Tag: Snipe

Waxing and Murmuring; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Colin and Charlotte for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, but sadly not Tony who’d had a fall earlier in the week and wasn’t able to be on the trip with us…

On calm water Little Grebes were constantly diving as a Kingfisher flew by and settled in a bush overhanging the river and a flock of Goldeneye were a reminder that we’re really into the realm of wintering birds now. A mixed flock of Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest also contained a nice surprise in the form of a Treecreeper. We were in the right area for Waxwings too, with sightings in a few places nearby over the last few days. No sign of the Bohemian beauties but we bumped into Hector who was also searching for them. We headed to our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea and had just stopped the car when Hector ‘phoned. The answer to the question “Would you like your lunch, or to see some Waxwings first”? was answered with a resounding “Waxwings!” from Colin and Charlotte and a few minutes later we were watching 13 of them beside a main road in Ashington 🙂

After lunch we found ourselves watching a mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew and Common Snipe as skeins of Pink-footed Geese yapped overhead. With the Sun dipping towards the horizon, although it doesn’t really get that high above it at this time of year, Roe Deer were exploring rushy fields and poolside reedbeds, the trumpeting calls of a family of Whooper Swans heralded their arrival at a nighttime roost site and then there were the Starlings. Thousands and thousands, swirling in front of us, funneling down into the reeds, panicking as a Sparrowhawk flew by, keeping up a constant chatter like a myriad of leaves rusting in the breeze and then, as the light faded towards unmanageable, streaming out of the reeds in wave after wave of black towards an alternative roost.

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Dabbling in duck ID ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 28/02/19

by on Mar.01, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Toni and Tom from Newbiggin and we headed off to explore NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Late winter often features wildfowl expressing their affection, and yesterday was no exception. Drake Goldeneye and drake Red-breasted Mergansers were enthusiastically following ducks around and a violent altercation between two Mute Swans eventually ended and the victor returned to their mate and a display of mutual affection. Lots of other birds were just getting on with the important business of feeding; Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose,Whooper Swan and a rarity, Green-winged Teal – which eventually turned side on to us and gave very obliging views of it’s key ID feature. A sudden panic, and birds scattering in every direction, heralded the arrival of a female Sparrowhawk that twisted and turned before grabbing a Redshank and going down behind a clump of rush.

Roe Deer were grazing among the rushes and our attention turned from wildfowl to waders. Dunlin were busying themselves in shallow water, a Ringed Plover put in a brief appearance and Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe were all feeding or roosting. 5 Avocets were a reminder that winter’s over and spring is nudging it’s way in. Disclaimer – don’t base any decisions on Avocet-based weather predictions 😉

As a misty dusk began to descend we had an entertaining chat with an angler on the banks of the Wansbeck. I didn’t have to translate too much of what he was saying 😉

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Into the arena; North Pennines Safari 03/05/18

by on May.07, 2018, under Uncategorized

After collecting David from Newbiggin we headed across to Hexham and quickly found Becky, for her 2nd day out with NEWT, and then Emma and Rob before heading into the North Pennines, with one particular experience high on everybody’s wish list for the day…

In a bitterly cold westerly wind, birds were mainly keeping their heads down.  Red Grouse popped up on the heather, Wheatears and Meadow Pipits hopped along drystone walls, Snipe, Curlew and Lapwing were displaying and Buzzard and Kestrel occasionally braved the breeze.  A Red Squirrel ran across the road and vanished into a tree, a Stoat ran up a wall and Roe Deer were grazing in the relative shelter of the valley bottoms.  A quick check of our favourite Black Grouse spot just before lunch produced no birds, and just a lone Blackcock feeding in a nearby field.  A post-lunch walk didn’t last as long as planned, with fairly ferocious wind-chill making it seem more mid-Winter than early May so we headed back to look for grouse

Where there were no grouse a couple of hours earlier, now there were 17 Blackcock, some feeding in long grass and some sleeping in the open.  Then, an unseen trigger launched the lek.  White tail feathers could be seen with the naked eye from our vantage point and the birds were struggling for dominance of the gladiatorial arena.  Some were half-heated about it and quickly stopped displaying and just watched the remaining birds.  Some were aggressively charging at each other and, eventually, just two birds were still displaying.  One seemed to be the alpha male of the lek, perched on a tussock in the centre of the lek he was holding the prime spot.  Undaunted, his one remaining challenger continued displaying and, as far as we could tell, the challenger had more stamina than the ‘king of the castle’ who lowered his tail feathers, dropped his wings, hopped down from the tussock and made a slow dignified exit from the arena into the surrounding long grass before flying away and leaving the one last displaying Blackcock strutting his stuff 🙂

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Other-worldly; Lindisfarne Safari 02/11/17

by on Nov.05, 2017, under Holy Island, Lindisfarne

Thursday’s Lindisfarne Safari was a stranding trip, with our plan to cross onto the island just before the tide cut it off and then stay there until the causeway cleared again.  I collected Sue, for her 6th trip with NEWT, from Old Swarland and then we headed to Alnwick to collect Paul, Edith, Jan and Astrid from Greycroft, where it was lovely to see Audrey who was giving them the eminently sensible advice of dressing with plenty of layers…

