Tag: Red Squirrel
After some wild weather the blue skies and fluffy white clouds, as I set off for a day searching for Otters around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland with Jo, Pat, Rachel and Dave, came as a welcome sight…
Now that we’re in the late winter, wildfowl are looking at their finest and are starting to display with an impressive level of determination. Red-breasted Merganser were strutting their stuff in their engagingly comical bowing display, Goldeneye were delivering their similar, though slightly less elaborate dance and Tufted Duck, Mallard, Wigeon, Scaup, Teal and Pochard were all clad in spring finery, but the long-staying Pacific Diver remains alone. A pair of Common Buzzards were soaring against the clouds at a site where I’ve never encountered them breeding previously. Huge clouds of Pink-footed Geese were replaced by an impressive Starling murmuration as dusk approached, and Common Snipe were uncharactersitically obliging as they fed away from cover amongst Redshank, Lapwing, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit. On a good day for mammal-watching we saw at least 2, possibly 3, maybe even 5, Red Squirrels and 3 Roe Deer.
With light levels dropping rapidly we had brief sightings of 2 Bitterns, as Water Rail squealed from deep in the reeds, and we were on the verge of admitting defeat to the Otters when Rachel said “what’s that in front of us?”. I turned to look, and the first thing I noticed were the Mallards quickening their pace…as they headed away from the Otter that Rachel had spotted on the bank right in front of us 🙂 We watched it for 10mins, until it was too dark to see it as it twisted and turned in the water, before heading back to Newbiggin.
Sunday was a second day out for Edward and Isabel, although this time a bespoke trip. I collected them from Greycroft and we headed south. Brambling was the first target on our list for the day and an impressive flock was alongside Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and a male Siskin. Red Squirrel was another target species for the day, and we enjoyed prolonged views of one, as another male Brambling called from a treetop nearby and Goldfinches plundered a feeding station. Long-tailed Tits fed just above our heads and Fulmar found themselves in range of Edward’s camera as we had lunch overlooking the North Sea. Twite, Pied Wagtail and Sanderling on the beach were our first post-lunch stop and then we headed further north to our last site for the day, with a brief glimpse of a Stoat as it ran across the road in front of us.
Dusk often brings the best of the day and, as Whooper Swans swam across the reflection of the setting Sun, a Kingfisher dived from the reeds, a Water Rail flew between reedbeds, Grey Herons squabbled over prime feeding spots and the assembled wildfowl followed the progress of a Red Fox as it trotted along the bank. Once it was too dark to see anything in front of us we headed back to Alnwick.
Another great day out with clients who were really good company. It’s never really any other way 🙂
In glorious sunshine I arrived in Longframlington to collect Lisa and Lucy ahead of a day searching for Otters, Red Squirrels and Kingfishers around Druridge Bay and the Northumberland coast. I was greeted by Ridley, Lisa’s cockerpoo, and it was quickly decided that he would be joining us on the trip 🙂
Our first Otter site had an obvious area of water that the Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe were all avoiding, and Greylag Geese left in a bit of a hurry, but no sign of the sinuous predator we were searching for. A change to our usual picnic spot brought a brief glimpse of a female Merlin as she chased Lapwing and Wigeon, and then a Bittern flew between reedbeds. Red Squirrels were next on our planned route for the day and I had 20mins dog-sitting while Lisa and Lucy checked the edge of the trees that I suggested. Sure enough, they returned with photographs of Red Squirrel and we were on our way to the next Otter site 🙂 Through binoculars I could see dark shapes twisting and turning at the water’s surface and, with the additional magnification of our telescope, those shapes resolved into two Otter cubs in a play-fight 🙂 We went along to where they were, but by that time they were out of the water and running around on boulders and through the dense undergrowth before quickly vanishing.
