Tag: Dark-bellied Brent Goose
Day 1. 19/02/17. I arrived at the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of our Winter Wonderland holiday, then met up with with Christine, John, Linda and Rosie in the bar and outlined the plan for the next two days while we enjoyed a fantastic meal.
Day 2. 20/02/17. Our first full day was targeting Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast. Stopping at Budle Bay on our way north we soon found a Spotted Redshank amongst the Common Redshank, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Curlew as Pink-footed and Greylag Geese and Lapwing swirled distantly against a leaden grey sky on a stiff breeze and Red-breasted Mergansers looked even more comical than usual with their tufts blown to odd angles. A heavy misty drizzle took hold, yet cleared within minutes, leaving a beautiful azure sky draped in fluffy white cloud. A Kestrel perched obligingly as we stopped along a hedgerow that was heaving with Chaffinches. As the receding tide cleared the Holy Island causeway, waders dropped in to feed along the edge of the recently exposed mud. Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit were all close to the road and easily observable by using the car as a nice, sheltered, warm hide as Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew over us 🙂 Over on the island we found a mixed flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Curlew and Lapwing. As an unseen threat spooked them and they lifted from the field, it was obvious that the number of birds present was far greater than we thought. Grey Seals were hauled out on the now visible sandbars and we headed back across to the mainland. Lunch overlooking the vast expanse of mud produced more geese and ducks, including Pintail, and a distant Little Stint in amongst a flock of Dunlin and Knot. A Merlin had spooked the Chaffinch flock as we headed back south and a quick stop at Bamburgh produced Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Eider but nothing on the sea in what the wind had whipped up into a frothing mess of whitecaps. The stiffening breeze was making viewing conditions awkward but the final stop of the afternoon brought Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch and Goldcrest before we headed back to Seahouses. Dinner was accompanied by a discussion of the plan for Tuesday, and a target list was quickly developed…
Day 3. 21/02/17. Tuesday saw us heading south towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Our first target for the day was a species that’s scarce and often only offers fleeting views…Willow Tit is a regular visitor to the NEWT garden feeding station but I’d got a different site in mind and we enjoyed prolonged views of at least two of these gorgeous little birds, as well as a detailed discussion about how to separate them from Marsh Tit. Reed Bunting, Common Snipe and Common Buzzard joined the day list as an impressive flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover swirled against the sky as we headed off in search of our next target for the day. This one proved fairly straightforward and we had great views of both male and female Brambling. Little Grebe, Goldeneye and Common and Black-headed Gulls accompanied our lunch stop before we had excellent views of some very obliging Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ruff, Tree Sparrow and Little Egret. Shorelark was the one target for the day that eluded us, as we had several flight views of a vocal flock of Twite while Ringed Plover were displaying on the beach, Sanderling were scurrying back and forth and a flock of Common Scoter were offshore with Red-throated Divers and Guillemot just beyond the breaking surf. A handsome male Stonechat flushed from bush to bush ahead of us as we walked along the path and the long-staying Pacific Diver eventually gave great views close to a Slavonian Grebe. There was one target species still remaining on the list for the day though, and I was sure that the last hour of daylight would bring that one for us. Scanning the edges of reedbeds through the telescope revealed a dark shape that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier during my last scan of the reedbed, and that dark shape stretched and began loping along, still partly obscured by the reeds. Within a minute everyone had located the Otter as it moved quickly around the edge of the pool and then it vanished, only to appear in the water a few minutes later 🙂 We watched as it swam towards us before losing it from sight behind the near vegetation. After a few minutes of calm all of the Mute Swans were suddenly staring towards the bank right in front of us, and the Otter passed by just a few metres away 🙂 A great finish to our final full day in the field.
Day 4. 22/02/17. Departure day dawned dry, bright and with an icily cold breeze as we gathered for breakfast before all heading off our separate ways.
We’ll be adding 2017 and 2018 dates to our holiday page shortly but please do get in touch if you’ve got any questions about what we offer. Our short break holidays have a maximum of 6 participants, and a relaxed pace, and we’re always happy to create something bespoke too 🙂
There’s a special quality to the winter; stark, icy landscapes filled with vast flocks of wintering birds grip the attention and leave you marvelling at the inhospitable conditions our winter wildlife contends with. We can wear a range of incredibly technical clothing, and head back to the car, or even indoors, if conditions deteriorate but wildlife just has to get on with surviving…
I arrived at Middleton to collect Lesley and Andrew, who were enjoying a week in Northumberland that included their wedding, for their second trip with NEWT (following a successful Otter Safari in May last year) and we headed towards Holy Island. As we walked out to The Lough, flocks of Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew in off the mudflats heading towards the flooded fields where we’ve seen them roosting and bathing over the last couple of weeks. The flooded fields were frozen fields though, and the geese circled over them before heading back out onto the mud. Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye and Shoveler were all very skittish and we could even track the progress of whatever was disturbing them by their movements, although whatever it was remained unseen by us. Vast flocks of Golden Plover filled the air and Skylark song carried on the icy breeze. Back on the mainland the rising tide brought Curlew, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Common Redshank closer and closer to us. Then, as the encroaching tide lapped at their toes in the grass at the edge of the mudflats, 12 Skylark suddenly rose in front of us as a flock of Lesser Redpoll sat in bushes behind our viewing point.
Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver were on the sea just beyond the rocks where Purple Sandpipers were engaging in their daily dance with the breaking surf and it was time to head back after an enjoyable day with clients who have a great love for Northumberland, and an extraordinary knowledge of great places to eat – we’ll be trying out their recommendations over the next month or so 🙂
Our Winter Wonderland holiday started on Sunday evening with Ben and Diane, and David, arriving at the Bamburgh Castle Inn.
Day One 22/02/16. Our first full day was around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast and everything that makes the area so good in the winter put in an appearance. Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Knot represented wading birds, Common Scoter, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were just offshore, Grey Seal and at least 16 Roe Deer provided some mammal interest and there were lots and lots of geese. Pale-bellied Brent, Dark-bellied Brent, Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle filled the air, the fields and the mudflats as Skylarks sang and fought, heralding the arrival of spring 🙂
Day Two 23/02/16. Our second day was spent around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. One of our favourite mammals was soon on the trip list as an Otter cub appeared from its hideaway in a pile of boulders and spent a little while feeding close by 🙂 The long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher joined the trip list too, feeding alongside Knot, Common Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit and unexpected birds included Marsh Tit and Treecreeper. As the afternoon light faded, we watched a family group of Whooper Swans and a pair of Dippers sat almost motionless on a mid-stream rock as the water rushed around them and a Barn Owl was a welcome addition to the trip list just before an incredibly brief sleety shower reminded us that this is the winter 🙂
24/02/16. Departure day dawned bright, cold and encased in frost at the end of the holiday. Just the way the winter should be!
Our second successive day on and around Lindisfarne was accompanied by an incredibly stiff breeze, which contributed to a fascinating encounter…
I collected Andy, Jill and Catherine from The Swan and we collected Alison en route to the north of the county. Waiting for the tide to clear from the causeway, we spent the first part of the day on the mainland. Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Curlew, Common Redshank and Knot were all close to the edge of the breaking surf as Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Eider, Razorbill and Slavonian Grebe braved the icy bite of the wind out on the exposed sea. Teal, Wigeon, Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Dark-bellied Brent Geese grazed on the newly-exposed areas of mudflat as the tide fell and a stunningly handsome drake Pintail flew by. Grey Seals hauled out on exposed sandbars and, over on the island, we watched a Kestrel, holding position in the breeze, as another raptor found itself in a bit of difficulty…
Between the island and the mainland, a Sparrowhawk was beating a desperate path into the wind. Struggling to make headway, its task was made all the more difficult by the attention of a Herring Gull. Exposed, and really not in its element, the Sparrowhawk was driven back by the wind as the mob of gulls began growing. Time and again it flew towards the mainland only to be brought almost to a standstill by the breeze and harassed by the gulls into turning back towards the island. Eventually it dropped towards the sea before accelerating across the gap, just a few feet above the deadly waves, and was lost from sight as it neared the relative sanctuary of the mainland. If there’s a rule when watching wildlife it should be ‘expect the unexpected’ 🙂
Pat and Jenny’s second day out with NEWT was to a location that really comes into it’s own during the winter…
Bar-tailed Godwit, Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Common Redshank and Turnstone were all showing well on the rocks below us and I started scanning just beyond the bay, and there were 7 Bottlenose Dolphins heading south 🙂 One of them was an incredibly distinctive animal that we first encountered in Northumberland last winter and this latest sighting will be added to our database of dolphins re-sighted close to our shores. Heading across to Holy Island dense flocks of Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Knot filled the air and we enjoyed views of both Dark-bellied and Pale-bellied Brent Geese as well as Greylag, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese. Skylarks put in an appearance too, always a nice bird to see as they’re scarce in Northumberland during the winter, and then potentially the bird of the day remained unidentified as a distant ‘ringtail’ harrier made a brief appearance in the dunes on the north side of the island before disappearing from view. The one that got away…
Thursday was Tony’s second bespoke birdwatching day with NEWT, and we were heading to Holy Island. The weather was an extraordinary contrast to the mist, murk and torrential rain of Wednesday; clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine accompanied us on the drive north…
Our first port of call on the island was the Vicar’s Garden, and we were greeted by the nasal rasping call of a Brambling. Chiffchaffs were flitting restlessly in the trees, a flycatcher settled for just a few seconds, Redwings were hopping around with Song Thrush and Blackbird on the lawn as Grey Seals moaned from the sandbars of Fenham Flats, Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north, as the rising tide disturbed them, and a flock of Bar-tailed Godwit put on a synchronised flying display that would rival any Starling murmuration. A Yellow-browed Warbler eventually revealed itself, one of three we came across during the morning, and after a walk around the lepidoptera-laden lonnens (Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Silver Y), including watching at least 15 Roe Deer, and a Merlin harrassing a Short-eared Owl, we returned to the car to have lunch. A quick check of my mobile revealed a message about a Radde’s Warbler at Chare Ends. Now that’s easy twitching of a rarity…just a five minute walk from where we were sitting 🙂 The warbler proved elusive though, and it took a little while to show itself and all of the features that make it identifiable. Flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet were in the stubble nearby, a Peregrine flew overhead, scattering waders and wildfowl from the mudflats, a Merlin perched obligingly on top of a Hawthorn bush in the dunes and we headed back south after 7 hours on the island.
