Tag: Garganey

Mediterranean; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/04/18

by on May.02, 2018, under Druridge Bay

I collected Pete and Jan from Embleton for their 11th day out with NEWT, and our intended destination was the Cheviot Valleys.  That isn’t where we headed though as the howling northerly wind would have made several hours on exposed moorland quite unpleasant so, after a quick chat, we decided to head down the coast to Druridge Bay

Our first stop produced probably the bird of the day as a Dipper sat obligingly on a small rock.  Occasionally stretching it’s wings it did little more than turn around, and burst explosively into song when any other Dippers flew along, before eventually flying up into a nest hole.  The scratchy warble of Blackcaps came from deep cover, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed briefly, Chiffchaffs were singing their eponymous song, Nuthatches were delivering their entire repertoire of calls and a Treecreeper – incredibly the first I’ve seen this year – shuffled furtively up an ivy-clad trunk.

Lunch overlooking the North Sea produced Fulmars soaring effortlessly on stiff wings and lines of Gannets heading north into the wind.  The next couple of hours could have been set somewhere much further south, and warmer, with only the wind-chill reminding us that we were in Northumberland.  Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and Little Egret were alongside Garganey and a Channel Wagtail feeding on a marshy field as Sand Martins and Swallows gathered insects overhead and, after we’d left the ibis behind we saw it again as it flew north past us.  Brief songbursts from Sedge and Willow Warblers were mixed in with another scratchy warble as Common Whitethroats advertised their presence, another first of the year for myself and NEWT, and the insect-plundering hordes over the coastal pools included a couple of Common Swifts – as sure a sign as any that the summer is here 😉

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Persistence :-) Otter Safari 27/04/18

by on May.01, 2018, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Paul and Jenny from The Swan and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, searching for Otters

So far, 2018 has been another one of those years where we should be adding our regular Little Owls to the payroll, and the tiny predator scowling at us from a bare tree was like a toddler trying to look fierce while not really being very tall and scary at all 🙂  Fulmars soared over the North Sea, which was looking remarkably calm, as Eiders rafted just offshore and Grey Seals dived languidly before resurfacing a short distance away.  While Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck all looked pristine in their breeding finery, two other ducks really stole the the mid-afternoon show; Garganey and Pintail are both incredibly attractive, and both unusual enough in Northumberland in late April to be elevated above other wildfowl 😉  A Little Egret flew by and a Spoonbill was, very typically, asleep in the rushes as a White Wagtail stood out as pale and strikingly marked compared to Pied Wagtail.  As the Sun sank towards the horizon in the north west a Barn Owl flew by, radiantly golden in the sunlight, and Starlings began to gather in small numbers compared to their winter murmurations.

A lone Whooper Swan was with Mute Swans as Roe Deer grazed close to the edge of a pool and dusk descended.  Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe all left ripples as they dived, but their were ripples from one edge of a reedbed with no obvious cause.  Then there were 2 Otters 🙂  We lost sight of one of them quickly, but the other could be seen, keeping low in the water and trying to sneak up on Mute Swans which were having none of it.  As the light faded to a point where we couldn’t seen clearly anymore, the Otter was still swimming back and forth in it’s incessant search for food.

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Save the best ’til last; Druridge Bay Safari 20/04/18

by on Apr.26, 2018, under Druridge Bay

All of our Safari Days have developed over the last ten years, and even on our familiar, regular Druridge Bay Safaris there’s always the possibility of changing the route slightly and visiting sites that we visit ourselves regularly but haven’t taken clients to yet…

That’s how I found myself with Ian and Elaine & Becky and Helen along a stretch of river that was a new one for a NEWT safari.  We were having an afternoon and evening searching for our favourite sinuous predator around the NEWT local patch and in the warm afternoon sunshine Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and Chiffchaff, Robin, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Blackcap, Chaffinch and Coal Tit were all singing.  On a shallow coastal pool there were no fewer than 19 Avocets (genuinely rare up here when we moved to the north east 25 years ago…) and, while Sand Martins and Swallows fed on the rich hatch of flying insects, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe and Shelduck dabbled and dived as a pair of Garganey remained unobtrusive until the drake started singing his raspy song.

Our picnic spot, overlooking the North Sea produced a high-tide roost of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin and Purple Sandpiper as Fulmars soared by and Sandwich Terns were plunge-diving just offshore.  The descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers came from hawthorns alongside footpaths and the afternoon was feeling more Spring than Winter (at last!).

