Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Monday, 28 April 2008

Druridge Bay

Started up at East Chevington this morning. When I got out of the car 8 Whimbrel were flying around the reserve. On the north pool islands was a Common Sandpiper and some nice summer plumaged Turnstones. At least 5 Grasshopper warblers were singing and 2 Reed and 6 Sedge warblers were singing from the reedbeds. I walked through the dunes which were carpeted with cowslips and Spring Sedge.

I took a picture of a Dandelion noticing the flower was much smaller and the leaves more dissected. According to Swan there are over 240 species of Dandelion in Britain and Northumberland has 109 identified species. The species are divided into 9 sections but Identifying them would need photographs and notes during the flowering and fruiting stages. This particular plant is possibly one of the species from the erythrosperma section but there are 16 very similar species in that section alone.

I don't know what I was thinking about last night but I mentioned Milk vetch instead of Milkwort. Milk vetch does grow in these dunes but it well into May before it flowers.

I walked around to the estuary pools when I came across Common Forget me not. I have seen a mauve coloured flower but never white. On the pool was my first Garganey this year. It flew with a Gadwall onto the south pool. A Wheatear was nearby.

At Druridge pools There was a lot of water about ; the levels near to record levels but plenty of birds here. There were 30 Black tailed Godwits, white and Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear. There was also Common sandpiper here and a good variety of wildfowl. It was raining persistently by now and I had to go back home a little earlier than planned.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Dune slacks

Another damp and misty day. Decided to take the kids and Bennyboy to Druridge bay country park. I thought I would have a look at the dunes; a bit early for some of the speciality plants but I found a few flowers out such as Purple milk vetch and Common storksbill. The water in the dune slacks look good and it won't be long before the water crowfoots are out. The best find was Morel (above). I have never seen this fungi before but I have been looking for it in woodland; it's usual habitat but the dune slacks are great places to find all sorts of things you normally find in other habitats. On the bird front there were 7 stonechats, several Sedge Warblers and a Tree pipit in the dunes and 72 Tufted duck on the lake. If the weather improves I will be out and about off and the kids are back at school!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Migrants filtering through

This morning as I was arriving for work a Grasshopper Warbler was singing in the grounds of St Georges hospital. House Martins have been flying over the gardens the last couple of days. I received a text from boulmerbirder about a Great white Egret which flew south off Cresswell pond at 6am this morning but I couldn't check the local pools until 5 this evening. I went to Longhirst flash where I have seen a one before but only Gulls here. However, scanning through these birds I picked up an Immature Iceland Gull. This is the first one I have seen here this year as these have eluded me so far despite being seen by others both here and nearby Linton. An evening stroll across Morpeth common produced a Whimbrel flying north right over my house calling as it went. I thought I was very observant, leaving no stone or leaf unturned in persuit of anything that moves or grows. After a spot of gardening I was sitting in the garden with a cup of tea watching Blackbirds carrying food into the hedge just a couple of feet away. On closer inspection there was a nest of young Blackies bursting at the seams; how have I just noticed them now! I must have set my sights too high and been looking into the wide blue yonder in persuit of Ospreys and Storks. A couple of hours later they were being fed on the lawn but almost impossible to photograph as there is plenty of places for them to hide. I turned the compost heap over and came across this funghi but I need help to identify it as I couldn't find it anywhere in my books.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Spring Beauties

Boulmer birders excellent shot of Spring Beauty impelled me to look for this species in the meadows. This evening I was walking with Bennyboy in Scotch Gill woods when I came across Pink Purslane. This one has white flowers and I apologise for the shot being terribly out of focus as I forgot to use the macro facility and I only had time to take one shot. This was due to Bennyboy jumping into the wansbeck in persuit of a Springer spaniel and me rushing back to pick my daughter up from brownies. There were only a couple of flowers out so there is plenty of time to return to take some sharper shots. Pink purslane co-incidentally, is another plant related to Spring Beauty that has found its way to our shores via the ballast which was used to stabalise ships and then dumped on quaysides over here in the mid 1760's. Both plants are native to the pacific north west but are well established locally in the UK. There are only four Purslanes in Britain but we only have one native species. A Kingfisher was nearby at Low ford bridge and the pair of Goosanders looked splendid in the evening sunshine at the stepping stones. Earlier I took this photo of a female Tawny mining bee on my windowsill. I noticed this species last year emerging from a small hole in the lawn but this was the first opportunity I have had to take a picture of this species.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Unsung heros

Decided to continue with the little documented theme. In the borough woods as well as the usual colourful flowers that carpet the wood at this time of year, some plants tend to be handy for brushing the mud off your wellies when you come out of the woods or are luxuriant for dogs like Bennyboy to cock his leg up against. I am talking about grasses and sedges and their allies. I used to be guilty of overlooking these plants as they didn't quite whet the appetite but if more people took a closer look they would find they have a hidden beauty. I put in this picture of Great Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica). I chose this particular individual because it has a bushy flowering head. Growing alongside these were Hairy Woodrush ( Luzula pilosa)which has a flower in a singly forking cluster, it's hairy leaves are less shinier than the Great. A family walk this afternoon around the town produced little birdlife. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps the only migrants in the woods. The postern burn; a steep sided ravine near the castle, was brightened up by thousands of Golden Saxifrage. at the castle I was delighted to find more toothworts growing in the shade beside the remains of the old castle wall. A Marsh Tit was calling at Carlisle park.

