Tag: Sanderling

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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Battling the breeze; Otter Safari 02/06/2015

by on Jun.04, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Tuesday saw Pete and Jan taking their 7th trip with NEWT, and as I got out of the car in Embleton to collect them it was ever so slightly breezy…

When every bit of water you look at is whipped up into a froth by the wind, with dainty Little Gulls hanging in the wind and delicately dip-feeding, searching for Otters becomes particularly challenging and, despite Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes staring intently at reedbeds, that we’ve seen Otters appear from in recent weeks, there was no sign of our target species for the afternoon.  A really stiff breeze will frequently lead to reduced sightings of all wildlife, but the afternoon produced some impressive sightings…as we watched at least 10 adult Avocets, and four chicks, at Cresswell, alongside a summer-plumaged Sanderling, two huge birds appeared low over the dunes, battling into the wind.  I gave my head a shake and looked through my binoculars again…and there were two Common Cranes 🙂  They slowly crossed the pond, lifted as a flock of Canada Geese took off beneath them, and were blown back towards the sea!  Undeterred they continued their progress westwards, landed for a few minutes and then continued.  I’d alerted a few local birdwatchers to their presence, including Ipin as they were heading towards his house…and he soon had them as an impressive garden tick 🙂

I couldn’t imagine how the evening could get better…and then as dusk approached, I was scanning through binoculars and noticed a small bird that I couldn’t immediately identify.  A quick switch to viewing through the ‘scope, and there was one of my favourite birds twirling on the water’s surface and darting at flies.  Common Cranes may be huge and impressive, but Red-necked Phalarope is simply a breathtaking avian jewel 🙂

As we headed back to the car, the breeze had decreased in strength, but had also turned from quite warm to bone-chilling.  A Barn Owl flew silently from a fence post, and the journey back to Embleton produced another one sitting on a post just a few metres away from us.

And with that wind, I’d been worried we wouldn’t see anything…

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Spring arrivals; Druridge Bay Safari 30/04/2015

by on May.05, 2015, under Druridge Bay

It’s been a cold windy spring, and a few of our summer visitors seemed a bit tardy; we found our first Sand Martin and Chiffchaff later than we would have expected, but the day has been coming when things would start to happen…

I collected Jan and Peter from Church Point and we set out to spend the day exploring Druridge Bay.  It was, unsurprisingly, cold and very windy again but that didn’t impact on our day birdwatching.  Skylarks soared and sang, Marsh Harriers drifted over reedbeds and fields close to the coast and an impressive range of waders performed obligingly; Oystercatcher, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Avocet, Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit – the latter three species resplendent in breeding plumage – demonstrated why this is such a popular group of species with birdwatchers.  The godwit in particular stood out; clothed in chestnut and a vision of elegance to rival the Little Egret that was stalking along the water’s edge nearby.  Moorhen and Coot crept furtively along the edge of reedbeds, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit flicked their tails nervously at the tops of bushes in the dunes and an eye-catching fly-catching adult Little Gull was easily picked out from amongst Black-headed Gulls.  Seawatching over lunchtime is a regular feature of our Druridge Bay trips and Eider, Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Common Guillemot could all be seen offshore as Fulmars soared and arced along the clifftops a few metres way from us. Wheatears and a Whinchat flitted from tussock to tussock, strikingly beautiful as they always are at this time of the year, and then a sign that the summer is nearly here; hundreds of Sand Martins were flycatching above every pool on the coast as a group of six House Martins flew in, battling against the strengthening breeze with the imperative to head north driving them on.  Then, a Swift, and another, then six more.  Eight of these scythe-winged masters of the air flew by us, rocking from side-to-side into the wind as they headed to join the feast above the water.

