Tag: Long-eared Owl

Triumph over adversity

by on Jun.13, 2012, under Northumberland, Otter

The changing weather on Thursday afternoon hadn’t filled me with confidence for Friday’s bespoke birdwatching and Otter Safari and, as the rain hammered against my office window on Friday morning, several ‘phone conversations with Vicky explored our options for the day.  Eventually we settled on starting early evening and going through until dark – perhaps that way the rain would have passed over?

As I arrived at Shieldhall to collect Vicky and Dave, it was still looking like an ‘interesting’ evening.  We made our way to our favourite Otter site and had our picnic in the car.  The rain stopped…and was replaced by heavy mist 🙂  Never mind, we’ve had some fantastic wildlife experiences with clients in misty conditions so we made our way to the pool and settled into position and waited.  All seemed calm, and it was only out of the corner of my eye that I thought I saw a distant, small black shape vanishing beneath the water’s surface.  As I turned my binoculars in that direction, a Mute Swan began hissing and the Otter resurfaced 🙂  As the insistent alarm calls of Blackbirds rattled in the distance (perhaps they’d found a Long-eared Owl to harrass?) the Otter made it’s way menacingly across the water before finally disappearing into the dark depths of the reedbed.  Even when the weather’s inclement life goes on for our wildlife and, so long as we can stay reasonably sheltered and it isn’t too dark to see, excellent wildlife experiences still happen 🙂

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Three days in early June

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

We started June with three trips in the first four days of the month, all focused around our ‘local patch’; Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

On Friday morning I collected Gary and Claire from their holiday base in Proctor Steads, and we headed down the coast.  Even though we’ve lived close to Druridge Bay for nearly 12 years, the wildlife of this post-industrial landscape is still as special as it always was.  Whether it’s Tree Sparrows feeding young, ghostly pale Roseate Terns on their nest boxes on Coquet Island, a Cuckoo flying low over a coastal reedbed, dense flocks of hirundines and Swifts hawking insects low over a lake, Reed and Sedge Warblers singing from adjacent reedbeds allowing easy comparison of their song, Fulmars soaring along a cliff edge within a few metres of us as we eat our lunch or Blue-tailed Damselflies drifting along footpaths and tracks before settling on the grasses and apparently vanishing, there’s always something going on, always something to watch and the day always seems to end too soon.

Saturday was an afternoon/evening Otter Safari and I collected Lesley and Kevin from Church Point before heading north.  After an afternoon spent birdwatching, with my own personal highlight being a very yellow Yellow Wagtail, and searching for Otters, we settled into position for an evening session at one of our favourite ponds.  As a pair of Roe Deer grazed poolside vegetation, looking resplendent in the sublime light from a sunset that looked like a fire burning on the horizon, and a Long-eared Owl drifted back and forth over the reedbeds, our quarry made his appearance.  Gliding menacingly through the water, the Otter managed to sneak up on 2 Mallards, who noticed him when he was just a few feet away and took flight.  Exploring the rest of the pool he was pursued by an ever-expanding flock of Black-headed Gulls before finally vanishing into the sanctuary of the reeds.

Our third excursion around Druridge Bay was a Prestige Tour for Pete and Rachel.  Sedge and Willow Warblers and Reed Buntings all sang from obligingly open locations, although Reed Warblers remained hidden deep in reedbeds, a Roe Deer put in an uncharacteristic daytime appearance and a Mute Swan had a remarkable hissy fit.  The cause of his slightly embarrasing temper tantrum couldn’t be seen, but as he kept charging at a reedbed it seemed likely that a predator he saw as a threat to his cygnets was lurking out of our sight, but not his.  Later in the day an even more impressive display of annoyance was demonstrated by two cock Pheasants as they spent a good 20 minutes posturing and fighting.  Our clients frequently comment about how relaxing a day out with us is…and those Pheasants could really have done with chilling out too 🙂

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Owling

by on Dec.08, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Family and friends, Northumberland

When Sarah arrived home from work at 19:30 yesterday, I suggested a spot of nocturnal motorised birdwatching.

