Tag: Greylag Geese

Between a rock and a hard place; Druridge Bay Safari 25/08/18

by on Aug.28, 2018, under Uncategorized

I collected Barbara and Jeff from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in conditions that felt slightly cooler than of late…

A walk along the Wansbeck brought 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Greenshank, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Lapwing, Curlew, 2 Little Egrets and some delicious blackberries and sea buckthorn 🙂  Grey Herons were tussling over favoured feeding spots and our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea produced lines of Gannets heading north, distant Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, a raft of Eider in the gentle rolling swell just offshore and a feeding frenzy around the edge of the rising tide were startled by a skua; Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Dunlin and a noisy swirling flock of Black-headed Gulls were accompanied by at least 8 Mediterranean Gulls as Fulmars soared by on stiff wings.

More waders and more herons followed, and then Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck, in sublime low angled sunlight, and a variety of bumblebees and hoverflies becoming slower as the temperature started to really drop.  A Barn Owl quartered the dunes before settling first on the ground, then a telegraph pole then a fence post, offering great views in flight and then through the telescope when it was perched.  A Sparrowhawk hedge-hopped just ahead of us and 2 Little Owls had made their way out on to the edge of a roof and a stone wall as dusk approached and our final stop saw us watching a dense roosting flock of geese and some very vocal Black-tailed Godwits as hundreds of Greylag Geese suddenly appeared out of the gloom and settled in for the night and the bright triumvirate of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were spread across the southern sky.

Probably the best moment of the day was when a Brown Hare leveret loped along the track ahead of us before darting up a narrow tree-lined footpath, only to come back out and sit just a few feet from the car!  What could be scarier than a car bearing down on you?  The answer, in this case, was a Woodpigeon that was blocking the hare’s escape route 🙂

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Amphibians; Otter Safari 25/08/16

by on Aug.28, 2016, under Druridge Bay

All wildlife tends to have it’s own niche, and those can be temporary…

I collected Meryl and Kate from The Swan and we headed towards the coast to spend the afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland.  The weather forecast wasn’t great but, as Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Cormorants and Goosanders helped themselves to small fish, and much larger fish leapt out of the water nearby, it was slightly misty but the forecast rain stayed away.  Common Sandpipers flew low across the water with their odd flicking wingbeats, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Dunlin and Ringed Plover were all either feeding or roosting, House Martin and Sand Martin were enjoying a plethora of flying insects in the humid conditions and Goldfinch and Linnet flushed from the riverside scrub each time a walker came along the path.  Heading towards dusk, although with waves of low cloud passing through almost continually it was difficult to discern a change in light levels, Greylag Geese came to roost, emerging noisily from the mist, and Starlings began their murmuration.  A quick trip up to Amble allowed the ladies to sample the delights of Amble’s finest fish and chips before we headed to our final site for the day.

Great Crested Grebe chicks were begging in near darkness, a Great Crested Newt was a surprising find and, as the rain had finally arrived, Common Toads and Common Frogs were everywhere along the footpaths and roads in the damp, drizzly dark.  Another one of those transient niches that creates quite a spectacle when conditions are just right 🙂

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Avoiding

by on Jul.16, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

As I collected Claire and her mum from Alnwick for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and set off on an exploration of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, they mentioned that they were going to watch the Wimbledon Men’s singles final on iPlayer once we finished for the day, so it was important to avoid finding out the score. I’d done something similar myself back in 2009, on the final day of the Premier League season – including extending a safari day and not switching the radio on once I’d dropped my clients off.  The outcome on that occasion was that I indirectly learned the fate of Hull City, the team I’ve supported since I was very young, when I drove through Amble and the beer garden at the Wellwood was filled with Newcastle United supporters with their heads in their hands…

Birdwatching in the stunning weather produced two Little Egrets, a species I haven’t seen for a few months, and 24 Black-tailed Godwits – that most elegant of waders.  Canada and Greylag Geese were on edge, but whatever was agitating them remained hidden deep in the reeds.  The godwits were eventually disturbed by a complete idiot who seemed to think that flying low over a nature reserve in a paramotor is an ok thing to do.  Now, I know it can’t be easy when you’re hanging under a parachute with a desk fan strapped to your back but it’s incredibly irresponsible to disturb wildlife in a nature reserve in that way.  You may think you’re some sort of modern day James Bond, or Milk Tray man, but you aren’t – you’re like a parody of the Wacky Races.  There, I feel much better now 🙂

