Tag: Grey Partridge
I collected Steph from her home in Gateshead, for the first of four North Pennines trips I’m guiding over the next week, and we headed westwards…
A Greyhen, hunkered down against the wind and rain in roadside vegetation, was fairly obliging as Snipe, Curlew and Lapwing displayed overhead and a Blackcock sat motionless in a nearby field. Red Grouse, after Red Grouse, after Red Grouse, followed and offered great photo opportunities for Steph, although the Brown Hares we came across weren’t hanging around to have their picture taken! Then it was the turn of Black Grouse, with a handsome Blackcock on the moor close to the car, soon followed by two more feeding out in the open. Drumming Snipe and displaying Curlew took cover as the rain intensified, but each break in the weather was filled with birds; Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Goosander and towards the end of the trip, a male Ring Ouzel perched on a fence post, a Grey Partridge on a dry stone wall next to the road and a pair of Peregrine engaged in a display flight 🙂
During the winter months, our mini-safaris are concentrated on the coast and we always keep a close eye on the weather. Sometimes that doesn’t work out though, as the Northumberland coast frequently seems to have it’s own microclimate that doesn’t match either the forecast, or the weather, a few miles inland.
When I arrived at the mainland end of the Holy Island causeway to collect Sharon and Andrew, I was surprised to discover that it was a sublimely beautiful morning. A bitingly cold wind was scything across Fenham Flats but the forecast rain was nowhere to be seen.
Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit were beside the causeway, and flocks of smaller waders were wheeling around in the air near the island. Winter wildfowl are a feature of the Northumberland coast and, with drakes in near full breeding-dress, Teal and Wigeon are particularly breathtaking. Pale-bellied Brent Geese were alongside Dark-bellied Brent Geese, allowing an easy comparison, Lapwings were gloriously iridescent in the bright sunlight and a Peregrine caused panic before beating a path towards the mainland. 12 Common Seals were an unexpected bonus and a covey of Grey Partridges scurried across a field as we walked by. Common Buzzards were perched on hedgerows and the number of Kestrels we found was astonishing; at least 8 birds in just a few miles of birdwatching on the coast.
After just over 3 hours of birdwatching in near-perfect conditions it was time to return to our starting point and then onwards; Sharon and Andrew heading back across to Holy Island and me heading to Rothbury to Chair a meeting between Northumberland Tourism, Northumberland County Council and the Chairs of Northumberland’s Tourism Associations. The stunning morning really emphasised in my mind the importance of the meeting in the afternoon; Northumberland has some outstanding birdwatching, wildlife and photography opportunities during the winter (and throughout the rest of the year as well) so we need to make sure that we keep shouting as loudly as we can about them.
October ended with a Prestige Tour around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland. I collected Christine and Mark from Stannington and we headed across to the coast. Flocks of Linnets. Lapwings and Grey Partridges were close to the road and we settled to check one of our regular Otter sites. All of the assembled Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Coot were concentrated in one area of the pool and clearly nervous about one particular corner. We weren’t fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of any predators, but the behaviour of the waterfowl was typical of the type of indication you get that there’s an Otter about. Our lunch spot for the day was beside the River Coquet and, along with the Cormorants and Grey Herons that were patrolling the water’s edge, an Atlantic Salmon provided some spectacular entertainment as it launched itself vertically out of the water, three times in rapid succession, just a few metres away from us.
As we walked along the River Wansbeck after lunch, via a detour around the north edge of Ashington to enjoy the spectacle of 90+ Waxwings gorging themselves on Rowan berries, skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed overhead and, as the sun sank towards the horizon, it was time to seek out the wildlife that occupies that magical time of day. As we settled into position near one of our favourite badger-watching spots there was an incredible commotion from the trees on the other side of the stream. Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Wrens, Robins and Magpies were all alarming loudly. The mobbing was too intense, and too stationary, to be the mild alarm that a Red Fox or Badger often triggers and shortly after one Tawny Owl flew through the trees opposite, a second bird finally got fed up with the mobbing and flew from it’s perch. An unwelcome sighting was a Grey Squirrel, in a woodland that until recently still held Red Squirrels. Our first Badger of the evening was a big adult, trotting across the top of the clearing. Then, after a few minutes of near silence, two Badger cubs came crashing through the undergrowth. They crossed the stream beneath a fallen tree, paused briefly rising on their haunches like stripy black-and-white meerkats, and then headed uphill behind us. Our fourth Badger of the evening followed the same route before we headed back to the Landrover and civilisation.
