Archive for August, 2018

Heading offshore; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 14/08/18

by on Aug.15, 2018, under North Sea

Yesterday was the first of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings for this year and it started well with two Harbour Porpoises at the mouth of the Tyne, then another two a couple of miles further north.  As Gannets soared by, Fulmars circled us and Kittiwakes and Lesser Black-backed Gulls tagged along in our wake, two White-beaked Dolphins put in a brief appearance and the swell started to build.  By mid-afternoon we’d got heavy rain and then another 5 dolphins spent a couple of minutes bow-riding 🙂

Our August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd 10hr sailings each have two places still available so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

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Waiting for the weather; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 13/08/18

by on Aug.15, 2018, under Druridge Bay

With a fairly awful weather forecast for Sunday, we’d rescheduled Linda and Peter’s day with NEWT around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for Monday, where the forecast suggested it would rain until lunchtime and then improve after that…

Pre-lunch it was indeed lovely weather for ducks and Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Tufted Duck all provided slightly more of an ID challenge than usual with the drakes now in eclipse plumage.  Hundreds of Greylag Geese were roosting as an assortment of waders fed around them; Avocet, Lapwing, Dunlin, elegant Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Knot, Curlew, Common Redshank and a Greenshank that heralded it’s arrival with a strident “tyeu tyeu tyeu”.  Water Rails were nervously dashing in and out of the reed edge as Moorhens fed more boldly away from the edge, Coots demonstrated that they have none of the nervousness of their relatives and Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows enjoyed a feast of flying insects in the warm, humid air..  Lunch overlooking the North Sea brought Gannets and Fulmars soaring effortlessly over the water.  Walking along a narrow hedge-lined track a Sparrowhawk burst through the bushes, carrying a hapless bird as Tree Sparrows delivered a noisy lament for the fallen.

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A grand finale; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 10/08/18

by on Aug.13, 2018, under North Sea

Friday was our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2018 and so far we’d managed to run 12 out of 13 pelagics (with one cancelled due to poor weather conditions), with those 12 producing Bottlenose Dolphin on 2 trips and White-beaked Dolphin on 6.  Allan had been out with the boat during the day and, incredibly, they’d been followed back in to the river by a group of White-beaked Dolphins who’d made it as far as the first navigation buoy before turning and heading back to sea 🙂

We checked towards Whitburn first in case they were still hanging around nearby but there was no sign of them so we turned north and followed our usual search pattern.  This year we’ve been gathering effort data for the North East Cetacean Project/MARINElife on all of our pelagics so I’m usually in the wheelhouse and carrying out 180 degree scans ahead of the boat and as we passed St Mary’s Island and some impressive storms over Northumberland I spotted a distant fin.  Soon there were 12 White-beaked Dolphins feeding around us in small groups as the sky darkened and the first drops of rain began to patter against binoculars and cameras.

Our evening pelagics may be over for another year but our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings start tomorrow, with a trip that’s been sold out for a while, and we’ve got a couple of spaces available on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so get in touch with us today on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all taken!

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Dolphins in the dark; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 08/08/18

by on Aug.10, 2018, under North Sea

Wednesday was our penultimate 4hr evening pelagic for this year, and after a few splashes that we couldn’t pin down to anything specific we were heading back south as the sun dipped below the horizon and White-beaked Dolphins appeared 🙂  Light levels were challenging, and didn’t help with achieving the sort of exposure times necessary for fast moving dolphins bow-riding so video proved to be much better and you can see a few minutes by clicking here 🙂

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NEWT’s Guide to Bottlenose Dolphins in Northumberland

by on Aug.06, 2018, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea

A lot of our clients are very familiar with Northumberland’s marine wildlife so the question “Where have these Bottlenose Dolphins come from? I can’t remember them being here until the last few years.” is a regular one…

Until 2012 Bottlenose Dolphin was a rare animal in Northumberland waters and when I was researching/writing the cetacean species accounts for ‘Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles of the North East’ there had only been 11 sightings of 10 or more animals since the first Northumberland record in 1966.

21st October 2012 was the day that everything began to change, with a loose group of ~150 dolphins moving down the coast from Berwick to Newbiggin before vanishing. Small groups broke away and took a liking to Holy Island and Bamburgh, with the group off Bamburgh hanging around through the winter and riding the waves alongside human surfers!

