my world of work and user experiences

July 31, 2023

Kittiwakes adopted Newcastle as their Sea Bird City

Filed under: — frederique @ 21:13

As a Change and Adoption consultant, my goal is that users make our systems or solutions their own. That they embrace the new solution and new way of working, so that they can benefit from the improvements. On holiday, I do not think about my work. Nevertheless, I do appreciate examples of adoption I see in the wild. In this case: the kittiwakes that have adopted Newcastle as their Sea Bird City.

Kittiwakes are sea birds, a species in the gull family. They build their nests usually on ledges of sea cliffs. They nest in colonies, where we usually see not only kittiwakes, but also rows and rows of other sea birds, like guillemots and gannets. Favourite sites like Noup Head on Westray (Orkney) resemble big apartment buildings with many nests on many floors. Except that they all live on their balconies, instead of indoors. But still: a sea bird city. They spend their winters at sea and don’t venture inland, usually.

But some of them have adopted a more literal city as a nesting site. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, kittiwakes saw a new solution: why not choose ledges in the city for their nests? The ledges on buildings and bridges are quite similar to the ledges on their usual cliffs.

Kittiwakes nesting on the ledges of the Baltic Flour Mills, now the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

In the people-city of Newcastle, there are a lot more strange noises and lights than in the bird-cities we saw on Orkney. But apparently, they don’t mind. The colony has been growing since the 1960s Now there are over 1.300 nests and the nests are more successful on average than in many a “natural” sea bird city. So it must be good for them.

It is also good for us, because we could see the kittiwakes, their nests and their chicks up close in a way that we had never seen before. Especially at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, where we visited a viewing terrace that brought us eye-to-eye with the kittiwakes. (actually, the Baltic is not in Newcastle but in Gateshead, just on the other side of the river).

At the Baltic, you can look right into the kittiwakes’ nests: one parent is taking care of its growing chick, while the other parent is out fishing lunch.
A few kittiwakes are taking it easy right next to the viewing platform, which has glass walls. We can see them up close, and they can see us. They don’t mind, and we are overjoyed…

The kittiwakes started at the Baltic, but we also saw them on ledges under several bridges, a clock tower, the Hard Rock Café and many other buildings.

Apparently the ledges under the bridge are so nice, that they even make a nest when the ledge is nowhere near horizontal, when all the obvious ledges are already occupied.

The kittiwakes have adopted Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And Newcastle has adopted the kittiwakes. They’ve put information panels on the quays of the Tyne river and online (Kittiwakes – bridging the Tyne), the Baltic Centre highlights them (Kittiwakes at Baltic), they rescue kittiwake that get entangled in unsafe netting (Keep an eye out for trapped kittiwakes), they’ve put up a Kittiwake Cam and they’ve even published a children’s book about Kitty the Kittiwake,…

Ok, not everyone. Quite a few buildings are covered in nets, to prevent the kittiwakes from nesting on their ledges. And you need to take great care when you do that, because if they find the slightest exposed corner, they will build their nest on it.

Only one corner unprotected, but that is sufficient for this persistent kittiwake, to build a nest and raise a chick.

From the perspective of the kittiwakes, it is great that they were able to adopt this city for their nesting needs. Kittiwakes are on the red list, so the more successful nests this new habitat allows them, the more their decline is mitigated.
And from the perspective of a Change & Adoption consultant, it is great to see that these kittiwakes embraced the change and adopted their new way of nesting successfully.

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