Archive for November, 2016
Sunday was Claire and Sophie’s 2nd trip with NEWT, following a wildlife safari on the coast in 2014. As we left Newbiggin the first scattered drops of rain hit the windscreen…
Arriving at our first location, Claire asked if she’d remembered correctly how to search for Otters, and started scanning an area of water that was noticeably devoid of ducks…then almost immediately answered her own question with another one “what’s this in front of me? It’s an Otter” 🙂 We watched the cub as it fed on small fish and then it caught a much larger one which it took into the reeds. Through the telescope we could see the dark shape of the Otter wriggling among the reeds, as a second cub came into view and started feeding. Scattering Goldeneye, Mallard, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Teal, Wigeon and Little Grebe as it continued in it’s relentless search for food we lost sight of it for a little while before it reappeared and made it’s way towards us before finally vanishing behind the reeds. By now the rain was hammering down and we headed to our second site for the afternoon. Under a leaden grey sky, with a chill wind and persistent rain we watched until it was too dark too see. Grey Heron and Cormorant had been and gone and a Kingfisher dived repeatedly into the water from the bankside, silhouetted against the last meagre scraps of daylight.
Grim weather, great wildife and great clients. What more could you want ? 🙂
There are a few species that really epitomise winter wildlife-watching, and they include my favourite bird, one of my favourite mammals, and another bird that never fails to excite…
I collected Andy from Whitley Bay (it’s great to have him back from Mull for a few months over the winter!) and we had an interesting chat about plankton sampling and microscopy as we drove up the coast to collect Genine from Newbiggin. Genine’s last trip with NEWT was a breathtaking pelagic in early September, and now we were out in search of Otters and any other birds and wildlife that we could find around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. I suggested that we started with a quick search for Waxwings, just a few minutes down the road. As we approached where they’d been seen the previous day, a flock flushed from a rowan tree where they were gorging themselves on berries. We watched them land in the bare branches of a tall tree nearby and counted at least 120 birds, with another 60 flying around and landing in trees just along the road. In the cold and damp, we started our search for Otters, and were soon watching one as it fed on small fish. With hardly a breath of wind, the water was flat calm and we tracked the Otter‘s movement by the trail of bubbles it left each time it submerged before, after around half an hour, it left the water and vanished up the bank and behind a fallen tree. Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Oystercatcher were probing the mud along the water’s edge and a flash of electric blue heralded the arrival of a Kingfisher, which played a game of hide and seek with us as Goldfinch and Bullfinch perched in the tops of trees, the disembodied weak winter song of a Robin came from the depths of a hawthorn and two Sparrowhawks tussled in mid-air overhead before one gave up the fight and flew well away. Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Common Eider, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Duck were a nice haul of wildfowl as Little Grebe warily watched the spot where the Otter had vanished and Long-tailed Tits called unseen from nearby bushes.
The approach of dusk brought thousands of Starlings in a swirling murmuration before they dropped into the reedbeds for the night as the high-pitched yapping of Pink-footed Geese and the discordant honking of Greylag Geese betrayed the presence of skein after skein arriving from feeding areas to the south of us. Squealing Water Rails remained hidden and, as the last rays of daylight filtered through from the western horizon, Whooper Swans arrived. Big, ghostly and quiet on their approach, as they hit the water they began whooping and their haunting voices accompanied our walk back to the car in the dark.
Proper wintry cold, almost continuous drizzle, stunning wildlife and lovely clients – just a great way to spend a day in mid-November 🙂 We’ll be running Otter Safaris, Druridge Bay Safaris and Lindisfarne Safaris right through the winter, so get in touch, wrap up warm and come and join us for a day searching for Northumberland’s fantastic wildlife!
Thursday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for several months…Sue’s 5th trip with NEWT was a day searching for and identifying wading birds. Some, like the Curlew with it’s eerie cry and long downcurved beak are straightforward, but others can be a bit trickier…
A field full of Oystercatcher and Lapwing close to the coast started the trip, and 30+ Whooper Swan in the same fields were a nice find. Down on to the Aln Estuary anad more Oystercatcher and Lapwing, along with Redshank, Curlew and a lone Woodcock which dived into cover after a presumably challenging journey across the North Sea. Vast flocks of Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook and Pink-footed Goose darkened the sky close to the horizon and we headed up the coast. Smaller waders were soon in our sights, with Dunlin alongside Sanderling and Ringed Plover while Turnstone were busy turning stones, kelp and anything else that they thought might conceal something to eat and the plaintive calls of Grey Plover carried across the beach on the strengthening breeze. Along the shoreline Redshank were probing the mud alongside Bar-tailed Godwit and a lone Pink-footed Goose flew northwards, calling constantly. A stream of Blackbirds heading westwards marked an obvious arrival of migrants and a second Woodcock flew ‘in-off’ as we had lunch. Knot alongside Dunlin allowed a nice comparison of two species that can be tricky at a distance and vast flocks of Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit resembled Starling murmurations as they wheeled and turned distantly between Holy Island and the mainland. Just offshore from the mud where the waders were feasting Common Eider and Red-throated Diver were riding the swell, a Great Northern Diver flew north, flotillas of Shag were diving, flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Pale-bellied Brent Goose were disturbed by the rising tide and, as light levels began dropping, Sue spotted two Little Egrets as they left the mud and headed towards a nighttime roost.
Before the end of the day, Sue had already booked her next trip with us – Kielder next March. There’ll be fewer waders, and less mud 🙂