Tag Archives: environment

Fantastic Frogs

It’s that time of year again when ponds boil with amorous amphibians, all seeking to find a mate and spawn.

The pond at the Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s tiny St Nicholas Park reserve must be one of the best places in the north east to witness the spectacle of frogs mating and they have finally arrived to begin their bacchanalian ritual.

It’s been pretty cold of late but the recent mild spell saw frogs begin to converge on the pond, in expectation of the start of a new breeding cycle.

As is typical, the males have arrived first to begin their croaking courtship ritual and these can be told by their pale throats and duller grey coloration.

There are some females though too and these are browner and have the typical mottled colours we associate with our common frogs.

Only a few had produced spawn at the beginning of last week but there is still plenty of time. What an incredible wildlife spectacle to witness at close hand!

Short-eared Owls

My luck was finally in on Friday evening at Prestwick Carr, as I managed to catch up with two of the long-staying Short-eared Owls. Wow! What absolutely sublime birds they are. For me, there is no finer bird to be seen in England.

The wind was up again so I wasn’t hopeful that any of the owls would show but I timed it right and for about half an hour the wind eased a little. Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, first one, then two owls appeared in what I gather is their usual spot.

They proceeded to hunt the field, with some nice hovering and a few close up views but also quite a lot of perching on the far side of the field. I didn’t care though, nor did I get a decent photo – but I am thrilled just to have seen these majestic creatures in action.

After a while, the wind began to pick up again and the birds were spending increasing amounts of time perched at the far side of the field, so I decided to take my leave. What a great way to spend ninety minutes or so though – amazing!

Spring: out of the bottle?

Gorse

I love looking out for signs the seasons are changing, especially if it’s winter turning to spring. This weekend, the Gorse was back in flower near Holywell – not just old flowers left over from last year, they were all brand new this year.

There were other signs of spring too, with my first Skylarks of the year, singing in bursts in the fields east of the pond. About three or four pairs were in the area, flying up into the air and chasing each other. Also in the fields was a pair of Reed Bunting but there were no Yellowhammers and not a trace of the Linnets that were there in number before the New Year.

The solitary Kestrel continues to hunt the fields though and is always a pleasure to watch. A flock of Lapwing flew over, as well as a pair of Stock Dove as I made my way towards Holywell Dene, in hope of the Dippers or maybe a Grey wagtail.

Scrub - Holywell Dene

The mature scrub on the north side of the burn by Hartley looks fantastic for birds. Just a short look saw Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch and a pair of Woodpigeon that looked like they might already be on a nest. Come May this area is going to be alive with bird life!

Heading back towards Holywell village through the Dene I could hear a Song Thrush in full song but try as I might, I couldn’t locate the bird. Its song was mesmerising enough though and called to mind warm summer evenings.

The usual Tits, Robins and Dunnocks flitted about the feeders in the woods, joined by at least two Nuthatch and scaling a tree nearby, a solitary Treecreeper.

Holywell Pond was fairly quiet, holding a flock of around twelve Pochard, similar numbers of Tufted Duck and Gadwall and a few Mallard. The ducks were joined by two small groups of geese – perhaps family parties – of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese. These were notable for me as they are the first I have seen at the pond in 2015, whereas last year the fields nearby contained a decent-sized flock of Greylag Geese for most of the winter.

There were no Goldeneye on the water but a Grey Heron lurked by the island and a Cormorant fished the deeper water. To me at least, it seems like the genie may be out of the bottle and that spring has begun its inevitable march. We will see though…

New Home

House Sparrow Nest Box

As it is a new year, in a new home, I thought it must be time for a new nest box for the garden. With time fairly limited at the minute, I decided to buy one this year instead of building my own. I must say, I am rather pleased with my purchase.

House Sparrow Nest Box

I decided on a communal box with three separate sections, to try and encourage the local House Sparrows. There are plenty around, with a small colony in the privet hedge a few doors down, so hopefully we will manage to attract a couple of pairs to nest with us.

Nest Box In Situ

With not may locations to choose from I opted to mount the box close to the house. There’s a good chance the birds may find it too close but I’ll give it a couple of breeding seasons before I move it elsewhere.

And this year I am in time for National Nest Box Week, so I will be able to monitor and record what – if anything – chooses to make its home in my new box, as well as the nest box that was already in the garden!

Blackcap

Blackcap

This male Blackcap was an unusual winter visitor in the garden this weekend, appearing on the feeder periodically on both days. Presumably it’s an overwintering bird that has been blown in from somewhere else on the strong winds last week.

It is my first record of a Blackcap in our new garden and was a fantastic surprise. In 2014 my first Blackcap was not sighted until very early April! It will be interesting  to see if he sticks around for a while or moves off somewhere else.

Not the best photo but it was taken through the window, from the comfort of the house…and the light was poor…