Alan Castle: Stirring sights hide a sinister practice

IN recent days many eyes have turned skywards at the sounds coming from above.

No, not some message from on high but the sound of wintering geese, flying in large skeins up and down the countryside, on their way to different waterways.

One last week near Warkworth was several hundred strong. It is superb to see it change formation as the giant wing moved from position to position.

But that is not why I am writing this piece.

One of the great delights for anyone interested in nature is seeing something that is different.

For instance, a golden eagle, not that there are any as far as I know in this part of the world, or sea eagles, which have recently been introduced in Scotland. There is also the chance, thanks to captive breeding programmes of seeing the red kite in Northumberland, a wonderful bird in flight.

But we have seen ospreys and nearly all the other raptors such as hawks, especially the sparrowhawk and, if you are lucky, merlins or one that is becoming increasingly common in most parts of the countryside, the buzzard.

I must admit that seeing a buzzard over the Alnwick skies has become more of a rarity than it was a number of years ago.

Although they bring delight to many there are people out there who appear to be intent on killing them. Four red kites have died in North East in the last 12 months says a report from the RSPB.

Last year, approximately 128 reports of illegal posioning in the UK were reported and early indications show the same for the year.

But how many go unseen in a country which outlawed the poisoning of birds 100 years ago?

In this Castle garden, there is a tame blackbird that comes to the backdoor for food, there are numerous, and I mean numerous, sparrows and starlings being fed every day with visits by blue tits and golden finches.

It also seems to be the source of food for the sparrowhawk which makes occasional visits to our area.

But this is nature doing what it does, not people poisoning for reasons known only unto themselves.

WHILE Europe and much of the world has been thrown into financial decay, Alnwick and district has not escaped it own brush with money troubles.

I refer to the demise of the Alnwick Community Development Trust, which went bust owing close to £1million, it was revealed last week. It assets in buildings could amount to some £725,000, if they are sold at the prices quoted.

It appears that the Trust hit difficulties when funding streams from government organisations and other financial sources dried up.

It is difficult to criticise bodies which set out with the best of intention, particularly without knowing the full facts.

But this scenario is always possible when you are dealing with grants. Nothing is permanent.

The two main financial contributors to the Trust appear to have been One North East, which was ended by the Government before the election, and the Northern Rock Foundation, which itself had been hard hit by the collapse of Northern Rock.

So the trust, like other bodies funded by grants from these organisations, had to look elsewhere to fund its core activities.

At this stage, while the legal shackles of being in administration are placed on the trust, it would be unfair to speculate whether it looked in the best areas to fund its work in the town and whether it adhered to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s national plea for ‘prudence’.

We all hope, though, that enough cash is raised from the sale of its assets to pay the small businesses who are owed money.