Washington Wetland Center – October 2019

After we’d visited NELSAM we still had a couple of hours of daylight so decided to visit WWT Washington Wetland Centre as it was only up the road from the museum and is always good for birds and otters.

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust started out in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, and was set up by Sir Peter Scott, (son of Scott of the Antarctic).  Peter became an Olympic sailing medallist and a well-known painter and broadcaster. He created the IUCN red list which measures whether species are threatened or endangered. He was the founding chair of WWF – and even drew their famous panda logo.

The Trust is all about conservation of endangered species, and their mission is to save critically endangered species from extinction, work with communities around the world who depend on wetlands and inspire people to take care of nature.

There are 9 WWT’s across the UK and we are lucky enough to have one near Sunderland. I’ve done a few posts on this blog from the WWT but there’s always something new to see.

I think this is Purplepore Bracket (Trichaptum abietinum) fungus.

There is a pair of Black Swans at Washington, they have white wing tips and red bills with a white stripe on them.

Black Swan
Fun guys

We were very excited to see a kingfisher, as neither off us had seen one in the flesh before

Kingfisher with fish catch

Further up in that part of the lake a heron was also fishing

We went to see the asian short clawed otters at feeding time

It is a member of the otter subfamily (Lutrinae) of the weasel family (Mustelidae), and is the smallest otter species in the world. Its paws are a distinctive feature; its claws do not extend beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This gives it a high degree of manual dexterity so that it can use its paws to feed on molluscs, crabs and other small aquatic animals. The Asian small-clawed otter inhabits mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands in South and Southeast Asia. It lives in extended family groups with only the alpha pair breeding; offspring from previous years help to raise the young. Due to ongoing habitat loss, pollution, and hunting in some areas, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The breeding programme at Washington is very successful and when the litters of the main pair grow up they are sent to other wetlands to diversify the gene pool.

Then we went to see the flamingos, my faves, but walked past the geese first,

telling off, & not listening 🙂
Beady Eye

The weather was deteriorating at this point so that was the end of our day out, but stay tooned to see where we end up next time!

all pics are clickable to embiggen.

Full album HERE

Killingworth Boat Lake ~ February 2019

In 1964, a 15 acre lake was created to help drain the ground for Killingworth New Town, and almost straight away a boating clubhouse was built which is alongside a public car park. Several different groups still use this clubhouse and more use the lake and park, which is run by North Tyneside Council.  A bunch of retired chaps interested in building, racing and sailing model boats formed a sailing group, which is now affiliated to the MYA (Model Yacht Association).

Sophie and I stopped off here on our way back from somewhere as I knew there were swans on the lake, and the racing was in full swing.

and they’re off!
Remote control
No remote control
Come in No.48

Precision Landing
The Swans win.

Farne Islands~July 2018~Part 3~ The Others

Part 1 HERE. Part 2 HERE

As well as Puffins, various other sea birds breed and nest on the Farne Islands. Here are a few of them.

Kittiwakes are one of the most abundant birds around the Farne Islands. They make a nest of mud and straw which often has to be rebuilt as they are easily washed from the rocks by either torrential rain or heavy seas.

Living on the edge


finding a moment of solitude

The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 19,000 km (12,000 mi). The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. One example of this bird’s remarkable long-distance flying abilities involves an Arctic tern ringed as an unfledged chick on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK, in the northern summer of 1982, which reached Melbourne, Australia in October 1982, just three months from fledging — a journey of over 22,000 km (14,000 mi).

They also have very sharp beaks, and dive bomb people arriving on the Islands to keep them from their chicks and eggs, which they stupidly lay right next to the path we all have to walk up!

bogie at 1 o’clock!

The shag bears a close resemblance to the cormorant~ so much so that it often causes it to be mis-identified as the latter. When seen alongside each other, the differences can be more readily seen. The shag is a dark bottle green colour and is approximately three quarters the size of the cormorant. During the early part of the breeding season, the shag has a crest on the top of its head which drops back down when it has mated.

yep, my crest is definitely down!


