Familiar sounds of the season as the summer visitors arrive
The local countryside scene in April is reviewed by John Almond with the help of the members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.
The early spring flowers came into full bloom in April, while the bird summer visitors continued to flock into the area.
A few early butterflies were on the wing as they emerged from hibernation, and nesting behaviour was noticed among many of our resident species.
Some winter visitors remained in the area, before preparing to leave for their breeding sites.
A chiffchaff was singing at Alnwick Rugby Club on April 2, while on April 7 three of the birds were heard at East Chevington, two at Amble and one at Hadston Carrs.
Another one was singing in Scotch Gill Woods, Morpeth, on April 20, and yet another was in Castlegate Park, in Berwick, on April 22.
Their song is one of the most familiar sounds of the spring.
There were 26 sand martins over Hedgeley Pond on April 5, and the following day four were inspecting the cliff nest at Annstead.
Two sand martins were recorded at Hadston Carss on April 7, and six were seen in the Breamish Valley on April 10.
There was a swallow near Shortridge Hall on April 7, while two were seen at Ratcheugh the following day, with another two spotted at Lesbury footbridge on April 14.
Two swallows were present in Howick stable yard on April 17, a single bird was in Weavers Way, Alnwick, on April 18, and several of the birds were spotted over the River Coquet at Rothbury on April 19.
The first wheatears recorded were the six seen near Holy Island Causeway on April 7. This was quite a large group to be seen together.
A male blackcap was seen in Belle Vue Gardens, in Alnwick, on April 9, and another was in Scotch Gill Woods on April 20. These could have been summer arrivals, or perhaps winter visitors lingering on.
The first house martins seen were the four birds at Lesbury footbridge on April 14.
Such birds were later recorded at Belford and at Alnwick Leisure Centre.
A willow warbler was singing on Alnwick Golf Course on April 18, and a garden warbler was doing likewise in Scotch Gill Woods on April 20.
On April 4, a skylark was singing at Helsay Point in Warkworth.
And on April 6, lapwings, curlews, oystercatchers and skylarks were displaying near Hadwins Close on Alnwick Moor.
There were four house sparrows nest building in the Bullfield Community Orchard.
Meanwhile, starlings were busy collecting nesting materials in Belle Vue Gardens on April 8.
A blackbird was feeding young in Merchants Gardens, Alnwick, and a female blackbird was collecting nesting material in Bell Vue Gardens on April 24, while two fledgling blackbirds were recorded in a Lesbury garden on April 30.
Curlews and oystercatchers were heading inland over Rothbury on April 15.
A blue tit was nest building in Fullers Walk, Alnwick.
A number of birds had already completed their nesting, such as the mallard duck which had nine ducklings in the pools east of Hipsburn School on April 14, the male and female mallard with a family on Howick Pond on April 20, and the female mallard with a family of two at this locality on April 30.
At the end of the month the Kielder osprey had two nests with incubation taking place, and possibly a third nest to be occupied.
A pair of siskins and a great spotted woodpecker were regular visitors to the feeders at Riverside, Rothbury, during the month.
In Belle Vue Gardens, male and female siskins were present on April 9, while at least six were spotted on a dull, chilly and wet April 13.
A tree sparrow and at least eight goldfinches were noticed in a Lesbury garden on April 15.
There were 12 goldfinches on the Belle Vue Gardens feeders on April 25, and a pair visited Riverside, Rothbury, on April 28 and 29.
At 7am, on April 29, five wood pigeons were feeding on sunflower kernels in the snow. This was a reminder that April was often a cold month.
A skulking whitethroat was singing from a hedge on the old A1, between Denwick and Broomhouse, on April 10, while nuthatches were heard in Scotch Gill and Borough Woods on April 20.
On April 2, a pair of goosanders were on the River Coquet at Rothbury, and two male birds were present there on April 16.
There were six goosanders on the River Coquet at Warkworth on April 30.
On April 4, there were two little egrets by the Amble to Warkworth weir, and 70 eiders were in Amble harbour.
A pair of grey wagtails were seen at Riverside, Rothbury, on April 9, and three pintail were at Druridge Pools on April 14.
Later in the month, a grey heron was seen by the River Wansbeck at Morpeth on April 20.
A male brambling in breeding plumage was at Longhoughton on April 8, and the long-billed dowitcher was changing into summer plumage when it remained to the North of the Causeway at Cresswell Pond until at least April 14.
A great white egret was seen at Alnmouth on April 6.
And a great grey shrike remained at Redpath, in Harwood Forest, until April 9, where it caught and impaled a male common lizard.
There was a jack snipe at Druridge Pools on April 14, and an Egyptian goose arrived on the Farne Islands.
A tawny owl was seen near Cragside on April 2, while kestrels were recorded at Red Row and Felton.
Single buzzards were seen at Alnwick and over Borough Woods, near Morpeth, during the month, but four were at Howick on April 4.
It was, however, unusual to find a rough-legged buzzard over Belle Vue Gardens in Alnwick on April 14.
When it comes to other wildlife, red squirrels were seen at Howick on April 7 and again on April 20.
Meanwhile, a roe deer and six brown hares were by Cawledge Bridge on April 20.
A grey seal managed to get up the weir between Amble and Warkworth on its third attempt on April 21. This was possibly the same animal that was seen in the same area on April 30.
There were masses of tadpoles in the Belle Vue Garden pond by April 13, despite the weather.
Most of the butterflies were seen in the second half of the month.
Small tortoiseshell were seen in Howick Gardens, Borough Woods in Morpeth, and Castlegate Park in Berwick.
Peacock butterflies were in the Aldi car park Alnwick and Scotch Gill Woods, Morpeth.
And there were two small whites at Hope House, Alnwick, while an orange tip was in a Lesbury garden on April 29.
As the month progressed, budburst was noted on sycamore, elder, ash, horse chestnut and beech, while blossom began to appear on apple, plum, pear, cherry and blackthorn.
Flowers appeared on the sycamore.
Along the hedgerows, dogs mercury, lesser celandine, garlic mustard and butterbur were frequently the commonest flowers.
And in the woodland dog violet, ramsons, cuckoo flower and bluebells could be found.
Snake’s head fritillary was found growing by the River Aln, just up from the viaduct at Lesbury.
Readers are reminded that Nature Notes is compiled from the observations from a number of correspondents. If you see anything of interest in the natural world, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
The next field meeting of the Alnwick and District Natural History Society will be held on Thursday, June 2. People should meet in the parking area at Ross (OS sheet 75, 131370) for a coastal walk to Ross Back Sands to look for breeding birds and dune flowers.
Visitors will also be most welcome.
Committee members are reminded that a meeting will be held on the same date at 12 Chapel Lands, at 7.30pm.