Tag: Osprey

Another raptor day :-) Kielder Safari 05/04/18

by on Apr.06, 2018, under Hen Harrier, Kielder

When we’ve got a day in and around Kielder and the Scottish Borders ahead of us what I’m hoping for is blue sky, not too much cloud and a nice breeze…exactly what we’d got as I collected Ian and Ian from Newbiggin, Joan and Jerry from Hexham and Duncan and Laura from Bellingham…

As Chaffinches belted out their song from the treetops, Coal Tits sang, a Green Woodpecker yaffled and a small flock of Common Crossbills plundered the cones of a Larch tree nearby a male Goshawk flew along the treeline opposite our watch point.  Common Buzzards began displaying as 2 more Goshawks put in a brief appearance and a Sparrowhawk provided a nice comparison with it’s much larger, and really rather different relative.  A very obliging Goldcrest was just a few metres away from us as Ian spotted an Osprey which spent a couple of minutes hovering over the water before deciding there wasn’t anything worth pursuing.

The afternoon managed to equal, if not surpass, the morning’s raptor watching.  Shaggy Wild Goats grazed close to the road, Skylark and Meadow Pipit flew across the narrow road ahead of us as we crossed the moors, more Common Buzzards, including 8 in the air at the same time along one ridge, Merlins angrily buzzing Common Buzzards and Ravens and then, just about the best raptor-watching experience there is…as Red Grouse cackled from the heather nearby a male Hen Harrier drifted along the skyline before rising and falling on deep deliberate wingbeats.  Then a female rose from the heather and mirrored his skydancing display.  The exuberant glorious synchronised dance of the grey male and ringtail was repeated every few minutes before they both raced angrily across the fell to see off a Common Buzzard that had drifted just too close for their liking, and we headed from the hills down through Kielder and back to civilisation 🙂

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Raptor Day; Kielder Safari 23/04/2015

by on Apr.29, 2015, under Kielder

There’s a lot of very impressive wildlife in and around Kielder, particularly if you extend your visit across the border into Scotland, and we always hope for bright clear weather with a bit of warmth and a breeze…

I collected Brian from Bellingham and we headed up the valley in just the sort of weather conditions that I was hoping for 🙂  Our day followed the typical pattern of one of our Kielder Safaris; some time in Kielder, some time over the border into the hills and moors of southwest Scotland, some more time back in Kielder.  With the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warbler dripping from what seemed like every tree, the swee-wee-wee-wee-wee of Common Sandpiper around the water’s edge and Siskin, Chaffinch and Goldcrest all singing enthusiastically, the aural backdrop to the day was a canvas on which the raptors danced.  Common Buzzards soared and mewed as Wild Goats trotted along a narrow valley with Hen Harriers, ringtail females and ghostly pale males, patrolling the fells above, Sparrowhawk soared just over a small plantation and then, the big three;  Osprey, the stunning ‘fish eagle’ hovering over the water before plunging, unsuccessfully, in search of fish, Goshawk, the ‘phantom of the forest’ rising from a nesting plantation that we’ve been watching for a few years now before soaring up on a thermal to take station high over his mate and their nest and, the most surprising find of the day, dwarfing the Common Buzzards it was sharing a thermal with, a Golden Eagle casting it’s majestic shadow over the hills.  One day it may be a common sight, but it still won’t lose the magic of a chance encounter 🙂

Comments Off on Raptor Day; Kielder Safari 23/04/2015 :, , , , , , , , , , , more...

Kettling; Kielder Safari 23/04/2014

by on Apr.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

The alarm went off at 06:00 on Wednesday, and my heart sank as I looked out of the window…heavy mist, not ideal for any of our tours, but particularly not good for a day in Kielder.  I drove to Kingston Park to collect Steph and we headed west in much more promising conditions; low cloud in some valleys, but some sunshine too.  We collected Paul and Trish from Wark, and then Ivan from Tower Knowe and headed into the forest.  It was a bit cool and misty for any raptors to be up and about, but two Common Crossbill flew by and the air around us was filled with the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers as Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Carrion Crows caused a brief quickening of the heart rate as they flew between plantations.

