Tag: Grasshopper Warbler

Slimming; Otter Safari 21/04/17

by on Apr.22, 2017, under Druridge Bay

The first drops of rain speckled the windscreen of the car as I arrived at Church Point to collect Luke and Louise for their third day out with NEWT this week – an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters

With the lovely weather of recent days replaced by an icy cold breeze and drizzle, it was looking like it would be a long, hard afternoon.  Common Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher were probing tidal mudflats and noisily displaying when they took a break from feeding.  A herd of Mute Swans included two birds that were engaged in a courtship display; like a serene slow-motion version of the Great Crested Grebe display they were mirroring each other’s head and body movements.  As we watched territorial disputes between pairs of Great Crested Grebes the rain intensified and the birds, alongside Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye, were sitting on water that looked to be boiling with the impact of raindrops.  Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Grey Heron and Little Egret were added to the day list and the rain started to ease…

As we were having our picnic on the clifftop overlooking Druridge Bay, accompanied by a raggedy male Stonechat, the weather took a change for the better.  Broken cloud produced a dramatic sky, and it was looking good for a decent sunset.  A tip-off from one of our local wildlife photographers pointed us in the direction of a pair of Little Owls, who very obligingly posed for Luke’s camera 🙂  One of the owls had gone off, presumably in search of food, and the other one was still sitting there when a dog walker with a Staffie came along.  We were wondering how long the owl would wait before flying off…but it sat tight, and instead of fleeing it just stretched itself to as tall and thin as it could before slumping back to it’s usual shape once the dog and walker had passed by!  In ever-improving light we watched a Black Tern at East Chevington as it fed amongst Common Terns, Sand Martins and Swallows.  A thick bank of cloud to the west obscured the sunset but as a Brown Hare loped across a field, a Common Buzzard was perched in a small tree in a hedgerow, and mist started rising from the water the light was sublime.  Scanning slowly along the water’s edge, there was the sign I was looking for; only a slight disturbance, but I hadn’t seen any ducks in that direction.  The the Otter surfaced briefly before diving again 🙂  In flat calm conditions we could see the trail of bubbles as it travelled under the water, and then it vanished into the mist.  What we could still see though were Mute Swans, Canada Geese and Mallards and they were all watching the Otter.  The mist cleared and it reappeared, running along the bank before returning to the water for a few metres and then getting out again.  Eventually it vanished into the gloom of the reed edges, only to reappear a few minutes later right in front of us as Grasshopper Warblers reeled and Noctule Bats hawked insects overhead.

Fade to black…

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Glorious

by on May.19, 2013, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

After the snow of last Monday, Tuesday brought two mini-safaris.  The first was a recce trip for a TV production company, assisting with checking out potential filming locations on the Northumberland coast.  The weather was glorious; beautiful blue sky, fluffy white clouds and a gentle breeze.  The peace and tranquility captured what Northumberland is all about – somewhere that you can relax and simply enjoy the countryside around you.

The second trip of the day began as I collected Neil and Ann from The Swan, and we headed out on a journey along the coast.  Avocets were sitting on nests, Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were all singing and an incredibly bright Yellow Wagtail walked along the water’s edge.  With a bit of persistence we located a Grasshopper Warbler singing from a reedbed, body quivering as it delivered it’s ‘reeling’ song with it’s head turning slowly from side-to-side.  As we continued northwards we came across the first of three Barn Owls for the evening.  As dusk approached Roe Deer came out of hiding, a Red Fox ran across directly in front of us carrying prey, Common Pipistrelles flitted backwards and forwards against the darkening sky and the assembled ducks, geese and swans started acting very nervously.  I’d checked that site with Sarah two days earlier and watched a very obliging Otter as it fed.  Today though it remained hidden in the reeds, almost certainly the cause of panic amongst the wildfowl…

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Promising conditions?

by on May.12, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

‘Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…beep, beep, beep.  Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep…beep, beep, beep’, the mega-alert on my pager wasn’t entirely unexpected…

I’d collected Charlie and Edna from Holy Island for a day of birdwatching, from Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland north along the Northumberland coast and eventually back to Lindisfarne.  Eponymously disyllabic Chiffchaffs, the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers and the mechanical reeling of Grasshopper Warblers accompanied our woodland walk as the first heavy drops of rain precipitated the donning of waterproof jackets.  As we sat eating lunch, overlooking the North Sea, the strengthening wind, heavy rain and decreasing visibility might not have filled everyone’s heart with joy.  I’m not everyone though, and I described the potential of early May, southeasterly winds, poor weather and the Northumberland coast to Charlie and Edna 🙂  As it began to clear we continued our journey and enjoyed excellent close views of Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings singing and at least six Avocets.  A stunningly yellow Yellow Wagtail was sharing a field with an equally stunning male Whinchat.  Another heavy shower accompanied murky misty conditions…then came the piercing shrill of the pager as we drove through Embleton on our northward journey.

