Tag: Common Gull
I collected Luke and Louise from Alnwick, for the first of their three trips with us this week, and we headed north to Lindisfarne…
Crossing the causeway, with hardly any water in sight, it was hard to believe that this has been the scene of so many attempts by the unwary and the foolish to drive through seawater that brings their journeys to an abrupt end and the ignominy of having to be rescued by the RNLI and RAF. On the island, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing from deep cover as foraging Lapwings were joined by a Fieldfare that was chancing it’s arm with repeated threat displays. Meadow Pipits were sitting on fence posts and dry stone walls as the air all around seemed to be filled with singing Skylarks. Eight Roe Deer were feeding in a grassy field and a buck near the village took umbrage at beeing watched and took off at pace, clearing fence after fence and wall after wall as he headed towards the dunes on the north of the island. House Sparrows were chirping from what seemed like every bush on the island and Grey Herons blended in to the reeds around the Lough to such an extent that Louise’s sharp eyes picked one out and it took a while, and the heron suddenly moving it’s head, before myself and Luke could see it.
As a cold north easterly breeze gathered pace, the eerie calls of Grey Seals and the shrill cries of Curlew carried across the mudflats. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, surely getting ready to depart for northern climes, arrived with the rising tide and Little Egrets, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Herring, Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls were joined along the edge of the swelling water by three Whimbrel.
To enjoy my unedited views about Holy Island causeway strandings, why not join one of our Lindisfarne Safaris? We run them throughout the year, although October (for migrants), November-February (wintering waders and wildfowl) and June-July (flora and insects) are the slightly better months to visit.
A tree filled with roosting Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Cormorants was an odd sight, as more Cormorants did their very best Otter impersonations up and down the river. Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew probed the muddy margins as Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows filled the air overhead. As we approach dusk it’s always an exciting time on our tours; things start stirring, birds arrive to roost and you never know just what’s going to appear out of the gloom. Thick cloud cover and mist reduced the scene to monochrome as Starlings murmurated nearby, Common Gulls flew through in tight flocks on their way to roost and Great Crested Grebe chicks hitched a ride on their parent’s backs as the rain started to fall. Canada and Greylag Geese erupted from the water’s surface with a cacophony of noise and a female Marsh Harrier drifted over the reeds in near darkness. Fade to black…
With a Farne Islands Safari on Wedneday, I’d been keeping an even closer eye than usual on the weather forecast and particularly the forecast sea state and swell height. 1m waves, strong NE winds and heavy rain wasn’t the most promising of forecasts…
I collected Paul and Rose from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north of Seahouses for a few hours birdwatching before our sailing across to the Farnes. A singing Reed Bunting was eventually located, and finally came out obligingly into the open, as Meadow Pipits displayed overhead and Sand Martins hawked back and forth low over the water. Gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring all lined up obligingly next to each other for a mini-ID masterclass. A Shoveler escorted her ten ducklings across the pool as Coots fed young, Moorhens crept around in bankside rushes, Lapwing roosted in nearby fields and a Skylark, just a tiny dark speck against the clouds overhead, sounded inconceivably loud at the height it had reached.
Sitting and eating lunch overlooking the islands, the one thing that was really obvious was that the sea was calm, it wasn’t really windy and it wasn’t raining – so much for those forecasts then 🙂 We boarded Glad Tidings VII and headed towards the inner group of islands. Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were all heading back to their nests with food, Grey Seals were lazing around on the rocks and the sound, and smell, of the islands intensified. The onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake echoed off the cliffs and a leucistic Guillemot caught my eye as it sat on the rocks amongst all of it’s regular-coloured relatives.
Once we landed on Inner Farne, the Puffins took centre stage. We watched as they headed back towards their burrows, only to be harried by Black-headed Gulls. One Puffin dropped it’s load of small fish right next to us, it’s wingbeats whirring audibly just over our heads as it tried to evade it’s pursuers. Large, ungainly, and very, very fluffy Shag chicks had grown to big to be contained in their nests and the grumpy moaning of the assembled auks added to the wall of sound. Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns were all tending eggs or chicks, with the Arctic Terns being as feisty as ever, and a couple of them taking a particular dislike to Rose’s hat! As we walked back down the jetty to sail back to the mainland, Rose’s sharp eyes spotted one of those birds that are so cryptic in some habitats as a Ringed Plover dashed around between pebbles and rocks on the shore line.
