Sunday, August 31, 2014

In the pink...

Sedge Warbler juveniles.
Is it my imagination or are there a lot of young warblers around this year? Most spots this morning held a good selection, in particular the Warkworth Gut top car park where there were 5+ Chiffchaff, 1+ Willow Warbler, 5+ Blackcap, 3+ Whitethroat and 1 Sedge Warbler. Overhead, 2 Yellow Wagtails flew south and a Wheatear seemed to drop out of the sky from nowhere.

Over in the bay, a dark phase Arctic Skua stalked along N and a Whimbrel trilled going south.

Its years since my first ever Surf Scoter was at Birling Carrs, just to the north of Warkworth and I can count on one hand the times I have been there since, but today we gave it a look.

In a proper stubble field (one with weed seeds) we came across a large flock of small birds with maybe 500+ individuals comprising of mostly Linnets but with good numbers of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Skylarks too. Its nice to see this again when we are old enough to remember when every cut corn field was like this, not so long ago. Later next month this might be worth checking for Lap Bunts, providing its not ploughed in by then.

By the time we got to the beach, the sun was out and things were warming up nicely. there was a large tern roost on the one flat rock that merited a closer look. In there, were 80+ Sandwich, a few Common and Arctic and 2+ Roseate Terns including a nice very pink adult. I thought this would have faded by now?
A Med Gull here looked like an adult, but might have been second winter, as I didnt get to see the primaries at all...  

A nice pink adult Roseate Tern in the flock..
...and again this time it is far left, three down from the top.
Mediterranean Gull
Birling Carrs

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mr Blue skies...

A strong easterly blow without rain is so frustrating. Clear blue skies and sunshine do nothing for migration, so lets hope some overnight down pours appear later this week...

A short sea watch tonight didnt yield any of the large shearwaters that have been around lately but it was ok with the following noted -

Craster 17.30pm - 18.40pm

Manx Shearwater 76
Arctic Skua 11
Red throated Diver 1
Little Gull 1
Arctic Tern 40+
Plus loads of Kitties, Gannets and Fulmars etc.

The weekend highlight though came overnight in the moth trap.

1157 Crocidosema plebejana is a canny gob ful, but this little speck is a first for Northumberland and might even be the first for the north of England? Its usual range is along the south coast from Scillies to Suffolk, so one 400 miles north is a bit bizarre...

Anyway here it is, be dazzled by its beauty!

Thanks to the twitterarti for pointing me in the right direction....

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Far from the Madding Crowd...

Druridge Pools Track
This mornings itinerary was made simply to avoid the Great North Bike Race. Each August Bank Holiday thousands of cyclists fill our roads between Seahouses and Tynemouth. Churlish as it may seem, as it is for charity and all that, the whole bloody thing gets on my wick. Drivers are told to have 'respect' for the masses, but this doesn't seem to be reciprocated. They fling their complimentary water bottles onto the roadside, they urinate in rural driveways and I have even faced verbal abuse from them for no reason what so ever! So, every recent August Bank Hol since then, I ensure that I avoid the route at all costs and we can all be happy.

Ahead of the flow, I started off well south this morning at Druridge Pools for an hour. Waders were in short supply with little of note other than a Ruff on the Budge Fields, but local migrant passerines were everywhere, feeding up before the big push. In the patch of brambles above and along the track were 6+  Common Whitethroat, 4+ Blackcap, 10+ Willow /Chiffs and a single Reed Warbler. A Swift flew overhead with three species of hirundines.

On the pool, Mallard were the wildfowl min largest numbers but there were a few Gadwall and Tufted Duck too. 8 Little Grebes were next to the Oddie Hide. Best of all, was anice family party of at least 4 Yellow Wagtails feeding on the pool edge. The juvs had a funny 'bluethroat' look about them...

Not a Bluethroat  
As time was getting on and I didn't want the hordes of hades heading me off, I drifted west, slightly, and checked out an old stomping ground near Stobswood Tip. The walk down the track was quiet, calm  and warm in the early autumn sun. The only sound to break the silence was the 'seeping' of Meadow Pipits over head and warbler contact calls in the scrub. Blackberries and rosehips were ripening and everything felt 'golden'. Warblers flitted ahead of me as earlier, the best being a Lesser Whitethroat, that was very tricky to get views of.

