Tyneside – Kittiwakes

Tyne Bridge – Newcastle and Gateshead

More than half the Kittiwakes that choose to nest along the River Tyne,
build their nests on the Tyne Bridge”.

The Tyne Bridge which spans the River Tyne between the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the town of Gateshead continues to be a favourite location for Kittiwakes during the spring and summer months.  Since establishing a modest 134 pairs of Kittiwakes back in 2001, the total amount of nests on the Tyne Bridge has grown to over
one-THOUSAND pairs.

The nesting Kittiwakes are distributed between both the Gateshead and Newcastle side of the river. They can be seen nesting high up on the bridges twin towers, and the green metal girders in between.  This is the largest of the Tyne Kittiwake colonies and is often the first location where they can be found as they return every year. As March ends, pairs starting returning; at first usually on the Newcastle side of the river on the twin towers.  Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Crows are often present, however as the Kittiwakes start to return in larger numbers, these move on.

The Tyne Bridge itself is currently under going some restoration work from 2022; however the local Councils Gateshead and Newcastle are looking out for the Kittiwakes and recognising the need to protect the right for these red listed seabirds to continue to nest.  To learn more about the Tyne Bridge Restoration and the largest Kittiwake colony along the Tyne, please visit » TyneKittiwakes.org.uk 


Tyne Kittiwakes nesting on the Tyne Bridge metal girders

Tynemouth Haven – North Tyneside

A coastal colony of Tyne Kittiwakes”

 

Tynemouth Haven in North Tyneside, Tyne & Wear

As the River Tyne meets the North Sea between the coastal towns of North and South Shields, two enormous piers, mark the way.  On the North Tyneside part of the mouth of the Tyne, you can find a small coastal shore, surrounded by steep cliffs known as » Tynemouth Haven.  This is popular with coastal waders, Cormorants and Eiders all year round.

 

Kittiwakes nesting on cliffs at Tynemouth Haven

As the seasonal clock turns, Kittiwakes return every year to nest on the sea cliffs.  Tynemouth Haven is home to the second largest colony of Tyne Kittiwakes.  Since 2005 the numbers of nesting Kittiwakes on the sandstone sea cliffs, such as Pen Bal Crag has risen from just over a hundred pairs to over 350.  It is possible to view this colony without disturbing them. There is a path adjacent to the start of the Tynemouth Pier, and an outdoor viewing area.  In the autumn/winter months Tynemouth Haven is often a great place to view Black Redstarts and if you are very lucky a Grey Wagtail or Woodcock may fly past.

Sand Martins and Fulmars also nest on the cliffs.  There are also some stairs which allow visitors to travel down to rocky shore at low tide.  Please take great care are not to disturb the nesting birds and if you choose to navigate the rocks below.  There are amazing facilities nearby in the town of Tynemouth and there are great public transport links which include a metro trains.  There is a paid car park nearby and a free one, but places are limited especially on weekends and holidays.

Akzo Nobel – Felling in Gateshead

The colony on Akzo Nobel, remains one of the oldest along the Tyne, and has hosted between 114-262 pairs over the past two decades.  This is the third largest colony of Kittiwakes along the river Tyne which can be easily viewed from
» Walker Riverside Park in Newcastle.

 

Kittiwakes nesting at Akzo Nobel in Felling, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear.

Once upon a Tyne most of the worlds ships started their lives on the River Tyne.  The route has inherited some pollution from heavy industry that featured along the river.  The nearby habitats are rich in wildlife and there are a variety of well established paths and cycle ways.  Unlike most of the other Tyne colony locations,  this colony is only viewable at a distance, so a telescope is recommend.

Walker Riverside Park/Felling would be a  great location to » construct some artificial cliffs, to host colonies of birds.

Baltic Centre for Cotemporary Art – Gateshead

Home to the fourth largest colony consisting of up to Two-hundred and one pairs.

The Heart of the Tyne Kittiwake Colonies”

Over the past decade the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art has become a major supporter for the Tyne Kittiwakes and it can be said they play a major role in helping to raise awareness for the local colonies of breeding Kittiwakes.

 

Kittiwakes nesting on the Baltic Gallery for Contemporary Art by Joe Thirlwell

Viewing Platform

A viewing platform has been provided within the ‘Baltic Gallery’.  This can be accessed by using their lifts which transport users to and from the upper reaches of the building.  Visitors can enjoy close up views of the Kittiwakes; which is especially popular with families and local schools.  The gallery also hosts regular talks and events to help showcase the Tyne Kittiwakes.

 

The Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art, Kittiwake Colony in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

Kittiwake Cam

To complement the viewing platform, in association with the » Durham Wildlife Trust there is also now a » Kittiwake Cam where everyone can watch the nesting Kittiwakes from the comfort of their own homes. Many find the sounds of nature relaxing. This is also an opportunity to study Kittiwakes up close. Kittiwakes usually nest on sea cliffs or islands on the coast or out at sea. So such breeding sites are not often easily accessible.

 

Saltmeadows Tower in Gateshead

A Local Nature Reserve

The fifth largest colony of Kittiwakes along the Tyne“

 

The Saltmeadows Tower in Gateshead by Paul Buskin

Up to  one-hundred and thirty-two pairs of Kittiwakes currently nest on the Saltmeadows Tower and there continues to be capacity for more should the Kittiwakes themselves choose to nest there.

The artificial structure is triangular  in shape, with three sides; with eight ledges on each side.  The two river facing sides are more popular with the nesting Tyne Kittiwakes.  The path facing side has proven to be more vulnerable to vandalism, with some local youths at times thrown stones at the tower.  The are currently no cameras watching out for the Tower, and this combined with its fairly isolated location, makes it an easy target.

 

Kittiwakes Nesting on the 
Saltmeadows Tower
by Andrew Rickeard

At times, large flocks of Crows and much larger Gulls such as Great Black backed and Herring Gulls visit the Tower, especially when the nearby car park is busy with those enjoying takeaway foods from their cars.  Gulls also relax on the concrete riverside opposite on the Newcastle side of the river at times in large numbers.  Establishing a larger colony of Tyne Kittiwakes on the south shore and Saltmeadows Tower will enable the Kittiwakes to better defend themselves and will help deter predators such as Crows and larger Gulls.