Tag: Little Egret
Friday and Saturday saw a two day bespoke safari for Fran and Georgia, arranged by their mum back in early December.
I collected the girls from The Swan and we headed towards Druridge Bay. We weren’t too far along the road when Georgia asked if we’d seen any Otters recently. I told them about Thursday’s sightings, and there was an obvious raising of excitement levels in the car…and, with typical wildlife unpredictability, we managed to get right through Friday without an Otter sighting Dippers zipping back and forth along the River Blyth were entertaining, a drake Garganey on the Wansbeck was stunning, Little Egrets and Avocets were elegant, but of the sinuous stealthy predator there was no sign. We returned to The Swan and I started revising our plans for Saturday…
Saturday 05:00 and I stumble sleepily to the bathroom. There’s one thing I really don’t want to hear, and that’s a howling gale. This wasn’t looking promising; our plan for the day was a Seal Cruise around the Farne Islands, and then more time searching for Otters, and neither of those would be helped by the hoolie that I could hear whistling through the trees in our garden. We arrived in Seahouses for our sailing on Glad Tidings V, and the sea was looking ever so slightly lumpy. We did manage to sail though, and were rewarded with Cormorant, Shag, Guillemot, Eider, Kittiwake and the two stars of the morning – Puffin and Grey Seal. Back on dry land we resumed the search for Otters, and the wind strengthened so that we could hear an eerie whistling around trees, bridges and us! With a wind chill factor taking temperatures down to bone-chilling, and a hail storm pinging ice off our heads, we were having to suffer for our wildlife…and still no Otters. Sarah was out and about checking other locations and sending regular texts to let me know where she’d checked. Our final backup plan was an 06:00 start on Sunday, but I don’t think anyone was really too keen on that idea.
18:30 and the wind shifted from west to southwest and weakened slightly, the sun came out and I started to feel more optimistic. I had one decision left to make though, and that was which of our two options for sunset to go for…
I’ve long held the belief that the worst weather conditions for wildlife watching are strong cold winds. There is something worse though, although so unusual that we rarely have to worry about it…
I was out early yesterday morning, in what seemed to be ideal conditions. From the coast I could see what looked like low cloud massing on the eastern horizon though. By the time I was driving towards Alnwick to collect Jonathan and Katherine, that low cloud had arrived on the coast, and proved to be an incredibly dense sea fret. A Common Newt, in a state of torpor, had presumably been part way across the footpath when the fret, and it’s bone-chilling temperatures, arrived. We moved the newt out of harm’s way and began our search for Otters. Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Mute Swans, Mallards and Tufted Duck were all splashing and alarming. There could have been a rampaging pack of Otters terrorising the waterfowl, but as visibility was less than 50m we couldn’t be sure what was causing all of the consternation A Little Egret shone briefly in the gloom before being enveloped by the next wave of cloud rolling in off the sea and, as we checked all of our regular sites visibility decreased, then improved briefly, then decreased again. A few miles inland it was glorious, but every coastal waterbody was under a thick cloud so, after lunch, we decided to cut the trip down to a mini-safari.
It was atmospheric…
Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Susan, Dan, Chris and Helen, the first thing that struck me was just how warm it was. Blue skies, bright sunshine, only a slight breeze – almost an early summer day
We began our search of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland with those habitual Otter impersonators, Cormorant and Goldeneye, grabbing our attention. Then Little Egret, Redshank and Mallard all moved away from where I think our regular Otters have their holt, although there was no sign of the elusive predator. A Stoat, all bounding energy, chased, but missed catching, a Rabbit and a pair of Marsh Harriers drifted over coastal reedbeds with a third bird nearby as Cormorants and Curlew lazed in the sunshine and Red-breasted Mergansers delivered their comical courtship display.
Finally, distantly, as the sun slipped towards the horizon a sleek, sinuous shape crossed the river before inspecting a bankside log and vanishing into a tangle of brambles
As I arrived at The Swan to collect Alan, Sarah and Sam it was looking like a glorious spring day. The plan for the day was to search all of our regular Otter sites around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Robin were all singing, Little Egret were stalking through the shallows (almost a permanent feature of our coastal trips now), Cormorant and Goldeneye caused momentary panic as they slipped beneath the water’s surface, Stonechats tail-flicked atop coastal bushes and Meadow Pipits were song-flighting. Towards the end of the day we came across a species that is always attention-grabbing, as a Kingfisher flew downstream towards us before crossing the river and perching in a low bush, sitting obligingly as we trained our ‘scopes on it.
