Saturday, 31 December 2011

And that's it for another year

Christmas is over and hopefully so is the stress. The weather, as well as my Mother getting taken into hospital with pneumonia just before Christmas,  together with the lousy weather resulted in a very poor end to the year. It was also very sad to learn that a local birder, Brian Unwin, died two days ago after a long fight with cancer. I have known him for a very long time including finding the county's only Collared Pratincole together,  me seeing my first Bonaparte's Gull  following a message left by him  of a 'Napoleon Gull' at Teesside and working together on the local Newspaper.

But hopefully things will get better, tomorrow is another year and hopefully a good one for natural history observations here at Waldridge. The plan is to be up early in the morning, walk down to the riverside, check along the river and then the Chester Dene and Hermitage Woods, walking over the back of Plawsworth to the south end of Felledge Wood, over the Fell, checking the Tribley farm ponds, back through the Cong Burn Woods and the village then South Burn Wood and home.

So the Waldridge lists finished at -

Flowering plants    339
Birds            106
Moths            246
Butterflies        20
Dragonflies        8
Hoverflies        14
Mammals            10
Bumblebees        6
Fungi            13

Plus I scraped together 31 species of plant in flower in December.

Tomorrow - its start again

Collared Dove on the bird table  
The only things of note the last few days were a dark Common Buzzard seen on 27th by the A1(M) Chester slip road and regular visits by a pair of Collared Dove to the bird table.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

On the icy riverbank

Icy and cold,  not much chance of anything on the fell so I had a little wander down to the river at the park. I hoped there may be a plant or two where it could be a bit milder on the riverbanks, but they were just as fozen as the fell. In fact the footpath there was so icy it was treacherous. No new plants were noted so I had a play with the camera. The Whooper Swan from last winter which had been rung at York [see my note] has returned and if anything is tamer.
all the way from ... York
Last winter's Pink-footed Goose has also returned but there are only 2 Canada Geese present which he (or she) associated with so this year it's on it's own, on the grass bank on the park side of the river.
Pink-footed Goose
The river also held 41 Tufted Duck including a particulary noticable male with some grey in its flanks. It's normal Tufted Duck bill and head colour I think rules out any hybrid origins.

Usual and grey flanked Tufted Ducks
12 Goosander, 120 Mallard,
Grey Heron in riverside Willow
a Grey Heron and a couple of Cormorant  made up the rest of the birds present,

Common Gull
though  there there were in excess of 350 Black-headed Gull, plus a few Common, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull also there.

Herring Gull

 On the path by the nearby sewage works (which had 25 Pied Wagtail and a single Grey Wagtail) , 5 Bullfinch were hopping around or feeding on the adjacent weeds, with 5 Goldfinch and a couple each of Goldcrest, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit in the adjacent trees.

Pair of Bullfinch 
Great Tit

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Car parks and flowerbeds

Frost in the mornings and the days continuing to get shorter (for another week) so not much chance of seeing anything of note. If however you see some strange soul with his head down looking in empty council flowerbeds and cracks in the pavement in the half-light, then its probably me. If it's not then they need locking up. So I'm still looking for more plants in flower and even managed another two today thanks to those said pavements and flowerbeds. The two in question, both very common species -
Black Medick  Medicago lupulina
Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens

The list creeps on to 31 for the month 

More Hogweed, with a few flowers
Black Medick
Creeping Buttercup

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

It's as Bjork said

As Bjork sung in her 1995 hit 'Its Oh so quiet' - at least on the Natural History front in the Waldridge area it is. Admittedly I have not put in much time but even so, I have seen very little.
A flock of 40 Curlew was the best of the birds, again probably coming from their roost at Washington to feed on the fields between the village and Hett Hills.
Only managed to find another 2 species of plant in flower these past few days -Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
White Campion (Silene latifolia)
The list goes to 29 for this month

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Rain, hail, frost, snow and wind

Bit busy on the weather front and had one or more of rain, hail, frost, snow and wind the last few days, though none lasted very long, one of the others soon followed. I have seen no birds worth mentioning at all.

Desperately trying to add a few plants in flower to the list and managed, with some determination I may add, five new species -

Cow Parsley   Anthriscus sylvestris - in full flower but with a flowering stem of only about 9 inches.
Herb-Robert   Geranium robertianum - flowering in both a sheltered hedgerow and along the main East coats railway line
Sticky Groundsel Senecio viscosus- under a wall in the town centre
Common Field-speedwell  Veronica persica - on a field edge 

White Deadnettle  Lamium album - obvious very near the house, don't know how I missed it here earlier.

