I can see the eyes staring at me through the dirty windscreen of the black 4x4 pickup as it bears down at me along the narrow lane. The suspicion in the eyes causes me to feel momentarily self-concious, it drips from the owner like the saliva from the lolling pink tongue of the sheepdog sat in the back. Try it, park in the gateway of a field along a quiet road and stand for a while, you won't wait long till one of the trundling giant sheepdog carriers comes slowly along, the ruddy-faced driver fixing you with a gaze that tells you he's thinking "What's this scruffy townie bloke doing loitering in my gateway?" I counted three today, all looking for a hint of guilt, questioning my motives, none of them stopped and asked, had they the answer would have been appropriate for the circumstances - wet my lips.
A flat calm sea at Newbiggin revealed all the hidden Puffins early morning, 35 Manx Shearwaters somewhat bizarrely a single and a group of 34 made their way north. Seven Ringed Plovers on the rocks may have been worthy of further scrutiny but my sea-watching chair/cushion/scope/tripod carrying skills are distance limited. A couple of adult Avocets fed visible from the road at Cresswell and three Spoonbills remained in a zombie-like state at Druridge. East Chevington held two 1st-summer Little Gulls, though 7 were seen later in the day and small numbers of the three 'common' tern species.
I headed inland to search for Quail. I stopped briefly at the new reservoir at Woodside (Woodside Reservoir?) a Barnacle Goose with the small Greylag flock the meagre pickings on the recently created slopes still with an almost complete abscence of vegetation.
Working west and south I found a field, parked and walked; moved on found another suitable looking field, parked and walked and so on for the next 20 minutes. Along the minor road south to Tritlington I finally got my reward as I watched two Hares from the car, the call drifted across, distant at first then closer. Never seen it continued to whip out its song from a few metres into the field, sometimes sounding closer, sometimes further away. Several further stops along the roads to the south produced 2 Red-legged Partridge and a single Grey Partridge as well as a brood of Pheasant.
No tapes were used in the search, just stop, look and listen, something I should try and do more often.
Great minds think alike. Obviously so do some birders as ADMc and I arrived in Newbiggin car park at 06:00 prompt within 30 seconds of each other with no pre-arrangement at all. Wind not quite as we would have liked with too much of a westerly feature rather than the forecast northwesterly.
A group of 7-8 close Manx Shearwaters as we walked to the point were the vanguard of a further 84 over 06:00-08:00; many of these were feeding dropping onto the sea about 1km offshore. The other immediate notable feature was an impressive gathering of 2-300 Gannet south of Newbiggin off the Wansbeck Estuary, you can make out some of them in flight in the seascape below.
A dark phase Arctic Skua moved south at distance and a pale phase skua (sp) was probably a Pom but too distant to be certain. A Heron (sp) some 2-3km offshore moving north was interesting for a short while till we realised that it was almost certainly Grey. Two Red-throated Divers moved north together. As we left a Great Skua flew over the caravan site; had we been sat at Church Point it would have sneaked behind us and off north. The poor seawatching weather generally this month ensures these are the first skua species I've seen this year, a very poor spring return.
A jog up the coast turned up a 1st-summer Little Gull at Cresswell.Druridge Pools was quiet though the recently fledged family of four young Common Stonechat entertained for a short while.
Five Little Gulls were at East Chevington (again, also present 26th per ADMc); four 1st-summers and 2nd-summer. Here a male Marsh Harrier came in high from the north, spooking the north pool and harassed by Sandwich Terns moved off high to the south before dropping low over Chibburn.
Wednesday night saw a big increase in terms of volume and species trapped with 77 moths trapped across 38 species. Along with four species new for 2011, Buff Ermine, Small Fan-foot, Double Square-spot and Bee Moth, a fantastic eight new species recorded for the first time in the garden. These were Green Silver-lines, Lychnis, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Scorched Wing, Beautiful Golden Y (2), White-spotted Pug, Pale Pinion and Chamomile Shark (2).
