Archive for January, 2018

Mum to the rescue; an Otter encounter 24/01/18

by on Jan.25, 2018, under Otter

After Tuesday’s Otter Safari, and spectacularly close view of three Otters, I headed back out yesterday with my camera.  The wind direction had changed, and not for the better, and the breeze had strengthened to bone-chilling…

In the fast flowing water one of the Otter cubs was struggling and became separated from it’s mother and sibling.  It made its way to the closest point of land, calling constantly, before getting out of the water, still calling, and waiting for mum to come and help, which she did, and before heading back to the holt together they stopped and had a good stare in my direction 🙂

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Snowmelt; Otter Safari 23/01/18

by on Jan.24, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Double figure temperatures, blue sky and hardly any hint of a breeze were a revelation as I collected Kellie and Sean from The Swan for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters.

Improved weather and the forecast gales and torrential rain were nowhere to be seen…what could go wrong?  Flight views of a Bittern in beautiful light were a good start, a very obliging Kingfisher perched on reeds in front of us before diving into the water and returning to it’s perch with a small fish and a drake Long-tailed Duck looked resplendent in the sunshine.  Two Water Rails were also rather obliging as they fed in a gap in the reeds, before walking on the still frozen margins of the pool.  Goldeneye, Coot and Little Grebe were all avoiding one edge of the reeds, although Mute Swans were feeding right against the reeds, although the hoped-for Otters didn’t appear…and there was the ominous low hum of a strengthening breeze.

By the time we reached our next site the wind had really picked up, and as I pointed out where any Otters were likely to be Sean spotted them 🙂  An adult female and two cubs feeding in a fast-flowing river that was being bolstered by an impressive volume of water from further inland.  Monday’s rain, and melting snow, were adding to the flow as the Otters hunted.  After ten minutes they headed towards the bank and vanished, before reappearing a bit further away.  They started heading towards us and one of the cubs got out of the water before rejoining it’s mother and sibling…and they came closer still.  Suddenly they were out of the water in front of us, following each other in and out of gaps between the rocks and calling noisily.  It was hard to imagine how this encounter could be any more spectacular…then one cub suddenly appeared from behind a rock and ran straight towards us!  It was probably only 3 metres away when it vanished in the rocks and we could hear it having an altercation with the others.  They headed off before quickly heading back in our direction and by the time they all vanished into a gap in the rocks on the opposite side of the water, carrying a large fish, we’d been watching them for nearly two and a half hours and dusk was starting to exert it’s grip as the Sun sank behind dark clouds away to the southwest.

I’m not often lost for words…

Here are the three Otters when I was photographing them last week 🙂

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Ice, ice baby; Otter mini-Safari 20/01/18

by on Jan.24, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Judy and Gary, Jess and Jarrod, and Ben from Whitley Bay, ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for possibly the first time that a NEWT mini-Safari has been a birthday present for a 6-year old.  No ordinary 6-year old though…a 6-year old who wants to be a marine biologist and watches Blue Planet when he should be doing his homework 😉

It was cold, with most footpaths and tracks still covered in either snow or ice, but that did allow us to study some Rabbit tracks and think about how they’re formed.  A thin layer of ice on the river had left Goldeneye, Cormorant and Little Grebe close to the margins or picking their way through the maze of small gaps of clear water and a rabbit was on the bank near the water’s edge.

As dusk took hold the Tufted Ducks and Coots were forming an increasingly dense flock…as the water around them froze, leaving an ever-decreasing circle at it’s centre.  Skeins of Pink-footed  Greylag and Canada Geese were all heard before they were seen, as the calls of Mallard, Wigeon and Teal resonated through the cold air and a Grey Heron stalked through the icy shallows.  Time to head back to the warmth of the car, and the bright lights of Whitley Bay 🙂

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Chilly; Otter mini-Safari 09/01/17

by on Jan.10, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Cold and breezy has been a recurring theme over the last couple of months, and when I arrived at Church Point to collect Andrea and Ian ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters a stiff breeze had whipped the sea into a frothy white mass and was biting at all of the layers I’d donned…

I’d got two sites in mind for the afternoon and the first one had a very obvious sign of the presence of Otters; Goldeneye, Mallard, Coot and Little Grebe were everywhere – except in the lee of the reedbed that would have sheltered them from the wind.  Mute Swans were staring at the reeds, but whatever was in there remained hidden as the wind whistled around the reeds and us.  Lapwings had flushed and were being tossed on the breeze like leaves as we headed to our second site.  Coot, Canada Goose, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Gadwall were all feeding or roosting as the biting wind dictated that most wildlife just kept their heads down.  It won’t be too long until the spring.

