I collected Adrian and Ruth from Seahouses for the first of their two days out with us this week; a Cheviots-plus Bespoke tour…
We started at Bamburgh, with Oystercatcher, Redshank and Purple Sandpiper along the edge of the breaking surf, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver and a lone Puffin surfing the waves just beyond and distant Gannets breaking the horizon above a sea that had been whipped into a mass of whitecaps by a stiff northerly breeze.
Heading inland, it was starting to look cloudier and the forecast deterioration in the weather seemed to be on its way. You can’t necessarily trust the forecast though, and the spectacular landscape of the Cheviot valleys was bathed in sunlight. The triumvirate of nervously bobbing riverside dwellers all put in very obliging appearances; Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper have so much in common, and are always great to watch. Sand Martins and Swallows, always a sign that things are changing, were hawking insects overhead as a Raven flew by, the eerie cries of Curlew revealed their presence as they displayed high over the valley, Red Grouse chuckled from the surrounding heather, Chiffchaffs were singing their relentlessly onomatopaeic song from every clump of trees and Ruth spotted a stunning male Ring Ouzel hopping around on a fellside that was dripping with Mistle Thrushes and Wheatears. Lunch was accompanied by 3 Common Buzzards high overhead, tussling and skydiving as partnerships and territories for the breeding season start to take shape.
Continuing along our planned loop for the day brought us to the coast of Druridge Bay and Avocet, Shorelark, Ringed Plover, Kestrel, Sanderling, a raft of at least 9 Red-throated Divers and then, as we headed back to the car at the end of the day, a Short-eared Owl quartering rough fields with deep slow wingbeats 🙂
I arrived in Berwick to collect Juan and Erika from the railway station for their tour of Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast and a first for NEWT – clients from Argentina!
We headed down the coast in some unforecast rain and in the mighty shadow of Bamburgh Castle we watched Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone as they picked their way through the rocks within inches of the frothing surf. Common Eider, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Guillemot and Puffin were all rising and falling in a deep swell and Kittiwakes were passing by as we set the telescope up on the side of the car that was sheltered from the wind and rain. Heading north we came across lots of Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Lapwing, as well as smaller numbers of Shoveler, Goosander and Common Redshank, and a lone Kestrel hanging motionless facing into the wind, then over on to Holy Island where the sky was blue, the clouds were white and fluffy and the wind was still howling…
Grey Seals were hauled out on the mud at low tide and as their mournful calls carried on the breeze across the island Skylarks were singing, tiny black dots against the sky, Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and there were at least 21 Roe Deer feeding in a remarkably dense herd. Red-breasted Merganser were having their crests ruffled by the wind, Pied Wagtails were searching for insects around the car park and panic rippled through the birds out on the mudflats. Grey Herons stalked through marshy edges, the eerie cries of Curlew drifted through the dunes and, as we made our way back across the causeway with the tide rising and the sun setting, Common Eider were displaying, Common Redshank and Pale-bellied Brent Geese were on the edge of the rising water and a Curlew decided to sit on the road right in front of us 🙂
Yesterday was our annual Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses and, after Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar, Puffin and Guillemot, the marine mammals put in an appearance. Harbour Porpoises were typically brief and shy, but the White-beaked Dolphins drew plenty of ooohs and ahhhs from everyone on the boat 🙂
We’ve got very limited places available for our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic’ sailings on 2nd, 10th and 24th September, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to reserve your place before they’re all filled!
Saturday was the first of our 10hr ‘Northumberland Ultimate Pelagic‘ trips this year, and I arrrived at Royal Quays to find eight, out of 12, clients already there and looking forward to the day out in Northumberland’s deep offshore waters. With everyone on board we set sail out of the Tyne in a fairly stiff breeze and on choppy water. An Arctic Skua was harrassing Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets soared past on stiff outstretched wings, a flock of Knot flew by and, probably the most unexpected sighting of the day, a Common Swift was heading landwards from around 6 miles offshore. Puffins and Guillemots were sitting quietly on the sea and, as we headed further out, the breeze died away and we were on calm water when we found the first White-beaked Dolphins of the day. These 12 animals spent a little time bow-riding before peeling off and heading back to resume feeding. A few minutes later and a distant dolphin was breaching ahead of us. As we reached that spot, we suddenly had 10 White-beaked Dolphins bow-riding and at least another ten following close behind and alongside us 🙂
We’ve got a limited number of places still available on our 10hr sailings on Friday September 2nd, Saturday September 10th and Saturday September 24th. Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place before they’re all filled!
