Northumberland Coast

Summery; Bespoke mini-Safari 22/06/16

by on Jul.05, 2016, under Northumberland Coast

As I collected Len and Jean from Middleton Hall, the bright warm sunshine suggested that summer had genuinely arrived 🙂

Heading down to the coast we explored a section of river that has produced regular Otter sightings.  Hoverflies and bumblebees were exploring riverside flowers, a Scorpion Fly became the focus of Len’s lens and, as Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch sang from nearby bushes, Mallards paddled along the river with their ducklings.  A high-pitched mewing preceded the appearance of a Common Buzzard over a nearby hillside, twisting, turning and soaring in the rising heat as Black-headed Gulls drifted in and out of view dipping towards the river before climbing again.

The buzz of insects on a warm summer morning, is there anything that epitomises June any more than that 🙂

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Rising tide; Northumberland Coast Bespoke Birdwatching 09/10/2015

by on Oct.10, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

Friday was Tony’s third, and final, day of bespoke birdwatching with NEWT and we headed north in similar weather to Thursday…

Travelling north, Roe Deer seemed unsure which way to run across the road so dodged back and forth in front of us.  On the rising tide, Little Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were hunting along the water’s edge, Pale-bellied Brent Geese were leapfrogging north, Pink-footed Geese flew south high overhead as the ‘choo-it’ calls of a Spotted Redshank and eerie moaning of Grey Seals cut through the tranquil air.  A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and the rising tide brought more birds towards us, Herring, Common, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ruff, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Goosander, Mallard and Teal were more obliging than distant swirling flocks of Lapwing and Barnacle Goose and a noisy tribe of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees behind us.  Lunch at Stag Rocks produced Common Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Shag, then Greenshank and Shoveler were soon added to the day list as we continued south down the coast.  Panic amongst Herring Gulls and Cormorants revealed a Grey Seal swimming along the River Coquet and Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye were the final new birds for Tony’s holiday as a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by and Greylag and Pink-footed Geese began arriving at their overnight roost.

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Waders and wildfowl; Northumberland coast Prestige Tour 02/10/2015

by on Oct.05, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast

October is a fantastic month to be out birdwatching on the Northumberland coast.  If we haven’t had the mist, drizzle and easterly winds to shower us with migrants, there’s always a wealth of wintering and passage waders and wildfowl to enjoy…

I collected Alison, Jon, Sally and Andrew from Tughall and we set out for a day on the coast.  Alison and Jon had been out with us two years ago, on a day that featured a stuffed badger in the back of a police car! Heading north towards Lindisfarne we soon came across Greenshank, Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Egret by the roadside.  Then it was the turn of wildfowl to take centre stage; Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck and Greylag, Pink-footed, Barnacle and Pale-bellied Brent GeeseBar-tailed Godwit and Curlew were probing the mud along the shore line as a Red-throated Diver sat serenely just offshore and the moaning wails of Grey Seals drifted across the low-tide mud.  Back to Tughall for lunch and then we were away again, this time heading south towards Druridge Bay.  In sublime light, but with an ever strengthening breeze, a Little Egret seemed to glow as it’s breast feathers were fanned out into an impressive ruff by the wind.  Little Grebes just got on with being as cute as ever, Grey Herons stalked along the water’s edge, occasionally breaking off to dispute feeding locations and Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck were all resplendent in the sunshine.  A great day out, and no dead wildlife was stroked, fondled or petted 🙂

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Timing; Northumberland Coast 17/09/2015

by on Sep.23, 2015, under Bamburgh Castle, Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

Seasonality in wildlife watching is an important consideration, but ‘micro-timing’ shouldn’t be overlooked.  There’s a time of day when we rarely meet anyone else on our tours, and I don’t entirely understand why…

Thursday was Day Five for Clare and Peter, and I collected them from The Swan before heading north to start our day on the coast.  The rising tide brought Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper and Ringed Plover towards us as Common Eider drifted on the swell and innumerable Gannets circled above what must have been a huge shoal of fish.  Bar-tailed Godwits, probing in the sand, were moved towards the pebbly shore by the inexorable tide until eventually they abandoned feeding and roosted on a rocky outcrop alongside Curlew.  In the rising tidal reaches of a river, a Dipper entertained us by diving headlong into the water, a female Goosander sailed serenely into view before diving and re-emerging back under the riverside vegetation, Grey Wagtails added a stunning splash of colour and a Kingfisher raced by.

As dusk approached a Starling murmuration was passed by a Marsh Harrier and a noisy roost of geese included Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed and – my favourite wildfowl escapees – Bar-headed Geese.  A lone Ruff remained when the roosting Lapwings took flight, but was then joined by a Redshank.  Dusk is, by some considerable margin, my favourite time of the day – regardless of habitat type – and it was a great finish to a great week guiding Clare and Peter around Northumberland’s well known, and some less well known, birdwatching hotspots 🙂  We hope they’ll be back soon to explore more!

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When the wind blows; Whales, waders and wildfowl 4-7/09/2015

by on Sep.11, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast

Last weekend was our ‘Whales, waders and wildfowl’ mini-break, with an extension to include our Farne Deeps pelagic.

