Tag: Little Egret

Between the storms; Bespoke Otter Photography 31/01/2016

by martin on Feb.01, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Gill and Stuart from The Swan, ahead of a day in search of photographable Otters, and the most noticeable thing was the gentle breeze and lack of rain/sleet/hail/snow :-)   Always a good start…

After a morning of Treecreepers, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tits, mirror-calm water, two separate incidents where Mallards, Mute Swans and Black-headed Gulls all gave an indication that they’d spotted a predator and lots of entertaining discussion about the ethics of wildlife photography (and the brilliance of the Nikon D810) we had lunch overlooking the remarkably calm North Sea, with a flock of Eider offshore and Fulmars arcing along the cliff tops.  I’d seen two Otter cubs on Thursday, when I was getting in some recce work before the arrival of Storm Gertrude, so I’d already decided where we’d be spending the afternoon.  Goldeneye and Little Grebe were sitting quietly on the water, a lone Little Egret was stalking through the shallows and Cormorants, those briefly convincing Otter lookalikes, were busy eating their way through plenty of small fish.  Then, the change in behaviour I was looking for; Redshank scattered and Cormorants took off as if they’d rather be anywhere other than where they’d been feeding.  Looking like a rock moving slowly through the shallow water the adult Otter was hunting, head and tail submerged and it’s impressive muscular torso above the water line :-)   Then, much closer to us, an Otter cub diving persistently, crunching it’s prey each time it surfaced.  Closer and closer, until it obligingly got out of the water in front of us.  A second cub was slightly more distant, and we’d got three separate Otters in view as a Kingfisher treated us to repeated fly-bys on what seemed to be a regular feeding circuit.

As Black-headed and Herring Gulls passed overhead in the rapidly deepening gloom of dusk and a strengthening cold breeze brought persistent drizzle we headed back to the car after nearly three hours with the Otters. You just don’t notice the cold and wet when you’re enjoying yourself :-)

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Feeding time; Otter Safari 29/12/2015

by martin on Dec.30, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Yesterday saw returning clients, as Jayne and Andy joined us for an Otter Safari.  Their previous day with NEWT, back in September 2010, proved memorable as we found a White-winged Black Tern at Cresswell.

Under blue skies and sunshine, in stark contrast to recent days, we headed for Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Arriving at our first site, it was immediately apparent that Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Mute Swan were all avoiding one area of the pond.  As a noisy flock of Fieldfare moved through the trees above the reedbed on the opposite side of the water the birds began dispersing over the wider area of water and there was no further sign of possible Otter activity so we headed onwards.  Little Egret were darting at small fish in the shallows, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank were probing the mud as Goosander and Eider dived in search of prey.  I focused my attention on a gap between two small groups of Little Grebe…and there was the tell tale dark shape, twisting and diving :-)   A second Otter surfaced right alongside the first and as they came closer I could see that they were the two cubs that we’ve been watching for the last few weeks.  We watched them as they came closer and closer, feeding constantly for over 90 minutes, regularly surfacing and diving synchronously.

After lunch overlooking the North Sea, we headed to Cresswell where an impressive wader roost included Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew, Lapwing and the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese patterned the sky, Red-breasted Merganser were displaying and drake Goldeneye stood out from the gloom as the sky clouded over, a strengthening breeze began to exert a chilling grip and we headed back to Alnmouth.

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Captivating; Otter mini-Safari 16/12/2015

by martin on Dec.18, 2015, under Druridge Bay

Wednesday’s trip was an Otter mini-Safari, concentrating on Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, and I collected Gillian, Stevie, Evelyn and Davy from Church Point, in weather that was quite a contrast to Tuesday’s gloom…

We haven’t had an Otter Safari since late November, and we’d been on a long run of successful trips, so I’d got my fingers crossed that we’d find Otters at at least one of our regular sites.  Incredibly, we’d not even reached the water’s edge when we spotted the first Otter cub of the afternoon :-)   Within a few minutes we were watching an adult female and two cubs, and for nearly two hours they provided fantastic entertainment; feeding, playing, play-fighting, calling to each other, clambering into the holt for a rest.  After the female ate a small fish on a rock right in front of us, she caught a larger fish and swam towards the holt and both cubs came rushing out of the holt and met her before she’d reached the water’s edge as Little Egrets and Little Grebes continued plundering the supply of small fish.  We finished at dusk with an impressive roost of Lapwing, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Teal and Wigeon.  It would probably be a struggle to watch a 3hr wildlife documentary, but 3hrs of real wildlife just getting on with life in front of you seems to fly by :-)

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Gloom; Druridge Bay Safari 15/12/2015

by martin on Dec.18, 2015, under Druridge Bay

Tuesday was a trip around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for Stephen, who’s been out with NEWT a few times already.

