As I am working all weekend I thought I would have an early start this morning before work and tramp through the damp woods and meadows. I was soaked to the thighs but with the sun shining and something rare up here; warmth, it was worthwhile. Not a lot to write home about but despite the early hour there were lots of insects about. The highlight was a male Banded demoiselle beside the Highford bridge but it wouldn't settle long enough to get a photo. I did manage to get a pic of another damselfly flying about which may be a female Banded demoiselle but I am not very good at identifying these creatures with confidence. The other pics above are a few of the thousands of Common spotted orchids growing among the Great horsetails. The pinkish haze in the distance is Yorkshire fog grass. There were many Ringlets flying around the meadows, probably the earliest hour I have seen butterflies flying around.
Monday, 23 June 2008
I read an article in a local newspaper that a doctor had discovered the most northerly record of Bee orchid at the metro centre at Gateshead. The only record in Swan's Flora of Northumberland is of a few plants at Wallsend rising sun country park. However, in the last ten years there have been records from industrial estates at Cramlington and the most northerly I know of is Druridge bay country park. The numbers here fluctuate from eighty to just three. A few years ago I came across a small colony in the dunes at East chevington and today I found some growing in the dunes at Hadston links. I counted over forty in the country park. A welcome addition to our local flora. The dunes and the meadows at Druridge are looking at their best with a huge variety of species and colour. This is down to good management and the hairy chaps above are testament to this almost infinite variety of wildlife as they play an integral part of the management of the meadows. There were six of them at the country park having a well earned rest. I also stumbled on a rare plant near the Chevington burn mouth; Sea bindweed, only known in two localities in the county. It was not fully in flower so I will return next week and hopefully post a pic on the blog. Plenty of pics I could have chosen but I thought the Western polypody and the Biting Stonecrop looked good.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
I don't usually take the camera to work but yesterday I noticed dozens of Broad leaved helleborines growing in the grounds of St George's hospital. They are also growing beside the Beech hedge at the top of Cottingwood bank beside the school. Walking down curley kews bank a Fox was too quick for the camera; incidentally we are seeing a fox in the garden in the early hours carrying food but I have been unable to get a photo of it. Growing next to the Helleborines are attractive fungi called 'The Blusher.' The bottom pic is a fungi growing in the Borough woods and I believe it is megacollybia platyphylla but I'm sure someone will keep me right if I'm wrong.
Friday, 20 June 2008
I went down to East chevington dunes last night. It was nice and sunny but very windy. I blame the wind on the quality of the above shots as they were swaying all over the place and no matter how many shots I took I couldn't get the clarity I would have liked. I'm also a crap photographer and I'm sure anyone else would have no problem. The dunes are carpeted with flowers now with Bloody cranesbill and Lady's bedstraw giving the dunes some vivid colour. I came across 3 Bee orchids, one of them was not in flower. I have included a picture of Lesser meadow rue; note the glaucous colour of the leaves which is common in this species where it grows in duneland. The bottom pic is Dewberry which is easily overlooked as it grows prostately among the grasses.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Every time I go to Harbottle I am always reminded of the first time I came here when I was 15. I came here with the YOC group looking for Pied flycatchers one balmy June evening. As well as seeing these I also saw my first Woodcock but what evokes these memories is the smell of Sweet gale. Today was no exception; the flowers have finished but the leaves are very pungent and just brushing past it reveals a wonderful smell. Crowberry and Bilberry are also growing among the Heather and in the clearings there are carpets of Tormentil and Heath bedstraw. Some of the upland birds here were Buzzard, Red grouse, Crossbill, Siskin, Peregrine and Wood warbler. It was cold today despite the sunshine so there were very few insects on the wing apart from the ubiquitous Midges.
