Tag: Barnacle Geese

…and staying local

by on Mar.15, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

After another day on Holy Island on Sunday (carrying out some contract survey work), I collected Jakob and Nancy from Royal Quays early on Monday for a day of birdwatching around the NEWT ‘local patch’; southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay.

We started with Mediterranean Gulls at Newbiggin.¬† Gulls may not be everyone’s bird of choice, but I defy anyone to tell me that adult Med Gulls aren’t stunningly beautiful ūüôā¬† Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Pied Wagtail were picking along the tideline as we watched the meds and we left them behind to continue our journey up the coast. Seawatching produced Guillemots, Razorbills, several Red-throated Divers, Fulmars using the breeze to soar incredibly close to the cliffsides and a possible ‘Northern’ Eider drifting south among the Common Eiders.¬† A Peregrine made its way south with those powerful, menacing wingbeats, Rock Pipits in small flocks danced about on the wind, and we left the sea (although not too far away!) and continued our journey.¬† Geese, which have characterised so much of our birding this winter are still around and we managed Greylag, Pink-footed, Canada, Barnacle, Taiga Bean and Eurasian White-fronted.¬† Goldeneyes are still around in good numbers, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Mallard were all resplendent (as most ducks tend to be in the late winter)¬†and 2 Common Snipe circled several times before deciding that the pond wasn’t to their liking and heading off again.

I returned Jakob and Nancy to the ferry terminal for their return journey to the Netherlands, and made the slightly shorter journey back to Scotland Gate myself.

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Raptors, raptors everywhere

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Standing on the Heugh on Holy Island with Jill and Steve, we’re all scanning towards Guile Point.¬† Cormorants, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider are all bobbing about on the water, Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Curlew¬†and¬†Oystercatchers are flying by, Common and Grey Seals are splashing in the surf as the tide falls…and I’m focused on the sea with¬†one species in mind.¬† Then 2 distant white dots, gradually narrowing the gap¬†toward us, and I know I’ve achieved that primary target.¬† Soon, I’ve got 2 very happy clients watching an immaculate drake Long-tailed Duck.¬† Outrageously attractive, he waved that eponymous tail in the air before taking off and vanishing out of sight around the headland.

At the other end of the day we watched a flock of 20 Slavonian Grebes and a similar number of Common Scoter, another 6 Long-tailed Ducks, an elusive¬†Black-throated Diver and 3 equally elusive Red-throated Divers and 2 Harbour Porpoises as the light faded to the point where even the impressive assembly of optical equipment wasn’t offering an advantage any more.

Sandwiched in between though, was a veritable feast of raptors;¬† we’d already had a couple of Common Buzzards (and I’d had 2 on the drive to Hauxley before collecting Jill and Steve),¬†2 Sparrowhawks and several Kestrels by lunchtime, but the best was yet to come.¬† First a Merlin perched on a post in front of us for 10 minutes, then we found 2 Peregrines¬†sitting on boulders at low tide.¬† Soon a wave of panic spread through the assembled waders, and the Barnacle, Greylag, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, as the 2 Peregrines swooped back and forth.¬† Then, our second Merlin of the day began harrassing one of the Peregrines. As chaos raged across the mudflats, one of the Peregrines made a kill; an unfortunate Redshank.¬† It took it’s prize to a rock and began plucking it…and 2 more Peregrines arrived!¬† All 3 tussled over the spoils of the hunt, before 2 of them conceded and sat a little distance away.¬† A dry, cold wintry day and spectacular drama played out by some excellent wildlife.¬† The Northumberland coast in the winter – there’s nothing better ūüôā

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Winter Wonderland 28/11/11-01/12/11

by on Dec.07, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Last week was our Winter Wonderland birdwatching¬†holiday, although as I arrived at Saughy Rigg¬†I wondered if Windy Wonderland would be a better name for it ūüėČ

The original itinerary involved the Solway coast on Tuesday and the North Pennines on Wednesday, but a quick discussion with our guests on arrival meant that our coastal day was switched to Northumberland to avoid the poor weather in the west.

The plan worked well, at least until mid-afternoon when the weather caught up with us and we had a couple of hours of dodging the showers.  The waders and wildfowl that winter here featured throughout the day and Greylag, Pink-footed, Pale-bellied Brent, Barnacle and Eurasian White-fronted Geese were all enjoying the mild weather on the Northumberland coast.  3 splendid drake Goosanders  were blown across Druridge Pools before battling their way back against the wind, and a Roe Deer was grazing in the gap between 2 reed beds.  As so often seems to happen, some of the best wildlife of the day saved its appearance until the light began to fade.  First a Short-eared Owl, with a strikingly white face, quartering backwards and forwards along the margins of a field, then 2 Water Rails, those small, secretive denizens of the reeds, stepped gingerly into view; prodding and poking and squealing like piglets as they vanished back into the gloom.  Then, as flocks of geese descended to roost, a Bittern flew from the reeds and headed south.