A walk to the Bakethin reserve produced lots of Siskin, and Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Teal, Oystercatcher, Cormorant and Common Sandpiper were around the water’s edge.  As we got back to the car park, which provided good views of Treecreepers, Paul spotted a raptor high overhead, and binoculars resolved it into the impressive shape of an Osprey.

Over the border into Scotland we were soon encountering Common Buzzards, lots of them, and a remarkable number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.  We reached our picnic spot and, as soup, sandwiches and carrot cake were consumed, raptors began to appear above the skyline.  First Common Buzzards, then a female Hen Harrier, followed soon after by a skydancing grey male 🙂  Then more Common Buzzards, and more Common Buzzards At one point we had between four and six birds behind us, while higher up the valley at least ten were kettling in one thermal along with a Peregrine 🙂  Absolute heaven for any birdwatcher who enjoys raptors…and who doesn’t?  Along the stream Reed Buntings were pretending to be Dippers, but we did eventually find the genuine article, which obligingly bobbed up and down on a rock before diving into the fast flowing water, and Wheatears were perched on old stone walls.  On the hillsides high above the valley bottom, Wild Goats were grazing as we enjoyed close views of Common Buzzards both perched and flying, and Red Grouse were found as we crossed the moors back towards England.

We finished the trip with an uncountable number of Chaffinches and a real Northumberland speciality as a Red Squirrel ran around on the ground before deciding to hang upside down on a peanut cage, and it was time to reverse the route and drop everyone off.

Comments Off on Kettling; Kielder Safari 23/04/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Black Grouse Bonanza Day 2; Cross-border birding

by on Apr.23, 2013, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

Saturday saw a much more relaxed start, at a much more civilised hour, for the second day of our Black Grouse Bonanza guided holiday.  After another filling breakfast at Peth Head we set out for a day around Kielder and the Borders.  With beautiful blue sky, fluffy white clouds and a nice breeze, it looked very much like a ‘Raptor Day’.

After a drive up the North Tyne valley, the first thing that struck us when we arrived at the dam end of Kielder Water was the number of Willow Warblers that were singing.  Swallows were zipping back and forth and there was a real springtime feel in the air.  As always, flocks of Chaffinches seemed to be everywhere, and we made our way to NEWT’s favourite raptor watchpoint.  In our quite exposed position we were at the mercy of what turned out to be a bitingly cold westerly wind so hats, gloves, fleece jackets and windproof layers were required.  There was an extraordinary difference between being in the sunshine and being under the layers of cloud that were scudding across from the west, and that had an effect on the birds too.  After a couple of hours of occasional sightings of Common Buzzard, and one Goshawk that shadowed a buzzard over a distant plantation, midday was approaching when it all kicked off; first one pair of Common Buzzards appeared opposite our watchpoint, then a second pair appeared alongside them, and a third pair over an adjacent plantation were probably responding to the flurry of activity.  Six buzzards in the air at the same time was only a start though, as the harsh croaking of a pair of Ravens drew our attention and these big, impressive ‘honorary raptors’ materialised from the background of the trees below our eyeline, breaking the skyline and soaring across the valley and disappearing over the trees to the northwest as another four Ravens rose into view away to the east.  The buzzard activity drew the attention of a male Goshawk, who circled with one bird before gliding away over a distant plantation.

Before crossing the border into Scotland we sat by a small stream and watched two Dippers as they bobbed up and down on mid-stream rocks and dived into the crystal clear, and presumably icy cold, water.  During our lunch break a Common Buzzard soared along a ridge just above our position, and as we crossed the moors a Raven was flying over a nest site, a Kestrel was hanging in the wind, Wild Goats were grazing contentedly, and a single Red Grouse raised its head above the shelter of the heather and into the breeze as we passed.

