Not much blog activity lately and when there is I'm usually a few days late. On Sunday a Marsh Harrier was flying low over the rough grass next to the new by pass road still under construction before flying over the A1 towards Pigdon. Not a common sight in winter but there has been a wintering Marsh Harrier in the Chevington area over the past year or so. Good to see and close views as well. A very large and dark bird. I've been at work since so not sure if it still hanging around. A couple of Buzzards around here and a lot of Redwings and Blackbirds on the Hawthorns around the Fairmoor houses. Sorry about the poor sketch but I'm sure you get a rough idea of what I saw.
Sunday, 13 November 2016
Yesterday we went to Tynemouth for the day to celebrate Amber's 18th. A walk along the beach and pier after eating and drinking was quite interesting particularly the lump of magnesium limestone where the priory sits. Many plants here have either finished flowering or are past their best. Two species caught my eye, both scarce plants with Wild Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) which was long past its flowering time but the leaves easy to see and Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus) pictured above, a native of California well established near the footpath at the edge of the priory. In George Swan's Flora of Northumberland (1993) he describes Wild Cabbage as naturalised but Seaside Daisy is not mentioned in his book so must be a fairly recent colonist or introduction. Both plants are new to me as I've never had a good look around the Tynemouth for plants in the past, Worth a good look around here in Spring and summer.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Northumberland's only record of Mistletoe has gone. The 2 Malus trees that hosted the plants have been felled and in its place is block paving to make way for more retail space at Heighley gate garden centre. It appears that the current owners Wyvedale are more interested in squeezing yet more profit out of this space than using it as a good example of conserving rare species.
Saturday, 29 October 2016
Blackstonia perfoliata (Yellow-wort)
This time of year as the flowers fade I turn my attention to birds and spent a couple of hours at the former opencast site at Stobswood but the birds present today were the expected species and not ones to set the pulse racing however, the highlight today was not avian as I came across 52 Blackstonia perfoliata plants on the newly planted Birch woodland floor opposite East Stobswood farm near the pools. I have seen these plants at Hauxley but this is new for this site. Unsure of their origin as the soil the woodland is planted on is the spoil from the original fields here which were used as a baffle bank when the opencast was operational so may have come with the trees. On the way home a Red Squirrel crossed the road at Felton Lane.
This Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) caterpillar was on my plum tree in the garden a couple of weeks ago.
Thursday, 18 August 2016
Hundreds of Broad leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine) in the Stobswood area are quite varied in shape, size and colour. Thanks to AJR for verifying the more unusual flowering plants found here. Felton Lane is becoming very overgrown making it almost impossible to walk along the tracks. This used to be a good place for variety of trackside plants and butterflies. Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) is found growing on the old coal waste here and the Steadsburn is good for waterside plants. Colliersdean wood is also overgrown and a chain saw and some ponies would improve the flora here but False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) covers much of the woodland floor. I watched a family party of Willow Tits here. Back at Morpeth and it has been a good year for Crow Garlic (Allium vineale) with 77 flowering plants at High House Lane and 56 on an uncut grassy area near the castle. I have also come across 12 flowering plants at Amble braid.
Sunday, 14 August 2016
In quiet corners on the edge of Morpeth there are a few steep ravines where there is no agriculture and while there is Barley, wheat, Leeks and Turnips growing as far as the machinery can get to nearby, the drop towards the river is too steep and it is left undisturbed. Plants such as Betony, Field Scabious and Harebell as well as others make a nice sweeping wildflower meadow. These may be common plants but these plants wouldn't be 'common' if there were no unspoilt corners like this.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Viewed from the village road
As seen from the Morwick road
The fissured bark and knobbly bosses visible on the trunk
A large Black Poplar (Populus nigra) is believed to be the oldest thing in Acklington village. Most likely to have been planted centuries ago but surviving well presently but it was in danger of being felled when the head teacher of the first school saw this tree as a potential health and safety issue as it is on the edge of the school grounds. The council agreed and it was for the axe but the parents and children of the school petitioned against this and were successful. Lets hope it will grace this hedgerow for many years to come.
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Recent visit over the restored opencast site at Stobswood. A few years ago this looked very exciting for a great variety of wildlife as the way it was first put back with shallow ponds and damp meadows it looked really promising. Five or six years later most of the damp areas have been drained and water has filled up the main ponds making them good for wildfowl but not for wading birds. I would estimate over 90% has been put back as farmland with woodland breaks. Most of the woodland is broad leaved and will develop into good woodland if managed. Despite this there is still a few good areas and several shallow ponds have been established in the dips of the farmland. This possibly has been through accident rather than design. You don't find many birds here but there is a good variety of water plants to be found here. No surprises but still good to see. The pics above show the plantlife of these ponds, Crop spraying could take its toll here in a few years but for now they are worth exploring further. Typical plants here are Spike Rush (Eleocharis palustris), Broad leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton natans), Common Clubrush (Schoenoplectus lacustris) and Spiked Water Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). Many damselflies and darters were also present while I was here.
Back at Morpeth and 2 Common Sandpipers were on the river downstream from the Oldgate bridge.
Monday, 25 July 2016
A walk around the old brickworks at Stobswood on Saturday saw this excellent brownfield site at its colourful best. Every few visits seems to pop up a surprise and growing on one of the old stony heaps was Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum) a species new to me and according to BSBI maps there are less than half a dozen records from the county.