A Little Owl glared balefully from a roadside tree, but remained obligingly perched in full view and we headed to our final location for dusk.  A Short-eared Owl drifted across one reedbed as a female Marsh Harrier quartered another one and Water Rails squealed from a third as the Mute Swans and Greylag Geese seemed to be the only birds in a fairly large area of water…

The Short-eared Owl emerged from the dunes and settled on a distant fence post and I set the ‘scope up so that everyone could have a look at it.  I was scanning the foreground and I thought I saw a dark shape just a few feet behind a Greylag.  I mentioned it but it seemed unlikely that it was an Otter, unless the goose hadn’t seen it and it hadn’t seen the goose…which is what seems to have happened as an adult Otter appeared a few metres further along the reed edge  🙂  After a few minutes with no further sightings a Grey Heron and a Marsh Harrier both flushed from a reedbed further round the pool – and there was an Otter cub too 🙂  We watched as it made it’s way along the edge and then out across the open water with dusk approaching.

 

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“I really love otters”; Bespoke Otter Safari 10-11/04/2015

by on Apr.14, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Southeast Northumberland

Friday and Saturday saw a two day bespoke safari for Fran and Georgia, arranged by their mum back in early December.

I collected the girls from The Swan and we headed towards Druridge Bay.  We weren’t too far along the road when Georgia asked if we’d seen any Otters recently.  I told them about Thursday’s sightings, and there was an obvious raising of excitement levels in the car…and, with typical wildlife unpredictability, we managed to get right through Friday without an Otter sighting 🙁  Dippers zipping back and forth along the River Blyth were entertaining, a drake Garganey on the Wansbeck was stunning, Little Egrets and Avocets were elegant, but of the sinuous stealthy predator there was no sign.  We returned to The Swan and I started revising our plans for Saturday…

Saturday 05:00 and I stumble sleepily to the bathroom.  There’s one thing I really don’t want to hear, and that’s a howling gale.  This wasn’t looking promising; our plan for the day was a Seal Cruise around the Farne Islands, and then more time searching for Otters, and neither of those would be helped by the hoolie that I could hear whistling through the trees in our garden.  We arrived in Seahouses for our sailing on Glad Tidings V, and the sea was looking ever so slightly lumpy.  We did manage to sail though, and were rewarded with Cormorant, Shag, Guillemot, Eider, Kittiwake and the two stars of the morning – Puffin and Grey Seal.  Back on dry land we resumed the search for Otters, and the wind strengthened so that we could hear an eerie whistling around trees, bridges and us!  With a wind chill factor taking temperatures down to bone-chilling, and a hail storm pinging ice off our heads, we were having to suffer for our wildlife…and still no Otters.  Sarah was out and about checking other locations and sending regular texts to let me know where she’d checked.  Our final backup plan was an 06:00 start on Sunday, but I don’t think anyone was really too keen on that idea.

18:30 and the wind shifted from west to southwest and weakened slightly, the sun came out and I started to feel more optimistic.  I had one decision left to make though, and that was which of our two options for sunset to go for…

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Lightning strikes twice

by on May.11, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland

Trips with existing clients are always a pleasure, not only because it’s very gratifying to get a booking from someone we’ve taken out before, but also because we already have shared memories.  I had 3 things vivid in my mind from when I took Pete and Janet out in September 2008 – it rained, we saw 11 adult Mediterranean Gulls on the beach at Newbiggin and Janet found an Otter.

I collected Pete and Janet from their holiday cottage in Embleton, and we headed across to Sharperton to collect David and Mary.  They’re all members of the same Natural History Society, who were our first group booking, back in 2009, and we always enjoy catching up with them, and the other members of their group, at the Bird Fair each August.  Tuesday was a bespoke trip, combining Harwood and Druridge Bay, and the weather forecast suggested that it wouldn’t rain…

As we approached Harwood a Roe Deer crossed the track, walked into the trees and then stopped to watch us.  This was the first of 11 that we saw on our journey through the forest (well, it was about 11, and if I say 11, it’ll help the punchline to this post!).

Harwood again produced memorable sightings; Roe Deer, Tree Pipit, at least 3 Cuckoos, Siskins, plenty of Crossbills, more Roe Deer and a mouth-wateringly attractive male Common Redstart.  A list of species can never really do justice to just how good encounters with wildlife can be though; as 2 Roe Deer bounded across the clearfell area beside the track, 2 Cuckoos were engaged in a frantic chase, calling frequently and mobbed by Meadow Pipits every time they left the safety of the trees, while the male Redstart flicked along the edge of a nearby plantation, red tail shivering as he perched on a tree stump, black face contrasting with his white forehead and supercilium, the subtle grey of his crown and mantle and the orangy-red of his breast.