As we continued down the coast we had a near miss with the tennis score.  I was getting our telescope out of the boot, and the ladies were still at the front of the car, when someone parked just behind us told his family the latest score as they walked up from the beach.  Little Gulls, Redshanks, Curlews, Lapwings and a Greenshank were all lazing in the baking heat of the mid-afternoon, and both male and female Marsh Harriers drifted menacingly over the reedbeds.

Heading back towards Alnwick, surely we’d avoided hearing the outcome of the tennis?  As we drove through Warkworth, it was fortunate that I was the only one to notice that one of the pubs had the score written on it’s blackboard standing on the pavement 🙂

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When the sun goes down

by on Oct.10, 2012, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

The dark nights seem to creep up on us very quickly, and it was already 3.30pm when I collected Ruth and David for a mini-safari on the Northumberland coast.  It was an entertaining afternoon with clients, who came to university in Newcastle at about the same time as myself and Sarah and decided to not leave the area after graduation – and who would?

The air around Druridge Bay was filled with noisy flocks of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese, one of the wildlife spectacles that everyone should enjoy at least once, and duck numbers are growing on all of the coastal pools, with several drakes starting to show their finery.

Often, there’s a lot of wildlife activity as daylight fades; Little Grebes were catching tiny fish as Teal and Mallard stared intently at a reedbed that we’ve watched an Otter emerge from several times in the last few months.  Moorhens came crashing out of the reeds in all directions but the cause of their alarm remained hidden.  Bats flitted close overhead and, as everything settled to a state that looked much more relaxed, and the light faded to the point where it’s a struggle to be certain that you’re seeing genuine movement, rather than that your eyes are playing tricks on you, we headed back to Newbiggin, pausing to admire a beautiful Barn Owl, perched at the roadside.

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Autumn chill

by on Sep.24, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Friday was a trip that I’d been looking forward to for quite some time.  Emily had been on the bird ID course that I ran as part of North Pennines WildWatch and had then booked herself and her dad, Steve, onto an Otter Safari.

I arrived at Church Point to collect them, and we set off up the coast.  With bright sunshine and a northerly wind, I predicted that our regular Little Owl would be sunning itself on the edge of its nest hole.  Sure enough, it was sitting in full view soaking up the rays 🙂  Waders featured throughout the afternoon, as they have done for over a month now, with Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Lapwing and very close views of Dunlin and Ringed PloverWigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Mallard were all paddling around, Little and Great Crested Grebes were, as always, much admired, restless flocks of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese swirled from field to pool and back again, and several skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed south high overhead, their presence betrayed by their high-pitched calls.  A Grey Seal was loitering with intent in the Coquet Estuary, and a Grey Heron sat motionless by the water’s edge.

We ended the day by a  moonlit river, under a starry sky.  A Grey Heron stalked through the riverside vegetation, and a group of Mallards stared intently into the shadows of the overhanging trees on the opposite bank, then scattered soon after the wake from an, otherwise unseen, animal caught our attention.  Darkness, and the chill night air, settled on the river as we made our way back to the car.

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Sing when you’re winning

by on Mar.26, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

My own highlight of many trips involves those ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ moments, and they come in many guises…

A Chiffchaff was singing as I collected Alec and Margaret from Waren Mill and we headed south down the coast toward Druridge Bay with a day of birdwatching ahead of us.  In quite stunning weather we enjoyed fields of Curlew, rafts of Puffins on the sea, and clouds of them swirling over Coquet Island, Fulmars shearing along the cliff-tops, plenty of wildfowl, including a red-head Smew – thanks Gill 🙂 – and Bean, Canada, White-fronted, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese and 2 Short-eared Owls. It’s always a pleasure to take out clients who really appreciate Northumberland, and even more so when it’s their first visit to our beautiful county and they’ve already vowed to return regularly.

