Wednesday, 21 April 2010

North Shields to Tynemouth

View from Shields

Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum

The jaw bone.

Not a red admiral

Common Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis ??

Weathered cliff under the Priory.

End of the road!

Having been grounded by an Icelandic volcano, I thought a good alternative to walking the AndalucĂ­an Sierras today, was to visit North Shields and Tynemouth. Well ok, but at least the sun was shining and the fish and chips in Spain aren’t as good! Clear skies meant good views as I walked from the centre of Shields down to the quay passing on the way the remains of an old church on the banks, which I don’t ever remember seeing before. There’s much work going on along the quay itself, so it wasn’t too easy to listen for bird song as the cranes were continually pounding something into the concrete. I bet that’s a real joy to listen to all day if you live down there! Still, birds heard today, but not seen where, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush and Willow Warbler.

As I was taking an interest in some of the historical buildings I heard then got my eye on a Pied Wagtail which seemed to have nested in one of the empty buildings not far from the New Dolphin pub, which has a jaw bone of a great whale outside. Does anyone know what species it is from? I seem to remember a plaque said it was found off the Tyne in 1998. After taking some nourishment I walked along to Tynemouth. The tide was just beginning to go out, so waders were few and far between, in fact only Oystercatcher and Redshank were seen. Gulls seen were Black Headed, Herring, Greater Black Backed and Kittiwake. The odd Fulmar was also found. There was little on the water apart from a pair of Eider and Cormorants. Surprisingly there were few people about today so the atmosphere was good.

I took an interest in an Admiral which wasn’t a red one on this occasion. Admiral Collingwood, of course. Having looked at the photos I took I realised later that I have never really looked in detail at this monument before. I was more than a little surprised when a local stopped for a chat and asked me who the statue represented! On getting home I did a little homework on the great man and now realise why we were held up in Morpeth a little while ago on the way to Harwood Forest, as some kind of parade was taking place. I now know that March 2010 was the 200th anniversary of Collingwood’s death and that there have been ongoing commemorative celebrations in his home town of Morpeth. I’d also seen a new biography of the man in Waterstones last week. I must buy it and read it.,_1st_Baron_Collingwood

The whole area up to Tynemouth seemed to be covered in Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum and I also found a small patch of what I think is Common Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis. I’m not definitely sure about the identity of the Scurvygrass, as I felt the flower might be a little larger than what I’m used to seeing en-masse at Seaton Sluice and I confess I was a little lazy in not checking the leaf, so would welcome comment. It would however fit in nicely with my theme of Admiral Collingwood though, as the leaves of Scurvygrass contain lots of vitamin C, and were eaten by naval men in order to prevent scurvy. Although I suspect the admiral had something a little more substantial. There was numbers of Linnet, Goldfinch and Greenfinch in the area.

I did pick up a couple of calling Sandwich Terns (my first of the year) on Black Middens. As I passed Killy Lake on the way home I also caught sight, from the bus, of a Common Tern (also a first for the year) over the lake
Early on the walk I had spotted a Swallow over the houses near the quay, and later spotted another at Tynemouth. I had some more excellent sightings of Fulmar at close quarters at Tynemouth and also found a small group of Sanderling in the bay and what I am pretty sure was the odd very distant Dunlin. Just below the Priory is a real sun trap and I found my first Small White Butterflies of the year, along with a Peacock Butterfly. Small Tortoiseshell had been seen earlier.
I enjoyed my walk in the sun so much I’m beginning to think I can well do without the hassle of airports and flight to foreign shores. Just as well really, considering my record so far this year! I’m working up to a day with my fellow wet birder on Friday, so have everything crossed that the sun continues to shine, or at least there is no torrential rain fall! More of that anon.

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