Tag: Avocet

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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Now you see me…; Druridge Bay Safari 22/06/18

by on Jun.26, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Last Thursday was Anne and Howard’s 2nd day out with NEWT, after a Farne Islands trip in June last year, and this time our destination was NEWT’s local patch – Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

In glorious sunshine we started with a woodland walk.  Jays and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were characteristically quite vocal, and Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Nuthatches were feeding fledglings in the branches above our heads and a Banded Demoiselle put in a graceful appearance.  We were searching for Dippers and Anne spotted one on a branch that apparently hadn’t had one on it just a few seconds earlier.  We watched it for around 20 minutes as it slept, preened stretched and then vanished as it turned it’s back towards us.  Among the sun-dappled branches just a few inches above the river it just blended into the background without it’s striking white breast on display.

After a picnic overlooking the North Sea, with Fulmars arcing by along the clifftop, we continued north along the bay.  Avocet chicks were running around the shallows as 13 adults were either incubating, feeding or engaging in some entertaining disputes with Shelducks.  In the warm afternoon sunshine damselflies were abundant and Great Crested Grebes were feeding with a single chick.  At our final site for the day 33 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding close to Tufted Ducks, Mallard and Teal and as Cormorants flew out towards the sea I caught a glimpse of a dark back as it submerged out of sight.  Probably a Cormorant, but always worth making sure…and there was an Otter 🙂  A great way to end the day!

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In the wake of Hector; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 15/06/18

by on Jun.18, 2018, under Druridge Bay

I collected Alison and Paul from Amble and we set out for an afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, in search of Otters and Badgers

One Otter site had to be removed from our itinerary after a walk along it on Thursday, following the passing of Storm Hector, had revealed a path deep in leaves, branches, twigs and, in some places, blocked by fallen trees 🙁  There was still a keen breeze and Otters seemed to be keeping their heads down although a commotion at one corner of a pool saw sheep scattering and Canada Geese taking to panicked flight.  Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were diving and offering an interesting ID comparison, Black-tailed Godwits were probing the mud beneath shallow marshes as Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting only put in brief cameo appearances before diving back into cover and 2 Spoonbills were doing that typical Spoonbill thing of having an afternoon nap.  A Grey Heron, approaching with lumbering flight, triggered an extraordinary response from Lapwings, Common Redshank, Dunlin and no less than 19 Avocets who all took to the air and subjected it to an onslaught from all sides.  As calm began to settle, minor skirmishes involving Avocets and Shelduck began to break out and a Brown Hare loped across a distant field with an ever-growing Starling murmuration above it.

With dusk approaching we headed off to our regular Badger sett, and more post-storm destruction.  Broken branches, twigs and leaves littered the footpath, bushes and trees were bent over and the whole area around the sett looked as though it had taken a real pounding.  Song Thrushes were singing, Blackbird, Robin and Wren were alarm calling as light levels continued to fall and pipistrelles flew back and forth in front of us, and an unidentified mammal ran across in front of us, then suddenly all was silent for a few minutes until the tremulous hooting of a Tawny Owl cut through the gloom beneath the woodland canopy and we could hear twigs snapping as something explored the undergrowth close to the sett entrance but remained frustratingly hidden from view.

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Lovely afternoon, murky evening; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 13/06/18

by on Jun.14, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was Mike and Maggie’s 5th day out with NEWT and we were heading to Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Days out with returning clients are always a pleasure; catching up with what’s been going on since we last met and sharing notes on our local wildlife is much more an afternoon with old friends, and in this case doubly nice as Mike’s a photographer and uses Nikon gear 😉  I’d just had 3 days leading a photography holiday and getting a good look at a Sigma 150-600mm lens on a Nikon body, and Mike arrived with a Nikon 200-500mm lens on the same body that I use for wildlife photography so I’ve enjoyed some hands-on experience of the lenses that I’m (still) trying to decide between, as well as getting first-hand opinions on the lenses from photographers using them 🙂  First stop was for an obligingly still subject, and Mike and Maggie both had Bee Orchids in front of their cameras.  Our riparian woodland walk brought flycatching Grey Wagtails, Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling from the trees and a family party of Blackcaps with both adults feeding recently fledged young.  A Common Buzzard was soaring over the trees as we headed on to our picnic spot and the first very light spots of rain started to fall…

