Tag: Common Snipe
I collected Andreas ahead of a day of birdwatching in the North Pennines with two things in mind; Andreas’ target list for the day (Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Ring Ouzel) and the weather forecast (sleet and snow showers, temps as low as 7C)…
Glorious and breezy weather accompanied our journey southwest and we were soon at the first of our regular Black Grouse sites. We arrived there just ahead of the first of the day’s snow showers – which saw the temperature plummet all the way down to 1C! We soon found our first Red Grouse of the day, as Curlews displayed overhead, and a third of Andreas’ target list had been achieved. An unexpected find by Andreas was a Woodcock, tucked into the vegetation as we made our way across from Allendale to Weardale.
Soon after the Woodcock we came across a displaying Common Snipe, and then our first Black Grouse of the day; a male sitting on a drystone wall, iridescent blue in the sunshine, followed by this bird, half-heartedly displaying while another one fed close by. Two out of three…
Brilliant sunshine was followed by snow, was followed by brilliant sunshine, was followed by snow, and that pattern continued throughout the rest of the day.
As we headed for our regular lunch spot, Andreas spotted a female Ring Ouzel, and completed his target list for the day As the sunshine bathed the landscape around us, a very confiding Lapwing allowed some easy photography.
After watching two Blackcock lekking, with seven other birds pottering about nearby, we headed northeast. The heaviest snow of the day accompanied our journey out of the hills, a reminder that conditions on high ground can be poor at any time…but the reward for braving our remotest landscapes is some really high quality birdwatching.
As a chemist I’ve found fireworks fascinating for some time. While I was still teaching, I developed a series of demonstration experiments that illustrated how different colours are produced by varying the chemicals in the mix and managed, during one particularly spectacular demo, to set fire to a pile of homework and the surface of my desk. Every year there are information campaigns about domestic pets and fireworks, but never really anything about the effect on wildlife…
I met up with Pete and Georgie at Church Point and we set off (in their car, but that’s a whole other story…) around Southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay. Perhaps my own favourite moment of the day came quite early as a Merlin chased a Common Snipe through the dunes at Cresswell. An elusive Brambling played hide and seek with us nearby and the Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Shoveler at each pond we visited seemed unconcerned and not indicating the presence of the sinuous predator that enlivens so many of our trips on the coast.
As dusk approached things started to look a bit more interesting; Whooper Swans were clearly alert and agitated, all staring into the same reedbed. We’ve seen it so many times before…and then ‘whoosh’, ‘whoosh’, ‘whoosh’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’, ‘bang’, as a fireworks display on a nearby beach scattered everything! Ducks, geese, swans all took to the air and we finished the trip with not very much wildlife in view at all.
As we headed back to the car a figure appeared out of the dark “Dr Kitching. Slight change of plan, Sarah’s poorly so I’ve come to collect you”. The hero of the day was a man whose knowledge of the Northumberland coast is second to none, and whose blog is really worth checking out. Cheers Ipin, you’re a star
Our returning clients theme continued last week, when I collected Elaine and Sue for an Otter Safari, concentrating mainly around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. We first met between Christmas and New Year 2008 when they joined myself and Sarah on a guided walk on Holy Island. On that day Elaine photographed this stunning Stonechat
and we also had a brief view of a Jack Snipe as it flushed ahead of us.
Last Wednesday we set off up the coast, stopping to check our favourite Little Owl site. Elaine spotted the bird, as it was mobbed by no less than six Magpies. It fixed it’s tormentors with what can only be described as a look of utter contempt and they gradually drifted away. Cresswell Pond produced a persistently-bobbing Jack Snipe, tucked in amongst the reeds and much more obliging than our 2008 bird on Holy Island, and plenty of Common Snipe like this one, again photographed by Elaine.
Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were all roosting around pool edges and the change out of eclipse plumage was very noticeable among the ducks, with drake Teal looking particularly good. As the warm autumn sunshine bathed the landscape around us, the air was suddenly filled with dragonflies and Elaine captured this portrait of a stunning Migrant Hawker.
There’s something captivating about dragonflies and, as myself and Sue concentrated on scanning reed edges for any indication that an Otter was lurking, Elaine returned to the spot where the dragonfly had been earlier. Within a matter of minutes the temperature fell slightly and insect activity ceased.I’m not sure we have any finer insect than Migrant Hawker, and you can see from Elaine’s photo what a stunner it is.
As sunset neared and we searched for any sign of our quarry, we watched a Starling murmuration developing as a herd of Whooper Swans flew between distant fields. Just before it got dark the Whoopers appeared overhead, giving their eerie call and dropping into their overnight roost site. After a really enjoyable day out, we returned to our starting point and I looked forward (with good reason!) to seeing Elaine’s images from the day, which I’m really happy to be able to post in our blog – thank you Elaine .
