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                                 The Natural History Society of Northumbria
                              Great North Museum: Hancock Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PT

Number 270                                                                                                      Spring 2009
         Sparkie Flies off to Berlin                                              Gosforth Park Nature Reserve

                                                                                                by Chris Redfern
                                                                                 s the SADness* of winter recedes and the days length-
                                                                                 en, most of us will be looking forward to the resur-
                                                                           gence of animal and plant life in the spring. Sand Martins
                                                                           returning from sub-Saharan Africa will find a potential new
                                                                           home in Gosforth Park: during the winter, Gosforth Park
                                                                           Nature Reserve management committee member Geoff
                                                                           Lawrence constructed a multi-hole Sand Martin nest box
                                                                           and this was recently erected by Geoff and other Society
                                                                           members on an island in the reserve. The holes (fifteen)
                                                                           have been partially filled with sand to make the nest box,
                                                                           erected on poles, seem like a traditional river-bank nest site.
                                                                           Although we don’t expect it to be occupied this season, we
                                                                           hope that it will get noticed this year and provide a new nest

                                     Photo: Tyne & Wear Museums            site for birds returning in 2010.

      he specimen of Sparkie the talking budgerigar is definitely one of
      the Society’s much loved and unusual celebrities, his usual home
being a small perch in a glass case in the Museum. It was, therefore,
a huge event when the Society was asked to allow Sparkie to travel
to Berlin last month to be present at a performance created about his
Born in 1954, Sparkie shot to fame when he won the BBC
International Cage Word Contest in July 1958; by then he had a
repertoire of more than 500 words and eight nursery rhymes. He was
chosen to front the advertising campaign for Capern’s bird seed for
two years and went on to become a national celebrity, appearing on
radio and television and culminating in a record deal with Parlaphone
for his debut single ‘Sparkie the Fiddle’ which sold all over the
                                                          Cont. page 8     Photo: Stuart Will                               Cont. page 11

                                     The New Library by Hugh Chambers
B    y the time members receive this bulletin the bulk of the Library will have been moved out of storage and loaded onto the
     shelves of our share of this pristine suite of rooms at the top of the new build-
ing at the back of the Museum. The picture shows Dr David Gardner-Medwin tag-
ging the books before they go on the shelves.
As though planning the move and deciding ‘what goes where’ was not enough to
keep the regular library workers busy there has been quite a large donation of
about eighty books on environmental matters. These are most welcome to keep us
up to date with the flood of publications on this subject. Recent purchases have
included another New Naturalist No.109 Islands by R J Bury, The Birds of Borneo
in the BOU checklist series No.23, The Freshwater Fishes of Europe Vol.5/2 part
3, the 2nd edition of The Encyclopaedia of Marine Mammals, and the British
Birds’ best book of the year for 2008 The Migration Ecology of Birds by Ian
Newton.                                                                 Cont. page 8

Tel. (0191) 232 6386                                  E-mail: nhsn@ncl.ac.uk                           Website: www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                    Page 2

                                               Field Meetings
       Please read Please read the risk assessment on page 8 of this Bulletin before attending any of the field meetings.

Wednesday 6 May                                                                 Paul Drummond and Bob Wilkin
                                                         Badger Watch

                                    T     he evening will begin with a brief talk on Badgers in the area and their history. Examples
                                          of Badger paths, prints etc. will be examined before an approach is made to the sett.
                                    Bearing in mind that it gets cold in the late evening, members should dress in warm, water-
                                    proof, rustle-free, dark clothing. Wellington boots will be required unless drought conditions
                                    prevail prior to the visit. At the sett, members will be required to be quiet and sit reasonably
                                    still for up to two and a half hours or more. They must be prepared for wind, rain, cold, midges,
                                    mosquitoes and other discomforts. If everything is favourable sightings of Badgers and Foxes
                                    may be possible.
                                    There will be a number of evening watches with a maximum of five people per night. To
                                    book and receive more instructions, please contact the Society’s office.

 Saturday 9 May                                                            David Noble-Rollin
                               Spring Migration at Cresswell and Duridge Bay

D   uring the spring migration Cresswell and Druridge Bay are
    exciting places to visit. There are many rare birds seen here
as well as interesting migrants such as Lesser Whitethroats and
                                                                     sea you can add divers and grebes coming into breeding
                                                                     Meet at the farm road end nearest to the hide at Cresswell
White Wagtails. The mixture of fresh water and hedgerows at          pond at 9.30am. The meeting will last about two to two and
Cresswell give bird watchers the chance of seeing both passage       a half hours. Grid Ref. NZ285 941.
waders and warblers in the same area. With the proximity to the

Saturday 16 May                                                                                             Grant Burgess
                                             Dove Marine Laboratory visit

M     embers of the NHSN are invited to visit the Dove Marine
      Laboratory at 4pm sharp for an introductory lecture, tea
and tour of the facilities which includes the research aquarium.
                                                                     take a stroll along the beach at Long Sands prior to their arrival
                                                                     at the Dove.
                                                                     Please book with the Society office as numbers are limited.
The lecture will cover current research, teaching and engage-        The meeting will begin at 4.00pm and last about two hours
ment activities of the Dove including the work of the research       including tea.
vessel the RV Bernicia berthed at Blyth. Members may wish to

 Thursday 21 May                                                                                            Dr Angus Lunn
 Geology: Quaternary in the Lake District Moraines of Borrowdale and Combe Gill

W      e will examine valley glacier end moraines and cirque glacier lateral and hummocky
       moraines – some of the best examples in the Lake District – as well as other glacial
features. A total of about four miles of walking is involved, partly on fell footpaths, and an
ascent of about 1500 feet.
Meet at Rosthwaite car park (parking fee payable; National Trust members bring
cards), grid. ref. NY 257148, at 10.30am. If the weather forecast is very bad please
ring the office the previous afternoon to check that the trip is going ahead.

