Tag: Red-throated Diver
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 🙂
Day 1. 19/02/17. I arrived at the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of our Winter Wonderland holiday, then met up with with Christine, John, Linda and Rosie in the bar and outlined the plan for the next two days while we enjoyed a fantastic meal.
Day 2. 20/02/17. Our first full day was targeting Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast. Stopping at Budle Bay on our way north we soon found a Spotted Redshank amongst the Common Redshank, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Curlew as Pink-footed and Greylag Geese and Lapwing swirled distantly against a leaden grey sky on a stiff breeze and Red-breasted Mergansers looked even more comical than usual with their tufts blown to odd angles. A heavy misty drizzle took hold, yet cleared within minutes, leaving a beautiful azure sky draped in fluffy white cloud. A Kestrel perched obligingly as we stopped along a hedgerow that was heaving with Chaffinches. As the receding tide cleared the Holy Island causeway, waders dropped in to feed along the edge of the recently exposed mud. Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit were all close to the road and easily observable by using the car as a nice, sheltered, warm hide as Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew over us 🙂 Over on the island we found a mixed flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Curlew and Lapwing. As an unseen threat spooked them and they lifted from the field, it was obvious that the number of birds present was far greater than we thought. Grey Seals were hauled out on the now visible sandbars and we headed back across to the mainland. Lunch overlooking the vast expanse of mud produced more geese and ducks, including Pintail, and a distant Little Stint in amongst a flock of Dunlin and Knot. A Merlin had spooked the Chaffinch flock as we headed back south and a quick stop at Bamburgh produced Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Eider but nothing on the sea in what the wind had whipped up into a frothing mess of whitecaps. The stiffening breeze was making viewing conditions awkward but the final stop of the afternoon brought Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch and Goldcrest before we headed back to Seahouses. Dinner was accompanied by a discussion of the plan for Tuesday, and a target list was quickly developed…
Day 3. 21/02/17. Tuesday saw us heading south towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Our first target for the day was a species that’s scarce and often only offers fleeting views…Willow Tit is a regular visitor to the NEWT garden feeding station but I’d got a different site in mind and we enjoyed prolonged views of at least two of these gorgeous little birds, as well as a detailed discussion about how to separate them from Marsh Tit. Reed Bunting, Common Snipe and Common Buzzard joined the day list as an impressive flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover swirled against the sky as we headed off in search of our next target for the day. This one proved fairly straightforward and we had great views of both male and female Brambling. Little Grebe, Goldeneye and Common and Black-headed Gulls accompanied our lunch stop before we had excellent views of some very obliging Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ruff, Tree Sparrow and Little Egret. Shorelark was the one target for the day that eluded us, as we had several flight views of a vocal flock of Twite while Ringed Plover were displaying on the beach, Sanderling were scurrying back and forth and a flock of Common Scoter were offshore with Red-throated Divers and Guillemot just beyond the breaking surf. A handsome male Stonechat flushed from bush to bush ahead of us as we walked along the path and the long-staying Pacific Diver eventually gave great views close to a Slavonian Grebe. There was one target species still remaining on the list for the day though, and I was sure that the last hour of daylight would bring that one for us. Scanning the edges of reedbeds through the telescope revealed a dark shape that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier during my last scan of the reedbed, and that dark shape stretched and began loping along, still partly obscured by the reeds. Within a minute everyone had located the Otter as it moved quickly around the edge of the pool and then it vanished, only to appear in the water a few minutes later 🙂 We watched as it swam towards us before losing it from sight behind the near vegetation. After a few minutes of calm all of the Mute Swans were suddenly staring towards the bank right in front of us, and the Otter passed by just a few metres away 🙂 A great finish to our final full day in the field.
Day 4. 22/02/17. Departure day dawned dry, bright and with an icily cold breeze as we gathered for breakfast before all heading off our separate ways.
