Tag: Robin

Chorus of the valleys; Bespoke Cheviot Valleys Safari 12/05/17

by on May.16, 2017, under Cheviot Valleys

I collected John and Kate from Church Point at 06:00 and we headed westwards towards the Cheviot massif…

Stepping out of the car in a cold breeze, the density of bird song was like a wall of sound.  Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were all belting out their best tunes, while Oystercatcher, Greylag Goose and Canada Goose provided an accompaniment that was akin to a 3 year old banging a pan with a spoon.  The complex songs of Sedge Warbler and Skylark added to the aural backdrop and the buzzing trill of Lesser Redpoll overhead added an occasional background note.  Brown Hares were running along tractor tyre tracks through long crops and a young Roe Deer seeemd more puzzled than scared by the car.  Common Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge were a reminder of the main managed purpose of the valleys, while on the higher slopes Red Grouse were chuckling, Curlew were displaying and a Common Snipe was singing from the top of an isolated hawthorn as the valley bottom delivered the riparian triumvirate of Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey WagtailHouse Martins were gathering mud to add to their nests, Swallows were hawking insects as the air warmed slightly, Treecreeper and Tree Pipit were both, unsurprisingly, in trees, a Green Woodpecker was yaffling but didn’t show itself and a Cuckoo was singing persistently from a vantage point high in a bare tree.  As far as we could tell, he was singing constantly for at least 3 hours then, as we had lunch, a second Cuckoo flew over the hillside, pursued by a crowd of Meadow Pipits, and the singer flew from his perch to chase the interloper away down the valley.

I’m an evening person, but really enjoy early starts for our inland locations 🙂

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Wax(w)ing lyrical about wildlife; Otter Safari 09/11/16

by on Nov.10, 2016, under Druridge Bay

There are a few species that really epitomise winter wildlife-watching, and they include my favourite bird, one of my favourite mammals, and another bird that never fails to excite…

I collected Andy from Whitley Bay (it’s great to have him back from Mull for a few months over the winter!) and we had an interesting chat about plankton sampling and microscopy as we drove up the coast to collect Genine from Newbiggin.  Genine’s last trip with NEWT was a breathtaking pelagic in early September, and now we were out in search of Otters and any other birds and wildlife that we could find around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I suggested that we started with a quick search for Waxwings, just a few minutes down the road.  As we approached where they’d been seen the previous day, a flock flushed from a rowan tree where they were gorging themselves on berries.  We watched them land in the bare branches of a tall tree nearby and counted at least 120 birds, with another 60 flying around and landing in trees just along the road.  In the cold and damp, we started our search for Otters, and were soon watching one as it fed on small fish.  With hardly a breath of wind, the water was flat calm and we tracked the Otter‘s movement by the trail of bubbles it left each time it submerged before, after around half an hour, it left the water and vanished up the bank and behind a fallen tree.  Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Oystercatcher were probing the mud along the water’s edge and a flash of electric blue heralded the arrival of a Kingfisher, which played a game of hide and seek with us as Goldfinch and Bullfinch perched in the tops of trees, the disembodied weak winter song of a Robin came from the depths of a hawthorn and two Sparrowhawks tussled in mid-air overhead before one gave up the fight and flew well away.  Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Common Eider, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Duck were a nice haul of wildfowl as Little Grebe warily watched the spot where the Otter had vanished and Long-tailed Tits called unseen from nearby bushes.

The approach of dusk brought thousands of Starlings in a swirling murmuration before they dropped into the reedbeds for the night as the high-pitched yapping of Pink-footed Geese and the discordant honking of Greylag Geese betrayed the presence of skein after skein arriving from feeding areas to the south of us.  Squealing Water Rails remained hidden and, as the last rays of daylight filtered through from the western horizon, Whooper Swans arrived.  Big, ghostly and quiet on their approach, as they hit the water they began whooping and their haunting voices accompanied our walk back to the car in the dark.

