A tribute to Eric Meek

ERIC RICHARD MEEK
1947-2017

Eric died on 16th February 2017 aged 69, having collapsed suddenly a few days earlier. He was a baby-boomer, born in 1947 and his late mother told me Eric was their miracle baby, arriving late in their life. He gave them much to be proud of, passing his 11+ and going to the prestigious Gosforth Grammar School, eventually becoming Head Boy and winning a scholarship to study Geography at Cambridge. He also became a very successful sportsman playing rugby for England at schoolboy level.

Somewhere along the line he became passionate about wildlife, especially birds. In his mid-teens, he joined the newly formed Tyneside Bird Club, which was then an amazing hotbed of young and talented ornithologists. Bryan Galloway recalls a red-haired persistent 15-year-old pestering him to start ringing birds with the Northumbria Ringing Group!

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Durham Ring Ouzel Study 2016

The breeding season in 2016 was the most productive experienced for the number of pulli ringed, a total of 57. During 2015-2016, a total of 92 Ring Ouzel pulli have been colour ringed. Unfortunately, this has not resulted in any sightings away from the natal areas. The colour ringing component of the project is due to end this year, with the third and final year (2017) concentrating on searching for these birds in our area. Routine ringing will, though, continue into the foreseeable future as will the completion of nest record cards for the BTO.

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Hauxley Working Party – 2

Another successful Hauxley working party took place just before Christmas in preparation for our new ringing hut. After emptying the store hut last time, the group started work on the base of the hut and the shuttering was completed by the end of the day. John felled a small tree in the wood that would otherwise be in the way and Michael and Mike got the board laid on the old store hut floor. Continue reading

Friends of Red Kites 2016 Breeding Report for the North East of England

Summary of 2016 breeding

Number of known territories: 35

No. of incubating females: 14

No. of known successful nests: 9

No. of known fledged chicks: 18

No. of chicks ringed and wing-tagged: 13

No. of chicks ringed only: 2

No. of failed nests: 5 (plus 6 more probable)

More detailed report

The first confirmed successful nesting of Red Kites in Northumberland since a pair was poisoned in 2010 was a highlight of another otherwise disappointing season for this iconic species.

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Hauxley Working Party – 1

Saturday 3rd December 2016 saw the first of several working parties to prep the site for the eventual arrival of the new hut in early 2017. Six members of the NRG (Martin Davison, Ian Fisher, Richard Barnes, Alan Hart, John Strowger and Yvonne Townsend) arrived at 0900 and set about emptying the store hut and assessing the wood contained therein to see if any could be salvaged to make the shuttering for the base to the new hut.

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Chatting in Durham 2016

Stonechat at its wintering site in Lincolnshire, by Alex Lees

Following on from the first year of the project in 2015, I continued to colour ring Stonechat pulli in my study area. This year another 42 pulli were ringed and 10 NRCs submitted to the BTO. The birds continued to nest under heather and dead bracken, the nest itself always being on the ground.

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Spring time dipper ringing

My husband, Danny, and I have been training as ringers on a part-time basis for a year or two now. We have hugely enjoyed our expeditions with our patient trainer, Richard Barnes. So far these have focussed on mist-netting small passerines, so we were delighted to have the opportunity to go out recently searching for dippers on the Derwent with Rike and Phil Bolam and Tony Gibson. Mist-netting across rivers was not wholly new to me, as I spent my teenage summers (many decades ago) pursuing goosanders up the South Tyne with Brian Little’s team. Instead of the jeans and plimsolls of the seventies, the costume this time was thermal underwear and chest waders. Danny fishes, so he looked and felt at home in this outfit, unlike me, struggling a little in his hand-me-down gear.

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If you go down to the woods today…

…you might be slightly disappointed!

For me, an integral part of ringing is nest recording, and I have a small Pied flycatcher study with 60 nest boxes. Today I made my first check of the year to assess what the timing of the season is going to be like as it can vary quite a bit from year to year. I like to get a first egg laying date for all my boxes for all species; usually just Blue tit, Great tit and Pied flycatcher.  I thought it was a little early but it was possible that I would have one or two nests with Great tit eggs.  It was not to be – although I had a couple of tit nests fully lined.

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Bird Ringing Demonstration at Kielder, 9 April 2016

Get up close to different species of songbirds during our bird ringing demonstration this Saturday, 9 April at Kielder Castle from 11am to 3pm. This is part of Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Osprey Day with many other activities including a guided osprey walk, crafts and lots more.

If you want to find out more about how and why we catch birds and ring them, please come along! The ringing demonstration is suitable for all ages and free to attend.

Image by Ian Fisher