Tag: Cetaceans

What does my office look like?

by on May.08, 2010, under Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Occasionally I find myself pondering that question.  On Wednesday I left home early to drive to Seahouses and collect Carolyn and Brian, two clients who we first met last year.  As we headed up the coast through Bamburgh and towards the Lindisfarne NNR for a day of birdwatching, we stopped at each promising area.  Before we reached Holy Island itself we’d already had excellent views of 4 Harbour Porpoises, good views of three Whimbrel (alongside a Curlew for comparison) and a Brown Hare as well as the growing numbers of House Martins and Swifts.  A Sedge Warbler perched helpfully on top of a stunted Hawthorn as he belted out his song, a Whitethroat was elusive before eventually showing off the bright white throat feathers that give it it’s name and a Wheatear hopped along a drystone wall.  On the island we watched a Heron as it preened whilst hidden in a reed bed, listened to another Sedge Warbler and tried to locate a calling Water Rail.  Skylarks and pipits were unobtrusive in a sheep field that also contained at least 6 Wheatears and, once we’d left the island we watched over 1000 Grey Seals as they relaxed in the bright sunshine.

After dropping Carolyn and Brian back in Seahouses, I headed home, packed my bag and drove down the A1, out of Northumberland, to my sister’s house.  04:30 Thursday morning and I was on the road again, this time travelling to King’s Lynn.  Two days of being a student were relaxing and enjoyable, studying the acoustic signals used by cetaceans being my own personal highlight, before the north beckoned.  Finally, just before 10pm yesterday, I arrived back at home, headed to the ‘beer fridge’, sat down to a delicious Chinese meal with Sarah and then collapsed into bed.  With tomorrows “Beginners Birdwatching; Songs and Calls” being close to home we don’t have a really early start so this afternoon is a chance (something that’s going to happen less and less over the next few months) to catch up with e-mails, ‘phone calls and product planning/development.  It’s the great paradox of running your own business; many people choose that option in order to have more free time…but if your business is successful there’s a period, certainly during rapid growth/expansion, when 9 to 5 doesn’t look so bad after all.  Would I go back to that? What do you think? 😉

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Deskbound

by on Jan.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, North Sea, Northumberland, Surveys

Not something I particularly enjoy but I’m currently trying to juggle at least four separate projects ahead of the ‘busy season’ starting in February.  That means a lot of time in the office and birdwatching limited to our garden and the edge of Choppington Woods.  After a couple of months of the Chaffinch flock containing almost exclusively male birds (the species scientific name Fringilla coelebs means ‘Bachelor Finch’ – a reference to the habit of male and female birds wintering separately in parts of it’s range).  now though, the girls are back.  The party’s over, boys.

This morning has seen the Press Release about an exciting offshore survey project that NEWT is a partner in.  Working with Natural England and Marinelife, with additional support  from the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, we’re furthering the existing knowledge of seabird and cetacean distribution in the North Sea.

As I look out of the window this morning there’s a howling northerly and it’s snowing.  Back to the wintry weather 🙂 and a weekend of birdwatching, photography and filming wildlife ahead for all three NEWT guides.

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Masters of all we survey?

by on Dec.13, 2009, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

I’ve just finished my 3rd consecutive day of survey work (ok, today was just a couple of hours around dawn, but you get the idea).

Friday and Saturday saw me up to 20 miles offshore, leading a survey team of Alan Tilmouth, Ross Ahmed, Allan Skinner (our boat skipper) and Jimmy (erstwhile SarahJFK crew member and very diligent data-recorder).  Friday didn’t look promising as we drove to Royal Quays in thick fog, and the marina was mired in the gloom as well as we met up with Tom Brereton from Marinelife.  However, once out of the Tyne we quickly passed out of the fog bank and into some stunning weather.

Martin and Tom scanning for cetaceans

Martin and Tom scanning for cetaceans

Ross, Alan and Tom observing and recording seabird distribution and abundance

Ross, Alan and Tom observing and recording seabird distribution and abundance

 On the return there was a superb sunset but the fog had extended to almost 6 miles offshore and we had one of those real pelagic experiences.
Tom scanning ahead of the SarahJFK for cetaceans

Tom scanning ahead of the SarahJFK for cetaceans

Ross still recording, Alan looking cheerful as we approach a fog bank

Ross and Alan still recording as we approach the fog bank that ended Friday's survey

Tom, Martin, Ross and Alan heading home

Tom, Martin, Ross and Alan heading home

Yesterday had overall better visibility but slighty lumpier seas, as we covered the area from Blyth to Druridge Bay.  Having completed about 80 miles of transect surveys in 2 days we’ve already gathered a lot of seabird data.  The North Sea (which is relatively small) seems pretty big when you’re far enough offshore to not be able to see any land.  When 3 experienced seawatchers look around and say “we don’t really have a clue what’s out here do we?” then it hammers home the importance of what we’re doing.  Having found Puffins on both surveys so far, and five Little Gulls on Saturday, we’re all eagerly anticipating the rest of our winter surveys.  We’ve got a few spaces on most of the survey trips (which will run when the weather allows us the opportunity) which are available for a contribution of £20/person/trip (a much lower rate than our commercial pelagics trips in July-September).  Give us a call, wrap up warm and join us on a journey into the unknown.

On dry (well, drier) land, Sarah and myself set out this morning for the December Icelandic Goose Census.Two Barn Owls were a bonus in the bone-chilling temperatures.  Last month I drew a blank with our goose monitoring and this month was hardly any better; just 3 Greylag Geese at the roost site that is designated as part of the census.  Looks like we’ll be out again at dusk, trying to locate the birds as they fly to roost.

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