                                           Midweek Botany Group by Janet Angel
 The Midweek Botany Group holds field meetings on Wednesdays throughout the spring and summer. We visit a wide
 variety of habitats during the season and enjoy studying and identifying the plants we find. Whether you are a beginner
 with an interest in plants or a more experienced botanist you are welcome to join us on our outings. For further details
 please contact the Society office.

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                            www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                  Page 3

 Wednesday 27 May                                                                                                 Bob Wilkin
                                        Mammal Walk or Urban Otter Walk

D    ecisions on which walk will take place will be taken a few
     days prior to the evening walk. If weather conditions,
spraint signs and other factors are favourable the Urban Otter
                                                                     ing place only spraint and at best padding will be seen, although
                                                                     the known history of animals in the area will be given. Subdued
                                                                     clothing and appropriate footware should be worn. ×8 or ×10
Walk will take place at a suitable venue. If conditions are not      binoculars would be useful. These walks may not be suitable for
right the walk will revert to a normal Mammal Walk in Gosforth       young children and members should bear in mind that they may
Park Nature Reserve where signs of mammals, e.g. footprints,         encounter wet, slippery and difficult walking conditions.
droppings etc. will hopefully be found. Viewing mammals is
very difficult and therefore is not the aim of the walk: any mam-    Numbers are limited to twelve. To book contact the Society
mals seen will be a bonus. In the event of the Otter Watch tak-      office.

Saturday 30 May                                                                                         Veronica Carnell
                             Small Mammals in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve

W      e will be examining bait tubes and Longworth live traps
       for signs and presence of small mammals (mice, voles
and shrews), and members will be able to re-bait and reset the
                                                                     The event will last about two hours. Meet at Lake Lodge at
                                                                     10.00am. Accompanied children welcome. Please be pre-
                                                                     pared for mud and slippery, wet conditions underfoot. Not
traps after examination if they wish. We will also look for squir-   suitable for buggies etc.
rels, Roe Deer and other wildlife in the woodland.

 Sunday 31 May                                                                                        David Noble-Rollin
                                                       Harthope Valley

                                                 H   arthope Valley offers opportunities to study a wide variety of birds because of
                                                     the diversity of habitats. On a good day woodland species should include
                                                Redstart, Tree Pipit, Wood Warbler and the occasional Pied Flycatcher. River and
                                                moorland birds like Dipper, Buzzard, Curlew and Cuckoo are almost certain to be
                                                found and Ring Ouzels are a real possibility. The day will start with a steep walk
                                                up one of the tributary burns to look for
                                                Ring Ouzels followed by a walk along the
                                                main valley floor to visit some of the river-
                                                ine woodland.
                                                Meet at 10.00am in the National Park car
                                                park near Middleton Hall, two and a half
                                                miles south of Wooler, grid ref. NT995256
(we will relocate from here to the start of the walk). The walk will last about five hours
                                                                                                  Members watching Ring Ouzels
so please bring a packed lunch, waterproofs and walking boots.

 Saturday 6 June                     Gosforth Park Exploration Day 10.30am to 3.30pm

A   nother opportunity to come to Gosforth Park Nature
    Reserve and find our more about the Natural History
Society’s wonderful reserve. Experts will be on hand to share
                                                                     you look hard enough! This is a partnership event between the
                                                                     EYE Project and the Natural History Society which is open to
                                                                     all members of the public, both adults and children.
some of the techniques used to record and track its flora and        Please note that the ground is often wet, muddy and uneven,
fauna. Drop in any time between 10.30am and 3.30pm and               and therefore suitable clothing and footwear must be worn.
explore the amazing variety of wildlife that can be seen there if

 Thursday 11 June                                                                                     David Noble-Rollin
                                                Introduction to Bird Song

                                       B    ird song is always one of the difficult identification subjects and every spring as the
                                            migrants start to take up territories we have to learn the songs again. Members are invit-
                                    ed to join David on a walk around Plessey Woods to listen to the common bird songs and try to
                                 learn them. As well as thrushes there should be a number of warbler species singing, plus tits,
                               finches, Treecreepers and Nuthatches.
                                  Members should meet in Plessey Country Park car park near Hartford bridge (Grid ref.
                            NZ 237 803) at 7.30am.
Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                           www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                   Page 4

Saturday 13 June                                                                                                      Alec Coles
                                                 Tunstall Hills, Sunderland

A    visit to one of Sunderland’s most celebrated botanical sites. Tunstall Hills is part of the fossil reef
     that bordered the tropical Zechstein Sea (that stretched most of the way across Europe during the
Permian, so there is plenty to interest geologists). Its Magnesian Limestone soils and its location at a
climatic north-south divide are responsible for interesting plant communities. Northerners like Blue
Moor-grass Sesleria caerulea and Lesser Clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides rub shoulders (or
leaves) with southerners like Upright Brome Bromopsis erecta. Meanwhile, on the slopes, are Lesser
Meadow Rue Thalictrum minus and Frog Orchid Dactylorhiza viridis. We hope also to visit one of
the Durham coast’s smaller and lesser-known sites to look for coastal Magnesian Limestone species.
Meet at 10.30am at the changing rooms for the sports fields on Tunstall Hills, on the south-west-
ern fringe of Sunderland. Turn southwards onto a track leaving Leechmere Road at grid ref-
erence NZ 396544 (OS 1:50,000 sheet 88) – this turnoff is just north-west of the Helvellyn Road
junction with Leechmere Road. The changing rooms are about a hundred metres along the
track. Bring lunch.                                                                                            Lesser Meadow Rue

