Tag: Birdwatching Northumberland
After a quiet Christmas and New Year, Tuesday saw both of us back at work. As well as updating a lot of the content on our website, Martin started preparing our monthly newsletter…and spent some time being quite domestic, making a pot of chili for our Bird Race planning meeting.
The Northumberland Winter Bird Race is always an excellent social event. Around dawn on Saturday several teams will set out with the intention of finding and identifying (by sight or sound) as many bird species as possible within the boundaries of Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne. Planning involves mainly deciding which are the most productive sites in terms of species, and working out the most efficient route to visit them during the short daylight hours of early January. At the end of the day all of the teams gather at The Three Horse Shoes and disclose their totals for the day. It’s a relaxed affair, with every team wishing every other team to do well, no ultra-competitive element involved at all
Today brought more planning; this time for some contract work we’re doing this year. Then, a couple of hours ago, a ‘phone call from a PR agency we’ve worked with in the past – “Hi Martin, can you do a press trip on Friday please?”. Being asked to do a press trip by someone we’ve worked with before is like having a repeat client; confirmation that what we deliver is a consistent quality experience that clients trust us to deliver, and PR agencies trust their reputations to. At a meeting in December to discuss the uncertain future of tourism promotion in Northumberland, it was suggested that what we should all do is be creative and arrange press trips - PR agencies, accommodation providers, activity providers and visitor attractions all working together to promote Northumberland. It’s slightly worrying that there was even one person in that room who appeared to be unaware that lots of local tourism businesses are doing that already, ably supported by Northumberland Tourism and the PR agencies who are engaged by some of the larger businesses. We live and work in a beautiful county, with a tourism industry that has the skills, and the people, to ensure it remains sustainable.
Today is a special day for us; it’s exactly 4 years since we took out our first clients, so we’d like to say thank you to Go Wansbeck, the regeneration project that came to an end on December 31st and provided us with so much support when we first launched NEWT. Thanks to Keith, Karen, Martin and all of the team – you gave us the start that got us to where we are today
In no particular order of priority, here a few things we’d love to see happening in 2012;
1) An increase in the English breeding population of Hen Harriers. One of the most contentious wildlife issues we have – but perhaps 2012 will see, at least, the beginning of the abandonment of entrenched attitudes and finally some positive news for the ‘grey males and ringtails’.
2) The stunning cetaceans that spend time in our offshore waters being able to go about their business without suffereing unnecessary disturbance. There are some excellent codes of conduct for cetacean watching and NEWT use these to inform and plan our offshore activities, and to advise the skippers and boat owners who we work with. Martin will continue to raise issues of cetacean disturbance at meetings of the PAW Marine Wildlife Enforcement Working Group, but hopes that won’t be too often.
3) The continued excellent promotion of Northumberland as a holiday destination. Our county really is beautiful and you can ‘get away from it all’ without having to try too hard. Whatever your interests – birdwatching, wildlife, photography, history and culture are just a few examples where the county excels – you’ll find something that will make you come back again and again.
4) The recognition by the Government that all 127 recommended Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZ’s) need to be designated in order to achieve a coherent ecological network that will protect our seas for everyone and for the future.
5) Health, wealth and happiness for our family, friends and clients
Happy New Year everyone
Once again the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the Bird Fair proved very popular; particularly each afternoon, when visitors were able to sample Lindifarne Mead, Alnwick Rum and a selection of Allendale Beers. We collected most of the alcohol from Northumbrian Gifts just before heading south, and arrived at Rutland Water in time to assist with getting the stand ready.
It’s that time of year again, and NEWT will be at the British Birdwatching Fair for the next 3 days as part of the Birdwatching Northumberland consortium.
The consortium partners (Northumberland Tourism, Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland Coast AONB partnership, North Pennines AONB partnership, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, National Trust and Northern Experience Wildlife Tours) have, between them, an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about Northumberland and the North Pennines and we’ll be sharing that advice and knowledge with anyone who comes to visit our stand (Marquee 1, Stand 53-54).
To find out even more, why not attend one of the lectures that Martin is giving;
Saturday 20th August, 10:30am, Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, ‘Northumberland’s Winter Wonderland’
Sunday 21st August, 10:30am, Lecture Marquee 2, ‘Northumberland through the Seasons’.
This year’s Bird Fair will also see the launch of the Northern Experience Holidays brochure for 2012, highlighting our range of wildlife, photography and birdwatchig holdays. Come and get your copy before they all go!
Thursday was my 3rd consecutive late finish.