I had my work cut out pre and post-work sorting this lot out, dodging showers trying to get images. Stewart popped over lunchtime to see the Scorched Wing, though best moment of the day was my 3 (nearly 4) year oldboy pointing at the trap and saying "Dad that spotty one it's a White Ermine" correctly identifying only the second one he's ever seen!
If you got here via a Google search you won't be disappointed, trust me, you may have been let down in the past with poor quality images, maybe you've tried therapy and various other treatments and creams and nothing has worked. You find yourself trawling the internet, flirting with and skirting round at the periphery of sites offering porn. Flirt no more, as returning visitors will know this is fast becoming a home for high quality moth porn and tonight is no exception.
First up as the title suggests is the gorgeous Gold Spot and if this doesn't get you going there's just no hope for you.
Gold Spot in Missionary Position
Other stuff from the last couple of nights has included the elegant and sophisticated Angle Shades. If big come to bed eyes and sexy curves are for you then this is right up your street.
Maybe you like it a little darker, a little danger perhaps, not quite sure what you're dealing with and a moth that's just going to play hard to get. We can do that, this one goes both ways and has had several top local mothers questioning "Is it or isn't it?" I guess it's the ladyboy of my moth week. Lick your lips for Mottled Rustic ( or so I'm told).
That's it folks now go and clean yourselves up and close the door on your way out.
They were my words to Jimmy Steele when I returned his call early this afternoon because inevitably a call from Jimmy in May on a Sunday afternoon will do just that. Over the years I've lost count of the number of times he's turned an afternoon upside down with Short-toed Lark, Black-faced Bunting or Bonelli's Warbler dug out from pure graft.
Today was a little different but no less exciting, a family stroll in Beadnell Bay had turned up a Bearded Seal Erignathus barbatus on the beach. Now I won't claim to know much about these matters but from what I've read this evening the first English record was a specimen captured at Burnham Overy on the east coast in 1892. In recent times one was in the Medway , Kent in 1991, another at Hartlepool in 1999 and the only other English record was of one taken into care in Lincolnshire in June 1998. (source)
Having spent the morning doing moths and housework I jumped in the car and drove up. When I arrived on the beach Newton Stringer was watching over the beast, a short 300m hop from the NT car park north of Newton village. We spent about 1.5 hours waiting for the tide to come in getting a good sandblasting. The seal was fairly inactive whilst we there, prompting fears that it was sick. However as I headed home Stringer rang with good news that the Marine Mammal Rescue guy had arrived, consulted with 'experts' elsewhere and was of the opinion this was fairly typical behaviour and that it looked fit and well. As the high tide pushed in it became slightly more active, rolling in the waves and creeping up the beach with the rising water.
Not an Arctic ice floe but a windswept Northumbrian Beach
Live Long & Prosper!
I haven't compared images tonight but a quick check at birdguides would suggest it isn't the long-staying Orkney animal as that was still at Finstown on 19th.
The pool by the footpath always causes me to stop, surprisingly deep, still and dark. I lean over to see me twenty odd years ago looking back from the reflection five feet below. My stare is only broken by the skimmer gently rowing across the surface, catching my eye and dragging it towards the sliver of silver falling like poured wine over the almost fluorescent green moss covered rocks. Around me fern fronds gently unfurl, a tangle of Honeysuckle spills out from a path-side tree, everywhere lies fallen wood, some branches recently fallen, perhaps victims of the winter, some that have lain, decaying, since I first set foot here as a bright young thing.
I don't know why I looked to my right, sometimes you just do, the Tawny Owl motionless atop the small nestbox didn't look the least bit surprised to see me. I turned slowly away and unzipped the camera bag, then turned back to an empty nestbox. After gingerly crossing the muddy floor of the narrow steep sided wood I climbed the footpath on the other side. Up ahead a Pied Flycatcher sang, one of the reasons I had come down to this particular wood. As the morning wore on I saw several, males and females but they were never easy; the males mostly in the canopy and the leaf cover ensuring snatched views. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard and seen briefly; a Redstart sang from almost the exact same place as one had done last year on my last trip here. From up high looking down I watched a Roe Deer completely unaware of me 30m up above way out of its line of sight. Nuthatch put in a brief appearance, only Wood Warbler missing really.