We’ll be adding 2017 and 2018 dates to our holiday page shortly but please do get in touch if you’ve got any questions about what we offer. Our short break holidays have a maximum of 6 participants, and a relaxed pace, and we’re always happy to create something bespoke too 🙂
Thursday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for several months…Sue’s 5th trip with NEWT was a day searching for and identifying wading birds. Some, like the Curlew with it’s eerie cry and long downcurved beak are straightforward, but others can be a bit trickier…
A field full of Oystercatcher and Lapwing close to the coast started the trip, and 30+ Whooper Swan in the same fields were a nice find. Down on to the Aln Estuary anad more Oystercatcher and Lapwing, along with Redshank, Curlew and a lone Woodcock which dived into cover after a presumably challenging journey across the North Sea. Vast flocks of Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook and Pink-footed Goose darkened the sky close to the horizon and we headed up the coast. Smaller waders were soon in our sights, with Dunlin alongside Sanderling and Ringed Plover while Turnstone were busy turning stones, kelp and anything else that they thought might conceal something to eat and the plaintive calls of Grey Plover carried across the beach on the strengthening breeze. Along the shoreline Redshank were probing the mud alongside Bar-tailed Godwit and a lone Pink-footed Goose flew northwards, calling constantly. A stream of Blackbirds heading westwards marked an obvious arrival of migrants and a second Woodcock flew ‘in-off’ as we had lunch. Knot alongside Dunlin allowed a nice comparison of two species that can be tricky at a distance and vast flocks of Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit resembled Starling murmurations as they wheeled and turned distantly between Holy Island and the mainland. Just offshore from the mud where the waders were feasting Common Eider and Red-throated Diver were riding the swell, a Great Northern Diver flew north, flotillas of Shag were diving, flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Pale-bellied Brent Goose were disturbed by the rising tide and, as light levels began dropping, Sue spotted two Little Egrets as they left the mud and headed towards a nighttime roost.
Before the end of the day, Sue had already booked her next trip with us – Kielder next March. There’ll be fewer waders, and less mud 🙂
There’s a special quality to the winter; stark, icy landscapes filled with vast flocks of wintering birds grip the attention and leave you marvelling at the inhospitable conditions our winter wildlife contends with. We can wear a range of incredibly technical clothing, and head back to the car, or even indoors, if conditions deteriorate but wildlife just has to get on with surviving…
I arrived at Middleton to collect Lesley and Andrew, who were enjoying a week in Northumberland that included their wedding, for their second trip with NEWT (following a successful Otter Safari in May last year) and we headed towards Holy Island. As we walked out to The Lough, flocks of Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew in off the mudflats heading towards the flooded fields where we’ve seen them roosting and bathing over the last couple of weeks. The flooded fields were frozen fields though, and the geese circled over them before heading back out onto the mud. Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye and Shoveler were all very skittish and we could even track the progress of whatever was disturbing them by their movements, although whatever it was remained unseen by us. Vast flocks of Golden Plover filled the air and Skylark song carried on the icy breeze. Back on the mainland the rising tide brought Curlew, Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Common Redshank closer and closer to us. Then, as the encroaching tide lapped at their toes in the grass at the edge of the mudflats, 12 Skylark suddenly rose in front of us as a flock of Lesser Redpoll sat in bushes behind our viewing point.
Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver were on the sea just beyond the rocks where Purple Sandpipers were engaging in their daily dance with the breaking surf and it was time to head back after an enjoyable day with clients who have a great love for Northumberland, and an extraordinary knowledge of great places to eat – we’ll be trying out their recommendations over the next month or so 🙂
Friday was Tony’s third, and final, day of bespoke birdwatching with NEWT and we headed north in similar weather to Thursday…
Travelling north, Roe Deer seemed unsure which way to run across the road so dodged back and forth in front of us. On the rising tide, Little Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were hunting along the water’s edge, Pale-bellied Brent Geese were leapfrogging north, Pink-footed Geese flew south high overhead as the ‘choo-it’ calls of a Spotted Redshank and eerie moaning of Grey Seals cut through the tranquil air. A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and the rising tide brought more birds towards us, Herring, Common, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ruff, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Goosander, Mallard and Teal were more obliging than distant swirling flocks of Lapwing and Barnacle Goose and a noisy tribe of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees behind us. Lunch at Stag Rocks produced Common Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Shag, then Greenshank and Shoveler were soon added to the day list as we continued south down the coast. Panic amongst Herring Gulls and Cormorants revealed a Grey Seal swimming along the River Coquet and Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye were the final new birds for Tony’s holiday as a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by and Greylag and Pink-footed Geese began arriving at their overnight roost.