A stop at the Bakethin reserve on the way back down the North Tyne brought excellent views of an Osprey as it circled over the water, Common Sandpipers were displaying noisily, Oystercatchers had a noisy exchange during changeover at a nest, Teal were displaying, Goldeneye and Cormorant were diving, Chiffchaffs seemed to be in every tree and a Green Woodpecker was persistently yaffling.  Each time it called we all scanned the ground in the direction the calls were coming from, more in hope than expectation.  Eventually Derek managed to locate the  bird…perched at the top of a tree, yaffling away like a Blackbird would sing from an exposed perch!  The sky beyond the woodpecker held our 5th raptor for the day, a soaring Sparrowhawk, and we headed back to Peth Head.

The holiday was to produce a final bit of magic, as a night-time drive along a narrow country lane produced excellent views of two young Badgers, running across just a few metres ahead of us, a third Badger along the roadside and a Roe Deer running along the verge towards us before springing over a wall and away across the fields.

With such lovely clients, an excellent accommodation base and a whole series of stunning wildlife experiences during the holiday, I’m excited about next year’s Black Grouse Bonanza already 🙂  We’ll be announcing 2014 holiday dates shortly, but please get in touch if you would like to be kept informed of the details of what we have on offer next year.

Comments Off on Black Grouse Bonanza Day 2; Cross-border birding :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Black Grouse Bonanza Day 1; Nothing to grouse about

by on Apr.22, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland

As I drove to Peth Head Cottage on Thursday afternoon, the rain was hammering against the car windscreen.  Friday’s forecast was good though so, after a meal at The Travellers Rest in Slaley, I reminded Derek and Deirdre that we would have an early start the next morning.

19/04/2013 05:00…the incessant ringing of the alarm pierced the depths of my sleep and I jumped out of bed, showered and opened my bedroom window.  The dawn chorus, mainly Blackbirds, Robins and Song Thrushes, was deafening, and the last remnants of rain were pattering down as we set off across the moors to a Black Grouse lek.  Roe Deer were watching us from a roadside field and a Tawny Owl flew across in front of us, no doubt heading for a secluded daytime roosting site.  First lek site, no birds, second lek site two Greyhens and a distant altercation between two Blackcock along a drystone wall as Curlew, Snipe, Oystercatcher and Lapwing displayed nearby and a Common Buzzard lumbered its way across the horizon.  A third site produced the goods though as, adjacent to a field filled with summer-plumaged Golden Plover, two Blackcock were strutting their stuff for the benefit of three Greyhens…who watched them with what appeared to be complete indifference 🙂

After returning to Peth Head for a delicious, and very filling, breakfast (accompanied by Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Siskins, Robins, Dunnocks and a Reed Bunting on the feeders just outside the dining room window) we set out again.  By now, the sun was up, bathing the moors in sublime warm tones, and Derek spotted the tell-tale white flash of a displaying Blackcock.  This bird was strutting around next to two Greyhens, head down, tail up, pausing occasionally to stand bolt upright before jumping in the air and singing.  Just beyond the lekking lothario, a Short-eared Owl was quartering the moor.  Backwards and forwards on long narrow wings, the owl flew closer to our position, until eventually binoculars were put down when the field of view was completely filled with yellow-eyed menace as the owl flew over the bonnet of the car before veering away just inches from the windscreen.

Deeper into the North Pennines AONB, over moorland liberally sprinkled with pairs of Red Grouse, flocks of Golden Plover flying around and giving their plaintive call, with a Dunlin easily picked out in one flock by it’s small size, and farmland with Brown Hares chasing each other, Derek’s sharp eyes picked out a bird on telegraph wires…and we had our first Ring Ouzel of the trip.  Singing it’s simple song, this could well have been the bird that I watched with Sarah in late March. A pair of Ring Ouzels followed soon after, staying just ahead of the car as we traversed a narrow road high above Weardale.  Deirdre spotted several displaying Blackcock and we passed from Weardale into Upper Teesdale.  Walking the remote moors produced close views of Red Grouse, Golden Plover, Wheatear, Skylark and Meadow Pipit before a completely unexpected find; for a second I wasn’t sure what I was watching, as a large brown and white bird drifted over the moor with deep lazy wingbeats, but as I lifted my binoculars I could barely contain my excitement as I let Derek and Deirdre know that there was an Osprey flying by!  We watched the bird as it hovered and then dived into a nearby reservoir, but it’s departure route took it out of sight so we didn’t see if it was successful in its hunt.  A pair of Goosander were feeding along the reservoir edge and, as they eventually crossed the open water, they picked up a Tufted Duck for company.

