Northumberland

Shifting breeze; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 17/09/18

by on Sep.18, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was a Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari for Russell and Elena and I was glad it was happening before the forecast deterioration in the weather over the next few days.  I collected them from Rothbury and we headed towards the coast and an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, which turned into an enlightening discussion about photography, food, fly fishing and Sea Buckthorn…

Tufted Ducks, Mallards and a very smart Wigeon were all illuminated by some very nice light and, as we watched a Little Stint scurrying around between Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Spotted Redshank there was obviously some unease among the waders.  Canada Geese and a Cormorant were looking very alert and the Lapwings took flight before settling again.  Then the cause of all the agitation appeared and we watched the Otter on and off for around 90 minutes before it disappeared next to a reedbed 🙂  Little Egrets were roosting in riverside trees and there was another outbreak of consternation as Mallards all hurried off and a flock of Black-headed Gulls circled something swimming across the river.  It was long and sleek like an Otter, but there was something about the way it was holding its head at an angle that just didn’t seem right…then the Grey Squirrel got out of the water and ran towards the trees!

Our picnic spot overlooking a fairly calm North Sea brought Fulmars and Gannets, and a walk along a well vegetated track produced lots of bees, relatively docile in the cooling evening air, and a Red Admiral as well as plenty of Speckled Wood butterflies.  As dusk approached Swallows and House Martins were gorging themselves on a myriad of flying insects and there was more unrest among roosting birds.  First a sudden departure of Cormorants, then ducks scattered and an Otter appeared briefly before vanishing into the reeds next to a group of Mute Swans.  A female Marsh Harrier caused even more panic then, with Water Rails squealing all around us, a Sparrowhawk was harassed by Carrion Crows and Pink-footed Geese arrived in noisy yapping flocks against a darkening sky with Mars, Saturn and the Moon all bright away to the south there was another kerfuffle against the reeds and not one, not two, not three, but four Otters feeding in the shallows as the light levels dropped to ‘challenging’ 😉  Fade to black…

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Bow-riding; NEWT’s (pen)Ultimate North Sea pelagic 15/09/18

by on Sep.18, 2018, under North Sea

Saturday was our penultimate pelagic trip for 2018; another 10hr Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic out to the Farne Deeps in search of Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin.  We started our exploration of Northumberland’s offshore waters, as a partner in the North East Cetacean Project, in 2009 and we’ve been able to demonstrate some quite specific site fidelity by White-beaked Dolphins since 2010 so we always know where we’re heading once we’re out of the Tyne.  We can get distracted on the way though and while I was watching a distant flock of circling Gannets towards the shore I was sure I’d seen a whale lunge-feeding under them.  As we approached them they didn’t move away – lots were sitting on the sea and even more were circling and diving, and there were a few Fulmars and a Sooty Shearwater among them too.  Sure enough, a Minke Whale soon surfaced and came straight towards the boat!  Once it had done that very Minke thing of apparently vanishing without trace we resumed our original course and, right on cue, the White-beaked Dolphins appeared as expected 🙂  Some remarkable bow-riding included a group of 6 dolphins that appeared once we were making tracks back to the Tyne and stayed alongside us for nearly 5 miles!

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

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Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

Minke Whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla,Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis,White-beaked Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus albirostris,Northumberland,dolphin spotting, dolphin spotting Northumberland, dolphin spotting UK, dolphin spotting England, dolphin spotting North Sea, whale watching Northumberland, whale watching UK, whale watching England, whale watching North Sea

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We’ve got one final pelagic this year, another fully booked 10hr sailing this Saturday, but 2019’s dates are on our website calendar and starting to fill already 🙂

 

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Deluge; Otter Safari 06/09/18

by on Sep.07, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Our second Otter Safari in 2 days looked as thought it was unlikely to be blessed with the same good weather as Wednesday…

I collected Alison and then Amanda and David from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters.  When the Otters eluded us on Wednesday I’d seen enough at each site we checked to be confident that we’d find Otters this time, and thought that changing the order we visited each site would do the trick…and within a minute of arriving at our first site I’d picked a likely spot for an Otter – and there was one 🙂  In fact there were two, and they caused some consternation among Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Greylag Geese before vanishing.  Alison hadn’t managed to spot either of them through the ‘scope so I pointed it in the direction of a Water Rail and let everyone marvel at the odd-looking denizen of the reedbed while I scoured the entire pool trying to relocate the Otters.  Amanda beat me too it though, about ten minutes after we lost sight of the Otters one appeared right in front of us!  It slowly made it’s way across the pool, scattering Mute Swans, Little Grebes, Cormorants, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Canada Geese before finally vanishing into the dark depths of a distant reedbed.  All of this was going on with a noisy backdrop of Lapwings, Common Redshank and geese as Starlings swirled overhead and 3 Spotted Redshank, dashingly elegant, raced through the shallows.  We could see heavy rain away to the north, and the first few drops began to disturb the calm water.  Up to that point there hadn’t even been a hint of a breeze but that changed and suddenly the wind was very noticeable, as was the arrival of the heavy rain; torrential rain that flooded the roads along the coast and made observing anything quite difficult although three Spotted Redshank, looking remarkably like the same three from earlier in the afternoon dropped in – were they making their way south down the Northumberland coast the same way we were?  A remarkable 123 Mediterranean Gulls settled on the water as the rain intensified, and as we continued down the coast there were more in fields and along the shoreline.

