Tag: Little Egret

Eight year itch; Otter Safari 18/07/2015

by martin on Jul.20, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

It’s always a pleasure when clients who haven’t met before get on so well with each other.  Of course they always have a shared interest in wildlife, and other shared interests feature regularly (camping, walking and cycling in particular), and long quests in search of an elusive species soon become a talking point…

I arrived at Church Point for an afternoon/evening search for Otters, and quickly met up with John, then Lucy, Matt and Graham and finally Kate.  Conversation quickly turned to Otters, and the pressure was ramped up when Kate revealed that her attempts to see an Otter had stretched over several holidays…and eight years :-)   Conditions weren’t promising – a howling wind that was tossing Starlings and Lapwings around and a male Marsh Harrier was battling into the breeze, almost at a standstill.  Whitecaps on a pond is never a situation that fills me with joy on an Otter safari, and we continued checking all of the likely locations.  Mediterranean Gull, Avocet, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Grebe and Yellow Wagtail were all added to the bird list for the day, Kate spotted a Red Fox creeping into the reeds, but there was still no sign of the sinuous predator.  Early evening, the conditions changed :-)   The wind died off and the sea was suddenly very calm, so much so that we were able to enjoy watching Harbour Porpoises from our picnic spot.  Things were looking up…

We settled into position at the site where I’d planned to spend the last couple of hours of daylight, enjoying a chat with Cain, then the day suddenly got really interesting.  First a Barn Owl, white death on silent wings, ghosted by just a few metres away from us.  I concentrated on an area of water with very few birds on it – often a good indication that there’s something the birds are unhappy about.  Scan left to right – two Little Grebes sleeping, scan right to left – two Little Grebes sleeping, scan left to right – three Little Grebes sleeping?  The third Little Grebe didn’t look quite right…which wasn’t a surprise as it was an Otter with just it’s nose sticking up through the blanket of weed on the water’s surface :-)   A quick text to Cain and he joined us again, and the Otter entertained us for an hour.  Emotional at seeing her first Otter, Kate still grabbed her camera, pointed it down the eyepiece of our ‘scope and started filming it :-)   The magic continued, as a Long-eared Owl flew around the edge of the bushes in front of us before perching on a fence post, baleful orange eyes staring at us.  Then a second Otter swam across in front of us, while the first one was still hunting in the darkening gloom and the eeirie cries of Curlew coming to roost cut through the chill evening air.

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A chill wind; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 08/07/2015

by martin on Jul.17, 2015, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Church Point to collect Ray and Joan & Ian and Kate, and we headed up the coast for an evening around Druridge BayMediterranean Gulls, Little Gulls, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits and a huge flock of Lapwing flushed as a young male Marsh Harrier flew through, Goldfinch, Linnet and Tree Sparrow were busying themselves in the hedgerows and a male Ruff was tucked in amongst a flock of Redshank as a Little Egret stalked elegantly along the water’s edge.  As the evening headed towards dusk there was a noticeable increase in the strength of the breeze, carrying the noisy rustle of a Starling murmuration through the air from the reedbeds that were in near darkness, and an equally noticeable drop in temperature, as we headed back to the car and our drive back was slowed briefly as a Brown Hare loped along the road ahead of us.

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Porpoiseful birdwatching; Druridge Bay Safari 06/07/2015

by martin on Jul.08, 2015, under Druridge Bay

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 :-)

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Dodging the showers; Otter mini-Safari 27/05/2015

by martin on May.28, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

A weather forecast that ‘promises’ heavy rain for the entire duration of an evening with clients isn’t what we would hope for, but you can’t always trust the forecast…

As I arrived at Church Point, followed soon after by Lesley and Andrew, the rain was falling steadily and the sky looked ever so slightly ominous.  Gordon and Mandy arrived a few minutes later and we set 0ff on an evening exploration of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in search of Otters.  Our first site revealed a skittish Mallard, although we couldn’t see what was spooking it, Little Egret, Common Terns and very close views of a Mink.  The weather had improved by this point, although there were still some ominous dark clouds away to the west as we headed north along Druridge Bay.  A Barn Owl broke off from hunting and perched obligingly on a fence post for several minutes, before launching a persistent attack on a male Marsh Harrier that was quartering the reeds.  Tufted Ducks were looking very alert, as were a pair of Great Crested Grebes, although we couldn’t be certain whether this was because of the harrier or another threat that we couldn’t see.  A Mute Swan pair with nine fluffy cygnets seeemd unconcerned and, as dusk approached, we positioned ourselves overlooking a spot where I was reasonably confident we’d find an Otter.  With hardly a breath of wind, and an overcast sky, viewing conditions were near perfect; very still water and a pale surface against which anything moving, particularly anything dark, would stand out…