Lesser Whitethroat
Wild Carrot
Wild Carrot
Next was a short stop at the new Stobswood scrapes. A Greenshank and 100+ Teal were added to the notes.

The final avoidance tactic was to get back north on the A1. This called for a detour via Corby Crags for dragonflies.

Heather in all its glory.

 10+ Black Darters were on the wing but keeping low in cover as it was quite cool up here. A couple of Red Admirals were on the heather and some russula and Brown Roll Rim fungi emerging under the pines.

Thanks to the glorious weather, an excellent morning was had - without the Tour de France!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Today's garden photos...

Whimbrel (heavily cropped)
Most garden Whimbrel records are flying high over whistling, so I was surprised to look out of the porch window and see two wandering in the back field.

Between showers, a selection of butterflies posed for pictures, and I thought the bumblebees on globe thistle looked a bit arty too, so here they are. White tailed I think?

While snapping in the sunshine a juvvy Chiffchaff sat out watching what was going on...  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Little Grebe...

I was a bit inspired by my Little Grebe nest yesterday, so just rattled off this sketch on an old bit of cardboard packaging. Literally 10 minutes in the making, I quite like it's both senses!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Spotty Fly..

Out with Bunty this afternoon and this Spotted Flycatcher was loitering around the village wood. It was tricky to get a look at in the thick foliage...a patch year tick for me.

Brown Hawker in Northumberland?

Recently I have heard reports from good observers that they have seen Brown Hawker dragonflies at Newton Pool. This is a very rare species in Northumberland, so I thought I would have a look today. The sun, in sheltered spots out of the wind, was warm and there were lots of insects on the wing but no Brown Hawkers...

The scrapes were chocca with birds, including 2 Wood Sandpipers, 8+ Black tailed Godwit, 6+ Ruff, and an adult Mediterranean Gull amongst dozens of commoner species.

On the main pool, a Little Grebe had 4 newly hatched humbugs on its nest, a bit late I think, and there were good numbers of wildfowl including 3 Wigeon. Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler were in the willows.

I spent some time wandering the track outside hoping for the hawker without success but I did see a single male Common Darter and a host of butterflies  - 1 Painted Lady, 1 Red Admiral, 2 Wall Brown, 2 Small Copper, 3+ Green veined White, 2 Large White all in a short distance.

The seawatching was poor, the wind needs to be more northerly than north westerly here.

Above - Painted Lady with an unidentified caterpillar not seen until the pics were on the computer.

A pair of Wall Browns

Small Copper

Large White

Sunday, August 17, 2014

All's quiet...

Wall Brown
 Apart from solid lash, what could be the worst weather for an east coast birder in August? Yep, a strong westerly with bright sunshine. Still I headed out to check a few sites, just in case. Starting off at Boulmer, at high tide,  A wander around Seaton Point was borderline depressing, where the highlights were 1 Whinchat, 1 Wheatear and a scatter of waders roosting on the shore.  This area has taken a severe down turn in the last five or so years since I covered it regularly. The fields are sterile and surrounded by blue 'daleks' to feed the local 'game'. People complain about open cast sites in the county ( I was one of them) but I think it would improve things here...

Turnstones at Seaton Point
 Moving on, a short stop at Foxton for a glance down at the tide full river flood plain had 130 Curlew, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank and an unringed Little Egret.

With the morning holding little inspiration, I drove down to Hauxley Goose Sanctuary  Nature Reserve. The pool was full with no muddy margin for waders, so a check around the lushly vegetated car park had a scatter of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. The flowers here are still looking good with masses of Marjoram and Fleabane adding the colour. A few butterflies were around, Wall Brown, Speckled Wood and Peacock. On returning to the car a Whimbrel flew over calling.

