Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Kittiwake, Kittiwake!

North Shields.
A bit crowded this side of the Tyne!

Perhaps you could believe that the Tyne is industrialy active!

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Burnet Moths

The Jackdaws had been well fed!

Marsden Rock

Rest Harrow Ononis repens

19th July. I decided to take a chance with the changeable weather and jump on the ferry over to South Shields with the intention of walking at Marsden. I’ve been missing the ferries and water of my recent trip northwards and whilst the crossing on the Pride of the Tyne didn’t quite match some of my experiences in the northern isles, it was pleasant none the less. My first Kittiwakes were seen near the ferry landing.

By the time I got to Marsden it was very warm and I was beginning to think that sun cream may have been more appropriate that the waterproofs I had taken. The calls of the Kittiwakes were with me as I walked to Souter Lighthouse along the cliff top and then back to explore Marsden Bay. I’m aware that the population of Kittiwakes has fallen in recent years, but it was hard to imagine this when seeing the numbers about. The number of juvenile birds seemed large and I’m wondering if this has been a successful breeding year? Other birds seen included the Fulmars, Cormorants, Herring Gulls, and Sandwich Terns fishing out at sea. I assume that there were other species of tern around, but they were too far out to identify. I did spot a couple of Guillemots a good way out on the sea. The trip was worthwhile just to see the Kittiwakes alone!

The cliff scenery is interesting to say the least and it must be a very long time since I was down by the sea in Marsden Bay. I watched the Sand Martins in some number as they flew near to the colony. Swifts were about, and Swallows and House Martins flew over the sea.

The heat and sun ensured that the insect life was active. On a couple of occasions I was covered by small black insects and I assumed that these where what the Jackdaws were busy picking from the flowers on the cliff edge. I was still itching when I got home. Rather more rewarding were the numbers of butterflies. There were lots of Meadow Brown and Small Tortoiseshell along with the odd Green Veined White, Small Skipper, and Common Blue. They proved almost impossible to photograph, being very active and in the main right on the cliff edge. Most impressive were the numbers of Burnet Moths where one small area held high numbers of them feeding on the plants. These were generally more settled than the butterflies. The walk down to the bay brought a nice showing of Rest Harrow.

The darker cloud came over shortly after 1.30pm and a few raindrops fell so we made back to North Shields, noting Common Tern from the ferry. I must say that at £2 return the ferry is excellent value ad I hadn’t realised how busy it can get even on a Monday.

Back on the north bank we decided to give Christian’s fish and chips a miss and ventured to the Waterfront which has a notice saying that it won an award fro being the best fish and chip shop in the north east. Well, all I can say is the judges didn’t share my tastes! Neither the fish nor the chips can stand comparison to Christian’s. The chips had a greasy taste and feel to them, and I even left some on the plate. They were very slightly more expensive than Christians too, although you do get a biggest pot of tea. I won’t be returning. In any event in my mind the fish and chip shop at Seaton Sluice remains number one.

By the time I approached home which was late afternoon many of the roads had flooded such as had been the downpour. I had plans to go to Slaley one evening this week for Nightjars, but the forecast is suggesting that may have to be cancelled. At least the rain ensures I have a little more time for reading. Returning to the topic of Kittiwakes, I'm sure many are aware of the jailing of those idiots for shooting Kittiwakes in South Tyneside some months ago. I've just being reading of the human toll on Kittiwakes. Historically of course, both the birds and eggs were taken in huge quantities from areas such as Ailsa Craig and Flambourgh. These were taken for food, but even worse was the slaughter for sport. In the nineteenth century shooters would hire steamboats to take them under the cliffs at Flambourgh, the captain would sound the siren, the birds would lift, and the shooting would begin. One guy shot 80 Kittiwakes in an hour for a bet and another killed 500 during a day for the very same reason. Sadly I think that there are those around today who would do the very same thing if they weren't controlled!

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