Tag: Common Whitethroat

Summer days; Cheviot Valleys Bespoke birdwatching 18/06/17

by on Jun.20, 2017, under Cheviot Valleys

An early start on Sunday saw me collecting Jill and Steve for their 4th day out with NEWT (and Steve’s 5th trip with us as he was on this memorable pelagic!)…

Our destination was the Cheviot valleys, but we headed to Bothal first to search for the Ruddy Duck that had been there the day before.  There was no sign of it, but consolation came in the form of a stunning summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebe before we continued on our way north west.  Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant were wandering along the roads and sitting on the tops of walls and we were soon searching for Ring Ouzel and Whinchat – the two target species for the morning.  Curlew called from the moors high above, Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and Pied Wagtails were picking insects from the grass as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were singing, Mistle Thrushes flew back and forth and Oystercatchers were probing the soil under short vegetation.  Persistence is often the key and I finally spotted a Whinchat perched on a small bush, and then 2 Ring Ouzels foraging on a small rocky outcrop.

Our picnic spot beside a fast flowing stream produced an obliging Common Sandpiper and more Whinchats as the buzzing trill of Lesser Redpolls drew our attention to small dark specks travelling between plantations and the scratchy song of Common Whitethroat grumbled from nearby bracken.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker sitting in the road was an unexpected encounter before we finished the day with an hour of woodland birding.  In the hot afternoon sunshine the birds seemed to be keeping their heads down, other than a very obliging Spotted Flycatcher as Speckled Wood butterflies rested in the sun-dappled edges of the wood and a Giant Pied Hoverfly Volucella pellucens made a couple of flyby inspections as we walked back to the car.

Another really enjoyable day out with Jill and Steve, in very summery weather!

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The golden hour; Bespoke coastal birdwatching 07/06/17

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Nicky and Mick from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland.  The weather was somewhat nicer than it had been 24h earlier, in fact postively summery although with a fairly stiff breeze.  Sometimes I could write a blog post by skipping to the last hour or so of the trip and, after a challenging afternoon including a good look at Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Whitehroats song-flighting from bramble scrub and a couple of woodland walks with Jays playing hide and seek with us, Treecreepers creeping up the trunks of trees, Robins and Wrens singing from deep cover and Fulmars gliding on stiff wings along the clifftops that’s where we find ourselves…

Against a stiff northwesterly the Barn Owl was struggling; already bearing the heavy burden of a plump vole it was flying northeasterly and sideways to make progress to the north, forced out over the sea before battling it’s way back onshore and dropping from the remarkable height it had chosen to fly at as Great Crested Grebes radiated elegance on the choppy water in front of us and a Starling murmuration numbered a couple of hundred birds.  As the light levels dropped to absolutely sublime it was time for more owls to put in an appearance;  first another Barn Owl, then another, another and incredibly our fifth of the evening, with three of them in one binocular view 🙂  With an aural backdrop of Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Curlew and Lapwing, and the air filled with Swifts the scene was set for another owl, this time a Long-eared hunting through the dunes, it’s dark plumage providing a stark contrast to the pale ghostly Barn Owls.  There was another surprise waiting for us too as Nicky asked “what are those birds along there?”.  I turned and looked through my binoculars and the impression was raptor-like, combined with a hint of thin, long-tailed Woodpigeon…a closer look therough our ‘scope, and there were two Cuckoos!  The final hour is often the highlight of a day watching wildlife, but this hour was just shoveling the quality in 🙂

 

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A swift return; Druridge Bay birdwatching mini-safari 23/05/17

by on May.25, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Newbiggin to collect Brendan for a mini-Safari around Druridge Bay, in weather that was little short of glorious…

Brendan lives just a few miles from the village where Sarah’s parents still live; an area that’s historically similar to southeast Northumberland – although we’ve got the North Sea, beaches etc. 🙂  Our first stop was a search for waders, and Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all pottering around on the mud and we concentrated on the differences between the two plovers and the subtle distinctions that allow them to be identified at some distance.  We were discussing the difficulties of identifying birds by their songs and calls, and the loss of high-pitch hearing with age, when one of those high-pitched birds started calling from the trees above us – Goldcrests are great at hiding but they persistently give themselves away by being so vocal.  Avocets, including one bird with a single chick, were lazing in the sunshine and occasionally calling in agitation when anything they didn’t like the look of flew over.  Grey Herons and a Little Egret stalked through the edges of the calm water and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits displayed overhead as a Lapwing returned to her nest right in front of us.  More songs from hidden birds enhanced the discussion about ID by sound; Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat were all delivering their serenades from deep cover.  Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot and Great Crested Grebe were all on the water as Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow gathered flying insects, an underwhelming Starling murmuration passed by and 2 Common Swifts flew over – a real sign that the summer’s here…

