Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Ashy Mining Bee

I came across a sizable colony of Ashy Mining Bees (Andrena cineraria) on a South facing grassy slope just below Morpeth castle. This is the first time I have noticed this species. Males occur first following hibernation then mate and die once mated with the females. The slenderness of the 40 or so bees flying around suggested these were males but I could be wrong. There was a lot of mining activity with spoils of earth being pushed out of some holes and it appears to be shared with the much commoner Tawny Mining Bees which were also active at the same site. 
I looked at distribution maps for the Ashy Mining Bee and it is common in Southern and Western Britain and dots on the map appears to only come as far North as Durham on the East side of the UK but as far North as Western Scotland on the other side of the country. I'm sure like many insects they are under recorded and fellow naturalists further North should keep a look out for this species on their patches. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Turkey Oak

There's an interesting article in the latest British Wildlife magazine about the spread of the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) in the British Isles (Vol 28, No 3, February 2017) by Ben Rose. Worth a read but this introduced tree was planted chiefly in  parks. It's timber has no particular commercial value but it has spread in various parts of the country particularly Southern England  but it is more sparsely distributed in Scotland and Ireland. In Northumberland it hardly has a mention in Swan's flora and on the BSBI website there are only a few records. I know this species from Morpeth as it grows only a few hundred yards from my house on the edge of High House woods. There are 2 mature trees pictured above and some smaller ones growing nearby. I will post some pictures later in the year as the leaves and acorns are very distinctive.

What a difference a week makes...last week with a biting Easterly and sleet and rain showers it was very cold and miserable brightened by some Waxwings on the street. Above are part of a flock of 26 but there was also more at Coopies Lane industrial estate with a flock of 37 (light very poor for photography). A cat frightened these birds off but they returned a little while later. This weekend was more spring-like with Celandines in flower and a large patch of Crow Garlic on the hillside at Morpeth castle (leaves only at the moment) but much milder and a more pleasant. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sunday's Marsh Harrier

Not much blog activity lately and when there is I'm usually a few days late. On Sunday a Marsh Harrier was flying low over the rough grass next to the new by pass road still under construction before flying over the A1 towards Pigdon. Not a common sight in winter but there has been a wintering Marsh Harrier in the Chevington area over the past year or so. Good to see and close views as well. A very large and dark bird. I've been at work since so not sure if it still hanging around. A couple of Buzzards around here and a lot of Redwings and Blackbirds on the Hawthorns around the Fairmoor houses. Sorry about the poor sketch but I'm sure you get a rough idea of what I saw. 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A couple of new plants

Yesterday we went to Tynemouth for the day to celebrate Amber's 18th. A walk along the beach and pier after eating and drinking was quite interesting particularly the lump of magnesium limestone where the priory sits. Many plants here have either finished flowering or are past their best.  Two species caught my eye, both scarce plants with Wild Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) which was long past its flowering time but the leaves easy to see and Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus) pictured above, a native of California well established near the footpath at the edge of the priory. In George Swan's Flora of Northumberland (1993) he describes Wild Cabbage as naturalised but Seaside Daisy is not mentioned in his book so must be a fairly recent colonist or introduction. Both plants are new to me as I've never had a good look around the Tynemouth for plants in the past, Worth a good look around here in Spring and summer.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Northumberland's only record of Mistletoe has gone. The 2 Malus trees that hosted the plants have been felled and in its place is block paving to make way for more retail space at Heighley gate garden centre. It appears that the current owners Wyvedale are more interested in squeezing yet more profit out of this space than using it as a good example of conserving rare species. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016


Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort)

This time of year as the flowers fade I turn my attention to birds and spent a couple of hours at the former opencast site at Stobswood but the birds present today were the expected species and not ones to set the pulse racing however, the highlight today was not avian as I came across 52 Blackstonia perfoliata plants on the newly planted Birch woodland floor opposite East Stobswood farm near the pools. I have seen these plants at Hauxley but this is new for this site. Unsure of their origin as the soil the woodland is planted on is the spoil from the original fields here which were used as a baffle bank when the opencast was operational so may have come with the trees. On the way home a Red Squirrel crossed the road at Felton Lane. 

This Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) caterpillar was on my plum tree in the garden a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Stobswood and Felton Lane

Hundreds of Broad leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine) in the Stobswood area are quite varied in shape, size and colour. Thanks to AJR for verifying the more unusual flowering plants found here. Felton Lane is becoming very overgrown making it almost impossible to walk along the tracks. This used to be a good place for variety of trackside plants and butterflies. Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) is found growing on the old coal waste here and the Steadsburn is good for waterside plants. Colliersdean wood is also overgrown and a chain saw and some ponies would improve the flora here but False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) covers much of the woodland floor. I watched a family party of Willow Tits here. Back at Morpeth and it has been a good year for Crow Garlic (Allium vineale) with 77 flowering plants at High House Lane and 56 on an uncut grassy area near the castle. I have also come across 12 flowering plants at Amble braid.