Tag: Dark Green Fritillary
Friday morning dawned dry and bright; again not exactly as predicted by the weather forecast! After breakfast we headed south to Newton by the Sea, and the tern colony at the Long Nanny estuary. The walk through the dunes was enlivened by a myriad of Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Dark Green Fritillaries as well as 2 strikingly attractive moths; Cinnabar and Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet, and Harebell, Pyramidal Orchid and Bloody Cranesbill.
After the tern colony, with its ~1000 pairs of Arctic Terns and 40 pairs of Little Terns we headed north through Seahouses and towards Holy Island. As we passed Budle Bay, Geoff spotted a Little Egret, still a relatively scarce species up here, and we stopped for a while to search the mudflats. As well as wading birds, we found 3 Goosander. A further stop before Holy Island provided an ideal picnic spot and the theme of passage waders continued with Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, and Curlew. A walk around the iconic location of Holy Island produced Grey Seals, Red-breasted Merganser and breathtaking views from The Heugh. We were scanning the mudflats around the mouth of the South Low when a nearby Oystercatcher began calling in alarm. The cause of that alarm appeared just a few seconds later and we watched the Peregrine Falcon as it raced low across the mud before perching obligingly.
Against the backdrop of another iconic location, Bamburgh Castle, we scanned the Eider flock just offshore. A lone drake Common Scoter was proving difficult to pin down, but the arrival of a flock of 60 scoters allowed everyone to enjoy good views and appreciate the variation in the bill pattern of the drakes. Just before returning to Seahouses, we stopped to scan Monk’s House Pool; a Pintail was picked out by Roy, and 2 Common Sandpipers were walking along the edge of the pond. 8 Golden Plover flew by and a male Stonechat perched close by on a fence post.
An after-dinner excursion produced 2 Brown Hares, a Roe Deer and her fawn in the gloom, and the first rain of the trip…
We’re in one of our busier periods at the moment; two trips on Thursday, two on Friday and then we’ll be out again tomorrow.
Thursday’s two mini-safaris featured some of our old favourites; Little Owl is one of the best crowd-pleasers that there is, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron and summer-plumaged Knot all went down very well and some attractive insects added a touch of glitter – Common Darter, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Dark Green Fritillary are all easily overlooked (well maybe not Red Admiral), but quite stunning if you take the time to search for them and then look closely. After finishing Thursday’s first trip, and dropping Kevin, Angela and Georgia back at Newbiggin, I went back to the office, dealt with a few e-mails, packed the head torches and bat detectors ready for the evening and then headed back out for the day’s second tour of Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland. Then the heavens opened. With windscreen wipers barely able to provide a clear view, traffic was crawling. I was considering the unthinkable – cancelling a trip. The rain eased and I collected Andy and family. The trip list was very similar to the morning and then I thought it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at the sea.
Now, seawatching is an obsessive pastime but it isn’t for everyone; I’m certain that long periods staring at the sea, hoping that something exciting will appear, don’t make for good client experiences. So we don’t do it…very often. The sea had been flat calm during the day and there was only a gentle breeze. Ideal conditions for searching for cetaceans, in fact. The number of e-mails, texts and ‘phone calls I’d had during the week was the clincher. I knew that cetaceans sightings were increasing and viewing conditions were just right…surely the right time to take clients for a seawatch. Gannets were passing by and we all scanned the sea. Quickly I picked up 2 dolphins away to the south. Then another 2, then 3 including 2 calves. Through binoculars I had little doubt that these were White-beaked Dolphins. A quick look through the ‘scope revealed all of the relevant ID features; tall falcate dorsal fin, white flanks arcing up behind the dorsal to form a pale saddle. As everyone managed to see the dolphins, I scanned slowly to estimate how many dolphins there were. At least 25 individual animals were found, and the pod was spread out over at least 6 square miles of the North Sea! Another birder arrived and we managed to get him on to the dolphins as well. It’s almost impossible to describe just how extraordinary such a sighting is. Normally the best opportunities arise when you’re on an organised pelagic trip. We’ve got 4 more of these this year; and with only one place remaining on September 18th, two places on September 4th and four places on August 12th, get in touch now on 01670 827465 to join us and experience the best pelagic wildlife and birdwatching opportunities available on the east coast. August 12th will be a groundbreaking trip; we’re heading out to the Farne Deeps and reports from anglers and researchers suggest that the area could produce sightings of some spectacular wildlife. Minke Whale, White-beaked Dolphin, Common Dolphin and Killer Whale have all been found previously.
After the dolphins we had another of the species that always captivates our clients as a Barn Owl allowed a prolonged period of observation as it hunted along the coastal dunes. As darkness descended and we headed back to our starting point the raindrops began to speckle the windscreen of the Landy again.
The highlights of Friday’s first trip were Red Squirrel and Little Owl (for Kate and Lucy) and a very unexpected Green Sandpiper (for me).
The evening pelagic took place with some extraordinary glowering skies to the north. As the swell began to develop, we were treated to very close views of Gannet and Fulmar before returning to Royal Quays in the dark, but the abiding memory of the last week is the extraordinary spectacle of a little-known cetacean, hunting, leaping and playing in the seas off Northumberland.
Yesterday we had an afternoon/evening safari around southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay, an exciting prospect as these are producing some of our most memorable sightings.
Around lunchtime I started to receive calls about Bottlenose Dolphins, 5 past Newbiggin and 20-40 E of St Mary’s. When I arrived at Church Point at 14:40, the dolphins had departed but a Harbour Porpoise was close inshore. Once our clients had arrived we set off up the coast. First stop produced a juvenile Little Owl, lazing in the afternoon sunshine. A seawatching session revealed plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, and Katie quickly spotted more Harbour Porpoises. The rest of the afternoon’s birdwatching produced excellent views of Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Tern and some very entertaining Grey Herons. Non-birdy interest included Small Copper and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, Blue-tailed Damselfly and a Common Frog. I chose a picnic spot giving us a wide view over the increasingly calm sea, producing further sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a distant group of Bottlenose Dolphins and a Peregrine.
Then we were on our way to the evening’s final destination. As we walked, quietly, through a heavily shaded steep wooded valley, I began to question myself; could we really be succesful with a group of 6 clients, when we were searching for an animal that is so easily disturbed? A Red Fox crossed the path ahead of us, although everyone other than Alice was looking the other way. I allowed everyone to settle into position on one side of the valley and we waited. In what seemed like no time at all, a stripy black-and-white head appeared from the undergrowth on the opposite side of the stream and our first Badger of the evening came trotting along. It paused briefly and then crossed the stream before vanishing up the hill behind us. After 30 mins, and another 6 Badgers!, we headed back to the Landy. With the bat detector switched on, we listened to, and had close views of, Common Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s Bat. Family bookings are always interesting, but the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of Emma, Katie and Alice made it such an enjoyable day (not forgetting the three older members of the group of course).
We’ll be running afternoon/evening safaris throughout the year, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to arrange your own Northern Experience