Tag: Ruff

Grand finale; Druridge Bay Bespoke mini-Safari 24/08/16

by on Aug.28, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Wednesday brought a first for me – arriving at Church Point to collect Lucy, Jon, Hattie and Lily, the car park was completely full!  That’s nice weather for you though…

We started our afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland with a search for Red Squirrel.  With lots of people around it wasn’t entirely surprising that our quarry eluded us, but Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch and Dunnock were all benefiting from the supply of free food as everyone tried to get to grips with the contact calls of Chiffchaff and Willow WarblerDragonflies were hawking around the tree tops and a range of insects finished up in our sample pot before being released back to the plants we’d taken them from.  On to wetter habitats and an attempt to catch a Blue-tailed Damselfly ended comically when it flew from its perch and settled on my finger instead 🙂  Common Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Ruff, Curlew and Lapwing were a nice little haul of waders and a calling Greenshank stayed out of sight as Little Egrets stalked along the water’s edge and Grey Herons tried to remain inconspicuous amongst the clumps of rush.  I was called on to answer some tricky questions during the afternoon – “would a Grey Squirrel attack a person?” was slightly easier to answer than “what sort of cloud is that?” 😉

As often is the case, there was a discussion about best wildlife of the trip.  Common Snipe and Cinnabar Moth caterpillar both got the seal of approval, although the vote did come before we were heading back down the coast and a Barn Owl was quartering the roadside fields.  Death on silent wings, beautifully backlit by the later afternoon sun and the finale to Jon’s 40th birthday wildlife tour 🙂

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“Can you remember when…”; Druridge Bay Safari 04/08/16

by on Aug.05, 2016, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was a Druridge Bay Safari for Andy, Jill and Cat, who’d been out with us in February, and Gill, who’s a newcomer to NEWT, but has two more trips booked next week 🙂

Five Little Egret together between Amble and Warkworth was a good start to the day, while 15 juvenile Goosander formed a sleek and menacing flotilla along the river as mum watched sleepily from the river bank nearby.  Curlew and Lapwing flew overhead and we continued down the coast where more Little Egret awaited.  This was a really rare bird in Northumberland, not too long ago, so encountering them just about everywhere you look is quite odd.  Waders were next on the list and an impressive selection at Cresswell included a stunning summer-plumaged Knot, 1 Ruff, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Little Stint, 5 Avocet, 14 Golden Plover, 24 Black-tailed Godwit and lots of Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher.  Alongside them were another 10 Little Egret! Len and (another) Gill were in the hide and Gill asked “Can you remember when…” 🙂

The end of the afternoon brought another wader for the list (Common Snipe), Yellow Wagtails and a Pied Wagtail dicing with death around the hooves of cattle and a close encounter with an adult and chick Great Crested Grebe.  The chick’s incessant begging, even when it was apparently asleep with it’s head tucked under it’s wing, had the adult hunting constantly and effectively. Time and again it surfaced with a small fish which it shook and battered on the water’s surface before offering to the chick, which went quiet for just a few seconds before resuming it’s demand for food.

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Mid-summer Mammals; Bespoke Coastal Safari 27/06/16

by on Jul.05, 2016, under Druridge Bay

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 🙂

 

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A Ruff morning for a Redshank; Druridge Bay Safari 03/06/16

by on Jun.09, 2016, under Druridge Bay

As much as I enjoy searching for, and finding, wildlife with our clients I have to admit to a fascination what wildlife does and how it behaves…

I collected Stephen and Kate from The Swan for their second day out with NEWT, this time exploring NEWT’s local patch of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

Druridge Bay is a great place throughout the year, there’s always plenty to see, and Thursday was no exception. Great Crested Grebes, haughtily elegant, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Shelduck, all so different from the duller plumage they’ll be wearing shortly, dainty Little Gulls flycatching amnogst flocks of Black-headed Gull and even a couple of rarities, Great White Egret, hunched in the rushes near a Grey Heron, and Bonaparte’s Gull, roosting with Black-headed Gulls, for good measure.

