Tag: Slavonian Grebe

Fantastic Mr Fox; Moorland and Coast 07/03/2014

by on Mar.14, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland

One of the best bits of being outside and searching for wildlife is the how everything around you ties together to create an experience; the landscape, the wildlife and the weather all come together to produce whatever they may…

I collected Paul and Jeanette from their holiday accommodation in Warkworth and we started out down the coast towards Druridge Bay.  Originally the plan had been Harwood and then the coast, but weather conditions suggested it would be better to reverse that.  Then there was a sudden change from the poor conditions and it was looking like a glorious morning after all so we reverted to Plan A.  The Northumbrian weather responded by throwing everything it could at us; sunshine, azure blue skies, fluffy white clouds, torrential rain and brutal biting winds all came, went and came again 🙂 There was no sign of any Goshawk activity in the good spells but you could hardly blame them 🙂  Eventually we retreated back down to the coastal plain…and had the same sequence of changeable weather all over again!  Feeding stations were a hive of bird activity, with Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and a very bright male Siskin all entertaining us, but Red Squirrels weren’t to be seen.  Some of our coastal ponds have been producing regular Otter sightings over the last few months…but the most notable thing was that the howling gale was generating waves that you could have surfed on!  Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches were clinging on to branches as the wind buffeted them and, as Curlew, Lapwing and a nice mini-murmuration of Starlings were tossed about on the breeze, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye; Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Slavonian, Red-necked, Great Crested and Little Grebe struggled in the waves.

Our final destination for the day was one of our favourite Badger setts.  There was rustling in the scrub on the valley sides, but no stripy black-and-white head appeared, at least not before it was too dark to see.  What did come along though was a Red Fox.  Unusually obliging, this one trotted along just above the sett before stopping and fixing us with a stare.  It didn’t bolt, as foxes so often do, but watched us, and some passing dog walkers, before continuing with its exploration of the hillside.  Often underrated, undervalued, frequently despised…but a thoroughly engaging animal if you take time to watch the almost feline grace of this wild canine.

Comments Off on Fantastic Mr Fox; Moorland and Coast 07/03/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

More five star birdwatching; Northumberland coast 24/02/14

by on Feb.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday continued to lay to rest the myth that February is a quiet month…

Starting in the north of the county, overlooking the iconic landscape of Holy Island, brought the expected waders and wildfowl, and three lifers for Paul and Katie, who were back for another day out with us, following a trip in 2009; Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Twite. A Peregrine muscled its way menacingly through the air above a flock of Dunlin, Grey Seals were ‘bottling’ at high tide and Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Curlew were probing the soft exposed mud as the tide began to drop.  Eider, Shelduck, Red-throated Divers, Wigeon and Teal were all at or near the water’s edge and the songs of Skylark and Yellowhammer reverberated in the warm sunshine.  Perhaps the highlight of the morning was a bird that is always breathtaking; sailing elegantly into the stiff breeze, a male Hen Harrier was tracking along a hedgerow heading inland 🙂

The afternoon brought Paul and Katie’s fourth lifer of the day, a Red-necked Grebe, with Little, Great Crested and Slavonian Grebes all close by for comparison.  Two Avocets were rather unseasonal, a pair of Pintail exuded elegance, drake Goldeneye looked very smart in their contrasty breeding plumage, Red-breasted Mergansers looked quite, well, comical as they always do and two Brown Hares were sitting motionless in a nearby field.  With 30 minutes until sunset a small flock of Starlings flying in from the north led to me suggesting that we go and see where they’d gone, and to check if there was going to a significant murmuration…

What followed was, quite simply, one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed.  Initially the Starlings were about a mile south of where I expected them to roost, and there were a lot of them.  Soon two other large flocks merged with them and they moved slowly north, eventually passing directly overhead with the sound of wingbeats like a gentle breeze rustling through a forest.  The murmuration drifted away to the south again, then back north.  Almost an hour had passed when the activity levels within the flock were ramped up.  Twisting and turning with more urgency, the density of birds in different parts of our view coalesced to form writhing shapes from the previously uniform oval.  With light levels fading, the birds vanished from sight, only to betray their presence in a series of shapes that resembled a slug, then a snail, then a car.  We soon lost them in the gloom again, only for the finale to the evenings proceedings to take us all by surprise as the flock compacted over the reedbed where they were going to roost, forming a dense arrowhead as they funneled into the reeds.  With the first birds down in the reedbed, the rest of the flock wheeled slightly higher, then repeated the maneuver, a second arrowhead driving into the reeds.  A third, then a fourth, cohort entered the roost and all was quiet.  Fade to black…

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Five star birdwatching; Northumberland Coast 20/02/14

by on Feb.23, 2014, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Our fourth trip this week was a day birdwatching with Simon, who was back again after previous trips including a stunning Farne Deeps pelagic in 2012.  We’d spoken in advance of the trip and Simon was keen to add a few of Northumberland’s wintering birds to his life list; divers, grebes, Purple Sandpiper and Brambling were all mentioned as desirable.

