Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hissing Frog and flyover Crossbills

Had a walk over the fell, particularly around Daisy Hill  this morning but things were quiet. It was rather dull for butterflies but a few species were on the wing in small numbers, particularly Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Small White. The best were single Small Copper and Red Admiral. A single Common Darter was also present but I managed to see a Common Hawker on my way back, just before you enter the Felledge wood. It checked me out several times before flitting off again over the Heather. The latter at the moment is at its peak with masses of purple.

Soldier Beetles - Rhagonycha fulva - 1000s of them

Nearly every umbel of Hogweed had one or more Soldier Beetle on them, there must have been thousands on the site. The first photo is unusual as its rare to find them singly, often there are mating pairs, hence the old country name of 'Bonking Beetle'. They feed on small, soft-bodied insects that some to feed on the flowers.

There were lots of young birds around with Meadow Pipit and both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff having what looks like a very good breeding season. 30 Swallow and a few House Martin were feeding low over the fields and as I watched them, the birds of the day flew over in the form of a group of 4 Common Crossbill, my second record of the year for this species.
A few more plants were added, eight species in all were new for the year, though I know I have seen a couple earlier but forgot to count them.

Galeopsis tetrahit (Common Hemp-nettle)
Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica)
Euphorbia helioscopia (Sun Spurge)
Festuca ovina (Sheep's-fescue)
Lotus pedunculatus (Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil)
Odontites vernus (Red Bartsia)

Teucrium scorodonia (Wood Sage)

Euphrasia nemorosa  (Common Eyebright)

Common Hemp-nettle

I can't remember ever seeing so much Red Bartsia as there is at the moment at Daisy Hill, there's masses of it. This species is a parasite on grasses and seems to be doing an excellent job of keeping the grasses under  control.

Red Bartsia
 There were also masses of that common Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus and walking back through South Burn Wood I added another hoverfly for the year Leuconza glauca.


Leuconza glauca

Episyrphus balteatus

Eristalis tenax

As I walked through I heard a strange sound coming from a clump of vegetation. The noise was quiet hiss, a bit like a short release of air from a tyre. It took a while to locate what was in there and it was a smallish Common Frog. I don't recall hearing that sort of noise from one before.

The 'hissing' Common Frog

My OFFH lists  for the year are

Flowering plants - 322
Birds - 104
Moths - 203
Butterflies - 20
Dragonflies - 8
Hoverflies - 14
Mammals - 10 
Bumblebees - 6

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Moth list goes past the 200.

Put the moth trap out overnight for the first time since before my holidays.

Total of 59 moths of 24 species was ok but there were a few new ones for the year

Agriphila tristella   
Scalloped Oak
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Dotted Clay
and Cloaked Minor.

Poplar Hawkmoth - 2 caught, common but still impressive

Also the Red & Black Carrion Beetle - Nicrophorus investigator 

The moth list for the year goes over the 200 mark.

I added a few more bird sightings from my hols on the blog A Waldridge Naturalist in Switzerland.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Two shots of formic acid please

Just time for a walk along the riverside this afternoon, having spent most of the morning tidying up the garden. I was happy to see that my mining-bees Colletes succinctus have returned, with a few buzzing around the plants. It appears I now have two colonies of Common Garden Black Ant (Lasius niger) one in the front garden under the paving stones and one in the back in a big clay pot of garden pinks. I need to have a word with those in the front and tell them to stop coming into the garage. A quiet cheeping call made me turn around at on point to find a young Chiffchaff flicking around in the Honeysuckle. A lone Meadow Brown butterfly ventured into the garden which considering the complete lack of sun and cool breeze, was a bit surprising. I only noticed today but there were no Swifts over the house, have they gone already?
My walk along the river later gave me another six species of flower, bringing the total to 313 species I have seen this year in the area. The new species were

Greater Celandine
Japanese Knotweed
Water Forget-me-not
Reed Canary-grass
Creeping Yellow-cress

Creeping Yellow-cress

The Greater Celandine, which was along the Cong Burn just before the second bridge,  is the first I have seen around here. Though not native to the UK, it is a long-established introduction of roadsides, hedge banks and waste ground and so not rare but always nice to find a new plant on your patch. A juvenile Blackcap called and was seen briefly in the nearby bank side bushes.

