Latest news from North Northumberland Bird Club

At its meeting on April 8, the North Northumberland Bird Club enjoyed a superb presentation by ornithologist, ecologist and experienced birder Richard Baines.

Tuesday, 19th April 2016, 08:00 am

He is now the lead tour guide of his own company, Yorkshire Coast Nature.

Opening by saying how pleased he was to be in Bamburgh, Mr Baines recounted a teenage memory of a talk given to the Teesmouth Bird Club 35 years ago by Graham Bell (founder of North Northumberland Bird Club), on a rare migrant once seen in his garden (a Pallas’s warbler), which set alight Mr Baines’ own passion for seeking out rare birds.

His first photograph was a spectacular shot of the Flamborough headland taken from a drone, which might be the welcome view seen by exhausted migrant birds seeking land.

He described some of the ways he has been assisting and advising farmers along the North Yorkshire coast and his practical work on the land over the last 15 years.

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We heard how the Environmental Stewardship Schemes provide improvements for wildlife, and how European money has been of huge benefit to birds and environmental farming on the Flamborough headland.

Growing wild bird cereals such as barley, triticale and kale – a plant on which reed buntings can perch – is incredibly important for such species as linnets, corn buntings and yellowhammers, which may over-winter on the stubble till spring.

Growing nectar mixes, managing the land, even sometimes “not doing anything”, can improve conditions for wildlife.

Changing farming methods with the use of specialist crops, which can attract insects and small mammals, soon attracts migrant, coastal and farmland birds, including corncrakes, grey partridges, and skylarks.

Creating a wetland project drew Dunlins in within an hour of the digger ceasing work.

Kittiwakes collect mud from the marsh to repair nests on the cliffs, and species such as lapwings, pink-footed geese, a very rare baikal teal, and an equally rare buff-breasted sandpiper, have been recorded using this wetland.

Indeed, Flamborough Head has regularly attracted rarities – including blue fulmar, a Fea’s petrel, a black-necked grebe and a Richard’s pipit (from Western Siberia), a woodchat shrike, a night heron, and an extremely rare red-flanked bluetail – over the years.

Through extremely good relations with local farmers, who once opened their fields for car parking, a total of £1,600 was raised for charity in two days as birders flocked in to see a brown flycatcher, a rare bird, which should have been in India, rather than East Yorkshire.

Flamborough is the most southerly nesting area for puffins around the Eastern English coastline till Cornwall.

It is famous for its gannets, guillemots, shags, fulmars and razorbills, which nest on the cliffs, while great and pomarine skuas are frequent visitors.

North Easterly gales can drive in rafts of passage seabirds, such as sooty shearwaters (2,721 in 2005).

More than a thousand tree sparrows have been counted across the headland, and birders often have the privilege of witnessing massive falls of winter thrushes.

The best time to see flocks of migrants can be in poor weather conditions when it rains, not necessarily at dawn, or when the Yorkshire Fret hangs over the coast.

Richard described one of his most memorable experiences of seeing and hearing a flock of exhausted redwings drop vertically into tree cover on an inland plantation.

The chairman of North Northumberland Bird Club Richard Poyer thanked the speaker for such an interesting talk on the natural history of the headland of Flamborough, for which the future looks good.

On Friday, May 13, George Dodds, chairman of Alnwick Wildlife Group, will give a talk on The College Valley.