Notes kindly provided by Malcolm Hutcheson, who will be leading some walks with Berwick wildlife group during the summer, check out the dates on their web site www.berwickwildlifegroup.org.uk
With the mild conditions, this has been an unusual winter for local wildlife. The storms before Christmas brought unusual numbers of seabirds to the Berwick shoreline, many feeding close to the shore, e.g. c.450 Guillemot and c.30 Gannets along with Fulmars and Kittiwakes, feeding off Berwick Pier on 2nd January. Normally these birds are in the Southern Atlantic, but the severe storms have driven them into the more sheltered North Sea.
Around West Ord, the mild conditions brought very few winter thrushes and other wintering birds. The exception being a local herd of Whooper Swans which took to the fields around Loanend. Peak numbers reached 182 by March 2nd and were joined by a smaller and scarce Bewick’s Swan for a couple of days. Several unusual waterside birds were noted at this time with a Bittern taking up residence in the reed bed near the Whitadder confluence and a Little Egret over-wintering on the Estuary for the first time. This small white heron, is spreading northwards at a steady pace, and are now being recorded in Northern Scotland. Just 30 years ago, it was a rarity in this country – shades of global warming perhaps!! Another example of this came with the regular spring build up of Black headed Gulls which gather in small roosting flocks by the Tweed before heading inland to there breeding sites. On March 9th ,a fine Mediterranean Gull was amongst 250 roosting ‘Black-heads’ by the Tweed. A beautiful sub-species of the Black headed Gull from Southern Europe, which like the Egret has stared to appear in numbers in recent years.
The early April saw the first Spring migrants arriving with a large flock of c70 Sand Martins delayed by cold damp conditions early on April 4th. Two days later saw the first Swallow arrive, with both Chiff-chaff and Blackcap singing locally.
In the Estuary, the first Sandwich Terns arrived along with a build up of Ringed Plover and Sanderling migrating northwards to breeding sites in the Arctic.
Roe Deer have also increased with a group of 5 grazing with the sheep regularly in the early morning. A family of Otters are also in the estuary with the female and two cubs seen around the Royal Border Bridge and a fine dog Otter seen around the Lifeboat Station and at the mouth of the estuary.
So things are fairly positive after a rather stormy winter. Let’s hope we have a nice warm, traditional Summer, but knowing our variable weather systems anything could happen.