Druridge Bay

Easterlies; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/18

by on Nov.20, 2018, under Druridge Bay

There was a gentle breeze as I collected Nigel, Corina, Victoria and Rob from Longframlington and we headed towards the coast for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Waders and wildfowl were in abundance, as they tend to be in the late autumn.  A huge roosting flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing were restless and vocal and Redshank, Dunlin and a lone Curlew were sleeping until disturbed by a marauding Sparrowhawk.  Drake Shovelers and a lone drake Scaup were still patchy, coming out of eclipse plumage, a flock of Eider flying north over white foaming surf on a strengthening easterly contained a mix of females, young males and a couple of pristine adult males and Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Teal drakes were all sporting their very best finery.

Our picnic spot was graced by a Kestrel hanging on the stiff breeze so close that we could see how he held his head stationary while making minor movements of wings, body and tail.  An apparent absence of small birds was suddenly broken by a noisy foraging flock of Great, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed Tits.  Hunched against the wind, a Grey Heron looked even more miserable than they usually do and, as Little Egrets shone in the gloom, at least 20 Little Grebes, including a group of 12 together, were along one stretch of river.  With dusk fast approaching a noisy mixed flock of Canada, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese arrived to roost as Starlings passed by in small groups, foregoing the murmuration in favour of a quick dash to the reeds and Whooper Swans trumpeted their own arrival and the light faded to a barely penetrable gloom.

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Mesmerising murmuration; Druridge Bay Bespoke birdwatching 15/11/18

by on Nov.17, 2018, under Druridge Bay

A lot of our clients muse on the possibility of retiring and moving to Northumberland, and John had done just that and booked a bespoke day out with us to explore some of the lesser-known birdwatching sites around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

With an almost cloudless blue sky and a chill wind we set out and were soon watching Common Redshanks as they probed the mud along the waterline with Red-breasted Mergansers in the background, a Grey Wagtail flycatching from rocks amidst fast flowing water, and a Sparrowhawk against the azure sky mobbed by a swarm of JackdawsBullfinches and Goldcrests called from hidden positions in hawthorn bushes and a Short-eared Owl quartering rough grassland plunged out of sight after prey repeatedly without ever appearing carrying anything.  The plan for dusk was a visit to (hopefully) a Starling roost.  With Water Rails squealing from reedbeds, and Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Mute Swan and Whooper Swan on the water around roosting Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Cormorants, Starlings started to arrive.  Cloud after cloud of birds landed in a small section of reeds before leaving again in groups of a few hundred birds every few seconds.  A sudden panic ran through the flock and as they bunched tightly, twisting and turning, a Sparrowhawk came through before settling on the ground before reappearing around the end of the reeds and flying past us carrying a Starling.  With dusk descending to darkness the murmuring rustle of birds in the reedbeds faded to silence as we walked back to the car.

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Fireworks; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 04/11/18

by on Nov.07, 2018, under Druridge Bay

If there’s one thing that’s even less predictable than wildlife it’s the weather, so when I collected Ted and Elaine for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay searching for Otters, with stargazing planned for the end of the trip, we were at the mercy of both…

Dense flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing were roosting, and alternating between unremarkable under overcast skies and stunning whenever the sun broke through the cloud.  They repeatedly flushed in panic and a Sparrowhawk eventually revealed itself as the cause of their consternation.  Once that had gone they settled back down before taking off again, this time deserting completely as a large falcon came through.  Maybe a Lanner, maybe a Gyr x Saker hybrid, whatever it was it was big and the waders were really not happy about it.  We’re moving to the time of year when male ducks start to out on their finery and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were looking very smart as a Long-tailed Duck played hide and seek with us.  Among a group of Common Snipe roosting close by a Jack Snipe revealed itself with rhythmical bobbing before it shuffled off and out of sight.

As dusk approached, thousands of Starlings streamed out of one reedbed and in front of us before settling into a different one and the three Pink-footed Geese on the mud in front of us became 3000 as the sky was suddenly filled with dark shapes and high yapping calls, leaving a dark impenetrable mass of birds in the gloom with fireworks illuminating the sky behind them and a break in the clouds revealing Cygnus, the Summer Triangle, Cassiopeia and a faint glow of the Milky Way overhead 🙂

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Falling; Bespoke Otter Safari 11/10/18

by on Oct.12, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Otter

As I left the house to head north to Embleton to collect John and Margaret for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland a flock of 43 Redwings passed overhead, heading southwest on the stiff breeze and drizzle…

Rather than lunch overlooking the North Sea I thought that one of our regular Otter sites would be a better early afternoon option.  With an impressive range of wildfowl, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Mute Swan, an impressive raft of Coots, Moorhens picking around the base of the reedbeds, Grey Herons standing motionless and with Golden Plover and Lapwing facing into the breeze the water was gently rippling as three Otter cubs appeared in the distance 🙂  They swam out of sight then reappeared, alarming Mallards as they came out of the water and onto a muddy bank before taking a few minutes to make their way along the edge of a reedbed and out of sight.  When they put in another appearance they were led by mum before they all slipped out of sight again.

