Tag: Pomarine Skua

Seawatching; Druridge Bay mini-safari 16/07/2015

by on Jul.20, 2015, under Druridge Bay

Thursday’s second mini-safari was around NEWT’s local patch of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

I arrived at Church Point to collect Mike, and we started with a scan of the sea in search of White-beaked Dolphin.  It was a bit on the choppy side for observing cetaceans, but there was an obvious movement of seabirds heading north.  Mike soon picked up two birds away to the south, and we watched as these adult Pomarine Skuas passed close by the point.  Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Great Skua and 200 Manx Shearwaters passed by in just over 90 minutes and three Arctic Skuas were harrassing terns in the bay.  Common Scoter were also heading north and what had started as a search for Otters, with a scan of the sea for dolphins, had morphed into a fantastic seawatch with an accompaniment of summer-plumaged Turnstone and Golden Plover 🙂

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Never mind the Balearics…

by on Oct.12, 2013, under Birdwatching, North Sea

…here’s the Bonxies.

Watching the weather forecast during the week, and having a day on Holy Island on Thursday with Malcolm (trip report to come soon!), convinced me that there was somewhere I needed to be at dawn on Friday.  Arriving at Church Point in the half-light there were a few cars already parked, and a wander along to the point with Mike H found the owners of those cars already intently scanning the angry-looking sea.  Andy McL, Tim C., Eric B., David D. and Jimmy S. were all clustered around the ‘seawatching hut’.

It would be good to be able to report that I’m thoroughly domesticated and house-trained and, after the few hours I’d planned to spend seawatching, I went home, via the supermarket to do the grocery shopping, and did all of the housework.  However, back in what Sarah refers to as ‘the world according to Martin’ that couple of hours to see if there was any movement of seabirds turned into a plan to stay until 12:00…then mid-afternoon…and finally, as the light faded to the point where you could hallucinate the sort of sightings that Ellington’s second best birdwatcher * was enjoying a few miles to the north of us, I gave up just after 18:00.  11 hours on Church Point, but a not-too-shabby day list;

Black Guillemot 1

Great Crested Grebe 1

Pale-bellied Brent Goose 20

Dark-bellied Brent Goose 2

Long-tailed Duck 4

Goldeneye 9

Velvet Scoter 15

Shoveler 24

Red-throated Diver 24

Black-throated Diver 3

Great Northern Diver 7

Manx Shearwater 53

Sooty Shearwater 62

Balearic Shearwater 2

Great Skua 261

Pomarine Skua 3

Long-tailed Skua 3

Arctic Skua 8

Red-breasted Merganser 7

Little Gull 3

Arctic Tern 1

‘blue’ Fulmar 12

Short-eared Owl 1

*Ellington’s best birdwatcher is, and it really goes without saying, Iain’s better half, Janet 🙂

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Every cloud has a silver(y) grey lining

by on Sep.25, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland

Our final full-day pelagic for 2012 was on Saturday and, although I was really looking forward to it, it’s always a shame when we reach the end of our offshore season.

With strong winds on Thursday, and charter boats cancelling trips on Friday, I still felt that we’d be able to sail.  We gathered at Royal Quays just before 09:00 and boarded the SarahJFK.  Brian spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker just after we set sail, and as we headed downstream we could see a little bit of swell and a few whitecaps offshore.  A skein of Pink-footed Geese high overhead were heading south, and we weren’t too far out of the river when we had our first skua of the day; and it was one of those ‘is it, isn’t it?’ moments as what was probably a dark Pomarine Skua flew north low over the waves.  Three Great Skuas were heading the same way, and another one later caused a ‘dread’ amongst the birds gathered round a fishing boat.  Fulmars and Kittiwakes were with us throughout most of the day and Gannets were soaring by on the breeze.  Our first Sooty Shearwater was in a raft of gulls behind a trawler, and we had at least five more during the day.

As the swell began to ease slightly we were 8 miles off Cresswell, heading north west, when I saw two small waders flying up and over a wave crest.  As they dropped onto the sea I shouted “Grey Phalaropes!” and called to Allan to stop the boat.  Eventually we all had excellent views of these two tiny birds as they bobbed about in the swell.  They were the 2nd and 3rd that I’ve seen on pelagics I’ve organised, following the 1st out in the Farne Deeps in 2010.