As we had our picnic, overlooking the North Sea with Gannets and Fulmars soaring over it and Grey Seals bottling just offshore the rain started to intensify and the breeze was strengthening.  Heading on we watched at least 19 Avocets, as Shelduck babies seemed intent on doing their own thing and wandering away from the protective aggression of their parents.  Then the Grey Herons began to arrive and were lining up on the bank and watching the ducklings.  Each time a heron flew it was mobbed by Avocets and Lapwings until eventually they all flew off together and disappeared behind a reedbed.  Still the rain and the breeze intensified until finally we decided that trying to see anything in the gloom of dusk was a losing battle, although not as much of a battle as it would have been if we’d been out today and wrestling with Storm Hector…

 

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Evolving; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 05/06/18

by on Jun.06, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was Brian and Carolyn’s 4th day out with NEWT and we were returning to the scene of their 1st – Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

As we drove down the coast from Seahouses there was an ominous bank of fog just offshore but fortunately that’s where it stayed 🙂  Since that 1st Druridge trip we’ve changed a few things, and we’ve added a new riparian walk that is rich with birdsong.  Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Blackbird were all singing around us as clouds of mayflies danced over the water and rough vegetation by the path and Common Blue Damselflies graced us with their presence.  Our picnic stop was accompanied by a Kestrel, riding the updraft from the cliff edge and hanging near motionless in the stiff breeze.  Fulmars were arcing by as lines of Gannets flew north offshore and a Great Skua lumbered menacingly into the breeze.  Shelduck and Mallard had broods of small duckings, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall were dabbling as Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck were diving and Meadow Pipits song-flighted as Yellow Wagtails proceeded jerkily through the long grass in front of us.  Avocets were sleeping, incubating, feeding and chasing corvids as Dunlin probed in the mud of shallow pools, Ringed Plover were hurrying and scurrying through the grass and Lapwing chicks, fluffy miniature versions of their parents, explored close to the water’s edge as Black-tailed Godwits flew by, revealing their striking black and white upperwings above a wet meadow liberally sprinkled with sentinel-like Grey Herons.

Druridge is our local patch, and somewhere that we visit all year round, but we’re still discovering new locations to add into our trips there so check our website calendar and come along to explore it with us 🙂

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Save the best ’til last; Druridge Bay Safari 20/04/18

by on Apr.26, 2018, under Druridge Bay

All of our Safari Days have developed over the last ten years, and even on our familiar, regular Druridge Bay Safaris there’s always the possibility of changing the route slightly and visiting sites that we visit ourselves regularly but haven’t taken clients to yet…

That’s how I found myself with Ian and Elaine & Becky and Helen along a stretch of river that was a new one for a NEWT safari.  We were having an afternoon and evening searching for our favourite sinuous predator around the NEWT local patch and in the warm afternoon sunshine Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and Chiffchaff, Robin, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Blackcap, Chaffinch and Coal Tit were all singing.  On a shallow coastal pool there were no fewer than 19 Avocets (genuinely rare up here when we moved to the north east 25 years ago…) and, while Sand Martins and Swallows fed on the rich hatch of flying insects, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe and Shelduck dabbled and dived as a pair of Garganey remained unobtrusive until the drake started singing his raspy song.

Our picnic spot, overlooking the North Sea produced a high-tide roost of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin and Purple Sandpiper as Fulmars soared by and Sandwich Terns were plunge-diving just offshore.  The descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers came from hawthorns alongside footpaths and the afternoon was feeling more Spring than Winter (at last!).

A Little Owl glared balefully from a roadside tree, but remained obligingly perched in full view and we headed to our final location for dusk.  A Short-eared Owl drifted across one reedbed as a female Marsh Harrier quartered another one and Water Rails squealed from a third as the Mute Swans and Greylag Geese seemed to be the only birds in a fairly large area of water…

The Short-eared Owl emerged from the dunes and settled on a distant fence post and I set the ‘scope up so that everyone could have a look at it.  I was scanning the foreground and I thought I saw a dark shape just a few feet behind a Greylag.  I mentioned it but it seemed unlikely that it was an Otter, unless the goose hadn’t seen it and it hadn’t seen the goose…which is what seems to have happened as an adult Otter appeared a few metres further along the reed edge  🙂  After a few minutes with no further sightings a Grey Heron and a Marsh Harrier both flushed from a reedbed further round the pool – and there was an Otter cub too 🙂  We watched as it made it’s way along the edge and then out across the open water with dusk approaching.

