Tag: Bullfinch

May magic; Otter Safari 09/05/17

by on May.10, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

After a week away from home, leading a wildlife photography holiday for another company, I was looking forward to getting back to all things NEWT and as I collected Mike and Barbara from Low Newton, ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay searching for Otters, I was thinking that the afternoon sunshine was maybe just a bit too bright and hot but that the evening could be good…

Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Blackcaps were all singing, and occasionally affording brief glimpses, and a male Bullfinch was equally stunning in the few seconds that he perched at the top of a small tree.  Little Egrets and Grey Herons were hunting in the shallows, Shelduck, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall were all feeding and a Lesser Whitethroat was a nice addition to the trip list.  Lapwing were displaying and Avocets were sitting on nests and occasionally getting up to rearrange their precious contents as the Sun headed westwards.

Then the waders took centre stage; a male Ruff, coming into his breeding finery, Black-tailed Godwits (and single Bar-tailed), noisy Curlew and a Whimbrel flew right overhead uttering it’s distinctive call as Lapwings were tumbling and calling and at least 20 Common Snipe took flight.  Male Stonechat, male Reed Bunting and dapper Tree Sparrows, all excellent attractive birds, still paled when compared to at least 7 Yellow Wagtails, including an exquisitely beautiful Channel Wagtail (perhaps should be known as Chanel Wagtail!), which were in a feeding flock with both Pied and White Wagtails.  A real bonus bird came in the form of a Long-eared Owl, hunting masterfully in and around the bushes it passed by just 20m in front of us at one point! A male Marsh Harrier was another great bird for the trip and he engaged in an overly optimistic attempt to chase and catch a Black-headed Gull in flight 😉

As the Sun dropped lower the light was simply sublime and we settled into position at our final site for the evening.  Canada and Greylag Geese were incubating, a Grey Heron took a Mallard duckling and swallowed it whole right in front of us as the agitated parents called in vain before returning to protect their one remaining offspring.  A small group of Black-headed Gulls caught my attention, circling persistently as Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts swirled around and feasted on the bounteous hatch of flying insects that the warm weather had brought.  There, directly beneath the gulls was an Otter 🙂  We watched it’s progress along the shadowy water near the reeds and a couple of times it got out and bounded along the bankside.  A second Otter was also given away by the bright trail of its wake, as the swifts and hirundines were replaced by the insectivorous night shift of Pipistrelle and Noctule Bats, and by the time we headed back to the car the Moon and Jupiter were both shining brightly in the darkening sky.  Through the ‘scope the quality of seeing was extraordinary; without any atmospheric turbulence Jupiter was a perfect disc, the Galilean moons were pinpoints of light surrounding it and the craters of the Moon were impressive at 60x magnification.

Wonderful wagtails, stunning waders, Otters and astronomy; that’s a lot of quality packed into one afternoon and evening 🙂

Druridge Bay and Otter Safaris are available all year round, so have a look at our calendar for available dates and get in touch to see what we can do for you.  If there isn’t date that’s good for you, still get in touch – we’re always happy to add additional trips to our calendar!

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Wax(w)ing lyrical about wildlife; Otter Safari 09/11/16

by on Nov.10, 2016, under Druridge Bay

There are a few species that really epitomise winter wildlife-watching, and they include my favourite bird, one of my favourite mammals, and another bird that never fails to excite…

I collected Andy from Whitley Bay (it’s great to have him back from Mull for a few months over the winter!) and we had an interesting chat about plankton sampling and microscopy as we drove up the coast to collect Genine from Newbiggin.  Genine’s last trip with NEWT was a breathtaking pelagic in early September, and now we were out in search of Otters and any other birds and wildlife that we could find around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I suggested that we started with a quick search for Waxwings, just a few minutes down the road.  As we approached where they’d been seen the previous day, a flock flushed from a rowan tree where they were gorging themselves on berries.  We watched them land in the bare branches of a tall tree nearby and counted at least 120 birds, with another 60 flying around and landing in trees just along the road.  In the cold and damp, we started our search for Otters, and were soon watching one as it fed on small fish.  With hardly a breath of wind, the water was flat calm and we tracked the Otter‘s movement by the trail of bubbles it left each time it submerged before, after around half an hour, it left the water and vanished up the bank and behind a fallen tree.  Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Oystercatcher were probing the mud along the water’s edge and a flash of electric blue heralded the arrival of a Kingfisher, which played a game of hide and seek with us as Goldfinch and Bullfinch perched in the tops of trees, the disembodied weak winter song of a Robin came from the depths of a hawthorn and two Sparrowhawks tussled in mid-air overhead before one gave up the fight and flew well away.  Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Common Eider, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Duck were a nice haul of wildfowl as Little Grebe warily watched the spot where the Otter had vanished and Long-tailed Tits called unseen from nearby bushes.

