Northumberland and Scottish Borders wildlife highlights for the month of June
Kevin O’Hara is a Conservation Officer for Northumberland Wildlife Trust. He is fanatical about Northumbria wildlife and beginning this month will be writing a new wildlife column for www.thisisnorthumberland.com, called Call of the Wild. If you have a question for Kevin about wildlife in Northumbria, where to go or what to see, he would be happy to hear from you. Use the blog comment form below, or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. In his second column, Kevin talks about the impact a wet spring in the North of England has had on wildlife, and what to see this month, including the Farne Islands and St Abbs.
By Kevin O’Hara
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Flaming June! Well we hope so especially if April and May were anything to go by as they were a complete wash out!
The heavy rains have been very problematic for both resident and many migrant bird species as it has interfered with the short window in which they have to breed. For many migrants such as swifts or terns they only get one ‘crack’ of the whip to breed – their presence in the UK being very short and if that fails, for whatever reason, then they have to wait another year.
Amongst resident birds, increased rainfall might equate to floods for them so ground nesters like wader and water birds such as avocet, curlew, grebes, coots and the like, rising water levels can spell disaster – washing out both nests and eggs. If the weather improves, they usually lay a second clutch but it can still be a gamble.
It’s not all doom and gloom though; some of the hardier resident and migrants are in full breeding mode. In my garden the robins successfully fledged two youngsters from a clutch of five, the others succumbing to being laid to early. The blackbirds have fledged four and have finally left my vegetable beds alone in the constant quest for grubs and other delicacies.
June is however usually a time of plentiful and luscious growth something all the recent rain will certainly have helped. As the ransoms and bluebells start to lean, the tree canopy is complete, light levels on the woodland floor start to decrease. Damp conditions will see the first fungi such as many of the brackets and or the weeping widow and shaggy ink cap start to show and the more subtle plants of the countryside such as the many umbellifers like cow parsley or orchids such as the northern marsh or spotted, they all start to flower in June. There is an abundance of insect activity and no shortage of life all around so it can be a truly spectacular time of year.
Farne Islands and St Abbs
I always try to make a visit to some of the more iconic locations on our coast at this time of the year and two locations stand out for me as ‘must dos’.
The Farne Islands should definitely never be missed but go a little further north and you will arrive at to St Abb’s, just north of Berwick. The main attraction at both these sites is the massed array of nesting seabirds, numbering tens of thousands: guillemots, razorbills, shags, puffins, terns and gulls by the thousands abound on their cliff top homes. If you can’t stand the thought of a sea trip from Seahouses or the prospect of a painful or messy dive bombing incident with an Arctic tern, then St Abb’s is well worth a visit.
At either location, the sensory spectacle of noise, smell and commotion of these busy sea bird colonies will fill you with awe, especially if you’re treated to the comic capers of returning puffins, their beaks stuffed with sand eels.
If visiting St Abb’s or the Farne Islands, always pay attention off- shore as you may be treated to an even more unforgettable sight – that of massed gannets plunging from a great height into the seas around you; although gannets don’t nest at either location, the rich waters surrounding them provide great feeding opportunities as they commute along the coast between nesting colonies in the Firth of Fourth and Bempton cliffs in North Yorkshire.
So what are you waiting for? Does the thought of 54,000 guillemots not enthral you? Well, if not, I can certainly vouch for the fish and chips in that area; the one thing I cant do is vouch for the weather.
Category: Northumbria Wildlife