Tag: Little Gull

A Storm of Puffins; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 30/07/18

by on Aug.05, 2018, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay

Wouldn’t that be a great title for the next book in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (Game of Thrones)?  I’ve met a few people over the last 10 years who expected Puffins to be much larger than they actually are, so the idea of unleashing a horde of them on your enemies could have some merit…

Alex, Jess and Tom had booked two days out with us – Saturday and Sunday – both of which had a forecast that couldn’t have been clearer that we wouldn’t be able to sail either around Coquet Island or to the Farnes so we’d hastily rescheduled to Monday and Tuesday, with ‘gentler’ sea conditions forecast.  I collected them from Embleton and we headed south down the coast to our local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, pausing at Cullernose Point to have a look at the Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Late July is a great time to watch waders on the Northumberland coast and Avocet, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all impressive, but outshone by a stunning summer-plumaged Grey Plover.  A Little Owl was perched quietly by a farm building and our next port of call brought a Little Gull and an Otter that was feeding next to some apparently unconcerned Mute Swans and some very concerned Tufted Ducks 🙂

Then it was time to head off for a sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises.  The stiff southeasterly and a bit of swell meant a very steady crossing was in order.  As we sailed along the Coquet a raft of 27 Goosanders were near the Warkworth side of the river and as we made the short sea crossing Puffins, Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns and Grey Seals began to appear.  Ghostly pale Roseate Terns were sitting on the nesting terraces that have been constructed for them and one or two were picked out as they flew by as a veritable storm of Puffins whirled around above the island.

Heading back home at the end of the afternoon I was looking forward to an evening at the Battlesteads Observatory and then Tuesday’s trip to Inner Farne.  I was starting to feel a bit peaky though, but that’s a whole other story…

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Feels like autumn ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 19/08/18

by on Jul.21, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Collecting Rosie and Ben for an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the weather looked ever so slightly murky…

Ben was armed with his D500 and 200-500mm lens (I’ve seen several copies of that lens in action now but still not pulled the trigger on purchasing one myself yet…) and we started with a search for a bird he was very keen to see on this trip north.  Patience and persistence paid off, as they so often do, and a juvenile Dipper was quite approachable as it paddled tentatively in very shallow water without taking the plunge into full ‘Dipper mode’.  An impressive flock of Dunlin, resplendent with black bellies, was a very obvious sign that migration is well underway and Curlew, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Knot were also in a couple of impressive flocks of waders before we came across a well grown juvenile Great Crested Grebe that was calling incessantly to its parent and only pausing briefly when the adult submerged in search of food.  Grey Herons stalked through the shallows as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows were joined in their aerial pursuit of insects by a Little Gull and two Barn Owls quartered the reedbeds and rank vegetation.  Another target species for the afternoon put in a cameo appearance as I noticed the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ in the shadow of a distant reedbed and we watched an Otter through the ‘scope 🙂

There was an ‘oddest moment of the trip’ award for a 2 year old female Grey Seal who hauled herself out of the sea and started following people up the beach towards the dunes!  A quick exchange of messages with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and we were able to reassure people who were gathering on the beach that the seal was fine and just needed a bit of space to rest before continuing her journey north.  Everyone backed off and watched her from a sensible distance and she rolled over and stretched out in the evening sunshine 🙂

With the sky clearing, and dusk approaching a Little Owl flew from a roadside telegraph pole and our 3rd Barn Owl was over a field below the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, with the two planets both looking impressive through the ‘scope as we headed back towards Newbiggin.

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Seabird Spectacular; Birdwatching magazine Reader Holiday 25-28/06/17

by on Jun.29, 2017, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands

Day 1 25/06/17

After collecting Malcolm, and then John, from Alnmouth railway station we headed to Seahouses and the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of a short break concentrating on the seabirds of the Northumberland coast.  Nigel, Janice and Cliff and Lesley had already arrived and at dinner we discussed the plan for the next two days.  I’d brought our Farne Islands day forward from Tuesday to Monday, and moved Coquet Island and Druridge Bay to Tuesday, and had my fingers crossed that it was the right decision…

Day 2 26/06/17

We boarded Glad Tidings IV after breakfast and headed across to Staple Island at the start of an all-day trip to the Farne Islands.  Staple doesn’t have any breeding terns, and has fewer visitors than Inner Farne, so is altogether a much more relaxed experience 🙂  Puffins, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Rock Pipits and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all coming and going as, just north of the island, Gannets were plunging into the sea.  Transferring across to Inner Farne for the afternoon, we made our way past Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and up to Lighthouse Point  where, alongside Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Kittiwakes, Rock Pipits were carrying food into nests tucked away out of sight in narrow crevices in the cliff face.  At the base of the cliffs the water was so clear that we could watch Guillemot, including a parent joined by a jumpling as we watched, and Razorbill as they swam with slow-motion effort under the water.  Back on the mainland we walked along the edge of the rising tide and watched Little Terns, Dunlin and Ringed Plover as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from the dunes and a maelstrom of Arctic Terns responded to marauding Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls and a real bonus bird came in the form of a 2cy Glaucous Gull.

