Tag: Bean Geese

Sing when you’re winning

by on Mar.26, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

My own highlight of many trips involves those ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ moments, and they come in many guises…

A Chiffchaff was singing as I collected Alec and Margaret from Waren Mill and we headed south down the coast toward Druridge Bay with a day of birdwatching ahead of us.  In quite stunning weather we enjoyed fields of Curlew, rafts of Puffins on the sea, and clouds of them swirling over Coquet Island, Fulmars shearing along the cliff-tops, plenty of wildfowl, including a red-head Smew – thanks Gill 🙂 – and Bean, Canada, White-fronted, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese and 2 Short-eared Owls. It’s always a pleasure to take out clients who really appreciate Northumberland, and even more so when it’s their first visit to our beautiful county and they’ve already vowed to return regularly.

One of those special moments was provided by a bird once described by a good birding friend as “Annoying.  They never stop singing, they’re really, really annoying”.  The object of his ire?  None other than the humble Skylark.  I have to say that I don’t find them annoying at all.  I’ve hidden in rocky crags, monitoring Hen Harrier nest sites, with Skylarks singing directly overhead, I’ve walked around Holy Island in the summer with several birds singing from so high that they were just dots in the sky and I’ve marvelled at their song as it carries on the breeze.  One thing we saw on Thursday was the thing that Chris found particularly annoying; as we drove from Cresswell towards Druridge Pools, we stopped to check the roadside fields  and several Skylarks were singing nearby.  Suddenly, one of the birds was zig-zagging as it tried to avoid the unwelcome attention of a Merlin.  As the falcon chased close on it’s tail, the Skylark continued singing.  It might seem a strange thing to do, but it has been shown that Merlins chase non-singing, or poorly singing, Skylarks for longer periods than they chase Skylarks that sing well and they’re more likely to catch non-singing Skylarks.  As the birds rose higher and out of sight, we didn’t see the outcome of the chase, but the experience of watching a small bird filled with bravado as a predator closes in on it was one of those moments…

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…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 🙂  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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Expect the unexpected

by on Feb.17, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Whenever we have a trip with clients who have been given gift vouchers, I always wonder what they expect.  Some will have chosen gift vouchers when asked what they would like, some will have been given them by our existing clients, and for some it must be a complete mystery tour.  When we get an enquiry we always try to determine exactly what our clients want, but at the start of a trip I’ll always enquire “is there anything you’re particularly keen to see while you’re in Northumberland?”  Then, the pressure is on to try and deliver that experience…

I collected Patrick and Bronwyn from Amble yesterday morning for a day of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  As we set off it was a beautiful morning; sunny, calm and dry and I soon determined that one bird they would love to see was Bittern – they’ve visited sites where Bitterns breed and Bitterns overwinter but not, so far, anywhere where the aforementioned birds were obliging enough to come into view for them.  An hour into the trip and it was already windy, bitterly cold and spotting with rain but the birding was good.  2 Bewick’s Swans in a roadside field were very obliging, nibbling on the vegetation as we studied them, 12 Goosanders sailed majestically across a lake, Patrick’s sharp eyes picked out an immaculate male Sparrowhawk on a fence post and the air was filled with skeins of geese (Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed, White-fronted and Bean), a Skylark battled into the wind and Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Pochard, Mallard and Great-crested Grebe were picked out from the flock on the water.

A brief visit to Newbiggin to track down a Mediterranean Gull (or four) was followed by lunch overlooking the North Sea. Heading up through the bay, Red-breasted Mergansers were displaying and a Short-eared Owl (the first of three for the afternoon) perched on a roadside fence-post.  Reedbeds were illuminated by that beautiful winter afternoon light (I wax lyrical about it frequently, but it really is a breathtaking backdrop to the wildlife and part of the experience).  As the afternoon light began to fade, Venus appeared overhead, a herd of Whooper Swans trumpeted their arrival for the evening roost and a Grey Heron shot out of one reedbed, flew across in front of us, landed just out of sight and flushed a Bittern that flew almost the reverse of the route taken by the heron, along the near edge of the pool directly in front of us and dropped into a reedbed and out of sight!  Wildlife may be unpredictable, but those days when it seems to perform to order leave me, and our clients, with a big grin 🙂  After that what more was there to do than spend the evening relaxing back at home with a glass of good red wine. Cheers 🙂

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The star of the show

by on Jan.27, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

When we’re out with clients, or even out on our own, there are days when nothing stands out and, simply, everything is memorable 🙂  Sometimes though there will be one thing that really sticks in the memory.

I collected Vin and Nicky from Whitley Bay yesterday morning and we set out on an exploration of the Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland area in idyllic weather conditions.  Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tits, Mallards, Kestrels and a Buzzard all entertained before we came across the remarkable goose flocks that we’re enjoying this winter.  Pink-footed, Bean and White-fronted Geese were bobbing about on lakes, flying in skeins towards other geese feeding in nearby fields and…scattering in panic.  That scattering always focuses everyone’s attention; we know that there’s something happening that the birds are unhappy about, and that something is often the arrival of a predator.  Sure enough, as the Common and Black-headed Gulls took to the air and made a mad dash for the centre of the lake, a Peregrine scythed through the flock.  For 20 minutes it climbed, stooped and harried the gulls, who had presumably realised that it wouldn’t dive into the water so became less willing to take flight as it repeatedly buzzed them.  Eventually, and preumably tired after all the exertion without a kill, it settled in a nearby field with a goose flock.  We all had the same thought whilst we were watching it; when we were young and first interested in birdwatching this was an almost mythical species.  Once incredibly rare, due to a combination of persecution, egg-collection and the effects of organochlorine pesticides, it takes my breath away that I have the opportunity so often to watch Peregrines in the wild, and share the experience with our clients.  It probably deserves the title of this blog post…but the flock of 50 displaying Goldeneye in the hour before dusk were something special too 🙂

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