Tag: Common Cuckoo

Owling; Bespoke Otter Safari 14/06/17

by on Jun.19, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

There are days when our quarry evades us, but even then there’s usually something good that comes along anyway…

I collected Marg and Rob from Alnwick and we headed southeast towards Druridge Bay for an afternoon and evening searching our favourite spots for Otters.  A Roebuck and a Roe doe were peering at us from deep grass and Great Crested Grebes were elegantly serene and just quite stunning.  Cormorants were resting or drying off after fishing, wings outstretched like heraldic black dragons.  A mini-murmuration of Starlings was a long way from the huge flocks we’ll be watching by the end of the year, but impressive nonetheless.  As dusk approached we found ourselves watching a hunting Barn Owl as it passed by on silent wings before plunging into the grass in search of a hapless rodent as Cuckoos were pursued by angry Meadow Pipits from bush to bush along the dunes and the light faded, as it always does, to unmanageable…

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The golden hour; Bespoke coastal birdwatching 07/06/17

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Nicky and Mick from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland.  The weather was somewhat nicer than it had been 24h earlier, in fact postively summery although with a fairly stiff breeze.  Sometimes I could write a blog post by skipping to the last hour or so of the trip and, after a challenging afternoon including a good look at Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Whitehroats song-flighting from bramble scrub and a couple of woodland walks with Jays playing hide and seek with us, Treecreepers creeping up the trunks of trees, Robins and Wrens singing from deep cover and Fulmars gliding on stiff wings along the clifftops that’s where we find ourselves…

Against a stiff northwesterly the Barn Owl was struggling; already bearing the heavy burden of a plump vole it was flying northeasterly and sideways to make progress to the north, forced out over the sea before battling it’s way back onshore and dropping from the remarkable height it had chosen to fly at as Great Crested Grebes radiated elegance on the choppy water in front of us and a Starling murmuration numbered a couple of hundred birds.  As the light levels dropped to absolutely sublime it was time for more owls to put in an appearance;  first another Barn Owl, then another, another and incredibly our fifth of the evening, with three of them in one binocular view 🙂  With an aural backdrop of Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Curlew and Lapwing, and the air filled with Swifts the scene was set for another owl, this time a Long-eared hunting through the dunes, it’s dark plumage providing a stark contrast to the pale ghostly Barn Owls.  There was another surprise waiting for us too as Nicky asked “what are those birds along there?”.  I turned and looked through my binoculars and the impression was raptor-like, combined with a hint of thin, long-tailed Woodpigeon…a closer look therough our ‘scope, and there were two Cuckoos!  The final hour is often the highlight of a day watching wildlife, but this hour was just shoveling the quality in 🙂

 

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Cheviot Valleys Bespoke Birdwatching 23/05/16

by on May.25, 2016, under Cheviot Valleys

Monday was Pete and Jan’s 8th trip with NEWT, and we were heading back to the Cheviot valleys where we’d watched a Cuckoo together back in 2013.  It’s always a pleasure to have a day out with them and catch-up on what’s been happening since we last met, as between us we’re keen recorders of a range of wildlife and the other members of their local Natural History Society are always busy recording some weird and wonderful species…

In glorious sunny weather the verges were alive with insects.  Lots of hoverflies (I’m just starting to take an interest in these…) and a very bright Orange-tip as well as a couple of unidentified female damselfliesWillow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing enthusiastically as Oystercatchers plundered the earthworm population of grassy fields before returning to feed their chicks.  Brown Hare sat motionless in short crops, as if we couldn’t see them, before realising they were being watched and loping off.  The triumvirate of riparian nervous energy all put in an appearance; Grey Wagtail flycatching above the rushing stream, Common Sandpiper bobbing up and down as it made it’s way upstream in a game of avian hopscotch from one bankside rock to the next and Dipper, almost invisible until it turned and revealed it’s bright white throat and breast.  On the edges of the heather moorland, Red Grouse were standing, sentinel like, and territorial disputes were revealed by the resonant cries of ‘go back, go back, go back’.  Common Buzzards soared on the breeze, a Kestrel flew quickly by and the plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the valley sides.  Throughout the afternoon, our walk towards the Scottish border was accompanied by the onomatopaeic calls of Common Cuckoo.  As the air buzzed with the trill of Lesser Redpoll, a Goldcrest showed itself briefly after a burst of song, Spotted Flycatchers sallied from trees and fence posts and Cuckoos were calling from every plantation.  One perched in a treetop and was quickly mobbed by Meadow Pipits, another flew over the neighbour it had been having a vocal dispute with, prompting a harsh grumbling response, and others flew across the valley.