Day 3 27/06/17

I woke up to the sound of a stiff breeze and rain, and breathed a sigh of relief that we’d moved our Farne Islands day to Monday.  We headed south along the coast towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and our first stop was to look for 3 Spoonbills which had been reported.  Just before we reached them, Nigel spotted a Cuckoo perched on a tree protector and we quickly found the Spoonbills.  Next stop was for a bird that’s straightforward to find in Northumberland during the winter, but a rare thing indeed in breeding plumage in late June.  The Slavonian Grebe was asleep, tucked up against the wind and rain but soon roused itself from slumber and started feeding.  Sedge and Reed Warblers were playing hide-and-seek with us in reedbeds, Tree Sparrows were feeding on the paths ahead of us and we spent some time watching an entertaining dispute between a Little Gull and a 1st summer Arctic Tern.  The tern seemed to have a case of angry little man syndrome and, as well as persistently harassing the gull, it took umbrage at the presence of Avocet, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow and ShelduckBlack-tailed Godwits were probing in the shallows, Curlew were in newly-mown fields and the air was filled with Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts.  Soon after lunch the weather deteriorated and as we could hear the sea crashing against the shore is was obvious that our planned sailing around Coquet Island wouldn’t be happening.  There’s always the telescope though, and although distant, we could identify Roseate Terns as Bar-tailed Godwits pottered along the shoreline below us.  As Great Crested Grebes somehow managed to look elegant even in the stiffening breeze and increasingly heavy rain we headed back to Seahouses.

Day 4 28/06/17

After breakfast together, everyone headed their separate ways.  I dropped Malcolm and John back at Alnmouth, and then I was on my way to a physio appointment – really not as much fun as watching Northumberland’s stunning wildlife 🙂

We’ll be adding more holiday dates to our online calendar in the next week, so make sure you book your place early before they’re all gone!

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Stoatally amazing ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 16/06/17

by on Jun.19, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Eileen, Malcolm and Ben from Newbiggin and we headed up the coast for a day around Druridge Bay

We started a bit further north, with Fulmars and Kittiwakes battling the breeze as Common Whitethroats sang from deep cover and Shelduck sat on the sea far below our clifftop position.  Common Swifts were heading southeast in numbers and we went the same way ourselves.  A flycatching Grey Wagtail was jumping up from mid-stream rocks as Chiffchaffs darted around the trees and a stiff breeze was developing.  Down into Druridge bay and Avocets, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes provided a touch of elegance alongside dainty Little GullsBlue-tailed Damselflies were remarkably obliging, tolerating Eileen and Malcolm’s cameras and not worrying about the close approach of smartphones either, but the real star of the afternoon was one of my favourite land mammals.  Bounding along a fence line before disappearing to the grass, the Stoat was soon back out and running towards us, mobbed by Lapwings as it carried a Short-tailed Field Vole.  A few minutes later and it was back out again, vanishing into a reedbed as the Lapwings continued to fret and panic. Nature, red in tooth and claw and just really impressive 🙂

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Sounds of Spring; Druridge Bay Bespoke Safari 21/05/16

by on May.24, 2016, under Druridge Bay

Ever improving weather tends to make days out with clients slightly more relaxed than those days where we’re contending with the elements – although I personally prefer the more challenging days 😉

I collected Julie and Mike from The Plough Inn, not much more than a stone’s throw from the sea, and we set out for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  The reedbeds were resonating with the song of Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were singing from the trees that had grown above the height of the hedgerows, Great Crested Grebes crossed the water with elegant grace and Mute Swan, Greylag Goose and Canada Goose kept a watchful eye on their fluffy babies.  A hatch of flying insects had attracted the attention of Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin and Swift as well as an impressive flock of Black-headed Gulls and at least six 1stSummer Little Gulls.  The eerie cries of Curlew carried on the southerly breeze and Lapwing displayed so close that we could hear their wingbeats as well as the nuances of their remarkable calls.  Just as remarkable, if not more so, was a Common Snipe ‘drumming’ impressively as it flew back and forth right in front of us while we were dazzled by a shockingly bright Yellow Wagtail.

With the sun appearing beneath the dark grey cloud layer as it neared the horizon, the landscape was suddenly bathed in extraordinary light.  Intense greens and yellows contrasted with the subtle hues of areas still in shadow as a Barn Owl ghosted by on silent wings, a Grey Wagtail was flycatching from midstream rocks, a Grey Heron stalked the shallows and Mallard and Goosander swam downstream, carried on the rushing bubbling flow where insects trapped in the surface layer fell prey to hungry fish lunging clear of the water and briefly inhabitating an alien world before splashing back down into the watery darkness.