 Saturday 20 June                                                                                                  Gordon Port
                                                      Get to Know Insects
As part of National Insect Week the Royal Entomological                organised in collaboration with our Society.
Society will be holding a field meeting at the University of
                                                                       The meeting starts at 10.00am and will continue through the
Newcastle's field station at Close House, Wylam, in the Tyne
                                                                       day, but you can come for as little or as long as you want. To
Valley. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the collec-
                                                                       book and receive joining instructions please contact the
tion and identification of insects and will be suitable for anyone
                                                                       Society's office.
with an interest in insects – from absolute beginner to expert.
Entomologists of all instars are welcome.This meeting is being

 Sunday 21 June                                                              Dr Angus Lunn and Dr Janet Simkin
                                          Bateinghope Burn, Whitelee Moor
We last visited this extensive Northumberland Wildlife Trust           We should see a great variety of species, including lichens for
reserve in upper Redesdale some years ago, but looked at a dif-        those interested.
ferent part of it. The valley of the Bateinghope Burn contains a
                                                                       Meet at 10.00am in the yard beside the modern shed on the
wide variety of flush, bog, fen, heath, grassland, scrub, crag and
                                                                       south side of the A68 at Whitelee Bridge – grid reference NT
stream-side habitats, as well as an old lime works with lime
                                                                       713050 (OS 1:50,000 sheet 80). Be prepared for a day on the
spoil and old colliery spoil heaps (the latter very small-scale!).
                                                                       fells (total walking about five miles). Bring lunch.

 Sunday 28 June                                                                                                Jeremy Roberts
                                                       Crosby Gill, Orton

T   his is an extremely botanically-rich area in the
    Carboniferous limestone area of eastern Cumbria. It
includes limestone pavement, calcareous mire, limestone grass-
                                                                       tum, Spring Cinquefoil Potentilla neumanniana and the very
                                                                       local Lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glaucescens.
                                                                       Meet at 11.00am on the side of the minor road at NY 626111
land and various other habitats. We should see, along with much        (OS 1:50,000 sheet 91), about two miles north of Orton vil-
else, Bird’s-foot Sedge Carex ornithopoda, Rare Spring Sedge           lage  opposite a stile in the fence to the west. Depending on
C. ericetorum, Hair Sedge C. capillaris, Alpine Bartsia Bartsia        time and weather we will have not more that about four
alpina, Bird’s-eye Primrose Primula farinosa, Alpine Bistort           miles of fairly easy going. Bring lunch.
Persicaria vivipara, Variegated Horsetail Equisetum variega-

Saturday 4 July                                                                                                  Trevor Hardy
                                                         Harden Quarry
A   morning visit to the working quarry at Biddlestone from
    which the ‘Harden Red’ stone is produced, by kind per-
mission of Tarmac Ltd, the quarry owners.
                                                                       laccolith within the Biddlestone anticline known as the Alwin
                                                                       Ridge, part of the Devonian Caledonian Orogeny.
                                                                       Come and see, bring hard hats and meet at the quarry at
The quarry is a prominent feature in the landscape of                  11.00 hours. (Grid ref.NT 961.083.)
Northumberland National Park, forming the southern part of a

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                              www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                 Page 5

 Friday 10 July                                                   David Noble-Rollin and Graham Bell
                                                    Roseate Tern Evening

T   his is a joint meeting of the North Northumberland Bird
    Club and the Society. Last year we had two successful
evenings with excellent views of both adult and juvenile
                                                                       shearwaters and skuas while watching the seals on the east
                                                                       shore of Coquet Island.
                                                                       Booking: the cost for the boat is £6.00 for adults and £3.00
Roseate Terns. The birds, with the young being fed by their par-       for children and there are only twelve places available. If
ents, were seen from the boat as it stopped near the colony.           you wish to go please telephone the office to book places and
Other species of tern were also there for comparison of their          then send a cheque to the Society's office with a stamped
identification points. After looking at the terns the boat will con-   addressed envelope.
tinue around the island and give an opportunity to look out for

Saturday 11 July                                                                                        Jonathan Pounder
                                                     Seal Walk in Teeside

                                                     W      e will be visiting two sites in the Tees estuary to watch the seals hauling
                                                            out at low tide. We expect to get good views of Common Seals with pups
                                                     and maybe the odd Grey Seal for comparison. There will be a short talk by the
                                                     leader on seal biology and ecology. Wear footwear and clothing suitable for the
                                                     event and bring binoculars and camera. Accompanied children are welcome and
                                                     the area is wheelchair accessible. The walk will last approximately two hours and
                                                     numbers are limited to fifteen. (Photo: Common Seal by Jonathan Pounder)
                                                     Please book at the Society’s office.

Sunday 12 July                                                                               Professor John Richards
                                              Cronkley Fell, Upper Teesdale

W     e will visit one of the famous Upper Teesdale botanical
      localities and should see Mountain Avens Dryas
octopetala, Hoary Rockrose Helianthemum oelandicum , Hoary
                                                                       Meet at 11.00am in the car park/picnic site on the B6277 at
                                                                       grid reference NY 867298 (OS 1:50,000 sheet 91)  about half
                                                                       a mile south-east of Langdon Beck Youth Hostel. Be pre-
Whitlow-grass Draba incana and Dwarf Milkwort Polygala, as             pared for a day on the fells (total walking about five miles,
well as a good range of the commoner Teesdale specialities.            climbing about 600 feet). Bring lunch. This is a joint excur-
                                                                       sion with the Alpine Garden Society.

