Tag: Northumberland

A walk in the woods; Beginners Photography 12/10/2013

by on Oct.29, 2013, under Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

Our October photography workshop subject was Fungi.¬† The morning was damp and drizzly, but I’d packed several versatile waterproof camera covers – you can pick them up from your local supermarket, usually free with your shopping ūüôā Dave was on his third day with us this year, and kindly emailed some of his images from the day to post in our blog.¬† We’ve just added our 2014 dates and topics to our Beginners Photography page.¬† You could come along yourself or, if you’ve got a friend or relative who’s trying to get to grips with their camera, our Gift Vouchers make ideal Christmas presents ūüôā

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

fungi,macro photography,photography workshops, photography tuition,Northumberland

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Shining in the gloom

by on Mar.17, 2012, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

The most memorable wildlife on a tour with clients can come in many forms; it may be the common, the uncommon, the localised, or just the way that it fits in its habitat, and the landscape and weather blend it in to the experience.

I arrived at Hexham railway station to find Steve and Jill already there, and a few minutes later Catherine arrived on the train from Windermere (via a few changes!).¬† We headed northwest¬†along the North Tyne valley for a day birdwatching around Kielder and the borders and, just before Bellingham we left the road and headed along the forest tracks.¬† A fine drizzle was falling as we found our first Crossbills of the day.¬† By the time we returned to the C200 (and civilisation!) 2 hours later, we’d had lots of sightings of small groups and family parties.¬† Perching on the tops of small spruce trees, flying over and giving that distinctive ‘chip, chip’ call, Crossbills are always a delight to watch.¬† The stunning luminosity of the males carmine red rump is incredibly striking, particularly in the gloom and drizzle of the border forests when everything else seems to be monochrome.¬† Kestrels and Common Buzzards were soaring around, Curlews and Lapwings were sitting in fields between the sheep, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flushed from the track sides and Siskins almost rivalled the Crossbills with some stunning adult males demonstrating how a quite common bird can still take your breath away when you look closely at it.

By early afternoon the cloud level had dropped to somewhere below the altitude we were at and, as we crossed a remote moorland road with the icy cold wind whistling¬† eerily around us, driving waves of rain horizontally across the fells, Steve spotted a grouse at the roadside.¬† From our position I couldn’t see the bird, but Catherine, sitting in the back of the car, was able to photograph what I assumed would be a Red Grouse.¬† Then it flew…revealing the white wing-bars of an adult Blackcock!¬† That’s a species we’ve watched and photographed with clients in the North Pennines, but not one that we’ve ever recorded on a Kielder Safari.¬† Important lesson, that one; expect the unexpected ūüôā

One of our commonest species provided one of the highlights of the day;  hundreds of male Chaffinches were swarming around feeding stations and, at one point, we had 3 sitting on the roof of the car, 2 on the wing mirrors and 2 in the boot!  With Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Greenfinches, more Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatches the feeders were a blur of activity.

As we headed back down the valley at the end of the day, a flock of Redwings and Fieldfares flew from a nearby field and filled the air above us, a pair of Mandarins flew upriver, calling, and we left Kielder behind to return to the bustling metropolis of Hexham ūüôā

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Stranded

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

I love Holy Island, but it can be a bit crowded sometimes…

I collected Mike and Maggie from St Cuthbert’s House on Tuesday morning and we began birdwatching our way north.¬† In the shadow of Bamburgh Castle we watched Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Eider and Gannets in a bitingly cold northwesterly wind.¬† We crossed onto Holy Island just before the rising tide covered the causeway…and found that the car park was empty!¬† For the next 5 hours we practically had the island to ourselves, and enjoyed swirling flocks of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatchers, Shags, Gannets plunge-diving, Red-breasted¬†Mergansers,¬†¬†Grey Seals, Fieldfares, Redwings, Curlew, Teal, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Kestrels, Peregrine and then, as the tide began to recede, flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Pale-bellied Brent Geese took to the air, heading for the newly exposed mud and the feast it brings.

Deliberately stranding yourself on Holy Island always carries risks as a birdwatcher; what if something really good turns up on the mainland? As an experience with clients though, particularly when one of them is a very keen wildlife and landscape photographer, it really is something special.

