Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Birds, Flora and a White-clawed Crayfish.

White-clawed Crayfish
Water Avens

The Boathouse

Hartburn Woodland

25th May. My Bank Holiday was spent in the sun with friends at Hartburn, Northumberland. I don’t know that particular area well so was pleased to spend some time walking through the farmland and through the woodland along the banks of the Hart, with a good lunch and wine on the lawn providing a pleasing interval and enabling me to top up on the sun tan!

I caught sight of Swifts and Lapwing on the journey and on arrival was soon watching Swallows and House Martins flying over the garden and fields. I understand that the House Martins had only recently arrived here. Great Spotted Woodpeckers also visited the garden and amongst the birds on the feeders were a good number of Siskin and Tree Sparrows. Pied Wagtail was also seen. The walk through the farmland towards the wooded banks of the burn brought Common Buzzards, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Back Backed Gull, the song of Skylarks and Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Linnet and Yellowhammer. The male of the latter looking stunning in the sunlight. A distant Grey Heron was seen in flight and the usual corvids and pigeons were numerous.

The floor of the long established woodland along he banks of the Hart is rich in flora and there was certainly a profusion of Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scriptus and Wild Garlic Allium ursinum. Other plants of note included Woodruff Galium odoratum, Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella, Primrose Primula vulgaris, Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca, Bugle Ajuga reptans and Water Avens Geum rivale. The woodland floor was also thick with ferns. We were in a very private area so saw no one else at all. At times it was as if going through a secret garden. At one point I heard a distant Cuckoo calling. There was much song from Wren, Blackbird, Robin and Chaffinch and a couple of Blackcaps. A male Bullfinch was seen high in the trees. I picked up the sound of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and we watched both the male and female visiting the nest hole. My friend found us a (now threatened) White-clawed Crayfish, to the best of my knowledge the first one I had ever seen.

It turned out to be a longish walk through the woods, made longer I suppose by frequent stops to listen for bird song and look at the flora. We later found a pair of Grey Wagtails further along the burn at the point where the ford is.
The bearby field held Pignut Conopodium majus
The lake held 2 Little Grebe, Mute Swans, Canada Geese and Coot and is probably much better for waterfowl in winter. A Sedge Warbler sang loudly in the small reed bed.
It proved to be an excellent day which provided a bit of everything including a very nice wild flower meadow, and I hope I can get back there soon.


  1. Yes I remember the day when WC Crayfish were just called Crayfish and there were loads of them. They grow quite large and Bothal is agood place to see them...

  2. According to English Nature the Wansbeck and it's tributaries including the Hart and Font are the most important breeding areas for this species of Crayfish in Western Europe. At Chapel woods and Bothal they are just about beneath every stone you turn.

  3. I remember the Wansbeck featured on Springwatch (or similar) a couple of years ago and the W C Crayfish were featured. There must be a good few in the Hart, as my friend found one under the second stone he overturned. A new species for me though. I lead a shelterd life. :-) Anyway, it has led me to read a bit about Crayfish on the internet. Under the same stone was a couple of, what I think, were brown fresh water jelly fish. I've no idea what species they were! Brian.