Tag: Adder

Mini-beasting; Bespoke Otter Safari 02/09/2014

by on Sep.10, 2014, under Uncategorized

It’s remarkable how often a theme seems to develop during a trip; flocks, migration, raptors, birds with similar names – all have happened over the last few years.

I drove up to the Breamish Valley to collect Donna and Andy and we headed towards the coast and Druridge Bay with the plan of spending the afternoon and evening birdwatching, finishing at what has been our most reliable Otter site this year (although a run of five successful trips eneded with our last two Druridge Bay safaris not producing any sightings of this enigmatic predator).  Starting in the hills on a nice afternoon, I thought it would be good to search for Adders, and Andy’s sharp eyes produced the goods, with the smallest Adder that I’ve ever seen 🙂

The afternoon continued with the waders we would expect – Ruff, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Common Snipe – and one much more scarce, in the shape of two Little Stints.  We had a rear-end view of a Spoonbill heading north and a Little Egret was stalking along the shallows.  It may be a predominantly white bird, but it’s stunning in good light.  Adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were picked out from the roosting Black-headed Gulls and, as dusk approached, we settled into position to watch for Otters.  A juvenile Marsh Harrier was quartering the reedbeds, Starlings were arriving to roost, with some murmuration, a Spoonbill flew in, magnificent in the sunset, then, in the fading rays of daylight, there was an Otter 🙂  Clearly a theme was developing, as this was a very small Otter cub.  Eventually light levels reached the point where we decided to call it a day and head back northwest.  The day’s theme continued, with a tiny Rabbit along the roadside, and then the final wildlife experience, on a day with wildlife and clients that reminded me so often why I love my job; a Barn Owl crossing the road ahead of us before perching in the beam of our headlights 🙂

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Variety is the spice of life; Coastal safari 26/05/2014

by on May.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

A brilliantly sunny Bank Holiday Monday is the only time you’re likely to encounter anything even remotely approaching crowds of people in Northumberland, but it does happen occasionally.

I collected Marcus, Alison, Norman (Grandad) and Isobel from their holiday cottage in the shadow of the Wandylaw wind farm, and we set off for a day wildlife-watching.  With it being such a sunny morning, I thought it would be worth starting with one of our trickier animals; if it’s too cold they won’t be out and about, if it’s too warm they’ll already have slithered off somewhere cooler, and if they feel the ground vibrate as you approach they’ll beat a hasty retreat.  We know just the spot to see them when everything falls into place though; a warm, bare, stony patch of earth surrounded by tall grass.  At first we couldn’t see any sign, but I crept through the vegetation for a closer look.  Two Adders weren’t keen on this, and quickly slithered away into the long grass.  The third one was much more obliging though, and I motioned for Isobel to come a bit closer.  Incredibly, the snake remained coiled, and settled, for a few minutes.  It eventually lifted it’s head to fix us with a baleful reptilian glare for another minute before following it’s companions into the vegetation and out of sight.

In the bright sunshine Kestrels hovered over roadside fields, Willow Warblers sang their silvery descending cadence, Chiffchaffs endlessly repeated their name, Chaffinches were proclaiming their territories (and Isobel had done a very impressive colouring of a Chaffinch picture), the scratchy rattle of Whitethroat song buzzed through the warm air, flotillas of goslings patrolled the water with their parents in close attendance and darting damselflies added a streak of azure to the lush green of the grass.  Down on the coast, dainty Avocets swept the water edge for morsels, Grey Plovers (probably my favourite wader, certainly when they’re in their summer finery) chased back and forth, Common andSandwich Terns roosted together, Fulmars rode the updraft of the warm breeze along the clifftops, Eiders were resplendent in the sunshine, and ‘wooly bear‘ caterpillars and cuckoo spitwere just the thing for a six year old to enjoy 🙂

Most entertaining though, judging by the giggling, was a Rook that was rummaging through a bag of rubbish and found what it seemed to consider a suitable food item.  That item was a (full) dog-poo bag…  So disgusting that I almost titled the blog after it 🙂

 

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All adding up; Bespoke wildlife tour 20/05/2014

by on May.23, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Even after 20 years living in Northumberland, I’m sometimes still amazed at what can be seen in one day, with seven mammals in a day in June 2010 showing what’s possible with planning and just a bit of luck 🙂  Sometimes you just have to hope that the weather’s helpful though…

