On Thursday, a glorious sunny but cool day, Brian Moorhead and myself visited Gosforth Park Nature Reserve. The reserve compromises of 60ha of lake, reed-bed and mixed woodland, fewer than 4 miles from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s City centre. Managed by the Natural History Society of Northumbria since 1929, it boasts a vast diversity of flora and fauna, with half the site designated as an SSSI and the whole site designated as Local Wildlife Site and Wildlife Corridor.
It had been a long time since we both visited the reserve, and on arrival we were surprised to find a new feeding station hide at the reserves entrance. Set-up for photographers it was a great first call, the feeders were teaming with life. Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Robin all provide brilliant views.
We moved on through mixed woodland, and reed-beds to one of the hides overlooking the lake. Three people were already present, as were 129 Wigeon, 5 Shoveler, 20+Teal, 4 Mute Swan, 37 Coot, 3 Tufted Duck, a Snipe and a Cormorant. Three people left, and one joined us, roughly 15 minutes after the last person left, the Bittern landed to the right of the hide, but quickly disappeared into the reeds. A great close view, but we hoped it would emerge.
Whilst waiting, keeping our eyes on the reeds, three more people entered the hide. Lifting my binoculars to scan the reed-bed I found the Bittern, perfectlycamouflaged with only its head showing, quietly pointing it out to everyone it gradually appeared fromthe reeds. Whilst watching the bird perform its neck stretching and reptilelike movements the excitement in the hide could be felt. One of the three who joined us said that this was his first ever Bittern encounter in the 40 years he had been watching birds, he certainly left the hide pleased with his encounter.
Unfortunately the reserve and its wildlife are under threat. Newcastle City Council plans to allow the building of 600 houses in the immediate vicinity of the reserve, land that is used for foraging but also an important corridor to the country surrounding Newcastle, to species such as Roe Deer, Red Squirrels, Badgers, Foxes Otters, Bats and countless bird species. There is also a renewed threat to the reserve in the form of 366 executive homes, planned to be built 400 metres NE of the reserve, another area of wildlife corridor vital to the reserves diversity and success.
Kaleel Zibe and Alan Hewitt have begun a campaign against the plans, both professional wildlife photographers and society members. You can show your support, and find out how to voice your opinions at Save Gosforth Wildlife.