Sunday 19 July Bishop Middleham Quarry – Joint meeting of Insects and Plants

J  oin members of the Midweek Botany Group and an expert
   entomologist for a day looking at the relationships between
insects and plants.
                                                                       Access to the quarry floor is by way of steep steps, but oth-
                                                                       erwise walking is level although it may be rough underfoot.
Bishop Middleham Quarry is a disused Magnesian limestone
                                                                       The reserve is situated half a mile north of Bishop
quarry now managed as a nature reserve by Durham Wildlife
                                                                       Middleham village, to the west of the A177 at grid reference
Trust. It has a wide range of attractive flowering plants includ-
                                                                       NZ331326 (OS Explorer 305 Landranger 93).
ing Pyramidal, Common Spotted, Fragrant and Bee Orchids,
Dark Red Helleborine, Common Rock-rose, Fairy Flax and                 Parking is in two small roadside lay-bys near the reserve
other limestone species. If we are lucky enough to have a fine         entrance and is limited, so car-sharing would be an advan-
day several species of butterflies should be flying, including         tage. Meet 11.00am.
Northern Brown Argus, Ringlet, Common Blue and Small

 Sunday 26 July                                                                                                 Graham Bell
                                  Marine Mammals and Birds in the North Sea

T   he boat will leave Seahouses at 9.30pm prompt (meet at
    9.00am noon outside Billy Shiel’s kiosk), and we expect to
be out for about four hours. We hope to get good views of Grey
                                                                       binoculars and something to eat and drink if you wish. The boat
                                                                       is partially covered and there is a toilet on board.
                                                                       Numbers are limited and the cost is £25 per person payable
Seals, and possibly some dolphin and small whale species,
                                                                       on booking, and non-returnable unless the event is can-
together with a range of seabirds. Graham Bell is chairman of
                                                                       celled. Please make cheques payable to ‘Northumbria
North Northumberland Bird Club, and regularly takes cruises
                                                                       Mammal Group.’
out into the High Arctic and Antarctic.
Bring clothing suitable for every type of weather condition,

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                            www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                Page 6

 Sunday 2 August                                                                                      David Noble-Rollin
                                                    New Members’ Day

 T   he Society's Secretary would like to invite all new mem-
     bers to a walk around the reserve so that he can outline
 some of the important wildlife areas and hopefully improve
                                                                     Although this outing is aimed at new members anyone is wel-
                                                                     come to come along.
                                                                     The visit will take approximately two hours and will begin
 their future enjoyment and appreciation of the reserve.             at Lake Lodge at 9.30am.

 Friday 21 August                                                                                              Tina Wiffen
                                      Bats in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve

 T   his will be an evening event starting around sunset and
     continuing till dark. There will be a short talk about bat
 biology and ecology, and as the sun is setting we will walk
                                                                     If you would like to go on this field meeting
                                                                     please book at the Society office. Wear strong
                                                                     footwear and clothes suitable for the conditions, which
 through the reserve looking for and listening to the bats.          may be muddy. If possible, please bring a torch.

 Saturday 5 September                                                Trevor Hardy
                Geodiversity in the Landscape – Devonian to Devesian

 A    new walk (four to five miles return distance) in upper
      Coquetdale following one of the major tributaries of the
 River Coquet towards Scotland. No hammer or hard hats
                                                                     Meet first at Alwinton Northumberland National Park car
                                                                     park at 10.15am (Landranger OS Map sheet 80) Grid. ref.
                                                                     NT919 063.
 required but bring lunch, walking boots and waterproofs.

Sunday 20 September                                                                                   Jonathan Pounder
                                         Bats in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve
               T   his will be an evening event starting around
                   sunset and continuing till dark. There will be
               a short talk about bat biology and ecology, and as
                                                                     If you would like to go on this field meeting please
                                                                     book at the Society office.

the sun is setting we will walk through the reserve looking for      Wear strong footwear and clothes suitable for the condi-
and listening to the bats.                                           tions, which may be muddy. If possible, please bring a torch.

Sunday 4 October                                                                                             Brian Young
                                          The Whin Sill of Upper Teesdale
T    he original sill of geological science gives rise to some of
     north-east England’s most striking and distinctive land-
scapes and supports some unique ecology. Nowhere are these
                                                                     Cronkley Fell, Upper Teesdale.
                                                                     Meet at Hanging Shaw car park, on the north side of the
                                                                     B6277 road, adjacent to Forest School, Teesdale at 10.30am.
features better displayed than in Upper Teesdale.
                                                                      The approximately 10km route will follow public footpaths
Although the sill itself has been the subject of innumerable stud-   over the summit of Cronkley Fell. Although well marked,
ies, its highly altered contact rocks have received remarkably       some sections of path are rather rough and steep. Stout
little attention and are poorly known. As well as demonstrating      boots, warm clothing and waterproofs are essential. In the
some of the spectacular geology of the sill and its role in shap-    event of unsuitable weather, a low level alternative route will
ing landscape and ecology, this excursion will focus on some         be taken.
fascinating new discoveries within the unusual contact rocks on

Saturday 11 October                                                                                                Ian Kerr
                                                          Holy Island

H    oly Island in autumn is renowned for attracting rare as well
     as regular migrant birds, as previous trips at this exciting
period have proved. Wintering wildfowl and waders will also be       Meet at the main island car park at Chare Ends at 10.15am.
present in good numbers. Our leader will be Ian Kerr, author of
the definitive guide The Birds of Holy Island. Come prepared
for any weather conditions and bring lunch.

 Contact Details:
 Telephone: 0191 232 6386 (our number is unchanged). Our e-mail has not changed:nhsn@ncl.ac.uk
 Address: you can still write to us at the Hancock Museum and our mail will be delivered to 3-4
 Claremont Terrace. Parcels using Carriers: 3-4 Claremont Terrace Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4AE.

