Young broods start to leave the nests, but for some it's too early

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

Sunday, 21st August 2016, 9:40 am

As most bird species completed their breeding cycles, a number decided to rear second, and in at least one case, third broods.

The dawn chorus was much reduced and only woodpigeons and collard doves were frequently heard, along with the occasional chiffchaff.

A mother mallard and her ducklings. Picture by Jim Jones.

Most seabirds had left breeding cliffs by the end of the month, leaving the ledges silent for another year.

There was a good show of flowers in the dune slacks along the coast, while the six-spot burnet moths emerged from their straw-coloured cocoons and gathered on flower heads.

Bilberry and raspberry fruits ripened, while rowan berries began to achieve their red colour.

And chestnuts began to develop on their trees.

A mother mallard and her ducklings. Picture by Jim Jones.

The three pairs of ospreys at Kielder Water nested successfully this year, rearing four, three and two young respectively.

The pair of marsh harriers at East Chevington reed bed had two young on July 12.

There were swallow fledglings on the wing in the Stable Yard at Howick Hall on July 3.

Swallows had second broods in their nests at Howick on July 30, while a pair were starting a third brood near Wooler.

The brood of a further pair somehow survived nesting in the unusual location of a skip at the Lionheart recycling depot in Alnwick.

On July 7, there were nine adult mallards and five ducklings on the River Coquet at Rothbury.

And on the same date a female pheasant had young at Littlehoughton.

At East Chevington on July 9, the pair of great crested grebes had three juveniles, while at Low Hauxley the four adult shelducks had six ducklings.

A juvenile cuckoo was in the Pond Field at Howick on July 12, 14 and 15.

On July 14, a pair of meadow pipits were feeding young along the pier in Berwick.

And there were a pair of house sparrows spotted carrying food for their family in a deserted building.

A second brood of house sparrows fledged from a house martin nest box in Belle Vue Gardens on July 20.

Elsewhere, there were two adult and four young moorhens at Heighley Gate on July 30.

Large flocks of adult and juvenile starlings gathered throughout the area, such as some 150 birds at Boulmer on July 5.

On the same date 300 jackdaws were in Hulne Park, 200 black-headed gulls were at Boulmer and 150 golden plovers were on the Alnmouth wetlands.

On July 9, a post breeding flock of 110 Arctic terns were at Low Hauxley.

This was followed by 150 common terns at the same site on July 20.

On July 11, 150 curlews were at Hauxley.

Meanwhile, 300 herring gulls and 250 mute swans were recorded on the Tweed estuary.

There were 60 rooks at East Chevington on July 12, and 80 carrion crows were by the Alnwick to Cornhill line on July 18.

At Cresswell Pond 300 lapwings were present on July 21, and 31 dunlin were there on July 25.

There were 27 redshank at Hauxley on July 28.

It was noted that 150 common gulls were feeding in a stubble field at Kirknewton on July 30.

Birds returning from their breeding areas passed through the area.

A whimbrel flew over Alnmouth Station on July 12, and three of the birds were seen at Hauxley.

There were 11 bar-tailed godwits at Hauxley on July 14, and 19 black-tailed godwits were at Cresswell Pond on July 25.

Also on the latter date, there were also three yellow wagtails spotted at Druridge Pools.

A single greenshank was seen at Hauxley on July 1, and two ruff were at Druridge Pools on July 7.

There were 30 turnstones noted at Hauxley the following day.

Single curlew sandpipers were seen at Cresswell Pond on two occasions, and a wood sandpiper was at Druridge Pools on July 15.

A green sandpiper was at Cresswell Pond on July 25, while five common sandpipers were recorded at Hauxley on July 28.

Pairs of buzzards were at Howick on July 3, at Cawledge on July 5, Hauxley on July 16, and Cresswell Pond on July 30.

Kestrels were seen on three occasions at Hauxley, and a hobby was at East Chevington on July 7.

There were three sparrowhawks at Hauxley on July 13, and a single bird was mobbed by swallows at Howick on July 16.

A barn owl was hunting at 9.30pm at Howick on July 1, and a little owl was seen on three occasions at Druridge Pools.

A pair of tawny owls were hooting and responding at 1.30am in Belle Vue Gardens on July 27.

A hedge sparrow and a pair of blackbirds were daily visitors to Belle Vue Gardens throughout the month.

In one Chapel Lands garden on July 5, 12 house sparrows, three gold finches, two woodpigeons and one greenfinch were present.

And a lesser redpoll was present in another garden on July 9.

Meanwhile, a hedgehog was a visitor to a High Newton garden.

Red squirrels were spotted at Howick Hall on three occasions – one had a very pale tail and another was on the feeders at the tearoom.

Roe deer fawns were noticed on two occasions at Howick, while adults were at Holy Island Snook on July 13, and Powburn on July 30.

There were two leverets at Howick Farm on July 13, and an adult brown hare was seen near Alnwick on July 18.

A young grey seal was on the sand bank at Holy Island Causeway on July 14, and more than 100 seals were hauled out on sandeel beds.

There were two harbour porpoises at Cresswell on July 30, during the Wildlife Trust’s Big Watch weekend.

There were at least six frogs sitting around a Belle Vue Gardens’ pond on July 10, and young frogs were emerging from the wet Snook dune slacks on Holy Island on July 13.

Rosebay willowherb, meadowsweet, hedge parsley, wild parsnip and foxgloves all dominated the roadsides and hedgerows in July.

In dune slacks marsh helleborine, viper’s bugloss, kidney vetch and common centaury were often observed.

The seeds of the pirri-pirri bur, on Holy Island in particular, were a problem to walkers and dog owners alike.

The water courses of the region became home to monkey flower and water crowfoot during the month.

On July 8, bird cherry ermine moth caterpillars had covered a tree in Howick Gardens car park with their feeding webs.

A hummingbird hawk-moth was on the upper deck of a southbound bus on the A1 near Felton on July 26.

A number of butterflies have been scarce this year.

A typical count at Howick contained meadow brown, ringlet, speckled wood, small white and large white species.

Dark green fritillaries and common blues were along the coast.

As the month drew to a close the black headed gulls began to lose their coloured heads and ducks went into eclipse plumage.

Flocks of swifts were screaming overhead, particularly at dusk.

A number of young birds of various species left their nest prematurely and put themselves at risk as they were unable to fly.

Families of young birds gathered on garden feeders, and swallows began to appear on overhead wires.

In an otherwise very quiet countryside, unidentifiable contact calls were heard along the hedgerows.

The next field meting of the society will be held on Thursday, September 1. Please meet in the main car park at Thrunton Wood, at 2pm, for a forest walk looking for fungi, late summer flowers and autumn birds.

Visitors will be most welcome.