Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Migrant Moths

 Northumberland and VC68 in particular (North Northumberland) aren't exactly renowned for migrant lepidoptera. We get a few but nothing like what can occur in the south . Apart from Silver Ys and Diamond backs most other things cause a raised eyebrow at least.

Last autumn was quite good in my garden for migrants with a few good arrivals, in particular Scarce Bordered Straw, Hummingbird Hawkmoths and Beet Moth. Now that we are three parts through August we are starting to see a few more migrants arriving here, so hopes are high that it might become another good season.

Last night a nice arrival came with 25 Silver Y and single Vestal, only my second in 14 years, Rusty dot Pearl, Rush Veneer and Diamond back. Earlier in the month my first Great Brocade for 5 years was a surprise too. Here's to more of the same, but there is one mystery.  Where have the Dark Swordgrass gone? We used to get them most autumns with good years like 2011 when I had 13 over the year. Its almost 2 years since the last in my garden...

Diamond backed Moth

Rush Veneer

Rusty Dot Pearl

Silver Y


Great Brocade



Monday, August 21, 2023

Wader Time.

 Yesterdays post is a bit out of kilter date wise. I meant to post it on Saturday but forgot, so read that as Saturdays news.

This one is for Sunday.

The morning was warm and pleasantly sunny with a light SW breeze. I was along at Boulmer for 7am to meet John to have a look for the White rumped Sandpiper found on Saturday by Mark Eaton. 

On arrival the tide was high leaving little room for the birds but a scan along towards Seaton Point showed there to be masses of gulls and waders gathered . The bird has been favouring north of the village but that can wait until the tide starts to fall back opening feeding areas there. For the minute we wandered along the shore to check out the feeding frenzy.

There was no White rumped but that didnt detract from the scene as there was a nice Little Stint, 1 juv Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Ruff, 1 Common Sandpiper, 40+ Ringed Plover and 30+ Dunlin with good numbers of Redshanks, Sanderling and Turnstones . While we watched a Yellow Wagtail flew S along the coast.

It was quite sad to see a dead Porpoise on the tideline here. I often wonder if Dolphins are the suspects...

Deceased Harbour Porpoise.


Little Stint with other waders.

As the tide began to recede we walked back to the village where we soon picked out the White rumped Sandpiper from the masses of other feeding birds. It showed well and at times came quite close, but it was never still so the photos are poor and I couldnt get it steady enough for a video. It was a nice adult and a first for Boulmer taking the site wader list up to 39. What will 40 be? My money is on Spotted Sand...

Also here another 2 Little Stints, 1 Ruff, 4 Knot inc 2 in red summer plumage, 1 Bar tailed Godwit, 1 Whimbrel, 150+ Ringed Plover and 100+ Dunlin.

Adult White rumped Sandpiper.

White rumped Sandpiper, Boulmer

Boulmer was now filling up with visitors so it was time to bail out. Next stop the Aln Estuary. Apart from an Environment Agency Hovercraft racing up river and mud flats alike putting every creature for a kilometre square into the air there were a few waders to see.

3 Avocet, 47 Black tailed Godwit, 6 Knot, 2 Ruff, 1 Greenshank, 4 Dunlin and 7 Little Egrets.

Once the hovercraft with its engine like a Sea King helicopter had cleared the decks, we decided to call it a morning...

Stand aside bird life here comes a thunderbird at 30 mph into your feeding area.

Taking mud samples. There must be a less intrusive way than this surely.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

All change...

 I smell change in the air? Or maybe its the stench of a dying social media platform due to the mismanagement of an egotistical madman? 

With Twitter (up yours Elon) being degraded faster than the NHS, there is the makings of a mass exodus of people I had previously enjoyed following. They have now left the building, as it were.  

