Kittiwakes on the Tyne – an extract from the personal diary of Daniel M Turner

Following the success of our Tyne Kittiwake tour, led by Daniel Turner, we are delighted to share with you an extract from Dan’s own personal diary, recalling the event and offering some thoughts on Newcastle’s most famous avian residents in relation to the ongoing Great Exhibition of the North.

Extract from personal diary of Daniel M Turner (of North Shields)

Saturday, 23 June 2018

An early reconnoitre ensured I had visited all the locations which were the subject for today’s guided kittiwake tour. By eleven o’clock our group (from the Natural History Society of Northumbria) was gathering outside the Baltic Arts Centre and we shortly began. We crossed the Millennium Bridge to view the Baltic nesting ledges and progressed down the quayside to Tyne Bridge north abutment area. I kept pausing so we may peer through telescopes and binoculars at interesting nests and catch glimpses of nestlings. At each point where we stopped to view, I gave some commentary as group members listened and asked questions. One of the special sightings was of three nests, each attended by an adult kittiwake, atop three separate street lights between the triangle created by the Guildhall, Redhouse and Vermont Aparthotel. These were, perhaps, birds ousted by the recent deterrent netting of the historic Guildhall. Things went nicely and we passed some empty eggshells on the ground from hatched chicks. At the High Level Bridge we checked its single nest which was seen to hold one small nestling … excellent! Then on round the Tyne Bridge south abutment where nestlings squeaked above us, and back to the Baltic for a lunch break. Some of our party visited the Baltic viewing platform on level four, blessed with wonderful close-up kittiwake views.

Following lunch, our group reassembled and we split our numbers between two cars. Dr Kathy Evans had come to help, bringing her telescope to assist with observations and her car to help with transport. Our group numbered nine, which meant four for one car and five for another. Off we went to the Saltmeadows Tower for observations. This was a new place for all but myself and so held rapt attention. I told a few stories about the nesting kittiwakes here and we regarded the south and northeast faces. One colour-ringed adult was recorded at the south face. Swallows darted, goldfinches called in flight, a blackcap sang and lesser black-backed gull was noted. We dropped one of our group to catch their train while the rest of us motored north and eastwards to view the Akzo Nobel factory kittiwake nesting site. Mostly small kittiwake chicks were to be seen with parent gulls as we also recorded nestlings of herring gull and lesser black-backed gull. To complete the picture a common tern passed closely downstream in gentle floating flight.

From my own observations around Newcastle-Gateshead today, there was nothing obvious to indicate a negative impact on the nesting kittiwakes from yesterday evening’s opening event for the ‘Great Exhibition of the North’. The main event had run between ten and eleven in the evening, while bio-degradable confetti had been released at midday along the riverside. Today, this colourful confetti was visible on the Newcastle quayside, deeper in parts, but of no real concern.

Yesterday evening kittiwake volunteer Sarah Foster had attended the Exhibition opening event in order to look for any concerns caused to the gulls. She noted no incidents and had returned this morning to make further observations, but the birds were settled as before. She held contact numbers in case there was a need to warn relevant people. Another lady, Clare Ross from Gateshead Council, had attended the event yesterday evening and checked afterwards, at eleven-thirty to see if there were any fallen chicks beneath the south abutment and the Baltic ledges. None were found. So it looked like the event was a success as far as the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership was concerned and had caused little, if any, real disturbance. It was good that the Partnership had been consulted about the various planned activities for this quite major happening which had attracted reported crowds of around 22,000 people.