Thursday, 29 September 2011

Which flies faster - Sandhill Crane or Cory's Shearwater?

The moth trap was out overnight and I had 16 moths of 9 species, nothing new and probably just what could be expected on a late September night. The full list was

4 Light Brown Apple Moth
3 Spruce Carpet
1 Pine Carpet
1 Garden Carpet
3 Red-green Carpet
1 Blair's Shoulder-knot
1 Rosy Rustic
1 Green-brindled Crescent
1 Silver Y

A Great spotted Woodpecker bounded over the garden as I cleared things up.

On the way to work 4 juvenile House Martin were over the Front street in the town, feeding over the shop roofs and not showing any sign of heading south.

Off patch, a very rare Sandhill Crane that had been present in Scotland earlier in the week headed south and was seen at various spots on the Northumberland coast. I perched myself up on the roof at work waiting for it to fly over. Though a bit of a heat haze, there was an excellent panoramic view where I was, and if (when) it went past,  I should see it well.  After 5 minutes it was reported at Marsden heading south, I had made the right decision, it wouldn't be long ....... wrong.
One hour, thirteen minutes later it came on the Rare Bird pager, it was going over Hartlepool Docks, 17 miles to the south! I have no idea how it managed to sneak past me, or other people at spots down the coast. Apart from the resident birds, all I had was one lonesome Swallow heading south.

It was a bit like 2 weeks ago  when I was at Saltholme, Teesmouth and a Cory's Shearwater was heading south past Marsden/Whitburn. We reckoned it would take about an hour to get to Hartlepool but by the time the message had appeared it was going to be tight. A mad dash got us there 51 minutes after it had been seen at Whitburn, but we had missed it by a minute, it had just gone 'round the corner'.

So what have I learned, basically Cory's Shearwaters fly faster than Sandhill Cranes.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Quality not quantity

Though not the 'Indian Summer'  they said it was going to be, it was quite warm yesterday so I stuck the moth trap out again last night. The temperature dropped to single figures, just, 9.7C so wasn't surprised to see only a few moths in the trap. In fact there were only seven, of six species,  but three rather nice ones with

Canary-shouldered Thorn - one of the most photogenic of UK moths

Flounced Chestnut only ever caught about half a dozen of these

Green-brindled Crescent - with only a hint of green, but also new for the year.
together with a single Sallow and Garden Carpet and two Red-Green Carpet,  I was well pleased as it was certainly quality as opposed to quantity.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Garden disruption

Though the moth trap was not out last night, the bit of garden tidy up yesterday must have unsettled  a few bits in the garden. On the wall, window sand fence this morning were the same or another Frosted Orange and Angle Shades

Angle Shades
Frosted Orange

and 2 Pine Carpet, the latter being the first of the year.

Pine Carpet new for year

A couple of fly over birds this morning were also seen, 2 Skylark and a Grey Wagtail, both species perhaps on the move.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Another go at the moth trap

I decided I'll to have another go at the moth trap last night as it will soon be packed up for the winter (sort of). Only 1 Tawny  Owl called night. Ib took the previous night's catch taken for a walk to avoid duplicates,  the contents were examined this morning and consisted of  14 moths of 11 species -

 Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella)  1
 Clepsis consimilana  1
 Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)  2
 Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)  1
 Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata)  1
 Spruce Carpet (Thera britannica)  1
 Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum)  1
 Blair's Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri)  2
 Sallow (Xanthia icteritia)  2
 Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa)  1
 Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea)  1

Nothing new so the Waldridge moth list for the year list remains on 239

2-3 Peacock butterflies visited the garden this afternoon, where I disturbed a number of Seven-spot Ladybirds during a tidy-up.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Hermitage Owl Choir

There was still a singing Chiffchaff on Thursday, looking at him closer reavealed it was a young bird getting a bit of practice in before next year. Also practicing were the Tawny Owls in the Hermitage Wood with lots of various sorts of hoots, whoos and k-vicks coming from at least 4 birds during the night. They were at it most of the evening and night. Presumably this was again young birds practising, and by some of the sounds coming from the trees, they certainly need to practice. This was not the best performance of the Hermitage Owl Choir.

Unknown at the moment (Sawfly?) larvae

With the chance of only a very light shower and the temperature staying in double figures overnight I set the moth trap up in the evening. The result was 15 moths of 9 species with three being new for the year.

Lunar Underwing 
Brown-spot Pinion
Hook-marked Straw-moth - very worn and very late
The Hook-marked Straw as can be seen in the photo was very worn but not surprisingly as it was also very late, my latest by several weeks and probably one of the latest ever in the county

The full list was
Hook-marked Straw-moth (Agapeta hamana)  1
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)  2
Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata)  1

Red-green Carpet

Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes)  1
Lesser Yellow Underwing 

Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum)  2
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Blair's Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri)  4
Blair's Shoulder-knots

Brown-spot Pinion (Agrochola litura)  1
Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa)  1
Silver Y (Autographa gamma)  2
Silver Y

4 Siskin, 2 Meadow Pipit and a Pied Wagtail flew over the garden this morning and a White-tailed Bumblebee braved the grey overcast conditions.

