Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Common Sunstar

A family walk this morning between Druridge and East Chevington was intended to see if there were a few birds about but heavy rain meant little birdwatching this morning. These days I'm always looking down to the ground and I had noticed a rough sea and the tideline strewn with seaweed and razorshells. My wife and daughter had noticed a dead starfish which turned out to be a Common Sunstar (Crossaster papposus), the first time I have seen a one. A quick google when I got back and the species is common around our shores particularly in the North west. It is a Northern species, circumpolar and is found from the Arctic to the English channel. Smaller ones are sometimes found in rock pools and are commonly seen by divers. They are omnivorous and feed on their own kind and swallow them whole and are also scavengers. This was about 34cm across which is the maximum size they grow to, they usually have 8-10 legs, rarely 10-13 but the one above clearly has 14 legs. It looks a bit like a ships wheel but reminds me of the cover of Lal and Mike Waterson's album 'Bright Phoebus.'

Friday, 27 January 2012

Spurge Laurel

In the Flora of Northumberland, Swan describes Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) as scarce in the county. There are some naturalised plants but he believes the ones found in the Wansbeck valley are native. I wonder if this refers to the above plants growing on the steep North banks of the River Wansbeck at Scotch Ghyll woods. They are easy to look for at this time of year as they are evergreen and are in flower now until April.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Borough Woods

A walk through the Borough woods is quite productive with regular woodland species. There are large flocks of birds mainly Long tailed, Coal, Blue and Great Tits but among them are Goldcrests, Nuthatches, Treecreepers and Marsh Tit. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are drumming and Jays are very vocal. The days of seeing Red Squirrels here are gone, before 2009 you would still see a few but on Tuesday I saw 7 Greys in different places in the woods. There are species of fungi still to be found but some are difficult to identify. The top one is possibly a mature specimen of Collybia erythropus but I cannot identify the second one. The third pic is Beech Woodwart and then some unusual growth on a dead Oak stump. The winter is still relatively mild even though we have had some cold spells and several species are in flower like the Pineapple Mayweed.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Fresh Morpeth morning

Frozen River Wansbeck

Pity that fence post was in the way

That white rump stood out a long distance away

A fresh walk around Morpeth this morning turned out to be a bit of a mammal watch. Walking down towards the Abbey there was a Roe Deer in the field but it was too quick for the camera. The river was still frozen in parts this morning but milder weather is on the way but I was heading for Cottingwood common where I saw a Barn owl the other night. Thinking there might be a Short eared or something I thought it was worth a look. No Owls but 2 kestrels and lots of the usual woodland edge birds such as Bullfinch and Siskin. I saw no fewer than 6 Roe Deer here and a Fox carrying some small prey but all except the above were too fast to get a shot with the camera, even that one was a good couple of hundred yards away.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Winter Polypore

Sometimes you can look too hard for certain species. I found this Winter Polypore (Polyporus brunalis) growing on an old fallen mossy oak branch just a couple of hundred yards from my house, a species I have searched the local woodland for.

Above are Spindleshank and Velvet shank commonly found in deciduous woodland at this time of year. At the turn of the year some bird species are consistent as the Tawny Owls have gone quiet and Song Thrushes have been singing in the garden since the 4th. Yesterday a Great spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the Borough woods. Lots of birds in the Borough woods with large numbers of Great tits, among them 5 Nuthatches and 3 Treecreepers. The only Squirrel sighting has been of a Grey.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Norfolk or Caucasian?

Came across some Comfrey plants growing close to the riverbank at Low Stanners, Morpeth. With the flowers Azure blue and the sepals divided less than half way I knew it wasn't Russian Comfrey which is familiar along our waysides these days. I thought perhaps it was Caucasian Comfrey a naturalised plant that is found in some parts of the country and sent a pic to the county recorder. He has sent it to Clare O'Reilly, an ecologist from Haltwhistle who thinks it maybe Caucasian or Norfolk Comfrey but will need an uprooted whole plant in May/June to analyse. So I''ll have to wait a few months to find it's true identity. Whatever it turns out to be or where it originated from it is a good local find. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

East Stobswood

Yesterday afternoon I called in at East Stobswood to see if the Geese were there but there was only a large flock of Common Gulls. I had a walk around the tip and as it was late afternoon I thought there might be some Short eared Owl activity but there wasn't. As it was mild there were very few birds here other than Jay and a single Snipe. There must be plenty of small rodents here as there were 7 Kestrels and a Buzzard hunting the open grassy areas. As the light was failing 2 large flocks of Geese flew towards East Stobswood to roost, one from the North and the other from the East. I drove around and there was just enough light left to put the  scope on them. The birds from the North were all Canadas with nearly 400 of them, the other flock were nearly all Pink footed Geese, over 700 with 2 White fronted and 2 Barnacles. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


I was reading other bloggers resolutions for the new year and I have decided to eat more chocolate and drink more wine. I do need to post more often though. I was at Hauxley on new years day seeing a good variety of waders and a nice flock of Tree sparrows. Its been blustery in Morpeth, there are 2 drake Goosanders on the river at Oldgate and I have noticed many plants in flower. On the woodland floor the wild Garlic is coming through and there was Lesser celandine in flower at Deuchar park. I hope this is the first of many posts.