Saturday, 23 July 2016
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) makes an occasional appearance in the woods around Morpeth and these pictures are from the woodland edge at High House Lane. It is believed to be the most poisonous plant in the UK and the toxins can be absorbed through the skin. A likely garden cast off around here but I don't believe it is the hybrid Monkshood species Aconitum x stoerkianum as the top cowl is more rounded and smooth but I could be mistaken.
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
This is Rubus spectabilis also known as Salmonberry. It can be found in a handful of places in Northumberland but it is well established at Shadfen Bank at Bothal on the steep bank just above the bridge near the sawmill. There are hundreds of fruits out presently and the picture of the flowering plant was taken in May.
Saturday, 23 April 2016
Primula x polyantha
I have featured this plant 2 years ago on the blog but it is in flower again at Postern Burn woods. Both Cowslip and Primrose are found in the woods so it is no surprise this plant turns up now and again. There is plenty of colour and variety of plants in flower at the moment and Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) is turning up in many areas of the woods around Morpeth with additional new sightings on the roadside at High House Lane and in Borough Woods near the bypass.
Saturday, 16 April 2016
I noticed this Slime Flux growing on a Sycamore at Carlisle Park Morpeth. I first noticed this on a Horse Chestnut at Ulgham in April 2011. There were no lasting affects on the tree. This strange sighting is caused by the sap fermenting though a mixture of bacteria and fungi. This was only identified at Kew in 2006 and reported in Field Mycology the same year.
Friday, 8 April 2016
I came across this nice plant growing on the roadside at the edge of Widdrington between the station and Ulgham Grange. It looks well established here if it survives the vigorous roadside mowing. A nice addition to the growing plant list in the former coalfield area. No doubt a garden cast off but an attractive flowering plant all the same. Where it grows as a native in Britain it is known as the Loddon Lily. There are a couple of Northumberland records North of Wooler and South of Berwick according to the BSBI distribution maps so this may be a first for the vice county of 67.
Back at Morpeth a Blackcap was singing in the Postern woods this morning and this evening I had my best views of Otter on the Wansbeck with 2 below Lowford. It was obviously him and her by the size difference having a good dive and swim in the deeper parts and climbing out of the river where they sat opposite facing the water on a sandy bank under some tree roots for a while before jumping back in the river again.
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Plenty of spring flowers around now but not very springlike weather. The Yellow Star of Bethlehem at Scotch Gyll woods is at its best just now and with 32 flowering plants, this is the most I have seen. Toothwort are poking their heads through the leaf litter beside the castle and Caucasian Comfrey is becoming very common along the Wansbeck between Mitford and Morpeth. 29th March saw my first Chiffchaff a week later than usual and a pair of Dippers are seen regularly at Highford bridge. I have seen up to 3 Kingfishers at various spots along the river and a Green Woodpecker has been vocal at High House Lane.
Sunday, 21 February 2016
According to the local news it was 30 years ago when we last witnessed a Mother of Pearl sky. A week past Monday and Tuesday a strange sight looking South East from the garden saw a beautiful sunrise but I should have taken pictures of the pre-dawn sky half an hour earlier as it looked more spectacular than the pic above. I don't know all the science behind these things but you need a combination of weather conditions to see it. There's a good account on Wikipedia and some good images on the internet.
I was at Widdrington tip again yesterday afternoon. The Redpoll flock has halved with only 21 birds comprising of 16 Lessers and 5 Mealies but no paler birds among them. There is a vast area of potential feeding around here and I suspect they will be quite nomadic and difficult to pin down when I'm there. Also here were 2 Jays, 8 Common Snipe and I suspect a possible Water Pipit in the small flash area in the centre of the tip. On Thursday beside the reedbed* I noticed a Pipit like bird on the ground but I could only see a white supercilium and white or very pale double wingbars but as I couldn't see where it went to I just put it to the back of my mind. Walking around the flash yesterday I flushed one of the Snipe and a Pipit flew up with it. I couldn't see any other features as it flew towards the low afternoon sun and the bird went quickly back to the ground but unable to pick it up again. Usually meadow Pipits have an alarm call when flushed or abruptly disturbed but this bird was quiet. I will have a good look next visit.
*The reedbed at the former tip has been slowly expanding over the last decade. There are approximately 70 individual plants. In about 300 years a Bittern or Bearded Tit might turn up here!
Thursday, 18 February 2016
Part of the Redpoll flock with some Mealy Redpolls and a very white bird among them
I had a walk around the old brickworks and tip at Widdrington and came across a flock of about 46 Redpolls. About 26 were Lesers and the rest Mealies but 2 birds were very pale and 'snowy' looking and I was able to get a good look at one of them. One Mealy looked very broad faced with the 'pushed in bill but both birds had good white rumps and unstreaked underparts. I have taken notes and uploaded a page from the notebook but not sure if anyone can read it properly. The bird which I have photographed the underside of above looked a good candidate for an Arctic but its undertail feathers look more like a Mealy Redpoll so the 2 pale birds may be just very white and pale Mealies. It was very clear today with strong sunshine so perhaps this didn't help. I hope some birders can find the flock and have a good look through them. The flock was mobile so I wasn't able to observe them for long. Quite a few birds around with 7 Bullfinches, 2 Goldfinches, 2 Lesser Redpolls (not with flock), 2 Woodcocks, several Goldcrests and Wrens. Overhead was a Buzzard and in the paddock 11 Redwings were feeding with Blackbirds. It will probably be Saturday before I can get back to the Alders to have another look for the Redpolls.