 

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Mist, murk, mud and mergansers; Otter Safari 12/04/18

by on Apr.13, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Stephen and Soraya from The Swan, then Martyn and Colin, and Jo, from Church Point, ahead of an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters

On a stiff easterly breeze with drizzle, mist, murk and heavy rain showers, spirits could have been dampened but having a car filled with cheerful enthusiastic guests with a great interest in conservation was just the right thing to keep everyone going.  Fulmars were arcing along the clifftops and a Kestrel impressed with it’s geostationary approach to hunting, facing directly into the wind and hanging near motionless.  A Little Owl perched on a low horizontal branch, in the lee of the tree trunk where it would have had some respite from the cold, and occasional groups of Starlings rushed by like mini-murmurations taking a quick route to roost.  A male Stonechat perched at the top of a clump of rushes before a sallying flycatching flight and then back into cover.  As the deafening clamour of hundreds of Black-headed Gulls added a surreal touch of discordance to the sight of Great-crested Grebes drifting elegantly across the water, and Goldeneye engaged in some less than enthusiastic display, Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Turnstone and 5 pairs of Avocet were all wading in the shallows as a group of Common Snipe, unusually out in the open, were flushed by a Grey Heron stalking along the edge of the reeds.  The menacing dark shapes of Cormorants sank from view as they hunted the myriad small fish that were dimpling the water’s surface and a Great-crested Grebe very obligingly decided to start hunting just a few metes away from us.  We might have expected all of the birds to be keeping their heads down in the wind and rain, but if there’s one species that you can rely on to provide a spectacle, it’s Red-breasted Merganser; shaggy crests waving in the breeze, the males were engaged in their comical ostentatious posturing.  Necks outstretched and dipping with a theatrical bow that looks like they’re trying to upend themselves, they were completely unconcerned by either the weather, or that fact they they’re not anywhere near their breeding grounds yet 🙂

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Breezy with a chance of Otters :-) Otter Safari 21/03/18

by on Mar.22, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Yesterday morning was glorious; blue sky, fluffy white clouds, not much a of a breeze.  By the time I collected Jon and Lesley from Church Point ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay searching for Otters it was cloudy, cold, breezy and the first few drops of rain had patterned the car windscreen…

The wintry weather that brought travel chaos to much of Britain in February and the first half of March meant that it had been a month since our previous Otter Safari but I was confident that I could find an Otter and prove to Lesley that not having seen one in several attempts wasn’t due to her being a jynx.  As the breeze strengthened we arrived at our first site for the afternoon and a few seconds later we were watching an Otter 🙂  We had nearly an hour of it feeding before it surfaced with a fish that was too big too handle in the water and headed back to the holt to enjoy it’s catch.  By now the rain was coming down heavily and we had lunch in the car, watching a raft of Common Eider out on the calm sea, before exploring more coastal pools.  Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Mute Swan and Whooper Swan was a nice contingent of wildfowl as a Grey Heron sat hunched, looking miserable in the cold and wet and a Common Buzzard perched obligingly at the end of a row of trees.  Cormorants were fishing and doing their very best Otter impersonations as we scanned through a wader roost.  Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and a single Avocet were all studied through the ‘scope before we headed to our final site for the afternoon, passing Kestrels hovering by the roadside on what was now a very stiff, icy cold, breeze.

For over an hour until it was too dark to see clearly we were entertained by a Starling murmuration.  Flock after flock joined the twisting, swirling amorphous mass that repeatedly came so close that we could hear their wingbeats.  A female Sparrowhawk passed through the murmuration a couple of times, causing it to bunch so tightly that it cast a dense shadow on the water below them as Whooper Swans arrived to roost and the light of day faded to the near darkness of dusk.

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