Sunday, 11 November 2012

Find some Waxwings

 Waxwings have been arriving in the north-east in good numbers the past week or so and I have seen them at several spots, so I had to look for some in Chester-le-Street yesterday. I did, amazingly, find some without too much difficulty. Not a flock of 150-200 like in some places but a small group of 12 in the trees of Park View School in the town centre.

I continued down into the Riverside Park. The Whooper Swan is still present and a few Cormorant  and 7 Goosander were on the river but very little else except for 2 Grey Wagtail. The little nature reserve near the cricket ground was, as usual, very quiet, with only a few Bullfinch, a Jay and a lone Siskin of note.

2 of the Goosanders, the drake looking uncomfortably like a duck out of water.

Today a single Waxwing flew over the house and landed in the nearby big Beech tree. This is the same tree that held a flock of 60 in November 2010. At lunchtime, on my way to Chester Moor, I found a hairy orange-brown caterpillar crawling across the pavement in front of me. It turned out to be the larva of a Ruby Tiger Moth.

I had sneaked out of the area early this morning to successfully see a Great Grey Shrike but was probably more pleased to see four juvenile Barn Owls getting what may be the last bit of warm sun this year as they sat outside their nestbox.

2 of the 4 Barn Owls I saw this morning
With two separate sightings of Waxwing this weekend with very little effort, it shows just how many are currently about and I'm sure anyone interested could find some if they were vigilant. But they need to hurry, as following the spring and summer we have had,  there are not many berries about, so they'll not be around for long. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Roof top Nature

With the dark nights it's weekend only nature watching most of the time till spring now.  Recently it's been looking at what has popping into the garden but so far it's been rather quiet.

Dunnock in the garden

A (or the) Grey Squirrel has been quite regular, not only raiding the bird table but generally scurrying around the garden.

Grey Squirrel - 9 out of 10 for attempted cuteness

It has taking the habit of scrambling onto the roof if it's disturbed instead of leaving all together.

Rooftop Grey Squirrel

Today I went to the coast of the outside chance that a reported Lesser Kestrel was going to be around at Marsden. Of course it wasn't but I took the opportunity of heading a couple of miles south to a garden in Seaburn where a Bee-eater has been present for a couple of days. Instead of either being in Africa or at least well on it's way, its feed on wasps still around in gardens in Sunderland.

Bee-eater at Seaburn

Like the garden Squirrel it was also using the rooftops to view it's surroundings.

Rooftop Bee-eater

I know which I would prefer on my roof.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Seal of approval

It's been rather quiet on the moth front all month, and even the other night when I thought things might improve, only a single Spruce Carpet  was caught.
This morning a few birds seemed to be on the move with a flock of 15 Grey Lag Geese over, followed by 2 Redwing, then 5 Curlew.

I had a spare hour this afternoon and popped down into the Riverside Park. The water levels are still high and the play area is still flooded.  Within minutes of getting to the river I noticed an animal's head in the water. My immediate reaction was Otter even though I haven't seen one down here for a while but it was too large. A better look when it resurfaced confirmed by second thought of a Common Seal. I assume it must have come up with the levels being so high enabling it to get over the weirs  and upstream. Whilst I was watching it I was told it first appeared last Wednesday, this seemed to be confirmed by other first sightings on that day, though a fisherman said there were three present and have been for a year!  It appeared quite tame and certainly curious. As I walked along the river it followed me down for several 100 metres with its head out of the water, watching me all the time. With it's labrador-like head it was like taking a dog for a walk.

The not camera-shy Common Seal

Also present today and I suspect in this case, this is the first sighting of the winter, the Whooper Swan that winters here with the Mute Swans and summers near York where it was rung.

The Whooper is back again with his rusty head

A few Goosanders also present including a young male with the green head feathers just starting to appear, swimming with the Mallards. A party of Long-tailed Tit and 2 Goldcrest were in the riverside scrub on the far bank.


Sunday, 21 October 2012


A Red Admiral on Friday flew over the street and it or another was in the front garden this morning. No bird passage today, only a couple of Redwing, a Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail  and 4 Skylark flew over the fell.  Though it seemed a good day for raptors only 2 sighting of a Kestrel were had. Indian Balsam was still in flower in a few sheltered spots where the frost had not hit.

