coquet nature lover

Friday, 27 October 2017

European bee-eater visits the Northumberland coast

Spectacular, stunning... but sadly off-course 

European bee-eater ready to take off to catch another dragonfly

Northumberland is probably one of the least likely places to see a bee-eater but, with the storm Ophelia lashing the country, one of these beautiful birds ended up on our awesome coast a couple of weeks ago. In fact, two European bee-eaters were spotted on the 15th October, one of which stayed in the area for a week! The last reported sighting was on the 22nd which is the day the southerly winds changed to W-N-W. Perhaps it was an opportunity to get on its way to the continent.

More interested in insects than berries!

The bee-eater moved between Druridge Pools and East Chevington to the north. I first saw it sitting on a fence in the pasture land north of Druridge Pools. It then took off, flying high in the air before settling much closer to the welcoming crowd, next to the outlet ditch leading from the largest pool to the sea.  We watched its gliding flight numerous times, each time returning to the same perch - rather like a fly-catcher. The bee-eater appeared to like hunting over the ditch, perhaps because there were still some late autumn damselflies and dragonflies in flight. There certainly weren't many bees about but this particular bird spent a lot of time hunting for food, over the ditch and in between the pools, so hopefully it was able to refuel before continuing its journey to warmer southerly climes.

Late visitors to the garden - Butterflies

The late flowering plants such as this echinacea and white buddleja provided a late nectar source in the garden for butterlies such as the Peacock and Red Admiral below. 
Peacock with its unmistakable eyespots

Red Admiral with its velvety black wings and red bands

This species below (Speckled Wood) is often found in woodlands but can also be spotted in hedgerows and shady spots in the garden. This is especially the case, early and late in the year, when there are less aphids about. Over the last decade or so, their range has expanded northwards in a direct response to impacts on climate change so now we can enjoy spotting them in Northumberland.

Speckled Wood with its brown wings and creamy-yellow spots

I read the following interesting snippet on the North East England branch of the Butterfly Conservation website. It doesn't give any reasons but it would make interesting research. 
"The Comma, for example, was common in the nineteenth century but was then extinct in the region for much of the twentieth century before returning in the 1990s"
Comma with its ragged wing edges
Small Tortoiseshell sunning itself on the garden steps

More from the garden - but this time edible!

The veg didn't do too well this year, largely due to the wildlife in the garden. The deer may be sweet to see but they munch through the fruit and veg as if there were no tomorrow! Luckily, the deer don't attempt to enter the greenhouse so the vine has produced a good supply of grapes.

The lemon tree has quite a few fruits which are steadily ripening and should be ready for New Years Day, providing they don't dropoff. 

Although the figs weren't particularly large this year, they did ripen and were quite scrumptious. The tree has recently produced a lot more fruit but, at this time of year, you need to remove them.... Well, that's what Monty says!
I have the 'Brown Turkey' variety which is reliable - especially as it is planted in a large pot in the greenhouse so has a little winter warmth and protection from the elements. 

The Victoria plum tree I planted in the orchard a few years ago is now starting to produce fruit. This spring, the tree had quite a lot of blossom but, despite a very mild winter, there was a late frost which caused a lot of the blossom to drop.

last of the tomatoes and french beans

Late departure from Alnmouth station!

Swallows tend to breed quite late into the season compared to most birds. These four fellas were sitting in their nest, just above the public WC at Alnmouth station (27/08).  Now, I'm quite used to seeing late trains there but it's the first time I've seen such a late brood of swallows!  Fortunately, when I was at the station a few days later, they had fledged. Hopefully they were strong enough to migrate south as somehow, I don't think they will be happy on our chilly eastern coast this winter!

Baby swallows waiting to be fed
Here's Mum on the left with a few tasty insects!


  1. Oooh...I love those baby swallows. They look like they are posing for the photo. Thanks for sharing photos of the spoils from your lovely garden.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and comment. It was unusual for the swallows to nest so low but they didnt seem to be at all disturbed by the passengers visiting the loo or the trains zooming by!

  2. Wonderful photos of your garden produce and visitors, love the swallows and the bee-eaters too, such colourful visitors to your area:)

    1. Thanks Rosie! Yes, the cold grey north suddenly seemed very colourful and tropical. I do hope the bee-eater managed to get enough food and is now safely in a warmer climate. Did you see they were on Autumnwatch? Quite beautiful:)

  3. Your garden produce looks delicious and wonderful photos of the butterflies :)

    It must have been wonderful to see the bee-eater - we went to East Leake Notts earlier in the year to see them - a new species for me. They are such colourful birds.

  4. Unfortunately there hasnt been much produce but what I had was quite tasty! It's good you saw the bee-eaters at in Notts - I didn't get down that way so it was such a surprise when a couple turned up on the coast here. Hope you saw them on Autumnwatch - they had amazing footage too!

  5. How exciting, Cathy, to see a Bee-eater! A bird I would love to see, though, naturally, it is a shame when birds get blown off course. Thank you for your kind comments on my Poetry in Aldeburgh post. There is a link on that page to Blue Door Press, who published the 'Herrings' volume. I will load this and then look forward to exploring your poetry tab... I will add your blog to my list, particularly since Northumberland is one of our favourite places. I am a Newcastle graduate, and we were back in the area (near Holy Island) for our summer holiday this year. How I miss the calling of the seals! I loved the puffin and eider in the stained glass in the Holy Island church.

  6. Thank you for the link Caroline and also for adding my blog to your list. It's interesting to hear you studied here - you know the region well. I look forward to getting down to your part of the country again. I feel there is so much to explore in and around Aldeburgh.