Tag: Northern Marsh Orchid

About tern :-) Farne Islands Safari 20/06/19

by on Jun.21, 2019, under Farne Islands

Yesterday was an opportunity to head to ‘the Galapagos of the North‘ and I collected Ruth D from Newbiggin then Ruth S and Margaret from Seahouses before heading a few miles down the coast for a morning walk to the Long Nanny…

With brilliantly coloured Common Blue butterflies, some very worn Painted Ladies and a Cinnabar moth in the middle of the track, the dunes were a stunning carpet of Bloody Cranesbill, studded with Pyramidal and Northern Marsh Orchids. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and with the breeze carrying sound out to sea, we were almost at the tern colony before we heard them. Little Terns were sitting quietly on the sand and Arctic Terns were feeding chicks just a few metres away from us. As each adult tern arrived with food, every chick it passed over raised a wide-open beak in hope of being fed 😉

After a picnic lunch on the beach (“winning at life” in the words of Ruth S), it was time to head to Seahouses and board Glad Tidings III for the sailing to Inner Farne. I first did that trip with Sarah while were students at Newcastle Uni in the late 90’s, and there’s still the same sense of wonder as you leave the harbour with it’s creches of Eider and head the short distance to the islands…

First there’s an occasional Guillemot or Puffin sitting on the sea or flying past. Within a few minutes there are rafts of auks on the water and the air is filled with lines of Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot returning from foraging trips, or heading out to sea, as Kittiwakes shriek their name from precipitous cliff ledges, Gannets soar by effortlessly, Grey Seals laze on the rocks and the smell, the indescribable smell of a colony of seabirds that have an almost entirely fish-based diet, hits you for the first time 😉

Once your visual, auditory and olfactory senses have all been given a good hammering it’s time for the final assault. Sandwich and Common Terns are relatively peaceful, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags are apparently indifferent to humans standing just a few feet way from their nest sites, Black-headed Gulls reserve their menace for kletoparasitism of the island’s Puffins who have become rather adept at flying straight into burrow entrances and the Puffins themselves wander across the boardwalk in front of you or poke their heads out of burrows and have a look at you as you walk past.

Arctic Terns though, they’re a different kettle of fish-eating aggression altogether. Occasionally you’ll get a loud chattering warning, some of them will jab at your hands from fence-post perches if you’re getting too close to the edge of the boardwalk or if you have the temerity to lift a camera to take a photograph of them and some will just decide to perch on your head, giving themselves a ‘king of the castle’ view of their nest. Then there are the ones that relentlessly swoop and peck at your head/hat/ears/sunglasses. Wear a hat and keep moving 🙂

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Little Gems

by on Jul.10, 2012, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

No, not a blog in praise of lettuce…

At this time of the year, I tend to be out with clients on several consecutive days.  Client-free days give me a chance to catch up with paperwork, ‘phone calls, admin tasks etc. but that isn’t what I most enjoy about work 🙂  So, at 6pm the evening before an office day last week, I was really happy to get a  ‘phone call from one of the accommodation providers who we work closely with “We’ve got some guests staying.  They’ve just had two full days on the Farne Islands but they’d like another wildlife activity for tomorrow.  Can you do anything for them?”

So, that’s how I found myself with an unexpected birdwatching mini-safari.  I collected Henk and Marianne from Seahouses…and the rain started (bit of a theme throughout Britain so far this summer).  Decision time; head towards Holy Island, or head south from Seahouses and focus our efforts on the mid Northumberland coast?  I quickly weighed up the two options and we headed south…and out of the rain 🙂 The morning seemed to fly by and, just short of four hours later, I was returning them after a morning that produced Short-eared Owl quartering a rough field, Bar-tailed Godwit heading south high overhead, Little Terns back at their mainland colony, two stunning adult Little Gulls roosting among the Arctic Terns on the beach, an abundance of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, and more Pyramidal Orchids than I’ve ever seen before (as well as Bee and Northern Marsh Orchids).

That still left me an afternoon for office work though 😉

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Some Hobby

by on Jul.02, 2012, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Wednesday was a trip that I’d been looking forward to for some time.  Syd is a regular client, and always very entertaining, and this time around his son Gavin was booked with him as well, for a Farne Islands safari.

With plenty of comments on Twitter in the weeks leading up to the trip, we were all praying for good sea conditions for the day.  The forecast suggested that the afternoon could be a bit wet so I thought about visiting Staple Island instead of Inner Farne, before satisfying myself that it would stay dry for us in the afternoon and sticking with my original plan of walking along the dunes at Newton in the morning, and catching the 1pm boat to Inner Farne.  The morning walk produced lots of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits as well as Common Blue Butterflies and Northern Marsh, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids. The tern colony was a hive of activity, with the Arctic Terns bringing food to their chicks and some  Little Terns engaging in some late season breeding activity.  While we were there, the terns kept lifting from the dunes in a ‘dread’ but the source of their concern wasn’t immediately obvious.  Myself and the wardens commented that it was what we would expect if a Peregrine was passing over, but scanning the sky overhead didn’t produce the menacing shape of that particular predator.  Eventually we did spot a raptor, although not an expected one, as a Marsh Harrier flew south along the fields inland from the terns.  After having our lunch stop in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we took the short drive to Seahouses.  Approaching Monk’s House Pool, Syd and Gavin had the bird of the day as a Hobby flew north over the roadside fields.

We boarded Glad Tidings IV for the journey across to the islands and sat next to local birder TC, who had watched all of the hirundines in Seahouses start alarming…just a few minutes before the Hobby was between Seahouses and Bamburgh.  After the sailing around the islands, with their Grey Seals, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Shags and Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns, we landed on Inner Farne and Gavin concentrated on photographing Puffins.  We were ‘treated’ (if that’s the right word…) to an example of just how cruel nature can be as a Kittiwake chick wandered away from it’s nest and towards the edge of the ledge.  It turned back from the edge, made it’s way unsteadily back to the nest, and was promptly tossed over the edge of the cliff by the adult!  As it landed on the next ledge down, it was attacked and killed by 2 juvenile Shags in front of a group of horrified onlookers.

After nearly 2 hours on Inner Farne, we boarded Glad Tidings for the journey back to the mainland…and the first few drops of rain fell as we reached the top of the steps on the harbour 🙂

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Anniversary flowers

by on Jul.27, 2010, under Birdwatching, Family and friends, Northumberland

I was giving a talk last night and realised just how important the final week of July has been over the last few years; 7 years ago we were married, 6 years ago I’d just returned from leading a week of birdwatching and whalewatching on Mull, 3 years ago I was in my final week as a teacher and 2 years ago we had our first bespoke tour for clients wanting to experience the wildlife and birdwatching that Northumberland has to offer.

We spent our wedding anniversary on Holy Island, and here are some of the orchids we found;

Common Spotted Orchid, Holy Island, Northumberland 26/07/2010

 

Northern Marsh Orchid, Holy Island, Northumberland 26/07/2010

Marsh Helleborine, Holy Island, Northumberland 26/07/2010

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