Saturday, 23 April 2016

False Oxlip

Primula x polyantha

I have featured this plant 2 years ago on the blog but it is in flower again at Postern Burn woods. Both Cowslip and Primrose are found in the woods so it is no surprise this plant turns up now and again. There is plenty of colour and variety of plants in flower at the moment and Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) is turning up in many areas of the woods around Morpeth with additional new sightings on the roadside at High House Lane and in Borough Woods near the bypass. 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Slime Flux

I noticed this Slime Flux growing on a Sycamore at Carlisle Park Morpeth. I first noticed this on a Horse Chestnut at Ulgham in April 2011. There were no lasting affects on the tree. This strange sighting is caused by the sap fermenting though a mixture of bacteria and fungi. This was only identified at Kew in 2006 and reported in Field Mycology the same year.  

Friday, 8 April 2016

Summer Snowflake

Leucojum aestivum 

I came across this nice plant growing on the roadside at the edge of Widdrington between the station and Ulgham Grange. It looks well established here if it survives the vigorous roadside mowing. A nice addition to the growing plant list in the former coalfield area. No doubt a garden cast off but an attractive flowering plant all the same. Where it grows as a native in Britain it is known as the Loddon Lily. There are a couple of Northumberland records North of Wooler and South of Berwick according to the BSBI distribution maps so this may be a first for the vice county of 67. 
Back at Morpeth a Blackcap was singing in the Postern woods this morning and this evening I had my best views of Otter on the Wansbeck with 2 below Lowford. It was obviously him and her by the size difference having a good dive and swim in the deeper parts and climbing out of the river where they sat opposite facing the water on a sandy bank under some tree roots for a while before jumping back in the river again.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Spring Flowers

Plenty of spring flowers around now but not very springlike weather. The Yellow Star of Bethlehem at Scotch Gyll woods is at its best just now and with 32 flowering plants, this is the most I have seen. Toothwort are poking their heads through the leaf litter beside the castle and Caucasian Comfrey is becoming very common along the Wansbeck between Mitford and Morpeth. 29th March saw my first Chiffchaff a week later than usual and a pair of Dippers are seen regularly at Highford bridge. I have seen up to 3 Kingfishers at various spots along the river and a Green Woodpecker has been vocal at High House Lane.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Mother of Pearl

According to the local news it was 30 years ago when we last witnessed a Mother of Pearl sky. A week past Monday and Tuesday a strange sight looking South East from the garden saw a beautiful sunrise but I should have taken pictures of the pre-dawn sky half an hour earlier as it looked more spectacular than the pic above. I don't know all the science behind these things but you need a combination of weather conditions to see it. There's a good account on Wikipedia and some good images on the internet.
I was at Widdrington tip again yesterday afternoon. The Redpoll flock has halved with only 21 birds comprising of 16 Lessers and 5 Mealies but no paler birds among them. There is a vast area of potential feeding around here and I suspect they will be quite nomadic and difficult to pin down when I'm there. Also here were 2 Jays, 8 Common Snipe and I suspect a possible Water Pipit in the small flash area in the centre of the tip. On Thursday beside the reedbed* I noticed a Pipit like bird on the ground but I could only see a white supercilium and white or very pale double wingbars but as I couldn't see where it went to I just put it to the back of my mind. Walking around the flash yesterday I flushed one of the Snipe and a Pipit flew up with it. I couldn't see any other features as it flew towards the low afternoon sun and the bird went quickly back to the ground but unable to pick it up again. Usually meadow Pipits have an alarm call when flushed or abruptly disturbed but this bird was quiet. I will have a good look next visit.
*The reedbed at the former tip has been slowly expanding over the last decade. There are approximately 70 individual plants. In about 300 years a Bittern or Bearded Tit might turn up here!

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Part of the Redpoll flock with some Mealy Redpolls and a very white bird among them

I had a walk around the old brickworks and tip at Widdrington and came across a flock of about 46 Redpolls. About 26 were Lesers and the rest Mealies but 2 birds were very pale and 'snowy' looking and I was able to get a good look at one of them. One Mealy looked very broad faced with the 'pushed in bill but both birds had good white rumps and unstreaked underparts. I have taken notes and uploaded a page from the notebook but not sure if anyone can read it properly. The bird which I have photographed the underside of above looked a good candidate for an Arctic but its undertail feathers look more like a Mealy Redpoll so the 2 pale birds may be just very white and pale Mealies. It was very clear today with strong sunshine so perhaps this didn't help. I hope some birders can find the flock and have a good look through them. The flock was mobile so I wasn't able to observe them for long. Quite a few birds around with 7 Bullfinches, 2 Goldfinches, 2 Lesser Redpolls (not with flock), 2 Woodcocks, several Goldcrests and Wrens. Overhead was a Buzzard and in the paddock 11 Redwings were feeding with Blackbirds. It will probably be Saturday before I can get back to the Alders to have another look for the Redpolls. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Harwood Forest

Snowy views around Harwood

New Owl nest boxes 

Cheviot Hills from Steng Moss

Yesterday spent most of the day walking through Harwood forest on a usual circuit of about 11 miles from the village to Tutehill moss, Hemmel hill, Chartners, Fallowlees farm and back to the village via Redpath. No birds to see apart from 3 Buzzards and 2 Bullfinches but still filled a page in the notebook. I have noticed a few large nest boxes have been put up in the forest. Snow was the main feature with up to 6 inches along the sheltered tracks but sparser in exposed areas. There is something satisfying about walking on virgin snow with only a few deer and fox tracks crisscrossing the forest paths and roads. The snow petered out at Rothley and on the way back a Stoat in ermine ran across the road in front of the car at Rothley cross roads. Something just as hard to see these days as a white Stoat in winter time was a stubble field and a fine one at that at Longwitton. It had mainly Red legged Partridge and Pheasant in it but also a large mixed finch and bunting flock. I think I looked at every bird with the usual species in very good numbers but I  couldn't pick out any Bramblings but worth another look when passing.