Notice Board: the Honey-buzzard Season in Northumberland 2020 as it happens – Nick Rossiter

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This is the current blog for the 2020 season, updated daily, giving recent activity.

Significant events in the Honey-buzzard season as it unfolds in Northumberland are given here. Seeing Honey-buzzard in their breeding areas is facilitated by reading about their jizz, knowing their calls and digesting the three BB papers updating Honey-buzzard identification (bottom of page). Listen to these wise words from a former prophet: “to try and identify them from plumage I think is a loser to begin with ... you’ve got to identify Honey Buzzards from their shape and structure”. The Honey-buzzard is rapidly increasing as a migrant in Britain with particularly major movements in 2000 and 2008. The analysis cited indicates that a continental origin for the migrants is very unlikely, with various studies on the continent all indicating that the Honey-buzzard is not susceptible to drift while on migration. Focus is now on the significance of orographic lift in the choice of migration routes for birds from more northerly areas where thermals are weaker. The breeding status of the Honey-buzzard in Britain is surely less controversial than it was. Migration totals in the UK have risen in the past decade and attempts to attribute these movements to a Scandinavian origin are in conflict with both 1) the underlying physics of broad-winged raptor migration, and 2) the actual details of the movements. However, migration movements are generally thought to be understated because so many observers struggle with the identification of juvenile Honey-buzzard. The status of Honey-buzzard in the UK has been highly politicised, as in the climate change debate. A close examination of the Honey-buzzard review performed by the Northumberland County Records Committee is in progress: start with part 1 and follow the links through to later pages. A worrying development in early 2015 was the modification of migration data in a Scarce Migrants paper in BB; while the Editor has promised not to repeat the manoeuvre, erroneous data in the literature is extremely difficult to erase. Fear is the path to the dark side; fear of not being able to identify Honey-buzzard leads to anger; anger leads to hate of those that can; hate leads to suffering in the UK birding community (with apologies to Star Wars!). For full details of the 2012 season see the study area Report 2012 with hyperlinked Appendix containing all field observations. Full details for other seasons are contained in the annual blogs, cited above, with an overall summary in Population of the Honey-buzzard in SW Northumberland.

Some recent publications provide strong support for the thesis above. Forsman (2017) provides detailed information on the prevailing Misidentification of Juvenile Honey-buzzard. Maybe unwittingly the last report on Scarce Migrants in Britain by White & Kehoe (2016) admitted that in general migrant Honey-buzzard in Britain are locally born and bred, finally bringing to an end the idea that they were Scandinavian migrants. Therefore Honey-buzzard Migrants are British Born and Bred. Finally from central Scotland an exceptional breeding season for Honey-buzzard was reported by Shaw et al (2017) in 2016, suggesting a continued expansion of numbers in northern Britain (Scotland).

The pattern of fieldwork will continue as in 2019. The book is still under consideration with a catch up on much earlier material achieved.

May 29th: very fine day, 23C, light S breeze, dry (almost same as yesterday), shorts on, shirt off. Did some more grass cutting with again low yields. Fencer M is doing a grand job, he arrived about 15:00 but was still out there at 21:45; think he likes it cooler; he has a tractor attachment which acts as a post driver and a tensioner; not sure whether he's finished but suspect there's very little left to do. The fence has a top and a bottom wire plus stock-proof metal square fencing to keep out sheep as well as ponies; there's no barbed wire as it's bad for ponies; he put in new strainers at each end as you cannot rely on the old ones, which remain in place for the fences they serve. Think he might want to be paid quickly!! Had long phone call with P in morning and Skype call at the virtual pub with N/D at ttime for 80 min; good for social life! Advanced my moth records by adding all my records from 2018 since early June to my current mapmate database; this involved saving the 2018 records from an excel spreadsheet into a tab-delimited text file, which was then imported by mapmate into the main database holding 2019/2020 records. Could add all my records this way back to 1980 and produce pretty distribution maps! Have almost completed looking at the piccies from Healey on 26/5 and should publish result tomorrow. Funds finished a good week on a disappointing note with a major slide today of 2.3% in ftse 100 on fears of what Trump might say tonite on China at a well-publicised news conference; well he certainly doesn't like China but trade agreements stay in place so some relief but London market closed well before. Brent Oil tonight is the highest since the crash at $37.7 a barrel but you wouldn't think so looking at stocks today! Funds finished the week +8k, after peaking at +15k yesterday, making gain on year to date 10k gross (0.9%), 2k net, with the ftse 100 and ftse 250 down 19.6% and 22.3% respectively. In the panic today did pick up some TUI as well as some American short-haul airlines (SAVE, LUV) and some CINE; think younger people (and me!) will be very keen to go to the cinema again in a month's time; they're planning to use a compulsory booking system to space groups out but suspect this will only really work if we have 1m spacing; nowhere else in the world has such a ridiculously high social distance as 2m! This model could be applied to concerts but the prices would have to double to make it economical. NCL airport reopens tomorrow apparently with 6 services starting in June. Freer tomorrow again so might go looking for Honey-buzzard as well as some exploration!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

5 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today; running total is 72+ this spring:

13:28 29/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Pegwell Bay 12:40 one flew south-west over clifftop

11:45 29/05 European Honey Buzzard Lancashire Fleetwood 11:25 one flew north over Rossall Lane

11:01 29/05 European Honey Buzzard Nottinghamshire Welbeck watchpoint 10:50 two flew south over [+2 as apparently migrants, in addition to breeding male noted earlier]

09:55 29/05 European Honey Buzzard Borders St Abbs Head NNR 09:50 one flew high north-west

09:19 29/05 European Honey Buzzard North Yorkshire Wykeham Forest male still from raptor viewpoint; from A170 at Wykeham take minor road north to Highwood Brow for 6.4km to T-junction then left for 500m to car park at SE936887 [+0, already counted at this breeding locality]

May 28th: very fine day, 23C, light SW breeze, dry. Caught up with records and piccies from yesterday but still plenty to do on 26/5 and 25/5. Fencer M arrived, set up territory and G moved the ponies out but old fence is still intact! Enjoyed lunch in the garden, shorts on, shirt off, quite lazy really! Had a Cuckoo call once! Cut some grass – yield was poor with 3 bags as against 6-7 normally, caused by dry spell. By evening getting restless and decided to twitch the phalarope at Grindon Lough; it's not really twitching as it is in my local area but it is chasing a rarity. So visited from 18:40-19:55. Here are a few piccies of the adult female Red-necked Phalarope 1  2  3; phalarope are unusual waders in that they swim freely and there is role reversal in the sexes: the female is more brightly coloured and the males do the incubation and raising of the young; utopia some might say! This one is headed for the Arctic so hasn't reached the breeding grounds yet. Also present were 11 Dunlin, 5 Ringed Plover, 1 Whimbrel, who are also headed for the far north except for a few of the Dunlin who might be local breeders. No interesting large gulls were present with water levels low after dry spell. Wigeon totalled 6: a flock of 4 drake and 2 female. Other waders were 1 Curlew, 4 Lapwing, 3 Redshank so 6 types present. A Cuckoo was calling so after none before today -- 2 records in 8 hours. Total was 22 types of bird. Amused at latest lockdown relaxation: after golf courses being reopened we can now meet in private gardens; welcomed enthusiastically by Rotary members but maybe not so good if you live in a tenement! Drove back through Newbrough, Fourstones and west Hexham after Grindon trip; very few people outside their doors, clapping the NHS! Ordley's no better! Actually do think the NHS staff have performed brilliantly, in the face of serious gaps in support and preparedness. See Cineworld, with 20% of the market, is opening all its cinemas in July; will be well worth seeing how they do it. The first signs of dawn are appearing in the sky at 02:15, time for bed I think: lots of hugs to the gorgeous one: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

3 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, including one in Morecambe Bay; running total is 67+ this spring, compared to 56 in 2019 and 59 in 2018 at this point:

22:15 28/05 European Honey Buzzard London King George VI Reservoir (Permit Only) 17:35 pale morph reported between King George VI and Staines reservoirs then lost over ridge of North Basin

20:11 28/05 European Honey Buzzard Hampshire Acres Down 19:55 two from raptor viewpoint this morning; also Hawfinch flew over

18:43 28/05 European Honey Buzzard Cumbria Foulshaw Moss15:30 27/05 one flew low over A590 heading north towards Lyth Valley yesterday [a breeding area for Honey-buzzard near Morecambe Bay]

May 27th: got sunnier as day progressed but warm throughout at 16C max and continuing dry, ground is quite hard, relevant for fencer who is starting tomorrow afternoon – great stuff! He actually said posts put in in dry weather bed in better than those put in in the wet: so now you know! Had an interesting time at Ryton Willows from 11:45-13:30, studying the edge-lands, which are often good for wildlife as they contain many small fields managed in a relaxed manner and some waste ground from earlier industrialisation. It's a nature reserve run by Gateshead Council; they had a very bad fire there recently, the results of which are still clearly visible. The reserve runs up to the banks of the Tyne to the N and on the opposite side is Newburn Riverside Park 1 and the eastern and a wooded area west of Newburn 2, which the Honey-buzzard like to visit. Honey-buzzard do breed here regularly but none seen today; that was the only downside! Around 12:00 twice had one Red Kite up low over the canopy well to E of Church Steeple, looking as if it had a nest there; later at 12:20 and 12:38 another Red Kite was up a little to W in an argument with a Crow; a Kestrel was hovering in the distance to SE at some height at 12:26; as leaving a 13:21 had a male Hobby drifting to S overhead at moderate altitude over the E part of the wood 1  2  3  4  5  6, looking in territory; Hobby is a classical species of edge-lands. Total was 27 bird species, including 7 Swift, a Jay, 6 Magpie, 15 Herring Gull (4 ad, 3 2s, 8 1s), a Chiffchaff, a Grasshopper Warbler, 2 singing Blackcap. The wood at Ryton is where the raptors breed: here's the central part by the church steeple 3 and the eastern part 4. Had a different strategy at Quayside, parking in Skinnerburn area by the Tyne and walking from there so incomplete Kittiwake count but a few interesting birds on the mud by the Tyne from 13:50-15:20. Had 11 types of bird, including Kittiwake 285, Cormorant 1 adult, Shelduck 4, Oystercatcher 5, Black-headed Gull 3 (1 ad, 2 1s), Crow 1, Feral Pigeon 12, Magpie 1, Swallow 1, LBBG 6 adult, Herring Gull 39 (12 ad, 8 2s, 19 1s). Had a Common Buzzard over the A69 at Rudchester at 15:35, making 4th type of raptor for the day. So after 3 days in succession in the field, need a catch-up day tomorrow on the records, which fits in well with the need to be on hand for the fencing. Went to W4bigshop spending £57 on groceries, bottles and cans plus £40 cashback for cleaner S next week. Very welcome reunion with the gorgeous one: so good to have some action: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

Another good day with 5 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, including singles at Newcastle and Grindon lough; running total is 64+ this spring:

16:12 27/05 European Honey Buzzard Dorset Pymore 16:03 one flew north

14:23 27/05 European Honey Buzzard North Yorkshire Wykeham Forest14:07 two flew over [breeding site, +1 birds]

13:27 27/05 European Honey Buzzard London Bexleyheath 11:00 one flew south-east

12:17 27/05 European Honey Buzzard Northamptonshire Islip 11:42 one circling slowly north

09:37 27/05 European Honey Buzzard Leicestershire and Rutland Markfield 09:22 one flew north-east over M1 j22

May 26th: cloudy start, brightening up at noon, then becoming very sunny and warm at 19C max; out in shorts and top-off for lunch in the garden. Went to a lowland common near Healey for good walk from 11:05-13:45 while cleaner S hard at it! Had 3 sightings of Kestrel, 2 of female, 1 of male, and took this as a pair taking it in turns to feed young in the nest. Had a pair of Common Buzzard in similar vein and a Red Kite slipped off to the W low-down to forage at 12:07. The local pair of Honey-buzzard had a brief soar together from 11:55-11:57, displaying over March Burn to W, some close contact but typically mutual soaring with male higher (10031). Honey-buzzard in the study area at sites that were occupied early will be laying eggs around now, giving them 80 days of breeding action until fledging around 15 August. Some upland sites will not even be occupied yet: there's a very wide spread time-wise between earliest and latest of 5-6 weeks. Had good numbers of heathland birds, including Linnet (24), Tree Pipit (2 pairs), Meadow Pipit (pair), Woodlark (2 adjacent territories were occupied with single birds looking on guard, sitting on gorse bushes. One did a display flight climbing up vertically and plunging down again. This is a minimum count), Yellowhammer (3 birds together), Lesser Whitethroat (1 feeding on insects in a bush), Willow Warbler (2 singing), Chiffchaff (1), Mistle Thrush (family group 7). Total for visit was 26 bird-types. Completed scrub clearance along old fence, session 5/5: been quite strenuous but very encouraging that no problems fitness-wise at all; just need the fencer now! Funds started the week well today after the Monday break in the UK (late spring) and in the US (Memorial Day). Managed +10k today in markets more positive about recovery, at least in certain areas; airline stocks did indeed take-off today, just managed to catch the landing gear of IAG to add to EZJ, RYA holdings but dipped on TUI which soared away. Baffled how the most important issue today, in the middle of an economic crash, is the fine distinction for one family between what was in the legislation and in the guidelines/catchphrases put out in pamphlet form. DC's actions were probably within the strict letter of the law but outside the guidelines, which went for a more severe lockdown than that in the legislation. Anyway put DC in the stocks and throw eggs at him: we're well on the way to becoming a puritan centre of excellence, with 17th century economy to match! Watching very little TV news now: never seen so many indignant self-righteous people on display. The mental health of the nation is deeply disturbed. Keeping when indoors to the web (under my control), films and Classic FM. Had long phone call with younger sis at ttime; all's well in Devon with golf restored! 2moro it's Ryton in morning looking at an urban-edge Honey-buzzard site on W extreme of Tyneside conurbation, maybe turning E later to look at the Kittiwake!! lok2t gorgeous ones!!!!!!