Looking through the blogs last night It appears that it was a weekend of plant twitches. Kingsdowner was twitching Corncockles (lucky chap) and BB was twitching Orchids. BB sent me an email earlier in the week about Birds nest Orchids found by Tim Dean at Callaly so today was good a day as any to visit the Coquet valley. I have posted a pic which I think may be the same plants on BB's blog. They were growing next to Raspberry's which Swan mentions that this species is rather fond of though they are a plant of Beech woodlands. Also pictured are two little angels on Harbottle crags and pictures of the sweet gale aka Bog myrtle.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Spent a few mornings along the river and through the woods before work this week. There are two pairs of Kingfishers feeding young at the Low and Highford bridges. I saw a Green woodpecker on the roadside at the top of Abbey meadows estate earlier in the week. At Scots gill beside the lowford bridge the ferns are looking fine at the moment, I have posted pics of Oak, Lady and Hard fern. The Mute swan pair have one hatched young in the town centre but the pen is still sitting on five eggs; presumably chilled. The cob was more interested in Bennyboy than its own offspring. In Scots gill there is an abundance of the aromatic Dame's violet.
Monday, 9 June 2008
My turn this week to check the footpaths, litter, storm damage etc at Ulgham meadows and woodland nature reserve. All quiet on that front but the meadows are looking at their finest at the moment. Loads of plants and insects around. The best for me was chimney sweeper moth; common here with over a hundred individuals flying around the Pignut, it's food plant. I found it very difficult to photograph these moths as they wouldn't keep still. The ones that did rest were flapping their wings and the wind made them sway, my excuses for the poor photo. I saw my first Large skipper and there were still a few Orange tips around. I have also included pics of Common bistort, Lesser stitchwort and looking west from the woodland edge towards the meadows and the river Lyne. A delightful spot.
Friday, 6 June 2008
Away from Holy island the dunes at Druridge are arguably the most important habitat in the county for variety of duneland plants. I spent most of the time between Druridge and East chevington this afternoon. I have incuded pictures of Houndstongue, Lesser butterfly orchid, Burnet rose and Vipers bugloss. A bit quiet on the bird front. I watched a Reed warbler taking food deep into the reedbed at East chevington. At Druridge there was a drake garganey and a Little ringed plover in front of the demolished hide. At Chevy there were several Small heath and wall brown butterflies, dozens of Cinnabar moths and a few Latticed heaths.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
I was fortunate that the lesser grey shrike lingered for a couple of more days. After work today I drove up to Newton links to see the bird. It's a poor excuse to visit this area to see a rare bird as the links have some wonderful flowers at present such as Bloody cranesbill, Houndstongue and Burnet rose adding plenty of colour to this beautiful landscape. The last time I came here was to see some Shore larks. The Shrike was magnificent and favoured the fenceposts just metres from the path. It was uttering a scratchy, almost inaudable song. I visited the Tern colony just around the corner and there were hundreds of mainly Arctic terns and many Little terns. While I was there a fine Roseate Tern flew in and landed among the Arctics. I have included only two of the many shots I took. The Shrike in song emphasising how close I was to it and the Roseate with Actics and the cropped shot you can make out the grey rings on its legs.
Monday, 2 June 2008
The Abbey meadows is probably looking at it's best at the moment. Livestock have not been in here since March and there are thousands of Meadow buttercups and Pignuts in flower. Posted picture of Coprinus species growing in Carlisle park; possibly Fairy inkcap and I found Chives growing by the Wansbeck. It still grows as a native in the county but not here. It is found on Whin sill such as Gunnerton crags in the west and Spindlestone in the north.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday warm and sunny, today cold and wet. No good complaining this is typical Northumbrian weather. It's best just to get out there whatever the weather. I decided to take a few shots of ferns in the woods today. The top shot is Great horsetail. It has a scattered distribution here as it is at it's northern limit. Last year some of these plants were almost two metres in height. The picture below it is Wood horsetail; much smaller but more elegant. below that is two common woodland ferns in the Borough woods; Narrow buckler and scaley male fern. The picture of Bennyboy yesterday finding it a bit warm in the garden and today looking damp and miserable.