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Branton Lakes Nature Reserve wildlife report 2016

Wildlife report 2016

Following the transfer of ownership of Branton Nature Conservation Area/Branton Ponds from Cemex to the Hedgeley Estate, it was felt important to collect as much data as possible on the state of the wildlife on the site.

Consequently, Alnwick Wildlife Group (AWG) took the lead in compiling data. Almost all the records have come directly from members of AWG or from visits organised by AWG members. In particular, Ian and Keith Davison visited the site on an almost daily basis and have contributed the majority of the bird records and the ‘other sightings’ records. In addition, Stewart Sexton and Alan Fairclough organised a moth trapping night, and Richard Poppleton organised all the botanical survey visits.

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Adders still basking

Adders still basking in Breamish Valley

In Mid-March there was a lot of excitement in Breamish Valley as well over a dozen adders were spotted basking on the gentle slopes underneath the hedgerows at Branton Nature Conservation Area.

Well, if you haven’t had an opportunity to see them yet they are, of course, still there. Obviously, it’s best to choose a sunny day and look along any south-facing slopes close to shady spots, as these are an ideal habitat for this cold-blooded reptile.

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Basking adders back!

Basking adders back at Branton

Last year, I reported seeing basking adders at Branton Conservation Area on 8 March 2015.

Well, this year, I personally saw my first adders on 12 March 2016. There had been earlier reports of sightings from a couple of weeks or so earlier but I never got the following photos until the 12th.

On my outing, again walking along the Branton Lakes perimeter close to the car park entrance, I saw seven adders. All were coiled and soaking up the low early-Spring sun (temperature was about 9°C). I actually met the County Recorder whilst I was out walking. He was similarly walking along the conservation area perimeter and reported having seen 14 adders along just a 200m stretch (between the Branton bridge and the conservation car park entrance).

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Late Summer butterflies

Late Summer butterflies in Breamish Valley

I’m glad I kept the buddleia (or ‘buddleja’ if you prefer) in my front garden in Powburn this year. When I bought it, it was sold to me as a ‘patio’ plant that wouldn’t grow above 1.5m. Well…that didn’t prove to be the case. It grew so tall and thick that I couldn’t even dig it out last Winter to replace it. I simply had to chop it to ground level and walk away. And, of course, it came back, didn’t it? Not quite so tall as before at the moment, though. Anyway, this meant that my ‘butterfly bush’ was ready to attract some late Summer butterflies (or are they really early Autumn butterflies? See Signs of Autumn).

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Spring nature walk: part 2

Spring along

This blog article continues my Spring nature walk in the Breamish Valley. You can read Spring nature walk: part 1 here.

I’d begun my Spring nature walk in Branton Nature Conservation Area a couple of weeks ago with the idea of taking a fresh look at so-called ‘mundane nature‘: looking again, at what, without a second glance, might be thought to be humdrum and unexciting.

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Hovering kestrel at Branton

I spy…a hovering kestrel

I set off cycling along the Breamish Valley a bit later than usual this morning. It was fairly windy so I wasn’t too sure how far along the valley I’d manage to get. Anyway, on my approach to the Branton footbridge that crosses the River Breamish – along National Cycle Network, Route 68, just alongside Branton Nature Conservation Area – I was delighted to see a hovering kestrel hovering over the lane.

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Basking adders

Basking adders in the Breamish Valley

Because adders are reptiles, they are cold-blooded. This means that they are reliant on external energy sources – especially the sun – to maintain their body temperature. They regulate their temperature through basking in the sun or seeking shade. Their body temperature is, therefore, approximately the same as the outside air temperature (ambient temperature). They can, however, be active in temperatures as cold as 6°C. Which was about the temperature yesterday when I saw these two basking adders coiled together at Branton Nature Conservation Area, close to the car park entrance.

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The unfreeze

So…the temperature rose today to a balmy 4 degrees! Consequently, Branton Lakes have pretty much unfrozen. Just a few floating cracks of ice:

Fractured lake

Felt pretty warm walking in the sunshine but pretty cold as soon as you dipped into shade. The Exmoors are a hardy breed…and kept watch on the lakeside.

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