Yet another bumper day with 7 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, including singles at Newcastle and Grindon lough; running total is 59+ this spring:

18:16 26/05 European Honey Buzzard Northumberland Newcastle upon Tyne 14:28 one flew north over Paddy Freeman's Park [no local site, migrant]

18:10 26/05 European Honey Buzzard Cleveland Skelton 12:50 one flew west over New Skelton

18:08 26/05 European Honey Buzzard Northumberland Grindon Lough 21:00 25/05 dark morph female flew west yesterday evening [no local site, migrant]

13:09 26/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Cliffe 12:30 one flew high south over Rye Street

10:35 26/05 European Honey Buzzard North Yorkshire Wykeham Forest 10:24 male displaying from raptor viewpoint; from A170 at Wykeham take minor road north to Highwood Brow for 6.4km to T-junction then left for 500m to car park at SE936887

08:30 26/05 European Honey Buzzard East Sussex Firle 19:00 25/05 one flew south yesterday evening

08:01 26/05 European Honey Buzzard Wiltshire Cotswold Water Park 24/05 one flew north-east over CWP West on Sunday

May 25th: warm, 18C max, light W breeze, sunny but with thin high cloud at times. Continued with the marathon project to clear scrub from the fence, doing session 4/5, yes total has gone up 1! Looking good though now with all branches above the fence cut off and much of the tenacious blackthorn scrub removed. Aim to finish it tomorrow but will have to be afternoon as cleaner S is coming in the morning. While doing fence around midday nothing much up in the sky though it was warm enough. Went for walk around Hexham, finding nothing has reopened in the last week! Sat on top of bank at Sele for almost an hour from 14:45-15:40 but very little up except 15 Swift, 3 LBBG (2 ad, 1 2s), 2 Collared Dove. As left though noted that the 4 o'clock soar time was approaching so stopped off at Swallowship on way home from 15:55-16:05 and up in the air already were a pair of displaying Red Kite and a male Honey-buzzard. After hanging at moderate altitude at the start the Honey-buzzard eventually soared very high in the sky and was lost to sight in the milky sky (10029). That's a new site for the year bringing the 'Shire up to its normal quota of 6 sites; will need to check what's going on at Dipton Wood as possibly an extra site there. Real action started when got home at 16:20. The pair of resident Honey-buzzard came up off a nearby field with a Common Buzzard above them; then noticed a 2nd male Honey-buzzard, which was chased by the larger resident for a while before being seen off the premises: very exciting action, captured on plenty of photos (10030). Pleased to get another piece through the Festival site: read in FT from psychologists that in social deprivation cases, it's ¾ of the way through that's the worst. This figure comes from studies of expeditions, prisons and other restricted areas. There may of course be new data from the lockdown soon. Anyway we may be around that point with the consolation that spirits rise as the end of the lockdown materialises. So have to keep positive: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Another bumper day with 6 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, including 4 in Kent; running total is 52+ this spring:

15:25 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Isles of Scilly Tresco one flew east towards St Martin's

14:57 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Norfolk Downham Market 14:30 one flew east over Ryston End

14:24 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Folkestone 13:45 one arrived in off the sea

13:41 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent St Margaret's at Cliffe 13:20 one arrived in off the sea at the monument

10:42 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Walderslade 10:25 adult Male flew high to south-east

09:37 25/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent South Foreland 09:36 male flew north at lighthouse

May 24th: stayed windy at fresh SW and dull with a little drizzle in morning and early afternoon, then became brighter with a slowly decreasing moderate W breeze. Walked along the 'Motag' road, the old lane between Slaley, Peth Foot and Dotland, going almost to Dotland from home and back from 15:40-17:40 so quite energetic! Had 3 Honey-buzzard: a female bouncing around over Letah Wood from 16:32-16:34, really riding the strong wind with abandon, going up high and then coming down rapidly again 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 (10026); a male at Dotland at 17:02 gliding straight into the breeze, looking very impressive strength-wise and a little falcon like with his compressed structure 1  2  3 (10027); a female at Ordley patrolling over the nesting area from 17:29-17:30, looking down much of the time 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 (10028). The first 2 of these sites are new for the year, bringing up total to 24 birds (13 male, 11 female) at 18 sites. So anticipating end of Honey-buzzard's lockdown (through adverse weather) paid off! Was a good walk in general, more to follow … Earlier in the rough weather did session “3/4” clearing a lot of blackthorn scrub from the existing fence; masses of debris created, all deposited on my side of the fence to rot down. Not sure when Matthew will start, just possibly this Thursday/Friday but more likely next Monday/Tuesday or whenever. Final session is tomorrow morning: making me very fit!! Think will go into Hexham in the afternoon to see where the action is!! xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Highlight of day was completion of the Lepidoptera records from Shilford for 8/8/19, also finishing the entry of 2019 records. Here's the entry from NB 2019:

Butterflies were again fantastic with 12 types in the walk, including Wall Butterfly, Small Skipper, Comma, Holly Blue 1  2  3, plus flavour of the month 5 Painted Lady. Photographed masses of leaf mines for id later. Indeed by 24/05/2020 had identified 18 species of Microlepidoptera from leaf mines and spinning plus 3 carpet moths, making 33 species of Lepidoptera altogether; this was the last data sheet to be analysed from 2019.

Bumper day with 7 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today; running total is 46+ this spring (very similar to 44 by 24/5 last year):

21:25 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Nottinghamshire, Newstead & Annesley CP returning Welbeck male this evening (19:30)

21:01 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Highland, Inverness one flew over

19:57 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Lincolnshire Bardney village possible flew high west between here and Fiskerton (18:35) [?]

19:05 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Lade GPs 10:00 one flew north

15:34 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Cornwall St Austell one flew east over Carclaze

13:10 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Wiltshire Brinkworth 12:54 one flew north-east

12:54 24/05 European Honey Buzzard Suffolk Westleton one flew over

May 23rd: wild and windy, fresh SW breeze, light rain at times, drizzle in the air, 14C max. Catch-up day, submitting all information from 20/5 including the Red-footed Falcon, and getting other records up to date for 2020. Also ½ way through last data sheet for 2019 moths, which hope to finish tomorrow. Had another energetic hour clearing overgrowth from the fencing in the W corner: possibly still 2 sessions to go but want to do it in poor weather and reserve the better weather for some raptor chasing! Did go shopping to Peggs to pick up FT, some rw and other indulgences! May be back on the trail tomorrow afternoon, still plenty to do and the raptors will be enthusiastic after their lockdown. lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

May 22nd: what a change in the weather today, started at 01:00 when out looking at moth catch with wind rapidly strengthening from SW and rain a little later. Had 12 types of moth in the trap: not bad for mid-May. Have sorted the Wylam E purple patch: the dark bird present is a 1s male Red-footed Falcon; there's been an influx recently with a few in the NE (single female at Holy Island and East Chevington on 21/5). The photos are below (20/5) and will add to BirdTrack tomorrow; had 7 types of raptor from 16/5-20/5. Weather today was sunny intervals with blustery showers on a fresh W breeze, 14C max. Neighbour G phoned to say that the shrub encroachment on to the fence is too much for them to handle so spent an hour with the saw and branch loppers removing masses of overhang; very good exercise, will need 2 shorter sessions to finish it but obviously important to get it cleared so the fencing can be done efficiently. Funds had a sterling week at +28k moving into the green on year to date at +2k (+0.2%) gross compared to falls of 20.5% and 25.2% in the ftse 100 and ftse 250 respectively. Some recovery in junk oil bond ENQ1 over the week was a strong + point and today MARS (Marston's) doubled on a forthcoming deal with Carlsberg Have almost 24k shares in MARS, my only mainstream UK domestic equity, but did fancy it because it seemed to be valued post-Covid as only a disastrous pub group, whereas it also has a big brewery, the subject of the deal. Nice to make money out of beer; my holding is post-Covid, not sold any yet though! Am taxiing on the runway with airline stocks! Own funds are -6k net on year to date (still slightly negative) after withdrawals of 7.7k. Cash is 0.5k (fully committed!). Had 80 min virtual pub with N/D on Skype, very satisfying! lok2t beautiful ones: hope they're feeling fit: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

2 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today; running total is 39+ this spring:

17:42 22/05 European Honey Buzzard London Brompton Cemetery 16:40 pale morph flew west

08:08 22/05 European Honey Buzzard South Yorkshire Wombwell 07:50 one flew WNW

May 21st: cooler today at 18C but after dull opening with a light shower it became very sunny again. Didn't do too much today; raptors are never so good in day 2 of a fine spell; always better after a a day or 2 of lockdown due to bad weather! Have though sorted out most of yesterday's results, up to 16 Honey-buzzard sites now in the study area compared to 19 in the whole display period last year, running up to 19/6/19, when I was away ½ the time! So data collection is impressive this spring. But getting increasingly fed-up with the cautious attitude towards opening up the economy again; the precautionary principle can be taken far too far. The Oxford camp on the virus, led by Prof Gupta, is suggesting today that restaurants could reopen now without risking public health. Professor Sunetra Gupta says coronavirus epidemic 'on way out' and urges rapid exit from UK lockdown

In an interview, Prof Gupta called for a "rapid exit" from lockdown and said the coronavirus epidemic was already "on the way out". Much of the UK population may already have been exposed to the virus before the Government ordered people to stay at home, she added.

I'm increasingly amazed at Nicola Sturgeon's tone. She comes over like John Knox, a Calvinist and founder of Presbyterian Church, speaking against anything people might enjoy and loving the imposition of petty rules. She's a puritan through and through. A blog item The battle of Braveheart by weegingerdug sums up her approach:

I try very hard to keep out of disputes between independence supporters. They’re unproductive, all too often puerile, and only serve to benefit opponents of independence. But sometimes you just want to scream at people. There is a strain of puritan middle class self-righteousness within certain sections of the Scottish independence movement which would make John Knox seem like a louche libertine. They say that they want independence in order to improve the lives of working class people in Scotland, but they are sneery and dismissive of any manifestations of anything that working class people actually enjoy.

Had long chat with 'kids' on fb video; encouraging son to take Bedpan (Thames Link!) to Kingston to have a day in Richmond Park with daughter and family. The 'girls' are restarting school on 1/6 in Kingston at the private school and nursery. In Scotland the schools closed in March and are reopening in mid-August – 5 months without education – what sort of concerned policy is that? I'm worried about the mental well-being of a number of people I know. I think concerts could be staged outside in the summer to improve our happiness: wine, women and song, so the hedonistic saying goes, detested by puritans but a good motto for some!! Moth trap on tonight and it's humming: they're all let go in the morning! Great trading update from North Sea oil producer ENQ today, in the sense they're not going to go bust: pushed price of equity and bonds up anyway! I'm getting ready to support any business that offers a half-legal mechanism for socialising!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

3 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, including as far N as you can get in UK; running total is 37+ this spring:

15:21 21/05 European Honey Buzzard Shetland Foula one

08:41 21/05 European Honey Buzzard Essex Holland Haven CP 17:50 male perched in bush yesterday evening

08:39 21/05 European Honey Buzzard Surrey Thursley Common 17:00 20/05 one flew west over south end yesterday evening

May 20th: hottest day so far with 25C max on light W breeze; sunny from dawn to dusk, amazing day: good for shorts and top off later at home, making more vitamin D! Made Wylam E by Stephenson's Cottage, a good viewpoint over several Honey-buzzard sites, from 11:15-13:00. Had a purple patch when a male Honey-buzzard was up with male 1s Red-footed Falcon 1  2  3  4 and a Red Kite 5  6 (10025), with a Common Buzzard also up with the Red-footed Falcon 7  8  9  10  11  12, all in rapid action from 12:09-12:10 with much mutual circling, diving, close attendance and showing of talons. Alerted to the display by 3 Crow simultaneously giving alarm calls. The Red-footed Falcon is missing a primary on its left wing, leaving quite a gap. The Red Kite and Common Buzzard are breeding here, with a pair seen of each; here's a Red Kite presumably entering its nest site area at 12:13 1  2  3 and a piccie of the habitat 4; here's a Common Buzzard exiting its site at 12:18 1  2  3. Also had a male Kestrel up over Wylam Horsley, climbing high at 11:47. So that's 7 raptors of 5 types, all in the immediate area except for the Kestrel. Total for Wylam area was 33 bird-types, including 4 Goosander drake, 3 Cormorant adult, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Mute Swan adult, 1 Moorhen, 2 displaying Oystercatcher, 10 Swallow, 7 Sand Martin, 1 yaffling Green Woodpecker, single singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Had 4 types of butterfly: 7 Small White, 4 Orange-tip (3 female, 1 male), 3 Green-veined White, 1 Small Tortoiseshell. The BH pub was open, with elaborate spacing procedures; didn't visit but a police car was parked there, maybe the officers having a pint but more likely doing a Calvinist patrol! Drove through Ryton to link up with the A695 in Blaydon and then followed same route as last week. Traffic was heavier outside the City but still very light around Quayside and the Centre. Kittiwake numbers and area occupied were very similar to last week. Total for all birds was 6 types from 13:15-14:50: 880 Kittiwake, 59 Feral Pigeon, 11 Herring Gull, 4 LBBG, 3 Crow, 1 Blackbird. Had 2 types of butterfly on Quayside: 3 Small White, 1 Small Tortoiseshell. There were more people walking and cycling by the side of the Tyne but way below normal levels. Came back along A69 and there over the road, just W of Throckley, at 15:10 was a female Honey-buzzard, high in the sky, looking quite skittish. Could add a 3rd Honey-buzzard for the day in the study area: the Muggleswick Common bird below is almost certainly a male breeding bird on the county boundary with Durham. Why male – because many birders seem to be able to identify 80-90% of males, but only 20-30% of females and 5-10% of juveniles. People need to read the literature: certainly the juveniles are in many respects a different 'species' to the males and the females are quite distinct. Got home at 15:30, had lunch, sunbathed in field, came back in and had a sleep: seemed the thing to do!! Place is spotless. Had an hour's chat with big sis on 'phone, which was good for the morale. The attraction is still there: she's gorgeous: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

3 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, running total is 34+ this spring:

16:01 20/05 European Honey Buzzard Cornwall Week St Mary one then flew north-east

13:56 20/05 European Honey Buzzard Dorset Radipole Lake RSPB one flew north

11:24 20/05 European Honey Buzzard Durham Muggleswick Common 09:40 one flew west [presumed male from Derwent Gorge breeding site patrolling the area]

May 19th: milder at 16C but keen W breeze and quite muggy though stayed dry in afternoon after early rain in the morning; some sunny intervals. Fencing progressed; neighbour GS said go ahead, accessing from our side, and we'll even do the cutting back of the shrubs; we have another field for the ponies while work is done; brilliant scheme she said!! Fascinating encounter – 2 dogs now --- she looks gr8: home for leggy birds!! Had a brief recce from 13:00-13:20 over the Devil's Water from home, picking up a male Honey-buzzard going out to hunt to S at 13:13, a Red Kite, hanging over the woodland edge at 13:14, and a Common Buzzard up towards the E at 13:18. Also had 4 displaying Swift, a singing Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Tree Sparrow (3 nest holes in my house), a pair of Greylag Geese. In afternoon went to Prospect Hill from 15:10-17:25, looking out for Honey-buzzard at Farnley but none seen again; cannot be back yet. Did though have some success to S with a pair of Honey-buzzard up over Eastwood Common fairly low down in active display in the breeze from 16:28-16:29 1  2  3  4; they're presumably from the March Burn; pairs will sometimes display in sheltered hollows even, just to get rid of pent-up energy (lockdown relief!); the male dashed up and dived down again at the start of the display (10023). From 16:44-16:49 a lone female Honey-buzzard was up high to E of Minsteracres, moving W to come in over the ridge to the site here; could not see a male here but she was flying strongly 1  2 (10024). So up to 13 sites now holding 10 male, 9 female. Total for trip was 18 species, 17 of which in main tetrad, including 2 Whitethroat, 3 Yellowhammer, 2 Goldfinch. Made a short visit to the local Honey-buzzard site at dusk keeping to the lane from 21:00-21:50 but no sounds or views: quite subdued! Funds are doing well on mixture of new and old – tech and oil – at +15k in 1st 2 days of week, reducing loss on year to date to 11k (1.0%). Need to be selective in tech, for instance Airbnb and Uber not a good idea, and some like Zoom may be overpriced! Oil is benefiting from switch from public transport to private car for perceived safety; airline fuel is way down but that's only 7% of the total market; production has been heavily cut to balance the market. Wasp sting having almost faded away flared up today and used copious amounts of TCP to bring it under control; must have been some toxins injected; anyway more comfortable now. So 2moro is another exciting Wednesday: xxxx XXX!!!!!!

