Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Friday, 30 March 2012

Cheviot and Hedgehope Hill

Pity it had it's back to me, taken from Hedgehope with Cheviot as a backdrop

Hundreds of displaying pairs

No snakes alive but an outgrown skin and sadly a road casualty

Heather and Bennyboy approaching Cheviot summit along the Pennine way

Another beautiful day and a long 12 mile strenuous walk from Langleeford past Long crag, a steep ascent up Hedgehope Hill and down over the boggy Comb Hill, even in this dry spell was very wet and difficult to negotiate in certain areas, over Scotsman Knowe, up to Cairn Hill, over Cheviot summit and the steep descent to Scald Hill and back to Langleeford.
Lots of birds around with a displaying pair of Goshawk, a fine male merlin, 5 Ravens, numerous Buzzard, a pair of Peregrines, 3 Golden Plover and possibly hundreds of Red Grouse, chiefly in displaying pairs. Many commoner species but few plants at this time of year. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Tree Bee in the garden

Without a bit of inspiration I would have easily overlooked this bee as we get a lot of bees in the garden I tend to look at them and wish I knew what some of them are. Despite plenty of reference I'm no entomologist however, following reading Dean and Chester birder blogs this morning I wondered if Tree bee had made its way up to Morpeth as well as Waldridge just South of the Tyne, Tim sexton at Whitley Bay has had Tree bee in his garden. 
Seconds after stepping out of the house into the unseasonal midday warmth I noticed a bee land on a plant pot. To my astonishment it was a Tree bee and I was only a few inches away but by the time I rushed inside for the camera it had gone. I relocated it high up the South facing wall of the house investigating the gaps in the burglar alarm so I'm afraid the pics aren't the best but unless I'm mistaking it for some other species you can make the bee out. Clicking on the pic will slightly enlarge it. Thanks for Dean , Chester birder and Tim for making me look at insects that little bit closer.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Bee Fly at Ulgham

Bee Fly (Bombylius major)

? on Butterbur

? basking at the ford

Blackthorn flower at Stobswood

Following a walk around the local backwaters of Stobswood and Widdrington I parked the car at Jackson's ford on the river Lyne at the bottom of the hill opposite the Forge pub at Ulgham. This is a favourite spot of mine, I saw my first Kingfisher here in 1974 in the days when the commonest species around here were Water voles. I was having coffee while Bennyboy was cooling off in the burn when I noticed something flitting from Celandine to Celandine. To my delight it was a Bee fly, presumably Bombylius major, the first I have ever seen. It was moving very fast from flower to flower making a whining noise as it hovered. Many other insects around. I have posted a couple of pics taken at the same spot (above) but I don't know what they are.
Lots of Butterflies around today and Chiffchaffs singing in every locality I visited.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Star find!

Yellow star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea)

I was out with IRD looking for Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis) along the Wansbeck valley a few miles upstream from Morpeth this morning. After coming across several healthy flowering plants I came across 2 Yellow star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) plants one of which was in flower (above). This was a good find as IRD hadn't seen Gagea lutea before and I hadn't seen Helleborus viridus. This is a lovely spot on the River Wansbeck. There was lots of woodland and river birds including Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. Turner refers to Green Hellebore along the Wansbeck in his herbal of 1568. This is possibly the most Northerly site for this plant in the UK. We called at the Scotch Gill site on the way home to look at the Yellow star of Bethlehem here and we counted 20 flowering plants.

Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Black and Grey in Harwood

Tod Knowe looking towards Tutehill moss


Huge numbers of Crossbills all over the forest

An uncommon fungi Conifer Mazegill.on felled Pines at Chartners

I started at Harwood Head and biked into the forest. It turned into a very good birding day but the weather was a bit dull and not good for photographs. First stop was Tutehill moss, one of my favourite spots and riding along the track before the pull in on the right a Great Grey Shrike flew over the track being mobbed by a flock of Siskins. It flew from the lower pines on the right to the higher ones on the left of the track but I couldn't see it again. I went back to the corner where the grassy areas are and looked up towards the mast when I noticed 2 dark birds near the fence to the right. They turned out to be 2 male Black Grouse. I stopped for a coffee in the pull in and looked around again and looking towards the large conifers towards Redpath the Shrike was on top of one of them but it flew over the lower conifers and back over the track in almost the same spot as I originally saw it. I then biked over Hemmel hill and down to Chartners where I saw a Peregrine and a Goshawk (separately) circling above the forest. There were lots of birds around with flocks of Chaffinches and Mistle Thrushes, Siskins, hundreds of Crossbills and several Buzzards. I returned to the car via Tod Knowe where harvesting of timber has opened up this area and Tutehill moss but couldn't see the Shrike again.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Yellow Star

Yellow Star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea)

Coltsfoot and Common Field Speedwell

Last week I noticed a good clump of Yellow Star of Bethlehem leaves growing in the Scotch Gill woods at Morpeth. This morning there were 15 flowering plants with a few more still to come into flower.There was also Kingfisher and Cormorant here. Later this morning I went on a bike ride to Stobswood via Hebron and Tritlington. Not a lot to report from the ponds but a few flowers out at the old brickworks. I saw my first Coltsfoot this year and my first butterfly, Small Tortoiseshell here. Some road widening at the entrance suggests that this site may be developed soon. On Friday the Short eared Owl was hunting the rough ground near Howburn woods and 3 Buzzards circling over the woods here on Sunday.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Recent outings

Osier catkin (Salix viminalis), Widdrington tip

Treecreeper, Ulgham 

Sightings over the last few days include dozens of Buzzards at various localities. There were five over Howburn woods at Morpeth on 29th Feb. On Saturday a walk along the beach at East Chevington and back along the track on the Eastern edge of the reserve produced loads of wildfowl but the best bird was a Short eared Owl hunting the reeds and the dunes. Sunday was a wash out but the highlight was a female Hen Harrier at one of my local patches but very few other species. By the time I looked at the pools at Stobswood the rain was coming down hard. No sign of last weeks Hooded Crow. This morning I was at Ulgham woods and meadows LNR. Lots of woodland species here, the best being 2 Willow Tits, something of a rarity these days. Barren Strawberry was out in flower here but still waiting for my first Coltsfoot and Butterburs. I have been out on the bike the last couple of days and one of the advantages is hearing and seeing birds in places you normally drive through and not notice like Curlew and Buzzards displaying at Tranwell and Tree sparrows holding territory with jackdaws at nest holes in the Ash avenue at Kirkley mill.