Tag: Barn Swallow

Owling; Otter Safari 17/07/17

by on Jul.19, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Una and then Verna from Church Point and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and South East Northumberland searching our favourite Otter spots

The heat of the afternoon was tempered by a gentle breeze as we came across 8 Little Egrets and a Kingfisher put in a brief but brilliant appearance with flash of dazzling azure as it landed on a rock in front of us before flying across the river and reappearing a few minutes later.  More azure blue flashed towards the extremity of Blue-tailed Damselflies and a Red Admiral took a real liking to Verna, flying around for a few seconds before settling on her arm 🙂  As the evening progressed the light suddenly switched from dazzling and contrasty to sublimely beautiful.  A small Starling murmuration hinted at the spectacle we’ll be enjoying by the winter, 2 Roe Deer were in deep vegetation, a Kestrel was flitting from tree to tree along the roadside ahead of the car and a Barn Owl flew over the reeds carrying a Short-tailed Field Vole as Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin plundered the dense clouds of insects rising above the ethereal mist drifting over the water.

As the light faded and we headed back a Brown Hare loped along the road ahead of us, pausing on the track into a field and I suggested that owls should be on the target list for the next 10-15 minutes of the drive.  Two separate telegraph poles were adorned with Little Owls, with the tiny predators giving us their very best withering stare, before a third Little Owl flew alongside the car briefly and a Barn Owl drifted across the road ahead of us 🙂

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Chorus of the valleys; Bespoke Cheviot Valleys Safari 12/05/17

by on May.16, 2017, under Cheviot Valleys

I collected John and Kate from Church Point at 06:00 and we headed westwards towards the Cheviot massif…

Stepping out of the car in a cold breeze, the density of bird song was like a wall of sound.  Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were all belting out their best tunes, while Oystercatcher, Greylag Goose and Canada Goose provided an accompaniment that was akin to a 3 year old banging a pan with a spoon.  The complex songs of Sedge Warbler and Skylark added to the aural backdrop and the buzzing trill of Lesser Redpoll overhead added an occasional background note.  Brown Hares were running along tractor tyre tracks through long crops and a young Roe Deer seeemd more puzzled than scared by the car.  Common Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge were a reminder of the main managed purpose of the valleys, while on the higher slopes Red Grouse were chuckling, Curlew were displaying and a Common Snipe was singing from the top of an isolated hawthorn as the valley bottom delivered the riparian triumvirate of Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey WagtailHouse Martins were gathering mud to add to their nests, Swallows were hawking insects as the air warmed slightly, Treecreeper and Tree Pipit were both, unsurprisingly, in trees, a Green Woodpecker was yaffling but didn’t show itself and a Cuckoo was singing persistently from a vantage point high in a bare tree.  As far as we could tell, he was singing constantly for at least 3 hours then, as we had lunch, a second Cuckoo flew over the hillside, pursued by a crowd of Meadow Pipits, and the singer flew from his perch to chase the interloper away down the valley.

I’m an evening person, but really enjoy early starts for our inland locations 🙂

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Creepy crawlies;Druridge Bay mini-safari 15/08/2015

by on Aug.20, 2015, under Druridge Bay

The easiest wildlife to engage with is often the small stuff that we might walk by on our way to search for something bigger…

I collected Flora, Pete, Katie (‘the Awesome’!), Joe and Madeleine from Church Point and we set out for a morning exploring around Druridge Pools.  Once I’d armed everyone with sample pots, hand lenses and magnifiers, Ragwort was scrutinised closely for Cinnabar moth caterpillars and they were soon tracked down and subjected to close inspection.  Spiders, slugs, snails, bees, hoverflies and a Small Copper butterfly were also potted and looked at in detail.  Much further along the size spectrum, Black-tailed Godwits and Grey Herons offered ‘scope-filling views and empty Swallow nests were easily accessible.  Common Darters stayed just beyond our reach, and soon a whole morning had passed and it was time to head back to Newbiggin.

Our family wildlife safaris are carefully tailored to keep all ages engaged and we’ve got lots of options including mini-beasting, badger-watching and bat detecting.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to see what we can do for you 🙂

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The Island; Lindisfarne Safari 12/10/2014

by on Oct.15, 2014, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

After a break from work and blogging, and our first proper holiday in quite a while, I got back into the swing of things on Sunday with a visit to probably my favourite mid-October location…

Crossing the causeway to Holy Island is always accompanied by a sense of anticipation, and when I collected Graham and Joan from the Manor House they mentioned that Yellow-browed Warblers had been seen the day before.  Checking the bushes and trees in the Vicar’s Garden didn’t produce any sight or sound of the Siberian speciality, but everywhere was heaving with Robins – presumably recent arrivals from the continent – and Grey Plover, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Seal could be seen, and heard, by turning through 90 degrees from the trees.  After checking other suitable spots around the village, and finding a couple of Goldcrest, we crossed to the mainland and down to Bamburgh.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper and Knot were around the rocks as Eider and Guillemot rose and fell with the gentle swell of the sea and Gannet and Sandwich Tern plunged into shoals of fish offshore in conditions that wouldn’t have been out of place in mid-June.  We made our way slowly back up the coast, taking in vast flocks of Wigeon over the mudflats and a Weasel that responded obligingly to my imitation of a dying mouse (the sound, rather than a visual imitation!).  Little Egrets and Shelduck were exploiting the food supply on the exposed mud and we crossed back on to the island…only to learn that a White-tailed Eagle had been soaring high inland of us while we were watching the Weasel 🙁  We headed down to the causeway, to see if the eagle would make a reappearance, as flocks of Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Golden Plover concentrated on the rapidly diminishing areas of mud above the rising tide and a Peregrine powered across our field of view before it was time for me to cross back to the mainland and head south.

