Tag: Coot

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…

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Avoiding the crowds; Lindisfarne mini-Safari 23/08/16

by on Aug.26, 2016, under Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast

Northumberland is a sparsely populated county where it’s relatively easy to get away from it all and enjoy watching wildlife without the hustle and bustle of large numbers of other people…

I met up with Lynsey, Francis, Gregory and Thea in the main car park on Holy Island ahead of an afternoon mini-Safari around the island.  The car park was busy, really busy, and there were lots of people walking to and from the village and the castle.  There’s so much more to Holy Island than that though, and we set off along the Straight Lonnen and away from the crowds 🙂  Gannets were passing by offshore, Oystercatchers were roosting just above the tide line and Grey Herons were stalking through rockpools as Goosander swam rapidly past them with their heads submerged in a search for fish.  Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and Mallard were on The Lough and Curlew flew overhead.  Viper’s Bugloss and Grass of Parnassus were still in flower as the sharp eyesight of Thea and Gregory brought hoverflies, bees, moths and Meadow Brown, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell flicked back and forth across the path in front of us.  Meadow Pipits appeared out of the grass and vanished almost as quickly and a Pheasant broke into a trot ahead of us.  As the rising tide began to flood over Fenham Flats, the eerie moans of Grey Seals carried on the breeze and a dense swirling cloud of distant waders soon resolved into the familiar shape, and sound, of Golden Plover.  As we returned to the car park, there were only half a dozen cars still there and the island was incredibly quiet as the rising tide had brought the usual mass departure 🙂

Comments Off on Avoiding the crowds; Lindisfarne mini-Safari 23/08/16 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Welcome home to Northumberland; Bespoke Coast Safari 28/04/16

by on May.03, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter

As I arrived at Church Point to collect Tom and Sue, the weather was slightly breezy but dry.  The forecast suggested that it might be showery later during the afternoon and promised a bit of a contrast with Tom and Sue’s home country of Australia. Tom’s a Northumbrian so I was really looking forward to showing him parts of the coast that he wasn’t familiar with, hopefully with the weather showcasing Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland at its best…

Cormorants air-dried their wings in the stiffening breeze and a Coot took umbrage at a Moorhen that was doing nothing more sinister than just wandering along the water’s edge, Woodpigeons, Jackdaws, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese speckled the dark grey sky.  A typically nervous Great Spotted Woodpecker watched us warily from behind a tree trunk, Tree Sparrows were chipping in the hedgerows, a Magpie was going back and forth presumably from it’s nest, Robins flicked across paths just ahead of us, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher probed in the mud in conditions that were starting to resemble the winter and a Little Egret was a shockingly bright bundle of white feathers in an ever darkening vista of Northumberland’s coastal wildlife as Avocets, delicate visions in black and white, swept their heads from side to side through shallow water in seach of food.

Great Crested Grebes comported themselves with their usual elegance as more Cormorants stood hunched in the wind and then, as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler must have been wondering if they were in the right place at the right time of year, the heavens unleashed hail, sleet and snow from an apocalyptic sky and a Water Rail scurried mouse-like between reedbeds as two Otter cubs appeared just beyond the grebes 🙂  Their first appearance was fleeting, just a few seconds before they vanished from sight behind a reedbed.  Then they were back, and porpoising side by side, back and forth, before once again heading into the shelter of the reeds.

As Fulmars soared along the clifftops and Gannets rode the uplift just above the waves offshore, we ended the day with the clouds overhead breaking to reveal blue sky and sunshine in a remarkable area of glorious weather that was surrounded in every direction by leaden grey clouds and storms.  Atmospheric wildlife watching…

Comments Off on Welcome home to Northumberland; Bespoke Coast Safari 28/04/16 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

The approaching storm; Druridge Bay Prestige Tour 04/01/2016

by on Jan.05, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

04/01/2008, and NEWT’s first ever day out with clients was a strange, cold, gloomy day where we managed to find our target species for the day, Roe Deer.  Eight years on and I found myself out with clients on January 4th again…

