The volunteers of the Clara Vale Conservation Group (CVCG) look after the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, adjacent to the village of Clara Vale, near Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. The 7.5 acre Local Nature Reserve is a haven for a rich variety of resident and visiting wildlife, flora and fauna. Here you can find out about what we do, what you can see and how we can all help ensure the Reserve thrives for future visitors to enjoy.
There have been a number of critical comments in the bird hide log book about the state of the nature reserve this summer. The absence of birds, particularly kingfishers, seems to be of concern. We would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns.
The management of the Reserve this summer has been the same as in previous summers. It is perhaps worth noting that this year bird migration has been poor across the UK.
The hide overlooks a winter feeding station. Winter is when you will see plenty of birds. In summer we stop providing food, as has been the case for many years, therefore the birds go elsewhere, feeding on natural resources in and around the Reserve. We resume feeding mid October. Artificial feeding brings in artificial concentrations of birds. When we stop feeding, a more natural habitat returns and more normal bird numbers are seen along with other wildlife like dragonflies, butterflies and other insects. The hides are therefore much quieter. If you leave the hide, a walk around the Reserve will reveal good populations of a variety of birds but they will be harder to see so greater effort is needed. We have, for example, one of the best breeding populations of tree sparrows (a Red Data Book species) in the North East.
The absence this summer of the kingfisher is not something we have much control over. The kingfishers have decided to go elsewhere or have died of natural causes or have been killed. They’ll probably return, there’s plenty of food for them in the pond. But we can’t force them! Mallards have not bred this year either but moorhens have had three broods.
There have also been complaints about overgrown vegetation. We do cut this back, usually twice during the summer, to give a better view of the pond. The absence of the kingfishers has meant we’ve cut it less vigorously this year. “Overgrown” vegetation provides an important habitat and food source for many invertebrates. Which in turn provide food for birds. Cutting it too much can be counterproductive and is not conservation best-practice. Over two hundred species of flowering plants have been recorded in the Reserve. (Along with twenty species of butterfly, thirteen different dragonflies and many moths. Hardly “sterile” as one comment suggested). Managing the Reserve is very much focussed on retaining, and hopefully increasing, this biodiversity.
Finally we must emphasise this is a nature reserve, not specifically a bird reserve. We are providing a range of habitats and a refuge for wildlife unable to use the intensively farmed fields surrounding the Reserve. We manage it for all wildlife. We do urge visitors to the hide to look around and enjoy the rest of the Reserve. There’s a lot to see.
Editor’s note – we would also like to remind all visitors that the Reserve is managed entirely by volunteers who give up their time for the enjoyment of all – if you enjoy this space, why not consider taking part in looking after it too – we’re a friendly and easy-going bunch! Just message us here, or call 07977 350757.
The Clara Vale parent and toddler group took advantage of the sunshine and spent a morning in the nature reserve in late June.
We all enjoyed songs, stories, a visit to the bird hide and a bear hunt through the woods. We tested out the new dipping platform for size and look forward to coming back when the plants and animal life are established in the pond.
Just a reminder that the Gone Cuckoo event is this Thursday 24th May in Clara Vale Village Hall, doors open 7pm. It promises to be an entertaining social evening, tickets available at the door, free interval snacks included, bring your choice of refreshments
It’s that time of the year when early risers can sample the wonders of Spring, as Gordon takes us on an early morning stroll through the Clara Vale Nature Reserve and surrounding area, sampling the rich variety of birdsong, flora and fauna.
It’s a 5am start at the Reserve Village entrance, on Sunday 13th May, all welcome, bring your binoculars and some light refreshments, the walk will take up to a couple of hours.
The Clara Vale Conservation Group are delighted to present father and son duo Malcolm and Joshua Green, who bring their delightful and thought provoking tour performance to Clara Vale. Collaborating together with music and stories Malcolm and Joshua tell the Cuckoo’s tale of a fascinating journey across Europe, the Sahara and subtropical Africa.