Herb-Robert (top) and Sticky Groundsel

The total now 27 species.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Record breakers

Managed to get another three species of plant in flower today, all very common, but they all count.

Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare
Oil-seed Rape
Brassica napus subsp. oleifera
Common Chickweed 
Stellaria media 

Which puts me on 22 species.

Despite the nasty weather, there was even had a little snow flurry today, there are still a few things in flower in the garden, uncountable of course, but also in one particular case rather unusual. This is Spring Starflower Ipheion uniflorum, as it's name suggests,  it flowers in spring but this year, two clumps are currently flowering, and  have been for about a month, for the first time ever at the back of the year.

Spring Starflower in winter

Very little bird wise but still a a fair few Fieldfare and a couple of Redwing in the hedges and Robins seemed to more noticable than usual. 3 Golden Plover flew over were the best birds.

Robin - particularly noticeable today

I heard via another birder that the county recorder has said that the White-fronted Geese I got yesterday were the largest flock ever seen in the county. This species, together with Bean Geese and Short-eared Owls and to a lesser extent, Hen Harrier and Bewick's Swan have  have all been part of an unusal influx of birds from the near-continent into the noirth-east. With flocks of 40 and 60+ White-fronted Geese hanging around in the county, and more birds appearing (arriving?), I don't think my record will last for very long all the same.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mr. Grumpy gets some White-fronts

Had some light to look for some wild flowers today but today's excuses are that there was a 23mph hour westerly wind with heavy rain showers and even some sleet and hail that covered everything for a few minutes. With 2 days of frost I was never going to see much so foolishly left my camera in the house. What's a grumbling old sod I am these days!

A walk around despite everything I just said did find me some flowers, 11 to be exact, these being -
Ivy-leaved Toadflax    Cymbalaria muralis
Hogweed                    Heracleum sphondylium
Autumn Hawkbit            Leontodon autumnalis
Oxford Ragwort            Senecio squalidus
Common Groundsel    Senecio vulgaris
Feverfew                    Tanacetum parthenium
Common Dandelion    Taraxacum aggregate
Scentless Mayweed    Tripleurospermum inodorum
Wild Angelica            Angelica sylvestris
Hairy Bittercress    Cardamine hirsuta
Meadow Buttercup    Ranunculus acris

Which puts me on 19 species.

Bird-wise it was very quiet and the light was going fast but then at 15:10 I was looking back over the fell towards Nettlesworth when I picked up a skien of geese heading slowly into the wind, generally WNW  in my direction. The long V skien contained about 85 birds and I was wondering if they might be White-fronts when I saw the black lines and patches on the belly. They were indeed White-fronted Geese, new for Waldridge.  With no new birds for the year for ages, two in two days.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Plus one Peregrine = minus one Pigeon

The main corvid roost around Waldridge is at North Lodge between here and Birtley and I suspect most of the local Jackdaws and Rooks go there. I usually see a couple of hundred Jackdaws and a smaller number of Rooks at dawn or dusk on route to or from that direction. This morning, in the town centre however, there were many more than usual, mainly Jackdaws but well over 1000 birds in total, over the town centre at first light. They were soaring around, as opposed to heading to their usual feeding grounds.  Then the resident flock of Feral Pigeons took off followed by a fair few of the Pied Wagtails that roost on the Morrisons (formerly Co-op) building. A few seconds later I saw the reason as a Peregrine swooped down from the gloom, hit a pigeon in mid-air, grabbed it in one talon, stalled and then consolidated it's hold with the other foot and shot off southwards.  Nice little start to the day.
Still botanising in the dark but managed another 4 species, now on 8!

Shepherd's-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
Nipplewort Lapsana communis
Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Petty Spurge Euphorbia peplus

Oh for the daylight of the tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Flowers in the dark

Dark when I left for work and dark when I came back so not unexpectedly my start for my wild flower winter month's count was pretty rubbish. Having said that I don't recall ever looking for flowering plants in the dark before! I could have added some more but I am going to stick to my patch, so the list just managed to get going with the grand total of 4 species in flower -  
Daisy    Bellis perennis
Common Ragwort    Senecio jacobaea
Gorse    Ulex europaeus
Red Clover    Trifolium pratense