Tag: Meadow Brown
Northumberland is a sparsely populated county where it’s relatively easy to get away from it all and enjoy watching wildlife without the hustle and bustle of large numbers of other people…
I met up with Lynsey, Francis, Gregory and Thea in the main car park on Holy Island ahead of an afternoon mini-Safari around the island. The car park was busy, really busy, and there were lots of people walking to and from the village and the castle. There’s so much more to Holy Island than that though, and we set off along the Straight Lonnen and away from the crowds 🙂 Gannets were passing by offshore, Oystercatchers were roosting just above the tide line and Grey Herons were stalking through rockpools as Goosander swam rapidly past them with their heads submerged in a search for fish. Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and Mallard were on The Lough and Curlew flew overhead. Viper’s Bugloss and Grass of Parnassus were still in flower as the sharp eyesight of Thea and Gregory brought hoverflies, bees, moths and Meadow Brown, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell flicked back and forth across the path in front of us. Meadow Pipits appeared out of the grass and vanished almost as quickly and a Pheasant broke into a trot ahead of us. As the rising tide began to flood over Fenham Flats, the eerie moans of Grey Seals carried on the breeze and a dense swirling cloud of distant waders soon resolved into the familiar shape, and sound, of Golden Plover. As we returned to the car park, there were only half a dozen cars still there and the island was incredibly quiet as the rising tide had brought the usual mass departure 🙂
Thursday was to be a day of two mini-safaris, and I arrived at Holy Island to collect David and Larraine for the first of those.
Lindisfarne offers remarkable birdwatching during the winter months, but in the height of summer it’s chief features of interest lie in the flowers and invertebrates resplendent in the Northumbrian sunshine. Marsh Helleborine, Common Spotted Orchid, Common Restharrow, Viper’s Bugloss and Cottongrass were all in bloom, and an accompanying cast of butterflies included Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Dark Green Fritillary, Ringlet and Common Blue. An unexpected find was a juvenile Wheatear, and the morning had passed by almost in an instant. Time to head home, for a few hours in the office before our second mini-safari.
After the heavy rain of Monday, it was good to drive to Newbiggin, to collect Bryan and Zoe & Simon, in warm sunshine and broken cloud. Our evening Otter mini-Safari would take in the best of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…
One thing that I always enjoy is the response to bird names from clients who’ve never come across a particular species before. Godwit is a name that always raises a chuckle, and both Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit, resplendent in their breeding finery, were among the noisy flocks of Redshank and Curlew. Turnstones were also looking particularly stunning, two juvenile Marsh Harriers were drifting over reedbeds, a particularly dark male Pheasant couldn’t make his mind up which way to run when we stopped to admire him and a Stoat poked it’s head out of the grass, then back in, then out again, before finally running across in front of us. Gadwall and Wigeon invoked more bemusement at bird names and we added Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Magpie Moth to the trip list. Small groups of Starlings were heading to roost and it was time for us to head to our final site of the evening.
As the sun dropped towards the horizon we settled to scan for any indication of Otter activity. A Sparrowhawk passed through, causing consternation in the Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins and a Common Snipe was illuminated by a patch of sunlight, raising it from the level of ‘brown bird with long bill that pokes it’s face in mud’ to something quite sublime. Then, a sudden panic among the ducks. Females with ducklings were fanning out rapidly from one edge of the pond and we intensified our scanning of the reedy margins. Nothing, but the birds weren’t settling. Then a pair of Mute Swans gave a call that we’ve come to associate with one thing, and it was only a matter of time…in the dark shadow of a reedbed, I saw a line of bright water appear. Everyone’s attention turned to that edge of the pool and then the Otter popped up at the surface 🙂 For 20 minutes it made it’s way steadily across the water, including a stunning few minutes in the reflection of the sunset, before finally vanishing into the darkening gloom.
As we headed back towards Newbiggin, the discussion turned back to bird names and led to one of my all time favourite things that any client has said “I am Gadwall, a wizard of the elven kingdom, and you are Turnstone, a Dwarf” 🙂
Friday morning dawned dry and bright; again not exactly as predicted by the weather forecast! After breakfast we headed south to Newton by the Sea, and the tern colony at the Long Nanny estuary. The walk through the dunes was enlivened by a myriad of Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Dark Green Fritillaries as well as 2 strikingly attractive moths; Cinnabar and Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet, and Harebell, Pyramidal Orchid and Bloody Cranesbill.
After the tern colony, with its ~1000 pairs of Arctic Terns and 40 pairs of Little Terns we headed north through Seahouses and towards Holy Island. As we passed Budle Bay, Geoff spotted a Little Egret, still a relatively scarce species up here, and we stopped for a while to search the mudflats. As well as wading birds, we found 3 Goosander. A further stop before Holy Island provided an ideal picnic spot and the theme of passage waders continued with Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, and Curlew. A walk around the iconic location of Holy Island produced Grey Seals, Red-breasted Merganser and breathtaking views from The Heugh. We were scanning the mudflats around the mouth of the South Low when a nearby Oystercatcher began calling in alarm. The cause of that alarm appeared just a few seconds later and we watched the Peregrine Falcon as it raced low across the mud before perching obligingly.
Against the backdrop of another iconic location, Bamburgh Castle, we scanned the Eider flock just offshore. A lone drake Common Scoter was proving difficult to pin down, but the arrival of a flock of 60 scoters allowed everyone to enjoy good views and appreciate the variation in the bill pattern of the drakes. Just before returning to Seahouses, we stopped to scan Monk’s House Pool; a Pintail was picked out by Roy, and 2 Common Sandpipers were walking along the edge of the pond. 8 Golden Plover flew by and a male Stonechat perched close by on a fence post.
An after-dinner excursion produced 2 Brown Hares, a Roe Deer and her fawn in the gloom, and the first rain of the trip…
Sunday’s Northumberland coast safari started very close to home, with Germaine and Greg having stayed at The Swan on Saturday evening. We started with our usual riverside walk, looking at an artificial holt and talking about the ecology of the Otter. Our first really good sighting of the day was a Red Squirrel, which chattered angrily at a photographer who was sitting beneath the tree that it was descending. Woodland birdwatching can be sometimes be very quiet, but with a large mixed flock of tits and Goldcrests, as well as Treecreepers and a very aggressive Nuthatch around the same glade there was plenty to see. Out on to the coast south of Druridge Bay and, in the warm sunshine, our favourite Little Owl was posing for the camera. The sunshine was also encouraging insect activity and we quickly added to the day list; Common Darter, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Shaded Broad-bar, Lesser Marsh Grasshopper, Common Blue Butterfly, Green-veined and Small White were all found along one small stretch of footpath. Grey Herons were stalking along the pond edges and one got into a gruesome wrestling match with a large Eel. All of the ducks scattered, clearly there was something in the reeds that they were unhappy about, but what it was didn’t reveal itself. Further north, we came across three Little Egrets (surely the next addition to Northumberland’s breeding birds – if they haven’t already…), a Common Lizard that was sunning itself and, thanks to Germaine’s sharp eyes, a pair of Roe Deer. A really good day, with a real mixed bag of wildlife and clients who made it all the more enjoyable. And to think…Sunday used to be homework-marking day 😉