May 18th: a dull day with light rain at times but ground is still rock hard, max 13C, light W breeze. Today was the day of the 70m fence on the N side of my field: 'phoned up MJF and he came round an hour later to inspect; recommended completely new posts with stock-proof wire fence to repel ponies and sheep. The 38-year old fence is to be taken down and scrapped. He 'phoned up later with quote of £860 including VAT for the whole job, which I accepted. It will be done in c14 days time and will take 2 days to complete. I need to contact neighbours to ask for access for him through their field as it will be easier that way; also I need to clear some scrub encroaching on the existing fence and give them a few days notice of the start of the job so they can organise their 2 ponies. It will improve the appearance of the area – good for both parties (and MJF)! Completed compilation of moth records for Oakpool 3/8/2019 so onto last data sheet now for last year, that for Shilford 8/8/19. Indexed and uploaded to server the Honey-buzzard piccies from 16/5 at Bywell below; they show aggression to Common Buzzard by Honey-buzzard. Watched Abigail talk about the plight of the Sage at lunchtime; quite sobering really; thought the section on the abandoned trip by the RNS to Asia which took 3 years to plan was heartbreaking. Delighted to be getting more highlights from the Festival!! 2moro will be out for Honey-buzzard in the afternoon; on Wednesday cleaner S is coming in morning so will be going E again for varied fare!! Keep fit and safe: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

Latest thoughts on virus. There have not been any 2nd waves yet in the world so maybe they are not inevitable. All the modelling is based on Spanish flu, where observations and data were quite muddled at times and the world was in a dilapidated state at the end of WW1 with much enforced movement of weakened populations. The virus may not be that viable in the long run; in the natural world it's well known that organisms can run riot for a while before their numbers collapse; the virus will itself be open to attack by other viruses and chemicals: that's nature! In any event treatment will improve all the time and there may even be a vaccine this autumn. The infectivity of the virus seems to be similar to TB with prolonged close exposure really dangerous; incidentally expect an upsurge in TB cases in deprived areas over the next year where people have been crammed far too close together for a long time in the lockdown.

The computing techniques used at Imperial College for the modelling are amateurish; the coding structures would fail a computing science exam. Testing has been rudimentary and when real computer people got hold of the code they found it was non-deterministic, giving different results under different computing environments. Should we really be basing decisions that cost/save lives and billions of dollars on such flimsy modelling. Sweden used a much more relaxed version of the lockdown and does not have the severe issues of how to exit a drastic lock-down. Epidemiology is not a hard science; it's a soft science more akin to economics as behavioural aspects are a large part of the modelling. The NHS app on which they are basing a lot of hope should be scrapped and replaced by Apple/Google apps, written by professional software people with no centralised database to be used for spying purposes. The NHS app will not be interoperable with countries using the Apple/Google apps, such as most of Europe. Politicians who used to boast about being innumerate have had their inadequacies exposed, particularly when relying on The Science: there's no such thing with alternative theories and ideas in abundance.

4 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides today, running total is 31+ this spring:

21:17 18/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Sandwich Bay 17/05 one flew over Green Wall yesterday evening

15:15 18/05 European Honey Buzzard Cornwall Rame Head 09:35 one flew in off sea and headed west

11:47 18/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Kingsdown 11:30 one flew north

11:44 18/05 European Honey Buzzard Kent Walmer 11:35 one flew north-west

May 17th: bit warmer than yesterday at 13C with keen edge taken off the moderate W breeze, dry, mostly cloudy. Did a lot of gardening, mowing down the outer grass bed near the shelters and a substantial feral mint outcrop; also cleared a path through to my seat in the middle of the field so can still get there when grass grows; like eating my lunch there! Have a few piccies of the garden, which will post tomorrow, including lots of mole hills; I think the dry weather has forced the moles into damper areas such as where there's a soak-away. Saw the mole-poisoner today at my neighbours; think they've done a few in! I'm too soft really: got stung by a queen wasp today when put my hand on the arm of the sofa; it didn't come to much with prompt cold water and soothing cream; I then let the wasp go outside alive to make, in due course, lots of lovely wasp grubs for the Honey-buzzard! Am planning to have the whole of my almost 40-year old fencing on the N side (70 metres) replaced by a contractor, who could also look at the roadside where there are a few gaps. The W side is an impenetrable jungle so no action needed there.

Documented below the 3 YLG at Grindon on 14/5, quite a task but saves a lot of time in long run if do it when memories are fresh. Produced up-to-date Red Kite data (also below) – very encouraging results. Finished going through moth piccies from Oakpool 3/8/2019 and completed id and labelling; need to add results to MapMate, then just 1 data sheet to go. Will join Sage presentation tomorrow lunchtime; expecting ideas for revenue and getting performances underway again. Did donate 500 last week as regular 3-monthly payment as principal partner and 100 the month before in response to appeal. Enjoyed the Bach adagio very much: the series must continue!! Weekend was not so bad: some rousing moments!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Red Kite running totals and map: since 4/5, 6 Red Kite at 6 sites in Hexhamshire, Tyne Valley. The map shows my records from 1/3-16/5 in study area, in green. Have added 5 tetrads (in red) from N&TBC bulletin for March. So altogether 35 tetrads occupied in SW Northumberland: now settled down to breed!

4 more Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides in last 2 days, running total is 27+ this spring:

19:56 17/05 European Honey Buzzard Suffolk Felixstowe16/05 one reportedly flew south yesterday afternoon

12:37 17/05 European Honey Buzzard Anglesey Amlwch possible flew high west over Amlwch Port

18:50 16/05 European Honey Buzzard Somerset & Bristol Yeovil one flew north over east side

09:55 16/05 European Honey Buzzard Norfolk Sidestrand female flew over and continued inland over Northrepps

May 16th: it wasn't too nice from the human point of view, sunny up to early afternoon but a very cool moderate NW breeze keeping the temperature down to 11C max, remaining dry. But the raptors loved the polar air: went to Bywell Cottagebank from 12:35-14:25, walking the lane alongside it, rather than do the distant watch from Stocksfield Mount. In a fantastic day had a total of 6 raptor-types (13 birds), only get that a few times a year and more is just about unheard of. Being closer to the site was an advantage as could get piccies at shorter range. Totals were Common Buzzard 4 (3 in N part of wood 1, 1 in S part), Honey-buzzard 3 (pair display, plus a male migrant, moving NW from 13:35-13:38, towards A68), Hobby 2 (pair in brief but very active display at 13:06 1  2  3  4, 1st of year), Kestrel 1 (adult male at 13:02 out to huny 1), Red Kite 1 (up briefly at N extreme of wood at 13:30, new site for tetrad this year, but used last year), Sparrowhawk 1 (adult male flushed from copse 1  2). Did look out for Osprey, which moving today along the Tyne, but none seen; that would have given 7 types! Total was 28 bird-types, including 10 Swift, 2 Garden Warbler, 4 Oystercatcher, 4 Goldfinch. Did feel cold by end; made Peggs4shop at 14:50 and W4shop at 19:00, latter had enormous queue at 15:00 so decided to go home to warm up and come back later when no queue. And lit fire this evening to make it cosy! Watched film Disturbia on Film 4, following The Martian last night; enjoyed both but particularly tonight's. So plenty more to follow … But time for bed … could do with some lovely company: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

Here are some piccies of the action at Bywell: Honey-buzzard – Female up at 12:49 1  2  3. Male up at 13:12, floating over the site; he's missing inner primaries on both wings, not moult 4  5  6  7  8. Pair up at 13:15 with brief interaction 9  10. Male challenge Common Buzzard at 13:18 11  12. Male attack Common Buzzard at 13:20 13  14 (10021). Male moving through NW at high altitude from 13:35-13:38; he's looking down a bit so maybe admiring the territory 1  2  3  4  5  6; getting ready for the A68 into Scotland (10022).

Here are the exciting leaf mines (blotches) on birch of the Eriocrania micro-moths that I've been studying recently: Eriocrania semipurpurella at Dipton Wood, 3 on 8/5, 2 on 10/5 1  2  3  4  5  6, Eriocrania unimaculella at Grindon Lough, 2 on 14/5 1  2. The larvae are hyaline (glass-like) presumably to reduce their predation by birds. The key for their id is at The unimaculella have a darker head than the semipurpurella; well that's what it says! .

May 15th: weather very similar to yesterday; cool breeze but sun was good and out sunbathing on the patio for an hour at lunchtime in shorts and with top off! Spent a lot of time looking at the masses of gull piccies from yesterday at Grindon Lough. Sleeping on the idea that the (darker) cachinnans on 29/4 there was present again, joined by a paler 1s cachinnans, with a michahellis 1s (Mediterranean-type) also present. It's a very good Lough for YLG in general. The cachinnans come from eastern Europe. We (N/N/D) had our virtual pub meeting from 17:00-18:30 on Skype; lots to talk about so a good exercise; line quality wasn't too good for the 1st hour but then improved as presumably work pressures abated. We did wonder whether the W will actually ever re-open; sure quite a lot of pubs will close for good. Interesting that the NE now has the highest rate of Covid infection in the UK but there was some good news for the region:

A flagship Nissan plant in Sunderland could be used to make Renault vehicles as part of a deal between the two car-making behemoths - boosting to the fortunes of thousands of British workers. The two companies - which operate under global strategic alliance - have opened talks to transfer production of the Renault Kadjar and Captur models from Spain to the North-East as part of a wider shake-up of global operations. Renault is mulling plans to dramatically cut its vehicle range, axing its Espace minivan in a €2bn (£1.8bn) cost-saving plan to be unveiled later this month. Moving production of Renault models to Britain’s biggest car plant would send a strong signal over Nissan’s commitment to the UK as the Japanese carmaker prepares to cut global production by a fifth.

Resuming Honey-buzzard work tomorrow and need to go shopping and do some gardening; expecting weather to remain on the cool side but dry. Funds fell back after rise at start of week, finishing -1k after a torrid day for markets on Thursday. The ftse 100 was down 2.3% on week. Oil is recovering as a commodity but the shares still seem shell-shocked! So loss on year is 26k gross (2.3%) compared to falls of 23.1% for ftse100 and 28.6% for ftse 250. The £ is weak on doubts about our competence in handling the virus and on Brexit worries (again!). Have 23k cash for opportunities! Expecting to be out more this weekend and in the week ahead: life needs to be stepped up: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

May 14th: warmer yes at 13C max through strong sunshine and continuing dry but still a cool NW breeze and occasional cloud; still did get the shorts on, knees are quite tanned! Looked at piccies from yesterday and the male Honey-buzzard at Wylam gave a good series (10020), particularly at the start when he was mobbed by 3 Jackdaw; they're published below. Today made Grindon Lough from 14:15-16:25, a long visit here because there were a remarkable 3 1s YLG (2 cachinnans/ 1 michahellis) present and they each needed to be documented (see below). Other gulls were 5 LBBG (4 adult, 1 2s), 2 Herring Gull adult, 9 Black-headed Gull adult. A Common Buzzard was up over the conifers to S and the waders were interesting with 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 3 Redshank, 2 Dunlin, 5 Lapwing, 1 Curlew, that's 6 types; ducks included 2 Wigeon drake, 2 Teal, 6 Tufted Duck (3 pair), pair Shelduck; another brood of Canada Goose was noted with 4 young 1; total for bird-types was 28. Another Common Buzzard was up over Greenshaw Plain at 14:05 and a Yellow Wagtail was at Houtley, in the 'Shire, on the way out at 14:00. Hexham was much busier with more cars and people about. Season-wise we're up to 10 Honey-buzzard sites, not bad and with few distractions from trips away should get some good coverage this year. Cleaner S made the place sparkling; think the extra payment is well worth it in the current circumstances. Was gr8 yesterday to visit the big city; might study the Kittiwake once a week!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Here's piccies and notes for the YLG:

First the Caspian Gull first-summer, bird A, same as one here on 29/4, active at W end, maybe doing some feeding on bugs and small fish in the submarine weed. Notes: bill: all black, long, thin, no gonydeal angle; eye: dark with no mask; tail: white except for some mottling and wide subterminal band, narrower on sides where whitish; head: almost pure white; belly: protruding in flight; underbody: some mottling; legs: yellow tinge, very long including tibia; head shape: small and rounded; hind neck: a few mottled markings; scapulars: grey with dark brown-black diamonds; saddle: extensive grey coming through the brown moult: P10-P4 intact, P2, P3 missing, P1 growing; 2y complete; wear: carpal, tertials and primaries are only dark parts on bird at rest; primary tips: almost uniform dark brown but paler brown on inner primaries; tertials: solid dark brown with white tips; secondaries: strong dark 2y bar; greater coverts: obvious greater coverts bar but not as dark as 2y bar, some grey emerging, white tips; median coverts: white tipped; underwing: not much contrast though slightly darker on carpal side of wing, fairly plain. 1  2  3  4  5  6  7

Second, the Caspian Gull first-summer, bird B, not here when I visited on 29/4; at rest on middle of N bank most of the visit but did do one foray to NW side in flight before returning so also feeding within the Lough. Notes: compared to bird A, this bird has a completely pale underwing, paler plumage overall with weak greater coverts bar but still strong 2y bar; standing alongside LBBG adults, showing similar attenuation but bird B is larger with much longer legs, flesh legs with a slight yellow tinge, more boxy head in some poses. 1  2  3  4  5  6  7

Third, the Mediterranean Yellow-legged Gull, bird C, not here when I visited on 29/4; at E end perched throughout, no flight action. Notes: stocky, protruding chest, legs long but tibia not so strikingly lengthy, short stubby bill with gonydeal angle, eye is dark within a mask, quite pale grey plumage on mantle, yellow tinge to legs. Shows same advanced plumage for the season as the Caspian Gull but bird C has different structure with heavier, shorter bill, dark eye within a mask. Would have liked to see it in flight, looking for marked contrast but it looked very settled. 1  2  3  4

Another Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides, running total is 23+ this spring, 1st for Scotland in this reporting series:

14/05 20:20 Highland : European Honey Buzzard, Kingussie one flew over Gren Tromie

I was very surprised when I checked the BT stats to see what the most downloaded item in volume (bytes) was from my web site as a whole over the last 6 months: Rheingold (The Müpa Ring, Budapest, 20-23 June 2019, Wagner: Fanfares before each Act: clips) on Home Page for whole site. Brings back such memories of the excitement of concerts everywhere!! This is of course the start of the Ring, tension and anticipation everywhere! F..k the Honey-buzzard: arts rule OK!!

