Tag: Common Frog

Amphibians; Otter Safari 25/08/16

by on Aug.28, 2016, under Druridge Bay

All wildlife tends to have it’s own niche, and those can be temporary…

I collected Meryl and Kate from The Swan and we headed towards the coast to spend the afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland.  The weather forecast wasn’t great but, as Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Cormorants and Goosanders helped themselves to small fish, and much larger fish leapt out of the water nearby, it was slightly misty but the forecast rain stayed away.  Common Sandpipers flew low across the water with their odd flicking wingbeats, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Dunlin and Ringed Plover were all either feeding or roosting, House Martin and Sand Martin were enjoying a plethora of flying insects in the humid conditions and Goldfinch and Linnet flushed from the riverside scrub each time a walker came along the path.  Heading towards dusk, although with waves of low cloud passing through almost continually it was difficult to discern a change in light levels, Greylag Geese came to roost, emerging noisily from the mist, and Starlings began their murmuration.  A quick trip up to Amble allowed the ladies to sample the delights of Amble’s finest fish and chips before we headed to our final site for the day.

Great Crested Grebe chicks were begging in near darkness, a Great Crested Newt was a surprising find and, as the rain had finally arrived, Common Toads and Common Frogs were everywhere along the footpaths and roads in the damp, drizzly dark.  Another one of those transient niches that creates quite a spectacle when conditions are just right 🙂

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The sharp eyes of youth; Otter Safari 11/08/16

by on Aug.16, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

We’ve always said that the best thing for spotting wildife is other wildlife, although the sharp eyes of younger humans could probably give them a run for their money…

I collected Gill from Alnwick, for her third trip with NEWT, and we headed to Bamburgh to collect Debbie, Roger, Joe and Ben.  Our plan for the afternoon and evening was to search Druridge Bay and the Northumberland coast  for Otters and other wildlife.  Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew quickly became the target for some digiscoping by Joe as five Little Egrets sat on the riverbank opposite and a brood of Goosander formed a menacing fleet crossing the river.  Digibinning (yes, that is a real thing!) was then employed to capture images of a Great Crested Grebe and well-grown chick while the light was still reasonable, and we headed to our favourite dusk site.  A Grey Heron stalked the shallows, catching lots of small fish and other unidentified prey, becoming another digibinning target, Mute Swans stalked serenely across the water, a Sedge Warbler flitted around in the reeds just in front of us and then Little Grebe, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall and Tufted Duck all fanned out from one reedbed giving the distinct impression that they’d rather be somewhere other than close to those reeds.  Starlings flushed from their nighttime roost as a Grey Heron flew over and, as dusk began to take on a dark grey cloak, two young Tawny Owls flew out from a bush nearby, a Hedgehog trotted along in front of us and Noctule and pipistrelle bats could be seen and, with the aid of our bat detector, heard.  The walk back to the car brought lots of wildlife and the benefit of Joe and Ben’s keen eyesight allowed us to avoid treading on slugs, snails, spiders and an incredible number of toadlets and froglets 🙂

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Slugs and snails and dolphin tails; Druridge Bay Safari 25/06/2015

by on Jun.26, 2015, under Bamburgh Castle, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

As I drove to Newton to collect Sue and Julian, the first few raindrops hit the windscreen of the car.  My optimism that the rain would soon pass over was drenched, literally, by a torrential downpour that the windscreen wipers couldn’t cope with and which sounded like I was in a tin can being pelted with stones 🙁  We set off for Bamburgh, completely surrounded by storms and found a flock of Common Scoter and Eider on the sea, and a miserable looking Puffin on the beach.  The rainfall left the air warm and humid, so as the afternoon passed into evening paths were covered in slugs and snailsCommon Toad and Common Frog crossed our path too, and the air was alive with small insects – and a good handful of Common Pipistrelles hunting them.  A Fox trotted along the edge of Cresswell Pond, where Avocets and Black-Tailed Godwit were roosting and feeding.  A male Marsh Harrier flew by, causing consternation amongst the Swallows, and Tufted Duck and Red-breasted Merganser both looked elegant as Mute Swans and Shelduck watched carefully over their young.  A Whitethroat sang from rank vegetation just a few metres away from us, and dusk brought Swallows, Sand Martins and Starlings to roost.