Female Pied Flycatcher showing typical female behaviour showing off the ring.
Later in the morning as it approached lunchtime I moved a mile or two west to a vantage overlooking the Tyne Valley and started looking for raptors; I say raptors but Osprey, Honey Buzzard and Hobby were the species uppermost in my mind. Admitting to actually looking for Honey Buzzard in Northumberland is akin to admitting a belief in aliens up here, I've never seen an inland Honey Buzzard in Northumberland. The frequent steady showers ensured that that particular status quo exists still.
The hunger built I stopped at a small shop in a village on the way back and bought a seven-sided pie for 95p; I may be getting older but I'm still living dangerously eh. No idea of the contents at the time of purchase it turned out to be Pork, but stuffed so full Mark Reeder would have written a whole post about it, superb value for money and with a Creme Egg for afters lunch was done.
A short stop at Whittle Dene produced little worthy of note, displaying Great Crested Grebes, three Ringed Plovers and a Grey Wagtail.
After last night's late-ish report of a Red-throated Pipit at Hauxley, I thought it was worth a punt despite the weather having been less than conducive to arrivals of anything like RtP. Luckily I'm not cynical enough yet to prevent me from getting off my arse and going to have a look for these things, if even one out of twenty proves accurate then occasionally I'll get to see a damn nice bird. Having said that with an overnight clear sky, days of westerlies and a bird reported in the early evening the night before I wasn't anticipating too much joy.
That last part was right, the only pipits present in the general area were Meadow Pipits, though the early morning sun, flat calm sea and complete absence of any other people at all (it was 05:30) was reasonably pleasant.
I may not have turned up the rare but there wasn't a complete absence of birds. A Whimbrel fed along the tideline as did several Knot including one in summer plumage. Common Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers sang from various perches north and south of the village; a single Lesser Whitethroat presumably a fresh arrivalplied it's trade from an unlikely single bush by the 'huts'. Two Wheatears moved off the top of the dunes to watch me carefully past from a roadside Hawthorn and a Tree Sparrow popped up on a wall as I returned to the car.
Just up the road to High Hauxley a Barn Owl post hopped nonchalantly ignoring the car completely and only moving at the whirr of the shutter from the camera.
This is Hauxley so notice how everything is sporting bling.
Dropping back past Cresswell, there was little to hold me there long. A Little Ringed Plover at Lynemouth Flash was my first at this site, though the water is almost non-existant now and a White Wagtail provided the final morning 'find' before I headed home to start breakfast and the school run.
A stroll this afternoon with one of the twins still doing his time after vomiting yesterday ( a two day nursery ban) along a short stretch of one of the Wansbeck offshoots produced a fleeting Kingfisher disappearing off upriver as we arrived with all the stealth of an African Elephant. My first of this species this year despite many hours along suitable and former breeding sites.
Gone a little quiet, with the occasional quality moth to liven up proceedings. White-shouldered House Moth was new for the year, as was White Ermine; always a looker White Ermine hence the image below. A single Alder Moth potted outside the trap on 15th is the second this year and the second earliest Northumberland record after Tim Sexton had one in his Tynemouth garden on 8th. On the micro front Epiblema cynosbatella was new for the garden.
I hadn't until this morning, till I pulled the beast below out of the trap. Thankfully they don't bite or sting (apparently) but they have got amazing fan like protrusions in front of the eye and make a whirring noise like a miniature microlight in flight. Looking at the National Biodiversity Network website they don't exist up here, or at least no one's recorded them and supplied the data to NBN. I'm sure they must be reasonably common and I'm guessing that there just isn't anyone up here doing beetles in any detail. This one was easily 30mm in length and the kids loved it, till it flew...
