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Wildlife North England: Northumberland’s Spring Finally Arrives

Other posts by  |  Kevin OHara on Google+ |  May 8, 2013 | 0 Comments
Northumberland bluebells at dawn

Northumberland bluebells at dawn. Credit: Kevin O’Hara

Well let’s hope this is spring because my old bones are becoming very weary of the cold!

It was an astonishing turnaround in temperature shift too – one minute I was in my long-johns (there’s a picture for the ladies!) and the next minute I was defrocking myself down at the allotment under beautiful sunshine, singing birds, buzzing bees and a warm southerly breeze. Literally, over- night the temperatures leapt 10 degrees and what a change it made all round.

Things have still been a slow as everything is about two or three weeks behind, but still it is here and there is a host of summer migrants and visitors flocking in.

The change happened so quickly that whilst I was watching my son and his rugby team demolish Percy Park RFC in the beautiful spring sunshine, I heard my first chiff chaff and left the park watching about 20 waxwings high up a poplar, next to the main stand … quite bizarre!

It must be my age getting to me now, but I was ready for it in so many ways, most worthy was the ability to actually get a load of outstanding work projects completed – some, because of the weather and ground conditions, have been outstanding since the autumn.

Northumberland rabbit

A rabbit makes an appearance near Kevin’s home

I have been wielding my chainsaw and planting trees with some of our fine volunteers – searching for newts and playing in the river creating habitats for fish and foes alike, as we completed some bank stabilisation and flow deflection works plus an artificial log pile otter holt. It’s all been a bit of a rush, but again, at least the weather is with us and works can progress without interruption.

Recapping, spring came along overnight about three weeks late in mid to late April, I planted out my broad beans and new potatoes, sowed many brassicas and hardened my tomatoes off. Ooh err, but best of all if anyone is as techno- sad as me, I got my latest iPhone app into real use for the first time, allowing me to record with ease ‘on the hoof’, the first views and calls of returning willow warblers and sand martins. It is exceedingly useful and you can then compare records with previous years on-line. This, along with my gardening records, go back quite a way, and it has been useful to compare the similarities between sowing success and the arrival times of certain migrants as they are all tied into the overall temperature range.

Surprisingly, do you know what? Apart from last year as we had a heat wave in March, there is actually, up here, in my life circle anyway, not a lot of difference over the past ten years or so; everything seems to be more or less even as everything stays within a roughly two to three week range. Some years it’s early, some it’s late, that’s just the way it is.

Walking my border terrorists at this time of the year has it additional worries; as Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail have usually been quite busy and the abundance of juvenile bunnies is of little solace to the unfortunate few who fall foul of the beasts.

However, this year we have had more mouths to feed as it would appear foxes are denning nearby and their eventide forays continue to amuse me if not my pack of errant hounds. There must be cubs about to surface as there is now a well-worn trail back and forth to the denning area which is littered with bit of creature rabbit feet, chicken drumsticks and pigeon wings.

Generally, the emergence of fox cubs is in ‘sync’ with bluebells but, like everything else, these are way behind schedule, so I am waiting with baited breath to see when they first appear, as they are always entertaining, if not a bit mischievous. At least, where I live there is a fair degree of common sense in the neighbourhood, with realising they are not really going to snatch you from your bed at night and that if you give them an opportunity they will exploit it, so generally people don’t.

My chickens have long gone to a larger farm flock so we have nothing to encourage them other than scraps from the bird table, which is being ‘run down’ anyway now as the birds are breeding and natural foods are becoming more abundant elsewhere.

The same however cannot be said for my local country park; why do people feed ducks so much white bread and other stodge thinking they are helping ‘wildlife’? It drives me mad seeing such useless waste being fed to what essentially is an eclectic mix of farmyard ducks and pest species, such as Canada geese and RATS, not wildlife! The only thing that prospers are the rats, it’s horrible, and duck feeding should be curtailed because even none ‘pest’ species, like mute swan become ‘pests’ and overly reliant on a food source that essentially is very bad for them and, more to the point, something they don’t need. This belief that they are hungry is wrong; at my park they even installed signs saying, ‘duck feeding area’. This was of course quickly replaced by the wit to ‘rat feeding station’ – not by me, I hasten to add, but still to no avail of course, as some people return day after day with buckets of food stuff.

But this ailment aside, you can probably tell it has all come as some relief – the warm weather and birdsong. Evening strolls have now become a more pleasurable experience for both me and the dogs, out of the breeze and I can ponder with a big smile on my face as perhaps just perhaps summer is just around the corner.

This month I will be mainly looking out for spring flowers, ransoms and blue bells will all feature this month and I might even find time to dangle a fly for a wily trout, we will just have to wait and see where the spring breeze takes us.

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Category: Northumbria Wildlife

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