Archive for August, 2017

Stalking; Otter Safari 29/08/17

by on Aug.30, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Julie, Thomas, Steven and Mandy ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for our favourite predator

At this time of the year it’s fair to say that ducks aren’t really at their best and Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Shoveler were all easier to separate based on size and shape than one plumage detail.  Little Grebe numbers seem to be higher and higher each time we’re out and about and the only thing separating Great Crested Grebe chicks from their parents now is the stripy face 🙂  Lapwings flushed in panic but the cause of their consternation remained unseen, as it so often does with Lapwings which seem to be really jittery all the time, and Starlings swirled on the breeze as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swallows and three Swifts were hoovering up flying insects ahead of the long journey south.  A Kestrel hovered over the dunes before dropping to the ground then quickly ascending again, empty-taloned. Regularly spaced along each water’s edge, Grey Herons were standing motionless as Little Egrets darted busily back and forth before heading to roost in riverside trees.  As dusk approached, Mute Swans drifted away from the water’s edge and that’s always a trigger to look at where they’re moving away from, but we couldn’t see anything along the bank in the rapidly deepening gloom as Canada Geese called noisily as they flew in to roost and a Long-eared Owl ghosted along the scrub just in front of us and the journey back saw a Barn Owl fly across the road in front of the car.

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Dolphin days; NEWT’s Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic 26/08/17

by on Aug.28, 2017, under North Sea

With a forecast of light westerlies and good weather, I arrived at Royal Quays ahead of our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic confident that we’d have a memorable day offshore…

Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Manx Shearwater, Great Skua and Arctic Skua all gave obliging views and then we started finding Minke Whales 🙂  Continuing northeast I was sitting alongside Allan in the wheelhouse and noticed some distant splashing – and there were six White-beaked Dolphins heading toward us!  More dolphins followed and we finished the day with a total of 3 Minke Whales, 6 Harbour Porpoise and 37 White-beaked Dolphins 🙂

We’ve got a few spaces available for our next 10hr sailing from Royal Quays (08:00, Saturday 2nd September), so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your space before they’re gone!

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic to the Farne Deeps on 26/08/17 produced an outstanding encounter with White-beaked Dolphins. as well as Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater

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Halcyon days; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 25/08/17

by on Aug.25, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

This morning saw me working at the opposite end of the day to usual, and I arrived to collect James, Wendy, Megan and Saffy (an adorable Whippet) from Church Point at 09:00, ahead of a morning around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland

Sand Martins and Swallows were feeding low over the water, a Grey Heron stood motionless as 7 Little Egrets engaged in the favourite heron pastime of wasting energy chasing each other from feeding spots, Mute Swans fed serenely and Little Grebes were diving constantly in search of small fish before being disturbed by one of the egrets.  Flocks of Tufted Duck, Mallard and Teal are building and the one remaining Great Crested Grebe chick that we see regularly is now almost the same size as it’s parents.  Canada and Greylag Geese are in noisy flocks that will be bolstered when more Greylags, and Pink-footed Geese arrive for the winter and a small Starling murmuration swirled in front of us before executing a rapid descent.  Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Common Snipe represented the waders but a real highlight of the morning was two species that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in one ‘scope view.  Cormorants were feeding, often just dipping their heads under the water and catching what looked like snails, and as I scanned the area where the water had just swirled, just to be sure it was a Cormorant, I spotted a Kingfisher.  I set the ‘scope up so that everyone could have a closer view of the ‘halcyon bird’, and Wendy looked through the ‘scope and described another bird that was in the reeds just behind the Kingfisher…and there was a Water Rail 🙂  That odd-looking secretive denizen of the reeds stayed in view just long enough for everyone to see before it vanished back into the impenetrable density of the reedbed.

I could get used to earlier starts for our Druridge Bay trips 🙂

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Persistence; Otter mini-Safari 22/08/17

by on Aug.23, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Warm and foggy is a slightly ethereal combination of weather conditions, but that was just what we had when I collected Mark and Rachel and Phil and Katrina and Debbie and Neil from Church Point, ready for an evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland

We may still be in August but there was a definite feeling of change; Sand Martins. House Martins and Swallows were nowhere to be found, Goldfinches were gathering in impressive flocks and a Starling murmuration began to hint at the spectacle that we’ll be enjoying in a couple of months from now.  Grey Herons were stalking along the edge of reedbeds, and moving each other on from the prime feeding spots, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler scattered in alarm a couple of times but we couldn’t see what was making them so edgy and a distant Cormorant had me thinking ‘Otter!’ for a few seconds before it lifted it’s head high after one feeding dive as Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe caught tiny fish after tiny fish.

