Tag: Redwing

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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Weasily identifiable; Lindisfarne Safari 20/04/2015

by on Apr.21, 2015, under Lindisfarne

April is when we start to spend more time visiting our inland areas, but the coast can still deliver real quality, and quantity, at this time of the year too.

I collected Sue and Colin from Beadnell and we headed north to Holy Island.  Crossing the causeway we paused to watch Eider and Red-breasted Merganser in the channel under the road.  The mudflats produced Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, as well as a lot, and it really was a lot, of Grey Seals.  Close to 2000 were hauled out and soon began their eerie moaning.  Black-tailed Godwit and Teal were sleeping by the edge of the Rocket Pool, a lone Brent Goose was kept company by a herd of sheep, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Skylarks were hurrying back and forth, a Redwing was foraging on the ground close to the field edge, a Sedge Warbler was singing it’s repetitive song from the reeds by the Lough as a Common Snipe put in a typically brief appearance and 12 Roe Deer were grazing near the Straight Lonnen.  Then we struck gold…walking slowly along the Hawthorns, a bird flushed from beside us.  The views were only brief but the white breast band, and silvery wing flashes, identified the bird as a male Ring Ouzel.  We continued walking slowly along the lonnen, and the bird kept a few metres ahead of us.  Then we lost track of it but stopped to watch two Blackbirds grubbing about in the undergrowth…and the ouzel called from a tree we’d already passed.  We turned as it flew out of hiding…followed by another, then another, and another and finally, a fifth male Ring Ouzel 🙂

Over on the mainland we had our picnic lunch as the eerie calls of Curlew floated through the heat haze across the mudflats and Sue spotted a Weasel.  It was running in and out of the vegetation so I started pishing…and it popped up and began running in our direction, sitting up on its hindlegs and staring straight at us 🙂  Eventually it got back on with whatever it was doing, and it put in repeat appearances for a few minutes.  A Brown Hare gave tantalising close views before vanishing into the crops and we finished in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle with Sand Martins hawking insects over the beach, Eiders bobbing in the gentle swell, a pair of Common Scoter slightly further from the shore, more Grey Seals, plunge-diving Sandwich Terns and lines of Gannets heading, mainly, north.  Not a bad range of wildlife for seven hours in mid-April 🙂

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Mud, glorious mud; Lindisfarne Safari 28/11/2014

by on Dec.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, North Sea, Northumberland Coast

The Northumberland coast in the late autumn is a birdwatching destination that I’ll never tire of.  Even in weather that could best be described as inclement, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.

I collected Mike and Janet from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north for a day birdwatching around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Starting with a walk around Holy Island village, a harsh chuckling call betrayed the presence of a Fieldfare in a small tree. Two others joined it, before they all departed noisily.  Then more chuckling Fieldfare, and the high seee calls of Redwing, carried through the air from high overhead and we could make out, in the mist, a mixed flock of these thrushes arriving high from the north east and bypassing the island on their way across to the mainland.  A Sparrowhawk raced by, hedge-hopping and swerving out of sight behind The Heugh, as thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew out onto the exposed mud of the wildfowl refuge area and Shag, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser dived just offshore.  A couple of very obliging Rock Pipits showed the subtle, dusky beauty that can only be appreciated with close views and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover were reaping the rich bounty of the mud, as Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in the newly exposed mud of the harbour, and the high whistling calls of drake Teal carried across to us from the Rocket Field, a Little Auk flew along the main street through the village.  Crossing back to the mainland, a Little Egret was stalking through the shallows along the roadside and Curlew and Oystercatcher were so close we could have almost reached out of the car and touched them.  As the falling tide exposed sandbars, Grey Seals were moaning eerily and splashing about in shallow water.  Suddenly, there were thousands of Wigeon and Golden Plover in the air.  They settled but then flushed again so I started a methodical check of every rock that I could see on the mud.  Then I found what I was looking for – a rock that was just too vertical…and the view through our ‘scope revealed the impressive muscular menace of a female Peregrine 🙂  She shuffled around and took off, only to settle on another rock closer to us.  Our attention was drawn to a charm of Goldfinches feeding nearby, and the Peregrine departed while we weren’t looking.