With it being so quiet I spent the rest of the time looking at Mosses and Liverworts and after a good while looking at them magnified when I got home and going through that excellent field guide to mosses and liverworts of Britain and Ireland by the  British Bryological Society I added 9 species to my Waldridge List.
Bifid Crestwort & Blunt-leaved Bog-moss in the Felledge Wood
Great Scented Liverwort in Hermitage Woods
Supine Plait-moss, Pointed Spear-moss, Common Cord-moss Wall Screw-moss in the garden
Capillary Thread-moss on Waldridge Fell
Hart's-tongue Thyme-moss in the South Burn Wood

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Snapping at my heels

Still got cold and a walk around the fell didn't clear it but it's still nice to get out. I say that but to be honest I'm getting really cheesed off with the amount of uncontrolled dogs allowed to run free on the fell at the moment. I had three horrid things barking, leaping up and snapping at my heels and the owners just aked where my dog was and acted surprised when I didn't have one, saying they had never done that before. Like I believe that and anyway is that an excuse? Quite simple, if you can't control it don't let it off it's lead and I think that applies to the majority of dog owners these days. Also a). please pick up your dog &%^* and b). if you do, please don't hang it from the nearest tree. Right that's today's moan over with.

Most of the morning was over the back of the fell, in the SW corner. The little pools still held a number of Common Darter, with 2 pairs in tandem egg-laying and several un-mated males.

Common Darter on my camera bag

Pair Common Darter in tandem before egg-laying

There's still a surprising number of  Speckled Wood getting the last of the autumn's heat where it's sheltered and sunny around at the moment.

Speckled Woods

Two small groups of Lesser Redpoll were seen and in the Felledge Wood my first Fieldfare (3) and Redwing (5)  together with a suprsing number of Song Thrush were in the trees. It's unusual that I saw my first of the autumn in this manner as opposed to them flying over having heading west.

One of the hedges held a nice mixture of birds which kept darting into the adjacent stubble field and flying back up again. Amongst the House Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Starling were 4 Tree Sparrow, my first on the fell since 2009. Several Sparrowhawk were seen today and Skylark were the most conspicious in some time.

Tree Sparrow (top bird with the black cheeks) with House Sparrows

Flora-wise, a few still in flower including both Red and White Clover, Hogweed, Wild Angelica, Common Ragwort, Foxglove, Red Campion and my latest ever Upright Hedge-Parsley.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Man flu & butterflies

A big dose of Man Flu has kept me in house for days. 

The only things of note were 3 butterfly species in the garden seen from the house window, Comma, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood, plus the odd Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail flying over. Both the Red Admiral and Comma flew into the greenhouse, presumably looking for a safe spot to hibernate. I dragged by weary body and camera out to get a quick shot of the latter.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Another Hawkmoth scare

There was a late House Martin over the Front Street this morning, and 2 Sparrowhawks there this evening hunting the Pied Wagtails going to roost.

I remember last October I had a hawkmoth scare when a friend said they had taken a photograph of a Hawkmoth. After the panic I realised they had taken the photograph in Turkey. Disappointment. Well I had another hawkmoth scare today when a neighbour said there was a Hawkmoth on the wall. It's got to be a Convolvulus at this time of year, surely or even a Death's-head, panic again. Then I saw the very nice but common Angle Shades moth sitting there. Was it smiling? .. I sort of did, despite another disappointment.

A nice moth but not a Hawkmoth

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Too busy for nature

A busy couple of weeks resulting in so little time to wander around. Last weekend I didn't even get around the patch but a skien of 48 Pink-footed Geese over in the morning was a little compensation. Heavy rain early this week flooded the riverside park again but it wasn't as bad as earlier this year.

Only one attempt with putting the moth trap out and even that I abandoned after midnight as there was a risk of it blowing away! Only one brave Light Brown Apple Moth dropped in before I switched it off.

