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Ford and Etal

Northumbria wildlife in August, and wildlife trust events

Other posts by  |  Kevin OHara on Google+ |  August 1, 2012 | 0 Comments
Baby swallows in August, credit Kevin O'Hara

Baby swallows in August, credit Kevin O’Hara

Kevin O'Hara

Kevin O’Hara

Kevin O’Hara, Conservation Officer for Northumberland Wildlife Trust, is the resident Northumbria wildlife columnist here at This is Northumberland. Kevin talks about the drama of the wild weather in July and the impact it’s had across Northumberlan d and particularly on the puffins on the Farne Islands. If you have a question about what kinds of wildlife you can see in Northumbria, please get in touch and we’ll pass on your question to Kevin.

By Kevin O’Hara,
Conservation Officer
Northumberland Wildlife Trust 

Now, I’m not going to say anything about the weather, other than it rained so much in July that at one point I expected to see all the animals walking two-by-two to avoid the biblical floods at the bottom of the hill upon which I live.

This maelstrom of inclement weather has been playing havoc, not only with the Trust’s events calendar, but with wildlife.

Puffins on the Farne Isles suffered heavily as their burrows flooded; ground nesters on the mainland also suffered and the lapwings near my home failed several attempts to raise young, with either eggs or young perishing in the violent weather conditions. There were short interludes of success – the garden birds seem to have managed OK with both my tree and house sparrows now onto their third broods and the blackbirds and robins onto their second.

A sand martin in the rain, credit Kevin O'hara

A sand martin in the rain, credit Kevin O’hara

However, no matter how I tried to echo the wonderful Vaughan Williams score ‘The Lark Ascending’, with my vision of the lands around me resplendent in summer colours, it was more akin to Flanders and the Swan Hippopotamus song – “Mud, mud, glorious mud”.

By now, you would normally expect to see fine assemblages of summer insects on the wing with butterflies and damsels in abundance and groups of feeding fledgling tits and warblers in the hedges.

Alas, these too have been hit by the conditions; mind you, cabbage whites have given my veggie plot a rest, but, unfortunately, the pigeons have not, mind you, pigeon breasts are lovely with new potatoes from my allotment.

A banddd damoselle, credit Kevin O'Hara

A banded damoselle, credit Kevin O’Hara

Hold your breath . . . as I write this in late July, there seems to be a change for the better, which is reflected in the wildlife and flower assemblages and my ability to get out of the office more without wellies.

So what happens through the month of August for you to keep an eye on? Several migrant species have already gone or have started their migration south for the winter – the cuckoo, if you were lucky enough to have heard one, started heading to warmer climes at the start of July, and who can blame them?

Swifts too, are the first of the aerial acrobats to leave, which, considering this was yet another poor year for this high speed migrant, made me feel all the more disappointed as I missed their high speed chases around the roof tops.

When I was in the Algarve recently there were hundreds of them in the skies; half a dozen swifts are the norm these days, it is very sad to see their decline in the UK. Elsewhere, with the late broods I mentioned, expect to see some fledglings still around and about, especially species such as swallows that often have very late broods before migrating.

If you are close to the sea, look out for the large rafts of guillemot and other auks like razorbills that congregate to moult offshore. Sometimes these rafts can number thousands afloat on the high seas; here youngsters gain their adult feathers and the adults their new ones before dispersing into the open sea.

A swallow at Kielder, credit Kevin O'Hara

A swallow at Kielder, credit Kevin O’Hara

There is definitely a southward trend now, species such as terns and shearwaters can be observed in great numbers at times from coastal observation points.

Now is a good time to keep a watchful eye out for whales and dolphins amongst the waves; though not as numerous as they are in deeper waters around the western coasts of the UK the North Sea still has many species on offer. From the humble harbour porpoise to the mighty rorquals. They all enter the North Sea, some just pass through but many stay within the sea for one reason . . . the sea food platter on offer.