I had a hunch that Black Grouse would be lekking late afternoon, so we returned to a site that had held just one resting Blackcock earlier in the day.  Sure enough, ‘the boys’ had gathered for a bit of a barney; 15 of them had turned up – seven obvious pairs of combatants and one bird sitting off to one side holding his wings, head and tail in the typical display posture but just standing still and watching the series of duels that were taking place in front of him.  A couple of them broke out into physical fights, and all of the birds were calling as the lek reached a crescendo before, as if someone had flicked a switch, they suddenly lowered their undertail coverts, lifted their heads, folded their wings back in and started nonchalantly pottering around the gladiatorial arena as if nothing had happened.  Just as exciting though, was what was going on above the lek.  In my field of view I could see a Curlew drop almost vertically before heading skyward again.  I raised my binoculars to follow it’s path and as it dropped again it was harassing, with the assistance of a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a male Goshawk! Open moorland may not be typical habitat for this fearsome inhabitant of our upland forests, but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen one out of context in late April.

Back across the moors to Hexhamshire we saw more Red Grouse, more Black Grouse and, after a quick stop back at Peth Head we headed out to eat at the Dipton Mill Inn.  We followed that with a drive into Slaley Forest for Woodcock and Tawny Owls then, before retiring to bed, I stood in the dark outside the cottage and listened as at least four Tawny Owls called from close by.  A superb end to an excellent day 🙂

Comments Off on Black Grouse Bonanza Day 1; Nothing to grouse about :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

North Pennines Wild Watch

by on May.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Pennines

We’ve had the first two bird ID sessions for the North Pennines WildWatch project already, and both have produced some excellent sightings during the ‘in the field’ bit of the course.

The first session, at Eggleston, produced one outstanding bird – at least for those in the group who weren’t impatiently hurrying back for their bread, cheese and soup…as a group of us watched a Song Thrush gathering food, I looked skywards (a good habit to get into, you never know what could be overhead) and there was an Osprey 🙂 Bird of the day/month/year for those who were lucky enough to see it.

One of my favourite species rounded off the first session, and the second session around Muggleswick as well, as we watched Woodcock roding and chasing each other.  The end of the first session produced another exciting bird that was missed by the group that headed straight back to the cars, as a few of us heard, and then saw, a Tawny Owl.

Both sessions concentrated on identifying birds by song and call, with paticipants getting to grips with Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Blackcap, Willow Warbler,  and Chiffchaff amongst others, and the third session, at Lambley, will have the same focus.  I changed approach between the first two sessions, and I’m busy restructuring the course for the third session based on the teaching/learning experiences gained during the first two.  I knew there was a reason we bought a parabolic microphone (there’s a reason for everything, we just don’t always realise it at the time…) 😉

Comments Off on North Pennines Wild Watch :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

A walk in the park

by on Apr.20, 2012, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

There are days when the weather is so good that my resolve to stay in the office and get on with admin work gets stretched beyond breaking point…

Monday is my usual office day, but the afternoon looked promising and I soon found myself driving inland towards the Northumberland National Park.  Knee surgery last December has given my legs a new lease of life, and the uphill bits (which I always find more interesting from a birdwatching perspective) of the Cheviot valleys are no longer tortuous.  I only live 10 minutes from the coast, so you may wonder why I would drive for an hour inland…but one moment of the afternoon summed up everything that is special about our remoter areas.

Sitting on a boulder-strewn hillside I can hear a Ring Ouzel on the precipitous crag opposite me.  Along the stream far beneath my perch, Grey Wagtails and Dippers are bobbing their way downstream, flitting from rock to rock.  The complex song of a Skylark carries on the breeze, and Red Grouse cackle in the heather.  There isn’t another human in sight, no sound of motor vehicles, nothing that breaks the natural soundscape of this vast amphitheatre.  Then, black dots appear against the azure sky; two, no four, no wait, six Common Buzzards soaring high overhead, then smaller dots, a pair of Kestrels and a pair of Peregrines. A Raven joins the swirling mass of raptors and, above them all, an Osprey drifting lazily north.  I lay back against the hillside, and watch…

Comments Off on A walk in the park :, , , , , , , , , more...