As I arrived at Church Point to collect Roberta and Dougie, the first thing that struck me was the height of the waves crashing into Newbiggin Bay.  Then the icy cold wind started probing, although it couldn’t breach the layers of clothing I’d aligned against it.  Whichever direction you looked, the weather looked different; a patch of blue sky, sunlight trying to break through the clouds, distant rain…all possibilities seemed open as we headed down the coast.  Greylag Geese, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and a lone Lapwing braved the cold as the first rain shower of the day made the water’s surface dance.  Next came what all agreed was the highlight of the day as Goldeneye and Little Grebe drifted apart and the space between them was occupied by an Otter 🙂  With a 75% success rate on our Otter Safaris during 2015 it wasn’t suprising that 2016 started with such an obliging mustelid which came closer and closer before drifting away and feeding incessantly.

Lunch overlooking the North Sea brought Fulmars arcing effortlessly along the cliff tops, a very obliging Little Gull looked tiny alongside Black-headed Gulls and the wader and wildfowl list for the day continued to grow with Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup, Pochard, Pink-footed Goose, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Curlew, Golden Plover and Long-billed Dowitcher.  A very vocal Fieldfare gave remarkably confiding views, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow jostled for position on feeders and, as the wind strengthened, waves crashed on the shore with a roar reminiscent of heavy traffic and the rain showers intensified, we headed back to Church Point.

Comments Off on The approaching storm; Druridge Bay Prestige Tour 04/01/2016 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Northerlies; Otter Safari 21/11/2015

by on Nov.23, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Approaching Scots Gap, to collect Teresa, Lisa, Scott and Brett for an Otter Safari around Druridge Bay, the overnight snow made the road ‘interesting’ in places.  The icy fingers of the northerly wind probed and poked at exposed skin and we headed down towards the coast…

Just a few miles along the road we came across a big flock of Fieldfare and Redwing, those beautiful Scandinavian thrushes, and ahead of us we could see snow falling on the coast.  Incredibly, apart from a light flurry of snow at Druridge Pools, it stayed away for the rest of the day.  Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Coot and Little Grebe were all braving the choppy water, as Redshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew all probed the gooey mud along the water’s edge as the biting wind dug deeper and we resembled the images of early antarctic expeditions.  Out of the wind, the low single figure temperatures didn’t feel so bad, and…was that something diving close to the reflection of the sun?  Choppy water and dazzling reflected sunlight aren’t a great combination, but a dark shape surfaced – and there was our first Otter for the day 🙂  It dived and resurfaced, this time with another young Otter alongside it, and we watched them on and off for an hour before they disappeared in the direction of the setting sun.  A Kingfisher, iridescent blue in the gloom of a waterside bush, and Little Egrets, seemingly luminous against the dark mud, caught tiny fish as we headed back inland under a stunning starry sky.

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Spring arrivals; Druridge Bay Safari 30/04/2015

by on May.05, 2015, under Druridge Bay

It’s been a cold windy spring, and a few of our summer visitors seemed a bit tardy; we found our first Sand Martin and Chiffchaff later than we would have expected, but the day has been coming when things would start to happen…

I collected Jan and Peter from Church Point and we set out to spend the day exploring Druridge Bay.  It was, unsurprisingly, cold and very windy again but that didn’t impact on our day birdwatching.  Skylarks soared and sang, Marsh Harriers drifted over reedbeds and fields close to the coast and an impressive range of waders performed obligingly; Oystercatcher, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Avocet, Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit – the latter three species resplendent in breeding plumage – demonstrated why this is such a popular group of species with birdwatchers.  The godwit in particular stood out; clothed in chestnut and a vision of elegance to rival the Little Egret that was stalking along the water’s edge nearby.  Moorhen and Coot crept furtively along the edge of reedbeds, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit flicked their tails nervously at the tops of bushes in the dunes and an eye-catching fly-catching adult Little Gull was easily picked out from amongst Black-headed Gulls.  Seawatching over lunchtime is a regular feature of our Druridge Bay trips and Eider, Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Common Guillemot could all be seen offshore as Fulmars soared and arced along the clifftops a few metres way from us. Wheatears and a Whinchat flitted from tussock to tussock, strikingly beautiful as they always are at this time of the year, and then a sign that the summer is nearly here; hundreds of Sand Martins were flycatching above every pool on the coast as a group of six House Martins flew in, battling against the strengthening breeze with the imperative to head north driving them on.  Then, a Swift, and another, then six more.  Eight of these scythe-winged masters of the air flew by us, rocking from side-to-side into the wind as they headed to join the feast above the water.

