THE sight of wrens, voles and lizards impaled on a barbed wire fence has delighted South Tyne naturalists.
For the gory spectacle indicated that one of Europe’s most unusual birds of prey was nesting in the area for the first time.
The barbed wire gibbet was the work of the red-backed shrike, known as the butcher bird through its habit of hanging its dead prey on thorns or other spiky protuberances.
A male bird – slightly smaller than a blackbird – was seen displaying in the Coanwood area in mid-June.
It found a mate, and the pair produced four offspring which left the nest earlier this month.
Parents and fledglings can still be seen hunting in the area.
Although red backed shrikes have been known to breed in Southern England for some time, it is believed to be the first time they have nested in Northumberland.
It follows the successful nesting of a great grey shrike on Alston Moor four years ago.
Local naturalist Colin Simms said: “Red backed shrikes used to breed in Carlisle and Kendal many years ago, but I firmly believe this is the first time they have bred in Northumberland in modern times.