Exposure compensation

by on Jul.18, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

When we’re on a trip with a specific target, we usually find what we’re looking for.  Sometimes, we don’t though…and sometimes we find something that we hadn’t even considered as a possibility.

I collected Gary and Stephanie from Seahouses and we headed south towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  ‘Red Squirrel and raptors’ was the aim of this photography/birdwatching trip.  Our first raptor of the day was a Common Buzzard, although it was soaring too high in the morning heat to allow Gary any realistic chance of locking onto it with his camera.

For once, we didn’t have any luck with the squirrels.  I’d checked and replenished our feeding site a couple of hours earlier but, although there was evidence that food had been taken in the 2 hours prior to us arriving, the squirrels stayed high in the canopy and out of sight.

Heading inland, through some of our favourite Northumberland countryside, a distant speck over a plantation caught my eye.  The speck had that almost undefinable ‘something’ about it that set my pulse racing.  I knew what it was, and it was all I could do to not yell the name loudly enough to deafen my clients.  Lazily drifting like an oversized gull, carrying what seemed an impossibly large (and recently decapitated) fish, the Osprey eventually passed overhead 🙂

Dropping back to the coast, we stopped for lunch just south of Cresswell…and watched a Minke Whale lunge-feeding offshore.

Rare birds, scarce mammals.  All part of what makes Northumberland so very, very good 🙂

Comments Off on Exposure compensation :, , , more...

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 🙁  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.

Comments Off on A flying birdwatching trip to Holland :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Another exclusive…or two

by on Apr.18, 2010, under Cheviot Valleys, Kielder

Friday saw us in the Cheviot Valleys, enjoying probably the best weather so far this year, leading another Prestige Tour.  With a client fascinated by geology and botany it was an excellent day out, with the abiding memories being the chuckling of Red Grouse in the Harthope Valley and a yaffling Green Woodpecker at Alwinton, that culminated with a meal at the Angler’s Arms at Weldon Bridge.

Yesterday we had a Kielder Prestige Tour that that had been arranged as a 70th birthday present.  Collecting our clients from Belford we headed southwest.  After a fine drive in the beautiful weather, we reached Bellingham and left the public roads behind for an hour as we journeyed through the forest.  A pair of Red Grouse on a moorland edge provided excellent views, Roe Deer crossed the track in front of us and Common Buzzards flew close by across clearfell areas.  Back in civilisation we stopped for a comfort break and found our first Common Crossbills of the day.  Small groups were flying overhead, giving their distinctive calls, and a few were perched at the top of nearby trees dismantling cones with ease.  Huge numbers of Chaffinches were around the feeding station at Leaplish and, as the day progressed we had excellent views of Siskins, Goldeneye, and an incubating Oystercatcher, as well as one of the Osprey pair that have returned to Kielder this year.

The journey back retraced our route from the morning, with one exception.  The birthday boy suggested a short-cut to Chatton, and that proved to be very fortuitous.  Just before Chatton village, myself and Vic, who were in the front of the Landrover, noticed a large bird in a flooded field.  As we stopped…there was a White Stork!  It’s legs were hidden by the bankside vegetation, so we couldn’t see if it had the most obvious sign of captivity; colour rings on it’s legs.  As it stalked along the bank, flushing a pair of Oystercatchers, those legs were gradually revealed to be bare of any adornment.  Howard managed to take some photos, but the bird was very wary and quickly began to head away from us.  With White Storks, there’s always the taint of ‘escapee from captivity’ but this would be a good time for an overshooting bird returning from it’s wintering quarters in tropical Africa and, regardless of it’s origin, this was one stunning bird.  An unpredictably exciting end to the day out.

White Stork, Chatton, Northumberland 17/04/2010

White Stork, Chatton, Northumberland 17/04/2010

Comments Off on Another exclusive…or two :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!