Saturday, 27 September 2014

A colourful tip

Today I  checked the the tip, aka the reclaimed waste tip behind Waldridge village. Despite it being nearly October and autumn arriving early this year there was still a good deal of colour about. Nothing of note bird-wise but the Tawny Owls have started to be vocal again and Willow Tits are still around in decent numbers, seen at 4 spots today. This are must be one of the best spots in the north-east for this rapidly declining species. More Nuthatches than usual, were seen, and especially heard, so I reckon must have had a good breeding season

A bit of red.
On many on the Dog Roses, Robin's Pincushion Gall was present. In fact I have never seen as much as today. This is a gall created by a Gall Wasp (Diplolepis rosae) and is created by a chemical produced by the wasp when the eggs are laid on a leaf or bud of the Dog Rose (Rosa canina). The chemical causes the rose to produce this red gall and inside the gall-wasp's eggs hatch and the grubs feed protected by this strange creation, Interestingly, the gall wasp involved is asexual  and less than 1% of the wasps hatching will be males.

A bit of pink.
There are still quite a few plants still in flower at the moment, including Common Centuary whcih is quite common on the old tip here, even though I don't recall seeing it anywhere else in the Waldridge/Chester-le-Street area.

A bit of black (plus a touch of yellow)
Fungi are starting to appear in decent numbers but it's very difficult to find any specimens that have not been attacked by Slugs at the moment. One of the commonest Waxcaps is Hygrocybe nigrescens (Blackening Waxcap), and there were a few of these on the tip today


Blackening Waxcap

A bit (a lot) of Brown
Most of the butterflies we won't see again until next year but Speckled Wood  were still flitting around in decent numbers. I saw 12 at least today, together with a  single Wall Brown.

Speckled Wood (top) and Wall
A bit of gold (hopefully)

Some sun forecast tomorrow .. fingers crossed

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A new moth for me

The moth trap last night contained an Orange Sallow, my first new macro moth for ages.  Also some other uncommon species for the garden, Barred Chestnut, Autumnal Rustic and the micros Lobesia littoralis and Ypsolopha parenthesella as well a a couple migrant Diamond-back Moths and a Silver Y. I'm quite happy with that lot.

Also a new beetle for me Bradycellus ruficollis, which helps my pan-listing attempt on a tiny bit to 2613.

Orange Sallow

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My only post this month and only just

I have been very lazy with my posts and I have just managed to get a post in during August. I have been out and about but not only around here but a little further afield occasionally.
A little pastime I have challenged myself with is what is called Pan-Listing. Quite a few naturalists, many a great deal better than myself, have started listing and a very good site has been started.

As it says (copied verbatim from the site) -  "A pan-species list is a list of all the animals, plants, fungi and protists you have seen in Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands. Whether a Daisy or a Death's-head Hawk-moth, a Killer Whale or a Killer Shrimp, all species count as equal on your pan-species list. Although this may seem like the trivialisation of natural history to the accumulation of a big list, it's what is behind the list - how you get there - that makes this approach to natural history so powerful. Add a healthy dose of competitiveness in the form of the rankings pages and thanks to Mark Telfer, pan-species listing was born. Will this bring about a 'renaissance of the all-round naturalist'?"

So I have been counting up all my species and trying for more, no matter what they are.  I'm on 2601 by the way #28.

The moth trap overnight caught  a rather poor selection with nothing new even for the year but today was just a walk around the fell to see what was about.  Late August is usually quite quiet around here for birds but today was an exception with a flock of 30 Tree Sparrow in the hedge along Waldridge Lane until they were flushed by no less than a juvenile Peregrine that then headed on eastwards.
 Willow Tits have declined by 85% in the UK so now the Fell seems to be one of their  last strongholds. I saw birds at 5 different spots today. Another rapidly declining species, is the Yellow Wagtail but one flew over the fell late morning.

