Monday, 28 February 2011

Early morning mouse

A Wood Mouse was again in the garden this morning at 06:45hrs, though I'm sure it, or they, live here. It was feeding on spilled seed on the lawn under the bird table which has been fairly quiet the past few weeks, being used mainly by the resident , Blackbirds Dunnocks and Robins. The Wood Pigeons are now only making occassional visits as are the Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Song Thrushes and Collared Doves.
You may have noticed I've set up a related Twitter account, which I'll put the odd noteworthy thing on that I see or hear about in the area. It's also displayed on the Gatesheadbirders website.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A walk along the road

A very pleasant morning when I set off for a brisk walk towards the riverside. Have you ever had a gut feeling that you should check something out though you have no idea why? I had this last night after passing some standing floodwater between the sewage works and the A1 roundabout. Yesterday as I passed it held a few gulls and a flock of Lapwing but I really felt I should check it out, even though there wasn't a sniff of evidence there was anything else there. So I checked it this morning. About 50 Lapwing were present together with a couple of Pied Wagtail, the gulls had gone, but there, feeding in the far corner, a lovely Green Sandpiper, presumably the bird I saw on the river nearby, several weeks ago. Then, I didn't notice it at first, an Oystercatcher. I still don't know why I thought I needed to check here ... spooky.

Instead of going along the river I headed south along the side of the A167, checking some of the fields and hedgerows as I went along. Quite a few Skylark were singing with the sun shining and two species of Crocus  -  Golden Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus and  Early Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) were in the hedgerows.

Crocuses  -  Golden (C. chrysanthus and
Early (C. tommasinianus)

When I came to the Hermitage woods I jumped over the gate, though it's not looked these days and did a circular route through them, arriving back where I started.

Waterfall in Hermitage Woods

 In here a fair amount of song was going on, mainly the commoner bird but including Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, several Siskin (are they going to stay?) and a quiet little warble that had me going until I found it was coming from a cock Bullfinch. This is a good spot for your typical woodland flora, with a number of species just about to come into flower, such as Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage,  Dog's Mercury, Cuckoo-pint and Bluebell.
Arum aka Cuckoo-pint in flower soon

Yew flowers

A few naturalised Daffodil and a decent sized patch of Snowdrop were already in flower. The Hermitage itself was a former Miners rehabilitation Centre among other things but has now been converted into private flats I believe. The patch of woodland below it is like a jungle these days with a very dense patch made up of Yew (also in flower), Rhododendron, Holly and Ivy. Much of the ivy here is not the common species Hedera helix but the Persian Ivy (Hedera colchica) and it's swamping many of the trees.

Persian Ivy (Hedera colchica

Amongst the mass of alien plants here is a little archway leading down under the ground. I have no idea what it was is or was.
Mysterious entrance - an old ice house?

Coming back out onto the A167 I crossed the road and into Chester Dene. Containing a similar flora to that across the road, the plan was to walk down to the stream, then head south over the little bridge and west of Holm Hill. However that little stream today has flooded the whole valley and was under 6-8" of water. I tried several ways of getting by without getting too wet but it kept defeating me. To make it worse it was now raining so I back tracked up to the A167 and along to Chester Moor.

The footpath that beat me
Continuing on, past more singing Skylarks, a group of 8 Yellowhammer and a flock of 16 Siskin feeding in the planted Grey Alders (Alnus incana), another alien I was soon back home and dry. The Oystercatcher this morning was new for the year making the list 80, the flowering plants list now stands at 24.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Early Early Grey and Beauty

With rain forecast, I brought the moth trap in at midnight last night, the temperature was still 9C.
In it were 4 moths of 4 species including two new for the year and both my earliest ever at Waldridge.
1930 Oak Beauty (Biston strataria) 1
2190 Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 1
2243 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) 1
2258 Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii) 1

Oak Beauty (top) and Early Grey.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A few more

I checked the trap again first thing, there were a few more moths present. The temperature hadn't dropped below 8C all night - So overall, a total of 9 moths of 4 species.

March Moth (Alsophila aescularia) 6
Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) 1
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 1
The Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) 1

Hebrew Character - first of the year

Late Feb and 9 moths not bad at all. In six to eight weeks time it could ideal conditions, 12C and an empty trap. Light cannot compete when the willows in flower so I'm determined to do a lot more dusking this spring.

3 Grey Lag Geese flew over heading NE from/to I know not where.
A few more flowers are beginning to show with Common Chickweed,  Common Mouse-ear and Common Daisy all in flower as garden weeds as I passed by.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

More Trillers and its scorchio outside

A good start to the day as I walked along the Front Street in the town centre early this morning. A familair trilling call got me to look up to see a flock of Waxwing circling, then land in a tree at the south end, between Argos and the junction with Waldridge Road. I just finished counting them, 35 exactly, when they took off and headed towards the Church, or the riverside beyond.

One of the Waxwings in the Front Street 

A little fine drizzle when I got home but it was still mild, 9.2C so I hastly got the moth trap out and set up by 18:30hrs. A check 2 hours later revealed 5 moths, 4 March Moth and a Satellite.

