Tag: Little Egret

Twitching; Druridge Bay 29/07/2014

by on Aug.05, 2014, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

I collected Stephen from home in North Shields and we headed north to Druridge Bay for an afternoon and evening of birdwatching.  Late July can produce some very good birds, and this was to be no exception…

Mediterranean Gull is a bit of a southeast Northumberland speciality, and the ghostly white adult drifting across the field of view of Stephen’s new binoculars was a lifer for him.  The rest of the afternoon was dominated by waders, with flocks of Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit all flushing in alarm at an unseen (at least by us) menace.  The banks of the River Aln produced Curlew, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and four Little Egrets.  We bumped into a few of NEWT’s other clients during the afternoon and, when Len and Gill calmly mentioned that there was Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell, we restructured the afternoon :-)  Arriving at Cresswell, the news wasn’t good; the bird had apparently disappeared into long grass on the edge of the pool four hours earlier and hadn’t reappeared.  Knot, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Avocet are all very nice birds, but they’re no Stilt Sandpiper.  We decided to head down the coast and have something to eat while scanning the sea.  As we left Cresswell, Gill said that they’d ‘phone me if the bird reappeared so I took my mobile off silent although, with a four and a half gap since the last sighting, I wasn’t overly optimistic.  Ten minutes later, I’d just poured the soup and we were enjoying our picnic when my ‘phone rang.  I didn’t manage to get it out of my pocket in time to answer it, but it soon rang again and this time it was a call from Ipin “Martin, it’s back”.

Stephen had his second lifer of the afternoon, and late July was doing what it does really well – excellent waders :-)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Edgy; Otter Safari 23/07/2014

by on Jul.28, 2014, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Last Wednesday was a bespoke ‘truncated’ Otter Safari, booked as a retirement present for Joe.  I collected Joe, Ann, Jess and Jack from Newton by the Sea and we made our way south to Druridge Bay.  We had our picnic, overlooking the North Sea, enjoyed the graceful elegance of Avocet and Little Egret and then settled into position at one of our regular Otter sites…

Otters may be relatively common and widespread in Northumberland, certainly when you compare our county to other areas of England, but they can still prove frustrating.  Many times we’ve watched all of the assembled wildlife behaving as if there’s an Otter present…without our quarry putting in an appearance.  A strip of Amphibious Bistort seemed as good a place as any to start scanning; it should hold small fish and invertebrates, attracting larger animals that prey on them.  Sure enough, scanning along the edge I came across the familiar ‘Loch Ness Monster’ shape of an Otter resting at the surface :-)  We watched as it twisted, turned, dived and fed for nearly an hour, with Mute Swans, Tufted Ducks and Mallards watching warily and a Black-headed Gull swooping down each time the Otter surfaced.  Eventually it went out of sight, but not before Jess took photos of it through the telescope…using a small compact camera :-)  The journey back to Newton included not one, not two, but three Barn Owls.   The middle of the summer may often be regarded as not the best wildlife-watching season that we have, but it produces the goods year after year :-)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , , more...

“That’s not a bill. That’s a bill”; Otter Safari 12/07/2014

by on Jul.15, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Often, the species that we’re specifically searching for appears and is the highlight of the day.  Sometimes, the scenes involving the supporting cast take some beating though…

I arrived at Church Point to collect Rose, Tom and Alison, and we headed up the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay searching for Otters.  July is one of our favourite times to visit the coast, as wading birds are starting to head south, still in breeding plumage.  Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Dunlin were all lazing at the water’s edge in the increasingly breezy afternoon, and one of our most delicate looking birds provided a lot of entertainment.  Avocets are a fairly recent addition to Northumberland’s breeding avifauna, and their delicate appearance belies their feisty nature.  As three fluffy Avocet chicks swept their heads from side to side in shallow water, occasionally breaking off to go and tuck themselves under their parent’s wing, the adult Avocets were busy keeping the area clear of other birds.  Black-headed Gulls, and even Pied Wagtails were driven off, but the most ferocious assaults were reserved for a flock of Common Snipe.  Secretive and usually hidden out of sight, the snipe had ventured away from the shelter of the reedbeds and into shallow water where they were feeding with a sewing machine action, faces in the water and constantly probing the soft mud beneath.  The Avocets weren’t having that though, and the snipe were persistently flushed by attack after attack.  When we’d first arrived a Spoonbill had been flying above the pond, and it settled and went to sleep.  Eventually it woke up and began walking along the edge of the pond before disappearing from view.  Then it took off and flew across the water, settling near the Avocets