Yesterday I went along to Bothal pond. It was bright and sunny but very cold. There were dozens of Hirundines flying low over the pond but the highlight was 5 Little ringed plover. I don't think I have seen more than 2 at any one time. Two barnacle Geese looked settled and in no hurry to head home north.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Another Rainy Day

A day off and it is raining again. With the kids still on their easter break I decided to take them up the road to Ulgham. I want to sing the praises of a little documented Northumbrian river, the Lyne. It begins it's journey near Fenrother between the A697 and the A1. It flows gently through farmland then it reaches Ulgham where the landscape around it becomes more interesting. The best wooded stretch is the dene between Ellington and the river's end at Lynemouth but the most attractive part is where it flows past Ulgham. Due to the dedicated efforts of local people Ulgham meadows and woods became a Local nature reserve three years ago. I am a part of this team and I help out with the maintenence of the reserve. It was or still is the smallest LNR in England. It is a very important botanical site and comprises of a wet meadow which is grazed in the winter months and a small wood which still has a healthy population of English Elms which cling to the steep sided sandstone outcrops. I cut my natural history teeth here. We never referred to this river as the Lyne as it was always known locally as Uffa burn. Anyone reading this entry ouside of the region Ulgham is pronounced 'Uffum.' Despite the small area over 300 species of plant have been recorded here. I took a picture of Hard shield Fern which I believe is the best spot in the county to see them in any numbers. Also pictured is the bracket fungi Coriolus versicolor growing on a Beech stump. Sounds like it's name refers to the many colour forms that occur. Plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing in the wood

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Early start

Wednesday 16th April 2008

Flicking through the blogs last night I noticed a Red breasted goose had been seen at East chevington over the last two days. So in anticipation of dipping out on a bird I have wanted to see for years I was at East Chevington at daybreak today.....and that is what exactly happened. I ended up searching the whole bay looking at every goose flock large and small but it looks like the RBG has moved on unless it was hiding in some hollow somewhere in the bay. No matter what time of year you come to Chevington there is always quality here. At this hour it was not surprising to see a Barn Owl huning along the field edge but a Marsh Harrier quartering the dunes and reedbeds brightened up a dull morning. A pair of Pintail were on the south pool but these flew off south soon after. There were hundreds of Sand Martins flying low over the north pool but no sign of other hirundines. The Otter was performing obligingly at Druridge pools but the battery on my camera was low so I couldn't take any pictures which is a pity because it was only a couple of metres from the hide. Then the rain came. On Sunday evening I took a photo of one of my favourite plants at this time of year Moschatel or Town hall clock. This was growing along the Mitford road. It isn't the sharpest of shots but it is always a pleasure to find these tiny plants.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

After the rain Saturday 12th April 2008

Woke up to yet another wet morning. It didn't stop me from getting out. I walked the kids through carlisle park and up to the castle. After dropping them off at the swimming pool I walked Bennyboy along the riverside. When I reached Matheson's gardens I noticed the Toothworts were out. Looking fine even in the rain. Not just a couple of plants but between 70 and 80 growing next to the wall where a long dead ancient Elm straddles the wall which is probably their host plant. I thought I would add a photo of the wansbeck in spate at Oldgate. Further downstream the pair of Goosanders were on the river. I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks. In the afternoon it finally stopped raining. A visit to my parents house at Widdrington was a good excuse to visit Druridge pools. Very cold here; no Garganey and I don't know what the Sand Martins were feeding on. Looking north from the hide overlooking the main pool I noticed the Hooded Crow in the field among the sheep. Took a couple of record shots but the bird was over quarter of a mile away. I have added a shot of Opposite leaved Golden Saxafrage inundaded in Athey's Dean. Not a bad day really.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

An Osprey ower the hoose!

Thursday 10th April 2008
I have done it again. For the second time in two weeks I have dipped another great garden tick. First of all a White Stork flew over, alright I was at work at the time but on tuesday when an Osprey flew over I was in the bathroom tiling thinking the foul weather wouldn't produce anything, so I decided to catch up with a few diy jobs.....big mistake. Never mind at my last address I had a Pallid Swift which was feeding over the gardens. Just as well Boulmerbirder was there to witness it or nobody would have believed me. After a few years thinking our microwave would blow up at any time, today it finally gave up the ghost. Taking it to the tip on the other side of town I had a window of about half an hour to check the nearby pools ahead of some dark ominous looking clouds. At Bothal pond four Black tailed Godwits graced the western shore while at longhirst flash the largest flock of Gulls I have seen here away from Linton pond contained a Glaucous Gull sitting among some Great black backs and a Little Gull feeding in the field with some Black headeds. then the heavens opened. I would have to check my notes but I believe this is the only Little Gull I have seen away from the coastal pools.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Back To Winter

Saturday 5th April

Following a warm spell it is definately back to winter this weekend. The woods were quiet this morning except for the hardy Nuthatches. On Thursday 3rd April I went to Bothal pond to hopefully join in the great Pipit debate however, despite a thorough search it was nowhere to be found. The two Little ringed plovers were still there. Fourteen Whooper swans were at Longhirst flash and two Glaucous gulls together at Linton pond. As you can see by the photo I can safely say I am not trying to compete with the professionals. On a different note and much closer to the meadows I thought I would add this photo of Common field Woodrush (Luzula campestris). I believe grasses get a bad press and are well down in the pecking order in any wildlife magazine to the extent that they rarely make an appearance. These delightful low growing plants are common and widespread but are easily overlooked. I took this photo on my lawn.