The nights are long now and those memories of long hot summer days are a distant memory . . . believe that and you will believe anything!
Everything this year seems to have blended into one and this has had some serious effects on our natural world. The wet spring/summer caused many plants and trees, particularly those that bear fruit, to conserve energy and not flower so heavily. Pollination was down too with fewer bees active, so this year there are fewer berries such as sloes, rose hips and hawthorns; staple food for many wintering thrush species and other wildlife, the hedgerows are particularly sparse this winter.
Crops of beech mast and acorns have also failed across much of Europe which has caused even more migration than normal. The lack of these has seen large numbers of jays move in from continental Europe along with thousands of tits. I watched thousands making landfall at Whitburn in October coming in from Scandinavia which was quite amazing seeing all these little birds coming in off the sea en-mass.
Other birds that make the UK their home are other common or garden birds like the humble starling; like sparrows their numbers have dropped drastically in recent years due to various reasons but every winter their numbers are boosted by the arrival of their continental relatives.
We have a little shop in the heart of Sunderland along a busy little high street, I know it’s not Northumberland but this type of high street is replicated all over the north; Blyth, Ashington, Cramlington all have them. You know the ones with lots of takeaways, small retail outlets and grocers, all of which supply food to man and beast.
I was in my delivery boy mode the other day when I first noticed the huge number of starlings in the air; it was evening time and there were several hundred wheeling about the terraced roof tops and derelict buildings of the former industrial heartland of the city.
As a boy I remember the thousands that would congregate in the town centre and Wearmouth Bridge, similarly on trips to Newcastle thousands wheeled around the central station. A breath taking sight that never ceases to amaze me but in our ‘easy clean’ modern world there is no longer a place for these little birds or indeed any kind of wildlife in our towns that ‘threaten’ to disturb our peace of mind or windscreens – look at the iconic kittiwakes on the Tyne Bridge, they may not be there next year, for the simple reason that for three months out of twelve they make too much mess and noise for a small number of people. Such intolerance to nature really annoys me at times and just emphasised what a selfish species homo sapiens are.
Anyway, back to the starlings, I have been watching these little urban dwellers all year now for some photo opportunities that these cheeky chaps always provide. I was recently entertained by a small flock circling around my fish and chips in Seahouses following a trip to the Farne Islands – always curious and busy, they provide a colourful interlude from the norm; these particular characters were in half moult so provided some great photographs whilst I waited for my cup of tea.
Wildlife isn’t just confined to the countryside; all too often, there are wonderful species resident in our city streets with urban foxes dicing with death as they weave through the traffic and pigeons and sparrows circling the skies and swooping down to feed on discarded pizza crusts and chips with many buildings providing excellent nesting opportunities. We glance at it regularly, but all too we don’t realise it is quite literally on your doorstep, so this month keep a look out amongst the chip wrappers and discarded pizza crusts, you never know what’s about from a strafing peregrine to a rampaging ravenous rodent.
Category: Northumbria Wildlife