Monday, April 15, 2024

Industrial Oyks and the (Not so) Secret Wood.

 This post is another all-over-the-shop cornucopia of wildlife sightings locally.

Lesser Redpolls.

In April I like to keep an even closer eye on my bird feeders than usual because there is always the chance of a Brambling or Mealy Redpoll on its return migration. Who knows, even a Hawfinch is a possibility. 

To keep up the Mealy hopes I make sure the niger is filled each morning. This has attracted up to 20 Goldfinches at a time and a couple of Siskins on some days. The other day two Redpolls appeared, both Lessers and one was injured with a broken leg. That didn't seem to hamper it as it fed well for a couple of days before departure.

While it was sunny in the garden on Saturday a Holly Blue kept me company. A second was along the road by the Village Hall. The slow moth trapping continues with a nice Chamomile Shark being the highlight. This is only my 3rd here in 15 yrs.

Chamomile Shark

The ever present ( in spring anyway) Hairy Footed Flower Bee males.

Above - Holly Blue butterfly. Still earlier that usual...

This Pale Mottled Willow is the county earliest by 3 weeks. Maybe a migrant?

Industrial Oystercatchers.

On Sunday we visited a new spot, a little bit further than usual but not much. You might have seen me mention our severe lack of decent woodland up here, well this spot had a quite a large area and some of it quite mature too. Mature enough to hold a single singing male Redstart that was typically camera shy as they often are.. The whole area looks good for plants and insects too when the weather warms up a bit.

Today we found a couple of pairs of Marsh Tit, including one at a nest site. This is the best year I've had for these for a decade. Long may it be so. 

Marsh Tits prospecting a likely nest site.

Also around the area were good numbers of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers with 3 Buzzards, Brambling heard and Siskins singing. A carpet of Bluebells were on the cusp of opening.

It just shows, no matter how long you live in a place, there are always discoveries to be made if you only look...

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

They're here!

 Since my last post, just for a change, the weather has been biblical. Gales and Rain. Even today it is pouring and cold with a mod NW wind. Everywhere is flooded, roads, fields, woods, even our tiny village pond now encompasses half the Village Hall car park too. Still the Toads were singing in it last night.

On Sunday we had our first Swallows, Sand Martins, Willow Warblers and Wheatear all at Alnmouth. Didnt get a single pic of any of them due to the wind.

There were plenty of Bees there too with Red tailed, Early and Buff tailed Bumblers, Hairy Footed Flower Bees, all males, no black females yet and a single Vestal Cuckoo Bee.

Vestal Cuckoo Bee

Male Hairy footed Flower Bee, it can be seen well in this shot.

Red tailed Bumblebee

On the home patch, 3 Swallows south along the coast path on Monday were my first, but since then the weather has put a block on any further additions.

A nice adult Lesser black backed Gull was with Herring Gulls on new plough watched from ou kitchen window making the garden list #61 now.

Lets continue to hope for a more prolonged dry spell soon, we need to release the over wintering Hedgehog before it gets much bigger ( 1100 gms!) but need a better forecast than this... 

Tuesday, April 02, 2024


 Not a bad Bank Holiday weekend weather wise. Well, 75% was ok, Monday was a wet and windy write off.

Friday was Good in more ways than one. 

At 0710 Ben Steel reported a Great White Egret in off the sea a few miles north of us at Dunstanburgh Castle, but more crucially it was now heading south, over Craster.

Thinking I'd be too late, I grabbed the dog and the bins and headed up the road. 

By 0715 I was on the coast road scanning south as I was convinced the bird would have been past us by now. No sign. Then a look north saw a couple walking their dog towards me and there above them an angel-like apparition glowing in the low morning sunshine. The Great White Egret was slower than anticipated due to the moderately strong head wind it was flying in to. It passed low over the dog walkers who saw me watching, so I pointed to the bird. By now they were only 20 mtrs from me so I said Egret. They seemed quite impressed at the big birds beauty as it majestically passed over us on route south, so I explained what it was and a bit about them. Id like to think I educated in a small way.

I was pleased to have seen it, only my 2nd patch record after a bird on the pond in 2013. These might be on every puddle further south but in my corner of North Northumberland they are still a big deal.

Back home for breakfast, around 0830, I decided to take Peggy for the rest of her morning walk along to the pond field. As we arrived, I could see a large white 'umbrella' standing in the far corner. The Egret had Landed!

This site gets busy on fine days so there was no way this bird would linger here, the track walked right past it. So poor Peggy was marched home again so I could get the camera. As time was of the essence, I took the car along to the pond and walked back along the track. Luckily the bird remained for 5 mins, long enough for a few shots to record the event before it flew off in a SE direction not to be reported again.

Nice start to spring.

Saturday was spent doing some gardening and the first grass cut of the year. While pottering around, the first Hairy footed Flower Bee was dashing around while 5 Brown Hares were in the Rectory Paddock.

On a fine Sunday morning JWR and me stocked up on Greggs Vegan Sausage Rolls and cakes (Chocolate Eclair for me, Pach Melba for John) then headed on to the moors. We were greeted by bubbling displaying Curlews, Stonechat and 30+ Brambling still hanging around from the big flock.

A lovely conditioned orange Fox was really taking its life in its hands at this heavily keepered and hunted site. Without a doubt its days are numbered.

We had a wander up the old railway line near Lemmington where there was a good show of the 'wild' Daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus .

As the morning warmed, after breakfast we went up to our site for Orange Underwing, a rare, day flying, spring, moth in the county. I've not seen one for about 5 years, mainly due to poor weather in this crucial 4 week period but today seemed promising.

As it turned out, it was! Just not for me. John called from a few metres away to say he had one. As is their way it fluttered along a line of trees vanishing as I got to the spot. At least its good news they are still here for another day. Maybe next weekend when the weather is warmer we'll have another look. I'd love to get a photo of one.

Also seen, Woodcock, Buzzard and Peacock butterfly.

Finally, to put the icing on the cake, back home in the afternoon the sun shone and it was sheltered in the garden. A lovely Holly Blue butterfly showed on three occasions both back and front of the house, but it was too flighty to get a photo. Still its my first in March and about 3 weeks earlier than the previous earliest here. A very welcome sight.

Also more Hairy footed Flower Bees, Early Bumblebee and Tawny mining Bee were all good to get.


Above - Orange Underwing site, with the view west.