Our clients have a wide range of wildlife (and other) interests, but yesterday was the first time that we’ve ever had anyone on one of our trips who has an obsession with sloths.  So today I’m watching ‘Meet the Sloths’ on YouTube 🙂

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Ten years on…

by on Jan.04, 2018, under Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland Coast

Ten years ago we had our first Safari Day with clients and back then we didn’t have a blog (that was something we only added to our website in June of that year) so here’s a short trip report from my memory…

4th January 2008 was a cold, gloomy day as we headed to the North Northumberland coast.  We’d had a minor setback in that the council hadn’t got their heads around how to license a vehicle that was going to be used to carry paying clients but was clearly neither a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle – so our insurers wouldn’t let us use it for it’s intended purpose.  That’s how I found myself as navigator and wildlife guide, but in our clients’ car instead of in the NEWT Landrover.  When Karen booked the day for herself, Paul and Ash a few weeks earlier, there was one particular target species – Roe Deer.  I’d got 2 or 3 sites in mind that should produce sightings of deer, and we did eventually track down a small group as they grazed in a coastal field 🙂  Early January doesn’t have a lot of daylight and in the gloom of dusk we watched a Harbour Porpoise in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle as a lone surfer demonstrated that there are far crazier things to do on the Northumberland coast in the middle of the winter than search for wildlife 😉

Over the following weeks the calls from journalists and radio presenters started to come; “Wildlife Safaris in Northumberland?” “Wildlife Safaris in southeast Northumberland?” “Is this really what you’re doing?”  “Who would want to come to Northumberland for a Wildlife Safari?  This isn’t Africa.”

Along with skepticism from local media, there was the harsh assessment by a local tourism marketing expert – “You’ll never make it work.  There simply isn’t the market to support a year-round wildlife guiding business in Northumberland. You might survive a couple of years.”

Ten years on and we’re still here, still growing, still developing – we’ve been an active member of the Birdwatching Northumberland/Wild Northumberland consortia, promoting our beautiful county as a nature-based tourism destination, we’ve delivered press/media trips ranging from stargazing on Holy Island to a week identifying potential filming locations along Hadrian’s Wall with a Belgian TV presenter and producer,  we’ve grown our pelagic trip programme from 2-3 sailings each year to 19-20, led a marine conservation project that became the first to identify the key feeding and calving areas for White-beaked Dolphins off the Northumberland coast, supported the process that’s designating Marine Conservation Zones in the North Sea and never stopped looking for new wildlife locations around our stunning county  🙂

Some huge thank yous are due here: Iain Scott, Karen Davies, Keith Raine and the Go Wanbeck project for all of the support pre-NEWT and in the very early days when we were on an occasionally terrifying learning curve, all of the partners in Birdwatching Northumberland/Wild Northumberland, all of the other businesses who we’ve worked with over the last ten years, and to all of our clients – you’re just as important a part of the experience as the wildlife, and your love and enthusiasm for Northumberland and its wildlife keeps us continually motivated to deliver a more engaging experience.

Here’s to the next ten years of sharing our passion for Northumberland’s wildlife with clients on NEWT trips 🙂

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Common Eider; NEWT’s photo of the day 01/01/18

by on Jan.01, 2018, under Photography

2018 started with some very obliging photogenic Common Eiders [Somateria mollissima] along the River Coquet. Common Eider, Somateria mollissima, Northumberland, bird photography, bird photography courses, wildlife photography, wildlife photography courses, wildlife photography tuition, bird photography tuition

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