Tag: Roseate Tern

Seabird Spectacular; Birdwatching magazine Reader Holiday 25-28/06/17

by on Jun.29, 2017, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands

Day 1 25/06/17

After collecting Malcolm, and then John, from Alnmouth railway station we headed to Seahouses and the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of a short break concentrating on the seabirds of the Northumberland coast.  Nigel, Janice and Cliff and Lesley had already arrived and at dinner we discussed the plan for the next two days.  I’d brought our Farne Islands day forward from Tuesday to Monday, and moved Coquet Island and Druridge Bay to Tuesday, and had my fingers crossed that it was the right decision…

Day 2 26/06/17

We boarded Glad Tidings IV after breakfast and headed across to Staple Island at the start of an all-day trip to the Farne Islands.  Staple doesn’t have any breeding terns, and has fewer visitors than Inner Farne, so is altogether a much more relaxed experience 🙂  Puffins, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Rock Pipits and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all coming and going as, just north of the island, Gannets were plunging into the sea.  Transferring across to Inner Farne for the afternoon, we made our way past Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and up to Lighthouse Point  where, alongside Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Kittiwakes, Rock Pipits were carrying food into nests tucked away out of sight in narrow crevices in the cliff face.  At the base of the cliffs the water was so clear that we could watch Guillemot, including a parent joined by a jumpling as we watched, and Razorbill as they swam with slow-motion effort under the water.  Back on the mainland we walked along the edge of the rising tide and watched Little Terns, Dunlin and Ringed Plover as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from the dunes and a maelstrom of Arctic Terns responded to marauding Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls and a real bonus bird came in the form of a 2cy Glaucous Gull.

Day 3 27/06/17

I woke up to the sound of a stiff breeze and rain, and breathed a sigh of relief that we’d moved our Farne Islands day to Monday.  We headed south along the coast towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and our first stop was to look for 3 Spoonbills which had been reported.  Just before we reached them, Nigel spotted a Cuckoo perched on a tree protector and we quickly found the Spoonbills.  Next stop was for a bird that’s straightforward to find in Northumberland during the winter, but a rare thing indeed in breeding plumage in late June.  The Slavonian Grebe was asleep, tucked up against the wind and rain but soon roused itself from slumber and started feeding.  Sedge and Reed Warblers were playing hide-and-seek with us in reedbeds, Tree Sparrows were feeding on the paths ahead of us and we spent some time watching an entertaining dispute between a Little Gull and a 1st summer Arctic Tern.  The tern seemed to have a case of angry little man syndrome and, as well as persistently harassing the gull, it took umbrage at the presence of Avocet, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow and ShelduckBlack-tailed Godwits were probing in the shallows, Curlew were in newly-mown fields and the air was filled with Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts.  Soon after lunch the weather deteriorated and as we could hear the sea crashing against the shore is was obvious that our planned sailing around Coquet Island wouldn’t be happening.  There’s always the telescope though, and although distant, we could identify Roseate Terns as Bar-tailed Godwits pottered along the shoreline below us.  As Great Crested Grebes somehow managed to look elegant even in the stiffening breeze and increasingly heavy rain we headed back to Seahouses.

Day 4 28/06/17

After breakfast together, everyone headed their separate ways.  I dropped Malcolm and John back at Alnmouth, and then I was on my way to a physio appointment – really not as much fun as watching Northumberland’s stunning wildlife 🙂

We’ll be adding more holiday dates to our online calendar in the next week, so make sure you book your place early before they’re all gone!

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Wind tunnel; North Pennines Safari 06/06/2015

by on Jun.10, 2015, under Farne Islands, North Pennines

When I arrived at Waren Mill to collect Kevin and Chris, things weren’t looking promising for our planned Farne Islands Safari.  We drove down to the sea at Bamburgh and a quick look told me all I needed to know; there really was no chance of boats sailing out of Seahouses with the frothy white sea being driven by a strengthening southwesterly breeze.  A quick discussion revealed a few species that Chris hasn’t seen yet, and we headed southwest towards the North Pennines to try and catch up with a couple of those.