When I arrived to collect him on Thursday morning, I was still wrestling with the challenge of heading inland for Brambling, yet leaving plenty of time to explore the Northumberland coast.  That worry was quickly taken away, as putting a feeder up outside the holiday cottage meant that Simon had found one of the species on his wish list himself 🙂  Covering most of the coast from north to south produced five lifers;  Red-throated Divers just beyond the surf, Long-tailed Ducks including a breathtakingly beautiful drake, Purple Sandpipers unobtrusively poking around in rock pools, displaying Goldeneye rivaling the attractiveness of the Long-tailed Ducks and, as the afternoon light faded and the rain finally arrived, a very obliging Water RailTwite, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Marsh Harrier, Slavonian, Little and Red-necked Grebes, Shelduck, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey and Golden Plover, Lapwing, Gannet, Curlew, Teal, Mallard and Wigeon may have been reduced to a supporting role for the day, but all combined to produce an excellent day’s birdwatching on the Northumberland coast 🙂

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

A trio of Grebes and a splash in the gloom

by on Feb.20, 2014, under Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Tuesday and Wednesday were mini-safaris for one family, but different participants each day; Sue, Phil, Sandra and Inez on Tuesday and Sue (again), Jacqui, Paul and Hannah on Wednesday.

Both days featured lots of waders and wildfowl; Redshank, Common Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Goldeneye, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser were all very obliging, with the ducks particularly stunning, and the Goldeneye engaging in their quite captivating display.  Moorhens picking scraps off a skeleton at the edge of Cresswell Pond were described as ‘totally gross’ by Inez, and it isn’t easy to argue with that summation 🙂

Although the two days were similar, there were some notable differences; Tuesday produced Slavonian and Red-necked Grebes, alongside the Little Grebes that we saw on both days, and Wednesday featured Water Rail and Roe Deer.  Wednesday also produced a very brief Otter encounter, as a dark shape rolled at the surface in the deepening gloom, crossed the river and rolled again as the local Mallards stared in terror into the darkness.

Comments Off on A trio of Grebes and a splash in the gloom :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Winter Wonderland Day One 04/12/2013

by on Dec.06, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I met up with David for breakfast at The Swan on Wednesday morning, ahead of two days on the Northumberland coast, we’d already switched our itinerary round.  The plan to visit Holy Island on Thursday looked as though it might be slightly impacted by the weather, so we switched Druridge Bay to that day instead.

The drive north on the A1 was in glorious weather, with Common Buzzards soaring low over plantations in the chill of the early morning and we were soon on Holy Island in a stiffening breeze, carefully stalking towards a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese that posed for David’s camera.  Bar-tailed Godwits, and a lone Black-tailed Godwit were probing the exposed mud of the harbour at low tide and Wigeon and Teal were on the Rocket Pool.  A Common Kestrel was hovering nearby and, as the tide turned, we headed to the causeway to see what would be pushed towards us by the advancing water.  Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Shelduck and a Little Egret all fed along the swelling channels

Eurasian Curlew,Numenius arquata,Northumberland,birdwatching holidays,photography holidays,Holy Island,Lindisfarne

and then a mass of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew in from the south.  As the water began to lap at the edge of the causeway we drove back on to the mainland, and headed to a quiet stretch of shoreline where I knew David could use the cover of a hedgerow to approach a flock of Pale-bellied Brents whilst avoiding detection.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese,Branta bernicla hrota,Holy Island,Lindisfarne,Northumberland,photography holidays,birdwatching holidays

Using the car as a photographic hide (something of a theme  for the holiday!) we got very close views of a flock of Wigeon,