Just a few minutes later we were at Low Newton, enjoying good views of yet another excellent find by the Beadnell Stringer 🙂

Collared Flycatcher,Northumberland,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

Collared Flycatcher [Ficedula albicollis], Low Newton, Northumberland, 09/05/2013

Collared Flycatcher,Northumberland,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

Collared Flycatcher [Ficedula albicollis], Low Newton, Northumberland, 09/05/2013

Collared Flycatcher,Northumberland,bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays

Collared Flycatcher [Ficedula albicollis], Low Newton, Northumberland, 09/05/2013

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Birdwatching; Northumberland in the rain

by on Jun.08, 2010, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

I’ve always maintained that, whatever the weather (with the possible exception of a howling gale), it’s always possible to have a really good day birdwatching in Northumberland.  Yesterday’s forecast didn’t promise too much in the way of good weather though and, as it turned out, we had to contend with drizzly rain for the whole day.

I collected Reg and Val from Newcastle and we set off towards the Harthope Valley.  This is one of NEWT’s favourite locations; spectacular scenery, excellent birdwatching and the all important absence of crowds.  A holiday group from another birdwatching company were in the valley as well, though.  Just before we reached the turning for Langleeford, a Brown Hare was sitting in a roadside field.  As we’re in June, and all of the trees are in leaf, a lot of our birding was done by ear.  Grasshopper Warbler was a nice find, Oystercatchers were chasing each other up and down the valley, a Cuckoo flew past, pursued by Meadow Pipits, the shivering trill of a Wood Warbler could be heard over the running water and Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper  and Dipper were all along the water’s edge.  Willow Warblers were singing from all around, Siskin and Redpoll were picked up on call and then eventually gave excellent views, Snipe were displaying over a recently planted area on the opposite side of the valley, Curlews were singing their haunting song (so much more appropriate on windswept, remote moorland than on the coast) and then I heard it; a call that is familiar in the winter, but not in the Cheviot valleys in June.  I was still trying to convince myself that I’d misheard the call, when the bird appeared in front of us – unmistakeable really, there was a Twite. I looked, looked away, looked again;  no, I wasn’t imagining it.  It’s a species that’s suspected to breed in tiny numbers in Northumberland, although there seems to be a lack of confirmed records for the breeding season.  Perhaps it was passing through, or maybe, just maybe, there is a breeding site in the Cheviots.

After the excitement of such an unexpected find, we had one major target species left for the day.  Ring Ouzel is another bird that you may find on coastal headlands in the autumn, and there are sporadic wintering records as well, but the place to see them is surely the remote upland valleys where they breed.  As we made our way up a steep-sided valley we had excellent views of a recently fledged Dipper, and I could hear an ouzel singing.  We continued and then the bird appeared overhead, flying from one side of the valley to the other, singing as it crossed.  It dropped out of sight, still singing, before retracing it’s route over the valley again.  This time we knew where it had landed so we crept along a track towards it.  Patience and persistence paid off (as they so often do) and we enjoyed prolonged views of the bird as it sang from a clump of heather on the skyline.  The rain was becoming colder and more persistent so we headed back to the car and then down the A697 back to civilisation.

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The dawning of the “season”

by on May.05, 2010, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Lee Moor Farm, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

After a cold, wet day surveying one of our inland tetrads for the Bird Atlas, we had a very early start on Sunday for our Dawn Chorus walk at Lee Moor Farm.  Ian was, as always, an entertaining host for the event and we walked around the farm, enjoying the songs of Willow Warbler, Song Thrush and Sedge Warbler, excellent views of Brown Hare and Roe Deer and then a delicious breakfast.  Our next event at Lee Moor is a bat walk, moth trapping demonstration and BBQ on Saturday May 15th.

Monday saw us out on Atlas work again, this time much closer to home as we are covering the tetrads that are immediately north and south of our house.  The highlight was a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, and the closest Tree Sparrows to home that we’ve found so far.

Yesterday was our first Farne Islands Safari of the year.  With excellent views of Sandwich, Common and Arctic terns, Eiders, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Shags, Gannets, a very obliging Wheatear and Grey Seals it was everything we would expect the Farnes to be.  There’s a good reason that the islands will be the venue for days out with 3 of our photography clients over the next few weeks.

Now, it’s Wednesday morning and I’m just packing the Landy ready for a migrant hunt on Lindisfarne with 2 of our returning clients.  Wish us luck 🙂

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