Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Winter months count preparation

On strike today so had a bit of time to get out on the fell except a), it was raining and b). by the time it stopped the light was fading.  I did manage to have a walk through the woods but the light really was very poor and after being out a short while I realised that most of the birds had gone to roost.
Earlier this the week I was tiding up the empty plant pots that had accumulated in one corner of the garden and out flew from one of them was a  Peacock butterfly, no doubt disturbed from its hibernation.
Back to today, I did find a roving tit flock with Blue, Great, Coal and a single Willow Tit, 2 Goldcrest, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Bullfinch.  Walking along Waldridge Lane, a Woodcock flew over and a Jay called in the woods. It was nice to see the Highland Cattle back on Wanister Bog, they did a grand job last winter, the bog looked better this summer than for many years.

A few fungi seen today including Birch Polypore, Turkey-tail (variable-coloured) Bracket Fungi, Beefsteak fungi and a couple still to identify.

Beefsteak Fungi

Turkey-tail Fungi

I have been a member of the Wild Flower Society for many years now and one of the things they encourage is the Winter Months Hunt. This is to see how many plants you can see in flower in the months of December, January and February. Being in the bleak north of course you cannot compete with the southern half of the country and even less with those in the Channel Islands. Never the less I usually have a go though with all the snow last year I obviously did not bother. I saw a few still in flower as I walked around today so used the walk as a bit of reconnaissance and will give it a go this winter, starting tomorrow. Wild Angelica was still in flower in South Burn Woods so hopefully will remain in flower for me to count it, probably at the weekend.

Wild Angelica

Friday, 25 November 2011

The first but I'm not that chuffed

Bird-wise, several groups of Redwing continued to fly over but yesterday's reported group of three White-fronted Geese  at Great Lumley were not reported until after dark and there were not a sniff of them this morning. 2 Goosander flying over was the best, A Winter Moth was on the window on Wednesday night and several more were seen in the headlights along Waldridge Lane lats night.

My records of Grey Squirrel at Waldridge have been gradually getting closer and closer to the house, so it was only a matter of time when the first was seen in the garden. I was off work today and there sitting on the bird table first thing, stuffing himself with the birdseed, Mr. Grey Tufty himself, the first Grey Squirrel for the garden. Right, how can I deter him?

Grey Squirrel  - My first (but not the last)  for the garden

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Flowers and Hoverflies in the mist

My little stroll today was in a rather cold 6.8C, it was sunny but I wasn't out too long before the fog rolled  in and and visibility so poor I had to turn around. However sightings started early, becauae as I left, on the south wall of the house I found a Eristalis pertinax hoverfly, sunning itself, my latest ever.

 Eristalis pertinax - a late one on the house wall

A few species of plant continue to flower, today I saw Feverfew, Hogweed, Ivy and of course, Gorse. The Ivy was still attracting a few insects that were hanging on, mainly flies but also 2 more Eristalis pertinax. Not many birds about, but more small groups of Long-tailed Tits, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin and a Grey Heron flew over. The former seem to have not only survived last winter but have had an excellent breeding season subsequently. They are commoner around Waldridge than their Blue and Great cousins at the moment. Raptors don't like the mist and cold particularly, so a list today of 2 Kestrel, a Sparrow-hawk and a Common Buzzard was somewhat surprising. A Goldcrest by Brass Castle Pond and 6 Redwing overhead in the mist on my way back were seen before I called it a day.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Nothing but a foriegn moth ... probably

I'm haven't been dead, ill or even lost, this is my first post for a while simply because I've had so little time and subsequently seen virtually zero. Admittedly I was tempted away off-site into Northumberland to see a Greater Yellowlegs and a Grey Phalarope last weekend but that wasn't Waldridge so it does not count. Yes I confess I went twitching
I had a half hour walk last week but saw very little, it was early afternoon and it was already getting dark. The bit of sun earlier had produced a Red Admiral (this was the 12th November) and others were seen in Gateshead the same day. The walk itself produced nothing better than a Goldcrest, a few Siskin and Lesser Redpoll and three small groups of Long-tailed Tit. A few plants were still flowering with Dame's-violet and Cow Parsley being particularly late.