Dusk began to creep up sooner than expected under a leaden grey sky with a remarkable fiery orange sunset on the western horizon as a Grey Heron caught an impressive fish in shallow water, a Kingfisher flew by, Little Egrets stood out in the deepening gloom and it was time to head back to Newbiggin.

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Early Autumn mist; Bespoke Otter Safari 05/09/18

by on Sep.06, 2018, under Druridge Bay

I collected David and Jean from Holystone in warm sunshine, ahead of an afternoon and evening around our favourite spots for Otters in Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Little Egrets were patrolling the shallows, darting at small fish, Redshanks were calling noisily and the hedgerows, with plump sweet blackberries, were playing host to lots of Speckled Wood butterfliesLong-tailed Tits were calling but stayed out of sight and a fisherman told us he’d seen 4 Otters on Monday.  With Otter activity this week at two other sites we were planning to visit it was looking promising…

A Merlin launched an extraordinary agile pursuit of a Sand Martin, as House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows gorged themselves on an impressive hatch of flying insects that had also attracted the attention of a Little Gull, delicate and no less agile than the Merlin.  Waders and wildfowl were present in big numbers on the coastal pools; Mallard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Wigeon, Canada Geese, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Curlew and Lapwing were all roosting or feeding and, as dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rail cut through the ethereal mist that was suddenly lifting from the water’s surface beneath a murmuration of Starlings preparing to spend a night in the reeds, Greylag Geese began to arrive. dozens and dozens of them noisily heralding their approach as they tumbled out of the sky to the shallow water below.  With Mars shining red in the sky away to the southeast, ripples of panic started spreading through the birds as they made a sharp exit from the two spots where I would have expected an Otter to appear…

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Having a whale of a time; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 29/08/18

by on Sep.03, 2018, under North Sea

Last Wednesday was our second 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate pelagic’ for this year and the sea was looking about as calm as we could have hoped for…

Our first White-beaked Dolphins appeared off Blyth but they weren’t in a mood for playing with the boat and were engaged in high speed pursuit of prey.  Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes were regular throughout the whole day and then circling flocks of Gannets took us to Minke Whales, more Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins, even more Minke Whales, more White-beaked Dolphins, even more White-beaked Dolphins and more Minke Whales before a final group of White-beaked Dolphins and a scattering of Harbour Porpoises as we headed south with a day total of 50+ White-beaked Dolphins and up to 12 Minke Whales 🙂

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Heading offshore; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 14/08/18

by on Aug.15, 2018, under North Sea

Yesterday was the first of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings for this year and it started well with two Harbour Porpoises at the mouth of the Tyne, then another two a couple of miles further north.  As Gannets soared by, Fulmars circled us and Kittiwakes and Lesser Black-backed Gulls tagged along in our wake, two White-beaked Dolphins put in a brief appearance and the swell started to build.  By mid-afternoon we’d got heavy rain and then another 5 dolphins spent a couple of minutes bow-riding 🙂

Our August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd 10hr sailings each have two places still available so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place 🙂

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Waiting for the weather; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 13/08/18

by on Aug.15, 2018, under Druridge Bay

With a fairly awful weather forecast for Sunday, we’d rescheduled Linda and Peter’s day with NEWT around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for Monday, where the forecast suggested it would rain until lunchtime and then improve after that…

Pre-lunch it was indeed lovely weather for ducks and Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Tufted Duck all provided slightly more of an ID challenge than usual with the drakes now in eclipse plumage.  Hundreds of Greylag Geese were roosting as an assortment of waders fed around them; Avocet, Lapwing, Dunlin, elegant Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Knot, Curlew, Common Redshank and a Greenshank that heralded it’s arrival with a strident “tyeu tyeu tyeu”.  Water Rails were nervously dashing in and out of the reed edge as Moorhens fed more boldly away from the edge, Coots demonstrated that they have none of the nervousness of their relatives and Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows enjoyed a feast of flying insects in the warm, humid air..  Lunch overlooking the North Sea brought Gannets and Fulmars soaring effortlessly over the water.  Walking along a narrow hedge-lined track a Sparrowhawk burst through the bushes, carrying a hapless bird as Tree Sparrows delivered a noisy lament for the fallen.