At this time of year one of the highlights is often wading birds on passage.  These birds, so cryptically patterned during the winter months, often appear in rather stunning breeding finery at the end of spring passage, and the start of autumn passage.  There’s little quite as remarkable as a male Ruff dressed in his best dancing clothes.  This blog post from 2010 has an example of one 🙂  Passage birds in the spring have a raging passion burning in their blood, and as Curlew displayed overhead and Common Snipe dropped into the rushes we came across one male Ruff who was giving it his all.  Jumping, prancing, strutting, spreading his ruff like an Elizabethan dandy and bowing handsomely and exaggeratedly at the feet of his intended.  There was only one flaw in this impressive dance of desire…the subject of his attention was a Redshank!  It would appear that in the absence of any Reeves our Ruff wasn’t going to hide his light under a bushel.  Settling for second best, or blinded by desire, his ardour wasn’t dimmed by the persistent rejection from the obviously agitated Redshank 🙂

Wildlife does the funniest things…

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Welcome to the dance; Druridge Bay Safari 11/05/16

by on May.13, 2016, under Druridge Bay

The influence of the weather on our wildlife can never be underestimated.  Strong cold winds are often a signal for everything to go into hiding, seeking warmth and shelter in reedbeds, bushes, behind rocks…pretty much anywhere where they’ll be tricky to see.  Last Saturday was in that cold and windy category so I was pleased that Wednesday’s Druridge Bay trip looked as though it would be blessed with warm sunshine 🙂

I collected Karen and Richard from Newbiggin by the Sea and we set out for a day birdwatching around NEWT’s local patch.  With a slight change in the weather, the wildlife responded obligingly; the onomatopoeia of Chiffchaffs was near constant throughout the day, as was the rough throaty warble of Whitethroat.  A remarkably obliging Sedge Warbler sat in the reed tops in front of us, occasionally sallying forth in song-flight before returning to his stage, close to a male Reed Bunting who was singing his somewhat simpler song.  Avocets were an elegant study in black and white, Dunlin and Ruff are both attractive birds in breeding plumage, Little Gulls are incredibly tiny when seen alongside other birds, Skylarks were dust-bathing, Tree Sparrows were hopping around on the footpath just a few feet away from us and goslings were grazing close to the water’s edge.

A food pass between male and female Marsh Harriers happened in front of us, Great Crested Grebes were engaged in their elaborate courtship dance and two male Lapwings left a cloud of feathers as they came to blows over what was presumably a prime patch of mud and rushes.  With the warmth of the sunshine and an obvious hatch of insects, the air overhead was filled with Swifts and it finally felt like the summer was here as they started screaming 🙂

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The approaching storm; Druridge Bay Prestige Tour 04/01/2016

by on Jan.05, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

04/01/2008, and NEWT’s first ever day out with clients was a strange, cold, gloomy day where we managed to find our target species for the day, Roe Deer.  Eight years on and I found myself out with clients on January 4th again…

As I arrived at Church Point to collect Roberta and Dougie, the first thing that struck me was the height of the waves crashing into Newbiggin Bay.  Then the icy cold wind started probing, although it couldn’t breach the layers of clothing I’d aligned against it.  Whichever direction you looked, the weather looked different; a patch of blue sky, sunlight trying to break through the clouds, distant rain…all possibilities seemed open as we headed down the coast.  Greylag Geese, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and a lone Lapwing braved the cold as the first rain shower of the day made the water’s surface dance.  Next came what all agreed was the highlight of the day as Goldeneye and Little Grebe drifted apart and the space between them was occupied by an Otter 🙂  With a 75% success rate on our Otter Safaris during 2015 it wasn’t suprising that 2016 started with such an obliging mustelid which came closer and closer before drifting away and feeding incessantly.