The day will remain in the memory for years to come though, as a pod of dolphins put on a remarkable display.  We’d just finished our picnic and I decided to have one last scan before heading up the coast.  Top Tip – always have ‘one last scan’ 🙂  Close inshore I saw a small group of dolphins breaking the surface. White-beaked Dolphin should be here in a few days time, but these were big, dark animals and we soon confirmed that they were Bottlenose Dolphin.  Now, these are big impressive animals, and we spent nearly 40mins watching at least 12 of them as they slowly travelled north.  They weren’t just travelling though; synchronous breaching, tail-slapping, lob-tailing, spy-hopping, flipper waving and fighting continued as they passed by our viewpoint and eventually out of sight away to the north.  I’ve spent a lot of time watching dolphins, both with clients and when carrying out offshore surveys, but I’ve never seen a group of dolphins so animated as these were.  Wonder if they’ll be there for this evening’s pelagic trip 🙂

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Stoatally different to yesterday…

by on Sep.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

By extraordinary coincidence, one of our least observed mammals put in an appearance for the second consecutive day…

I collected David, Jackie and Alexander from Bamburgh and we headed south to start their Prestige Tour of the Northumberland Coast.  As Swallows and House Martins flitted about low over the water in front of us, a Stoat proved elusive as it darted in and out of the vegetation close to the water’s edge, momentarily startling the dozing ducks before vanishing back into the edge of a reedbed.  As ever something wholly unexpected appeared, on this occasion a Peregrine over Cresswell village.  A Roe Deer walking through an arable field appeared like a disembodied head – only popping up, like a Jack-in-the-box, every few metres as it made it’s way across the field.

Another elusive mustelid put in a brief appearance too, as a Badger trotted along between reedbeds, but unfortunately hidden from view by the vegetation on our side of the pool.  As dusk approached, pipistrelle bats were flitting back and forth, tiny Common Froglets hopped across the path in front of us and the drive back to Bamburgh produced another impressive mammal, as a Brown Hare loped along the verge as we passed.

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Summer birdwatching

by on Jul.16, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I collected Alison and David from The Swan for an afternoon and evening  around Druridge Bay, southeast Northumberland and the Northumberland coast, the weather was continuing in the glorious vein that it had struck a few days previously.

Mid-summer can be a quiet time, other than the obvious hustle and bustle of the Farne Islands, but there’s always something to see.  At the moment wader numbers are starting to build; Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher have all come down to the coastal strip from their breeding grounds and Black-tailed Godwits are moving through.  One of the first things we came across was a group of four of these beautiful elegant waders as they rested with a flock of LapwingsLittle Gulls were flycatching and then sleeping and a male Marsh Harrier gave views that were simply breathtaking.  As we headed up the coast, a female Marsh Harrier flew low over the car, being equally as obliging as the male.  Grey Herons were stalking along pool edges, Common Spotted Orchid, Bloody Cranesbill and Harebell added colour to pathside vegetation, hirundines heading to roost formed swirling clouds of dark dots against the greying sky, a Common Frog sprang across the path in front of us and a Barn Owl hunted over rough pasture on silent wings.

The thing that always characterises days out with clients who are passionate about wildlife, and Alison and David have a mouthwatering list of wildlife they’ve seen around the world, is that before you know it, it’s nearly dark, pipistrelles are hawking insects in the last vestiges of daylight and it’s time to head back.

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Elusive

by on Jul.25, 2012, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

With our focus in late-July on the North Sea and its enigmatic wildlife, a land-based trip makes a pleasant change from riding the waves.  I collected Catherine, Mark, Jacob and Izzy from their holiday accommodation in Howick and we set off down the Northumberland coast towards Druridge Bay.

We started at Newbiggin, following up a recent report of a small pod of White-beaked Dolphins. Only brief sightings of distant dorsal fins were possible, proving just what an elusive species this can be.  An adult Mediterranean Gull drifted close by with a few Black-headed Gulls, Jacob  concentrated on the flight identification of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, and another short spell of seawatching just up the coast produced lots of Eiders, and a Gannet heading south.

Cresswell Pond produced Little Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Curlew and lots of Lapwings, and then a real star performer as a Barn Owl quartered the dunes.  As is often the case, we had a particular target species for the evening and, as Mallards scattered from one section of a pond, and a small group of Teal suddenly became very alert, we concentrated on scanning that area.  Sure enough, the swishy, waving tail of an Otter was soon spotted near the Teal, and for a few minutes it gave brief views of it’s tail, head and body as it spread panic throughout the assembled wildfowl.  As darkness descended it vanished into the inky gloom and we headed back to the car, encountering Common Frog, Common Toad and Pipistrelles on the way.

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Roost

by on Sep.19, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Friday was our fourth Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland safari of the week, and it was a real pleasure to meet up with Lawrie and Linda, 2 of our returning clients from last year.

We started with a specific request; Brown Hare.  In the strong wind, persistent drizzle and biting cold they were keeping their heads down…all except for one which raised it’s ears, and then it’s head, above the stubble before demonstrating a remarkable vanishing act.

In Newbiggin Bay, with a big menacing sea breaking in the background, a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew north as we watched the Turnstones, Ringed Plover, Redshanks and Sanderling on the edge of the surf.

