Northumberland

Bespoke Otter Safari 07/02/20

by on Feb.10, 2020, under Druridge Bay

As I collected Amy and James from Warkworth, ahead of a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the forecast for the morning was good, but there was a chance it would start to deteriorate during the afternoon…

With only a gentle breeze every area of water we looked at was close to mirror-calm. Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese were all staying low on the water as Grey Herons sat in their usual pose of misery and Water Rails began squealing from the reeds. Little Grebes were diving, Cormorants were drying their wings with heraldic majesty and Lapwings flushed in panic, caught on the now stiffening breeze like windblown leaves. Curlews flew off, their eerie cries carrying over the calm water and a presumably confused Fulmar was soaring around over a coastal pool before heading back out to sea. More Fulmars accompanied our lunch stop, arcing along the clifftop with an uncharacteristically calm North Sea behind them. With the breeze picking up there was an obvious lack of passerines. Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons were sitting in bare trees, Little Grebes were patrolling close to overhanging vegetation where Moorhens were dabbling and as the Sun was setting in the west, remarkably orange, 3 Roe Deer were chasing around a steep field overlooking the river.

Another great winter’s day with lovely clients πŸ™‚

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Vital signs; Otter mini-Safari 12/01/20

by on Jan.15, 2020, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

A dual purpose title for today’s blog…

I collected Fara, Andrew and Nicola & Graeme and Jen from Newbiggin and we set off to explore Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland on a Sunday morning that was thankfully lacking the stiff breeze that has characterised the winter so far…

Water that was almost mirror-calm was patterned with the concentric circles of diving Little Grebes, Goldeneye and Cormorants as a Grey Heron stood motionless, uncharacteristically obliging, and a Little Egret darted at small fish in the shallows before flying upstream, followed by noisy Oystercatchers, into what little breeze there was.

En route to our second site I thought it would be worth stopping to check for Little Owls, and one was sitting quietly sunning itself. If you’ve never seen one of these elfin sprites, here’s one of Sarah’s photographs from a few years ago πŸ™‚

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The temperature was starting to drop and a breeze was becoming noticeable as we settled to scan over a pool and reedbeds. Suddenly the Lapwings all took flight, forming a tight wheeling flock tossed on the breeze as Mallards turned and stared at one area of reeds. After a couple of minutes the Lapwings were back down, as the discordant calls of Canada and Greylag Geese carried on the breeze and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Wigeon were all dabbling contentedly again. The calm didn’t last long though and the Lapwings were soon scattering in panic again. The third time they flushed the Mallards were once again looking at the same reedbed, this time with three Little Grebes joining with the intense study of a very localised area. Everything we’d look for when searching for Otters was happening right in front of us…the only thing missing was an appearance by our quarry itself. Here’s an Otter from January 2015, sporting a very fetching boa of seaweed πŸ™‚

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Lovely clients, lots of photography discussion, great weather and I brought home an owl pellet to dissect πŸ™‚

and ‘Vital signs’ as a blog title? It’s a track on Rush’s album Moving Pictures and our tribute to Neil Peart who sadly passed away last week.

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Halcyon days; Otter Safari 19/12/19

by on Dec.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

After a couple of weeks where we didn’t have any scheduled trips it was a nice change of scenery to have a day out around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and I collected Kev from Woodhorn as the rain started to fall…

Mid-morning produced a trio of great birds. A 1st winter Glaucous Gull had just settled back into a roost when Kev spotted a Kingfisher perched in front of us as a stunning drake Pintail up-ended just beyond it. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe all scattered in panic as a young male Marsh Harrier drifted over the pool and along the reeds where Water Rails were squealing.

Our picnic spot produced a Fulmar arcing over the sea in sight of cliff-edge nest sites and Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone and Oystercatcher all flew from rocks and along the shore.

The afternoon brought more Goldeneye and Little Grebe, another Kingfisher in the deepening gloom of dusk, noisy flocks of Pink-footed, Greylag and Canada Geese and a remarkable flock of possibly as many as 50 Greenfinches as Cormorants perched menacingly on fallen trees and Grey Herons stalked through the shallows.

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Mud, mud, glorious mud; Lindisfarne Safari 21/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Lindisfarne

Yesterday was Colin and Charlotte’s second day out with NEWT this week and this time we were heading north to Lindisfarne

A quick look at Monk’s House Pool on the way up the coast revealed the continued presence of the Long-tailed Duck that we saw with Sue earlier this month and then we headed to the causeway. It was still impassable but that was intentional because it put us in position to watch how quickly the birds exploit the newly revealed food supply as the tide falls. Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Shelduck, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Curlew, Turnstone, Redshank, Knot, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Egret were all feeding or flying past us and a Merlin flew over the causeway as we drove towards the island. The eerie moaning of Grey Seals carried on a southerly breeze and we set off to walk around the main body of the island. A Sparrowhawk flew low through the dunes, a male Stonechat was in rank pathside vegetation and Roe Deer were watching us warily from the dune tops before bounding away and, as the light faded, Starlings began streaming across the saltmarsh and dunes towards their nighttime roost.