Ring Ouzel was first up on our revised ‘shopping list’ and we got out of the car, only to discover that it was now so windy that standing upright was a challenge!  We were close to a nest site, and I’ve spent enough years there to know that the birds feed in an area of short grass and clumps of rush just below the narrow secluded valley where they nest.  A couple of minutes later I was scanning along the line of a drystone wall – and a male Ring Ouzel hopped out from behind a clump of rush 🙂  After a few minutes, enjoying good views of the ‘Mountain Blackbird’ as he crossed the rough pasture, we continued on our way.  Curlew, Red Grouse, Golden Plover, Lapwing and a Woodcock, contentedly digging worms out of the earth, were all seen as we headed towards the next species on Chris’s target list.  Black Grouse can be a difficult bird to find in the middle of the day, but I knew where I would expect them to be, and Kevin quickly spotted a dark head, with the tell-tale huge red eyebrow, poking up from the dense grassland.  More Black Grouse followed and we headed across to the coast in search of a third lifer for Chris.  The howling wind appeared to be driving a storm in our direction, and we just managed to find a Roseate Tern before the first rain drops started pattering on our heads 🙂

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Divebombed; Farne Islands Safari 03/06/2015

by on Jun.04, 2015, under Farne Islands

Wednesday’s weather was a complete contrast to Tuesday as I collected Mike and Janet from Dunstan Steads.  This was their second trip with NEWT, after a Lindisfarne trip last November, and today we were heading across to the Farne Islands.

Starting on dry land, we watched Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine as Skylarks soared overhead, Sandwich Terns plunged into the sea and Gannets soared by on the gentle breeze.  Crossing to the islands on St Cuthbert II, we soon had streams of Guillemots, Puffins and Razorbills passing by as Grey Seals popped their heads up out of the water around us and Kittiwakes called their name around the cliffs.  Once landed on Inner Farne we came under attack by the feisty Arctic Terns 🙂  Common Terns and Sandwich Terns kept themselves to themselves as Black-headed Gulls attempted to rob any Puffins that flew back in with fish, Common Eider and Shags continued incubating eggs and brooding chicks, apparently unconcerned by the presence of so many people, and amidst the mayhem and noise of the tern colony one call stood out.  ‘Choo-it, choo-it’ grabbed the attention as a ghostly Roseate Tern flew around the lighthouse and then off towards the mainland, and we had another four encounters with this beautiful species befopre we departed for the mainland 🙂

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Bottlenose Dolphins; Farne Islands safari 06/06/2014

by on Jun.11, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Whenever I head out for a  day guiding clients, I have a plan.  Occasionally we deviate from that plan…

I was heading to collect Liz and Mark from the Lord Crewe in Bamburgh, for their Farne Islands prestige tour, and I thought I knew what we’d be doing throughout the day – a walk along the coast in the morning, picnic lunch overlooking the Farne Islands and then the 13:00 sailing on Glad Tidings.  Simple, straightforward and a routine we’ve followed so many times with almost military precision.

However, just before I arrived in Bamburgh, Alan P. played a wild card 🙂 “Hi Martin, the dolphins are in Newbiggin Bay”.  This introduced another option for the morning…a drive south to try and catch up with the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that have been hanging around the north east coast since late March. I presented the options to Liz and Mark and they didn’t hesitate to decide on a wild dolphin chase 🙂  Alan was sending texts to keep me up-to-date with the location of the pod, so the latest information I had as we reached southeast Northumberland was that they’d headed south.  A day earlier I’d tracked them down the coast at the same time of day, so I thought they may well have repeated their movements.  It isn’t always that simple though, so I headed for a viewpoint that would give us the widest possible spread of coastline in view.  That strategy proved the best one as, away to the north, but further offshore than they’d been earlier in the morning, we could see a dark dorsal fin breaking the surface close behind a small fishing boat 🙂  Having located the pod distantly, we headed for a much closer viewpoint, and enjoyed prolonged views of ~16 Bottlenose Dolphins as they surfaced, breached, and charged through what was presumably a large shoal of Mackerel.  As the pod headed north, it was time for us to do the same so that I could get the day back on track.

