Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Speckled Wood in Hawthorn Dene

Had a short walk through Hawthorn Dene this afternoon, up through the woods and round by the disused quarry.
Lots of butterflies again. Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and a pair of Speckled Wood. This is the third time I've seen Speckled Wood here this year. The previous occasions were in Late June and early July before I started this diary. It seems their range is shifting northwards. Figures from the North East Branch of Butterfly Conservation indicate that Speckled Wood have recolonised the region in the last couple of years, going from 17 records in 2004 to 144 in 2005. I didn't have the camera with me today so the picture above is one I took in early July.

However I did have the minidisc recorder and captured the sound of a goldfinch singing strongly in the top of a hawthorn bush. Click here to hear the sound file

Hedgehog in the dark

Standing looking out of the conservatory down the garden at 22.45 on Sunday night (23rd) when I saw a hedgehog trundle across the lawn. It made its way noisily down the flowerbeds towards the house and finally settled under the bird feeding area which is in the undergrowth close to the building. It appeared to be feeding on the remnants of the sunflower seeds which were down there, although it could have been rooting for invertebrates in the layer of half eaten seeds.
The video below was taken using the night vision option on my Sony Hi8 camera. Not quite BBC quality but you get the idea.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Castle Eden Dene

View of Castle Eden Dene mouth
Went walking this afternoon at the mouth of Castle Eden dene (See link opposite).
Brilliant sunshine, green cliffs and blue sea.

There were Meadow Brown butterflies everywhere, lots of Large Whites, one Small Tortoiseshell, one Large Skipper and quite a few Small Heath.
Small Heath butterflyLarge Skipper butterfly

There were Burnet Moths and another day flying moth which I couldn't identify and also a small hymenopteran, which I think was a sawfly, which was very scary close up.Sawfly?

Back home after the walk we had our first Holly Blue butterfly in the garden.

Holly Blue butterfly

Thursday, July 20, 2006

And another sleepy moth

Yet another sleepy moth. This time it's a large yellow underwing (Noctua pronuba) in the conservatory.
I released it into the garden and it flew into the sycamore tree to wait for dark.

Sleepy Moth

Much cooler than of late with a damp mist rolling in from the North Sea.

Found a very sleepy moth resting on the living room carpet this morning. I think it is a Dark Brocade (Mniotype adusta). Maybe if any moth experts read this post they could confirm for me, or if I'm wrong tell me what it is.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A morning in Hawthorn Dene.

The hottest day of the year so far!

Went walking this morning in Hawthorn Dene. The Dene is one of the County Durham Denes which are steep sided wooded valleys running West to East into the sea, cutting through the local Magnesian Limestone. The geology gives the Denes a particularly interesting flora and fauna. There is a link to more info about Hawthorn Dene in my links section.

I parked the car and almost stepped on a common shrew as I put my foot out of the door. It shot away into the hedgerow at great speed.

Taking the high footpath through the north slopes of the Dene I came out from a wooded section on to the edge of a huge disused quarry. A kestrel was quartering the edge of the cliffs looking for food.

The pathway has many large stones bedded into it. On one of theseI found the snail shell remains shown in the picture. I think a thrush had been using the stone as an anvil to break open snails for food.

The pathway snakes down towards the coast between open sunny banks. This morning these were alive with butterflies, mostly Meadow browns which seemed to be every few feet. There were also Common Blue and lots of a small brown butterfly which moved so fast I couldn't identify it. Maybe better luck next time!

At the bottom of the path a yellowhammer was perched in the top of a hawthorn bush but predictably flew away just as I pointed the camera at it.

Where the Dene flows out into the sea a large area of Magnesian Limestone meadow lies just inland of the cliff edges. This is a mass of flowers at this time of year, particularly Meadow Cranesbill.

Just on the cliff edge I came across a Common Field Grasshopper in the vegetation which obligingly stayed still long enough for a picture. Maybe it was as hot as I was.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Comma and Red Admiral butterflies spotted this afternoon feeding on the Hebe which grows against our boundary fence.
This is the first time we have seen a Comma butterfly since moving here three and a half years ago.
This year has not been very good for butterflies so far in the garden with only the above, plus Large White and Small Tortoiseshell being spotted.

Wren singing very loudly in the Sycamore tree. Click here for an actual recording made this afternoon. There is also a Greenfinch wheezing about 3.5 seconds into the clip.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Greenfinches in a gang

A group of four greenfinches is monopolising the bird feeder today. They chase away anything that comes and tries to feed except the jackdaw which is a little too big for them. They seem to spend almost as much time fighting as feeding.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Early Morning in the garden

Just a few moments spent watching the birds feeding at 5.30 a.m. My local robin who is now very tame is collecting mealworms to take to a second brood which I think is just over an ivy covered fence at the bottom of the garden.
Collared dove and wood pigeon are feeding on the seeds which have fallen from the bird feeder.
Our resident jackdaw is feeding at the peanut feeder. He has a damaged wing and has been using one of the trees next to our garden as a base for several weeks now. He can only fly short distances and finds the peanuts an easy source of food.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Begin at the beginning

Having kept a written natural history diary for several years, I feel it's about time I went electronic.
I will be using this space to record notable wildlife events in and around the village of Haswell in County Durham in the NE of the UK.