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

Grey Phalarope,Northumberland,bird photography,pelagic birdwatching trips,pelagic wildlife trips

We headed towards the coast, and turned to make our way back towards Royal Quays.  Our only Manx Shearwater of the trip was followed soon after by a Pomarine Skua, found by Cain, six Red-throated Divers (including four flying south together), 42 Pale-bellied Brent Geese heading north, 20 Wigeon and 30 Common Scoter.  With only one Manx Shearwater, and no Arctic Skuas at all, this was quite an unusual pelagic but, if you like waders, and you like seabirds, then phalaropes are a dream bird 🙂

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Long, lazy swell

by on Sep.19, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Grey Seal, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

When I was on the coast just south of Cresswell on Friday evening, I didn’t hold out much hope for Saturday’s pelagic going ahead;  a menacing sea, with waves forming towering peaks, didn’t look likely to abate.

However, the sea is often fickle and Saturday saw nothing more than a long, lazy swell as we set sail into the North Sea for a day of offshore birdwatching along the coastlines of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Conditions changed throughout the day with, at times, the sea as calm as a millpond.  3 ‘Blue’ Fulmars, 5 Great Skuas, a probable Pomarine Skua, 3 Arctic Skuas, 5 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Manx Shearwaters, Teal, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Gannets, Mediterranean Gulls and Swallows! were all appreciated and a Grey Seal and 2 Harbour Porpoises added some mammalian interest.

Gannet,Northumberland,offshore wildlife trips,pelagic trips,birdwatching

 

Fulmar,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching

 

Sooty Shearwater,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching

 

Blue Fulmar,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching

 

Mediterranean Gull,offshore wildlife watching,pelagic trips,Northumberland,birdwatching

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The whistling wind

by on Sep.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Saturday’s Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses turned out to be an excellent few hours of birdwatching off the Northumberland coast.

As we left the harbour, the swell of the tide had the boat rocking gently up and down.  A mile or so later and we were in what I think of  as ‘proper’ pelagic conditions; choppy sea, lots of whitecaps, an eerie wind whistling around the boat…and birds everywhere.  The atmosphere when the North Sea is like that is filled with anticipation.  A Pomarine Skua, athletic, muscular and menacing harrassed Kittiwakes, our first Great Skua of the trip (the first of several) lumbered by, Arctic Skuas flew along the wave troughs and the fragile, delicate figure of a Long-tailed Skua headed north in the rapidly strengthening wind.  Fulmars soared effortlessly by, small groups of Gannets, those masters of efficient flight, featured throughout the trip and Sooty Shearwaters, a real seawatcher’s bird, entertained as they circled the boat.  Added to that there were Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Manx Shearwaters and Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls  and Arctic, Common, Sandwich and Roseate Terns.  With so many whitecaps, and some ‘interesting’ swell, we weren’t fortunate enough find any cetaceans, but one participant summed up offshore wildlife so well “You’re on a boat, it’s an experience, enjoy it, you never know what you’ll see.”

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RIB-tickling

by on Aug.18, 2011, under Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Tuesday’s weather forecast was indicating something quite remarkable; a spell of nice weather between showers that would coincide exactly with our evening trip on Ocean Explorer.

That’s just what we got and, after an afternoon of heavy rain, we boarded the RIB in excellent weather just after 6pm.

The excitement of a high-speed journey south along the Northumberland coast combined well with close observation of feeding flocks of Gannets, terns and gulls, including a breathtakingly beautiful adult Roseate Tern.  A Harbour Porpoise surfaced twice just off Dunstanburgh Castle, which looked stunning from our offshore position, and at least 3 Pomarine Skuas were busy brutalising the terns.  As planned, we finished our trip around the Farne Islands.  As curious Grey Seals came to have a closer look at all on board, the menacing clouds to the west obscured the sunset but we were treated to a spectacular moonrise in compensation.

The short journey back to the harbour produced excellent views of 2 adult Harbour Porpoises and a calf; an excellent way to end our evening.

We’ve got another 3hr RIB trip on Thursday 25th August, so click here to book, or ‘phone 07908 119535 for more details.  We’re waiting for your call, and looking forward to enjoying some of Northumberland’s wildlife with you.

