Tag: Green Sandpiper

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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Birding with a touch of luxury

by on Mar.31, 2012, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Kielder, Northumberland

Delivering a birding package for the first time with a new partner is always a mixture of excitement and worry; will the experience we deliver to our clients blend well with the standards of service, accommodation and food that are provided?  Our exclusive Doxford Hall birding break on Thursday and Friday didn’t hold too many worries though – I’ve attended conferences and other events there before and, having known David Hunter since he was at Matfen Hall, I knew that the entire Doxford experience would be a memorable one for all the right reasons.

I arrived first thing Thursday morning to collect Paul and Sue, who had won their exclusive birding break in a competition that ourselves and Doxford Hall ran recently in Birdwatch magazine.  Our original plan of Druridge Bay on Thursday, Lindisfarne on Friday, had been altered following a ‘phone call during the week from Sue – there was one species they particularly wanted to see, and our recent blog posts had revealed that now might be a good time…so, after a day of hectic communication with the Forestry Commission to arrange access through Kielder, and check where along our route there would be any forestry activity, our first trip headed inland.  We started at Harwood in near-perfect weather conditions; warm, sunny and with a good breeze.  Common Buzzards, Common Crossbills, Siskins and a very vocal Raven were all seen but no Goshawk so we continued west.  Once we were in Kielder another Raven entertained us, tumbling and cronking over a remote farmhouse in the warm afternoon sunshine before soaring heavenwards and then dropping back out of the sky alongside its mate.  We stopped to scan over another plantation, where I’ve watched Goshawks previously, and I soon spotted a bird just above the trees. He quickly got into a thermal and rose until we lost sight of him.  I suggested that we just needed to wait for a Common Buzzard to drift over the Gos’ territory, and we began a patient vigil.  Eventually a Common Buzzard did appear, we all lifted our binoculars to focus on it…and a distant speck in the binoculars above the buzzard grew rapidly larger as the Goshawk dropped out of the sky.  The intruder thought better of hanging around and quickly folded it’s wings back and crossed the valley like an arrow.  Having shepherded the buzzard away, the Phantom of the Forest rose quickly again to resume his sentinel watch.  More Common Crossbills and Common Buzzards followed as we travelled down the valley back towards civilisation, and 2 pairs of Mandarin brought a touch of stunning colour to the afternoon.

Dinner at Doxford Hall on Thursday evening was exceptional (outstanding food and outstanding levels of service throughout the 2 days), and having clients with such an enthusiasm for birding, and fantastic sense of humour, made it even better.  After dinner conversation did reveal that there was an obvious gap in their life-lists though…

Friday’s plan was simple; head to the coast and then bird our way down it to finish in Druridge Bay late afternoon.  We started at Harkess Rocks, in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, with a very nice flock of 79 Purple Sandpipers.  In the heavy swell a flock of Common Scoters proved elusive, Common Eiders dived through the surf, small rafts of Common Guillemot and Razorbill bobbed about, Gannets soared effortlessly, Sandwich Terns were feeding just offshore and Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers in breeding finery were a reminder that our winter visitors are about to pack their bags and head north.  Red-throated Divers, including one bird with a very red tinge to it’s throat, were typically elusive, diving just as we got onto them.  I’d got another species in mind though and, when I found one, it was sitting obligingly next to a Red-throated Diver.  Soon, Paul and Sue were admiring the elegant structure, neat contrasty plumage and white flank patch of their first Black-throated Diver. 2 days, 2 lifers 🙂

We headed south and, after watching an adult Mediterranean Gull, and two 2nd calendar year birds, winter and spring came together with flocks of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, and a Short-eared Owl, being characteristic of the last 5 months of our coastal trips, Green Sandpiper and Whimbrel on passage and a male Marsh Harrier drifting over a coastal reedbed.

In beautiful afternoon light, with the sound of the roaring surf of the North Sea crashing into the east coast, the Short-eared Owl quartering a nearby reedbed and a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying on the pool in front of us, a couple of comments by Sue – two of many memorable ones during the trip 😉 – summed things up nicely “chilled-out birding” and “we like the view from Martin’s office” 🙂

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British Birdwatching Fair 2010

by on Aug.25, 2010, under Birdwatching, Family and friends, North Pennines, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

We’ve been away for a few days, as part of the Birdwatching Northumberland consortium at the British Birdwatching Fair 2010.

Thursday started very early for Martin, with a North Pennines Prestige Tour for clients who were staying at Wallfoot in Carlisle.  Managing to avoid the worst of the weather, avian highlights included Merlin, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Whinchat and Wheatear.  The long drive down the M6 didn’t, unfortunately, miss the heavy rain.  However, a late arrival at the White Lion in Whissendine, and a few beers in the bar with such luminaries as Ipin set Martin up nicely for an early start on Friday.

Sarah was at work (in her ‘proper’ job) so, apart from attending a couple of lectures, Martin was on the Birdwatching Northumberland stand for all of the first day.

Saturday we planned to work ‘split’ shifts, but with Martin again spending most of his time on the stand; apart from another couple of lectures and one or two chats with clients, colleagues, suppliers, competitors and collaborators (both old and new).

Another excellent curry at the White Lion, and a ‘few’ beers, on Sataurday night was followed by the dawning of the final day of Bird Fair 2010.  One of us was a bit ‘under the weather’ but perked up in time to give his talk ‘The North Sea – a new birding frontier’ at 3.30pm.  What could have been a bit of a graveyard shift managed to generate a lot of interest, with 134 bird fair attendees making their way to the lecture marquee to enjoy a brief history of the Northumberland pelagics.  There were a few questions at the end of the lecture, then Martin was stopped and asked some more, for the next 10 minutes, as he headed back to the stand – where other people who had been in the lecture were waiting to ask more questions.

After three days at the Bird Fair we’d made a lot of new contacts, renewed some old acquaintances and we’ll shortly be entering exciting partnerships with some big names in the birding world.  Just a few very busy weeks to come first…

A final night in the midlands was followed by the journey north on Monday, and then a Prestige Tour yesterday.  Beginning with  an actively feeding Dipper was a good start then, with a particular request for wading birds, it was good to strike a rich vein on the coast; Green and Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin and Ruff.  What seemed to go down better than all of the other birds though were the always impressive Grey Herons.

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Fin-tastic

by on Aug.07, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, North Sea, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

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.

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