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Butterfly spotters wanted in the North East

The Dingy Skipper Credit: Durham Wildlife Trust

Could you help find a rare and threatened butterfly in the North East?

The Butterfly Conservation and the Durham Wildlife Trust survey are looking for volunteers to help try and spot the Dingy Skipper.

What is the Dingy Skipper?

  • A small, inconspicuous, brown and grey butterfly, the Dingy Skipper has declined nationally by 42% in recent decades.
  • The butterfly receives no legal protection in England and this has contributed to a number of important sites being lost in the North-East.
  • County Durham still holds some strongholds for the butterfly because its larval food-plant, bird’s-foot trefoil, occurs on many of the unimproved grassland and brownfield sites in the county.
  • The main threat is from development of the sites for agriculture, quarrying, industry and housing or neglect, all of which means that the butterfly has vanished from many areas.

“We would like people to join us the hunt for this sometimes difficult to find butterfly.

Many of the areas where the Dingy Skipper was once found in the county have changed enormously since recorders last focused on this species.

“It is also often a species that is quite easily overlooked as it can blend in well with its sounding environment, which makes seeing this champion at the art of camouflage all the more satisfying. Our workshops will help surveyors to locate them."

– Mark Dinning, from the Trust

Durham Wildlife Trust will be running survey training courses based around the Dingy Skipper on Thursday May 5th at its Low Barns reserve near Witton le Wear and on Sunday May 15th at Rainton Meadows - its headquarters near Houghton le Spring.

The survey will take place in May and June


Birds of a feather - that don't stick together!

Kielder Ospreys on camera Credit: Kielder Water and Forest Park

For the second year running, Kielder Ospreys returning to their Northumberland nests have been spotted having "flings" and demonstrating courtships with birds other than their life partners.

The Nest 2 antics are being watched by visitors through a camera on the nest and footage is streamed to visitors at Kielder Castle.

The “extra marital” activity occurs when one bird from a life pairing returns to a nest ahead of its partner and encounters an osprey of the opposite sex.

You can keep up to date with all the stories as they unfold through the Kielder osprey blog.

Kielder Ospreys on camera Credit: Kielder Water and Forest Park

Osprey Fact File

  • Ospreys are migratory and arrive in late March and April and leave again for Africa in August and September.

  • The bird is an Amber List species because of its historical decline (due to illegal killing and egg theft) and low breeding numbers.

  • Ospreys normally breed for the first time when they are aged between 4-5 years old.

  • They are largely monogamous and faithful both to nest and mate.

  • The nest is generally built on the top of a large tree.

  • Females lay two or three eggs at 1-3 day intervals which are incubated for about 38 - 42 days per egg.

  • Ospreys divide the nesting duties between the pair. The female does most of the incubating, brooding and direct feeding of the young. She guards them throughout the nesting period and will share the hunting at later stages when the chicks are larger. The male is the major provider of fish for the female and chicks.

  • Chicks fledge about seven weeks after hatching.


'Give the dog a bone' (and a free health check too!)

PDSA Vet Nurse Tina Scrafton with PetCheck visitor Mitsy Credit: PDSA

The PDSA national pet wellbeing tour will arrive in Newcastle next month offering free health MOTs for local dogs.

PDSA vet nurses will be on board the charity’s PetCheck vehicles, which travel the length of the UK every year carrying out free health checks, microchipping and providing expert pet care advice.

They will be at the following locations:

  • Tuesday 12 Apr, 10am-5pm – The Lemington Resource Centre (main car park), Tyne View, Lemington
  • Wednesday 13 Apr, 10am-5pm – Pottery Bank Community Centre, Yelverton Crescent, Walker
  • Thursday 14 Apr, 10am-5pm – car park opposite West End Women and Girls Centre, Stephenson Building, Elswick Road
  • Friday 15 Apr, 9am to 4pm – Kenton Park Sports Centre, Anfield road, North Kenton
PDSA Vet Nurse Kaya Hawrylak meets a Lola the puppy at PetCheck Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The PDSA’s ‘PetWise MOT’ will be available for every visiting dog.

It'll assesses the five welfare needs:

Diet, environment, companionship, behaviour and health.

A simple traffic light system gives each pet a score, and a personalised action plan to help owners improve their pet’s health and happiness.

Additional services including nail clipping and ear cleaning are also available free of charge (although donations are welcome!)

Microchipping, which will become mandatory for dogs on 6 April 2016, is available for a small cost.

“We know people love their pets and want the best for them, which is why we’re here to help.

By offering free, friendly advice and support, we can help owners make small changes that can often make a big difference to the wellbeing of pets in the Newcastle.”

– PDSA Vet Nurse Tina Scrafton

More information about the PetCheck tour is available on PDSA’s website at

Sharks arrive in Tynemouth (it's ok though - they're only in the aquarium!)

Black tip reef sharks settling into their new home in Tynemouth Credit: Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium

A pair of black tip reef sharks are settling in to their new home at Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium.

The sharks, a male and a female, have spent time acclimatising in the North Tyneside’s attraction’s quarantine area before being released in to their giant tropical ocean display.

They are sharing the coral reef-themed feature with a pair of cow nose rays and more than 400 tropical fish.

Credit: Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium

“The new sharks look absolutely amazing and are really making themselves at home.

“Black tips really are everyone’s idea of what a ‘real’ shark should look like and they definitely add a new dimension to the visitor experience.

– Blue Reef Aquarium’s Rosie Wiggin
Credit: Tynemouth’s Blue Reef Aquarium
  • The black tip reef shark is one of the three most abundant shark species inhabiting coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific, along with the white tip and grey reef sharks.
  • The shark gets its name from the dark marks on the end of its fins.
  • Belonging to the same family as the great white shark, black tips only reach a maximum size of around 1.6 metres.
  • They are active predators and feed on a wide variety of prey including small fish, octopus, squid and crustaceans.
  • They have also been known to eat sea snakes and even seabirds.
  • They give birth to between two to four live young which can hunt as soon as they are born.

RNLI called to help save stranded dog

The dog was rescued. Credit: Redcar RNLI

Redcar's RNLI lifeboat team have been called to help rescue a dog, which became stranded at the South Gare near the town.

The dog ran away from its owner and became stranded on a rocky outcrop as the tide began to come in.

The owner called the coastguard, and they arrived, with the inshore lifeboat team, to find that the dog had already been rescued by members of the public.

Two men who were in the area were able to reach the dog and carry it back to safety before the tide came in.

The dog is thought to be uninjured.

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