Monday, 31 August 2015

August Reflections

One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space.
Rachael Carson.

30th Aug.  Today was to be the ending of my outings for August.  I have some work to look forward to tomorrow.  It was another clear sunny morning as Sam and I looked out over the North Sea from St Mary’s Island.  The island was a flurry of activity of the human kind and a marquee had been erected for what looked as if it was to be a wedding reception later in the day.  A few familiar faces were about and children were enjoying the exploration of the rock pools.  It wasn’t a day for sea watching, but we watched anyway and we reflected upon what August had delivered us in terms of birds and other wildlife.  Grey Seals were attracting the attention of visitors, many of whom seemed surprised to see them here on the island.  A first count seemed to suggest a round a dozen seals, but there were twenty plus by the time we left.  Maybe the blubberous grouping simply made counting difficult, or more likely a few had slipped in unseen as we talked.  Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns passed us in some numbers, hundreds of Kittwakes formed another raft on the sea south of Blyth, Common Scoters passed in small flocks and Eider Ducks were eventually picked out.  Gulls, Gannets, Fulmars and waders completed the list, with the Golden Plovers putting on a mini display in the air.  There was also a fleeting glance at what was thought to be a Harbour Porpoise.  The view was completed by action on the water by fishing boats, yachts, RNLI training sessions and an overhead Hercules aircraft.  The hide on the island was open today so we made usage of it.  On enquiring however we were told that keys to the hide are no longer available to the public, as there has been problems caused in the main by youngsters it seems.  It seems a great pity to me that such a resource is not made full use off and the problems managed.

With help I can now ID this as Bee Moth

 Our walk to Holywell was interrupted by a short stop once again at the headland at Seaton Sluice.  Just before arrival here we found what appeared to be either three or four Kestrels which we thought was likely a family party.  Knot well into double figures now, were accompanied on the rocks below by other waders, amongst them Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew.  The general area also brought sightings of at least three Painted Lady Butterflies and the same number of Small Copper Butterflies and a number of Wall Brown and Meadow Brown Butterflies.  First records of both the former species for us this year, which on the whole has been a poor one for the butterflies.  Peacock and Speckled Wood were also added to today’s list along with Whites.  A female Sparrowhawk was chased by a crow across the headland to the dunes, the latter species showing no sign of giving up on the chase.

Garden Spider
Holywell Dene provided an enjoyable walk as always, but was uneventful in terms of birds.  Willow Warbler was heard and seen.  Whilst August is not the time for watching woodland birding, it is most certainly the time to be watching for migrant waders and this we did at Holywell Pond after chatting to passers by, including SP.  The public hide provided us with excellent sightings of four pristine Ruff, the adult male showing very well the size difference between the sexes, a single Whimbrel and a single Common Snipe.  Not the sightings of a few days ago, but nevertheless some fine birds and the privilege of showing a mother and son the birds through the telescope.  To my mind it is a privilege especially when folk are keen to learn.  The Lapwing flock was present, but not in great numbers today as I think many remained in the fields.  My mind was so fixed on the waders I didn’t give much attention to the wildfowl although the usual species were present and we saw Gadwall at close quarters from the members hide.  There were twenty plus Little Grebes present. 

Busy Bee
And so to our August reflections.  Sam and I both agree that this has been our best August in terms of sightings, Sam having some additions from his visit to Dumfries.  The month began so well with our sighting of the Bee-eaters at Brampton.  Then on 11th Aug we had both Osprey and Black Tern during a sea watch at St Mary’s Island and Seaton Sluice.  By the 13th Aug migrant waders began to arrive at Holywell in the form of three juvenile Ruff and on the 15th we had perhaps our best sighting of Green Sandpiper outside the hide in the sunlit area of reflected reeds, again at Holywell.  A Water Rail was there too.  Even better on 20th Aug when we found the Pectoral Sandpiper at Holywell along with Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Ruff, having earlier see four Whimbrel on the coast.  On the 23rd Aug the Pectoral Sandpiper was seen again along with four Common Sandpipers and a Greenshank was heard calling over Holywell Dene.  Perhaps best of all at Holywell was 24th August when we watched the Pectoral Sandpiper once again, but this time along with twelve Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Common Snipe, and Ruff, with Greenshank also being seen near the temp flash caused by the storm and a Wood Sandpiper having been heard in the same area.  Our list of waders at Holywell this month is as follows Lapwing, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper (H), Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Snipe, Ruff and Pectoral Sandpiper.  Rarity and numbers are secondary to the excellent nature of the actual sighting often in very good light at close quarters.  Then we mustn’t forget some wonderful sightings at Druridge Bay which included our second Osprey in Northumberland for the month, a wonderful summer plumage Red –throated Diver, Cuckoo and Minke Whale.  The icing on the cake was our finding of both White-letter Hairstreak and Holy Blue Butterfly in Holywell Dene.  Roseate Terns are among a supporting cast seen on the coast along with the likes of Manx and Sooty Shearwater (a lifer for Sam) and Arctic Skua.  Can September be as good?

Busy Insect :-)

Red Admiral
It’s now Bank Holiday Monday and unsurprisingly dull and wet so to brighten things up I’ll upload a few random images taken in the garden during August.  The more astute readers of my blog may have noticed that I have been rather lax in the image production of late!


  1. Hello Brian, your moth is a Bee Moth.

  2. Thanks Stewart. I must be well into double figures with my moth IDs now. :-)