The Farne islands in late June are a chaotic place; huge numbers of birds on all of the cliff faces and around the boardwalks. Late July is a very different experience though…
I collected Ruth and Ann from Ponteland and we drove across to the coast before heading north for a day of bespoke beginners birdwatching, culminating in a trip across to Inner Farne. Curlew, Redshank and a stunningly orange Black-tailed Godwit were all in the shallows as a female Red-breasted Merganser appeared to be delivering flying lessons to her little black-and-white ducklings who were still way too small to get airborne. Sailing across to the islands after lunch we soon encountered rafts of Puffins and Guillemots, Grey Seals were lazing in the surf and the vertiginous seabird colonies were now reduced to only Kittiwake and Shag. Landing on Inner farne, Puffins were whizzing by with beaks filled with small fish, and weren’t subject to the kleptoparasitic attention of Black-headed Gulls, in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago. Terns were represented by single Arctic and Common Terns carrying fish to small chicks and a pair of Sandwich Terns engaged in courtship flight as a Lesser Black-backed Gull gave us a malevolent stare from the wall around the lighthouse.
A great day out with really lovely clients, and now I know what make and model of car Ann drives I can give her a wave when I’m cycling through Ponteland on a Sunday morning 🙂
If there’s anything that’s even less predictable than wildlife on our 4hr evening pelagics, it’s the weather/sky/sea state. One minute it can be flat calm, the next there’s a rolling swell, one minute it’s overcast, the next the clouds disperse and the sun breaks through…
Our 9th evening pelagic for 2016 set sail on Friday and we started to notice the swell while we were still in the river. Once we were out of the shelter of the piers there was a long rolling swell as we headed north. The usual suspects passed by; Puffin, Guillemot, Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Fulmar. As we headed closer inshore ready for the journey south, the swell subsided and the sea took on a glassy sheen as the sunset started to develop…
After our successful search for White-beaked Dolphins on Wednesday, we sailed at 18:00 on Friday for our 7th 4hr evening pelagic this year.
As we sailed past North Shields the heavens opened and as we left the shelter of the piers, the surface of the sea looked to be boiling as the rain hammered down. That was round about the point where I checked my mobile for any recent dolphin reports…and there was a text message to say that there had been 6-8 White-beaked Dolphins just off Seaton Sluice for the last hour and they were heading south, inshore of the yellow buoy off St Mary’s Island 🙂 I went across to that side of the boat, indicated the area we needed to be watching…and up they popped 🙂 For the next hour we watched up to 20 dolphins as they fed, breached, tail-slapped and did all the stuff that makes dolphins so fantastic to watch, then we left them behind and headed up to Blyth where we found another 4! Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots. Kittiwakes and Fulmars provided a supporting cast and a stunning sunset brought the curtain down on the evening 🙂
After a couple of cancelled sailings, with weather conditions that we felt would just be uncomfortable for everyone, we set sail on our 6th 4hr pelagic this year on Wednesday evening.
As we headed north, small rafts of Puffin were seen regularly, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet provided a supporting cast and with a boat full of clients all scanning the sea, in good visibility, I was feeling confident…
The call from Tim “dolphins!” had everyone suddenly very animated…and there they were; 4 White-beaked Dolphins, including a very small calf 🙂 One of the adults came across us close to the bow, and then they quietly slipped away from view after five minutes or so. Encounters with dolphins are always exciting, but your truly learnt a very painful lesson; even when you’ve photographed hundreds of dolphins and seabirds from moving boats, in everything from flat calm with glorious light, through to challenging swell and heavily overcast…it counts for nothing if you’ve managed to leave the house without any memory cards in your camera 🙁 After the dolphin encounter, one of our clients was kind enough to lend me a memory card so I’ve got lots of images from the second half of the evening!
Monday was our 5th evening pelagic and we boarded JFK Two at Royal Quays with Common Terns flying back to their nests and a chilly breeze stiffening the flags on the boats moored in the marina.
Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls soon formed a stalking party just behind us and Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater and Common Scoter were all seen, as well as a couple of Curlew. Away to the west of us the weather over Northumberland looked poor, and on the eastern horizon we could see rain. The dark, brooding waves lapped against the side of the boat and, as we made our way back down the coast, breaks in the leaden grey cloud brought another spectacular sunset 🙂
No two days are ever the same – that’s pretty much the only thing that’s guaranteed where wildlife is concerned..
We set sail from Royal Quays for our fourth evening pelagic this year and although we had blue skies and sunshine, in sharp contrast to Wednesday’s trip, the sea was a bit choppier with a stiff westerly wind keeping us close to the sheltering effect of the land. Gannets, Guillemots and Puffins are regular at this time of the year, and we weren’t too far from the Tyne when the Herring Gulls started following us. With barely any effort they hang in the air just behind the boat, obliging subjects for any photographers on board. This time they were joined by a Kittiwake; delicate and incredibly agile, it twisted and turned around the rear deck providing a bit more of a challenge for the lenses that were pointed in its direction.
As we made our way back down the coast, the setting sun provided an impressive backdrop for St Mary’s lighthouse. Despite all of the whales, dolphins and seabirds we’ve found over the last few years, the thing that still seems to be commented on more than anything else, is just how incredible the views of the sunset are from a boat in the North Sea 🙂