Thursday, July 28, 2022

Three Shears.

 Mid July signifies the start of one of my favourite pastimes on the coast - seawatching. 

In recent years we have had some great birds from the sea on the local patch in July. In 2019 it was the surreal appearance of a Giant Petrel from Southern Oceans, followed in 2020 by a more twitchable mega, a Sooty Tern for a day or two and as if that duo wasn't enough, 2021 was not going to be outdone as another UK first opened July with a close, nicely breast banded Soft-plumaged Petrel moving North offshore.

Is it any wonder I like the hypnotic draw of the waves?

Last week we had the first light north winds of the season, so an hour intro on Wednesday was quiet but pleasant with Little Tern, a dozen Manx Shearwaters, a handful of Puffins with ever present Sandwich and Arctic Terns making up the tally. That was until a very close pod of Bottle nosed Dolphins slashed into the bay, soon followed by a Minke Whale that dived just in time to avoid the Life Boat bombing over its head. An adult summer Mediterranean Gull  passed North as I was preparing to leave. Not a bad start.

On Monday as a large high pressure system moved in to the west of Ireland bringing with it masses of Cory's Shearwaters into the western approaches, hopes were high that we might get in on the action. Cory's is a very difficult bird to catch up with in Northumberland, Ive only seen one, at Newbiggin around 1999 I think.

On Monday I was out on Cullernose alone from 16.45 - 18.00. Although there was a fresh breeze from the North, few birds were moving. 86 Arctic Terns, 21 Sandwich Terns, 4 Whimbrel, 3 Manx, 9 Puffins a few waders and an in off juvvy Med Gull were all I could muster. A single Wheatear was quick off the marks here, a taste of what is to come hopefully.

Tuesday turned out to be a different kettle of fish. Early doors, Dan Langston had a Cory's slowly past our village and sitting on the sea while I was walking the dog within viewing distance if Id had my scope. I dashed back down with the scope after dropping the dog off at home but the light was dreadful and nothing of note was seen. Gutted, a great patch tick gets away.

After work saw me keen to get back on to the point, and by 16:30 I was in position.

Manx Shearwaters were the main passage birds on show with 583 N in 3 hrs, a good total for here. 5 Goosanders flew south as did a distant Bonxie, while an Arctic Skua chased terns overhead. 2 Little Terns were good to get too.

Soon, I was joined by Dan, Alan, Ian and Keith ( and a bit later by Mark). After about half an hour Dan called the bird. CORY'S! It was way to the south and distant but as it progressed the distance shortened and it gave reasonable views hugging the surface with long bowed wings occasionally tipping over to reveal the underside. It took around 8 minutes to get past us, but even though we called directions, pot flags and range, Ian and Keith just couldn't get on to it. Whilst three of us were elated, it still takes the edge off things.

We sat another hour hoping for another chance, but only 3 Sooty Shearwaters were added to the total before most of us left*.

Cory's Shearwater, a great addition to the patch list for me and a full new species for the site.

Cory's Shearwater, Cullernose Point 26/07/22. 


*Mark Eaton stayed on after we left. As dusk came, Ben Steel at home in Longhoughton a mile inland, was looking at the sea from his bedroom when he picked out another Cory's coming past Longhoughton Steel [ garden tick!]. Mark managed to get it close in as it passed Cullernose . Finally last night Tom Cadwallender was on the point alone not seeing much at all until a group of 4 Sooties passed, followed a minute later by the 5th Cory's of the week. Unprecedented.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Moors and Moths

 Yesterday was quite eventful in one way or another.

I met John at 7am at the new venue of The Hogs Head Hotel outside Alnwick, like a shady deal being done, where my car was left and off we went in John's. Its usually left at Homebase but we gave this car park a go instead.

Off up to some small quarry pools near Eglingham where we hoped for some odonata to photograph. It was breezy and a bit soon for insects so we left the car and had a breakfast of Greggs vegan rolls and tea while admiring the view. 

While having a scan, an oddly flying 'gull' attracted attention - Hen Harrier! A nice grey male too, did a good fly past, a pipit chase then vanished behind a plantation not to be seen again. What a great start to the morning and unexpected in July.

Although the sun warmed things up it was quite windy up here, so there were no dragonflies to see. Flocks of small birds were everywhere along the roads, mostly Meadow Pipits that seemed to have had a good breeding season but also a few Stonechat families and a steady light passage of hirundines and swifts south over head.

Beautiful China Mark, 3+ flushed from pool edges.

Lots of Emerald Damselflies were in the rushes with a few Common Blues, Large Red and Blue tailed.

 We soon filled the morning seeing very little really but it was quiet, no other people at all and great scenery so it was very pleasant indeed.

