Sunday, 10 April 2011

By the Tyne Banks

Tyne at Wylam

Speckled Wood

Small Tortoiseshell

Wood Anemone

The pond

I like tunnels.

A sunlit Tyne mouth. Wylam now seemed a long way off.

9th April. Is it really still only the early part of April? The weather is amazing! I took the train into the Tyne Vally today to suss out a walk that I am leading at Wylam later in the month. I noted that I can travel return to Wylam by train for the same as I pay to travel from home to the city centre by bus!

I set off from Wylam centre in the direction of ‘Points Bridge.’ The song of Blackcap was soon picked up, and in fact I saw at least four males and two females today. My first of the year. Chiffchaff song was everywhere throughout the walk and several of the birds were seen. Swallows flew above the river, but not in great numbers. Mute Swans were seen on a pool just before arriving at Wylam Station and Mallard and Goosanders were seen at various times on the river. Butterflies were catching the eye almost as soon as we’d set off on the walk. I had a couple of friends from the Local Group with me. One of them being Spanish made for some interesting discussion regarding species! I did remember that Milvus migrans was Black Kite, not that we saw one of those today. We didn’t see Red Kite either! Anyway, butterflies seen were Orange Tip, Peacock (well into double figures), Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. I wasn’t able to identify fleeting glimpses of white species, but I’m sure some at least were female Orange Tip. Wren and Chaffinch song was competing with the Chiffchaffs song but never matching it in quantity. Song Thrush was heard.

Having reached Points Bridge, we watched from the bridge for Kingfisher, but none appeared. I did later watch a Dipper flying down river, initially through my binoculars until it reached me and carried on down river. Plants seen included Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine and Violet species.

The pond near the Spetchells (chalk hills produced by spoil heaps from ICI production of ammonium sulphate, which ceased in 1963) held Mallard, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe, the latter giving its unmistakeable call. Lunch was taken near hear and the break give us the chance to pick up the drumming of Great Spotted Woodpecker and the mewing of Common Buzzard. Grey Heron flew overhead as did Kestrel and a Jay flew into the trees opposite. Noisy calling suggested that there were more Jays in the trees. Pheasants were calling periodically throughout the walk.

As we made the return journey I commented on the lack of Willow Warbler. Within a minute one began to sing in trees close by. It eventually gave us a very good sighting. Another new one for the year list. Tit species had included Great, Coal, Blue and Long Tailed Tit. We made off in the direction of Points Bridge again to have another look for Kingfisher. This time the peace and quiet was broken by yelling and cursing of a group of people camped on the river bank, no doubt brought out by the sun. If people want to curse that’s fine by me, but do they really need to share it with everyone else in the area. One of the females was the worst offender. Numbskulls! There was no Kingfisher seen. Perhaps they had moved to a more refined area. A little further along the pathway I found a Dipper on the rocks. There were lots of youngsters about. Their decent behavior put to shame the adult louts further up river!

Having timed the walk to perfection, there was just enough time to grab an ice cream before jumping on the train back to the city. I decided to carry on down to Tynemouth. This time by Metro. Yes, I lead an exciting life!

I had expected Tynemouth to be a little cooler, but had not expected such a drop in temperature. Once off the Metro I wandered down towards the Priory, braving the cold and leaving my jacket off. Well, I didn’t want to look soft in front of all tee-shirt brigade. I eventually gave in and put my jacket on. It really was cold and in stark contrast to the heat at Wylam. I’m soft, and I know I am. I left the binoculars in the bag until I was down to the pier, but did pick up the nesting Fulmar. There was nothing in the vegetation south of the Priory but I had soon added a new bird to the year list when two Sandwich Terns flew up river and landed on Black Middens. The odd Eider Duck was on the river and I picked up Great and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Cormorant and Oystercatcher. Once out of the wind and approaching North Shields Fish Quay, I warmed up again. I came across another Neanderthal. This time she was shouting foe her dog. It was almost at her feet, but you would have thought it was across the river in South Shields such was the pitch of the calling. A visit was to be made to Christian’s fish and chip restraunt. Sadly I found that Christian’s is no longer! It has been taken over by a firm called Oceans. You are greeted and taken to a table now. I was tempted to say that I only wanted fish and chips. The portions seem to have shrunk, although I have to be fair and say I enjoyed the meal.

I was soon on my way home with three new year ticks in Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Sandwich Tern. I’d enjoyed the walk at Wylam in the sun and the visit to Tynemouth and North Shields was a good contrast. It really is atmospheric down there of a sunny evening. There was a holiday atmosphere about the place as the passengers waved from the massive ferry as the sun reflected from the Tyne. When I repeat the walk on 30th April I am expecting more summer migrants will be about. Hopefully the sun will shine then too.


  1. Brian likes tunnels.
    There's a one under the Tyne if y fancy it !
    Unfortunately, the warm weather DOES bring out the riff raff. WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO LOUD, THOUGH?
    An offense to ones ears, i find. I wish i was a Kingfisher so i could fly to more refined areas sometimes. ( a nice line, sir )

  2. Nah, I only do pleasant tunnels.:-)
    Fortunately bird song is drowning out some of the noise. Cheers.

  3. It was nice also, to see how many butterflies there already!

  4. The sun and warmth has certainly made a difference to the amount of butterflies in flight Mark. Orange Tips seem to be in flight very early this year and I believe they have been seen in March.

    The other significant point is just how much Speckled Wood Butterflies have spread in recent years. They seem to be coming quite common north of the Tyne now. They were very much a butterfly of more southerly areas of the UK until quite recently. My butterfly book was published in 2007 and seems to already to be well out of date. Cheers