October is a fantastic month to be out birdwatching on the Northumberland coast. If we haven’t had the mist, drizzle and easterly winds to shower us with migrants, there’s always a wealth of wintering and passage waders and wildfowl to enjoy…
I collected Alison, Jon, Sally and Andrew from Tughall and we set out for a day on the coast. Alison and Jon had been out with us two years ago, on a day that featured a stuffed badger in the back of a police car! Heading north towards Lindisfarne we soon came across Greenshank, Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Egret by the roadside. Then it was the turn of wildfowl to take centre stage; Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck and Greylag, Pink-footed, Barnacle and Pale-bellied Brent Geese. Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew were probing the mud along the shore line as a Red-throated Diver sat serenely just offshore and the moaning wails of Grey Seals drifted across the low-tide mud. Back to Tughall for lunch and then we were away again, this time heading south towards Druridge Bay. In sublime light, but with an ever strengthening breeze, a Little Egret seemed to glow as it’s breast feathers were fanned out into an impressive ruff by the wind. Little Grebes just got on with being as cute as ever, Grey Herons stalked along the water’s edge, occasionally breaking off to dispute feeding locations and Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck were all resplendent in the sunshine. A great day out, and no dead wildlife was stroked, fondled or petted 🙂
There are days when it’s calm, still and sunny, but those days are rarely as good as the days when the weather adds its own weight to the whole experience of being in Northumberland.
I collected Alan and Sandra for their second day out with NEWT and we headed north, to explore the exceptional birdwatching that the north Northumberland coast has to offer in the late autumn. The closer we got to the coast. the grimmer the weather looked, and as we settled ourselves into position by the Holy Island causeway the rain began pattering against the windows of the car. Using the car as a birdwatching hide can be a very profitable approach in poor weather and I positioned it so that Alan and Sandra’s side of the car was out of the wind and rain. Flocks of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were shuffling along the edge of the rising water, and we could pick out a few Dark-bellied Brent Geese amongst them too. The rising tide brought Curlew, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover towards us in changeable weather – at one point we were in bright sunshine and heavy rain at the same time, while the mudflats away to the north of the causeway were under a perfect double rainbow 🙂 Three Little Auks flew north towards the causeway and conditions improved. Flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare were typical of poor autumn weather and every bush and tree seemed to hold several Robins. Gannets were feeding offshore from Bamburgh, where some impressive waves were battering the shore, Red-throated Divers flew by and we finished the same as 24h earlier with Pink-footed Geese yapping in the darkness.
Last Wednesday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for some time. Janice and David have visited Northumberland annually for many years and it was David’s 50th birthday so Janice had arranged an afternoon out for him 🙂
Arriving at Cresswell, I was impressed by the naked-eye view of a Red-throated Diver from the window of the cottage, and we were soon on our way up the coast, for an afternoon’s birdwatching concentrating on locations where there is a better than average chance of seeing an Otter. David is a keen reader of some of our local birdwatching blogs and it wasn’t long before we bumped into a familiar name as we enjoyed East Chevington’s quartet of grebes – Little, Great Crested, Slavonian and Red-necked – in the company of Alan Gilbertson, who showed us an image he’d taken of Bean Geese at Hauxley. Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Gadwall were all stunning in the beautiful afternoon light and we continued on our way. The closure of one of the footpaths at Hauxley was going to make viewing the geese slightly tricky, as we’d have to be looking into the sun. We managed to find one spot that gave us a good view of the birds and, after we’d sifted through plenty of Greylag, Canada and Pink-footed Geese, which were obligingly on the pool rather than on a distant field, I spotted the brown wings and orange legs of a Tundra Bean Goose, which was asleep but woke to allow excellent comparison with the Pinkfeet.
On to a delightful spot that we’ve been checking recently for Otter, and the songs of Wren, Greenfinch and Goldfinch filled the air, as well as the persistent ‘rain song’ of a male Chaffinch, a Dipper came along the river, calling, and secreted itself away from view under the bridge we were standing on, a Grey Wagtail flew over calling, a Common Buzzard glided low over the trees and a flock of Curlew rose noisily from nearby fields. The Chaffinch and his mate were busy helping themselves to flies that were trapped in spider webs, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers really looked at their best in the sublime low sunlight.