We headed to our final Otter site to finish the day, and the weather was starting to deteriorate. As the breeze whistled in our ears, the temperature dropped so our breath was condensing into lingering clouds, a cold damp mist took hold over the water and Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were displaying, Starling arrived to roost, foregoing the elegant ballet of the murmuration in favour of quickly finding shelter, the eerie cries of Curlew echoed across the pool and Lapwing formed a tight panicked flock as a Sparrowhawk flew low over the reeds, a Bittern flew by in the gloom and Little Grebe scattered as an Otter swam across in front of us, tucked in to the reed edge and sheltered from the breeze 🙂
At this time of year, some of our favourite activities are mini-safaris for families with young children. With reasonable weather mammals, birds, insects. flowers and stargazing can all be wrapped up into an evening around Druridge Bay and the southeast Northumberland coast…
I collected Niall, Emma, Betty and Pearl from Cresswell and we headed off to search for our first target species for the evening. Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Great Tit were all around the feeding station where I thought we’d find a squirrel, and sure enough, Niall spotted one coming through the trees nearby. This was a young Red Squirrel though, and it was struggling with the concept a of a feeder with a hinged lid; sitting on the lid and peering wistfully through the transparent front of the feeder didn’t hold it’s attention for long so it set about plundering the bird feeders, stretching across from the tree trunks and swinging from the feeders like an Olympic gymnast. Then it returned to the squirrel feeder and sat on the platform, lifted the lid and made off with a hazelnut 🙂
Heading up the coast we were treated to the sight of a Barn Owl quartering the dunes on silent wings before hovering and plunging into the grass then rising and flying off carrying a hapless vole in it’s talons. Little Egrets, Grey Herons and Canada Geese were all studied through the ‘scope and Rabbits made brief appearances throughout the evening.
As dusk began fading to darkness, with Shoveler and Teal silhouetted against the final rays of daylight, Noctule Bats were hunting overhead as the near-full Moon made an excellent subject for study with the ‘scope. Turning on the bat detector allowed us to listen to them as well as watching their hunting flight. If you’ve never heard a Noctule then treat yourself by listening to a recording of one. Betty’s comment really sums them up though “It sound’s like it’s beat-boxing”. With the dark cloak of night finally starting to take a grip, stars and planets appeared as if a light switch had been flicked on. Mars, eeriely red low in the west, Vega, one of the three bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle, and then the grand finale, Saturn; appearing elongated through binoculars, and resolving to the giant planet and it’s rings in the telescope view 🙂
If you’re visiting Northumberland with your family give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out what we can do for you 🙂
As much as I enjoy searching for mammals during the winter, there’s no denying that the middle of the summer can be a very productive time to concentrate on fur rather than feathers…
I collected Jane and Mike from Seahouses and we headed towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for an afternoon and evening exploring NEWT’s local patch. Barn Owls are always a welcome sight and this one was no exception as it quartered, hovered and dropped to the ground in pursuit of prey. A mixed flock of waders included Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Lapwing, Ruff and Redshank as a Brown Hare wandered by. A mammal that is a real Northumberland speciality put in a very welcome appearance. Descending a tree trunk head first the Red Squirrel was intent on raiding a feeder. Then it was away back up the tree before demonstrating it’s agility by leaping from tree to tree on thin branches. A distant Otter was slightly less than obliging as it made it’s way along the edge of a reedbed before vanishing into the gloom. As dusk approached we were sitting in a narrow, steep-sided valley watching for Badgers. As pipistrelles flicked across our field of vision, we could hear the cracking branches that betray the presence of a large clumsy animal and there was a brief glimpse of black and white through the trees opposite. Light levels continued to fall and a Roebuck wandered out into the open. He paused briefly, looking directly at us, and was then spotted by another roebuck who took exception to his presence and let out a series of blood-curdling yells. If you were walking through woodland at dusk and didn’t know what the sound was it could be pretty terrifying 🙂
Trips with more than one target species can be tricky, particularly if the different targets don’t occur at the same sites as each other…
I collected Lynn, Alan, Glynis and Michael from Swarland and we headed southeast towards Druridge Bay. The weather forecast promised showers and the first of those, accompanied by a bone-chilling breeze, hit just as we reached our first site. What didn’t mind the weather though were the two Otter cubs that we were soon watching 🙂 We watched them for 30 mins as they fed synchronously in turbulent water; drifting , diving, bobbing up like corks and, after coming very close to us, eventually drifting away when they heard a dog-walker shouting at her errant pet. A walk on the beach worked up an appetite for lunch and then we were off in search of our second target for the day. Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker were all visiting feeding stations but in the icy breeze I wasn’t overly confident that we’d have any luck. Checking a different clump of trees proved the key though, and we soon found ourselves just a few metres away from an apparently unconcerned Red Squirrel 🙂 As dusk approached, Little Grebe, Goldeneye and Mute Swan were silhouetted against water turned pink by a stunning sunset, and Lapwings flew by like gigantic moths in the half light.
Multi-mammal days are always fantastic. Our one day record on a trip with clients is 8 species, but there’ll surely come a day (probably during the summer when we can search for bats at the end of the day) when we hit double figures!