The Horse-chestnut Leafminer is a tiny little moth with a big bad reputation that is causing havoc to Horse Chestnut trees in the UK. It did not arrive in Britain until 2002 but its rapid spread means its well established even in Waldridge now. One tree along Beany Lane is very badly affected I noticed this morning

The leafminer damage

 A lot of butterflies were out considering the time of year with Speckled Woods seemingly everywhere and Walls not far behind. Several Commas were also seen and a single Painted Lady.

Comma (showing it's 'comma')

On the dragonfly front single Common and Southern Hawker  were noted as well as a few Black Darter at the same spot I found them last year and decent numbers of Common Darter, especially on Daisy Hill.

Immature male Common Darter

And I got one new 'lifer' a fruit fly  Xyphosia miliaria on thistle at the south end of Felledge Wood.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Bryotropha terrella at last

Put the trap out again last night, 185 moths of 54 species, but nothing really out of the ordinary except a small, dull grey micromoth with a scientific name of Bryotropha terrella. It's a common species, occurring in long grass and I should have seen one before but I hadn't until this one in the moth trap this morning.

A couple of the rest

Least Yellow Underwing

Antler Moth

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Fridays Moth trap

It took some time to go through everything in my moth trap the other morning  with 305 individuals of 67 species being present.

I'll not list them all but here's some pictures of a few of them

Garden Pebble

July High-flyer

Tawny-barred Angle

True-Lover's Knot

Brown-line Bright-eye

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Chester Moor today

I have not checked Colliery Wood, the little nature reserve behind the Chester Moor pub,  this year,  so decided today I should. The grass is very tall at the moment  though a few paths have been mown through. Quite a few butterflies were on the wing Large and Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Small Skipper. A little damp patch by one of the paths had 20+ Small White sipping moisture and minerals.

Some of the Small White butterflies

 A decent sized patch of a St. John's-wort looked larger and with more vigour than usual and this is often a sign of it being a hybrid. Having keyed it out in my Stace flower book it came out as Hypericum x desetangsii (Des Etangs' St John's-wort) the hybrid between Perforate and Imperforate St John's-wort. The amount of Wild Carrot here, though presumably not occurring  naturally, is quite impressive.

Hypericum x desetangsii (Des Etangs' St John's-wort)

It's a quiet time of year for birds but a pair of Common Whitethroat feeding their young here was good to see.
Heading back through Chester Moor village a 8cm tall rush growing in the gutter and in flower  looked very out of place. I checked it but it seems to be Jointed Rush, a common species but  presumably because of its strange habitat it was only about 10% of its usual height. A bit further along there was another St. John's-wort growing in the tall grass on the bank. This time it was Square-stalked St. John's-wort [Hypericum tetrapterum] growing near to a patch of Bugloss. The latter is not a very common plant in the NE but one of it's strongholds is here and was one of the first plants I noticed when I moved here. It's a very hairy plant and the French call it Langue de Boeu (Ox-tongue) as its rough leaves resemble an Ox's tongue,  or so they say.


Square-stalked St. John's-wort

I had the moth trap out last night and though a decent enough catch there was nothing really unusual caught. Still lots of Common Footman and Large Yellow Underwing and the best things were Poplar Hawkmoth, a couple of Buff Footman, two Slender Brindle and a Ruby Tiger.

Ruby Tiger
Slender Brindle

Monday, 21 July 2014

Another dodgy Helleborine

OK,  I  deserted Waldridge again.

Having seen the 'Tyne' Helleborine last week and having a day off toda, y I decided to go and have a look at it's cousin Young's Helleborine. This species was first discovered in 1976 and is very closely related to the Broad-leaved Helleborine which varies a fair bit. Indeed, it may only be a variant of this species,and one theory is that it is a hybrid between Broad-leaved and Tyne.  The only differences in the flowers are the lip and colour of the bloom.  The cup is more shallow, and the lip forms a pointed arrow-shaped epichile coming out from the cup. The flowers are pale green to cream in colour. It is very rare with only a few sites in Scotland and South Northumberland. Scientists, as usual, differ in opinions as to its origins but if it is a true species,  it is one of very few endemic to the UK.