The Northumberland coast in the late autumn is a birdwatching destination that I’ll never tire of. Even in weather that could best be described as inclement, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.
I collected Mike and Janet from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north for a day birdwatching around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast. Starting with a walk around Holy Island village, a harsh chuckling call betrayed the presence of a Fieldfare in a small tree. Two others joined it, before they all departed noisily. Then more chuckling Fieldfare, and the high seee calls of Redwing, carried through the air from high overhead and we could make out, in the mist, a mixed flock of these thrushes arriving high from the north east and bypassing the island on their way across to the mainland. A Sparrowhawk raced by, hedge-hopping and swerving out of sight behind The Heugh, as thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew out onto the exposed mud of the wildfowl refuge area and Shag, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser dived just offshore. A couple of very obliging Rock Pipits showed the subtle, dusky beauty that can only be appreciated with close views and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover were reaping the rich bounty of the mud, as Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in the newly exposed mud of the harbour, and the high whistling calls of drake Teal carried across to us from the Rocket Field, a Little Auk flew along the main street through the village. Crossing back to the mainland, a Little Egret was stalking through the shallows along the roadside and Curlew and Oystercatcher were so close we could have almost reached out of the car and touched them. As the falling tide exposed sandbars, Grey Seals were moaning eerily and splashing about in shallow water. Suddenly, there were thousands of Wigeon and Golden Plover in the air. They settled but then flushed again so I started a methodical check of every rock that I could see on the mud. Then I found what I was looking for – a rock that was just too vertical…and the view through our ‘scope revealed the impressive muscular menace of a female Peregrine 🙂 She shuffled around and took off, only to settle on another rock closer to us. Our attention was drawn to a charm of Goldfinches feeding nearby, and the Peregrine departed while we weren’t looking.
As the weather moved through in waves of varying grot, we watched a group of three Roe Deer grazing in a roadside field, and then headed a bit further down the coast. Dusk was approaching rapidly as we watched more waders feeding busily as the tide rose, Lapwings flew over like giant bats and thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls arrived to roost. Wave after wave of mist and drizzle, wave after wave of birds, wave after wave of waves 🙂
There are days when it’s calm, still and sunny, but those days are rarely as good as the days when the weather adds its own weight to the whole experience of being in Northumberland.
I collected Alan and Sandra for their second day out with NEWT and we headed north, to explore the exceptional birdwatching that the north Northumberland coast has to offer in the late autumn. The closer we got to the coast. the grimmer the weather looked, and as we settled ourselves into position by the Holy Island causeway the rain began pattering against the windows of the car. Using the car as a birdwatching hide can be a very profitable approach in poor weather and I positioned it so that Alan and Sandra’s side of the car was out of the wind and rain. Flocks of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were shuffling along the edge of the rising water, and we could pick out a few Dark-bellied Brent Geese amongst them too. The rising tide brought Curlew, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover towards us in changeable weather – at one point we were in bright sunshine and heavy rain at the same time, while the mudflats away to the north of the causeway were under a perfect double rainbow 🙂 Three Little Auks flew north towards the causeway and conditions improved. Flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare were typical of poor autumn weather and every bush and tree seemed to hold several Robins. Gannets were feeding offshore from Bamburgh, where some impressive waves were battering the shore, Red-throated Divers flew by and we finished the same as 24h earlier with Pink-footed Geese yapping in the darkness.
