Fireworks; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 04/11/18

by on 07/11/18 09:25, under Druridge Bay

If there’s one thing that’s even less predictable than wildlife it’s the weather, so when I collected Ted and Elaine for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay searching for Otters, with stargazing planned for the end of the trip, we were at the mercy of both…

Dense flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing were roosting, and alternating between unremarkable under overcast skies and stunning whenever the sun broke through the cloud.  They repeatedly flushed in panic and a Sparrowhawk eventually revealed itself as the cause of their consternation.  Once that had gone they settled back down before taking off again, this time deserting completely as a large falcon came through.  Maybe a Lanner, maybe a Gyr x Saker hybrid, whatever it was it was big and the waders were really not happy about it.  We’re moving to the time of year when male ducks start to out on their finery and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were looking very smart as a Long-tailed Duck played hide and seek with us.  Among a group of Common Snipe roosting close by a Jack Snipe revealed itself with rhythmical bobbing before it shuffled off and out of sight.

As dusk approached, thousands of Starlings streamed out of one reedbed and in front of us before settling into a different one and the three Pink-footed Geese on the mud in front of us became 3000 as the sky was suddenly filled with dark shapes and high yapping calls, leaving a dark impenetrable mass of birds in the gloom with fireworks illuminating the sky behind them and a break in the clouds revealing Cygnus, the Summer Triangle, Cassiopeia and a faint glow of the Milky Way overhead 🙂

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Fantastic Mr Fox; Another walk in the woods 02/11/18

by on 03/11/18 10:39, under Choppington Woods

Under a leaden overcast sky the cold air wraps its damp tendrils around every exposed bit of my skin.  Jays are making their way across open ground between the plantations with a stuttering flight, white rumps flashing in the gloom, and a Woodcock heads out as the unseen sun dips below the horizon.  A last good feed of the day for Coal, Blue, Great and Willow Tits is on offer at a makeshift feeding station as I start scanning the hedgerow along the southern edge of a field of verdant green with new growth.  In the distance a lump breaking the gentle undulations of the field isn’t straightforward to identify in the half-light.  Moving along the hedgerow a few metres at time I get close enough to identify it as a Red Fox.  Closer still and I get a great view as he stands up and has a good stretch.  Now awake, he trots along for a few seconds and then sits, gazing intently around him.  I move through the hedge and watch him from a well concealed position and then parallel his movements, stopping regularly to watch what he’s doing.  By the time he eventually disappears through a hedge and into a small plantation 45mins have passed and I make my way home along dark paths wrapped in the scent and sound of the woods at dusk.

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A walk in the woods 01/11/18

by on 02/11/18 10:54, under Choppington Woods

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks in the NEWT household.  We’d had a week away in and around Glencoe checking locations for a landscape photography holiday I’m leading over Christmas, then a couple of days after we got back home I wasn’t feeling well.  Sarah took me to see our GP and they sent me straight to the excellent Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.  Four days later I was discharged, limited to a liquid-only diet and with surgery scheduled for early January.  Luckily I’m well enough to work, as we’ve got a very busy November ahead of us.  This week has been mainly recuperation at home, but I need to keep my mind and body active and daily walks in the woods behind our house are the best medicine…

With the light of day fading to dusk, the harsh ‘chek’ calls of Jackdaws and deep ‘rawk’ of Rooks gathering together to roost were layered with the staccato ratting of Magpies.  The woods are familiar and comforting, and a place to clear my mind.  We’ve walked them countless times over the last 18 years and the benches, interpretation boards, boardwalk/dipping platform and well-surfaced paths were the result of a successful funding bid that I presented back in 2009.  We know which intersections of the footpaths and tracks will produce the pungent scent of Red Fox, temporarily overwhelming the sweet earthy smell of Autumn decay and the heady perfume of Himalayan Balsam, which areas of the wood will have Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit and where to search for Red Squirrel and the other inhabitants of this reclaimed colliery site.  Woodpigeons were gathering in treetops frosted orange by the setting Sun and, applying the shape, shadow and shine elements of concealment I chose a position on the shaded side of an Ivy-covered hedge.  Willow Tits and Coal Tits gave quiet alarm calls as a Sparrowhawk flew along the hedge and a Kestrel hovered over the field in the half-light.  Jays were crossing between plantations, Roe Deer ventured out from cover to forage close to the field edge, Redwings arrived to roost and the chacking calls so typical of pre-roost Blackbirds penetrated the crisp, cold air under a clear blue sky layered over the pastel pink of the Belt of Venus away to the east as I had a feeling that there was something close by.  A brief whirr of wings so I turned my head slowly…and found myself eye to eye with a handsome cock Pheasant 🙂

