Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lake View wildlife report for September 2010

Misty view to High Street

Red admiral on plums This is written in mid-October, so a bit late with my summary of last month. September saw the end of summer and the beginning of an Autumn bumper fruit harvest. Like everyone, we've got plenty of apples, damsons and plums; come and get some cooking apples and damsons if you wish, both picked and pick-your-own. Some red admiral butterflies found some fallen plums and I took a photo of them eating the sugar.

Caz id'd a Chiffchaff for the first time here by call; it looked slightly different to the normal Willow warblers which would have already gone south. I took a photo of a bathing juvenile robin. The swallows gathered, like notes on a music stave, on our power lines. A swallow or two roosted in our shed, with the last overnight stay on 18th September.

Gathering Swallows Bathing juvenile robin

Below is our smallish crop of onions and the remains of our broad bean patch. Our kale goes to seed each year and we string it through the field gate so we can see the birds feeding on them. As an experiment, I made a small haystack after a first late summer cut of the 'meadow' on the 12th. Our three compost heaps are still being used in rotation, with occasional replacement of the front boards; we seem to have stopped bothering to cover them up - my corrugated iron covers are a bit lethal.

Bunches of our onions Broad bean patch Kale seeds on the gate for the birds Small haystack Our compost heaps

We were given 3 more young trees by Wendy, which we managed to squeeze into our already pretty full patch. In shed I found an interesting bit of ironmongery, possibly a chimney access door, or an oven door?

Newly planted oak Found ironmongery

We've helped out at the RSPB Haweswater, both taking down the battle-weary hide shed for the winter, and weeding in the tree nursery.

Devil's coach horse beetle Partially weeded junipers Fly agaric

I took a turn round Swindale and Mosedale. If you look very closely at the photo of Mosedale cottage you can see tree guards along the top of the quarry containing junipers planted by the RSPB:

Mosedale cottage and quarry Rowan Deer grass in Mosedale

At the end of the month I bought a copy of Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland: a field guide - quite a thick book with 848 pages which I've yet to get to grips with properly, £24.95. I'm not sure if the binding will last though it is in plastic cover. I'd like an English names index. There's a brief introduction but I'd probably prefer that to be bigger to help the boggled aspirant.

Moths on 3/9/10: Antler 4, Common marbled carpet 2, Flame carpet 1, Lesser Broad-bordered Yello underwing 2, * Phoenix (f) 1, Rosy rustic 1, Large yellow underwing 1, Centre barred sallow 1, Dark sword grass 1.

Dark swordgrass moth Phoenix moth

The linked table below shows the maximum count of each bird species seen, along with best breeding code, primarily in our back garden near Bampton Cumbria in NY51 VC69 (and in our surrounding 1km square) in the period from November 2007 until September 2010, with a total count of 54 species, 24 this month.

Full Lake View Monthly Max Bird Count Seen table

Species Sept-10
Blackbird 3
Blue tit 10
Brambling
Bullfinch
Buzzard 2
Carrion crow
Chaffinch 10
Chiffchaff 1 S
Coal tit 3
Collared dove
Curlew
Dunnock 2
Fieldfare
Garden Warbler
Goldcrest
Goldfinch 5
Great spotted woodpecker 4
Great tit 3
Greenfinch 2
Grey heron
House martin 2
Jackdaw 8
Jay
Kestrel
Lapwing
Linnet
Long-tailed tit 10
Magpie
Meadow pipit
Mistle thrush
Nuthatch
Peregrine
Pheasant 7
Pied flycatcher
Pied wagtail 1
Raven
Redstart
Redwing
Reed bunting
Robin 2
Siskin
Skylark
Song thrush 1
Sparrowhawk
Spotted flycatcher 1
Starling 1
Stock dove
Swallow 70
Swift
Tawny owl
Willow warbler 2
Woodpigeon 1
Wren 1
Yellowhammer
Total: 54 24

Sunset cloudscape

Monday, 6 September 2010

Lake View wildlife report for August 2010

Plums Come and get both blackcurrant and plum jam from our gate, and raw plums as well! We desperately need more jars to make more jam.

Our bird species count was less this month (because we were away on holiday?) but we saw three species that we hadn't seen before at home: House martins, Pied flycatcher and Meadow pipit. (OK, mipits cannot be far away at Knipe Scar.)

Nuthatch
Frog in our pond We had a frog in the pond one day. I took some Marsh Marigold seed from Berneray in Scotland; I've sown them in a protected tray, which I'll keep damp before planting out any survivors next year near the pond.

