Home Sweet Home – 20/09/15

At last! After long months away and a permanent change of abode this weekend found me once again able to return to my beloved ‘local patch’ at Stobswood. All in all the weekend was a roaring success with interesting birds noted in droves alongside plentiful moths, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and even a few new hoverflies. I even managed a brief foray into the world of botany and was delighted to unearth (not literally) some rather fascinating plant species, many of which I hadn’t seen before. Stobswood to me is one the greatest places on earth, largely devoid of people and full of superb species. I really have been lucky enough have this site practically to myself for the past six years. Ultimately, this weekend culminated in no less than sixteen hours spent in the field, the results of which can be found below. Sorry if I drone on a bit with this one but really, there was an awful lot to see..
Comma (Polygonia c-album)
Beginning first with the abandoned brickworks near Stobswood Village and the hotch potch of native and naturalised plants as ever threw up a striking array of invertebrates. Among these butterflies were, as ever, the first to capture my attention with the highlight a superb Comma found sunning itself on a stand of Brambles. This is a species I don’t see very often, something that made this particular encounter all the sweeter in my books. As you can see the individual in question was more than happy to flaunt itself for a few photos but then again, if I looked like that so would I! Moving on, next came a flurry of Peacocks and quite a few Small Tortoiseshells, two beautiful yet hideously overlooked species in my opinion! Red Admirals were equally prevalent here, as were both Green-Veined and Large Whites though a lone Small Copper proved somewhat more interesting. Unlike the Comma however this individual refused to sit still for longer than a millisecond and as such my photos leave a lot to be desired in terms of clarity. Last but not least, the prize for the most numerous butterfly of the day goes to the Speckled Wood with at least 70 individuals noted during my short outing. Surely comprising a new patch record! In addition to butterflies the brickworks also came up trumps with a stupendous female Migrant Hawker, a first for the site not less (at least for me). A real treat and another species I don’t see all too often. Curtailing my invertebrate endeavors a few day-flying moths were picked out of the fray, mainly consisting of Silver Y and Rosy Rustic and a new hoverfly species was added to the ever growing pan-species list, Syrphus ribesii, lovely!
Peacock (Aglais io)
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

On the feathered front Stobswood excelled itself as ever this weekend. The ex-opencast pools proved a real hub of activity with the highlight here two very confiding Wood Sandpiper located on the banks of the larger pool. This marks only my second record of this species at Stobswood and as such provides considerable cause for celebration! Elsewhere Stobswood Pools held a nice variety of wildfowl a rough count revealing 4 Pochard (far from common up here), 42 Tufted Duck, 25 Teal, 8 Mallard, 2 Shoveler, 2 Wigeon and a drake Gadwall. Not a bad haul if, like me, you like things that go “quack“. In addition, a large goose roost had assembled in the nearby fields with 150 Canada Geese and 25 Greylag Geese present. These soon fell into obscurity however when the characteristic call of flying Pink-Footed Geese was heard in the distance. The precursor to a around 320 birds arriving during the course of the weekend. These were indeed my first Pinkies of the winter, a clear indication of the changing seasons. A lovely sight to behold! Elsewhere Stobswood Pools came up yielded both Common Sandpiper and Greenshank with a Little Grebe briefly dropping in to one of the smaller puddles later on. The nearby fields held Skylark, Linnet and Meadow Pipit with one of the latter almost becoming lunch for a passing male Sparrowhawk following a lengthy dogfight that lasted some thirty seconds. The Pipit escaped on this occasion! Departing the site a superb female Peregrine passed overhead sending the local corvids into fits of terror and both Kestrel and Buzzard were seen hunting the coarse grassland by the roadside.


As ever following a spot of birding on the opencast I soon opted for a trip around the woodland at Widdrington Station and Widdrington Tip.  A brief tenure in the stand of semi-ancient woodland behind my house provided up close and personal views of a range of common yet charismatic woodland birds including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Mistle Thursh, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker though the presence of a Grey Squirrel was somewhat less welcome. This area has long been a sanctuary for Northumberland’s besieged Red’s and it pains me a little to see Grey’s gaining a toe hold. Not that I have anything against Grey Squirrels, they’re quite lovely, though this does not compensate for their destructive tendencies I fear. Crossing again through the brickworks and a Reed Warbler skirting around a small stand of Bulrushes came as somewhat of a surprise, comprising a patch first no less! The same area also held good numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcap with Willow Warbler, Siskin and not one but 4 Jays observed nearby. Reaching the Alder growth at the tip and a Long-Eared Owl was flushed (inadvertently) by a passing dog walker before setting about hunting one of the sites many clearings. Two Buzzards were noted here alongside 4 Bullfinch and a lone Willow Tit whilst a wander across to the site of the new wind turbines at Widdrington Moor turned up yet more Pink-Footed Geese alongside 7 Great Crested Grebe, 70 Coot (a new record I think), Kestrel, Curlew, Greenshank and a good sized flock of Lapwings. Returning home and a shortcut across the local agricultural land provided endearing views of 4 foraging Grey Partridge, 2 Yellowhammer and a scattering of Reed Bunting. Farmland birds have always bucked the trend in the area and all three of these species can be seen with relative easy on patch.

 

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Robin’s Pincushion (Dipoloepis rosae)
As I mentioned above a substantial amount of my time this weekend has been spent looking a things I would have bypassed entirely a few months ago. (I really am getting into this “broad naturalist” thing). Anyways, dedicating a few hours to a spot of botanising the brickworks at Stobswood threw up a host of new species with a total of six new plants added to my pan list. Some of these admittedly were naturalised garden escapes but with them showing no signs of going anywhere I will be counting them nonetheless. Starting off with a few new native species however and first came Tutsan with its delightful red/black berries. I did initially think it was infact a Nightshade species but I was soon corrected with a little help from Twitter. Next came Common Centuary and Viper’s Bugloss whilst blooming Honeysuckle, Black Medick and aromatic Tansy were not new but made for a few nice photographs. Speaking of naturalised species and first up was a large growth of Red Valerian, a species I believe is native to the mediterranean? I have this species planted in my garden but until now had not seen it growing wild in the UK. Next came the familiar garden Montbretia (crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) with its warm, orange flowers, closely followed by a the surprising addition of Chinese Ragwort (Sinacalia tangutica) with its awe-inspiring yellow flowers. I hadn’t even heard of this species nevermind known of its presence in the UK? If anyone has any more information please do pass it on. Anyways, heading home a brief stop off in search of some of the sites famed Hellebores was a resounding failure though I did note my first Branched Bur-Reed growing in a small ditch nearby. There truly is always something new to see, particularly when referring to plants! The more time I spend botanising the more I am beginning to like it..
Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum)

Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

Chinese Ragwort (Sinacalia tangutica)

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