Lunch was followed by a trip to Inner Farne in a stiff cold breeze.  The cliffs were echoing with the onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were coming off the clifftops like guided missiles as they headed out to fish, Gannets soared effortlessly by on the breeze, Fulmars arced around the cliff faces on stiff wings, Grey Seals were hauled out, soaking up the rays, and Cormorant and Shag seemed to be causing confusion amongst some passengers on the boat.  As we waited to land at the Inner Farne jetty, a call stood out from the general background mayhem of a seabird breeding colony; ‘choo-it, choo-it’, so distinctive, and a ghostly pale Roseate Tern flew just above our heads before landing with the Arctic, Sandwich and Common Terns roosting near the jetty.  On the island we ducked to avoid the attention of some rather agitated Arctic Terns, and concentrated on Liz’s aim for the afternoon – getting a good photograph of a Puffin 🙂  There were plenty of obliging models to choose from, and we watched as birds returning to their burrows with beaks filled with sandeel were mobbed by Black-headed Gulls.  After the chaos of the island, we finished the afternoon relaxing in the dunes at Bamburgh, eating carrot cake as Meadow Pipits and Skylarks sang and displayed in the sky around us 🙂

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Whales, Waders and Wildfowl day (1 and) 2

by on Sep.11, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

After getting back to Seahouses harbour at the end of our Whale and Dolphin Cruise, Sarah headed south back towards home, and myself and Bill followed the coast north to Holy Island.  The breeze had been strengthening while we were offshore, and around Holy Island it was close to unmanageable, with even a heavy stable tripod struggling to remain still enough to use the telescope.  We did find Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Dunlin around the harbour, but soon beat a hasty retreat – via the ice cream van 🙂

Heading back down the coast in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we watched flocks of Eider loafing just offshore and a mixed flock of Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns held a surprise in the shape of an adult Roseate Tern.

Dinner at The Swan was followed by discussing the plans for the next day, and on Sunday we concentrated on Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland.  It turned out to be a good day for waders, with Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and plenty of Snipe.  Perhaps the wader highlight of the day though were flocks of Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff arriving from the north east, pausing briefly to drink and rest and then departing to the south west.  A bird that’s rarely seen made it’s way onto the trip list too, as the long-staying Spotted Crake at East Chevington wandered in and out of the reedbeds.  Goosander, more Eider and lots of Grey Herons were around the River Coquet and it was soon time to head off, collect Sarah and go into Morpeth to eat at the excellent Nadon Thai.  It was an excellent two days, with a client who was excellent company, a keen birdwatcher and knows a lot of sites in and around Norfolk, where we haven’t been for a few years now, really well.

Whales? yes. Waders? yes. Wildfowl? yes.  It was the holiday that does exactly what it says on the tin 🙂

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“a real birding day” Birdwatching in the North Pennines 14/06/2013

by on Jun.21, 2013, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, North Pennines, Northumberland

After a successful sailing around Coquet Island last Thursday, with sightings of Roseate Terns perched and flying,

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Britain’s rarest breeding seabird

our re-arranged North Pennines Safari was on Friday.

I collected Liz and Ronnie from The Swan and we headed southwest into the hills.  Only a month earlier we had a North Pennines trip in near-zero temperatures, but now everything was much more springlike.  Curlews were gliding across the moors, their haunting cries carrying on the breeze, Lapwings were displaying in that bizarre way that has you half convinced they they’re just going to crash into the ground and there were plenty of birds with chicks; Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Red Grouse were all mindful of their offspring as we made our way across the moors.  Common Snipe appeared unexpectedly from clumps of rush and one obliging bird perched on a fence post as we sat just a few metres away.  Pairs of noisy Redshank flew from fence post to dry stone wall and back again and, like the Snipe, one bird perched obligingly (like the one pictured here from 2011).

