Tag: Grey Phalarope

Sunset spectacular; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 28/06/13

by on Jul.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

We’ve seen some fantastic wildlife during the 16 years that I’ve been running pelagics in the North Sea off Northumberland; Wilson’s Petrel, Great Shearwater, Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, Sabine’s Gull, Ocean Sunfish, Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin are just a few of the highlights.  One thing that so many clients mention though, is just what an experience it is to be offshore approaching sunset and to see the Northumberland coast in a different light (no pun intended!).

Last Friday brought a reasonable amount of swell, the ‘usual suspects’ – Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater – and a dense feeding flock of terns and gulls just off Cresswell.  The other thing the trip brought though was probably the best sunset I’ve ever seen on a pelagic.  As the sun dropped out of sight and we were approaching the Tyne piers, the sky away to the northwest was a stunning pinky-orange.  Some things really do take your breath away 🙂

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Every cloud has a silver(y) grey lining

by on Sep.25, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

Our final full-day pelagic for 2012 was on Saturday and, although I was really looking forward to it, it’s always a shame when we reach the end of our offshore season.

With strong winds on Thursday, and charter boats cancelling trips on Friday, I still felt that we’d be able to sail.  We gathered at Royal Quays just before 09:00 and boarded the SarahJFK.  Brian spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker just after we set sail, and as we headed downstream we could see a little bit of swell and a few whitecaps offshore.  A skein of Pink-footed Geese high overhead were heading south, and we weren’t too far out of the river when we had our first skua of the day; and it was one of those ‘is it, isn’t it?’ moments as what was probably a dark Pomarine Skua flew north low over the waves.  Three Great Skuas were heading the same way, and another one later caused a ‘dread’ amongst the birds gathered round a fishing boat.  Fulmars and Kittiwakes were with us throughout most of the day and Gannets were soaring by on the breeze.  Our first Sooty Shearwater was in a raft of gulls behind a trawler, and we had at least five more during the day.

As the swell began to ease slightly we were 8 miles off Cresswell, heading north west, when I saw two small waders flying up and over a wave crest.  As they dropped onto the sea I shouted “Grey Phalaropes!” and called to Allan to stop the boat.  Eventually we all had excellent views of these two tiny birds as they bobbed about in the swell.  They were the 2nd and 3rd that I’ve seen on pelagics I’ve organised, following the 1st out in the Farne Deeps in 2010.

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

We headed towards the coast, and turned to make our way back towards Royal Quays.  Our only Manx Shearwater of the trip was followed soon after by a Pomarine Skua, found by Cain, six Red-throated Divers (including four flying south together), 42 Pale-bellied Brent Geese heading north, 20 Wigeon and 30 Common Scoter.  With only one Manx Shearwater, and no Arctic Skuas at all, this was quite an unusual pelagic but, if you like waders, and you like seabirds, then phalaropes are a dream bird 🙂

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Life begins at 40

by on Sep.06, 2010, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

Friday was our long-awaited pelagic to the Farne Deeps.  We’d originally planned the trip for August 12th, but the weather put paid to that 🙁  Rescheduling to September 3rd meant that four of the original participants had to withdraw because of other commitments, but we were able to fill those places and have a reserve list.  Birdwatching from a boat in the North Sea, with the possibility of cetaceans as well, is always an enjoyable way to spend a day.

When I arrived at Royal Quays just after 7.30 I was surprised to see that nine of the other eleven participants were already there; obviously eager to join Northern Experience on our ‘voyage into the unknown’.

As we left the Tyne we soon began to began to find Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins on the sea; all 3 species featuring regularly throughout the day.  Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes were all seen in good numbers (Kittiwakes in particular) and we continued to head north northeast, getting further offshore from the Northumberland coast.

I was watching the depth plotter carefully as we approached the edge of the deep water and, as I stepped out of the wheelhouse, thinking that things could get very interesting quite soon, almost collapsed as Allan shouted “Dolphin!”.  Within a minute we’d got two stunning White-beaked Dolphins bow-riding.  They stayed with us for 40 minutes, and during that time there were at least another three a little distance from the boat.  I managed to get ‘a bit’ of video footage 🙂

As if all the excitement of having the dolphins around the boat wasn’t enough, Geoff Morgan spotted a Grey Phalarope (Red Phalarope for any readers in the US).  After Geoff’s initial call it was 4 mins before the bird was relocated; sitting on the sea in front of the boat as we continued along with the dolphins.  The phalarope, as well as an excellent bird to see in early September, was a milestone as it’s the 40th ‘seabird’ (defined as those covered by Peter Harrison’s excellent ‘Seabirds: an identification guide’) to be found on pelagic trips off Northumberland since the first NTBC organised trip in 1987.

As well as the birds mentioned previously we also found;

Manx Shearwater 4

Sooty Shearwater 4

Arctic Skua 4

Great Skua 9

Typically, the Manx Shearwaters and Arctic Skuas stayed well away from the boat but the Sooty Shearwaters  and Great Skuas were much more obliging 🙂

By the end of the day, nearly everyone on board had enjoyed lifers; the White-beaked Dolphins were a much sought-after species for Joanne and the result of a lot of effort 🙂  With the battalion of long lenses on the boat, there’ll be plenty of good quality images for the White-beaked Dolphin identification catalogue that forms part of the Northeast Cetacean Project.  We’ll be running at least two trips out to the Farne Deeps next year (date and cost tbc) so get in touch soon to register your interest.  With only 12 places available they’ll fill quickly.

After the 10hr marathon of the Farne Deeps, our 8hr pelagic on Saturday was just like a pleasure cruise 🙂  Again we had good numbers of Kittiwake, Gannet and Fulmar,  as well as some very obliging Sooty Shearwaters.  With some of South Tyneside’s finest on board, I was half-hoping that one of them would point his camera at the sky and randomly photograph a Cape Gannet 🙂  Sadly, it wasn’t to be.  Never mind, there’s always next week…and the week after…and next year.

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