for birding but we cant touch the south when it comes to insects etc.

Our base for the fortnight was Westleton an area we know quite well now, this was our 9th stay in the village.

Armed with the moth trap, I had a few targets in mind but unlike birding you cant 'up your game' you just turn the light on and wait. A tin of sugary elixir was also taken, for a very specific reason.

We drove the 350 miles down on Friday the 3rd Sept, returning on Friday 17th.

There were some good highlights but I am starting with the best of the bunch. A very big and previously very rare moth, the Clifden Nonpariel or Blue Underwing has been having a resurgence in the last couple of years. Once a mythical migrant at coastal traps, it now breeds in southern England and seems to be doing well. This is the reason I took a tin of treacley sugar mix. These 'underwings' are often more easily attracted to this than to light, so it wouldn't hurt my quest to do both. 

Five nights passed without a single moth taking the bait. Nothing at all. But nothing ventured they say, on Twitter loads of Blue Underwings were being trapped from Norfolk to Somerset and even in Suffolk, so I hoped luck would be with me.

On night 6, it certainly was. I had painted the usual tree trunk at dusk and checked a couple of times to no avail so when it came to bedtime, I thought Id have another glance. At midnight, I looked out and there was this huge apparition on the bait. Like finding a rare bird, I went into panic mode. I shouted for Jane to get up, she had just gone to bed 10 mins earlier and was keen to see the moth, as I flapped around more than the moth would, putting the flash on the camera, hoping the Clifden wouldn't do a bunk. Luckily it was enjoying the sugar and it was quite happy to allow a few shots to be taken. It was a pristine new specimen so I didn't want to pot it up or keep it over night. I took my photos then turned off the moth trap so it could go about its business without disturbance. What a moth...

What a beauty. The name means 'Beyond Compare'. How appropriate.

The garden sugar, on a different night attracted another lifer for me but a much more understated one - 

...the Buttoned Snout. A local and scarce species.

Meanwhile the moth trap was no slouch either. The warm nights pulled in hundreds of moths. As it was a holiday, I didnt spend time counting Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Common Wainscots, Turnip Moths, Brimstones and Vines Rustics of which I caught hundreds of each, I concentrated on 'good' or new species for me that we don't see at home. Here is a sample - 

Labelled from top left like reading a book, see below.  

Row 1. Anania crocealis, Evergestis limbata, Cypress Pug, Dusky Thorn.

Row 2. Evergestis extimalis, Yellow Belle, Box Tree Moth, Small Blood Vein.

Row 3. Celypha rufana, Nephopterix Angustella, White Point, Dogs Tooth.

Row 4. Cochylis molliculana, Monopis monachella, Hedge Rustic, Webb's Wainscot.

Over the holiday we did a few nice walks around coastal marshes and nice picturesque villages, we even twitched locations for the TV series 'The Detectorists' one of our faves around the small town of Framlingham.

'Danebury Scout Hut' the base camp for Lance and Andy...The Detectorists.

On our travels it wasn't just pub lunches and Adnam's Cider, there were more small wildlife to be had...

To be continued...