Monday, 28 March 2011

Bit More on Black Grouse

Loyal and regular readers, both of you, will recall a short time ago I was out and about with BTO Birdtrack bigwig Nick Moran and we were chasing down Black Grouse and asking questions about the ageing of said beasts.
Nick with all the resources of the BTO at hand has had some interesting comments from John Calladine a Senior Research Ecologist with the BTO in Scotland who said:

If these are recent photos (Feb/March), I'd have thought that adults should be good fresh plumage. Without checking the literature, they (or at least the males) have a heavy moult in late summer/autumn and become very shabby but are in full plumage by mid-winter. Given the markedly duller coverts and broader pale margins to the flight feathers I'd have thought the bird on the wall was a 1st year bird (hatched last year). Absence (or near absence) of a red wattle suggests that too - unless that's just an artefact of the photo. 

So perhaps we got it right on the day 2 adults and 4 2nd-calendar year males making up the six we saw.

Crow Council Latest

Nick Moran, a mild-mannered Clark Kent of a BTO professional until riled - the latest from The Crow Council here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Only Singing Song Thrush in Newbiggin

After the pulsating excitement of Thursday evening's Egret dash, Friday was an early start to check out a few sites for Garganey. There was quite an arrival on Thursday further south so they were definitely on the radar. I checked two regular sites but without any success. Various text messages were winging my way as I wandered about and as I wasn't too far from Druridge Bay I headed down to check out the Little Ringed Plover at Cresswell. I called at Druridge Pools first; a pair of Pintail still present and a chat with Mike H and Adrian before moving on to Cresswell. To my shame I managed to flush the LRP onto the main pool as I tried to photograph it, despite being crouched and by the fence. Luckily I had more luck with the daylight hunting Barn Owl a little later.


As the post title implies I get all the news I need from the weather report, so a hint of an Easterly had me back out late afternoon for a couple of hours looking at the sea. At the 'patch' level it was well worth it with 4 Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe both new for the patch this year. A diver at the outfall was interesting enough in a 'non-Red-throated' kind of way to prompt me to drive down to the Spital Burn for 'better views' by which time in fading light and with the bird now roosting I had to give it up. The journey wasn't wasted however as the sound of a patch tick hat trick met my ears with what must be the only singing Song Thrush in Newbiggin in willows around the small car park. I'd all but given up on Song Thrush until Autumn!
Saturday morning dawned with me back seawatching, a single Sandwich Tern north at 06:15 the sparkling highlight of an otherwise quiet-ish session.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Birding Business

Most birders think of birding as a hobby, a mindset that I used to have. As the regular readers will know I set out some time back to see whether I could turn that hobby into something that paid the bills. Nearly two years on and the various strands of that wild, delusional dream  plan have some foundations.
One of the changes I needed to make right from the off was to begin to think of birding as a business; not too difficult given my previous working background and it adds an extra dimension to how I view birding. I'm interested in the companies, their strategies and the how the conservation organisations present themselves, how they 'compete' in the harsh economic climate we all exist in.

Anyway that might put into some context the next few paragraphs. I get to read a huge amount of on-line information as part of what I do, some of it occasionally offers insight into the birding business and I came across an interesting piece of self-promotion involving a company that counts the RSPB as a client. Now not everyone has good things to say about the RSPB and their are many who feel they have deviated from many of the things that should be important. However I like the fact that they are big enough and smart enough to start taking on big business interests and genuinely becoming the 'voice for nature' they lay claim to. This self-promotion in simple terms shows that the RSPB are increasingly using sophisticated methodology to communicate their message and reach their target audiences and their working with business professionals in order to do it.

On a completely different note I also came across an album by ex-Beautiful South musician David Rotheray from Hull called The Life of Birds; described as a modern folk concept album (ask Tom Mckinney he's bound to know). I assume David must be a birder or have some interest to have written an album like this Apparently DR is touring the album as we speak, though he seems to be avoiding the North East, so if you're into combing a bit of folk and some interesting bird references you could do worse than try and catch up with him.

For those that have no interest in anything other than the birds, I managed to dash out on a 'twitch' last night courtesy of a text from John Malloy and catch up with two very brief Great White Egrets at West Hartford minutes before they were flushed by a dog walking fat Hobbit. Plus ca change...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beauties and The Odd Bird

The temperatures are set to drop significantly as we hit the weekend so I made the most of the balmy conditions by putting the trap out again last night. A modest catch of 16 moths of six species including one or two new for the garden. Also fantastic to get some colour amongst them with one each of Oak Beauty, Pine Beauty and Red Chestnut.

