Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Friday, 28 May 2010

Old Haunts

Northern Marsh Orchid

Narrow Buckler Fern

Harestail Cottongrass

Speckled Wood

Hoary Cress


Not sure what this is

Its now a few years since I moved to Morpeth and I have been neglecting the area I grew up in over the last three years. The Stobswood area inluding Felton lane and Widdrington tip are always worth keeping an eye on all year round as they hold an amazing variety of flora and fauna and it has always been a bit of a backwater that no naturalists really cover. Me and Stewart (BB) have seen 23 Butterfly species between us in this area, that reflects the variety of flora around here. It is probably up to me to try and record as much wildlife in this area as possible and throw a couple of pics in that I need help with to ID. I'm sure fellow bloggers will keep me right.

Above are a few pics from Stobswood and Widdrington tip. The tip is arguably the best place in the county for Northern marsh orchid with over 600 spikes in the tip area alone. Narrow buckler fern and Harestail cottongrass are usually associated with boggy areas in more upland habitats. The caterpillar stumped me. I initially thought it was a Ruby tiger but I'm not sure...Dean and stewart will know! It was only a centimetre long on Creeping Thistle.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Just a couple of pics of common fledgelings. I have seen a lot of Long tailed tit juveniles all over the woods around Morpeth so they must have had a good year. They are delightful birds. I used to ring flocks of juvvies at a constant effort ringing site years ago. The Dunnock was in my garden and the Long tailed tits were along the Wanney line.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Rothbury Forest

Greater pond sedge...Mitford castle

Earthfan...Harwood forest

Latticed heath...Weather head

This baby Rabbit thought it could hide behind 2 blades of grass

Cladonia floekeana...Chartners

Yesterday I cycled from the car park at Rothbury forest to Chartners as well as Cycling a couple of miles of the forest tracks. The first couple of miles are heavy going (for me) and very steep in places. Riding over the moorland beneath the crags of Simonside was uneventful except for lots of Red Grouse calling and flying about. A mile or two into Harwood forest Weather head is a good place to rest. This is the highest point in the forest and you get wonderful views here in all directions. Also here were dozens of Latticed Heath moths and a Raven with 2 young. Also Cuckoo here and a few Tree pipits and abut 50 Crossbills at Rothbury forest but none in the part of Harwood where I was.

On the return journey I came across a strange fungi called Earthfan spreading across the ground and over some dead pine branches. Coming back over the moorland was 5 Emperor moths, all males. I'd love to get a pic of these but they were constantly on the wing and flying at speed. A Garden warbler was singing back at the car park.

Today there was a lot of butterflies on the wing around Morpeth. Two new ones this year was Wall and Small copper. Two Garden warblers were fighting at Mitford castle and a Marsh tit was carrying food here.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Woodland Flowers

Working all weekend but I had a nice walk along the Wansbeck in Scotch Ghyll woods yesterday. Some early flowering plants on the woodland floor are at their best at the moment.

The pics above are Bitter Vetchling, Cuckoo Pint, Grey heron, Pendulous Sedge, Wood Speedwell and Ransomes (Wild Garlic).

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Goldilocks and Toothwort

Goldilocks Buttercup ...Abbey woods.

Toothwort among Ground Elder...Mathesons Gardens

Just a quick post of a couple of local flowers. Goldilocks Buttercup (ranunculus auricomus) commonly grows in shady areas usually at the base of trees on rocky slopes. It is a beautiful flower with bright glossy petals and imperfect flowers. Rarely do you see a flower with all five petals. Another plant to look out for this time of year is Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria). It is a parasitic plant with no green pigment and leaves are replaced by scales. I have never found them under their preferred host Hazel. The Morpeth ones grow above the roots of Elm and Holly. I know of two sites here but the one at Matheson gardens are harder to find as they grow among the Ground Elder, the ones at the castle are easier to see.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hadston dunes

Garden Tiger moth caterpillar

Sedge Warbler

St. Marks fly

Spent an hour in the dunes at Hadston. Plenty of plants coming into flower and swarms of St. Marks flies. It must be the time of year for these to hatch rather than the temperature. It was freezing along there today. I have read that Garden tiger moths come out of hibernation when the weather warms up but it still felt like winter today but there were a lot of these caterpillars in the dunes. A few birds here with Whitethroat and Sedge warbler singing in the scrubby areas.

