Tag: Rabbit

Making the most of the weather; Bespoke Cheviots Safari 08/06/17

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Uncategorized

I have a bit of an obsession with the weather.  It can have a real influence on the outcome of our trips and we always try to be as flexible as we possibly can.  If the forecast is really poor we always offer clients the option of rescheduling; either for a different time on the same day, a different day close to the planned date (if they’re visiting the area) and a rescheduled date suitable for them if they’re local.  I’d been watching the forecast for Thursday all week, and it had finally changed to be reasonable until mid-morning, so with an early start planned I set off to collect Malcolm, Judy and Andrew from Longframlington for a morning exploring the Cheviot Valleys

As soon as I was on my way the weather deviated from forecast and the heavy drizzle was still present when I reached Longframlington.  Then a break in the clouds and we had warm sunshine and blue skies before the rain started again as Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges scuttled across the road in front of the car and a Brown Hare sat motionless in the middle of a field.  Reed Bunting, Greylag Goose and Canada Goose, the latter two with goslings in tow were unperturbed by the increasingly heavy rain as were the clouds of flying insects we were walking through.  The cries of Curlew and Oystercatcher echoed around the valleys and rabbits sat still before eventually deciding they didn’t want to be observed and raced off.  The riparian triumvirate of Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and Dipper were all on mid-stream rocks as the buzzing trill of Lesser Redpoll was heard overhead, Tree Pipits called in display flight, a Whinchat perched on a fingerpost before flying to perch in the bracken, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird were all by the roadside, a Spotted Flycatcher was sallying forth in increasingly heavy rain, the descending silvery cadence of a Willow Warbler  drifted from the branches of a nearby birch, a Treecreeper put in a brief appearance as it scaled a vertiginous trunk with ease and Cuckoo and Chiffchaff were calling with persistent rhythmical eponymous onomatopeia.

As the rain intensified we watched a Grey Heron as it stood motionless at the water’s edge and three well-grown juvenile Goosanders swam by it before taking flight and disappearing upstream and we finshed the morning with our picnic by the riverside.  The rain doesn’t deter wildlife watchers 🙂

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You never know what’s around the corner; Cheviot Valleys Safari 01/06/17

by on Jun.02, 2017, under Cheviot Valleys

Always expect the unexpected is a good philosophy to hold when you’re out and about searching for wildlife…

I collected Steph from Kingston Park and we headed north for a morning exploring the Cheviot valleys.  Along the streams and rivers Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail and Dipper were all sitting on rocks or flycatching, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing and House Martins were gathering mud for their nests as Swallows perched on wires just above our heads and a Rabbit sat, unconcerned, in the cooling shade of an Oak. With temperatures pushing into the 20’s it was always going to be a good day for insects; Wall Brown, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral butterflies were all very flightly in the warm sunshine, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies added a flash of colour to all of the verges and Green Tiger Beetles were basking on small rocks.  A yaffling Green Woodpecker seemed to be mocking us from it’s hidden position before it flew from cover and Steph finally caught up with her bogey bird 🙂  A Cuckoo was calling fom the canopy as a Great Spotted Woodpecker made it’s way from fence post to fallen tree to fence post to tree trunk before finally vanishing deep into the trees and a Spotted Flycatcher was sallying from a high exposed branch.  Oystercatchers called noisily, the eerie cries of Curlew drifted across the fells and Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant wandered across the roads everywhere we went.

Driving down a single track road we came around a bend and Steph spotted a bird in the road ahead of us.  Hunched over, and picking at a carcass, my first thought was Common Buzzard…and then it sat upright before taking off, attempting to carry the dead Rabbit it had been picking at.  Incredibly numerous in some areas, but still very very scarce in Northumberland; we’ve seen Red Kites on NEWT safaris before, but this was the first one we’ve found on a trip within our home county 🙂

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Transition; Otter Safari 14/05/16

by on May.19, 2016, under Druridge Bay

I’ve been wondering why it is that I prefer wildlife-watching in an evening rather than at daybreak, and I think I may have an idea…

I collected James, Ruth, Stuart, Jane, Alex and Lawrence from Church Point and we set out for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Against a chilly breeze, Cormorants were drying their wings and flying out to sea, Sedge Warblers were belting out their song from hidden positions in the reeds, Chiffchaff sang their name incessantly, Reed Buntings perched obligingly in view, Great Crested Grebe were diving, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall and Teal were dabbling and Greylag Geese were shepherding their goslings along, looking alert as well they might when they’re at a site that’s produced regular sightings of Otter recently.  Shelduck and Oystercatcher flew by and, as afternoon progressed into evening, we headed off to one of NEWT’s favourite spots.