Day -1 (Friday 04/09/15).  A late cancellation left Sandra and Linda as the only guests on the holiday, and with conditions unsuitable for being offshore, we headed to the far north of the county.  Fulmars and Gannets were battling into the stiff breeze and Eiders were riding the deep troughs and towering crests of the waves that were pounding the shoreline.  Bar-tailed Godwit busied themselves along the water’s edge and the eerie moaning of Grey Seal and haunting cries of Curlew, carried on the rushing wind, enveloped us in the atmosphere of Holy Island in the early autumn.  By mid-afternoon, the wind had died down and the sea was calming – had the forecasters got it wrong…

Day 1 (Saturday 05/09/15).  04:00 and I wake up to the sound of a strengthening northerly 🙂  Throughout the day, we were close to the sea and could see the amount of swell close to the shore.  Linnets, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits and Greenfinches were tossed like leaves on the breeze as they ventured from the cover of bushes along the dunes, a stunning male Stonechat looked equally uncomfortable and Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit were roosting facing into the wind as Grey Herons sat motionless and a Little Egret still radiated elegance as it’s feathers were disarranged by the now rather stiff wind.  Always impressive, a male Marsh Harrier flew by before vanishing over a distant ridge, and the day finished with Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and 30 Little Grebes.

Day 2 (Sunday 06/09/15).  No breeze, bright warm sunshine 🙂  An extraordinary contrast to the preceding days, and with close views of Cormorant and Eider as they dived in calm water.  The Cormorants spent a lot of time standing with wings spread in heraldic pose, drying them before heading back into the water, always an impressive sight.  Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Mute Swan were swimming lazily around in the afternoon sunshine and a huge flock of gulls, roosting, bathing and following the plough, exploded into the air like a burst eiderdown as a Common Buzzard drifted over.  Dinner at the excellent Ashianna in Bedlington ended the holiday after three great days with Sandra and Linda 🙂

Our next holiday is Winter Wonderland in early December, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out more and to book your place now 🙂

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Mud, glorious mud; Lindisfarne Safari 28/11/2014

by on Dec.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, North Sea, Northumberland Coast

The Northumberland coast in the late autumn is a birdwatching destination that I’ll never tire of.  Even in weather that could best be described as inclement, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.

I collected Mike and Janet from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north for a day birdwatching around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Starting with a walk around Holy Island village, a harsh chuckling call betrayed the presence of a Fieldfare in a small tree. Two others joined it, before they all departed noisily.  Then more chuckling Fieldfare, and the high seee calls of Redwing, carried through the air from high overhead and we could make out, in the mist, a mixed flock of these thrushes arriving high from the north east and bypassing the island on their way across to the mainland.  A Sparrowhawk raced by, hedge-hopping and swerving out of sight behind The Heugh, as thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew out onto the exposed mud of the wildfowl refuge area and Shag, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser dived just offshore.  A couple of very obliging Rock Pipits showed the subtle, dusky beauty that can only be appreciated with close views and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover were reaping the rich bounty of the mud, as Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in the newly exposed mud of the harbour, and the high whistling calls of drake Teal carried across to us from the Rocket Field, a Little Auk flew along the main street through the village.  Crossing back to the mainland, a Little Egret was stalking through the shallows along the roadside and Curlew and Oystercatcher were so close we could have almost reached out of the car and touched them.  As the falling tide exposed sandbars, Grey Seals were moaning eerily and splashing about in shallow water.  Suddenly, there were thousands of Wigeon and Golden Plover in the air.  They settled but then flushed again so I started a methodical check of every rock that I could see on the mud.  Then I found what I was looking for – a rock that was just too vertical…and the view through our ‘scope revealed the impressive muscular menace of a female Peregrine 🙂  She shuffled around and took off, only to settle on another rock closer to us.  Our attention was drawn to a charm of Goldfinches feeding nearby, and the Peregrine departed while we weren’t looking.

As the weather moved through in waves of varying grot, we watched a group of three Roe Deer grazing in a roadside field, and then headed a bit further down the coast.  Dusk was approaching rapidly as we watched more waders feeding busily as the tide rose, Lapwings flew over like giant bats and thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls arrived to roost.  Wave after wave of mist and drizzle, wave after wave of birds, wave after wave of  waves 🙂

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Charming; Bespoke Birdwatching 10/11/2014

by on Nov.22, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Even after 40+ years birdwatching, there are times when I’m not sure whether the thing that excites me the most is a lone rarity, a life or death interaction involving one of the predators we encounter, or an impressive flock of something common…

