Tag: Noctule Bat
The first drops of rain speckled the windscreen of the car as I arrived at Church Point to collect Luke and Louise for their third day out with NEWT this week – an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters…
With the lovely weather of recent days replaced by an icy cold breeze and drizzle, it was looking like it would be a long, hard afternoon. Common Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher were probing tidal mudflats and noisily displaying when they took a break from feeding. A herd of Mute Swans included two birds that were engaged in a courtship display; like a serene slow-motion version of the Great Crested Grebe display they were mirroring each other’s head and body movements. As we watched territorial disputes between pairs of Great Crested Grebes the rain intensified and the birds, alongside Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye, were sitting on water that looked to be boiling with the impact of raindrops. Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Grey Heron and Little Egret were added to the day list and the rain started to ease…
As we were having our picnic on the clifftop overlooking Druridge Bay, accompanied by a raggedy male Stonechat, the weather took a change for the better. Broken cloud produced a dramatic sky, and it was looking good for a decent sunset. A tip-off from one of our local wildlife photographers pointed us in the direction of a pair of Little Owls, who very obligingly posed for Luke’s camera 🙂 One of the owls had gone off, presumably in search of food, and the other one was still sitting there when a dog walker with a Staffie came along. We were wondering how long the owl would wait before flying off…but it sat tight, and instead of fleeing it just stretched itself to as tall and thin as it could before slumping back to it’s usual shape once the dog and walker had passed by! In ever-improving light we watched a Black Tern at East Chevington as it fed amongst Common Terns, Sand Martins and Swallows. A thick bank of cloud to the west obscured the sunset but as a Brown Hare loped across a field, a Common Buzzard was perched in a small tree in a hedgerow, and mist started rising from the water the light was sublime. Scanning slowly along the water’s edge, there was the sign I was looking for; only a slight disturbance, but I hadn’t seen any ducks in that direction. The the Otter surfaced briefly before diving again 🙂 In flat calm conditions we could see the trail of bubbles as it travelled under the water, and then it vanished into the mist. What we could still see though were Mute Swans, Canada Geese and Mallards and they were all watching the Otter. The mist cleared and it reappeared, running along the bank before returning to the water for a few metres and then getting out again. Eventually it vanished into the gloom of the reed edges, only to reappear a few minutes later right in front of us as Grasshopper Warblers reeled and Noctule Bats hawked insects overhead.
Fade to black…
Yesterday’s Otter Safari had an interesting weather forecast; damp during the afternoon, but forecast to be completely clear by 7pm. Soon after I collected Rachel, Andrew, Gemma and Dave from Church Point, the first part of the forecast was borne out by reality, as we spent the first couple of hours in persistent rain…
Common Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher were all calling noisily and alarming, but the only thing we could see that was causing them any distress was themselves. Despite the rain, the warm conditions had triggered a substantial hatch of insects and Black-headed Gulls, Sand Martins and Swallows were all taking advantage of nature’s bounty. The clearing weather brought a ten minute spell of nice weather as we had our picnic while watching a Grey Seal and Common Eiders in the surf, and Fulmars soaring on stiff wings along the clifftops. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were standing motionless as Lapwings displayed overhead with their bizarre calls defying belief and a stunning drake Pintail flew around.
