Gosforth Nature Reserve Journal: Birds on Camera

Enjoy a closer look at Gosforth Nature Reserve’s Birdlife in a new blog by local naturalist and volunteer, Christopher Wren.

My trail cameras are nearly always set for a specific target, usually Otters, but they will record anything else that passes by. The most common “non-target” triggers are Wood Mice and Brown Rats but there are plenty of birds as well. Most are common species like Robins, Wrens and Woodpigeons but occasionally the camera gives an intimate view of a less common and shyer bird that we would be unlikely to see otherwise.

Common Buzzards are often seen soaring over Gosforth Nature Reserve but rarely on the ground. A camera set to look for otters recorded this bird taking a drink, relaxed but still alert.

Common Snipe can sometimes be seen from the Ridley Hide when the water level in the lake is lower. This one was feeding at the edge of the lake.

Woodcock are probably fairly common winter visitors in the reserve but their crepuscular habits and beautiful camouflage mean that are not often seen. If you do get a sight of one it is usually a glimpse as it is flushed from cover. The trail cameras give a more natural view.

One camera had recorded dozens of videos of a wood mouse which had its hole in the field of view. A Barn Owl had noticed the mouse as well but its first strike was unsuccessful. Seen by two cameras, the owl seemed puzzled by the mouse’s disappearance down the hole and flew off after the camera stopped recording. The second time, two nights later and seen by only the top camera, it caught the mouse and flew off straight away. The mouse is in its talons on the slow-motion replay.

Another predator in action, this time a Sparrowhawk. If you have seen the murmurations in the reserve in late autumn you will probably have seen Sparrowhawks hunting as the Starlings come into roost. This sparrowhawk made a kill and was first drowning the starling, unfortunately just out view. One limitation of the cameras is that they only record for 20 seconds in infrared mode, although they will start recording again after a second or so. The Sparrowhawk dragged its kill up the bank just as the first camera was between recordings but into view of another camera higher up.

Being positioned on the edge of the water, the cameras get many recording of ducks, geese, swans, rails, herons etc. These two recordings from earlier this month remind us how colourful some of our common ducks are.

Christopher Wren
Local Naturalist and Volunteer

Christopher Wren is a volunteer in Gosforth Nature Reserve and a local naturalist, interested in most areas of natural history, especially mammals and using trail cameras to study their behaviour.

Visit Chris’ blog for more updates on North East’s wildlife – TrogTrogBlog