Tag: Common Toad

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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Arrivals

by on Apr.18, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I pulled into the car park at The Swan, Peter and Elizabeth were sitting in the bright sunshine.  There was still a cold edge to the breeze though, and we set out to explore Druridge Bay, south east Northumberland and the Northumberland coast.

Masses of frogspawn was evidence that our amphibians were getting on with business as usual, regardless of the weather, and a newt rose to the surface of a small pond to take a gulp of air before sinking out of sight back into the murky depths.  Chaffinches, Robins, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were singing, and a Chiffchaff was a welcome sound – we’d normally expect to start hearing them in mid-March, but this was our first this year.  A flock of Redwings were blown by like scraps of paper on the strengthening breeze and, just south of Cresswell, Fulmars glided effortlessly by, riding the updraft of the wind seemingly perilously close to the cliffs.

Another amphibian joined the day list, as a Common Toad walked along the path towards us, realised we were there, then retreated to the edge of the path and tucked all of it’s legs in so that it resembled a stone and waited for us to pass by.  A Greylag Goose was incubating and I mentioned that the same site usually held a pair of Mute Swansand one appeared, but we didn’t see where from.  The mystery was solved a few minutes later as it’s mate walked out of a reedbed, straight over the incubating Greylag and paddled across the water.  Incredibly the Greylag barely gave the swan a second glance, but just sat tight on it’s nest.

A Brown Hare sat haughtily in a roadside field, and a Sparrowhawk flew just ahead of the car for over 100m, before perching on a hedgerow and staring menacingly at us as we drove by.  By early evening the wind had really stiffened again and it started raining.  This didn’t dissuade a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier from hunting over a reedbed close to our position, and he eventually dropped into the reeds and onto prey; judging by the squealing he may have caught a Water Rail. Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin in one flock were additions to the year list, 18 Red-breasted Mergansers were displaying, a few Goldeneye were busy feeding and, as we finished our day, along one of NEWT’s favourite rivers, a dark shape moving slowly along the water’s edge caused some excitement.  Was this our quarry, the sinuous predator that terrorises fish, birds and small mammals?  No, it was a Moorhen…

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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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Creatures of habit

by on Mar.26, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After our first ever Harwood Safari on Saturday, our second came quickly 0n it’s heels.  I’d driven through some patchy, but dense, fog on the way to collect Judith and Kevin but as headed towards Harwood we found ourselves in some extraordinarily good weather.  The view from the Gibbet was better than on Saturday, and a male Goshawk was seen briefly as he passed along the top of the plantation in the distance.

Crossbills and Siskins were again in evidence as we drove the forest tracks and a Grey Wagtail  was catching flies on the surface of a ditch as we watched a Common Buzzard soaring overhead, and a pair of Common Toads, the male clasped tightly to the female’s back, crossed the track ahead of us. We stopped to watch over the plantation where we’d had 2 Goshawks on Saturday, and soon a Common Buzzard soared into view.  Almost immediately the male Goshawk rose out of the trees and began displaying high overhead, before finding a thermal that was obviously to his liking and ascending rapidly out of sight, presumably to keep a close eye on his territory.

The second half our our day was spent around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  As we checked rivers and pools, the assembled birdlife wasn’t disturbed by anything other than more birds; Black-headed Gulls were harassing a Grey Heron, Goldeneye, Mallards, and Teal were following other Goldeneye, Mallards and Teal, full of the joys of spring, and Canada Geese were busy showing that even Canada Geese don’t like Canada Geese 🙂  As we left Druridge Bay behind and headed towards Blaydon, the countryside was bathed in an almost sublime light.  10 hour working days have never seemed so attractive 😉

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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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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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And we’ve also…

by on Aug.26, 2008, under Wildlife

Had several very successful tours with clients. August 11th saw us venturing across to the Farne Islands on one of our Seal Safaris, excellent views of the Grey Seals were had by all, as well as brief views of two adult Puffins flying by and a Puffin chick that had only recently entered the water. The Cheviots were a little damp on August 18th but a break in the rain produced Peregrine, Merlin, Buzzard, no less than six Black Grouse and a Hare. August 19th saw us visiting the Grey Seals on the Farne Islands again before heading up the coast and across onto Holy Island to search for more seals and wading birds, then back down the coast as far as Amble. 20th involved an early start (for some…) and a walk along the Blyth. Heavy overnight rain had left the river as a raging torrent the colour of milky coffee and the highlight of the morning was a Red Squirrel making it’s way through the trees on the opposite bank of the river as Jays screamed at us from their hidden vantage points. Druridge Bay trip later the same day and we were treated to large roosts of Lapwing and Oystercatcher as well as a mystery mammal running across the roof of the hide we were sitting in at Hauxley. By the time we raced outside it had disappeared into the trees…
August 21st and we were back in Druridge Bay. Highlights were a Common Toad that was walking up the path ahead of us, Noctule Bat flying past (and picked up later on our bat detector) and, due to the incredibly clear sky, excellent views of Jupiter and it’s moons through the telescope – leading to an impromptu astronomy extension to our evening.

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