Following Friday’s unsuccessful Otter Safari we’d made a few changes to the plan for Sunday and, as the sun set away to the west in what was absolutely not a cloudless sky, Sand Martins were replaced in the pursuit of flying insects by Noctule and pipistrelle bats, a Long-eared Owl hunted along a woodland edge and…we watched an Otter hunting in the shadow of a reedbed for nearly 45 minutes 🙂
We’ve always said that the best thing for spotting wildife is other wildlife, although the sharp eyes of younger humans could probably give them a run for their money…
I collected Gill from Alnwick, for her third trip with NEWT, and we headed to Bamburgh to collect Debbie, Roger, Joe and Ben. Our plan for the afternoon and evening was to search Druridge Bay and the Northumberland coast for Otters and other wildlife. Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew quickly became the target for some digiscoping by Joe as five Little Egrets sat on the riverbank opposite and a brood of Goosander formed a menacing fleet crossing the river. Digibinning (yes, that is a real thing!) was then employed to capture images of a Great Crested Grebe and well-grown chick while the light was still reasonable, and we headed to our favourite dusk site. A Grey Heron stalked the shallows, catching lots of small fish and other unidentified prey, becoming another digibinning target, Mute Swans stalked serenely across the water, a Sedge Warbler flitted around in the reeds just in front of us and then Little Grebe, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall and Tufted Duck all fanned out from one reedbed giving the distinct impression that they’d rather be somewhere other than close to those reeds. Starlings flushed from their nighttime roost as a Grey Heron flew over and, as dusk began to take on a dark grey cloak, two young Tawny Owls flew out from a bush nearby, a Hedgehog trotted along in front of us and Noctule and pipistrelle bats could be seen and, with the aid of our bat detector, heard. The walk back to the car brought lots of wildlife and the benefit of Joe and Ben’s keen eyesight allowed us to avoid treading on slugs, snails, spiders and an incredible number of toadlets and froglets 🙂
Looking back through previous blog posts I was reminded that we’ve done a few days combining the best of the hills and the best of the coast, and I headed towards Old Bewick to collect Helen for an afternoon and evening exploring the Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay.
As a Common Buzzard soared over the steep valley sides, Curlews launched from the heather, calling in alarm. Dippers bobbed on mid stream rocks, a Nuthatch with young was busying itself along tree trunks and branches, Whinchats flicked nervously through the bracken, the air was split by the explosive trilling song of Lesser Redpoll and Spotted Flycatchers perched upright on fence posts before sallying forth after flies.
Down on the coast we enjoyed the sight of Avocets mating, two Spoonbills feeding with their heads sweeping from side to side and bills submerged, a female Marsh Harrier causing alarm as it flew over the edge of a pond and Swallows singing and bringing feathers to line their nests. Dusk brought a remarkable wildlife spectacle, with 30-40 bats hunting in front of us. The bat detector revealed an astonishing wall of sound as Common Pipistrelle and Noctule swooped, tumbled and hunted insects…right above an Otter that was stalking Tufted Ducks 🙂
The journey back to Old Bewick produced Barn Owl, and a Tawny Owl in the middle of the road sitting on a baby Rabbit! Then it was time for me to head back towards southeast Northumberland…and Northumberland’s country lanes produced a late night plethora of wildlife; Red Fox, Brown Hare, Roe Deer, Barn Owl, another Tawny Owl sitting on a baby Rabbit, and three Badger cubs trotting alongside the edge of the road 🙂
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to describe my favourite wildlife experience…and how many times I’ve said that I don’t think it’s possible to narrow it down to just one choice. There are a few though, that would make a great ‘top five’ (or ‘top ten”)…
I collected David and Sue from their holiday accommodation and we headed north along the Northumberland coast. The plan for the afternoon was to search some of our regular Otter sites, and have a good look at the other wildlife that was around. There’s really only one weather condition that I’m not keen on for wildlife-watching, and unfortunately we got it yesterday afternoon. A stiff wind is not ideal for finding wildlife; insects are likely to stay deep in vegetation and mammals and birds are more likely to find somewhere sheltered and have a nap than subject themselves to the ravages of the wind. One bird that seemed to be everywhere we went was Kestrel; we must have seen seven or eight of these small falcons hovering in the breeze during the afternoon.
As we watched Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Mute Swan a rarely seen denizen of our reedbeds put in a brief appearance. In just a few seconds the Water Rail ran out of one reedbed, quickly crossed a patch of open mud and vanished into the depths of another reedbed. Wader passage was still evident, with Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Lapwing, Curlew and Dunlin. One bizarrely comical moment was caused by a Starling flying into the middle of the wader flock to bathe. We can only guess at what the roosting waders thought it was, but it caused a ripple of alarm that could be traced through the flock as it flew in.
