Tag: Red Admiral

Waifs, strays and the gloom of dusk; Druridge Bay Safari 26/09/17

by on Sep.27, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Richard and Liz from Whitley Bay and we headed north along the coast for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

After a few breezy weeks, we’d got something different to contend with; dense, patchy fog all along the coast.  I don’t mind that too much though, it’s usually manageable, and the birdwatching can be exciting when you don’t know what’s lurking in the mist 🙂  Brambling and Tree Sparrow called overhead as we had lunch, and Redshank, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover were on the beach below us.  A Little Owl, only revealing it’s presence as it flew quickly out of sight, and a much more obliging Little Owl a couple of minutes later were a great find early in the trip.  Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Shoveler were sleeping and feeding and, particularly in the case of one female Mallard, being very vocal as Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants hunted with elegant menace, a Little Grebe demonstrated a remarkable aptitude for catching small fish and Lapwings were battling the breeze before settling to roost with Starlings and the disembodied voices of Curlew carried through the mist.

Given the cold foggy conditions, moths and butterflies were a surprise.  First a dozen or so Nettle-tap Moths, then the first of several Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood.  A Sparrowhawk was pursuing a small bird (possibly a Chaffinch) and passed just a few metres in front of the car windscreen in it’s pursuit and we set about one of the great joys of birdwatching on the Northumberland coast; wandering along a narrow track between Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder and Sycamore with the mist curling it’s cold tendrils around us.  Robins were ‘ticking’ from the bushes, and at least three were singing when they would be better of putting their effort into feeding.  Blackcaps were in the Elders and we tracked down our quarry, although it proved elusive before eventually offering confiding views.  First just a brief glimpse of a small warbler as it flitted between bushes, apparently settling in a Sycamore before vanishing again.  Then as we were looking where we thought it had gone it flew out from behind us and over our our heads, giving a remarkably loud ‘tsooeest’ call before diving back into cover.  Then it appeared at the top of a bush and just sat there, offering great views.  Yellow-browed Warbler is one of the real gems of east coast birding in the autumn and this little treasure eventually performed well for all of us.

With the mist making dusk even gloomier than usual, Grey Herons and a Little Egret flew by a noisy roost of ‘chacking’ Jackdaws as Soprano Pipistrelles hunted the leeward edge of a riverside tree and we listened to their calls with our bat detector before heading back towards the bright lights of Whitley Bay 🙂

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Owling; Otter Safari 17/07/17

by on Jul.19, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Una and then Verna from Church Point and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and South East Northumberland searching our favourite Otter spots

The heat of the afternoon was tempered by a gentle breeze as we came across 8 Little Egrets and a Kingfisher put in a brief but brilliant appearance with flash of dazzling azure as it landed on a rock in front of us before flying across the river and reappearing a few minutes later.  More azure blue flashed towards the extremity of Blue-tailed Damselflies and a Red Admiral took a real liking to Verna, flying around for a few seconds before settling on her arm 🙂  As the evening progressed the light suddenly switched from dazzling and contrasty to sublimely beautiful.  A small Starling murmuration hinted at the spectacle we’ll be enjoying by the winter, 2 Roe Deer were in deep vegetation, a Kestrel was flitting from tree to tree along the roadside ahead of the car and a Barn Owl flew over the reeds carrying a Short-tailed Field Vole as Common Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin plundered the dense clouds of insects rising above the ethereal mist drifting over the water.

As the light faded and we headed back a Brown Hare loped along the road ahead of us, pausing on the track into a field and I suggested that owls should be on the target list for the next 10-15 minutes of the drive.  Two separate telegraph poles were adorned with Little Owls, with the tiny predators giving us their very best withering stare, before a third Little Owl flew alongside the car briefly and a Barn Owl drifted across the road ahead of us 🙂

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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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Dread; Otter Safari 15/10/2015

by on Oct.16, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

The great thing or the worst thing (depending on your point of view…) with watching wildlife is the sheer unpredictability of it.  There’s always something to watch though, and if you watch for long enough it just gets even less predictable…

I collected Neil and Julia from Newbiggin and we headed towards Druridge Bay for an afternoon and evening searching for Otters.  Anybody who reads our blog regularly will know that Northumberland is a great place to look for Otters, but it usually involves some effort and patience.  45mins into the afternoon and Black-headed and Common Gulls rose in a ‘dread’ then started circling.  The only logical place to look was directly under them…and there was an Otter 🙂  We watched it for nearly an hour, until it eventually caught a huge Eel and vanished into the reeds.  During that hour there was a mass exodus of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Little Grebe and Gadwall from one reedbed…and a Fox peered out from the reeds before coming out into the open.