Also by the trap was the small green caterpillar at the top of the page which I think is probably a Sawfly but which I have still to identify. It's looking very grey overhead now so it's an excuse to get my reference books out and try and get a name for the little critter.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Swift questions

Work and weather stopped me seeing much so far this week apart from a Speckled Wood butterfly on Tuesday and 65+ Linnet at Smith's Field this morning.
That is apart from a late Common Swift this evening. I see the odd late Swift, even later than this one but what I don't understand is what it was up to. Most late Swifts are fly-overs/ fly-throughs but this one was happy to be feeding around the train station and the Avenues area as long as I watched it. Now this area is the main brreeding area for the species in Chester-le-Street and there could be well over 75 pair breeding here mid summer. But they all left more than three weeks ago. Pesumably this could not be a late bred youngster as I pass this area most week days once or twice per day and there have been no sign of Mummy & Daddy or any Swift for, like I said, three weeks. So is this just a bird from further north that has stopped off to feed and perhaps even and roost,  over this area by coincidence or is there something much more instictive happening? I couldn't see it well enough to tell if it was an adult or ypung bird but what made it decide to stop off here, presumably on it's journey from the north? Was it a bird born and bred here previously?  Plenty of questions,bu no answer.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

All you need is time

Yesterday I only had time for a half hour looking from the garden and with the rain on Friday night, I decided to leave the moth trap for 24 hours. There was a little bit of visible bird migration during my stint, probably in front of the band of afternoon rain that was heading my way. In the 30 minutes or so I was there looking skywards, I counted 17 Swallow, 6 House Martin, 3 Starling, 2 Wood Pigeon, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Jay, 1 Goldfinch, 2 Yellowhammer and best of all a late Sand Martin, all of them southbound. I only get a few Sand Martin over the house, and this was my latest ever here, so that was nice. Another thing I only get occasionally at home is the 14-spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata). This is the small yellow species with a variable number of black spots, merging together. There was one sitting on the car yesterday, until it flew of when I went for the camera.

I put the trap out last night and managed to get 2 new species for the year in the form of Blair's Shoulder-knot and Frosted Orange.

Blair's Shoulder-knot
Frosted Orange

The weather was variable to say the least today with sunny spells, thick cloud, light rain and heavy showers all getting a turn. However as I had some time to look properly it shows that there is always something to see at this time of the year.
A flock of 60-odd Grey Lag Geese flew south-east over the fell and may have been Icelandic birds, as opposed to a flock of the very many feral ones that are around these days.

A Skien of Grey Lag Geese flying SE

 More Swallows were also heading south today, I counted 46 during my walk, as well as 4 Siskin. Despite the lack of wind and the showers, it was good for raptors, with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a Red Kite all being seen and I could hear a Common Buzzard mewing from the trees in the Cong Burn but it didn't reveal itself. A Great spotted Woodpecker perched up on an isolated tree amongst the heather.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

A few Common Darters were around on the fell and on the pools at Daisy Hill, with one of these small areas of water also hosting two Southern Hawker Dragonflies.

Souther Hawker

The only butterflies seen today were single Large White and Small Tortoiseshell.

One of the adjacent fields was ploughed just a few weeks ago but already a host of arable weeds were in flower with Field Pansy, Redshank, Pale Persicaria, Long-headed Poppy, Fat-hen, Common Fumitory, Common Orache, Black Bindweed and Scentless Mayweed all being present.

Field Pansy, one of a host of arable weeds in one of the fields.
So a good day, despite the weather showing all you need is the time.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Oh so quiet

The wind has finally dropped, it's not raining but it certainly feels like autumn. The overnight temperature with the clear skies dropped to 4.6C last night, the coldest night since spring I put the moth trap out overnight but knew it was a mistake on a cold, starry night in September. It was only because it was the first time for four days that it has not been too windy. Of course it was rubbish and with the contents after midnight of  a single moth, to save on electricity I gave up and switched the power off. The results of the overnight trapping session equalled one Garden Carpet, not even a Yellow Underwing.

The total contents of last nights moth trap - 1 Garden Carpet
Prior to this it has been extremely quiet because it has been extremely windy, with a record breaking 40.6 mph registered on my little weather station. Hence the lack of sightings. Last Sunday a single Red Admiral and a singing Chiffchaff was the best, and since then, the odd southward bound Swallow flying overhead on a couple of days was all there was to be seen.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

With the cloud, came the rain and wind

Three Small Tortoiseshell yesterday but nothing else. A rather clear night last night to start but with the cloud, came the rain and wind. Only 17 moths of 11 species in the trap when I checked it, plus a couple of Common Wasp. A late Phoenix was my only one this year and 3 Mouse moth were the best there was.
Apart from that it was very quiet, a couple of flyover Siskins weren't much compensation neither was my first Common Evening-Primrose (Oenothera biennis), growing on the grass verge along Waldridge road.
Just back to work and the remains of a hurricane to look forward to.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A bit of a Devil in the wind

Started the day in the car park of the vet, awaiting the result of our cat's enema - what fun. As I waited, a Nuthatch was calling in the wood opposite and I watched a family party of Long-tailed Tit playing dare with the passing traffic as they flew across the road and back.