 After bringing the trap in I again set out for some early morning birding. A calm sea awaited and an obvious passage of Meadow Pipits over it. Five Red-breasted Mergansers flew north in 1 hour and seven Pink-footed Geese. The Waxwings were still at Ashington as I headed home.
This afternoon's highlights included Pintail at East Chevington (2) and Druridge (3); four Twite at the north end of Bell's Dunes were an overdue year tick and sadly one of the Ashington Waxwings was taken into care after presumably being hit by a car. It didn't survive unfortunately.

The full moth catch was :

Hebrew Character 8
Common Clouded Drab 2
Common Quaker 3
Oak Beauty 1 - new for garden
Pine Beauty 1 - new for garden
Red Chestnut 1 - new for garden

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Moths So Far

Today was a slow day bird-wise with nothing worthy of a mention, though loads of raptor activity in the soaring temperatures, so I caught up on last night's moths this afternoon whilst the kids washed snail shells in the garden.

Two days ago I managed a single moth a somewhat unexpected Water Carpet the 4th March record for Northumberland and 2nd earliest on record. With only a couple of handfuls of mothers (and they're all bad ass) in the county my friend in the north kept this in perspective for me with his sage words " I don’t think it pays to assume that these records are genuinely noteworthy until loads of observers are out there, trapping early enough, in enough quantity" So I cancelled the TV Cameras and  pulled out of the radio interview and instead will be restrained and only publish one of the 412 images I took of said carpet the morning after.

Water Carpet - nothing to get excited and send text messages about, as if.

Last night brought in seven moths (2 Hebrew Character, 4 Common Quaker and an Agonopterix heracliana ). Have some pics.

And today, well quiet as I said, I had to content myself with fiddling around with the camera at the beach whilst the kids did stones and collected snail shells (for later washing). I did poke around a few phragmites filled ditches on the off chance of something blue-ish but the only thing blue today was the sea and the sky.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Early Morning Birding - Late Night Mothing

With a day old report of a Snow Goose at Ashington appearing on birdguides catching me and I assume all the other regulars unaware there was nothing else for it but an early morning ahead of my sleepier half leaving for work. I left the trap on over night and was delighted to find a moth actually in an eggbox in the trap this morning rather than perching externally (more later).
So at 06:20 I had my earliest ever Waxwings, earliest in the day ever that is, ravishing berries aside the Ashington Bypass. By 06:30 both Greenland & European White-fronted Goose were duly noted but the only white remotely goose-like individual was a Mute Swan.

Post breakfast I hit the beach with the kids, resisting the temptation to set them loose in a phragmites filled ditch to see what came out. It was quiet. A song-flighting Meadow Pipit the only new addition. A Peacock was in flight at Woodhorn, where one of us acquired the first nettle stings of the year. The journey home found more Mipits with a largish group around the wet patch in the 'Whooper Field' at Linton crossroads. 50 (exactly, I counted) Fieldfares were on grassy pasture at Longhirst Station.
After lunch we headed to the woods and after yesterday's non-singing garden Chiffy we had a 'singing in snatches' Chiffy as well as a couple of Marsh Tits.
We returned empty-handed from an early evening  owl foray for Long-eared's with only vocal Grey Partridge and Pheasant to show. The trap is back out and I already have one in the fridge so expect a moth post coming soon.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Calm Before?

Last night despite the large moon the trap managed to attract a single March Moth my 2nd of the year and only the 3rd moth for the garden so far. I'm more hopeful about tonight given the temperatures and cloud cover.
This morning was spent predominantly at Newbiggin trying to mop up some of the missing common species; I added Little Grebe  and a pair of roaming Coal Tits overlooking Woodhorn Flash before heading for a look at a quiet sea.
Very little movement, as you might expect given the wind direction and strength; three Goosanders over an hour were patch year ticks and the first Puffin of the year moved north albeit some distance out. I flogged the ditches and gorse after noting the Bluethroat at Spurn though this proved fruitless, the only blue and white the glinting of a discarded Red Bull can. Five Meadow Pipits on or over the golf course were fresh in and little consolation.
Further up the coast Cresswell Pond and Druridge Pools both held pairs of Pintail and a Stoat crossing the Cresswell causeway was amusing to watch.
The Sunday dishes in our dishwasher-free household are always a chore but were livened up slightly when a non-singing Chiffchaff appeared about 14:00, it remained only briefly before heading off west but not before becoming my 130th species of the year in Northumberland.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Redpoll Reprise, Wagtail Surprise

 Wednesday Completing an errand took us across the Ashington Northern Relief Road, to give it its Sunday name, this morning. In moving traffic the dark shapes of c.20 Waxwings were visible around the cotoneasters opposite Wansbeck Business Park. I was able to stop on the way back and subsequently counted 34 making quite a racket.
I also called into Ashwood Business Park in a vain attempt to find an early Wheatear in the gloom; I did stumble across a mixed finch flock that looked like it had several pale looking redpolls in it. Back after dropping the kids at nursery, this time with a scope and sure enough four obvious Mealy Redpoll along with c.15 Lesser Redpolls and probably a similar number of Siskin. One of the Mealies was blinged up on the left leg.
Mealy Through a Fence

A slow drive up the coast looking for early spring migrants was fruitless, two pairs of  Stonechat at Cresswell/Druridge and a quick glance at the Druridge Lane Little Owl as it seemed rude to drive past without making eye contact.