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Liz’s feedback e-mail, at the end of the holiday and our day in the North Pennines, summed it up so well – “a real birding day” 🙂

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Seabird Spectacular 10-13 June 2013; birdwatching on the Northumberland coast

by on Jun.13, 2013, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Arriving at The Swan on Monday evening I met up with Ronnie and Liz at the start of our Seabird Spectacular holiday.  Of all of our holidays, this is the one that concentrates on the really outstanding wildlife available on the Northumberland coast in the summer.

Tuesday started out very nice, although cloud cover was increasing and, by lunchtime, eventually it was overcast, misty and spotting with rain.  We’d spent the morning around Druridge Bay, with one of the highlights being a very obliging male Reed Bunting who sat just a few metres away from us and sang for over 20 minutes, Wall and Green-veined White Butterflies flitted across the tracks ahead of us, Sedge and Reed Warblers played hide-and-seek in the edge of the reeds and a male Marsh Harrier quartered a reedbed, giving prolonged views at relatively close range.  As we ate lunch, overlooking the North Sea, watching Eiders, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets, the southeasterly breeze was starting to build a noticeable swell…

The inevitable happened and our planned sailing around Coquet Island was cancelled on safety grounds, so we continued around Druridge Bay.  Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal were near the weir between Amble and Warkworth and we ended up watching five Otters as they munched their way through a feast of Eels 🙂 A Great Northern Diver flew south between Coquet Island and the mainland and we could see clouds of Puffins and a few ghostly white Roseate Terns from our clifftop vantage point.  Swifts were around in good numbers – a scythe-winged menace to flying insects – and at the end of the day we returned to The Swan and were joined for dinner by Sarah.

After Tuesday’s cancelled boat trip it was a relief to see that the wind had died down by Wednesday morning, and our all-day birdwatching trip to the Farne Islands went ahead as planned.  There were lines of Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills streaming back towards the islands, Gannets were effortlessly heading either to or from the Bass Rock, and the sights, sounds and smells of the seabird colony were just a few minutes away when we came across two Harbour Porpoises. Cormorants and Shags perched sentinel-like  on the Scarcar rocks and landing on Staple Island we watched Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Razorbills, Shags and Rock Pipits at close range before having our picnic lunch in superb weather conditions on this magical rock just a few miles offshore from the Northumberland coast.  Transferring across to Inner Farne at 13:00, via a brief detour to look at the Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine, we were greeted by Head Ranger David Steel and then enjoyed the very different experience of running the gauntlet of a succession of angry Arctic TernsCommon and Sandwich Terns were around too, and we watched Puffins skilfully avoiding the attention of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A pair of Rock Pipits nesting beneath the boardwalk were carrying beakfuls of food and I had a Farnes ‘tick’ in the shape of a Swift soaring over the lighthouse buildings.  We tried to find a Roseate Tern in amongst the roost by the Inner Farne jetty, but without success.  Back to The Swan for tea, reflection on a successful day and my Plan B…

Today was planned to be a one-day extension to the holiday, visiting the North Pennines, but we’ve moved that to tomorrow and the ladies have an extra afternoon out with me, to take the boat trip around Coquet Island 🙂

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Three days in early June

by on Jun.08, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

We started June with three trips in the first four days of the month, all focused around our ‘local patch’; Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

On Friday morning I collected Gary and Claire from their holiday base in Proctor Steads, and we headed down the coast.  Even though we’ve lived close to Druridge Bay for nearly 12 years, the wildlife of this post-industrial landscape is still as special as it always was.  Whether it’s Tree Sparrows feeding young, ghostly pale Roseate Terns on their nest boxes on Coquet Island, a Cuckoo flying low over a coastal reedbed, dense flocks of hirundines and Swifts hawking insects low over a lake, Reed and Sedge Warblers singing from adjacent reedbeds allowing easy comparison of their song, Fulmars soaring along a cliff edge within a few metres of us as we eat our lunch or Blue-tailed Damselflies drifting along footpaths and tracks before settling on the grasses and apparently vanishing, there’s always something going on, always something to watch and the day always seems to end too soon.