The approach of dusk brought thousands of Starlings in a swirling murmuration before they dropped into the reedbeds for the night as the high-pitched yapping of Pink-footed Geese and the discordant honking of Greylag Geese betrayed the presence of skein after skein arriving from feeding areas to the south of us.  Squealing Water Rails remained hidden and, as the last rays of daylight filtered through from the western horizon, Whooper Swans arrived.  Big, ghostly and quiet on their approach, as they hit the water they began whooping and their haunting voices accompanied our walk back to the car in the dark.

Proper wintry cold, almost continuous drizzle, stunning wildlife and lovely clients – just a great way to spend a day in mid-November 🙂  We’ll be running Otter Safaris, Druridge Bay Safaris and Lindisfarne Safaris right through the winter, so get in touch, wrap up warm and come and join us for a day searching for Northumberland’s fantastic wildlife!

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Midwinter mammal magic; Otter and Squirrel Safari 10/01/2016

by on Jan.11, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Trips with more than one target species can be tricky, particularly if the different targets don’t occur at the same sites as each other…

I collected Lynn, Alan, Glynis and Michael from Swarland and we headed southeast towards Druridge Bay.  The weather forecast promised showers and the first of those, accompanied by a bone-chilling breeze, hit just as we reached our first site. What didn’t mind the weather though were the two Otter cubs that we were soon watching 🙂  We watched them for 30 mins as they fed synchronously in turbulent water; drifting , diving, bobbing up like corks and, after coming very close to us, eventually drifting away when they heard a dog-walker shouting at her errant pet.  A walk on the beach worked up an appetite for lunch and then we were off in search of our second target for the day.  Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were all visiting feeding stations but in the icy breeze I wasn’t overly confident that we’d have any luck.  Checking a different clump of trees proved the key though, and we soon found ourselves just a few metres away from an apparently unconcerned Red Squirrel 🙂  As dusk approached, Little Grebe, Goldeneye and Mute Swan were silhouetted against water turned pink by a stunning sunset, and Lapwings flew by like gigantic moths in the half light.

Multi-mammal days are always fantastic.  Our one day record on a trip with clients is 8 species, but there’ll surely come a day (probably during the summer when we can search for bats at the end of the day) when we hit double figures!

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

by on Jan.31, 2013, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch and we followed tradition by sitting in our kitchen with a mug of coffee, and a bacon and tomato sandwich, having topped up all of the feeders the evening before.  An hour later, we’d racked up a list of 21 species; Blackbird 3, Jackdaw 2, Collared Dove 2, Robin 3, Chaffinch 20, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 3, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 8, Jay 1, Bullfinch 1, House Sparrow 1, Greenfinch 1, Woodpigeon 2, Redwing 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Song Thrush 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Brambling 2. Quite a successful hour, although most species weren’t present in the numbers we would have expected and, as usual, several species that had been visiting the garden in recent days (Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker) failed to appear during the 1 hour of the survey.  Easy birding, and part of a huge national survey.  If you didn’t do it this year, give it a go in 2014 🙂

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Beginner’s Birdwatching 16/10/11

by on Oct.17, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Ruth and Margaret from The Swan for their second trip with us; this time a half-day Beginner’s Birdwatching trip around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  After scouring some bushes where we could hear a roving tit flock, and enjoying excellent views of a flock of Tree Sparrows in the beautiful sunshine, we visited Hadston Scaurs in search of the Yellow-browed Warbler that had been seen there earlier in the morning.  We were unlucky, although we could hear the flock of Goldcrests that it had been with but they were deep in the hedge and we only had occasional brief views as they hurried about.  Reed Buntings, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Bullfinches all performed well, Robins were calling from what seemed to be every bush, Linnets and Skylarks were moving south overhead and skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed over.

We had a session looking at shapes of ducks, and how to use that skill to separate similar species, and finished at Cresswell with a species that Margaret was really keen to see on this trip, Eider; our county bird, and a real stunner 🙂

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Feeding time

by on Feb.10, 2011, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Photography

I’ve never been good at sitting in the office and concentrating on one task for any length of time.  Having an office window that looks out over the 76ha of mixed woodland of Choppington Woods LNR is a real blessing, allowing me to mix work and birdwatching.  When I need to stretch my legs, a quick trip downstairs lets me open the patio door and turns the kitchen into a very comfortable and convenient bird photography hide.

Our garden is currently hosting at least 8 Bramblings, along with Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, occasional visits from Siskin, Redpoll and Treecreeper and regular fly-throughs by our local Sparrowhawks.

It’s a wonder I ever get any work done 🙂

European Goldfinch, bird photography, wildlife photography

Goldfinch

Chaffinch, bird photography, wildlife photography

Chaffinch

Bullfinch, bird photography, wildlife photography

Bullfinch

Brambling, bird photography, wildlife photography

Brambling

Brambling, bird photography, wildlife photography

Brambling

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Another big freeze

by on Nov.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Here we go again...

