Later this year one of Northumberland's birding sites will disappear from view, Longhirst Flash has fallen foul of Old King Coal and is smack bang centre of a huge opencast development that has planning permission and is known as Potland Burn. The company responsible for the opencast will in time re-landscape the site after they have had the obligatory extension, so perhaps in 20 years or so the land may have returned to its current state. The wetland is excluded from the excavation as is the adjacent woodland but the plans show the boundary running very close.
Views of the flash will be lost during excavation as the company plans to put a 5.5m-6.5m baffle bank between the road and pond
Looking at the picture above anyone not knowing the area might think that it is a fairly plain, small pond but for many local birders it has a good heritage. It is I think a mining subsidence pond, one of many in the area, it has only been in the last 15 years that it has deepened and started attracting a decent selection of birds. It first got attention in the early nineties with wintering Whooper Swan in the surrounding fields. The first decent bird I can find was a Spoonbill in 1996 although it was at least three years earlier it acquired the name 'Longhirst Flash' as one ancient local has a notebook entry for 13th March 1993 of one Tufted Duck and two Mallard. It was attractive to passage waders such as Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank, it's reedy north end often pulled in Garganey. In 1999 it had the first of a run of three Great White Egret in four years, with others in 2000 and 2003. The 2000 bird being particularly close to my heart as I found it that morning at my then patch of Castle Island before it moved inland to Bothal then Longhirst. Common Crane is another species that have been recorded here at least once with two birds on passage.
Maybe its last hurrah was 26th September last year when the twenty year county blocker Glossy Ibis was first re-found at the Flash and later briefly touched down again as a significant proportion of the county's birders attempted to catch up with it.
The disruption around the area will move out Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Common Buzzard, Jay all breeding birds. We will be the poorer for not having this insignificant little pond.
It irks me that it we seem to be seen as an easy touch for coal, perhaps because of our mining heritage we're thought of as still having coal dust under the fingernails which to some extent is true. It irks me more that a fantastic little site like this is afforded little protection, I can't help thinking somewhere along the way we got our values seriously muddled.
thanks to Andy Mclevy for some of the historical records.