Fields of Curlew, and fighting cock Pheasants, provided additional entertainment as we drove down the coast.  I’d decided on East Chevington as our final destination of the trip and, as we arrived and began walking down to the North Pool, it looked as though the weather might get the better of us.  The wind was strengthening and the first few drops of rain began to fall as a juvenile Merlin raced across the fenceline in front of us looking, in the fading light, like an oversized hirundine.  The evening roost on the pool was building and hundreds of Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls were sitting in the shallow water with Sandwich Terns, Lapwings, Knot, Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen and Canada and Greylag Geese.  Then Pink-footed Geese and more Greylag Geese began arriving, and the 4 Snow Geese that we saw last Sunday flew in to join the throng.  A wave of panic spread through the roost, and many of the birds lifted into the air as a Bittern flew from one reedbed to another.  Eventually, even the silhouettes began to merge into the darkness and the birds began to settle as we left the hide and braved the driving rain.  With the footpaths and roads now covered in puddles the walk to the car, and the drive back to Alnwick, featured lots of Common Frogs and Common Toads, as well as a Tawny Owl that was perched on a fence post next to a line of trees.

It was a great experience to enjoy some pretty awful weather, and some superb wildlife, with Lawrie and Linda. I’ll never get fed up with what we do, and the weather is all a par tof the tapestry of that.

Thanks for the chocolates 🙂

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Variety Show

by on Aug.05, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday we had an afternoon/evening safari around southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay, an exciting prospect as these are producing some of our most memorable sightings.

Around lunchtime I started to receive calls about Bottlenose Dolphins, 5 past Newbiggin and 20-40 E of St Mary’s.  When I arrived at Church Point at 14:40, the dolphins had departed but a Harbour Porpoise was close inshore.  Once our clients had arrived we set off up the coast.  First stop produced a juvenile Little Owl, lazing in the afternoon sunshine.  A seawatching session revealed plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, and Katie quickly spotted more Harbour Porpoises.  The rest of the afternoon’s birdwatching produced excellent views of Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Tern and some very entertaining Grey Herons.  Non-birdy interest included Small Copper and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, Blue-tailed Damselfly and a Common Frog.  I chose a picnic spot giving us a wide view over the increasingly calm sea, producing further sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a distant group of Bottlenose Dolphins and a Peregrine.

Then we were on our way to the evening’s final destination.  As we walked, quietly, through a heavily shaded steep wooded valley, I began to question myself; could we really be succesful with a group of 6 clients, when we were searching for an animal that is so easily disturbed?  A Red Fox crossed the path ahead of us, although everyone other than Alice was looking the other way.  I allowed everyone to settle into position on one side of the valley and we waited.  In what seemed like no time at all, a stripy black-and-white head appeared from the undergrowth on the opposite side of the stream and our first Badger of the evening came trotting along.  It paused briefly and then crossed the stream before vanishing up the hill behind us.  After 30 mins, and another 6 Badgers!, we headed back to the Landy.  With the bat detector switched on, we listened to, and had close views of, Common Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s Bat.  Family bookings are always interesting, but the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of Emma, Katie and Alice made it such an enjoyable day (not forgetting the three older members of the group of course).

We’ll be running afternoon/evening safaris throughout the year, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to arrange your own Northern Experience 🙂

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Birdwatching; more than just a Hobby

by on Jul.19, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Surveys

Our two Druridge Bay mini-safaris last Wednesday both featured one of my favourite birds; Black-tailed Godwit.  A group of eight flying N at dusk in torrential rain may have included the five that we saw at lunchtime.  With plenty of Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin, as well as a few Ruff and Common Sandpipers there was a ‘busy’ feel to birdwatching the coastal pools.  Common Frog and Common Toad were perhaps to be expected in the damp conditions.

Thursday featured more torrential rain, although all of it whilst we were travelling between sites in Druridge Bay.  After collecting two clients individually from Alnmouth we headed south.  Dave had a day to remember with no less than five ‘lifers’; Little Owl, Dipper, Hobby, Scaup and Arctic Tern.  The Hobby was one of those classic moments.  I was watching a group of Sand Martins when they all suddenly rose high above the water.  As I opened my mouth to suggest that there was a raptor about, Dave said “What’s this?”…and there it was, a first-summer Hobby, heading straight towards us low over the pool.  A Whimbrel flew by, giving it’s distinctive call, and the transition from the occasionally difficult birding of mid-summer to the more productive time of mid-July is well underway.

Saturday was spent covering another three tetrads for the Bird Atlas and then on Sunday we had a few hours in our study area, searching for any sign of Hobby or Honey Buzzard.  With heavy overcast conditions, occasional light rain, and a cold breeze very few raptors were in evidence; just a Common Kestrel and a Common Buzzard to show for our efforts.

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