I collected David and Dot from Gosforth and we made our way across to the coast for a day of mid-November birdwatching.  This proved to be a day of flocks; Pink-footed Geese rose then dropped in nearby fields, peppering the sky and cutting through the autumn air with their yapping calls.  Mini-murmurations of  Starlings twisted, turned, bunched and swirled, demonstrating that they don’t just reserve that spectacle for the fading light of evening.  Common Snipe were sitting in the vegetation close to the water’s edge, extraordinarily well camouflaged when asleep and only really betraying their presence once they woke up and started probing in the soft mud of the shallows.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Eider are almost a given on the coast in the winter, a lone Sanderling hurried back and forth in a flock of Ringed Plover and Teal, Wigeon and Goldeneye are eyecatching whether in flocks or alone.  Elegant Pintail glided by and Stonechats flicked their tails nervously perched in the tops of bushes in the dunes along the coast.  One isolated tree brought a memorable spectacle, with a charm of Goldfinches, and a lone Greenfinch.  For a couple of years now, a lot of our clients have reported increasing numbers of Goldfinch, and a tremendous decrease in Greenfinch.  No matter how numerous Goldfinch become, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever become blase about them; strikingly patterned, with their red face, black and white head and yellow wing flashes, and with liquid, twittering songs and calls, they really are quite charming 🙂

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Wild Goose chase; Bespoke Birdwatching 30/10/2014

by on Nov.03, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Natural History, Northumberland Coast

Thursday was Pete and Janet’s 6th trip with NEWT, and the dismal, gloomy, drizzly south easterly weather as I drove to Embleton seemed ever so slightly promising 🙂

We started around Druridge Bay, checking a small area of woodland close to the coast, and soon encountered one of my favourite passerines, with three Brambling feeding quietly high in the canopy and two more flying over noisily.  Everywhere we went there were Robins and Blackbirds, although little sign of any other migrants other than a large flock of Redwing over Cresswell and a flock of Fieldfare near Beadnell.  Leaping Salmon on the River Coquet provided a lot of entertainment and a Cormorant which had been catching small fish, dived, causing a large Salmon to leap clear of the water.  The fish splashed back down and the Cormorant surfaced, gripping it behind the gills.  As the bird drifted downstream with its catch, we couldn’t believe that it would be able to deal with such a large fish…then it manouvered it so that the fish’s head was pointing down it’s throat and swallowed it whole!

As dusk approached, we were on the coast near Holy IslandLittle Egrets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Redshank were on the mudflats and the high yapping sound of Pink-footed Geese could be heard distantly.  Skein after skein appeared against the dark clouds overhead, settling close to the oncoming tide.  Then more, and more, and more…thousands and thousands of geese, still arriving when it was so dark that they were just a slightly darker speckling against an almost featureless backdrop.  Finally, as we headed back to the car, the ‘teu-it’ call of a Spotted Redshank cut through the gloom as the geese continued to arrive.

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Under a darkening sky; Northumberland Coast 27/10/2014

by on Oct.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Dark Skies, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday was a safari day on the Northumberland coast, with a plan to enjoy the birdwatching around our regular Otter sites and then a stargazing session in Druridge Bay.

I collected John and Pam from home in Cullercoats and we drove up the coast.  As we ate our picnic lunch in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we could see Gannets diving offshore, beyond the rafts of Common Eider that were surfing the gentle swell.  Kestrels were seen throughout the afternoon and a real ‘from the car’ bonus came in the shape of three Roe Deer.  As so often happens as we approach the winter, wildfowl dominated the birdwatching.  As well as the Eiders, with males resplendent in their breeding finery, Teal, Mallard and Goldeneye looked at their best.  As a Grey Wagtail perched on a mid-stream rock, and fish swirled and leapt from the water, a male Kingfisher perched on a branch overhanging the river, flocks of geese peppered the sky wherever we were, and a flock of Greylag Geese began to flush as the search and rescue helicopter passed noisily overhead.  Whooper Swans looked as stunning as ever, flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover swirled in the stiff breeze  and, as dusk approached, Pink-footed Geese began arriving to roost.  Flock after flock of Pink-feet appeared out of the gloom, announcing their imminent arrival with their yapping calls, eventually in near darkness when they were just a black speckling against the dark grey brooding clouds.

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Halcyon Days; Otter Safari 13/10/2014

by on Oct.15, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Monday was a day around Druridge Bay and the southeast Northumberland coast, and an extraordinary contrast with Sunday’s summery weather…

I collected Trish and Carol from Dunstan and we headed south along the coast.  Kingfisher is always a spectacular sight, and one flew under a bridge beneath our feet, adding a touch of sparkle to a day that was developing into cold, windy and gloomy.  Ducks are, for the most part, out of eclipse plumage now and Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and Gadwall were all looking resplendent.  Little Grebes were engaged in non-stop fish catching, Curlew flew noisily by and a Little Egret was stalking elegantly along the River Coquet.  We were joined for the latter part of the day by Michael and Fiona and we settled into position to search for Otters.  In such gloomy windy conditions even my eternal optimism was dampened slightly, and although there were occasional panicky moments among the ducks, which included a beautifully elegant Pintail, the enigmatic predator didn’t put in an appearance.  What we did get though was a Starling murmuration so close we could hear the wingbeats, thousands and thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying to roost and flock after flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing appearing out of the gloom of the dusk sky and dropping into nearby fields.  Dusk is still my favourite time of the day, and if you’ve never experienced it surrounded by wildlife you really should give it a go, even the common birds are transformed by numbers and there’s always the chance of a mammal or two 🙂

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