May 13th: another perishing day at 8C max, some sunshine late afternoon but grey earlier, light to moderate NE breeze. Got stuck into Tyne Valley E. In reduction in area covered did downgrade this section but it gives an interesting contrast with the 'Shire and Tyne Valley W, with its proximity to the Newcastle/Gateshead conurbation and ultimately to the North Sea. Started a little late at 11:30 in WA Prudhoe, where great views over Whittle Dene but no action; moved onto the footpath by the bridge that goes over the bypass in Prudhoe E where have good views over 3-4 Honey-buzzard sites. There were just a few walkers around but quite a few cyclists, on balance quite quiet; Prudhoe Golf Club was packed! Did have some action in this watch from 11:45-12:50. Had a Honey-buzzard female coming out of Whittle Dene, drifting to E and soaring high from 12:05-12:07; she was up again at 12:18 but keeping to the W side of her territory this time 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 (10019). A Honey-buzzard male was up over Wylam Horsley Wood from 12:38-12:41 arriving from the Prudhoe direction in the company of 3 Jackdaw who were mobbing him; he came straight up over the Tyne riding the orographic lift from the Tyne banks, going to considerable height and hanging there 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19 (10020). So we have a female at one site and male at another and it appears their mates have not returned yet: so do they behave – think they do, never seen any display in such circumstances! Suspect courtship outside the external display in the air carries on at greater intensity close to the nest so the 'pair' would have to be close to the nest for mating to occur. Of course if their mates do not return they may amalgamate but Honey-buzzard have a cunning ploy for filling vacancies: a wave of younger birds without territory flying at lower altitude is the final stage of the spring migration and they will be recruited by lonely males and females, possibly in their natal area but also elsewhere to keep the gene pool turning over!! Also had a Red Kite up on the N horizon NE of Horsley at Rudchester, a well-established site, at 12:28. Total for bird-types at Prudhoe E in the tetrad was 17, including 6 Swift, 1 Chiffchaff, 6 Herring Gull, 3 Linnet. Drove into GHD via A695, Skinnerburn, Swing Bridge, parking at South Shore where CP was free and I was only car for a while; roads in the city were quietest I've ever known them but more traffic on the major routes outside, particularly long-distance freight. Stayed from 13:15-14:45. Quayside was really quiet, no problems with social distancing! Found main adjustment was to keep fingers away from face and mouth in absence of washing facilities: think achieved with some extra concentration! Sad to see the Sage arts building locked down; the IT company Sage produced excellent ½ year results today: hold 2059 shares of these. Kittiwake seem to have taken on a few new buildings with the lack of people, counted 820 birds, mainly sitting on ledges. Also had 3 other species of gull: GBBG 1, LBBG 3, Herring 17, plus a Cormorant. Passerines comprised 28 Feral Pigeon, 2 Woodpigeon, 1 Crow, 1 Blackbird, 2 Goldfinch, so total of 10 bird-types. On way back on A69 had a Red Kite up over Anick, NE Hexham, gliding down from a dot in the sky at 15:15 reinforcing the idea of this place as a regular breeding site. Egger are running again or at least smoke was coming out of the chimneys at its chipboard factory in Hexham. So great day, really enjoyed getting back into exciting parts: she's gorgeous: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!! 2moro afternoon at 14:00 is actually when cleaner S is coming this week, so will be out then, it's getting warmer (not difficult!).

May 12th: well 7C max is not good for May with frost at dawn (allegedly!); some sunshine but heavy showers with hail in evening, which stopped my grass-cutting just as getting going! Not out today, processing all recent records as below so up to date, even including the 5 Eriocrania semipurpurella larvae found in the blotches on birch in Dipton Wood. Lit the fire for 2nd time this week in the evening – very cosy, makes the house very welcoming! 2moro out and about again – certainly want to be a Lert as planned yesterday: xxxxx XXX!!!!!! Funds still recovering gently, +4k in 1st 2 days of this week, sold a few high-flying tech stocks this afternoon as profits too tempting, bought small amounts in a couple of short-haul airlines EZJ, RYA in the morning.

Another Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides, running total is 22+ this spring:

12/05 16:04 Kent : European Honey Buzzard, Sandwich Bay one flew north

May 11th: again very cool at 8C max but sunny in afternoon, dry, moderate NW. Lovely polar air, very popular with raptors, can see for miles (km?). With sun fully out it felt just about OK but even the smallest cloud would send the temperature plummeting. Made progress with Eriocrania leaf mines, actually finding a few larvae in the box in which I collected them so think I've sorted 1 species now this spring, to add to another last summer. So back (not too long away) to the Honey-buzzard today, finding the male perched from 15:30-15:37 in a tree top at the local site 1  2  3  4  5  6 (10016) as left to go deeper into the 'Shire. Like before he just dropped off the perch when ending his sentry duty; the Crow have obviously been subdued for now. Target for walk was a Slaley Forest site where had a Red Kite hanging high over the site in hunting mode from 16:08-16:15 and again around 16:37, followed by a female Honey-buzzard up in display from 16:33-16:37, a new site for the year but a familiar one as it's one where I locate the nest. The female was quite frisky in the stiff breeze 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 (10018); she's a ruddy colour with dark primary tips; evenly-spaced tail bars are visible on 4,7,8. Total for tetrad was just 15 bird-types in stiff, cool breeze, including a Whitethroat (migrant?), 2 Curlew. Coming back towards home stopped at Steel for a look down the Devil's Water from the W and soon had my local pair up for a bit of display form 17:00-17:01, the male just above the female who drifted off S on her own at moderate altitude 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 (10017); piccies 1,2 show the pair, 4 the male alone. Polar air is good: 3 Honey-buzzard and a Red Kite!! Also at Steel looked at the pond and had a pair of displaying Redshank, 2 anxious Lapwing (with chicks probably), 7 Mallard with a duckling, a Moorhen adult with chick, 1 Grey Heron. So plenty to document, which leaving for tomorrow. Joined in a Rotary meeting by Zoom where talk was from Heart Wood, a local charity supporting men with depression by bringing them to a woodland setting where they can talk to each other openly about their problems; one of them (shown on a film) was a birdwatcher I've known for years, pretty shocked by that, we've always been good buddies! We had 22 members for the meeting; thought some looked pretty terrible and 2 non-appearers have had serious illness in the last 2 weeks. Made W4shop at 19:00, spending £37, and had stroll around Hexham; some shops don't look as if they're going to reopen: stripped of everything. Very pleased that any solo outdoor exercise is permitted from 13/5: that's fine with me: think on Wednesday will stick to Wylam (11-1) and Quayside (1:30-) as plenty to do there and can leave the coast for a later trip, maybe further N. So looking forward to that: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Another Honey-buzzard on BirdGuides, running total is 21+ this spring:

11/05 13:27 Isles of Scilly : European Honey Buzzard, St Mary's possible flew over Hugh Town towards quay [?]

May 10th: temperatures plummeted overnight from 13C at 23:00 9/5 to 4C at 06:00 10/5. Had MV moth trap on until midnight when it went very quiet! Had a little rain in the morning on a very cold fresh NE breeze. It brightened up in the afternoon but still only 5C and went for walk from 16:20-17:35 on S side of Dipton Wood. It exceeded my expectations with the male Goshawk up over the site already established this spring from 16:55-16:56, soaring high in the breeze, such powerful fliers 1  2  3  4  5  6  7. A little earlier at 16:49 a Common Buzzard was chased by a Crow over the Goshawk site and a little later at 17:00 a Honey-buzzard male was up over a wood to NW of the Goshawk's, going high just once but generally keeping low behind some power cables 1  2  3  4  5 (10015)! Hope they get on: Goshawk sometimes eat young Honey-buzzard though no evidence for this in the study area where masses of easier prey available for the Goshawk. Total was 24 bird-types including a singing Skylark, a displaying Greenfinch (rare now in 'Shire), 8 Yellowhammer, a displaying Curlew, 5 Goldfinch. On way to Dipton Wood S stopped off briefly at Dipton Wood N to collect some samples of blotches on birch leaves, attributed to Eriocrania micro-moths, as wanted to see if any larvae were present and have found 5 -- Eriocrania semipurpurella! Actually completed processing another moth data sheet from 2019, that for 17/8 at Kellas, so just 2 more to do now for last year. Think my tidy-garden neighbours (not VE ones) are going crazy: he wants to cut my verge but it's got daffodils and wild flowers on it so I said just cut the very edge if you must. He's trying to treat it as a shared resource but I put him right on that: the verge alongside my house and garden is my freehold though of course the highway authority have loads of powers over it. There's a regrettable rancher mentality in parts of the 'Shire with verges mowed, not for safety, but to keep things neat. Fortunately Juniper the next village still has verges full of flowers, including masses of daffodils, so I'm siding with them! He's also put little windmills on the molehills on his lawn: not for fun I suspect but getting ready for the mole-poisoner! I think they've been locked down too long and I bet there are simmering tensions like this all over the country, which in its effects will rival Covid-19 in illness by the summer and autumn. So some relief from lockdown outside is very welcome: will celebrate on Wednesday by visiting, in the car, Wylam, Quayside and the coast at St Mary's Island, leaving here at 10:30 just before cleaner arrives and taking a picnic, with nothing indoors. Fancy a change!! So maybe more fun: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

From BirdGuides 3 more Honey-buzzard migrants in the S, bringing running total to 20+ this spring:

10/05 14:00 Hampshire : European Honey Buzzard, Sarisbury Green circling with Red Kites before drifting west (12:59)

10/05 15:02 Devon : European Honey Buzzard, Exminster Marshes RSPB one flew over this morning

10/05 17:02 Oxfordshire : European Honey Buzzard, Dix Pit probable flew north (15:08) [?]

May 9th: yet another fine day, last for a while, max 19C, light NW breeze, polar air, popular with raptors; shorts on, shirt off! Not too much happening at base so decided to go into Hexham for little shopping and walk around. During the walk as moved into the Shambles looked W towards the Abbey and there high up just below the cloud base over to the W of the Sele were 2 Honey-buzzard, a male and a female, moving slowly and deliberately N against the light NW breeze. I followed them from 13:50-13:59 until lost in the sky to NW as they climbed through a large clearing in the cloud to go even higher 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19 (10014). 12-14 are the clearest; as they moved close to the S side of the Abbey (in profile) was able to boost magnification with the field area clearly defined; the female is above the male at the start but in 12-14 the male is the higher bird. On the last 5 slides (15-19) the birds are just faint dots, moving to a colossal height. My guess is that they are losing height as they cross the Tyne with slight wind against, few thermals and no orographic lift, but are then picking up thermals and orographic lift over Acomb and rapidly regaining height, probably moving up the North Tyne and Redesdale on their way to Scotland; think some follow the A68! So that was inspiring! Decided to have a look at Letah Wood on way back from 14:10-15:10 where can view 2 Honey-buzzard sites but no birds seen at either. Did have a Red Kite soaring high over Swallowship at 14:37 and 15:07, a Common Buzzard up strongly at Letah Wood at 14:48 and a Tawny Owl calling at daytime from Letah Wood itself. Total for visit was 21 bird-types, including a yaffling Green Woodpecker, 3 House Martin N, a Mistle Thrush carrying food, a Sand Martin, single Blackcap and Willow Warbler. Sat in the chair in my field from 15:15-16:00 having lunch but no further action seen. So quality today with 5 raptors of 4 types. Very pleased to receive another email: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!! Had long chat with big sis on 'phone: it's good to keep in touch.

A Red Kite suspected tragedy in the Hexham Courant for 03/05/20 – Red kite disappears in suspicious circumstances:

Fears that a red kite could have been illegally killed in the North Pennines have been raised by wildlife experts. The young bird had been fitted with a satellite tag at Rowlands Gill in June 2019 and had since been monitored by the RSPB. The bird, nicknamed ‘KK’, toured northern England, making it as far as the Peak District, then returned north and has been faithful to the Derwent Valley region ever since. KK’s tag had been functioning normally until it suddenly and unexpectedly stopped transmitting. The last fix came from an area of driven grouse moor near the Derwent Reservoir on April 17. It has not been heard from since. Inspector Ed Turner, the lead for wildlife and rural crime for Durham Constabulary said: “The fate of this red kite is not yet clear, we are working with the RSPB to establish what has happened since its transmitter unexpectedly stopped on April 17, 2020. Until we can rule out the possibility that a crime has not been committed, then we will be taking this matter very seriously ...”

A very sad tale if persecution has occurred but not sure that I would have gone in so prominently on this one as it's not entirely clear what's happened; the Derwent Gorge/Carterway Heads area is attracting a lot of Red Kite as per N&TBC March bulletin below and may be becoming a flashpoint; think some discussion with the landowners would be a useful exercise. While the FoRKers are good in getting publicity from missing kites, it would be useful to see them taking survey work more seriously; they have not published any recent population data or estimates; if they published up to date figures we would have more perspective on how the Red Kite is doing in NE England – very well! About 80% of Red Kite born in 2019 should still be alive in summer 2020 according to RSPB data for England in general so first-winter mortality is usually quite low. Certainly with the Hen Harrier, which is so hated by the shooting fraternity, circumstantial evidence such as that for the missing Red Kite is nearly always to be believed; question is – does the same situation hold for Red Kite.

More records from BirdGuides, this time from S/SE England. Running total is April 5+ [BirdGuides 4, Eurobirdportal 1+], May 12+ [BirdGuides 11, Eurobirdportal 1+], total 17+ [BirdGuides 15, Eurobirdportal 2+] compared to 9 by 09/05/19 [BirdGuides only].

09/05 15:18 Surrey : European Honey Buzzard, Capel one flew east (15:05)

09/05 15:21 Suffolk : European Honey Buzzard, Aldeburgh possible flew north-east over golf course then dropped out of view (14:45) [?]

