May: In the summer time...

A red squirrel among some ferns and leaves.

While Allen Banks remains closed, there's still plenty to be getting on with and some surprises too.

Have you seen what we caught on camera?

We had wildlife cameras set up by the river hoping to catch more footage of the otters but got a red squirrel instead!

It's rare to see these elusive mammals when walking in the woods so the video is a great reassurance to know they're still here. 

Unfortunately, red numbers are declining across the country due to a combination of habitat loss and the Squirrel Pox virus transmitted by the non-native Grey Squirrel.

Northumberland is one of the last strongholds in England for them and we work in partnership with Red Squirrel Northern England and the Forestry Commission to ensure they can thrive here.

Summer is also dormouse surveying time and we have over 250 nest boxes set up through Staward Gorge. It is home to the most northerly population of Dormice and 100 acres of the woodland round Staward Pele is designated as a SSSI, for the unique habitat that supports them.

It’s not just Dormice that use the nest boxes though; we often find Blue Tits and Wrens in them and on this occasion found a bat. 

Checking the boxes gives us a great overall view of the state of nature in the woodland and early indications this year are that everything is late nesting – probably due to the cool spring we’ve had. We’ll be back out checking the boxes over the summer and will keep you updated with what we find.

We’re now into the final year of our three year Heritage Lottery Funded BatLife project and have recently been doing some trapping work in the woods.

With a combination of old trees to nest in, river and open fields to feed along and plenty of insects to eat this is an ideal location for bats. 

Of the 10 species found in Northumberland, eight have been caught in Allen Banks and Staward Gorge to date. It’s almost time for the bats to give birth so we’ll leave them in peace for a couple of months to raise their young before we’re back out trying to learn where they spend the winter hibernating.