Call of the wild; Druridge Bay 17/09/2013

by on Sep.18, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to describe my favourite wildlife experience…and how many times I’ve said that I don’t think it’s possible to narrow it down to just one choice.  There are a few though, that would make a great ‘top five’ (or ‘top ten”)…

I collected David and Sue from their holiday accommodation and we headed north along the Northumberland coast.  The plan for the afternoon was to search some of our regular Otter sites, and have a good look at the other wildlife that was around.  There’s really only one weather condition that I’m not keen on for wildlife-watching, and unfortunately we got it yesterday afternoon.  A stiff wind is not ideal for finding wildlife; insects are likely to stay deep in vegetation and mammals and birds are more likely to find somewhere sheltered and have a nap than subject themselves to the ravages of the wind.  One bird that seemed to be everywhere we went was Kestrel; we must have seen seven or eight of these small falcons hovering in the breeze during the afternoon.

As we watched Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Mute Swan a rarely seen denizen of our reedbeds put in a brief appearance.  In just a few seconds the Water Rail ran out of one reedbed, quickly crossed a patch of open mud and vanished into the depths of another reedbed.  Wader passage was still evident, with Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Lapwing, Curlew and Dunlin.  One bizarrely comical moment was caused by a Starling flying into the middle of the wader flock to bathe.  We can only guess at what the roosting waders thought it was, but it caused a ripple of alarm that could be traced through the flock as it flew in.

Then, drifting on the breeze, a high-pitched yapping marked the beginning of one of my favourite wildlife experiences.  First a flock of Pink-footed Geese came in low and splashed down on the water.  Soon after a flock of Greylag Geese arrived, then more Pink-feet, a large flock of Canada Geese and four very endearing, but obviously escaped, Bar-headed Geese.  More geese followed, and then a flock of Pink-feet, heralded by those yapping calls, could be seen as tiny specks high against the clouds overhead.  These birds were surely just arriving from far-flung parts, to join the wintering goose flocks around Druridge Bay.  Suddenly birds took to the air; Dunlin first, then Lapwing, followed by ducks and then geese.  Too much panic, surely, for an Otter?  What the birds had seen, and we eventually spotted as it drifted high against the clouds above us, was a Marsh Harrier.  Making it’s way steadily north west, it eventually drifted out of sight and the birds settled back down.

As dusk approached , the breeze finally relented and, with the backdrop of a stunning sunset, both Noctule and pipistrelle bats flew by.  The cause of a sudden panic amongst the assembled ducks was caused remained unseen, and as the light faded to the point where it was time to head back, we could still hear the geese – over a mile away from where we were.  The dark of the night brought one last wildlife experience though, as a Badger trotted along the road just in front of the car.

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