Thursday, February 24, 2022

A Red letter bird.

My local patch list is kept on a colour coded excel spreadsheet. The species are listed down the left hand column and the years are horizontally along the top. I've described it on here before, so to get the full boredom feel, see link. 

This makes it easy to monitor the species, what is missing for a given year etc. The exciting bit (well ok, the exciting bit for me) is to see how many 'red' species turn up in a year. These are species recorded on 3 or less years since recording began in 2009. The birds might not be rare on your patch or on a national or even county level, but on mine they make the heart skip a beat.

On Tuesday one such species turned up for the 2022 list, my first 'reddity' of the year.

At lunchtime I was out taking Peggy for her walk. The coast seemed quite busy with a  layby full of cars, so we headed off down the 'Teepee Track'. It is a bridle path that runs south from Seahouses Farm where it passes the now defunct site of a reconstructed neolithic hut. It's a mostly bird barren site apart from a stubble field that holds a few finches and larks and it was while scanning for these, the birding took a turn for the better...

We were stood on the old teepee site as I scanned north west across the field hoping for a twite or lapland bunting or even a Meadow Pipit that has not shown so far this year, when, into my binocular view , dashed a direct, low flying, raptor. The first thought was female Sparrowhawk but it looked odd, darker, when it turned to reveal a massive square white rump - a ringtail Hen Harrier!

On this site, Hen Harrier is a knee trembling rarity with only one previous record from 2010 during that hard winter. Concentrating, I leaned on the fence to get the best possible steady views of the bird, thinking it was just passing through. Luckily for me, it was in hunting mode and began quartering the stubble, hovering, sometimes with legs dangling before changing direction and taking another line. It was flushing larks and linnets all over. The sun was behind me, lighting the harrier beautifully as it floated and pirouetted around the field for about 10 minutes. Once it even landed for a look around before getting back up and quartering its way to the north and off towards our village. I wonder if it went over our garden?

Without a camera, I concentrated as much as possible so I could do this sketch as soon as I got back in to the house...

What a great 'red box' bird for my Local Patch year list... 


Monday, February 21, 2022

A flock of storms...

These storms are beginning to irritate now. We've had roll call of  Arwen, Barra, Corrie, Malik, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin since 26th November. I knew when we had those two weeks of  fine, calm, weather in January that we would pay for it. This last week we have had three of these storms and it looks set to be windy for the forseeable.

As a result, I haven't been too far birding and the last two Sundays have been written off due to the weather. Roll on spring!

Around the village this last 10 days or so birding has been done while dog walking with a few things into the notebook.

The back field flash still has a tiny puddle of a marsh that held 4 Snipe the other day and 6 Skylarks flew N, the first signs of viz mig this year.

 On Friday I was pleased to see a Water Rail in the village burn, my first this winter. It paused briefly before scuttling off upstream at a pace. Yesterday, it had a near miss as I drove along the lane when it flew very low right infront of the car into the hedge across the road. Luckily I make a point of driving slowly here as there are always Blackbirds or Roe Deer popping out.

A large flock of 90 - 100 Chaffinches are feeding in the Rectory paddock but there are no Bramblings with them, yet. If the flock holds until April it should attract a few on return migration. Also here 9 Redwings but no Fieldfares. In the wood, Treecreepers are vocal, while Sparrowhawk and Buzzard have been seen each week. 

Not much there to set the ornithological world alight, but there is always something to look at. Maybe this northerly off  'Franklin' will give the chance of a white winged gull or even better, its namesake in coming days?




Thursday, February 17, 2022

Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice..

 That's another one over, this time unscathed. Dudley did some sabre rattling but left without satisfaction.

Now its time to watch Dudley's neighbour, Storm Eunice, a nasty little 'explosive cyclogenesis' of a storm who is due in tomorrow.  This time, it looks like the South of England will be worst hit with 80 mph winds even inland, but we are not going to be sunning it here, the north flank of the low pressure is due to give us snow and blizzards. Which is nice.

My own thoughts on these ever more regular features of the weather are divided. The main part of me hates it and just wish it would stop, but in the back of my mind, I always wonder if any birds will be displaced by it.

As I write this, the Met Office has upgraded Eunice to a Red Warning. Yet, loads of messages on social media are joking about it and how it might blow their wheelie bin over... Good luck to anyone in the red and amber areas, stay safe....

As Eunice arrives in the SW these are expected wind speeds.

Eunice tracks further inland...



Monday, February 07, 2022


The View West towards the Cheviots. You wouldnt want to be up there today...

Sunday was cold and windy, with a W5 being particularly irritating. 

February is a slow time in Northumberland so rather than face the visitors at Boulmer we headed inland for some solitude. Maybe a bit too much solitude as even the birds were keeping a low profile.

I wanted to check out the access to Corby Ponds, just to see if we will be able to get there at all come the dragonfly season. Many woods around here are totally inaccessible after the storms so I didnt expect anything good. As it happens, apart from a couple of trees across,  the ride through the wood was free of obstruction. A few Crossbills were flying around, one song flighting, and a small flock of birds keeping out of the wind comprised of 3 Lesser Redpolls, 12 Chaffinches and a Reed Bunting. 

Then a sleet squall came in forcing us to take cover in the pines for a short spell until it passed over.

The dragonfly pond is looking good, and I cant wait for some nicer weather later on to get back up here for some invertebrate hunting.

We then checked out Oxen Wood ( top photo) at Lemmington Crossroads. The pines have been felled leaving an unfamiliar look to the landscape but it should let more light in to some nice Green Hairstreak habitat.

And that was the morning about finished really. Not much in the notebook but at least we got some excercise... 

The dark, peaty waters of Corby Pond in the sleet. Hopefully the scene will be better next time we visit.


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Big Garden Birdwatch.

 Sunday morning was calm and fine, a pleasing contrast after the blasting we had on Saturday so we did the garden bird count. I watched the kitchen window, Jane from the other side in the bedroom calling out additions.

Totals from 10.50 - 11.50am.

The list is pretty much as last year but without Great Spotted Woodpecker and Sparrowhawk. Both species are around, just not in the hour we counted.

Its still great to see my second most numerous species after Jackdaw is Tree Sparrow. I have had up to 32 birds this winter but only the 22 today. The RSPB webpage for recording the count doesnt have Tree Sparrows as a standard garden species so I had to add them as an extra with no number. People are telling me it is possible to add them so I'll see if it can be edited.

Some of the cast as seen from the kitchen window...