Thursday - Kids at school and nursery. I say nursery but I just love what my younger two are doing, 50% of their time outdoors, today for example was into the woods and sitting on logs around a lit camp fire resulting in them been keen to tell me about the nearby owl box and the woodpigeons they saw.
Anyway with the fog of the last two days clearing I took a quick look on the sea, little movement though the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that moved north was a year tick. Joined by ADMc who on my right glanced over and picked up the patch bird of the morning a spanking Grey Wagtail on the edge of the point for a brief few seconds before moving off south; a tough one to get at the coast with no freshwater nearby.
A tour of the golf course produced little, though the Scandinavian Rock Pipits are still having a ball at the north end with at least six obvious birds present and c.10 in total. You can see more of my littoralis pictures here
Castle Island was quiet, Lesser Black-backed Gull here too, a female Eider c.1km upriver and a drake Red-breasted Merganser.
The post-school hour was spent at a local garden centre with a great outdoor play area for kids, great because it's free and quiet at this time of year. Even here there was birds to be found with Little Grebe trilling on the 'duckpond' and a single Pink-footed Goose grazing with the Mallards.

Pink-footed Goose on Manicured Turf

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tsunami & Albatrosses II

Some incredible pictures emerging from the Midway Atoll Albatross and Petrel colonies, well worth a look to see even though the tsunami didn't cause much human damage in these locations it had a huge impact on these seabirds. Whilst obviously it is a natural event you have to wonder whether given the human pressures on some of these birds whether it might just tip some of them further towards danger.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Just Another Manic Monday

After forgetting to take the new keys for the Seaton Sluice seawatching tower to last week's NTBC meeting my day started with the enforced punishment of key distribution. All safely delivered we found ourselves in Jesmond, so on a fine sunny morning I took the kids for a little wander around the building site that is Pets Corner. I suppose I was half hoping for a Chiffchaff but it wasn't to be; we had to make do with Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tit.

Round two after lunch found us searching Pegswood Moor for Wheatears, again in vain. Still very wet underfoot we headed for the relatively dry paths of one of the local woods, again no Chiffchaff but a Grey Wagtail on the river was a year tick and we notched up more Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, a smart drake Goosander and a singing Marsh Tit. My daughter was rather impressed by a fresh looking woodpecker hole that's soon to have 'chicklings' and not wishing to be left out entirely I was rather pleased with our eight year old breaking the usual post-school silence to share his invert sighting, apparently a Wasp.

The weather tomorrow would suggest the coast might be promising but I suspect the kids might not be too chuffed at the prospect of several hours in the fog and rain for a Wheatear and a Lesser Black-backed Gull, so it might mean trying to snatch a few short stops from suitable vantage from within the car.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kick Off

I'd intended a two hour early morning patch seawatch to start today but as I approached Newbiggin the mist left me less than eager so I veered north and ended up in the hide at Cresswell for a change. First up were 17 head popping Whooper Swans sounding like a child learning to play the trumpet as they moved around in a tight group before leaving to the south. The hoped for Bittern never materialised so I left.
Past Hemscott Hill a truckload of Pink-footed Geese were in the grass fields close to the road including a neck-collared individual and this one below that had me looking twice for a short while due to the bill pattern variation.

Druridge Pool from the Budge hide was quiet. I headed back south towards Newbiggin as whilst still cold the early mist had lifted. Three minutes from Woodhorn I get a text from Uncle Jim "Winter, 6 degrees and Sand Martin on the Flash" sure enough three minutes later and a single Sand Martin freezing its arse off and obviously wondering why the hell it hadn't booked France for a second week. A Reed Bunting singing was the first of the year in song.
After a further bit unrewarding wander another text this time from Uncle Steve who was doing littoralis at the Beacon with a rather unstreaked individual. I arrived with Uncle Jim not far behind and we spent the next half hour grilling the pipits, I was happy with at least four as littoralis but Steve's bird had gone into hiding. Goldfinch was a patch year tick on the journey back.
Post-lunch I took the twins out to 'feed the ducks' at Druridge Country Park. On the way a Buzzard flew low west over the car north of Longhirst, then another soaring over Red Row. Watching this one and one of the twins pipes up "look dad more" and starts counting, 1..2...3..4..5 and sure enough a little east of my bird three more Buzzards and a smaller raptor that turned out to be a Peregrine. Two Smew still hanging on at DBCP though no sign of the reported second drake.
We headed home via Cresswell, taking in the Hooded Crow atop the dead sheep as it had been earlier when Andy Mclevy had first reported it. This only my second county Hoodie. The year ticks kept rolling in as we jammed into 24 Waxwings on the northern edge of Ashington opposite Wansbeck Business Park where 18 were reported yesterday.

