Talks, Field Trips, Events & Activities

Showing 16 upcoming events




The remarkable foraging behaviour of Gannets by Professor Keith Hamer

28th Nov 2014
Friday 28th November, 7-8pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Gannets are one of the few UK seabirds that has dramatically increased in recent decades, but why? Keith Hamer will describe how studies of Gannets at different colonies around the UK have helped to reveal some of the secrets of this remarkable bird's sustained success and to highlight key dangers for the future.

Keith Hamer is Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Leeds. His research focuses on wildlife ecology and the conservation of biodiversity in natural and managed landscapes and seascapes, with a particular emphasis on trophic ecology: what animals eat, how they get enough, and how this determines both their responses to environmental change and their contributions to broader ecosystem-level processes.



Gliding Reptiles, Strange Fishes & Barrier Reefs: Northumbrian Wildlife in the Permian Period by Tim Pettigrew

5th Dec 2014
Friday 5th December, 7-8pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Tim will describe the evidence for the catastrophic flooding of the Northumbrian Permian desert by the Zechstein Sea, which then formed the habitat for an amazing diversity of plants and animals. The creatures of the remarkable barrier reef, which developed in what is now County Durham, will also be described, including one animal hitherto un-recorded in the UK. The slow demise of the Zechstein Sea coincided with the gradual elimination of the remaining Permian wildlife. The last fossils in Northumbria were preserved in the rocks around Seaham Harbour, before the world-wide mass extinction at the end of the Period, which is widely believed to have been caused by a global warming event.

Tim Pettigrew was in charge of the geological collections at Sunderland Museum from 1975 until 1991.
Iceland Gull



Birds of the Tyne Estuary

4th Jan 2015
Sunday 4th January, 09.30 - 11.30
Sunday 8th February, 9.30 - 11.30

The mouth of the Tyne Estuary in winter is a great place to view gulls, waders and seabirds. Dan Turner will help explain the different species and if we are lucky we may come across Glaucous or Iceland Gulls at the fish quay. Dan will also explain about some of the history and geography of the area. The walk will be around 1 mile, mostly on paths but dress for the cold. This is also a great place to buy fish & chips or fresh fish! These events are free but booking is required to manage numbers. Please contact the Society office.
Jaguar2 crop



Land of the Jaguar

16th Jan 2015
Friday 16th January, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

It is some years since local naturalist and photographer Bob Wilkin gave us his account of his successful quest for the Snow Leopard in the Himalayas. This time he has ventured into the much warmer climes of the riparian forests and wetlands of the Brazilian Pantanal in search of the equally elusive Jaguar and Giant Otter. Bob will describe his search and the other creatures seen on his journey including mammals such as Ocelot, Tapir and Armadillo as well as 138 species of birds and many reptiles.



Large White Headed Gulls of Northern England

23rd Jan 2015
Friday 23rd January, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

In this talk Andrew will focus on the identification of species of large white headed gulls that may be encountered in the North East, primarily Herring, Lesser black-backed, Great black-backed, Iceland, Glaucous, Kumlien’s, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gull but American Herring Gull and Thayer’s Gull will also feature. Although this is a complex and potentially confusing set of species this talk is suitable for all levels and will take us from the ID of gulls you would find on roofs in a city centre to gulls you wouldn’t normally see at all.

Andrew Kinghorn is a young Ornithological Surveyor working for TNEI in Newcastle. He is the founder of the Next Generation Birders and current serving committee member. He is also the website manager and current committee member of the Durham Bird Club.
red kite



Red Kite Roost, Derwent Valley, Gateshead

25th Jan 2015
Sunday 25th January, 2.30 - 5pm

On winter afternoons Red Kites flock together to roost, sometimes making a spectacular sight. Following their reintroduction to the North East there is now a roost site in the Derwent Valley which is monitored by The Friends of Red Kites. They have kindly offered the opportunity for our members to join them. This event will involve an easy walk of around half a mile to the viewing point and then watching the birds come in to roost. The Friends will also explain about some of the birds’ behaviour and the reintroduction programme so far. The walk back from the roost will take place in the dusk and so we recommend that as well as very warm clothes you also bring a torch. You may also wish to bring a flask of hot drink and snacks.

Meet in the free car park signposted on the A694 at Winlaton Mill, if you are travelling from Newcastle direction the car park is on the left (Grid ref NZ187609). Postcode for Satnav NE21 6RU.
energy image1



Energy security for the UK; can we keep “the home fires burning”?

30th Jan 2015
Friday 30th January, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Recent media headlines have warned that this winter could be accompanied by power blackouts. How can this be so in a wealthy nation like the UK? What has happened to a country which came of age on the back of its coal resources and then in the latter part of the 20th century was one of the top petroleum producing countries in the world? Why do we have little to show from our oil wealth unlike near neighbours Noway who have built both a sovereign wealth fund and numerous infrastructure projects for future generations?