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                         www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                      Page 7

                                            Whitley Great Ox Festival
                                  T    he Natural History Society of Northumbria was delighted to sup-
                                       port and officially open the first Whitley Great Ox Festival host-
                                  ed by the Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade on Saturday 28 March. The
                                  Festival was created not only to honour the 18th century Quadruped
                                  immortalised by Bewick in his copperplate engraving of The Whitley
                                                                       Large Ox but to involve as many
           The Great Ox         Poem by Rosa Garland                   local schools as possible.
      When the doors open,                 Everyone’s pointing          For the festivities, local school
         Now to be seen,                     As he goes by.
                                                                        children had been invited to sub-
      The most unlikely star
       There has ever been.                What a long journey          mit poetry about the Whitley Great Ox which was subse-
                                           The Ox must tread,           quently judged by Michael Rosen, the Children’s Poet
     He lumbers along slowly,               And all the time
                                                                        Laureate. The winning entry submitted by 12 year old Rosa
      “On!” the Master cries,             He’s filled with dread.
                                                                        Garland from Valley Gardens Middle School beat over 200
       And slaps him hard
                                             Everything is              other entries. At the awards ceremony, attended by over 150
         Upon his thighs.
                                             Far too bright,            children and parents, Rosa was presented with a poetry com-
                                         Too fast and worrying
        Through the streets,
                                      He longs for the safety of the    petition shield for her school by June Holmes, our archivist,
          Nobody spies,                                                 on behalf of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
     The sadness buried deep
    In the Ox’s drooping eyes.             Past the excitement,    Also closely contested was the art competition won by 12
                                            Through the fun,       year old Habib Ahmed for his imaginative picture of the Ox.
      Fingers are poking him,                The Ox’s story        The Bewick Society, also supporting the events, presented
          Voices are loud,                  Is a terrible one;
     People catching glimpses                                      him with an Art Competition shield for his school,
    Through the pushing crowd.            For nobody cares,        Monkseaton Middle School. Both June and our marketing
                                           For the Ox’s life       manager, Jane Brown, attended the festival throughout the
         His size is great,          As he sees his journey’s end,
                                                                   day and enjoyed seeing the children’s art works and reading
           That is why,              A man with a waiting knife.
                                                                   the poems. With over 600 children taking part in the Festival
 this proved to be a fantastic day and a rare opportunity to promote the Society and Thomas Bewick in Whitley Bay. Well done
 Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade!

                                   Geology Section update by David Noble-Rollin

 T   here has been some concern that the Geology section is not
     going to continue. This is not the case and as long as there are
 enough members interested in having geology lectures and field
                                                                        that need to be filled and they can all be undertaken by different
                                                                        members of the Committee.
                                                                        The jobs are as follows:
 meetings then the section will be continued. As you can see from
 the programme we have put on a full set of four field meetings for     Chairman: The Chairman chairs meetings of the Committee and
 the section, covering a wide range of geologically interesting         generally introduces the speakers and takes them out for a meal
 areas. I hope that you will support this programme by attending        after the lecture. Secretary: The secretary has to arrange the pro-
 the meetings and that you enjoy the events.                            gramme for both the winter lectures and summer field meetings.
 Talks with other geological groups have suggested that we could        The job entails telephoning, emailing or writing to prospective
 cooperate to extend the range of indoor and field meetings for         speakers and arranging with the Society Secretary the geology
 everybody. It is hoped that a meeting can be arranged to look into     part of the programme and obtaining suitable text for the Bulletin.
 the possible advantages for both groups.                               This job can be divided into a field meeting and a winter pro-
                                                                        gramme secretary if necessary. Member of the Committee: The
 Forming a Committee to run the Section                                 main job of the Committee member is to come up with ideas for
 Although the summer programme has been arranged by the                 field visits and potential lecturers. This should include informa-
 Society office it will be necessary to form a committee of section     tion of how to contact them.
 members to run the programme in the future. Any members of the         Any members of the Society who feel that they could con-
 Society who would like to help and have some expertise to offer        tribute to the Geology Committee please first contact the
 should contact me at the office and we will arrange a meeting to       Society office and discuss your possible involvement.
 discuss the matter. The Committee normally meets once a year to
 discuss the programme and there are a number of different jobs

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                                 www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                    Page 8

                                Risk Assessment for Field Meetings
 Risk Assessment for Field Meetings
 The Society, in line with other organisations, must make every effort to ensure that its members are informed of any potential risks
 that may be part of the field-meeting programme. Although leaders of field meetings have been asked to assess each outing and look
 at the risks this is only available on the day as members can attend without booking. Therefore it seems sensible to outline the gener-
 al risks that are likely to be met on any field meeting.
 Walking boots or if advised Wellington boots, warm and waterproof clothing and you should carry some water.
 For geology meetings a hard hat, if advised in the Bulletin. (There will be a small number available from the Society office, open
 10.00am to 1.00pm weekdays or they can be bought at stores e.g. B&Q for £5-£6.)
 Risks associated with field meetings
 The sites visited by the Society have been assessed as normally 'no more dangerous than daily life'. If the leader considers a particu-

 Identified hazard                                           Procedures adopted to reduce risk
 Rough and uneven ground                                     Wear recommended footwear and look where you walk.
 Wet and slippery conditions                                 As above.
 Possibility of bad weather and cold conditions              Have suitable outdoor clothes with you.
 Possibility of being stranded by incoming tide              Listen to the instructions of the leader and in the Bulletin.
 Danger of getting lost                                      Stay with the leader; do not go off on your own.
 Any medical conditions that may inhibit your
 ability to complete the walk                                Please inform the leader and discuss a possible solution.
 A medical condition you may suffer from
 that the leader should know about                           Talk to the leader before the meeting.

