The local countryside scene in February is reviewed by John Almond with the help of the members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.
As the daylight hours gradually increased our resident birds began to pair up and display to each other, while the first signs of nest construction were noted.
The open weather meant that geese and swans were able to distribute throughout the area in search of food.
There were frequent visitors to garden bird feeders as species built up their energy for the breeding season. Winter visitors remained scarce, but there were a few sightings, and the open weather meant that geese and swans were able to distribute throughout the area in search of food.
A brambling was at Yearle from February 3 to 6, and 10 were west of Knowsgate on February 12. These birds are about the size of a chaffinch, but can be recognised by their white rumps and little or no white on the sides of their tails.
A well watched waxwing was in a roadside tree to the north of Widdrington Village on February 11, and five redwings were at Hauxley on February 15.
A pair of blackcaps from Eastern Europe were frequent visitors to an Alnwick garden, and three bullfinches, possibly from the same locality, were at Craster on February 29.
A group of nine tundra bean geese were in Beadnell Bay on February 9, and a barnacle goose was with the pink-footed geese at East Chevington on February 11. There were 15 barnacle geese at Harper’s Heugh on February 23.
At Hauxley Wildlife Trust Reserve 350 greylag geese were present on February 15, and two white-fronted geese on February 18. There was a mixed flock of 30 mute and whooper swans at Warkworth Lane on February 1. On February 4, 42 whooper swans were at Northfield Farm, Warkworth, including five juveniles. There were 25 mute swans, including seven juveniles, in the same field. There were seven mute swans at Hauxley on February 8, and 30 on the River Tweed at Berwick on February 13.
Waders were intent on feeding as they prepared to move inland or to the Arctic to breed. The North American long-billed dowitcher remained at Cresswell Pond throughout the month.
On February 4, there were 200 lapwings in a flooded field at Boulmer and also at East Chevington., while 100 dunlin were on the Coquet estuary and 50 were on Boulmer shore. There were 30 sanderling on Hauxley shore on February 1, and 35 behind the north pier at Amble on February 4.
At Hauxley Reserve 1,000 plovers were present on February 8 and 15, 124 curlews on February 14, and 55 redshanks and 50 oystercatchers on February 22.
There were 30 purple sandpipers at Stag Rocks on February 23. Four bar-tailed godwits were on Hauxley shore on February 25. There was a roost of three little egrets at Warkworth on February 4, and single birds were seen on the Coquet estuary, at Hauxley and in Budle Bay.
Goosanders were regularly seen on the Coquet at Rothbury and Warkworth. A pair of moorhens were scratching around Riverside Gardens, Rothbury, on February 14, while kingfishers were at Howick Rocks on February 15, and on Hauxley shore on February 25. Fifty common scoters were on the sea off Amble pier on February 4, and four grey herons were on Alnmouth wetlands.
A great grey shrike was in Harwood Forest form February 4 to 10, while a black-necked grebe, a Slovenian grebe and a bittern were at East Chevington. There were eight little auks off Stag Rocks, while a black redstart and a water pipit were at Seahouses. Iceland gulls were at the QE II Park at Woodhorn and Blyth, while a glaucous gull was at Branton Ponds.
A sparrowhawk was in a Lesbury garden on February 3, and another hunted along a hedge in Belle Vue Gardens on February 24. Sparrowhawks and kestrels were frequent visitors to Hauxley Reserve and single kestrels were at Heiferlaw, Wark, Knowsgate and Tarset. A pair of goshawks were displaying over Harwood Forest on February 7. Merlins were at Cresswell Pond on February 15, and on Holy Island on February 21.
Buzzards were well reported. Single birds were seen at Denwick, Eshott, Shilbottle, Wandylaw, Haggerston, Linton Pond and Lesbury. Pairs were at Hauxley and Bilton Wood, while three were at Hawkhill on February 16.
Barn owls were reported from Longbank, Longhoughton, on February 3, and Hadwins Close on February 23. A tawny owl was calling in Belle Vue Gardens at 3am on February 19.
A number of large flocks were observed.
On February 1, 150 black-headed gulls were on Amble Industrial Estate. There were 80 starlings around the Coquet estuary, and 110 wigeon above Warkworth weir. A flock of 100 herring gulls was at Druridge Bay Country Park.
There were 100 jackdaws and 100 rooks around the Shipley sheep feeders on February 1, while 300 jackdaws and 300 rooks were at Northfield Farm, Warkworth, on February 4. One hundered common gulls were at Otterburn on February 5.
On February 11, 10 pied wagtails were feeding in a field at Howick. February 18 saw 500 starlings at Chibburn, as well as 135 curlews and 60 teal at Druridge Pools.
Garden watchers had a good month, with a nuthatch, male siskin and goldcrest visiting feeders in Lesbury.
In Belle Vue Gardens, Alnwick, 18 species of bird visited on February 16. This included four species of tit, three of finch, and both male and female blackcaps and siskins. The list also included woodpigeon, collard dove, robin, wren, blackbird, jackdaw, dunnock, house sparrow and starling. Song thrush and herring gull were also heard. On another date a great spotted woodpecker was heard.
The maximum number of blackbirds that visited was four on February 2 and 4, and eight birds in the snow on February 14. There were nine collard doves on February 4 and 5, six goldfinches on the nyger and sunflower seeds on February 5, and eight birds on February 16.
Arkle Court in Alnwick was visited by eight starlings on February 2, followed by a robin, great tit and two house sparrows on February 14. A Chapel Lands garden was visited by 12 house sparrows, six goldfinches and three greenfinches on February 11, and six chaffinches on February 12.
A male bull finch and a blue tit visited a Warkworth garden, and both treecreeper and nuthatch were spotted in Alnwick cemetery.
At Riverside, Rothbury, a pair of long-tailed tits were on the feeders on February 27, and a male pheasant appeared on February 28.
A stoat was on the Stanners, Warkworth, on February 4, and five rabbits were on Alnwick Rugby ground on February 6. There were two red squirrels in a tree at Howick on February 11, and the following day a young weasel was in the gardens at Riverside, Rothbury.
On February 16, three roe deer were near Swansfield House, and a stoat in ermine was at Little Mill crossroads. A pipistrelle bat was at Howick on February 17, and a wood mouse was in the hedge bottom in Belle Vue Gardens on February 21. A honeybee was at Lesbury on February 28.
On February 1, snowdrops were in full flower art South Charlton, Birling, Canongate bridge and Abbeylands. Winter aconites were out at Grovewood. There were snowdrops on the river bank at Rothbury on February 6, and catkins on the willow. A bracket fungus trametes versicolor was on a dead elder. Lesser celandine was in flower at Smiley Bank, Alnwick on February 7.
Broom was in flower on the dismantled railway at Bridge Street, Alnwick, on February 10, and the first leaves were on hawthorn and elder in Fisher Lane on February 16.
The next field meeting will be on Thursday, April 7. Meet at the end of the minor road at Hadston Carrs, at 2pm. We hope to see a selection of seabirds and perhaps the odd summer visitor.
The last indoor meeting of the season will be on April 7 in the Costello Centre, Bailiffgate, Alnwick, at 7.30pm. Bob Lickiss, from Rothbury, will give an illustrated talk about the wildlife of Central America. Visitors will be welcome.