Guillemots, like the puffins and the very similar looking relation the razorbill are members of the auk family of seabirds. They don’t build a nest, instead they lay a pear-shaped egg on the bare surface of the rock, which, if kicked or bumped will spin in a circle and not be knocked off. A few weeks after the guillemot chick hatches it will jump from the rock, still unable to fly, into the water where it will feed for the first time, being taught by its parents. Many of the guillemot chicks do not survive this transition and in late June of 2004, thousands of chicks died due to poor weather conditions. Approximately 3% of the guillemot population at the Islands are “bridled”, these birds have a white ring around each eye with a white streak leading to the back of their heads, which almost makes them look as if they are wearing spectacles.

Perfect eyesight here thanks.

The razorbill is very similar in shape and size to the Guillemot, the main visible differences being that the razorbill is a much more blackish colour compared to the dark brown of the guillemot. It also has a much squarer shaped bill with a white diagonal streak on the end and a white line leading back to the eyes.

No I’m not a ruddy Guillemot see? White lines!

Lots of different types of gulls too, Lesser Black Backed (try saying that after a sherbert or two!) Great Black-Backed, Herring, Black Headed, but I didn’t catch all of them

yes I’m a Black Backed, not sure if Greater or Lesser though, but I think I’m great!


Black Headed Gull. (I know, I know, it’s got a brown head, whoever named them was a knob with poor eyesight).

And of course, the Island is also populated with photographers at this time of year

Camouflage guy, so the birds can’t see him I guess 🙂


Mrs Orange taking a picture of….




Mr. Serious Ornithologist.

So that’s the end of our day out on the Farne Islands.  Stay tooned for next time when we are going back in time, to several wars!

All pictures embiggenable and full album HERE

Farne Island – July 2018- Part 2- Puffin-fest

Puffins!!  This is the main reason we go to the Farne Islands, to see the huge colony of  puffins that come here to breed and we try to get some in-flight shots, which are SO difficult because the buggers fly at supersonic speed! There are 3 types of Puffins but here in the UK we get the Atlantic Puffins.

Puffins form long-term pair bonds or relationships. The female lays a single egg, and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick (or “puffling”).

kisses ❤

The Dads dig out the nests, or use rabbit burrows if there are any about. 
Puffins eat both fish and zooplankton but feed their chicks primarily with small marine fish several times a day. The prey species of the Atlantic puffin include sandeel, herring and capelin. They also have the ability to hold several (sometimes over a dozen) small fish at a time, crosswise in their bill, rather than regurgitating swallowed fish. This allows them to forage far wider than your bog-standard one-fish-at-a-time sea bird, as they bring back much more food in one go. And I think it’s much more pleasant than vomitting up into your chicks gob!

Now’s not the time to ask a question.

Puffins are hunted for eggs, feathers and meat. Atlantic puffin populations drastically declined due to habitat destruction and exploitation during the 19th century and early 20th century. They continue to be hunted in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In fact  the Atlantic puffin forms part of the national diet in Iceland, where the species does not have legal protection. Puffins are hunted by a technique called “sky fishing”, which involves catching the puffins in a big net as they dive into the sea. 
Their meat is commonly featured on hotel menus. The fresh heart of a puffin is eaten raw as a traditional Icelandic delicacy- seriously guys??   On the small Icelandic island of Grimsey as many as 200 puffins can be caught in a single morning

Lads I think we’d best cancel that holiday to Iceland!

Puffin populations are in decline.  Puffin records on the Northumberland coast archipelago date back to 1939 when 3,000 breeding pairs were recorded, and every census until 2008 showed a steady increase in pairs. But in 2008 numbers fell by a third, from 55,674 to 36,835. This is thought largely due to the impacts of climate change.

gonna be lonely on Farne

Erpur Snær Hansen, director of ecological research at the South Iceland Nature Centre, says  if surface sea temperatures remain at current levels or higher, the entire puffin population of south and west Iceland will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years.  Maybe if they didn’t eat so many…

landing gear down

Although the puffins are noisy and shouty at their breeding colonies, they are silent at sea. They fly relatively high above the water, typically 10 m (33 ft) as compared with the 1.6 m (5.2 ft) of other birds.

silent running

Next time we’ll look at some of the other inhabitants on Inner Farne, but here’s a few more puffin pictures until then..

fasten your seatbelts and prepare for lift off
Make sure you’re home by 10, this isn’t a bloody hotel you know!