As I pulled on the drive and emptied the kids out, the phone pinged again, Alan Gilbertson with a Snow Bunting up with the littoralis Rock Pipits at Newbiggin. Given the intense battle for patch list supremacy friendly patch list comparison that is ongoing this year I couldn't spurn the opportunity so back on the beach for the 2nd time and sure enough halfway along a smart snob on the sand before flying onto the rocks. A further look at the pipits produced the best marked/most advanced individual to date amongst seven Rock Pipit, six of which were littoralis. The only issue in the fading sunlight was getting decent images, I struggled on ISO1250.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tsunami & Albatrosses

Whilst the mainstream media have understandably being concentrating on the human tragedy unfolding as a result of the Japan Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami I wondered what it might mean for some of the Pacific bird populations and figured in the digital age there would be some gen out there, so here is a quick summary and a few links in case anyone else is remotely interested

Audubon California  are reporting that the colony of c.400 Black-footed Albatrosses nesting near the shore/pier on Midway Island has been wiped out.

Friends of Albatross on Midway are reporting significant damage to the Laysan Albatross colony on Midway with 'hundreds' of chicks killed as well as some adults. There have also been some problems with Petrel burrows and volunteers appear to have been in action digging some of the survivors out.

As reported on birdguides earlier today the chick of 'Wisdom' 60 year old Laysan Albatross and oldest living bird in the Northern Hemisphere has apparently survived on East Island.
Also on Midway Atoll the first Short-tailed Albatross chick outside Japan in recorded history also survived the tsunami.(per the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Twitter)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Black & Blue

Out for a couple of hours in the south of Northumberland with Nick Moran from the BTO yesterday looking for Black Grouse. After getting caught in a face-stinging hail storm which we sat out in the car Nick picked up a couple of males on a short turfed slope near the road as returned north. Turned out to be six of them in all, two clearly adult and four that were perhaps 2nd-calendar year males (?). These four had a restricted amount of red above the eye, slightly paler brown scapulars and what looked like more white on the tips of the secondaries (see the individual on the wall below). No lekking as it was too late in the day but cracking views from the car as they grazed the Northumbrian savannah.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Bit of Scandinavian

I have a soft spot for Scandinavians. I can trace the roots of this back to one night in March in the early Eighties; somewhere north of Bergen a teenage boy and a Norwegian girl are secretly meeting after lights out. Matters inside are rather warmer than the below freezing, snow covered scene just outside the dormitory. For days this has been building; a hand held at the ham trays at breakfast; a seductive look at the sauna door; a knowing glance as the grip wax got applied. A loud voice of authority demanding the door be opened brought matters to an abrupt halt, the bundled barefoot (and nearly bare-arsed) exit through a window and back to the first floor via the obligatory bed sheet rope closing the door on what might have been.
It's March and the memories flood back as birds, soon to be returning to the shores of dashed desire, cavort playfully in the spring sunshine, just like our star crossed teenagers all those years ago.

There you go, that's why you keep coming back, because rather than just tell you I've had a Jackdaw that might have it's origins in Scandinavia, though it could equally be further east; or ramble about the loose group of Scandinavian Rock Pipits that the increasing daylight and north west winds have deposited at Beacon Point, I've shared something of myself, I've given you a moment of my past, taken you to another place and brought you back to now, to the present. Now the bit of Scandinavian I promised.

Oot to Play

The length of daylight by early March is just enough to allow for a post school rest and squeeze in an hour somewhere before tea. I spent much of my childhood outside, as I think did most kids my age. I may not say the words but on sunny, warming days I get get the "Mam can a gan oot to play" feeling.
We're lucky in having many nooks and crannies just a few minutes away, yesterday we spent the post-school rest hour in one of them. We didn't see much in the way of birds, not the hoped for Kingfisher or any returning Grey Wagtail but there is no rush, not when it feels like this.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Review: The Crossley ID Guide

Having arm-twisted a copy of the new Crossley ID Guide out of the British distributor I've been eating with it, sleeping with it and generally getting familiar with it. The CID is different. From the modern flexible cover with its clever integration of the 'ID' in the cover design to the visually striking photographic plates, through the relaxed straight brit birder speak of Crossley's 'give it a real good bash' introduction to the taxonomist toe-stepping rearrangement of traditional order it screams different.