The best thing of the past couple of weeks was actually seen by someone else, goes back to September and wasn't even in Waldridge, but I think it's very interesting. So if you like detective stories, read on.

A lady from Low Fell in Gateshead sent a photograph of a moth found inside her house and this was passed to me to see if I could name it. Apparently "15-20mm from nose to end of wing and the 'almost crimped edges to the wing were lovely'". My attempts to identify it failed completely - I couldn't even get it down to a family. Was it some accidental import or was I just rubbish? 

The mystery alien moth

To answer the question I posted it onto the north-east Moth Forum to see what others thought. Everyone seemed stumped so the county moth recorder emailed Martin Honey at the Natural History Museum and other county moth recorders.
Investigations are continuing but it appears to be a species of Cryptolechia probably the 4th for the UK, (another from Durham, one from Hampshire and one from Suffolk most likely from South Africa imported on flowers, possibly dried. The lady finding this one confirmed she had bought some dried flowers originating from South Africa weeks earlier.

The tale of the Suffolk specimen (which looks very similar indeed) was re-told by Tony Pritchard, the Suffolk County Recorder that was reported to him by the finder -
However, the biggest piece of news to come out of Woolpit stems not from the trap but from the lounge curtains. A strange place to look for moths you might think? It all dates back to the 21st October when I stumbled across a rather strange looking moth sitting on the mat below said curtains. It looked nothing like any moth I had ever seen before. It was duly photographed and the image sent to a few group members who were equally stumped. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the moth was exhibited at the BENHS Exhibition in London where at first it generated little interest. That was until someone suggested that it could be a 'micro' moth from Asia or Australasia. Martin Honey from the Natural History Museum was invited to have a look and he recalled having seen something similar but couldn't place it. After a quick chat both the moth and pupal case were donated to the NHM in the hope that a positive identification could be secured.
That evening I tried to thing of anything unusual that had been in the house. All I could come up with was a somewhat 'woody' bouquet of flowers that had been given to my wife a few weeks before hand. Further investigation the next day revealed that the flowers had come from Marks & Spencer's where they had been sold under the name of 'Cape Flora'. The news was quickly relayed to Martin who replied by saying that he had already come to the independent conclusion that my moth was, indeed, South African in origin. Further more, he had narrowed it down to a species of Cryptolechia (a rather large family of micro-moths).
Sadly, that's where the story ends at the moment. Martin's still waiting to hear back from colleagues in South Africa and I still don't know whether I have an 'adventive' first for Suffolk and the UK. All I can say is "Stay Tuned Folks"”.

Today, still quiet but a very late queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee was flying around one of the flowerbeds in town.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A November Spring day

Still not much about either this weekend nor during the week. Two groups of Pink-footed Geese flew over heading south, with 300 last Tuesday and 100 or so the next day. These are most likely birds moving south from the east coast of Scotland where they arrived and fed up from Iceland and are now heading to the Sugar-beet fields of Norfolk where they will spend the winter.
Apart from that, a few small groups of Meadow Pipit and Redwing and a couple of Skylark was really all that was moving.
Quite sunny but cold today, perhaps too cold for any late Red Admiral or any other invertebrate. In fact there was a bit of a frost this morning. The moth trap had nothing in it again so I've put it away and will use it only occasionally until March. To make up for it I put the bird table back up and spent a small fortune on food. A dozen Grey Lag Geese flew over, but unlike the Pink-feet, were probably from much closer to home and feral birds.

Grey Lags flying over

 Two Kestrel were on the Fell, they seem to be getting a bit commoner again and for many years I am seeing more of this species than Sparrowhawk.  A Skylark here was singing it's heart out, together with the sun in a cloudless sky made the day seem rather spring-like.


A single Siskin was in an Alder at Chester Moor and 30+ Golden Plover were in one of the adjacent fields for the first time this winter.

Golden Plover

A few fungi were found in the woods but with all the rain, most have already rotted off, however, Fly Agaric, Birch Polypore, Butter-cap and Fleecy Milkcap were found.

Fly Agaric