Wildlife in the North East in 2015

Stephen Morley, Wildlife and countryside adviser Stephen Morley Wildlife and countryside adviser
Two puffins on Staple Island, part of the Farne Islands

2015 has been another challenging year for wildlife across the country. The topsy turvy weather has led to some wildlife highs and lows, and some unusual sightings.

Spring successes

Froglets in spring
Froglets in spring

Without any late frosts to catch them out, most of the frog spawn at Wallington was successful with thousands of little froglets hatching. The dry sunny start to the year also led to an increase in sightings of roe deer juveniles at Wallington.

The storm that followed

A storm in early May saw south-easterly winds batter the Farne Islands, destroying many of the eggs laid by cliff-nesting species including shags and guillemots.

Cliff nesting seabirds on the Farnes
Shag on the Farne Islands
Cliff nesting seabirds on the Farnes

The cold snap in late spring had an impact on the food available for native birds. Bird ringing volunteers at Gibside reported poor survival rates of the great, blue and coal tit chicks, and the rangers at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge noticed lots of abandoned nests. 

Some wildlife was later than usual

Swallows arrived for summer at Wallington much later than usual this year, with far fewer making it back than in previous years. And the rhododendrons at Cragside, which usually cover the estate in bloom from late May, flowered up to three weeks later.

Cragside is famous for it's display of Rhododendrons in June
Rhododendrons at Cragside
Cragside is famous for it's display of Rhododendrons in June

Heavy rain caused devastation in summer

Mid-July saw 31.5ml of rainfall on the Farne Islands. Puffin burrows were flooded, kittiwake nests were washed clean off the cliffs and many Arctic tern chicks died in the rain. 

Look what the wind blew in

We spotted a buff-breasted sandpiper on The Leas in September. These wading birds breed in Alaska and North Canada and overwinter in South America. We think it blew across the Atlantic on on strong westerly-winds. Also on The Leas in late October strong easterly winds brought an influx of goldcrests on their autumn migration. Rangers ringed a total of 238 birds.

A Goldcrest ready to be ringed
A Goldcrest ready to be ringed

An unusual November

We spotted some un-seasonal sightings along The Leas in November including a cowslip in bloom and a red admiral butterfly. We also noticed that bats in a newly discovered roost at Gibside Stables were active into November this year, when they’d usually have moved to their winter hibernation site.

So it's been a year of ups and downs for wildlife in the North East thanks to our ever changing weather. But we've also had some good news wildlife wise. We've spotted an otter family on the River Allen in Northumberland, 49 rare little terns fledged on the Northumberland Coast and it's been another record year for guillemots on the Farne Islands. Let's hope 2016 brings lots of nice surprises.