09/05 16:01 London : European Honey Buzzard, Woodford Green one flew south-east (12:43)

09/05 18:00 Kent : European Honey Buzzard, Whitstable one flew over

May 8th: another fine day, 18C max, light W breeze, sunny nearly all the time; definitely shorts-time and top off as well for a while. Did a lot of gardening, sprucing up front and cutting some branches in the back to make it easier to mow. Honoured to receive some cake from a VE family party being held nearby: very thoughtful and appreciated!! Had trip out to N tip of Dipton Wood from 15:10-16:40; marvellous view over to confluence of Devil's Water with Tyne at Swallowship – isn't Northumberland wonderful! Was checking on the butterfly Green Hairstreak in a new site that I found last year. Great to find 12, mostly worn females laying eggs, at this late date 1  2  3  4  5. Also had an Orange-tip female. Birds included this male Kestrel 1  2, a singing Curlew and 9 other types, 11 in all. There is a Honey-buzzard site nearby but none seen. The b.....d landowners have put barbed wire across the path at its entrance: it was easily circumvented! The path lacks legitimacy but it's not as if users are doing any harm in the expansive woodland. Had 75 minute chat on Skype as virtual W pub visit with N/D: good for the morale! Very pleased to hear from someone!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

Funds had a good week at +10k on continued rise in techies; oil, which is major interest, mostly in junk bonds, is in recovery mode from a very low level; also building up a stake in global healthcare. The oil wars between US, Russia and Saudi Arabia took a new Trumpain twist yesterday with the US removing some Patriot anti-missile devices from Saudi, designed to shoot down Iranian missiles attacking Saudi's oil infrastructure. So the US may be looking for higher oil prices to save its fracking industry through a war in the Middle East: this is real politic of the highest order, revenge for Saudi trying to destroy the US shale industry! The Saudi prince MBS is facing the bankruptcy of his country, not only with the oil wars, but also through the pilgrimages to Mecca having had to stop with the virus. Own position on year to date is now -24k gross (-2.2%) compared to falls in ftse 100 of 21.3% and in ftse 250 of 25.9%.

BirdGuides had some very interesting records with a Honey-buzzard at Prudhoe (!), 2 more in Durham and a Hobby at Corbridge!!

08/05 14:02 Durham : European Honey Buzzard, Waldridge Fell one reported flying north-west (13:51) [R]

08/05 15:00 Durham : European Honey Buzzard, Whickham one flew north-west (14:50)

08/05 16:09 Northumberland : European Honey Buzzard, Prudhoe one drifted west (16:06)

13:05 08/05 European Honey Buzzard Guernsey St Peter Port one flew over

08/05 19:00 Northumberland : Eurasian Hobby, Corbridge one hawking over bridge across River Tyne (17:15)

May 7th: fine day, 17C max, light W breeze, dry, quite cloudy midday after sunny start. Stayed home today for birdwatching. Main action was from 14:15-14:25 when cloudier. Two Crow dislodged the male Honey-buzzard from his lofty perch again at Ordley at 14:15 1  2  3 (1011). Well to the south, at Slaley Forest Dukesfield, a male Honey-buzzard was caught on camera in a massive dive at 14:18 with a pair of Common Buzzard below 1  2 (1012); this is a new site for the year. At the local site the female soared high from 14:21 to 14:25 1  2  3  4  5 (1013) but her mate didn't join her, maybe taking it easy after all the Crow aggro! She appears to have a damaged/missing P9 on her left wing since arrival; obviously flying well and no problem having got here now; it will re-grow, irrespective of normal moult routine. Went for walk down lane from 20:00-21:00 to spy on the site but no action detected. This Crow was unusually easy to catch close-up 1 maybe also shattered after war with the Honey-buzzard. The migration map for Honey-buzzard in Europe from 30/4-6/5 is interesting; large counts over 1000 are now in Eilat (Israel), Straits of Messina, Gibraltar, eastern Pyrenees. From the eastern Pyrenees there are 2 routes, the larger one to NE along the Rhone Valley and a smaller one to NW to the Loire Valley and then towards Normandy, giving potential springboard to the UK. There are many sightings of small numbers of birds in Belgium and the Netherlands and the 2 squares occupied in the UK are mine. BirdGuides don't contribute to the Eurobirdportal, otherwise there would be more dots in the UK. The birds in Israel will move overland to N, then NW to the Bosphorus to cross into eastern Europe and the Ukraine or N/NE to cross into western Russia. The Pallid Harrier map shows birds settling to breed in Finland and Sweden. There are scattered records elsewhere including my dot in UK. The recording unit for Eurobirdportal is 30x30 sq km. Did go shopping late afternoon, to Peggs 4 FT, HC, rw, twix; Dale Garage 4 petrol, only £44 to fill up, 109.9p a litre; W 4 shop, £35. Had gone into Co-op on 4/5 where spent £17 so less needed at W today. More people and cars around, garage said things were picking up but mixed messages from government. Renewed domain for Festival. Good thing is that car journeys are not being monitored much now, at least in daytime. Oh well time for bed: it's 01:51: lonely vigil will continue: but feeling more upbeat really: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

From BirdGuides 1 more Honey-buzzard migrant:

07/05 13:00 Cheshire : European Honey Buzzard, Congleton male flew low over A54 at Buglawton (11:40)

May 6th: wind round to light W so away from the North Sea; warm 16C max, dry; back to shorts and even shirt off for 30 min at home. Repeated walk from 11:05-13:25 along Tyne Green of 21/4 as wanted to check on Red Kite and for Honey-buzzard returns. A Red Kite was up at back of Anick hanging briefly at short intervals from 11:26-11:28. 4 Common Buzzard were up over hill overlooking the A69 roundabout at 12:19, 2 having come from the Hermitage where up initially at 12:15 and showing well. Star of the day was a distant male Honey-buzzard over Beaufront, appearing at 11:25 high in the sky where floating well for 2 minutes after a long soar and at 11:37 lower down but no mate seen so a single bird at present (10010). No Honey-buzzard appeared above the Hermitage. In total of 26 types in tetrad had 7 Swift, 2 Blackcap, 5 Oystercatcher, 2 Moorhen, 3 Sand Martin. Total for visit was 28 bird-types. Butterflies were good, getting 6 types: Orange-tip (11, 6 male, 5 female), Speckled Wood (1), Peacock (1), Green-veined White (1), Small White (1), Holly Blue (1, increasing in Tyne Valley, piccies 1  2  3). Had a long chat with a fit runner while she was doing the stretches: she was interested in the bird watching as her father was into falconry with Harris Hawk: we kept our 2m distance!!

Large numbers of Red Kite reported in March in N&TBC bulletin:

Red Kite Milvus Milvus

Nine sightings involved at least six birds on 23rd at Carterway Heads (IFo), with three birds there on 21st and two on 4th and 16th (IFo). Single birds were noted near Whittle Dene on 4th (PCF), Derwent Reservoir on 8th and 31st (IFo), Snods Edge and Weetwood (Wooler) on 9th (IFo/DF) and one flew South over the estuary at Alnmouth on 10th (MH/AA). On 12th birds were seen at Minsteracres and Low Waskerley(AJ/AJN/IFo), Carterway Heads on 13th (IFo), Slaley Forest on 13th -15th (PCl/RMH), Holburn Moss on 16th (RA), Chain Bridge (Horncliffe) on 18th (MHu) and Blanchland Moor on 20th (PCl).Singles were also observed at Causey Hill (Hexham) on 21st (PRC) and at a confidential site in the north of the county (EHa); one flew S along the promenade at Whitley Bay on 23rd (IJ) and at Airy Holm Reservoir (Shotleyfield) on 27th (IFo).

It looks as if there is a significant gathering around Carterway Heads, near Derwent Reservoir, in early spring, maybe getting ready to move further into Northumberland in the 'Shire and Tyne Valley. Perhaps Carterway Heads is a staging post This adds c5 sites in the Derwent area to my current running total of 29 sites, making c34. New sites for me for the year are Carterway Heads, Derwent Reservoir (Derwent Gorge?), Snods Edge, Airy Holm, Minsteracres, all clustered to SE of the areas I've surveyed. Wonder what the April bulletin will show: that's probably the peak month. My latest summary is for 4/5:

Since 25/4, 10 Red Kite at 8 sites in Hexhamshire, Tyne Valley, South Tyne, Allen picture. The map shows all records from 1/3-4/5 in study area. 28 tetrads occupied in SW Northumberland: not finished yet!

Spoke to 'kids' on fb video link: daughter's genuinely not too worried about losing her job with Virgin; it was a lot of hassle driving from Kingston to Gatwick and she can concentrate more on the girls! Her husband's working at home at the moment: he's an oil trader with the Russian oil company Gazprom (based in St Petersburg) and is progressing well with them! Son who works for Herts Uni says that applications for computing science and engineering are sky-high for next year, with many international candidates. He's also working from home, his recently acquired flat in Welwyn. So life sort of goes on: happier when the weather is really nice like today: miss social life, especially the concerts: hope the gorgeous ones are keeping fit: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

With Prof Neil Ferguson's misdemeanour the saying from comedian Robin Williams seems relevant (to us all!!): “The problem is, God gave man a brain and a penis and only enough blood to run one at a time.” If we judge him by the company he keeps: Antonia Staats, 38, is a left-wing campaigner who works for US-based online network Avaaz. One of the hot topics at Avaaz is to secure 'A Green Corona Recovery!' So maybe that's the agenda! Have to say that women around her age are incredibly s.xy!!

From BirdGuides 2 more Honey-buzzard migrants:

06/05 12:00 Dorset : European Honey Buzzard, Poole one flew over garden late morning

06/05 12:01 Hertfordshire : European Honey Buzzard, Whempstead one over Chapel Farm then flew east (11:15)

May 5th: cool 12C max, cloudy in morning, sunny in afternoon on moderate E breeze, dry. Spent a lot of time on the Pallid Harrier finding there was actually a pair together in one piccie with a female circling the adult male. The female also showed up in a few other piccies. Wonder if they arrive paired-up or do they look for a mate when in suitable habitat. Have they over-wintered in Africa? They nest on the ground in cereal fields or on moorland. Well we've got plenty of the latter but the 'keepers hate harriers though the smaller species, such as Pallid, feed on small mammals and birds, probably not taking many grouse chicks. Pallid Harrier is of course fully protected at all times as a Schedule I species. All pretty mind-boggling!! Have an idea of suitable moorland for them further W! Here's a map for 23-29 April 2020 from Eurobirdportal showing them in large numbers in Finland, reasonable numbers in southern Sweden, Belgium and Netherlands with some in Italy maybe migrants out of Africa. Russia is not in the scheme. Found this information in the literature:

Distribution and population [of Pallid Harrier]

This species breeds primarily in the steppes of Asiatic Russia, Kazakhstan and north-west China. Small populations breed in Azerbaijan, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine. A minority winter in south-east and central Europe, north Africa and the Middle East but most migrate to the Afrotropics and the Indian subcontinent (Thiollay 1994). The global population is estimated at 9,000-15,000 pairs (Galushin et al. 2003). Records in northern and western Europe have increased in recent years, with regular breeding now taking place in Finland and wintering records in several other countries (Ollé et al. 2015).

Completed processing another data sheet from 2019 for micro-moths, that for Swallowship on 21/8, 3 to go! Funds had a good first 2 days of the week, with strong oil price – Brent +15% today from a low base, and continued support for tech stocks, on feeling that the digital world is set for further dominance in our lives. So +6k reducing loss on year to 28k (-2.5%). The oil price is rising on lockdowns being eased almost everywhere in the western world, with Asia and Australasia getting back to some normality and massive production cuts. Avoiding UK domestic stocks, other than techies, with Brexit cliff-edge coming up on 30/6 and the incompetent handling of the virus. Had long phone call with P; cleaner S is coming 2moro morning so will be out then for walk; giving her regular £10 a week bonus now while scare is on for the extra trouble she takes in sterilising surfaces. Sadly daughter may well be losing her job at Virgin Atlantic as she's based in the Gatwick division, which is to be closed entirely. Talking to her tomorrow on fb video along with son so will find out more. So gloomy times for the human species contrasting with the natural world's bubbling enthusiasm in the middle of spring. Three nice days weather-wise coming up: lok2t beauties: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

May 4th: cool 10C, light to moderate E breeze, sunny, occasional misty patches in sky, dry. After big catch-up on bird records in morning, made Warden for a walk by the South Tyne from 15:50-17:45. Was an interesting walk to put it mildly: the 1 rarity as a male became a pair on closer inspection of the piccies! Had 2 Common Buzzard: over Warden Hill briefly at 16:20, another by South Tyne, plus a Red Kite on top of Warden Hill at 16:58, coming low into presumed nest. No Honey-buzzard were seen at Greenshaw Plain though this is a most regular site. Hirundines were common with 33 Sand Martin, 17 Swallow, 5 House Martin, plus 2 Swift. Goosander featured well: one female with 5 young on her back and 1 nearby 1, another female 2 with 2 larger young, an adult drake. Other riverine birds included a Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 11 Mallard, 3 Grey Heron, 4 Oystercatcher, plus target for day a Common Sandpiper 1, caught on a stone at the death! Total for the Warden square was 31 bird-types, including the first singing Whitethroat for the year.

The vital action was further to the S towards Hexham High Wood (Westwood) where there is a Honey-buzzard site. At 16:05 I picked up a male Honey-buzzard over High Wood moving N. At 16:06 the male was joined by the female and, over the South Tyne, they circled rather quickly around two more birds, which appeared to be flying W at moderate altitude just under the misty cloud. However, these 2 birds didn't just sail on, they circled with the Honey-buzzard for 2 minutes before slowly drifting off W; there was no real aggression by anyone but the Honey-buzzard did appear to have intercepted them. The extra 2 birds were strikingly different from each other: pale and dark. The pale bird had a wingspan similar to that of the Honey-buzzard but was very much lighter in weight and with narrower wings with just 4 primary tips protruding. The wing tips were raised above that of the inner wing, which was flat. The plumage at the long range appeared all white, no grey, except for a small black wedge on the wing tip, coming to a point on the middle of the outer wing. The head was small. I think it was a male Pallid Harrier, a species from the Russian steppe, which has been spreading W and is forecast to breed in the UK soon. I have seen them before in Ethiopia and in South Africa. Honey-buzzard and Pallid Harrier both overwinter in Africa but they only compete partially there with the harrier usually preferring open steppe-like countryside and the Honey-buzzard more wooded areas but in some scrubby areas they do meet so maybe there is a little history here (species-wise)! The dark bird was very similar in structure and size to the male Pallid Harrier and is identified on this basis and their association as a female Pallid Harrier. Here are the piccies of the Honey-buzzard pair alone from 16:06-16:08 1  2  3  4  5, the Honey-buzzard and the Pallid Harrier male together from 16:06-16:07 6  7  8  10  11 (8 shows the upperside of the harrier's left wing), the Honey-buzzard and the Pallid Harrier pair at 16:07 9, the female Pallid Harrier on its own drifting W from 16:07-16:08 12  13  14 (no plumage features discernible except possibly on 14 with hint of white rump and a reddish-brown hue to underside) and the Honey-buzzard male up on his own at 17:20 15  16  17 (10009). Without having both the male and female harriers in the same frame on 9 would have been apprehensive in claiming a pair with the different lighting on each picture. Have added sighting of the harriers to BirdTrack as a sensitive species in a remarkable encounter. At the end of the visit the male Honey-buzzard was back over Westwood again to the S. We have another Honey-buzzard site and maybe the Pallid Harrier pair are prospecting the County of Northumberland! Total for trip was 33 bird-types. So that was a superb tonic: another seems to be that the lockdown will end after Sunday or it will just disintegrate!! lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Pleased that the shadow Sage has got under way. Its members said on Monday that the government needed to make clear whether its objective was to suppress or manage infections of Covid-19, saying the two required very different processes and it was unclear which the government is pursuing. Boris is very fond of treating the virus like a war, looking to defeat the virus absolutely, but this is unrealistic: the virus is likely to be part of our environment for a number of years and we've got to learn to live with it. Not very keen on the NHS app being marketed. It uses a centralised database and could in practice be used to spy on people, for instance sending you a message that you've been out too long. It's also not compatible with the Google/Apple app competitor so lacks interoperability if say you go to the continent in the future. The Google/Apple app only stores information on the phones so privacy is better. The NHS app has all the hallmarks of the abandoned NHS EPR (Electronic Patient Record) which cost billions, reinvented the wheel and was not interoperable with other systems. There are also worrying parallels with smart meter software; we do have very good software engineers in this country but they always seem to be sidelined in procurement processes with cheaper solutions that are not durable being adopted by the managers. BTW I do have a few shares in GOOG/AAPL!