The swallows in the garage second brood fledged on 3 August. Another swallow had been desperate to get into the kitchen shed, but we had kept the door closed. We finally relented when it was too late for another brood; a couple of swallows happily roosted there until the end of the month.

This summer has been very good for vegetables in the garden and fruit on the trees in the field. We had an OK crop of onions; perhaps the dry spell earlier hadn't helped their development and the damper July and August meant a hint of rot. The tatties were good, even some rogue Pink fir apples. As well as some cherry plums, the old plum tree "over the end of the world" did well. This was the tree that had been pruned by chain saw severely earlier on in the year; unfortunately, the weight proved too much and the main branch cracked. Perhaps the good year for produce was a result of the very hard winter; and perhaps the dry spring help. There seemed some less insects around. There were less wasps, though I still managed to get stung two times while mowing over a nest hole in the ground in the field.

Drying onions Cherry plum Mutant pink fir apple potato Broken plum tree Wasps nest

Cornflower Out in the field my planted cornflowers did well. I transferred some cowslip seed into the field; hopefully they will come up next year.

We walked round Riggindale Haweswater on the 29th, stopping off initial for a quick view of the Golden eagle, helpfully located by expert volunteers Pete and Debbie. Then (Caz mostly) identified lots of plants en route round the valley - see the list below. Apparently the eagle flew in the afternoon but we missed it. On the way back down, we stopped at the weir at Blea Tarn; the water was rushing over the weir at regular intervals, say every 30 or 60 seconds, presumably as the tarn was being agitated by the wind. We were just too late down to offer Pete and Debbie some (you guessed it) plum cake.

Riggindale walk: Butterwort, Tormentil, Hare bell, Ling, Lousewort, Other heather, Bedstraw, Eyebright, Scabious, Round-leaved sundew, Hawkweed/bit, Sphagnum, Broom, Bilberyy, Cowberry, Milkwort, ?Scorpidium scorpidiodes, Dor beetle, ?Fairy flax.

Dor beetle Pellet containing insects Cowberry Sundew and ?Scorpidium scorpidioides Overflowing weir at Blea Tarn

Moths 5/8/10: Antler 5, Common Wainscot 9, Snout 1, Large yellow underwing 33, Muslin footman 1, Dark arches 16, * Least yellow underwing 2, * Dotted Clay 3, Burnished brass 2, Scalloped Oak 1, Common footman 3, * Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 2, Lesser common rustic 1. Sexton beetle 1 - covered with lots of mites.

Moths 7/8/10: Brimstone 2, Large/Lesser yellow underwing, Antler 2, Burnished brass 1, Grey chi 1, Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 3, Common wainscot, Dark arches, Flame shoulder 1, Tawny speckled pug 1, Least common rustic 2, Flame carpet 1, * Broad-bordered yellow underwing 1, * Fan-foot, Rosy rustic 1, Rosy minor 2. Sexton beetle 3

Moths 25/8/10: Yellow underwing 4, Dark acrhes 1, Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing 2, Flame carpet 1. 3 others.

Moths 29/8/10: Grey chi 2, Rosy rustic 2, Silver Y 1, Antler 1.

Rosy minor moth Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing Broad-bordered yellow underwing moth Broad-bordered yellow underwing moth Fan-foot moth Sexton beetle ?Least yellow underwing moth

Red squirrel Yet another great view

The linked table below shows the maximum count of each bird species seen, along with best breeding code, primarily in our back garden near Bampton Cumbria in NY51 VC69 (and in our surrounding 1km square) in the period from November 2007 until August 2010, with a total count of 53 species, 25 this month.

Full Lake View Monthly Max Bird Count Seen table

Species Aug-10
Blackbird 3
Blue tit 5
Brambling
Bullfinch
Buzzard 2
Carrion crow
Chaffinch 6 S
Coal tit 2
Collared dove
Curlew
Dunnock 3
Fieldfare
Garden Warbler
Goldcrest
Goldfinch 1 S
Great spotted woodpecker 3
Great tit 4
Greenfinch 3
Grey heron
House martin 5
Jackdaw
Jay
Kestrel
Lapwing
Linnet
Long-tailed tit
Magpie
Meadow pipit 6
Mistle thrush
Nuthatch 1
Peregrine 2
Pheasant
Pied flycatcher 1
Pied wagtail 1
Raven 5
Redstart
Redwing
Reed bunting
Robin 1
Siskin
Skylark
Song thrush 1
Sparrowhawk
Spotted flycatcher 1
Starling
Stock dove
Swallow 34 NY
Swift 1
Tawny owl
Willow warbler 1
Woodpigeon 1 S
Wren 2
Yellowhammer
Total: 53 25