Eurasian Wigeon,Anas penelope,Holy Island,Lindisfarne,Northumberland,birdwatchinf holidays,photography holidays,northern experience wildlife tours

and then we settled in the iconic shadow of Bamburgh Castle and scanned the sea in temperatures that were now bone-chilling 🙂  Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshank were roosting just above the water line and beyond the rafts of Eider were flocks of Common Scoter, with one large group of females looking stunningly orange in the beautiful late afternoon sunlight.  Long-tailed Ducks played hide and seek, utilising their propensity for diving, and the developing swell, to keep me on my toes as I located a group with the ‘scope so that David could see them.  Scanning the scoter flocks paid dividends as a female Velvet Scoter rose up and over one advancing wave crest, Red-throated Divers cruised along in their eternal search for fish and a last scan before we headed back down the coast produced a Slavonian Grebe.  As it turned dark, the clear sky afforded excellent ‘scope views of the crescent Venus, and the thinnest sliver of crescent Moon.  So soon after New Moon would be a spring tide, and the one forecast for the following day was predicted to be a big one…

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Northumberland Winter Bird Race 2013

by on Jan.09, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

After a relaxing break over Christmas and New Year, last Saturday was one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the year; the Northumberland Winter Bird Race.

A simple set of rules; start any time you like after midnight, teams of four (or three…or five…), three members of the team must positively identify a species for it to be counted, get to the Three Horse Shoes between 17:00-17:30 and be ready to declare your team total at 18:00.

The starting point for our, vaguely planned, itinerary for the day was to be the NEWT office at 06:00.  As Sarah opened the door at 05:45, when our other team members (NTBC Field Trips officer Trevor, and local legend the Liverbirder) arrived, bird #1 was added to the list as a vocal Tawny Owlsang his haunting melody from the churchyard opposite our house.  #2 Barn Owl (the first of at least five found around dawn and dusk)joined the list as we headed north in Gordon’s car for our first ‘only one chance’ species…Red Grouse duly obliged and we’d made a flying start.  Down on the coast a stunning sunrise also brought Little Egret for the list, as well as occasional good-natured banter with two other teams that had started in the north (including ‘The Tiddlers’) and three more hours in North Northumberland, coupled with Gordon’s local knowledge of Cramlington, which brought us a Kingfisher that we pointed out to several curious dog walkers, saw us reach #85 by midday.  The afternoon proved much more testing, and some excellent birds including Smew, Slavonian Grebe, Mediterranean Gull and a fly-by Bittern, took us to a total of 105 by the time we’d eventually given up on trying to tick Goldfinch on call in the dark 🙂

Four of the other five teams were already at the Three Horse Shoes by the time we arrived.  Species missed were being compared and there was a general feeling that it had been a difficult day.  We were only one species short of our best winter bird race total (achieved the last time that we didn’t have an itinerary planned to the nth degree…) but were expecting to be somewhere round 5th out of 6 (historically we’ve been a much stronger Spring bird race team).  With other teams declaring totals of 98, 101, 103, 104 and 108, we’d exceeded all expectations and finished 2nd, with 105 species out of a cumulative total across all 6 teams of 129 🙂 To put the day in context, the highest total for Northumberland in a Winter Bird Race is 126 for a single team…

Looking forward to early January 2014 already!

Comments Off on Northumberland Winter Bird Race 2013 :, , , , , , , , more...

Heading north…

by on Mar.15, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Living in southeast Northumberland, we’re spoiled by having easy access to some outstanding birdwatching areas.  Holy Island, which we still think is at its best during the winter, is just an hour north up the A1…

I collected Keith and Mary on Saturday morning and we crossed the causeway onto the island for a day of birdwatching around the Northumberland Coast AONB.  Although we encountered wintering Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and other waders and wildfowl, there was a definite spring feel to the day.  The weather was glorious (although a little breezy), and Skylarks could be heard high overhead.  Curlews were in full voice, Grey Herons were stalking through poolside vegetation, Grey Seals were hauled out at low tide and a steady stream of Gannets passed by offshore.  Early afternoon we headed back to the mainland and more waders and wildfowl, as well as a mixed flock of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Tree Sparrows (with the male Yellowhammers looking particularly stunning) before finishing in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle with roosting Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Purple Sandpipers, Eiders bobbing about in the surf and a mixed raft of Common Scoters and Slavonian Grebes diving repeatedly in the swell and really testing powers of concentration.

Comments Off on Heading north… :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Raptors, raptors everywhere

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Standing on the Heugh on Holy Island with Jill and Steve, we’re all scanning towards Guile Point.  Cormorants, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider are all bobbing about on the water, Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Curlew and Oystercatchers are flying by, Common and Grey Seals are splashing in the surf as the tide falls…and I’m focused on the sea with one species in mind.  Then 2 distant white dots, gradually narrowing the gap toward us, and I know I’ve achieved that primary target.  Soon, I’ve got 2 very happy clients watching an immaculate drake Long-tailed Duck.  Outrageously attractive, he waved that eponymous tail in the air before taking off and vanishing out of sight around the headland.

