Druridge Bay

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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Feels like autumn ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 19/08/18

by on Jul.21, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Collecting Rosie and Ben for an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the weather looked ever so slightly murky…

Ben was armed with his D500 and 200-500mm lens (I’ve seen several copies of that lens in action now but still not pulled the trigger on purchasing one myself yet…) and we started with a search for a bird he was very keen to see on this trip north.  Patience and persistence paid off, as they so often do, and a juvenile Dipper was quite approachable as it paddled tentatively in very shallow water without taking the plunge into full ‘Dipper mode’.  An impressive flock of Dunlin, resplendent with black bellies, was a very obvious sign that migration is well underway and Curlew, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Knot were also in a couple of impressive flocks of waders before we came across a well grown juvenile Great Crested Grebe that was calling incessantly to its parent and only pausing briefly when the adult submerged in search of food.  Grey Herons stalked through the shallows as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows were joined in their aerial pursuit of insects by a Little Gull and two Barn Owls quartered the reedbeds and rank vegetation.  Another target species for the afternoon put in a cameo appearance as I noticed the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ in the shadow of a distant reedbed and we watched an Otter through the ‘scope 🙂

There was an ‘oddest moment of the trip’ award for a 2 year old female Grey Seal who hauled herself out of the sea and started following people up the beach towards the dunes!  A quick exchange of messages with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and we were able to reassure people who were gathering on the beach that the seal was fine and just needed a bit of space to rest before continuing her journey north.  Everyone backed off and watched her from a sensible distance and she rolled over and stretched out in the evening sunshine 🙂

With the sky clearing, and dusk approaching a Little Owl flew from a roadside telegraph pole and our 3rd Barn Owl was over a field below the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, with the two planets both looking impressive through the ‘scope as we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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Owling; Druridge Bay Safari 10/07/18

by on Jul.13, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Tuesday was Roger’s 3rd day out with NEWT and this time Mandy was joining him for an afternoon and evening exploring NEWT’s local patch – Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

After a run of very hot days the weather had relented, although only slightly, and we started the trip with a woodland walk beside the river Blyth.  Family parties of Nuthatch and Treecreeper were chattering away among themselves as they explored tree trunks, branches and the sun-dappled canopy and our target bird for the walk appeared, as a juvenile Dipper tentatively poked it’s face in the river while keeping it’s feet on drier ground.  Fulmars were arcing along the clifftop at our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea and a small flock of Common Scoter passed by.  Avocet, Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Snipe and a Whimbrel were all on mud freshly exposed by the heat of the Sun and Starlings were starting to murmurate.  As we moved through the evening, the beautiful low angled sunlight was simply sublime, and illuminated Brown Hares, juvenile Water Rails and three stunning Black-tailed Godwits.  A Little Owl perched on a stone wall by the roadside gave us the withering ‘angry little man’ glare that they’re so good at and three separate Barn Owls graced us with their presence; one carrying a mouse back to the nest, one quartering a long hedgerow, and the final one, as we drove back towards Warkworth, nearly hit the car before taking evasive action and flying up over the roof 🙂

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The sublimity of evening; Bespoke Otter Safari 05/07/18

by on Jul.06, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I’ve never been great in hot sunny weather so as I collected Mike and Moira, for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, I was hoping for an increase in cloud cover…

In the heat of the afternoon, Avocets were harassing Grey Herons and Shelduck ducklings were skittering about on the surface of coastal pools as a Roe Deer ghosted through the reeds at the water’s edge and Lapwings squabbled nearby.  A Little Owl glared down from it’s perch between chimney pots as cloud began to roll in and Canada and Greylag Geese were looking alert but there was no sign of the cause of their concern

As daylight turned to dusk there was little sign of the Sun and that improved visibility substantially 🙂  Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins were plundering the rich feast of flying insects and a spectacular dense flock of 39 Black-tailed Godwits twisted and turned in the air in front of us as the distinctive call of Whimbrel failed to betray their location.  Water Rails were running nervously in and out of the reeds as another Roe Deer appeared, trotting through the shallow edge of the pool, and Tufted Ducks gathered their ducklings into tight groups as Cormorants took off, Mute Swans began staring at the reeds and a Little Grebe suddenly froze in position.  Then an Otter appeared just in front of us 🙂  We watched it for 45 minutes, including a remarkable tableau of hunting Otter beneath murmuration of Starlings with a Barn Owl quartering the reeds just a few metres away from us, before it vanished into the gloom of dusk and a distant reedbed.

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Hustle and bustle; Bespoke Druridge Bay mini-Safari 03/07/18

by on Jul.04, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Sometimes you just know it’s going to be a good trip, and as I collected Anne and Ron from Whitley Bay for an evening around Druridge Bay the blue sky, sunshine and gentle breeze had me thinking this was going to be a great time to be out in the field…

A Barn Owl quartering along the roadside and then hovering over the dunes, stunning in the golden light, was a fantastic start to the trip as Avocets flew by before settling back down.  A brood of 5 fairly large Water Rails was an unexpected sight as they came out into the open, close to a Tufted Duck with a large brood of tiny ducklings,  before dashing nervously back in to the cover of the reeds.  Mallard, Gadwall and Mute Swan were all dabbling for food beneath dense clouds of flying insects and then our attention was grabbed by a tight circling flock of Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns and Arctic Terns…directly above an Otter 🙂  Each time the Otter surfaced the birds repositioned themselves directly above it and we tracked it’s progress between Mute Swans and Cormorants.  Then the birds found another target and began pestering Grey Herons.  Each time a gull or tern dived at the heron it flattened it’s back, opened it’s beak wide and let out a raucous cry.  Every so often the attack would cease, before starting up again with renewed vigour and new recruits.

Our journey back down the coast brought another new species for the evening as a Brown Hare dashed out of the verge along the road and then back into the deep grass.

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In the summertime…Druridge Bay bespoke birdwatching 26/06/18

by on Jun.27, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was Sue’s 8th day out with NEWT and after I collected her from Old Swarland we headed south east towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

We’re now starting our Druridge Bay trips with a riparian woodland walk, and Nuthatches were feeding noisy fledglings in the branches overhead, Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all busily gathering mouthfuls of insects, a Common Buzzard was soaring just above the treetops in the bright sunshine and Bullfinches betrayed their presence by calling and drawing attention to themselves.

Avocets proved to be the star of the show again but a good selection of other waders included Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, a very white Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing and a Wood Sandpiper delicately picking its way along the edge of a muddy puddle as Brown Hares loped along at the other side of the marsh.  Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Small Skipper butterflies and a selection of dazzling damselflies added invertebrate interest to the afternoon but they were outshone by a micro-moth.  Nemophora degeerella isn’t exactly a name that trips off the tongue, but it’s a strikingly marked little moth and, in the case of the male, has what look to be unfeasibly long antennae.  Shelduck ducklings were wandering off and ignoring their parents and Great Crested Grebes demonstrated remarkable prowess, surfacing with fish after every dive, only to be pestered by Black-headed Gulls looking for an easy meal.  Strikingly yellow and seasonally appropriate, both Yellow Wagtail and Yellowhammer flew by and Reed Bunting as well as as Sedge and Reed Warblers sang from nearby reed beds as Swifts, Swallows and both House and Sand Martins carved their way through the dense clouds of flying insects in the afternoon heat haze.

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