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

North Uist machair, bees and coast, August 2010

Hairy shell dude Rippling sand

Clouds As I type, towards the end of our week on North Uist, it's blowing a gale outside our holiday house. Already this evening's ferry sailings between Uig on Skye and Lochmaddy here have been cancelled. We were booked on a sailing back later tomorrow but we've put it back until Sunday morning, mainly so we get home at a civilised time - we have an 8 hour car journey back.

Inspecting the Machair Gannets Earlier today at the great Claddach-Kirkibost cafe, looking out of the window, the nearby rushes were blowing about madly in the wind, like writhing snakes in the grass. Behind, the flooded strand out to Baleshare and Kirkibost was a lovely green in the sun with choppy white tops everywhere. I had splendid mini oatcakes made at the cafe with a selection of cheeses, chutney and salad. Viv's "wee bowl" of butternut and chilli soup was spicy and very warming. We'd been out at Hosta beach this afternoon: windy but dry; gannets were zooming past like concorde as Caz and I explored the coast; Viv did an admirable sketch of the shore; the southerly wind was blowing back the top of the waves out to sea.

Earlier on today at the house while it was raining I did some postcards. Viv was bored so we played top trumps with cans of soup and tomatoes, along with a mind-treasure hunt, describing something in the house for others to guess. As I looked up I happened to spot a male Hen harrier slowly lolloping around looking for prey across the back croft.

Our holiday house at Sollas is owned by a family, whose name Caz had found online as one of those who rebelled against the clearances. The house was built reasonably recently but presumably still on the family croft land. It was described as being on the hill; this being North Uist, the hill was only a few metres above the surroundings, with great views out over the sands to Vallay, with its ruined big house and associated steadings etc.

Sollas Traigh Iar looking towards Vallay Sollas golf course map

Our book "The Scottish Islands" (Haswell-Smith) describes Vallay (and Baleshare and Kirkibost as "drying islands" perhaps as it's written from a sailor's point of view; anyway, it means that the island is cut off at high tide but can usually be reached safely at other times. We went out to Vallay, taking the route that vehicles use. We set off as the tide was going out so some of the water was above our ankles. We inspected the house with crow-stepped gables and great interior views of dereliction through a couple of windows where the boarding had come off. The steading's roof had partially collapsed in a lovely curved way. We went over to the other side of the island past weird scarecrows and a permanent kite over the traditional machair crops of rye, oats and barley, with some corn marigolds and tufted vetch growing underneath. Pretty definite spot of a female hen harrier. There were a couple of abandoned good fish boxes which I thought about rescuing for tree nursery work back home. We made our way back in good time, with the kids singing exuberantly across the sands. The following day various farm machinery: cutters, balers and trailers went over the sands to cut the crop.

Vallay house Vallay steading roof Vallay house fireplace

Caz met our neighbour Angus picking his tatties; he said it had been a bad year for them as July here had been bad, but he was picking them anyway. We saw tatties growing in a few other places. In one spot on Berneray, we passed right by a patch and Caz could not resist picking a few up which were uncovered.

Berneray beach Greylag Geese

Bar tailed Godwits It was Angus' job to scare the geese off the crops on Vallay, so he went over regularly and fired rockets to frighten them off. He also cuts his peats off the "committee road" across the island - built to provide employment in hard times. Angus said his plot was a good place to spot golden eagles. We had seen a pair early on in the week, but none since, which we'd hoped for, since there are 9 pairs here along with 3 pairs of sea eagles. However they can be pretty elusive as we know from Haweswater. We were pleased at seeing the hen harriers; quite a few buzzards as well, but no merlin. Or golden plover, which we thought might have been around. We did see Bar-tailed godwit for the first time, after careful identification by scrutinising lots of photos.

The main exhibition at the Lochmaddy museum, art gallery and cafe was about Vallay's history, including Ernest Beveridge who had the big hoose built, with all mods cons: piped water from the mainland and central heating. There were interesting diary entries; spreading seaware must mean putting seaweed onto the fields, as is still done often traditionally nowadays; There's an organic farm nearby that still does only this; others use commercial fertilisers as these contain Nitrogen which is missing from seaweed which is mainly Potassium and Phosphate.

