What wildlife to look for in March 2018
The cold weather has continued. Periods of ice and snow have been replaced by unseasonably mild weather. I am sure that the wildlife are having the same problems as me, trying to adapt to the changing weather patterns. Carrying out a Wetland Bird Survey in a blizzard was an experience. The difficult conditions produced excellent views of Black-tailed Godwit (17) and Turnstones (15) in front of the Fenham le Moor hide on the 18th January. There have been a good number of Barn Owl sightings in the Broome Park area all month. Sometimes both Barn and Tawny Owls being seen within a short distance.
The promise of spring has lured birds inland. Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Curlew and Shelduck have already started to appear at Branton Ponds by the end of January. Rarer species have included a pair of Shoveler, a male Pochard and a Bittern at the same site by the 5th February. Willows and Hazel are starting to produce catkins and the first flowering Dandelions have been seen on south-facing roadside verges in the north of the County.
What to look for in March: White-winged Gulls
White-winged gulls (e.g. Glaucous and Iceland) usually turn up during or after the first big storms of the winter. March and early April can often be a good time to see them as they return north. Sightings can be just about anywhere from the coast to well inland. Already this year, I have seen a 1st calendar year (1CY) Iceland gull drifting over the stands at the Newcastle Falcons rugby ground. Probably the best place to see these birds are on the coast or on our estuaries such as Berwick, Amble or North Shields but they could turn up anywhere from the sandbanks off Goswick to Branton Ponds.
Adult Glaucous Gull
1st Calendar year Glaucous Gull
The Glaucous Gull is a large pale gull with white wing tips. Younger birds are creamy white or more biscuit coloured, depending on age. All have pale wingtips. It is bigger than a herring gull and bulkier, with a fiercer expression, larger beak and squarer head than the smaller but virtually identically-plumaged plumaged Iceland gull.
The Iceland gull is a medium-size gull, smaller than most Herring gulls. It has a rounded head and smallish beak, giving it a dove-like expression. It has very pale plumage and white wing tips and, like the glaucous gull, it is sometimes referred to as a ‘white-winged’ gull. It is a winter visitor, with small numbers of birds, usually seen alone. It breeds in the Arctic but not in Iceland!
Iceland Gull – adult
1st Calendar year Iceland Gull
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!