I collected Gwyn for a day searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and we headed towards the coast…
Our first site didn’t produce any Otter sightings, and there was nothing happening amongst the assembled Curlew, Redshank, Cormorant, Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Mallard to suggest that they were worried about any unseen predator lurking nearby. That took us up to lunchtime, and overlooking the North Sea we watched Swallows and Sand Martins battling into the wind. After lunch our next site was a hive of activity with Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Grey Heron. Then there was suddenly an obvious gap in amongst the waterfowl, which became a much bigger gap as Goldeneye scattered in an impressive radial pattern that had an Otter cub at its centre 🙂 We tracked its progress for a few minutes until we couldn’t see it any more – although the flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls circling above it still could 🙂
I was confident it would reappear so we sat and waited. Cormorant flew by and the arrival of a heavy rain shower brought a dense flock of Sand Martins and Swallows plundering the clouds of midges that had been present throughout the afternoon. Then the gulls were suddenly up in the air again, along with a couple of very vocal Sandwich Terns…directly above two Otter cubs 🙂 They fished alongside one another, and the highlight of the afternoon was when one came into shallow water and consumed an Eel that it seemed to be having a bit of a struggle with. With Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard (now both a regular feature of the Northumberland coast) during the day too, it was a procession of spectacular wildlife in ever-changing, and occasionally dramatic, light – ideal for Gwyn’s camera.
Otters, raptors and a client with a passion for wildlife and photography (and a fellow Nikon user too!) – a great start to April! We’ve got Otter Safaris regularly throughout the year so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place now. We can tailor our tours to suit anyone from families with young children all the way to experienced wildlife watchers and serious nature photographers 🙂
I love the Northumberland coast, and my obsession with the North Sea and it’s wildlife is well documented, but I always look forward to the drive west – away from the sea and into forests and remote moorland…
I collected Jeanette and Simon for their second trip with NEWT, following the Otter mini-Safari on Sunday, and we headed across through Alnwick, Rothbury, Thropton, Elsdon and Otterburn. As we approached the dam at the southern end of Kielder Water I could see a bird ahead of us flying towards the reservoir. It was flying directly away from us but it’s a fairly distinctive bird from any angle…and the Osprey hovered over the water, plunged, surfaced with a large fish and flew along the dam wall, pursued by an angry mob of Common Gulls as 6 Roe Deer grazed just outside the cover of woodland beside the North Tyne 🙂 With occasional breaks in the cloud, and brief interludes of warm sunshine, it seemed a good time to find a suitable spot to sit and look over the forest…which worked just as planned with Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk all making it on to the day list as a flock of Redwing called overhead 🙂
The drive from forest to moorland produced excellent views of a Dipper as it submerged in a fast-flowing stream, and then the moors produced another excellent crop of birds. Ravens, big impressive and noisy flew overhead, pairs of Common Buzzard seemed to be everywhere we looked, Red Grouse played hide-and-seek with us as they emerged from cover only to vanish again within a few seconds and three more raptors made it seven species for the day. Kestrel is still a regular bird on many of our tours but the other two were real scarcities; a pair of Merlin were calling noisily just behind us as a male Hen Harrier ghosted across the moor below us. Then he started skydancing 🙂 That would be a treat enough, but the bird that had prompted his display came into view…not the female harrier we’d expected, but a second male! The two tussled briefly in the air just above the heather before both drifting out of sight. Wild Goats were remarkably confiding close to the road as we headed back towards lower ground and trees.
Back down in the forest and a female Common Crossbill was a nice find as the high-pitched songs of Goldcrest and Treecreeper pierced the air, Goldeneye displayed out on the water as a drake Mandarin sat quietly behind the bankside vegetation and Grey Wagtails bobbed along the muddy edge. Another wildlife-filled day out with clients who were great company 🙂
The great thing or the worst thing (depending on your point of view…) with watching wildlife is the sheer unpredictability of it. There’s always something to watch though, and if you watch for long enough it just gets even less predictable…
I collected Neil and Julia from Newbiggin and we headed towards Druridge Bay for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters. Anybody who reads our blog regularly will know that Northumberland is a great place to look for Otters, but it usually involves some effort and patience. 45mins into the afternoon and Black-headed and Common Gulls rose in a ‘dread’ then started circling. The only logical place to look was directly under them…and there was an Otter 🙂 We watched it for nearly an hour, until it eventually caught a huge Eel and vanished into the reeds. During that hour there was a mass exodus of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe and Gadwall from one reedbed…and a Fox peered out from the reeds before coming out into the open.
