The local countryside scene in August is reviewed by John Almond with the help of members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.
Last month saw most of our summer visitors falling silent and preparing to leave the area, but some lingered on, building up their strength on the limited supply of insects available.
There were some interesting arrivals on our beaches, while offshore, some rare visitors were spotted.
Swifts were observed throughout the month, which is unusual as they generally leave in the first week of August.
On August 6, 12 swifts were seen over Swansfield Park Road, Alnwick, and 11 were spotted at High Street, Belford. There were 10 over Henderson Street, Amble, on August 15 and 20 over Swansfield Park Road the following day. On August 27, three swifts were still at Craster and 15 were at Hauxley.
There were six sand martins at Linton on August 3, while six were at Hauxley on August 5.
There were eight house martins at Hauxley on August 27, and 30 were flying around Arkle Court, Alnwick, on August 30. A number of the latter birds were clinging to south-facing walls.
On August 6, 30 swallows were at Holborn Grange, 25 were at Longhoughton and 20 were on the power lines at Swinhoe Farm.
On August 22, 22 swallows were on the telephone wires at Embleton and 218 had gathered on the wires at Craster.
There were a maximum of 30 swallows at Linton on August 25.
On August 7, three whitethroat were in a Craster garden, and flocks of wheatears were noted on the Otterburn Ranges as they prepared to leave the area.
There were two sedge warbles at Hauxley on August 10.
On August 19 three blackcaps were at Hauxley, together with a single lesser whitethroat, a garden warbler and a wood warbler.
There were two whinchats at Cresswell on August 20, while on August 24, a pied flycatcher was at Druridge Bay and six chiffchaffs were at Hauxley.
Passage migrants at Hauxley included spotted redshanks, little stint, curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper and common sandpiper.
There were six ruff in Druridge Bay on August 6, four greenshank were at Hauxley on August 17, 18 black-tailed godwits were at Cresswell on August 20, and, finally, two whimbrel were at Hauxley on August 26.
A number of young birds were still present in the area.
On August 3, house martins were feeding nestlings in Fullers Walk, Alnwick. There were nestlings in a new house martin nest in Fairfields, Alnwick, on August 4, and six young left the nest on August 7.
There was a new nest on St James Estates, Alnwick, on August 10, and seven house martins’ nests were located at High Newton on August 12.
There were six nests containing nestlings on Alnwick Leisure Centre on August 17, and on August 21, two nestlings were in a nest at Arkle Court.
There were swallow nestlings in the 16 nests in the pavilion in the Alnwick Garden on August 5, and three fledgling blackbirds were seen on a shed roof in Fullers Walk the following day.
The flock of 30 starlings at Holburn Grange on August 6 contained young birds with a patchwork plumage of dull grey-brown, but they will eventually moult into adult plumage.
On August 22, three mallard ducklings and a moorhen chick were observed on the River Coquet at Rothbury.
Kestrels were seen at six localities. A single bird was at the Long Nanny, near Beadnell, on August 12, but the terns and wardens had left.
There were two sparrowhawks at Hauxley on August 5, and a single male bird was on Holborn Moss the following day.
Buzzards were seen at seven sites. That included two birds in Druridge Bay on August 12 and seven over Craster Heughs on August 30.
There were four marsh harriers at East Chevington on August 3 and a barn owl at Cresswell on August 17.
Visitors to garden feeders have been scarce this month as there was probably enough natural food around, but a pair of nuthatches were seen at the peanuts at Riverside, Rothbury, on August 14.
Little egrets were once rarities in the area, but this month, three were together at both Cresswell and Hauxley.
On August 6, eight birds were roosting opposite the Butts in Warkworth, and that had increased to 12 birds by the end of the month.
Heather, bell heather, cross-leaved heath, tormentil and harebells were in flower at St Cuthbert’s Cave on August 6. On the same day, ripe blackberries and red hawthorn berries were noted at Belford, while the following day, the leaves on the lime were turning yellow in St Paul’s Churchyard, Alnwick.
On roadside verges throughout the area creeping thistle, foxglove, hedge parsley, meadowsweet, toadflax, burdock, smooth hawksbeard and rosebay willowherb were noted.
These flowers, and particularly buddleia in gardens, attracted 11 species of butterfly including comma, wall and painted lady. There were 28 six-spot burnet moths at High Newton on August 12.
The month ended with an overcast and, at times, damp Bank Holiday Monday.
The remaining swallows were seen hunting for insects in low-level flights over open spaces.
The next field meeting of the society will be held on Thursday, October 1, commencing at Holystone Forest car park at 1.30pm. Join us for a walk to see autumn colours, seeds, fruits and fungi.
On the same date, at 7.30pm, it is very appropriate that we have a visit from Martin Kitching, the North East Cetacean Project co-ordinator, who will give an illustrated talk about the birds and mammals of the North Sea. This meeting will be held in the Costello Centre, Bailiffgate, Alnwick, and visitors will be most welcome.