In Morpeth there has been a Grasshopper warbler singing all week in a grassy area between St. Georges park and the Howburn woods. I saw a Badger on my way home from work the other night.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Windy Gyle

Whinchat on the upper Coquet at Windyhaugh

Dipper on the Rowhope burn

One of the feral goats at Mozie Law

A view of the Hen hole from Windy Gyle

A Raven in Scotland on the wrong side of the Border fence!

The Rowhope burn

The path to the summit

I went for a long walk into the Coquet valley leaving the car at Rowhope then up the Street to the Border fence. I headed South west to Mozie Law as far as Beefstand hill then back along the Pennine way heading North East up to Windy Gyle. From this lofty position you get the best views from any of the Cheviot peaks. Very cold and breezy up here but very nice. Not much wildlife up here but I did see Buzzards and at least four Ravens. Caught up with the nomadic Goat herd at Mozie Law with Kids in tow. A single Golden Plover and dozens of Red Grouse between Mozie Law and Beefstand hill.

I returned by the Trow burn and began to see more birds at the lower levels. On the upper Coquet there were a few Common Sandpipers and at least 500 Swallows, this is where all the feeding must have been and as I watched them I noticed a small bird feeding in the middle of the water from a rock. Probably Britains finest bird species...Whinchat...the highlight of the day! Unusually I thought, was a Swift feeding near the summit of windy Gyle.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Northumberland's county flower!

Herb paris...Cottingwood.

The county flower of Northumberland is Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). A good choice, it is a beautiful plant and its flowers brighten up the coastal dunes throughout the Summer months. However, I personally believe that Northumberland's county flower should have been Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia). Two main reasons, the first being it was discovered by the 16th century botanist William Turner who lived in Morpeth and at that time it was a flower new to Britain...'Libardbayne or one a wodde beyside Morpeth called Cottingewood'. (Turner 1548). The second reason was that to this day the plant can still be found growing in the very spot Turner discovered it. It is a poisonous plant and it was also known as Herb truelove. Turner discovered several new species including Great Broomerape and other great Northumberland botanists discovered plants new to Britain from the county such as Spignel, Seaside Centaury and Dwarf Cornel. True explorers and pioneers!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Borough Woods and Longwitton Dene

Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis)...Longwitton Dene

Hazel Bracket (skeletocutis nivea)

Slime mould (Reticularia lycaperon)...Borough woods

Possibly a different stage of the above

A carpet of Moschatel in the Borough woods

Between Atheys dene bridge and Highford is a fine area of Hazel ranging from semi-ancient to fresh young saplings. A good place to look for Hazel fungi and Hazel Bracket was easy to find but I noticed a couple of unusual 'plants' growing among the thick lower branches of one of the Hazels. This is a slime mould not a fungi but a Protozoa though professional opinions differ into what classification these are placed into. I believe both the above slime moulds are actually the same species at different stages. They resemble foam but are actually moving very slowly over the substrate, pores appear once the food source has been depleted.

This afternoon I was down at Longwitton Dene looking at the plants that cling to an ancient wall there. A bit early for some plants but Alkanet and Barren Strawberry were coming into flower. Plenty of birds here with the usual woodland Tits including Marsh, Nuthatch and a nice Wood Warbler feeding and singing in a large Oak.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Turning a corner

Lamb's Lettuce

The temperature today was more like the beginning of March rather than May but I believe from this date many spring flowers are at their best and the common migrant birds are back. This week I have seen Buzzard over the garden and my first House martins with 7 on Wednesday. A pair of Goosander have put in an appearance beside the stepping stones and I rarely see Common Swift before May and this year was no exception but one was flying over the garden this morning. This morning I walked Bennyboy around Pegswood moor. There was Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 4 Wheatears here.

Swan's Flora of Northumberland was published in 1993 and Corn salad or Lamb's Lettuce is quite scarce and scattered around VC67 but is more common further North in VC68. However, there are no records from the Widdrington Station area but as a youngster I can remember it growing next to the main railway line at Widdrington. Now it grows almost continuously for over a mile between Stobswood and Ulgham grange crossings on the edge of the railway track.