Before setting off for a ’Red Squirrel and Badger Safari’ I had a few admin things to get done including some more planning for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at this year’s British Bird Fair (I’ve got 2 lecture slots at the Bird Fair this year!).
After collecting our picnic from The Swan, I headed to Church Point to collect Vince and Karin for their second safari day this week. Some unexpected birdwatching highlights included a Little Tern and a Cuckoo. A group of Tufted Ducks staring at a reedbed, and a clearly annoyed Mute Swan staring at the same reedbed and hissing, suggested that we were close to an Otter but in the blazing sunshine it stayed in the shade of the reeds and out of sight.
The first of the day’s targets was achieved with possibly the reddest Red Squirrel I’ve ever seen, simply stunning as it ran along the sun-dappled canopy, and then it was time to position ourselves close to our favourite Badger sett. Would the badgers come close? would they only appear when it was too dark to really appreciate what magnificent animals they are? all worries were eased when, in broad daylight, our first Badger of the evening came trotting along only 5m away, apparently oblivious to our presence. Another 3 Badgers followed, as well as 3 Red Foxes, and Tawny Owls were calling from the trees around us.
Of all of our tours, our evening mammal trips perhaps have the greatest unpredictability and the most remarkable ‘atmosphere’ of them all. It’s still my favourite time of the day
As the start of the main season approaches, it’s been a busy few weeks for NEWT. I attended the latest Netgain meeting, as this important part of the North Sea Marine Conservation Zones project nears its conclusion, plans are developing for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at this year’s British Birdwatching Fair, Tourism fairs/leaflet distribution days gave us a chance to catch up with a lot of the accommodation providers we work with, final preparations are in hand for a big group holiday we’re running in May and 2 smaller holidays in July, and days out with clients are increasing in frequency.
Yesterday we had a Lindisfarne Safari; Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Teal, Golden Plover and Dunlin were still around in good numbers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing literally everywhere that we walked, and Long-tailed Ducks were displaying their breeding finery. When discussing bird songs and calls with clients, I always mention The Sound Approach, which I’ve always found to be such an inspirational book, so was really pleased to learn that Brenda has a copy of the book, and an interest in how different people describe the same bird sounds.
At the end of a really enjoyable trip, I made the long drive to Otterburn Mill for a meeting with the Chair’s of some of Northumberland’s other tourism associations. Some strong, and often conflicting, views were expressed but we all agreed that what is best for Northumberland is for us all to move in the same direction. So we will…
…with the sound of Meadow Pipits.
Yesterday morning I decided to set out from home nice and early, so that I could spend a few hours in the North Pennines before exhibiting at the Tourism Fair in Hexham.
Birdwatching in Northumberland’s southwestern reaches is (almost always) about quality rather than quantity. Although it may seem sacrilegous, I prefer the dawn chorus on the moors to the one in our woodlands and gardens. Meadow Pipits (in almost overwhelming numbers after the dearth of sightings during the winter), Skylarks, Curlew, Lapwing, ‘drumming’ Snipe and the beautiful haunting calls of Golden Plover all contribute to a near sensory overload.
Raven and Merlin were both top-quality birds for the morning (both, frustratingly, between my position and the Sun, so only allowing record shots). Two species that always bring a particular quality to birdwatching, and photography, in the North Pennines are the two perpetually controversial/contentious species; Red Grouse and Black Grouse. We’ve been taking clients to see and photograph these two species since we first started NEWT, and the opportunity to wander the moors with my camera yesterday, enveloped by birdsong, was the sort of experience that our clients appreciate so much. Our North Pennines Safari Days rarely fail to encounter both grouse species, and we organise bespoke photography packages and holidays in the area as well, so give us a call and join us on one of our tours to this remarkable area of southwest Northumberland.
During the winter, when I’m busy with admin and business development, I do most of my birdwatching close to home. Studying Jackdaw and Starling roosts involves a short walk, but with a constant level of activity around the feeding station (conveniently placed to be visible from the office window) I can enjoy the hobby that has been with me since early childhood throughout most of the day.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had my camera and tripod set up in the kitchen. Any newcomers to bird photography could do worse than concentrate on the birds in their own garden. I blogged about our feeding station recently, but I make no apologies for adding a few more images to the blog nowOne species I finally managed to get some good images of is a bird that captivated me when I first saw a flock of them, nearly 40 years ago, in my neighbour’s Pear tree. With their almost non-stop movement, persistent vocalisations and, let’s face it, looks that are so cute it should be illegal Long-tailed Tits are enchanting. In previous years they’ve been infrequent visitors to our garden but this winter they are here pretty much all day every day. A lot of our clients have made similar observations and wondered why this change of behaviour has happened. Long-tailed Titsare insectivorous and it seems that likely that the hard winter weather, coming so early in the winter has had a devastating impact on their natural food source and made them increasingly reliant on artificially provided food.