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Larking about; Druridge Bay bespoke birdwatching 22/05/17

by on May.23, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday was Pete and Jan’s 10th trip with us, and we were heading for NEWT’s local patch…

Travelling south from Embleton we stopped off to enjoy cliffs covered in Fulmar and Kittiwake before stopping off at Boulmer to search for the Shorelark.  We watched a small flock of these fantastic birds during the winter, but this loner was just stunning.  Overhead  the songs of several Skylark drifted on what was turning into a chilly breeze and four Brown Hares were in a nearby field.  Heading further south, the songs of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat were accompanied by brief appearances from the songsters, a Roebuck watched us warily before deciding we weren’t a problem and returned to grazing as a Great Spotted Woodpecker demonstrated unexpected behaviour at it started launching short flycatching flights.  A subadult male Marsh Harrier was quartering the crops as a Kestrel hovered nearby and a flycatching Grey Wagtail jumped from rock to rock as we continued on our way.

A cracking male Stonechat progressed from post to post in pursuit of insects, while Grey Heron and Little Egret stalked the shallows, but the afternoon was dominated by waders and wagtails.  Ringed Plover, Ruff, Common Snipe, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and no less than 12 Avocets represented this diverse group and the Avocets were particularly entertaining as they mobbed Grey Herons and ShelduckYellow Wagtails are stunningly bright birds and 2 or 3 bright yellow males were aggressively chasing a female, who eventually grew tired of the harrassment and flew off high to the west as we ended the day and headed back north.  Driving through an area of dense woodland, a Common Buzzard appeared from the left and flew across the road just a few metres in front of us as we approached Embleton.

Another great day birdwatching, with great company.  See you at the Bird Fair 🙂

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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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Sublime panic

by on Oct.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

“What do you on days when you’re not working?” is a question I’m frequently asked by clients.  My answer’s always the same “I do this, just without clients 🙂  It’s what I love doing, and what I’ve done since I was very young”

Friday was an ‘office day’ (which translates roughly into ‘day when I really should be working at home…) but, after a few hours of admin tasks, I decided to have a couple of hours on the coast.  As I passed Cooper’s Corner I could see that it was misty towards the coast.  Always promising at this time of the year, so I started to think about where to search.  I’d been in a meeting with Ipin on Thursday afternoon, and neither of us had been convinced that the conditions forecast for Friday would bring anything particularly exciting to the Northumberland coast…

“Druridge bushes or Hadston links? Druridge bushes or Hadston links?”  I settled on Druridge and began slowly working around the edge of the bushes.  A flock of Reed Buntings and Goldfinches seemed to be spending most of their time tucked away in the back of a clump of Blackthorn so I made my way around the back of that clump.  The birds were feeding happily with me standing just a few metres away from them and then a Lesser Whitethroat put in a brief appearance.  I texted Ipin, knowing that had booked the day off work and would be somewhere close by, and waited for the bird to reappear.  Another bird flitted up to the top of the blackthorn with it’s back to me.  Looking quite grey, I thought it was the Lesser Whitethroat again, until it turned round…and I found myself looking at the white sub-moustachial stripes and orangy pink breast of a male Subalpine Warbler 🙂 I’d forgotten to charge my mobile, and the battery symbol had turned red, but getting the news out was a priority.  I ‘phoned Ipin, but his mobile went straight to voicemail (it turned out I’m not the only one who’d forgotten to charge their ‘phone…), Alan Tilmouth and Andy McLevy, before finally managing to get through to Ipin, who was only a couple of hundred metres away and covered the distance like Usain Bolt would cover it – if he was desperate for a patch tick too 😉

When Alan and Andy arrived just ahead of other local birders, the bird was proving elusive and I volunteered to check the back of the blackthorn (reasoning that if the bird was there and flicked across to the other side then everyone else would see it).  Sure enough it was back where I’d first found it, but continued feeding contentedly as I used the last drop of power left in my ‘phone to let Alan know exactly where the bird was in relation to the Reed Bunting that had helpfully perched at the top of the bush.

The damp misty conditions weren’t good for photography, so the promising forecast for Saturday morning had me planning for a couple of hours at Druridge before heading to Snab Point for a seawatching session as part of the Druridge Bay Big Wildlife Count.  In excellent light the bird showed well, although was very mobile, and I managed to get a few shots of this little gem 🙂

Subalpine Warbler,Sylvia cantillans,Druridge Pools,Northumberland,guided birdwatching,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

Subalpine Warbler,Sylvia cantillans,Druridge Pools,Northumberland,guided birdwatching,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

Subalpine Warbler,Sylvia cantillans,Druridge Pools,Northumberland,guided birdwatching,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

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