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The pointy end of wildlife watching; Otter mini-safari 12/08/2014

by on Aug.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

As I collected Paul, Lily and Charlie from North Shields, dark clouds were gathering away to the north.  Over Druridge Bay – just where we were heading…

A late brood of Barn Swallows, still in the nest and being fed by their parents, were quite a size contrast to Grey Herons stalking along the water’s edge. Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Gadwall were dabbling and diving, small groups of Starling were heading to roost and, as darkness approached quicker than it would on a nicer evening, we settled into position to watch for Otters.  We were in a struggle with dusk and the weather, but distantly, in the gloom of the waters’ edge, the tell-tale ‘Loch Ness Monster’ shape of an Otter was resting at the surface 🙂  As it moved around the pool, distant plantations and nearby reedbeds were used as landmarks so that everyone knew just where it was.  Then it began moving closer and eventually came up out of the water onto an exposed patch of mud; an apex predator silhouetted against the dying embers of daylight as an unseasonably cold wind began cutting across us and the first drops of rain dimpled the water’s surface around the gulls, ducks and geese settling down for the night as their mortal enemy watched on with mustelid curiosity and cunning.

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Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Monday’s trip was a birdwatching tour of two of Northumberland’s excellent locations; the Cheviot Valleys in the morning, and Druridge Bay in the afternoon.

I collected John, Graham, Andy, Sue, Sue and Lesley from their cottage in Shilbottle and we set off inland towards the imposing landscape of the Cheviot massif.  As we got out of the car and donned waterproofs we had the first rain shower of the day, but it quickly passed and the path began gaining in altitude as Oystercatchers perched on fence posts, swallows and martins hawked back and forth through air buzzing with insects in the warm, humid conditions and Willow Warblers and Chaffinches competed with their congeners in a singing contest.  The plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the steep valley sides, the high calls of Siskin and the buzzy rattle of Lesser Redpoll  came from overhead and one of the archetypal valley birds put in an appearance as we found a succession of adult and juvenile Dippers.  A lone Common Buzzard hovered high over the moors in search of prey and a Peregrine repeatedly rose above the skyline before dropping back down in a prolonged attack on an unfortunate, and unseen, victim.

Lunch overlooking the sea was accompanied by Fulmars gliding gracefully back and forth on stiff wings, before we switched our attention to waders, wildfowl and waterbirdsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons were stalking menacingly along shallow pool edges, at least 50 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting, and a small group of Little Gulls looked diminutive alongside Black-headed Gulls (which aren’t all that big themselves!).  Reed Buntings were singing their rather repetitive song, Sedge and Reed Warblers flew by before vanishing into the depths of the reedbeds and we enjoyed the sight of delicate and dainty, yet incredibly feisty, AvocetsGreat Crested Grebes were feeding their stripy offspring, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns perched obligingly, allowing easy comparison, and the afternoon brought an unexpected surprise in the shape of no less than six Spoonbills.  They did little more exciting than occasionally wake up and preen for a short while before nodding off again, but the sight of six of these impressive birds together wrapped up the day nicely 🙂

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Flying in for a day birdwatching in the North Pennines

by on May.27, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland

I always enjoy meeting up with our previous clients again, and Saturday morning found me at Newcastle Airport waiting to meet Jacob and Nancy as they arrived for a couple of days birdwatching in Northumberland.  They were going to be spending Sunday on the Farne Islands, but our destination on what was developing into a gloriously sunny Saturday was the North Pennines.

Just 12 days earlier I’d been marvelling at the temperature of 1C at 10:30am but now Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher were all flying around and calling noisily as we reached the higher ground southwest of Hexham, Skylarks were singing exuberantly against the azure sky, Meadow Pipits were ‘parachuting’ down at the end of their song flights and Common Snipe were calling from concealed positions in the grassland.  In the stunning light, Barn Swallows were eye-wateringly iridescent, a pair of Golden Plover flew in front of us and a pair of Red Grouse watched closely over eight chicks.  Red Grouse was a lifer for Jacob and Nancy and one male allowed a very close approach and provided a lot of photo opportunities for them.  Eyebrows, raised, eyebrows lowered, facing left, facing right, staring into the lens; he went through a veritable supermodel repertoire of poses before seemingly melting into the vegetation.

As we travelled across a high moorland road, a Northern Wheatear posed obligingly for photographs.

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Skylarks and Meadow Pipits provided a memorable aural backdrop to our lunch stop, and a Golden Plover was silhouetted on top of a nearby ridge, keeping a close eye on it’s territory.  Near perfect weather, a gentle breeze, spectacular landscape and stunning birds; what more could you want from a day’s birdwatching?

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Images of the future

by on Mar.04, 2011, under Photography

Yesterday evening we attended the Northumberland Wildlife Trust Photography Competition Awards event, as sponsors of the two junior categories in the competition.

The standard of entries throughout all of the categories was very high.  The winning entry in the over 18 category was Peter Tapsell’s stunning shot of 3 Long-tailed Tits, and any regular reader of our blog will know the affection that we have for that species.  Jack Bucknall, winner of the 13-18 category, had displayed the patience that is the hallmark of all good wildlife photographers to capture exactly the image of Barn Swallows that he’d envisaged, and Jonathan Farooqi, winner, and 3rd place as well, in the under 13 category, captured in his images Ragwort, a burnet moth and Marsh Helleborines; all examples of colour and beauty that could easily be overlooked without a photographer’s eye for detail.

It was a real pleasure to talk with Jack and Jonathan after the ceremony, and we’re sure that the day out we’re planning for them (and their dads, or mums – there was some debate about this!) will be one of the highlights of our year.

We’d like to congratulate all of the winners, and all of the other entrants as well, who showcased not only their own talents but the diversity and beauty of the wildlife of our county.

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