Nature news from the Chairman
2018 seems to be a year of extreme weather. The drought has brought its benefits; large numbers of insects are on the wing and this is supporting good broods of hirundines and warblers. Some species of butterfly appear to be having a good season. I have found Small earl-bordered Fritillarybutterflieson unknown sites to the east of Cragside and Dark-green Fritillaryon sites around Wooler. From the butterfly atlas, these appear to be old haunts of the latter species.
Dragonflies also seem to be having a good year. One species in particular has been very obvious – the Golden ringed Dragonfly. This is a species that lays its eggs in upland flushes and small streams. In my experience, it is a beast that takes a bit of looking for. This year, I have seen at least 7 individuals in three different locations: Branton Ponds, Cragside and Harthope Valley. May be the drought has made the adults seek more suitable breeding conditions?
Both pairs of House Martins at 5 Front Street, Glanton have fledged young in the last three weeks. Fledging may not be the right word when it comes to young House Martins. I witnessed the young birds leaving the nest on the morning of the 24thJune. They did not stay away for long and have returned each night to roost in the nest. It is only in the last week that the activity during the morning has been restricted to the male singing to attract a mate. I know I have said it before but I love listening to them. The male song reminds me of synthesised Swallow song with a lot of chatter. As I write this, the nests are quiet and I hoping that the females are starting to lay second broods.
What to look for in August:Here come the reds!
From the early days of birdwatching, I always look forward to this time of year. The migration of waders, to me, is one of the joys of mid-summer. Birds can turn up virtually anywhere and most of the adults are still in their breeding season. There are a group of waders, which are especially pleasing – the red ones; Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit. Yes these are relatively common but spectacular.
Knot: a dumpy, short-legged, stocky wading bird. In summer the chest, belly and face are brick-red. In flight, it shows a pale rump and a faint wing-stripe. It breeds in tundra and the Arctic in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Russia. It is a large member of the Calidris sandpipers.
Curlew Sandpipers appear more elegant than Dunlin with a more upright stance, due to their longer legs and more elongated neck. Their longer legs also allow them to wade into deeper water than Dunlin. In flight the rump of a Curlew Sandpiper is white, which contrasts well against the dark rump of the Dunlin. Curlew Sandpipers have longer, more de-curved bills than Dunlin and slightly longer wings which add to their more elegant profile.
Curlew Sandpiper in breeding plumage
In summer they show their full rich chestnut breeding plumage. In flight it shows a white patch stretching from the rump up the back, narrowing to a point. It breeds in the Arctic of Scandinavia and Siberia and hundreds of thousands of them pass through the UK, on their way further south, or stop off here for the winter.
In summer, they have bright orangey-brown chests and bellies, but in winter they’re more greyish-brown. Their most distinctive features are their long beaks and legs, and the black and white stripes on their wings. Female black-tailed godwits are bigger and heavier than the males, with a noticeably longer beak (which helps the sexes to avoid competing for food with each other). They’re very similar to Bar-tailed godwits, which breed in the Arctic. Black-tailed godwits have longer legs, and Bar-tailed godwits don’t have striped wings. As the names suggest, the tail patterns are different, too.
Send all sightings to: Ian & Keith Davison, The Bungalow, Branton, Powburn, NE66 4LW Or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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!