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Findings

by on Mar.04, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography

On our photography tours I carry my camera with me, particularly when delivering photography tuition, but on our other trips I don’t; our clients deserve, and receive, my full attention.¬† When I’m out on my own I don’t always carry a camera either – sometimes it would just be inconvenient (scrambling up trees, crags and¬†dunes isn’t always compatible with having a heavy camera bag on your back).¬† Occasionally, though, there are times when a camera would come in quite handy.¬† These are nearly always stunning sunsets, and a quick shot with my Blackberry records the scene…and is then forgotten about ūüėȬ† I was downloading the images from the Outdoor Leisure Show yesterday when I realised that there were a few sunset shots sitting on the memory card;

First¬†at the end of¬†a stunning day birdwatching on the Northumberland coast in February ’10

Landscape photography, photography courses, photography tuition, Northumberland

And then a couple of images from May last year, after our clients had been safely returned to their b&b, showing how light (or the camera’s perception of it) changes so quickly; these two images were taken only a minute apart.

landscape photography, photography tuition, photography courses, Northumberland

landscape photography, photography tuition, photography courses

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Another big freeze

by on Nov.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Here we go again...

It’s hard to believe that we posted on the blog back in January about the big freeze last winter and here we are again in a similar position already before the end of November (although at least at the moment it isn’t so prolonged).

I went in to Newcastle last Wednesday for a seminar about the IMCORE project, and there was a bit of light snowfall.¬† When I came out of the Ridley Building an hour later the world was white, and it’s just gone on from that point.¬† After Sarah got home from work on Thursday evening the next time we used either of the cars was when we dug her car out of the snow this morning so she could go to work.¬† We’ve made the most of the last few days though; walking the 2 miles there (and 2 miles back) each day to visit a friend who’s now in a residential care home, doing most of the admin in 3 days that we would usually do through the winter (including adding all of our 2011 trips to the website) and finalising a couple of projects that we’ve been working on.

Birdwatching in our little part of southeast Northumberland has been interesting for the last few days.¬† We’ve got an ever-expanding flock of Coal, Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Wrens are now ever present around the feeding station and a very optimistic pair of Collared Doves were mating at the top of the Apple tree earlier this morning.¬† Two pairs of Bullfinches are regular visitors but other finches are in short supply; there’s just a single pair of Chaffinches, we’ve only had one visit from Goldfinches in the last few days and, particularly worrying, we haven’t seen any Greenfinches around the feeders at all.¬† A Sparrowhawk is still regularly patrolling over Choppington Woods and a flock of 50-60 Redwings flies out from the woods each morning.

Now, after a morning of blue skies, it’s just started snowing again.

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Kielder; birdwatching on the edge of Northumberland

by on Oct.16, 2010, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

Thursday evening was the AGM of the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club, and the speaker following the AGM proceedings was our good friend Martin Davison.  Ornithologist is an often overused (and misused) word, but Martin is a real ornithologist, gathering data through hours and hours in the field and involved in several research projects.  His talk was entertaining, informative and covered much of the work he has been involved in for 30 years in Kielder and the Border Forests.  There were some stunning images in his presentation, and the sort of facts and observations that can only be determined by carrying out a prodigious amount of fieldwork.

Kielder itself is an unusual, even other-worldly,¬†place; mile after mile of rolling hills, steep crags and¬†boggy pools, and lots, and lots, of trees.¬† Our Kielder Safaris have produced some memorable moments; a pair of Mandarins mating, a Common Buzzard catching and devouring a vole, Roe Deer wandering across the remote forest tracks just ahead of our Land Rover and the ‘phantoms of the forest’, Northern Goshawk, beating¬†their way along the edge of spruce plantations.¬† We’ll be back in Kielder from April, and our dates for 2011 will be on our calendar in the next couple of weeks, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to join one of our trips to this little visited area of Northumberland.

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A flying birdwatching trip to Holland

by on Oct.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

On Wednesday afternoon we set off from Royal Quays, out into the North Sea, onboard the MV King of Scandinavia as guests of DFDS.  The weather forecast was for it to be wet, although we did manage a couple of hours birdwatching from the observation lounge before the driving rain obliterated the view.  Gannets were diving into the increasingly heavy swell, a stunning  Pomarine Skua arced across the bow of the ship and a single Puffin was tagging along with six Little Auks.

Arriving in IJmuiden the next morning, it was still raining ūüôĀ¬† We were collected from the ferry terminal by Lin, a local guide who we had been introduced to by the ORCA wildlife officers from the ferry.¬† As we headed north Egyptian Geese were around the grass verges near the port, Cormorants¬† were perched atop most of the lampposts, Common Buzzards were on roadside fences and we saw one lingering Spoonbill.¬† Our destination was the reserve of Zwanenwater, where Lin is a volunteer.¬† As we walked through the reserve the high pitched ‘seep’ of¬†Redwings was a constant backdrop, Song Thrushes were flushing from every patch of cover, every bush seemed to hold several Robins and a Common Redstart flicked up from the path in front of us.¬† We were then taken on a tour of the off-limits areas of the reserve by Fred, another of the volunteers.

