Tag: Common Pipistrelle
After the snow of last Monday, Tuesday brought two mini-safaris. The first was a recce trip for a TV production company, assisting with checking out potential filming locations on the Northumberland coast. The weather was glorious; beautiful blue sky, fluffy white clouds and a gentle breeze. The peace and tranquility captured what Northumberland is all about – somewhere that you can relax and simply enjoy the countryside around you.
The second trip of the day began as I collected Neil and Ann from The Swan, and we headed out on a journey along the coast. Avocets were sitting on nests, Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were all singing and an incredibly bright Yellow Wagtail walked along the water’s edge. With a bit of persistence we located a Grasshopper Warbler singing from a reedbed, body quivering as it delivered it’s ‘reeling’ song with it’s head turning slowly from side-to-side. As we continued northwards we came across the first of three Barn Owls for the evening. As dusk approached Roe Deer came out of hiding, a Red Fox ran across directly in front of us carrying prey, Common Pipistrelles flitted backwards and forwards against the darkening sky and the assembled ducks, geese and swans started acting very nervously. I’d checked that site with Sarah two days earlier and watched a very obliging Otter as it fed. Today though it remained hidden in the reeds, almost certainly the cause of panic amongst the wildfowl…
Sunday was a Prestige Otter Safari for Chris and Sophie. It was Chris’ birthday and, as I collected them from Berwick in some pretty horrible conditions, I was hoping that we would drive south into better weather. Sure enough, we did pass out from under the rain clouds, but the day stayed quite gloomy and windy. I’d already had an excellent start to the day’s birdwatching, with a flock of 14 Waxwings flying alongside the road as I approached Berwick. I’m often asked what my favourite bird is, and usually reply that it’s impossible to have a favourite…but Waxwings have a special place at the top of my list
Down in southeast Northumberland we found an adult Mediterranean Gull, and Chris proved to be remarkably eagle-eyed – picking out a sleeping Jack Snipe in an area of cut reeds. On the water the usual suspects (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall) were joined by some less regular species; Scaup, Pintail and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks. Some surprising entertainment was provided by a Merlin which spent several minutes harassing a Magpie, and then there was a sudden movement of Goldeneye, Coot and Moorhen away from a reedbed. They stared intently at the reeds for a few minutes before drifting back towards the edge, then repeated the whole process twice more! There was something in the reeds that was causing concern, but it didn’t reveal itself (not an unusual occurrence in strong winds – and who could blame anything for staying sheltered?). We moved on to another pool…and had a repeat performance, this time with Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Tufted Duck and Whooper Swan being a bit on edge. Sometimes wildlife can be frustrating…
Given the low temperatures and high wind, it seemed a little over-optimistic to get the bat detector out. However, just to confirm that you can’t ever predict wildlife, we had at least two or three Common Pipistrelles, including some frenzied feeding activity around a streetlight, before heading back up the coast.
Our 3rd Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland trip in 5 days began with an old friend as our regular Little Owl sat sleepily in the sunshine, only opening an eye to check who we were before nodding off again. Further north, we watched a flock of 59 Pink-footed Geese as they headed south high overhead. 3 Grey Herons flew south past us, then north over Warkworth before heading south again. Incredibly. later in the afternoon, the same 3 herons flew south overhead at East Chevington, followed soon after by another 4, and we found another 3 sitting in a recently mown field near Hauxley. East Chevington also produced a good flock of Lapwing, with several Ruff scattered amongst them, and Cresswell held a flock of Dunlin with a Little Stint.
As sunset approached we settled to the waiting game of quiet observation by a small pool. Tawny Owls called nearby, a Buzzard was perched obligingly in the open, a Sparrowhawk was hedge-hopping to see what it could scare up for dinner, Jackdaws and Rooks were gathering noisily before going to roost and there was a notable level of panic and a high level of alertness in the assembled ducks. The cause of the panic didn’t show itself though, and we walked back to the car with Common Pipistrelles flying just above our heads before I returned Tamasin and Daniel to Newbiggin.
Yesterday was the second of four Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland afternoon and evening trips this week, and I collected Natalie and Clive from Newton on the Moor just after lunch before heading south.
Starting with a short woodland walk, we enjoyed close views of those arboreal specialists Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker, but this time Red Squirrel eluded us.
At East Chevington, we were watching a roosting flock of Lapwing, Ruff and Curlew, and checking through the mass of assembled ducks, when a distant call caught my attention. It was a minute or two before the birds appeared high in the sky to the north, but there they were; 29 Pink-footed Geese, the arrival that for me always heralds the end of the summer.
A flock of Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew at Cresswell contained a Little Stint, and a brief seawatch produced a small flock of Knot heading north.
A patient wait as the orange glow of the sunset illuminated the surface of a pond brought rewards as our attention was drawn to a scattering flock of Coot. Just a few metres from the ripples left by the rapidly departing birds, the menacing shape of an Otter was twisting, turning and diving. As it vanished in to the dark shadows of a reedbed, the final indication of it’s presence were the bright trails left by Mallards and Little Grebes as they made a frantic effort to be anywhere other than where the Otter was. Even more exciting for me, was the completely unexpected appearance of a mammal that I haven’t seen since childhood, as the twilight was punctuated by a loud ‘plop’ and a Water Vole swam cross in front of us Tawny Owls were calling and Common Pipistrelles flitted back and forth as the full moon, and cold wind, made the evening feel really autumnal.
