It hasn’t been perfect by a long shot, but at least compared to the last couple of years the weather has been positively tropical! It’s been warm and relatively dry except for a couple of deluges, and the sun has been out, so once again the sound of full birdsong has filled the air (if you can hear it over the hum of traffic or, in my case, the malevolent drone of wind turbines nearby). These were erected close to my home over the winter months, much to the disgust of the local residents who had been previously blighted by some malfunctioning earlier models.
These new ones are bigger, and boy are they noisy! When they are on – which appears to be very infrequently, and seems to defeat their alleged objective – their drone drowns out all the nearby birdsong of the wood. This is the wood ‘without any ecological value’, along with the pond that has ‘no ornithological interest’, despite it wintering whooper swans, goldeneye and more.
I have recorded nest sites and wildlife in this area for years (inadmissible evidence before you ask) and the one thing that stood out this year was the abandonment of several permanent territories nearest to the turbines. Call me a cynic, but is it coincidence that the whitethroats and blackcaps that have always nested in the scrub patches and hawthorn hedge bottoms couldn’t hear their own voices over that noise, or did they simply not return from the rigours of migration?
Well, all the other permanent territories out of earshot of the turbines had whitethroats, sedge and blackcap singing, as they have done from the same places for the last six or seven years – so why not in the other usual sites? Nothing else had changed, bar the tripods moving in next door, but I’ll let you decide the reasons behind that little conundrum.
I’ve enjoyed the month so far, and I’m looking forward to the Azores high, or whatever they call it, warming me through as June progresses and we look forward to the possibility of a lengthy summer.
The effects of the cold late winter are still all around us. As I write in late-May, the bluebells are just starting to make an appearance and whilst doing some NVC surveys, I have struggled to compile a species list other than of grasses, dandelions and buttercups. There is a definite feeling – a ‘knowledge from experience’, if you will – that the last few years are taking its toll on species’ wellbeing. I have struggled to spot many butterflies this year, just the odd peacock, green veined and cabbage whites. As always there are definitely fewer swifts; I rarely see them over my house these days, and even at work where I first started nearly 15 years ago, there were always hordes of screaming swift parties overhead in May and June. Now just a handful return, which always makes me sad.
However, we hope Mother Nature is used to such turbulence, and I had all the common species fledge in and around my garden at roughly the same time towards the end of May. I love to both hear and see the first new blackbirds and starlings on the lawn, still demanding to be fed by their ever-attentive parents and haplessly trying to get food for themselves for the first time. Best of all were the number of fluffy half-fledged lapwing chicks apparent on the mud patches where I’d counted nesting adults earlier. My iPhone app has been pretty busy as I wander around, dragging my heels and tapping away on the screen, recording everything I see to the annoyance of my wife and dogs on our daily jaunts.
The foxes are out and about now, although their presence is no longer a relative secret or a pleasure to some. Their burgeoning range and diet has brought them into conflict with an urban chicken keeper who has lost birds, but at least she realises she has to lock them up at night now! Urmm, the saying I have told my children for years when they have been a bit dim springs to mind; ‘put your finger to your head and spell RED backwards aloud’. Anyway, the foxes are off into the big wild world now and I often smell their progress as the dogs search frantically on the last walk of the evening. I wish them well, but without the sentiment so many people have for wild things these days. When wildlife appears to need a hand, then it is usually too late to help, so it’s best to leave it alone.
June is still a busy month, and I’m certainly looking forward to some long, warm evening on the allotment, where I have blackcap in full song close by, and swallows and martins overhead for company. I will, however, be taking time out to visit many favourite places including south west Scotland, or even a western Isle. But closer to home, I will definitely be visiting the Farne Islands, a must for anyone really and on a ‘good-weather day’ it is a magnificent spectacle.
A trip into any bluebell wood full of birdsong at dawn is also worth a shot, especially early in the month. Whatever floats your boat, get out there if the opportunity is there – we’re only here once so it’s time to start making inroads into your ‘bucket list’, whatever your age!
Category: Northumbria Wildlife