We’ve always tended to stick to the coast during the autumn and winter, but our Dark Skies experiences are attracting a lot of interest, particularly with clients who’d like to combine a wildlife tour with stargazing. Of course, the stargazing is rather weather dependent…
I collected Lorraine, Steve, Debbie and Gary from their holiday cottage in Longframlington and we headed west, along the Coquet Valley, nestled between the Cheviot Hills and Simonside and across into Kielder. The border forests aren’t blessed with quantity of wildife at this time of the year, but there’s no doubting the quality 🙂 Red Squirrels were the main target species for the trip, which Lorraine had booked as a wedding anniversary surprise for Debbie and Gary, and they didn’t disappoint, with two animals engaged in a furious chase around the trees as they struggled for dominance over a feeder. One quickly prevailed and began hoarding nuts, coming so close that you could almost reach out and touch it. Ravens were soaring over the road, and the one bird that was present in good numbers, as expected, was Chaffinch. We crossed over the border into Scotland, enjoying close views of Common Buzzards as they held position in the breeze above a ridge, a Kestrel perched on a telegraph pole and Stonechats in roadside vegetation. A covey of Red Grouse burst from the heather, then another, and then the source of their distress drifted by – a ringtail Hen Harrier 🙂 The harrier quartered back and forth over the moor for a few minutes before dropping out of sight and we made our way onward over the desolate moorland road.
As daylight faded and roosting Cormorants squabbled noisily, a Roe Deer was grazing quietly by the water’s edge. It came right down to the water to drink and then we could hear the splashing of ducks frantically trying to take off from the reeds. Had the deer disturbed them? No, by the edge of the reeds an Otter made its way menacingly along from where the ducks had flushed…and then got out of the water, spooking the deer and chasing it a few metres up the bank 🙂 It would have had to be an optimistic Otter to try and predate a Roe Deer, so they may well have just startled each other.
We made our way back across Northumberland, hoping for a break in the weather and a starry sky but it wasn’t to be and the first drops of rain peppered the windscreen as we reached Longframlington. Then I just had a short journey home to a delicious birthday dinner 🙂
I love watching wildlife, always have done since I was very young and I love watching wildlife with our clients. Sometimes though, people are just as interesting…
I collected Richard and Jan from their b&b in Chatton and we headed down through the centre of Northumberland in search of the Red Squirrel. Our first stop was one of our regular sites for squirrels, but didn’t produce the goods this time. Next was what a friend described as the best ‘guaranteed’ site for Red Squirrel in Northumberland…no joy here either, although it looked perfect. We weren’t the only people in the hide – a couple came in and he set up his camera while his wife tried to keep their dog quiet. Then she dropped his tripod on the hide floor. Unfortunate, and could happen to anyone, but likely to reduce the chance of seeing a squirrel. Then it happened again, careless, but still not helping the cause of wildife watching. Her husband didn’t even flinch as the tripod crashed to the floor and, when it happened for a third time, we were all wondereing if it was his wife’s way of trying to get his attention. If it was she was failing spectacularly 😉 At that point we gave up and headed across towards the coast, where I’d planned to have our lunch stop at another site that has worked well for us on previous Red Squirrel trips. Sure enough, as soup and sandwiches were consumed, a squirrel came down from the canopy in search of it’s lunch 🙂 It made off with a peanut and was soon back for more.
After achieving our main aim for the day we spent the rest of the afternoon around Druridge Bay. Avocet, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Bearded Tit, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Great Crested Grebe and much more made for an excellent afternoon birdwatching. following on from a morning of squirrelwatching and peoplewatching 🙂
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.
Monday was a day with the potential to go either way, and I was nervous. I first met John when himself and Helen were on a North Sea pelagic in June last year and we found this little beauty. This trip was something altogether different though – Helen had arranged a one-to-one photography day. Our one-to-one days focus on whatever our clients would like to work on – sometimes techniques (exposure/composition/fieldcraft etc.), sometimes species (Black Grouse, Otter and Red Squirrel are just some of the ones we’ve helped clients to photograph) – and John’s request was to develop his techniques for getting good images of shorebirds. Now, using fieldcraft developed over 40yrs is one thing when I’m in the field on my own…teaching it, with our subject right where it can see us, is slightly more challenging 😉
I collected John from home in Morpeth and we headed north until we were in the impressive shadow of Bamburgh Castle. Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Eider were all approached with stealth and patience before we made our way down the Northumberland coast to Druridge Bay, stopping off and stalking Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Sanderling, Redshank, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin and finishing the day’s photography with the slightly easier proposition of Reed Bunting, Blue Tit and Lesser Redpoll at a feeding station before admiring the Red-necked Grebe that I first found back in mid-February – now in a much more attractive plumage than it was five weeks ago.
John very kindly supplied some of his images from the day, for which we’re very grateful, so here they are 🙂 You can click on them to see the full size images, and please do get in touch with us if you’d like to get more from your camera equipment.