Tag: Scaup

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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Breathtaking; Bespoke Druridge Bay safari 05/08/2014

by on Aug.07, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

I know I may go on a bit about how wonderful Northumberland is but, even after more than 20 years living here, there are days when even I find it hard to believe just how good it can be…

I collected Colin and Hazel from the hills above Budle Bay and we headed south along the coast for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay.  Colin was keen to improve his handling of his new dSLR, and they were also quite keen on searching for Otters.  The afternoon started with some top quality birdwatching; Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Scaup, Common Snipe and Dunlin are all nice, but the standout bird was the Stilt Sandpiper that has been enjoying a tour of Cresswell and Druridge Pools over the last week.  Arriving at our picnic spot just south of Cresswell, I mentioned that, with such good visibility and relatively calm seas, whales and dolphins are always a possibility, perhaps tempting fate to deal us a poor hand… A few minutes later I was scanning the sea out towards the horizon when I saw a splash.  I raised my binoculars, to check that it wasn’t a distant boat, and there was another splash, and another, and another, then four together 🙂  As the synchronous breaching continued I trained the ‘scope on the area where the dolphins were, and was surprised to see that they were Bottlenose Dolphins.  In early August, the default dolphin for the Druridge Bay coast is White-beaked Dolphin, and that’s the species we’ve been finding on our recent pelagic trips, but this has been an extraordinary year so I shouldn’t be too surprised to have found myself showing Bottlenose Dolphins to our clients too 🙂

The evening continued with some very obliging birds in front of Colin’s camera; Common Snipe, Dunlin, Linnet, a flock of Starlings taking a bath and an assortment of wagtails then, as light levels began to fall, we switched our attention to the patient waiting game of looking for Otters,as flock after flock of Starlings flew towards their evening roost.  Soon, we were watching the sleek, sinuous shape of an Otter as it hunted and fed.  It passed out of sight for a few minutes, only to reappear and surface just in front of a second Otter!  A third one was slightly further way from us and eventually we watched as one of them came straight towards us before disappearing behind the reeds.

The day isn’t over ’til it’s over though, and Northumberland’s wildlife provided one last moment of magic as a Tawny Owl was perched on the road sign outside Colin and Hazel’s holiday let at The Ducket 🙂

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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

Common Eider,Somateria mollissima,Druridge Bay,Northumberland,birdwatching holidays,photography holidays,northern experience wildife tours

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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The power of the sea

by on Mar.25, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Friday was a safari on the North Northumberland coast for Kathryn and Linda.  As I collected them from the Lindisfarne Inn, the biting wind carried a flurry of snow, and I guessed this could well be a day for birdwatching from the warmth and comfort of the car.

Over the next few hours we had close views of Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher as they probed in the mud, seemingly oblivious to the breeze, a Peregrine shot by, menace on pointed wings, and a Brown Hare sat majestically in the middle of a field.  From the car park at Stag Rock we could see the MV Danio, still stranded near the Longstone lighthouse, as Common Scoter and Eider rode up and over the impressive swell and Gannets battled into the breeze.  Black-headed Gulls and Rooks were almost perched on the car, and the South Low below the Holy Island Causeway offered impressive views of Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Scaup.

Our lunch stop was the Bamburgh Castle Inn, which gave us a good view of the extent of the swell rolling from the south east…and the approaching snow, which got to us just before we got back to the car 🙂

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Hide and seek

by on Oct.31, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Sunday was a Prestige Otter Safari for Chris and Sophie.  It was Chris’ birthday and, as I collected them from Berwick in some pretty horrible conditions, I was hoping that we would drive south into better weather.  Sure enough, we did pass out from under the rain clouds, but the day stayed quite gloomy and windy.  I’d already had an excellent start to the day’s birdwatching, with a flock of 14 Waxwings flying alongside the road as I approached Berwick.  I’m often asked what my favourite bird is, and usually reply that it’s impossible to have a favourite…but Waxwings have a special place at the top of my list 🙂

Down in southeast Northumberland we found an adult Mediterranean Gull, and Chris proved to be remarkably eagle-eyed – picking out a sleeping Jack Snipe in an area of cut reeds.  On the water the usual suspects (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall) were joined by some less regular species; Scaup, Pintail and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks. Some surprising entertainment was provided by a Merlin which spent several minutes harassing a Magpie, and then there was a sudden movement of Goldeneye, Coot and Moorhen away from a reedbed.  They stared intently at the reeds for a few minutes before drifting back towards the edge, then repeated the whole process twice more!  There was something in the reeds that was causing concern, but it didn’t reveal itself (not an unusual occurrence in strong winds – and who could blame anything for staying sheltered?).  We moved on to another pool…and had a repeat performance, this time with Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Tufted Duck and Whooper Swan being a bit on edge.  Sometimes wildlife can be frustrating…

Given the low temperatures and high wind, it seemed a little over-optimistic to get the bat detector out.  However, just to confirm that you can’t ever predict wildlife, we had at least two or three Common Pipistrelles, including some frenzied feeding activity around a streetlight, before heading back up the coast.