                                                                      other sources.
Sparkie Flies off to Berlin cont.from page 1
When Sparkie died in 1962, his owner Mrs Mattie Williams had          When Mr Nyman and Carston Nicolai visited the Society last
him preserved and after a country wide tour in an exhibition on       year to see Sparkie and look at our archives they were astound-
his life and times his stuffed remains returned to the then           ed to find that we had an unpublished typescript of a biography
Hancock Museum as a favourite exhibit.                                “The Life of Sparkie Williams 1954 -1962” written by Mrs
                                                                      Williams. During the Berlin performance, selections from the
We were amazed to learn that our linguistic little bird which has
                                                                      biography were read by actress Kika Markham playing the role
not only given us much pleasure over the years has also inspired
                                                                      of Mattie. The words of a woman devoted to her pet, recording
the world-renowned composer Michael Nyman to write a musi-
                                                                      in minute detail his life and experiences, culminated in a very
cal tribute in Sparkie’s honour. He performed this tribute with
                                                                      touching finale dealing with the death of her beloved bird.
fellow artist, Carsten Nicolai, also known under the pseudonym
Alva Noto, at the MaerzMusik festival in Berlin. The hour long Archivist June Holmes, who accompanied Sparkie on his jour-
performance was held at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele on 26 ney and had the great pleasure of being present at the world pre-
March.                                                              miere of ‘Sparkie: Cage and Beyond’, greatly enjoyed the whole
                                                                    experience and reported, ‘I was mesmerized by Kika Markham,
The new composition ‘Sparkie: Cage and Beyond’ is a collabo-
                                                                    she became Mattie Williams in front of our eyes’.
rative work based on Michael Nyman’s 1977 piece Pretty Talk,
originally using material from a flexidisc giveaway single pro- The production, playing to a packed theatre, closed to thunder-
duced by the Capern’s bird seed company to help customers ous applause, four curtain calls and an encore. The German
teach their pet birds to talk. The disc played short sentences spo- audience certainly enjoyed seeing and hearing our tiny feathered
ken by Mattie Williams to encourage her pet, followed by hero. Hopefully we will all have the pleasure of seeing the per-
replies from Sparkie himself. Carsten Nicolai contributed more formance at a venue in the North East soon.
material with remixes and studio recordings of Sparkie from
Library cont.from page 1             New Card index cabinet

E    ach book in the library has a separate printed index card and these cards are kept
     in a purpose built wooden cabinet. In recent years the number of books accessed
has meant that a second metal cabinet has had to be used as there is insufficient
space for all the cards. Our office manager’s father, Bruce Will, a journeyman cab-
inet maker by trade, has fashioned another wooden cabinet similar in design to the
original using some of the oak shelving from the old Hancock library. The out of
character metal cabinet can now be dispensed with and there is ample room for
future expansion of the card catalogue.

 Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                              www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                               Page 9

                              Thank you to our Members                               byJane Brown

F   ollowing the excellent response to the questionnaire in the
    Winter bulletin, I would like to thank everyone who put for-
ward their views and opinions on the Society. Over a hundred
members participated, and I can honestly say the enthusiasm and
affection towards the Society is remarkable. This has provided
valuable information which offers a brilliant insight into what is
expected from the Society and where members would like to see
developments. The results will help improve the Society for current
and future members, and guide its future direction. I will be con-
tacting the members who volunteered to be interviewed for a more
individual discussion in the future.

Results summary
    • 2:1 Male to Female ratio
    • Over 80% of respondents were aged 50 or over
    • 50% of respondents are also members of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB
    • The most popular subjects respondents identified were Ornithology, General Natural History, Botany and Mammals (see
      chart). Generally respondents identified between two and four areas of interest. Subjects stated as ‘other’ included Ecology,
      Conservation, Freshwater Fish, Lichens, Mosses and Fungi.
    • Over 70% of respondents shared a favourite experience, the majority detailing specific sightings occurring inside Gosforth
      Park or during a field trip
    • The most popular destinations for field trips include Holy Island, the Farne Islands and the Cheviots. Ornithology sightings
      were most often mentioned, followed by Mammals
    • Around 80% of respondents indicated they had attended indoor meetings
    • The main reason for non attendance was due to the inconvenience of a Friday evening
    • Respondents indicated that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings would be the most convenient evenings to
      hold indoor lectures (see
      chart). Only three votes
      separated the most and least
      popular of these four
    • Respondents scored the
      Society 4.7 out of 10 on
      public awareness and pro-
      file. This was also the area
      that received the most sug-
      gestions for improving the
    • Respondents rated 7.8 out
      of 10 for their overall opin-
      ion of the Society
    • The most popular words
      identifified by respondents
      were ‘academic’, ‘tradition-
      al’ and good value

New Developments

I mplications of the results are currently being discussed, so members should be able to see the impact of their input very soon.
  I’m also delighted to advise members to look out for the Society’s new look, which is being updated for the opening of the muse-
um. The new museum developments and publicity surrounding the revamp will help promote the Society in the community. A reju-
venated image will provide a great base from which to build our profile, so that is an exciting development. I’m looking forward
to the opening and helping move the Society forward at this exciting time.

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                         www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                 Page 10

