Monday, November 27, 2023

Wax - wings and caps

 Its not been a bad week for the naturalist around here, really. 

The weather has been variable, though quite moderate. 

Mid week a dog walk through the Village Wood had that soft cool, earthy, early winter smell to it.  In the diluted sunshine, a pile of oak logs left after Storm Arwen attracted attention. It was covered in a colourful array of small fungi, including one new to me, Purple Jellydisc as well as Hairy Curtain Crust, Sulphur Tuft and one that remains to be identified. It may need further scrutiny this week.

In that evening a couple of late Pipistrelles (?), well, bats, were still hawking under the street lights.

Log Pile

Hairy Curtain Crust

Purple Jellydisc

I think the fungi at the top may be Sulphur Tuft?

Keeping to a fungi theme, I was surprised when Debra Burley found some Pink Ballerina Waxcaps in Alnwick Cemetary. Ive looked in many good waxcap grasslands in North Northumberland without success so I gave it a twitch on my way to work.
After some directional confusion, there were 10 small stout pink Waxcaps around an area of gravestones...Excellent.

Pink Ballerina Waxcaps

 By Friday, the wind had swung to the North and then some, On Google Earth the northerly could be followed right up to the North Pole. The 'socials' were filed with commentary about masses of Little Auks, it could be the best showing for years, White Winged Gulls, Brunnichs etc. I jested that we might even get a Spectacled Eider off it, such was its reach, but, I sort of knew that we had been here before. Many times.
 On my blog in Nov 2021, before Storm Arwen, I posted a very similar weather map and pondered just the same. Whilst the record breaking gales blew an unprecedented number of Brunnichs Guillemots southward, the rest was pretty much standard. This time, I was more tempered and considered that most Little Auks would be further west by now so although a good northerly will always give us a few birds, the chances of a classic were slim.

Early Saturday morning found me traipsing along to my nearest seawatching spot for a couple of hours. Yes, there wasn't a great deal moving, but there was just enough to fill the time. From 8am - 10am I had

Great Northern Diver 5 N
Diver sp 1 N
Red throated Diver 7
Goldeneye 2m 1f N and 1f S
Teal 2 S
Common Scoter 16
Purple Sandpiper 2
Eider 7 S
Great crested Grebe 1 S the rarest bird of the day.
Fulmar 6 N
Gannet 7 N
Litttle Auk 1 N at last, and new for the year. Dan and Mark watching from 300 mtrs south of me managed 74 Little Auks. They must have been too distant for my eyes is I'll I can suggest. 
Brent Geese 2 N
Pink footed Geese 500 S

This brings us to Sunday morning.

JWR came to pick me up to do a recce for next weeks Alnwick Wildlife Group guided walk from Embleton to Low Newton along the coast. Before we left, I had a quick task to collect some greenery for Jane's Christmas wreath making session. While getting some bits of Ivy at the Lane End, the distinctive trembling calls of Waxwings filled the air. Soon we located 26 of them perched on top of a tall Ash tree opposite a large ornamental pink Rowan tree. This tee is still laden with pinkish white berries that are always last to go, usually eaten by Bullfinches and Mistle Thrushes. As we watched down they came periodically, like locusts, to systematically clear the tree. The resident Mistler was having none of it and did his best to keep the viking raid at bay but he was fighting a losing battle. 

All of a sudden a Sparrowhawk dashed through panicking everything and the Waxwings headed off south to safety.

The start of our walk, Dunstan Steads / Embleton Golf Course with Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance.

Long tailed Duck. I wont even try to age or sex it.

We moved on to Embleton where the car was left at Dunstan Steads. This is only about 5 miles from home so still pretty local.
Our walk was quite pleasant witha few bits and pieces to make it worthwhile. 
7 Purple Sandpipers, on the shore and 19 Greenfinches looked fabulous feeding along the strand line,. At Newton Scrapes, 13 Whooper Swans, plenty of usual wildfowl and a nice Long tailed Duck showed well as Water Rails screamed in the background.

We got back home at 12, so I took Peggy for a walk to see if the Waxwings had returned. I was pleased now to find the numbers had gone up to 40+. I couldn't get an accurate number as they flew off during my best count but I know there were somewhere between 43 - 45 birds.

So, another grand early winters day out. I wonder when our roll will end?

Waxwings. The shot above has 31 of the 40 odd birds in it.


The Wessex Reiver said...

Fabulous images of the waxcaps with their punk style head feathers. We've not had them down here for a while but as this is an irruption year, I'm keeping my eyes peeled on the heavily berried hedges around me. And that view of Dunstanburgh, love it too. What a week you have had for wildlife watching.

Stewart said...

Cheers Andrew, yes these last few weeks have been quite good considering the time of year. Im sure there will be some Waxwings down your way soon too, especially if we get a cold spell up here to push them west...