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Winter birdwatching around the Farnes

by on Dec.12, 2010, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Holy Island, Northumberland

After postponing our Seal and Seaduck Special last Saturday (sea conditions were ideal, but it would have been really irresponsible to encourage anyone to drive on Northumberland’s roads at the time) we arrived at Seahouses Harbour yesterday morning ready for our final boat trip of the year.

Everyone was well wrapped-up and we were soon boarding Glad Tidings VI.  As we sailed out of the harbour a veritable battery of long lenses was produced in readiness for the anticipated wildlife.  With a skipper and crewman with excellent eyesight and wildlife-spotting skills, 2 NEWT guides, and clients with sharp eyes as well, the boat was soon being manouvered to offer the best possible opportunities to view or photograph the wildlife.  After 13 years of organising offshore wildlife trips we know the importance of the skipper to the success (or otherwise…) of the trip and, with Craig and William, we were in excellent hands.

The first half of the trip concentrated on the Farne Islands themselves.  A lot of the Grey Seals had well-grown pups, quite a few of the adults were moulting and there were a couple of cow seals still heavily pregnant.

Grey Seal, Offshore wildlife photography, Northumberland, 11/12/2010

Grey Seal

Grey Seal, offshore wildlife photography, Northumberland 11/12/2010

Grey Seal and the Longstone Lighthouse

Grey Seal, offshore wildlife photography, Northumberland 11/12/2010

Grey Seals

Grey Seal, offshore wildlife photography, Northumberland 11/12/2010

Grey Seals

Shags were sitting around on the islands, Little Auks were bobbing about like corks in the increasing swell, and we had a brief view of a Black Guillemot as it flew from Gun Rock towards Inner Farne.  Heading north we enjoyed the sunny (but cold) weather and scoured the sea just south of Holy Island.  Plenty of Eider were sitting around, along with a pair of Scaup and several Red-breasted Mergansers but a Slavonian Grebe near Guile Point proved elusive.  Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were seen but in much smaller numbers than we would normally expect.  The journey back down the coast featured one of our favourite birds; Long-tailed Ducks were sitting around in groups of 10-15 and offering some excellent photo opportunities.

Long-tailed Ducks on an offshore birdwatching trip, Northumberland 11/12/2010

Long-tailed Ducks

30 or 40 Common Scoters proved a bit more skittish and didn’t come near the boat.  2 Gannets were a bit of a surprise before we returned to the harbour.

Although the wildlife was very obliging perhaps the best thing about the day was the truly beautiful lighting conditions, a real bonus for wildlife photography and something that all of the photographers on board commented on.  We can’t control the light, or the weather, but we keep taking clients to the right places at the right time…

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Birdwatching; more than just a Hobby

by on Jul.19, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Surveys

Our two Druridge Bay mini-safaris last Wednesday both featured one of my favourite birds; Black-tailed Godwit.  A group of eight flying N at dusk in torrential rain may have included the five that we saw at lunchtime.  With plenty of Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin, as well as a few Ruff and Common Sandpipers there was a ‘busy’ feel to birdwatching the coastal pools.  Common Frog and Common Toad were perhaps to be expected in the damp conditions.

Thursday featured more torrential rain, although all of it whilst we were travelling between sites in Druridge Bay.  After collecting two clients individually from Alnmouth we headed south.  Dave had a day to remember with no less than five ‘lifers’; Little Owl, Dipper, Hobby, Scaup and Arctic Tern.  The Hobby was one of those classic moments.  I was watching a group of Sand Martins when they all suddenly rose high above the water.  As I opened my mouth to suggest that there was a raptor about, Dave said “What’s this?”…and there it was, a first-summer Hobby, heading straight towards us low over the pool.  A Whimbrel flew by, giving it’s distinctive call, and the transition from the occasionally difficult birding of mid-summer to the more productive time of mid-July is well underway.

Saturday was spent covering another three tetrads for the Bird Atlas and then on Sunday we had a few hours in our study area, searching for any sign of Hobby or Honey Buzzard.  With heavy overcast conditions, occasional light rain, and a cold breeze very few raptors were in evidence; just a Common Kestrel and a Common Buzzard to show for our efforts.

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