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Autumn arrivals; Otter Safari 04/10/17

by on Oct.06, 2017, under Druridge Bay

There’s something special about birds with ‘Little’ in their name, unsurprisingly quite little and I can’t think of a single one that isn’t a delight to watch…

I collected Calvin from Church Point ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters, and the first spots of drizzle were in the air on a stiff westerly breeze.  We could soon hear the distinctive yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese high overhead, and there was an almost continuous passage of these winter visitors from the north for around 7 hours no matter where we were on the coast.  A party of Whooper Swans dropped in, bathing and calling before probably continuing south (we came across what looked to be the same birds a few miles further down the coast later in the afternoon) as a juvenile Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbeds, hanging in the breeze.  A very obliging Little Owl was preening itself on top of a stone wall, Goosanders sailed menacingly out from bankside vegetation, four Little Grebes were plundering a shoal of small fish and the passage of geese continued.  A nice wader roost included Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin and three really smart looking Little Stints before another juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted by, scattering them all and revealing the presence of two Curlew Sandpipers which quickly vanished away to the north in light drizzle.  The most surprising bird of the afternoon was a Green Woodpecker that flew across the track at Druridge Pools – checking with Ipin, it turns out that there are only two previous records for the site!

As dusk approached the forecast drizzle arrived and, as geese continued to pass high overhead, Grey Herons and Little Egrets flew to roost in the gloom.

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Waifs, strays and the gloom of dusk; Druridge Bay Safari 26/09/17

by on Sep.27, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Richard and Liz from Whitley Bay and we headed north along the coast for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

After a few breezy weeks, we’d got something different to contend with; dense, patchy fog all along the coast.  I don’t mind that too much though, it’s usually manageable, and the birdwatching can be exciting when you don’t know what’s lurking in the mist 🙂  Brambling and Tree Sparrow called overhead as we had lunch, and Redshank, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover were on the beach below us.  A Little Owl, only revealing it’s presence as it flew quickly out of sight, and a much more obliging Little Owl a couple of minutes later were a great find early in the trip.  Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Shoveler were sleeping and feeding and, particularly in the case of one female Mallard, being very vocal as Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants hunted with elegant menace, a Little Grebe demonstrated a remarkable aptitude for catching small fish and Lapwings were battling the breeze before settling to roost with Starlings and the disembodied voices of Curlew carried through the mist.

Given the cold foggy conditions, moths and butterflies were a surprise.  First a dozen or so Nettle-tap Moths, then the first of several Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood.  A Sparrowhawk was pursuing a small bird (possibly a Chaffinch) and passed just a few metres in front of the car windscreen in it’s pursuit and we set about one of the great joys of birdwatching on the Northumberland coast; wandering along a narrow track between Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder and Sycamore with the mist curling it’s cold tendrils around us.  Robins were ‘ticking’ from the bushes, and at least three were singing when they would be better of putting their effort into feeding.  Blackcaps were in the Elders and we tracked down our quarry, although it proved elusive before eventually offering confiding views.  First just a brief glimpse of a small warbler as it flitted between bushes, apparently settling in a Sycamore before vanishing again.  Then as we were looking where we thought it had gone it flew out from behind us and over our our heads, giving a remarkably loud ‘tsooeest’ call before diving back into cover.  Then it appeared at the top of a bush and just sat there, offering great views.  Yellow-browed Warbler is one of the real gems of east coast birding in the autumn and this little treasure eventually performed well for all of us.

With the mist making dusk even gloomier than usual, Grey Herons and a Little Egret flew by a noisy roost of ‘chacking’ Jackdaws as Soprano Pipistrelles hunted the leeward edge of a riverside tree and we listened to their calls with our bat detector before heading back towards the bright lights of Whitley Bay 🙂

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Darkness descending; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 20/09/17

by on Sep.21, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Ian and Julie from Hauxley and before we’d set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay things got off to a great start with Goldcrests and a Yellow-browed Warbler in the car park 🙂

Next up were two young Roe Deer, trotting along the edge of a field before stopping to watch us, and a Little Owl sitting on the end of the gutter of a cottage.  Waders occupied our attentions for the next hour and a large roosting flock of very vocal Lapwings were accompanied by plenty of Dunlin, a couple of Common Redshank and single Ruff, Curlew and Greenshank, as well as an elusive Common Snipe camouflaged in among reed stubble as Little Egrets squabbled over a prime feeding spot while practically glowing in late afternoon sunlight.  A Barn Owl flew by, carrying a Short-tailed Vole, before vanishing into a barn then reappearing only to be pestered by Jackdaws, Rooks and Carrion Crows.  With light levels falling, Starlings passed by in impressive flocks, but they’d decided to forego a prolonged murmurating display in favour of heading straight to roost in the reedbeds  out of the cold and wind.  With ducks in eclipse plumage it isn’t the best time of year to enjoy watching them but we could still identify Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Pintail in the fading light as Little and Great Crested Grebes alternated between sleeping and diving and Cormorants sat motionless as a Grey Heron flew over with heavy wingbeats.  As the light faded to the point where it was a struggle to see, the squealing of a Water Rail was followed soon after by a brief view of this strange little denizen of the reedbeds as it half-ran, half-flew across a gap in the reeds.

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Birds, birds, birds; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 12/09/17

by on Sep.13, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Peter and Melanie from Cramlington ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and apart from a stiff breeze the weather was just about ideal…

Some impressively dense flocks of Swallows and Sand Martins were gorging themselves on flying insects, Little Egrets were stalking through the shallows with the feathers ruffled by the breeze, Goldfinches were foraging among the dried out heads of knapweed, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Dunlin were wading in the shallows and Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Mallard were all far less impressive than they’ll be in a few months time with all of the drakes currently in eclipse plumage.  Grey Herons were sitting motionless along the edges of reedbeds and in among clumps of rush, Starlings and Lapwings were swirling on the breeze, Cormorants were submerging repeatedly in search of food, Little and Great Crested Grebes were sleeping in the afternoon sunshine and there were a few real quality birds throughout the afternoon. A Black-necked Grebe led us a merry dance as it made it’s way quickly across, and most of the time underneath, the water and a Little Owl was incredibly obliging, first perched on a feed trough, then a stone wall and finally right on the apex of a cottage roof.  Marsh Harrier and a typically zippy Merlin rounded out the afternoon and we finished before the rain arrived 🙂

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Baby steps; NEWT’s Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic 02/09/17

by on Sep.11, 2017, under North Sea

Our third 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic‘ for this year brought a remarkable encounter with White-beaked Dolphins, although not out in the Farne Deeps where sightings were brief.  Just a few miles from the NEWT office, as the crow flies, we found three dolphins, including a mother and a neonate which she was helping to the surface when it was time for it to breathe!

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out on the North Sea on 02/09/17 featured a mother and calf White-beaked Dolphin and a fascinating insight into their behaviour

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out on the North Sea on 02/09/17 featured a mother and calf White-beaked Dolphin and a fascinating insight into their behaviour

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out on the North Sea on 02/09/17 featured a mother and calf White-beaked Dolphin and a fascinating insight into their behaviour

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out on the North Sea on 02/09/17 featured a mother and calf White-beaked Dolphin and a fascinating insight into their behaviour

Our 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out on the North Sea on 02/09/17 featured a mother and calf White-beaked Dolphin and a fascinating insight into their behaviour

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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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