A report came in of a Grey-headed Wagtail at St Mary's Wetland this afternoon and I managed a visit this evening and took the following images. If I'm not mistaken this bird is in fact an Ashy-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava cinereocapilla. The well defined white throat and the faint white supercilium behind the eye look good for Ashy-headed. But it could be first summer Grey-headed, thunbergi which can show white on the throat. Also, thunbergi regularly shows a dark spotted necklace - this bird has a necklace of sorts but not what I would describe as dark. Comments welcomed. The truth is out there..............
Some feedback on Birdforum:
Looks like 'Ashy-headed' (cinereocapilla)
These cinereocapilla by Daniele O. (among others) shows range of variation in terms of the sharply defined white throat. However, possible intergrade with 'Spanish' (iberiae) could perhaps explain the non-shaprp border in some of these?
As spring warms up and moves on it was just a matter of time before the mothing got a bit more interesting. Last night's catch included a couple of Hebrew Characters and four moths of three different species not seen before. One of them, Monopis imella, has only been recorded in Northumberland twice before!
Nationally scarce, in Britain as far north as Morayshire, found more in wild habitats than other British species of the genus, and in the British Isles most common near the sea, but very local.
This evening I walked along the waggonway from Monkseaton, passed the Beehive pub (it wasn't easy) on to Holywell Dene, and then back along the waggonway. Highlights were Wheatear, Whitethroat, taking nectar from blossoming buckthorn, and Grey Partridge. Three more for the OFFH list.
Waggonway looking green
Whitethroat taking nectar
Wheatear in the horse field between Whitley golf course and the Beehive pub
I've just got back from Prestwick Carr where I managed to stumble across a Ring Ouzel amongst a flock of Fieldfare at about 8pm. It was passed the sentry box in the field to the west of the track at the next gate along.
Ring Ouzel & Fieldfares
On the way back down the track a 'hairy' cow bolted out of the bushes in front of me and scrambled back through the fence into the field where it had escaped from. A quick change of underwear and I headed towards Prestwick village where a Barn Owl was hunting.
Something this colour and size (small cow) moving fast with a long hairy tail...........
I came across two Roe Deer opposite the Beehive pub in Whitley Bay and it reminded me of a recent article citing deer as a major threat to Nightingales. Bringing back Wolves would make ecological sense. It would certainly bring a new dimension to the British countryside.
Imagine coming across this in Kielder Forest
Oh, and I found this drake Mandarin today.
Okay, so it's a plastic duck, but it's on my patch (flash by the Beehive pub) and it's new for my list.
What a difference a week makes. On the 15th of April I took a local walk round the patch and other than Chiffchaff and a single Sand Martin there were no summer visitors.
Today was a different story. Passing Monkseaton metro station I had Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat. Along the waggonway there were more warblers, mainly Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs.
At St Mary's I had my first Sedge Warbler. Swallows and Sand Martins are now around in numbers and Sandwich Terns are crying out.
All in all I feel it is now time to say it - Spring has sprung. Roll on the summer.
Today along the waggonway (warbler boulevard)
Willow Warbler (too quick for me)
Peacock Butterfly (not a Painted Lady as shown on some North Tyneside Council signs)
Starlings on the beach
Sand Martins checking out the cliffs on Whitley Beach
Don't ask. This type of thing happens when the sun comes out in Whitley.
First stop today was the Cheviots where I got my first House Martin, Red Grouse and Stonechat for the year. Also good to see Wheatear in breeding territory.
Nuthatch gets a Northerly up it's jacksy
Next it was home via Pipit central, Cresswell, where some eight birders (one from Potters Bar) had great views of Yellow, White, Pied, Black-headed and Blue-headed/Yellow Wagtail hybrid aka Channel Wagtail. Managed to dip Garganey at Druridge Pools yet again.
Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava feldegg)
Channel Wagtail (M.f.flava x flavissima)
Now grab your popcorn and turn down the lights..................................
Having missed the Black-headed Wagtail yesterday I thought I would pop to Cresswell and get the Blue-headed. It was distant (so no pics) along with at least six Yellow Wagtails. There were also two White Wagtails knocking about. What next, Citrine perhaps?
Yellow Wagtail & Friend
In front of the hide at Cresswell was a very obliging Jack Snipe.
Can you spot him?
A close up
Other birds of note were new additions to the year list; single Common Sandpiper, two Grey Partridge.
Also picked up my first Swallow for the county year list and another Blogger tick - Howdon Blogger.
I was alone in Earsdon cemetery when my mate Steve called and asked if I fancied a night up at Hauxley. Not as dodgy as it sounds. Well, not really. You see Steve and I share an interest, astrophotography. Hauxley, near Amble on the North East coast, has some okay dark skies which is why the Northumberland astronomical society have their observatory there. Tonight was also going to be the last completely dark night until the second week in August and one with no planes to spoil our imaging thanks to Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Apparently some enterprising chefs have set up a restaurant near the volcano, selling lava-grilled lobster.
Anyhow, let's start at Earsdon cemetery. This is your stereotypical grave yard with Ivy in abundance, mature trees and gravestones reminding us just how lucky we are. The peace and tranquillity is wonderful as is the nature that has taken full advantage of the lack of disturbance.
A monument here remembers those killed in the 1862 Hartley Pit disaster. The bodies of the men and boys were found lying in rows, all quiet and placid, as if sleeping off a heavy day’s work. Boys were lying with their hands on the shoulders of their fathers, and one poor fellow had his arms clasped round the neck of his brother.
A pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker flew through the trees.
This female just wouldn't pose for me.
Chiffchaff in the Sycamore
Fantastic vista over to St Mary's Lighthouse. A great spot to capture a sunrise.
By 7pm it was time to head to Hauxley. Arriving by 8pm I set about waiting for the perfect sunset but it never materialised.
The fields to the east were home to several Greylag Geese,
a couple of Pink-footed Geese and some Canada Geese.
Sunset over Northumberland
Once darkness fell the clouds cleared and conditions were spot on for taking some pictures of the night sky. All of the following images were taken with a Canon 350D (modified - IR filter removed), and a Canon 200mm F2.8L lens, tracking with an Astrotrac.
M13 - Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
M52 - Open Cluster in Cassiopeia and the Bubble nebula.
An area just below Cassiopea.
A close up of M52 & Bubble nebula courtesy of Steve Marshall
At dawn it was time to check the moth trap. Eureka, another new species!