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Waxing and Murmuring; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Colin and Charlotte for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, but sadly not Tony who’d had a fall earlier in the week and wasn’t able to be on the trip with us…

On calm water Little Grebes were constantly diving as a Kingfisher flew by and settled in a bush overhanging the river and a flock of Goldeneye were a reminder that we’re really into the realm of wintering birds now. A mixed flock of Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest also contained a nice surprise in the form of a Treecreeper. We were in the right area for Waxwings too, with sightings in a few places nearby over the last few days. No sign of the Bohemian beauties but we bumped into Hector who was also searching for them. We headed to our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea and had just stopped the car when Hector ‘phoned. The answer to the question “Would you like your lunch, or to see some Waxwings first”? was answered with a resounding “Waxwings!” from Colin and Charlotte and a few minutes later we were watching 13 of them beside a main road in Ashington πŸ™‚

After lunch we found ourselves watching a mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew and Common Snipe as skeins of Pink-footed Geese yapped overhead. With the Sun dipping towards the horizon, although it doesn’t really get that high above it at this time of year, Roe Deer were exploring rushy fields and poolside reedbeds, the trumpeting calls of a family of Whooper Swans heralded their arrival at a nighttime roost site and then there were the Starlings. Thousands and thousands, swirling in front of us, funneling down into the reeds, panicking as a Sparrowhawk flew by, keeping up a constant chatter like a myriad of leaves rusting in the breeze and then, as the light faded towards unmanageable, streaming out of the reeds in wave after wave of black towards an alternative roost.

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Wind-blasted; Bespoke Lindisfarne Safari 05/11/19

by on Nov.06, 2019, under Lindisfarne

I collected Sue for her 10th NEWT safari and we headed north in weather that didn’t seem to be quite certain of what it was…

Along the causeway, with the tide only just receding from the road, Curlews, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were probing the freshly exposed mud as Pale-Bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon, Mute Swans and Shelducks were grazing along the water’s edge and Little Egrets were dotted around the saltmarsh.

Soon we had one of the best sights you can hope for when arriving on the island…Andy M on the main road staring intently into a tree πŸ™‚ Among a scattering of Goldcrests a Yellow-browed Warbler was exploring the canopy and we watched it for a few minutes before exploring around the village. With Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers just offshore, as dense wader flocks wheeled over the mudflats, Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and an unseasonal Spotted Flycatcher were searching for food as a stiff northerly brought repeated stinging rain showers. What we thought was a tree covered in dead brown leaves suddenly burst into life as a dense flock of Starlings left the bare branches behind and a Kestrel flushed from the hedge top before hanging motionless in the wind.

As we watched the transition from a rapidly falling tide to slack water, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and a lone Purple Sandpiper were probing through piles of seaweed with impressively breaking surf just a few feet beyond them, Cormorants and Shags battled into the wind, Roe Deer were on the sheltered side of a hedge and an unexpected Long-tailed Duck on a freshwater pool was followed as dusk approached by a Fox trotting across the road in front of us before slowly making it’s way along a field margin.

Another great day out with Sue. See you next year!

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Murmuration; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 21/10/19

by on Oct.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Late October and big flocks of stuff are starting to feature more and more prominently…

I collected Caroline, Ian and Ted from Embleton and we headed down the coast towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Little Grebes were diving in calm water as Cormorants sat on long dead branches and a Kingfisher raced past as Little Egrets and Grey Herons demonstrated very different approaches to hunting; debonair darting and dashing and steady, stealthy menace.

A Common Buzzard was perched on a fence as flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye and Gadwall drifted quietly on the water and Lapwings flushed in alarm as Curlews left a nearby field, their eerie cries cutting through the cool air.

As dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rails emanated from the reedbeds a Starling murmuration grew into a swirling cloud against the darkening sky. Twisting one way then another and then splitting, rejoining and tightening as a Marsh Harrier chanced it’s luck in a desparate attempt to grab a bird from the writhing amorphous mass while high overhead the high yapping calls of skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese continued as daylight faded to black and we made our way back north.

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Lindisfarne mini-Safari 02/10/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Lindisfarne

With a biting northwesterly tearing across the causeway I arrived on Holy Island and met up with Ollie, Neil, Dawn and Sarah for a few hours birding around the island. I was really looking forward to this trip because I’ve known Ollie since we first started NEWT as he has his own outdoor activity business

Around the village House Sparrows were abundant, Pied Wagtails were in the churchyard, Blackbirds were grubbing around in tangled vegetation, Red Admirals added a touch of the exotic and around the edge of the harbour Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew and Ringed Plover were busily feeding as the eerie moaning wails of Grey Seals carried on the stiffening breeze. Along the eastern shore Grey Herons and a Little Egret were in the rock pools, sheltered from an angry looking sea, and we headed back along the Crooked Lonnen to have lunch at the Post Office Cafe.

Our post-lunch walk along the Straight Lonnen, past hawthorns with Goldcrests in constant motion, fields with Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Roe Deer and a dry stone wall with a pair of Stonechats brought us eventually to the exposed wind-blasted north of the island with it’s strange stunted Viper’s Bugloss and a shoreline with more Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers and Dunlin on the beach and a couple of female Eiders and one pristine drake in the frothy foaming surf of the rising tide.

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Fishing; Otter Safari 22/09/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Ulf and Alison, Ian and Lainey and Leigh and Paul from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Little Egrets were darting at small fish in the shallows as Mute Swans and Canada Geese got out of the way of two paddle-boarders who were making their Sunday afternoon leisure activity look like awfully hard work πŸ˜‰ A Kingfisher flew by and settled briefly on a tangle of fallen branches before plunging into the river and reemerging and vanishing into denser vegetation on the river bank. A second Kingfisher perched on a post in front of us, Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing were roosting on exposed mud, a Harbour Porpoise was feeding just offshore as we had our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea and as dusk closed in quickly a Marsh Harrier flushed roosting Starlings from a reedbed, a murmuration developed, a Water Rail darted across the gap between reedbeds and the high yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese coming to roost continued beyond the point where it was too dark to see them against the steely grey sky.

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Finale; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 14/09/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea, White-beaked Dolphin

After two cancellations due to pretty awful conditions offshore, our final 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic for 2019 survived the weather and fittingly, given recent changes in cetacean distribution off our coast, was topped and tailed by Bottlenose Dolphins around the mouth of the Tyne with White-beaked Dolphins in the Farne Deeps sandwiched between the start and end of the day…

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