A connection with nature allows us to disconnect, even if only for a short while, from our connection with everyday life.  It’s good for body and soul and so many of our clients comment that one of the things they most enjoy about their days out with NEWT is just how relaxing it is to be taken away from work and the stresses of life.  Applying that to myself is working well too 🙂

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Falling; Bespoke Otter Safari 11/10/18

by on 12/10/18 11:40, under Druridge Bay, Otter

As I left the house to head north to Embleton to collect John and Margaret for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland a flock of 43 Redwings passed overhead, heading southwest on the stiff breeze and drizzle…

Rather than lunch overlooking the North Sea I thought that one of our regular Otter sites would be a better early afternoon option.  With an impressive range of wildfowl, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Mute Swan, an impressive raft of Coots, Moorhens picking around the base of the reedbeds, Grey Herons standing motionless and with Golden Plover and Lapwing facing into the breeze the water was gently rippling as three Otter cubs appeared in the distance 🙂  They swam out of sight then reappeared, alarming Mallards as they came out of the water and onto a muddy bank before taking a few minutes to make their way along the edge of a reedbed and out of sight.  When they put in another appearance they were led by mum before they all slipped out of sight again.

An impressive wader roost included Ruff, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Knot, Lapwing, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Snipe.  The high-pitched ‘seep’ calls of Redwings passing overhead were the aural backdrop to an encounter with that gorgeous gem of autumn birding on the east coast, a Yellow-browed Warbler.  As it played hide-and-seek with us, another one was behind us at the same time 🙂

We finished the day as we so often do at this time of the year; a distant Otter feeding intensely as skeins of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese dropped out of the sky in front of us and Starlings murmurated against a darkening sky 🙂

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Stirring things up; Druridge Bay Safari 07/10/18

by on 10/10/18 17:41, under Druridge Bay

I collected Ruth and Chris, and Wendy, Peter and Elizabeth, from Church Point and we set out for an afternoon and evening around our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, with one species in particular at the top of the trip wish list…

The weather forecast had been looking very promising, so it was a surprise that the first drops of rain started as we gathered before setting off.  Within 30mins it was unpleasantly wet and Little Egrets were stalking along the water’s edge as a flotilla of Cormorants did their best to made a dent in the local fish population.  As the rain eased the breeze strengthened and Stonechats were waving in the wind at the top of reedmace.  Exposed mud was covered in Lapwings, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank and lots of Common Snipe.  The high yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese drew our eyes towards v-shaped skeins of them heading north then, after our picnic on a clifftop overlooking the North Sea, it was time to head to our final site for the day.  Within a few seconds I’d found two Otter cubs play fighting near a bay in the reeds and with everyone’s attention focused on that spot there were suddenly 4 Otters running almost head on towards us 🙂  They vanished into the reeds and the next hour saw an extraordinary arrival of geese; Canada, Greylag,, Barnacle and Pink-footed all heralded their arrival with calls cutting through the gloom of dusk.  More and more arrived, settling in shallow water, and the noise level continued rising then suddenly with a loud rush of wingbeats and a deafening cacophony of mixed goose calls they lifted from their roost in panic…as one of the Otter cubs had reappeared and was bounding straight across the mud and through the roost 🙂  It slid effortlessly into the deeper water and swam out of sight before putting in another appearance as it ran across the reed edge right in front of us as dusk descended towards darkness and we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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Eye of the storm; Lindisfarne Safari 27/09/18

by on 28/09/18 09:47, under Lindisfarne

Yesterday’s Lindisfarne Safari was a trip of returning clients; Diane, who’d been on a Cheviot Valleys Safari in June and Paul and Pauline who’d enjoyed a successful Otter Safari last November…