As we headed north along the coast it seemed to be getting darker and by 11:00 the light levels were approaching those you would normally expect at dusk in mid-December.  Even in the gloom there was plenty to see though; Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and a gorgeous drake Pintail were all looking superb in breeding plumage, Common Snipe gave incredibly obliging views (although they probably thought they were well hidden in short reed stubble), Little Egret really shine in the gloom and the Long-billed Dowitcher at Cresswell occasionally lifted it’s head out of the water :-)   A very vocal Twite was a lifer for Stephen, a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare added another new species to his list and the high pitched yapping of thousands of Pink-footed Geese reached us before we spotted them dropping from high overhead.  On a day when twilight seemed to be with us throughout, the birdwatching was still high quality :-)

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Targets; Prestige Otter safari 26/11/2015

by martin on Nov.27, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Thursday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for a long time; Stephen and Helen had been out with us on a Kielder safari back in 2009, and our targets for the latest trip were Kingfisher and Otter.  A slight change of plan saw Stephen taking the trip with Ruth, rather than with her daughter, and we headed coastwards from Shilbottle.  With two very active Otter sites just a day earlier, I decided that we’d switch Wednesday afternoon’s site to the morning, as that would leave us with a very reliable back-up site if needed…

Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser were feeding incessantly, and a Cormorant was drying it’s wings in that fantastic heraldic pose.  I continued scanning and when Stephen said “Martin, on that triangular rock over there, there’s something Otter shaped…” I turned around to see that the Cormorant had gone…and had been replaced by three Otters :-)   These were the two cubs from Wednesday afternoon again, and their mum!  As Little Egrets disputed prime feeding spots, Curlew and Redshank kept a wary eye on the Otters but continued probing the gooey mud just a few metres away from them.  You almost couldn’t make it up, but our other target for the day turned up and perched on a stick just in front of us while we were watching the Otters!  With a flash of electric blue the Kingfisher was soon on it’s way again, as a Sparrowhawk cruised along the tree tops nearby.

The afternoon brought thousands of yapping Pink-footed Geese, as flocks of Starling and Lapwing took to the air, then as dusk approached, a Dipper raced along a river below our feet and a Barn Owl ghosted by; a quality end to a quality day :-)

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Five star Otter watching; Otter Safari 25/11/2015

by martin on Nov.27, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Eve from The Swan and we headed towards the coast for a day searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I’d seen two Otter cubs on Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon, while I was out searching for berries to make Sea Buckthorn vodka, so I’d already got the plan for the afternoon firmly sorted…

Having the morning to play with, we headed off in the direction of another recent Otter sighting.  Hardly any birds on the water, and ducks, geese and swans all along the bank, is a promising sign and, soon after a Common Buzzard glided past us on the cool breeze, I spotted the tell-tale dark shape rolling and diving.  The Otter soon resurfaced, alongside a second, and then a third :-)   We watched them for 45mins, before they did the very typical Otter trick of diving and then vanishing.  Ten minutes later and the birds were all back on the water, apparently unconcerned, so we knew it was time to move on.  As we’re approaching the winter, the ducks are in fantastic condition; Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck are all stunning birds once they’re out of eclipse plumage and a real wildfowl highlight was four Bean Geese flying northeast.

As the afternoon turned dull and dark, with a spectacular sky at sunset, Little Egrets were stalking through the shallows, a Kingfisher gave tantalisingly brief views and there were the two Otter cubs :-)   Playing and feeding around a semi-submerged tree close to the water’s edge we had another 45 mins of Otter action before they slipped out of sight and into the darkness of the late afternoon.

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Northerlies; Otter Safari 21/11/2015

by martin on Nov.23, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Approaching Scots Gap, to collect Teresa, Lisa, Scott and Brett for an Otter Safari around Druridge Bay, the overnight snow made the road ‘interesting’ in places.  The icy fingers of the northerly wind probed and poked at exposed skin and we headed down towards the coast…

Just a few miles along the road we came across a big flock of Fieldfare and Redwing, those beautiful Scandinavian thrushes, and ahead of us we could see snow falling on the coast.  Incredibly, apart from a light flurry of snow at Druridge Pools, it stayed away for the rest of the day.  Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Coot and Little Grebe were all braving the choppy water, as Redshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew all probed the gooey mud along the water’s edge as the biting wind dug deeper and we resembled the images of early antarctic expeditions.  Out of the wind, the low single figure temperatures didn’t feel so bad, and…was that something diving close to the reflection of the sun?  Choppy water and dazzling reflected sunlight aren’t a great combination, but a dark shape surfaced – and there was our first Otter for the day :-)   It dived and resurfaced, this time with another young Otter alongside it, and we watched them on and off for an hour before they disappeared in the direction of the setting sun.  A Kingfisher, iridescent blue in the gloom of a waterside bush, and Little Egrets, seemingly luminous against the dark mud, caught tiny fish as we headed back inland under a stunning starry sky.

