Druridge Bay

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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

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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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 🙂

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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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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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 😉 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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Mystery; Otter Safari 05/09/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I’ve neglected the blog over the last month so here come a series of short posts to get us back up to date…

Sometimes we see things that our clients can’t believe, sometimes we see things that we can’t believe and sometimes, we see things that we can’t find any explanation for…

At the end of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, Paul had just spotted our third Marsh Harrier of the trip. This one was different though, as it was wing-tagged. I’ve never seen a wing-tagged Marsh Harrier so I was immediately wondering who’s tagging them and where. An orange tag on each wing was all we could see so I searched the colour scheme website the next day…and discovered that no tagging scheme is using orange tags on both wings of Marsh Harriers.. More enquiries over the last few weeks, and it’s still a mystery…

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Quick start; Otter Safari 20/08/19

by on Aug.23, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Jo from Newbiggin for her 2nd day out with NEWT and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters

As we set off I decided to change the order that we’d visit our usual sites…and it paid off almost immediately with an Otter cub feeding mid-river as Little Grebes watched it warily as Cormorants dried their wings nearby 🙂 Pochards, Shovelers, Mallards, Teal and Moorhen all got out of the way as a Grey Heron flew in and throughout the trip Sparrowhawks flushed birds that were quietly roosting. After having our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea, with Fulmars gliding along the cliff faces and Gannets offshore we collected Yvonne, Fiona and Liz who were joining us for the second half of the trip.

In the evening sunlight Lapwings, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Redshanks, Dunlins and Turnstones were roosting, Brown Hares were half-heartedly chasing each other in the field margins, a Little Egret flew high away to the north, a Marsh Harrier caused panic as it flew low over the marsh before dropping into the rushes, Water Rails squealed from reedbeds, a dense flock of Swallows and Sand Martins headed to roost as Canada and Greylag Geese departed noisily and, as the light faded to unmanageable, Jupiter and Saturn were both observed through the ‘scope 🙂

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Druridge Bay Safari 25/07/19

by on Aug.02, 2019, under Druridge Bay

On a warm muggy afternoon I collected Julie & Paul and Geoff and Minouche ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Late July is often a time to watch waders, and after a riverside walk that produced good views of a Dipper we started working our way through the coastal pools. A Barn Owl was ghosting its way along a hedgerow as Little Egrets and Grey Herons stalked through the shallows, a Water Rail scurried between clumps of rush and an impressive array of waders was well appreciated; Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Knot, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Ringed Plover were all roosting or feeding, a Spotted Redshank flew over, the trilling whistles of Whimbrel cut through the evening air and panic spread the the wader flocks as a male Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbeds and the precursors to the big Starling murmurations of the winter speckled the sky.

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Under the moonlight; Otter mini-Safari 15/07/19

by on Jul.17, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Dave and Dawn ahead of an evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland exploring NEWT’s favourite Otter sites I smiled when Dave said “We have no idea what the plan is or what’s happening. Our daughter just told us to be here to meet you”…

We started with our usual riparian woodland walk, and Dave spotted a Dipper sitting quietly on a mid-stream rock. It started preening and bathing and then took a few short swims underwater before flying off upstream.

With a gentle breeze cooling the warmth of the Sun, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were putting in brief appearances in the reeds, Reed Buntings were singing their simple song, flocks of Starlings flew to roost and a dense flock of Sand Martins alternated between gorging themselves on flies and perching along the face of a reedbed as a Barn Owl quartered the dunes before flying past us carrying prey.

A Spotted Redshank feeding frantically in the shallows joined a mass panic as Curlews, Avocets and Lapwings took to the air before gradually settling back down as Grey Herons and a Little Egret darted at small fish. Scanning around the edge of the water I noticed a swirl lingering close to a reedbed and then all of the waders took flight again. For a few minutes all we could see were the ripples from something disturbing the water in a gap in the reeds…and then the Otter swam into view 🙂 We watched it for around 30 minutes before it vanished into a reedbed as the full Moon rose, flanked by Jupiter and Saturn, and the Barn Owl perched on a pole near the car and almost directly in front of the Moon 🙂

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Heron there ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 09/07/19

by on Jul.10, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Robin and Cia, and Linda and Pete, from Newbiggin ahead of a day exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Over the years we’ve refined our tours on the coast to included different habitat types and starting with a walk through some riparian woodland we were rewarded with great views of Nuthatches and a Dipper as a Banded Demoiselle proved flighty and the quiet calls of Bullfinches revealed their presence in rank vegetation and the treetops.

On the coast a Kestrel was hanging in the breeze as Curlews, Oystercatchers and Common Redshanks explored rockpools and a Meadow Pipit lined up alongside a row of Tree Sparrows as the simple song of Reed Buntings, the fast chatter of Sedge Warblers and the rhythmic chuntering of Reed Warblers emanated from the reedbeds around coastal pools and a very vocal Linnet was incredibly obliging just a few feet way from us on a fence post. Linda and Pete’s experience of birdwatching in the warm sunshine of Portugal hadn’t prepared them for the sight of a Spoonbill in the cool heavy rain of Northumberland in early July, and Little Egrets added to the southern feel alongside the much more regular sight of Grey Herons stalking imperiously through the shallows as a fantastic group of waders included Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin, Common Redshank, a lone Golden Plover, brief Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper that only showed for a couple of seconds as they flew from the mud along the reed edges in front of us, Black-tailed Godwits in fantastic orangey red plumage and a Spotted Redshank that stopped obligingly alongside a Common Redshank allowing a great comparison. Another set of species that allowed an impromptu ID masterclass were Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns as the rain intensified and we headed back in the late afternoon.

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