With the breeze subsiding it was turning into a sublime evening.  A Dipper flew along just above the water, Moorhen were nervously tail-flicking as they stalked through the bankside vegetation, a drake Goosander drifted downstream, shortly before a pair of these big impressive sawbills flew by, a Grey Heron was unusually confiding, Swallow, Sand Martin and Swift hawked the insects that had managed to escape the gaping jaws of the fish that were rippling and leaping from the water, Rabbits were sitting on the bare earth at the edge of a field, close to the safe haven of the hedgerow, Brown Hares were running through crops that they were almost completely hidden by, occasionally pausing and sitting upright with just their ears and the top of the head visible, and then a harsh barking alerted us to the presence of a Roe Deer in long grass nearby.

The transition from our daytime world to the twilight world of some incredible wildlife is what makes it such a special time of the day 🙂

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Batty; Cheviot valleys/Druridge Bay Bespoke Tour 08/06/2015

by on Jun.10, 2015, under Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay

Looking back through previous blog posts I was reminded that we’ve done a few days combining the best of the hills and the best of the coast, and I headed towards Old Bewick to collect Helen for an afternoon and evening exploring the Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay.

As a Common Buzzard soared over the steep valley sides, Curlews launched from the heather, calling in alarm.  Dippers bobbed on mid stream rocks, a Nuthatch with young was busying itself along tree trunks and branches, Whinchats flicked nervously through the bracken, the air was split by the explosive trilling song of Lesser Redpoll and Spotted Flycatchers perched upright on fence posts before sallying forth after flies.

Down on the coast we enjoyed the sight of Avocets mating, two Spoonbills feeding with their heads sweeping from side to side and bills submerged, a female Marsh Harrier causing alarm as it flew over the edge of a pond and Swallows singing and bringing feathers to line their nests.  Dusk brought a remarkable wildlife spectacle, with 30-40 bats hunting in front of us.  The bat detector revealed an astonishing wall of sound as Common Pipistrelle and Noctule swooped, tumbled and hunted insects…right above an Otter that was stalking Tufted Ducks 🙂

The journey back to Old Bewick produced Barn Owl, and a Tawny Owl in the middle of the road sitting on a baby Rabbit!  Then it was time for me to head back towards southeast Northumberland…and Northumberland’s country lanes produced a late night plethora of wildlife; Red Fox, Brown Hare, Roe Deer, Barn Owl, another Tawny Owl sitting on a baby Rabbit, and three Badger cubs trotting alongside the edge of the road 🙂

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Mustelid mania; 05/04/2015

by on Apr.07, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Susan, Dan, Chris and Helen, the first thing that struck me was just how warm it was.  Blue skies, bright sunshine, only a slight breeze – almost an early summer day 🙂

We began our search of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland with those habitual Otter impersonators, Cormorant and Goldeneye, grabbing our attention.  Then Little Egret, Redshank and Mallard all moved away from where I think our regular Otters have their holt, although there was no sign of the elusive predator.  A Stoat, all bounding energy, chased, but missed catching, a Rabbit and a pair of Marsh Harriers drifted over coastal reedbeds with a third bird nearby as Cormorants and Curlew lazed in the sunshine and Red-breasted Mergansers delivered their comical courtship display.

