Northumberland

I am writing this about 4 km from Scotland – so today was the last in England, in its far north-east. The day started off though with one of those co-incidences that make life fun. I had noticed that my friend Rob Hutchinson who usually is leading bird tours in the far East for his company, Birdtour Asia was on holiday in coastal Northumberland; we suggested having fish and chips in Seahouses today, but Rob and his family had decided to visit Alnwick today (where I stayed last night). So we agreed to keep our eyes open for each other but never expected to meet – especially as my navigation system always takes me down minor roads and tracks when it can. So it was a pleasure when I noticed a white car turning off onto another road in front of me suddenly stop and sound its horn. Rob had spotted me in the distance!

Rob, his father, girlfriend and mother, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Northumberland
Co-incidences are always fine

I wanted to visit Seahouses since it is the jumping off point to visit the Farne Islands. I have a strong memory of a visit in the early 1960s that I think was my first exposure to a seabird colony. Much of my professional life has been associated with seabirds, and in relation to albatrosses still is. If I was not doing this ride, I would likely be counting a seabird colony somewhere! Sadly I do not have any photograph to hand of that visit, though I am pretty sure there is one somewhere (maybe I’ll find it and add it as a coda to this blog sometime).

A boat full of tourists heads out of Seahouses towards the Farne Islands
The Seahouses lifeboat with Bamburgh castle and Lindisfarne in the background
Bamburgh castle
Lindisfarne and its mudflats

Some may have noticed that I said little about my ‘academic’ time at Durham. To be honest, I found most of the course work there in my time rather dull and uninspiring. I remember clearly having an argument with one lecturer about his lecture on territoriality that was at least ten years out of dates in terms of literature used and concepts described. Another lecturer seemed more interested in the young female students than in the job of imparting knowledge. One lecturer, Peter Evans, was though on my wavelength. One of his specialities was shorebirds and his students spent much time catching wading birds – I joined in, as I did with other ornithological field work with the Durham students. We also had undergraduate field trips – and this is my excuse to include this here – we once went to Lindisfarne mudflats.

Cannon-netting and marking a bar-tailed godwit
Field trip to a Lindisfarne saltmarsh
Rocky shore field trip
Pat Monaghan examines a sample tray. I originally met Pat when I was working on Walney Island, was one of our post-graduate demonstrators – now a professor at Glasgow University
Vacation expedition from Durham to Foula in the Shetlands
Also on Foula, hi Bridget!

Onwards to Berwick-upon-Tweed. I had long thought the story of the town still being at war with Russia due to an arcane peace treaty not being complete was a nice story – but this afternoon’s research on Wikipedia finds that it is just that – a nice story but untrue!

Tweedmouth Dock used to be the home of our favourite ‘research’ vessels- the Ocean Bounty – in the early and mid 1980s – now deserted.
The River Tweed

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