Stonechats were seen along the track and there was an impressive spread of Grass of Parnassus.

Stonechat, Birdwatching

Stonechat, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

Grass of Parnassus

Grass of Parnassus, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

Despite the rain we managed an impressive haul of raptors; Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Osprey were all seen well but, most impressive of all, the real highlight for both of us was the views we had of Northern Goshawk.¬† The birds quartering the dunes in search of rabbits and small birds came as a bit of a surprise, but not as much as the two birds that were perched on dead trees overhanging the lake.¬† Fred explained that they sit there and watch the ducks, before swooping down and taking them off the water.¬† We didn’t see that, but we did manage some distant images of one of the birds.

Northern Goshawk, birdwatching

Northern Goshawk, Zwanenwater, Noord-Holland 30/09/2010

All too soon we were on the ferry again and heading back to Northumberland, making plans to return to Holland in the spring.

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Birdwatching with Bird Watching

by on Sep.24, 2010, under Birdwatching

Following our adventure in the North Sea on Saturday, I had to gather my thoughts, and clean my binoculars and ‘scope, ¬†ready for a¬†full week of guided birdwatching.¬† I drove north on Sunday¬†to meet¬†up with Sheena Harvey, editor of Bird Watching Magazine, and her husband Alan.¬† With nearly three days to show them the¬†delights that Northumberland has to offer, in terms of birdwatching holidays, guided birdwatching and¬†birdwatching in general, I was really looking forward to the trip.¬† It started a bit later than expected due to vehicle and aquarium problems at their end ūüôĀ but we had a nice meal at the Lindisfarne Inn on Sunday night and discussed the plan for the next few days.

If there was one moment that I thought stood out it was early in the trip, on Monday morning.¬† As we approached Budle Bay I could see a few geese in the ‘goose fields’.¬† We stopped to check them and I commented that with the strong northwesterly winds there should be plenty of geese starting to arrive soon.¬† Then, as if on cue,¬†the skeins started dropping from the skies.¬† Mainly Pink-footed Geese, but with a good handful of Barnacle Geese along for good measure.¬† Well over 1000 birds settled into the field in front of us in just over 20¬†mins.¬† That was just the start of some very good birding and wildlife watching.¬† I’m not going to spoil Sheena’s article¬† by writing a detailed report¬†so, if you want to read about it, you’ll have to buy the¬†January issue (on sale 20th December) ūüôā

By mid-afternoon on Wednesday it was time for¬†Sheena and Alan¬†to head back to the deep south of Lincolnshire, after three really enjoyable days for us – and I’m sure for them as well ūüôā

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White is the new Black

by on Sep.17, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

We had back-to back birdwatching trips earlier this week, covering two of our favourite areas.

On Tuesday afternoon I collected Keith and Jen from home in Monkseaton and we headed northwards up the Northumberland coast.  Our destination was the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, one of the birding hot-spots of the entire country.  The strong winds were the only downside to the afternoon, but the birdwatching was good.  After checking out a large group of Grey Seals we covered the area around the harbour and the Rocket Field.  Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Redshank and lots of Ringed Plover were along the shoreline and a delightful charm of Goldfinches were around the Heugh.  A distant group of Lapwings, Starlings and Golden Plover took to the air and the cause of their alarm was glimpsed briefly, although too briefly and too distant to make a positive ID.  Holy Island birdwatching stalwart Ian Kerr put us on to a Little Stint and, as we headed back through the village, groups of Golden Plover passed overhead.  Re-tracing our route back down the coast and checking the Budle Bay on the rising tide, we were just discussing the indications of the presence of predators when a huge number of birds lifted from the mud.  As well as the gulls and waders, Jackdaws, Rooks and Woodpigeons joined the throng as they came out of adjacent fields and trees.  This time the culprit was seen and identified; a Peregrine, that most majestic of raptors and one of the highlights of any birdwatching day on the Northumberland coast in the autumn and winter.  A quick seawatch produced Sandwich Terns feeding, and Gannets soaring effortlessly on the breeze.