This weekend was not much better and a short walk in the blustery wind and light showers produced 3 Chiffchaff, all singing in some way or another, a Willow Tit and despite the weather, a Speckled Wood butterfly. Small numbers of Meadow Pipits and a couple of Skylarks over were the only signs of migration.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Hoverfly ticking under the microscope

Rain this morning but it was dry, though cold, overnight. 3 migrant Silver Y were amongst the resident Lunar Underwing (first of the year), Pine and Red-green Carpets, Large & Lesser Yellow Underwings, Brown-spot Pinion, Flounced and Rosy Rustic, Light Brown Apple Moth and Mouse Moth in the trap first thing this morning.

Pine Carpet

Silver Y

Also a Common Green Lacewing

Common Green Lacewing

Stayed in early morning and checked a few of the specimens and photographs of Hoverflies from the Fell the last couple of weeks, under the microscope. And I added three new species for Waldridge, the latter was new for me - Myathropa florea (seen only yesterday by the river), Eristalis interruptus (now called Eristalis nemorum I think ) and Platycheirus scambus, the latter two both on the fell. My training weekend from the spring eventually being put to proper use.

Eristalis interruptus 

Myathropa florea 

A Zebra on the window

 Too windy last night for the moth trap so I'll leave it until tonight, though I did see a couple of moths today as a Silver Y was found lurking in the greenhouse and a Nettle-tap amongst the nettles by the riverside. A few butterflies were out in the sun including 8 Speckled Wood, a few Peacock and a Wall.

Speckled Wood


A brood of Mallard ducklings with their mum on the Wear were late as were singing Chiffchaffs (4) and a Blackcap.  Only one Swallow flew over compared to several hundred last weekend.

Late brood of Mallard

Creeping Yellowcress was still in flower but the flat heads of Tansy and Yarrow were attracting most of the insects around.

Creeping Yellow-cress

Back home a Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) on the windowframe was enjoying the afternoon sun. This is a small  spider but with big attitude. It's said they have the best eyesight of all spiders and they will turn they head to look at you if you get close. This one did just that.

Zebra or Jumping Spider  Salticus scenicus

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Herald the passage of Swallows

A sunny day spent in the garden.  The problem with a wildlife garden is it gets wild if left untouched, so today was spent tidying it up a bit.
The Herald moth is quite common but despite it's food-plants of Poplars and Willow, both very close to the garden I have only ever has a couple here. Of course I'm mentioning this because I had the trap out overnight and caught one. A smart thing it was too.


Also caught were  Ruby Tiger,  Canary-shouldered Thorn and Dusky Thorn amongst the usual  commoner moths such as Yellow Underwings (Large & Lesser), Square-spot Rustic and Riband Waves. Both Common and Red Wasps and a Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale (Hawthorn Shield Bug)  were also trapped.

Hawthorn Shield Bug

Red Wasp Vespa rufa

The Buddlejas in the garden are still flowering well and held Comma, Red Admiral, Peacock and Large White Butterflies.

Red Admiral on the Buddleja

Swallows were streaming past today heading south, I counted 198 flying over the garden in an hour, together with 6 House Martin and 3 Siskin.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Emeralds in the sun

A nice sunny day and a previous mild night with the minimum temperature of 12.4C.
The moth trap produced just the early autumn species but with the largest counts of the year for both Large Yellow Underwing and Lesser Yellow Underwing. Both these species are very common but the numbers have been way down this year until the last couple of days. A White Plume moth was my first in the garden for some time and a Tortix either Acleris laterana or salicifolia, was probably the former due to the date and their liking for Spiraea which I have in the garden. Both species have occurred here before however. The single Angle Shades trapped spent a lot of it time with it's wings raised despite it not being threatened, unlike their normal position with it's wings flat and exhibiting it's cryptic camouflage.

Angle Shades - Wings up and wings down
My walk started off well with a Greenshank, the second this autumn flying over calling.
The sun brought out the butterflies with Red Admiral and Comma joining the Peacocks on the Buddleja in the garden and good numbers of Walls and Small Heaths and a few Speckled Wood,  along with the other species I saw yesterday, on the wing.

Wall and Small Heath on the Fell

I walked over to the back end of the fell today after getting the Sunday paper from the petrol station via the footpath between there and the hostel at Plawsworth and flushed a party of 5 Grey Partridge at the end and watched a Siskin fly over. The small pools further on at the Scroggs had a number of Common Darter, a buzzing Southern Hawker and best of all, at least 25 Emerald Damselflies.