In this talk Professor Gluyas from Durham University will explore the UK's energy history, it's energy policies and security or lack thereof. He will also examine our remaining resources and how we might develop them in a sustainable way with minimal emissions.
Dolphin © John Carnell



Status of Marine Mammals in Northumberland

6th Feb 2015
Friday 6th February, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Marine mammal populations are threatened by human activities including entanglement in fishing gear, vessel and propeller strikes, noise and environmental pollution. Northumberland coastal waters offers a range of habitats from those exposed to industry around the Tyne and Blyth to more pristine areas in north. The area attracts a range of marine mammals with a year around presence of Harbour Porpoise, White-beaked Dolphin, Minke Whale, Grey and Harbour Seal. In this lecture the ecology, threats and status of these marine mammals will be presented and discussed in relation to fisheries and renewable energy developments.

Dr Per Berggren is a lecturer in Marine Science at the School of Marine Science & Technology at Newcastle University. His research area is conservation biology of large marine vertebrates. The aim is to assess status of marine vertebrate populations and find practical solutions to identified conservation problems. Dr Berggren and his students are currently conducting research on marine mammals off the Northumberland coast and cetaceans and sharks off Zanzibar, East Africa.
P1010127 ©Paul Drummond1



Introduction to Winter Tree Identification

7th Feb 2015
Saturday 7th February, 1 - 2.30pm

Would you like to learn how to identify the different trees found in our woodlands? The reserve warden, Paul Drummond, will lead you on a walk in Gosforth Nature Reserve and teach you how to tell the different trees species apart in winter.

Free but booking is required to manage numbers. Please contact the Society Office to book.



History of Beavers in the UK

13th Feb 2015
Friday 13th February, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

After an introduction to European Beavers and their activities, this talk will outline the types of evidence which can be used to identify their presence in former times, and their history in Britain from the end of the last Ice Age to the probable time of their extinction, including recent evidence found in Northumberland. People hunted Beavers from early times, for food and fur and medicine, and questions to consider will include the extent of human contribution to their extinction. With the trial release of Beavers and their establishment in Scotland the pros and cons of reintroducing this native species throughout Britain will also be considered.

Bryony Coles, Emeritus Professor at Exeter University, is an archaeologist with particular interests in prehistory, wetland archaeology and the long-term interactions between humans and their environment. In 2004 she won the Earth Watch Balloon Debate at the Natural History Museum in London as advocate for Beavers, and in 2006 she published Beavers in Britain’s Past.



What does the Past tell us about Climate Change in a Warmer World?

20th Feb 2015
Friday 20th February, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Our understanding of future global warming relies heavily on the prediction of climate model simulations. Although progressively more sophisticated, climate models have many uncertainties. One approach to explore these uncertainties and understand mechanisms of potential future climate change is to look at time periods in the past for which geological and palaeo-botanical data are available.

Prof. Salzmann will present results from an international programme focussing on the global reconstruction of vegetation and climate of the warm late Pliocene world, ca 3 million years ago, using geological data and models. The late Pliocene period is widely regarded as an example of a world that may be similar to the Earth in the late 21st Century. The talk will present global reconstructions of Pliocene vegetation, sea and land surface temperatures, soils and lakes. Challenges of reconstructing and quantifying a Pliocene warm world with data and model will be discussed.

Ulrich Salzmann is Professor of Palaeoecology at the Department of Geography, Northumbria University Newcastle. He is palynologist and biogeographer with a particular interest in past vegetation and climate change of the tropical and polar regions.



Rocks from space: the geology of Meteorites

27th Feb 2015
Friday 27th February, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

In 2013 a huge fireball streaked across the sky near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk - a dramatic reminder of the fact that space is not empty, and of the objects that occasionally fall to Earth.

Meteorites are rocks from space and can be fragments of asteroids, pieces of our planetary neighbours, and even remnants of the original primordial material from which the Earth and the solar system were formed 4.5 billion years ago. Some meteorites are therefore older than even the most primitive rocks and are indeed the oldest objects to be found on the surface of the Earth.

Alan will describe the different types of meteorites, their origins and how they come to fall to Earth. He will also examine what can be learned about the origins of the solar system and of the Earth itself, and about the most likely places in which meteorites are to be found.

Alan Cayless is a physics and astronomy lecturer with the Open University and also a former chairman of the Stirling Astronomical Society whose activities include preserving an observatory in the centre of the city.



Twite Conservation

6th Mar 2015
Friday 6th March, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Twite, or Mountain Linnet as they were also known, was not an uncommon breeding bird in the uplands of Northumbria in the 19th century but its population has been declining ever since and it is now a rare breeding bird in our region and could become locally extinct. The RSPB and Natural England have embarked on a project in the South Pennines to develop conservation techniques that could reverse its fortunes. Jenny is the Twite Project Officer and will give an overview of Twite ecology, distribution, behaviour and migration and will talk about the conservation work that is being done and what has been learnt so far.
Crossbill, Harwood Forest © Peter Fawcett



Birds of Kielder Forest

7th Mar 2015
Saturday 7th March, 9.30am - 3pm

Weather permitting, March can be a good month to look for some of the specialist bird species found in our coniferous forests such as Goshawk and Crossbill. We will also keep an eye out for Red Squirrel and look for Mandarin Duck.

