Monday, January 09, 2023

The Winter Cemetary

 Yesterday we decided to start off our local inland visits in a bit of an eclectic way as you will see.

The morning began by meeting John at Homebase as usual before first light. From here we headed off up onto the moors without many expectations really. It was dull, damp and cool with a breeze just strong enough to be irritating. Still, a breeze is often good for getting raptors in the air.

As we parked up, loose group of 3 Crossbills flew over. These should be nesting by now or at the least pairing up. Through the dark pines, it was sheltered from the wind but the damp air hung still and cold. Only Coal Tits and an odd Bullfinch could be heard but both remained unseen. After about half a mile we came to the clear fell at the end of the wood to scan over more open ground. Another two Crossbills were seen including a female perched up, 2 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels were out for their first hunt of the day.  

Unfortunately that was about it with little else of note, so we decided to head back into Alnwick to check the recycling plant for the Caspian Gull seen by IDR before Christmas. It seemed a big contrast from te bleak open moors and dark woods to be birding at what is essentially a dump! There were a couple of hundred Gulls around but most were Herring with an occasional Common and Black headed. We had no sign of the Caspian.

The morning was wearing on and the wildlife had not delivered much so what next?

How about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. From Raptors to Gulls now onwards to...hibernating Ladybirds.

Having read about some good insect observations in large cemetaries around the country we tried Alnwick. Its quite big for here next to Sainsbury's. It felt a bit like scraping the barrel or one last act of desperation before we headed off home, but this gothic deviation proved to be the best part of the morning.  John seemed to have his eye in and found the majority of the insects we saw.

In an hour we had 52 Orange Ladybirds, 15 Harlequins, 3 7 spot, 3 2 spot and 1 14 spot Ladybirds along with single Juniper and Hawthorn Shieldbugs. Not bad for a first attempt. We will try other graveyards in future no doubt.

The photos could be better as these are all with my phone, must take the macro gear next time...

My first Snowdrops of the season.

Juniper Shieldbug

Hawthorn Shieldbug

A commune of Orange and Harlequin Ladybirds

14-spot Ladybird

2-spot Ladybird


The Wessex Reiver said...

What a great post - you Tombstoned on birds but were finally committed with the invertebrates (sorry couldn't resist). Years ago I spent a day in a graveyard in west Wales looking at waxcaps, loads of them wherever we looked - I asked why it was so good a site - the academic with me explained - undisturbed ground and slow release nutrients. There's a lot to be said for churchyard wildlife.

Stewart said...

Cheers Andrew, Ive looked in churchyrds before but they generally leave me cold. It seems that the more urban a cemetary is the more wildlife it attracts, certainly in the form of hibernating ladybirds. Our rural places are lifeless but I see reports from Newcastle and they have 1000s of ladybirds!