Thursday 4 July 2019

Meet the Tyne Kittiwakes with Wild Intrigue - Kittiwakes and Doughnuts at The Baltic

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A few weeks ago Simon and I found ourselves on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside for a very special experience - a chance to meet the Tyne Kittiwakes with our favourite local explorers, Wild Intrigue, as part of their very first Kittiwakes and Doughnuts event at The Baltic.

For many years I took the gulls on the Newcastle Quayside for granted, in fact I barely gave them a second thought as I scurried my way along the River Tyne on a daily basis. But for some reason, over the last year, I've started to take an active interest in the birds and found myself with a few questions - Are they seagulls? Why are there so many here? and why I am forever dodging bird poo under the Tyne Bridge?

Meet the Tyne Kittiwakes with Wild Intrigue - Kittiwakes and Doughnuts at The Baltic

Have you ever met the Tyne Kittiwakes?

Even if you've never come face to face you definitely will have seen and heard them if you've ever spent any time on the Newcastle Quayside over the Summer months. Very much a part of our landscape, you'll usually find these beautiful birds living by the sea but rather remarkably they have been visiting Tyneside since the 1960s.  Every March the Kittiwakes return to the Quayside to nest and spend their Summer holidays on Tyneside breeding and raising their young before leaving the Tyne in August to return out to sea.

Their arrival has been met with much debate, a bit of frustration but, most importantly, an overwhelming amount of love from many locals who realise how lucky we are that they are a part of our city landscape.

Tyne Kittiwakes with Wild Intrigue - Kittiwakes and Doughnuts at The Baltic

Often mistaken by visitors as seagulls, the Kittiwakes congregate on the Quayside with a few local business owners viewing them as a bit of a nuisance when their outside seating and window ledges get covered in bird poo as the nesting Kittiwakes take over the outside of their buildings.

Many of the buildings along the Quayside have taken action over the years, covering ledges, roofs and windows with spikes and netting to prevent the birds from landing.  I'm not sure anyone really expected the overwhelming support that the Kittiwakes had from locals who were passionately vocal about not wanting to lose our birds, because, despite having all been covered in a bit of poo from time to time, (I once got covered in Kittiwake poo twice in one day!) the birds are very much a part of life on the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside and a stroll along the River Tyne just wouldn't be the same without them.

Tyne Kittiwakes with Wild Intrigue - Kittiwakes and Doughnuts

Over the last year or so many organisations including the local Councils and wildlife groups have worked together to create solutions to help the Kittiwakes thrive on the Quayside and luckily the use of netting and deterrents is now closely monitored to ensure that none of the birds get harmed during the nesting season.

One place that has gone above and beyond in recent years to protect the Tyne Kittiwakes is The Baltic who boast the most impressive amount of nesting Kittiwakes on the ledges of their building and encourage them to nest in peace all season whilst providing visitors and locals with a prime spot to view the birds.  It was the perfect place to begin our great adventure with Wild Intrigue.

Tyne Kittiwakes - Newcastle
We met Heather and Cain, the founders and expedition leaders of Wild Intrigue, at the entrance to The Baltic ready to begin our two hour experience. With tickets limited to around 15 people per tour the Kittiwakes and Doughnuts events are a wonderfully intimate experience offering a great chance to fully immerse yourself in some unique bird watching and with plenty of opportunity to ask questions, something I took full advantage of as we began to meander our way along the river on our Kittiwake quest.

Our experience began with a circular walk of the Quayside starting from the Baltic and walking along the river to the Tyne Bridge where we enjoyed the views of the birds circling over our heads before heading our way up some stairs to the bridge.

Tyne Bridge Kittiwakes - Newcastle
I'd never realised before all of the great places you can view the Kittiwakes from and I particularly loved this lovely view of the Kittiwakes settled on the bridge with the Swing Bridge in the background. What a place to go bird watching.

Tyne Bridge Newcastle - Kittiwakes

As we made our way along the bridge we peered over the side for a great view of the Kittiwakes nesting just below us on the edge of the Tyne Bridge. Being very careful not to disturb them, we couldn't believe how close we were to the nesting birds.

Tyne Bridge Newcastle - Tyne Kittiwakes
This colony of Kittiwakes is the most inland breeding colony in the world which makes the NewcastleGateshead Quayside so special - we are the only city centre in the world to have a seabird colony at its heart, and that really is something to be truly proud of, peering over the edge to watch the birds circling over my favourite city gave me goosebumps.

