Tag: Grey Seal

Head’s up :-) Bespoke Farne Islands Safari 27/06/19

by on Jul.01, 2019, under Farne Islands

Thursday was a Farne Islands Safari, and after we cancelled Wednesday’s 4hr pelagic due to the rather lumpy sea I was pleased to see that it was nice and calm as I collected Peter and Jan from Newbiggin…

A Kestrel perched obligingly on a telegraph pole as we headed up the coast and our first stop, for Arctic and Little Terns, produced an unexpected Spotted Redshank and a Ringed Plover as well as an extraordinary number of Common Blue butterflies and a good number of Painted Ladies over the incredible carpet of Bloody Cranesbill in the dunes with Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and Stonechat all along the walk.

After having our picnic on the beach at Beadnell we headed to Seahouses and discovered that parking spaces were in short supply so we parked on the edge of the town and walked down to the harbour where Eiders were on the water with well-grown young, for our sailing on board Glad Tidings. Rafts of Puffins on the water scattered ahead of the boats heading towards the islands as lines of Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin headed back to their hungry chicks. Gannets soared past as Grey Seals lazed on the rocks, Cormorants and Shags dried their wings in heraldic pose, Fulmars skirted the clifftops, the onomatopoeic cries of Kittiwakes echoed in the rocky gullies and the stiff breeze spared us the ‘experience’ of the unmistakable aroma of a seabird colony 🙂

Landing on Inner Farne we walked along the boardwalk, where the Arctic Terns were less aggressive than just a week earlier, tern chicks were starting to extend and flap their still developing wings, Black-headed Gulls were mobbing Puffins as they tried to get back to their burrows, and the pufflings waiting inside, Common and Sandwich Terns kept themselves to themselves (something we should all be grateful for, particularly in the case of Sandwich Tern!) and I mentioned that halfway along one stretch of boardwalk there would probably be an Arctic Tern that would approach you but not attack, and would adopt your head as perch if you stood still. Sure enough, the tern behaved just as predicted and landed on Jan’s head 🙂

After the short journey back to the mainland we headed back down the coast with a brief stop to admire an Avocet close to the road 🙂

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Group birdwatching; Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne 21-22/05/19

by on May.29, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Southeast Northumberland

We usually limit our tours to a maximum of 6 participants, and our increasingly popular bespoke tours to 2 participants, but over the last 11 years we’ve done a few tours for larger groups. 34 members of an RSPB group was on a different level though…

With Sarah and Tom assisting we separated the group into 3 each day. Sarah took a group who preferred very short walks and a very relaxed approach to their birdwatching. Myself and Tom separated the remainder into two equally sized groups and covered a bit more ground each day.

Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland produced a day that included Little Gull, Willow Tit, a very obliging baby Rabbit, and a Heron wrestling with, and finally subduing and eating a huge Eel, nicely bookended by a couple of local specialties with Red Squirrel at the start of the day (just as we got off the coach at our first stop!) and two incredibly obliging Dippers on the River Blyth at the end of the afternoon.

Lindisfarne was bathed in the complex song of Skylarks and the parachuting songflight of Meadow Pipits. Grey Seals meandered through the surf as Curlews and a lone Whimbrel flew along the shoreline and Roe Deer were quietly grazing close to the dunes. A flock of waders roosting on a distant shingley sandbar could just be identified as Grey Plovers with bright sunlight silhouetting them and the scattered reflections off the water challenging observation. Then a cloud passed in front of the Sun and there were close to 100 breeding-plumaged Grey Plovers! Just one is a spectacular sight in itself but this was a jaw-dropping flock 🙂 Breeding-plumaged Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling were feeding along a pebbly shoreline where Little Terns were roosting and the north side of the island was a stunning carpet of orchids.

Two great days out with a lovely group and excellently assisted by Sarah and Tom 🙂

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Exultation :-) Bespoke Lindisfarne mini-Safari 05/05/19

by on May.08, 2019, under Lindisfarne

On Sunday I collected Nick, Mel, John and Heather for another day out with NEWT – this time heading to Lindisfarne

Blackbirds and Robins flitted out of the hedgerows as we walked along the Straight Lonnen, Swallows swooped overhead, Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and ten Roe Deer were quietly grazing and resting in one field while another four were away to the east of us. Grey Herons flew by, no doubt looking for a suitable spot to stand motionless in, Mallards and Shelducks flew past, a Curlew was wandering along the edge of the mud with lots of Grey Seals out on the mudflats at low water and a Brown Hare loped across the road in front of us.

One bird was very conspicuously advertising it’s presence though. Around the island the complex song of Skylarks was almost ever-present. It’s a species that’s undergone a dramatic population decline (75% between 1972 and 1996, with the decline continuing since then) so it’s always a joy to hear them and then watch as they perform a vanishing trick as they land.