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A grand finale; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 10/08/18

by on Aug.13, 2018, under North Sea

Friday was our final 4hr evening pelagic for 2018 and so far we’d managed to run 12 out of 13 pelagics (with one cancelled due to poor weather conditions), with those 12 producing Bottlenose Dolphin on 2 trips and White-beaked Dolphin on 6.  Allan had been out with the boat during the day and, incredibly, they’d been followed back in to the river by a group of White-beaked Dolphins who’d made it as far as the first navigation buoy before turning and heading back to sea 🙂

We checked towards Whitburn first in case they were still hanging around nearby but there was no sign of them so we turned north and followed our usual search pattern.  This year we’ve been gathering effort data for the North East Cetacean Project/MARINElife on all of our pelagics so I’m usually in the wheelhouse and carrying out 180 degree scans ahead of the boat and as we passed St Mary’s Island and some impressive storms over Northumberland I spotted a distant fin.  Soon there were 12 White-beaked Dolphins feeding around us in small groups as the sky darkened and the first drops of rain began to patter against binoculars and cameras.

Our evening pelagics may be over for another year but our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings start tomorrow, with a trip that’s been sold out for a while, and we’ve got a couple of spaces available on August 29th, September 15th and September 22nd so get in touch with us today on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all taken!

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Dolphins in the dark; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 08/08/18

by on Aug.10, 2018, under North Sea

Wednesday was our penultimate 4hr evening pelagic for this year, and after a few splashes that we couldn’t pin down to anything specific we were heading back south as the sun dipped below the horizon and White-beaked Dolphins appeared 🙂  Light levels were challenging, and didn’t help with achieving the sort of exposure times necessary for fast moving dolphins bow-riding so video proved to be much better and you can see a few minutes by clicking here 🙂

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NEWT’s Guide to Bottlenose Dolphins in Northumberland

by on Aug.06, 2018, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea

A lot of our clients are very familiar with Northumberland’s marine wildlife so the question “Where have these Bottlenose Dolphins come from? I can’t remember them being here until the last few years.” is a regular one…

Until 2012 Bottlenose Dolphin was a rare animal in Northumberland waters and when I was researching/writing the cetacean species accounts for ‘Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles of the North East’ there had only been 11 sightings of 10 or more animals since the first Northumberland record in 1966.

21st October 2012 was the day that everything began to change, with a loose group of ~150 dolphins moving down the coast from Berwick to Newbiggin before vanishing. Small groups broke away and took a liking to Holy Island and Bamburgh, with the group off Bamburgh hanging around through the winter and riding the waves alongside human surfers!

With small groups becoming regular from 2013 we were involved in trying to identify individual animals from photographs by comparing them to the excellent photo-identification catalogue developed by Aberdeen University. That’s when we noticed an interesting pattern – the animals we were seeing were mainly females that were already adults when they were photographed in the Moray Firth in the late 1980’s and had gradually departed the Moray Firth for a life further down the east coast of Scotland around the Firth and the Tay. In the case of the most distinctive dolphin we’ve seen, #116 ‘Runny Paint’ – the dolphin with the extraordinary white stripe along the base of her dorsal fin on the right hand side and four dashes on the left hand side – she’d left Moray in 2001. The ‘proto-colonisation’ of Northumberland seems to have been led by some elderly ladies

Over the last few years there have been increasing sightings of the dolphins, which now seem to have an extended home range, primarily from the Tay to the Wear but extending as far as Moray and the Yorkshire coast, and it seems likely that there are now calves that have been born in English waters. We don’t know how many dolphins are involved in total, with observer estimates often varying wildly even for a single group, but somewhere between 50-150 is probably in the right ballpark

We’ve seen them on land-based trips, boat trips to the Farne Islands and, of course, on our regular pelagic trips off the Northumberland coast and there’s no doubt that they’re a spectacular addition to Northumberland’s marine fauna but that might not be good news for some of our other cetaceans…

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Bottlenose Dolphin,Tursiops truncatus,St Mary's Island,Whitley Bay,Northumberland,North Sea pelagic,Northumberland pelagic,North Sea,dolphin spotting North Sea,dolphin spotting Northumberland,dolphin spotting, whale watching Northumberland,whalewatching North Sea,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

Bottlenose Dolphin,Tursiops truncatus,St Mary's Island,Whitley Bay,Northumberland,North Sea pelagic,Northumberland pelagic,North Sea,dolphin spotting North Sea,dolphin spotting Northumberland,dolphin spotting, whale watching Northumberland,whalewatching North Sea,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

Bottlenose Dolphin,Tursiops truncatus,North Sea,Northumberland,St Mary's Island,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours,Northern Experience Pelagics,North Sea dolphin spotting,North Sea whalewatching,North Sea whale watching,Northumberland dolphin spotting,Northumberland whalewatching,Northumberland whale watching

Bottlenose Dolphin,Tursiops truncatus,North Sea,Northumberland,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours,Northern Experience Pelagics,North Sea dolphin spotting,North Sea whalewatching,North Sea whale watching,Northumberland dolphin spotting,Northumberland whalewatching,Northumberland whale watching

Bottlenose Dolphin,Tursiops truncatus,North Sea,Northumberland,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours,Northern Experience Pelagics,North Sea dolphin spotting,North Sea whalewatching,North Sea whale watching,Northumberland dolphin spotting,Northumberland whalewatching,Northumberland whale watching

Bottlenose Dolphins spent over an hour playing around the boat on our 4hr evening pelagic off Whitley Bay and St Mary's Island on 29/06/18

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