As we travelled between sites, Sam’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge generated a keenly contested quiz. Not on wildlife though, this was a quiz on the solar system and astronomy! Now, I thought my knowledge of the universe was good, but thanks to an enthusiastic 7 year old, I finished the day with it expanded
After two unsuccessful searches for Otters in the last week, I decided to spend some time this morning out in the field on my own. Time to track down the elusive predator and get a handle on current activity patterns…
A cold north-easterly and persistent rain maybe aren’t the best of conditions to be sitting around on the edges of rivers and ponds, but putting in the hard hours on my own when the opportunity arises is how we manage to deliver great wildlife experiences for our clients. Wildlife watching may rely to a certain extent on a good deal of luck, but being in the right place at the right time means that the odds are stacked in our favour (as much as they can be when wildlife is involved!).
A lone Chiffchaff was optimistically delivering it’s song from the shelter of a small bush, Little Egret, Cormorant, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser were all making a dent in the local fish population, Grey Herons somehow managed to look even more miserable than usual, Sand Martins were probably wondering why they’d arrived back in Northumberland already and then the discomfort of sitting in the rain paid off. First a Kingfisher flew along the water’s edge; bright orange and electric blue shining through the gloom. As I watched it’s progress through the drizzle, three Goldeneye crossed my field of view, all apparently in a hurry to be somewhere else – and that ‘somewhere else’ proved to be anywhere that the two Otters weren’t
Unexpected safaris are always a pleasure, and yesterday was a mini-Safari around Druridge Bay that was only arranged on Tuesday.
I collected Alison, John, May and Isaac from Low Hauxley and we headed down the coast. In glorious weather, the cacophony of unbridled bird song was a noticeable contrast to the gloomy days of March. Chaffinch, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Robin were all singing and the onomatopoeia of our first Chiffchaff of the year was emanating from deep cover. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, all crazy hair do and striking pattern, were swimming back and forth with their heads below the surface in search of fish, a Little Egret stalked elegantly through the shallows, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank prodded and probed in the gooey mud, Goldeneye and Cormorant imitated the Otters we were looking for and Grey Herons stood, sentinel like, against the riverside bushes. Canada and Greylag Geese were noisily proclaiming their arrival, a young Whooper Swan lived up to it’s name and Great Crested Grebes and Pintail vied for the accolade of elegant beauty.
A male Marsh Harrier drifted by and a Mediterranean Gull, ghostly white against the speckled backdrop of Black-headed Gulls, performed for some of the group, before frustratingly hiding in the middle of the gull flock. Common Buzzards were soaring against the blue sky and hovering Kestrels were a feature throughout the morning and early afternoon, as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from coastal fence-posts.
It certainly feels like the spring…
I pulled into the car park at the mainland end of the Holy Island causeway, and Heather was already there for our Beginners Photography ‘Winter Wildfowl’ workshop. The first thing that struck me as I go out of the car was just how cold it was. With a bitingly cold cold wind racing across the exposed mudflats, it felt like the middle of the harshest winter. So, we started with a session in the car, checking camera settings and delving deep into the recesses of the camera menu. Then it was time to venture back out into the cold. Curlew, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone were eking out an existence in the wind-blasted landscape, a Little Egret still looked supremely elegant, with barely a feather ruffled out of place, and Heather’s attention was on a flock of Common Eider in the channel under the causeway. Our county bird is quite stunning, and makes a excellent photographic subject, so Heather was soon engrossed in capturing them whenever they turned their heads towards us and the slightly trickier task of catching one in the act of stretching and flapping it’s wings. Here’s one of my images of a drake Eider, from a warmer and less windy session a few years ago, showing just how beautiful they are.
Our Beginner’s Photography Workshops are ideal if you’re just getting used to your camera, or want to improve a particular skill or technique, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to reserve your place.
The Northumberland coast in the late autumn is a birdwatching destination that I’ll never tire of. Even in weather that could best be described as inclement, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.