It had been a lovely morning, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds, as I left home, but the further north we got, the murkier the weather looked.  As we reached the causeway, with Curlew, Common Redshank, Little Egret and Bar-tailed Godwit all foraging along the edge of the rising tide, there was a steady drenching drizzle and waterproofs were needed once we were over on the island.  Blackbirds and Robins seemed to be everywhere we looked, Goldcrests were flitting restlessly in the pursuit of insects and with St Cuthbert’s Island cut off by the rising water Bar-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers had arrived to roost en masse.  House Sparrows are one of the most noticeable features of a day on Holy Island and there they were; in every bush and on every rooftop they paid little attention to us as we walked by.  Spiky-haired Red-breasted Mergansers were splashing in the shallower water as Grey Seals swam in deeper channels and a Kestrel was toughing it out in the stiff breeze and drizzle.  Common Snipe were busying themselves among the reed edges and a Woodcock, heavy-bodied and long-billed, flew by.  A flock of Fieldfare and Redwing looked to be newly arrived and we made a short migration ourselves – to the cafe!  Golden Plover flocks decorated the sky and, as we explored the remains of the early medieval farmstead at Green Shiel, and Pale-bellied Brent Geese speckled the gradually exposed mud, a sunset of burnt orange illuminated the western horizon as the dark tendrils of dusk curled around the island.

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Dusk; Bespoke Otter mini-Safari 27/12/16

by on Jan.04, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Our final trip of the year was a bespoke Otter mini-Safari around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for Diane and Yvonne, who had booked following a recommendation from Claire 🙂

We met up in Newbiggin and set off on our search.  Our first site had plenty of birds but no Otters, so we headed on to the site where I thought it would be good to be at dusk.  A Kingfisher provided a splash of iridescent brilliance in the fading light of mid-afternoon and a group of Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard and Tufted Duck drifting away from a reedbed caught my attention.  Scanning the reed edge with our telescope revealed a dark shape, twisting and turning but mainly hidden from view in the reeds.  It soon vanished, but the ducks were still wary, so I continued scanning that area.  After 20mins the Otter finally came out into open water and each time it dropped out of sight we tracked it by the current location of agitated wildfowl 🙂  It was clearly making it’s way towards us and, after a few minutes without a sighting, it was suddenly running along the bank right in front of us!  It quickly disappeared into another reedbed, triggering the begging calls of it’s cubs, before reappearing in the water with one cub, as two more continued calling, drowning out the calls of Snipe and Water Rail 🙂  As a Starling murmuration began to develop, the calls of Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose cut through the gloom as they arrived to roost and eventually it was too dark to see anything out on the water.

A fantastic end to the year, and a welcome break from mince pies 🙂

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The Kill; Druridge Bay birdwatching 24/09/2013

by on Sep.26, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Through the thickening mist, just inches above the ground, the Sparrowhawk maneuvered it’s way at speed around bushes and the edge of a reedbed.  From that position it couldn’t see any possible targets.  Of course, that meant it couldn’t be seen either…

I’d collected Laura and Barry from Church Point at midday. for an afternoon birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Unlike the stunning sunshine and warmth of Monday, conditions were rather overcast.  On a walk through woodland, we came across a roving tit flock.  Goldcrests could be heard high in the trees, and a quick session of pishing soon had one just a few feet away from us as it descended to investigate where the squeaking noise was coming from.  Our lunch stop, overlooking the length of Druridge Bay, gave us the opportunity for a spot of seawatching although, with the lack of any substantial breeze, there wasn’t a great deal of movement offshore.  Eider were dotted here and there, Cormorants were flying along the coast, a few Swallows  were catching insects low over the clifftop vegetation and flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet were noisily flitting about.  Lapwings, Curlew, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Ringed Plover and Redshank, the latter in what seemed to be a state of perpetual motion, were working their way along exposed mud as Grey Herons stalked with an imperceptibly slow motion that  spells danger to fish, frogs and ducklings everywhere.  As the afternoon continued, we were suddenly confronted with heavy mist.  Then the rain started.  Thinking this would clear the mist proved a forlorn hope, and we watched a flock of Dunlin make several low passes over the mud in front of us before they vanished into the mist.  Eiders and Cormorants were diving repeatedly on the River Coquet near Amble and Salmon were leaping from the water – a real joy to watch when all three of us in the car are keen flyfishers.  With dusk approaching, although this wouldn’t differ too much from the rest of the afternoon, the yapping of Pink-footed Geese could be heard from behind the grey impenetrable curtain of mist.  Growing louder, and with the calls of Greylag and Canada Geese intermingled, the flock appeared on the edge of the mist.  Just beyond the limit of clarity, the amorphous mass of several hundred geese dropped onto the water and then upped the volume of their calls.  As another flock arrived they were greeted noisily by the birds already on the water.