Farne Islands – July 2018 – part 1

I’ve done a few posts of my trips to the Farne Islands, as regular readers may remember, having visited there in 2015 & 2016.  My original ‘history bit’ was pretty sparse (lazy me!) so I’m expanding on that this time around.

The History Bit

The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the state of the tide. They are scattered about 1 1⁄2 to 4 3⁄4 miles from the mainland, divided into two groups, the Inner Group and the Outer Group. The main islands in the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens (all joined together on very low tides) and (somewhat separated) the Megstone; the main islands in the Outer Group are Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The two groups are separated by Staple Sound. The highest point, on Inner Farne, is 62 feet (19 m) above mean sea level.

That’s the geography covered, now onto the good bits.

Firstly though y’all will need to know what a Culdee is so let’s get that out of the way. Culdee literally means ‘a companion of god’ and Culdees were members of ascetic Christian monastic and eremitical communities of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in the Middle Ages. They were separated from the mass of the faithful, and their lives were devoted to religion. Your basic hermits and monks really.
There was a shed load of Culdees from all over the place on the Farne Islands, following the old celtic Christian tradition of Island hermitages.
The most ‘famous’ Culdee to reside on the Farne Islands, specifically Inner Farne, was a chap called Saint Cuthbert. Of course he wasn’t a saint to start with, he was a monk, bishop and hermit, associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne in what might loosely be termed the Kingdom of Northumbria in the North East England and the South East of Scotland. After his death he became one of the most important medieval saints of Northern England, with a cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral. Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England, so there’s loads of Saint Cuthbert related roads, cul-de-sacs, squares, courts and schools up here, you can’t move without seeing a reference to him somewhere!

The most interesting bit of his history (at least to me) is what happened to him after he died. He died on 20 March 687 on Inner Farne, and was immediately buried on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. According to Bede’s life of the saint, when Cuthbert’s sarcophagus was opened eleven years after his death, his body was found to have been perfectly preserved! This apparent miracle led to the steady growth of Cuthbert’s posthumous cult, and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession and to intercessory prayer near his remains.

In 875 as the Danes (Vikings) attacked and took over the monastery at Lindisfarne, the monks quickly hightailed it out of there carrying with them St Cuthbert’s body and travelling around all over the shop. I guess a bit like the movie ‘A weekend at Bernies’ except it lasted a lot longer. Seven years in fact, after which the wandering the monks found a resting-place for Cuthbert at the still existing St Cuthbert’s church in Chester-le-Street until 995, when another Danish invasion led to its removal to Ripon. Somehow Cuthbert didn’t let the fact that he was dead get in the way of letting his porter-monks know that he would really prefer to be buried at Durham, so a new stone church—the so-called “White Church”—was built there, the predecessor of the present grand Durham Cathedral, where his remains still rest.
In 1104 Cuthbert’s tomb was opened again and his relics moved to a new shrine behind the altar of the recently completed Cathedral. When the casket was opened, a small book of the Gospel of John, measuring only 5.4 × 3.6 inches was found. Now known as the St Cuthbert Gospel it is the oldest Western book to keep its original bookbinding, in finely decorated leather.

For anyone interested in books, this one is considered one of the most important in Western history, and details and pictures of it can be found HERE

Also recovered much later were a set of vestments of 909-916, made of Byzantine silk with a “Nature Goddess” pattern, with a stole and decoration in extremely rare Anglo-Saxon embroidery or opus anglicanum, which had been deposited in his tomb by King Æthelstan (r. 927-939) whilst on a pilgrimage to Cuthbert’s shrine when he was at Chester-le-Street. Cuthbert’s shrine was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but, unusually, his relics survived and are still interred at the site, although they were also disinterred in the 19th century, when his wooden coffin and various relics were removed. St Cuthbert’s coffin (actually one of a series of several) remains at the cathedral and is an important rare survival of Anglo-Saxon carving on wood. When the coffin was last inspected on 17 May 1827, a Saxon square cross of gold, embellished with garnets, in the characteristic splayed shape, used later as the heraldic emblem of St Cuthbert in the arms of Durham and Newcastle universities, was found.  It was the coffin that kept on giving!