I collected Mike and Janet from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north for a day birdwatching around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast. Starting with a walk around Holy Island village, a harsh chuckling call betrayed the presence of a Fieldfare in a small tree. Two others joined it, before they all departed noisily. Then more chuckling Fieldfare, and the high seee calls of Redwing, carried through the air from high overhead and we could make out, in the mist, a mixed flock of these thrushes arriving high from the north east and bypassing the island on their way across to the mainland. A Sparrowhawk raced by, hedge-hopping and swerving out of sight behind The Heugh, as thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew out onto the exposed mud of the wildfowl refuge area and Shag, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser dived just offshore. A couple of very obliging Rock Pipits showed the subtle, dusky beauty that can only be appreciated with close views and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover were reaping the rich bounty of the mud, as Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in the newly exposed mud of the harbour, and the high whistling calls of drake Teal carried across to us from the Rocket Field, a Little Auk flew along the main street through the village. Crossing back to the mainland, a Little Egret was stalking through the shallows along the roadside and Curlew and Oystercatcher were so close we could have almost reached out of the car and touched them. As the falling tide exposed sandbars, Grey Seals were moaning eerily and splashing about in shallow water. Suddenly, there were thousands of Wigeon and Golden Plover in the air. They settled but then flushed again so I started a methodical check of every rock that I could see on the mud. Then I found what I was looking for – a rock that was just too vertical…and the view through our ‘scope revealed the impressive muscular menace of a female Peregrine She shuffled around and took off, only to settle on another rock closer to us. Our attention was drawn to a charm of Goldfinches feeding nearby, and the Peregrine departed while we weren’t looking.
As the weather moved through in waves of varying grot, we watched a group of three Roe Deer grazing in a roadside field, and then headed a bit further down the coast. Dusk was approaching rapidly as we watched more waders feeding busily as the tide rose, Lapwings flew over like giant bats and thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls arrived to roost. Wave after wave of mist and drizzle, wave after wave of birds, wave after wave of waves
Thursday was Pete and Janet’s 6th trip with NEWT, and the dismal, gloomy, drizzly south easterly weather as I drove to Embleton seemed ever so slightly promising
We started around Druridge Bay, checking a small area of woodland close to the coast, and soon encountered one of my favourite passerines, with three Brambling feeding quietly high in the canopy and two more flying over noisily. Everywhere we went there were Robins and Blackbirds, although little sign of any other migrants other than a large flock of Redwing over Cresswell and a flock of Fieldfare near Beadnell. Leaping Salmon on the River Coquet provided a lot of entertainment and a Cormorant which had been catching small fish, dived, causing a large Salmon to leap clear of the water. The fish splashed back down and the Cormorant surfaced, gripping it behind the gills. As the bird drifted downstream with its catch, we couldn’t believe that it would be able to deal with such a large fish…then it manouvered it so that the fish’s head was pointing down it’s throat and swallowed it whole!
As dusk approached, we were on the coast near Holy Island. Little Egrets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Redshank were on the mudflats and the high yapping sound of Pink-footed Geese could be heard distantly. Skein after skein appeared against the dark clouds overhead, settling close to the oncoming tide. Then more, and more, and more…thousands and thousands of geese, still arriving when it was so dark that they were just a slightly darker speckling against an almost featureless backdrop. Finally, as we headed back to the car, the ‘teu-it’ call of a Spotted Redshank cut through the gloom as the geese continued to arrive.
Monday was a day around Druridge Bay and the southeast Northumberland coast, and an extraordinary contrast with Sunday’s summery weather…
I collected Trish and Carol from Dunstan and we headed south along the coast. Kingfisher is always a spectacular sight, and one flew under a bridge beneath our feet, adding a touch of sparkle to a day that was developing into cold, windy and gloomy. Ducks are, for the most part, out of eclipse plumage now and Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and Gadwall were all looking resplendent. Little Grebes were engaged in non-stop fish catching, Curlew flew noisily by and a Little Egret was stalking elegantly along the River Coquet. We were joined for the latter part of the day by Michael and Fiona and we settled into position to search for Otters. In such gloomy windy conditions even my eternal optimism was dampened slightly, and although there were occasional panicky moments among the ducks, which included a beautifully elegant Pintail, the enigmatic predator didn’t put in an appearance. What we did get though was a Starling murmuration so close we could hear the wingbeats, thousands and thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying to roost and flock after flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing appearing out of the gloom of the dusk sky and dropping into nearby fields. Dusk is still my favourite time of the day, and if you’ve never experienced it surrounded by wildlife you really should give it a go, even the common birds are transformed by numbers and there’s always the chance of a mammal or two