Wednesday was a full day out around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.¬† I collected Jayne and Andrew from Seahouses, and then Hilary and John from Alnmouth, before beginning our tour of some of the best birdwatching spots in our local area.¬† While we were watching Lapwings, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ruff, Herons and Cormorants on the River Wansbeck I could hear a rough¬†‘sreee’ call from high overhead.¬† The strong breeze meant that it wasn’t straightforward to locate the bird, but eventually I picked it out.¬† It was an unfamiliar call, but a familiar species; a juvenile Common Cuckoo.¬† The walk back along the river produced a nice flock of¬†Long-tailed Tits.¬† After lunch we stopped off at Cresswell Pond.¬† Hilary and John mentioned that they’d visited Cresswell once before – when they noticed a large group of birders and stopped, managing to see a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Northumberland birdwatching following the floods of September 2008

Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Ruff, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 12/09/2008

With luck like that, we joked about what this visit could produce...

When we arrived at the hide, Jaybee mentioned that he’d had a juvenile Sandwich Tern.¬† I scanned the pond but couldn’t see¬†the tern anywhere and we settled to enjoying the quite remarkable views of Common Snipe that were available.¬† After checking through the assembled ducks, gulls and waders I scanned across the pond again and spotted a tern dip-feeding near the causeway.¬† The bird’s behaviour, combined with it’s very dark back, white rump and silver-grey wings caused me to get rather excited.¬† White-winged Black Tern is a very special bird, and¬†a personal highlight¬†as it’s the third Chlidonias tern that I’ve found in Northumberland.¬† Whiskered Tern is very rare and¬†Black Tern is always a nice bird to see but White-winged Black Tern is such a beautiful species.¬† Jaybee kindly sent me some images to use ūüôā

White-winged Black Tern, a Northumberland birdwatching highlight 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

Highlight of a day birdwatching on the Northumberland coast 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

White-winged Black Tern, Northumberland, Birdwatching

White-winged Black Tern, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland 15/09/2010

As other birders began to arrive to¬†enjoy¬†the fruit of¬†our good fortune we continued up the coast.¬† Eiders and a Goosander, as well as some very obliging Grey Herons, were seen as we stopped by the River Coquet.¬† A superb couple of day’s birdwatching, a beautiful rarity and clients who were excellent company.

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Busy birdwatching

by on Sep.13, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Even though we live in southeast Northumberland, we’ll never tire of getting out and about searching for new experiences for our clients.¬† Days out with clients are always exciting as well, because we never know exactly what we’ll see or what it will be doing.

Last Thursday we had a Southeast Northumberland/Druridge Bay safari with clients from a fairly wide geographical area; Jeff and Jean from Huddersfield, Lawrie and Linda from Glasgow and Yvonne from southwest Northumberland.¬† Starting at Newbiggin we managed a brief view of a Mediterranean Gull on the beach, and a small flock of Sanderling.¬† These little grey, white and black ‘clockwork toys’ are always entertaining as they scurry back and forth along the water’s edge.¬† The River Wansbeck was our next destination.¬† As expected there was a good sized flock of Lapwing roosting and¬†Cormorants and Herons were doing what they do; standing with their wings out and just sort of standing respectively.¬† All of a sudden a wave of panic spread through the Lapwings.¬† We all scanned backwards, forwards, skywards but couldn’t see any cause.¬† Perhaps it was just a false alarm? ¬†The birds settled but were up again within a minute, gradually settling back down with a great deal of conversation between them all.¬† Greenshanks flew by calling and the Lapwings were becoming increasingly jittery.¬† Even birds from distant streams were high in the air, forming the quite tight flocks that indicate the presence of a predator, something that creates anticipation wherever we’re birdwatching.¬† Eventually we found a distant Peregrine, and a big female Sparrowhawk slid menacingly through the trees opposite our watchpoint.¬† One or both of them was presumably the cause for concern.¬† Even the Great Black-backed Gulls flushed and flew overhead, giving calls of consternation.

Among the coastal waders, perhaps the best were three Common Snipe, unusually confiding and just a few metres away from us.  The fall of passerine migrants earlier in the week had left a few goodies behind.  Spotted and Pied Flycatchers were quite elusive, sallying forth and then back into cover, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were picking their way through willows beside the path and, providing a visual feast to rival the gaudiest of birds from elsewhere in the world, six male Common Redstarts were along one short stretch of hedge.  There really is little to rival the beauty of these birds.

At the conclusion of our journey up the coast a bird as lacking in colour as the Redstart is bathed in it was a final¬†wonderful sighting.¬† As we watched two Grey Herons perched in trees overhanging the River Coquet, a Little Egret flew by before returning and perching high in the treetops in a spot where we could watch it through the ‘scope.¬† There¬†can’t be many better¬†places to be birdwatching than the¬†Northumberland coast in September ūüôā

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