A walk later was never going to produce much due to the strong southerly wind and occasional shower. Even the Swallows decided to stay indoors in the barn instead of sitting on the wires.

Sheltering Swallows

A nice patch of Devil's-bit Scabious was found on the edge of the South Burn, sheltered from most of the wind.

Devil's-bit Scabious
This clump saved the day as not only was it new for the year but acting as a very busy restaurant for flying insects, especially when the sun poked it's nose out. 3 Peacock and 6 Speckled Wood butterflies were feeding on it,

Speckled Wood
as were 4 species of Hoverfly.

Hoverfly - Eristalis pertinax 
This in turn is what probably attracted 3 Common Darters.

Common Darter

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dribs & Drabs

Bit delayed as this all relates to yesterday but I'm now on a shiny new computer. Not much about so just really seeing dribs and drabs at the moment.

The Moth trap in the garden was rather poor on Sunday night. The rain and wind and that I moved it to another part of the garden probably all had an effect on the contents.  17 moths of 7 species was the result, but even this poorish catch still turned out a new one for the year, the rather drab non-splendid micro-moth Cydia splendana.

A Chiffchaff was singing in the woods this morning and a Large White butterfly was on the wing. I managed to identify 5 species of Hoverfly but nothing new, the number of Marmaldae Fly have now dwindled down considerably. A few White-tailed and Carder Bumblebees were around and probably the most Honey-bees I have seen this year

The number of flowering plants was boosted by one more when I saw found the little patch of Green Speedwell by the road to the Leisure Centre.

The lists for Waldridge (on foot from house) for the year include

Flowering plants 335
Birds 104
Moths 233
Butterflies 20
Dragonflies 8
Hoverflies 14

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Adding a few plants to the list

A bit of sun this morning called for a wander around the fell, which I did with the intent of adding a few more plants to the list. I deliberately went looking for a few species I have seen in previous years but haven't seen this year.  One of the first things I noticed was a Robin's Pincushion Gall which is produced as a chemical reaction by the Dog Rose induced by the egg laying of a Gall Wasp  Diplolepis rosae. There's a good write up of the life cycle on Wikipedia

Robin's Pincushion Gall
In South Burn Wood, the Apple Mint is still hanging on but I was surprised to find a much larger clump near Brass Castle Pond. The latter I hadn't noticed before and though its a good sized clump I'm surprised I've missed it. It's growing next to Water Mint here so I'll keep an eye out for some hybrid with the hybrid (Apple Mint Mentha x villosa is itself a hybrid between Spearmint and Round-leaved Mint).

Apple Mint
A few birds were around, particularly noticeable was the number of Song Thrushes. Also seen here were Willow Tit, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great spotted Woodpecker and a singing Bullfinch. Siskins flew over here and twice over the fell as I walked around. After a bit of looking I found a single plant in rather deep shade of White Ramping-fumitory. This is one of only a handful of sites in the county for this species.  Bladder Campion was still in flower on the fell,

Bladder Campion
as was Field Bindweed. Marsh Hawksbeard, Harebell, Heath Groundsel and masses of Eyebright. One area was white with flowers of the latter.

Eyebright - large population

Among the more interesting grasses were Tufted Hair-grass, Heath-grass and Mat-grass. Near one of the car parks is a clump of Bifid Hempnettle, there is a good population of it's relative Common Hempnettle in South Burn Wood. Both species vary in colour but the separator is that in Bifid, the lip colour of the flower goes right to the edge as opposed to being only in the middle of the flower, and the bottom lip has a slight notch. The plants around Waldridge tend to be all white (Common) or pink (Bifid) but it's not always the case.

and Common Hempnettle

A few butterflies were on the wing, Wall, Small Heath and Green-veined White.

Green-veined White

Watery things

The moth trap was out overnight and 15 species managed to find a way in during the night. One was new for the year, a Brown China-mark. This is one of a small family of moths that are unusual in that their larvae are entirely aquatic feeding on water plants. Needless to say they are never far from water, and with all that rain ...

Brown China-mark
2 Marmalade Flies were also in the trap this morning.

Marmalade Fly
A brisk walk this afternoon along the river Wear in the park found that the Pink-footed Goose was still on the river but little else

Pink-footed Goose
except 3 Tufted Duck, a few Canada Goose and lots of Mute Swan and Mallard including a late new brood of the latter.

Mallard brood
A Hawker Dragonfly zoomed passed me but unfortunately was not seen again. I suspect it was a Common Hawker but will have to stay unidentified.
Still a few things in flower along on the riverbanks including some late flowering Wood Stitchwort, Creeping Yellow-cress and several of the knotweed family - Japanese Knotweed, Equal-leaved Knotgrass and Redshank

Three Knotweeds, Japanese (top), Equal-leaved Knotgrass
and Redshank (bottom)