After a few minutes Mandy spotted something swimming along and diving, just visible above the tops of the reeds in front of us, and we were soon all watching an Otter :-)   After a few minutes of feeding it changed direction and headed quickly straight across the pool and out of sight into the reeds.  Then the dark clouds arrived overhead, accompanied by a strong breeze and heavy rain…

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Here comes the summer; Druridge Bay 15/05/2015

by martin on May.22, 2015, under Druridge Bay

The transition from winter, to spring, to summer often seems to come in little bursts, then suddenly it’s really the breeding season and the range of species we find on our trips is very different to just a few weeks earlier.

I collected Angela and Debs from Warkworth and we set off down the coast for a day exploring Druridge Bay in search of Otters and other wildlife.  Elegant Little Egrets and Avocets added a touch of glamour throughout the day as Grey Herons sat motionless, Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were singing, Reed Warblers were typically elusive, appearing briefly before vanishing into the base of reedbeds, Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts were hawking insects above the water and Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck were all full of the joys of spring :-)   A Merlin boldly buzzed a soaring Peregrine, before the arrival of a second Peregrine saw the little falcon beating a hasty retreat and a Cuckoo was mobbed by Meadow Pipits on a nearby fence post.

One thing that our clients always appreciate is the amount of birdsong, and calls, that we hear while we’re out and about.  There’s one call that I don’t think that could ever be described favourably, and that’s the discordant honking of Greylag Geese.  Some days though, it’s almost a constant aural backdrop :-)

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Spring arrivals; Druridge Bay Safari 30/04/2015

by martin on May.05, 2015, under Druridge Bay

It’s been a cold windy spring, and a few of our summer visitors seemed a bit tardy; we found our first Sand Martin and Chiffchaff later than we would have expected, but the day has been coming when things would start to happen…

I collected Jan and Peter from Church Point and we set out to spend the day exploring Druridge Bay.  It was, unsurprisingly, cold and very windy again but that didn’t impact on our day birdwatching.  Skylarks soared and sang, Marsh Harriers drifted over reedbeds and fields close to the coast and an impressive range of waders performed obligingly; Oystercatcher, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Avocet, Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit – the latter three species resplendent in breeding plumage – demonstrated why this is such a popular group of species with birdwatchers.  The godwit in particular stood out; clothed in chestnut and a vision of elegance to rival the Little Egret that was stalking along the water’s edge nearby.  Moorhen and Coot crept furtively along the edge of reedbeds, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit flicked their tails nervously at the tops of bushes in the dunes and an eye-catching fly-catching adult Little Gull was easily picked out from amongst Black-headed Gulls.  Seawatching over lunchtime is a regular feature of our Druridge Bay trips and Eider, Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Common Guillemot could all be seen offshore as Fulmars soared and arced along the clifftops a few metres way from us. Wheatears and a Whinchat flitted from tussock to tussock, strikingly beautiful as they always are at this time of the year, and then a sign that the summer is nearly here; hundreds of Sand Martins were flycatching above every pool on the coast as a group of six House Martins flew in, battling against the strengthening breeze with the imperative to head north driving them on.  Then, a Swift, and another, then six more.  Eight of these scythe-winged masters of the air flew by us, rocking from side-to-side into the wind as they headed to join the feast above the water.

I love those days when we concentrate on looking for a single species, but a day birdwatching with clients and just enjoying, and marvelling, at everything that comes along is pretty much as good as it gets for a birdwatching guide :-) As Jan and Peter headed across to Bellingham, and I took the shorter journey back to the office, I was wondering if perhaps the summer weather was on the way…

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“I really love otters”; Bespoke Otter Safari 10-11/04/2015

by martin on Apr.14, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Southeast Northumberland

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…

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Weather 1, Newt 1, NEWT 0; Otter Safari 06/04/2015

by martin on Apr.07, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

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 OttersCanada 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…

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Mustelid mania; 05/04/2015

by martin on Apr.07, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

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 :-)

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Life, the universe and everything; Otter Safari 04/04/2015

by martin on Apr.07, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

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 :-)

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