Tag: Little Egret
One of the things I love about leading tours for NEWT is that almost all of our clients enjoy watching all wildlife. No matter what the particular target species is during a tour, there’s always plenty to hold the attention while we search for that target.
I collected Jo from Church Point for what turned out to be a one-to-one birdwatching and otter safari afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland (our other participants had cancelled on Tuesday…). As is often the case wildlife watching was steady during the afternoon, with an interesting ID comparison between Black-headed Gull and Bonaparte’s Gull, but the evening, and falling light levels, brought the best of the day. A lone Avocet was voicing it’s displeasure at something – it isn’t always certain what, Avocets are just generally noisy and feisty – a distant whirring resolved into the drumming of a Common Snipe almost directly overhead, Curlew were calling over the marshes as a Brown Hare loped by and an obliging Barn Owl quartered grassland in front of us, periodically dropping into the vegetation but reappearing without prey until it was finally driven away by the attention of couple of Carrion Crows. Small flocks of, mainly juvenile, Starling began gathering until there were several thousand whirling around us, their wing beats like the arrival of a storm. My attention was on a group of Tufted Ducks though – alert, looking nervous and constantly lifting their heads to look around the water. I pointed them out to Jo and said I was confident that they’d seen an Otter close by. 20 minutes later and there it was 🙂 We watched it for an hour before it slipped from view. Then it reappeared and I gave directions “over to the right, next to that Mute Swan“…just as Jo spotted one away to our left, and a third one in front of us! Three Otters in an atmospheric cloud-heavy dusk and a second Barn Owl carrying prey low over the ground made for an exciting end to the day 🙂
“…when I actually see one”. A remarkable number of NEWT’s clients seem to have had holidays on Mull/Shetland/Orkney/Skye searching for Otters (often on guided tours) without seeing one, and that revelation at the start of a tour always ramps the pressure up a bit…
I arrived at Church Point in heavy mist and drizzle, and quickly met up with Sarah and Charlotte, Keith and Maggie, and Stephanie, and we set off for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. I juggled the sites we were visiting, to take account of the weather, but I knew where I thought we should be towards dusk. In the misty, drizzly gloom a Little Egret looked luminous. With warm, humid conditions the air was alive with the sussurating buzz of recently emerged insects. Black-headed and Little Gulls, and swarms of Swifts, were rampaging through the dense clouds of flies as a Pheasant sat motionless in the grass on the water’s edge. Gadwall, Goosander, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose and Greylag Goose were all lazing on the water and Common Terns harried a Moorhen that had ventured just that little bit too close to their nest. Grey Herons flew around calling and a dispute over a prime feeding spot broke out between two of these huge birds.
We arrived at what I’d planned as our final location for the evening and I suggested that one particular part of the pool would be worth keeping a close eye on. Was that a dark shape beneath the gulls? I lifted my binoculars and scanned, then decided my eyes must have been playing tricks on me. As I set the ‘scope up, there was an “erm…” from Charlotte, who was looking at the same spot…and there was an Otter 🙂 We watched it for over an hour as it made it’s way around the pool, feeding almost constantly and creating an interesting wildfowl exclusion zone! Here’s an Otter from last year, showing it’s fearsome dentition 🙂
Eventually it vanished into the impenetrable depths of a reedbed and we headed back towards Newbiggin, encountering a Little Owl perched on a telegraph pole at the roadside 🙂
As I arrived at Church Point to collect Tom and Sue, the weather was slightly breezy but dry. The forecast suggested that it might be showery later during the afternoon and promised a bit of a contrast with Tom and Sue’s home country of Australia. Tom’s a Northumbrian so I was really looking forward to showing him parts of the coast that he wasn’t familiar with, hopefully with the weather showcasing Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland at its best…
Cormorants air-dried their wings in the stiffening breeze and a Coot took umbrage at a Moorhen that was doing nothing more sinister than just wandering along the water’s edge, Woodpigeons, Jackdaws, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese speckled the dark grey sky. A typically nervous Great Spotted Woodpecker watched us warily from behind a tree trunk, Tree Sparrows were chipping in the hedgerows, a Magpie was going back and forth presumably from it’s nest, Robins flicked across paths just ahead of us, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher probed in the mud in conditions that were starting to resemble the winter and a Little Egret was a shockingly bright bundle of white feathers in an ever darkening vista of Northumberland’s coastal wildlife as Avocets, delicate visions in black and white, swept their heads from side to side through shallow water in seach of food.