Lunch overlooking the North Sea brought Fulmars arcing effortlessly along the cliff tops, a very obliging Little Gull looked tiny alongside Black-headed Gulls and the wader and wildfowl list for the day continued to grow with Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup, Pochard, Pink-footed Goose, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Curlew, Golden Plover and Long-billed Dowitcher.  A very vocal Fieldfare gave remarkably confiding views, Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow jostled for position on feeders and, as the wind strengthened, waves crashed on the shore with a roar reminiscent of heavy traffic and the rain showers intensified, we headed back to Church Point.

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Feeding time; Otter Safari 29/12/2015

by on Dec.30, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Yesterday saw returning clients, as Jayne and Andy joined us for an Otter Safari.  Their previous day with NEWT, back in September 2010, proved memorable as we found a White-winged Black Tern at Cresswell.

Under blue skies and sunshine, in stark contrast to recent days, we headed for Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Arriving at our first site, it was immediately apparent that Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Mute Swan were all avoiding one area of the pond.  As a noisy flock of Fieldfare moved through the trees above the reedbed on the opposite side of the water the birds began dispersing over the wider area of water and there was no further sign of possible Otter activity so we headed onwards.  Little Egret were darting at small fish in the shallows, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank were probing the mud as Goosander and Eider dived in search of prey.  I focused my attention on a gap between two small groups of Little Grebe…and there was the tell tale dark shape, twisting and diving 🙂  A second Otter surfaced right alongside the first and as they came closer I could see that they were the two cubs that we’ve been watching for the last few weeks.  We watched them as they came closer and closer, feeding constantly for over 90 minutes, regularly surfacing and diving synchronously.

After lunch overlooking the North Sea, we headed to Cresswell where an impressive wader roost included Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew, Lapwing and the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese patterned the sky, Red-breasted Merganser were displaying and drake Goldeneye stood out from the gloom as the sky clouded over, a strengthening breeze began to exert a chilling grip and we headed back to Alnmouth.

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Rising tide; Northumberland Coast Bespoke Birdwatching 09/10/2015

by on Oct.10, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

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.

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Waders and wildfowl; Northumberland coast Prestige Tour 02/10/2015

by on Oct.05, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast

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 GeeseBar-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 🙂

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Interpreting; Otter Safari 16/09/2015

by on Sep.23, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I’ve been finding and observing wildlife for well over 40 years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that other wildlife will (almost) always be better at it than I am…

Day four for Clare and Peter was an Otter Safari, and we collected Chris and Mel, and David and Mike, from Church Point before starting our search of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I planned to follow our usual strategy at our first site, which is to move on if we haven’t found an Otter within the first hour.  55 minutes in and it wasn’t looking good; everybody else was watching an assortment of waders and wildfowl, and I was staring intently at an almost birdless stretch of water.  Then some movement; a flock of Tufted Duck drifted away from the bankside vegetation where they’d been dozing.  They turned, stared towards where they’d been disturbed from and then drifted back.  Another minute and they left again, this time in a tight flotilla.  By now I was confident that we were going to find our quarry in the first 90 minutes of the trip.  Sure enough, an Otter soon surfaced a few metres away from the ducks and we watched it feeding for 45 minutes before we lost it from view behind bankside vegetation 🙂

The rest of the afternoon was a tableaux of angry birds.  First a Greenshank took a vigorously intolerant approach towards a juvenile Ruff in a ‘scope filling squabble. As daylight faded into the magical light of dusk and a Common Snipe, glorious in low golden sunlight, gave uncharacteristically obliging views close to male and female Ruff and a healthy sprinkling of Little Grebe, the Grey Heron took centre stage.  Gangly, scruffy, ungainly juvenile Herons, tussling over the best feeding spots, ventured from the reed edge as light levels rendered them elegant; stalking the shallows, squawking and croaking in flight, each maintaining their own individual feeding territory as detail faded to silhouette and a flock of Curlew, heralding their arrival with piercing cries, circled before thinking better of it and vanishing into the gloom.

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