The first furious airborne assault on the Spoonbill left it completely unmoved, so the Avocet landed nearby and charged at it, head down and neck stretched forward, menacing with that long, upcurved rapier like bill.  The Spoonbill lifted it’s head from the water, opened it’s bill and waved it as if to say “Do you really want me to slap you with this?” :-)  Obviously a different approach was required, which involved the Avocet pretending to feed, whilst slowly sidling towards the Spoonbill, ready to launch another attack.  That was greeted in the same manner, and when the Avocet tried again, the Spoonbill simply kept it’s head in the water and charged straight at the Avocet, sweeping it’s bill from side to side.  Eventually the Avocets gave up the attack, but kept a close eye on the Spoonbill, as another ten Avocets flew over and a Little Egret put in a brief appearance.

As dusk approached we settled into position overlooking another pool.  All seemed calm, Marsh Harriers were hunting the reedbeds as daylight faded, and then an Otter appeared, making it’s way across the shadow-dappled water, twisting, turning, diving, pausing at the surface to consume its catch before resuming the hunt :-)  A second Otter was hunting in the deep shadow of a reedbed, and the closer one betrayed it’s own presence with the classic ‘ring of bright water’ each time it surfaced.  A Barn Owl came as a shock, when it flew through Rose’s binocular view, and a white Rabbit and four Brown Hares were illuminated by the car headlights as we made our way back to Church Point in the rain.

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Marshland magic; Druridge Bay 04/07/2014

by on Jul.08, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Natural History, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I love all of the different locations that we visit on our tours, but a day around NEWT’s local patch of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland is always special.  Maybe because it’s so close to home, maybe because of the incredible industrial heritage that has gradually been transformed into fantastic wildlife habitat or maybe just because it’s really, really good :-)

I collected Sue from Church Point and we headed north up the coast.  A brood of Goosanders were perched on mid-stream rocks as Grey Wagtails flitted back and forth across our field of view, tails wagging vigorously each time they settled before flycatching again just above the water.  An insistent squawking made us turn our heads – and there was a brood of Blackbird fledglings, just a few metres away, watching us with curiosity as their parents brought food.  Great Crested Grebes, Gadwall and Tufted Duck all had young in attendance too and, as is often the case once we reach July, a lot of our attention was taken by wading birds.  30+ Black-tailed Godwits were sleeping as a Common Sandpiper bobbed around their feet, a group of unusually obliging Common Snipe fed out in the open water, black-bellied Dunlin searched purposefully around the godwits, Redshank stalked along the pool edge and into the longer vegetation and three Wood Sandpipers added a touch of ‘scarce’ to the afternoon.  Two Spoonbills spent most of the time, as Spoonbills do, sleeping until a helicopter passing over roused them from their slumber and they did a fly-around before settling back to their previous spot and immediately returning to sleep close to a Little Egret.  Juvenile Marsh Harriers were making short flights over reedbeds, Reed Buntings were still singing their simple song with enthusiasm and a pair of Avocets with four chicks launched repeated furious assaults on any other birds that came too close; Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull and even the ‘so cute they surely couldn’t do any harm’ Little Gulls all came in for a hard time as the young Avocets pottered about in the shallows.

A great day with a lovely client (we don’t have any other type!) and even the added bonus of bumping into my favourite double act, Gavin and Syd :-)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Monday’s trip was a birdwatching tour of two of Northumberland’s excellent locations; the Cheviot Valleys in the morning, and Druridge Bay in the afternoon.

I collected John, Graham, Andy, Sue, Sue and Lesley from their cottage in Shilbottle and we set off inland towards the imposing landscape of the Cheviot massif.  As we got out of the car and donned waterproofs we had the first rain shower of the day, but it quickly passed and the path began gaining in altitude as Oystercatchers perched on fence posts, swallows and martins hawked back and forth through air buzzing with insects in the warm, humid conditions and Willow Warblers and Chaffinches competed with their congeners in a singing contest.  The plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the steep valley sides, the high calls of Siskin and the buzzy rattle of Lesser Redpoll  came from overhead and one of the archetypal valley birds put in an appearance as we found a succession of adult and juvenile Dippers.  A lone Common Buzzard hovered high over the moors in search of prey and a Peregrine repeatedly rose above the skyline before dropping back down in a prolonged attack on an unfortunate, and unseen, victim.