Wednesday brought another breezy morning, and we headed into the hills.  Remarkable numbers of Red Grouse chuckled at us as we watched from the comfort of the car, and 7 Black Grouse were the first of no less than 75 that we found during the day.  The weather closed in all around us and, after a quick check of a lough wher Teal, Wigeon and Lapwing were roosting and Goldeneye were feeding, we finished the day at one of our favourite evening venues.  An unidentified raptor flew low across the heather moorland and out of sight over a ridge, Red Grouse burst from cover before settling again a short distance away and a lone Short-eared Owl battled into a brutal headwind as the evening faded to darkness.

Winter Wonderland is one (in fact, two) of the holidays on our itinerary for 2012, so give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

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Bittern by the birdwatching bug

by on Oct.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Clients often comment¬†that what really appeals to them about birdwatching is that every day is different and there’s always something new to learn. I couldn’t agree more; I have lots of days out with clients, and a lot of time in the field on ‘non-client’ days, and still feel enthusiastic every morning when I wake up, knowing that I don’t know what the day will bring.

Thursday was Peter and Alison’s second day out with us, and this time we were birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

The weather forecast had shown the edge of the rain staying south of Newcastle all day, so that should have been alright…

As it turned out, we had rain for a good chunk of the day, but the birdwatching was still excellent.  From Black-headed Gulls, and a lesson on moult and ageing, Mediterranean Gulls scavenging in the Church Point car park, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Hen Harrier quartering the ash lagoon bank, a Sparrowhawk hunting as a group of Starlings came swirling in to roost, a tiny Goldcrest flitting about in a windswept Willow, a skittish Water Rail apparently struggling to summon the courage to run across the gap between reedbeds, a thousand Pink-footed Geese flying in at dusk, 300 Barnacle Geese taking to the air together, all the way to the finale of the trip as a Bittern flew between the north and south pools at East Chevington as dark descended, it was another day of outstanding experiences.

And tomorrow…is another day ūüôā

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Hiding from the wind

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

With a forecast for heavy rain today, we had one more client than expected yesterday for our Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland tour.

I c0llected Annie from High Weldon, Brian from Bedlington and then David from Warkworth before our first stop at one of our favourite birdwatching spots beside the River Coquet.  The first thing that was apparent was that there was a not inconsiderable wind-chill factor in play.  Thankfully our local area has plenty of reserves with north-facing hides, so plotting a route that would keep us out of the wind wherever possible was quite straightforward.

It wasn’t a day for passerines, although Blue Tit and Goldcrest could be heard calling from deep inside coastal hedgerows, and we found ourselves in the middle of a big swirling flock of Starlings as we ate lunch overlooking the sea, so waders and wildfowl provided the main focus of the day.¬† Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin and some very nice flocks of Golden Plover, Curlew, Knot and Lapwing were feeding, roosting and, at Cresswell, taking to the air in a panic as a Peregrine exuded menace as it passed over.¬† ‘Scope-filling views of Common Snipe always go down well, and there was an excellent array of wildfowl and waterbirds to enjoy; Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon,Pochard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, and Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle Geese were all well appreciated, especially with a lot of the drake ducks out of eclipse plumage and looking quite stunning. especially when the sun broke through the clouds.

When the autumn really starts to feel autumnal, I’m always optimistic ūüôā

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Birdwatching with Bird Watching

by on Sep.24, 2010, under Birdwatching

Following our adventure in the North Sea on Saturday, I had to gather my thoughts, and clean my binoculars and ‘scope, ¬†ready for a¬†full week of guided birdwatching.¬† I drove north on Sunday¬†to meet¬†up with Sheena Harvey, editor of Bird Watching Magazine, and her husband Alan.¬† With nearly three days to show them the¬†delights that Northumberland has to offer, in terms of birdwatching holidays, guided birdwatching and¬†birdwatching in general, I was really looking forward to the trip.¬† It started a bit later than expected due to vehicle and aquarium problems at their end ūüôĀ but we had a nice meal at the Lindisfarne Inn on Sunday night and discussed the plan for the next few days.

If there was one moment that I thought stood out it was early in the trip, on Monday morning.¬† As we approached Budle Bay I could see a few geese in the ‘goose fields’.¬† We stopped to check them and I commented that with the strong northwesterly winds there should be plenty of geese starting to arrive soon.¬† Then, as if on cue,¬†the skeins started dropping from the skies.¬† Mainly Pink-footed Geese, but with a good handful of Barnacle Geese along for good measure.¬† Well over 1000 birds settled into the field in front of us in just over 20¬†mins.¬† That was just the start of some very good birding and wildlife watching.¬† I’m not going to spoil Sheena’s article¬† by writing a detailed report¬†so, if you want to read about it, you’ll have to buy the¬†January issue (on sale 20th December) ūüôā

By mid-afternoon on Wednesday it was time for¬†Sheena and Alan¬†to head back to the deep south of Lincolnshire, after three really enjoyable days for us – and I’m sure for them as well ūüôā

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