Monday, 25 February 2013

Woodcock and singing Bullfinch on a snowy fell

3 Woodcock flushed from the fell, which is still very snowy but quieter than the other day. Added a few more species but it meant scratching around trees and walls for lichens and mosses and then taking ages to id them. Managed the following few for my 1km square, as well as the Woodcock, a singing male Bullfinch despite the weather and a small party of Long-tailed Tit that have been avoiding me.

With a  lichen and 4 mosses still to identify, I crawled along to 95 species with two lichens, Xanthoria parietina  and Evernia prunastri  plus Common Feather-moss and a fungi Phellinus igniarius (Willow Bracket).

What was presumably the missing man that caused all the turmoil on Saturday was unfortunately   found dead, when the body of a young man was discovered hanged in the Congburn woods.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Snow and missing men halt the list

Yesterday, cleared some time so I could get my list going for my 1km square challenge, then it snowed of course. To make matters worse, the fell was rather busy with the police helicopter hovering overhead most of the time. ' DURHAM Police are today searching for a missing 28-year-old man. A force spokeswoman said officers are searching the Waldridge Fell area of Chester-le-Street in response to concerns raised for the man."Residents should not be alarmed at all," added the spokeswoman. More details are expected to be released later today', so it said in a police statement. 

The deep snow and much disturbance helped me with my persona of a grump old g*t. So as some lucky naturalists down south are quickly approaching the 300 mark, even after today I'm only at a measly 85. A Siskin being the best bird of the day.

Doing the 1km square and having so little time these days means even popping down to the riverside during the week where a female Scaup has been present is more like a twitch than a gentle stroll. Of course, I couldn't count it. Did see a couple of GreyLag Geese fly over the railway station earlier in the week but that was fine as I have actually got them on my list from the 1st January.

I was hoping today that most of the snow would be gone  and I'd try again to get to 100.  No chance. The list so far -

Birds   37
Vascular Plants   37
Mosses & Liverworts  4
Lichens   2
Fungi & Slime Moulds   3
Terrestrial Mammals   2

Sunday, 17 February 2013

1000for1ksq for NZ2549

I like lists I do, at least when it comes to Natural History lists I do. My train-spotting list is and always will be zero. I even started a list of all species I had seen in the UK, which came to over 2,300 though this is a long way behind some of the big boys with at least 2 reaching the 10,000 mark. The other day I noticed a growing band doing this on a smaller scale, trying to get 1,000 species of everything (ie birds, mammals, flora, mosses, fungi, insects, spiders etc etc.) in a 1 ksq square. You can even count Homo sapiens as one of your 'ticks'. They're calling it 1000 for 1ksq.  Though I've left it a bit late, today,  I decided to keep a list of a square here at Waldridge. Eventually I decided to choose NZ2549 which includes a decent chunk of the fell, together with South Burn Wood, Wanister Bog, Felledge wood and of course, my house.
Like I said, I'm starting late with a number of people well in the 200s already, but there's no way I can compete with many squares anyway due to the lack of any coastline and a big shortage of standing water. But you never know what might get turned up, I might even get 1000 (though probably less than half of that]

So this morning, was spent in the field and the list got to 73 species

33 birds
29 plants
 4 mosses
 2 lichens
 3 fungi
 2 mammals

The best were 8 Tree Sparrows along Waldridge Lane, 2 Fieldfare and Willow Tit.
I still had my usual wander and didn't stay in the square so species such as a day-hooting Tawny Owl behind the stables did not count but there is loads still to see (and find).

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Orgies and friends

Yes I know, a hell of a title and probably I should have called it something more like unusual bird behaviour notes, but I couldn't resist it.

Like many gardens, I have a pair of regular Dunnocks that visit and they frequently breed in the garden.  I used to have a particularly tame bird I called Dennis and I think the male at the moment is 'Son of Dennis'. I watch them a lot but this week, as far my Dunnocks are concerned, the least said the better perhaps.  Most birds are monogamous including some Dunnocks, but the latter are also well known for their polyandry (a female  with more than one male), polygyny (a male  with more than one female) and polygynandry (a pair consisting of two males and two females), but the five in the garden at the moment are behaving more like they are having an orgy. There's singing, fighting, mating and general very bad behaviour from these birds, Quite frankly I'm shocked.

Curlews are not uncommon in the Waldridge area but have decreased especially as a breeding bird. A few pair are still breeding but last year only 1 pair attempted to breed on the fell proper and that was unsuccessful due to disturbance from dogs and dog-walkers. In winter there is still a decent presence with the birds roosting at Washington and arriving early morning to feed on some undisturbed damp grassland. The best chance of seeing them is a first light as groups fly over the Front Street/Railway Station and head west towards the fell and areas beyond. I see these most days at this time of year as I head to work and Friday was not much different except ... A aflock of 67 birds flew quietly in V formation as often they do heading inland. When they got virtually over my head they circled and did this several times. I thought maybe they had had seen a bird of prey or something, but they didn't call just kept circling. Then I heard in the distance, a  call of another Curlew to the east. I assumed it was another flock heading this way but in fact it was just a singleton and it flew towards the big flock, calling continuously and neatly joined the formation. It now stopped calling and  most strangely they stopped circling and continued on their way west.  Had they heard their 'friend' and waited for it. Highly unlikely I would have though but I'm at a loss for an explanation.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Spring in my step

I think I may suffer from seasonal affective disorder, winter depression or winter blues, or maybe I just don't like the cold. That's my excuse for the lack of entries in this Blog recently.

In my defence it has been very quiet. Even the RSPB garden watch last weekend produced only 14 Wood Pigeon, 2 Collared Dove, 2 Dunnock and single Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird and Blue Tit in the garden. Oh, and the now semi-resident Grey Squirrel. The snow of course doesn't help either and I've hardly seen a flowering plant this year.

I thought I heard some Waxwing about 10 days ago by the Whitehills pub as I walked down into the Chester-le-Street, couldn't get the car out and no bus due to the snow, but I could not see anything that resembled one. Then today, along the A167, a flock of 7 flew across the road and landed in some trees on the edge of the Hermitage Wood, opposite the Chesters Grove garden centre. Some birds at last. I know it's only just turned February but with the days now noticeably lengthening  I feel a spring  in my step.