A European Cormorant has taken up residence on the River Wansbeck. We have been watching it over the Winter months. We thought it would fly off this Spring to seek a mate – but no; he’s still about. Last week we saw him fishing – well not exactly fishing I think because there was a family of mallards on the river and the cormorant, keeping a low profile, his body submerged watched them, then dived beneath and came up right in the middle of them. He didn’t get one but they scattered away from mum and dad and the strategy was obvious. We saw him fishing again this week – really fishing I think this time. He is very streamlined and swims under for about 30 seconds at a time.
We’ve been keeping our eyes peeled for red squirrels whenever we go on our walks. We haven’t seen one since last May and that was close to home in the grounds of Longhirst Hall. But it seems all is not lost because a member of staff at Wallington told us they now have 12 living in the grounds there, which is an increase, and that they are beginning a tagging programme to study the population there with a view to conservation. Greys are encroaching and have been seen at Belsay. They carry a disease that kills reds and they are also bigger and better adapted to eat whatever they can get. The introduction of non-indigenous species always causes problems but controlling their populations is not a popular choice either.
So far this season we have seen rabbits making a comeback on Lindisfarne after being predated by deliberately introduced weasels. The rabbits on the island have never caused that much damage according to my friend who lived there. Thirty or so baby bunnies were grazing along the verges between here and Ashington this week Last week we saw a toad on the path to the Cragwood at Belsay but no frogs yet or newts at the quarry pond. We heard a woodpecker at Belsay on that same visit. Then today, 9th May at last a cuckoo in the woods at Bolam Lakes. We haven’t heard a cuckoo for a few of years so that was a real treat. They are apparently not arriving in the accustomed numbers on our shores and studies are underway to see why the population is so decreased. Are cuckoos being netted on their way here?
At Bolam I spotted this goose protecting his hen and three gorgeous goslings. I gave them a wide berth because geese will attack, but I managed to sneak up close enough, out of sightline, behind an obliging tree, to take this.
Bluebells are blooming and ramsons are rife. Gunneras are growing fast and there’s an underwater promise of lily pads. It seems there is hope for life.