A hunch pays off

by on Dec.06, 2012, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Days out with a specific target in mind for our clients can be very good, or very frustrating and, as I drove across the snow and ice coated roads towards Elsdon to collect George, Tam, Ken and Kath, I had a good feeling about the day ahead.

One of NEWT’s all-time favourites was in our sights for the day;  Red Squirrel is becoming more and more difficult to see.  One of our most reliable sites over the last five years has seen the arrival of Grey Squirrels and a diminishing population of Reds, and that’s a pattern repeated in many places.

After a drive through snowy wastelands, the car was loaded with an arsenal of camera equipment and we headed towards southeast Northumberland.  I’d got two ‘new’ sites in mind and the first of these produced sightings of at least two Red Squirrels and a nice flock of Redwings, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes.  Good for viewing, not so good for photography with dense foliage on many of the trees and the squirrels in a position where they were heavily backlit.  I was confident that the second site I planned to visit would offer better photo opportunities…and it did.  In excellent light, we watched at least five Red Squirrels; camera shutters were firing at a machine-gun rate and George and Kath took over 500 shots between them.  I went back the next day and had a bit of luck myself…

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There was a degree of reluctance to leave the squirrels behind, but the light began to fade and we headed onto the coast in search of more wildlife.  Owls were high on the wishlist and two Short-eared Owls performed for the cameras just like this one from last year.

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A Common Snipe was unusually bold, feeding along the water’s edge well away from cover, Pink-footed Geese were grazing a nearby field, Whooper Swans whooped as they arrived to roost and a small murmuration of Starlings soon thought better of flying around in the bitter cold and quickly headed instead for the warmth of the roost.  Then it was time for us to head back in the dark through the frozen hinterland of Northumberland.

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