I love those days when we concentrate on looking for a single species, but a day birdwatching with clients and just enjoying, and marvelling, at everything that comes along is pretty much as good as it gets for a birdwatching guide 🙂 As Jan and Peter headed across to Bellingham, and I took the shorter journey back to the office, I was wondering if perhaps the summer weather was on the way…

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If at first you don’t succeed; Bespoke Otter Safari 14/02/2015

by on Feb.28, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

When we’re searching for Otters, a fair degree of success is down to hard work (checking sites repeatedly, so we know when and where they are), a good bit of it is down to luck (they are wild animals after all, so don’t perform to order…) and those often combine to give a gut-feeling…

I collected Adam and Heather from Newcastle Central Station and we set off towards southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay for their bespoke Otter Safari.  Our first destination was the site that’s our current ‘Plan A’…where there wasn’t any indication of Otter activity 🙁 Along the coast we checked other sites without any luck, although there were lots of Goldeneye, Little Grebe and thousands of Pink-footed Geese Canada and Greylag Geese, Curlew and Redshank were all making a racket that suggested there was an Otter nearby, but still no sign.  In marked contrast to the Arctic blast of a day earlier, we had our lunch on the top of the dunes looking over towards Coquet Island, above a beach covered in Sanderling, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank and a lone Grey Plover.

Then we headed back to ‘Plan A’.  I was as confident as I could be that, with no Otter activity earlier in the day, at least one would be out and feeding as the afternoon wore on.  Sure enough, we were soon watching the lithe sinuous shape twisting and turning in the water as an Otter fed on small fish 🙂  The look on Heather’s face was priceless, and reminded me that as much as I enjoy watching wildlife, I really enjoy seeing our clients enjoying it too 🙂

Here’s an image of the Otter we were watching, taken in mid-January.

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Our Otter Safaris take place all year round, from warm summer evenings when we’re still out an about late in the day, through to the depths of winter, so there’ll be a time and date that suits you – just give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out when!

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Plan A, Plan B; Otter Safari 07/02/2015

by on Feb.10, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

A question I’ve been asked a few times recently is “What if we hadn’t seen an Otter there?”.  The answer, of course, is that we have a Plan B (and Plan C and Plan D as well, just in case…).

I collected Bing and Martin and we headed out towards the coast for their bespoke Otter Safari.  Just over an hour later, and Plan A wasn’t looking good; there were Cormorants, Goldeneye and Little Grebes as far as the eye could see, but no sign of our target species…however, good things come to those who wait, and when Bing mentioned that she’d just seen something diving I looked across in the same direction, and up popped an Otter 🙂  Here’s an image of an Otter at ‘Plan A’ in mid-January.

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We watched it for a few minutes before it slipped out of sight, and I thought it would be sensible to put Plan B into action.  First though, it was time for lunch.  We paid a visit to probably the most endearing star of our recent days out

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and then we sat on a cliff top as Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew scurried, stalked, prodded and probed their way along the shoreline below us.  Plan B proved to be much more successful, as we watched an Otter as it startled Redshank, Curlew, Mallards, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese.  We lost track of it for a few minutes, then suddenly it was right in front of us, getting out of the water briefly, before heading off into the reflection of the sun, and creating the typical ‘ring of bright water’, each time it surfaced 🙂  A Stoat provided some entertainment, as they always do – this one was photographed on New Year’s Day, when we were checking Plans A, B, C and D 🙂

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Another species that we’ve been watching regularly over the last few weeks provided a vivid splash of colour in the fading light of the afternoon,

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and then it was time to return Bing and Martin to their hotel, with the goal of seeing an Otter in the wild reached via Plan A and Plan B 🙂  If you’d like to search for Otters in the wild, or any of Northumberland’s other stunning wildlife, then give us a call on 01670 827465 – wildlife is unpredictable, but the one thing we can guarantee is that we’ll always do everything we can to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time!