Emerald Damselfly - 1 of 25_ today

Though in the past they have suffered from both pollution and litter, these acidic ponds are looking good these days with a marsh vegetation establishing itself including Marsh Ragwort, Water Mint, Jointed Rush and Bog Pondweed.

Jointed Rush

Marsh Ragwort

Sitting down photographing the Damselflies I heard a Common Buzzard calling for quite a while before it appeared over the trees in the distance. 3 juvenile Kestrels, probably young from the local pair were playfully screeching and playing overhead. A constant stream of Swallows were going overhead, southbound and a single Sand Martin flew with them. The finch flock is building up nicely again, at the moment it's in the stubble by Beany Lane and contains 80+ Linnet and 34 Chaffinch.

2 of the Kestrels

Saturday, 1 September 2012

My first Migrants

It was my first walk around the fell for a week and despite the shortage of sun that was promised it was still 19C after lunch. A lot of Swallows were hawking insects over the fields but there was little else in the way of birds around.  The butterflies were better with both Large and Green-veined White on the wing at several spots, single Meadow Brown and Small Copper were flushed and 5 Peacocks were on a Buddleja shrub in one of the gardens nearby.

Green-veined White

2 Common Darters on the fell were quite a way from water but the best were my first Migrant Hawkers that I have seen in the Waldridge area, that twice buzzed me by Wanister Bog. Unfortunately they came no way near to alighting for their photograph to be taken.

Common Darter

Still a number of hoverflies on the wing, including more Helophilus pendulus, which have certainly been commoner than usual this year.

Helophilus pendulus

The last of a number of species of flora are still in flower including Creeping Cinquefoil and Dame's Violet.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Some butterflies at last

Sunny spells today so a walk around the fell was more pleasant than usual, but just as muddy. Small numbers of butterflies were around, but the most for some time thanks to the weather. 8 species were seen consisting of Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Wall, Small Copper, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Small Tortoiseshell. 

Green-veined White


Two more Common Swift flew over, proving I was wrong to say the single the other day was my last. A few other summer visitors were still around as well as over 30 Swallows on the wires outside the village.

Swallows on the wires

4 House Martin and a Sand Martin also flew over and the scrub held several Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcap and a lone Common Whitethroat. One of the Chiffchaffs was singing, though rather half-heartedly and was probably a youngster practising.  Certainly one of the Blackcaps was this years bird. A Red Kite in the distance rounded off my little walk and another Small Tortoiseshell was waiting for me on the patio table when I got home.

Small Tortoiseshell

Friday, 24 August 2012

Nasturtium Goings-on

The wet weather has continued all week so finding things of interest has been difficult at times.
3 Siskins in the Hermitage woods are possibly local breeders or early wintering birds. A Common Swift on the other hand was on it's way south on 23rd and most probably my last of the year.

My last Swift of the year?

The moth trap has been out a few times but nothing really noteworthy except for a species of micro Limnaecia phragmitella. This is an uncommon species in the NE and frequents Bulrushes where the larvae feed all winter inside the fluffy seedbeds. It was a first for me.

Limnaecia phragmitella

It's been an awful year for butterflies and the few periods of sunshine have not brought out many. Green-veined & Small Whites have been the commonest, with a few Meadow Brown, Wall and Peacock.  2 Southern Hawker dragonflies were on the fell during the wing, but even those spent most of the time perched up rather than flying as did a single Common Blue Damselfly.

Hoverflies have not fared much better and even the usually very common Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) has been on the scarce side, with me only seeing a few on fell during the week. The Drone Fly Eristalis tenax and its close relative Eristalis pertinax were by far the commonest during this period together with a handful of Helophilus pendulus and a couple of Eristalis horticola.

Eristalis horticola

Helophilus pendulus

In the pasture above South Burn Woods a few garden Nasturtium plants have appeared. Looking closely they all seem to have been planted, with loose soil and compost around them. Though why plant these in the middle of a horse field I'm not sure why. More strangely in the woodland by Brass Castle Pond there are some more but it's very difficult to tell if these have been planted too. Strange goings on by the looks.

Nasturtiums in the horse field and amongst the
bracken in the nearby woodland.