Then, drifting on the breeze, a high-pitched yapping marked the beginning of one of my favourite wildlife experiences. First a flock of Pink-footed Geese came in low and splashed down on the water. Soon after a flock of Greylag Geese arrived, then more Pink-feet, a large flock of Canada Geese and four very endearing, but obviously escaped, Bar-headed Geese. More geese followed, and then a flock of Pink-feet, heralded by those yapping calls, could be seen as tiny specks high against the clouds overhead. These birds were surely just arriving from far-flung parts, to join the wintering goose flocks around Druridge Bay. Suddenly birds took to the air; Dunlin first, then Lapwing, followed by ducks and then geese. Too much panic, surely, for an Otter? What the birds had seen, and we eventually spotted as it drifted high against the clouds above us, was a Marsh Harrier. Making it’s way steadily north west, it eventually drifted out of sight and the birds settled back down.
As dusk approached , the breeze finally relented and, with the backdrop of a stunning sunset, both Noctule and pipistrelle bats flew by. The cause of a sudden panic amongst the assembled ducks was caused remained unseen, and as the light faded to the point where it was time to head back, we could still hear the geese – over a mile away from where we were. The dark of the night brought one last wildlife experience though, as a Badger trotted along the road just in front of the car.
Our Seabird Spectacular package holiday managed to coincide with some increasingly heavy seas and strong northerly winds. Getting on a boat would have been somewhat inadvisable , but we still managed to get good views of all the target species for the holiday, including Roseate Tern, Little Tern and Puffin. Perhaps we should have renamed the holiday Mammal Magic as Noctule, Pipistrelle, Red Fox, Rabbit, Grey Seal, Weasel, Stoat, and Otter were all seen during the 2 days 🙂 With excellent accommodation and food at The Swan throughout the holiday, it was a great way to spend a weekend in late July. We’ll be running Seabird Spectacular again in 2012 (11th-14th June) so give us a call now on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.
Tuesday, and I’m sitting with Matt and Becky, waiting in anticipation as dusk approaches. An orange/yellow glow rimming the horizon and the pallid, diffuse nature of the clouds covering the rest of the sky enhancing the impression that a thousand fires were burning in the distance. Through the flames, dark ashes danced across our field of view; Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Coots skittering across the water. Against the smoke, more dark soot tossed on the strong northerly breeze, this time Noctule Bats and Pipistrelles.
Then a burst of excitement as a whirling dervish appears, chasing ducks and geese; the Otter porpoising with serious intent, hitting the water with a splash like the crackle of a burning log. Then the flames die and we’re left with the last few pops of the dying embers.
As the rain hammered down while I packed the car ready for Sunday’s Otter Safari I was filled with optimism; the weather forecast (really, I should stop believing these…) suggested that the afternoon and evening would be dry and bright.
When I arrived at Church Point Marc and Marika were already there, and we were joined by Becky and Jim soon after. The trip was a present for one of each couple, and we set off for an afternoon of birdwatching combined with searching for Otters. First stop was one of our Little Owl sites, and Becky’s sharp eyes picked out a juvenile bird that was doing a very passable impression of a stone. Our next stop, beside the River Coquet, produced Common Terns fishing, flyby Curlews (and a discussion of separation from Whimbrel), 4 Common Sandpipers and some impressive thunderstorms away to the north and west of us.