Lunch overlooking the sea was accompanied by Fulmars gliding gracefully back and forth on stiff wings, before we switched our attention to waders, wildfowl and waterbirdsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons were stalking menacingly along shallow pool edges, at least 50 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting, and a small group of Little Gulls looked diminutive alongside Black-headed Gulls (which aren’t all that big themselves!).  Reed Buntings were singing their rather repetitive song, Sedge and Reed Warblers flew by before vanishing into the depths of the reedbeds and we enjoyed the sight of delicate and dainty, yet incredibly feisty, AvocetsGreat Crested Grebes were feeding their stripy offspring, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns perched obligingly, allowing easy comparison, and the afternoon brought an unexpected surprise in the shape of no less than six Spoonbills.  They did little more exciting than occasionally wake up and preen for a short while before nodding off again, but the sight of six of these impressive birds together wrapped up the day nicely :-)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

People watching; Red Squirrel Bespoke Safari 03/06/2014

by on Jun.10, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland, Red Squirrel

I love watching wildlife, always have done since I was very young and I love watching wildlife with our clients.  Sometimes though, people are just as interesting…

I collected Richard and Jan from their b&b in Chatton and we headed down through the centre of Northumberland in search of the Red Squirrel.  Our first stop was one of our regular sites for squirrels, but didn’t produce the goods this time.  Next was what a friend described as the best ‘guaranteed’ site for Red Squirrel in Northumberland…no joy here either, although it looked perfect.  We weren’t the only people in the hide – a couple came in and he set up his camera while his wife tried to keep their dog quiet.  Then she dropped his tripod on the hide floor.  Unfortunate, and could happen to anyone, but likely to reduce the chance of seeing a squirrel.  Then it happened again, careless, but still not helping the cause of wildife watching.  Her husband didn’t even flinch as the tripod crashed to the floor and, when it happened for a third time, we were all wondereing if it was his wife’s way of trying to get his attention.  If it was she was failing spectacularly ;-) At that point we gave up and headed across towards the coast, where I’d planned to have our lunch stop at another site that has worked well for us on previous Red Squirrel trips.  Sure enough, as soup and sandwiches were consumed, a squirrel came down from the canopy in search of it’s lunch :-)  It made off with a peanut and was soon back for more.

After achieving our main aim for the day we spent the rest of the afternoon around Druridge BayAvocet, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Bearded Tit, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Great Crested Grebe and much more made for an excellent afternoon birdwatching. following on from a morning of squirrelwatching and peoplewatching :-)

1 Comment :, , , , , , , more...

Winter Wonderland Day One 04/12/2013

by on Dec.06, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I met up with David for breakfast at The Swan on Wednesday morning, ahead of two days on the Northumberland coast, we’d already switched our itinerary round.  The plan to visit Holy Island on Thursday looked as though it might be slightly impacted by the weather, so we switched Druridge Bay to that day instead.

The drive north on the A1 was in glorious weather, with Common Buzzards soaring low over plantations in the chill of the early morning and we were soon on Holy Island in a stiffening breeze, carefully stalking towards a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese that posed for David’s camera.  Bar-tailed Godwits, and a lone Black-tailed Godwit were probing the exposed mud of the harbour at low tide and Wigeon and Teal were on the Rocket Pool.  A Common Kestrel was hovering nearby and, as the tide turned, we headed to the causeway to see what would be pushed towards us by the advancing water.  Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Shelduck and a Little Egret all fed along the swelling channels

Eurasian Curlew,Numenius arquata,Northumberland,birdwatching holidays,photography holidays,Holy Island,Lindisfarne

and then a mass of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew in from the south.  As the water began to lap at the edge of the causeway we drove back on to the mainland, and headed to a quiet stretch of shoreline where I knew David could use the cover of a hedgerow to approach a flock of Pale-bellied Brents whilst avoiding detection.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese,Branta bernicla hrota,Holy Island,Lindisfarne,Northumberland,photography holidays,birdwatching holidays

Using the car as a photographic hide (something of a theme  for the holiday!) we got very close views of a flock of Wigeon,

Eurasian Wigeon,Anas penelope,Holy Island,Lindisfarne,Northumberland,birdwatchinf holidays,photography holidays,northern experience wildlife tours

and then we settled in the iconic shadow of Bamburgh Castle and scanned the sea in temperatures that were now bone-chilling :-)  Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshank were roosting just above the water line and beyond the rafts of Eider were flocks of Common Scoter, with one large group of females looking stunningly orange in the beautiful late afternoon sunlight.  Long-tailed Ducks played hide and seek, utilising their propensity for diving, and the developing swell, to keep me on my toes as I located a group with the ‘scope so that David could see them.  Scanning the scoter flocks paid dividends as a female Velvet Scoter rose up and over one advancing wave crest, Red-throated Divers cruised along in their eternal search for fish and a last scan before we headed back down the coast produced a Slavonian Grebe.  As it turned dark, the clear sky afforded excellent ‘scope views of the crescent Venus, and the thinnest sliver of crescent Moon.  So soon after New Moon would be a spring tide, and the one forecast for the following day was predicted to be a big one…