May 3rd: dull, quite gloomy at times, heavy slow-moving showers, some sunshine early-on, 11C max, light N. So not a great day for soaring raptors! Decided to check the local site from 13:40-15:40 and again found standing on the tops of tall trees to be a popular pastime with a Red Kite just after the start of the walk at 14:10 1  2, a Common Buzzard at the end of the walk, and the male Honey-buzzard again from 15:20-15:30 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 (10008). The Honey-buzzard was mobbed heavily by 3 Crow who eventually knocked him off his perch but he was fairly resilient. Who's the king of the castle? Also had a male Sparrowhawk in display overhead 1  2 at 15:05 so that's 4 raptors of 4 types, quality not quantity. Total for session was 31 bird-types, including Dipper (1), Tree Sparrow (4), Chiffchaff (3). Cleared one of the 5 outstanding sheets for moths in 2019, that for 18/08/19 with leaf mines in garden at Ordley, so 4 left to do. Backlog is disappearing rapidly and keeping up with new records: would rather be in the pub though or at a concert!! Thinking of the gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

Very pleased that The Science is now to be tested more in the open:

Rival Sage committee to make case for use of facemasks and quicker end to lockdown. Chaired by Professor Sir David King, the group will stage a press conference to be broadcast on YouTube before the Government's briefing. A rival Sage committee will on Monday back the public use of facemasks in a live-streamed meeting designed to embarrass the Government for its alleged lack of transparency. Chaired by Professor Sir David King, the chief scientific advisor from 2000 to 2007, the group will stage a press conference to be broadcast on YouTube just before the daily Downing Street briefing, in which it will present the evidence for a quicker end to the lockdown. The committee has been established following criticism that the membership of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies [Sage], and the advice it gives to ministers, is broadly secret. The rival group will include experts from countries that are beginning to lift restrictions while keeping the virus at bay, as well as a former World Health Organisation director and a sitting advisor.”

May 2nd: mild, 12C max, light W breeze, some sunny intervals with strong sunshine but mostly cloudy. Great trip to Staward on the Allen, adding 2 displaying pairs to the year's total so up to 3 already. Staward and Ordley usually have the birds arriving at the end of April or in the 1st few days of May so it's as expected for these prime sites. Visit was from 12:10-14:45. On arrival at the farmland (not the National Trust property) besides the usual OTT anti-dog sign there was another sign: Stay at Home, Footpath Closed! Well the sign's illegal: there's no such action indicated in the Covid-19 emergency act; further the path only goes through fields so there's no risk of infecting a farmyard. So went through gate and only met 2 other people, a young couple, on entire walk: surprisingly quiet, they said! When finished walk there were 2 people lurking near the gate; I was thinking of photographing the sign but decided that might be provocative so just breezed past them; they looked shifty, said nothing, not seen them before, not the usual shepherd who I know well, maybe 'vigilantes'! The Honey-buzzard put on a brilliant display. From 12:28-12:40 3 Honey-buzzard were floating just under the cloud, moving just into the mist at times, comprising a male and 2 female some 1.5km to the E of Staward S so at long range. You cannot do a Honey-buzzard survey without picking them up and identifying them at long range. The pair mostly kept apart from the female who behaved more like a gooseberry! Display included follow-me, when one of the birds follows the other's manoeuvres, floating close together and mutual circling, nothing too energetic 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15 (10004). Should comment on the photography; same camera but developed a programme which on aperture priority (maximise depth of field at expense of shutter speed) and autofocus takes a burst of 3 shots on each press of the shutter, each shot slightly later in time; further the exposure varies through the 3 shots, from standard, through -1 underexposed to +1 overexposed. So it gives more chance of the birds being captured in a diagnostic position at an appropriate exposure. It means that the apparent darkness varies through the shots. I've made no attempt to adjust the photos further through software. Zoom goes up to x60 (optical) and x300 (digital) on this programme. The only drawback is that you have masses of photos to sift through: 311 today, 1.75 GB. After the display the pair drifted off N so presume they were from Staward N and the female came back a little towards Staward S so presume she was from there. Walked down to the Staward N site, wondering where they might nest after last year's forestry operations nearly destroyed their nest. 10/10 for felling operator who realised the tree had an active nest in it so late in the season; the nest in the lone surviving, highly exposed tree, was successful against the odds! The birds' movements did indicate the new position; never been in that area before; might need ropes! Here's the male flying just above the trees at 13:16 and 13:50 16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31 (10005) and the female likewise at 14:04 32  33 (10006); relative size and darkness is consistent with the pair seen high in the sky earlier; the female is significantly heavier than the male as in most birds of prey (sexual dimorphism); but such dimorphism is relatively weak in Honey-buzzard compared to say Goshawk. Finally starting walk-out picked up the missing male Honey-buzzard at Staward S from 14:08-14:10 34 (10007). Maybe he had a headache earlier or he has just arrived! Other raptors were 7 Common Buzzard (3 Staward S, 4 Staward N), 1 Sparrowhawk (female at low-altitude, hunting at 13:00 at Staward S), 1 Red Kite (soaring out of wood at Plankey Mill at 13:40, so kites moving now into Allen). Total for trip was 13 raptors of 4 types. 3 Raven were prominent in the gorge 1  2, clearly nesting there. Also had, in total of 27 bird-types, a singing Pied Flycatcher, 3 singing Willow Warbler, 9 House Martin, 4 Meadow Pipit, 7 Curlew, 3 Lapwing, 1 Swift. 2 butterflies were seen: a Green Hairstreak (new site at Staward N, anyway for me) and a Small Tortoiseshell. A Wheatear was on a wall at Stublick.

Did do quite a lot of shopping: Peggs for FT, HC, Twix, crisps, rw; W for medium shop £42 including some discounted steak and milk, which read about in FT. So had steak, chips and peas for supper, very tasty, with rw! More steak in the freezer. FT was very gloomy about prospects; think everyone agrees in short term, debate is over pace of recovery, remembering that parts of Asia are already in much better shape. The US with its inadequate health service for the poor and the UK with its inadequate care system for the elderly look now as if they'll be the worst affected in the world. Both countries also have very high rates of obesity, which is evidently a key indicator for survival prospects. Hexham is quite a lot busier and so are the roads. 2moro will stay local but there's always plenty of interest up in the sky!! lok2t beauties: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

From BirdGuides: 02/05 11:14 Hampshire : European Honey Buzzard, Casbrook Common pale phase flew west (10:50) [later deleted by observer apparently]

May 1st: warmer than expected at 12C max, particularly in bright sunshine around lunchtime; heavy showers in late afternoon, light W breeze. And then there were two!! From 12:57-13:00 a pair of Honey-buzzard were up over the Devil's Water, the male (yesterday's bird) was way above the female who was accompanied by a Common Buzzard 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 (10002); the male went considerably higher with the female some way behind but still climbing as well and the Common Buzzard struggling to keep up; I eventually lost sight of both Honey-buzzard, first the male and then the female. At 14:10 the male decided to put on the butterfly display, doing some wild diving and rearing high up to the W of the site; at the top of each climb the male clapped his wings behind his back. This didn't last long but certainly impressive 1  2  3 (10003). Total for birds was 21 types. So that's marvellous: no time wasted!! Finalised my butterfly records for 2019 and sent them to the Recorder. RN thought the Green Hairstreak and Purple Hairstreak records were very interesting – new sites in Dipton Wood N and Oakpool respectively. Changed the home page for Honey-buzzard so that 2018 results are covered by a link, 2019 is moved over a column to left and an almost blank 2020 comes in on the extreme right. Need to initialise the spreadsheet, that is the basis for my data, for 2020 records. Had good chat with N/D as virtual meeting at the W pub, again 75 minutes! So Honey-buzzard scene is very exciting: after 2 days at home will be away 2moro checking another site and drifting into Hexham! It's the best I can do in the circumstances: lok2t gorgeous ones: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!

Funds had a reasonable week, rising strongly at the start and losing a little in last 2 days of market attrition but still +13k overall, mainly on rises in junk oil bonds and tech stocks. On year now -34k (-3.1%) compared to falls of 23.6% in ftse 100 and 26.4% in ftse 250. Oil is interesting: it's been the worst sector affected by Covid to date because of the lockdowns on movement and cessation of air traffic and the automated oil pumping, meaning Covid doesn't affect the supply; but forced cutbacks in production are now very large and the lockdowns across the world are being relaxed gradually. Suspect more people will use their cars than take public transport for a while so that could increase fuel usage. So oil could be FIFO in the crisis!! That's what you want as you can then move on into recovering sectors, later in the cycle such as housebuilding and pubs. Air travel will not recover quickly at all but it's not a big user of fuel, compared to cars. Have concentrated on North Sea oil companies, which are very competitive, can easily transport their oil by sea and are not big enough to have to participate in cuts at the world level. Have 100k in tech now, including investments this week in some UK digital game companies; suspect Covid will give a further long-term boost to e-commerce. Advising N on his flat in NCL which he wants to keep until the Covid crisis is over but no longer. The agency today sent him an email in response to his email of a week ago ordering him out by 11/5 when AST finishes. I reckon they need to issue a Form 6A with minimum 3-month's notice from date of issue under Covid-19 regulations so suggested he responds, pointing this out and requesting some (sensible) negotiation!

April 30th: we have a new force in the land!! Continuing cool at 10C but wind lighter and a few sunny intervals, showers. Stayed local today, don't want to get a reputation as roving too far! Had a male Sparrowhawk floating over garden, looking in territory at lunchtime at 12:40 and a Common Buzzard soaring twice at Dukesfield at 12:35 and 16:45. Then the big moment: the male Honey-buzzard returned to site in Devil's Water, sitting on a tree at 16:49 where stayed until 17:00 before dropping off the perch 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 (10001). He's the same bird as occupied the site last year and looked as if he'd just arrived, perusing the site from the E, unusually inactive, maybe needing a rest after all that flying from equatorial Africa. A Crow was on top of a tree immediately, watching every movement of the Honey-buzzard 11. This male Honey-buzzard has a Kestrel-coloured plumage with uniform underside having no pale breast band, a grey head, sparsely-barred tail extending beyond primaries with protruding tip, short legs, small head. The neck is thick, suggesting his crop is full with a recent meal. Indeed he looks in fine fettle! It's great to have the season underway!! Earlier had spent an hour from 15:45-16:45 overlooking last year's actual site and had concluded it was unoccupied before arriving home, doing a final check and seeing the male c1lkm from last year's site to the E in the tree. Near last year's site had a Jay calling, obviously warming up for the aggravation ahead! At dusk the Crow were calling angrily in last year's site so the male was presumably going to roost there! I next need, on the home page, to archive the 2018 year, now complete with Baden-Baden records, and introduce the almost blank 2020 year, a pleasant task!! Also today did final check of data sheets for 2018 looking for missed records and found a batch for 18/11 from Burnham Beeches, Bucks, of bird records, just after I'd returned from Colorado – bit jet-lagged maybe. Added these. Transferred all butterfly records for 2019 from my Northumberland database held under MapMate into a spreadsheet for submission tomorrow to Recorder. Moth records for 2019 will be complete after I've processed 5 outstanding data sheets, with micros and leaf mines records, which need to be handled with care! But I'm way ahead of last year, timing-wise! Here's migration map across Europe for Honey-buzzard from 23/4-29/4, showing hotspots as Straits of Messina (both sides), Israel and Gibraltar [Eurobirdportal]. Had long chat with little sis from Devon; the SW has been the least affected of any region by the virus, even Bristol is largely unaffected. Might be low pollution since rural areas in general seem to be less affected but Bristol has illegal pollution levels. Have virtual session in the W 2moro at 5; lok2t beauties: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

April 29th: cold, 8C max, cloudy all day, moderate SE breeze, spell of rain late afternoon. Went to Grindon Lough, alongside Stanegate, near Roman Wall, an upland lough. It was very bracing today so out in full winter battledress. List was impressive – 30 bird types – Caspian Gull (1), Yellow-legged Gull (1), Pheasant (2), Canada Goose (24), Greylag Goose (5), Mute Swan (1), Shelduck (2), Mallard (7), Teal (7), Wigeon (10), Tufted Duck (12), Little Grebe (3), Oystercatcher (2), Lapwing (3), Golden Plover (25), Curlew (3), Dunlin (5), Redshank (6), Greenshank (2), Black-headed Gull (14), Great Black-backed Gull (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (3), Rook (2), Carrion Crow (7), Sand Martin (8), Swallow (10), Willow Warbler (1), Blackbird (2), Song Thrush (2), Meadow Pipit (3). Total 30 types. A pair of aggressive Canada Goose were escorting 2 chicks 1. The gulls were the most interesting with a Caspian Gull 1s 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11 : typical 1s bird structurally with long, fine bill, long pinky legs with yellow tinge; head very white, pale underwing, grey upper back (this species seen well in Bulgaria); and a Yellow-legged Gull 3s 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 : similar size to 3 LBBG with which it was associating (2 adult, 1 2s); darkish mantle but much paler than the LBBG; pinky-yellow legs, large mirror on P10, solid black area on wing-tip with band on P5; quite possibly an Atlantic bird rather than Mediterranean (this species seen well on many Atlantic holidays). The GBBG was a 2s, the LBBG 2 adult and a 2s, the Black-headed Gull were all adult. Grindon's a great place for gulls, must go there more!

