Tyne For Some Kittiwakes

A mini-post as we report on a unique colony of birds found in Mrs Sausage’s current home in the vicinity of Newcastle upon Tyne in north-east England. During the spring and summer months, iconic parts of Newcastle’s city centre and Gateshead’s waterfront become home to the world’s largest inland colony of Kittiwakes. In one compact stretch straddling the River Tyne, around 700-800 pairs of these breeding seabirds use bridges and building ledges as “cliff-top” locations for their nests and have been doing so since the 1960s.

We took the opportunity to see some of the early arrivals during the weekend of 7th April. Our first location was the Baltic Centre in Gateshead where river facing ledges were already well populated. These birds spend all their lives at sea, apart from the three months or so when they come ashore to breed.

The Baltic, now a splendid arts exhibition venue, has a perfect viewing platform for some close-up views of the Kittiwakes. We would not only encourage a visit but also suggest visiting their gift shop or leaving a small donation as the Baltic is both a proud defender of the Kittiwakes and a home for some of the area’s thriving arts scene that relies heavily on donations to continue its good work.

We crossed the River Tyne and continued to find that a good number of buildings on the Newcastle side have taken on these feathered lodgers too.

Despite numbers being nowhere near the peak expected later in April the noise of hundreds of Kittiwakes was already filling the skies in and around the Baltic and its surrounds. There was also more than a hint of the ammonia odour that always accompanies the gathering of large numbers of seabirds, particularly under the Tyne bridges so expect some interesting sensory experiences if you visit.

Naturally, the many ledges and cavities of the bridges spanning the Tyne offered perfect ledges for the Kittiwakes too.

This was surely one of those unique “urban birding” experiences we would recommend to anyone visiting!

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