One of those special moments was provided by a bird once described by a good birding friend as “Annoying.  They never stop singing, they’re really, really annoying”.  The object of his ire?  None other than the humble Skylark.  I have to say that I don’t find them annoying at all.  I’ve hidden in rocky crags, monitoring Hen Harrier nest sites, with Skylarks singing directly overhead, I’ve walked around Holy Island in the summer with several birds singing from so high that they were just dots in the sky and I’ve marvelled at their song as it carries on the breeze.  One thing we saw on Thursday was the thing that Chris found particularly annoying; as we drove from Cresswell towards Druridge Pools, we stopped to check the roadside fields  and several Skylarks were singing nearby.  Suddenly, one of the birds was zig-zagging as it tried to avoid the unwelcome attention of a Merlin.  As the falcon chased close on it’s tail, the Skylark continued singing.  It might seem a strange thing to do, but it has been shown that Merlins chase non-singing, or poorly singing, Skylarks for longer periods than they chase Skylarks that sing well and they’re more likely to catch non-singing Skylarks.  As the birds rose higher and out of sight, we didn’t see the outcome of the chase, but the experience of watching a small bird filled with bravado as a predator closes in on it was one of those moments…

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…and staying local

by on Mar.15, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

After another day on Holy Island on Sunday (carrying out some contract survey work), I collected Jakob and Nancy from Royal Quays early on Monday for a day of birdwatching around the NEWT ‘local patch’; southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay.

We started with Mediterranean Gulls at Newbiggin.  Gulls may not be everyone’s bird of choice, but I defy anyone to tell me that adult Med Gulls aren’t stunningly beautiful 🙂  Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Pied Wagtail were picking along the tideline as we watched the meds and we left them behind to continue our journey up the coast. Seawatching produced Guillemots, Razorbills, several Red-throated Divers, Fulmars using the breeze to soar incredibly close to the cliffsides and a possible ‘Northern’ Eider drifting south among the Common Eiders.  A Peregrine made its way south with those powerful, menacing wingbeats, Rock Pipits in small flocks danced about on the wind, and we left the sea (although not too far away!) and continued our journey.  Geese, which have characterised so much of our birding this winter are still around and we managed Greylag, Pink-footed, Canada, Barnacle, Taiga Bean and Eurasian White-fronted.  Goldeneyes are still around in good numbers, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Mallard were all resplendent (as most ducks tend to be in the late winter) and 2 Common Snipe circled several times before deciding that the pond wasn’t to their liking and heading off again.

I returned Jakob and Nancy to the ferry terminal for their return journey to the Netherlands, and made the slightly shorter journey back to Scotland Gate myself.

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Expect the unexpected

by on Feb.17, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Whenever we have a trip with clients who have been given gift vouchers, I always wonder what they expect.  Some will have chosen gift vouchers when asked what they would like, some will have been given them by our existing clients, and for some it must be a complete mystery tour.  When we get an enquiry we always try to determine exactly what our clients want, but at the start of a trip I’ll always enquire “is there anything you’re particularly keen to see while you’re in Northumberland?”  Then, the pressure is on to try and deliver that experience…

I collected Patrick and Bronwyn from Amble yesterday morning for a day of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  As we set off it was a beautiful morning; sunny, calm and dry and I soon determined that one bird they would love to see was Bittern – they’ve visited sites where Bitterns breed and Bitterns overwinter but not, so far, anywhere where the aforementioned birds were obliging enough to come into view for them.  An hour into the trip and it was already windy, bitterly cold and spotting with rain but the birding was good.  2 Bewick’s Swans in a roadside field were very obliging, nibbling on the vegetation as we studied them, 12 Goosanders sailed majestically across a lake, Patrick’s sharp eyes picked out an immaculate male Sparrowhawk on a fence post and the air was filled with skeins of geese (Canada, Greylag, Pink-footed, White-fronted and Bean), a Skylark battled into the wind and Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Pochard, Mallard and Great-crested Grebe were picked out from the flock on the water.

