After the slightly longer, and colder, late winter and early spring, nature has been making hay while the sun shines as they say, and, for the best part, the recent weather has been really nice for a change.
In some areas it has been rather splendid for wildlife and the environment – that is outside the world of politics, which would have us believe that we are overrun with predators and diseases are rampant in the countryside.
I am, of course, talking about the start of culling of badgers and the recent occurrence of buzzard control. Both issues fly in the face of mass public opinion, common sense and, most importantly scientific evidence, but these factors seem to have been ignored by our current decision makers.
Such issues have been very unwelcome distractions to, and cast a very dark shadow over, what has been a splendid late spring, with wildlife generally doing very well - burgeoning in fact.
The blackbirds in and around my garden went into overdrive and have produced at least three broods, I have great tits in one nest box and after disappearing, the tree sparrows returned in early June to start nesting again! My iPhone app has been red hot as it’s never been so busy recording and sending data to the British Trust for Ornithology.
It was quite unusual, to say the least, how the late winter/spring has delayed things, and my first May flower (hawthorn) didn’t appear until June, along with a host of other plants - pretty much everything has now eventually caught up.
Locally, I was ecstatic to see to see my local buzzards and badgers have avoided the depredations of human beings and continued to survive and breed.
Even more surprising were the local roe deer, which for the past three years have remained almost undiscovered, and known by only a few. This year I found a single kid hidden in the tall vegetation, quite amazing considering but even by late June, the does still had not got rid of their entire winter coat, a reminder of how recent the cold spell was.
The young buck is not so young any more and neither is he alone as he has a ‘friend’! Late June was the best time for me and all combined one evening, when I had five buzzards overhead, four badgers in the pasture and three roe deer browsing in the late evening sun nearby and for a fleeting moment the drone of traffic stopped and all was natural – marvellous!
Could it get any better, I hear you ask? You’re damn right it could! One day, there they were! … I haven’t seen otters for some time, and then just like buses, there was not just one family but two! Both were great experiences and both in as diverse locations as you can imagine.
A colleague alerted me to the first family, within an old location where I have watched them before, so no huge surprise. It has been about two/three years since the last litter there so the interval between is about right. I caught up with them myself, firstly around mid-afternoon in beautiful bright and hot conditions, the bitch fishing alone inconspicuously around an island - just the tell-tale change in the wave patterns and flick of her tale visible to the observant watcher.
And then, like the sudden arrival of a group of rowdy baboons, two cubs appeared, shattering the security created by the hunting bitch! “We’re here, dennarrrr!!!”, they announce; teal rocket from the sedges and coot run for their lives, black headed gulls mob, the boys are back in town and everyone knows it and they don’t care. The bitch reluctantly accepts the arrival of her boisterous kin as she has little choice in the matter - they just want to be out, fed and entertained.
I’ve watched them on and off now for a few weeks and they are making good progress but are keeping their distance a little, so photo opportunities are a bit limited. I’ll keep at it as I know the opportunities will come eventually.
Obviously feeling very smug with myself and my observations this past month or two, I was walking the dogs early one morning in my local country park, admiring a yellow wagtail. I could see gulls diving and swirling above a mess of - guess what - another family of otters and these boys were really back in! I was truly staggered by their appearance here, and I have everything possible crossed for their survival; it will be a hard one to call.
As you can tell I could wax lyrical forever about otters as they truly are amazing creatures, the way they move with effortless grace through the water … I’m at it again! Suffice to say, they are the bee’s knees for me, and always will be.
Enough self-indulgence and gloating, what is there to see out and about this month? Wild flower meadows and uncut grass verges in the Pennines are at their best this month - there are some lovely orchids about this month. Hedgerows, too, will have elderflower in blossom and some fields may be full of poppies.
It’s still a great time to get to the Farne Isles to see the sea birds, down by the water’s edge the dragonflies and damsels are about and so too are butterflies and other insects. Before you dismiss them as not being as significant as the major species of bird and mammal, perhaps spare a thought as to why many other species, like birds for instance, are not doing as well as they should be. It is without doubt because of the lack of insects in the wider environment. So be observant and look out for hoverflies, soldier beetle species and of course bumble bees around the many umbellifers and other pollen-rich plants along roadsides, hedge bottoms and woodland rides.
But whatever you’re up to, wherever you are - enjoy it, keep watching and recording and maybe you too will have the thrill of seeing a buzzard, a roe deer or even an elusive otter.
Category: Northumbria Wildlife