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White night

by on Jul.30, 2011, under North Sea, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland, White-beaked Dolphin

After a couple of poor-weather weekends, the elements relented and we headed out from Royal Quays on the SarahJFK for a 4hr evening pelagic in the North Sea off southeast Northumberland.  Pomarine Skua, Manx Shearwater, Common Scoters and a summer-plumaged Red-throated Diver were the birdwatching highlights, but were eclipsed by what Stephen described as “the greatest wildlife experience of my life”.  We’ve got a busy programme of offshore wildlife trips over the coming months, and here a few images that show why they’re so popular;

White-beaked Dolphin,dolphin watching trips,whale watching trips,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

White-beaked Dolphin,dolphin watching trips,whale watching trips,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

White-beaked Dolphin,dolphin watching trips,whale watching trips,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

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The icing on the cake

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

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…

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Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 3: 09/07/2011

by on Jul.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

On Saturday morning our destination was Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and another poor weather forecast ( a bit of a running theme during the holiday…) suggested that we may well get wet.  An addition to the mammal list for the trip raced across the road ahead of us; a Stoat – an endearing predator and one of NEWT’s favourite animals.

We arrived in Amble for our sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises; as Dave manoeuvred the excellent Steadfast into the harbour, the rain arrived from the northeast.  The sailing around the island produced excellent views of Roseate Terns, as well as Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.  As we sailed in a wide arc from the island to begin the journey back to the harbour an Arctic Skua was harassing terns away to the north.  Four more Arctic Skuas were followed by a real seawatching prize as a Pomarine Skua lumbered menacingly by before settling on the sea.    Our final Arctic Skua flew over the harbour just before we docked and I suggested that the Country Barn Coffee Shop at Widdrington would be the best destination once we were back on dry land.

Refreshed, dried and ready to go we visited the NWT reserve of East Chevington.  The tern roost allowed close comparison of Common and Arctic Terns, but the bird described by one participant as ‘bird of the holiday’ was a superb male Marsh Harrier.  A juvenile harrier appeared briefly over the reedbed as well, but the male perched for several minutes on a fence post.  Just after we reached Druridge Pools, the heavens opened, lightning flashed, thunder rolled and 2 Wood Sandpipers bobbed along the edge of the main pool.  A trip to Cresswell, and the most northerly breeding Avocets in England, followed and we all enjoyed  views of a very obliging Brown Hare, Little Gulls and both Little and Great Crested Grebes.  Another excellent evening meal and entertaining conversation (including David’s comment about Captain Birdseye in a cape..a reference to my appearance during the Coquet Island trip), concluded our final night in Seahouses.

As I put my coffee cup and glass of orange juice on the table at breakfast on Sunday morning I looked out over the harbour and the words “it’s a glorious morning” were quickly followed by “and there’s a Spoonbill!”.  Everyone rushed to the window to watch, as Northumberland delivered a fantastic finale to the holiday; poor weather forecasts, some stunning downpours, big seas, beautiful weather, iconic landscapes, excellent birdwatching…all in four days!

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Contrast and compare

by on Apr.19, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

Sunday and Monday illustrated the range of things that NEWT do on a regular basis.

Sunday saw me leaving the office at 03:30 and driving to Alnwick.  Highlight of the drive was a Barn Owl, hunting alongside the A1 near Eshott.  After collecting Helen and Steve, two of our returning clients, we headed to Bamburgh, and a rendezvous with the sunrise.  Landscape photography tuition was first on the menu, followed by some macro photography around the rock pools at low tide.  All the while, the crowds were building further along the beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, enjoying views of the Black Scoter just offshore.  Once the sun was well above the horizon, and the shadows were getting too harsh, it was time to drive back to Alnwick.

A walk around Choppington Woods in the afternoon produced plenty of butterflies, Small White, Large White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma, and the unexpected patch tick of Hooded Crow.  We weren’t finished yet though, and  an evening excursion in southeast Northumberland produced excellent views of 2 of our favourites; Tawny Owl and Badger.

Yesterday morning, the day dawned overcast and calm; ideal for our latest Northeast Cetacean Project Transect Survey.  I met up with Maeve, Claire, Rachael and Steve at Royal Quays and we set out on just about the flattest sea I’ve ever seen.  Even 4 miles offshore it was glassy calm.  Cetacean sightings were down compared to the February/March surveys, with a pod of 4 Harbour Porpoises being the only sighting of the day.  Avian highlights were our first Manx Shearwater  and Pomarine Skua for the year, and lots of Puffins throughout the day.

Now it’s Tuesday morning and I’m getting ready for 9 tours with clients in the next 11 days.  Hopefully I’ll find time to blog…

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