So off I went to Killingworth and found the orchid within minutes. I spent a fair while on my hands and knees looking at them, ignoring the dog-walkers funny looks as they passed by. 

Young's Helleborine

Afterwards, a look around the lake produced Great-crested Grebe and Common Tern and several broods of Coot

Coot and chicks

Around the edge was Flowering Rush, not a common plant in the north-east but probably introduced here and a few Common Darter.

Flowering Rush

As I was close by to another of the Helleborine's sites, Gosforth Park Nature Reserve I had a meander over. This is a private nature reserve owned by the Natural History Society of Northumbria and is open exclusively to members. I have been a member for a  long time but it's a long time since I have visited here. I called in at the bird feeders and watched the usual woodland species there including Great-spotted Wodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and a couple of Blackcap.

Great-spotted Woodpecker


 Into the reserve and on the pool in the fields to the east was a Little Egret, a nice surprise.

Little Egret (and Lapwing)

Though I mdidn't know where to look for the Youn'ds Helleborine I found 3 remarkably quickly so proceeded to the lake to see idf the Bittern reportedly still present was on show. It wasn't.A few butterfflies were around including a couple of Common Blue in an open patch by the lake which also had Scaly Male Fern (Dryopteris affinis subsp. borreri).

Common Blue

Scaly Male Fern (Dryopteris borreri)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Today I went to Gateshead

Popped over into Gateshead this morning for a quick look around after checking the moth trap. My MV lamp popped the other night so I had to use my 'black' bulb which always gives poorer results. Bee Moth, Barred Yellow and Coxcomb Prominent were the best of a small catcher with the commonest species being Common Footman .

Bee Moth

Barred Yellow

Coxcomb Prominent
 Common Footman

At Shibdon Pond, a moulting Ruff was present, this is the bird that had previously been at Lamesley water meadows.  A single Shoveler was on the pond but left soon after I arrived and a single Common Sandpiper was amongst 60 Redshank. 100 Lapwing and 2 Oystercatcher. There had been 9 Common Sandpiper here yesterday. In the break in the clouds a single Green-veined White appeared in front of the hide so we thought we could get some butterflies and dragonflies today.

The Ruff at Shibdon

Next stop was the water meadows at Lamesley but despite yesterday's rain there is very little water in them. A brood of Shelduck and about 50 feral Grey Lag was all they could muster. However the sun was trying to get out and a few Meadow Brown and Large White butterflies started to make an appearance, mainly feeding on the Meadow Cranesbill by the side of Greenford Road. Checked the Oak trees there and after a little wait, a few Purple Hairstreaks were seen flipping amongst the tree tops but not coming down any lower.

The final stop of the morning was at Kibblesworth brickworks pools. The sky clouded over again so it was always going to be poor. A few Small Heath, Ringlet, Small Skipper and Peacock joined the days butterfly list but despite much searching no Graylings were seen. Walking through the vegetation flushed 50+ grass moths (Agriphila straminella) and a handful of Shaded Broad-bar and 4+ Small Yellow Wave were put out of the adjacent Alders. Some Blue-tailed and a Common Blue Damselfly and 2 Common Darter (one recently emerged but with a damaged wing) were on the Caravan pools with more on the main pool but the only addition was a single Four-spotted Chaser flushed from the grass. A pair of Little Grebe feeding 5 young and a brood of 4+ Tufted Ducks were also present.
 Common Darter - note the damaged wing

Little Grebe family

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Better do some more blogging

As you can see I haven't posted anything for more than 4 months, lots of reasons really, including overall idleness but I thought I should try and continue. I haven't done as much natural history as last year either in the Waldridge area or overall but I have done some so I thought I would just show a few things I have seen the last few weeks and pick it up from there.

So during the last week this is what I was up to.

