Life in the Year of NZ26

Discovering that I lived in the bottom corner of a 10km square inspired a birding goal for 2015.  I introduced it to the world and @joe_Dobinson joined the challenge.


It started properly on 3rd January and nearly gave up -noise and dog poo being a bigger problem than I thought, but I got a kingfisher in my first 50 and I was away. I introduced the tetrads as though they had personalities; which of course they do staring with B.  A yellow-legged gull was added to the list and then taken away again.  I noticed that the tetrads that had the most House Sparrows also had the most Collared Doves.  I discovered there is a great bit of the square that feels like countryside as I introduced R & W and the worlds largest Magpie nest.  And by the end of the month I had surprising been to all 25 tetrads (the only month I managed this).


I now had a Where to Watch Birds in NZ26 and my first twitch –Goosander and in the same week a Goshawk.  As well as a Polish ringed Black-headed Gull.  A Marsh Tit was a highlight as it crossed the boundary and I had my only meeting with Joe in his ‘office’ as Swallow Pond was out of the square.  The first skylark reminded me that seeing common birds was a pleasure, but Jack Snipe was a treat as I hit 80.


Kittiwakes returned in this month.  But I have heard NZ26 is more than them, but was surprised to find a Woodcock.  This was exciting but some of it was just about numbers.  A new introduction to X and Y, with an explanation about birding.  Dramatically, Lesser Black-backed Gulls filled both the skies and the tetrads.  Before the month end even ‘real’ birders were tweeting about Chiffchaffs as I reflected on the journey they took to get here and brighten our spring time.


A Meadow Pipit in Blakelaw put the phrase ‘common’ in perspective when it turned up on a field which no longer exists.  So it is a real privilege to be woken to bird song and a chance to understand under-rated birds –Dunnock and Willow Warbler.  But some organisations do not care about that even when there are observations to say otherwise.  It was this month that the ‘warbler challenge‘ -a warbler in each tetrad before the first Swallow arrived. chopping trees


First to 100 species was a great feeling, but by World Robber Fly Day I was on 103. Which came before the only real twitch of NZ26 with Eider found by Ros Ahmed were a Gateshead tick for some. On the downside we elected a Conservative Government, who is not keen on wildlife just before the Swifts arrived. Alongside of probably the only Blakelaw Meadow Pipit my other claim to fame was definitely seeing all the birds of one species that were inside NZ26 –Tufted Duck (29).  Ragwort week came and went in a celebration of the glories of degeneration as I pontificated about the wildlife I was seeing.  And then Starlings fledged in smaller numbers than they did when I was a boy. IMG_0125


Much of the month was spent in Central Spain which was amazing and a good time to be in Europe as Birdlife International campaigned to keep the wildlife laws we have.  Even the small things matter.  But as we were away that was the size of this months total.


This month I opened and closed an NZ26 reptile list but it was still prettier than the 1st summer Med Gull.  It was also the month that a Grayling was photographed in Dunston.  Searching for waders dominated as any and all low tide opportunities were taken.  This meant seeing young Kittiwakes as they left the nest in all the Tyne tetrads.  And by month end I was now starting to draw up a list of birds seen by others in the square that I had missed. grayling


Generally quite of bird song this was a time when young Wrens began to practice their jumble of notes.  Surprisingly I was the only person reporting on the Hen Harrier watch point opening on Town Moor, but it was my most read post of the year.  Anything can turn up as a Goosander flying over our garden proved, not a rarity but a true surprise in a tetrad where I did not even get a Mallard.  Two opportunities to share the birds of NZ26 felt good.  Before a diversion into a book review of Inglorious by Mark Avery.  Finally, more shorebirds were drawing me towards Curlew as a bird that would feature in 2016.


Shorebirds had dominated the summer and continued to do so into World Shorebirds Day.  Amazingly Chiffchaff made it onto the 25 tetrad list -the magic of Blakelaw.  A second book review –Tales from Concrete Jungles reaffirmed an urban year was an OK thing to do.  But by mid month it was clear that any summer species I missed in all tetrads were just that –missed.  And by the equinox in a search for ‘Curlews‘ I found a new favorite band. IMG_0173


The mud continued to attract me and new species to my NZ26 list this month.  And whilst I did not get Yellow-browed Warbler, Goldcrests poured in.  However, to me it is the importance of having more people interested in wildlife around them that has become really important. IMG_0039


The pull of next year was felt as I wandered the farmland part of tetrad A.  I started to reflect on my achievements and things I saw as important as I prepare for next year; replacing MorethanKittiwakes with Curlews’ Feathers. IMG_0226


Whilst I thought this was to be a leisurely reflection on 2015.  The Vermont Hotel had other ideas and whilst Morethankittiwakes is suggested as the blog there have to be Kittiwakes there for this to be relevant and quite a bit of time was spent drumming up support to sign the petition and at 960 objections :3 lets hope Newcastle City Council see sense.  So the rest of the months blogs were generally retrospective views of where I had been and what I had seen.

Down the long Hedge,

where migrants settle

farmland decays into reeds.

Victorian ideals,

Give way to heights.

Taking away places for nature

from our industrial past;

ruined by dogs.

Dry land

caught by the river

And the countryside can be found again.

Then via best places and best birds the year concluded with final scores and everything can return to normal again.



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