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Welcome to the dance; Druridge Bay Safari 11/05/16

by on May.13, 2016, under Druridge Bay

The influence of the weather on our wildlife can never be underestimated.  Strong cold winds are often a signal for everything to go into hiding, seeking warmth and shelter in reedbeds, bushes, behind rocks…pretty much anywhere where they’ll be tricky to see.  Last Saturday was in that cold and windy category so I was pleased that Wednesday’s Druridge Bay trip looked as though it would be blessed with warm sunshine 🙂

I collected Karen and Richard from Newbiggin by the Sea and we set out for a day birdwatching around NEWT’s local patch.  With a slight change in the weather, the wildlife responded obligingly; the onomatopoeia of Chiffchaffs was near constant throughout the day, as was the rough throaty warble of Whitethroat.  A remarkably obliging Sedge Warbler sat in the reed tops in front of us, occasionally sallying forth in song-flight before returning to his stage, close to a male Reed Bunting who was singing his somewhat simpler song.  Avocets were an elegant study in black and white, Dunlin and Ruff are both attractive birds in breeding plumage, Little Gulls are incredibly tiny when seen alongside other birds, Skylarks were dust-bathing, Tree Sparrows were hopping around on the footpath just a few feet away from us and goslings were grazing close to the water’s edge.

A food pass between male and female Marsh Harriers happened in front of us, Great Crested Grebes were engaged in their elaborate courtship dance and two male Lapwings left a cloud of feathers as they came to blows over what was presumably a prime patch of mud and rushes.  With the warmth of the sunshine and an obvious hatch of insects, the air overhead was filled with Swifts and it finally felt like the summer was here as they started screaming 🙂

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The approaching storm; Druridge Bay Prestige Tour 04/01/2016

by on Jan.05, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

04/01/2008, and NEWT’s first ever day out with clients was a strange, cold, gloomy day where we managed to find our target species for the day, Roe Deer.  Eight years on and I found myself out with clients on January 4th again…

As I arrived at Church Point to collect Roberta and Dougie, the first thing that struck me was the height of the waves crashing into Newbiggin Bay.  Then the icy cold wind started probing, although it couldn’t breach the layers of clothing I’d aligned against it.  Whichever direction you looked, the weather looked different; a patch of blue sky, sunlight trying to break through the clouds, distant rain…all possibilities seemed open as we headed down the coast.  Greylag Geese, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and a lone Lapwing braved the cold as the first rain shower of the day made the water’s surface dance.  Next came what all agreed was the highlight of the day as Goldeneye and Little Grebe drifted apart and the space between them was occupied by an Otter 🙂  With a 75% success rate on our Otter Safaris during 2015 it wasn’t suprising that 2016 started with such an obliging mustelid which came closer and closer before drifting away and feeding incessantly.

Lunch overlooking the North Sea brought Fulmars arcing effortlessly along the cliff tops, a very obliging Little Gull looked tiny alongside Black-headed Gulls and the wader and wildfowl list for the day continued to grow with Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup, Pochard, Pink-footed Goose, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Curlew, Golden Plover and Long-billed Dowitcher.  A very vocal Fieldfare gave remarkably confiding views, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow jostled for position on feeders and, as the wind strengthened, waves crashed on the shore with a roar reminiscent of heavy traffic and the rain showers intensified, we headed back to Church Point.

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

by 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 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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Battling the breeze; Otter Safari 02/06/2015

by on Jun.04, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Tuesday saw Pete and Jan taking their 7th trip with NEWT, and as I got out of the car in Embleton to collect them it was ever so slightly breezy…

When every bit of water you look at is whipped up into a froth by the wind, with dainty Little Gulls hanging in the wind and delicately dip-feeding, searching for Otters becomes particularly challenging and, despite Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes staring intently at reedbeds, that we’ve seen Otters appear from in recent weeks, there was no sign of our target species for the afternoon.  A really stiff breeze will frequently lead to reduced sightings of all wildlife, but the afternoon produced some impressive sightings…as we watched at least 10 adult Avocets, and four chicks, at Cresswell, alongside a summer-plumaged Sanderling, two huge birds appeared low over the dunes, battling into the wind.  I gave my head a shake and looked through my binoculars again…and there were two Common Cranes 🙂  They slowly crossed the pond, lifted as a flock of Canada Geese took off beneath them, and were blown back towards the sea!  Undeterred they continued their progress westwards, landed for a few minutes and then continued.  I’d alerted a few local birdwatchers to their presence, including Ipin as they were heading towards his house…and he soon had them as an impressive garden tick 🙂

I couldn’t imagine how the evening could get better…and then as dusk approached, I was scanning through binoculars and noticed a small bird that I couldn’t immediately identify.  A quick switch to viewing through the ‘scope, and there was one of my favourite birds twirling on the water’s surface and darting at flies.  Common Cranes may be huge and impressive, but Red-necked Phalarope is simply a breathtaking avian jewel 🙂

As we headed back to the car, the breeze had decreased in strength, but had also turned from quite warm to bone-chilling.  A Barn Owl flew silently from a fence post, and the journey back to Embleton produced another one sitting on a post just a few metres away from us.

And with that wind, I’d been worried we wouldn’t see anything…

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