04:30, and I wake to what sounds like a train crashing through our garden. It isn’t though, instead it’s the howling gales that had been forecast. Meeting up with David for breakfast at The Swan, I’m glad that we switched our day in Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland to today. Lindisfarne in howling gales and torrential rain would be close to unbearable, Druridge Bay would be much closer to manageable…
Starting with a seawatch as the rain lashed against the rear window of the car, Eider and a single Common Scoter were just offshore as Sanderling scurried around the piles of seaweed on the shore, a ghostly white adult Mediterranean Gull struggled past against the wind and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north low over the waves. Then the weather cleared and we were suddenly in beautiful sunshine and blue skies with a light breeze…before the wind strengthened again, the sky turned black and a squally shower had the entire surface of the pool at Hauxley looking like it was boiling. Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Scaup and Little Grebe
all faced the elements…then it turned nice again and a Peregrine flew through, scattering Wigeon and Teal but paying them no heed 🙂 A line of Black-headed Gulls dip-feeding into the breeze at East Chevington contained a surprise in the dainty form of a Little Gull, then it started to rain again. Sitting by the River Coquet eating lunch, we watched Eider and Red-breasted Merganser, as well as Lapwing, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank…as the first of the afternoon’s hailstorms began. Another break in the weather brought David an excellent photo opportunity with a flock of Eider…
before hailstones the size of peas led to a hasty retreat back to the shelter of the car 🙂 Soon the hail was replaced by snow, before another break in the weather brought some simply sublime late afternoon light.
and a flock of Lapwings were tossed about in the air like pieces of black and white paper.
With the howling northwesterly winds, the water at Cresswell was being driven towards the channel under the road and between the dunes. A Black-necked Grebe swam by and then, subtly, and with the inevitability of the tide, water started flowing the other way and a boundary between wind-driven pond and incoming tidal surge developed in front of us. After a Starling murmuration just up the coast,
we followed the road back down through Druridge and discovered the tide had overwhelmed the culvert and was still coming in, but now straight over the road in front of us. Watching the car in front safely traverse the water, we made our way across and headed back to The Swan at the end of an extraordinary day. David was a pleasure to guide on this holiday, and he kindly sent us the images that illustrate the two blog posts 🙂
We’re taking bookings now for our 2014 holidays, so please get in touch for more details or to book. We’ve got a range of holidays, each designed to showcase the best of Northumberland, the North Pennines and the Scottish Borders at the best times of the year.
As I met up with David for breakfast at The Swan on Wednesday morning, ahead of two days on the Northumberland coast, we’d already switched our itinerary round. The plan to visit Holy Island on Thursday looked as though it might be slightly impacted by the weather, so we switched Druridge Bay to that day instead.
The drive north on the A1 was in glorious weather, with Common Buzzards soaring low over plantations in the chill of the early morning and we were soon on Holy Island in a stiffening breeze, carefully stalking towards a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese that posed for David’s camera. Bar-tailed Godwits, and a lone Black-tailed Godwit were probing the exposed mud of the harbour at low tide and Wigeon and Teal were on the Rocket Pool. A Common Kestrel was hovering nearby and, as the tide turned, we headed to the causeway to see what would be pushed towards us by the advancing water. Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Shelduck and a Little Egret all fed along the swelling channels
and then a mass of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew in from the south. As the water began to lap at the edge of the causeway we drove back on to the mainland, and headed to a quiet stretch of shoreline where I knew David could use the cover of a hedgerow to approach a flock of Pale-bellied Brents whilst avoiding detection.
Using the car as a photographic hide (something of a theme for the holiday!) we got very close views of a flock of Wigeon,
and then we settled in the iconic shadow of Bamburgh Castle and scanned the sea in temperatures that were now bone-chilling 🙂 Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshank were roosting just above the water line and beyond the rafts of Eider were flocks of Common Scoter, with one large group of females looking stunningly orange in the beautiful late afternoon sunlight. Long-tailed Ducks played hide and seek, utilising their propensity for diving, and the developing swell, to keep me on my toes as I located a group with the ‘scope so that David could see them. Scanning the scoter flocks paid dividends as a female Velvet Scoter rose up and over one advancing wave crest, Red-throated Divers cruised along in their eternal search for fish and a last scan before we headed back down the coast produced a Slavonian Grebe. As it turned dark, the clear sky afforded excellent ‘scope views of the crescent Venus, and the thinnest sliver of crescent Moon. So soon after New Moon would be a spring tide, and the one forecast for the following day was predicted to be a big one…