The weather hasn’t been so kind to us over the last few weeks, but that hasn’t deterred volunteers from getting together for tasks in the Reserve. First up, earlier in February, work started on the dipping platform for the new pond. This will create a great spot for youngsters to observe and enjoy pondlife. It will give a great focal point and work station station for educational events that we may hold in the future:
In early March some coppicing of hazel was done beyond the bottom pond, before it gets too overgrown and stops light getting to ground plants. It was stacked up to be kept and possibly used in the charcoal burner later in the year:
Whilst coppicing there was an interesting find – orange ladybirds. The orange ladybird is commoner in the south but is increasing nationally. A nice find. It feeds on mildew. Also called 16-spot orange ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata:
Helen McGuinness, a former childhood resident of Clara Vale, got in touch recently to shed some light on Stannar House, long since demolished, which was situated at the eastern edge of the village on what is now the Orchard:
‘I lived in Clara Vale in the mid 1950’s as a child with my siblings and parents (Syd and Grace Walker). My father worked in the pit. We lived in Stannar House (please note that is how we always knew it as, StannAR and not StannER). We moved out in 1964 shortly before it was demolished. It was a fantastic big old house. At the start of it’s life it was one large farmhouse but over time it was turned into two semi detached houses – each house was very large. We were lucky to have the barns at our side and as children we loved to play in them. We used to hang onto the mesh fence waving to the trains as they went past. I still have dreams about Stannar House. I often go back to have a look around Clara Vale but always hang around where Stannar House used to be. I have very many happy memories of there.’
Helen has kindly found some old photos that her father Sydney Walker took in the mid-50’s, reproduced with her kind permission below. And below that, are two map sections, the first is from the late 1800’s, showing ‘Stanner House’ was in place before the Maryside and Tyne View houses were built, and another section from 1962, just a few years before the pit closed and the house was demolished. It is also interesting to see the development of the pit and village in the mapping detail, over a period of around 60 years.
Click on any image to enlarge:
We were delighted with the turnout for this community event in the nature reserve on Sunday 28th January.
Conservation Group members set up a stall in the Reserve, offering free refreshments, cake and biscuits, which seemed to be a good incentive for visitors to come and take part in observing the birds in the reserve at both the hides. There was a steady stream of families, and children enjoyed making their own bird feeders using very sticky lard and peanut butter, mmmm…. (see images below). There was some storytelling too.
Despite the blustery conditions, there was a good bird count, the highlight being a group of 11 Yellowhammers who swooped down to feed in front of the Woodland hide.
Full results for the RSPB one hour bird count are below and have been submitted to their database. But first, take a look at a few of the images from a super community morning gathering, click on any image to enlarge and scroll:
Final count for the Big Garden Birdwatch, Clara Vale Nature Reserve:
Tree sparrow – 15
Blue tit – 5
Great tit – 3
Long tailed tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Robin – 3
Bullfinch – 2
Chaffinch – 6
Pheasant – 6
Mallard – 7
Nuthatch – 2
Magpie – 1
Moorhen – 3
Kingfisher – 1
Yellowhammer – 11
Wren – 1
Dunnock – 2
These are combined for the 2 hides with the maximum numbers taken so we’ve not double counted. Also 3 roe deer seen.
We’d also like to thank those people who donated a total of £16.60 to our funds.
Now in their seventh year, the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018 are a celebration of the British countryside and its people, from mighty landmarks and outstanding national parks to the best nature reserves and finest rural pubs.
The Clara Vale Nature Reserve has been nominated by readers of the BBC Countryfile Magazine for the Nature Reserve of the Year 2018 category, then shortlisted by the Countryfile panel of experts, gathered to review all of the submissions, and whittle the nominees down to five in each category.
Countryfile Magazine Judge Phoebe Smith says: “It’s a very small site that was saved by the local community rallying together to save it from being developed. It shows the dedication from the community and how you can be small and still effective.”
Voting commences on Friday January 19 until Monday 5 March. Votes can be cast here
You know what to do, thank you for your vote!
Winners will be announced mid-March in an online ceremony and will appear in the May issue of the magazine, which goes on sale 13 April.
The Shortlist – Nature Reserve of the Year 2018:
RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset
Rodley NNR, Leeds
RSPB Arne, Dorset
Clara Vale, Tyne and Wear
Loch Druidibeg, South Uist
Join in with us at the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, as once again we take part in the this national birdwatching event on Sunday 28th January 2018 between 10:30am and 12:00 noon.
The idea is to count the maximum number of each species seen in exactly one hour and submit the results to the RSPB. This helps them build a national picture of trends in the UK bird population. More information about what they do with the data here.
- We will be offering free refreshments in the bird hides for those interested in taking part, come along and help us record the number of birds seen;
- Learn more about the birds you see, with help from birdwatchers and guides;
- Free children’s activities based on birds and pondlife in the Reserve.