Unusual weather having an impact on sightings of flora and fauna

Canada Geese and Tufted Ducks on Holywell Pond. Picture by Jim Jones
Canada Geese and Tufted Ducks on Holywell Pond. Picture by Jim Jones

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

A few butterflies resisted the temptation to hibernate, and a couple of rare birds alighted in the county.

**MUST CREDIT PICTURE: Martin Standley**'A black tern. Picture: Martin Standley.

**MUST CREDIT PICTURE: Martin Standley**'A black tern. Picture: Martin Standley.

It was a dull month, with contrasting weather conditions. For example, on Wednesday, November 25, Northumberland had the coldest place in Britain, at Kielder, with a temperature of -1C, and the sunniest at Boulmer, with 6.1 hours’ sunshine.

The unusual autumnal conditions have had an influence on the behaviour of our flora and fauna.

As the month began, a very late swift was spotted at Hadston.

The maximum number of whooper swans seen at Lindisfarne was 41, and parties of 20 and 16 birds of this species were seen near Amble.

A flock of 40 whooper swans were seen flying south over Warkworth dunes on November 17.

A long-billed dowitcher was seen at Cresswell Pond and Druridge Pools on November 10. This snipe-sized wading bird breeds in North America and Eastern Siberia, being an annual vagrant to this country.

A very late black tern was seen over Cresswell Pond on November 11. This bird would have been heading to winter in Africa, and while they are regularly seen on autumn passage, they are normally spotted in August and September.

Wildfowl numbers consolidated in the area. A flock of 250 greylag geese flew noisily above Aydon View, Alnwick, on November 5.

The numbers of light-bellied Brent geese at Lindisfarne reached 3,200 during the month, and they were joined by more than 300 dark-bellied birds.

A flock of 300 pink-footed geese flew over Elwick on November 5, and the total seen at Lindisfarne during the month was 4,000.

There were 700 barnacle geese at Lindisfarne in November, and though they normally head towards the Solway, they seem to have lingered here longer this year.

A flock of 60 Canada geese were sighted by the Old Bridge at Berwick on November 4.

There were eight eiders on the River Tweed at Berwick on November 5, and 18 were seen at Stag Rocks on November 17.

A total of more than 450 birds were spotted at Lindisfarne during the month. A flock of 70 malla were seen on the River Coquet at Warkworth on November 6, and the numbers on view at Lindisfarne were in excess of 170.

At least 200 shelduck were viewed from Holy Island causeway on November 17, and a massive 13,000 wigeon were present on the Lindisfarne national nature reserve.

There were also nearly 300 teal and 100 pintail present.

There were some large flocks of waders observed, such as the 150 lapwing seen at Seahouses on November 5, 200 at Alnmouth on November 6 and 300 at the Coquet Estuary on November 24.

The total count for Lindsifarne was more than 2,000 birds.

There were 100 sanderlings feeding on the shoreline on November 19 at Hauxley, and on November 25, 22 oystercatchers were seen feeding on Amble links.

A total of 2,600 golden plovers, 1,050 oystercatchers and more than 800 bar-tailed godwits were present at Lindisfarne during the month.

Pairs of goosanders were seen on the River Tweed at Berwick on November 5, on the River Coquet at Rothbury and Warkworth on November 6, and at Druridge Bay Country Park on November 19.

There were also two pairs of red-breasted mergansers at the country park on the latter date.

Little egrets have not been as common as earlier in the year, but on November 17, two were spotted by the old water at Warkworth, one was seen at the Holy Island causeway and one was observed in Budle Bay.

There were 50 cormorants around the Tweed estuary at Berwick on November 5.

The open weather has meant that many birds have been able forage for food in the countryside, but a nuthatch, coal tits, blue tits and great tits did come to the feeders at Riverside, Rothbury.

Blackbirds, robins and dunnocks raided the holly and cotoneaster berries.

On November 23, 12 species of bird visited a garden in Chapel Lands, Alnwick, and that included 20 house sparrows.

A pheasant was moving big cobbles searching for food underneath.

Wintering thrushes have been rather scarce, but 10 redwings were seen in Fullers Walk, Alnwick, on November 5, and 50 redwings were spotted at Howick on November 16.

It appears that most redwings and fieldfares have moved further inland.

Large flocks recorded included 2,500 starlings spotted at Brownieside, south of Ellingham, on November 5 and 400 on the powerlines at Hadwins Close, south west of Alnwick, on November 23.

There were 100 goldfinches at Monks House, near Seahouses, on November 11 and a similar number were seen at Hemscott Hill, north of Cresswell, on November 19.

A flock of 150 herring gulls were observed on the Amble shoreline on November 25. On the latter date, 100 curlew were seen in the field next to Amble’s caravan park.

Barn owls were well observed during the month.

There were two at Howick on November 5, and single birds were seen at Hawkhill, near Lesbury; Monks House; and Wooden and Smiley Lonnen at Alnwick.

A short-eared owl was seen hunting by the crag in the field next to the golf course at Dunstanburgh Castle on November 14.

Kestrels were seen at Red Row, Malcolm’s Cross, Heiferlaw at Denwick, South Charlton, Chapel Lands and Amble.

Buzzards were seen at Brownieside on November 5 and at both Longframlington and Powburn on November 11.

A sparrowhawk flew through Chapel Lands on November 17.

The unseasonably mild weather meant that many plants were still in flower.

Dandelions, buttercups and gorse flowers were widely seen.

On November 6, yarrow, blackberry, ragwort and bush vetch were in flower at Hipsburn.

A Welsh poppy was in flower at Weavers Way, Alnwick, on November 20, and primroses were out at the town’s Arkle Court on November 22.

On November 23, red campion was in flower on the disused railway near Rugley Road, south of Alnwick, and knapweed was out at Hadwins Close.

A jelly ear fungus was seen on the hawthorn hedge at Hipsburn on November 6, and 30 milk caps were observed in the dunes at Warkworth on November 17.

On November 23, candle snuff fungus was seen on the old railway near Alnwick Golf Club and a field mushroom was spotted at Hadwins Close.

On November 1, four red admiral butterflies were seen in Detchant Woods and a single red admiral was observed feeding on the ivy at Howick on November 16.

An otter and a grey seal were sighted in the Tweed at Berwick Old Bridge on November 5.

Red squirrels were seen at Holystone on November 8 and at Howick on November 10, 21 and 30.

A moon jellyfish was recorded in Hauxley Haven on November 25.

The next field meeting of the society will be held on Thursday, January 7, commencing at Howick Seahouses Farm at 1.30pm. We will walk along the coast to look for wintering wildfowl, waders and seabirds.

On the same day at 7.30pm, an indoor meeting will be held in the Costello Centre, in Bailiffgate, Alnwick.

Janet Dean will give an illustrated talk about the wildlife of Ethiopia following her recent visit there.

Visitors will be welcome at both meetings.