Saturday, December 30, 2023

Looking back...

One of the unwritten rules for bloggers and those on social media, an etiquette if you will, seems to require that the final post of the year should be a contemplative look back over the last 12 months and to plan forward into the coming year.

I've not posted for a few weeks because, to be quite frank, I am struggling to think of something to write about, let alone something 'contemplative'.

Its not that there have been no high or low lights, its just that I am having a bit of a writers block. 

You might have noticed in several recent posts, I have only been doing a 'been there, seen that' type of style. I really do wish I could find a way to be more engaging. So, there's a plan for 2024. Try to make posts more interesting and engaging! Just how, I'm not sure yet, but, dear reader, I will try....

Right, 2023. 

As the year comes to a close, I can feel very lucky in that there have been no major dramas with health for me and my family though a very close friend has suffered a life changing, but hopefully manageable 'glitch' in the machine.

 As I rapidly approach the opening of my 7th decade (what!) I am expecting, like a car with high mileage, some things might start to give, but we can cross those bridges as they arise. At the minute, I have a clean MOT and for that I am thankful.

On the wildlife front, after all that is the purpose of this blog, the year has been quite good. Not a classic, but not bad either. The majority of my observations have been local, usually within a few miles of home, with an odd exception and holiday, such as the trips away to Ardnamurchan in June followed by a fortnight in Suffolk in September, where both brought some great wildlife experiences.

Two bird lifers came my way during the year with the Grey headed Lapwing at Low Newton, 6 miles from home, and the Brown Booby at North Gare, my only out of county twitch. New, other long awaited, Northumberland ticks were the Alpine Swift at Bamburgh and the Red breasted Goose at Elwick. 

Both very unexpected lifers above, who knows what 2024 might bring...

Drilling this theme down, there were no patch ticks this year, but there were some nice highlights including two great new birds for the garden with a brief Siberian Stonechat and an also brief male Firecrest both in October. On the downside, this is my third year without a Yellow browed Warbler on patch and laziness meant that a few common species were missed too such as Wigeon. My excuse is that we were away for the last two weeks of September when most birds come through on passage during seawatches.

Sibe Stonechat of one form or another as seen from the kitchen window.

Other patch 'goodies' were Russian Whitefronts over the garden, the 2nd Egyptian Goose for the patch, Hobby, Sabine's Gull, Great Shearwater, a brace of Grey Phalaropes, Northern Bullfinch, 40 odd Waxwings and a great flock of 22 Snow Buntings. Not too bad within 1km of my house.

Moths were quite good too with 10 new species for the garden. This list included a first for Northumberland ( vice counties 67 and 68) and no less than 4 firsts for vc68 alone.

Cream bordered Green Pea 1st for Northumberland, Dusky Thorn 1st for VC68, European Corn borer, 1st VC68, 4th Northumberland and Tissue.

Throw into the mix a few new plants, some great spiders for Northumberland, beetles etc and the whole 12 months hasn't been too bad at all.

Episinus angulatus 1st Northumberland, Euophrys frontalis, Uluborus plumipes, Pholcus phalangoides

As for an absolute favourite wildlife encounter in 2023? Encounters with one family in the summer remain top of the pops and don't come any better than this.   Please see - Here



Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Waxwing Blogging

 A nice sunny lunchtime walk to the Pond Field today when, on route I noticed a car parked on the roadside opposite the pink rowan tree. As I passed I said to the occupants, 'Waxwings?' They replied that there were three birds still and as I watched the birds flew up into a birch across the road. I said there had been 40 odd last week but most had moved on. 

The couple of observers were on holiday from Yorkshire and asked if I wrote 'the blog'. 'Yes, I do'  I replied. They went on to say they had hoped to see some Waxwings on their visit and had googled them, then found my blog that gave them an idea where to look.  Isn't that nice!  Sometimes I wonder what the point of the blog is, but its these occasional little interactions that make it more worthwhile. 

I'm sure they enjoyed the birds, after all, its not often you find a tree with Waxwings that doesn't have a togger hiding below it.

On Monday in foul weather conditions, 9 Waxwings dropped into our village hall car park for 5 minutes before flying off back towards the rowan, so there may be other birds still hanging around somewhere.

We continued our walk down to the Pond Field. The pond sluice was open to reduce levels as the lane into our village was like a river on Monday. 2 Teal, 2 Mallard and a Little Grebe were the only things present but the Chiffchaff was still calling in cover in the wet wood.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Blue ( with the cold) Velvet...

The Old Rectory in our village...

Since last weeks post, the weather changed considerably, for the worse. The snow became 'real' and the temperature dropped to -4 degrees freezing anything already wet into a solid lump of ice. Often, hard weather spells like this can produce a movement of birds such as Skylarks or Woodcocks on the patch but as in all weather patterns there are some subtleties to watch out for. In this case we didnt get any hard weather movement as the main cold was confined to the east coast, leaving birds already in further west non the wiser.

Still, in local patch terms, it is always a bit interesting in some form.

On Peggy's walk on 1st, we wandered around the field beside the coast path. All was quiet, Peggy occupied by the enhanced snowy sniffing opportunities when a roar of wind over head caused us to pause and look up. Here we found a big adult Peregine scything through a flock of 30 off Golden Plover dividing the numbers in half. The rush of the wings was amazing, with Go Plo's parting like the Red Sea. The executioner unfortunately left without breakfast.

Later, a single Waxwing was still hunkered down in the pink rowan along the main road and a cracker of a Tawny Owl sat out in the pink light of a snowy dusk, giving great views on a fence post along our lane.

Phone shot. By the time I got it out of my pocket the Peregrine was on its way...

The Pond Field

Yesterday we were to do a Guided Walk for Alnwick Wildlife Group from Dunstan Steads to Low Newton and back. This wasn't until 10am so we met at 8 and had a short wander around our village first. Wednesday's Tawny Owl was sat out again in the same place before flying past us into some ivy covered trees to roost while a Treecreeper hopped up a telegraph pole nearby. More interesting were two calling Chiffchaffs, one by the pond field in the wet wood, the other along the lane beside the village wood. It feasibly could have been one bird moving around but I dont think so? 

After not a bad start it was off, all of 3 miles along to Dunstan Steads. The roads were a bit tricky along here most not having seen a gritter so we didnt expect a big turn out. We were right. The group consisted of 6 hardy members but the weather was calm freezing and bright, ideal for a coast walk. And, even better, the golf course was closed so there were very few people around too!

We walked along the shore with snow down to the high tide line seeing a few bits and pieces. Best of all was a close in female Velvet Scoter eating shore crabs. On the flat sea she gave some great views.

Velvet Scoter dismembering a shore crab...

A bit further on were a few waders and more wildfowl forced onto the sea as the pond and scrapes were frozen solid.

We had 1 juv Brent Goose on the beach, 40+ Wigeon, a few Mallard and with them an ocean going Gadwall, 3 Common Scoter, 3 Red breasted Merganser, 2 Purple Sandpiper, 2 Bar tailed Godwits and 2 Grey Plover. Passerines were in short supply with only Stonechats, Skylark, Greenfinch and a few Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes in the dune bushes.

Not a great deal to write home about but it was a very nice walk out with enough to keep us interested.

Embleton Beach