We had a short chat about, amongst other things, the daft things we do that could so easily be avoided, such as losing keys, or leaving things on the car roof when driving off etc. 

On the way home back down to the A1 as John pulled away, a dull soft thump could be heard? John said something had come off the roof? It looked like a Notebook and he had his. Bugger this was a duel carriageway so if my book had gone the journey only an hour after we discussed doing this very thing, it would have to remain lost.

Then, John said, 'Where have I put my phone?' Followed by some expletives and a sharp stop into a junction. No phone could be found, so we headed a couple of miles back up the road, where John risked life and limb wandering a few hundred metres down the verge where the 'thump' had occurred.

Through the bins, I saw him stoop and retrieve something...

He returned with his phone but it wasn't the way it had been when last seen...

A new Samsung after its hit the A1 at 50 mph then run over by holiday traffic...

It wasn't only the phone that was a road casualty. I was almost home when I noticed this poor Grey Partridge by the roadside... 

One or two interesting moths have turned up at home this weekend too - 

I spent far too long on this Borkhausenia fuscescens than it is worth. Not new, but I always struggle identifying them. Tiny and never sits still... 

Cloaked Minor. This is much better, only my second in the garden. Quite a distinctive little minor.

Cydia splendana 

Northern Spinach, again only my second.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Heatwave Moths

The last few days have resulted in a continued set of decent moth catches in the garden . 

Whilst our heatwaves are very different to those in the rest of England we did achieve the dizzy heights of 31.5 degrees at work yesterday while the hottest its been at home is 28.2 degrees ( two thermometers, one on the house and the car reading)  . Still way too warm for me. I've seen people up here posting pics of car thermometers at 41 degrees etc in Northumberland. Basically the thermometer is knackered! I can't forsee a day when our county is warmer than Heathrow.

Anyway, its certainly warm enough to get plenty of moths on the wing. One lucky non-moth-er in Alnwick found a Death's Head Hawk-moth on her washing line yesterday. No such A listers for me, but a few nice ones will do.

Firstly a lifer - 

Plain Pug. Looks a bit boring but gave a very distinctive look when in the trap. Certainly not common here with a fragmented, mainly coastal, distribution in the county.

Southern Wainscot. Only my 3rd in 13 yrs. Moving northwards...

Epiblema foenella, also my 3rd here, and so far the best condition. 

Dark Marbled Carpet and below. See the sharp angled line in the hindwing? This seperates if from Common Marbled, though DMC occurs between CMC broods. 

Clay triple Lines, my 2nd.

Mompha locupletella

Notocelia roborana

Phyllonorycter sorbi. We think.

Wormwood Pug 

Sorry no recently made up common names for the little fellas. I'm a tradionalist and its taken me years to get used to the latin, so I'm not starting again...

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Post Trap Punditry

 I don't post many moth lists on here these days but on this occasion a notable catch deserves some post trap analysis.. 

The night of the 11th July was overcast and very warm, no cooler than 18 degrees at 5am. Experience tells me there would be quite a few moths, but I had not expected such a diversity of species. When I looked into the trap it was a sea of micro moths and geometers rather than the expected Large Yellow Underwings.

I have highlighted some notable garden records. This lot is all in a single 125w MV Robinson Trap on our drive. To do before work!

Total finally at 518 moths of 112 species. Not my biggest catch but up there for species.


  Common Rustic agg. (Mesapamea secalis agg.)  1

  Marbled Minor agg. (Oligia strigilis agg.)  3

03.003  Map-winged Swift (Korscheltellus fusconebulosa)  4

03.005  Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli)  1

16.001  Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)  3

16.020  a moth (Paraswammerdamia nebulella)  1

28.010  Brown House-moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella)  1

34.004  a moth (Limnaecia phragmitella)  4 usually only singles occur.

35.159  a moth (Exoteleia dodecella)  1 a totally new species for me.

38.039  a moth (Elachista maculicerusella)  1 new for the garden but a bit battered after I struggled to get it out of the egg tray.

39.001  a moth (Blastodacna hellerella)  1

40.002  a moth (Mompha ochraceella)  1

41.002  a moth (Blastobasis adustella)  3

45.008  Yarrow Plume (Gillmeria pallidactyla)  1

49.025  Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana)  3

49.038  a moth (Clepsis consimilana)  2

49.050  Grey Tortrix (Cnephasia stephensiana)  1

49.051  Flax Tortrix (Cnephasia asseclana)  1

49.109  a moth (Agapeta hamana)  26 a record count here the previous highest being 20. Only 6 times out of 191 occurrences have numbers been in double figures.