The rest of the afternoon was a study of fascinating wildlife; Dippers were fighting with the victor eventually bursting into song, although not before it had been seen off itself by a Kingfisher, Hawthorns were dripping with Goldcrest, a Hebe bush was a mass of Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral Butterflies and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, a second Kingfisher flew by before perching obligingly on a fence post, Grey Herons were stalking patiently in shallow water, a Little Egret perched high in a tree, a Little Owl fixed us with a withering stare and the afternooon headed towards sunset.  In beautiful orange light from the setting sun, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Redshank and Oystercatcher roosted as Dunlin busied themselves along the water’s edge, Snipe probed in the mud next to a reedbed and a Water Rail emerged from the gloom of the reeds into the gloom of dusk before slipping back out of sight.

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Gems; Lindisfarne Bespoke Birdwatching 08/10/2015

by on Oct.10, 2015, under Lindisfarne

Thursday was Tony’s second bespoke birdwatching day with NEWT, and we were heading to Holy Island.  The weather was an extraordinary contrast to the mist, murk and torrential rain of Wednesday; clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine accompanied us on the drive north…

Our first port of call on the island was the Vicar’s Garden, and we were greeted by the nasal rasping call of a BramblingChiffchaffs were flitting restlessly in the trees, a flycatcher settled for just a few seconds, Redwings were hopping around with Song Thrush and Blackbird on the lawn as Grey Seals moaned from the sandbars of Fenham Flats, Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north, as the rising tide disturbed them, and a flock of Bar-tailed Godwit put on a synchronised flying display that would rival any Starling murmuration.  A Yellow-browed Warbler eventually revealed itself, one of three we came across during the morning, and after a walk around the lepidoptera-laden lonnens (Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Silver Y), including watching at least 15 Roe Deer, and a Merlin harrassing a Short-eared Owl, we returned to the car to have lunch.  A quick check of my mobile revealed a message about a Radde’s Warbler at Chare Ends.  Now that’s easy twitching of a rarity…just a five minute walk from where we were sitting 🙂  The warbler proved elusive though, and it took a little while to show itself and all of the features that make it identifiable.  Flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet were in the stubble nearby, a Peregrine flew overhead, scattering waders and wildfowl from the mudflats, a Merlin perched obligingly on top of a Hawthorn bush in the dunes and we headed back south after 7 hours on the island.

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“I am Gadwall…”

by on Aug.07, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

After the heavy rain of Monday, it was good to drive to Newbiggin, to collect Bryan and Zoe & Simon, in warm sunshine and broken cloud.  Our evening Otter mini-Safari would take in the best of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

One thing that I always enjoy is the response to bird names from clients who’ve never come across a particular species before.  Godwit is a name that always raises a chuckle, and both Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit, resplendent in their breeding finery, were among the noisy flocks of Redshank and Curlew.  Turnstones were also looking particularly stunning, two juvenile Marsh Harriers were drifting over reedbeds, a particularly dark male Pheasant couldn’t make his mind up which way to run when we stopped to admire him and a Stoat poked it’s head out of the grass, then back in, then out again, before finally running across in front of us.  Gadwall and Wigeon invoked more bemusement at bird names and we added Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Magpie Moth to the trip list.  Small groups of Starlings were heading to roost and it was time for us to head to our final site of the evening.

As the sun dropped towards the horizon we settled to scan for any indication of Otter activity.  A Sparrowhawk passed through, causing consternation in the Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins and a Common Snipe was illuminated by a patch of sunlight, raising it from the level of ‘brown bird with long bill that pokes it’s face in mud’ to something quite sublime.  Then, a sudden panic among the ducks.  Females with ducklings were fanning out rapidly from one edge of the pond and we intensified our scanning of the reedy margins.  Nothing, but the birds weren’t settling.  Then a pair of Mute Swans gave a call that we’ve come to associate with one thing, and it was only a matter of time…in the dark shadow of a reedbed, I saw a line of bright water appear.  Everyone’s attention turned to that edge of the pool and then the Otter popped up at the surface 🙂  For 20 minutes it made it’s way steadily across the water, including a stunning few minutes in the reflection of the sunset, before finally vanishing into the darkening gloom.

As we headed back towards Newbiggin, the discussion turned back to bird names and led to one of my all time favourite things that any client has said “I am Gadwall, a wizard of the elven kingdom, and you are Turnstone, a Dwarf” 🙂

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Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 2: 08/07/2011

by on Jul.12, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Friday morning dawned dry and bright; again not exactly as predicted by the weather forecast!  After breakfast we headed south to Newton by the Sea, and the tern colony at the Long Nanny estuary.  The walk through the dunes was enlivened by a myriad of Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Dark Green Fritillaries as well as 2 strikingly attractive moths; Cinnabar and Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet, and Harebell, Pyramidal Orchid and Bloody Cranesbill.