The rest of the afternoon was a study of fascinating wildlife; Dippers were fighting with the victor eventually bursting into song, although not before it had been seen off itself by a Kingfisher, Hawthorns were dripping with Goldcrest, a Hebe bush was a mass of Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral Butterflies and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, a second Kingfisher flew by before perching obligingly on a fence post, Grey Herons were stalking patiently in shallow water, a Little Egret perched high in a tree, a Little Owl fixed us with a withering stare and the afternooon headed towards sunset. In beautiful orange light from the setting sun, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Redshank and Oystercatcher roosted as Dunlin busied themselves along the water’s edge, Snipe probed in the mud next to a reedbed and a Water Rail emerged from the gloom of the reeds into the gloom of dusk before slipping back out of sight.
Friday was Tony’s third, and final, day of bespoke birdwatching with NEWT and we headed north in similar weather to Thursday…
Travelling north, Roe Deer seemed unsure which way to run across the road so dodged back and forth in front of us. On the rising tide, Little Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were hunting along the water’s edge, Pale-bellied Brent Geese were leapfrogging north, Pink-footed Geese flew south high overhead as the ‘choo-it’ calls of a Spotted Redshank and eerie moaning of Grey Seals cut through the tranquil air. A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and the rising tide brought more birds towards us, Herring, Common, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ruff, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Goosander, Mallard and Teal were more obliging than distant swirling flocks of Lapwing and Barnacle Goose and a noisy tribe of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees behind us. Lunch at Stag Rocks produced Common Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Shag, then Greenshank and Shoveler were soon added to the day list as we continued south down the coast. Panic amongst Herring Gulls and Cormorants revealed a Grey Seal swimming along the River Coquet and Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye were the final new birds for Tony’s holiday as a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by and Greylag and Pink-footed Geese began arriving at their overnight roost.
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 🙂
Saturday saw a change in our normal Safari routine, and an early afternoon start. I collected Gareth and Ruth from the Red Lion at Alnmouth and we drove south. The hot, sunny weather had brought out hundreds of people to Plessey Woods but we still found a peaceful, undisturbed glade where we could listen to the birds singing and we watched a female Great Spotted Woodpecker; at least we were able to watch her until she realised that we were! Cresswell Pond produced a real avian soap opera as a Mute Swan defended his pond against two interlopers, racing across the pond like the Spanish Armada. A Little Gull was as cute and dimunitive as ever, alongside Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls. Druridge Pools was hosting some obviously confused geese; amongst the expected flock of Greylags there were single Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese as well. A late finish concluded with a beautiful, ghostly Barn Owl and at least 3 different species of bat along the River Coquet at dusk.
Sunday was a day for doing whatever we felt like. With temperatures still soaring, a day inland, doing survey work for the BTO Bird Atlas, was considered then rejected in favour of a visit to the coast.
Sarah had the excellent idea of taking a boat trip around Coquet Island, which I was really enthusiastic about. When myself and Tom Cadwallender from the Northumberland Coast AONB were designing the backdrop for this year’s Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the Bird Fair we chose eight species that we felt symbolised Northumberland birding; Curlew, Eider, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Golden Plover, Black Grouse, Roseate Tern, Dipper and Puffin. A mix of everything that’s good about birdwatching in Northumberland; inland, coastal, summer and winter. I had images of seven of those species, but the Roseate Tern is the one that I haven’t photographed during the digital age. Hence, my enthusiasm for a trip around Coquet Island; with 35-40 Rosies already back at their Northumberland colony I was hopeful that photo opportunities would arise. As we sailed across to the island onboard Shokwave, there was a strengthening NNE breeze and the temperature began to decrease rapidly. Once Dennis manouvered the boat into the jetty, we could see Roseates sitting on their nest boxes. They were a bit distant for photography so I waited patiently until I heard the distinctive ‘choo-it’ call and a bird flew by the boat.
Grey Seals popped their heads above the water to look at the boat, Puffins whizzed past at breakneck speed and more Roseates were busy displaying around the boxes.
After a pleasant Sunday morning cruise it was time to return home. En route, we stopped off to check a Little Owl nest site and one of the adult birds sat staring at us from the roof of a derelict building. Finalising the paperwork for a forthcoming project was followed by a wonderful evening sitting on our patio, drinking wine and working on part of our bonsai collection as Blackbirds were singing from our trees and Coal Tits collected food to take to the noisy, and hungry, nestlings that we could hear. Now, that’s my idea of heaven 🙂