It seems however, that there is a surprising benefit of this in that, coincidentally, some of these good folks are also top bloggers with the likes of Gavin Haig and Alastair Forsyth showing some renewed blogging vigour after the demise of Twitter accounts. Still hanging on there in the Twitterverse, formerly the most regular of bloggers, North Downs and Beyond big hitter,  Steve Gale, has also indicated a return to past form.   I wonder if there are other hitherto unknown bloggers out there ready to follow suite. We might even get more from our local stars like Ipin at Druridge and Alan Tilmouth. Its looking good .

Getting back to the job in hand, today I had hoped to be blogging about some tasty local patch birds after last nights stiff Easterly with heavy rain. In years gone by, a forecast like this below a big high over Scandinavia would surely have dropped in some birds to hunt through for things a bit more scarce.

Some observers will say that when recording natural history sightings, a nil count is just as important as a large number. If that is the case, today has been brilliant.

I got up shortly after first light and after coffee and breakfast headed out on foot for a walk along the coast path to see what goodies had been grounded. An hour and 15 minutes later I was back having seen exactly nothing. No Willow Warblers, Pied Flycatchers or Garden Warblers and certainly no icing on the top with a spare Wryneck, Barred Warbler or 'Icky' ( Icterine Warbler). The only things in the book were 2 Whimbrel N, 6 Swifts S, 3 Sand Martins over the village and a pair of Stonechats feeding a third brood.

When I posted this outcome on Twitter, responses said 'Pied Fly at Seaton Point according to Birdguides'. There had been a Garden Warbler there too and a handful of birds on Holy Island and down at St Mary's Island but that's not the point. That's more of a Shifting Baseline Syndrome. What should there have been? As mentioned above, 30 years ago, a forecast like this would have dropped in double figures of these commoner species and an odd individual of the rarer ones too. For example in 1995 early Sept an hour lunch break from work had 20+ Redstarts and 30+ Pied Flycatchers at Newbiggin. Another day in 2002 had a range of rarer and commoner species that would seem fanciful in today's times.

I hope I am wrong but I fear the days of having to hastily arrange a day off work to enjoy 'fall conditions' may be over...

My only patch Icterine warbler, Sept 2008.

Monday, August 14, 2023


 I'm being neglectful again. 14th August and no blog posts this month!

So, whats been going on over the past fortnight?

The month began with a bit more seawatching. Despite reasonable conditions it remained a bit underwhelming really for example, on 3rd an early hour had 3 Manx, 2 Arctic Skuas, 5 Roseate Terns, 13 Common Scoter and a Bonxie. The hundreds of Gannets and Kittiwakes gave a false impression.

Later that day, another afternoon hour was pretty much the same.

On the 6th another two watches , one for 2hrs from 6.40am had 6 Roseates, 2 Common, 6+ Arctic and 8+ Sandwich Terns, 1 Arctic Skua, 1, yes 1 Manx, 3 Puffin, 10 Common Scoter and the watch saviour a year tick when 3 summer plumaged Bar tailed Godwits flew N.  

This watch was accompanied by an influx of weed smoking, chav, mackerel anglers. Nice.

An hour after work on Wednesday 9th was a bit better with 124 Manx N , 5 Sooty Shearwaters N, 3 Arctic Skuas N, 1 Bonxie N, 4 Common Scoter N, 3+ Puffins N and a Whimbrel.

 Other than the seawatches, not much has been happening. A trickle of yellow Willow Warblers through the village and a lone Peregrine just offshore one morning were about it.

On the moth sugar table, nightly, up to 3 Old Lady have been feeding with a few Yellow Underwings, Dark Arches and Rustics. Interestingly I've found Old Lady twice last week on buddleia flowers after dark, not something I've seen before. Holly Blues are going strong in the garden alongside another 9 species in reasonable numbers. 

In the trap a few early autumn species kicking in - 

Dark Marbled Carpet

Grey Chi x 2

Pammene aurita, only my 2nd after one last year.

Pebble Prominent, well you have to...

Ypsolopha scabrella, not a common or even regular moth in my garden.