Tag: Jay

Now you see me…; Druridge Bay Safari 22/06/18

by on Jun.26, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Last Thursday was Anne and Howard’s 2nd day out with NEWT, after a Farne Islands trip in June last year, and this time our destination was NEWT’s local patch – Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

In glorious sunshine we started with a woodland walk.  Jays and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were characteristically quite vocal, and Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Nuthatches were feeding fledglings in the branches above our heads and a Banded Demoiselle put in a graceful appearance.  We were searching for Dippers and Anne spotted one on a branch that apparently hadn’t had one on it just a few seconds earlier.  We watched it for around 20 minutes as it slept, preened stretched and then vanished as it turned it’s back towards us.  Among the sun-dappled branches just a few inches above the river it just blended into the background without it’s striking white breast on display.

After a picnic overlooking the North Sea, with Fulmars arcing by along the clifftop, we continued north along the bay.  Avocet chicks were running around the shallows as 13 adults were either incubating, feeding or engaging in some entertaining disputes with Shelducks.  In the warm afternoon sunshine damselflies were abundant and Great Crested Grebes were feeding with a single chick.  At our final site for the day 33 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding close to Tufted Ducks, Mallard and Teal and as Cormorants flew out towards the sea I caught a glimpse of a dark back as it submerged out of sight.  Probably a Cormorant, but always worth making sure…and there was an Otter 🙂  A great way to end the day!

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All adding up; Bespoke wildlife tour 20/05/2014

by on May.23, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Even after 20 years living in Northumberland, I’m sometimes still amazed at what can be seen in one day, with seven mammals in a day in June 2010 showing what’s possible with planning and just a bit of luck 🙂  Sometimes you just have to hope that the weather’s helpful though…

I collected Mike and Jane from Greycroft and we set off towards the foothills of the Cheviots.  Our first targets for the day were reptiles…and it wasn’t looking promising; thick low cloud and a cold breeze really aren’t the ideal conditions for these cold-blooded predators.  Nevertheless, we made our way along a track with several likely sunning spots.  All were devoid of reptiles, but an hour later, as we were surrounded by the songs of Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Sedge Warblers andChaffinches, it turned slightly brighter and the temperature rose (from ‘chilling’ to ‘almost warm’!) so I suggested it was time to retrace our route.  Almost as if scripted, the most likely looking spot had an Adder laid in it 🙂  It slithered away into the grass and out of sight as we headed on our way.  Our next destination was the southeast Northumberland coast and Druridge Bay.  Despite a concentrated session checking their regular hang-outs we didn’t manage to find any Red Squirrels, although it was cold and windy which doesn’t help.  Birdwatching our way up the coast produced Fulmar soaring along the cliff tops as we ate our lunch,  House andSand Martins hawking insects, Dunlin andGrey Plover feeding up on their way north, and a Grey Heron that had found a rich vein of Eels.  It caught, and consumed, four in less than an hour!  Jane spotted a Roebuckas we drove alongside the fields, and then another two by the River Coquet.  Our final stop was in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, with Common Eider just offshore, as well as waddling up the beach, and a small group of Common Scoter just beyond them.

With a rich variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, flowers and other wildlife, Northumberland in May really is an excellent destination for the keen naturalist.  I like it almost as much as I like the winter 🙂

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Rest and recuperation; A walk in the woods 04/11/2013

by on Nov.04, 2013, under Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Goldcrests are flitting tirelessly through the branches just overhead, Jays are leaving the edge of the wood and flying over nearby fields on strange bat-like wings, the thin high seee calls of Redwings mingle with the calls of Blackbird and Song Thrush as they head for the deepest darkest interior of the woods, seeking the sanctuary of their night-time roost and, beneath my feet, the soft yet lacerating carpet of pine needles adds to the earthy scent of autumnal decay as the putrid stench of a Common Stinkhorn assaults my sense of smell.  The cold damp air penetrates through to my gloved hands, biting at the flesh, a gentle hint that winter is on it’s way.

I’m on familiar territory; Choppington Woods occupies almost the entire view from our office window and provides an escape from the office and the fresh air to invigorate my mind.  Today though, it isn’t just about getting outside.  It’s ten days since I had surgery to remove the scar tissue from an old shoulder injury.  By next week I’ll be able to drive again, and the stitches will be removed from the operation wounds.  Another two weeks in and around the office and then I’ll be back guiding clients before the end of the month 🙂

For now though, I’m wrapped in the warming embrace of the multi-sensory comfort blanket of the world outside, with the words of my surgeon, when I came round from the anesthetic, still firmly burned into my memory “best thing for your recovery is to just get on with your normal life” …

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

by on Jan.31, 2013, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch and we followed tradition by sitting in our kitchen with a mug of coffee, and a bacon and tomato sandwich, having topped up all of the feeders the evening before.  An hour later, we’d racked up a list of 21 species; Blackbird 3, Jackdaw 2, Collared Dove 2, Robin 3, Chaffinch 20, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 3, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 8, Jay 1, Bullfinch 1, House Sparrow 1, Greenfinch 1, Woodpigeon 2, Redwing 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Song Thrush 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Brambling 2. Quite a successful hour, although most species weren’t present in the numbers we would have expected and, as usual, several species that had been visiting the garden in recent days (Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker) failed to appear during the 1 hour of the survey.  Easy birding, and part of a huge national survey.  If you didn’t do it this year, give it a go in 2014 🙂

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Enchanted evening

by on Nov.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

As the air cools, a pall of pale ghostly mist hangs just above the ground in a wildflower meadow dropping away ahead of me.  I’m on a woodland edge, standing on a soft cushion of fallen larch and pine needles.  Standing still and blending in, the mist wraps me in its cooling blanket as a flock of Goldcrests move through the trees just behind my vantage point.  Overhead Redwings, Rooks and Jackdaws head to roost as a Carrion Crow caws defiantly from the top of a tall larch and Wood Pigeons flutter up and down at tree-top height.  The incessant screeching of Jays and chatter of Blackbirds betrays the presence of a Tawny Owl; stirring in preparation for its nocturnal foray, it soon tires of the harassment and heads deeper into the wood.  A Woodcock appears at the same point where I emerged from the trees just a few minutes ago, having followed my route alongside the gurgling stream.  Away over the fields I can see a Barn Owl, hunting close to the site where it raised this year’s young hoolets, and Roe Deer nervously make their way out into the open.  As the light fades and I head for home, it’s hard to believe that I’m on the edge of the most densely populated area of Northumberland and walking through a mixed woodland where there were once three coal mines, including one of the first deep-shaft mines anywhere in the world.  For now though, it’s just me and the wildlife…

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Flight calls

by on Oct.10, 2011, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Brian from Newbiggin on Saturday for a one-to-one photography afternoon around southeast Northumberland.  It was good to find a photographer with the mantra of ‘wait, watch, wait some more’ and we settled among the trees in a dappled woodland.  Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker all entertained us, Jays were chasing through the trees and Redwings passed overhead, their ‘seee’ calls still resonate deep inside me, nearly 40 years since I first heard them over our school field and then found a bundle of soft feathers where one had fallen prey to the local Kestrel.

We had a brief spell of reasonable light, but the afternoon was mainly characterised by drizzle and gloom; not ideal for photography, but an atmospheric background for the birds that were moving about pre-roost.  Then, more calls from the skies as we sat close to a small pond.  First, Pink-footed Geese, yapping distantly before coming into view like a distant swirl of smoke as they headed to roost.  Then a group of 8 Whooper Swans, heading north.  As they vanished into the gloom, the rain increased and brought dusk forward.

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Patience pays off

by on Aug.30, 2011, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Finding Red Squirrels on a Bank Holiday Monday had the potential to be a tricky task.  With a good weather forecast, all of our local woodlands were likely to be filled with visitors.  I headed up to Alnwick, to collect Tracy, Graham, Eleanor and Joe, before the rush started, and Sarah set off at the same time on a related mission…

By the time I arrived at our favourite squirrel site, with a car-load of clients, feeders had been checked and strategic areas baited.  Jays, Great Tits and Woodpigeons were all in the trees around us, and Eleanor soon picked out the sound of a Red Squirrel in the canopy high overhead.  We waited, patiently and quietly, and then Joe spotted movement along a branch and a Red Squirrel ran down the trunk of a nearby tree and tucked in to the provided feast.

After our woodland excursion a couple of hours of birdwatching in southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay produced good sightings of Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Stock Dove and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull in amongst a mass of Black-headed Gulls from a landfill site.