It’s hard to believe that we posted on the blog back in January about the big freeze last winter and here we are again in a similar position already before the end of November (although at least at the moment it isn’t so prolonged).

I went in to Newcastle last Wednesday for a seminar about the IMCORE project, and there was a bit of light snowfall.  When I came out of the Ridley Building an hour later the world was white, and it’s just gone on from that point.  After Sarah got home from work on Thursday evening the next time we used either of the cars was when we dug her car out of the snow this morning so she could go to work.  We’ve made the most of the last few days though; walking the 2 miles there (and 2 miles back) each day to visit a friend who’s now in a residential care home, doing most of the admin in 3 days that we would usually do through the winter (including adding all of our 2011 trips to the website) and finalising a couple of projects that we’ve been working on.

Birdwatching in our little part of southeast Northumberland has been interesting for the last few days.  We’ve got an ever-expanding flock of Coal, Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Wrens are now ever present around the feeding station and a very optimistic pair of Collared Doves were mating at the top of the Apple tree earlier this morning.  Two pairs of Bullfinches are regular visitors but other finches are in short supply; there’s just a single pair of Chaffinches, we’ve only had one visit from Goldfinches in the last few days and, particularly worrying, we haven’t seen any Greenfinches around the feeders at all.  A Sparrowhawk is still regularly patrolling over Choppington Woods and a flock of 50-60 Redwings flies out from the woods each morning.

Now, after a morning of blue skies, it’s just started snowing again.

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Big Garden Birdwatch

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Birdwatching, Surveys

We had a leisurely hour of birdwatching yesterday morning.  With all of the feeders stocked with top class bird food from Poltross, and a bacon and egg butty and a mug of coffee in hand, we settled down into our respective positions on either side of the kitchen.  With commentary on the dismantling of Andy Murray in the background, binoculars were trained on the feeders, the ground, the shrubbery and the Ash tree.  After a slow start, things began to gather pace and we finished with 76 birds of 20 species;

Collared Dove 4

Wood Pigeon 2

Jackdaw 1

Carrion Crow 1

House Sparrow 1

Starling 7

Blue Tit 2

Great Tit 3

Coal Tit 7

Willow Tit 2

Long-tailed Tit 3

Chaffinch 14

Greenfinch 5

Goldfinch 2

Bullfinch 4

Goldcrest 1

Robin 6

Dunnock 2

Blackbird 5

Redwing 4

There were a few absentees as well, all seen regularly in the days leading up to the Big Garden Birdwatch;

Jay

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sparrowhawk

Siskin

Maybe 25 species in 1hr is a target to aim for in our garden next year.

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All is quiet

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Choppington Woods, Photography

The world around us was cloaked in white as we walked home from The Swan early this morning.  A Tawny Owl was calling from the woods, but there was little other sound – muffled as it was by the snow.  By the time we woke up, there was a lot more snow than there had been when we finally fell into bed.  To shake off the lingering after-effects of Old Year’s Night we decided to take a walk around Choppington Woods, wrapped up warm and armed with a camera.  Photography, rather than birdwatching was our main aim, and that was fortunate as there were a lot more birds in our garden than we encountered on the walk; Great, Blue, Coal and Willow Tits, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were around the feeders and, bird of the day, a Common Buzzard flying north over our allotment.  Snow can make a relatively mundane landscape into a photogenic delight, but exposure calculations can be tricky and we spent a lot of time checking compositions and looking for obvious ‘lead-in’ lines.  As we made our way back towards home 350 Pink-footed Geese flew south overhead.  Moving ahead of more wintry weather maybe?

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Sarah scanning the trees

Sarah scanning the trees

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

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A change in the weather

by on Dec.29, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends

The feeders in our garden have been busier in the last couple of days than at any time during this winter.  No less than 6 Blackbirds have taken up residence, 3 or 4 Robins are posturing and defending territories, a steady stream of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, along with our 2 regular Willow Tits, are emptying the feeders rapidly and a flock of 8 Long-tailed Tits are putting in daily appearances.  Chaffinch numbers are way down on previous winters, but Greenfinches are now almost ever-present during daylight hours and three pairs of Bullfinches are never far away.  It’s interesting that, even on a very short-distance scale, there’s such a noticeable movement of birds from their ‘normal’ habitat (Choppington Woods) to the gardens around the edge of the woods whenever the weather turns colder.  Birdwatching doesn’t get any easier than sitting in the kitchen, glass of port in one hand and a slice of Christmas cake in the other 🙂

First thing this morning everything was frozen solid again.  However, by lunchtime when Martin took Dad to the railway station there was a noticeable thaw – even though the thermometer was showing the temperature having only just crept above freezing.  Then it started to rain and most of the remaining patches of ice and snow vanished.  The birds were still around in the numbers of recent days though and, if the weather forecasts are anything to go by, we’re in for some more very hard winter weather at the end of this year and the start of the new one.  Wrap up warm.

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