One of a good catch of March Moths
The Satellite  

This moth overwinters as an adult and flies on mild days in the winter from about September until April. The 'satellites' are not always as prominent as on this one but I think it's an excellent name and one of my favourites

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Greenie's decline

I didn't put the trap out overnight the last two nights but did find a Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii) in the house yesterday. 

The Chestnut that wandered into the house

It was wet and quiet when I left for a couple of hours of wandering over the fell this morning and nearly 4 hours later nothing had changed. Walking over the fell, I tracked down two fly over Lesser Redpoll but they were were both very un-mealy like.  A male Roe Deer bounded away before I got anywhere near it and a Common Snipe jumped out of one of the wet patches.  During the course of the morning I heard 2 Green Woodpeckers (as well as seeing 2 Great spotted Woodpeckers). I am getting a bit worried about the Greens. It wasn't that long ago that I reckon there was between 5-7 pair in the area, now I think there is only 2, possibly 3 pair, a serious decline but the reasons I'm not sure of, the habitat hasn't changed very much. In the nearby horse fields, 20 Redwing were feeding with about 100 Starling and 12 Chaffinch and 2 Siskin flew over.

Redwing by the stables
Walking through the Scrog Woods near to Beaney Lane, there seemed to be Grey Squirrels everywhere, in fact I can't remember noticing so many anywhere in the area. They still haven't appeared in my garden yet despite being very close on a number of occasions but I am not complaining.  In the Felledge Wood, 15 Goldfinch were feeding in the Alder and Silver Birches and 2 Jay called. The titmice family were prominent today with several Long-tailed Tits paired up. It was interesting to note the differences in the current state of this families breeding cycles. The Long-taileds have paired up, most of the Great Tits are currently singing and looking for a mate, whereas the Blue Tit and Coal Tits are still in their roaming flocks with little song at the moment.

In the South Burn Wood, a group of 7 Bullfinch showed well for a few moments and a Willow Tit was calling by the new road. The Snowdrops are out in full flower here and looking quite good.

Snowdrops in the South Burn Woods

Nearby, the only plant of Harts-tongue Fern that I know of on the Fell proper has greened up and has come through the winter well. This species is increasing and can be seen on many of the walls in Chester-le-Street town centre these days but this one is in the woods.
Hart's-tongue fern - possibly the fell's only example of this species

The invasive moss, Heath Star Moss (Campylopus introflexus)  is increasing quite rapidly and has now moved into some of the barer areas in the South Burn Woods. On the way back, the big flock of Redpolls flew over, nearly 100 birds, but did not settle, so there may be a Mealy (or better) in there, if only I could ever get them perched up for a few minutes.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Moths in a trap - at last

The lack of posts the past week or so is due to it being too cold ... being too windy ....being too wet ....  being too busy etc. etc. I have had the moth trap out several times but nothing turned up, until tonight. I put it out at 6pm until 11 and yes,  2 moths in the trap. My first ever non-March March Moth and a Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria).The temperature helped, due to it being a bit milder, it was still 5.2C when I switched it off. Excellent.

March Moth
Dotted Border

It had been quiet the past week mind you, though the local Tawny Owls weren't on Monday and Tuesday night and the last few mornings have been quite loud too with the thrush family (Song & Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and Robin in particular) all singing their hearts out.

On the flora front, the first Snowdrops here only appeared this week, they were late but have appeared on mass, not their usual gradual emergence. It feels like everything, myself included are beginning to awaken from the winter - until it snows at the weekend!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

20 minutes well spent

A quick look down the Riverside Park after work, the idea being there might be two Mandarins,  as there was no sign of any in Sunderland today. I actually saw none, so much for that theory. The Whooper Swan has returned and so has the Pink-footed Goose but I couldn't see the Scaup and only 17 Tufted Duck remain. The Goosanders, I counted 11, continue to put on a good show by the weir, giving very good views, as did a pair of Dipper, 1 of them singing where the Cong Burn empties into the Wear.  11 Long-tailed Tit, 5 Redwing and 2 Siskin were also here. On the flower front my first Dandelion of the year, the first time ever I've had to wait until February and a few Snowdrops were seen. A Little Grebe was seen by the road bridge on the way back. A well spent 20 minutes before dusk.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wet, Wet, Wet

Put the moth trap out  last night which was the warmest night since records began. Well at least since I started  my Christmas present weather station on 19th January. It didn't drop below 5.6C.  The result being one moth, a Chestnut (Conistra vaccinii) which obviously didn't want to get wet as I found it on the house wall, not in the trap.
I didn't want to get wet either but I did after a walk around this morning and despite fully waterproofed, wet I got. Even conifers don't give you that much shelter in winter.
The wildlife, like myself didn't want to get wet, with most birds perched up and sheltering. The best I could manage was a single Willow Tit, 2 fly over Golden Plover and a Curlew singing, though not displaying at Daisy Hill.