Wildlife doesn’t perform to order, but when you’ve spent some time concentrating, listening and focusing on every sound and every movement there’s a good feeling when that effort is rewarded 🙂

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Thursday (part 1); summer morning birdwatching

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

An early start on Thursday saw us close to home, birdwatching in southeast Northumberland.  6am at Church Point as I collected Mick and Helen was sublime; warm, still and very quiet.  Starting with a woodland walk we had excellent views of Red Squirrel and Great Spotted Woodpecker.  In the bright sunshine our regular Little Owl was sitting at the entrance to it’s nest.  These conditions at this time of the year mean that insects feature prominently in our safaris; Blue-tailed Damselflies  and Silver Ground Carpet moths seemed to be everywhere that we walked.  Sedge Warblers  and  Reed Buntings were singing from the reedbeds and Grey Herons stalked patiently along the edges of coastal ponds.  The quality of conversation made the morning seem to fly past; environment, conservation, sustainability and renewable energy are all important things to NEWT and it’s always a pleasure to share our love of the northeast and it’s wildlife with clients who know the area and the countryside so well.  Mick’s keenness on video recording and photography of the wildlife he sees was enjoyable, and Helen managed to photograph a Sedge Warbler using her mobile ‘phone.  All too soon, Thursday (part 1) was over…

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On the trail of the otter…and then some

by on Jun.13, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday was the first of several forthcoming days where we’re running multiple trips on the same day, and with 6 clients during the day, and 2 of them joining us for an evening safari as well, it was a day that could go really well, or not…

The primary target species for everyone was our old favourite, Otters. We started with a spot of birdwatching, and excellent views of the Little Owl that we should probably be adding to the NEWT payroll 😉  Our first Otter site didn’t produce the goods, although 2 Brown Hares chasing each other around a nearby field provided good entertainment.  Once we’d been there as long as I’d decided in advance of the trip, I had a hunch that another site, that has disappointed for several months now, might just produce the goods.  As we arrived I pointed out the location of a holt and suggested that the area around that was a good place to check.  Within a minute, Anthea had found 2 Otters, and we watched them for 75 mins as they fed, played, paddled along the surface, dodged in and out of the reeds and eventually vanished, probably to have an afternoon nap after their marathon feeding session.  A bit more birdwatching further up the coast produced excellent views of Common and Sandwich Terns and then it was time to return Liz & James and Kate & Take (pronounced Tarka – the most appropriate name for any participant in a NEWT trip so far) to their respective holiday locations and start the second trip of the day with Andy and Anthea.

Anthea is an Australian with a fascination for British wildlife and the day out was part of a target list that she has for a 3 month trip around Britain and Europe.  Red Squirrel was next on the list and patience and persistence paid off as we settled ourselves close to a feeding area and eventually had excellent views of at least 3 squirrels, and some very close Jays, Great Spotted Woodpeckers  and a Nuthatch.

With such a long day, sustenance came in the form of a meal at The Swan before we were on our way again.  Myriads of Rabbits were along the roads and we made our way along the heavily wooded valley of a small stream and got into position opposite a Badger sett.  A Red Fox walked along the hillside before vanishing into the undergrowth and causing consternation in all of the birds that were settling to roost.  It re-appeared just up the track from where were sitting and ran up the hill behind us, then a 2nd Fox crossed the hillside.  Soon we were treated to the sight of not one, not two, but three Badgers crossing a clearing.  As the light levels in the wood dropped to unmanageable we relocated to a feeding area that’s popular with Badgers and Foxes where we watched another Fox as it stalked along an edge, apparently invisible to the Rabbits that were sitting on the grass.  As we walked back to the Land Rover we added mammals #7 and #8 to the day list; Common Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s Bat.  A long day, but a really, really excellent one 🙂

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2 out of 3

by on Jun.02, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

As the damp, dreary weather of yesterday was giving way to brighter conditions I found myself heading up the coast to collect clients from Craster.  Our targets for the evening were Red Squirrel, Otter and Badger; in that order of priority, so an evening safari in Southeast Northumberland had been planned to try and encompass all three species.  A walk along the River Blyth produced what could well be a ‘must see’ for natural history enthusiasts over the coming years.  Scampering along branches and leaping through the canopy, our first target entertained as it made it’s way through the trees – causing agitation in two Great Spotted Woodpeckers which had been feeding quietly before the squirrel’s appearance.  A Jay allowed us an unusually close approach before it vanished into the trees and Dippers were zipping back and forth along the river as we returned to the Land Rover, and we set out to search for Otters.  It wasn’t to be, although some compensation came in the shape of a Barn Owl, drifting along the dunes and then catching a vole before revealing the location of it’s nest by taking the food back to the waiting mouths.  That’s the great thing about running birdwatching and wildlife tours; it may be unpredictable, but there’s always something to enjoy and appreciate.

With heavy drizzle hampering visibility, we made our way to a site where Badgers would hopefully be out and about.  Sure enough, James spotted one as soon as we arrived, and a second movement on the hillside was probably another one, although it slipped out of sight in the undergrowth soon after being spotted.

Finding 2 out of 3 elusive mammals that we were looking for was a good success rate and, with some new sites for Otters  that we’ve been monitoring, our bespoke ‘multi-mammal’ trips are sure to prove popular this summer.

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