Our final port of call was Cresswell Pond, which was bathed in warm orange sunlight with the tops of the reeds appearing to be aflame as the sun sank closer and closer to the horizon. Common Snipe were roosting at the water’s edge and a Starling murmuration twisted and turned above the skyline to the north as the light faded and I returned David back to the cottage. Incredibly, five hours had quite simply flown past as we enjoyed an afternoon birdwatching and chatting about wind farms, raptor persecution, marine conservation and Scottish independence. Do you know, you can easily tie all of those topics together 🙂
Yesterday continued to lay to rest the myth that February is a quiet month…
Starting in the north of the county, overlooking the iconic landscape of Holy Island, brought the expected waders and wildfowl, and three lifers for Paul and Katie, who were back for another day out with us, following a trip in 2009; Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Twite. A Peregrine muscled its way menacingly through the air above a flock of Dunlin, Grey Seals were ‘bottling’ at high tide and Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Curlew were probing the soft exposed mud as the tide began to drop. Eider, Shelduck, Red-throated Divers, Wigeon and Teal were all at or near the water’s edge and the songs of Skylark and Yellowhammer reverberated in the warm sunshine. Perhaps the highlight of the morning was a bird that is always breathtaking; sailing elegantly into the stiff breeze, a male Hen Harrier was tracking along a hedgerow heading inland 🙂
The afternoon brought Paul and Katie’s fourth lifer of the day, a Red-necked Grebe, with Little, Great Crested and Slavonian Grebes all close by for comparison. Two Avocets were rather unseasonal, a pair of Pintail exuded elegance, drake Goldeneye looked very smart in their contrasty breeding plumage, Red-breasted Mergansers looked quite, well, comical as they always do and two Brown Hares were sitting motionless in a nearby field. With 30 minutes until sunset a small flock of Starlings flying in from the north led to me suggesting that we go and see where they’d gone, and to check if there was going to a significant murmuration…
What followed was, quite simply, one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed. Initially the Starlings were about a mile south of where I expected them to roost, and there were a lot of them. Soon two other large flocks merged with them and they moved slowly north, eventually passing directly overhead with the sound of wingbeats like a gentle breeze rustling through a forest. The murmuration drifted away to the south again, then back north. Almost an hour had passed when the activity levels within the flock were ramped up. Twisting and turning with more urgency, the density of birds in different parts of our view coalesced to form writhing shapes from the previously uniform oval. With light levels fading, the birds vanished from sight, only to betray their presence in a series of shapes that resembled a slug, then a snail, then a car. We soon lost them in the gloom again, only for the finale to the evenings proceedings to take us all by surprise as the flock compacted over the reedbed where they were going to roost, forming a dense arrowhead as they funneled into the reeds. With the first birds down in the reedbed, the rest of the flock wheeled slightly higher, then repeated the maneuver, a second arrowhead driving into the reeds. A third, then a fourth, cohort entered the roost and all was quiet. Fade to black…
Our fourth trip this week was a day birdwatching with Simon, who was back again after previous trips including a stunning Farne Deeps pelagic in 2012. We’d spoken in advance of the trip and Simon was keen to add a few of Northumberland’s wintering birds to his life list; divers, grebes, Purple Sandpiper and Brambling were all mentioned as desirable.
When I arrived to collect him on Thursday morning, I was still wrestling with the challenge of heading inland for Brambling, yet leaving plenty of time to explore the Northumberland coast. That worry was quickly taken away, as putting a feeder up outside the holiday cottage meant that Simon had found one of the species on his wish list himself 🙂 Covering most of the coast from north to south produced five lifers; Red-throated Divers just beyond the surf, Long-tailed Ducks including a breathtakingly beautiful drake, Purple Sandpipers unobtrusively poking around in rock pools, displaying Goldeneye rivaling the attractiveness of the Long-tailed Ducks and, as the afternoon light faded and the rain finally arrived, a very obliging Water Rail. Twite, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Marsh Harrier, Slavonian, Little and Red-necked Grebes, Shelduck, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey and Golden Plover, Lapwing, Gannet, Curlew, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon may have been reduced to a supporting role for the day, but all combined to produce an excellent day’s birdwatching on the Northumberland coast 🙂