I dropped Natalie and Clive back at Newton on the Moor, and decided to avoid the roadworks on the A1 on the route home and instead took the minor road from Shilbottle to Warkworth. I was still delayed though, but by a young Badger that trotted along the middle of the road ahead of me for a quarter of a mile before wandering into the verge and watching as I passed by. Expect the unexpected…
I had a feeling of deja vu just after the Bird Fair, when Alex and Richard joined us for a Prestige Tour on Richard’s birthday. My brief was the same as last year; birdwatching, photography and Otters, and I had no doubt that it was going to be a real pleasure. Last year the Otters eluded us, but we’ve found new sites since then, and changed the route, and timings, of our Otter Safaris to take that into account. A very obliging Grey Heron allowed consideration of composition…and why you shouldn’t set your camera to one of it’s pre-programmed modes A Common Snipe was a good subject to investigate why autofocus may sometimes be inferior to manual focus, and a very heavy shower produced a degree of contrast between sky and water that illustrated our discussions about camera metering systems.
Small groups of Whimbrel and Golden Plover were heading south, and we set ourselves close to one of our regular Otter sites as the day wore on. All of the wildfowl started heading in one direction…away from the Otter that was making its way menacingly across the water It vanished into the reeds, then reappeared before sliding away into the darkness again; leaving behind lots of terrified ducks, 2 very happy clients and a relieved guide
As the rain hammered down while I packed the car ready for Sunday’s Otter Safari I was filled with optimism; the weather forecast (really, I should stop believing these…) suggested that the afternoon and evening would be dry and bright.
When I arrived at Church Point Marc and Marika were already there, and we were joined by Becky and Jim soon after. The trip was a present for one of each couple, and we set off for an afternoon of birdwatching combined with searching for Otters. First stop was one of our Little Owl sites, and Becky’s sharp eyes picked out a juvenile bird that was doing a very passable impression of a stone. Our next stop, beside the River Coquet, produced Common Terns fishing, flyby Curlews (and a discussion of separation from Whimbrel), 4 Common Sandpipers and some impressive thunderstorms away to the north and west of us.
A heavy shower as we reached the NWT reserve at East Chevington kept us in the car for a few minutes, during which time we were entertained by a family party of Stonechats. As the rain eased we walked to the hide overlooking the north pool. Amongst the throng of Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns and Lapwings were 3 adult Knot, still in breeding plumage. Suddenly the entire roosting flock lifted, and the unmistakeable figure of a Spoonbill flew across our field of vision. It seemed intent on landing, but the constant harrassment from the terns meant that we were treated to several flypasts, including one where it was just 20m away from us. As if this wasn’t spectacular enough, 2 Little Egrets appeared, while the Spoonbill was still circling, and were subjected to the same treatment. Eventually a semblance of calm returned and we watched a juvenile Marsh Harrier as it pranced comically in the wet grass, presumably eating worms that had been brought to the surface by the rain, and a second juvenile harrier harrassed by crows. Another creature to benefit from the rain was a very young Hedgehog busily eating worms and, in a real ‘aahh’ moment, pausing briefly to sniff the air.
Our picnic stop, overlooking the southern end of Druridge Bay, produced rafts of Eiders and Common Scoters, the piping calls baby Guillemots rising from the waves below, Gannets and Sandwich Terns plunging into the sea, at least 3 Arctic Skuas and the majestic lumbering menace of a Pomarine Skua passing south just offshore.
Changeable, showery weather often produces good sunsets, and this was no exception; as a band of steel grey cloud drifted along the horizon, sunlight shone through a narrow gap, fading from gold to orange to red to pink. And there, in the reflection of the dramatic sky, was the main event – an Otter, twisting and turning, creating panic among the waterfowl, perched imperiously on a boulder and then vanishing into the deepening shadows of the water’s edge. Clouds of Noctule Bats and Common Pipistrelles swirled overhead, occasionally passing within a few feet of us, a female Tawny Owl called from the nearby trees, and the scene faded to darkness…
There have been times, during the 3 and bit years of NEWT, when it’s almost seemed like working 9 to 5 (although with the difference that you never really know how any given day will turn out). Gradually though we’re shifting to early starts or late finishes, and it’s really paying off for our clients.
I collected Mike and Sue from their accommodation at The Swan, ready for an Otter Safari around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland. Clients who were both teachers in the area of North Lincolnshire, where I spent my childhood, showed once again, just what a small world it is. After a few hours birdwatching around some of our most reliable otter sites, and dodging the rain showers, the evening developed into a stunning sunset. As a group of ducks scattered into an almost perfect semicircle I concentrated on the centre of that circle…and an Otter surfaced exactly where I was looking. After just a minute or so, it vanished into a reedbed….and we waited. Sure enough, a second example of synchronised scattering indicated where it had re-emerged from the reeds. Then we were treated to 20 minutes of madness as the otter raced across the water, porpoising and breaching! All of this was set against a backdrop of clouds of Swifts, hawking insects above the water, slowly morphing, as Swifts gradually departed and denizens of the night appeared, into a cloud of Noctule and Common Pipistrelle Bats. Almost perfect…
I’ve often said that what really makes our tours so enjoyable is our clients, and yesterday was no exception.