A brief visit to Newbiggin to track down a Mediterranean Gull (or four) was followed by lunch overlooking the North Sea. Heading up through the bay, Red-breasted Mergansers were displaying and a Short-eared Owl (the first of three for the afternoon) perched on a roadside fence-post.  Reedbeds were illuminated by that beautiful winter afternoon light (I wax lyrical about it frequently, but it really is a breathtaking backdrop to the wildlife and part of the experience).  As the afternoon light began to fade, Venus appeared overhead, a herd of Whooper Swans trumpeted their arrival for the evening roost and a Grey Heron shot out of one reedbed, flew across in front of us, landed just out of sight and flushed a Bittern that flew almost the reverse of the route taken by the heron, along the near edge of the pool directly in front of us and dropped into a reedbed and out of sight!  Wildlife may be unpredictable, but those days when it seems to perform to order leave me, and our clients, with a big grin 🙂  After that what more was there to do than spend the evening relaxing back at home with a glass of good red wine. Cheers 🙂

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Winter Wonderland 28/11/11-01/12/11

by on Dec.07, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Last week was our Winter Wonderland birdwatching holiday, although as I arrived at Saughy Rigg I wondered if Windy Wonderland would be a better name for it 😉

The original itinerary involved the Solway coast on Tuesday and the North Pennines on Wednesday, but a quick discussion with our guests on arrival meant that our coastal day was switched to Northumberland to avoid the poor weather in the west.

The plan worked well, at least until mid-afternoon when the weather caught up with us and we had a couple of hours of dodging the showers.  The waders and wildfowl that winter here featured throughout the day and Greylag, Pink-footed, Pale-bellied Brent, Barnacle and Eurasian White-fronted Geese were all enjoying the mild weather on the Northumberland coast.  3 splendid drake Goosanders  were blown across Druridge Pools before battling their way back against the wind, and a Roe Deer was grazing in the gap between 2 reed beds.  As so often seems to happen, some of the best wildlife of the day saved its appearance until the light began to fade.  First a Short-eared Owl, with a strikingly white face, quartering backwards and forwards along the margins of a field, then 2 Water Rails, those small, secretive denizens of the reeds, stepped gingerly into view; prodding and poking and squealing like piglets as they vanished back into the gloom.  Then, as flocks of geese descended to roost, a Bittern flew from the reeds and headed south.

Wednesday brought another breezy morning, and we headed into the hills.  Remarkable numbers of Red Grouse chuckled at us as we watched from the comfort of the car, and 7 Black Grouse were the first of no less than 75 that we found during the day.  The weather closed in all around us and, after a quick check of a lough wher Teal, Wigeon and Lapwing were roosting and Goldeneye were feeding, we finished the day at one of our favourite evening venues.  An unidentified raptor flew low across the heather moorland and out of sight over a ridge, Red Grouse burst from cover before settling again a short distance away and a lone Short-eared Owl battled into a brutal headwind as the evening faded to darkness.

Winter Wonderland is one (in fact, two) of the holidays on our itinerary for 2012, so give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

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Hiding from the wind

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

With a forecast for heavy rain today, we had one more client than expected yesterday for our Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland tour.

I c0llected Annie from High Weldon, Brian from Bedlington and then David from Warkworth before our first stop at one of our favourite birdwatching spots beside the River Coquet.  The first thing that was apparent was that there was a not inconsiderable wind-chill factor in play.  Thankfully our local area has plenty of reserves with north-facing hides, so plotting a route that would keep us out of the wind wherever possible was quite straightforward.

It wasn’t a day for passerines, although Blue Tit and Goldcrest could be heard calling from deep inside coastal hedgerows, and we found ourselves in the middle of a big swirling flock of Starlings as we ate lunch overlooking the sea, so waders and wildfowl provided the main focus of the day.  Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin and some very nice flocks of Golden Plover, Curlew, Knot and Lapwing were feeding, roosting and, at Cresswell, taking to the air in a panic as a Peregrine exuded menace as it passed over.  ‘Scope-filling views of Common Snipe always go down well, and there was an excellent array of wildfowl and waterbirds to enjoy; Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon,Pochard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, and Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle Geese were all well appreciated, especially with a lot of the drake ducks out of eclipse plumage and looking quite stunning. especially when the sun broke through the clouds.

When the autumn really starts to feel autumnal, I’m always optimistic 🙂

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