Saturday was an afternoon/evening Otter Safari and I collected Lesley and Kevin from Church Point before heading north.  After an afternoon spent birdwatching, with my own personal highlight being a very yellow Yellow Wagtail, and searching for Otters, we settled into position for an evening session at one of our favourite ponds.  As a pair of Roe Deer grazed poolside vegetation, looking resplendent in the sublime light from a sunset that looked like a fire burning on the horizon, and a Long-eared Owl drifted back and forth over the reedbeds, our quarry made his appearance.  Gliding menacingly through the water, the Otter managed to sneak up on 2 Mallards, who noticed him when he was just a few feet away and took flight.  Exploring the rest of the pool he was pursued by an ever-expanding flock of Black-headed Gulls before finally vanishing into the sanctuary of the reeds.

Our third excursion around Druridge Bay was a Prestige Tour for Pete and Rachel.  Sedge and Willow Warblers and Reed Buntings all sang from obligingly open locations, although Reed Warblers remained hidden deep in reedbeds, a Roe Deer put in an uncharacteristic daytime appearance and a Mute Swan had a remarkable hissy fit.  The cause of his slightly embarrasing temper tantrum couldn’t be seen, but as he kept charging at a reedbed it seemed likely that a predator he saw as a threat to his cygnets was lurking out of our sight, but not his.  Later in the day an even more impressive display of annoyance was demonstrated by two cock Pheasants as they spent a good 20 minutes posturing and fighting.  Our clients frequently comment about how relaxing a day out with us is…and those Pheasants could really have done with chilling out too 🙂

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The whistling wind

by on Sep.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Saturday’s Whale and Dolphin Cruise from Seahouses turned out to be an excellent few hours of birdwatching off the Northumberland coast.

As we left the harbour, the swell of the tide had the boat rocking gently up and down.  A mile or so later and we were in what I think of  as ‘proper’ pelagic conditions; choppy sea, lots of whitecaps, an eerie wind whistling around the boat…and birds everywhere.  The atmosphere when the North Sea is like that is filled with anticipation.  A Pomarine Skua, athletic, muscular and menacing harrassed Kittiwakes, our first Great Skua of the trip (the first of several) lumbered by, Arctic Skuas flew along the wave troughs and the fragile, delicate figure of a Long-tailed Skua headed north in the rapidly strengthening wind.  Fulmars soared effortlessly by, small groups of Gannets, those masters of efficient flight, featured throughout the trip and Sooty Shearwaters, a real seawatcher’s bird, entertained as they circled the boat.  Added to that there were Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Manx Shearwaters and Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls  and Arctic, Common, Sandwich and Roseate Terns.  With so many whitecaps, and some ‘interesting’ swell, we weren’t fortunate enough find any cetaceans, but one participant summed up offshore wildlife so well “You’re on a boat, it’s an experience, enjoy it, you never know what you’ll see.”

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RIB-tickling

by on Aug.18, 2011, under Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Tuesday’s weather forecast was indicating something quite remarkable; a spell of nice weather between showers that would coincide exactly with our evening trip on Ocean Explorer.

That’s just what we got and, after an afternoon of heavy rain, we boarded the RIB in excellent weather just after 6pm.

The excitement of a high-speed journey south along the Northumberland coast combined well with close observation of feeding flocks of Gannets, terns and gulls, including a breathtakingly beautiful adult Roseate Tern.  A Harbour Porpoise surfaced twice just off Dunstanburgh Castle, which looked stunning from our offshore position, and at least 3 Pomarine Skuas were busy brutalising the terns.  As planned, we finished our trip around the Farne Islands.  As curious Grey Seals came to have a closer look at all on board, the menacing clouds to the west obscured the sunset but we were treated to a spectacular moonrise in compensation.

The short journey back to the harbour produced excellent views of 2 adult Harbour Porpoises and a calf; an excellent way to end our evening.

We’ve got another 3hr RIB trip on Thursday 25th August, so click here to book, or ‘phone 07908 119535 for more details.  We’re waiting for your call, and looking forward to enjoying some of Northumberland’s wildlife with you.

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