Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Bristly Oxtongue

Bristly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides) is a rare plant in the county with only 2 dots on the BSBI map but at Pegswood Moor I have come across over a hundred plants growing around the lake. Presumably the plants have arrived via wild flower seed. During June and early July the site was very colourful with a huge acreage of Clovers and Trefoils. This gave good counts of insects with over a hundred Burnet and Shaded Broad-bar moths. The highlight was the number of Common Blue butterflies with 83 counted here on 18th June. Good numbers of Ringlet and Meadow Brown more recently and a few Large Skippers. 

Peigh Hills Ponds and below Robinhood wood pond on the former opencast site at Stobswood.

At Stobswood former opencast the wet areas of this site are looking good for wildlife and already a number of wetland species are established here. Broad Bean (Vicia faba) was a more unusual find at East Stobswood. 

Back at Pegswood Moor and a colourful meadow. Most of the Knapweed (Centauria nigra) flowers are of the rayed form and tall grasses of Timothy (Phleum pratense), Chicory (Cichorium intybus) and Hoary Plantain (Plantago media). 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Micropterix calthella

Reading my mate's Stew's blog Stewchat on list right hand side he was looking at Buttercup flowers and they were dotted with micro moths called Cocksfoot moth. There are thousands of Buttercups in flower at the moment around Morpeth but I didn't have time to look through the meadows today but along the woodland path of High House Lane woods I looked at the Buttercups there and they were dotted with a different micro moth called Micropterix calthella. I will be looking through the Buttercups over the next few days to see if I can find more or other species.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Fodder Burnet

Fodder Burnet

Hare's Tail Cottongrass

Pegswood Moor is a good place to look for plants though many have established themselves on poor soils around the main lake from seed mixes during restoration work of this former opencast coal site. I have not come across Fodder Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba ssp balearicum), formerly Sanguisorba minor ssp muricata before but there are hundreds of thousands of these plants in flower now mainly on the South and western shore of the lake. Another species established here is Hare's Tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) which appears to like former opencast sites in the lowlands away from its regular haunt of upland bogs. It is not the best place for bird sightings generally but always worth checking but recent sightings include hunting Long eared owl, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge warbler and Yellow wagtail. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Ashy Mining Bee

I came across a sizable colony of Ashy Mining Bees (Andrena cineraria) on a South facing grassy slope just below Morpeth castle. This is the first time I have noticed this species. Males occur first following hibernation then mate and die once mated with the females. The slenderness of the 40 or so bees flying around suggested these were males but I could be wrong. There was a lot of mining activity with spoils of earth being pushed out of some holes and it appears to be shared with the much commoner Tawny Mining Bees which were also active at the same site. 
I looked at distribution maps for the Ashy Mining Bee and it is common in Southern and Western Britain and dots on the map appears to only come as far North as Durham on the East side of the UK but as far North as Western Scotland on the other side of the country. I'm sure like many insects they are under recorded and fellow naturalists further North should keep a look out for this species on their patches. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Turkey Oak

There's an interesting article in the latest British Wildlife magazine about the spread of the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) in the British Isles (Vol 28, No 3, February 2017) by Ben Rose. Worth a read but this introduced tree was planted chiefly in  parks. It's timber has no particular commercial value but it has spread in various parts of the country particularly Southern England  but it is more sparsely distributed in Scotland and Ireland. In Northumberland it hardly has a mention in Swan's flora and on the BSBI website there are only a few records. I know this species from Morpeth as it grows only a few hundred yards from my house on the edge of High House woods. There are 2 mature trees pictured above and some smaller ones growing nearby. I will post some pictures later in the year as the leaves and acorns are very distinctive.

What a difference a week makes...last week with a biting Easterly and sleet and rain showers it was very cold and miserable brightened by some Waxwings on the street. Above are part of a flock of 26 but there was also more at Coopies Lane industrial estate with a flock of 37 (light very poor for photography). A cat frightened these birds off but they returned a little while later. This weekend was more spring-like with Celandines in flower and a large patch of Crow Garlic on the hillside at Morpeth castle (leaves only at the moment) but much milder and a more pleasant. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sunday's Marsh Harrier

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

A couple of new plants

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.