Birds flock in as the new year arrives

IN a month in which many readers will have been feeding birds and some will have taken part in the RSPB Great Garden Birdwatch, it is fitting that this month’s review should start by concentrating on some of their observations.

New Year’s Day brought nine species to a Chapel Lands garden including seven jackdaws, seven collared doves and six house sparrows.

The morning of January 2 in Belle View Gardens was cold with a temperature around one degrees Celsius and eight species was observed, including three male blackbirds feeding on crab apples.

The same day found 12 species visiting the Chapel Lands garden, among these were seven chaffinches and seven starlings.

The gales arrived on January 3 but they did not deter a sparrow hawk from feeding in another Chapel Lands garden.

Goldfinches appeared in the next few days with a maximum of nine birds present in Chapel Lands on January 6 and 16 in Belle Vue Gardens on January 31. A flock of around 30 birds were regular visitors to a Stannington garden.

A song thrush was in Belle View Gardens on January 12 while a hungry sparrow hawk was hunting on the frosty morning of January 15.

Small flocks of long-tailed tits visited Eglingham, Snitter and Coquet Lodge on January 19, 22 and 31 respectively. The latter flock contained 11 birds which were feeding on nuts.

Great spotted woodpeckers were at Eglingham Old Post Office on January 2 and Alnmouth Station on January 28 while 113 rooks perched in a Chapel Lands ash tree on January 19.

Overwintering male and female blackcaps were in a Morpeth garden on January 21 and a female bird was in a Howick Street garden on January 31. A chiff-chaff was found near Warkworth.

A Stannington garden played host to 16 chaffinches and 10 blackbirds on January 24 while single siskins were at Coquet Lodge, Warkworth and in Chapel Lands on January 25 and 30 respectively.

One of the successful nest box schemes for tree sparrows is based at Hauxley Wildlife Trust Reserve.

The results show that in 2011 from 17 nesting attempts, 66 young were fledged.

A large flock of tree sparrows was spotted at Snitter on January 15 and this included a single yellowhammer.

The 10 barn owl boxes sited between Holy Island and Craster were checked in January and they contained four pairs of owls as well as three single birds.

Two short-eared owls showed well throughout the month as they hunted over Cresswell dunes.

Kestrels were seen at nine localities, buzzards were at five and a merlin was at Cresswell on January 10 and 14.

A male sparrow hawk chased 10 goldfinches through Druridge Bay dunes on January 18.

On January 12, 10 male and two female crossbills were in Simonside Forest. The Braid at Amble was a collecting place for birds in January with 30 snow buntings present on January 12, six bull finches, 10 green finches and 12 gold finches were there on January 31.

Three new wetland areas have been created on former opencast sites inland from Druridge Bay. These are East Stobswood Pool, West Stobswood Pools and Maiden’s Hall Lake, the latter site holding around 3,500 geese on January 28.

A well-established site nearer the coast, Cresswell Pond, was home to two Berwick swans on January 15 and 2,000 pink-footed geese were there on January 18.

A the month began, over 750 redshank, 700 curlew and 500 oystercatchers were on the Lindisfarne Reserve.

On January 5 there were 250 lapwings and 250 golden plovers at Cresswell Pond.

There were 80 dunlin on the Coquet Estuary and 50 sanderling at Boulmer on January 12, while there were 35 purple sandpipes at Stag Rock on January 27.

As if spring was on the way, lapwings were displaying at Boulmer and oystercatchers at Howick on January 31.

It is disappointing to report that squirrel pox reached Wooler during the month, with three dead squirrels found.

Grey squirrels are being controlled as carriers of the pox but readers are being discouraged from feeding red squirrels in case this provides an opportunity for the infection to be passed on.

Fortunately, there were two apparently healthy red squirrels chasing around a garden at Eglingham on January 22.

Hares were at Blagdon and Durridge Pools and roe deer was at Simonside House, Nedderton.

A dead otter was spotted on the Wreigh Burn at Thropton on January 23. A stoat in partial ermine was at Wood Hall Farm, Sharperton, on January 13, while one in full ermine crossed the road near High Trewhitt on January 28.

Snowdrops were noted in Spelvit Lane, Morpeth, on January 8 and on the south facing bank of the River Coquet at Warkworth on January 10.

Daffodils were in bloom in Amble on January 12 and crocuses were out in Morpeth on January 15.

Winter aconites were in flower at Elsdon Tower on January 16 and primroses were seen on the banks of the River Coquet at Warkworth on January 21.

As the month drew to a close there were fine displays of aconites and snowdrops at Denwick Church while primroses and snowdrops were out on the Long Walk at Howick.

On January 27, the first butterfly of the year, a peacock, was disturbed during hedge clearing in Belle Vue Gardens.

The next meeting of the society will be in the Costello Centre, Bailiffgate, Alnwick, on March 1 at 7.30pm. The annual general meeting will be follwed by a talk about the Shiant Islands by Philip Hammer.

A field meeting will be held on Thursday, March 8, starting from Duchess Bridge, Alnmouth, at 1.30pm. We hope to see early signs of spring on the Alnmouth wetlands. Visitors are welcome at the talk and field meeting.