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Calm; Otter Safari 30/04/19

by on May.01, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Marilyn, Lesley, Penny, Dave and Trai ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland the first thing that struck me was just how calm the sea was, and how the mist hanging over it left water and sky linked by an invisible horizon…

We started with a riverside walk, accompanied by the songs of Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blackcap and Chiffchaff as a Grey Wagtail sallied from mid-stream rocks in pursuit of flying insects, a Jay showed briefly as it flew from one tree to the next and a Grey Heron flew adeptly between branches overhanging the water. Along a wider stretch of river, Shelduck, Gadwall and Mallard were up-ending, a Cormorant was perched on a dead tree mid-river and a Whitethroat was song-flighting as the crunchy aggressive warble of a Blackcap came from deep cover.

Our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea brought Fulmars soaring effortlessly along the clifftop, a Tree Sparrow calling as it passed overhead and a Grey Seal just offshore.

Avocets were feeding, sleeping and squabbling as Dunlin probed the mud in the shallows, a Lapwing ran across the mud in short bursts, Black-headed Gulls engaged in some very noisy display and posturing, Carrion Crows pursued a female Marsh Harrier and a Bar-tailed Godwit slept through it all.

With the approach of dusk a female Marsh Harrier was heading to roost as Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Teal remained calm and unflustered on the water below, a Canada Goose lifted its head above the vegetation surrounding its nest and the incessant reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler contrasted with the scattergun song of a Sedge Warbler as sunset, and then dusk were just a darker shade of grey than mid-afternoon.

As much as watching wildlife I really enjoy spending time with our clients, and with a range of topics discussed that included Natural England’s general licence controversy, open-casting, wind farms and the good, bad and ugly of wildlife photography the afternoon passed just too quickly 🙂

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Eye of the storm; Lindisfarne Safari 27/09/18

by on Sep.28, 2018, under Lindisfarne

Yesterday’s Lindisfarne Safari was a trip of returning clients; Diane, who’d been on a Cheviot Valleys Safari in June and Paul and Pauline who’d enjoyed a successful Otter Safari last November…

A flock of Golden Plover trying to fly against the stiff breeze were almost low enough to be between rooftops and treetops in the village but Paul and Pauline assured us it was far less windy than it had been on Wednesday 🙂  Rock Pipits and a Linnet were drinking from a small pool and, off the eastern edge of the island there were lots of Grey Seals splashing close to shore.  Curlews flew low over the fields and the distant calls of geese carried to us on the wind. A Grey Heron stalked along the sheltered edge of a reedbed with an aural backdrop of the insistent cheeping of Mute Swan cygnets.  Kestrels were making the most of the breeze to hang motionless over the fields back towards the village and we headed across to the mainland.  On the rising tide Curlew, Little Egret, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Common Redshank were feeding along the edge of rapidly swelling channels in the mud.  As the tide pushed closer to the shore Wigeon, Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Pintail and Common Redshank flew north, as the eerie moaning of Grey Seals carried across the mud through increasingly damp-looking air, before suddenly heading south in big flocks as the wind swung from south round to north east, started to pick up a bit and a surreal combination of aquamarine water, black cloud, luminous white cloud and patches of ground bathed in beautiful low-angled sunlight heralded the arrival of the rain…

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

Holy island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northern Experience Wildlife Tours, guided birdwatching UK, guided birdwatching Northumberland, guided birdwatching England, wildlife safari

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A Storm of Puffins; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/07/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay

Wouldn’t that be a great title for the next book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (Game of Thrones)?  I’ve met a few people over the last 10 years who expected Puffins to be much larger than they actually are, so the idea of unleashing a horde of them on your enemies could have some merit…

Alex, Jess and Tom had booked two days out with us – Saturday and Sunday – both of which had a forecast that couldn’t have been clearer that we wouldn’t be able to sail either around Coquet Island or to the Farnes so we’d hastily rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday, with ‘gentler’ sea conditions forecast.  I collected them from Embleton and we headed south down the coast to our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, pausing at Cullernose Point to have a look at the Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Late July is a great time to watch waders on the Northumberland coast and Avocet, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all impressive, but outshone by a stunning summer-plumaged Grey Plover.  A Little Owl was perched quietly by a farm building and our next port of call brought a Little Gull and an Otter that was feeding next to some apparently unconcerned Mute Swans and some very concerned Tufted Ducks 🙂

Then it was time to head off for a sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises.  The stiff southeasterly and a bit of swell meant a very steady crossing was in order.  As we sailed along the Coquet a raft of 27 Goosanders were near the Warkworth side of the river and as we made the short sea crossing Puffins, Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns and Grey Seals began to appear.  Ghostly pale Roseate Terns were sitting on the nesting terraces that have been constructed for them and one or two were picked out as they flew by as a veritable storm of Puffins whirled around above the island.

