Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sunrises and Sunsets a varied week...


Top - A Cullernose sunrise, and a quick Sooty Shearwater sketch.

Over the last week or so as summer begins to ebb away there have been no great wildlife highlights but there has been some variety that's for sure . Please bear with me as this post might drift off a bit...

Last week there was a window of seawatching opportunity as the wind swung into the North briefly.

Manx Shearwaters were a feature with 500+ N on one day but other pickings were slim. 7 Sooty Shearwaters, a few Arctic Skuas a couple of Bonxies were to be expected but a watch on the 17th had a few oddities too with Merlin harassing Kittiwakes a mile offshore, 1 Little Gull and a Greenshank that flew N close in. The following day a juv Marsh Harrier came low overhead as I walked the dog along the coast path first thing.

On 22nd my, so far, last 2 Swifts were with hirundines over our village and the first singing Robin of autumn woke us up in the morning. 

Little Stint with Dunlin, centre.

This weekend, visits to Boulmer on Sunday and Monday, early on the former, later on the latter to avoid Bank Holiday visitors was quite nice.  A single Little Stint was with 300+ Dunlin in front of the pub while a Peregrine tried its best to thin the flock out a bit.

Dan found a nice juvenile Dotterel in the wintering Golden Plover flock that seems to be hanging on a while. On Sunday we had reasonable views but distant. I went back yesterday evening for a better look when it was closer but still not quite close enough...

Dotterel juv, Longhoughton Steel, Boulmer

Top, Field sketches of the Dotterel distant on seaweed covered rocks, and last night in the sheep field.  

While watching the Dotterel on Sunday  we had 4 Raven, 1 Wheatear, 1 Roseate Tern, 100+ other Terns ( three species) 6 Wigeon in-off, the first of autumn, 16 Whimbrel, 100+ Curlew, 8 Arctic Skua, 1 Pintail N, 10 Teal N.

Yesterday's early evening visit was quiet though we did have 80+ Manx Shearwaters, 6+ Arctic Skuas, 1 very distant high flying Pom that dropped down on to the sea, but we couldn't nail it.

Boulmer sunrise.

To round off, here are some Invertebrates that have kept me busy mid week - 

Palloptera muliebris a Picture winged Fly, scarce up here apparently, maybe be the first record for VC68.

Feathered Gothic

Totally knackered but this Oblique Carpet is new for me. Scarce in Northumberland.

Platyptilia gonodactyla

A Mirid Bug, Stenoderma calcarata

Sitona obsoletus

Phycitodes binaevella


Another new moth for me and rare up here is Small Mottled Willow, first for VC68. 

Moving into the dark art of Diptera we have Dolichopus griseipennis displaying around our drain.

Barred Chestnut

Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

Copper Underwing on sugar ropes.

Another Grey Chi 

This was a right pain. I thought it was a Gem, but it wouldnt open its wings other than to fly around like a nutter for the first 12 hours. Finally it sat out for this shot then I lost it in the kitchen! It has yet to emerge... oh yes its another first for me Red Twin Spot Carpet.

Sunset from the kitchen.

Monday, August 22, 2022


 Me and John were out and about around Boulmer and the Aln Estuary yesterday morning. We began early at 06.30 when it was quite peaceful. The wind was a light SW3, it was clear and sunny but there was an early autumn chill in the air.

Boulmer, before the masses.

Before I get on to what we saw, I've got to say, we were up against it. It seems that every corner of the patch is getting more like Blackpool every week. Just to run through, while watching the waders on a weed strewn muddy north end at Boulmer it began with a chap wearing a Toon top kicking a football along the shore. Thats a new one on me here. We then had dog walkers with those throwing sticks that get the ball to cover as much wader habitat as possible. This was before the standard bemused tourists arrived who walk straight down the muddy haven to the waters edge to stand, gazing, not knowing exactly why they came or what to do next.

Soon after as we sat on the north seat, the lovely, dulcet tones, of the countryside could be heard when a dozen tossers on off road motorbikes came along the track north, forcing the way through the gate. WTF? I took some snaps of reg plates but on checking back home this track is open to all traffic, despite pedestrians, dogs, kids, sheep, cyclists etc. I'll remember that next time I fancy a seawatch in the pouring rain.

Despite this, we did see a few birds. Off the north end were 300+ mixed terns that included mostly Sandwich, Arctic and Common in that order but in with them were 5 Roseates. There had been up to 4 Black Terns the night before but there weren't here this morning.

A female Merlin came low overhead, south, past the village while a Sparrowhawk hunted the starlings. A couple of Yellow Wagtails flew south overhead.