I dropped Christine and Mark back at Stannington and there was time for one last piece of magic as a Barn Owl floated lazily from a fence post as I drove back towards the A1.
Throughout the late autumn and winter we’ll be scheduling most of our trips to finish in darkness. Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne are both excellent locations through the winter, and as darkness descends, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out how we can bring that experience to you.
After the completion of the thaw yesterday we woke this morning…to a fresh covering of snow 🙂 Now, I make no secret of the fact that I love wintry weather. I’m invigorated by it, my photography is inspired when we’re in the grip of bone-chilling temperatures and a blanket of snow on the ground fills me with joy. I struggle to understand the media apoplexy that greets snowfall each winter. Well, that’s the usual response if that snowfall is anywhere other than Northumberland…
I often wonder what the national media thinks lies between Leeds and Edinburgh? Today was no exception. The national weather forecast on the BBC was concerned with snowfall in the northeast of Scotland. And that was it as far as snowfall was concerned…my only problem was that as we drove up the A1 just north of Morpeth there was a good couple of inches of freshly-fallen snow on the road and we were in a blizzard that brought near white-out conditions. Sarah took this shot using my ‘phone.
The lorry that you can see ahead of us spent most of his journey veering across the carriageway as he lost traction. The cars I could see in our rear view mirror were having similar problems. And us? We were in a proper vehicle 🙂 No problems, just a steady drive to make sure we were a safe distance behind the lorry. That’s the thing about wintry conditions, as long as people understand that things are different there probably isn’t a need for the panic and the mayhem.
We arrived at Lee Moor, and the covering of snow on the ground wasn’t managing to lighten the gloomy conditions a great deal; 09:30 and the sky was as darker than it had been at 8am. Our small group assembled and we set off around the farm trails. The birdwatching was good; a big mixed flock of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows allowed a close approach, Kestrels and Buzzards passed overhead, a solitary Lapwing sat motionless in a snowy field and a covey of Grey Partridges flushed from a well-managed headland. Throughout the frozen woodland Brown Hares were regularly encountered and voles appeared from, then disappeared back into, their snow-holes. The covering of snow also made it easy to follow the tracks of Roe Deer and Red Fox. Back at the farm, Ian provided a delicious lunch of home-made soup, warm bread and mince pies. Then he produced a bottle of Sloe gin. It was a shame Martin was driving as he had 2003, 2004 and 2009 vintages! Sarah enjoyed it…and reminded us that we had a bottle in our drinks cabinet at home…
That’s it for 2009. Have an enjoyable Old Year’s Night and see you in 2010 🙂
We set off for Holy Island this morning with a clear objective in mind for the journey – photograph a Little Owl. Many years ago one of my fellow photography students produced a series of excellent images of Tawny Owls and explained his technique for finding the birds. Needless to say, the hard work was done in the dark. Finding Little Owls in daylight isn’t uncommon although I’ve realised in the last couple of weeks that, especially when all the trees are bare of leaves, it’s easier to find them at night. We stopped off at one of the sites I’ve been watching regularly and there, in beautiful light for photography, was a Little Owl. Sarah has been developing (no pun intended) as a photographer, so I manouvered the Landrover into position as she took the shot…with my new D300s.
The highlight of the remainder of the journey north was a large flock of Linnets, with a few Brambling mixed in, swirling backwards and forwards as a male Merlin darted across the field they were in. A covey of Grey Partridges sat tight just long enough for Sarah to fire the shutter again.
As we neared Holy Island the rain began, and by the start time for our walk it was icy and heavy. Not the highlight of the day.
Well, with today’s images processed and added to our ‘Northumberland in the Winter’ presentation we’re on our way out now to entertain a group of holidaymakers who may need cheering up 🙂