I have to confess I like different; Crossley's 'unrestrained by tradition' approach appeals. The missionary zeal with which he proclaims he wants to make birding 'more fashionable, current and exciting' plays to the rebel in me. I can hear the groans from hides across the country that such a statement will no doubt elicit as the old guard trot out their tired mantras.

This guide focusses on the Eastern Birds of North America, though there is a host of familiar European species that occur as vagrants. It's a photographic guide and unashamedly the photographic plates get centre billing. Crossley's fairly basic species identification text isn't about to challenge Nils Van Duivendjik any time soon but then I guess it's aimed at a different set of birders.
This guide isn't about the text though, it's all about the plates, the 640 scene creations that Crossley and his Photoshop wizards have conjured from c.10000 individual images, most taken by Crossley himself. Months ago when I first saw some pre-publication plates I found them disconcerting, odd, jarring. Over the past few days, I've dipped in again and again, left the book open over lunch, sat with child on lap pointing out each of the 20 images of  Black Tern or trying to count the inordinate number of Brown Pelicans. My initial shock at what seemed a jumble of images, an overkill of cut and paste, has gradually worn away. The more I've looked the more there is to find, though ironically it is in the scenes that offer less images that I think the overall 'more' works best.

Those scenes with a more restrained number of images such as American Bittern (six portraits) achieve a representation that has balance and elegance, useful in identification and pleasing to the eye. Contrast this with Night Heron (31 portraits) and the overall impact and balance is skewed in my view.
Crossley may well argue that this is more representative of a species that communally roosts or appears in large numbers in the field and he may well have a point, though I can't help feeling this (over) abundance of imagery distracts  from the nature of the project a little. Compare Sooty Shearwater with Cory's Shearwater for another example of this.

Occasionally the chosen backgrounds are a little odd, the Yorkshire terraced houses in Northern Lapwing and how I wish I could get as close to the local Bar-tailed Godwits as the bikini clad females sharing the surf in that plate. Some of the Hummingbird backgrounds seem to have been created from a garden centre flower catalogue but who could argue with plates such as Cassin's Sparrow and the blurred background of Blackburnian Warbler works a treat (see right).

The layout, particularly some of the species side by side pairings, could have been improved; Eared Grebe with Horned Grebe and American Golden Plover with Pacific spring out but then I'm looking at this with European eyes. There are many other instances where the combinations are perfect, the Dowitchers just one example.

Crossley's Guide makes no secret of aiming to make it's readers and users better birders. Much of what he has written in the short section in the intro entitled 'How to be a Better Birder' is common sense and good practice to the experienced. If it succeeds in helping push those that aren't as experienced further along the learning curve then he would have good cause to feel he has delivered on his mission.

It is worth highlighting that in the digital age a book is never just a book and this is no exception. Crossley also has an 'interactive website' This currently has additional text and comments on 36 of the species contained in the guide as well as several videos of the author making short presentations. The potential is there for this interactivity to push the boundaries further with embedded videos in the scenes and interactive identification challenges and I would not be too surprised to see material of this nature appear.

The Crossley ID Guide is an interesting, multi-dimensional, unique take on a bird guide that delivers to a high standard for a specific target audience - if you're starting out or just making the occasional trip to Eastern North America it's as useful an introduction to the region's birds as anything I currently have on my bookshelf and at £24.95 won't break the bank.

An interview with Richard Crossley is available as a podcast from the irrepressible Charlie Moores at Talking Naturally

Monday, 7 March 2011

More on Tyne Kittiwakes

When I blogged about the Tyne Kittiwakes a couple of days ago I hadn't seen the 'consultation report' that was commissioned by 1NG and Newcastle City Council and was the spark that launched the media interest. Thanks to the chaps at Wikileaks I can reveal a little more about the report.
Produced by an Edinburgh based firm of consultants Yellow Book it took it's findings from field work to examine conditions in the study area and briefings and consultations with politicians, businesses, officials and other experts; it is possibly safe to assume there weren't any ornithologists consulted.

They wrote that "Our consultations have revealed growing concern about the environmental impact of Kitttiwake nesting sites including the Guildhall and Tyne Bridge. The breeding Kittiwake population has been in sharp decline, so the successes over the past 10-15 years of the NewcastleGateshead's urban colonies is a cause for celebration. However in the spring and summer of 2010 it was clear that the mess and smell caused by the birds is simply not compatible with the aspiration to create an outstanding urban waterfront. The fact that the birds congregate in the historic core, right at the heart of the Quayside, adds to the problem. Some creative thinking will be required to encourage the Kittiwakes to move to a less sensitive site."