As the weather moved through in waves of varying grot, we watched a group of three Roe Deer grazing in a roadside field, and then headed a bit further down the coast.  Dusk was approaching rapidly as we watched more waders feeding busily as the tide rose, Lapwings flew over like giant bats and thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls arrived to roost.  Wave after wave of mist and drizzle, wave after wave of birds, wave after wave of  waves 🙂

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Battling the elements; Otter Safari 06/11/2014

by on Nov.14, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Last Thursday was Sue’s second Otter Safari with us this year, after an unsuccessful search in early July…a trip that was followed by five consecutive successful Otter Safaris for other clients!  I was really looking forward to this trip – Sue is great company and pleasure to be out birdwatching with – but the added pressure of already having one Otter Safari not produce our target species had me planning, re-planning and then planning some more…

I’d got two sites lined up that I was confident would produce Otter sightings, but the one spanner in the works was the weather forecast.  If it was accurate (and, as it turned out, it was) we’d got three hours of good weather, and four of poor, ahead of us.  As I drove to Church Point, I was mulling over the options for the two sites, and decided to go with the one that’s been our most reliable this year during the good weather, and then head to the other one towards dusk.  Then I thought about it again – would the reliable site, where I can usually predict to within a few metres where the Otter will first put in an appearance,  be better in the poor weather just before dark?  I decided to trust to my first instinct and we were soon watching over the water as the wind strengthened and the first drops of rain were carried towards us on the breeze.  As Goldeneye and Cormorant dived in the ruffled water I noticed a dark shape in the corner of my field of vision.  It might have been nothing, but I held my concentration on that spot and just over a minute later an Otter cub surfaced in front of us 🙂  Twisting, turning, porpoising, diving and feeding, it kept us entertained for 90 minutes before slipping out of sight as the next wave of raindrops stung our faces on the now howling wind.

We retreated to the car and sat eating lunch overlooking the North Sea, as a distant speck heading towards us over the waves revealed itself to be a Blackbird that paused for a few minutes on the cliff face before continuing its migration inland.  Then a Wheatear came ‘in-off’, and soon after that three Redwings arrived, following what must have been an arduous sea crossing, as the rain intensified.  As dusk approached, and the rain somehow became even heavier, we watched flocks of Teal and Wigeon, Common Snipe and Dunlin probing in soft mud, Curlew appearing as if from out of nowhere, Starlings and Jackdaws heading to roost, and Blackbirds, Robins, Fieldfare and more Blackbirds, and more Blackbirds 🙂

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Elementary; Bespoke Birdwatching 05/11/2014

by on Nov.13, 2014, under Birdwatching

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.

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Wild Goose chase; Bespoke Birdwatching 30/10/2014

by on Nov.03, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Natural History, Northumberland Coast

Thursday was Pete and Janet’s 6th trip with NEWT, and the dismal, gloomy, drizzly south easterly weather as I drove to Embleton seemed ever so slightly promising 🙂

We started around Druridge Bay, checking a small area of woodland close to the coast, and soon encountered one of my favourite passerines, with three Brambling feeding quietly high in the canopy and two more flying over noisily.  Everywhere we went there were Robins and Blackbirds, although little sign of any other migrants other than a large flock of Redwing over Cresswell and a flock of Fieldfare near Beadnell.  Leaping Salmon on the River Coquet provided a lot of entertainment and a Cormorant which had been catching small fish, dived, causing a large Salmon to leap clear of the water.  The fish splashed back down and the Cormorant surfaced, gripping it behind the gills.  As the bird drifted downstream with its catch, we couldn’t believe that it would be able to deal with such a large fish…then it manouvered it so that the fish’s head was pointing down it’s throat and swallowed it whole!

As dusk approached, we were on the coast near Holy IslandLittle Egrets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Redshank were on the mudflats and the high yapping sound of Pink-footed Geese could be heard distantly.  Skein after skein appeared against the dark clouds overhead, settling close to the oncoming tide.  Then more, and more, and more…thousands and thousands of geese, still arriving when it was so dark that they were just a slightly darker speckling against an almost featureless backdrop.  Finally, as we headed back to the car, the ‘teu-it’ call of a Spotted Redshank cut through the gloom as the geese continued to arrive.

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Rest and recuperation; A walk in the woods 04/11/2013

by on Nov.04, 2013, under Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Goldcrests are flitting tirelessly through the branches just overhead, Jays are leaving the edge of the wood and flying over nearby fields on strange bat-like wings, the thin high seee calls of Redwings mingle with the calls of Blackbird and Song Thrush as they head for the deepest darkest interior of the woods, seeking the sanctuary of their night-time roost and, beneath my feet, the soft yet lacerating carpet of pine needles adds to the earthy scent of autumnal decay as the putrid stench of a Common Stinkhorn assaults my sense of smell.  The cold damp air penetrates through to my gloved hands, biting at the flesh, a gentle hint that winter is on it’s way.

