Tyne kittiwakes and the Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Exhibition of the North (herein the Exhibition) will open on the 22nd June.

The Tyne Kittiwake Partnership has been working with organisers to ensure the success of the Exhibition does not come at a cost to kittiwakes nesting along the Tyne. This is the most inland kittiwake nesting colony in the world, a unique and special feature of the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside which should be celebrated through the Exhibition. Kittiwakes nesting in an urban environment is a relatively new phenomenon, bringing these seabirds much closer to human activities not encountered on the remote coastal cliffs where they usually breed. We have, therefore, taken a precautionary approach seeking to reduce and, where possible, avoid potential negative impacts on these birds from the both the opening ceremony and Exhibition as a whole. The Exhibition starts in the middle of the kittiwake breeding season, when eggs will be starting to hatch. Our involvement has guided the development of various activities and we thank organisers for their cooperation. Two aspects of the Exhibition, and steps taken to reduce the risks to kittiwakes, are explained in more detail below.

Loud, powerful fireworks have the potential to startle nesting kittiwakes causing them to take sudden flight from their nests and discourage them from returning to protect their eggs/chicks. As such, the Tyne Kittiwake Partnership advised that only low-level pyrotechnics be used in the vicinity of the river and nest sites. Organisers located a site set back from the Tyne from which to launch all louder fireworks in a single session during the opening ceremony. This will allow the display to be enjoyed by people on the Quayside, whilst drastically reducing the noise disturbance to kittiwakes.

The Water Sculpture
An installation in the middle of the river downstream from the Tyne Bridge will shoot jets of water (25m – 50m high) during the opening ceremony and throughout the Exhibition until it closes in September. There is the potential for kittiwakes nesting on the Tyne Bridge to move through this area as they travel up and down the river. With the organisers, we have developed a warning system to encourage kittiwakes to fly around the water sculpture before the display starts. One low level (in pressure and height) primer jet will be released within 5 seconds of the display from three locations of the installation (one at each end and one in the middle). These will be visible to kittiwakes flying along the river with the intention of causing any heading towards the installation, to change course. The gap between jets during the display will be a spilt second reducing the likelihood of kittiwakes flying in the space once underway. The operators will have in place 24 hour surveillance of the water sculpture with a procedure in place to it shut down if required (e.g. if there is evidence that it presents a danger to the kittiwakes) while investigations take place.

Continued effort
The Tyne Kittiwake Partnership has advocated for the best available options for kittiwakes under current legislation, stressing to the Exhibition’s organisers the significance of this unique nesting location and the importance of these birds to local people. We will be observing the kittiwakes during the opening ceremony, and the duration of the Exhibition, and will continue to advise the organisers as necessary. Should members of the public have any concerns relating to kittiwakes, these can be reported to the Organisers via Exhibition volunteers present throughout activities and celebrations. We hope that through the Exhibition, more people will see and learn about these amazing birds in the heart of Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside.

For more info
To learn more about the Tyne kittiwakes, please explore our website and use the links below. Follow us and share your stories and photos on our Facebook page.
See the Tyne kittiwakes via Durham Wildlife Trust and Baltic nest camera. Read more about our work to keep kittiwakes safe here.