Have completed butterfly record compilation for 2019; need to check all entered by running through the data sheets and then will send to Recorder. For moth records for 2019 have just 5 data sheets left to finish. Shows what can be done without a social life but feeling a bit dull! Did have chat with B (from G) on 'phone in morning; he and his wife cannot go out at all so are really suffering! Decided to do a little shopping in Hexham on way back getting razor blades in Boots where only a few allowed in at any one time and an assistant who was helpful but was really making sure you didn't dally too long to keep the pace up! Also made Peggs for FT, 2 Twix and more SB rw!! Hexham looks like a film set for a disaster movie! Re-insured car from mid-May for another year with Budget again at £250, 9 years NCD with protection, fully comprehensive. Saga were offering £226 but without NCD protection so too little in it to be worth the trouble! Sure someone will be scornful!! The crate of course is not really worth anything but if get a new car would like to switch over a fully comp policy. So hope others are having a better social life than me: not difficult: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

Another Honey-buzzard from Yorkshire [BirdGuides] so keeping an eye open but all peaceful in their local nest-site this evening.

29/04 19:01 North Yorkshire : European Honey Buzzard, Ulshaw one reported flying south [R]

April 28th: distinctly cool today but staying dry, mostly cloudy, almost calm, 10C max, lit powerful coal fire (8kw/h) and turned back on one storage heater! Thrown out by S, went for walk in Kellas N a little to E of Slaley Hall, from 11:05-13:05. Star bird was a male Goshawk, circling at moderate altitude moving W at 11:48; this is presumably the bird seen at Slaley Hall earlier this season. The other raptor was Common Buzzard with 3 separate birds hanging high over the young wooded areas, clearly hunting. Had a Green Woodpecker alarm calling, 1st for year, a Lesser Redpoll, 13 Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff with single Skylark and Curlew singing. Total for bird types was 20, with 1 Roe Deer on the mammal side. Had long 'phone call with P while in the forest, which was good for morale! Wonder when G and C are re-opening!! xxxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

This record on BirdGuides today looks very promising, coming my way:

28/04 16:00 West Yorkshire : European Honey Buzzard, Leeds one flew north-east over Leeds Ring Road by Weetwood (15:00)

Funds +11k on first 2 days of week, reducing loss on year to 36k (3.2%) and best level since 6/3. General markets recovering well; think oil market is bottoming out at a desperately low level; good pickings on a 6-month view here IMHO. Have cash of 63k which feeding slowly into more speculative issues as we appear to be risk-on!

April 27th: cooler today 12C max, sunny intervals, big dark clouds at time but stayed dry, light W breeze. Some sort of record for Red Kite today with 4 birds visible from my house at roughly the same time from 14:27-14:41 at 3 local sites: 2 displaying over Blackhall Mill and singles soaring at Dipton Wood S and Slaley Forest Dukesfield. Had one more Honey-buzzard report in UK: Dorset/Hampshire border on coast from map, April 23-29, count 1-5, noted first on portal on 26/4 [Eurobirdportal]. Over 1000 have been recorded in the same period (counts for April 23-27) at the Straits of Messina (Italy) and 100-1000 in Israel and at Gibraltar. So the Honey-buzzard are pouring N out of Africa into Europe and western Asia at the 3 main entry points; the longest sea crossing is from Tunisia to Sicily. See map here. Did join the R Zoom meeting, 27/40 present, quite a credit. We had a talk about the effects of coronavirus on refugee camps, particularly in Somalia and Syria. Had lengthy 'phone chat with big sis and a shorter one with P. Made W4medshop, cost £46, much better as food fresher. Delighted to get some more Bach: marvellous!!! Signed up for 3 more years as pp at RNS at 500 a quarter, sponsoring MG as viola section leader. Said would add to appeal donations on a monthly basis. Not sure if some lasses realise it but slightly wild look is a great turn-on: morning after!! Cleaner S is coming tomorrow so another walk in the morning. Keep fit: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

April 26th: cooler, 14C max, settled, moderate W breeze. Went for moderately long walk at Prospect Hill from 12:20-14:05. Quite bracing there as exposed with good views over Tyne Valley and March Burn. Right by a Honey-buzzard site, indeed 2 in view, but none seen: getting a little on tenterhooks! Did have some good action on wooded ridge to S: at High Plains with Common Buzzard up to E (2 birds, 13:30) and W of tetrad (1 bird, 13:04); 1 bird chasing off a Red Kite on E side, at 13:31; 1 bird on W side up at 13:04 in display. Red Kite: at High Plains: 1 bird chased by a Common Buzzard on E side at 13:31; a pair of Red Kite up on E side in display at 13:15. Also in tetrad being visited: Red Kite single seen near end just on S side of ridge near mast at 13:42, chased by a Crow. So that's Common Buzzard 3, Red Kite 3; both the sites for Red Kite are new for season but were occupied last year. Total for Prospect Hill tetrad was 22 bird types including Skylark (3), Lesser Redpoll (1), Chiffchaff (2), Cormorant (1 SW), LBBG (3 adult), Lapwing (1). Did some more gardening when got back, cutting off more dead wood from that Flowering Currant, which is not well but there are strong shoots to its side so I'm making space for them. We have a Rotary meeting by Zoom tomorrow, which will join. Also need to return a couple of 'phone calls! When will it all end: the sooner the better: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

The cv debacle seems to be taking a decisive turn with more countries and states opening up, sometimes against the advice of health 'experts' with the economy being given greater prominence. The FT was scathing in its weekend edition on the long-term underfunding of UK care homes “Inside UK care homes: why the system is failing its coronavirus test. Frail residents in overwhelmed sector emerge as the hidden victims of the Covid-19 crisis”. The staff are paid so poorly that they have to carry on working even if they believe they've caught the virus. The Conservatives have completely failed the sector in their 10 years of austerity, establishing no unification with the hospitals in the NHS and no proper career structure and training. Sweden remains the hate-child of every country which has employed total lockdown. The more relaxed policy there is still not guaranteed to be the way forward but social life and the economy have benefited so far. See: “Stockholm will reach 'herd immunity' within weeks: Claim comes amid bitter debate over success of Sweden's relaxed approach” Interesting test findings came from New York State “New York Finds Virus Marker in 13.9%, Suggesting Wide Spread: The weighted results showed more than 1-in-5 New Yorkers testing positive, as well as 16.7% of those in Long Island and 11.7% of those in Westchester and Rockland counties. The estimates showed 3.6% testing positive in the rest of the state.” So herd immunity may be more easily achievable than some experts reckon. A radical viewpoint came from Israel: “Coronavirus dies out within 70 days no matter how we tackle it, claims professor. Prof Isaac Ben-Israel claims that his analysis shows that the virus is self-limiting and peaks at 40 days before entering a rapid decline” Sounds far-fetched but some diseases do behave in this way, for instance cholera where a virus attacks the bacteria as the outbreak develops, eventually controlling the cholera. Finally in the Oliver Cromwell comparison: forgot this extract from the cited text “Despite all these rules, Cromwell himself was not strict. He enjoyed music, hunting and playing bowls. He even allowed full-scale entertainment at his daughter’s wedding.” The word hypocrite comes to mind! So lots of ideas. There is no such thing as the science; put 10 scientists in a room and in difficult areas like this you get 3-4 schools of thought. That's better than economics where you'd have 10 schools of thought! Above all though is the UK's lack of preparation for a pandemic: “Public Health England's plan for coronavirus 'totally negligent', says leading specialist”. The article quotes on the Cygnus exercise: “ministers were informed three years ago that Britain would be quickly overwhelmed by a pandemic amid a shortage of critical care beds, morgue capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE). Codenamed Exercise Cygnus, the three-day dry run for a pandemic carried out in October 2016 tested how NHS hospitals and other services would cope in the event of a major flu outbreak with a similar mortality rate to Covid-19. Dr Ashton said the ongoing failure to prepare was "totally negligent".”

April 25th: fine day, light W breeze, max 18C, cloudier late afternoon, continuing very dry. Had a good birdwatch at lunchtime 13:00-14:00 from my garden seat in the middle of my field. A single Red Kite glided into Blackhall Mill at 13:39; at 13:45 a pair were up floating around effortlessly; this site is 1km from my house, a new site for Red Kite and the closest yet! Summary for Red Kite (last 2 statements):

Since 15/4, 18 Red Kite at 11 sites in Hexhamshire, Derwent and Tyne Valley, where found regularly around Bywell with its mixed woodland and farmland (pictured). The map shows all records from 1/3-25/4 in study area. 24 tetrads occupied in SW Northumberland: more to do!

Since 5/4, 9 Red Kite at 7 sites in Hexhamshire. Moorland edge is popular as in piccie. Also shown is map for all records from 1/3-15/4 in study area. 15 tetrads occupied in SW Northumberland, plenty more to find!

A single Lesser Whitethroat 1  2  3 was on top of tall far hedge from 13:00-13:45, rattling call given once, may be a migrant but habitat is good. Also had a pair of Garden Warbler and a dark-bellied Brent Goose flying N at 13:10 at moderate height. 2 Tawny Owl were calling loudly at 22:00. Stayed at home today except for brief trip to Peggs for FT, HC, Twix and rw. No Honey-buzzard locally or in the UK generally! But looking at Eurobirdportal 1 from 16-22 April this year shows that Honey-buzzard are well into France and Belgium and Hobby into England up to Humberside. Anyone can look at the portal at Newcastle Quayside looked busy on the Daily Mail's web pages: time for a visit soon in the daytime; could drive in: would be stimulating: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

Another Honey-buzzard on its way [BirdGuides]:

16:01 25/04 European Honey Buzzard Jersey Jersey 10:55 one flew over Beaumont

April 24th: perfect spring day today with sunshine from dawn to dusk, 16C max, light E breeze; have to say when look out of bedroom window at dawn for 30 seconds that the car has had a frost on it for the last few days so almost certainly a ground frost; then back to sweet dreams! Haven't had any more vivid nasty dreams since commented on them; decided to go to bed at 2 as usual and the old routine seems to work better (as said in the article!). Decided to do some serious birdwatching at Stocksfield Mount from 10:55-13:10, where fine views across the Tyne Valley to Bywell and had best birdwatching of the year. Had 5 Swift moving through NW (1st of year), 7 House Martin N (plus 1 at rest), 7 Swallow feeding, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff. But it was the raptors that starred. Top of the list was a pair of Goshawk up at 11:57, circling over the Tyne high-up, with the male up again on his own at 12:04, presumed from Short Wood area. Never seen so many Sparrowhawk in Northumberland: a female at Shilford, a female at Whittle Dene, a male over Cottagebank, a male over Short Wood, a female and male over Guessburn, that's 6 birds (3 female, 3 male) at 5 sites, all adults in display. A male Kestrel was up over Merryshields. Red Kite totalled 5 birds at 4 sites, all on the ridge to the N of the main Tyne Valley: 1 soaring at Mowden Hall, 1 flying low-down at Short Wood, 2 soaring together to NE of Short Wood at Whittle Dene, 1 soaring to E of Whittle Burn at Horsley W. Common Buzzard totalled 10 birds at 6 sites: 1 up at Shilford, 1 up at Peepy, 1 up at Cottagebank, 2 up at E end of Short Wood, 2 up at Bywell Castle, 2 soaring, plus single bird, at Whittle Dene. So that's 24 raptors in the area of 5 types: 10 Common Buzzard, 6 Sparrowhawk, 5 Red Kite, 2 Goshawk, 1 Kestrel. The lighter breeze enabled thermals to form, encouraging the birds to soar. There were 4 Honey-buzzard sites in view and no birds back yet, same applies at the home site at Ordley. The car park at Stocksfield Station had just 2 cars in it, including mine; my drive was 15km! There were far less walkers than usual presumably because the main car park for the local woods has been cordoned off. Back home did a little gardening and then had 75 min chat with Welly mates on Skype; all worked well and good to have a proper discussion. So feeling more upbeat in general after the good day!! Something missing though: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

Funds have required a lot of attention this week as wonder whether the partial rebound in markets is justified as Covid drags on. So have been selling some stocks, vulnerable to a further downturn, raising 67k in cash to increase flexibility. If there is a further leg-down you need cash to be able to capitalise. Have retained all tech stocks, indeed adding AMZN, and bought a few more health ones. Decided to take the opportunity to ditch housebuilding stocks after they rose 10% on the resumption of activity; worried about Brexit transition cliff-edge at end of year (yes, again!) and ability of homebuyers to be able to go ahead with purchases. Overall result in a slightly negative week for markets was a drop of 1k, making loss on year 47k (-4.2%) compared to -23.7% ftse 100 and -28.5% ftse 250.

April 23rd: not quite such bright sunshine today but a little warmer at 15C with lighter E wind. Still no Honey-buzzard back but would be early, I've got 28/4 as a more likely date. Did have 1st Garden Warbler singing from far hedge in field today; lovely, associate the long Sylvia-type Garden Warbler song with Honey-buzzard as they both like small unimproved fields with high hedges: they co-occur! Did go into Hexham town today for a look around and a bit of shopping at Peggs. It looks bad with so many shops shut already; how many will reopen is a serious question. Planning to go further afield tomorrow morning to Stocksfield to check on the local raptors! Then have Skype session with my mates from Stocksfield later. Meanwhile plenty of xxx from the 'Shire: thinking of you: xxxxx XXX!!!!!

April 22nd: another fine day, same as yesterday, but 1C warmer so 14C max. Again not any thermals but an incredible blue sky. Took it easy, no trips out today. Kept a close eye on the local Honey-buzzard site but no tension in the crows yet. Funds by end of today were -2k on week; don't hold any oil futures such as USO; the dramatic negative prices for WTI grade (West Texas Intermediate) resulted from holders of what they thought was virtual oil (futures) finding no buyers as the time came to convert to physical oil on 21/4 as storage was full; the ETF USO has lost 80% of its value in 2 months. There's been some very serious money lost in the oil crash, tens of billions of $. Can the losses be absorbed without dislocation? Had great chat with son and daughter on fb video call: lovely to see and speak to them, plus a few cheeky interruptions from granddaughters! lok2t fancied one: xxxxxx XXX!!!!!!

One thing surprisingly not commented on more is the resemblance of life under the lockdown to life under the Puritans c1650. These excerpts come from History Learning Site: Life in England under Oliver Cromwell Sections in bold have relevance for today; those in bold are very relevant for the history of Ireland and for me! The 'Climate Emergency' alarmists are also puritans: no wonder I don't like them!

Cromwell was a Puritan. He was a highly religious man who believed that everybody should lead their lives according to what was written in the Bible. The word “Puritan” means that followers had a pure soul and lived a good life. Cromwell believed that everybody else in England should follow his example.