A meadow brown, credit Kevin O'hara

A meadow brown, credit Kevin O’hara

As the waters warm throughout the summer and early autumn, the harvest multiplies with shoals of mackerel and herring to keep these pelagic hunters happy. You will even find other great hunters beneath the ocean waves, giant tuna, though very rare (did you know the British record rod caught fish is a tuna caught off Whitby in the 1920s, it was over 800lbs in weight?) and the more common porbeagle shark are all present hunting the riches of the sea.

Early autumn is a time of change and preparation and one of plenty, so lets hope we can play out the remainder of the summer with some fine blue skies and warm temperatures or else I will just have to find a flock of swallows and head south with them.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust events August 2012

Fun with Northumberland Wildlife Trust is set to continue throughout August as the wildlife charity gears itself up to hosting 14 more events around the region; from Cresswell Foreshore on the coast and Big Waters Nature Reserve and Weetslade Country Park on the outskirts of Newcastle to Jesmond Dene in the heart of the City – there will be something to suit everybody.

The itinerary of events in August is as follows:

Thursday 2 August, 9.30am – 1.30pm – Rockpooling at Cresswell Foreshore

Thursday 2 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Sensory Detectives, Millfied House, Jesmond Dene.

Put all your senses to the test – make a woodland mask and some potent perfume plus lots more. Session begins at 1.00pm prompt and lasts for approximately 11/2 hours.

Tuesday 7 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Minibeast Safari, Millfield House, Jesmond Dene

Discover more about the creepy crawlies that live beneath your feet. Session begins at 1.00pm prompt and lasts for approximately 90 minutes.

Tuesday 7 August, 1pm and 2pm – Earth Art, Weetslade Country Park

Drop in for one of two sessions to see what you can make from natural materials including designing a picture and making a tree spirit.

Wednesday 8 August, 12.30pm – 2.30pm – Rockpooling at Cresswell Foreshore

Thursday 9 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Arts & Crafts, Millfield House, Jesmond Dene

Come along and release your creativity. First session begins at 1.00pm prompt, second session 2.00pm.

Tuesday 14 August, 11am – 3pm – Heritage Walk, Weetslade Country Park

A popular six-mile walk starting and ending at Weetslade Country Park and taking in Big Waters Nature Reserve where a free buffet will be waiting to fuel the walkers for their return journey.

Tuesday 14 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Water Safari, Millfied House, Jesmond Dene

Explore the murky depths of Jesmond Dene pond and discover what creatures live there. First session begins at 1.00pm prompt, second session 2.00pm.

Thursday 16 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Minibeast Art & Crafts, Millfied House, Jesmond Dene

Cast, mould and paint your very own minibeast. First session begins at 1.00pm prompt, second session 2.00pm.

Tuesday 21 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Animal Tracks & Trails, Millfield House, Jesmond Dene

Come along and discover animal tracks and trails. Session begins at 1.00pm prompt and lasts for approximately 90 minutes.

Tuesday 21 August, 1pm and 2pm – Campfire Cooking, Weetslade Country Park

Come along and enjoy making twizzle sticks, hot dogs and orange cakes.

Thursday 23 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Minibeast Safari, Millfield House, Jesmond Dene

Discover more about the creepy crawlies that live beneath your feet. Session begins at 1.00pm prompt and lasts for approximately 90 minutes.

Tuesday 28 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Nature Trail, Millfied House, Jesmond Dene

Become a wildlife explorer as you trek through Jesmond Dene. Session begins at 1.00pm prompt and lasts for approximately 90 minutes.

Thursday 30 August, 1.00pm – 3.00pm – Water Safari, Millfield House, Jesmond Dene

Explore the murky depths of Jesmond Dene pond and discover what creatures live there. First session begins at 1.00pm prompt, second session 2.00pm.

All children must be accompanied by an adult and the minimum age for participating children is 5 years of age. There is a suggested donation of £2.50 per child and all equipment will be provided.

Places for many of the activities need to be booked; contact Laura Lowther on: 0191 284 6884 to discuss/secure a place.

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Category: Northumbria Wildlife

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