Archive for January, 2017
Thursday was a mini-Safari exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and the weather forecast had me donning layer after layer…
I collected Chris and Carol from Church Point and we set off. Getting out of the car at our first destination it didn’t seem quite as cold as forecast – until we were facing into the wind, when it started to feel really chilly. Cormorant, Little Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander and Goldeneye were all diving in search of fish and we continued on our way. A remarkable mixed flock of Twite, Turnstone, Pied Wagtail and Sanderling were plundering an ad hoc feeding station on the beach and Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Scaup were all dabbling as Curlew noisily took flight, Lapwing were tossed about on the breeze and Starlings arrived at their evening roost, dispensing with the intricacies of a murmuration and diving straight into the shelter of the reeds.
As dusk enveloped everything around we headed back to the car, serenaded by a chorus of Water Rails from deep within the reeds and with an icy cold breeze somehow making five layers not quite enough!
Our first trip of 2017 was an Otter mini-Safari and I collected Fiona and Phil from Church Point in what didn’t really feel like January weather. Our other participants for the afternoon had cancelled at the last minute, so the three of us set off for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…
Roosting Redshank, diving Dabchicks and gorgeous Goldeneye were along the first stretch of water we checked, but most impressive of all was a Cormorant – fresh from a fishing trip and standing on a rock with it’s wings spread in heraldic pose it was quite stunning in the sunlight. As the afternoon wore on, and dusk started to settle in, there was a stunning bright jewel in the darkening gloom; a Kingfisher, with it’s jaw-dropping coat of turquoise and orange, was suddenly on a rock in front of us. None of us had seen it arrive, and it soon departed, then returned and perched even closer 🙂 While this was going on a Grey Heron stalked patiently in a gap between reedbeds, a female Sparrowhawk perched in a bare tree watching the wildfowl, all of the assembled Mallards, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon were nervously eyeing one section of reedbed as a flock of Lapwings took flight and a small flock of Starlings flew through on their way to roost as the yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese cut through the evening air and discussion centred on which are the best pubs in Newcastle and Gateshead. If there’s one thing I enjoy as much as watching wildlife, it’s the people that I get to meet on our tours 🙂
We met up in Newbiggin and set off on our search. Our first site had plenty of birds but no Otters, so we headed on to the site where I thought it would be good to be at dusk. A Kingfisher provided a splash of iridescent brilliance in the fading light of mid-afternoon and a group of Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard and Tufted Duck drifting away from a reedbed caught my attention. Scanning the reed edge with our telescope revealed a dark shape, twisting and turning but mainly hidden from view in the reeds. It soon vanished, but the ducks were still wary, so I continued scanning that area. After 20mins the Otter finally came out into open water and each time it dropped out of sight we tracked it by the current location of agitated wildfowl 🙂 It was clearly making it’s way towards us and, after a few minutes without a sighting, it was suddenly running along the bank right in front of us! It quickly disappeared into another reedbed, triggering the begging calls of it’s cubs, before reappearing in the water with one cub, as two more continued calling, drowning out the calls of Snipe and Water Rail 🙂 As a Starling murmuration began to develop, the calls of Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose cut through the gloom as they arrived to roost and eventually it was too dark to see anything out on the water.
A fantastic end to the year, and a welcome break from mince pies 🙂