                                       EYE Project News by Naomi Hewitt
Regional Environmental Data Hub                                       the survey from the EYE office, the NHSN office, at a wide
                                                                      variety of nature reserves and visitor centres around the North
Excellent progress is being made on the Data Hub, the regional        East, or by contacting us directly.
database of environmental records for the North East. The data-
base has now grown to 219,000 records, so coupled with the                                        Events
historic database of 422,000 records which was built up over a
period of twenty years, we have made significant advances in
the establishment of a comprehensive regional database of envi-
ronmental information. Our volunteers have been doing a fan-
tastic job digitising a massive amount of paper data. A cen-
tralised system of data ensures great benefits to both the profes-
sional and voluntary environmental sector – without this, it is
very difficult for any of us to find out about the state of region-
al biodiversity today.
The Data Hub is a resource that we would encourage any of you
to use for your own interests and research. Although we have
safeguards to protect access to data about sensitive species,
                                                                          EYE project volunteers and Steve Lowe from NWT
please do not hesitate to get in touch if we can help in any way.
                                                                          investigating the seashore at Seaton Sluice
EYE Project “wikiTOID” website
The website has been live now for around ten months, and we           Over the autumn and winter we have started to run a regular
have been working hard to tell people about it, and encouraging       programme of volunteer wildlife taster days, in partnership with
everyone to record their wildlife sightings. Many of our com-         Northumberland Wildlife Trust. These are an opportunity for
mon species are under threat, and recording your everyday (or         anyone to spend a day learning more about a particular species
unusual!) sightings of animals, birds or plants is a really quick     and habitat from wildlife experts, and are all free of charge and
and easy way of helping to inform and protect our natural envi-       open to anyone. Topics covered so far include coastal ecology,
ronment. Garden birds such as Starlings, Swallows and Swifts          urban wildlife, wetland birds and amphibians.
as well as garden visitors such as Hedgehogs, Frogs, Toads and        A number of exciting events are planned for the spring and sum-
Newts are all on the local biodiversity action plans so we really     mer, including the Gosforth Park Exploration Day, Tracks and
need your information. Visit www.eyeproject.org.uk to record          Trails and a Bioblitz with the Northumberland Biodiversity
your sightings or drop them in to us at the EYE Project on the        Partnership – a massive challenge to record as many species as
ground floor of Claremont Terrace and eventually – in the new         possible in the space of twent-four hours! We would love as
museum!                                                               many wildlife experts and recording groups as possible to get
2009 Regional Survey                                                  involved with the Bioblitz, so please do get in touch if you can
                                                                      help at all.
2008 saw a very successful year for the EYE Project
                                                                      You can find out more about the summer programme by visit-
Northumbrian Water Pond Survey with over 1,000 species
                                                                      ing the EYE Project website at www.eyeproject.org.uk.
recorded. Our 2009 survey is all about mammals, and we would
love to hear about your sightings of common mammals such as           Please get in touch if you have any questions about the EYE
Fox, Badger, Brown Hare, Hedgehog and Roe Deer. All records           Project or want to get involved further. You can contact us by
will be passed to the Northumbria Mammal Group to help                telephone on 0191 222 5158 or 0191 222 7868 and by email at
inform their regional mammal atlas. You can pick up a copy of         eye.project@twmuseums.org.uk.

                                                        Dr Mick Jones
 It was with great sadness that we heard that Dr Mick Jones died on 15 March . He was a great supporter of the Society and gave
 his time very generously to the Geology Section with many excellent geological lectures and field meetings and as the Chairman
 of the Geology section his many academic friends and contacts particularly enriched the winter programme.

 Mick was elected to the Society in 1964 and was until very recently a Trustee and had been on Council for many years as a
 University representative. He became a Vice-President in 1999 in recognition of his voluntary work.

 He wrote a number of papers for the Transactions and contributed to `The Geology of North East England’ and later the up date
 of `Robson’s Geology of North East England’. His guides to the coastal sections from Tynemouth to Seaton Sluice and from
 Howick Bay to Foxton Hall were classics and the bible for many young geology students studying the local landscape.
 There will be a full obituary in the Annual Report but at this point the Society Council and staff would like to express their sor-
 row at losing such a respected colleague.

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                            www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                   Page 11
                                   Gosforth Park Nature Reserve Continued from page 1
                                                                       Birds and Mammals in the Reserve
                                                                       Over the winter; sightings of some interesting species have been
                                                                       recorded in the log book: Water Rails have been seen through-
                                                                       out January and there are records of Peregrine, two records of
    .Geof Lawrence cleaning out one of the nest boxes.                 Green Woodpeckers and an observation of a Sparrowhawk din-
                  Photo by Stuart Will                                 ing on a Long-tailed Tit at the feeding station. The Bitterns have
                                                                       not been seen since the beginning of November which could
Nest Box success                                                       mean they have moved on. Roe Deer have been recorded on
When Geoff Lawrence and Stuart Will went round the forty-              almost every member’s visits to the reserve with up to twenty-
seven nest boxes that were put up last year they found that thir-      seven seen on one occasion. Sightings and evidence of Otter
ty-eight had been used by birds and one by bumble bees. They           activity have also been mentioned in the logbook and it is good
cleaned out the boxes ready for this season. This shows how            to see that this charismatic species is well established in the
short of natural sites birds can be. The reserve is full of very old   reserve. Foxes have been very visible during the cold weather in
trees full of suitable holes but obviously not enough for our          January and February with four being seen in one morning.
birds!                                                                 Unlike Otters, there have been no sightings of Red Squirrels
                                                                       since December. Two Greys have been reported in the same
Winter Management work                                                 period, one in the reserve and one in the old Scout Camp. The
Elsewhere in the reserve, the usual reed-bed management work           group of volunteers who maintain the monitoring and trapping
has been carried out this winter, again with a much-needed grant       in the reserve for Greys have continued to work throughout the
from Natural England. This work involves the clearing of dead          winter and the lack of Red Squirrel sightings is very disap-
reed stems in discrete areas on yearly rotation to minimise the
build up of debris, and the clearing/control of willows which, if
left unchecked, shade out the reeds. The University
Conservation Society have also helped us again this year by
coppicing willows in some of the constant-effort ringing sites
and this also contributes to keeping the willows in check while
maintaining a diverse habitat with nesting and foraging areas for
the Reed Warblers that will soon be arriving to breed. One of the          Protective guttering for the tern Platform by Stuart Will
other winter jobs, replenishing the gravel on the tern platform,
came to a temporary halt when Warden Paul Drummond dis-                pointing. We will continue to monitor the situation and to sup-
covered (nearly ending up in the lake in the process) that some        port efforts to maintain a Grey Squirrel free environment with-
of the original parts of the platform are rotten. These parts of the   in the reserve to encourage Red Squirrels to return. We hope
tern platform will have to be replaced, but this is rather a big job   that members will be vigilant in recording in the logbook details
that will have to wait until next winter and the terns will have to    of any Red Squirrels that they see in the reserve.
make do with a temporary repair to the hole for this season.           *winter depression due to ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’– thought to
After last year’s losses of young terns we have added protective       result from hormonal imbalances resulting from reduced exposure to
edges to the platform to stop predators climbing up and eating         daylight