 

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Charming; Bespoke Birdwatching 10/11/2014

by on Nov.22, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Even after 40+ years birdwatching, there are times when I’m not sure whether the thing that excites me the most is a lone rarity, a life or death interaction involving one of the predators we encounter, or an impressive flock of something common…

I collected David and Dot from Gosforth and we made our way across to the coast for a day of mid-November birdwatching.  This proved to be a day of flocks; Pink-footed Geese rose then dropped in nearby fields, peppering the sky and cutting through the autumn air with their yapping calls.  Mini-murmurations of  Starlings twisted, turned, bunched and swirled, demonstrating that they don’t just reserve that spectacle for the fading light of evening.  Common Snipe were sitting in the vegetation close to the water’s edge, extraordinarily well camouflaged when asleep and only really betraying their presence once they woke up and started probing in the soft mud of the shallows.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Eider are almost a given on the coast in the winter, a lone Sanderling hurried back and forth in a flock of Ringed Plover and Teal, Wigeon and Goldeneye are eyecatching whether in flocks or alone.  Elegant Pintail glided by and Stonechats flicked their tails nervously perched in the tops of bushes in the dunes along the coast.  One isolated tree brought a memorable spectacle, with a charm of Goldfinches, and a lone Greenfinch.  For a couple of years now, a lot of our clients have reported increasing numbers of Goldfinch, and a tremendous decrease in Greenfinch.  No matter how numerous Goldfinch become, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever become blase about them; strikingly patterned, with their red face, black and white head and yellow wing flashes, and with liquid, twittering songs and calls, they really are quite charming 🙂

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The Island; Lindisfarne Safari 12/10/2014

by on Oct.15, 2014, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

After a break from work and blogging, and our first proper holiday in quite a while, I got back into the swing of things on Sunday with a visit to probably my favourite mid-October location…

Crossing the causeway to Holy Island is always accompanied by a sense of anticipation, and when I collected Graham and Joan from the Manor House they mentioned that Yellow-browed Warblers had been seen the day before.  Checking the bushes and trees in the Vicar’s Garden didn’t produce any sight or sound of the Siberian speciality, but everywhere was heaving with Robins – presumably recent arrivals from the continent – and Grey Plover, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Seal could be seen, and heard, by turning through 90 degrees from the trees.  After checking other suitable spots around the village, and finding a couple of Goldcrest, we crossed to the mainland and down to Bamburgh.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper and Knot were around the rocks as Eider and Guillemot rose and fell with the gentle swell of the sea and Gannet and Sandwich Tern plunged into shoals of fish offshore in conditions that wouldn’t have been out of place in mid-June.  We made our way slowly back up the coast, taking in vast flocks of Wigeon over the mudflats and a Weasel that responded obligingly to my imitation of a dying mouse (the sound, rather than a visual imitation!).  Little Egrets and Shelduck were exploiting the food supply on the exposed mud and we crossed back on to the island…only to learn that a White-tailed Eagle had been soaring high inland of us while we were watching the Weasel 🙁  We headed down to the causeway, to see if the eagle would make a reappearance, as flocks of Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Golden Plover concentrated on the rapidly diminishing areas of mud above the rising tide and a Peregrine powered across our field of view before it was time for me to cross back to the mainland and head south.

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Look who’s stalking; bespoke photography 24/03/2014

by on Mar.29, 2014, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Photography

Monday was a day with the potential to go either way, and I was nervous.  I first met John when himself and Helen were on a North Sea pelagic in June last year and we found this little beauty.  This trip was something altogether different though – Helen had arranged a one-to-one photography day.  Our one-to-one days focus on whatever our clients would like to work on – sometimes techniques (exposure/composition/fieldcraft etc.), sometimes species (Black Grouse, Otter and Red Squirrel are just some of the ones we’ve helped clients to photograph) – and John’s request was to develop his techniques for getting good images of shorebirds.  Now, using fieldcraft developed over 40yrs is one thing when I’m in the field on my own…teaching it, with our subject right where it can see us, is slightly more challenging 😉

I collected John from home in Morpeth and we headed north until we were in the impressive shadow of Bamburgh CastlePurple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Eider were all approached with stealth and patience before we made our way down the Northumberland coast to Druridge Bay, stopping off and stalking Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Sanderling, Redshank, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin and finishing the day’s photography with the slightly easier proposition of Reed Bunting, Blue Tit and Lesser Redpoll at a feeding station before admiring the Red-necked Grebe that I first found back in mid-February – now in a much more attractive plumage than it was five weeks ago.

