A. Whickham F. Watergate Park
Every walk to work; every walk to Watergate Park; and every walk to Saltwell Park involved seeing birds in A –as did every time I sat in the garden. This explains why the tetrad gets more coverage and more species than expected. My garden list stands at 41 species in and 84 in or over. No birds were added to the first list but a Goosander flying over one summer day was unexpected. There are other areas including a small Rookery (6 nests) by the Chip shop down from last years 11; the cemetery on the bank to the Metro Centre and some decent farmland with Yellow Hammer singing all through the summer. Species list 64 including a Willow Tit visiting a feeder on Swalwell Bank.
The best bits of A meld into the best tetrad for species numbers F had 82 species. I need to get off my chest that the whole year has been blighted by incredible numbers of dog walkers some of whom are ****s. One in particular who let her dog have several goes at a male swan defending his cygnets, stands out as being a class act. She could not see what she was doing wrong not getting it on a lead.
Anyway on a good day this tetrad is special. Reed Warblers bred, Garden Warblers –those most excellent singers filled the spring and early summer. Kingfishers were seen on most visits and Dippers by the outfall on half of them. However, three birds in particular are worthy of mention Marsh Tit –the first in Gateshead for 3 years was with a mixed flock of tits; a Jack Snipe, having just got Water Rail a few minutes before was an air punch moment. But the start was a spring female Redstart in the hedge by the paddocks. Not only was this unexpected and gave close views but was my 100th species. It also gave me my first every Mink which the Little Grebes tried to distract away from their nest.
87 species was the highest tetrad score.
Garden year list in 2015 was 49 which is about average.
P. Gosforth U. Longbenton.
These two squares go together not because they have much in common but only because when I walk to Gosforth Flash (P) I park in Baliol Business Park (U) . U by itself was not inspirational though both winter periods I did try regularly for Waxwing on the numerous berry bushes to no avail. The best places were the cemetery and the Business Park itself which was the only place I got Woodcock, it was flushed from the birch tree copse near Greggs and I am sure I did not look suspicious at all going through there. 36 species
P on the other hand was very different with its wide variety of habitats and almost joining Gosforth Park Nature Reserve it guaranteed Roe Deer on every visit, even during the day time and when there were dog walkers around. The pond added several ducks –Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall and Shoveller but failed to deliver the waders I had hoped for. The long walk through the tetrad meant high numbers of species on each visit including Ring-necked Parakeets which turned up after the trees were felled in Walker Park so I think these two things were connected. It was the only regular spot for Tree Sparrow and one of 7 tetrads for Kingfisher. Stonechat was only seen here.
Sometimes it was a long walk, but usually it was a great spot especially the day I stood under one of the oaks by the flash while it rained. Also sheltering that early summer day was a Grasshopper Warbler that continued to sing at about 3 metres. The last visit in November added two new birds to the total too with Pintail and 2 Whooper Swans.
Highest one tetrad visit 40 species with 76 species in total.
Z. Near Swallow Pond
I am always going to get a low relative score in this tetrad. It is furthest from home and work and I will never spend as much time here as @Joe_dobinson who has set a new Swallow Pond Patch year record. Here NZ26 was so close to getting a genuine rarity as Purple Heron flew though one morning. Later in the year he also added 2 Marsh Harriers to the NZ26 total.
It would be easy to dwell on the birds that I did not see and the dog poo that I did, but it did furnish my only Yellow Wagtail and one of the two sites for Grasshopper Warbler. However, in a rare early morning foray across to the tetrad I did get my tetrad highlight and one of the highlights of the birding year. At close range of 4 metres I watch the display of a male Willow Warbler. It was early season and having sung from the top of an Alder the pair descended into a low Hawthorn Hedge. Here he continued to entertain her by standing up tall displaying his chest and under wings in his display of passion.
And the sight of Swallows swooping down to drink was impressive, until you realise that they were drinking from the black inky darkness of a pool of water in the manure heap. That can’t be good.
At the other end of the day while waiting to see owls the roost of Jackdaws was spectacular and deafening. They can just bee seen in this picture of teh Pit Heap
Species list 62.