49.127  a moth (Aethes cnicana)  2

49.128  a moth (Aethes rubigana)  1

49.166  a moth (Celypha lacunana)  4

49.183  a moth (Lobesia abscisana)  1

49.193  a moth (Endothenia quadrimaculana)  1 the 5th garden record

49.194  a moth (Bactra lancealana)  1

49.252  a moth (Epinotia tedella)  1 the 3rd garden record

49.265  a moth (Eucosma cana)  6

49.266  a moth (Eucosma hohenwartiana)  1

49.298  a moth (Notocelia trimaculana)  1

49.367  a moth (Pammene fasciana)  1

49.375  a moth (Pammene regiana)  2

62.001  Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella)  2

63.025  Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)  3

63.037  a moth (Udea olivalis)  2

63.038  Mother of Pearl (Patania ruralis)  8

63.057  Garden Pebble (Evergestis forficalis)  2

63.064  a moth (Scoparia ambigualis)  3

63.066  a moth (Scoparia pyralella)  1

63.067  a moth (Eudonia lacustrata)  9

63.071  a moth (Eudonia lineola)  1 a scarce species getting more regular. the 9th since the first in 2018.

63.080  Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella)  101

63.089  a moth (Agriphila tristella)  2

63.093  a moth (Agriphila straminella)  6

63.102  a moth (Catoptria falsella)  3

65.009  Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides)  5

66.010  Drinker (Euthrix potatoria)  1

69.003  Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi)  2

69.016  Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)  3

70.011  Single-dotted Wave (Idaea dimidiata)  7

70.013  Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata)  9

70.016  Riband Wave [non-banded form] (Idaea aversata ab. remutata)  6

70.029  Blood-Vein (Timandra comae)  1

70.045  Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)  3

70.049  Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata)  2

70.055  Large Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe quadrifasiata)  2

70.061  Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata)  1

70.069  Dark Spinach (Pelurga comitata)  1

70.074  July Highflyer (Hydriomena furcata)  2

70.089  Phoenix (Eulithis prunata)  1

70.093  Barred Straw (Gandaritis pyraliata)  16

70.100  Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)  1

70.132  Rivulet (Perizoma affinitata)  3

70.133  Small Rivulet (Perizoma alchemillata)  7

70.138  Sandy Carpet (Perizoma flavofasciata)  18 a good number.

70.144  Green Pug (Pasiphila rectangulata)  1

70.169  Ash Pug (Eupithecia innotata f. fraxinata)  1

70.173  Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata)  1

70.207  Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata)  1

70.218  Latticed Heath (Chiasmia clathrata)  2

70.226  Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)  1

70.237  Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria)  4

70.243  Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria)  2

70.252  Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)  1

70.258  Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria)  3

70.265  Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata)  4

70.278  Common Wave (Cabera exanthemata)  1

70.283  Light Emerald (Campaea margaritaria)  3

70.297  Grass Emerald (Pseudoterpna pruinata atropunctaria)  3 a record number, usually singles.

71.025  Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala)  1

72.002  Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis)  17

72.003  Snout (Hypena proboscidalis)  12

72.026  Garden Tiger (Arctia caja)  2

72.045  Common Footman (Eilema lurideola)  7

72.053  Fan-foot (Herminia tarsipennalis)  3

72.061  Pinion-streaked Snout (Schrankia costaestrigalis)  4 a record count never more than 2 previously.

73.001  Spectacle (Abrostola tripartita)  3

73.012  Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)  4

73.015  Silver Y (Autographa gamma)  2

73.016  Beautiful Golden Y (Autographa pulchrina)  1

73.017  Plain Golden Y (Autographa jota)  1

73.084  Marbled Beauty (Bryophila domestica)  6

73.092  Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus)  1

73.096  Uncertain (Hoplodrina octogenaria)  2

73.113  Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa)  1

73.147  Small Dotted Buff (Photedes minima)  2

73.154  Dusky Brocade (Apamea remissa)  1

73.162  Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha)  3

73.254  Antler Moth (Cerapteryx graminis)  1

73.267  Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea)  5

73.291  Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens)  8

73.293  Smoky Wainscot (Mythimna impura)  17

73.298  Clay (Mythimna ferrago)  1

73.317  Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis)  11

73.328  Flame (Axylia putris)  11

73.332  Purple Clay (Diarsia brunnea)  1

73.334  Small Square-spot (Diarsia rubi)  5

73.338  True Lover's Knot (Lycophotia porphyrea)  3

73.342  Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba)  23

73.345  Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes)  1

73.353  Dotted Clay (Xestia baja)  3

73.359  Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum)  6

73.361  Double Square-spot (Xestia triangulum)  16

49.128  Aethes rubigana

49.193  Endothenia quadrimaculana

49.252  Epinotia tedella

63.071  Eudonia lineola

35.159  Exoteleia dodecella
49.367  Pammene fasciana

70.297  Grass Emerald Pseudoterpna pruinata atropunctaria

72.061  Pinion-streaked Snout Schrankia costaestrigalis

Monday, July 11, 2022

Summer has arrived...