A trip into the Cheviots produced some year ticks in the form of 4 Ring Ouzels, at least 3 pairs of Whinchats, several Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Pipit and Cuckoo. Those bare facts don't do justice to a great morning's birding in one of Northumberland's best locations, throw in Redstarts, Dippers, Grey Wagtails, Common Buzzards and Green Woodpecker and you begin to get a fuller picture.
A coastal search for waders on Friday afternoon in good company added a Wood Sandpiper at Beadnell Flash as well as some good views of Little Terns on the beach at the Long Nanny as well as several hundred Arctic Terns. A Greenshank was down the channel at Warkworth Gut as ADMc and I investigated the new scrapes there and further south a Little Ringed Plover was north of the causeway at Cresswell Pond.
No less than 3 different Marsh Harriers were encountered during the day as we moved from north to south, an adult male and two females.
This morning a shorter trip to the Wansbeck produced two Bullfinch in scrub along the north bank; between 40-50 Common Swift lived up to their name along the river; another Greenshank was the sole wader on the estuary in a quiet morning's stroll.
I had posted one half of this post so if you have a sense of deja vu lay the blame at the door of blogger after their little technical hitch. Though I suspect there are quite a few of us out there who felt a sense of 'thank god it isn't just me that has technical glitches'.
New stuff over the 9th and 10th Cinnabar, Dark Spectacle, Silver Y, Common Swift, Freyer's Pug on 9th and Elephant Hawk-moth and Miller on 10th. Of those only Common Swift is not new for the garden. Dark Spectacle, Freyer's Pug, Miller and Elephant Hawk Moth were all new earliest dates for Northumberland. The kids enjoyed the Elephant Hawk Moth.
Elephant Hawk Moth
The Freyer's Pug was identified with much needed help from Stewart Sexton and Tom Tams.
I succumbed to the lure of the adult White-winged Black Tern that has been commuting around various pools in Druridge Bay today; joined the half dozen or so birders sat outside the north facing hide at East Chevington watching as this sublimely beautiful marsh tern bobbed and floated around the airspace above the north pool.
Delightfully delicate, beautifully buoyant we miss out so much here in Britain only seeing this whole family sparingly and this particular species even more sparingly, shame as they are just superb.
Later I watched two different female Marsh Harriers at two different sites.
A modest catch Small Magpie, Brown Rustic, Brimstone and Small Angle Shades new for the year. The Brown Rustic may well be the earliest Northumberland record to date; it pans the website earliest date
by 11 days but with so much early this year there could well be others even earlier that I'm unaware of. Flame Carpet was new for the garden though of the two trapped only the tatty one behaved for pictures, typical.
Small Angle Shades
Eurrhypara hortulata Small Magpie 1 Ecliptopera silaceata Small Phoenix 3 Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone 1 Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet 2 Odontopera bidentata Scalloped Hazel 3 Euplexia lucipara Small Angle Shades 1 Eupithecia dodoneata Oak Tree Pug 1 Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart 2 Biston betularia Peppered Moth 1 Orthosia gothica Hebrew Character 4 Apamea crenata Clouded-bordered Brindle 1 Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver 2 Rusina ferruginea Brown Rustic 1 Xanthorhoe designata Flame Carpet 2
It's ok it's a bird post, no need to worry, no creepy crawly moths in this one. For most the heavy rain will have been an uninspiring start to the day, a look out the window and a retreat back to bed for a little longer to shake off the self-induced hangover that you promised yourself you weren't going to have again last weekend (that's the same one you have been promising not to have every weekend since 1994).
For birders the opportunity to revel in grounded waders and wet migrants results in a semi-naked dance of celebration for the gentle rattle of rain on the window; this morning was no exception as I threw some of my finest moves whilst trying to pull on trousers without making the floor squeak.