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Waders and wildfowl; Northumberland Coast 30/11/2013

by on Dec.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Did you hear the one about the Leeds fan, the Liverpool fan and the Hull City fan who had a day out birding in Northumberland?…

I collected Andy and Sue from their hotel in Bamburgh and we headed south for a day around Druridge Bay and the southeast Northumberland coast. In glorious early morning sunlight, a very obliging Common Buzzard was perched on a hedge by the road and we were soon admiring the first of several species of duck that we were to encounter during the day with two pairs of Eider on the River Coquet. Sue spotted two Roe Deer as Redshank and Curlew were pottering along the water’s edge, Turnstone were engaged in using their heads to turn over large heaps of seaweed and a Little Egret flew upstream.  Sanderling were skittering back and forth along the gently breaking surf and Bar-tailed Godwits and Ringed Plover were on the beach as ghostly white Mediterranean Gulls soared overhead.

Ducks proved to be a theme for the day, as did large numbers of Curlew, with Gadwall, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Teal, Wigeon and, probably the most stunning of all, two Long-tailed Ducks at Druridge Pools.  A Black-necked Grebe was a picture of elegance in black and white, and small skeins of Pink-footed Geese were heading south.  Starlings were massing as dusk approached and we headed back towards Bamburgh as darkness decended.

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Wading through bird identification

by on Aug.06, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Along with my passion for seabirds and raptors, there’s another group of birds that always set my pulse racing.  With an endearing habit of poking their faces into gooey mud in search of food, waders are always exciting :-)  Large flocks of Knot, Dunlin and Golden Plover are a spectacular sight during the winter months, rivalling the huge murmurations of Starlings that attract so much attention, but there’s one time of year when I think waders are particularly good…

I collected Jamie and Louise from Alnwick and we headed southeast towards Druridge BayMarsh Harriers, Little Egrets and a steady northward flow of Gannets were all good, but a mixed flock of waders was the sort of spectacle that late July can produce.  ~200 Knot, 150 Dunlin, 12 Turnstone and a Sanderling would be a good mixed flock at any time of the year, particularly at a fairly short distance.  This isn’t just any time of the year though, this is the time when adult waders, still in breeding plumage, are heading down our coastline on migration; Red Knot being properly red, with a stunning silvery wash to their upperparts, Dunlin with solidly black bellies, Turnstone with rich mahogany upperparts, white heads and striking face patterns and a lone Sanderling - not the stark black-and-white of the birds we see dodging the onrushing tideline during the winter, but with the brick red/orange face and throat that can make you look twice before you’re sure what you’re looking at.  Who said that July can be a dull month…

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , more...

Mirror-calm

by on Aug.05, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, MInke Whale, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

As I collected Carol and Howard from their holiday accommodation in Alnwick, the bright afternoon sunshine was going to make viewing conditions difficult for the first few hours.  The plan for the afternoon and evening was the one that has worked so well for us in mid-July previously; birdwatching around Druridge Bay, a quick scan of the sea while we have our picnic stop, then settle down to enjoy the wildlife that makes its appearance as daylight fades.

Little Egrets were the highlight of the first section of the afternoon, but what came next was so astonishing that I was lost for words…

As we arrived at our picnic spot, overlooking the North Sea, I was amazed to see that the sea was absolutely mirror-calm;  not a ripple or wave as far as the eye could see.  We’d only just started our soup and sandwiches when the mirror was shattered…by a White-beaked Dolphin :-)  Many of our encounters with dolphins are small groups of animals that are travelling from one spot to another. Not this time though, as another three appeared next to the first one and they spent nearly an hour in the one small area, along with another eight animals in three small groups.  We watched them breaching, and circling in one tight area, presumably over a food source.  The most remarkable thing though, was that the sea was so flat that we could see the tell-tale fluke prints when they were just beneath the surface.  As the groups moved a little way, we knew exactly where they were going to surface next.  Now, watching dolphins in Northumberland waters is “something really special” ((c) Joanne, one of our regular North Sea pelagic clients) and the only way to top it is…to watch a Minke Whale surfacing just beyond the dolphins at the same time!  Awesome :-)

Comments Off :, , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Archives

All entries, chronologically...