Newcastle Quayside - Kittiwakes
As we walked a little further we were thrilled to stumble across some nests and, for the first time that day, we spotted a Kittiwake chick popping its head out of its nest. The Kittiwakes lay their eggs in May and June so now is the ideal time to see the babies before they fly their nests at around 42 days old.

Newcastle Quayside Walk - Kittiwakes

We continued our journey from the Tyne Bridge along the Newcastle side of the Quayside before returning over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead for our first glimpse of the Kittiwakes on the Baltic. They build their nests on narrow ledges on the north wall of the gallery and, whilst I love seeing the birds close up, I really do enjoy watching them circling above the building whilst I walk over the bridge.

Did someone say doughnuts? Wild Intrigue have teamed up with our favourites Proven Doughnuts who are providing one of their famous hand rolled doughnuts to enjoy with a hot drink as part of the Kittiwake and Doughnuts experience.

It was time to rest our feet with a cuppa and a sweet treat inside the Baltic whilst enjoying a special Kittiwake talk by the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership's, Dan Turner. Simon and I have both heard Dan talk about Kittiwakes before and having studied the birds for many years, he has a fantastic knowledge of the birds. The very first time we met Dan I had so many questions for him and he was really happy to take the time to answer them all - it's so great to meet someone who's so passionate about what they do.

Kittiwakes and Doughnuts with Wild Intrigue

After the talk it was time to head up to the Level 4 viewing platform at The Baltic, the perfect spot to see the nesting Kittiwakes. It's pretty incredible how many birds manage to fit along the ledges of The Baltic and I find it completely mind blowing to watch the birds swoop in with food to feed their young knowing that they have caught their dinner out on the Northumberland coast before returning it to Newcastle. Imagine flying all that way for your tea!

Tyne Kittiwakes at The Baltic
I'd had my fingers so tightly crossed at the start of the tour that we'd get to see some Kittiwake chicks so couldn't believe my eyes at how many there were snuggled up in their nests along the ledge at the Baltic. Every other nest had a cute fluffy grey baby Kittiwake in and seeing them so close felt very special. People travel miles and miles for such a great view of these beautiful seabirds and we have them right on our doorstep in the centre of our city.

Tyne Kittiwakes at The Baltic Gateshead

I really hope that our adventure today has inspired you to find out more about our feathered friends on the Quayside and if you're after a really enjoyable experience with a difference I can't recommend the Wild Intrigue Kittiwakes and Doughnuts tour enough, I discovered a new side to the city that I'd never seen before and we have both walked away with a real passion for the Tyneside Kittiwakes. I have to say that meeting Wild Intrigue has truly inspired me to learn more about the wildlife of the North East - their enthusiasm and passion is infectious and going to one of their events really will open your eyes and change how you see the world around you.

There are three more Kittiwakes and Doughnuts events happening this month and I'd love to know if you're planning to go along to one!

Kittiwakes at The Baltic Gateshead

What you need to know:
  • Kittiwakes and Doughnuts Events are happening on Saturday 20 July, Sunday 21 July and Thursday 25 July
  • Tours start at 11:00 am and last approximately two hours
  • Tickets cost £20.00 for adults and £12.00 for under 18s with all profits going to The Baltic's - Care for Our Kittiwakes campaign
  • Book your Kittiwakes and Doughnuts Experience here
  • Read more about the Care for Our Kittiwakes Campaign here
Discover Wild Intrigue:

Wild Intrigue are a passionate small team of wildlife lovers dedicated to inspiring and educating others to explore the nature on their doorsteps, rediscover the wilds of the countryside and learning how to conserve Britain's wildlife.

Wild Intrigue run expeditions and mini expeds perfect for capturing your imagination and opening your eyes to the beauty of the great outdoors.  So whether you fancy a night of Bats and Pizzas, discovering the wilds of Ouseburn or glamping under the dark skies of Northumberland there's something for everyone.

Discover more at:

Find the Baltic:

South Shore Road

Kittiwakes at The Tyne Bridge NewcastleGateshead
We were invited to attend Wild Intrigue's Kittiwakes and Doughnuts Event free of charge in exchange for sharing our experience. 

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