At the other end of the day we watched a flock of 20 Slavonian Grebes and a similar number of Common Scoter, another 6 Long-tailed Ducks, an elusive Black-throated Diver and 3 equally elusive Red-throated Divers and 2 Harbour Porpoises as the light faded to the point where even the impressive assembly of optical equipment wasn’t offering an advantage any more.

Sandwiched in between though, was a veritable feast of raptors;  we’d already had a couple of Common Buzzards (and I’d had 2 on the drive to Hauxley before collecting Jill and Steve), 2 Sparrowhawks and several Kestrels by lunchtime, but the best was yet to come.  First a Merlin perched on a post in front of us for 10 minutes, then we found 2 Peregrines sitting on boulders at low tide.  Soon a wave of panic spread through the assembled waders, and the Barnacle, Greylag, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, as the 2 Peregrines swooped back and forth.  Then, our second Merlin of the day began harrassing one of the Peregrines. As chaos raged across the mudflats, one of the Peregrines made a kill; an unfortunate Redshank.  It took it’s prize to a rock and began plucking it…and 2 more Peregrines arrived!  All 3 tussled over the spoils of the hunt, before 2 of them conceded and sat a little distance away.  A dry, cold wintry day and spectacular drama played out by some excellent wildlife.  The Northumberland coast in the winter – there’s nothing better 🙂

Comments Off on Raptors, raptors everywhere :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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…

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Not bad for mid-Feb

by on Feb.17, 2010, under Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday I led our first Safari Day of this week, to Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Although I really enjoy trips where the main quarry is Red Squirrel/Badger/Otter/Fox/Roe Deer my lifelong love affair has been with birdwatching.  Northumberland is a top-quality destination for a winter birdwatching trip; just ask any of the writers/photographers who we’ve taken to the wilds of our home county during the cold(er) bits of the year.

Yesterday was one of those days where you couldn’t wish for better conditions; clear blue sky, warm sunshine (although with sub-zero air temperatures for much of the day), no rain and only a very gentle breeze.  I collected Phil and Barbara from their holiday cottage near Guyzance and we followed the coast all the way to Lindisfarne.  Small groups of Pale-bellied Brent Geese beside the causeway were a novelty for birdwatchers from the southeast, who are used to seeing Dark-bellied Brents during the winter, and they commented immediately about just how black-and-white the Svalbard birds look.  Scanning the fields on the island we located a flock of ~800 Pale-bellied Brents, with a few Dark-bellied mixed in, allowing a direct comparison of the two.  The field was also shared by 200+ Curlew and smaller numbers of Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover.  Panic among a group of Starlings was traced to a 1st-Winter Merlin that helpfully perched on a post at the back of the Rocket Field.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes and after 2 hours we headed back towards the mainland among the general exodus that occurs as the end of safe-crossing approaches.  Another Merlin beside the causeway allowed even closer views so we stopped for a few more minutes of appreciation of this small predator.

Our picnic spot, overlooking the mudflats between Holy Island and the mainland, provided excellent views of flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover in the air as well as lots of Shelduck, Eider, Pintail and more PB Brents.  We enjoyed all of these in the company of Tom Cadwallender, Natural and Cultural Heritage Officer for the Northumberland Coast AONB, who was supposed to be meeting a camera crew from Inside Out.  When we left Tom, they were already 20mins late…

Continuing down the coast, a very obliging Common Buzzard pranced around a field, presumably looking for worms.  The Skate Road held well over 1000 Common Scoter, 90+ Purple Sandpipers were huddled on the rocks as the incoming tide washed against their feet and a careful scan produced a few pairs of Long-tailed Ducks (Barbara’s 2nd lifer in a matter of minutes).  Red-throated and Great Northern Divers were, well diving mainly, and Slavonian Grebes were bobbing about just beyond the surf.

Our final destination for the day was Newton, and the decision to detour from the coast route down the dead-end road to Low Newton proved to be an inspired one.  As dusk approached the assembled ducks on the pool (Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard, Gadwall) all provided entertainment as they called to each other.  Then, just a few feet in front of us, a Long-eared Owl silently hunting.  We all held our breath as it approached and then it veered away as silently as it had arrived.  The walk back to the Landy was to provide probably the best bird of the day, and one of those Northumberland birdwatching moments that was quite simply sublime; against an increasingly starry sky and crescent moon, with an impressive amount of Earthshine, a Bittern flew low over our heads and out over the bay.

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Archives

All entries, chronologically...