A flock of Golden Plover trying to fly against the stiff breeze were almost low enough to be between rooftops and treetops in the village but Paul and Pauline assured us it was far less windy than it had been on Wednesday 🙂  Rock Pipits and a Linnet were drinking from a small pool and, off the eastern edge of the island there were lots of Grey Seals splashing close to shore.  Curlews flew low over the fields and the distant calls of geese carried to us on the wind. A Grey Heron stalked along the sheltered edge of a reedbed with an aural backdrop of the insistent cheeping of Mute Swan cygnets.  Kestrels were making the most of the breeze to hang motionless over the fields back towards the village and we headed across to the mainland.  On the rising tide Curlew, Little Egret, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Common Redshank were feeding along the edge of rapidly swelling channels in the mud.  As the tide pushed closer to the shore Wigeon, Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Pintail and Common Redshank flew north, as the eerie moaning of Grey Seals carried across the mud through increasingly damp-looking air, before suddenly heading south in big flocks as the wind swung from south round to north east, started to pick up a bit and a surreal combination of aquamarine water, black cloud, luminous white cloud and patches of ground bathed in beautiful low-angled sunlight heralded the arrival of the rain…

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

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Shifting breeze; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 17/09/18

by on 18/09/18 17:24, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was a Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari for Russell and Elena and I was glad it was happening before the forecast deterioration in the weather over the next few days.  I collected them from Rothbury and we headed towards the coast and an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, which turned into an enlightening discussion about photography, food, fly fishing and Sea Buckthorn…

Tufted Ducks, Mallards and a very smart Wigeon were all illuminated by some very nice light and, as we watched a Little Stint scurrying around between Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Spotted Redshank there was obviously some unease among the waders.  Canada Geese and a Cormorant were looking very alert and the Lapwings took flight before settling again.  Then the cause of all the agitation appeared and we watched the Otter on and off for around 90 minutes before it disappeared next to a reedbed 🙂  Little Egrets were roosting in riverside trees and there was another outbreak of consternation as Mallards all hurried off and a flock of Black-headed Gulls circled something swimming across the river.  It was long and sleek like an Otter, but there was something about the way it was holding its head at an angle that just didn’t seem right…then the Grey Squirrel got out of the water and ran towards the trees!

Our picnic spot overlooking a fairly calm North Sea brought Fulmars and Gannets, and a walk along a well vegetated track produced lots of bees, relatively docile in the cooling evening air, and a Red Admiral as well as plenty of Speckled Wood butterflies.  As dusk approached Swallows and House Martins were gorging themselves on a myriad of flying insects and there was more unrest among roosting birds.  First a sudden departure of Cormorants, then ducks scattered and an Otter appeared briefly before vanishing into the reeds next to a group of Mute Swans.  A female Marsh Harrier caused even more panic then, with Water Rails squealing all around us, a Sparrowhawk was harassed by Carrion Crows and Pink-footed Geese arrived in noisy yapping flocks against a darkening sky with Mars, Saturn and the Moon all bright away to the south there was another kerfuffle against the reeds and not one, not two, not three, but four Otters feeding in the shallows as the light levels dropped to ‘challenging’ 😉  Fade to black…

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Bow-riding; NEWT’s (pen)Ultimate North Sea pelagic 15/09/18

by on 18/09/18 16:54, under North Sea

Saturday was our penultimate pelagic trip for 2018; another 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out to the Farne Deeps in search of Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin.  We started our exploration of Northumberland’s offshore waters, as a partner in the North East Cetacean Project, in 2009 and we’ve been able to demonstrate some quite specific site fidelity by White-beaked Dolphins since 2010 so we always know where we’re heading once we’re out of the Tyne.  We can get distracted on the way though and while I was watching a distant flock of circling Gannets towards the shore I was sure I’d seen a whale lunge-feeding under them.  As we approached them they didn’t move away – lots were sitting on the sea and even more were circling and diving, and there were a few Fulmars and a Sooty Shearwater among them too.  Sure enough, a Minke Whale soon surfaced and came straight towards the boat!  Once it had done that very Minke thing of apparently vanishing without trace we resumed our original course and, right on cue, the White-beaked Dolphins appeared as expected 🙂  Some remarkable bow-riding included a group of 6 dolphins that appeared once we were making tracks back to the Tyne and stayed alongside us for nearly 5 miles!