Free but booking is required to manage numbers. Please contact the Society Office to book.



The life and work of Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801-1894)

13th Mar 2015
Friday 13th March, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

Although widely acknowledged during his own time Brian Houghton Hodgson has largely slipped into obscurity. A diplomat and officer of the English East India Company, he was posted to Nepal at a time when the fauna of the Himalaya was almost wholly unknown to European science. Between 1820 and 1844, he amassed a collection of over 10,000 zoological specimens and published 140 scientific papers, many of which described species for the first time. However, it is the thousands of watercolour illustrations of birds and mammals which represent Hodgson’s greatest legacy. Originally collected with the intention of publishing a work on Nepalese zoology, every image includes extraordinarily thorough notes about the species’ behaviour, ecology, and habitat, as well as painstaking measurements and anatomical sketches. Now stored in the archives of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), this set of stunning images remains one of the most important sources of knowledge about the indigenous wildlife of Nepal and Tibet available to modern ecologists and conservationists.

Owing to the number of globally threatened species in Nepal Hodgson’s work is of increasing significance. This talk assesses Hodgson’s work as a pioneering zoologist and his place in 19th century British, ‘imperial’ science, before turning to the collections and their status as a picture of a threatened ecosystem. 2015 marks the bicentenary of the establishment of Anglo-Nepalese diplomatic relations, and this talk is part of a wider program of events organised by Britain-Nepal 200 to celebrate the close links between the two countries and highlight current collaborative efforts to conserve its spectacular wildlife. David Lowther is a local artist, researcher and Visiting Scholar at the ZSL.
woodland May DNR



A photographic tour of the distinctive National Vegetation Classification types in the wilder parts of the North East

20th Mar 2015
Friday 20th March, 7pm

Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle

The North East is blessed with a diverse array of landscapes, each made up of broad habitats such as grassland, wetland, woodland and so on. Within each broad habitat, distinctive groups of plant species occur together, time and time again, to form recognisable vegetation types which are described in the British National Vegetation Classification (NVC). There are woodlands within woodlands, grasslands within grasslands, etc. such that the area is made up of a patchwork quilt of many vegetation types. These remain a mystery to many naturalists, and because the published books on the subject are very technical, this talk will take a photographic approach to recognising them. In fact Dr Mitchell has been developing a simple visual “app”, which he will illustrate, for mobile phone\tablet computer to aid the identification of NVC communities and sub-communities in the field. He will describe some of the more localised, fragile and distinctive vegetation types in the wilder parts of Northumbria.

Dr Dave Mitchell is Natural England’s Regulation and Enforcement Officer for specially protected sites in the North East. He is a qualified plant ecologist with a particular interest in the region’s vegetation. He developed a passion for the National Vegetation Classification whilst undertaking his PhD research 20 years ago and enjoys trying to make this subject more accessible to a wider audience.

About Talks, Field Trips, Events & Activities

Indoor Events

From October to March the Society invites regional and national experts in the natural world to give inspiring lectures to our members and the wider public.

Lectures are usually held every Friday evening, starting at 7pm, in the learning suite on the ground floor of the Great North Museum: Hancock. The museum is closed to the public at this time, so entry is via both side entrances.

Entry is from 6.20pm and tea, coffee and biscuits are available and the opportunity to socialise. Speakers give an illustrated presentation for 45mins-1 hour and then open the floor for questions and discussions.

On site parking is limited to blue badge holders only. There is a car park nearby on Claremont Road. The Museum is a 300m walk from Haymarket Metro and bus stations. For directions click here.

Non-members are very welcome to attend but we ask that they kindly make a donation on the night to support these lectures.

Outdoor Events

Throughout the year local experts lead field meetings to explore the natural world and magical landscapes of Northern England.

Outdoor events are free to members and their families. Some trips require us to hire boats or pay entrance fees and details of these costs are included in the information about the event.

For most events you can just turn up at the meeting place but some events must be booked in advance in order to manage numbers and this is stated in the information. You must make your own way to the meeting point. Please arrive early so that the event can start on time. Some activities last all day so you may need to take a drink and packed lunch with you.

In order to visit the best places our trips take place in natural landscapes that can be unpredictable. It is essential that you wear, or take with you, appropriate clothing and accessories to cope with heat, cold, wet, wind, biting insects and to walk on uneven, slippery or wet surfaces. Before you join any of our outdoor events it is essential that you read our Guidance.

Some events are run in partnership with other organisations or groups but otherwise our outdoor events are exclusively for Society members. If you are not a member and would like to attend an outdoor meeting then this can be arranged by contacting the Society office in advance and making a donation.