Finally, distantly, as the sun slipped towards the horizon a sleek, sinuous shape crossed the river before inspecting a bankside log and vanishing into a tangle of brambles 🙂

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Sunday morning ;Druridge mini-Safari 15/03/2015

by on Apr.01, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland

I arrived at Church Point to collect Gayle, Ish, Amelie and Jacob for a morning exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, with the weather looking much nicer than it had been recently 🙂

With spring in the air Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Mallard and Canada Goose were all being crotchety and territorial.  A Grey Heron flew past and landed just upstream from us, although out of sight so Amelie and Jacob stalked quietly along the river bank before the heron took off with a loud squawk and settled on a fence railing.  A flock of roosting Redshank were admired through the telescope and a Rabbit hopped along the opposite bank.  The morning passed quickly, but we’ve got a family stargazing session to look forward to later in the year 🙂

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Mini-beasting; Bespoke Otter Safari 02/09/2014

by on Sep.10, 2014, under Uncategorized

It’s remarkable how often a theme seems to develop during a trip; flocks, migration, raptors, birds with similar names – all have happened over the last few years.

I drove up to the Breamish Valley to collect Donna and Andy and we headed towards the coast and Druridge Bay with the plan of spending the afternoon and evening birdwatching, finishing at what has been our most reliable Otter site this year (although a run of five successful trips eneded with our last two Druridge Bay safaris not producing any sightings of this enigmatic predator).  Starting in the hills on a nice afternoon, I thought it would be good to search for Adders, and Andy’s sharp eyes produced the goods, with the smallest Adder that I’ve ever seen 🙂

The afternoon continued with the waders we would expect – Ruff, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Common Snipe – and one much more scarce, in the shape of two Little Stints.  We had a rear-end view of a Spoonbill heading north and a Little Egret was stalking along the shallows.  It may be a predominantly white bird, but it’s stunning in good light.  Adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were picked out from the roosting Black-headed Gulls and, as dusk approached, we settled into position to watch for Otters.  A juvenile Marsh Harrier was quartering the reedbeds, Starlings were arriving to roost, with some murmuration, a Spoonbill flew in, magnificent in the sunset, then, in the fading rays of daylight, there was an Otter 🙂  Clearly a theme was developing, as this was a very small Otter cub.  Eventually light levels reached the point where we decided to call it a day and head back northwest.  The day’s theme continued, with a tiny Rabbit along the roadside, and then the final wildlife experience, on a day with wildlife and clients that reminded me so often why I love my job; a Barn Owl crossing the road ahead of us before perching in the beam of our headlights 🙂

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“That’s not a bill. That’s a bill”; Otter Safari 12/07/2014

by on Jul.15, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Often, the species that we’re specifically searching for appears and is the highlight of the day.  Sometimes, the scenes involving the supporting cast take some beating though…

I arrived at Church Point to collect Rose, Tom and Alison, and we headed up the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay searching for Otters.  July is one of our favourite times to visit the coast, as wading birds are starting to head south, still in breeding plumage.  Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Dunlin were all lazing at the water’s edge in the increasingly breezy afternoon, and one of our most delicate looking birds provided a lot of entertainment.  Avocets are a fairly recent addition to Northumberland’s breeding avifauna, and their delicate appearance belies their feisty nature.  As three fluffy Avocet chicks swept their heads from side to side in shallow water, occasionally breaking off to go and tuck themselves under their parent’s wing, the adult Avocets were busy keeping the area clear of other birds.  Black-headed Gulls, and even Pied Wagtails were driven off, but the most ferocious assaults were reserved for a flock of Common Snipe.  Secretive and usually hidden out of sight, the snipe had ventured away from the shelter of the reedbeds and into shallow water where they were feeding with a sewing machine action, faces in the water and constantly probing the soft mud beneath.  The Avocets weren’t having that though, and the snipe were persistently flushed by attack after attack.  When we’d first arrived a Spoonbill had been flying above the pond, and it settled and went to sleep.  Eventually it woke up and began walking along the edge of the pond before disappearing from view.  Then it took off and flew across the water, settling near the Avocets

The first furious airborne assault on the Spoonbill left it completely unmoved, so the Avocet landed nearby and charged at it, head down and neck stretched forward, menacing with that long, upcurved rapier like bill.  The Spoonbill lifted it’s head from the water, opened it’s bill and waved it as if to say “Do you really want me to slap you with this?” 🙂  Obviously a different approach was required, which involved the Avocet pretending to feed, whilst slowly sidling towards the Spoonbill, ready to launch another attack.  That was greeted in the same manner, and when the Avocet tried again, the Spoonbill simply kept it’s head in the water and charged straight at the Avocet, sweeping it’s bill from side to side.  Eventually the Avocets gave up the attack, but kept a close eye on the Spoonbill, as another ten Avocets flew over and a Little Egret put in a brief appearance.