Mentally turning over the destination choices as I hit the Jaffa Cakes (just 3) I headed for the coast. The rain was heavy by the time I pulled along Lynemouth Flash, a few 2CY Black-headed Gulls mooched, preened and occasionally stretched. At the north end a creamy eyebrow in the dock leaves gave away the location of a drake Garganey, perhaps freshly arrived as it was feeding ferociously. A couple of wet Meadow Pipits later I moved on to Cresswell. Pulling in at the north end two Avocets loafed north of the causeway and a small flock of summer plumaged Dunlin dug into the mud.
I climbed into the back of the car and retrieved the scope from the boot to have a closer look and was slightly surprised on looking back to see a drake Garganey out in the open on the small pool. A Greenshank arrived noisily.
The Budge screen at Druridge and the South hide produced little, 2 Common Terns on the main pool and a Greenshank flew over north.
North again to East Chevington more terns with Common Terns and Sandwich Terns braving the rain. After a particularly heavy shower a drake Garganey dropped in over the hide into the corner of the pool. Hat trick! Probably the same individual moving north rather than three different drakes though.
Heading back south an immature male Marsh Harrier showed exceptionally well hunting a wheat field and a small flock of Numenius waders included 2 Whimbrels and 3 Curlews.
I couldn't relocate Garganey at Cresswell or Lynemouth as I retraced my route home strongly suggesting that one individual was involved in all three locations following my route north.
Just in case anyone thinks I've gone completely moff given the last couple of posts and the new header this post is a short ornithological interlude. After work late afternoon I darted around a few local ponds and then Castle Island which turned out to be the most productive site as an unseen calling Greenshank was all I could muster elsewhere.
Two smart looking Little Ringed Plovers at the east end of the island along with three Common Sandpipers, and single Dunlin and Ringed Plover was the assembled wader throng. Seven Goosanders at the west end and four Swifts (still the only place I've seen Swifts this year) added minor interest and I counted the Shelduck too but you're not interested in that.
Rain and the moths went crazy, they came from everywhere, more varieties than Heinz. Obviously having had a trap that invited anything that entered to leave just as easily I wasn't quite prepared to be awash with species this morning. I ended up triple-ing up on pots with three different species in a pot in some instances. Being fairly new to the game It's taken me most of my non-working hours pre-shift and post-shift to photograph, count, identify and get myself into some semblance of order, great fun!
I'd had a few new species leading up to last night that hadn't made the blog so here are a few of those first.
Last night's garden ticks included Rustic-shoulder Knot, Knot Grass, Cabbage Moth, Grey Pine Carpet & Spruce Carpet. Lots of other 'first of the year' moths too Chinese Character, Brown Silver-line, Common Carpet.
Grey Pine Carpet
Last Night's full species list was as follows:
Odontopera bidentata Scalloped Hazel 1
Orthosia cerasi Common Quaker 1
Selenia lunularia Lunar Thorn 1
Apamea crenata Clouded-bordered Brindle 6
Notodonta ziczac Pebble Prominent 1
Ecliptopera silaceata Small Phoenix 5
Chloroclysta truncata Common Marbled Carpet 1
Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver 4
Notodonta dromedarius Iron Prominent 1
Diaphora mendica Muslin Moth 2
Orthosia gothica Hebrew Character 3
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 1
Nola confusalis Least Black Arches 1
Orthosia incerta Clouded Drab 1
Petrophora chlorosata Brown Silver-line 1
Xanthorhoe fluctuata Garden Carpet 1
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart 5
Apamea sordens Rustic Shoulder-knot 1 new for garden
Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot 1
Lacanobia thalassina Pale-shouldered Brocade 1
Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet 2
Eupithecia abbreviata Brindled Pug 1
Mamestra brassicae Cabbage Moth new for garden 1
Thera obeliscata Grey Pine Carpet new for garden 1
Thera britannica Spruce Carpet new for garden 1
Acronicta rumicis Knot Grass new for garden 1
Cilix glaucata Chinese Character 1