Tag: Hen Harrier


by on Apr.12, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Holy Island, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Last week saw a repeat of a familiarisation trip we led in late March 2010, as the ORCA wildlife officers, who will be on board the DFDS King Seaways over the summer months, had a couple of days with us to familiarise themselves with Northumberland and the wildlife and birdwatching opportunities that it has to offer.

One major difference was the weather; this year it was warm and sunny…a marked contrast with last year’s trip, when the weather threw everything it could at us.

After a very nice meal at Longhirst Hall on Thursday evening with the wildlife officers, and Jude Leitch from Northumberland Tourism, I collected Richard and Isabelle on Friday morning and we headed north along the coast.  With a relatively calm sea, we enjoyed a cruise around the Farne Islands on Glad Tidings V.  Rafts of Puffins, the raucous calls of Guillemots and Kittiwakes, Grey Seals lazing in the sun and 2 Common Terns displaying and calling high over the islands were all well appreciated.  Once back on dry land we drove down the coast to Low Newton, to have lunch at the Ship Inn.  As we turned off the main road an unexpected bonus appeared in the shape of a ringtail Hen Harrier, mobbed by crows before heading inland.  More birdwatching along the coast followed, including a visit to Holy Island, before an outing at dusk on the North Northumberland coast that produced sightings of a Roe Deer and 2 Otters.

Saturday started with an interesting discussion during breakfast “what’s the difference between a whale and a dolphin?”, then we travelled down the coast, birdwatching in Druridge Bay, before it was time to deliver Richard and Isabelle to the waiting ship.  Good luck to them both, and may they find many cetaceans this summer 🙂

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Talking birdwatching

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Birdwatching, Family and friends, North Pennines

Woodcock are continuing to feature in our birdwatching at the moment.  Martin saw two more yesterday; one flying ahead of the car as he drove through Ashington and another one flying over our house, as Lee from G&S Organics was delivering our weekly groceries.

Yesterday evening we were out and about again.  This time it wasn’t a nocturnal birdwatching trip but a much more sociable occasion, meeting up with a friend for a meal and a few drinks.

Nick was already in the pub, with a pint of Guinness in hand, when we arrived.  The conversation through the evening focused primarily on raptors; a real obsession for all three of us.  He didn’t make it to this year’s North of England Raptor Conference so we filled him in on the highlights.  As our discussions covered population ecology, persecution, identification and migration patterns, the time raced by and soon we were driving back through the snowy wastes of Northumberland.  Unsurprisingly, most of our discussion had focussed on the Hen Harrier; probably the most persecuted raptor in Britain.  Our study area covers twelve 10km squares in southwest Northumberland, notable for having no breeding Hen Harriers, although a vast amount of suitable habitat.  There’s a lack of Peregrines as well, although at one site they can often be seen displaying in the early spring…

On our North Pennines tours, the lack of raptors is often commented on by our clients.  When we explain the reasons, and back this up with our own observations and experiences from the harrier nest we monitored in North Tynedale, we’re generally met with looks of incredulity, horror or dismay.  Who knows, maybe 2011 will be the year when the Hen Harrier starts to make a comeback on the moors of Northern England?  Don’t hold your breath though…

Now, after a morning which Martin spent being interviewed for the BBC Politics Show (which will be shown at 12:00 on Sunday 11th December), it’s time to process another batch of Gift Voucher orders and finalise details for this Saturday’s boat trip around the Farne Islands and Holy Island.  Gift Vouchers are an ideal present, and our final boat trip of the year looks like being a really good one, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book.

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A flying birdwatching trip to Holland

by on Oct.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

On Wednesday afternoon we set off from Royal Quays, out into the North Sea, onboard the MV King of Scandinavia as guests of DFDS.  The weather forecast was for it to be wet, although we did manage a couple of hours birdwatching from the observation lounge before the driving rain obliterated the view.  Gannets were diving into the increasingly heavy swell, a stunning  Pomarine Skua arced across the bow of the ship and a single Puffin was tagging along with six Little Auks.

Arriving in IJmuiden the next morning, it was still raining 🙁  We were collected from the ferry terminal by Lin, a local guide who we had been introduced to by the ORCA wildlife officers from the ferry.  As we headed north Egyptian Geese were around the grass verges near the port, Cormorants  were perched atop most of the lampposts, Common Buzzards were on roadside fences and we saw one lingering Spoonbill.  Our destination was the reserve of Zwanenwater, where Lin is a volunteer.  As we walked through the reserve the high pitched ‘seep’ of Redwings was a constant backdrop, Song Thrushes were flushing from every patch of cover, every bush seemed to hold several Robins and a Common Redstart flicked up from the path in front of us.  We were then taken on a tour of the off-limits areas of the reserve by Fred, another of the volunteers.

Stonechats were seen along the track and there was an impressive spread of Grass of Parnassus.

Stonechat, Birdwatching

Stonechat, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

Grass of Parnassus

Grass of Parnassus, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

Despite the rain we managed an impressive haul of raptors; Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Osprey were all seen well but, most impressive of all, the real highlight for both of us was the views we had of Northern Goshawk.  The birds quartering the dunes in search of rabbits and small birds came as a bit of a surprise, but not as much as the two birds that were perched on dead trees overhanging the lake.  Fred explained that they sit there and watch the ducks, before swooping down and taking them off the water.  We didn’t see that, but we did manage some distant images of one of the birds.

Northern Goshawk, birdwatching

Northern Goshawk, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

All too soon we were on the ferry again and heading back to Northumberland, making plans to return to Holland in the spring.

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The Value of Positive Publicity

by on Jul.04, 2008, under Hen Harrier

The recent shooting of a Red Kite (link) obviously had an impact as the number of friends and colleagues who contacted me to express their disgust at the incident was overwhelming.

The Northern Kites release project is a model of community involvement and connection to our threatened wildlife and, without it, it’s questionable whether the shooting would have created such a stir. Other birds of prey are persecuted to almost unbelievable levels but many, many incidents never make the news.

One of my own favourite birds, the Hen Harrier, may well be the most persecuted species in Britain, but community involvement with the birds that have nested in Northumberland this year (link) is raising the profile of this elegant species. After all, we can only appreciate what we know.

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