Gorgeous weather, and clients who are great company – an ideal start to the summer…

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The rain before the storm

by on Jul.03, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Thursday morning was a Druridge Bay mini-safari and, when I arrived at Church Point, Michelle and Andy, and Jane, were already there.  We set off for a morning of birdwatching on the southeast Northumberland coast in cool, overcast conditions…but by the time we reached Cresswell the rain had started and visibility was closing in rapidly.  Birdwatching in conditions where you can hear the birds, but can’t really tell where they are, is a quite surreal experience.  As the poor weather moved on, so did we…and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as we enjoyed an obliging Common Snipe perched on a  fence post, at least three Long-eared Owls, including recently fledged young birds, two male Marsh Harriers and one female, a Common Cuckoo, Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns bathing, Great Crested Grebes and a Grey Heron peering in our direction through the reeds.

At the end of the trip we returned to Church Point and I headed back to the office where, a couple of hours later, it suddenly turned very dark…

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White is the new Black

by on Sep.17, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

We had back-to back birdwatching trips earlier this week, covering two of our favourite areas.

On Tuesday afternoon I collected Keith and Jen from home in Monkseaton and we headed northwards up the Northumberland coast.  Our destination was the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, one of the birding hot-spots of the entire country.  The strong winds were the only downside to the afternoon, but the birdwatching was good.  After checking out a large group of Grey Seals we covered the area around the harbour and the Rocket Field.  Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Redshank and lots of Ringed Plover were along the shoreline and a delightful charm of Goldfinches were around the Heugh.  A distant group of Lapwings, Starlings and Golden Plover took to the air and the cause of their alarm was glimpsed briefly, although too briefly and too distant to make a positive ID.  Holy Island birdwatching stalwart Ian Kerr put us on to a Little Stint and, as we headed back through the village, groups of Golden Plover passed overhead.  Re-tracing our route back down the coast and checking the Budle Bay on the rising tide, we were just discussing the indications of the presence of predators when a huge number of birds lifted from the mud.  As well as the gulls and waders, Jackdaws, Rooks and Woodpigeons joined the throng as they came out of adjacent fields and trees.  This time the culprit was seen and identified; a Peregrine, that most majestic of raptors and one of the highlights of any birdwatching day on the Northumberland coast in the autumn and winter.  A quick seawatch produced Sandwich Terns feeding, and Gannets soaring effortlessly on the breeze.

Wednesday was a full day out around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.  I collected Jayne and Andrew from Seahouses, and then Hilary and John from Alnmouth, before beginning our tour of some of the best birdwatching spots in our local area.  While we were watching Lapwings, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ruff, Herons and Cormorants on the River Wansbeck I could hear a rough ‘sreee’ call from high overhead.  The strong breeze meant that it wasn’t straightforward to locate the bird, but eventually I picked it out.  It was an unfamiliar call, but a familiar species; a juvenile Common Cuckoo.  The walk back along the river produced a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits.  After lunch we stopped off at Cresswell Pond.  Hilary and John mentioned that they’d visited Cresswell once before – when they noticed a large group of birders and stopped, managing to see a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Northumberland birdwatching following the floods of September 2008

Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Ruff, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 12/09/2008

With luck like that, we joked about what this visit could produce...

When we arrived at the hide, Jaybee mentioned that he’d had a juvenile Sandwich Tern.  I scanned the pond but couldn’t see the tern anywhere and we settled to enjoying the quite remarkable views of Common Snipe that were available.  After checking through the assembled ducks, gulls and waders I scanned across the pond again and spotted a tern dip-feeding near the causeway.  The bird’s behaviour, combined with it’s very dark back, white rump and silver-grey wings caused me to get rather excited.  White-winged Black Tern is a very special bird, and a personal highlight as it’s the third Chlidonias tern that I’ve found in Northumberland.  Whiskered Tern is very rare and Black Tern is always a nice bird to see but White-winged Black Tern is such a beautiful species.  Jaybee kindly sent me some images to use 🙂

White-winged Black Tern, a Northumberland birdwatching highlight 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

Highlight of a day birdwatching on the Northumberland coast 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Northumberland, Birdwatching

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

As other birders began to arrive to enjoy the fruit of our good fortune we continued up the coast.  Eiders and a Goosander, as well as some very obliging Grey Herons, were seen as we stopped by the River Coquet.  A superb couple of day’s birdwatching, a beautiful rarity and clients who were excellent company.

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