What wildlife to look for in April 2017
Lighter mornings have allowed me to get a walk in before work. Even in February, the dawn chorus has been special. There is nothing better than listening to the ‘warbling’ ones of a Robin or the repetitive chorus of the Song Thrush. On the warmer mornings, the thrushes were joined by Great and Blue tits and Chaffinches. Even the ducks at Branton Ponds were getting into the act with Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks getting into the act. It is our smallest of ducks that is fast becoming one of my favourites; the male Teal is something of a work of art. In display, the extension of the crown and stretching of the pale cream panel on the flank together with the quirky squeaks and grunts make the male Teal’s display well worth watching.
Getting up early has also allowed me to catch up with one or two interesting birds. The Bittern at Branton took three early morning visits before it was seen. Water rails squealed in the reed bed and parties of Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatchers gathered in the fields. Early morning travels have also provided good views of Hen harriers and Barn owls.
Species of the month: Orange Underwing Moth
An early spring walk in a birch woodland can be a little unrewarding. There is one creature that is worth looking for especially when the sun comes out – the Orange underwing moth. This moth can often be seen fluttering around the canopy of birch trees just before the trees come into leaf. The moths rarely descend low enough for close inspection and are best observed through binoculars. They appear orange in flight, although as the name suggests this colour is largely restricted to the hindwings. The forewings are blackish-brown with white markings.
The greenish caterpillars usually begin feeding on the catkins of the birch before moving onto the new green leaves.
Orange underwing moths are relatively scare in Northumberland but I suspect that this species is under-recorded. I have seen Orange underwing moths on the old railway line east of Rothbury, Holystone, Beanley and Yardhope Woods and Cragside. It is likely to be a species that could almost anywhere where there are mature stands of either Silver or Downy birch.
Send all sightings to: Ian & Keith Davison, The Bungalow, Branton, Powburn, NE66 4LW Or by email to email@example.com
If you have wildlife queries you can email them to redsquirrel@alnwickwildlife group.co.uk – and they will be forwarded to an appropriate member who will try to answer them. No promises, mind – none of us are great experts!