The islands were used by other hermits intermittently from the seventh century. Saint Bartholomew of Farne was a Benedictine hermit. Born Tostig, to parents of Scandinavian origin, in Whitby, Northumbria, he changed his name to William while still a child. He then travelled through Europe, possibly to escape marriage. A bit drastic but whatever works I suppose. He returned to England to enter the Benedictine monastery at Durham. It was here that he received a vision of St Cuthbert, and then decided to inhabit Cuthbert’s old cell on the island of Farne. There he remained for the remaining 42 years of his life. The last hermit was Thomas De Melsonby, who died on the islands in 1246.

After the Dissolution, the Islands passed through various owners, and ended up being owned by the National Trust.

The other famous person connected to the Farne Islands, was a young lady called Grace Darling. Grace was the daughter of Longstone lighthouse-keeper (one of the islands’ lighthouses), William Darling, and on 7 September 1838, at the age of 22 years, she and her father rescued nine people from the wreck of the ‘Forfarshire’ in a strong gale and thick fog, the vessel having run aground on Harcar Rock. The story of the rescue attracted extraordinary attention throughout Britain and made Grace Darling a heroine who has gone down in British folklore. Following the rescue she was given a large financial reward, William Wordsworth wrote a poem about her and a number of fictionalised depictions propagated the Grace Darling legend. I would give you the poem but it’s far too long, a bit OTT and you can google it anyway. She didn’t really like being a celebrity and sadly she died of tuberculosis 4 years later.

There are no human residents on the Islands now, except for a few National Trust workers for part of the year when the seabirds come to have their chicks, and that’s when Sophie and I get the call of the wild and go off to Seahouses where we get on a boat and go see the puffins.

Normally Sophie and I go on Billy Sheils boats to the Farne Islands, but this time Sophie booked us a catamaran which was much more stable for photographing, and also had less people on it. Phil and Sophies bloke Mentat (I know, but he’s Spanish) also came with us this time. You only get an hour on the Island as they manage the number of visitors each day.  But first we had our sandwhiches whilst sitting on the side at the harbour, waiting for our ship to come in. The starlings there are quite nebby

Feed me now Seymour!

and you can’t help giving them a few crumbs.  This one had a few bites and then had a lie down in front of me!

I love the colours in their feathers.

Onto the boat and these are some of our travelling companions

a dog??
got caught, she didn’t look too pleased 😦 also she reminds me of my Mum 😳
there’s always one…

The rocks sticking up in the water are always full of nesting birds

And the Islands have their own seal colony

Cecil hadn’t had much luck in convincing his homey’s that yoga was the way forward.
Cecil you make me tired just watching you!

There were lots of proud Mum’s with new chicks squished on tiny ledges in the rocks

and some Mums giving swimming lessons to recalcitrent chicks

Mum I don’t wanna go in the water! WAAAAAH!!

Stay tooned for our next Puffinfestical episode!

WWT April 2018 – part 2 – Dancing Birds

Part 1 HERE

Springtime is always fun for the birds at the WWT, they all seem very perky and dancing about.

Gangnam style (1)

Gangnam (2)


moves like jagger


Shake your groove thing


Dancing with myself.

Not everyone wanted to join in

leave me alone


What’s happening brother?


too busy being fabulous




we got to get out of this place


1 point for each, if you know who sang the songs I used for the captions 🙂



Herrington Country Park~ March 2018~part 4

Part 1           Part 2            Part 3

So on we go over the dinosaur rib cage and back towards the lake, alongside a rivulet where we watched a swan doing it’s thing


Oooh look at me!!!

I’m so pretty!

Back at the car park we came across a hound meeting

Eau de Beagle

I think they were Beagles after googling doggy pictures.