 Even in North Northumberland. 

We don't get the temperatures faced by the south east, but a few days at 20 - 22 degrees as good for us.

During the usual cooler days we wonder about the insects we will find when it gets warmer. Our thoughts turn to Lepidoperta and Odonata ( Butterflies, Moths and Dragonflies, philistine) however we tend to let our mind wander from other groups of invertebrates that will be around in force. This year Clegs rule the show taking burning lumps out of flesh whenever they get a chance. Not only that, I am very prone to getting bitten by everything. The other night in the bath, I did a quick inventory of itchy red lumpy bites and found a minimum of 110! They vary from tiny itchy slashes, to large welts so must be from an assortment of midgies, clegs and mozzies. 

It is often my own fault, as I do tend to set myself up for it. Getting up to cover the moth trap at dawn then doing the moth count is the cause of the majority of the attacks, but a trip up to Corby Woods yesterday was ridden with sneaky, silent Clegs. I have a love hate relationship with them. they love me, and I hate them!

A few less sinister critters has crossed our paths recently - 

White letter Hairstreaks. We found 3 territorial males yesterday on different Elms in Alnwick. They are a new species up in this corner of Northumberland and seem to be doing well. The images are less than useful, being taken with 100mm lens at a long range.

Ringlets abound as do Meadow Browns. This one was roosting in our garden.

Myathropa florea, a nice Hoverfly, common but these were my first. 

Leaf Beetles Donacia versicolorea, you can see the thick thighs and one with the distinctive spur from it.  

Four banded Longhorn beetle

The moth traps have been busy too with not too much excitement but at least one new species and a few that are always nice to see...

Ash Pug

Dingy Shears

Grass Emerald

New for me were two Argyresthia brockeella. 

Beautiful Carpet

Large Twin Spot Carpet


And of the Odonata, the heat has them whizzing around avoiding the lens, but a Banded Demoiselle landed close enough. We also had Gold ringed Dragonfly, Common / Southern Hawkers, Four spotted Chasers, Common Blue, Azure, Large Red and Blue tailed Damselflies.

Birding is almost a standstill for me, though I was pleased with a fresh juvenile Red Kite low over Homebase and Marks and Spencer in Alnwick yesterday...  

Thursday, July 07, 2022

The little things...

 Been a bit of a gap since my last post. This is probably because Ive been spending too long trying to identify insects and plants. When you area novice in such matters this can take time and the blog gets neglected. So by way of a catch up here we go...

I'm not really sure where to start. When birding I can be quite systematic in my approach, confident in my own abilities, but when looking at inverts etc, Im not even sure If I'm doing it right.

The last two weeks has been spent locally in an attempt not to break the bank on diesel.  

I may as well begin with the few birds of note. A visit to our local Nightjar spot on 15th June was good with 3 being seen very well and up to 12 birds calling in the area, the most I've had in one area, anywhere. The only problem on site was navigating windblown trees in the dark on the way back. What a plugging that was. In addition to the 'jars, we had a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 pairs of Tree Pipit, Crossbill and Tawny Owl.

 Around our village a few bits and pieces have provided interest.

Our neighbours and landlord. Howick Hall.

The Mullein Moth is a rare species in Northumberland, but I have had a few records of breeding in the garden but only one adult seen. This year has been exceptional with caterpillars being found all over the region so I checked out a few likely looking plants and found three different broods of caterpillars. A good omen for a  chance of another adult in the future.

Mullein Moth caterpillars on the foodplant, Verbascum.

In the hall grounds some ornamental borders had  a few Lambs Ears ( Stachys) and Astrantia plants that were proving very attractive to a wide range of bees.

Some tiny bees on a flower the size of a pound coin. The bigger one is Davies Colletes and the tiny waspish one is a Lassioglossum sp.

This was a new one for me, Fork-tailed Flower Bee.

Vestal Cuckoo Bee

Davies Colletes has the catchy latin name of Colletes daviesanus. And no, that's not a typo...  of 

For a couple of weeks the small patch of Red Valerian in our drive has hosted one or two Hummingbird Hawk-moths on most days. I never tire of watching them.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth .

The same clump also had a Painted Lady on one date, the only one I've seen this summer.

One Sunday while we were inland we popped in to see the Small Pearl bordered Fritillaries near Debdon. This small site is good but getting more scrub cover that I fear will push the butterflies out. There were also some hoverflies to check out.

Sericomyia lappona

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.

Volucella pallescens

Xylota segnis

I think that will do for now, I must get back posting again more regularly...