Greater Celandine

Talking of ants, very nearby was a small colony of the Red Ant (Myrmica ruginodis), which aren't also called Red Stinging Ants for nothing, even the two I picked up for a better look gave me a shot of formic acid, bless them.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Back from Switzerland

Just back from two and a bit weeks in Switzerland hence the lack of entries. I'm back now and had a little wander but it was only a short walk over the fell. Far too much unpacking, washing, lawn cutting etc etc for anything more at the moment.  I have done a separate Blog to show my little wanderings whilst I was away called A Waldridge Naturalist in Switzerland.

I'll  gradually put on my sightings of the birds, butterflies and flora I saw over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile back at Waldridge, I sneaked off for 45 minutes this afternoon and it's surprising how the flora has changed in a couple of weeks. The common umbellifers are now Upright Hedge Parsley and Wild Angelica and a walk through the South Burn Woods and around Brass Castle Pond  added another nine species.

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell) 
Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury)
Circaea lutetiana (Enchanter's-nightshade)
Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp-agrimony)
Galium palustre (Common Marsh-bedstraw)

Lysimachia verticillaris
(Whorled Loosestrife)
Mentha aquatica (Water Mint)
Rumex conglomeratus (Clustered Dock)

Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Groundsel)

False Fox Sedge

Water Mint


Not surprising considering the time of year and time of day there was little in the way of bird life. A few butterflies were around, in the way of Meadow Brown and Small White and a single Peacock on Hemp-agrimony at Brass Castle Pond.  I spent ten minutes or so examining the heads of the umbellifers for hoverflies. Two new ones were present though one, the Marmalade Fly - Episyrphus balteatus, I had seen in the garden earlier today. The other was another common species, Syrphus ribesii.  Also present in very large numbers was the Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva.

Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii

Sunday, 10 July 2011

When bulbs go pop in the night.

I put the moth trap out again last night as I hoped to catch a couple more moths to take me over the 200 mark. After the previous night's totals it was sheer greed and I got my comeuppance. When I checked this morning the bulb was dead and a relatively small number of moths were still inside the trap.  I'm not sure what time it popped, nor why, but  it was a noisy night with 2 different burglar alarms and a car alarm all going off  it one time or another.

The moths that were present numbered 52 of 19 species and nothing new for the year. The best being Buff Arches, Silver Y, Antler moth and 3 Light Arches.

Antler moth 
This afternoon, the forecast rain stayed away and it warmed up a bit.

I thought I would have a look on the fell for some butterflies, Hairstreaks in particular, as both Purple & White-letter have been seen in the Gateshead area the last couple of days. Despite a bit of searching I failed to find either today but there were a lot of butterflies about. Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, a couple of Common Blue and three Whites (Small, Large and Green-veined) were all out in decent numbers. Also several Small Tortoiseshell,  two Red Admiral and a Painted Lady. My first Common Darters here this year were also seen.

Red Admiral
Painted Lady

When I moved here in 1999, I used to see Small Skipper and Large Skipper in about equal numbers. Small Skipper have been gradually increasing, especially over the last few years whereas the Large Skipper I saw regularly, though in decreasing numbers until 2006 but not since. I don't know why they declined here.  Therefore I got a bit of a shock when I found that a worn skipper perched up on some Bracken was actually a Large Skipper, my first here for 5 years. 

Large Skipper
On the way back through the South Burn Woods, a Southern Hawker buzzed me a few times before flying off.

I also managed to add four more flowering plants to the OFFH year list. Common Honeysuckle, Bladder Campion, Perennial Sow-thistle, and Mouse-ear Hawkweed.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 298
Birds - 104
Moths - 198
Butterflies - 20
Dragonflies - 7
Hoverflies - 11
Mammals - 10 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A full moth trap cheers you up

After a week of rain, threatened redundancies and general unpleasantness it was great to have the time and inclination to put the moth trap out.  Having seen virtually nothing of interest the past few days, I was glad I did,  with a box full of moths this morning. After a very nice couple of hours going through them all the final total was 298 moths of 76 species.
No less than 19 were new for the year, bringing the moth yearly total to just under the 200 mark at 197.

The nineteen new for the year were as follows:
Clepsis consimilana
Eucosma campoliliana
Catoptria falsella

Eudonia mercurella
Phlyctaenia coronata
Emmelina monodactyla

Small Dusty Wave

Barred Straw
Dark Marbled Carpet
Narrow-winged Pug

Small Yellow Wave
Lilac Beauty
Common White Wave
Antler Moth
Small Angle Shades
Common Rustic agg.

Small Fan-foot

At lunchtime I was in the greenhouse and added number 198, when my first Lesser Yellow Underwing was flushed out.