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More wildlife in the mist; Otter Safari 04/11/2015

by martin on Nov.06, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Heading to Bamburgh to collect Michelle and Pam, I was feeling optimistic that the mist was going to lift and we’d have good weather…

As it turned out, the mist came and went throughout the day – but the wildlife was the usual high quality that the Northumberland coast delivers throughout the year.  A singing Dipper broke off from proclaiming his territory in order to dive into the river as another Dipper bobbed up and down on a nearby rock.  Otter site ‘B’ looked promising as we arrived – Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon were all clustered on one edge of the water so I scanned the large area of bird-free open water…and there was an Otter :-)   After entertaining us for 45 minutes it vanished into the reeds and we continued along the coast.  Whooper Swans called in the mist and Gannets were plunging into the sea as we made our way to Site ‘A’…where an Otter cub was sitting on a rock :-)   It was soon in the water feeding within 30m of us, as Little Egrets and a Kingfisher added a surreal luminance to the misty afternoon, then it seemed to realise it’s mum and sibling weren’t around and decided to go in search of them.  Initially that involved getting out of the water and persistently calling – while running straight towards us!  Soon it was back in the water and we followed it’s progress by the bright water of it’s wake as it disappeared into the mist and murk of the late afternoon.

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“Just the day I needed”; Lindisfarne birdwatching 03/11/2015

by martin on Nov.06, 2015, under Lindisfarne

Losing yourself in the landscape and the wildlife that inhabits it is sometimes just what you need…

I collected Sue from her holiday cottage in Swarland and we headed north towards Holy Island.  The weather had been a mixed bag as I drove across; mist, fog, clear blue skies, sunshine, more mist, more fog.  This was Sue’s third day out with NEWT, after a successful Otter Safari nearly a year ago (and an unsuccessful one in July last year).  Yet again the weather played a pivotal role in the day’s proceedings, with visibility down to less than 100m at times.  Holy Island was awash with Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Wrens – all quite approachable as they fed in the mist – and two Chiffchaffs led us a merry dance before finally settling for a few seconds and letting us identify them..  Our lunch stop brought a very obliging Merlin within reach of our binoculars, and then right in front of our eyes and over our heads chasing a Meadow Pipit, as the disembodied voices of Curlew, Wigeon, Shelduck and Pale-bellied Brent Geese cut through the mist.  A Short-eared Owl ghosted along the dunes and into the mist and, with visibility hampered to such an extent, I’d got a plan for the last few hours of the afternoon…and as seven Little Egrets dashed and darted in the shallows, we watched a young female Otter with two cubs as they fed just a few metres away from us.  I love watching wildlife, whatever the weather, but the best bit of the day for me was when I dropped Sue back at Swarland and she said “that was just the day I needed”.

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Swanning around; Otter mini-Safari 20/10/2015

by martin on Oct.21, 2015, under Druridge Bay

We’ve spent a lot of time watching Otters, and probably just as much time watching the behaviour of other wildlife whenever our favourite sinuous stealthy predator is on the prowl.  You could be forgiven for thinking that we’d know exactly how birds would behave…

I collected Rebecca and Russell from Church Point and we set off for a few hours exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland on an Otter mini-Safari.  The chilly afternoon air was bathed in beautiful light, as Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler dabbled and Little Grebe and Tufted Duck dived.  Lapwing skittishly took flight, Grey Heron and Little Egret stood motionless, Common Snipe squabbled and probed, a small murmuration of Starlings soon dropped into the warmth and security of the reeds and a Water Rail came out into the open to bathe.  As the light faded I was scanning the shadows at the base of a reedbed and passed by a family of Mute Swans.  There was sudden swirl of brown next to them, and my first thought was Little Grebe – after all the swans didn’t seem concerned, but there was a niggling doubt in my mind…and then the Otter resurfaced :-)   For nearly 30 minutes it fed, often in amongst the swans, and rarely more than a few metres away from them.  I’ve seen swans hissing and growling at Otters, I’ve seen them angrily charge towards a feeding Otter when they’d got small cygnets, but this was the first time I’d seen them almost completely ignore one that was so close that it was swimming, and feeding, between them!  The Otter vanished into the reeds, and we headed back to the car with pipistrelle bats hawking around the trees in the half-light of dusk.

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