X. Walker Y. –Wallsend.
There had already been a few trips to Walker Park before I reignited my eco-warrior roots and took on Newcastle City Council. Genuinely its combination of cemetery and unkempt park are a great place in the 10Km to hear the dawn chorus. A number of butterfly species were also of note so when I found contractors cutting down trees during the spring nesting season I was not happy. So lead to some correspondence with the Council which concluded with them saying they would complete the work in the Autumn –after the nesting season. The noticeable casualty being the Ring-necked Parakeets which seem to have moved across to Gosforth. A Treecreeper visiting a probable nest site is an indication of the potential of this site. As the last few metres of this tetrad cut across the river the numbers in this tetrad have been boosted by –Curlew, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, common Tern and absolutely exceptional Eider. Unfortunately it does not include the Sandwich Tern seen by Ross Ahmed . 45. The work did begin again in the Autumn and scrub that held nesting Blackcaps has been lost. .
Y has Richardson Dees Park and Centurion Golf Course as open spaces. The former did in November give up a Kingfisher as it flew from a garden at the west end as well as a Treecreeper. I am still envious of the Cuckoo Joe Dobinson got here. In the Autumn it was beautiful as the leaves changed colour.
K. Saltwell Park Q. –Windy Nook V –Leam Lane.
The twelve month journey really began on January 3rd I walked from Whickham to Saltwell Park and back along the Tyne and up through Dunston. By the time I had reached Lobley Hill (mile 2) I was fed up dog walkers and wanted to jack it in. At the bottom of Lobely Hill I crossed Team Valley and saw the first of my 13 Kingfisher sightings. It was not going to be that bad after all. Saltwell Park and its lake adds a lot to the species richness which included Spotted Flycatcher as a star find. Swallows and Martins as well as a nesting Bullfinch always made it enjoyable. Why this should be so and Jesmond Dene never was I am not sure.
Some really are too plastic to tick.
Further east and up the hill Windy Nook is the highest place in NZ26 and if I had more time I would spend more time there on good viz-mig days. As it was memories of this tetrad included a Sparrowhawk that allowed close observation as in sat out windy conditions and my only Lesser Whitethroat of the 10km square.
looking North from the highest point you can nearly see all of NZ26.
Further east again brings you to the arable fields of Leam Lane that were largely devoid of birds with poor hedgerows and the built up area again with a pond that boosted the bird totals –Pink-footed Goose being the exception rather than the rule. And this tetrad did give my only reptile –Red-eared Terrapin which could regularly be found on a rock out of reach of children on hot sunny days. 51; 43; and 41 reflected the variety and rewarded the coverage.
Before I began, in my head I had in my head a phrase which was something like, ‘If it gets bad there is always Jesmond Dene’. How wrong I was, knowing I need to go to Jesmond Dene has turned into a bit of a chore. Even picking up my favourite songster –Garden Warbler has not made this anything other than hard work. I prefer the Southern end past the Armstrong Bridge and that’s where I went for the partial solar eclipse. Here there is a greater variety of habitats from the manicured Armstrong Park, the stream with Dipper and Grey Wagtail before it disappears only to be sighted again near the Byker Farm. Certainly, under-watched by me reflected in the low scores of 41; 37. Could try harder the school report would say. My analogy would be with Music and R.E. lessons something you had to do.
I have read you can’t be a conservationist and bunny hugger -you can’t care about species and about individuals. Personally I think that is wrong, but it must take a lot of effort to kill one species with the view to protecting the species you have chosen.
It also takes a huge amount of effort to try to raise the profile of one species where man is taking a hand in seeing it die out. I have a great amount of admiration for Jonny Rankin and what he has done to make us think about the Turtle Dove in Dovestep 2. I am not sure I have such fortitude or determination. Perhaps I may get a bit for Christmas.
Some of us are just mortal. We are busy people. Its someone else’s job. If we loose a few of that species there are more out there. But all you reading this have a computer. One of the most under rated tools in conservation.
MorethanKittiwakes was a celebration of all that is wild in Gateshead and Newcastle; not just Kittiwakes for which we are famous as this is the only inland colony in the world.
Just before the year closes there is a request to reduce the Kittiwake colony size in 2016. Vermont Hotels wants to remove nests from the building next to theirs. The Kittiwakes need your help. 116 pairs will not be nesting next year if they get their way. You can do nothing as it is someone else’s job. Or you can object. It will cost you 10 minutes time to send you views to Newcastle City Council. On this link click register on the top line and join more than 100 people who have already objected. You have until 16th December so 10 more days to express how loosing part of this unique colony will make you feel.
The 232 Kittiwakes who need those nests are currently out in the Atlantic battling storms. They have no say in having their nest site removed; you do. In a week when this species was Red Listed due to its reduction in population size become and arm chair eco-warrior.