Monday, 4 July 2011

A few pretty moths

110 moths of 33 species during the night with the temperature dropping below 10C. There were 8 new for year once I sorted them all out, those being  -
a Ypsolopha sequella,  one White-shouldered House Moth, 2 Clouded Border, a single Swallow-tailed Moth, one Barred Red, two Short-cloaked Moth, a Dot Moth and a Smoky Wainscot. Another 4 Common Footman proving it's a good year for this species.

Ypsolopha sequella

Clouded Border

 Swallow-tailed Moth

Short-cloaked Moth

Dot Moth

The moth list for the year at Waldridge is now 178 species

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Birds on a wire

Yellow hammer - 1 of a number of species on the wires over the fell

It was late afternoon before I got a chance to have a look around today, but it was still warm and sunny and very pleasant to be out and about.
Walked through the South Burn Woods, the first part of Fell Edge Wood and over the fell to Daisy Hill and back home again.

Butterflies were in abundance today, with Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Small Heath and Small Skipper out in force, together with a few Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Common Blue.
Still a few warblers singing, particularly Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and a Grasshopper Warbler singing by the edge of the hugely overgrown main pond at Daisy Hill. Still not that many hoverflies about but did manage to add two species Eristalis pertinax and Myathropa florea  and it was too late in the day for  any dragonflies.

Eristalis pertinax (top) and Myathropa florea both on Hogweed
Willow Tits were noted at 2 spots on the fell. It was nice to note good numbers of singing Yellowhammers and Linnets here, especially as both have nearly disappeared from the adjacent farmland. Interestingly I had several pairs of Reed Buntings in the hedgerows where in the past these would have been occupied by Yellowhammers, whereas the fell was the domain of the Reed Bunting.

Several Greenfinches were also on the wires
Added a few more to the flora list today, with the Small-leaved Lime along Waldridge Lane, Meadow-sweet, Phragmites, Reed-mace (Typha), Marsh Thistle  and Common Valerian at Brass Castle Pond,  Wavy Hair-grass, Creeping Soft-grass, Rough Chervil and Apple Mint in South Burn Wood, Fen Bedstraw at Daisy Hill and Tufted Hair-grass, Purple Moor-grass  and Mat-grass on the fell.
The  Apple-mint is a hybrid species and has been here as long as I have lived here.It's a tall, wooly mint and I got it's identity confirmed by an expect a number of years ago hence my confidence in it's identity.

Linnet - the fell still has a very healthy population
OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 294
Birds - 104
Moths - 170
Butterflies - 17
Dragonflies - 5
Hoverflies - 11
Mammals - 10 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Owls, tigers and magpies

I got an email from Kevin who lives nearby saying, last Tuesday he saw a Short-eared Owl whilst out jogging. Now this got me excited. I could not go and check the site, which is by the A167 until last night, but check it I did and got a surprise. To be honest I'm not 100% certain I ended up at the right place but within a few metres of where I though I should be I saw an owl. However it was not a Short-eared Owl but a Long-eared. After watching it for a while two young started calling from nearby and the adult bird I was watching flew over to feed them with some small rodent I could not identify. Unfortunately something spooked them and they all flew out of site but what an excellent sighting.  Now have I gone to the right place or is there a 'Shortie' out there still waiting to be seen by me? Time will tell .....

Everyone's favourite - the Garden Tiger - 1 of 15 that were new for the year
The overnight temperature dropped to 8.2C but I put the trap out last night as it was the night for the National Garden Moth scheme. Despite the dip in temperature it was a very good night with 207 moths of 47 species counted (it took me a fair while to sort them all out I can tell you).  No less than 15 were new for the year. The first micros of the year - Bird Cherry Ermine, Helcystogramma rufescens, Blastodacna hellerella, Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix, Spruce bud Moth, Agriphila inquinatella and Eudonia pallida were all present. The Helcystogramma was my earliest by a month and it was only my 2nd Spruce bud Moth and possibly only the 4th for the county.  The last and the earliest of either were on the same day - 1st August 2008, how's that for a coincidence?  Eudonia pallida was also my earliest ever.

Spruce Bud Moth - Uncommon but plenty of Spruces in the nearby woods

The macro moths appearing for the first time this year were Buff Arches, July Highflyer, Magpie Moth, Light Emerald, Garden Tiger, Purple Clay, Slender Brindle and Straw Dot.

Light Emerald - the dark red tip at wing tip is diagnostic
Buff Arches - One of the  species expanding here in the north-east
The Magpie Moth - particularly fond of currant bushes 
Slender Brindle - not a common moth but another species
that occurs with regularity in the garden
The moth list for the year is now 170