I collected Mike and Jane from Greycroft and we set off towards the foothills of the Cheviots.  Our first targets for the day were reptiles…and it wasn’t looking promising; thick low cloud and a cold breeze really aren’t the ideal conditions for these cold-blooded predators.  Nevertheless, we made our way along a track with several likely sunning spots.  All were devoid of reptiles, but an hour later, as we were surrounded by the songs of Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Sedge Warblers andChaffinches, it turned slightly brighter and the temperature rose (from ‘chilling’ to ‘almost warm’!) so I suggested it was time to retrace our route.  Almost as if scripted, the most likely looking spot had an Adder laid in it 🙂  It slithered away into the grass and out of sight as we headed on our way.  Our next destination was the southeast Northumberland coast and Druridge Bay.  Despite a concentrated session checking their regular hang-outs we didn’t manage to find any Red Squirrels, although it was cold and windy which doesn’t help.  Birdwatching our way up the coast produced Fulmar soaring along the cliff tops as we ate our lunch,  House andSand Martins hawking insects, Dunlin andGrey Plover feeding up on their way north, and a Grey Heron that had found a rich vein of Eels.  It caught, and consumed, four in less than an hour!  Jane spotted a Roebuckas we drove alongside the fields, and then another two by the River Coquet.  Our final stop was in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, with Common Eider just offshore, as well as waddling up the beach, and a small group of Common Scoter just beyond them.

With a rich variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, flowers and other wildlife, Northumberland in May really is an excellent destination for the keen naturalist.  I like it almost as much as I like the winter 🙂

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Breaking new ground

by on Mar.26, 2012, under Birdwatching, Harwood, Northumberland

Since we started NEWT we’ve always tried to innovate and keep our tours refreshed.  Saturday gave me the opportunity to do something that really was innovative – our first Harwood Safari.  We’ve walked the route 5 times during the last 3 winters, but driving it was something of an unknown quantity.

As a business we’re happy to support the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.  As well as being a corporate member of the trust, we sponsor the under 13 and 13-18 age categories of the NWT Annual Photography competition.  Saturday’s Harwood trip was the prize for last year’s 13-18 winner and his dad.  When I collected them from Newbiggin it was worryingly misty, but as we headed inland the mist began to lift.

We started at the viewpoint near Winter’s Gibbet, where Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Crossbill, Siskin, Goldcrest, Lesser Redpoll and Chiffchaff were all calling or singing.  As the mist over the forest lifted, it was time to break new ground as we headed off along tracks with no vehicle access to the public.  More Crossbills and Siskins were in the trackside trees and Common Buzzards were soaring high overhead giving their mewing calls.  Soon after lunch we stopped to check out a distant raptor over the plantation on the opposite side of a clearfell area.  Within a minute we were watching 3 Common Buzzards…and a pair of Goshawks that had risen out of the trees to shepherd the buzzards away!  As the buzzards moved on the Goshawks quickly melted back into the obscurity of the trees.

A stop to search for Adders didn’t produce any of these fearsome reptiles, but we did find a dozen Common Lizards, lazing in the sunshine and then scuttling out of sight.

Our first Harwood Safari, the air filled with raptors, trees filled with Crossbills…looks like a winner 🙂

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Valley of tranquility

by on Sep.06, 2010, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, North Pennines, Northumberland

Although our Cheviot Valleys and North Pennines safaris are concentrated in the springtime, we run a few trips to those inland areas in the late summer and early autumn.  The final day of August was a trip to the Cheviots, and it could hardly have been better; the weather was wonderful, there were hardly any other people to be seen anywhere and the wildlife was, well, as good and varied as we would expect.

After collecting Hamish and Vanessa we drove past Morpeth then up the A697 and through the ford at Coldgate Mill.  The Happy Valley was deserted and peaceful; a Slow Worm was basking in the dappled light between gorse bushes, Small Copper butterflies (a personal favourite) were feeding and sunning themselves and there were even a few Silver Y moths.  We get these migrants in our trap occasionally, and I’ve seen them in profusion on the coast, but these were well inland.  

Camera-shy Silver Y

Goldcrests were calling, and eventually spotted, Spotted Flycatchers, Treecreepers and Long-tailed Tits were all found in one tree, Robins seemed to be everywhere we went and the first of the day’s Common Buzzards, rising rapidly in a thermal, suggested that searching skywards could be productive for birdwatching.

After lunch we walked along the far end of the valley.  Red Grouse were cackling hysterically on one side of the valley, at the same time as we could hear a shooting party on the other.  Siskins and Lesser Redpolls were feeding around the treetops, although they did pause briefly so we had a chance to look at them.  The warm sunshine and excellent visibility mean that it did turn out to be a raptor day; as well as Common Buzzards there were regular Common Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk then, as we walked back to the car park, a Peregrine  soared majestically and menacingly against the blue sky overhead.  Sadly our only Adder of the day was roadkill, although it had gathered an interesting collection of flies and beetles.

One thing that our safaris have proved to be is a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  If you need to get away from it all then give us a call, or if you know somebody who would benefit from a day of chilled out wildlife watching then our gift vouchers could be just the thing they need 🙂

Hamish kindly provided some images from the day (including the Silver Y that really didn’t want to be photographed) and my own favourites are here;

Mother Nature ages trees better than any bonsai artist can!

 

Northumberland heather in bloom

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