I’m on familiar territory; Choppington Woods occupies almost the entire view from our office window and provides an escape from the office and the fresh air to invigorate my mind.  Today though, it isn’t just about getting outside.  It’s ten days since I had surgery to remove the scar tissue from an old shoulder injury.  By next week I’ll be able to drive again, and the stitches will be removed from the operation wounds.  Another two weeks in and around the office and then I’ll be back guiding clients before the end of the month 🙂

For now though, I’m wrapped in the warming embrace of the multi-sensory comfort blanket of the world outside, with the words of my surgeon, when I came round from the anesthetic, still firmly burned into my memory “best thing for your recovery is to just get on with your normal life” …

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Something in the air; Holy Island birdwatching 10/10/2013

by on Oct.15, 2013, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Mist, drizzle, rain, howling north/northeasterlies, dreich…just what I pray for on our Lindisfarne birdwatching trips in mid-October 🙂

I collected Malcolm from Newbiggin, and we headed north in weather that can best be described as less than pleasant.  Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit were on the mud by the causeway as we crossed onto the island, and the heaviest shower of the morning greeted our arrival in the carpark so, as it eased slightly, we set off to walk around the village.  Occasionally, the weather conditions will throw out an oddity with the visible migration of just one species, and this was one of those days.  Although every tree and bush seemed to hold Robins and Song Thrushes, the high-pitched flight calls of one of our favourite winter visitors cut through the rushing wind.  Redwings, those beautifully marked thrushes, were arriving from the north.  Overshooting the island on the strong breeze they turned back into the headwind just over St Cuthbert’s Isle and battled back towards the sanctuary of the trees around St Mary’s Church.  Wave after wave of birds arrived, intertwined with wave after wave of rain and we had one of those frustrating moments that birdwatchers occasionally suffer during poor weather in the autumn.  Malcolm spotted a warbler flitting in and out of cover (the warbler that is, not Malcolm!) and, with rain spotting our binoculars, and the sudden arrival of another heavy shower, we only had a split-second to identify it as a Phylloscopus warbler with an obvious pale supercilium and a yellowish breast before it dropped back into the depths of the bush and we took shelter ourselves.  As the rain eased we checked the bushes again and a Chiffchaff popped out, very different to the earlier bird.  Another rain break, and now both birds had departed…

Down the coast, a short spell of seawatching produced an impressive raft of Eiders on the rather angry-looking sea, and a stream of Gannets heading south as we headed that way ourselves and back to southeast Northumberland.  It’s always a pleasure to have a local birdwatcher as a client on one of our trips.  With local knowledge, and a slightly different perspective on the issues that affect our wildlife and landscape, there’s always so much to chat about that the day seems to go too quickly.

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Arrivals

by on Apr.18, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I pulled into the car park at The Swan, Peter and Elizabeth were sitting in the bright sunshine.  There was still a cold edge to the breeze though, and we set out to explore Druridge Bay, south east Northumberland and the Northumberland coast.

Masses of frogspawn was evidence that our amphibians were getting on with business as usual, regardless of the weather, and a newt rose to the surface of a small pond to take a gulp of air before sinking out of sight back into the murky depths.  Chaffinches, Robins, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were singing, and a Chiffchaff was a welcome sound – we’d normally expect to start hearing them in mid-March, but this was our first this year.  A flock of Redwings were blown by like scraps of paper on the strengthening breeze and, just south of Cresswell, Fulmars glided effortlessly by, riding the updraft of the wind seemingly perilously close to the cliffs.

Another amphibian joined the day list, as a Common Toad walked along the path towards us, realised we were there, then retreated to the edge of the path and tucked all of it’s legs in so that it resembled a stone and waited for us to pass by.  A Greylag Goose was incubating and I mentioned that the same site usually held a pair of Mute Swansand one appeared, but we didn’t see where from.  The mystery was solved a few minutes later as it’s mate walked out of a reedbed, straight over the incubating Greylag and paddled across the water.  Incredibly the Greylag barely gave the swan a second glance, but just sat tight on it’s nest.

A Brown Hare sat haughtily in a roadside field, and a Sparrowhawk flew just ahead of the car for over 100m, before perching on a hedgerow and staring menacingly at us as we drove by.  By early evening the wind had really stiffened again and it started raining.  This didn’t dissuade a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier from hunting over a reedbed close to our position, and he eventually dropped into the reeds and onto prey; judging by the squealing he may have caught a Water Rail. Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin in one flock were additions to the year list, 18 Red-breasted Mergansers were displaying, a few Goldeneye were busy feeding and, as we finished our day, along one of NEWT’s favourite rivers, a dark shape moving slowly along the water’s edge caused some excitement.  Was this our quarry, the sinuous predator that terrorises fish, birds and small mammals?  No, it was a Moorhen…

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

by on Jan.31, 2013, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch and we followed tradition by sitting in our kitchen with a mug of coffee, and a bacon and tomato sandwich, having topped up all of the feeders the evening before.  An hour later, we’d racked up a list of 21 species; Blackbird 3, Jackdaw 2, Collared Dove 2, Robin 3, Chaffinch 20, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 3, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 8, Jay 1, Bullfinch 1, House Sparrow 1, Greenfinch 1, Woodpigeon 2, Redwing 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Song Thrush 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Brambling 2. Quite a successful hour, although most species weren’t present in the numbers we would have expected and, as usual, several species that had been visiting the garden in recent days (Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker) failed to appear during the 1 hour of the survey.  Easy birding, and part of a huge national survey.  If you didn’t do it this year, give it a go in 2014 🙂

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