The Nature Reserve remains open but in the light of Government advice aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus we are recommending that the hides are not used. It will, of course, be up to each individual to make their own decision. The hides are small, so keeping 2 metres apart will be difficult. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the virus behaves but it is possible that its can remain infectious on the wooden shelves for a number of hours. 
There’s still lots to see in the rest of the Reserve. Chiffchaffs, our first spring migrants, have arrived, most likely from sub-Saharan Africa. Willow warblers and Blackcaps will be here in the next few weeks. Winter-visiting Redwings can still be seen but they’ll be leaving soon. So take a break from the depressing news and enjoy a walk in our Reserve.

Singing Chiffchaff

RSPB Big Birdwatch 25 – 27th January 2020

Why not join us at Clara Vale Nature Reserve this Saturday 25th January, when once again the Conservation Group are supporting this national event . You can help us to identify and count the birds we see for one hour between 10:30 and 11:30am.


You don’t need to be an expert, or even count the birds yourself.  There will be keen birdwatchers to help you identify the species of birds that visit the reserve. Both the Alex West and Woodland hides will be open, and we will have free loan binoculars to use.

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

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.


Join us for a Bat Walk !

Tuesday 3rd September 7.45pm

Come and learn about the wonderful world of bats!  Discover which species are living around Clara Vale with regional bat experts Peter Shield (Ecologist Gateshead Council) and Clare Rawcliffe (Ecologist South Tyneside Council), both are members of the Durham  Bat Group. They will be bringing their bat detectors along for an evening stroll around the nature reserve and  countryside surrounding the village.

Find out more about bats in Gateshead

Meet at Clara Vale Village Hall at 7.45pm. All welcome.  Please note that in the event of bad weather this walk may need to be cancelled at short notice.

Found Sound: Special Event 30th March 2019

Clara Vale is fortunate to currently have an artist in residence.  Helen Collard is spending time here,  supported by Monfish Production and Arts Council England, working on a project about creating art in non-arts spaces to make site-specific and site responsive work.

Found Sound is a new sound piece inspired by Clara Vale, the village and its people. Experience the soundscape of the familiar: the hidden and some imagined sounds of Clara Vale in the unique, intimate setting of the Alex West hide in the Nature Reserve, including the dawn chorus, Barbaras bees, pond life, electromagnetic fields and electric currents from plant life, all of which are combined with human voice and piano to make a special piece unique to Clara Vale.

The Alex West bird hide is small and quiet evening setting, and there are four slot times for the perfomance on 30th March, meet at the Village Hall, 6:10pm (sold out), 6:50pm, 7:30pm, 8:10pm.

Please meet at the village hall 20 minutes before your allocated time to register your arrival for the event.  Refreshments will be served!

Tickets are already on sale and booking is essential, click here.

Please wear warm, comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for walking on muddy or uneven paths.  All children and young people under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.


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!


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.