Our final site for the evening brought more panicked birds, with an impressive flock of Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-Backed Gulls all taking to the wing as Canada Geese alarmed noisily below a tree speckled with the bright dots of roosting Little Egrets.  I was here two weeks ago, unsuccessfully, but this time I was sure we’d find an Otter.  In the gloom I scanned through a distant group of Mute Swans with my binoculars.  Tufted Duck and Little Grebe were sleeping next to them, but what was much more interesting was a low dark shape in the water that was there…and then wasn’t.  Switching to the higher magnification, but duller view, of the telescope revealed an Otter in full-on feeding mode 🙂  Dive after dive after dive, in a fairly small area of water, enabled everyone to see it through binoculars or the ‘scope before we headed back through the darkening twilight with the disembodied calls of Canada Geese, Redshank and Curlew accompanying us and pipistrelles flitting by just above our heads.

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Fade to black; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 11/08/17

by on Aug.12, 2017, under North Sea

As we gathered at Royal Quays for our final 4hr evening pelagic for this year, ahead of our switch to 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings from next Wednesday, there was a stiff breeze, but it was coming off the land so not a great problem for a sailing where we were planning to stay fairly close inshore…

The sea was calmer than it’s been on any of our trips so far this year, but all around the sky was threatening to do something and we did catch the edge of a shower at one point.  Fulmars, Gannets and Kittiwakes passed by, Guillemots were on the water with young and Russ spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin but it seems to have been on a mission to be elsewhere as it didn’t hang around.

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

Our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2017 had calm seas, dark clouds and a brief appearance by a dolphin

That’s it for 4hr evening sailings until next June, but we’ve still got a few places on all of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ trips.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all gone!

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Evening activity; Otter mini-Safari 10/08/17

by on Aug.11, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Church Point to collect Andy, Teresa and Katharine, and Richard, Belinda and Julia, for an evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters, under a glorious blue sky with just a gentle breeze.  Almost like the summer had arrived…

Grey Herons were stalking patiently through the shallows in the shadow of the reed edges and Mute Swans, Greylag Geese, Mallards, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal and Great Crested Grebes, with a chick that’s probably too big to be hitching a ride on it’s parents’ back, were all getting on with life, and way too relaxed for there to be an Otter about, and then Lapwing and Starling flushed in a sudden panic.  We couldn’t see what had caused the alarm though and, as everything settled back down we headed on.

At our next stop we had a long chat with a fisherman, who told us where he’d seen an Otter the previous night…which just happened to be where we were heading for dusk.  A small group of Canada Geese were clearly on high alert then, as a Little Egret provided a touch of luminosity in the deepening gloom of dusk, Tawny Owls called from the trees on both sides of the river, skein after skein after skein of Canada Geese flew noisily overhead, pipistrelles around trees and buildings were picked up by Julia’s bat detector and the majestic Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb appeared against the night sky overhead…the evening finished as Otters 1 NEWT 0.  Fantastic ottery habitat, geese clearly agitated and a sighting the previous evening…but you just can’t be certain what will turn up.  That’s why every day spent searching for any of our local wildlife is just so much fun 🙂

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A Little Spoonful; Otter Safari/mini-Safari 01/08/17

by on Aug.02, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Uncategorized

When the Otters fail to perform during an Otter Safari, there’s always something else to take centre stage…

I collected Eileen from Warkworth and the first half of the afternoon was spent intently studying the behaviour of birds along a river, looking for any indication that they were concerned about something. The cries of Oystercatcher and Curlew drifted on the breeze as Little Egrets stalked through the shallows or roosted in trees overlooking the water.  A stop off at Cresswell produced lots of Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew, a dozen or so Dunlin and a summer-plumaged Knot.  We’d managed to just miss a Spoonbill though, although back to that later…

After a picnic overlooking Druridge Bay we collected Tony and Norma, and Alicia and Emmie for the second half of the trip.  More Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin followed, with some Black-tailed Godwit still sporting their breeding plumage, an elegant Wood Sandpiper patrolling the muddy edges, Tufted Ducks with ducklings, a female Marsh Harrier and a dense cloud of Sand Martins.  Then Little Owls; one, then two, then three, then two, then three, then one as they shuffled position along a fence and a stone wall.  One of the owls even found itself sitting on the apex of a roof alongside a Magpie, before deciding the black and white corvid needed seeing off.  Norma had spotted a white bird tucked away in the rushes and it took off, flying directly towards us…and there was the Spoonbill 🙂

As dusk approached Great Crested Grebes offered small fish to their well-grown chick as Grey Herons squabbled over prime feeding spots, Common Terns took a bath, Starling flocks swirled by and Emmie spotted her first Roe Deer – first a doe and then a buck sporting a fine pair of antlers as the light faded to the point where everything was shadow.

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