Heading back home at the end of the afternoon I was looking forward to an evening at the Battlesteads Observatory and then Tuesday’s trip to Inner Farne.  I was starting to feel a bit peaky though, but that’s a whole other story…

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Feels like autumn ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 19/08/18

by on Jul.21, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Collecting Rosie and Ben for an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the weather looked ever so slightly murky…

Ben was armed with his D500 and 200-500mm lens (I’ve seen several copies of that lens in action now but still not pulled the trigger on purchasing one myself yet…) and we started with a search for a bird he was very keen to see on this trip north.  Patience and persistence paid off, as they so often do, and a juvenile Dipper was quite approachable as it paddled tentatively in very shallow water without taking the plunge into full ‘Dipper mode’.  An impressive flock of Dunlin, resplendent with black bellies, was a very obvious sign that migration is well underway and Curlew, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Knot were also in a couple of impressive flocks of waders before we came across a well grown juvenile Great Crested Grebe that was calling incessantly to its parent and only pausing briefly when the adult submerged in search of food.  Grey Herons stalked through the shallows as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows were joined in their aerial pursuit of insects by a Little Gull and two Barn Owls quartered the reedbeds and rank vegetation.  Another target species for the afternoon put in a cameo appearance as I noticed the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ in the shadow of a distant reedbed and we watched an Otter through the ‘scope 🙂

There was an ‘oddest moment of the trip’ award for a 2 year old female Grey Seal who hauled herself out of the sea and started following people up the beach towards the dunes!  A quick exchange of messages with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and we were able to reassure people who were gathering on the beach that the seal was fine and just needed a bit of space to rest before continuing her journey north.  Everyone backed off and watched her from a sensible distance and she rolled over and stretched out in the evening sunshine 🙂

With the sky clearing, and dusk approaching a Little Owl flew from a roadside telegraph pole and our 3rd Barn Owl was over a field below the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, with the two planets both looking impressive through the ‘scope as we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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Lovely afternoon, murky evening; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 13/06/18

by on Jun.14, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was Mike and Maggie’s 5th day out with NEWT and we were heading to Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Days out with returning clients are always a pleasure; catching up with what’s been going on since we last met and sharing notes on our local wildlife is much more an afternoon with old friends, and in this case doubly nice as Mike’s a photographer and uses Nikon gear 😉  I’d just had 3 days leading a photography holiday and getting a good look at a Sigma 150-600mm lens on a Nikon body, and Mike arrived with a Nikon 200-500mm lens on the same body that I use for wildlife photography so I’ve enjoyed some hands-on experience of the lenses that I’m (still) trying to decide between, as well as getting first-hand opinions on the lenses from photographers using them 🙂  First stop was for an obligingly still subject, and Mike and Maggie both had Bee Orchids in front of their cameras.  Our riparian woodland walk brought flycatching Grey Wagtails, Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling from the trees and a family party of Blackcaps with both adults feeding recently fledged young.  A Common Buzzard was soaring over the trees as we headed on to our picnic spot and the first very light spots of rain started to fall…

As we had our picnic, overlooking the North Sea with Gannets and Fulmars soaring over it and Grey Seals bottling just offshore the rain started to intensify and the breeze was strengthening.  Heading on we watched at least 19 Avocets, as Shelduck babies seemed intent on doing their own thing and wandering away from the protective aggression of their parents.  Then the Grey Herons began to arrive and were lining up on the bank and watching the ducklings.  Each time a heron flew it was mobbed by Avocets and Lapwings until eventually they all flew off together and disappeared behind a reedbed.  Still the rain and the breeze intensified until finally we decided that trying to see anything in the gloom of dusk was a losing battle, although not as much of a battle as it would have been if we’d been out today and wrestling with Storm Hector…

 

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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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Signs of spring, remnants of winter; Lindisfarne Safari 19/04/18

by on Apr.20, 2018, under Lindisfarne

I collected Gordon and Mandy for their 6th day out with NEWT, and 2nd this week, from the Bamburgh Castle Inn and we headed up the coast towards Holy Island under clear blue sky and warm sunshine…

Lapwing were displaying over the fields; twisting, tumbling and calling with their very unbird-like song.  Roe Deer were quietly grazing nearby and Little Grebe and Moorhen were around the edges of the Lough.  A small flock of Golden Plover flew by as Meadow Pipits were song-flighting from fences and Skylarks were everywhere, occasionally landing on the ground where we could see them but mostly high against the deep blue background.  Around the edge of the harbour Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover, Redshank and a lone Grey Plover were exploring the mud as a Wheatear perched on an old drystone wall and a Fulmar arced effortlessly past the castle.

On a fast rising tide, Shelduck and Curlew came closer to the land and a pair of Pintail drifted past with small groups of WigeonEider and Common Scoter were riding the gentle swell, Red-breasted Mergansers flew by, a White Wagtail was with a dozen or so Pied Wagtails and on the increasingly isolated tops of rocks a lone Dunlin was with a flock of Purple Sandpipers, no doubt all enjoying the Northumberland sunshine as they prepare to head back north to their breeding grounds 🙂

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