Proper wintry cold, almost continuous drizzle, stunning wildlife and lovely clients – just a great way to spend a day in mid-November 🙂  We’ll be running Otter Safaris, Druridge Bay Safaris and Lindisfarne Safaris right through the winter, so get in touch, wrap up warm and come and join us for a day searching for Northumberland’s fantastic wildlife!

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The enchantment of dusk; Bespoke Otter Safari 26/10/16

by on Oct.27, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Whatever the time of year, that final hour or so before it’s too dark to see any wildlife is invariably the best bit of the day…

I collected Gerry and Tracey from The Swan and we headed towards the coast for a day in search of OttersGoldcrests, Long-tailed Tits and Robins provided noise and movement in the bushes, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Wigeon, Gadwall and Little Grebe were dabbling and/or diving, Cormorant, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser all emanated an air of sleek menace, Grey Heron and Little Egret stalked patiently along the edges of shallow pools where Black-tailed Godwits radiated elegance, Curlew probed for worms in grassy fields, Eider were just beyond the gently rolling surf as low sunlight illuminated the dunes to structures of extraordinary beauty and Carrion Crows harried a Common Buzzard as it flapped lazily over the coastal fields.

As the sun dipped towards the horizon, ducks and geese were silhouetted against a stunning orange reflection and an all-out assault on the senses began to build.  First Starlings, just a few hundred intially, building to a murmuration of several thousand as wave after wave of birds arrived – some to join the swirling amorphous dark cloud overhead, others heading straight in to the reeds as they’d arrived too late to join the party.  Water Rails screeched, squealed and chattered from the reeds nearby and Pink-footed Geese began arriving as Roe Deer grazed in the open as the cover of falling light levels provided them with a cloak of safety.  A few dozen geese, noisily yapping as they adjusted their approach to be into the headwind ready for landing, became a few hundred, then a thousand or so, and eventually around 5000 with skeins arriving from south and north east.  In front of us, the combination of sunset and dark cloud had left one sublime strip of orange light when Gerry said “what’s that just there?”.  Sleek, sinuous and menacing, the Otter swam across the strip of light and out of sight from us, although the geese and ducks spent a good 5 minutes staring in the direction it had departed 🙂

As the clouds overhead cleared the darkening sky revealed some of it’s gems; first Arcturus, then the Summer Triangle (Deneb, Vega and Altair) and Mars before the familiar asterism of The Plough and, appropriately as it was accompanied by the remarkable calls of Whooper Swans, Cygnus.  A great end to a fantastic day, searching for wildlife and discussing otters, squirrels, Pine Martens, rewilding and post-industrial landscapes with lovely clients 🙂

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Arrivals; Holy Island bespoke birdwatching 20/10/16

by on Oct.21, 2016, under Lindisfarne

Yesterday was Pete and Jan’s 9th trip with NEWT and we headed to a location that they haven’t visited with us previously…

Heading north from Embleton we soon encountered the first rain of the day, and by the time we reached the Holy Island causeway the mud and shallow water around the array of Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit was being battered by a fairly torrential shower.  As the rain eased, everything scattered as a Peregrine flew over; a muscular menace above mudflats where Grey Seals were hauled out as the tide fell, and a dense flock of Golden Plover settled once the danger had passed.  Once the rain eased, we headed across onto the island and began the entertaining game of hide-and-seek that characterises mid-October birdwatching on the coast with birds arriving from the east.  Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Robin, Linnet, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit all appeared, vanished and reappeared as the air overhead was filled with calls of Lapwing, Curlew, Grey Plover and Skylark.  Three Roe Deer were in a nearby field and a Firecrest put in an unobligingly fleeting appearance in one of many, many bushes that held Goldcrests.  We eventually made our way to the north side of the island and joined the twitch of a very obliging Isabelline Wheatear.  Every bush seemed to hold Robin and Goldcrest and, along the Straight Lonnen, Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird were feeding avidly and a very grey ‘eastern’ Goldcrest stood out from the more typical birds as a Ring Ouzel flew over before diving for cover in a hawthorn bush.  After lunch, another bush full of ‘crests produced two Firecrests in view at the same time before we headed back across to the mainland.