I collected Dave, Rachel, Emily and Thomas from their holiday cottage in Bamburgh and we drove down the Northumberland coast. The warm sunshine, and layer upon layer of birdsong, was more like late spring or early summer, and 8-year old Thomas was soon constantly attached to his camera viewfinder; a wildlife photographer of the future I think Emily kept us all entertained with suggestions as to how native Northumbrians will evolve and why several common flowers should be renamed.
Our picnic spot, overlooking Druridge Bay, produced an interesting observation. As we watched a roosting flock of Turnstones, Oyestercatchers and Purple Sandpipers I could see a raft of birds well offshore. Closer inspection revealed nearly 100 tightly rafted Pink-footed Geese. Perhaps the mystery of where they roost when we can’t find them at their usual winter haunts is close to being solved? It’s going to make our winter roost counts for the IGC a bit difficult though
As the red orb of the sun sank behind the slate grey clouds we settled into position by a coastal pool. 3 Roe Deer wandered through a nearby field, Common Pipistrelles hawked insects in front of us (described as “awesome” by Thomas), Mute Swans and Greylag Geese paddled serenely across the pool and the whole scene was given a surreal air with thick layers of mist hanging just above the water. Still my favourite time of day…and there really isn’t anything better than sharing it with our clients
Saturday saw our annual Halloween bat walk, again at the excellent location of Bamburgh Castle. Bookings had been slow until the end of last week but we eventually had 24 participants booked on the walk. As we set off just after 5pm, the sky darkened and the first drops of cold rain began to fall. With Chris’s excellent commentary about the history of the castle and it’s surroundings, and the two of us filling in with wildlife info, we were soon round at the base of the Miller’s Nick – a route into the castle that isn’t open to the public. Once inside the castle walls, Chris regaled everyone with a series of ghostly tales about the castle. Then, as we walked around the eastern edge of the castle grounds, the first Common Pipistrelle of the evening was spotted. As well as listening to them using our bat detectors, everyone managed to see them as they raced and swooped along the walls. Then it was time to head inside for pumpkin soup, homemade bread…and a walk along an unlit tunnel beneath the castle.
We’re adding more family events to our calendar for 2011 so keep checking to see what we can do for your family.
We were watching Autumnwatch yesterday evening and one discussion between the presenters, concerning intervention when you’re filming/photographing an animal in distress, was particularly pertinent to the mini-safari that Martin led earlier yesterday evening…but back to that later in this post.
The half-term week was busy, as expected, and included some fantastic wildlife watching; Salmon leaping up a weir on the River Coquet, Starlings massing and swirling above a coastal reedbed before dropping to roost, 2000+ Pink-footed Geese filling the sky overhead, as they left their feeding sites and headed for the overnight safety of the water, and Grey Seals around the Farne Islands as they approach the height of their breeding season.
Yesterday brought an evening mini-safari in southeast Northumberland. Damp gloomy conditions and increasingly glowering clouds weren’t making things look too promising. Our walk along the River Blyth produced a Nuthatch, and a Kingfisher called as it flew along the swollen, muddy river. Two birdwatching gems, but quality rather than quantity was the order of the evening. A Sparrowhawk provided some entertainment as it swooped repeatedly down towards the trees, flushing flocks of Woodpigeon with each descent, before finally vanishing into the canopy. We continued our walk and, as we rounded a bend in the path, we found the reason for the Sparrowhawk’s disappearance; flapping lamely in the undergrowth was a Woodpigeon with a nasty head wound. The predator had presumably flushed as we approached. We’ve seen similar before and the question from clients is always “what are we going to do?”. The answer may seem quite cold and heartless but we do nothing. The pigeon was mortally wounded and would provide a meal either for the hawk or possibly a Red Fox would come along and make off with it. Nature really is ‘red in tooth and claw’ and we shouldn’t interfere in the everyday life (and death) of our wildlife where we can avoid doing so.
Our next destination was what is rapidly becoming our favourite Badger sett. As we watched quietly (and we really have to congratulate the 6-year old in our group for remaining so very quiet) over the open area close to the sett, a Red Fox crossed the track ahead of us, we could hear scuffling in the undergrowth and then two stripy black-and-white faces appeared out of the gloom. After a withering stare in our direction the two cubs trotted along the hillside and were joined by a third before vanishing into the night. The final leg of the trip was a search for owls. Local knowledge paid off, as the ghostly figure of a Barn Owl floated through the beam of our headlights just where we expected it to. There was still time for more wildlife though and the application of our bat detector revealed a Common Pipistrelle feeding on the rich bounty of moths. After the recent frosts it was good to find bats still active, and our final event for this October is a Bat Walk at Bamburgh Castle tomorrow evening. Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place for what should be an evening of family fun.