It’s a rare day when a trip features a limited number of birds and other wildlife, but even the days with lots to see often have a few things that really stand out; sometimes by being scarce, sometimes it’s an intriguing behaviour, and sometimes it can be something that’s quite common but rarely seen. An outstanding day would produce all of those…
I collected Helen and Chris from Church Point for an afternoon of birdwatching and other wildlife around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in near-perfect weather. Before we headed up the coast though, we spent some time studying the Mediterranean Gulls on the beach and in the car park. Cormorants were feeding just offshore and a very long-billed Dunlin was pottering about on the sand. Working our way along the reserves that line Druridge Bay, one of NEWT’s favourite winter visitors provided some entertainment; a small herd of Whooper Swans had chosen a pool as a stop-off point – provoking a furious reaction from the resident pair of Mute Swans. Teal, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall drakes were all looking good, following their exit from eclipse plumage, Long-tailed Tits flew past, one by one, a Goldcrest was flicking around in a bush nearby, a chirping Tree Sparrow allowed us to approach incredibly close and a Guillemot was hanging around at the base of the weir on the River Coquet. Flocks of Curlew, Golden Plover and Lapwing filled the air, and a Jack Snipe provided lots of entertainment as it bobbed up and down on the edge of a reedbed, as nearby Common Snipe seemed more interested in disputing possession of feeding areas than actually feeding.
As the end of the trip approached, much too soon with such good company, we were in a small wooded valley, searching for Badgers. We could hear the sound of them blundering through the undergrowth, but a barking dog nearby seemed to spook them and all went quiet. For most of the time that we were there we were under the baleful glare of a feathered sentinel, as a Tawny Owl stared at us from the fork between a branch and tree trunk. Wildlife, watching the wildlife-watchers
Wading birds seem to hold a fascination for so many birdwatchers, from beginners all the way to birders with decades of experience, and Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland at this time of year is often very productive.
I collected Reg and Val (for their second trip within a week) and Nick from Church Point and we started with one of our favourite birds, and one that always impresses, Mediterranean Gull. With the strong breeze driving sand across our field of vision, there was a real wild feel to the experience of watching the birds as they withstood the elements.
Heading north along the coast we witnessed one of the oddest pieces of fieldcraft that I’ve seen with clients. Checking out a small subsidence pond, we were enjoying the sight of Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Common Redshank and a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper all probing and prodding through the mud at the water’s edge. Another birdwatcher made his way stealthily to the wall along the roadside, and settled to watch the birds from a crouched position. Good fieldcraft, the birds continued feeding appearing completely unconcerned by his presence. Then, when he was ready to leave, he popped up like a jack-in-the-box flushing all of the birds! As the flock eventually settled back down, there was no sign of the Curlew Sandpiper. It’s an important lesson that fieldcraft skills should always be applied when retreating from your position as well as when approaching it
Cresswell Pond continued the wader theme, with some very obliging Common Snipe, Dunlin, Ruff and both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits (standing alongside one another and allowing excellent comparison of the differences between these species).
At East Chevington, Reg spotted a distant bird perched on a fence post and commented that it didn’t look quite right for a Crow. Tucked down against the wind, the view through our telescope soon revealed that the bird was a juvenile Marsh Harrier. It remained perched for several minutes, regularly turning it’s head to reveal a lovely orange/cream crown contrasting with the uniform dark-brown of the rest of it’s plumage. Hundreds of Lapwings and Starlings were flying back and forth, twisting and turning against the very stiff breeze, Cormorants sat motionless and we headed back to Newbiggin at the end of our day.
As I drove through the rolling hills of rural Northumberland to the west of Morpeth, the weather was looking superb; blue sky, sunshine, a nice breeze. I collected Mark and Nicola and we headed back towards the coastal plain, for an afternoon of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.
The conditions looked good for raptors, and it wasn’t too long before we had our first Common Buzzards of the afternoon. Then another raptor appeared, soaring just overhead. With long, thin wings, and a long narrow tail, it didn’t look like another buzzard, but it had the sun behind it so was a difficult to view silhouette. Eventually it moved away to the north and, as it engaged in some mid-air sparring with one of the buzzards, its identity was revealed; juvenile Marsh Harrier. As the two protagonists drifted further north, the orange crown of the harrier flashed in the sunlight as the bird soared in circles, contrasting with the rich dark chocolate brown of the rest of its plumage.
Reaching the coast, we stopped off at Newbiggin to look for Mediterranean Gulls and it didn’t take too long before we spotted our first as it flew across from the southern end of the bay and landed on the beach right in front of us. More followed, including a juvenile bird, and Nicola soon commented that, regardless of any plumage differences, the structure of the birds was noticeably different to the nearby Black-headed Gulls. Leaving the Meds behind we began our journey along the coastal road through Druridge Bay. A quick check of the Bewick Drift Flash produced 9 Ruff, 10 Dunlin and a Curlew Sandpiper and we spent a little while comparing the differences between the two sandpipers as well as having a very close view of just how different male and female Ruff are in terms of size.