                                          Ringing Group activity by Chris Redfern
      uring the winter, Stuart Will visited Gosforth Park Nature Reserve on a number of occasions to ring birds, particularly those
      visiting the feeding station. While the range of species caught was predictable (mainly tits), the occasional Nuthatch has been
a bonus and he has retrapped some impressively long-lived tits: these include a Blue Tit and a Great Tit each over six years old
(ringed in June 2002 as juveniles) and a Coal Tit over four years old (ringed as an adult in June 2004).
Although these aren’t longevity records, the group did get the UK longevity record for a Rock Pipit
retrapped at Low Newton in November 2008 which was just under six years old. This winter, the
group has continued to ring at Low Newton, focusing on Rock Pipits in an attempt to increase our
understanding of the origins and movements of the Scandinavian subspecies Anthus petrosus littoralis
which can often be seen in small numbers on the north-east coast in March. As a bonus, the group has
also ringed small numbers of waders including six Sanderlings, Redshanks, Turnstones and an
Terns will be uppermost in Stuart Will’s mind in June and July this year: Stuart has agreed to a break
from his role as Office Manager and will be using part of his holiday and a few weeks unpaid leave
to stay on Inner Farne collecting data on the foraging location and nest provisioning activity of Arctic
Terns nesting there. These data will make an important contribution to the long-running dataset gath- Stuart Will taking biometric
ered as part of the Farne Islands Marine Research Group, a collaboration between the Society,                   measurements on a
Newcastle University and the National Trust, aimed at understanding the factors which affect the breed- Sanderling at Newton photo
ing success of terns and other seabirds on the islands.                                                          by Chris Redfern

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                              www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk
Bulletin 270                                                                                                                 Page 12

                                          MUSEUM NEWS by Miriam Harte

T    ruly ‘tempus fugit’and we are now in the long awaited run
     up to the opening of the splendid new museum. The fit-out
contractors with a team of about thirty craftsmen are on site
                                                                                                     sure will be well used by
                                                                                                     researchers, students and visi-
installing the cases and displays and are progressing at a great
                                                                                                     Likewise the learning team has
rate. The building looks beautiful as do the outside areas and the
                                                                                                     been concentrating in these last
cases, tanks and all the paraphernalia that goes with great inter-
                                                                                                     months on preparing a suite of
pretation in a welcoming, world class museum reflecting top
                                                                                                     learning materials for use in the
quality design and craftsmanship. Now the major task is in
                                                                                                     new galleries and in the very
installing the collections, dressing all the displays and bringing
                                                                                                     well appointed learning space
                                                                                                     and the study garden. These are
                                                                                                     now nearing completion and the
                                                                      New shelving for the           team is looking forward to
                                                                      Society’s collections at       launching them to the region’s
                                                                      Discovery Museum               schools and delighting their

Miriam Harte with a newly arived elephant.
                                                                                      Geology Colle
                                                                                                   ctions large sp
the museum to life. The vast temporary exhibition area in the
GNM looks like a grand bazaar as it acts as a holding area for
objects before they are placed finally in their new cases. At
present it houses a veritable zoo of large animals (stuffed or
                                                                     young audiences when they come to visit. We expect that the
models thankfully!), large amounts of Roman stone and crates
                                                                     summer term will be very busy indeed as the great buzz of
of other artefacts from all the various collections. The task of
                                                                     excitement around the GNM builds up to the launch. Roy
putting all in place is a mammoth one (sorry!) and the curators
                                                                     Bearbark has been doing a host of taster sessions and school
and the moving team are all geared up for weeks of frantic, but
                                                                     assemblies to whet the appetites of the children and teachers and
careful, activities. The GNM team are delighted to have the help
                                                                     these are beginning to translate into firm bookings.
of Mel Whewell’s documentation and conservation teams
almost full time for the duration and they are also helping to co-   Publicity
ordinate the moves of the libraries into their new facilities on     You will have seen the fairly constant stream of interesting arti-
the top floor! They are of course working closely with the ener-     cles in the press. This will continue and intensify up to the
getic volunteers from the NHSN and SANT who never fail to            launch date. One of the activities you may have noticed is the
impress with their enthusiasm and their stamina.                     ‘Be Part of It’ campaign. This has been gaining momentum and
                                                                     donations are steadily arriving. The idea is that donors can have
Research Facility at Discovery Museum
                                                                     their name or the name of a loved one included on a ‘donor
At the other side of the city, and almost as important, is the       wall’ which will be added to the names of Society members who
move from the temporary store of all the other collections to the    have already contributed. It is another way for the Museum to
new store in Discovery museum. The construction and fit out          gather funds; if you wish to support the ongoing activities of the
are now finished and Jo Anderson is supervising the substantial      GNM: Hancock, you can donate through the Society – contact
task of unloading several truck loads a day into the new facili-     the office for details or online at: www. twmuseums.
ties. Again, keeping up with the documentation on this is a huge     org.uk/greatnorthmuseum/bepartofit
task and Jo is also supported by members of the documentation
                                                                     Well, looking forward to an extremely busy and exciting April
team and volunteers. This area also looks really good and I’m
                                                                     and May and to all the hard work with the team!

                                       Office Services to Members
 I  t will not be possible for members to get into the Society’s new office or the Library until the Museum opens so
    we will be maintaining our base at 3-4 Claremont Terrace until after the opening of the Museum at the end of May.
 Our new office furniture is scheduled to arrive in mid May and we hope to begin moving our files and material back
 in June. From mid May to July I suggest that if you are wishing to come into the office you ring on our usual num-
 ber before you set out. This will be a very difficult time for staff and volunteers and there may be times when we are
 unable to cover the office from 10.00am to 1.00pm completely.

Natural History Society of Northumbria                                                                           www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk

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