With small groups becoming regular from 2013 we were involved in trying to identify individual animals from photographs by comparing them to the excellent photo-identification catalogue developed by Aberdeen University. That’s when we noticed an interesting pattern – the animals we were seeing were mainly females that were already adults when they were photographed in the Moray Firth in the late 1980’s and had gradually departed the Moray Firth for a life further down the east coast of Scotland around the Firth and the Tay. In the case of the most distinctive dolphin we’ve seen, #116 ‘Runny Paint’ – the dolphin with the extraordinary white stripe along the base of her dorsal fin on the right hand side and four dashes on the left hand side – she’d left Moray in 2001. The ‘proto-colonisation’ of Northumberland seems to have been led by some elderly ladies

Over the last few years there have been increasing sightings of the dolphins, which now seem to have an extended home range, primarily from the Tay to the Wear but extending as far as Moray and the Yorkshire coast, and it seems likely that there are now calves that have been born in English waters. We don’t know how many dolphins are involved in total, with observer estimates often varying wildly even for a single group, but somewhere between 50-150 is probably in the right ballpark

We’ve seen them on land-based trips, boat trips to the Farne Islands and, of course, on our regular pelagic trips off the Northumberland coast and there’s no doubt that they’re a spectacular addition to Northumberland’s marine fauna but that might not be good news for some of our other cetaceans…

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Bottlenose Dolphins spent over an hour playing around the boat on our 4hr evening pelagic off Whitley Bay and St Mary's Island on 29/06/18

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More dolphins and another stunning sunset :-) NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 03/08/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under North Sea

Friday evening and I was (vaguely) back in action.  Three days in hospital had left me drained, but with the sea forecast to be flat calm I couldn’t think of a better way to continue my recovery than by spending a few hours out on the North Sea

Broken cloud hinted at a good sunset towards the end of the evening, but as we sailed north attention was focused on wherever gulls and Gannets were congregating…and diligent scanning brought a small group of White-beaked Dolphins feeding quietly 🙂  They only had a very brief look at the boat before returning to feeding so we gave them some space and then continued on our way north.  The journey back towards the Tyne brought the expected sunset, and it really was a good one 🙂

Weather permitting, we’ve got our final two evening trips this week, and then next Tuesday is the first of this year’s 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings.  Give us a call on 01670 827465, email enquiries@newtltd.co.uk or just click on available dates (August 29th, September 15th, September 22nd) on our online calendar to book your place before they’re all filled.

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Posting by proxy; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 01/08/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under North Sea

Friday 27th was the first of our 4hr evening pelagics this year to fall victim to the weather, so it was great to see a much better forecast for the start of August…unfortunately I found myself having an unexpected few days in hospital so Steve and Paul organised our clients at the start of the trip and acted as onboard guides 🙂

White-beaked Dolphins put in an appearance off North Blyth and then in the mouth of the Tyne on a dark wet evening, and I was getting notifications about the sightings while laid in a hospital bed 🙂

We’ve still got a few places available on our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic sailings on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

Here are a few images of White-beaked Dolphins on sailings over the last few years…

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A Storm of Puffins; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/07/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay

Wouldn’t that be a great title for the next book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (Game of Thrones)?  I’ve met a few people over the last 10 years who expected Puffins to be much larger than they actually are, so the idea of unleashing a horde of them on your enemies could have some merit…

Alex, Jess and Tom had booked two days out with us – Saturday and Sunday – both of which had a forecast that couldn’t have been clearer that we wouldn’t be able to sail either around Coquet Island or to the Farnes so we’d hastily rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday, with ‘gentler’ sea conditions forecast.  I collected them from Embleton and we headed south down the coast to our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, pausing at Cullernose Point to have a look at the Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Late July is a great time to watch waders on the Northumberland coast and Avocet, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all impressive, but outshone by a stunning summer-plumaged Grey Plover.  A Little Owl was perched quietly by a farm building and our next port of call brought a Little Gull and an Otter that was feeding next to some apparently unconcerned Mute Swans and some very concerned Tufted Ducks 🙂

Then it was time to head off for a sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises.  The stiff southeasterly and a bit of swell meant a very steady crossing was in order.  As we sailed along the Coquet a raft of 27 Goosanders were near the Warkworth side of the river and as we made the short sea crossing Puffins, Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns and Grey Seals began to appear.  Ghostly pale Roseate Terns were sitting on the nesting terraces that have been constructed for them and one or two were picked out as they flew by as a veritable storm of Puffins whirled around above the island.

Heading back home at the end of the afternoon I was looking forward to an evening at the Battlesteads Observatory and then Tuesday’s trip to Inner Farne.  I was starting to feel a bit peaky though, but that’s a whole other story…

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