Natural History Society of Northumbria talk.

I was very kindly asked to give a talk to the NHSN on the Clarks Bog project. I did this on Monday evening and I would like to thank Chris Redfern and NHSN Director Clare Freeman for making me feel so welcome on the night.

They filmed the talk and anyone who is interested can view the talk on You Tube, you just need to go onto You Tube and search for ‘NHSN talks’. Even if you don’t want to listen to me drone on they do have other very interesting talks you can listen to or use the link below

Skill Mill

Thanks to my pal Andy Peaden for facilitating a meeting between myself and a company called Skill Mill.

Skill Mill is a social enterprise which employs young ex-offenders, working on environmental projects across the UK.

This week we have hosted Skill Mill who have been helping with a couple of projects on site. They have been helping with our winter program of pond maintenance and also construction of a second island on Dunces Corner Pond. Today we built a temporary jetty to enable materials to be taken out into the pond.

I’m very grateful for the help of Jonathan, Josh, Leon, and David who have done a great job this week.


Rail Strike

Following my last depressing post, hopefully this is a little more uplifting.

We have a new visitor to Dunces Water Pond, an elusive little water bird that usually spends its time under cover. It is a Water Rail (maybe more than one?). We have had them on the reserve before but its about 5 years ago so its nice to see them back.

Dead Pool

A worrying discovery on Dunces Corner Pond a few days ago when I pulled the bodies of three birds out of the pond.

The strange thing was the disparate nature of the species found, we had a Shoveller Duck, a Jack Snipe (new to the reserve), and a Fieldfare.

My first thought was ‘Oh no Avian Flu’ which it may have been BUT none of my resident waterfowl seem to have been affected. The Jack Snipe and Fieldfare are not pond dwellers usually.

My thoughts are that as these are migrants that maybe they were infected and happened to die while crossing the pond, which seems an unlikely occurrence when they were all found on the same day.


They are migrants that came onto the reserve at night and hit the powerlines above the pond.

I did report the finding on the DEFRA helpline, they did not appear too concerned. My fingers are crossed it is not Avian Flu, I found these birds last Friday and I have been checking the pond every day since and not found any further victims.

Nature Trail Officially Opened

This week we had our first official use of our nature trail by Morpeth Rainbows (5-7 year old girls), they seemed to enjoy it.

I must give a big thank you to Linda Heslop who spent a lot of time and effort making our little animal models that make up the trail (they are fab). We have 10 different animals that are found on site and a fact sheet for each one. The youngsters then have to find the answers to questions we give them. The hope is the odd fact will stay in the memory!

The Rainbows then fed the swans and we finished with a bug hunt. A group 15 screaming 5-7 year olds almost certainly scaring my bugs but I was surprised how readily they picked up some of the beasties. They did seem to have enjoyed it by the end, I think the lolly each one got helped!!

Killer on the loose!

The Otter holt I built earlier this year has had its first visitor, although not a welcome visitor.

I put a camera down into the holt and the result you can see below:-

The visitor is a mink and as can be seen it has already reduced my duck population. This is a non-native killer which I will have to try and catch before it does too much damage!

We did have a Mink on the reserve a number of months ago but it then disappeared, unfortunately it appears they are back.


I have some good news and some bad news regarding our Mink. The good news is that I managed to catch the Mink, so it will no longer be able to terrorise my Duck and rabbit population. The bad news is that it is no more, it is never nice to remove a little creature but it is for the greater good.

Road Kill

One of our local Sparrowhawks decided to knock a pigeon down next to me at the entrance to the reserve. The poor pigeon put up a bit of a fight but there was only one winner.

I haven’t included the more graphic end to the sparrowhawks meal

Spotted – a flycatcher

Yes a Spotted Flycatcher, I have now seen one twice in the last 3 weeks having not seen one here before. So I can add another bird species to our growing list. I believe it is not uncommon to see them, but as with many bird species their population is declining rapidly. Between 1967-2012 their population has fallen by 89%! It is a migrant so I presume it will be departing these shores in the not too distant future as they usually leave us in August! They are one of our longest travelling migrants, travelling down to Southern Africa.

Vole in the wall gang

Now anyone who has a phobia for small furry animals had better give this post a miss!

These are a few photos of the local vole residents around Dunces Corner Hide. The family of voles particularly like the dry stone wall around the hide. They appear to be field voles, which is not a major surprise as this is one of the UK’s commonest mammals (estimated population of 75 million).

They are not too shy so I can usually get quite close to take a few snaps, they are more interested in the food.

Unfortunately the poor little vole is a tasty little snack for lots of predators, so it needs to reproduce in large numbers just to survive. They typically have 4-5 young in a litter, which doesn’t sound a lot but then they have 5-6 litters a year!

Nature reserve construction and development