The final recommendations included the "low cost improvement" to " plan for re-homing the Kittiwake colony, perhaps to Spillers Mill"

It strikes me that what is really being said here is that in the aspirations to have the 'outstanding urban waterfront' that politicians, officials, businesses and other experts are so keen to see, there is obviously no room for anything natural to get in the way and spoil the decor. This seems to reflect the huge disconnect we have generally with nature these days, a lack of tolerance towards it and the mantra of economic concerns overriding all. Whoever expressed these concerns appears to have completely missed the fact that it is the birds breeding at the heart of the Quayside that in many ways, visually and aurally, add atmosphere and a connection with the river's past and natural origins. They are a unique asset to be celebrated and protected in the same way as say the Ravens at the Tower of London.

One of the biggest ironies is that one of the key players in Yellow Book a chap called Jon Lord has been quite vocal up in Scotland over Donald Trump's proposed golf course over which he wrote " These days, the most mundane development proposals (for shopping centres, office developments and housing schemes) are routinely described as “unique” – a claim which is then relayed back in press releases from development agencies and local councils. Not the least of the ironies in this case is that while there is nothing remotely unique about the Trump proposals (golf course, hotel, lots of houses) the dune system that will be destroyed is genuinely unique and absolutely irreplaceable."

Mr Lord, 1NG and Newcastle City Council should reflect on that statement as it could equally be applied to the Kittiwake colony and when they start telling us and the local media about the outstanding urban waterfront they wish to create we should ensure that it has a place at it's heart for that which is genuinely unique and absolutely irreplaceable.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Early White Wagtail

After a short seawatch this morning that produced little other than a rush of Gannets north I followed suit and headed north. A few obvious Pied Wagtails in the horse field south of Lynemouth led me to stop to see if anything else was amongst them, perhaps the first migrant Meadow Pipits I thought (there weren't!).
About 20 Pied Wagtails present including several dapper males I was quite surprised to see one individual that looked like a White Wagtail. Whilst not the earliest recorded in Northumberland it is certainly ahead of most county records of White Wagtail with 3rd week in March generally seeing the first arrivals. Big crops but enough to show it's credentials as a 1st-summer or 2nd calendar year depending on your ageing preference.

The Tyne Kittiwakes

The local papers and TV reports have all reported on the recent suggestion by Newcastle City Council that a consultation process about Quayside Regeneration had "revealed growing concern about the environmental impact of Kittiwake nesting sites" and that "creative thinking was needed to encourage the Kittiwakes to move to a less sensitive site."

Kittiwakes have been breeding in the quayside area since 1965, around the same time as my parents brought me into the world. They have survived the first 'regeneration of the Quayside that saw them evicted from the Baltic Flour Mill and have been coped with, appreciated and seen by residents, businesses and millions of visitors over those years. So why is there now 'growing concern'?
Whilst the implication is that the concern has been expressed by local residents and businesses (and that may be partly true I have not seen the actual study and details of respondents) I suspect that there is more to this than a single study.

As the Kittiwakes have spread from the Tyne Bridge onto surrounding buildings such as the listed Guildhall, Newcastle City Council have recently begun to take actions to prevent this, most notably they lined the window ledges with spikes. The Kittiwakes took this into their stride and managed to build nests atop the spikes with these probably helping to provide greater stability to nests than the previous bare ledge, a rather amusing own goal. Now I can perfectly understand that the council has a responsibility to preserve a listed building and that the accumulated guano if not removed would eventually create issues. Over the last 12 months though this desire appears to have turned into something more sinister in that the council appear to want all the Kittiwakes in the area moved.

My suspicion is that the origins of this plan stem from the current recession. It was notable last year that quayside businesses were experiencing a significant drop in trade. In today's blame culture some of the cause for this was laid at the City Council's door with claims that the pedestrianisation of Dean St was one of the primary causes. Keen to defend against a call (by the various bars and restaurants) for the cobbles to be ripped back up and traffic access reinstated David Slater Newcastle's Executive Director of Environment & Regeneration was quoted last July as saying "Fashions change and the trend for drinking and nights out reflect that... a complex range of factors from seagull mess to how and where bar owners invest"

It is also obvious that at a time when the council is required to make savings and cuts from its budget, the costs involved in cleaning up after the Kiitwakes to appease those that find a bit of guano unpalatable are no doubt an easy cost saving if only the Kittiwakes could be moved.

The other key player in this report is 1NG a private 'development company' established by Newcastle & Gateshead Councils but whose board and senior management team is predominantly property developers and ex-bankers. It's notable that in a 114 page report on the future development of NewcastleGateshead from 1NG, that our 'wildlife' warrants a single less than notable mention as follows: "The river is a valuable asset in it's own right, for leisure and recreation and as wildlife habitat, but there is very little activity on the water." Hardly a ringing endorsement of their concerns about biodiversity and the city's wildlife.

