Coquet Island

Seabird Spectacular; Birdwatching magazine Reader Holiday 25-28/06/17

by on Jun.29, 2017, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands

Day 1 25/06/17

After collecting Malcolm, and then John, from Alnmouth railway station we headed to Seahouses and the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of a short break concentrating on the seabirds of the Northumberland coast.  Nigel, Janice and Cliff and Lesley had already arrived and at dinner we discussed the plan for the next two days.  I’d brought our Farne Islands day forward from Tuesday to Monday, and moved Coquet Island and Druridge Bay to Tuesday, and had my fingers crossed that it was the right decision…

Day 2 26/06/17

We boarded Glad Tidings IV after breakfast and headed across to Staple Island at the start of an all-day trip to the Farne Islands.  Staple doesn’t have any breeding terns, and has fewer visitors than Inner Farne, so is altogether a much more relaxed experience 🙂  Puffins, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Rock Pipits and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all coming and going as, just north of the island, Gannets were plunging into the sea.  Transferring across to Inner Farne for the afternoon, we made our way past Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and up to Lighthouse Point  where, alongside Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Kittiwakes, Rock Pipits were carrying food into nests tucked away out of sight in narrow crevices in the cliff face.  At the base of the cliffs the water was so clear that we could watch Guillemot, including a parent joined by a jumpling as we watched, and Razorbill as they swam with slow-motion effort under the water.  Back on the mainland we walked along the edge of the rising tide and watched Little Terns, Dunlin and Ringed Plover as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from the dunes and a maelstrom of Arctic Terns responded to marauding Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls and a real bonus bird came in the form of a 2cy Glaucous Gull.

Day 3 27/06/17

I woke up to the sound of a stiff breeze and rain, and breathed a sigh of relief that we’d moved our Farne Islands day to Monday.  We headed south along the coast towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and our first stop was to look for 3 Spoonbills which had been reported.  Just before we reached them, Nigel spotted a Cuckoo perched on a tree protector and we quickly found the Spoonbills.  Next stop was for a bird that’s straightforward to find in Northumberland during the winter, but a rare thing indeed in breeding plumage in late June.  The Slavonian Grebe was asleep, tucked up against the wind and rain but soon roused itself from slumber and started feeding.  Sedge and Reed Warblers were playing hide-and-seek with us in reedbeds, Tree Sparrows were feeding on the paths ahead of us and we spent some time watching an entertaining dispute between a Little Gull and a 1st summer Arctic Tern.  The tern seemed to have a case of angry little man syndrome and, as well as persistently harassing the gull, it took umbrage at the presence of Avocet, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow and ShelduckBlack-tailed Godwits were probing in the shallows, Curlew were in newly-mown fields and the air was filled with Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts.  Soon after lunch the weather deteriorated and as we could hear the sea crashing against the shore is was obvious that our planned sailing around Coquet Island wouldn’t be happening.  There’s always the telescope though, and although distant, we could identify Roseate Terns as Bar-tailed Godwits pottered along the shoreline below us.  As Great Crested Grebes somehow managed to look elegant even in the stiffening breeze and increasingly heavy rain we headed back to Seahouses.

Day 4 28/06/17

After breakfast together, everyone headed their separate ways.  I dropped Malcolm and John back at Alnmouth, and then I was on my way to a physio appointment – really not as much fun as watching Northumberland’s stunning wildlife 🙂

We’ll be adding more holiday dates to our online calendar in the next week, so make sure you book your place early before they’re all gone!

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“a real birding day” Birdwatching in the North Pennines 14/06/2013

by on Jun.21, 2013, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, North Pennines, Northumberland

After a successful sailing around Coquet Island last Thursday, with sightings of Roseate Terns perched and flying,

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Britain’s rarest breeding seabird

our re-arranged North Pennines Safari was on Friday.

I collected Liz and Ronnie from The Swan and we headed southwest into the hills.  Only a month earlier we had a North Pennines trip in near-zero temperatures, but now everything was much more springlike.  Curlews were gliding across the moors, their haunting cries carrying on the breeze, Lapwings were displaying in that bizarre way that has you half convinced they they’re just going to crash into the ground and there were plenty of birds with chicks; Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Red Grouse were all mindful of their offspring as we made our way across the moors.  Common Snipe appeared unexpectedly from clumps of rush and one obliging bird perched on a fence post as we sat just a few metres away.  Pairs of noisy Redshank flew from fence post to dry stone wall and back again and, like the Snipe, one bird perched obligingly (like the one pictured here from 2011).

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Liz’s feedback e-mail, at the end of the holiday and our day in the North Pennines, summed it up so well – “a real birding day” 🙂

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Seabird Spectacular 10-13 June 2013; birdwatching on the Northumberland coast

by on Jun.13, 2013, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Arriving at The Swan on Monday evening I met up with Ronnie and Liz at the start of our Seabird Spectacular holiday.  Of all of our holidays, this is the one that concentrates on the really outstanding wildlife available on the Northumberland coast in the summer.

