Despite the warm summer weather there is still plenty of wildlife to see, especially – but not exclusively – of the insect kind. In reverse chronological order…
This morning as I drove into work in Gosforth, I happened to look upwards and caught sight of a solitary Sparrowhawk circling amongst nervous-looking Swifts. Fantastic!
Yesterday lunchtime as I strolled out near work, I happened to look upwards and caught sight of a pair of Sparrowhawks circling amongst nervous-looking Swifts. They were much higher than the bird I spotted this morning so it was a wonder I saw them at all. I am not sure why I looked up at that moment but it was a spectacular surprise. I wonder if one of the pair was the bird I saw today?
On Monday on my way into work, cutting through the superb wildflower meadow that has been created in the office grounds, I spotted a wonderful Six-Spot Burnet moth hovering daintily between the Vetch, Yellow Rattle and Ox Eye Daisies. Its black and red colouring made it easy to see, even amongst all that meadow – wonderful.
There’s also a tree at the end of that same wildflower meadow which is home to a colony of honey bees. I wonder if it is a feral colony of escaped bees or a nest of wild honey bees? Either way it’s great to watch them as they approach the entrance to the nest, which is in a cavity on one side of the tree.
On Sunday I attended a guided walk around Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, led by the Director of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, which manages the site. It was a superb couple of hours and although I have already been here and know the locality ever so well (I grew up across the fields!), the reserve really is a jewel in Newcastle’s crown.
On each visit there it feels more and more special. One of the things I like the most is that the reserve really does feel like a wild place, not just a tame country park. Early in the morning, with no other folk around it’s easy to imagine that this must have been how the countryside once was. This is ironic as the reserve has been created out of part of what was once a large country estate! Either way, nature has well and truly reclaimed the place.
A highlight of the morning was a visit to the ringing station where we were shown a couple of juvenile Blue Tits and an adult female Sedge Warbler, all of which had been caught, weighed and had their wing length and body fat measured by the team of dedicated volunteers. The site is a Constant Effort Site (or “CES”) for bird ringing, which means it contributes to an incredibly valuable, long-term national data set.
The Sedge Warbler had recently finished breeding, as evidenced by the re-growth of its breast feathers over its brood patch. To be honest I am in awe of these tiny migratory birds that achieve such incredible feats in their short lifetimes. How is it possible they can travel to and from Africa several times in their lives, returning to the same place to breed year after year? It really is one of nature’s miracles.
Another highlight was a fleeting glimpse of a Little Bittern flying across the lake area into the reed bed. This incredible rarity for the area was really unusual and once again highlights what a special and important place the reserve is for wildlife.
Even though the Little Bittern was amazing, perhaps my favourite part of the walk coincided with our arrival at a small area of heath land still present on the reserve. Here there were numerous Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Large Skipper butterflies flitting gracefully around the sunny, open clearing.
And finally, last Saturday evening I took a stroll with my boys around Holywell Pond, where we watched a juvenile Grey Heron try to snatch one of the Common Tern chicks from the island in the middle of the water. The Heron was successfully mobbed by the adult birds but it seemed to me that there were fewer than the five pairs of Terns that had originally nested on the island – perhaps now only three pairs. That’s nature in action I guess.
Wildlife really is all around us – and I am glad it is. The more you look, the more there is to see.