Tag: Barnacle Goose
I collected Luke and Louise from Alnwick, for the first of their three trips with us this week, and we headed north to Lindisfarne…
Crossing the causeway, with hardly any water in sight, it was hard to believe that this has been the scene of so many attempts by the unwary and the foolish to drive through seawater that brings their journeys to an abrupt end and the ignominy of having to be rescued by the RNLI and RAF. On the island, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing from deep cover as foraging Lapwings were joined by a Fieldfare that was chancing it’s arm with repeated threat displays. Meadow Pipits were sitting on fence posts and dry stone walls as the air all around seemed to be filled with singing Skylarks. Eight Roe Deer were feeding in a grassy field and a buck near the village took umbrage at beeing watched and took off at pace, clearing fence after fence and wall after wall as he headed towards the dunes on the north of the island. House Sparrows were chirping from what seemed like every bush on the island and Grey Herons blended in to the reeds around the Lough to such an extent that Louise’s sharp eyes picked one out and it took a while, and the heron suddenly moving it’s head, before myself and Luke could see it.
As a cold north easterly breeze gathered pace, the eerie calls of Grey Seals and the shrill cries of Curlew carried across the mudflats. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, surely getting ready to depart for northern climes, arrived with the rising tide and Little Egrets, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Herring, Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls were joined along the edge of the swelling water by three Whimbrel.
To enjoy my unedited views about Holy Island causeway strandings, why not join one of our Lindisfarne Safaris? We run them throughout the year, although October (for migrants), November-February (wintering waders and wildfowl) and June-July (flora and insects) are the slightly better months to visit.
I collected Phil and Richard and we set out for a day birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. The forecast suggested there was the possibility of a rain shower sometime in the early afternoon…
Eider were well-appreciated, as Golden Plover carpeted the mud at low tide, and other ducks are starting to look very smart as they moult into breeding plumage; Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and a lone Scaup. Tuesday’s Long-tailed Duck was still present, consorting with male and female Wigeon, although quickly vanished from view. Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit were either in the shallows or on the muddy edge, Cormorants were doing that fantastic Otter impression that they’re so good at and the bushes along the footpaths held Song Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and a vocal Ring Ouzel that expressed it’s annoyance as we walked by. The southward migration of Pink-footed Geese continued, and two each of Brent Goose and Barnacle Goose were less expected. Dunnocks were subjected to greater scrutiny than usual (with the recent arrivals of Siberian Accentors, you just never know…) and Goldcrests were watched at close range as they made their way through willows.
As for that rain shower…an almost apocalyptic 5 minutes that just happened to coincide with us walking back to the car from the Oddie Hide at Druridge Pools. Driven by a NNE wind though, I wasn’t too distressed by it 🙂
Our Winter Wonderland holiday started on Sunday evening with Ben and Diane, and David, arriving at the Bamburgh Castle Inn.
Day One 22/02/16. Our first full day was around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast and everything that makes the area so good in the winter put in an appearance. Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Knot represented wading birds, Common Scoter, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were just offshore, Grey Seal and at least 16 Roe Deer provided some mammal interest and there were lots and lots of geese. Pale-bellied Brent, Dark-bellied Brent, Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle filled the air, the fields and the mudflats as Skylarks sang and fought, heralding the arrival of spring 🙂
Day Two 23/02/16. Our second day was spent around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. One of our favourite mammals was soon on the trip list as an Otter cub appeared from its hideaway in a pile of boulders and spent a little while feeding close by 🙂 The long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher joined the trip list too, feeding alongside Knot, Common Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit and unexpected birds included Marsh Tit and Treecreeper. As the afternoon light faded, we watched a family group of Whooper Swans and a pair of Dippers sat almost motionless on a mid-stream rock as the water rushed around them and a Barn Owl was a welcome addition to the trip list just before an incredibly brief sleety shower reminded us that this is the winter 🙂
24/02/16. Departure day dawned bright, cold and encased in frost at the end of the holiday. Just the way the winter should be!
Pat and Jenny’s second day out with NEWT was to a location that really comes into it’s own during the winter…
Bar-tailed Godwit, Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Common Redshank and Turnstone were all showing well on the rocks below us and I started scanning just beyond the bay, and there were 7 Bottlenose Dolphins heading south 🙂 One of them was an incredibly distinctive animal that we first encountered in Northumberland last winter and this latest sighting will be added to our database of dolphins re-sighted close to our shores. Heading across to Holy Island dense flocks of Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Knot filled the air and we enjoyed views of both Dark-bellied and Pale-bellied Brent Geese as well as Greylag, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese. Skylarks put in an appearance too, always a nice bird to see as they’re scarce in Northumberland during the winter, and then potentially the bird of the day remained unidentified as a distant ‘ringtail’ harrier made a brief appearance in the dunes on the north side of the island before disappearing from view. The one that got away…
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.
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 Geese. Bar-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 🙂
Saturday saw a change in our normal Safari routine, and an early afternoon start. I collected Gareth and Ruth from the Red Lion at Alnmouth and we drove south. The hot, sunny weather had brought out hundreds of people to Plessey Woods but we still found a peaceful, undisturbed glade where we could listen to the birds singing and we watched a female Great Spotted Woodpecker; at least we were able to watch her until she realised that we were! Cresswell Pond produced a real avian soap opera as a Mute Swan defended his pond against two interlopers, racing across the pond like the Spanish Armada. A Little Gull was as cute and dimunitive as ever, alongside Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls. Druridge Pools was hosting some obviously confused geese; amongst the expected flock of Greylags there were single Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese as well. A late finish concluded with a beautiful, ghostly Barn Owl and at least 3 different species of bat along the River Coquet at dusk.
Sunday was a day for doing whatever we felt like. With temperatures still soaring, a day inland, doing survey work for the BTO Bird Atlas, was considered then rejected in favour of a visit to the coast.
Sarah had the excellent idea of taking a boat trip around Coquet Island, which I was really enthusiastic about. When myself and Tom Cadwallender from the Northumberland Coast AONB were designing the backdrop for this year’s Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the Bird Fair we chose eight species that we felt symbolised Northumberland birding; Curlew, Eider, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Golden Plover, Black Grouse, Roseate Tern, Dipper and Puffin. A mix of everything that’s good about birdwatching in Northumberland; inland, coastal, summer and winter. I had images of seven of those species, but the Roseate Tern is the one that I haven’t photographed during the digital age. Hence, my enthusiasm for a trip around Coquet Island; with 35-40 Rosies already back at their Northumberland colony I was hopeful that photo opportunities would arise. As we sailed across to the island onboard Shokwave, there was a strengthening NNE breeze and the temperature began to decrease rapidly. Once Dennis manouvered the boat into the jetty, we could see Roseates sitting on their nest boxes. They were a bit distant for photography so I waited patiently until I heard the distinctive ‘choo-it’ call and a bird flew by the boat.
Grey Seals popped their heads above the water to look at the boat, Puffins whizzed past at breakneck speed and more Roseates were busy displaying around the boxes.
After a pleasant Sunday morning cruise it was time to return home. En route, we stopped off to check a Little Owl nest site and one of the adult birds sat staring at us from the roof of a derelict building. Finalising the paperwork for a forthcoming project was followed by a wonderful evening sitting on our patio, drinking wine and working on part of our bonsai collection as Blackbirds were singing from our trees and Coal Tits collected food to take to the noisy, and hungry, nestlings that we could hear. Now, that’s my idea of heaven 🙂