Tag: Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Raptors, raptors everywhere

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Standing on the Heugh on Holy Island with Jill and Steve, we’re all scanning towards Guile Point.  Cormorants, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider are all bobbing about on the water, Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Curlew and Oystercatchers are flying by, Common and Grey Seals are splashing in the surf as the tide falls…and I’m focused on the sea with one species in mind.  Then 2 distant white dots, gradually narrowing the gap toward us, and I know I’ve achieved that primary target.  Soon, I’ve got 2 very happy clients watching an immaculate drake Long-tailed Duck.  Outrageously attractive, he waved that eponymous tail in the air before taking off and vanishing out of sight around the headland.

At the other end of the day we watched a flock of 20 Slavonian Grebes and a similar number of Common Scoter, another 6 Long-tailed Ducks, an elusive Black-throated Diver and 3 equally elusive Red-throated Divers and 2 Harbour Porpoises as the light faded to the point where even the impressive assembly of optical equipment wasn’t offering an advantage any more.

Sandwiched in between though, was a veritable feast of raptors;  we’d already had a couple of Common Buzzards (and I’d had 2 on the drive to Hauxley before collecting Jill and Steve), 2 Sparrowhawks and several Kestrels by lunchtime, but the best was yet to come.  First a Merlin perched on a post in front of us for 10 minutes, then we found 2 Peregrines sitting on boulders at low tide.  Soon a wave of panic spread through the assembled waders, and the Barnacle, Greylag, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, as the 2 Peregrines swooped back and forth.  Then, our second Merlin of the day began harrassing one of the Peregrines. As chaos raged across the mudflats, one of the Peregrines made a kill; an unfortunate Redshank.  It took it’s prize to a rock and began plucking it…and 2 more Peregrines arrived!  All 3 tussled over the spoils of the hunt, before 2 of them conceded and sat a little distance away.  A dry, cold wintry day and spectacular drama played out by some excellent wildlife.  The Northumberland coast in the winter – there’s nothing better 🙂

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Rough…

by on Oct.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

The last 2 days were spent running 2 Prestige Tours for Peter and Alison, and the Northumberland coast delivered plenty of birdwatching gems.

On Wednesday we were covering Holy Island and the Northumberland coast, and planned to spend the morning on Holy Island and then come off at lunchtime just before the tide covered the causeway (remember – the crossing times are published for a reason, don’t drive into the North Sea, it won’t end well!).  A thorough check around the village, and the Heugh, produced 2 Black Redstarts, Blackcaps, lots of Blackbirds, Fieldfares, Redwings and an intriguing Chiffchaff (almost sandy brown above, very unlike our breeding birds).  Grey Seals and Pale-bellied Brent Geese were out on the mud, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal were roosting on the Rocket Field and a Woodcock was flying circuits of the village.  As well as an almost continuous wave of thrushes leaving the island, the distinctive flight calls of Skylarks and Lesser Redpolls could be picked out.

Once we were off the island, I’d decided to head north to Goswick.  Another Black Redstart and a Yellow-browed Warbler were around Coastgurad Cottage, and we made our way through the dunes.  The adult drake Black Scoter was still present, although less than easy to see with a line of rolling surf impeding the view.  As the tide rose, flocks of Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover rose from the exposed sandbar, shuffling along to the next ‘dry’ spot.  A Short-eared Owl was seen coming in-off, harrassed by Herring Gulls before finally finding sanctuary on the Snook, and then the bird of the day (well, I think so anyway) appeared just behind us.  Tracking south along the coast a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard was given a bit of a going over by the local corvids.

Heading back towards Seahouses we stopped off at Harkess Rocks,  where Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, Redshank and Oystercatchers were all flitting from rock to rock and Eider were bobbing about just offshore as daylight faded and it was time to return Peter and Alison to their holiday accommodation.

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Arrivals

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

The autumn regularly produces excellent birdwatching experiences, and our Friday afternoon Lindisfarne mini-safari was no exception.

I collected Pat and Ian from Glororum and we headed north towards Holy Island.  With the tide falling, the newly exposed mud provided a veritable banquet for the massed waders and wildfowl.  As far as the eye could see the shoreline was lined with Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Barnacle Geese were arriving and the mud was a hive of activity with Wigeon, Teal, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover all tucking in.  2 Carrion Crows were administering a warm welcome to a Peregrine, and a Little Egret flew in, landing beside another egret that was stalking around the edges of a pool on the mudflats.  As the afternoon wore on, we relocated to Bamburgh, and the rocks there produced excellent views of the waders we’d seen earlier as well as a few Purple Sandpipers.

Then came one of those real experience moments.  Despite the strong offshore winds 3 Fieldfares were battling against the headwind, low over the waves.  They crossed the beach, flew by us and as they dropped towards the shelter of the coastal fields they were intercepted by 2 Sparrowhawks.  The final act of the encounter happened out of sight, but you can’t help thinking that it was a cruel end to a herculean effort.

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Appreciating what we have

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

During the winter months, our mini-safaris are concentrated on the coast and we always keep a close eye on the weather.  Sometimes that doesn’t work out though, as the Northumberland coast frequently seems to have it’s own microclimate that doesn’t match either the forecast, or the weather, a few miles inland.

When I arrived at the mainland end of the Holy Island causeway to collect Sharon and Andrew, I was surprised to discover that it was a sublimely beautiful morning.  A bitingly cold wind was scything across Fenham Flats but the forecast rain was nowhere to be seen.

Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit were beside the causeway, and flocks of smaller waders were wheeling around in the air near the island.  Winter wildfowl are a feature of the Northumberland coast and, with drakes in near full breeding-dress, Teal and Wigeon are particularly breathtaking.  Pale-bellied Brent Geese were alongside Dark-bellied Brent Geese, allowing an easy comparison, Lapwings were gloriously iridescent in the bright sunlight and a Peregrine caused panic before beating a path towards the mainland. 12 Common Seals were an unexpected bonus and a covey of Grey Partridges scurried across a field as we walked by.  Common Buzzards were perched on hedgerows and the number of Kestrels we found was astonishing; at least 8 birds in just a few miles of birdwatching on the coast.

After just over 3 hours of birdwatching in near-perfect conditions it was time to return to our starting point and then onwards; Sharon and Andrew heading back across to Holy Island and me heading to Rothbury to Chair a meeting between Northumberland Tourism, Northumberland County Council and the Chairs of Northumberland’s Tourism Associations.  The stunning morning really emphasised in my mind the importance of the meeting in the afternoon; Northumberland has some outstanding birdwatching, wildlife and photography opportunities during the winter (and throughout the rest of the year as well) so we need to make sure that we keep shouting as loudly as we can about them.

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