John very kindly supplied some of his images from the day, for which we’re very grateful, so here they are 🙂  You can click on them to see the full size images, and please do get in touch with us if you’d like to get more from your camera equipment.

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Common Eider

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Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone

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Oystercatcher

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Common Redshank

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Sanderling

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Winter Wonderland Day Two 05/12/2013

by on Dec.09, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

04:30, and I wake to what sounds like a train crashing through our garden.  It isn’t though, instead it’s the howling gales that had been forecast.  Meeting up with David for breakfast at The Swan, I’m glad that we switched our day in Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland to today.  Lindisfarne in howling gales and torrential rain would be close to unbearable, Druridge Bay would be much closer to manageable…

Starting with a seawatch as the rain lashed against the rear window of the car, Eider and a single Common Scoter were just offshore as Sanderling scurried around the piles of seaweed on the shore, a ghostly white adult Mediterranean Gull struggled past against the wind and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north low over the waves.  Then the weather cleared and we were suddenly in beautiful sunshine and blue skies with a light breeze…before the wind strengthened again, the sky turned black and a squally shower had the entire surface of the pool at Hauxley looking like it was boiling.  Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Scaup and Little Grebe

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all faced the elements…then it turned nice again and a Peregrine flew through, scattering Wigeon and Teal but paying them no heed 🙂  A line of Black-headed Gulls dip-feeding into the breeze at East Chevington contained a surprise in the dainty form of a Little Gull, then it started to rain again.  Sitting by the River Coquet eating lunch, we watched Eider and Red-breasted Merganser, as well as Lapwing, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank…as the first of the afternoon’s hailstorms began.  Another break in the weather brought David an excellent photo opportunity with a flock of Eider

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before hailstones the size of peas led to a hasty retreat back to the shelter of the car 🙂 Soon the hail was replaced by snow, before another break in the weather brought some simply sublime late afternoon light.

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and a flock of Lapwings were tossed about in the air like pieces of black and white paper.

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With the howling northwesterly winds, the water at Cresswell was being driven towards the channel under the road and between the dunes.  A Black-necked Grebe swam by and then, subtly, and with the inevitability of the tide, water started flowing the other way and a boundary between wind-driven pond and incoming tidal surge developed in front of us.  After a Starling murmuration just up the coast,

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we followed the road back down through Druridge and discovered the tide had overwhelmed the culvert and was still coming in, but now straight over the road in front of us.  Watching the car in front safely traverse the water, we made our way across and headed back to The Swan at the end of an extraordinary day.  David was a pleasure to guide on this holiday, and he kindly sent us the images that illustrate the two blog posts 🙂

We’re taking bookings now for our 2014 holidays, so please get in touch for more details or to book.  We’ve got a range of holidays, each designed to showcase the best of Northumberland, the North Pennines and the Scottish Borders at the best times of the year.

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Waders and wildfowl; Northumberland Coast 30/11/2013

by on Dec.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Did you hear the one about the Leeds fan, the Liverpool fan and the Hull City fan who had a day out birding in Northumberland?…

I collected Andy and Sue from their hotel in Bamburgh and we headed south for a day around Druridge Bay and the southeast Northumberland coast. In glorious early morning sunlight, a very obliging Common Buzzard was perched on a hedge by the road and we were soon admiring the first of several species of duck that we were to encounter during the day with two pairs of Eider on the River Coquet. Sue spotted two Roe Deer as Redshank and Curlew were pottering along the water’s edge, Turnstone were engaged in using their heads to turn over large heaps of seaweed and a Little Egret flew upstream.  Sanderling were skittering back and forth along the gently breaking surf and Bar-tailed Godwits and Ringed Plover were on the beach as ghostly white Mediterranean Gulls soared overhead.

Ducks proved to be a theme for the day, as did large numbers of Curlew, with Gadwall, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Teal, Wigeon and, probably the most stunning of all, two Long-tailed Ducks at Druridge Pools.  A Black-necked Grebe was a picture of elegance in black and white, and small skeins of Pink-footed Geese were heading south.  Starlings were massing as dusk approached and we headed back towards Bamburgh as darkness decended.

 

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