Tuesday started out very nice, although cloud cover was increasing and, by lunchtime, eventually it was overcast, misty and spotting with rain.  We’d spent the morning around Druridge Bay, with one of the highlights being a very obliging male Reed Bunting who sat just a few metres away from us and sang for over 20 minutes, Wall and Green-veined White Butterflies flitted across the tracks ahead of us, Sedge and Reed Warblers played hide-and-seek in the edge of the reeds and a male Marsh Harrier quartered a reedbed, giving prolonged views at relatively close range.  As we ate lunch, overlooking the North Sea, watching Eiders, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets, the southeasterly breeze was starting to build a noticeable swell…

The inevitable happened and our planned sailing around Coquet Island was cancelled on safety grounds, so we continued around Druridge Bay.  Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal were near the weir between Amble and Warkworth and we ended up watching five Otters as they munched their way through a feast of Eels 🙂 A Great Northern Diver flew south between Coquet Island and the mainland and we could see clouds of Puffins and a few ghostly white Roseate Terns from our clifftop vantage point.  Swifts were around in good numbers – a scythe-winged menace to flying insects – and at the end of the day we returned to The Swan and were joined for dinner by Sarah.

After Tuesday’s cancelled boat trip it was a relief to see that the wind had died down by Wednesday morning, and our all-day birdwatching trip to the Farne Islands went ahead as planned.  There were lines of Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills streaming back towards the islands, Gannets were effortlessly heading either to or from the Bass Rock, and the sights, sounds and smells of the seabird colony were just a few minutes away when we came across two Harbour Porpoises. Cormorants and Shags perched sentinel-like  on the Scarcar rocks and landing on Staple Island we watched Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills, Shags and Rock Pipits at close range before having our picnic lunch in superb weather conditions on this magical rock just a few miles offshore from the Northumberland coast.  Transferring across to Inner Farne at 13:00, via a brief detour to look at the Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine, we were greeted by Head Ranger David Steel and then enjoyed the very different experience of running the gauntlet of a succession of angry Arctic TernsCommon and Sandwich Terns were around too, and we watched Puffins skilfully avoiding the attention of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A pair of Rock Pipits nesting beneath the boardwalk were carrying beakfuls of food and I had a Farnes ‘tick’ in the shape of a Swift soaring over the lighthouse buildings.  We tried to find a Roseate Tern in amongst the roost by the Inner Farne jetty, but without success.  Back to The Swan for tea, reflection on a successful day and my Plan B…

Today was planned to be a one-day extension to the holiday, visiting the North Pennines, but we’ve moved that to tomorrow and the ladies have an extra afternoon out with me, to take the boat trip around Coquet Island 🙂

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Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 3: 09/07/2011

by on Jul.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

On Saturday morning our destination was Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and another poor weather forecast ( a bit of a running theme during the holiday…) suggested that we may well get wet.  An addition to the mammal list for the trip raced across the road ahead of us; a Stoat – an endearing predator and one of NEWT’s favourite animals.

We arrived in Amble for our sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises; as Dave manoeuvred the excellent Steadfast into the harbour, the rain arrived from the northeast.  The sailing around the island produced excellent views of Roseate Terns, as well as Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.  As we sailed in a wide arc from the island to begin the journey back to the harbour an Arctic Skua was harassing terns away to the north.  Four more Arctic Skuas were followed by a real seawatching prize as a Pomarine Skua lumbered menacingly by before settling on the sea.    Our final Arctic Skua flew over the harbour just before we docked and I suggested that the Country Barn Coffee Shop at Widdrington would be the best destination once we were back on dry land.

Refreshed, dried and ready to go we visited the NWT reserve of East Chevington.  The tern roost allowed close comparison of Common and Arctic Terns, but the bird described by one participant as ‘bird of the holiday’ was a superb male Marsh Harrier.  A juvenile harrier appeared briefly over the reedbed as well, but the male perched for several minutes on a fence post.  Just after we reached Druridge Pools, the heavens opened, lightning flashed, thunder rolled and 2 Wood Sandpipers bobbed along the edge of the main pool.  A trip to Cresswell, and the most northerly breeding Avocets in England, followed and we all enjoyed  views of a very obliging Brown Hare, Little Gulls and both Little and Great Crested Grebes.  Another excellent evening meal and entertaining conversation (including David’s comment about Captain Birdseye in a cape..a reference to my appearance during the Coquet Island trip), concluded our final night in Seahouses.

As I put my coffee cup and glass of orange juice on the table at breakfast on Sunday morning I looked out over the harbour and the words “it’s a glorious morning” were quickly followed by “and there’s a Spoonbill!”.  Everyone rushed to the window to watch, as Northumberland delivered a fantastic finale to the holiday; poor weather forecasts, some stunning downpours, big seas, beautiful weather, iconic landscapes, excellent birdwatching…all in four days!

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