Waders, we had Bar tailed Godwit 4, Grey Plover in sum plum, Whimbrel, a Snipe in off, 53 Lapwing and several hundred Golden Plover on the rocks. On the mud, 100+ Dunlin, 50+ Ringed Plover, 50+ Redshank. A Wheatear was about the only passerine migrant. 

Lads enjoying the countryside. 

   So, to get away from the melee at Boulmer we headed down the road to view the River Aln from Foxton for waders. On arrival a cockeney had parked his camper van on the road verge as it was a tenner to use the car park. When I spoke to him he looked at me in a head twisting manner as if he had just found a lost tribe in the Amazon.

Off to view the river then. A few waders were here, but not for long, oh no. Firstly a husband and wife team in small rowing things were like the Oxford boat race moving down stream. She was clueless and kept veering off into the bank in a zig zag manner, while looking over her shoulder to see where she was going ( its a curved meander here). As they were leaving our view, they were passed by a lone canoeist coming the opposite way. Greenshanks were scattering all over. He was soon followed by a family in what looked like a boat that had crossed from Calais to Dover through the night and with them a bloke with his grandson on a paddle board using a bit of round plastic as a sail.

Before this lot appeared we had 5 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 6 Teal, a Pintail and a Goosander. 15 Black tailed Godwits flew N.

Finally were left the regatta to view the estuary from Tom's seat. The access cycle path was like Edinburgh Christmas market but as the tide dropped a few birds came out to feed. 

Black tailed Godwit 42, Curlew 172+ Knot 3, Greenshank 4, Snipe 2, Little Egret 8. A couple of Sedge Warblers were a bit late and a nice Lesser Whitethroat fed in brambles in the sunshine.

Roll on easterlies and rain I say...     

Monday, August 15, 2022

A catch up...

 Here we are two weeks into August and not a blog post. I've no idea where the time goes. 

As it happens, August has been a bit quiet so far but a few noteworthy things have come to hand.

Now the autumn is here, I've started to go back to Boulmer. This is often difficult due a few factors that I find irritating. The number of visitors now causes a lot of disturbance and the fact that these visitors are basically corralled onto the shore line because the whole headland is filled with parking restrictions and 'Private-Keep Out' signs. Even on the old runways where we could walk the dog without fear a few years ago, now closed off. This exacerbates disturbance on the shore because there is simply nowhere else for people to go.

Rant over for the time being. The last day of July turned up a few Roseate Terns at Cullernose and Boulmer along with a few returning shoreline waders at the latter. A short seawatch early morning was typically quiet but 35 Manx Shearwaters, 11 Common Scoters, 23 Lesser black backed Gulls (the least common of the regular species here) and 20+ Arctic Terns.

The Hummingbird Hawk-moth influx isn't over apparently as another graced our buddleia on the 31st.


August arrived and with it some nice summer weather. We've had warm days but not like the heatwave further south. More like a good summer I'd say.

On 1st a new moth for me and for VC68 was in the trap. An adventive moving north from Kent, this one, Pammene aurita had be stumped until Tom Tams came to the rescue.

Pammene aurita.

 After a spring absence this year, Holly Blue was pleasing to see back in the garden ( later seen egg laying on our Ivy flower buds) while on a dog walk in our village wood, a few interesting things were recorded. A new plant for me was found, Upright Hedge Parsley, common but previously overlooked as well as Broad leaved Helleborine, several Saxon Wasps and a Hoverfly Leucozona glaucia.

Broad leaved Helleborine

Leucozona laternaria

Saxon Wasp

Upright Hedge Parsley

A short look to Boulmer on 6th to meet Russ Boland and friends who were on a weekend visit to Northumberland from Barnsley . Russ is a birder and great artists/notetaker who I was keen to meet after having a bit of chat with on Twitter. We had a walk up to the North end where Russ finally found his lifer Roseate Tern and managed some excellent sketches to record the event.

The next day, John and myself returned to Boulmer. Birding highlights were few but 16 Black tailed Godwits S, 2 Arctic Skuas S, 1 Yellow Wagtail on the beach, 173 Curlew and a Peregrine hunting waders were the most noteworthy. A small brightly coloured Leaf Beetle Sermylassa halensis was new. If you use any of these identification apps such as Obsidentify, it gave two incorrect ansers both with 100% certainty for this beetle. I never believe them and do a bit of digging once I get a bit of direction. In this case the image doesnt show the green panel on the forehead well so the AI didnt pick it up, hence a different identification.


Sermylassa halensis

Holly Blue egg laying.

And finally, as if micro moths in the trap aren't difficult enough, this Fruit Fly was new to Northumberland!

Anomoia purmunda