After the tern colony, with its ~1000 pairs of Arctic Terns and 40 pairs of Little Terns we headed north through Seahouses and towards Holy Island.  As we passed Budle Bay, Geoff spotted a Little Egret, still a relatively scarce species up here, and we stopped for a while to search the mudflats.  As well as wading birds, we found 3 Goosander.   A further stop before Holy Island provided an ideal picnic spot and the theme of passage waders continued with Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, and Curlew.  A walk around the iconic location of Holy Island produced Grey Seals, Red-breasted Merganser and breathtaking views from The Heugh.  We were scanning the mudflats around the mouth of the South Low when a nearby Oystercatcher began calling in alarm.  The cause of that alarm appeared just a few seconds later and we watched the Peregrine Falcon as it raced low across the mud before perching obligingly.

Against the backdrop of another iconic location, Bamburgh Castle, we scanned the Eider flock just offshore.  A lone drake Common Scoter was proving difficult to pin down, but the arrival of a flock of 60 scoters allowed everyone to enjoy good views and appreciate the variation in the bill pattern of the drakes.  Just before returning to Seahouses, we stopped to scan Monk’s House Pool; a Pintail was picked out by Roy, and 2 Common Sandpipers were walking along the edge of the pond.  8 Golden Plover flew by and a male Stonechat perched close by on a fence post.

An after-dinner excursion produced 2 Brown Hares, a Roe Deer and her fawn in the gloom, and the first rain of the trip…

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Fin-tastic

by on Aug.07, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, North Sea, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

We’re in one of our busier periods at the moment;  two trips on Thursday, two on Friday and then we’ll be out again tomorrow.

Thursday’s two mini-safaris featured some of our old favourites; Little Owl is one of the best crowd-pleasers that there is, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron  and summer-plumaged Knot  all went down very well and some attractive insects added a touch of glitter – Common Darter, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Dark Green Fritillary are all easily overlooked (well maybe not Red Admiral), but quite stunning if you take the time to search for them and then look closely.  After finishing Thursday’s first trip, and dropping Kevin, Angela and Georgia back at Newbiggin, I went back to the office, dealt with a few e-mails, packed the head torches and bat detectors ready for the evening and then headed back out for the day’s second tour of Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.  Then the heavens opened.  With windscreen wipers barely able to provide a clear view, traffic was crawling.  I was considering the unthinkable – cancelling a trip.  The rain eased and I collected Andy and family.  The trip list was very similar to the morning and then I thought it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at the sea.

Now, seawatching is an obsessive pastime but it isn’t for everyone; I’m certain that long periods staring at the sea, hoping that something exciting will appear, don’t make for good client experiences.  So we don’t do it…very often.  The sea had been flat calm during the day and there was only a gentle breeze.  Ideal conditions for searching for cetaceans, in fact.  The number of e-mails, texts and ‘phone calls I’d had during the week was the clincher.  I knew that cetaceans sightings were increasing and viewing conditions were just right…surely the right time to take clients for a seawatch.  Gannets were passing by and we all scanned the sea.  Quickly I picked up 2 dolphins away to the south.  Then another 2, then 3 including 2 calves.  Through binoculars I had little doubt that these were White-beaked Dolphins.  A quick look through the ‘scope revealed all of the relevant ID features; tall falcate dorsal fin, white flanks arcing up behind the dorsal to form a pale saddle.  As everyone managed to see the dolphins, I scanned slowly to estimate how many dolphins there were.  At least 25 individual animals were found, and the pod was spread out over at least 6 square miles of the North Sea!  Another birder arrived and we managed to get him on to the dolphins as well.  It’s almost impossible to describe just how extraordinary such a sighting is.  Normally the best opportunities arise when you’re on an organised pelagic trip.  We’ve got 4 more of these this year; and with only one place remaining on September 18th, two places on September 4th and four places on August 12th, get in touch now on 01670 827465 to join us and experience the best pelagic wildlife and birdwatching opportunities available on the east coast.  August 12th will be a groundbreaking trip; we’re heading out to the Farne Deeps and reports from anglers and researchers suggest that the area could produce sightings of some spectacular wildlife.  Minke Whale, White-beaked Dolphin, Common Dolphin and Killer Whale have all been found previously.

After the dolphins we had another of the species that always captivates our clients as a Barn Owl allowed a prolonged period of observation as it hunted along the coastal dunes.  As darkness descended and we headed back to our starting point the raindrops began to speckle the windscreen of the Landy again.

The highlights of Friday’s first trip were Red Squirrel and Little Owl (for Kate and Lucy) and a very unexpected Green Sandpiper (for me).

The evening pelagic took place with some extraordinary glowering skies to the north.  As the swell began to develop, we were treated to very close views of Gannet and Fulmar before returning to Royal Quays in the dark, but the abiding memory of the last week is the extraordinary spectacle of a little-known cetacean, hunting, leaping and playing in the seas off Northumberland.

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