Welcome…

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.

RSPB Big Birdwatch 2019 – Results

There was a great turnout for our mini-event in support of the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, with more than 20 children from Clara Vale and Crawcrook, along with their families, joining us in the nature reserve.  Everyone made a bird feeder and got a spotter sheet to take home, entice the birds and count them in their own gardens. Click any image below to enlarge:

We had a good session counting the maximum of any one species in during one hour from both the Reserve hides and we made sure we didn’t double-count!

Results:

Mallard – 10
Blue Tit – 7
Great Tit – 5
Coal Tit 2
Long Tailed Tit – 3
Willow Tit – 1
Jackdaw – 1
Bullfinch – 2
Jay – 2
Blackbird – 13
Robin – 4
Tree Sparrow – 8
Chaffinch – 6
Dunnock – 1
Moorhen – 4
Yellowhammer – 10
Magpie – 2
Pheasant – 1
Stock Dove – 5
Brambling – 1

We were also very grateful for the donations we received, all of which will go towards the upkeep of the Reserve, thank you!

RSPB Big Birdwatch 26 – 28th January

Once again the Conservation Group are supporting this national event and invite you to join us this coming weekend on Saturday 26th January in the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, when we identify and count the birds we see for one hour between 10:30 and 11:30am.

There will be free refreshments (and no doubt some irresistible cake), plus a couple of free childrens’ activities too.

You don’t have to count the birds yourself and there will be one or two keen birdwatchers on hand to help you identify the birds you see – both the Alex West and Woodland hides will be available and we’ll have free loan binoculars to use.

We don’t make any charges for this volunteer-run event, however any donations are welcome and all go to the upkeep of the Reserve and bird sanctuary.

 

 

 

 

Bird Ringing

The Conservation Group is pleased to announce that the Northumbria Bird Ringing Group will be visiting the Reserve on the first Saturday of each month from November 2018  until April 2019 inclusive. They will be catching birds in both feeding stations but will be ringing the birds in the Woodland hide.

They will be ringing from 8 a.m. until around noon, please note that the Alex West hide will be closed during these times. 

This is important scientific work which helps us understand, for example, how populations of birds change, their migration patterns, breeding success or failure. If you want to find out more and see birds very close up, go along to the Woodland hide and talk to the ringers, you will be very welcome. 

The first ringing session will be on Saturday, November 3 rd . If it is raining or very windy the session may not take place.

For more information on bird ringing, visit The British Trust for Ornithology

 Yellowhammer ringed in Clara Vale

A Yellowhammer ringed in Clara Vale

Where have all the birds gone?

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. 

 

Parents & Toddlers Summer Stroll

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.

Gordon’s Spring Bird Walk

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.

 

Special Family Entertainment Event: Gone Cuckoo 24th May 2018

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.

Click here for full information and ticket options for this one-off family entertainment evening.

Gone Cuckoo family entertainment event at Clara Vale Village Hall 24th May 2018

 

 

Early Spring Roundup

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: