Tag: Lesser Black-backed Gull
I collected Luke and Louise from Alnwick, for the first of their three trips with us this week, and we headed north to Lindisfarne…
Crossing the causeway, with hardly any water in sight, it was hard to believe that this has been the scene of so many attempts by the unwary and the foolish to drive through seawater that brings their journeys to an abrupt end and the ignominy of having to be rescued by the RNLI and RAF. On the island, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing from deep cover as foraging Lapwings were joined by a Fieldfare that was chancing it’s arm with repeated threat displays. Meadow Pipits were sitting on fence posts and dry stone walls as the air all around seemed to be filled with singing Skylarks. Eight Roe Deer were feeding in a grassy field and a buck near the village took umbrage at beeing watched and took off at pace, clearing fence after fence and wall after wall as he headed towards the dunes on the north of the island. House Sparrows were chirping from what seemed like every bush on the island and Grey Herons blended in to the reeds around the Lough to such an extent that Louise’s sharp eyes picked one out and it took a while, and the heron suddenly moving it’s head, before myself and Luke could see it.
As a cold north easterly breeze gathered pace, the eerie calls of Grey Seals and the shrill cries of Curlew carried across the mudflats. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, surely getting ready to depart for northern climes, arrived with the rising tide and Little Egrets, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Herring, Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls were joined along the edge of the swelling water by three Whimbrel.
To enjoy my unedited views about Holy Island causeway strandings, why not join one of our Lindisfarne Safaris? We run them throughout the year, although October (for migrants), November-February (wintering waders and wildfowl) and June-July (flora and insects) are the slightly better months to visit.
The Farne islands in late June are a chaotic place; huge numbers of birds on all of the cliff faces and around the boardwalks. Late July is a very different experience though…
I collected Ruth and Ann from Ponteland and we drove across to the coast before heading north for a day of bespoke beginners birdwatching, culminating in a trip across to Inner Farne. Curlew, Redshank and a stunningly orange Black-tailed Godwit were all in the shallows as a female Red-breasted Merganser appeared to be delivering flying lessons to her little black-and-white ducklings who were still way too small to get airborne. Sailing across to the islands after lunch we soon encountered rafts of Puffins and Guillemots, Grey Seals were lazing in the surf and the vertiginous seabird colonies were now reduced to only Kittiwake and Shag. Landing on Inner farne, Puffins were whizzing by with beaks filled with small fish, and weren’t subject to the kleptoparasitic attention of Black-headed Gulls, in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago. Terns were represented by single Arctic and Common Terns carrying fish to small chicks and a pair of Sandwich Terns engaged in courtship flight as a Lesser Black-backed Gull gave us a malevolent stare from the wall around the lighthouse.
A great day out with really lovely clients, and now I know what make and model of car Ann drives I can give her a wave when I’m cycling through Ponteland on a Sunday morning 🙂
If there’s anything that’s even less predictable than wildlife on our 4hr evening pelagics, it’s the weather/sky/sea state. One minute it can be flat calm, the next there’s a rolling swell, one minute it’s overcast, the next the clouds disperse and the sun breaks through…
Our 9th evening pelagic for 2016 set sail on Friday and we started to notice the swell while we were still in the river. Once we were out of the shelter of the piers there was a long rolling swell as we headed north. The usual suspects passed by; Puffin, Guillemot, Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Fulmar. As we headed closer inshore ready for the journey south, the swell subsided and the sea took on a glassy sheen as the sunset started to develop…
Monday was our 5th evening pelagic and we boarded JFK Two at Royal Quays with Common Terns flying back to their nests and a chilly breeze stiffening the flags on the boats moored in the marina.
Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls soon formed a stalking party just behind us and Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter were all seen, as well as a couple of Curlew. Away to the west of us the weather over Northumberland looked poor, and on the eastern horizon we could see rain. The dark, brooding waves lapped against the side of the boat and, as we made our way back down the coast, breaks in the leaden grey cloud brought another spectacular sunset 🙂
Friday was our second North Sea pelagic trip for 2016 and as we sailed from Royal Quays the sky looked a bit dark away to the north…
By the time we were off Whitley Bay we were under blue skies and sunshine while away to the west of us Northumberland was being battered by storms of hail and rain. Suddenly the wind picked up and the sea became a mass of foaming white horses and the first drops of rain hit the boat. With the wind whistling around the boat we soon picked up an entourage of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Gulls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but against a dark grey sky there’s no denying they’re quite impressive birds. Just a few metres above the deck they seemed to be sheltering in the lee of the wheelhouse as we headed into the wind. Gannets flew by and a flock of Common Scoter, looking to be just perfectly placed in the dark weather conditions, overtook us and headed north. Fulmars flew effortlessly just a few centimetres above the waves while Puffin and Guillemot made flight look like a much more laboured undertaking and away to the east a double rainbow had formed. As conditions settled back down we found a small group of Gannets diving into the water and it was time to head back to port.
With a Farne Islands Safari on Wedneday, I’d been keeping an even closer eye than usual on the weather forecast and particularly the forecast sea state and swell height. 1m waves, strong NE winds and heavy rain wasn’t the most promising of forecasts…
I collected Paul and Rose from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north of Seahouses for a few hours birdwatching before our sailing across to the Farnes. A singing Reed Bunting was eventually located, and finally came out obligingly into the open, as Meadow Pipits displayed overhead and Sand Martins hawked back and forth low over the water. Gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring all lined up obligingly next to each other for a mini-ID masterclass. A Shoveler escorted her ten ducklings across the pool as Coots fed young, Moorhens crept around in bankside rushes, Lapwing roosted in nearby fields and a Skylark, just a tiny dark speck against the clouds overhead, sounded inconceivably loud at the height it had reached.
Sitting and eating lunch overlooking the islands, the one thing that was really obvious was that the sea was calm, it wasn’t really windy and it wasn’t raining – so much for those forecasts then 🙂 We boarded Glad Tidings VII and headed towards the inner group of islands. Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were all heading back to their nests with food, Grey Seals were lazing around on the rocks and the sound, and smell, of the islands intensified. The onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake echoed off the cliffs and a leucistic Guillemot caught my eye as it sat on the rocks amongst all of it’s regular-coloured relatives.
Once we landed on Inner Farne, the Puffins took centre stage. We watched as they headed back towards their burrows, only to be harried by Black-headed Gulls. One Puffin dropped it’s load of small fish right next to us, it’s wingbeats whirring audibly just over our heads as it tried to evade it’s pursuers. Large, ungainly, and very, very fluffy Shag chicks had grown to big to be contained in their nests and the grumpy moaning of the assembled auks added to the wall of sound. Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns were all tending eggs or chicks, with the Arctic Terns being as feisty as ever, and a couple of them taking a particular dislike to Rose’s hat! As we walked back down the jetty to sail back to the mainland, Rose’s sharp eyes spotted one of those birds that are so cryptic in some habitats as a Ringed Plover dashed around between pebbles and rocks on the shore line.
Friday was Tony’s third, and final, day of bespoke birdwatching with NEWT and we headed north in similar weather to Thursday…
Travelling north, Roe Deer seemed unsure which way to run across the road so dodged back and forth in front of us. On the rising tide, Little Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were hunting along the water’s edge, Pale-bellied Brent Geese were leapfrogging north, Pink-footed Geese flew south high overhead as the ‘choo-it’ calls of a Spotted Redshank and eerie moaning of Grey Seals cut through the tranquil air. A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and the rising tide brought more birds towards us, Herring, Common, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ruff, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Goosander, Mallard and Teal were more obliging than distant swirling flocks of Lapwing and Barnacle Goose and a noisy tribe of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees behind us. Lunch at Stag Rocks produced Common Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Shag, then Greenshank and Shoveler were soon added to the day list as we continued south down the coast. Panic amongst Herring Gulls and Cormorants revealed a Grey Seal swimming along the River Coquet and Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye were the final new birds for Tony’s holiday as a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by and Greylag and Pink-footed Geese began arriving at their overnight roost.
mid-Summer can be a quiet time for birdwatching, but there are some days where everything just falls into place…
I arrived in Seahouses to collect Nigel and Barbara for a day birdwatching further south on the Northumberland coast, and we headed towards Druridge Bay in beautiful hot summer weather. With a flat calm sea we started with a little while seawatching. Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Eider and Fulmar were all flying by, but our attention was gripped by at least 6 Harbour Porpoise, including a mother with a very small calf 🙂 Moving on we watched the elegant trio of Little Egret, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit. There were at least 22 of the latter, in a mixed roosting flock with Lapwing, Wigeon, Curlew and 9 Mediterranean Gulls of varying age. More gull interest came in the form of 8 Little Gulls, also with a range of ages. A Sedge Warbler clambered to the top of the reeds briefly before dropping out of sight and breaking into song, a male Linnet looked garishly pink, male Stonechat and male Reed Bunting vied for the award of ‘most attractive’ and we steadily made our way north. Male and female Marsh Harriers impressed, as they always do, Great Crested Grebe sailed serenely by and our wader count for the day rose, with Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Redshank. A quick ID masterclass was helped by Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls all sitting in a line, surrounded on both sides by Cormorants.
Nigel had mentioned a species that they hadn’t managed to see previously, and as the cold wind cut through the overcast conditions – did I forget to mention the weather had changed 😉 – we went in search of it. “Curlew…curlew…curlew…stripy mean-looking face with shorter bill”, and there was another ‘lifer’ for Nigel and Barbara – a Whimbrel, and a great way to end the day 🙂
Our last couple of evening pelagics each year tend to finish in near darkness as we arrive back at Royal Quays. We have such long daylight hours during the middle of the summer up here, that it comes as a bit of a shock when it starts getting dark by 10pm 🙂 Yesterday was our final evening pelagic for this year, and conditions weren’t as good as they’d beeen on most of the previous sailings; a reasonable amount of swell, choppy surface and occasional whitecaps don’t make for easy observation. We knew where both White-beaked and Bottlenose Dolphins had been seen on Tuesday though, so that would give us a fighting chance. Guillemots were rising and falling with the swell, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were following us throughout the evening and Gannets soared majestically on the breeze. A Grey Seal was bottling as we sailed by and, just off Lynemouth, we began making our way south. Then a call from Hector “Martin, over there!”. Three White-beaked Dolphins, then five 🙂 With a very small calf among them, this was another opportunity to study how their behaviour differs from dolphins without young calves, and our observations will be included in the next report of our White-beaked Dolphin research off Northumberland, and add more to the collective knowledge about these beautiful animals 🙂
That may be the end of our evening pelagics for 2014, but we’ve still got a few spaces on our Farne Deeps trips, which are our best trips for encountering White-beaked Dolphin and other marine mammals, on 12th and 28th August from Royal Quays, and our birdwatching-focused trips from Royal Quays on 23rd August, 6th September and 13th September. Our Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses on 30th August is an excellent introduction to offshore wildlife for all the family too 🙂 Give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details, or have a look at our North Sea pelagic page.
One of the oddest pelagics in 17 years of organising them. Started with absolutely mirror-calm sea, bringing some of the best photographic opportunites with Fulmar, Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull that I’ve ever encountered, progressed through sightings of adult and calf White-beaked Dolphin, adult and calf Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise, then on to flocks of Common Scoter appearing out of the descending mist…and finished with visibility down to less than 50m!
We’ve still got a few spaces on our Farne Deeps trips, which are our best trips for encountering White-beaked Dolphin and other marine mammals, on 12th and 28th August from Royal Quays, and our birdwatching-focused trips from Royal Quays on 23rd August, 6th September and 13th September. Our Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses on 30th August is an excellent introduction to offshore wildlife for all the family too 🙂 Give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details, or have a look at our North Sea pelagic page.