Tag: Jay

Fantastic Mr Fox; Another walk in the woods 02/11/18

by on Nov.03, 2018, under Choppington Woods

Under a leaden overcast sky the cold air wraps its damp tendrils around every exposed bit of my skin.  Jays are making their way across open ground between the plantations with a stuttering flight, white rumps flashing in the gloom, and a Woodcock heads out as the unseen sun dips below the horizon.  A last good feed of the day for Coal, Blue, Great and Willow Tits is on offer at a makeshift feeding station as I start scanning the hedgerow along the southern edge of a field of verdant green with new growth.  In the distance a lump breaking the gentle undulations of the field isn’t straightforward to identify in the half-light.  Moving along the hedgerow a few metres at time I get close enough to identify it as a Red Fox.  Closer still and I get a great view as he stands up and has a good stretch.  Now awake, he trots along for a few seconds and then sits, gazing intently around him.  I move through the hedge and watch him from a well concealed position and then parallel his movements, stopping regularly to watch what he’s doing.  By the time he eventually disappears through a hedge and into a small plantation 45mins have passed and I make my way home along dark paths wrapped in the scent and sound of the woods at dusk.

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A walk in the woods 01/11/18

by on Nov.02, 2018, under Choppington Woods

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks in the NEWT household.  We’d had a week away in and around Glencoe checking locations for a landscape photography holiday I’m leading over Christmas, then a couple of days after we got back home I wasn’t feeling well.  Sarah took me to see our GP and they sent me straight to the excellent Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.  Four days later I was discharged, limited to a liquid-only diet and with surgery scheduled for early January.  Luckily I’m well enough to work, as we’ve got a very busy November ahead of us.  This week has been mainly recuperation at home, but I need to keep my mind and body active and daily walks in the woods behind our house are the best medicine…

With the light of day fading to dusk, the harsh ‘chek’ calls of Jackdaws and deep ‘rawk’ of Rooks gathering together to roost were layered with the staccato ratting of Magpies.  The woods are familiar and comforting, and a place to clear my mind.  We’ve walked them countless times over the last 18 years and the benches, interpretation boards, boardwalk/dipping platform and well-surfaced paths were the result of a successful funding bid that I presented back in 2009.  We know which intersections of the footpaths and tracks will produce the pungent scent of Red Fox, temporarily overwhelming the sweet earthy smell of Autumn decay and the heady perfume of Himalayan Balsam, which areas of the wood will have Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit and where to search for Red Squirrel and the other inhabitants of this reclaimed colliery site.  Woodpigeons were gathering in treetops frosted orange by the setting Sun and, applying the shape, shadow and shine elements of concealment I chose a position on the shaded side of an Ivy-covered hedge.  Willow Tits and Coal Tits gave quiet alarm calls as a Sparrowhawk flew along the hedge and a Kestrel hovered over the field in the half-light.  Jays were crossing between plantations, Roe Deer ventured out from cover to forage close to the field edge, Redwings arrived to roost and the chacking calls so typical of pre-roost Blackbirds penetrated the crisp, cold air under a clear blue sky layered over the pastel pink of the Belt of Venus away to the east as I had a feeling that there was something close by.  A brief whirr of wings so I turned my head slowly…and found myself eye to eye with a handsome cock Pheasant 🙂

A connection with nature allows us to disconnect, even if only for a short while, from our connection with everyday life.  It’s good for body and soul and so many of our clients comment that one of the things they most enjoy about their days out with NEWT is just how relaxing it is to be taken away from work and the stresses of life.  Applying that to myself is working well too 🙂

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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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