I love those days when we concentrate on looking for a single species, but a day birdwatching with clients and just enjoying, and marvelling, at everything that comes along is pretty much as good as it gets for a birdwatching guide 🙂 As Jan and Peter headed across to Bellingham, and I took the shorter journey back to the office, I was wondering if perhaps the summer weather was on the way…

Comments Off on Spring arrivals; Druridge Bay Safari 30/04/2015 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

A trip with extra added bite; Otter Safari 02/04/2014

by on Apr.04, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

After a remarkably mild winter, Wednesday brought some weather with a bit of bite, the sort of day where you really need the wildlife to be performing at it’s best to take your mind off the conditions…

I collected Katherine and Brenda from Church Point for an afternoon/evening Otter Safari, and we headed north up the coast through Druridge Bay.  Our first stop was looking very promising; Goosanders, Grey Herons, Avocets, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Mallard, Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Common Snipe, Turnstone…and a noticeable lack of birds in one corner of the pond 🙂 Always the first sign we look for when searching for Otters, so I was confident that there was one moving around close by.  It was looking so promising that I thought we should stay put and have lunch where we were.  I went back to the car to fetch our soup and sandwiches and when I got back to the hide, less than 5mins later, I was greeted with “You’re not going to believe it, but there’s an Otter just over there.”  Sure enough, Brenda’s directions had me looking in exactly the spot where it next surfaced 🙂  After a few minutes it went out of sight, before reappearing 30mins later, spreading panic amongst the ducks that were roosting at the water’s edge.  Then, as mysteriously as it first appeared, it dived and didn’t resurface where it could be seen.

We headed on up the coast in conditions that were becoming less entertaining, with a brutal southeasterly wind that seemed to drive the cold and damp through every layer of clothing that could be mustered.  Noisy Black-headed Gulls were dive-bombing Canada Geese, Little Grebes were just being their cute selves, Sand Martins swirled back and forth over the River Aln, Coot and Moorhen busied themselves around the reedbeds and Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Wren were all singing.

Probably a more wintry day than any day out we had during the winter, enriched by the sleek, sinuous menace of the Otter 🙂

Comments Off on A trip with extra added bite; Otter Safari 02/04/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Performer

by on Jun.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

There are times when we’re out with clients and encounter a species that’s really unexpected, other times a bird or animal will do something really impressive and sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the often overlooked ‘little brown jobs’ that are the stars of the show.

I collected Stephen from home in North Shields and headed north to collect Gordon and Mandy, and Susan for her second day out with me.  In weather that didn’t seem sure what it was going to do, we were soon watching a stunning Yellow Wagtail.  As House Martins, Sand Martins, Swallows and Swifts hawked insects just over our heads a singing Sedge Warbler was located at the top of a dead tree, and one of his near neighbours was busy answering the challenge laid down.  For over an hour everything we watched was accompanied by the frenetic warbling of this little bundle of energy; first he perched half way up a reedbed, then hopped higher to take a position on reeds that were so thin they swayed under his weight before beginning a series of song-flights, culminating in a dive into deep cover…then he started the whole process again.  Often we see Sedge Warblers as they flit from one reedbed to another, but this bird was going flat out – either trying to attract a mate, or warning his neighbours that the reedbed and its immediate surroundings was his domain.  Little Grebes, Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Greylag Geese were all staring nervously at one edge of the reeds, but the cause of their concern didn’t reveal itself.

Down the coast in Druridge Bay there was a good assortment of Little Gulls, deftly dip-feeding and taking insects from the water’s surface, a Great Crested Grebe sailed serenely by, Tree Sparrows were picking insects from the shoreline vegetation and Fulmars were soaring effortlessly along the cliff edges.

Just an excellent day birdwatching with lovely clients for company 🙂

Comments Off on Performer :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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…

Comments Off on Arrivals :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Fireworks

by on Nov.20, 2012, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

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 🙂

Comments Off on Fireworks :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Archives

All entries, chronologically...