Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Busy Buzzards, Laughing Gulls

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Busy Buzzards, Laughing Gulls

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Birdlife winners and losers have been plotted in the biggest survey of its type in the region. More than 140 volunteers worked over three winters from 1996-99 to count and record every species spotted in regular two-hour visits to 1,432 two-kilometre squares, or tetrads, in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.

Another three years went into analysing the data from what is the first local survey of its kind in Britain.

The result is the 468-page Atlas of Wintering Birds in Northumbria, from the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, and edited by Mike Hodgson, from Monkseaton in Whitley Bay, and John Day, from Benton.

A total of 171 species were found to regularly winter in the region. Trends which were picked up include the rise in buzzard numbers, the movement of magpies into urban areas where they are now present in 70pc of gardens, and gulls feeding and roosting inland.

Mike says: "Fifteen years ago you would be lucky to see a buzzard in Northumberland but now they have a good foothold in the county."

Collared dove, first recorded at Ponteland in 1958, is now a common breeding bird in the county with 114 clocked at Wylam and 59 in Cramlington.

But the days when flocks of 16,000 starlings could be seen in Newcastle city centre 30 years ago are gone.

The birds have largely deserted the area - with a combination of generally declining numbers and the spread of deterrent mesh on buildings the main factors.

The study says that 20,000 pheasants are released annually by two shoots in north Northumberland, while four medium shoots in the centre of the county release another 15,000 and one in the south-west frees an average of 30,000 a year. Research suggests most are shot within 400 metres of the release point.

Evidence also emerged that some bird species which normally migrate are now staying, reflecting a run of milder winters. Losers include typical farmland species such as grey partridge, now in steep decline, and corn bunting, once familiar along the lanes of lowland Northumberland, but which could soon vanish from the region.

Exotic sightings include a laughing gull and a Patagonian Conure parrot, which lived in Marden Quarry Park in Whitley Bay for three years from 1996. …

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