Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cheviot at its very best

Yesterday, 23rd of July was spent on the top of Cheviot.  All around us was a carpet of low lying cloud on the landscape below but above the clouds it was clear and bright - an unbelievable experience.

Wildlife highlights included a golden plover with at least 2 young, merlin, snipeperegrine, and red grouse.  There was a good selection of moths and a lot of small tortoiseshells and red admirals on the wing.  Stiff sedge, cowberry and cloudberry were in abundance and velvet bent could be found in patches.  The most extraordinary find was a patch of common cow-wheat on a peat hag quite close to the plateau.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Moths and waders.

A thundery weekend produced a good selection of moths in two locations in Glanton.  Friday night at Front Street generated interest in the form of 1 Elephant hawkmoth, 1 Poplar Hawkmoth, 1 Swallow-tail moth, Heart and Dart, Willow beauty to name but a few.

The Saturday night was spectacular in numbers.  A trap was set in Playwell Lane and there were over 350 moth - mainly Large yellow underwings and Dark arches but species of interest included a Broad bordered yellow underwing, Iron prominent, Pebble prominent, Barred straw, Poplar hawkmoth, Lesser broad bordered yellow underwing, The clay etc. etc.

George and I spent Sunday afternoon on the coast looking for birds.  Cresswell held 4 Spoonbills, 5 Little egrets, 10 Avocet, 2 Ruff, 12+ Black-tailed godwits and a number of Common Sandpipers. Druridge Pools held a Curlew sandpiper, 30+ Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper and a good selection of other birds.  East Chevington was relatively quiet but there were 2 Marsh harriers and a Barn owl carrying a prey item.

N.B.  Saturday evening produced a flock of 19 Common Sandpipers at Branton Ponds!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Black Darters

This afternoon I wandered up to the shooters' decoy ponds near our house to check out the bog vegetation while the water levels were fairly low.  I didn't find anything startling botanically - in fact nothing I've not seen here before - but the margins of the ponds were almost buzzing with small damselflies.  The ones that settled so I could get a clear view were like the one in the photo (not mine, I'm afraid).  A bit of internet searching suggests that I was looking at immature Black Darters (Sympetrum danae or, previously, Sympetrum scotica).  If I've understood the info correctly the adults lose the golden colouring on the abdomen.

I've no idea how common these are in our area, but I don't recall having noticed them before.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Botany Day at East Lilburn

Sunday saw Richard, Keith, Ian, Jim and Mick (where were the intrepid women, I ask?) setting out in the pouring rain to do a botanical circuit of East Lilburn Farm.

Fortunately the rain only lasted about an hour and after that things dried and warmed up nicely.  There was a good range of habitats from dry grazed neutral grassland to very squelchy marsh areas, crop field edges, mixed wet woodland, a section of the Roddam Burn and a decent sized pond.

Previous botanical records ran to 177 species and the recorders included Professor Swan, a chap from the BSBI's current national committee and the County Botanical Recorder for Durham.  Despite the fact that we were in only a small strip of this varied tetrad we still managed to find 51 species that are additions to the existing list.  I shan't try to list the species, but look out for the short Field Trip report in the July Newsletter.

Waren Burn

A walk down the Waren Burn yesterday produced a number of interesting.  A Kingfisher flew up-stream at Lucker and at least one pair of Spotted flycatcher graced the church yard in the village.  There were good numbers of Bullheads and Stone loaches in the stony sections.  A Freshwater limpet was a good find along with several species of stone-cased Caddis-fly.  There were good numbers of flowering Giant bellflower in riparians areas that have been fenced off.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Land of Prince Bishops

Thursday was spent on farmland east of Durham.  The day made me appreciate what a wonderful environment north Northumberland can be.  The rivers were laden with car tyres, the lanes had there fair share of fly-tipping and the traffic was continuous.  Both giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam were in evidence on most watercourses.

Walking the areas of farmland produced a few interesting species including large groups of giant puff-balls, patches of field scabious were in flower on the magnesium limestone, kingfishers were on the Old Durham Beck and there were a good selection of farmland birds on the last farm on the day. These included a corn bunting - a very rare bird in Northumberland now (they may even be extinct as a breeder), tree sparrows, skylarks and lapwings.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Golden Ringed Dragonflies

A walk around Branton Ponds this morning produced yet another Golden Ringed Dragonfly, this time a female, it differs from the male in having a thicker waistline. What was most obvious was the long pointed  ovipositor and more interestingly it was covered with mud at the tip, the reason for this is that this is the only native Dragonfly that forces it's eggs deep into the mud, using it's ovipositor like a Pneumatic drill, this ensures that the eggs aren't washed away and indicates probable local breeding.