Willow Warbler
The final stop was Amble Braid as the tide was beginning to drop back. Lots of birds were dancing around waiting for the mud to be uncovered, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. 35 Shelducks was a good count. The wind was still increasing, so I cut my losses and headed back home.

Lets hope that wind does a 180 soon...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Caspo Expo!

Apparently this large gull in Amble Harbour is a 4th year Caspian Gull. The yellow darvic ring, PKCS shows that it was indeed ringed in a caspian gull colony in southern Poland, so what more could you ask for in confirming its identity?

Well there is unrest in the camp, with words such as 'unconvincing' and 'hybrid' being bandied about by the twitching fraternity. There may be some discrepancy in a retarded moult in the P45 or something (?) but this morning I visited and kept an open mind.

Ring or not, this gull was a doddle to pick out from the rest when given a good view. The most striking features were the dark 'piggy' eye, the very long bill and best of all for me, those legs! Is it a hybrid with an avocet I wondered ! It seemed very large, possibly indicating a male and was quite aggressive when squabbling over the warburtons, but the locals soon took the better hand. 

Looking through my pics below you can see its very distinctive shape, with the sloping posture when walking that is very unlike argenteus Herring Gulls. I haven't had a chance to consult back issues of  'Gulling World' to check the required patterning on the primaries, but I will, later.

For me personally, I cant see why this is not a Caspian Gull. Had it been wandering in a pig field at Blythburgh no one would have questioned it I'm sure, but they are very rare up here, where just about every non conforming bird of any species is deemed a hybrid.

[ Ive just had a bit of a read of birding world info and on the internet. All features seem fine for Caspian coming into 4th winter. I would like to see it after it has moulted all of the primaries, but I cant see what the doubters are on about really?]

Tell you what, its going on my list, not only a county tick (332) but a proper British tick (403) too! I have seen them in Slovakia and Hungary ( that looked like this), so that'll do. I might just use a pencil tick though til its accepted...  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wader fest...

Met up with JWR this morning at Alnmouth. As he had not yet been to see the Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell, we headed off south. Years ago this was where we cut our birding teeth, but, since we live in the north of the county its not somewhere we visit these days, preferring to find areas that are less heavily watched. Still, it was nice to tread old stomping grounds.

The first stop at Cresswell pond was largely lifeless, with little of note, so we moved on to Druridge in the hope the Stilt Sand might be back in front of the hide. What a change since  I was last here! The vegetation has grown vastly and we nearly didn't find the track to the pools! On route down to the hides, the track flitted with young warblers and goldfinches. Out on the main pool, there were a lot of birds but mostly common wildfowl. A few Snipe showed close enough to photograph.

Moving across to the little hide facing the budge fields was better. The marsh looks excellent and will hold waders through out the season I would imagine. Today there were 2 Wood Sandpipers, 1 Green Sandpiper and 2 Common Sandpipers, Ruff and Greenshank adding to the interest.

When the sun came out, so did the butterflies with plenty of Peacock, Red Admiral and Wall, plus this nice Comma.

After some discussion, and verbal abuse from the resident local patchworker, another trip back to Cresswell was on the cards.

What a change in the last hour! Waders were everywhere. 30+ Snipe, 20+ Dunlin, 4+ Common Sandpiper, 4+ Ruff, 3+ Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 4 Avocet and the Stilt Sandpiper put on a great show, along with 3 Little Egrets and a Wheatear. Its a shame they were too distant to photograph, but great scope views were had. I think Dave Elliott was a welcome year tick.

After the excitement we reverted back to form and headed north, starting at the Coquet Estuary between Amble and Warkworth. Although the tide was very low, there were a few highlights, including 1 juvenile Mediterranean Gull, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Bar tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, 3 Sanderling and a summer plumaged Grey Plover, 2 more Little Egrets mad us reflect on their abundance now compared to only very recently.

A final pause up at Foxton Bends was quieter (as usual) with 4+ Common Sandpipers, 3 Goosanders, 2 Little Egrets and a Swift overhead. 2 Spotted Flycatchers in the scrub were probably locally bred birds.

So, not a bad morning. I love autumn, me!