Another great day out with Pete and Jan, and the weather forecast looks like it could bring even more arrivals from the east over the next few days 🙂

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Welcome home to Northumberland; Bespoke Coast Safari 28/04/16

by on May.03, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter

As I arrived at Church Point to collect Tom and Sue, the weather was slightly breezy but dry.  The forecast suggested that it might be showery later during the afternoon and promised a bit of a contrast with Tom and Sue’s home country of Australia. Tom’s a Northumbrian so I was really looking forward to showing him parts of the coast that he wasn’t familiar with, hopefully with the weather showcasing Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland at its best…

Cormorants air-dried their wings in the stiffening breeze and a Coot took umbrage at a Moorhen that was doing nothing more sinister than just wandering along the water’s edge, Woodpigeons, Jackdaws, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese speckled the dark grey sky.  A typically nervous Great Spotted Woodpecker watched us warily from behind a tree trunk, Tree Sparrows were chipping in the hedgerows, a Magpie was going back and forth presumably from it’s nest, Robins flicked across paths just ahead of us, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher probed in the mud in conditions that were starting to resemble the winter and a Little Egret was a shockingly bright bundle of white feathers in an ever darkening vista of Northumberland’s coastal wildlife as Avocets, delicate visions in black and white, swept their heads from side to side through shallow water in seach of food.

Great Crested Grebes comported themselves with their usual elegance as more Cormorants stood hunched in the wind and then, as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler must have been wondering if they were in the right place at the right time of year, the heavens unleashed hail, sleet and snow from an apocalyptic sky and a Water Rail scurried mouse-like between reedbeds as two Otter cubs appeared just beyond the grebes 🙂  Their first appearance was fleeting, just a few seconds before they vanished from sight behind a reedbed.  Then they were back, and porpoising side by side, back and forth, before once again heading into the shelter of the reeds.

As Fulmars soared along the clifftops and Gannets rode the uplift just above the waves offshore, we ended the day with the clouds overhead breaking to reveal blue sky and sunshine in a remarkable area of glorious weather that was surrounded in every direction by leaden grey clouds and storms.  Atmospheric wildlife watching…

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Hidden; Otter mini-Safari 09/04/2016

by on Apr.11, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter

The best thing about wildife, and at the same time occasionally the most frustrating thing, is that you can’t ever predict exactly what it’s going to do…

I collected Jeff and Helen, and Kevin, from Church Point and we set off for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  The afternoon had an almost constant aural backdrop of Chiffchaff song, and Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird and Goldcrest all added to the springlike feel of the afternoon.  Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher were all probing in gooey mud but with no sign of agitation to suggest that there was an Otter around.  A family of Whooper Swans were a reminder that winter is only just behind us, while Swallows and Sand Martins heralded the move towards the summer.  Skylark and Meadow Pipit both demonstrated that they’re more than brown and uninteresting, Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards are likely to remain a feature of our Druridge Bay trips for a few months, a handsome Roebuck ran across the fields and vanished behind a hedge and the assembled wildfowl had got their eye on something in the reeds…Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Canada Goose and Greylag Goose were all fixated on one small area of a reedbed.  Alert, nervous and barely breaking their gaze they’d obviously spotted something.  What though?  Whatever it was remained hidden from our sight, although it held the attention of the birds for a long time.  The reedbed was probably a much better option than braving the keen northerly breeze!