As we tucked in to our picnic lunch, overlooking a very calm North Sea, the first drops of icy rain began to patter down.  Then, a comment from Janet to set the pulse racing “I’m sure I just saw a fin”.  With such calm water the sudden appearance of black shapes at the surface stood out, and Janet had found yet another exciting mammal on a NEWT safari.  This time it wasn’t the sleek, sinuous predator of our lakes and rivers, but another sleek, sinuous predator. We watched for several minutes as the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins moved slowly south.  At least 6 animals, including a very small calf, they surfaced lazily every 30seconds or thereabouts as I texted observers further south to let them know what was coming.

Avocet, Garganey (2 handsome drakes), Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, clouds of Swifts, Swallows and martins, and weather best described as changeable, all contributed to an excellent afternoon around Druridge before I completed our circular route, dropping Pete and Janet, and then David and Mary.  See you at the BirdFair 🙂

So, it rained, we saw 11(ish) Roe Deer in Harwood and Janet found some Bottlenose Dolphins

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Something for the weekend

by on May.12, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

There are times in the winter when I’m mainly office-based and what I really look forward to, during what often seem like interminably long days, is the arrival of the Spring and increasing numbers of ‘client days’.

On Tuesday morning I headed to Newbiggin to collect John and Christine, clients from last year’s Beginners Birdwatching ‘Seabirds and Waders’, who were back in Northumberland for a birdwatching morning in Druridge Bay.  The weather was erratic to say the least, with bright warm sunshine, a bitterly cold northeasterly wind, sleet and even snow it was a morning to be wrapped up warm.  The birding was as excellent as we would expect in mid-May; the morning’s highlights included a male Ruff in full breeding plumage, eight elegant beautiful Black-tailed Godwits, a pair of Garganey and some incredibly close views of Whitethroats as they warbled their scratchy song from hedgerows, trees and telegraph poles.

This morning brought something completely different; a Lindisfarne Safari with our first Spanish clients.  Alfredo and Nieves had managed to get across from Ibiza, despite the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano, and were looking forward to a day birdwatching on Holy Island and the north Northumberland coast.  The weather was changeable again but, as yesterday, we stayed dry.  A flock of 80 Ringed Plover on Holy Island were very vocal as they repeatedly flew overhead, 2 Little Egrets in Budle Bay flew by calling and a Little Gull and a White Wagtail at Monk’s House Pool were both nice surprise finds.  Eventually we found ourselves bathed in warm sunshine as pairs of Arctic Terns displayed high overhead against the azure sky and, looking inland, we could still see a lingering snowfield on the Cheviot.  Alfredo and Nieves both have a broad, and quite detailed knowledge of natural history, and Alfredo is a keen, and skilful, photographer.  I only have a very limited grasp of Spanish but through a combination of Spanish, English, Latin and a shared love of natural history and photography, any language barriers were easily transcended.

We’ve got Northumberland birdwatching tours for the rest of the week and then on Saturday it’ll be time to chill out with a glass of wine, a BBQ and our National Moth Night event at Lee Moor Farm, near Alnwick.  All are welcome, so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you would like to come along for an evening of wildlife watching fun, suitable for young or old, beginner or expert.

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mid-April magic

by on Apr.21, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After a couple of days in the office (although I’m not complaining; I spent those two days finalising details for two new projects and taking bookings for group photography trips and a Northumberland birdwatching holiday) it was good to get out with clients this morning.  Our three clients became just one though, due to the Icelandic volcano, and I collected Ellen from Newbiggin by the Sea for a tour of southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay.  We started with a search for Mediterranean Gulls.  None of the nice, ghostly white-winged adults were around but there was a 2nd year bird amongst the Black-headed Gulls.  It made a good identification subject, as the lack of obvious white wings meant that it was possible to focus on structure rather than just plumage, although the obvious wing-bar ensured that a discussion of wing topography was easy to relate to what we could see flying in front of us.

Under deep blue skies with fluffy white clouds this was a beautiful morning, although the bitingly cold, howling northwesterly meant that hats and gloves were in order.  At Cresswell we admired our bird of the day; a stunning male Black-headed Wagtail.  I’d never seen one before, and as Ellen is from the southwestern US it was a lifer for her as well.  The geographical connection to where I spent 6 months in 1999/2000 focused conversation on two of my favourite topics; birdwatching and Mexican food.  Summer visitors were evident, with Swallow and Sand Martin flying over all the coastal pools, Willow Warblers singing their silvery, descending cadence sheltered from the wind, a nervous Common Sandpiper just a few metres away from us and, best of all one of the best looking ducks to have ever dabbled around Druridge Pools, Garganey, was another lifer for Ellen.  A pair of Stonechats perched in a bare hawthorn were a welcome sight, after a winter that will have surely decimated their population.  The three hours passed incredibly quickly and I dropped a happy birdwatcher in Morpeth to continue the next leg of her journey through Northumberland.

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