January is a quiet month for NEWT as far as days out with clients go, but it’s been an incredibly busy month for other reasons.
The threat to tourism services in Northumberland, following public sector spending cuts and the impending closure of One Northeast, have occupied a lot of my time. As Chair of SENTA (Southeast Northumberland Tourism Association) and also Outdoors Northumberland (until last Monday when I stepped down at our AGM), as well as being part of Northumberland Tourism’s ‘Ambassadors’ group, I’ve been involved in meetings and discussions about where we go from this point on. I’m not going to go into great detail here, as there are many issues to deal with before the position that will be adopted by Northumberland’s tourism businesses is resolved enough to be made public.
The other big meeting this week was the latest NE regional hub meeting for Netgain (the North Sea Marine Conservation Zones Project). Along the Northumberland Coast, and in our offshore waters, we have some stunning wildlife and habitats. The Farne Islands and Druridge Bay are places that we’ve enjoyed so much wildlife with our clients and the North Sea itself has produced encounters with rare, elusive and iconic creatures on our pelagic trips for many years now. With so many different interests represented on the regional hub, there were always going to be conflicts (of ideology and interests, rather than personal conflict between hub members thankfully). The only way forward will be through concensus and that requires a certain amount of give and take by everyone involved. The Netgain team have done a fantastic job of managing the discussions, providing the mapping data that hub members have asked for and answering some often difficult, and contentious, questions.
I care passionately about tourism in Northumberland, and I’m sure that any regular reader of our blog will know my feelings about the North Sea, so I’ll keep doing all I can to help move both of those projects towards a sensible solution. Ultimately though, we’re a conservation-minded tourism business so I’ll be seeking solutions that have the best interests of tourism businesses and the marine environment at their core.
I even managed a couple of hours birdwatching earlier this week as well; a successful trip to see the Hawfinch at Mitford was followed by a walk across some exposed moorland where I was entertained by 2 Red Foxes as they bounded through a patch of heather like a couple of spring lambs. Invigorating and stimulating, and across the coastal plain of central and southeast Northumberland I could see the sea with the full moon rising over it. A truly magical moment that reminded me where my passion comes from.
We’ve been away for a few days, as part of the Birdwatching Northumberland consortium at the British Birdwatching Fair 2010.
Thursday started very early for Martin, with a North Pennines Prestige Tour for clients who were staying at Wallfoot in Carlisle. Managing to avoid the worst of the weather, avian highlights included Merlin, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Whinchat and Wheatear. The long drive down the M6 didn’t, unfortunately, miss the heavy rain. However, a late arrival at the White Lion in Whissendine, and a few beers in the bar with such luminaries as Ipin set Martin up nicely for an early start on Friday.
Sarah was at work (in her ‘proper’ job) so, apart from attending a couple of lectures, Martin was on the Birdwatching Northumberland stand for all of the first day.
Saturday we planned to work ‘split’ shifts, but with Martin again spending most of his time on the stand; apart from another couple of lectures and one or two chats with clients, colleagues, suppliers, competitors and collaborators (both old and new).
Another excellent curry at the White Lion, and a ‘few’ beers, on Sataurday night was followed by the dawning of the final day of Bird Fair 2010. One of us was a bit ‘under the weather’ but perked up in time to give his talk ‘The North Sea – a new birding frontier’ at 3.30pm. What could have been a bit of a graveyard shift managed to generate a lot of interest, with 134 bird fair attendees making their way to the lecture marquee to enjoy a brief history of the Northumberland pelagics. There were a few questions at the end of the lecture, then Martin was stopped and asked some more, for the next 10 minutes, as he headed back to the stand – where other people who had been in the lecture were waiting to ask more questions.
After three days at the Bird Fair we’d made a lot of new contacts, renewed some old acquaintances and we’ll shortly be entering exciting partnerships with some big names in the birding world. Just a few very busy weeks to come first…
A final night in the midlands was followed by the journey north on Monday, and then a Prestige Tour yesterday. Beginning with an actively feeding Dipper was a good start then, with a particular request for wading birds, it was good to strike a rich vein on the coast; Green and Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin and Ruff. What seemed to go down better than all of the other birds though were the always impressive Grey Herons.