What wildlife to look for in March 2017
The mixture of cold nights and relatively warm days has meant that there are quite a lot of Prunus type bushes flowering in gardens, birds are starting to sing and the first lambs of spring can be found. The mornings and evenings are starting to pull out and with this Barn owls are becoming quite obvious (e.g. 2 birds sitting on posts within 100m near Akeld on the 7th Feb).
At Glanton, the bird feeders are very busy with House Sparrows and Jackdaws. They are accompanied by small numbers of Collared Doves, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds. Starlings are now regular since I altered the bird feeder – why I am not so certain. In the past Starlings only visited our back yard when there was snow on the ground, this January they have been daily.
The other thing that puzzles me is the difference in size between some pairs of Jackdaws. Learned journals indicate that males are bigger than females and yet in some cases males appear almost twice the size. Several times this winter, I have had to look again at a pair of Jackdaws to make sure they are the same species!
Winter is a great time to watch the nuances of bird behaviour whether it is the shaping of the tail and sky gazing of Robins when in dispute or the behavioural interaction of Dunnocks and Robins. There is plenty to learn from our commonest birds
Species of the month: Adders
Late February is often a good time to look for Adders. Last weekend there were at least two cars from the ‘Toon’ looking for the first Adders of the years to appear at Branton Ponds.
The only British venomous snake, the Adder has distinct ‘V’ or ‘X’ shaped markings on the head. Increasingly, these markings are being used by enthusiasts to identify individuals. Adders have a characteristic indented or zigzag stripe on their back and their flanks usually have a row of dark oval spots. Back-ground colour can vary from almost white or pale grey through to yellows, browns and occasionally brick red. The skin tends to darken before it is ‘slough off’/replaced.
Females (65 cm) are generally larger and range from yellows and browns in colour. Whereas males (60cm) are paler (greys, steel colour or white).
Breeding and young
Males appear from hibernation in early spring, the females follow approximately a month later. Mating occurs in the later part of April and the first half of May. Males are territorial at this time and may occasionally be seen to duel or “dance” as a show of strength. Adders give birth in late summer to approximately 8 live young that measure 15 – 20 cm. The young are contained in a membrane that breaks immediately after they are born. Adders usually only reproduce every other year in the UK.
What else could it be?
This snake maybe confused with the Grass Snake. The Grass Snake is a far more slender species and lacks the characteristic zigzag stripe of the Adder. The Adder may also be distinguished by its vertically slit pupil.
Sometimes the Adder is confused with the Slow-worm, which is a leg-less lizard and not a snake at all. The Slow-worm is a smaller creature (40 – 45cm) with a glassy grey/brown appearance.
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!