Monthly Archives: April 2014

Out and About

Here are some more pictures of the plant life I have noticed on my travels over the last couple of weekends.

This is a Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) spotted along the base of a hedge row at Hauxley nature reserve on the Northumberland coast.

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Also at Hauxley, the Common Primrose (Primula vulgaris) is still in flower along with Oxlip (Primula elatior) and Cowslip (Primula veris) – although the latter two are not pictured.

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Out on the dunes at Druridge Bay I stumbled this tiny Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and atop the cliffs by St Mary’s there is plenty of this growing – Danish Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia danica).

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And finally, Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – these are the fertile stems which die down after releasing their spores from the cone at the tip of the plant.

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On the avian side of things, plenty of migrant birds have been sighted over the last seven or eight days; Swallow, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Black Cap, Wheatear and Common Whitethroat. It’s amazing to think how far these small birds have travelled just to make use of our small island for a season or two, to raise their young on our insects!

 

Plant Life

On my walk around through Holywell Dene this weekend, as well as the cacophony of birdsong I was completely distracted by the newly emerged and emerging flora.

Here are a few pictures of the plant life that caught my eye. Amongst the trees and under some of the nearby hedgerow there was plenty of Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) – a classic damp woodland species.

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Also plentiful on the woodland floor, Wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). Both these sat amongst the emerging foliage of nettles, bedstraw, yarrow and cow parsley.

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On the uppermost fringes of the dene I found a few plants of Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) on the boundary between the trees and open fields. A really beautiful but easily missed spring plant.

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Along the hedgerows I spotted Colt’s Foot (Tussilago farfara) – unfortunately not pictured here – as well as a flower I recognise very much from my childhood days; Red Dead Nettle (Lamiam purpureum).

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Also nestled in the undergrowth what I think was a White-lipped snail (Cepaea hortensis) – maybe a meal for a Song Thrush later?

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Kittiwakes

Whilst in the centre of Newcastle this weekend I visited the Quayside area to see the newly returned Kittiwakes. All I can say is “wow!”. The Kittiwakes which breed on the Tyne bridge and atop a number of other buildings along the river Tyne are the most inland breeding colony in the world. The birds have been breeding this far inland (around 13 miles from the North Sea) for about fifty years or so and after seeing them at close hand this weekend, I can honestly say that we are privileged to share our city with these birds.

Kittiwakes on Tyne

The best place to see the Kittiwakes on the Quayside has got to be the Baltic art gallery (the former Baltic Flour Mill) where they nest along ledges right beside the gallery’s external viewing platform. This affords fantastically close views and I must say, the birds are so confiding, especially as these delicate looking creatures spend the harsh winter months far out at sea away from human activity, only returning to land to breed. If it weren’t for the safety glass, I could have reached out and touched them.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Like quite a few birds, Kittiwakes take their name from their calls, which sound very like “Kitti-a-wake” and when there are plenty of them – as there are on the Tyne – they can make a real noise! But in many ways this is the sound of spring and summer on the Newcastle Quayside and I am sure that many Friday or Saturday night revellers would recognise the noise, if not the bird.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

On Saturday, I watched as a number of birds flew up to the ledge on the Baltic and literally dragged other birds off, then both would helicopter down towards the river (and in one case even land on the block paved quayside over 100 feet below)! It was an incredible display, probably either to steal a mate or a nest site, and a great spectacle which the city should be proud to show off.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

I am already looking forward to going back soon when the Kittiwakes are incubating eggs and indeed when young birds are hatched. Hopefully they can have a great breeding year to bolster the size of the colony even further!