One of the main beliefs of the Puritans was that if you worked hard, you would get to Heaven. Pointless enjoyment was frowned upon. Cromwell shut many inns and the theatres were all closed down. Most sports were banned. Boys caught playing football on a Sunday could be whipped as a punishment. Swearing was punished by a fine, though those who kept swearing could be sent to prison.

Sunday became a very special day under the Puritans. Most forms of work were banned. Women caught doing unnecessary work on the Holy Day could be put in the stocks. Simply going for a Sunday walk (unless it was to church) could lead to a hefty fine.

Cromwell believed that women and girls should dress in a proper manner. Make-up was banned. Puritan leaders and soldiers would roam the streets of towns and scrub off any make-up found on unsuspecting women. Too colourful dresses were banned. A Puritan lady wore a long black dress that covered her almost from neck to toes. She wore a white apron and her hair was bunched up behind a white head-dress. Puritan men wore black clothes and short hair.

Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment – especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were banned.

Despite being a highly religious man, Cromwell had a hatred for the Irish Catholics. He believed that they were all potential traitors willing to help any Catholic nation that wanted to attack England (he clearly did not know too much about the 1588 Spanish Armada).

During his time as head of government, he made it his task to ‘tame’ the Irish. He sent an army there and despite promising to treat well those who surrendered to him, he slaughtered the people of Wexford and Drogheda who did surrender to his forces. He used terror to ‘tame’ the Irish. He ordered that all Irish children should be sent to the West Indies to work as slave labourers in the sugar plantations. He knew many would die out there – but dead children could not grow into adults and have more children. Cromwell left a dark stain on the history of Ireland.

By the end of his life, both Cromwell and the 11 major-generals who helped to run the country, had become hated people. The population was tired of having strict rules forced onto them. Cromwell died in September 1658. His coffin was escorted by over 30,000 soldiers as it was taken to Westminster Abbey where he was buried. Why so many soldiers? Were they there as a mark of respect for the man who had formed the elite New Model Army? Or was there concern that the people of London, who had grown to hate Cromwell, would try to get to the body and damage it in some way?

Can elaborate on the effect of Cromwell on the Irish Catholics. The Anglo-Norman Catholics, who had gone native, were the main landowners in Ireland within the Pale, from 1169 when Strongbow invaded the country; beyond the Pale were the marauding Irish tribes led by wild chieftains! The Rossiters were one of these landowners, holding significant estates in Wexford, based on Rathmacknee. After the massacre at Wexford, Cromwell dispossessed the Catholics of their lands, transferring them to English protestant mates. There was some restoration under Charles II but then along came William of Orange, who was even worse than Cromwell (Battle of the Boyne for instance, another vindictive massacre of Catholics, still celebrated today by the Ulster Orangemen), leading to the final confiscation of the Irish Catholics' lands after the Treaty of Limerick 1691 was not ratified by the Irish protestant parliament. My lot a Thomas Rossiter, grandson of John & Margaret (née Slevoy) Rossiter, last definite holders of the Rathmacknee lands as Catholics, appear to have settled in Tiverton, Devon, after the Treaty but had obviously secreted some assets as they soon became quite wealthy. They were Church of England now, no more religious affairs! But there was an early brush with the Church Court in Exeter: Thomas Rossiter and his wife Mary were found guilty of premarital fornication in 1713! Thomas was born in Wexford c1685 and probably had a good turn in Irish phrasing to describe these charges!

April 21st: weather same as yesterday but 1C warmer for max. Cleaner S came to spruce me up and home is a lot smarter! We didn't meet purposefully; I went on enjoyable long walk from 11:00-13:50 by the Tyne on Tyne Green in Hexham, meeting quite a lot of people I know for brief chats: good for the soul! The wind was a little too strong for raptors as it stopped thermals forming on which they soar so just had a Common Buzzard up over Hermitage N and a female Sparrowhawk hunting over the Tyne. Had 2 Red Kite sites in view but no action: either they've gone down on eggs when go quiet or were keeping low; not many birds were up in the air today. Common Buzzard are now seen in ones so they're onto eggs; Red Kite are still seen in pairs so nesting a little later, at least the migrant birds. Hirundines included Swallow (7), Sand Martin (5, 1st for year). Surprise star was Treecreeper of which had 3 1  2  3, 1st seen this year amazingly. Migrants comprised 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap and 5 LBBG adult to E. A pair of Goosander just downstream from the bridge showed well 1  2. More to follow … Made W4bigshop at 19:00, spending £60 this time; only planning for it to last 4 days as want a bit more spontaneity as to what I eat/drink! My cousin Steve posted on fb today to say that “Auntie Ann [92, had Covid-19] is back at the Care Home and doing very well, defying all the odds!”. Great news! Having a video chat session with son and daughter tomorrow early evening on fb; granddaughter S starts at Holy Cross prep school, Kingston, tomorrow in their online school; wonder if she'll be taught the catechism on day 1! So just about surviving and gradually breaking out: thinking of the gorgeous one: xxxxxxxxx!!!!!!

April 20th: fine, not a cloud in the sky, moderate cool E breeze, max 12C. Did some more gardening: clearing more dog rose around inner pond, snipping encroaching scrub on field, knocking off sides to old pool table and moving them to far hedge, cutting down some dead flowering currant branches, mowing grass around shed. So garden is looking better than for a long time. It's lovely to have a view of the pond from the N side of the house. The local Common Buzzard was up again at 13:40 looking quite truculent; they are on eggs now as only one bird up at a time and are nesting close to where the Honey-buzzard always nest: so expect some aggravation! Made Peggs again to overcome cabin fever, buying Times, 2 Twix, another Secretary Bird. 2moro cleaner S is coming in morning when I'll be out for walk; going to give her £50 (usually 30) as there's more to do! W4bigshop follows in evening, gone a whole week since last one. Gave Sage £100 for their cv appeal; worked out I'm giving them over the next month £290 for unused tickets, £20 for monthly donation, this £100 and £500 for principal flautist sponsorship so that's £910. Played the birds several times: very appealing: let's have some more!! Not convinced by government handling of cv: thought yesterday when Gavin Williamson was on the briefing slot, how do we have someone like him as Education Secretary when we have a population of over 50m adults; of course being a 100% Brexiteer is qualification no.1 for the current cabinet and what an ineffective bunch they are: no science and no engineering: all PPE (not protective gear: Politics, Philosophy, Economics) or Classics, worst government ever, totally out of their depth!! Anyway let's hope love finds a way: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

April 19th: another fine day, moderate ESE breeze, max 13C, dry. Today went further afield for a longish walk from 12:10-14:30, going to Baybridge on the Beldon Burn, a little upstream from Blanchland. It's actually only 10km from my house but the drive is significantly longer. Added 4 bird species to the year list: House Martin (1), Grey Wagtail piccie (2), Kingfisher (1), Willow Warbler (2). Also had two more sightings of Swallow (total 3) and single Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing. Raptors recorded were 3 Red Kite (at 2 sites, both new for year), 2 Kestrel (at 2 sites), 1 Common Buzzard. Much more to follow … Parked near the Baybridge picnic site, which was closed, but not too near; 2 families enjoying a picnic there had left with police out in force in the area; I parked near someone's house to make it look as if I was visiting them but anyway I was out for a decent walk (8km)! Back at Ordley at 15:00 had a Common Buzzard in an angry exchange with a Crow: an endless war soon to be joined by the Honey-buzzard. Varied TV fare in the evening: Jurassic World (fantastic film about dinosaur development on an island off Costa Rica, going wrong again!), Midsummer Night's Dream (hugely entertaining adaption of Shakespeare's play in a digital setting with natural woodland!), Saker Falcon conservation (Siberian Steppe, RT, valiant efforts by ornithologists to boost Saker numbers in the wild by placing young bred in laboratories in nests in the wild). Loved some other birds – very impressive: keep it up!! Wait will be worth it: xxxxxxxxxx!!!!! As a sign of misleading statistics people were asked whether they would go to a pub if they opened again. 16% said yes and 84% said no but many people never go to pubs anyway; if say 40% of people go to pubs at all regularly then that means almost ½ (including me!) will be back asap!! Just had a strange animal growling outside; might be a Velociraptor but more likely a Badger! See a Wolf has been seen in northern France for first time in a century: a wolf has reportedly been seen and photographed in Normandy, near France’s Channel coast, for the first time in a century.

April 18th: very fine spring day at 11C max, sunny nearly all the time, light E breeze, quite a Scandinavian feel with such clear air. Went out at 11:35 to scan the local area and had 2 Red Kite up over Linnels in display, a Common Buzzard up over Peth Foot and again a Goshawk male flying powerfully downstream and looking the part but this time saw it lower down against the trees and it is a 1s (first-summer, one-year old) bird so may not be breeding, particularly as no female has turned up yet! Female raptors tend to prefer older males as they're better at provisioning, vital for bringing food for the small young which the (larger) female has to guard; if the female is forced to leave them to get food at this stage the young are vulnerable to attack and to becoming chilled! Also had from garden a Grey Heron, a Curlew singing, a Chiffchaff singing and a Yellowhammer female in the garden again. The only butterfly was a Small Tortoiseshell. SW stopped for a chat when I was scanning the area and he said JC has 4 birds (2 pairs) of Red Kite in the Dukeshouse Wood area (in the 'Shire) so will add those to the total. The sites occupied total for Red Kite is now 19 and major areas outside Hexhamshire remain to be searched. There's a population explosion this year! Did a lot of work in garden: removed the 2 arms on satellite dish to make it easier to mow the grass around it, mowed front grass and another portion of grass at the back, cut down ½ of dog-rose around inner pond and mowed cleared area to improve the light for the pond plants, smashed sides off old pool table removed to field to rot down and carted them off to the far hedge for final rotting. Got out a little more, going to newsagents Peggs News in Priestpopple to get FT, HC, 2 Twix, a bottle of red Merlot wine from South Africa called Secretary Bird (named after an African raptor, seen on last visit!). Only 1 person allowed in at a time; pleased to see the screen surrounding the lass working there; cash is not wanted anywhere, paying with contactless card is much preferred. Hexham was busier, think people are coming out a bit more. We'll know when the Honey-buzzard are back: the Crow stand on the very tops of the trees, complaining loudly! Same happens when the young Honey-buzzard first fledge. So hopes rising a little that things are easing: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

April 17th: and we're off (nationally!), courtesy of BirdGuides:

17/04 10:32 Kent : European Honey Buzzard, Monks' Wall NR (permit only) one flew north; no public access to the reserve at present (09:45)

Cool today at 9C max on moderate E breeze; sun in afternoon made it feel pleasanter. Had a very good walk on Eastwood Common, near Healey, from 13:20-15:05. Raptors were good with a local pair of Red Kite: on N side of heath had 1 Red Kite up at 13:50, rising a little then going NW through tops of trees; from same place at 13:55 a second bird took off and flew SE, being briefly joined by a Common Buzzard. Also had from 13:59-14:01 a pair of Red Kite soaring very high over Shilford. While studying the latter pair, picked up an Osprey floating around over W side of Shilford near River Tyne at 14:03; this bird has also been reported on BirdGuides by someone else: “17/04 15:25 [time of submission] Northumberland : Western Osprey, Riding Mill, one drifting east along River Tyne”. Common Buzzard entry read: at 13:55 one dark bird briefly joined the Red Kite on its exit; from 14:12-14:16 a second bird came out of the S side of the heath, soared high over area before drifting off N. Another Common Buzzard was up over Dipton Wood E at 14:26. Besides the Osprey another surprise was an adult female Merlin, which flew fast at 13:40 across the heath, going into trees on NW side of heath; normally they breed at higher altitude so most likely a bird in process of moving to the higher ground. In total of 20 bird-types also had Linnet (15), Yellowhammer (1), Meadow Pipit (1) but summer visitors yet to arrive mainly. Raptors comprised 9 birds of 4 types: Red Kite 4, Common Buzzard 3, Osprey 1, Merlin 1. My type of trip now appears to fall within the latest guidance, which emerged last week; this tells officers that people can drive to the countryside for walks, when far more time is spent walking than driving, and can also stop to rest and eat lunch while on a long walk. It also made clear that it is 'lawful' to drive somewhere to exercise. So that's gratifying! I normally drive 10 minutes each way for at least 1.5 hours exercise and rarely meet anyone at all.

Hope you like the catch-up to 2020! Will now be watching carefully my local Honey-buzzard site for an early arrival. They don't work their way slowly up the country: they make 250km a day in favourable weather as they near their breeding grounds, so under 2 days travel from the south coast. Weather is favourable now with great visibility and no strong winds to reduce thermals, though think it's cloudier in the S tomorrow and clearer in the N. Had Friday nite chat with N/D again on Skype (75 min); it's good to keep up our tradition from the W. Markets were shaky this week until today when clawed back some of the losses. Own funds were -5k, making loss on year to date 46k (-4.2%) compared to losses on ftse 100 of 23.3% and on ftse 250 of 27.7%. Volatility is declining, normally a good sign. Now have 77k in technology, including US leaders -- AAPL, GOOG, MSFT, TSLA, APTV; UK leaders – SGE, AVV; and investment trusts – PCT, POLR. Also started picking up a few health stocks. Oil is now 'said' to be cheaper than water in the US: absolute disaster for the shale (fracking) industry in the Permian, Texas. Russia and KSA are also suffering very badly, even after their agreed production cut. As they say: the cure for low prices is low prices (by high-cost producers going bust so production is cut!). Hope the gorgeous one is keeping fit: lok2tgrf: xxxxx XXX!!!!!!

Recent relevant references: (more reading here)

Shaw, KD, McInerny, CJ, Little, A, Little, K, Nadin, JS, & Goater, R, An exceptional season at a central Scotland Honey-buzzard study area, Scottish Birds 37(1) 3-13 (2017).

White, Steve, & Kehoe, Chris, Report on Scarce Migrant Birds in Britain in 2014: Part I: Non-passerines, British Birds 109(12) 724-748 by, including Honey-buzzard account at pp.735-736 and in Abstract p.724 (2016).

Forsman, Dick, Separating Common Buzzard and European Honey-buzzard, at p.302, in: Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Christopher Helm (2016).

Panuccio, M, Chiatante, G, & Tarini, D, Two different migration strategies in response to an ecological barrier: Western Marsh Harriers and juvenile European Honey Buzzards crossing the central-eastern Mediterranean in autumn, Journal of Biological Research - Thessaloniki 19 10-18 (2013). pdf

Panuccio, Michele, Across and around a barrier: migration ecology of raptors in the Mediterranean basin, PhD thesis abstract, Scientifica Acta 5(1) EEG 27-36 (2011). pdf

Panuccio, M, Agostini, N, Lucia, G, Mellone, U, Ashton-Boot, J, Wilson, S, Chiatante, G & Todisco, S, Local weather conditions affect migration strategies of adult Western Honey Buzzards (Pernis apivorus) through an isthmus area, Zoological Studies 49(5) 651-656 (2010). pdf