It is apparent that between a city council who wishes to minimise costs and protect buildings and a development company who exist to see the creation of wealth, and the usual mantra of growth and economic development the Kittiwakes are in for a tough time. Whilst the council would not be foolish enough to attempt any move so close to this year's breeding season I have no doubt that if no action is taken their fate may be sealed by this time next year.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen in coming months is for the individuals involved in this to be sent a clear message that the Tyne Bridge Kittiwake Colony is an asset to the city, a unique colony in world terms in that it is the furthest inland of any Kittiwake breeding colony and that a a policy of tolerance and respect for these creatures sharing our streets for a few months of the year is required. Frankly the mess left behind by us on any one weekend night of the year throughout the city centre must exceed any damage the Kittiwakes are doing tenfold.

Jim Mcintyre Chief Executive at 1NG can be contacted at

Barry Rowland Newcastle City Councils Chief Executive can be contacted using the form here

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Garden Moths 2011

1. 2258 Chestnut Conistra vaccinii new for garden
2. 1663 March Moth Alsophila aescularia new for garden
3. 1750 Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata 2nd earliest Northumberland record
4. 0688 Agonopterix heracliana new for garden
5. 2187 Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi new for garden
6. 2190 Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica
7. 2188 Clouded Drab Orthosia incerta new for garden
8. 2139 Red Chestnut   Cerastis rubricosa new for garden
9. 1930 Oak Beauty   Biston strataria new for garden
10. 2179 Pine Beauty  Panolis flammea new for garden
11. 2243 Early Grey Xylocampa areola new for garden
12. 1917 Early Thorn Selenia dentaria new for garden
13. 2186 Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis new for garden
14. 2078 Least Black Arches Nola confusalis new for garden
15. 1747 Streamer Anticlea derivata
16. 1746 Shoulder Stripe Anticlea badiata
17. 1883 Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata new for garden
18. 2092 Shuttle-shaped Dart new for garden
19. 0663 Diurnea fagella new for garden 18/04
20. 0006 Eriocrania subpurpurella new for garden 18/04
21.  2235 Tawny Pinion Lithophane semibrunnea new for garden; 6th Northumberland record 20/04
22.  2469 Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix new for garden 22/04
23. 2063 Muslin Moth  Diaphora mendica new for garden 24/04
24. 1853 Oak-tree Pug Eupithecia dodoneata new for garden 23/04
25. 2160 Bright Line Brown-eye  Lacanobia oleracea new for garden 26/04
26. 2450 Spectacle Abrostola tripartita new for garden 30/04
27. 1931 Peppered Moth  Biston betularia 30/04
28. 2089 Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis 06/05
29. 1981 Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi 02/05
30. 1920 Scalloped Hazel  Odontopera bidentata 03/05
31. 1918 Lunar Thorn Selenia lunularia 05/05 new for garden
32. 2326 Clouded-bordered Brindle Apamea crenata 05/05
33. 2003 Pebble Prominent  Notodonta ziczac 05/05 new for garden
34. 1958 Clouded Silver  Lomographa temerata 05/05
35. 2000 Iron Prominent  Notodonta dromedarius 05/05 new for garden
36. 1764 Common Marbled Carpet  Chloroclysta truncata 05/05
37. 1759 Small Phoenix  Ecliptopera silaceata 05/05
38. 1902 Brown Silver-line Petrophora chlorosata 06/05
39. 1728 Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata 06/05
40. 2334 Rustic Shoulder-knot  Apamea sordens 06/05
41. 2123 Small Square-spot Diarsia rubi 06/05
42. 2158 Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina 06/05
43. 1738 Common Carpet Epirrhoe alternata 06/05
44. 1852 Brindled Pug Eupithecia abbreviata 06/05
45. 2154 Cabbage Moth Mamestra brassicae 06/05 new for garden
46. 1769 Spruce Carpet Thera britannica 06/05 new for garden
47. 1768 Grey Pine Carpet Thera obeliscata 06/05 new for garden
48. 2289 Knot Grass  Acronicta rumicis 06/05 new for garden
