BBC Wildlife Magazine October 2018

The October edition of the BBC Wildlife Magazine contains an article about the plight of the urban Kittiwake colony in the centre of the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The article was written by Richard Smyth and is illustrated using my images of urban Kittiwakes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the Lofoten Islands.

In 2016, I spent three weeks in the Lofoten Islands where I photographed Kittiwakes nesting on the traditional red and yellow painted wooden buildings, industrial buildings in the coastal harbours and in colonies on the sea cliffs around the islands.

For the last two years, after photographing the Lofoten Kittwakes, I had wanted to photograph the urban Kittiwake colony in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the start of this year’s breeding season, I became aware of the steps that were being taken to deter the Kittiwakes from nesting on buildings around the city centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In particular, I learned of the netting that had been erected on buildings around the Quayside, netting that was already trapping and killing adult Kittiwakes.

I started working with Richard on this article at the beginning of this year’s breeding season. Little did we know when we started working on the article how controversial the Geordie Kittiwakes would become. As the breeding season proceeded, several young Kittiwakes became trapped under the netting on the buildings as they grew. With increased coverage of the plight of these trapped Kittiwakes, several were eventually rescued by the Fire Brigade but sadly others died.

The Kittiwakes were initially welcomed when they started nesting on the buildings, particulary the old Baltic Flour Mill that is now the Baltic Centre, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. However, as their numbers increased, the Kittiwakes were increasingly seen as a problem by some businesses and property owners in the city centre. Eventually this led to the removal of the nests and the erection of the netting to prevent the Kittiwakes from nesting on certain buildings.

The steps being taken in Newcastle-upon-Tyne contrasted with what I had seen and photographed in the Lofoten Islands where the Kittiwakes were tolerated and even encouraged to nest by the construction of ledges on the wooden buildings. A few buildings in the Lofoten Islands were actually covered with Kittiwake nests.

Kittiwakes nesting on a traditional red painted wooden building in the Lofoten Islands, Norway

With the ever increasing pressure on what remains of the natural world, an increasing number of animal species are finding refuge in the urban environment and have and are continuing to adapt to life in our cities and towns. Unfortunately, these new wild neighbours are not always welcomed and human-wildlife conflict can ensue. Kittiwake numbers globally are declining rapidly and the species is now Red Listed by the IUCN as being Vulnerable. The large urban Kittiwake population in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is globally important and should be protecetd, hopefully this will now happen.

A full gallery of images used in the article in the BBC Wildlife Magazine can be found on the Stories page on my website and by clicking here.