An impressive wader roost included Ruff, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Knot, Lapwing, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Snipe.  The high-pitched ‘seep’ calls of Redwings passing overhead were the aural backdrop to an encounter with that gorgeous gem of autumn birding on the east coast, a Yellow-browed Warbler.  As it played hide-and-seek with us, another one was behind us at the same time 🙂

We finished the day as we so often do at this time of the year; a distant Otter feeding intensely as skeins of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese dropped out of the sky in front of us and Starlings murmurated against a darkening sky 🙂

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Stirring things up; Druridge Bay Safari 07/10/18

by on Oct.10, 2018, under Druridge Bay

I collected Ruth and Chris, and Wendy, Peter and Elizabeth, from Church Point and we set out for an afternoon and evening around our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, with one species in particular at the top of the trip wish list…

The weather forecast had been looking very promising, so it was a surprise that the first drops of rain started as we gathered before setting off.  Within 30mins it was unpleasantly wet and Little Egrets were stalking along the water’s edge as a flotilla of Cormorants did their best to made a dent in the local fish population.  As the rain eased the breeze strengthened and Stonechats were waving in the wind at the top of reedmace.  Exposed mud was covered in Lapwings, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank and lots of Common Snipe.  The high yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese drew our eyes towards v-shaped skeins of them heading north then, after our picnic on a clifftop overlooking the North Sea, it was time to head to our final site for the day.  Within a few seconds I’d found two Otter cubs play fighting near a bay in the reeds and with everyone’s attention focused on that spot there were suddenly 4 Otters running almost head on towards us 🙂  They vanished into the reeds and the next hour saw an extraordinary arrival of geese; Canada, Greylag,, Barnacle and Pink-footed all heralded their arrival with calls cutting through the gloom of dusk.  More and more arrived, settling in shallow water, and the noise level continued rising then suddenly with a loud rush of wingbeats and a deafening cacophony of mixed goose calls they lifted from their roost in panic…as one of the Otter cubs had reappeared and was bounding straight across the mud and through the roost 🙂  It slid effortlessly into the deeper water and swam out of sight before putting in another appearance as it ran across the reed edge right in front of us as dusk descended towards darkness and we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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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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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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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 Storm of Puffins; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/07/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay

Wouldn’t that be a great title for the next book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (Game of Thrones)?  I’ve met a few people over the last 10 years who expected Puffins to be much larger than they actually are, so the idea of unleashing a horde of them on your enemies could have some merit…

Alex, Jess and Tom had booked two days out with us – Saturday and Sunday – both of which had a forecast that couldn’t have been clearer that we wouldn’t be able to sail either around Coquet Island or to the Farnes so we’d hastily rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday, with ‘gentler’ sea conditions forecast.  I collected them from Embleton and we headed south down the coast to our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, pausing at Cullernose Point to have a look at the Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Late July is a great time to watch waders on the Northumberland coast and Avocet, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all impressive, but outshone by a stunning summer-plumaged Grey Plover.  A Little Owl was perched quietly by a farm building and our next port of call brought a Little Gull and an Otter that was feeding next to some apparently unconcerned Mute Swans and some very concerned Tufted Ducks 🙂

Then it was time to head off for a sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises.  The stiff southeasterly and a bit of swell meant a very steady crossing was in order.  As we sailed along the Coquet a raft of 27 Goosanders were near the Warkworth side of the river and as we made the short sea crossing Puffins, Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns and Grey Seals began to appear.  Ghostly pale Roseate Terns were sitting on the nesting terraces that have been constructed for them and one or two were picked out as they flew by as a veritable storm of Puffins whirled around above the island.

Heading back home at the end of the afternoon I was looking forward to an evening at the Battlesteads Observatory and then Tuesday’s trip to Inner Farne.  I was starting to feel a bit peaky though, but that’s a whole other story…

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