As dusk approached we settled into position overlooking another pool.  All seemed calm, Marsh Harriers were hunting the reedbeds as daylight faded, and then an Otter appeared, making it’s way across the shadow-dappled water, twisting, turning, diving, pausing at the surface to consume its catch before resuming the hunt 🙂  A second Otter was hunting in the deep shadow of a reedbed, and the closer one betrayed it’s own presence with the classic ‘ring of bright water’ each time it surfaced.  A Barn Owl came as a shock, when it flew through Rose’s binocular view, and a white Rabbit and four Brown Hares were illuminated by the car headlights as we made our way back to Church Point in the rain.

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Watching the wildlife; Otter Safari 24/06/2013

by on Jun.26, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Sunday morning, and the weather forecast of impending doom brought the not unexpected ‘phone call that saw clients transferring from Sunday’s to Monday’s Otter Safari.  Monday afternoon, and the weather looked reasonable as I collected Ken and Rosemary from The Swan and then we drove to the coast and collected Paul, and Lisa and Steve, from Church Point.

I’d seen at least ten Otters in the last month, so I was fairly confident that an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay, southeast Northumberland and the Northumberland coast would have a higher-than-average chance of successfully locating our target species for the trip.  What we found raising interest in the local Mallards and Tufted Ducks in the mid-afternoon sunshine wasn’t an Otter, but the birds’ behaviour of slowly swimming along a reedbed, just a few metres from the shore, was a good indication of the predator they had spotted and we watched as a Red Fox slowly made it’s way along the edge of the pond followed by an ever-expanding entourage of ducks 🙂  At least eight Little Gulls provided some undeniably cute birdwatching interest and we continued our search.  The next mammal to join the day list was Rabbit, under-rated and attractive, but still not an Otter.  Flocks of geese and ducks seemed to be responding to some hidden menace;  getting out of the water, cackling as if startled, getting back in the water, getting out of the water…but still no sign of an Otter.

As dusk approached, and a Roe Deer walked slowly along the edge of the pond, there was a change in the mood of the assembled ducks; suddenly alert, feeding stopped and heads were raised as high as their outstretched necks would allow.  A pair of Greylag Geese were doing the same and Paul soon spotted the cause of their consternation as the head, then the sinuous body, and finally the tail, of an Otter broke the surface 🙂  Heading into a small bay in the reeds it soon slipped out of sight, only to reappear a few minutes later; twisting and turning as it fed close to the reeds.  Common Pipistrelle, as we walked back to the car, and Brown Hare, as we drove back towards Newbiggin, were mammals #5 and #6 for the day and the trip was rounded off with a Barn Owl, flying from a fence post as we passed by.

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Three stars

by on May.31, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

I collected Zoe, Richard, Ella, Luke and Charlie from Alnmouth and we started our evening mini-safari around the Northumberland coast and Druridge Bay. It wasn’t too long before we were watching one of the birds that never fails to grab the attention of our clients; a beautiful, ghostly pale, Barn Owl was quartering the vegetation close to the water’s edge before plunging into a reedbed in pursuit of prey.  A Roe Deer played hide-and-seek with us, as it persistently walked out of sight behind a bush before reappearing, first to one side of the bush then the other and Sand Martins, House Martins, Swallows and Swifts were all hawking insects, allowing a detailed observation and discussion of these species that less-experienced birdwatchers often find confusing.  Black-headed Gulls and Little Gulls were watched at close quarters, with the Black-headed Gulls squabbling with each other like a group of children 🙂  Little Grebes were, well, just as cute as ever and two large Bats flew over, not echolocating, not feeding, just heading somewhere on a mission.

Heading north, our 2nd Barn Owl of the evening was flying just ahead of us, and perched briefly in the lower branches of a roadside tree, Rabbits were scampering around on grassy banks and our 3rd Barn Owl was silhouetted in a bare tree like a sentinel guarding the road back to Alnmouth.

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