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

We’ve got one final pelagic this year, another fully booked 10hr sailing this Saturday, but 2019’s dates are on our website calendar and starting to fill already 🙂

 

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Deluge; Otter Safari 06/09/18

by on 07/09/18 08:09, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Our second Otter Safari in 2 days looked as thought it was unlikely to be blessed with the same good weather as Wednesday…

I collected Alison and then Amanda and David from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters.  When the Otters eluded us on Wednesday I’d seen enough at each site we checked to be confident that we’d find Otters this time, and thought that changing the order we visited each site would do the trick…and within a minute of arriving at our first site I’d picked a likely spot for an Otter – and there was one 🙂  In fact there were two, and they caused some consternation among Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Greylag Geese before vanishing.  Alison hadn’t managed to spot either of them through the ‘scope so I pointed it in the direction of a Water Rail and let everyone marvel at the odd-looking denizen of the reedbed while I scoured the entire pool trying to relocate the Otters.  Amanda beat me too it though, about ten minutes after we lost sight of the Otters one appeared right in front of us!  It slowly made it’s way across the pool, scattering Mute Swans, Little Grebes, Cormorants, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Canada Geese before finally vanishing into the dark depths of a distant reedbed.  All of this was going on with a noisy backdrop of Lapwings, Common Redshank and geese as Starlings swirled overhead and 3 Spotted Redshank, dashingly elegant, raced through the shallows.  We could see heavy rain away to the north, and the first few drops began to disturb the calm water.  Up to that point there hadn’t even been a hint of a breeze but that changed and suddenly the wind was very noticeable, as was the arrival of the heavy rain; torrential rain that flooded the roads along the coast and made observing anything quite difficult although three Spotted Redshank, looking remarkably like the same three from earlier in the afternoon dropped in – were they making their way south down the Northumberland coast the same way we were?  A remarkable 123 Mediterranean Gulls settled on the water as the rain intensified, and as we continued down the coast there were more in fields and along the shoreline.

Dusk began to creep up sooner than expected under a leaden grey sky with a remarkable fiery orange sunset on the western horizon as a Grey Heron caught an impressive fish in shallow water, a Kingfisher flew by, Little Egrets stood out in the deepening gloom and it was time to head back to Newbiggin.

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Early Autumn mist; Bespoke Otter Safari 05/09/18

by on 06/09/18 10:03, under Druridge Bay

I collected David and Jean from Holystone in warm sunshine, ahead of an afternoon and evening around our favourite spots for Otters in Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Little Egrets were patrolling the shallows, darting at small fish, Redshanks were calling noisily and the hedgerows, with plump sweet blackberries, were playing host to lots of Speckled Wood butterfliesLong-tailed Tits were calling but stayed out of sight and a fisherman told us he’d seen 4 Otters on Monday.  With Otter activity this week at two other sites we were planning to visit it was looking promising…

A Merlin launched an extraordinary agile pursuit of a Sand Martin, as House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows gorged themselves on an impressive hatch of flying insects that had also attracted the attention of a Little Gull, delicate and no less agile than the Merlin.  Waders and wildfowl were present in big numbers on the coastal pools; Mallard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Wigeon, Canada Geese, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Curlew and Lapwing were all roosting or feeding and, as dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rail cut through the ethereal mist that was suddenly lifting from the water’s surface beneath a murmuration of Starlings preparing to spend a night in the reeds, Greylag Geese began to arrive. dozens and dozens of them noisily heralding their approach as they tumbled out of the sky to the shallow water below.  With Mars shining red in the sky away to the southeast, ripples of panic started spreading through the birds as they made a sharp exit from the two spots where I would have expected an Otter to appear…

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