Recently in Alan Tilmouth Category
Despite the wet weather this month reports coming from Coquet Island suggest are suggesting a bumper breeding season for Northumberland's rarest breeding tern the Roseate Tern.
A team of ringers from the BTO and RSPB have been ringing this year's chicks and as of yesterday were reporting preliminary numbers at 82 pairs breeding with 75 chicks ringed so far this year.
For one particular birder and BTO worker Tom Cadwallender, this years chicks have been extra special. Tom has been ringing Roseate Terns on Coquet Island since 1991 and with the chicks ringed this year his total ringed has surpassed one thousand. That's a fantastic achievement and contribution to the improvement in long term numbers of one of the regions rarest breeding birds.
The news in The Journal this week that Ospreys are breeding for the first time in over 200 years at Kielder Water is great news for conservationists and bird lovers alike. The real winners though could be the local economy in the Kielder area as has been seen at Loch Garten in Speyside and Bassenthwaite in the Lake District.
Predictably at this time of year, most of our birds have settled down to the job in hand of breeding. Every bush and brook seems to hold young birds at the moment with family parties of duckling & gosling everywhere. Avocets on Teeside seem to be having a good breeding year with the number of chicks increasing weekly.
An immature Purple Heron spent the last few days of May at Saltholme Pool and attracted a bit of attention, this rare visitor can be elusive spending long periods of time deep in reedbeds but showed well to those that were patient. This particluar bird ended a long wait by recently retired Teesmouth Bird Club Chairman Ted Parker who has been trying to add Purple Heron to his 'British List' (all the species seen in Britain) for 47 years!
Birders often turn their attention to other wildlife during the summer and the region boasts a superb number of 'nature' bloggers who record and write about everything from bats to crayfish and all things in between.
Today's Journal story about the Common Cuckoo joining other species on the Birds of Conservation Concern "Red List" comes as no surprise to birders in the region. In fact this re-classification is long overdue. Common Cuckoo's are simply no longer Common. In fact they are so uncommon it's a wonder Trading Standards haven't launched an investigation.
The exact cause of the decline of this herald of Spring is uncertain, it may well be a that a number of factors are at play involving a reduction in food supply, perhaps a reduction in the 'host' species whose nests are used to lay eggs or possibly problems in their wintering grounds in Africa. What is probably not in question however is that man will lay at the root of whatever is causing them to decline. It's a disgrace that we may be the last generation to be able to walk into the countryside and hear a Cuckoo but more of us need to care and be prepared to try and change our lifestyles and have our voices heard by business and government in order to redress the balance.
Last week was certainly a busy one for birders here in the North East, particularly those with an interest in migrants as the spell of Easterly winds combined with the rain toward the end of the week brought several uncommon species to our coast.
Star billing probably went to the Farne Islands with their second Red-Throated Pipit of the year, this beautiful cousin of our common Meadow Pipit breeds in Scandanavia & Russia in Arctic and Sub Arctic areas, only a few ever reach Britain. Another visitor from over the North Sea were a couple of Bluethroats one each on Holy Island & The Farnes. Bluethroats are slightly bigger than a Robin but as their name suggest have a 'blue throat'. Once or twice Bluethroats have bred in Scotland, 1995 being the last occasion.
Elsewhere there were lots of warblers along the coast with more of our summer breeding birds arriving. Garden Warblers were very prominent with lots of males singing from coastal scrub. Amongst these UK breeders were two or three larger Icterine Warbler that don't breed in the UK (apart from one pair in 1992) although they are fairly common in Western Europe. Newbiggin, Holy Island and Cleveland all managed one 'Iccy' each.
Whitburn hosted a Red-backed Shrike and the first Quail began to arrive with birds in Durham and Northumberland. One of our less well known breeding birds the Nightjar are also beginning to arrive, mainly nocturnal in habits it is unusual to see one on migration so a bird found on Holy Island which flew up and down the street for a short time delighted one birder at the weekend. Now that the winds have changed all these migrants will slowly slip awaway, those planning to breed here will settle down to the task in hand. Some have already started with the first Arctic Tern eggs now laid on the Farnes. Spare a thought though for the humble House Sparrow in coming weeks. Recent research has shown that one of the key reasons behind it's decline in recent years has been the lack of greenfly in our gardens to feed their young in the first early stages. So if your a gardener try leaving a few patches unsprayed this year and provide a little extra help to one of our best loved birds.
News that Elliot Morley has been temporarily suspended from the Labour Party has been greeted with amusement in the birding world. Mr Morley claims to be a birder and any birder worth their salt has taken a look at the weather charts for this weekend and done whatever it takes to get a pass out, leave or whatever else is necessary to go birding. East winds, rainfall, high pressure over the contintent. classic migrant fall conditions. Don't read too much into the suspension he'll be back once he's seen a few rarities.
The UK has been on the receiving end of an invasion in recent days. There may have only been eleven of them but the Whiskered Terns that turned up (no pun intended) and spread out across the UK created a stir in the birding world.
Birders on Teeside were lucky enough to catch up with two of these fabulous looking Terns at Saltholme Pools RSPB but their visit was a one day only event.
Whiskered Terns breed in East & South Africa, Australia and Europe & Asia. The European population is migratory wintering in Africa. It is a 'Marsh' Tern choosing to breed on inland marshes often near Black-headed Gull colonies.
image courtesy & copyright V Smith
Whilst Red Kites have been making all the news up here in the North east there are several other bird species that are colonizing the area or expected to in the near future. All of these species are spreading north rapidly, probably as a result of climate change and can be encountered here in the North East.
Gradually our summer visitors are beginning to return around the region. In the past few days a pair of Avocets have again taken up residence at Washington Wildfowl Trust and six others are making themselves at home a little further south on Teeside.
The first Swallows have been reported as far north as Lesbury and a Yellow Wagtail was at Cresswell Pond NWT this morning. Over the coming days the number and range of summer visitors will increase dramatically with the main populations of Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin filling the skies with 'Hirundines'.
Our woods will ring with more unusual bird song from Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Willow Warblers whose descending song will be everywhere in the next couple of weeks.