Great Crested Grebes comported themselves with their usual elegance as more Cormorants stood hunched in the wind and then, as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler must have been wondering if they were in the right place at the right time of year, the heavens unleashed hail, sleet and snow from an apocalyptic sky and a Water Rail scurried mouse-like between reedbeds as two Otter cubs appeared just beyond the grebes 🙂 Their first appearance was fleeting, just a few seconds before they vanished from sight behind a reedbed. Then they were back, and porpoising side by side, back and forth, before once again heading into the shelter of the reeds.
As Fulmars soared along the clifftops and Gannets rode the uplift just above the waves offshore, we ended the day with the clouds overhead breaking to reveal blue sky and sunshine in a remarkable area of glorious weather that was surrounded in every direction by leaden grey clouds and storms. Atmospheric wildlife watching…
I collected Gwyn for a day searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and we headed towards the coast…
Our first site didn’t produce any Otter sightings, and there was nothing happening amongst the assembled Curlew, Redshank, Cormorant, Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Mallard to suggest that they were worried about any unseen predator lurking nearby. That took us up to lunchtime, and overlooking the North Sea we watched Swallows and Sand Martins battling into the wind. After lunch our next site was a hive of activity with Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Grey Heron. Then there was suddenly an obvious gap in amongst the waterfowl, which became a much bigger gap as Goldeneye scattered in an impressive radial pattern that had an Otter cub at its centre 🙂 We tracked its progress for a few minutes until we couldn’t see it any more – although the flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls circling above it still could 🙂
I was confident it would reappear so we sat and waited. Cormorant flew by and the arrival of a heavy rain shower brought a dense flock of Sand Martins and Swallows plundering the clouds of midges that had been present throughout the afternoon. Then the gulls were suddenly up in the air again, along with a couple of very vocal Sandwich Terns…directly above two Otter cubs 🙂 They fished alongside one another, and the highlight of the afternoon was when one came into shallow water and consumed an Eel that it seemed to be having a bit of a struggle with. With Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard (now both a regular feature of the Northumberland coast) during the day too, it was a procession of spectacular wildlife in ever-changing, and occasionally dramatic, light – ideal for Gwyn’s camera.
Otters, raptors and a client with a passion for wildlife and photography (and a fellow Nikon user too!) – a great start to April! We’ve got Otter Safaris regularly throughout the year so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place now. We can tailor our tours to suit anyone from families with young children all the way to experienced wildlife watchers and serious nature photographers 🙂
Arriving at Church Point to collect Eddie and Carol the first thing that struck me was just how nice the weather was. Good Friday and nice weather combined to make much of the coast incredibly busy, so we just headed to places that I knew would have less people and more wildlife…
Little Egret and Curlew were stalking along the water’s edge as a Red-breasted Merganser was looking outrageously resplendent on the water and Oystercatcher and Redshank were demonstrating the rising hormone levels associated with the time of year 🙂 Cormorant were drying their wings in the sunshine, Goldeneye are still hanging on in the winter haunts, although in diminishing numbers, Great Crested Grebe are back at breeding sites and there was a real early spring feel to everything as a female Marsh Harrier drifted back and forth over the reedbeds, briefly in the air close to a Common Buzzard, allowing an easy comparison between the two.
Lovely weather, lovely clients and an interesting chat about the ethics of wildlife watching and wildlife photography. Can’t think of a better way to start the Easter weekend 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