There is a species of Orchid these days called the Dune Helleborine (Epipactis dunensis) which grows, surprise, surprise in dunes. However in recent years some have been found inland, especially along the Tyne growing on shingle or in woodland in soil contaminated with heavy metals. Though it looks different from its coastal counterpart, with a much whiter flower lip and brown centre and indeed was thought to be a different species altogether, Narrow-lipped Helleborine (Epipactis leptochila),  DNA sampling has shown it to be the same species but a variant due to the habitat it is growing in. This variant may one day be split and called a true species in its own right and it already has an English (Nick-)name 'Tyne Helleborine'.

I thought I would go and have a proper look and take some pictures and took myself off to Wylam and a nice stroll along the riverbank. It didn't take me long to find the first 2 spikes both well over a metre high and another 20 or so were further along.

Tyne or Dune  Helleborine (Epipactis dunensis)

It's a nice spot for wild flowers and earlier in the year I would have seen some of the other 'heavy metal' species such as Spring Sandwort  and Alpine Pennycress, but these were well over now. What was still in flower were things like Rest-harrow, Monkey-flower, Fools' Parsley and Giant Bellflower, all species absent or very scarce around Waldridge.

Monkeyflower  (Mimulus guttatus)

Common Restharrow (Ononis repens)

With all the flowers and a bit of sun it was not surprsing there were many butterflies about, the commonest being Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet with smaller numbers of Comma, Speckled Wood etc. thrown in. The best however were three White-letter Hairstreaks flying arounf the Wych Elms on the south side of the river right next to the train station.


Small Skipper

 White-letter Hairstreak

Not so many bird this time of year but a few Oystercatcher and Sand Martin were around, a Common Buzzard flew over and some nice but far too short views of Kingfisher on the pond in the nearby nursery.

A very pleasant day

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Hirundines despite the weather

Maybe I didn't have to wish for the cold winds and rain to stop before there were more signs of spring. Yesterday I popped down to the Riverside Park (actually Chester-le-Street sewage works) for Sand Martin and a Swallow. The Swallow, my second earliest ever, was flying around with about 25 Sand Martin in the freezing rain but they all seemed to be feeding well over the sewage pans and river. Numbers 90 & 91 for the year for my 'Chester year list'  made me feel that spring was here, at least on occasion, despite the weather.

Now for some Wheatears and Willow Warblers.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

LRP new for year and 7 chiffs a-singing

Last Sunday a quick check at Houghton Gate for early Sand Martin did not produce any but did find me watching my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. I thought this bird must have just arrived but was subsequently told it had been seen the day before. Still, a year tick,  and a very nice bird.

The cold winds from the north are not doing much for the arrival of spring at the moment. Seven Chiffchaff singing on the fell are doing their best but we could do with some warmer weather, or is that just me? A few Meadow Pipits were settling into their territories and a single Lapwing was displaying and mobbing corvids at Daisy Hill. Fly-overs included a Grey Heron and a Common Buzzard, both nearly over the house and view-able from the garden. Still lots of Siskins around but Lesser Redpolls have been very scarce this winter.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Early Greys, Siskins and Greenies.

I put the moth trap out last night but not for long as it started raining and then the wind got up and started moving it around so I aborted. At least there were a couple of moths already caught, both Early Greys, so not a complete let down.

The Early Greys

The bird table is still fairly busy and the numbers of Siskins feeding are increasing on an almost daily basis. Trichomonias disease which seems to have killed off so many Greenfinches around here has not had the same effect on Chaffinches which are still quite common and continue to visit the garden. Having said that, the first 'Greenie' for a while was feeding here today with the Siskins.

Greenfinch and Siskin


Sunday, 16 March 2014

It was better during the week

Still very quiet around with the highlights being during the week with that little bit of sun. It produced a  Peacock butterfly on Wednesday, quickly followed by my first Ladybird, a Seven-spotted and Hoverfly, the abundant Marmalade Fly [Episyrphus balteatus] of the year, the latter being my earliest ever.

Peacock butterfly
Today the highlight were a couple of singing Chiffchaff in the woods, making my bird list rise to 88 for the year.