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Embrace the weather; Druridge Bay Bespoke Birdwatching 07/10/2015

by on Oct.08, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Crisp clear winter nights for stargazing, calm conditions for our North Sea Pelagic trips and warm summer nights for Otter Safaris are all fantastic, but what really gets my heart racing is mist, drizzle and winds from the east in October…

I collected Tony from his b&b in Newbiggin for the first of three days of bespoke birdwatching, and we started just down the road at Church Point.  Walking north along the clifftop we were soon watching Rock Pipits, Wheatears, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Sanderling, Gannet, Eider and a remarkably confiding Golden Plover.  I’d just suggested that we’d find a Snow Bunting ‘in the next 50 metres’ when one shuffled out from the sparse ground cover just in front of us 🙂  Staring at bushes and trees produced Blackcap, Robin, Dunnock, lots of Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Ring Ouzel, three Yellow-browed Warblers, a Kestrel that was causing regular alarm, flocks of Golden Plover high overhead and an enjoyable chat with Alan.

Lunchtime brought the rain that had been forecast and the afternoon in Druridge Bay produced Little Egret, Grey Heron, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Ring Ouzel, Redwing, flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet, a juvenile Marsh Harrier and an Otter that Tony spotted as it made it’s way along the edge of a reedbed.  And the rain continued…just what I was hoping for ahead of day two for Tony; a trip to Holy Island 🙂

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Searching; Lindisfarne Safari 14/09/2015

by on Sep.22, 2015, under Lindisfarne

When we’re heading to the coast, and a generally easterly wind is accompanied by mist and drizzle, my pulse starts racing…

I collected Clare and Peter from The Swan and we headed north to collect Phil and Susan from the Lindisfarne Hotel.  Holy Island can be a migrant hotspot, and the number of Song Thrushes suggested that there had been a recent arrival.  Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Linnet and Blackbird were all in the Vicar’s Garden, along with Pied and Spotted Flycatchers that were so busy being intolerant of each other that they weren’t doing too much flycatching.  Walking along the lonnens produced Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and more Robins then we settled into position to scan the mudflats.  Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Dunlin, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit scoured the oozing mud and silvery creeks as the mournful wailing of Grey Seal carried on the breeze and Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal shifted position as the rising tide disturbed them from the water’s edge.

In the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, as the weather deteriorated, Knot, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper were picking their way through piles of seaweed as Eider rode effortlessly over the waves just beyond them and the heavy drizzle brought an end to our day.

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Springtime on the coast; Otter Safari 08/04/2015

by on Apr.09, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

The lack of summer visitors has been commented on by local birdwatchers for the last couple of weeks, but there are signs that the summer is on its way…

I collected Sam and Linda from West Acre House and we headed towards the coast, thankfully free of the sea fret that hampered Monday’s trip.  All of our Otter sites were very quiet on the mustelid front, but birdwatching is starting to pick up.  A male Marsh Harrier, and no less than three female harriers nest-building, was a fantastic start to the morning.  Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Robin were all singing, Little Egrets were keeping up their recent record of putting in an appearance on our tours, a song-flighting Meadow Pipit settled obligingly close to us, Skylarks were soaring and singing high overhead, Little and Great Crested Grebes may be at opposite ends of the size spectrum but both are quite beautiful, Curlew and Redshank were digging in the mud, Goldeneye were displaying their golden eyes in the bright sunshine and Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck were all caught in two minds between feeding and courting.  15 Avocet were radiating elegance and the day had passed so quickly.

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Life, the universe and everything; Otter Safari 04/04/2015

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

As I arrived at The Swan to collect Alan, Sarah and Sam it was looking like a glorious spring day.  The plan for the day was to search all of our regular Otter sites around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Robin were all singing, Little Egret were stalking through the shallows (almost a permanent feature of our coastal trips now), Cormorant and Goldeneye caused momentary panic as they slipped beneath the water’s surface, Stonechats tail-flicked atop coastal bushes and Meadow Pipits were song-flighting.  Towards the end of the day we came across a species that is always attention-grabbing, as a Kingfisher flew downstream towards us before crossing the river and perching in a low bush, sitting obligingly as we trained our ‘scopes on it.

As we travelled between sites, Sam’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge generated a keenly contested quiz.  Not on wildlife though, this was a quiz on the solar system and astronomy!  Now, I thought my knowledge of the universe was good, but thanks to an enthusiastic 7 year old, I finished the day with it expanded 🙂

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