Our picnic stop, overlooking the North Sea, produced a beach filled with Ringed Plovers, and a lone Sanderling, as well as soaring Fulmars and rafts of Eiders, bobbing in the gentle swell far below us. It was starting to turn colder, breezier, and the first drops of rain started to fall. Cresswell Pond was very productive, as it has been for a few weeks now, but a few species really stood out; a Spoonbill, which had been at East Chevington during the afternoon, flew in and made its way right round the edge of the pond, sweeping that extraordinary bill from side to side in search of food, Yellow Wagtails arrived to roost and sat along the base of the reeds, where they provoked a very aggressive response from the Common Snipe that were feeding there and a Barn Owl came out following a heavy shower and caught a vole in the dunes away to the north before carrying it within a few metres of where we were sitting.
The finale to the trip came beside a fast flowing river, downstream was dark, inky blackness, but upstream the water was lit by the eerie glow from a nearby town. Daubenton’s Bats were trawling the water surface, their presence betrayed by the expanding circles where they’d gaffed prey at the surface. Then, a ripple too big to be from a bat; and an Otter surfaced for a few moments before disappearing into the dark.
August is always a stressful month for NEWT. As well as leading our regular safari days, it’s British Birdwatching Fair month, and the week leading up to the Bird Fair is always frantic; checking that we’ve got everything for the stand, mounting a new series of limited edition prints for sale, liaising with all of the other Birdwatching Northumberland partners to make sure that everybody knows exactly which aspects of the project they’re responsible for, and making sure that we’ve got a supply of local beer for the 4pm ‘free bar’ on our stand
Then, after a busy three days, it’s all over and we head north…this year to the thankfully cooler temperatures of Northumberland. From leaving Rutland at 6pm on Sunday to arriving back in Northumberland just after 10pm, the temperature drop was an impressive 14C.
Yesterday was our first post-BirdFair trip, a day of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. I collected Alex from Church Point, and we started with a good scan of the beach. 4 Mediterranean Gulls were close by and a small group of waders contained Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Waders proved to be a theme for the day and we added Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Golden Plover and Avocet to the day list as we made our way around NEWT’s local area. With an impressive supporting cast that included Water Rail, 3 Little Egrets and a Spoonbill it was a great day to be watching the edges of our local ponds, and a real education in just how much inward and outward movement of birds there is from the feeding and roosting wader flocks that grace southeast Northumberland at this time of the year. It was a great day too, to appreciate just how friendly and helpful local birdwatchers are in Northumberland – many thanks to Len and Gill for pointing us in the direction of the Wood Sandpiper, and Gill’s sharp eyes picked out the Spotted Redshank which then vanished without trace soon after being found and appreciated
In very summery weather I arrived at Newton to collect Yvonne, Mark and Marie. Sunglasses and sun cream were the order of the day and we headed down to Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Family trips are always a bit of an unknown, but having a sharp-eyed 10 year old on her first visit to Northumberland really helped
I’ve pondered a great deal over the last few years on what it is about wildlife that can really grip the imagination and attention of the younger generations and I’m still not certain that I really have the answer. In fact, there probably isn’t one simple answer. I’ve been involved with mini-beasting sessions with our local First School and seen children get really enthused about slugs (not my own personal favourite…), I’ve seen teenagers get excited about bats, owls, Otters and beetles but, one thing is almost always true…and that’s that ‘cute’ is good I’m in my mid-40s, I could be cynical and jaded, but ‘cute’ still works for me too. And cute was 3 Avocet chicks, paddling in shallow water and swinging their heads from side-to-side in the way that their parents do when feeding. A Barn Owl gave repeated fly-bys in the sublime evening light, flushing 27 Common Snipe at one point, and we headed back to Newton, where the Stilt Sandpiper (the rarest bird we’ve seen with clients) was still present, and wading between Black-headed Gulls. In the twilight, bats passed low over our heads and a froglet hopped across the path in front of us. Even the sometimes apparently ‘wildlife-poor’ days of the summer can produce incredible experiences, and the contribution our clients make to that experience is vital.
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…
We’ve got a busy few weeks coming up, giving talks locally, exhibiting at the Scottish Bird Fair and delivering the bird identification training courses for the North Pennines WildWatch programme. Once that’s out of the way, we’ll be into our busy period for trips out with clients, and then delivering more training courses – this time on offshore wildlife survey techniques for MARINElife/North East Cetacean Project and our local Wildlife Trusts.
With all of that in mind we had a weekend in the North Pennines, staying at Saughy Rigg Farm and making an early start on Saturday to visit a Black Grouse lek. Armed with our new Telinga Pro8W and Stereo DATmic…we sat in the car with the heaters on as the temperature hit 3C and it started snowing We could see the grouse – they were sitting huddled in clumps of rush, looking decidely miserable – but they weren’t performing (at least not early on Saturday morning). A ghostly-pale Short-eared Owl braved the elements, quartering the grassland in search of prey, and the mic picked up the sound of drumming Snipe, calling Curlew and cackling Red Grouse, but once the Blackcock started lekking they were upwind of us and the wind tunnel effect of trying to record them led to a change of tactic and concentrating on photography.
Over the course of the two days, we had excellent views of Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Golden Plover, Curlew, Common Snipe, Redshank, Curlew, Brown Hare, Roe Deer and Rabbit. The maze of little roads throughout the area offer lots of photographic opportunities so we made the most of them