A heavy shower as we reached the NWT reserve at East Chevington kept us in the car for a few minutes, during which time we were entertained by a family party of Stonechats. As the rain eased we walked to the hide overlooking the north pool. Amongst the throng of Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns and Lapwings were 3 adult Knot, still in breeding plumage. Suddenly the entire roosting flock lifted, and the unmistakeable figure of a Spoonbill flew across our field of vision. It seemed intent on landing, but the constant harrassment from the terns meant that we were treated to several flypasts, including one where it was just 20m away from us. As if this wasn’t spectacular enough, 2 Little Egrets appeared, while the Spoonbill was still circling, and were subjected to the same treatment. Eventually a semblance of calm returned and we watched a juvenile Marsh Harrier as it pranced comically in the wet grass, presumably eating worms that had been brought to the surface by the rain, and a second juvenile harrier harrassed by crows. Another creature to benefit from the rain was a very young Hedgehog busily eating worms and, in a real ‘aahh’ moment, pausing briefly to sniff the air.
Our picnic stop, overlooking the southern end of Druridge Bay, produced rafts of Eiders and Common Scoters, the piping calls baby Guillemots rising from the waves below, Gannets and Sandwich Terns plunging into the sea, at least 3 Arctic Skuas and the majestic lumbering menace of a Pomarine Skua passing south just offshore.
Changeable, showery weather often produces good sunsets, and this was no exception; as a band of steel grey cloud drifted along the horizon, sunlight shone through a narrow gap, fading from gold to orange to red to pink. And there, in the reflection of the dramatic sky, was the main event – an Otter, twisting and turning, creating panic among the waterfowl, perched imperiously on a boulder and then vanishing into the deepening shadows of the water’s edge. Clouds of Noctule Bats and Common Pipistrelles swirled overhead, occasionally passing within a few feet of us, a female Tawny Owl called from the nearby trees, and the scene faded to darkness…
There have been times, during the 3 and bit years of NEWT, when it’s almost seemed like working 9 to 5 (although with the difference that you never really know how any given day will turn out). Gradually though we’re shifting to early starts or late finishes, and it’s really paying off for our clients.
I collected Mike and Sue from their accommodation at The Swan, ready for an Otter Safari around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland. Clients who were both teachers in the area of North Lincolnshire, where I spent my childhood, showed once again, just what a small world it is. After a few hours birdwatching around some of our most reliable otter sites, and dodging the rain showers, the evening developed into a stunning sunset. As a group of ducks scattered into an almost perfect semicircle I concentrated on the centre of that circle…and an Otter surfaced exactly where I was looking. After just a minute or so, it vanished into a reedbed….and we waited. Sure enough, a second example of synchronised scattering indicated where it had re-emerged from the reeds. Then we were treated to 20 minutes of madness as the otter raced across the water, porpoising and breaching! All of this was set against a backdrop of clouds of Swifts, hawking insects above the water, slowly morphing, as Swifts gradually departed and denizens of the night appeared, into a cloud of Noctule and Common Pipistrelle Bats. Almost perfect…
Had several very successful tours with clients. August 11th saw us venturing across to the Farne Islands on one of our Seal Safaris, excellent views of the Grey Seals were had by all, as well as brief views of two adult Puffins flying by and a Puffin chick that had only recently entered the water. The Cheviots were a little damp on August 18th but a break in the rain produced Peregrine, Merlin, Buzzard, no less than six Black Grouse and a Hare. August 19th saw us visiting the Grey Seals on the Farne Islands again before heading up the coast and across onto Holy Island to search for more seals and wading birds, then back down the coast as far as Amble. 20th involved an early start (for some…) and a walk along the Blyth. Heavy overnight rain had left the river as a raging torrent the colour of milky coffee and the highlight of the morning was a Red Squirrel making it’s way through the trees on the opposite bank of the river as Jays screamed at us from their hidden vantage points. Druridge Bay trip later the same day and we were treated to large roosts of Lapwing and Oystercatcher as well as a mystery mammal running across the roof of the hide we were sitting in at Hauxley. By the time we raced outside it had disappeared into the trees…
August 21st and we were back in Druridge Bay. Highlights were a Common Toad that was walking up the path ahead of us, Noctule Bat flying past (and picked up later on our bat detector) and, due to the incredibly clear sky, excellent views of Jupiter and it’s moons through the telescope – leading to an impromptu astronomy extension to our evening.