Countryside and coast are full of young birds finding wings

Druridge Bay beach
Druridge Bay beach

The local countryside scene in June is reviewed by John Almond with the help of the members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.

As the month progressed more and more parent birds completed their families and the coast and countryside was full of young birds, some independent and others still relying upon their parents for food. There was a constant passage of terns as they made their way from offshore breeding islands to bathe and fish in freshwater on the mainland. The white blossoms in the hedgerows began to fade as the county flower, bloody cransesbill, formed carpets in Druridge Bay and elsewhere along the coast.



On June 1, a flock of 120 mainly juvenile starlings was at Howick. The younger birds were clearly distinguished by their grey-brown plumage. There was a mixed flock of 60 starlings at Hauxley on June 2, while an adult with three juveniles was at Highburn House on June 6. There were three fledgling starlings at Arkle Court on June 12, while further flocks of 70 birds were at Birling Links and 50 at Newton Links.

A pied wagtail was carrying food for its young at Ross Back Sands on June 2, and on the same day a pair of Canada geese with three goslings were by the Amble weir. There were two pairs of Canada geese with eight young at Roddam quarry pond on June 6, and on June 30, 11 adults and four juveniles were at the Southern Druridge Pool.

There were two female eiders with 15 ducklings in Budle Bay on June 2, while on June 9, one male, six female and 13 eider ducklings were in Amble harbour. On June 28, 23 female eiders and 13 juveniles were off Seahouses, while the 34 male birds also present were changing into their non-breeding eclipse plumage. A further seven female and five juvenile eiders were within Seahouses harbour.

On June 4, two adult and three juvenile greylag geese were on Nelly Moss Lake, Cragside, while two adults and two juveniles were on Rothley Lake. At Roddam quarry pond on June 6, three of the greylag geese had two young each, while a further pair had three young. A large post breeding flock of 350 greylag geese was at Hauxley on June 21.

An adult jackdaw and a juvenile were on a chimney pot in Blakelaw Road, Alnwick, on June 4, while an adult jackdaw was feeding a youngster at Howick on June 24.

The pair of mute swans at Branton Ponds had four cygnets on June 6, while the pair at Druridge Bay Country Park had seven young on June 30.

A female mallard was with seven ducklings at Peters Mill on June 6, and a pair of mallards had three young at Monks House Pool on June 28. On June 30, two female mallards had seven ducklings each at Linton West Pond, a further female had five well grown young at Druridge Pools and a female with three young was at Druridge Bay Country Park.

A magpie with a fledgling was in Thomas Percy School woods on June 8, but, unfortunately, two goldfinch chicks were killed by a cat in a Lesbury garden. The same day saw nestling blue tits being fed in a wall cavity in Merchants Gardens, Alnwick, and nestling blue tits were calling from a box in Arkle Court.

There were three fledgling house sparrows in Arkle Court on June 8, and the following day a female was with two fledglings in a Lesbury garden. A female blackbird was with a fledgling in the same Lesbury garden on June 9, there were six fledgling blackbirds at Alnwick Cricket Club on June 11, and four were on the St James Estate on June 29.

A pair of coal tits were feeding young in a hollow tree at Howick on June 13, and a pair of great tits with their three fledglings were in a Lesbury garden on the same date.

There was a pair of shelducks with six juveniles on the Coquet estuary on June 13, and another pair had eight juveniles at Cresswell Pond.

There were young in the swallow nest in the stable yard at Howick on June 13, and by June 21, there were 11 nests occupied in the Pavilions in Alnwick garden. There were nine nests occupied in the stable yard at Howick on June 29, the young swallows in a nest at High Newton were still being fed at 10.15pm.

On arrival in the area, house martins began to build or repair their nest so by June 21 there were 20 nests on Alnwick Leisure Centre, four on Arkle Court and four on Fullers Walk. On June 29, three nests of house martin young were being fed at Embleton.

There were two fledgling wrens at Swansfield Park on June 23, and on June 27 a female tufted duck had five ducklings on the River Aln in The Pastures a dunnock was feeding young at Alnwick sewage works and a grey wagtail had two fledglings at Denwick Bridge.

At the Long Nanny on June 28, the little terns had hatched five chicks with 12 eggs remaining. The Arctic tern numbers were likewise down in numbers due to predation by a fox and cubs, a stoat, kestrels, a carrion crow and large gulls, not to mention high tides and poor weather.

Kittiwakes were late in starting to nest on the Farne Islands and the first nests were started at Howick on June 7. On June 28, there were 200 occupied ledges on the Howick cliffs and 100 on Cullernose Point, but only half of these sites had nests. There were five occupied fulmar ledges at Cullernose Point.

There were coot and moorhen families at most coastal sites.

A poor breeding flock of 30 lapwings gathered at Linton East Pond on June 30. A pair of great crested grebes were at Druridge Pools, a chick was riding on one parent while the other brought food.

At Monks House Pool on June 28, three Arctic terns and one sandwich tern were taking a break from breeding on the Farne Islands. Similarly, birds, from Coquet Island were seen at Hauxley, with two roseate terns present on June 20, and 40 common terns on June 29. On June 30, a flock of 50 terns were roosting at Hauxley, probably containing the above species, as well at Arctic and sandwich terns.

Many species were observed hunting for insect food. There were four swifts over Alnwick Market Place on June 4, 10 were above Rothbury on June 10, and 20 at Hauxley on June 29. There were 20 house matins over Allerburn Lea on June 6, and seven were at Hauxley on June 13.

There were 25 swallows hunting over Cresswell Pond on June 4, and 25 sand martins were at Hauxley on June 27.

Our songbirds seem to have been putting more effort into rearing young than into singing, but some continued enthusiastically throughout June. Blackbirds and song thrushes usually lead the dawn chorus and chiffchaffs were heard from at least 16 localities. Blackcaps, whitethroats, willow warblers and sedge warblers occasionally joined in.

A song thrush was singing at Highburn caravan site on June 6, and on the same day a spotted flycatcher was doing what its name suggest at Ingram café. A pair of reed buntings were in the Ingram Valley on June 6, and a pair of stonechats were at Birling Links on June 9. A nuthatch visited the feeders at Riverside, Rothbury, on June 27.

Oystercatchers and dippers regularly passed along the River Coquet at Riverside, Rothbury, through June. There were 47 mute swans on the Coquet estuary on June 3, and 50 at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park on June 11. Little egrets were spotted in Budle Bay, as well as at Hauxley, Warkworth, Cresswell Pond and Druridge Pools. More unusually, a great white egret was at Druridge Pools on June 11.

A water rail was heard at Cresswell Pond on June 26, and six avocets were there on June 28. A kingfisher was on the River Coquet at Riverside, Rothbury, on June 28.

Barn owls were well reported. One was hunting at 9pm at Howick on June 8, and one flew across the road at Foxton on June 10, at 5.30pm. A barn owl was at Cresswell Pond on June 13, one was over Lesbury football field on June 15, while two barn owls were hunting over the fields at Lesbury on June 22. Birds were also seen at Longhoughton and Foxton crossroad.

The next field meeting of the society will be held on Thursday, August 4. Meet at East Chevington road end at 2pm to walk along the coast to look at the flowers and birds on the lakes and in the dunes.