How come I've got this far without mentioning the birds and bees? OK, I've mentioned some birds and touched upon the machair. At RSPB Balranald, the warden led walk concentrated on the machair, as it's a critical resource in itself and vital for interesting birds such as corncrake and corn bunting. We spotted rare Great Yellow and Moss Carder bumble bees and northern mining bees. The large bees were mainly now on the Knapweed. However they need a succession of flowers over the summer to survive.

Great Yellow bumble bee IMG13773a_GreatYellowBumbleBee IMG13740a_MossCarder_BumbleBee Crops growing on the machair

The crofters are encourages to set aside rough areas for corncrakes in early summer, and later on cut the crops from the centre towards the outside so the birds aren't stranded in the middle. They cultivate the machair in a 4 year rotation, with 2 years of fallow followed by two years of cropping. Delicate flowers come in for the first fallow year, with hardier ones the next. It was great to see various flowers growing amidst the main crops.

Poppy Hare bell and eyebright Crops on the machair Corn Marigold Gentian

Postbox with starling flap The warden said he'd been here for 20 years. Soon after arriving the postie had asked what could be done about the starlings nesting in the postboxes. They tried putting up a nestbox beside each postbox, but ended up with 2 pairs! So most postboxes now have a flap to stop the starlings getting in - we'd previously assumed it was to keep the weather out.

3 of us went up North Uist's highest hill Eaval (pronounced a-val not evil as we'd imagined). It was boggy on the way. There were some stepping stones over a small river near the beginning which looked odd as seaweed was on the upstream side; we since found out that the upstream loch is tidal - luckily we'd timed it so that it was OK to cross and get back. En route we found a dwarf rowan growing on a rock. Nearby was an interesting dragonfly which we've identified as a male Common Hawker: "They can be quite variable in colour. This one has perhaps lost some of its lustre having been on the wing for a while."

View North from Eaval, North Uist Road end sculpture in front of Eaval Fir clubmoss

While we were away, Viv back at the house was visited by some Jehova's Witnesses. She was busy with some toast so made her excuses. She could have shown the shelf full of bibles in the porch. Most strange that they are visiting this pretty religious part of the country.

We snatched a snack at the cafe, came home for a quick tea, and then went back to the community centre cafe soon after for a very informative talk on the Insects of the Hebrides by SNH expert Tracey Begg, including more details of the rare bumble bees.

Common Darter dragonfly Dor Beetle Dragonfly Dragonfly

We took almost 1,000 photos on the holiday: here's a few more:

Puffin bill Heather hillside Sea rocket Amphibious Bistort Starlings

Birds: Bar-tailed Godwit, Black Guillemot, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull (1st summer), Buzzard, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Cormorant, Curlew, Eider, Fulmar, Gannet, Golden eagle, Great Northern Diver, Great Skua, Greater Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Guillemot, Hen Harrier FFM, Herring Gull, Hooded Crow, House sparrow, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Manx Shearwater, Meadow pipit, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Puffin, Raven, Razorbill, Red throated diver?, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Rock Dove, Rock Pipit, Shag, Snipe, Starling, Swallow, Tern (Sort?), Turnstone, Twite, Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Wren

Flowers: Amphibious Bistort, Autumn Gentian, Birds-foot trefoil, Bog Asphodel, Bog Pimpernell, Bogbean, Bugloss, Buttercup, Butterwort, Common Fumitory, Common Poppy, Corn Marigold, Cross-leaved heath, Crowberry, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Daisy, Devil's bit scabious, Doves' foot cranesbill, Eyebright, Field Pansy, Fir? Clubmoss, Frog Orchid, Hare bell, Kidney Vetch, Knapweed, Ladies Bedstraw, Lousewort, Mare's tail, Michaelmas Daisy, Milkwort, Mugwort, Orache, Oxeye Daisy, Primrose, Ragged Robin, Ragwort, Red Bartsia, Red Clover, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Campion, Sea rocket?, Sea spurge?, Self heal, Silverweed, Sun Spurge, Thrift, Tormentil, Tufted Vetch, White clover, White water lily, Yarrow, Yellow Rattle

Others: St Kilda, Seal, Great yellow Bumble Bee, White-tailed Bumble Bee, Moss carder Bumble bee, Northern mining bee, Hoverfly, Common/Highland Darter, male Common Hawker, Green-veined white, Common blue, Tortoiseshell, Dark arches, Antler, Rosy Rustic, ?Archer's Dart

Vallay strand sunset Foam in sea