49. 1651 Chinese Character  Cilix glaucata 06/05
50. 1376 Small Magpie Eurrhypara hortulata 06/05
51. 1906 Brimstone Opisthograptis luteolata 08/05
52. 2305 Small Angle Shades Euplexia lucipara 08/05
53. 2302 Brown Rustic Rusina ferruginea 08/05 earliest Northumberland record?
54. 1722 Flame Carpet   Xanthorhoe designata 08/05 new for garden
55. 2069 Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae 09/05 new for garden
56. 2449 Dark Spectacle  Abrostola triplasia 09/05 new for garden; earliest Northumberland record?
57.  2441 Silver Y Autographa gamma 09/05 new for garden
58. 0017 Common Swift Hepialus lupulinus 09/05
59. 1827 Freyer's Pug  Eupithecia intricata 09/05 new for garden; earliest Northumberland record
60. 1991 Elephant Hawk-moth  Deilephila elpenor 10/05 new for garden; earliest Northumberland record
61. 2280 Miller  Acronicta leporina 10/05 new for garden; earliest Northumberland record
62. 0648 White-shouldered House Moth Endrosis sarcitrella 14/05 new for garden
63. 2060 White Ermine  Spilosoma lubricipeda 15/05
64. 2281 Alder Moth Acronicta alni 15/05 new for garden; 3rd earliest Northumberland record
65. 1727 Silver-ground Carpet  Xanthorhoe montanata 17/05
66. 2102 Flame Shoulder  Ochropleura plecta 17/05
67. 2284x Grey Dagger/Dark Dagger  Acronicta tridens/psi 17/05 new for garden
68. 1958 Clouded Silver Lomographa temerata 23/05
69. 2422 Green Silver-lines Pseudoips prasinana 25/05 new for garden
70. 2492 Small Fan-foot Herminia grisealis 25/05 new for garden
71. 1428 Bee Moth Aphomia sociella 25/05
72. 2173 Lychnis Hadena bicruris 25/05 new for garden
73. 2006 Lesser Swallow Prominent Pheosia gnoma 25/05 new for garden
74. 2128 Double Square-spot Xestia triangulum 25/05
75. 1904 Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria 25/05 new for garden
76. 2442 Beautiful Golden Y Autographa pulchrina 25/05 new for garden
77. 1851 Golden-rod Pug Eupithecia virgaureata 25/05 new for garden
78. 2236 Pale Pinion Lithophane hepatica 25/05 new for garden
79. 2214 Chamomile Shark Cucullia chamomillae 25/05 new for garden
80. 2061 Buff Ermine Spilosoma luteum 25/05
81. 1776 Green Carpet Colostygia pectinataria 29/05 new for garden
82. 2337x Marbled Minor agg. Oligia strigilis agg 29/05
83. 0018 Map-winged Swift Hepialus fusconebulosa 29/05 new for garden
84. 2007 Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula 29/05 new for garden
85. 2477 Snout Hypena proboscidalis 03/06
86. 2008 Coxcomb Prominent Ptilodon capucina 03/06
87. 1860 Green Pug Pasiphila rectangulata 03/06 new for garden
88. 0989 Timothy Tortrix Aphelia paleana 03/06
89. 1955 Common White Wave Cabera pusaria 03/06
90. 2158 Pale-shouldered Brocade Lacanobia thalassina 06/06
91. 0014 Ghost Moth Hepialus humuli 07/06
92. 2120 Ingrailed Clay Diarsia mendica 07/06 new for garden
93. 1994 Buff-tip Phalera bucephala 13/06 new for garden
94. 1334 Scoparia ambigualis 13/06
95. 2107 Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba 13/06
96. 1640 Drinker Euthrix potatoria 13/06 new for garden
97. 2199 Common Wainscot Mythimna pallens 13/06
98. 2321 Dark Arches Apamea monoglypha 13/06 new for garden
99. 1083 Marbled Orchard Tortrix Hedya nubiferana 13/06
100. 1884 Magpie Moth Abraxas grossulariata 14/06
101. 1887 Clouded Border Lomaspilis marginata 14/06
102. 1941 Mottled Beauty Alcis repandata 14/06
103. 1458 Thistle Ermine Myelois circumvoluta 14/06 new for garden
104. 1654 Figure of Eighty Tethea ocularis 14/06 new for garden
105. 0874 Blastobasis lacticolella 14/06
106. 0905 Blastodacna hellerella 14/06 new for garden
107. 2474 Straw Dot Rivula sericealis 17/06
108. 1765 Barred Yellow Cidaria fulvata 17/06
109. 1758 Barred Straw Eulithis pyraliata 17/06
110. 2205 Shoulder-striped Wainscot Mythimna comma 17/06 new for garden
111. 2340 Middle-barred Minor Oligia fasciuncula 17/06
112. 1002 Lozotaenia forsterana 17/06
113. 1713 Riband Wave Idaea aversata 17/06
114. 2434 Burnished Brass Diachrysia chrysitis 17/06 new for garden
115. 1732 Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata 17/06
116. 1844 Ochreous Pug Eupithecia indigata 17/06 new for garden
117. E. trimaculana/roborana 17/06