We headed north past Ellington and up to Widdrington before turning towards the coast and down through Druridge.  With the thermometer hitting -7C, the ungritted roads were a bit of a challenge.  Following some recent big counts of Woodcock it was no great surprise that they flushed regularly from the roadside as we passed.  Our main target for the drive was Barn Owl, and we eventually found one perched on a post beside the Spine Road near Blyth.  Bird of the evening though was a stunning Long-eared Owl, on a fence post by the edge of the road.  As we passed slowly, on the skating rink of a road surface, it turned it’s head imperiously, following us with those piercing orange eyes.  Over the last 3 years we’ve shared views of all of Northumberland’s regularly occurring owls with our clients, but for sheer ‘other-worldliness’ you really can’t beat Long-eared Owl.

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Not bad for mid-Feb

by on Feb.17, 2010, under Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday I led our first Safari Day of this week, to Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Although I really enjoy trips where the main quarry is Red Squirrel/Badger/Otter/Fox/Roe Deer my lifelong love affair has been with birdwatching.  Northumberland is a top-quality destination for a winter birdwatching trip; just ask any of the writers/photographers who we’ve taken to the wilds of our home county during the cold(er) bits of the year.

Yesterday was one of those days where you couldn’t wish for better conditions; clear blue sky, warm sunshine (although with sub-zero air temperatures for much of the day), no rain and only a very gentle breeze.  I collected Phil and Barbara from their holiday cottage near Guyzance and we followed the coast all the way to Lindisfarne.  Small groups of Pale-bellied Brent Geese beside the causeway were a novelty for birdwatchers from the southeast, who are used to seeing Dark-bellied Brents during the winter, and they commented immediately about just how black-and-white the Svalbard birds look.  Scanning the fields on the island we located a flock of ~800 Pale-bellied Brents, with a few Dark-bellied mixed in, allowing a direct comparison of the two.  The field was also shared by 200+ Curlew and smaller numbers of Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover.  Panic among a group of Starlings was traced to a 1st-Winter Merlin that helpfully perched on a post at the back of the Rocket Field.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes and after 2 hours we headed back towards the mainland among the general exodus that occurs as the end of safe-crossing approaches.  Another Merlin beside the causeway allowed even closer views so we stopped for a few more minutes of appreciation of this small predator.

Our picnic spot, overlooking the mudflats between Holy Island and the mainland, provided excellent views of flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover in the air as well as lots of Shelduck, Eider, Pintail and more PB Brents.  We enjoyed all of these in the company of Tom Cadwallender, Natural and Cultural Heritage Officer for the Northumberland Coast AONB, who was supposed to be meeting a camera crew from Inside Out.  When we left Tom, they were already 20mins late…

Continuing down the coast, a very obliging Common Buzzard pranced around a field, presumably looking for worms.  The Skate Road held well over 1000 Common Scoter, 90+ Purple Sandpipers were huddled on the rocks as the incoming tide washed against their feet and a careful scan produced a few pairs of Long-tailed Ducks (Barbara’s 2nd lifer in a matter of minutes).  Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were, well diving mainly, and Slavonian Grebes were bobbing about just beyond the surf.

Our final destination for the day was Newton, and the decision to detour from the coast route down the dead-end road to Low Newton proved to be an inspired one.  As dusk approached the assembled ducks on the pool (Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard, Gadwall) all provided entertainment as they called to each other.  Then, just a few feet in front of us, a Long-eared Owl silently hunting.  We all held our breath as it approached and then it veered away as silently as it had arrived.  The walk back to the Landy was to provide probably the best bird of the day, and one of those Northumberland birdwatching moments that was quite simply sublime; against an increasingly starry sky and crescent moon, with an impressive amount of Earthshine, a Bittern flew low over our heads and out over the bay.

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