5 June 2013

Northumberland National Park: 5 June

Explored a little of Northumberland National Park today. A walk along the Beamish Valley to Linhope Spout produced 1 Common Sandpiper along the river, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Whinchat, several redpolls overhead, lots of Willow Warbler (only 1 actually seen), and a small flock of extremely tame Chaffinches (several males and females) that didn't like our posh M&S raisins one bit. A hike up to Simonside Ridge in the afternoon to look for Emperor Moths Saturnia pavonia drew a blank for the moth in cool windy conditions, but we did find 3-4 Red Grouse, 1+ Curlew, a superb Carabus nitens ground beetle, and some cool plants including mosses Juniper Haircap Polytrichum juniperinum (I think) and Common hair-cap moss Polytrichum commune, and lots of Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and Common cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium.

Carabus nitens, Simonside Ridge

Male Chaffinch, Linhope Spout (this was as soft as I could get it Jaffa!). Note the fine hair-like feathers on the nape? The
females also had these (click to enlarge).

Juniper Haircap Polytrichum juniperinum?, Simonside Ridge

Common hair-cap moss Polytrichum commune, Simonside Ridge

Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus

Simonside Ridge, Northumberland National Park

Also witnessed an interesting but tragic piece of animal behaviour. While driving along the B6342 a few miles south of Rothbury, we saw a Skylark pecking vigorously at something in the road. Pulling over, we realised that the 'something' was actually a dead Skylark! Concerned the live bird might also get hit by a car, we moved the still warm corpse (an adult bird) off the road, and took a few pics in the process. Presumably the live bird was trying to encourage the dead one to move? Rachel and I have also seen this behaviour before, with a flock of Redshanks pecking at a dead one in a road in Iceland in 1999.

Skylark foot - check out the length of that hind claw!

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