Corporal Beagley

Reflecting Penshaw’s Folly

Saw this cute little lad at the cafe while we had lunch


and then after lunch, back to the lake for more birdy shots

We watched a seagull fighting a tern for some bread

OY! That’s my bread!

gimme gimme!

Birds on a buoy

In the distance the sky did a thing over the standing stones,

And that’s the end of our day at Herrington.

all images can be clicked on for bigger versions so you can appreciate their magnificence so much better 🤣  

Full album can be found HERE for more birds and stuff.

Stay tooned, though god knows what for, the constant rain has put paid to Sophie and I going anywhere since this day, but we’ll be back! Meantime I’ll be over at The Other Place, click on that and I’ll see you there 🙂






Fraggle Report~ Herrington Country Park~ March 2018~ part 1


Last weekend, Sophie and I got together and this time went off to Herrington Country Park. It sounded promising on the website- an adventure play area, skate boarding, Nordic walking, model boat sailing in the lake and a variety of sculptures that celebrate the heritage of the area.  Wasn’t sure if Nordic Walking involved Viking re-enactment groups having a stroll, but according to Wiki it’s walking with poles, a bit like ski-ing without snow. Anyhow it all sounded very interesting so off we went.

The History Bit

Back in the days when England had industries the North East was a mine of ..well..mines really. And shipbuilding, but heaps of mines. The park was made on the grave of the Herrington Colliery, which closed in 1985, and had a waste heap of 11,000,000 cu. M. of shale, which must have looked like a mountain to the surrounding villagers.

Herrington slag heap-from Sunderland message board, photographer unknown.

For the transformation of the park, only the coal was removed, the minerals left behind went into making the park, sandstone for the sculptures, red ash for the walkways and clays to line the lakes.  Over a hundred different species of birds have been sighted since it’s inception, and many events are held there.

The weather wasn’t too bad, at least it was dry, but the promised-by-the-weather-forecasters sunny day never happened. No matter, there was a big lake and loads of birds on it.  We couldn’t believe how close the swans allowed us to get to them, no hissing or chasing us off, and I assume that is because of all the people who go there and feed them.

Good Morning. Feed me now!




Tufty Duck


Black headed gull (1st winter plumage)

I see no ships!

As well as birds, a couple of chaps were sailing remote controlled boats


24 (maybe a Jack Bauer fan!)


Swanning off

After a while at the lakeside we went for a walk around the park, and we’ll set off in the next episode to have a look at the sculptures, so stay tooned.








Druridge Bay~Feb 2018~ Part 2

Part 1 HERE 

There is a thing happening, the latest craze over from the USA, mostly I see it on Facebook, where people paint little rocks, and hide them in woodlands, on beaches, in towns, anywhere really.  We came across 3 of them whilst walking around the lake,

When you find one you are supposed to photograph it, post it to the Facebook page it belongs to (written on the back of the rock) and then re-hide it somewhere different or keep it, doesn’t seem to matter.

Not knowing all this at the time I just took pictures and didn’t re-hide them, life’s too short!  As always I liked the lichen I found on the trees, found a ball of it here..

liking the lichen

A Chinese (!) bridge takes you over to the far side of the lake

where I found a poignant memorial to someone’s mam

To Mam, I love you to the moon and back

There’s also a stepping stone crossing further up the edge of the lake which we ignored to go over the Chinese bridge, but had to have a go on it when we were on the far side. They were wobbly.

Intrepid Sophie

Then we found the swans, some of them still teenagers, and terns, gulls, ducks and geese

Teenage dirtbags

tern around bright eyes


Mummy swan saw us from afar photographing her kids and came to see what we were up to

She was a beauty

and when she decided we were no threat, she turned round and went back to hubby

and that’s about it from Druridge Bay,

Full album HERE

Druridge Bay has free parking and a cafe and visitor centre with things for kids to do. We had toasted cheese and ham sandwiches for our lunch, but they were a bit meh. As Phil would say, they filled a hole.

Next post we will be visiting The Lady of the North, or Northumberlandia as she is known so stay tooned folks!