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North East Marine Wildlife Festival Pelagic 10/06/2012

by on Jun.13, 2012, under Farne Islands, North Sea, Northumberland

Our Marine Wildlife Festival pelagic trip should have taken place on Saturday, but the poor weather led to several ‘phone calls and e-mails, and a re-scheduling to Sunday instead.

We lost a few participants who couldn’t make the rearranged date, but we gathered a few extras on Saturday/Sunday too, and arrived at Seahouses Harbour full of enthusiasm for our first pelagic trip this year.  In the extremely capable hands of John, onboard Glad Tidings V, we headed across to the Farne Islands and the Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Shags, terns, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Grey Seals.  After a journey through the islands we sailed south and then east before heading back north along the coast.   Harbour Porpoises provided the cetacean interest, lots of Gannets were soaring majestically by and three Manx Shearwaters flew north.  The number of positive comments by text, e-mail and ‘phone, since Sunday evening has been great and it’s always good to see how much people appreciate the marine environment of the North Sea, even if it sometimes seems impenetrable.

Bird of the day though, was the one that was only seen by a couple of very lucky participants.  We were a couple of miles south of the islands when someone asked the question “Martin, which Storm-petrel is it likely to be that we saw back there?”…

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A swell weekend for a survey or two…or three

by on Feb.22, 2010, under Birdwatching, Harwood, Photography, Surveys

Saturday was planned as the next survey day for NEWT/Marinelife…and then in the early hours of Saturday morning the sea began to turn ‘a bit lumpy’ (c)Allan Skinner.  With over 3m of swell smashing it’s way through the harbour mouth at Amble there was no chance of getting the boat out.

With all three NEWT guides having the day together we headed inland to finish our BTO Winter Atlas timed tetrad visits in Harwood.  Ironically, given the wintry weather on the coast, there was less snow than on our last visit.  Birds were few and far between and, after what turned out to be a strenuous 4 miles over rough ground, as we headed back towards home the late afternoon light looked just about perfect for a visit to Nursery Park to photograph the Waxwings.  The light was as good as we could have wished for and the 20 or so birds that were still present were much more obliging than they had been in previous days.

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

On Sunday we separated out to do different surveys; Sarah covered the WeBS count stretch from Cresswell-East Chevington and back (taking her total distance walked over the weekend to nearly 12 miles) and Martin and Andy set out from Amble along with Tim Sexton, on calmer seas, to start surveying the Farne Deeps.  Remarkably, all three surveyors on this trip used to live within 100m of each other in the late 90’s, on Percy Park in Tynemouth.  Tim was on the famous Wilson’s Petrel pelagic back in 2002, and Andy only missed that one as he was delayed while heading back from Mull.  The journey out to the deeps was unremarkable, other than for the number of Gannets that we found, and a lone Common Seal was an interesting find.  Fulmar and Guillemot were also seen throughout most of the survey, and a small number of Puffins were around as well.  As we headed east on the first transect we could see some very dark clouds massing to the south.  By the time we’d completed the 13 mile run and turned to follow the next transect west the clouds had caught up with us.  Sea state 5 in a near white-out was one hell of an experience, but we continued to keep our attention on the sea, still surveying in the hope that the weather would soon pass by.  It did, and we completed that transect before heading north and then east along the next survey line.  Ten miles along the transect we were hit by another winter storm, this time coming from the east.  With the turning tide making our skipper’s task increasingly difficult, we made a note of the position we’d reached and headed back to the warmth and comfort of the shore.  Two days, three NEWT guides, four surveyors.

Now I’ve got a couple of days of office stuff to catch up on; press trip proposals to write, images to process for articles I’ve written and we’re already well into planning for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the British Bird Fair.  I reckon I’ll be able to fit in some time for photography though 🙂

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Like a millpond

by on Nov.15, 2008, under Farne Islands, Grey Seal, Holy Island, Northumberland

Today featured two very unusual occurences; a mid-November boat trip and all three of the Northern Experience guides on one trip together.

Watching the weather forecasts for the last few days meant that we were confident the trip would go ahead; and our confidence wasn’t misplaced. Twelve enthusiastic participants gathered at Seahouses harbour at 10am and we boarded the Glad Tidings VI. Heading across to the Farne Islands, the sea was calm and blue, visibility was excellent for many, many miles around and it was just cold enough to make it a proper pelagic experience. Shags and Eiders were around all of the islands but the main entertainment was provided by the Grey Seals and the many pups that they have produced so far this year; little white bundles of fur, marked with bright orange, yellow or red so that the wardens know if a pup has already been counted in their regular surveys of the breeding colony. A seal falling off a jetty in to the sea had several of our participants laughing so hard it’s a wonder they didn’t join it for an impromptu dip. The photographers on board had frame-filling opportunities to fill the memory cards in their cameras.

Searching around the Gun Rock and the Megstone failed to produce any sightings of Black Guillemot (a rare winter visitor in Northumberland) but a majestic Great Northern Diver flew close past the bow of the boat as we headed back towards Seahouses. Back on dry land we arranged an otter safari for tomorrow with two of today’s participants and answered a few queries about our next boat trip; an exclusive winter cruise taking in the Farne Islands Grey Seal colony, Holy Island and the seaduck of the Skate Road.

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