Thursday, 27 March 2014

Hirundines despite the weather

Maybe I didn't have to wish for the cold winds and rain to stop before there were more signs of spring. Yesterday I popped down to the Riverside Park (actually Chester-le-Street sewage works) for Sand Martin and a Swallow. The Swallow, my second earliest ever, was flying around with about 25 Sand Martin in the freezing rain but they all seemed to be feeding well over the sewage pans and river. Numbers 90 & 91 for the year for my 'Chester year list'  made me feel that spring was here, at least on occasion, despite the weather.

Now for some Wheatears and Willow Warblers.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

LRP new for year and 7 chiffs a-singing

Last Sunday a quick check at Houghton Gate for early Sand Martin did not produce any but did find me watching my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. I thought this bird must have just arrived but was subsequently told it had been seen the day before. Still, a year tick,  and a very nice bird.

The cold winds from the north are not doing much for the arrival of spring at the moment. Seven Chiffchaff singing on the fell are doing their best but we could do with some warmer weather, or is that just me? A few Meadow Pipits were settling into their territories and a single Lapwing was displaying and mobbing corvids at Daisy Hill. Fly-overs included a Grey Heron and a Common Buzzard, both nearly over the house and view-able from the garden. Still lots of Siskins around but Lesser Redpolls have been very scarce this winter.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Early Greys, Siskins and Greenies.

I put the moth trap out last night but not for long as it started raining and then the wind got up and started moving it around so I aborted. At least there were a couple of moths already caught, both Early Greys, so not a complete let down.

The Early Greys

The bird table is still fairly busy and the numbers of Siskins feeding are increasing on an almost daily basis. Trichomonias disease which seems to have killed off so many Greenfinches around here has not had the same effect on Chaffinches which are still quite common and continue to visit the garden. Having said that, the first 'Greenie' for a while was feeding here today with the Siskins.

Greenfinch and Siskin


Sunday, 16 March 2014

It was better during the week

Still very quiet around with the highlights being during the week with that little bit of sun. It produced a  Peacock butterfly on Wednesday, quickly followed by my first Ladybird, a Seven-spotted and Hoverfly, the abundant Marmalade Fly [Episyrphus balteatus] of the year, the latter being my earliest ever.

Peacock butterfly
Today the highlight were a couple of singing Chiffchaff in the woods, making my bird list rise to 88 for the year.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Bean Goose hit, Cherry Plum miss

My first posting for over a month due to, well nothing but idleness to be truthful, and,  seeing very little. It's starting to feel a bit like spring, with things awakening, including myself.

Nipped over and got the 2 Tundra Bean Geese at Houghton Gate this afternoon which were swimming on the pond with about 20 Grey Lag. They waddled off the pond and started feeding in the field to the west amongst Curlew and Lapwing. 7 Shelduck and about 20 Teal  and 45 Wigeon also present . The Geese made it number 87 for my Chester-le-Street year list.

The Tundra Bean Geese at Houghton Gate

The fell is still very quiet and most of the winter thrushes have now gone, being replaced by a few Meadow Pipts and singing Skylark. The garden feeder is probably more busier than it's been all winter, with daily visits by Goldfinch and a few Siskin as well as the resident Blackbirds, Robins etc. A Wood Mouse is also making regular forays underneath and grabbing spilt seed. Last week 3 Song Thrushes were singing within a 75 metre radius of garden in the evening and again the following morning. Some proof they are recovering in numbers I hope.

Siskins on the feeder

Still nothing new in the flora front. I have been looking for a Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) which I found  in the Hermitage woods a number of years back. Closely related to the Blackthorn, it has white flowers in loose spikes, but they appear at the same time as the leaves and the branches are thornless. It looks like it has gone as I have failed to find it though I can't remember exactly where it was. It flowers a couple of weeks earlier than Blackthorn, usually in February and now the Blackthorn is coming out, or is already in full flower in some of the more sheltered spots.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

From storming to struggling

After my storming start. I've been struggling to get new birds for my Chester-le-Street year list since. The fell produced a couple of new birds in the way of Skylark and Green Woodpecker but that's all. The latter species has been much scarcer the past few years as I have commented on before. From 7 pair here about 10 years ago, it looks like they are down to 2 pair now. In fact I failed to get them on my 1Km square list last year.

Apart from that it's been a couple of visits to the riverside and Houghton Gate Pond. I've just come back from the latter where there's a stack of birds but nothing new. There were 380 Grey Lag Geese, 400+ Curlew, a Black-tailed Godwit, 60 Lapwing, 100 (counted) Wigeon, a Shelduck, 2 Shoveler, 35 Teal, 55 Wood Pigeon and 7 Tree Sparrow.

So the year list stands at 81.

Monday, 6 January 2014

5 Ducks, a Goose, a Kite and a Godwit.

Yesterday a very quick visit to Lambton Pond to successfully bag 2 Black-tailed Godwit proved very worthwhile as it also produced five new duck species for the year with Shelduck, Gadwall, Teal, a Shoveler and 90+ Wigeon as well as a Red Kite (also new) and a Common Buzzard. Unfortunately I went straight past Houghton Gate without checking it to later discover that the 2 Greenland White-fronted Geese found at Lamesley by Paul Davidson in the morning had relocated here.

For a change,  my luck was in  and the White-fronted Geese were still present this morning in amongst a flock of nearly 200 Grey Lag. This goose flock is the same size as the Lamesley one so it's not difficult to deduce that the geese, and not just the White-fronts, are commuting between these two sites. A rather dodgy and uncountable, in my opinion, Barnacle Goose, again often at Lamesley,  was also present in the flock.

Thats 78 for the year, maybe 130 wasn't too optimistic - there I go again, I'm going to regret saying that.