…accelerating on powerful wings, following an approach of supreme stealth, the Sparrowhawk exploded from a gap in the reeds, still just inches from the ground.  Lapwings and Starlings took to the air in panic, but the predator quickly fixed it’s baleful stare on the three closest birds to the edge of the reeds.  The Dunlin took flight, but the concealed approach by the Sparrowhawk had given it the edge that it needed in the game of life and death that was playing out in front of us.  With lightning quick reflexes it plucked the Dunlin deftly from the air, turned back through the channel in the reeds, and settled to devour it’s catch out of sight.  Not out of sight from us though 🙂

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Wild Geese and small predators; Druridge Bay 20/09/2013

by on Sep.23, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After a damp morning around Druridge Bay on Thursday, Friday looked much more promising.  I collected Simeon and Kathy from their holiday accommodation in Warkworth and we set off down the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Late summer/early autumn trips often feature plenty of waders and wildfowl and this was no exception.  Common Snipe were playing ‘hard-to-spot’ as they slept in sparse clumps of reed, Dunlin, Ruff, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Golden Plover were all either roosting or sticking their beaks into the mud and a lone Greenshank was sitting on the periphery of a big flock of Lapwing.  On slow deep wingbeats a Sparrowhawk flew low across the water towards us, pulling sharply up and over us at the last minute.  Over a coastal reedbed a juvenile Marsh Harrier drifted lazily along, swooping down towards the water and scattering the Mallard and Teal that had been dozing contentedly there.

Mid-afternoon we were treated to the spectacle of the sky filled with skein after skein of geese; mainly Pink-footed, but with small groups of Greylag and Canada interspersed amongst the yapping flocks of one our favourite Icelandic winter visitors.  Our next magic moment came courtesy of a mustelid.  Not the Otter that we were searching for, but instead the beautiful little predator that has featured on so many of our trips in the last few weeks.  For several minutes we watched as a Stoat ran backward and forwards along the water’s edge, perched on rocks, had a good look at a Moorhen and finally bounded away through the poolside vegetation.  Another small predator provided the next wildlife experience.  Lapwing, Golden Plover, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and Starling all took to the air; had they spotted an Otter lurking in the reeds?  maybe a Fox?  No, what was coming was the Grim Reaper on tiny pointed wings.  A Merlin was suddenly amongst the scattered birds in the air.  Twisting and turning, the tiny falcon had singled out a Dunlin from the multitude of possible targets in front of it.  The chase was on and could be easily followed by watching the path carved through the tightly bunched Lapwings that had taken to the air in alarm.  As the Dunlin made a final bid for freedom, the Merlin gave up the chase and settled, out of sight, in a hawthorn bush in the dunes.  It didn’t have long to catch it’s breath before it was disturbed by a dog walker and flew into a dune slack away from disturbance.  Simeon’s comment after this life and death chase echoed those of many of our clients previously “it’s gripping, but I was really willing the Dunlin to get away”.

As the evening progressed and the Sun dropped below the western horizon, geese began arriving to roost, bats were flitting back and forth across our field of view and, as the light finally faded to black and we headed back to Warkworth, a Barn Owl flew low over the car.

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Waders; Druridge Bay 19/09/2013

by on Sep.23, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Looking out of the office window, it was hard to reconcile the actual weather with the forecast.  I packed the car and set off for Newbiggin to collect Dan and Mary for a Druridge Bay mini-safari…and, just as I reached Church Point, the heavens opened 🙁  Not to worry – even in inclement conditions we can usually find somewhere to shelter and watch the wildlife.

This was surely going to be a morning to enjoy the bird’s that are comfortable in wet weather, seemingly unconcerned by wind and rain.  Close views of Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew, Redshank and Snipe were possible, and a group of Pintail were wandering around with the Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks.  After a morning that just seemed to fly by, and a fascinating one with the opportunity to chat with a professional photographer, we headed back to Newbiggin…as the weather improved 🙂

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Stumbling across a twitch

by on Sep.11, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Late August/early September is an exciting time on the Northumberland coast; wader passage is still ongoing, wintering wildfowl are arriving and you just never know what could turn up…

I collected Andy and Lia from Alnwick and we set off for a day birdwatching on the Northumberland coast from Bamburgh to Druridge BayKnot, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Sanderling and some very elusive Purple Sandpipers started the day for us, as Linnets fluttered around in the long grass, Meadow and Rock Pipits were around the tideline, Gannets were soaring majestically by and Eider and Common Scoter were bobbing around just beyond the surf and a mixed flock of Common and Sandwich Terns were flushed by walkers before settling back on the rocks close to the breaking surf.  Offshore a small flock of birds grabbed my attention, and through the telescope resolved into one of Northumberland’s winter specialities; seven Pale-bellied Brent Geese steadily heading north were our first of the autumn.

Further south, waders were still the main focus of our day;  Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ruff were all pottering about in the water’s edge.  When we arrived at East Chevington to look for the Spotted Crake, there were a few local birders already there.  With an astonishing amount of luck, we’d arrived just as a White-rumped Sandpiper was being watched 🙂  Not the easiest of birds to identify, but as it wandered around a flock of sleeping Teal with Dunlin and Snipe alongside for comparison it stood out quite well.

Another cracking day’s birdwatching, with a proper rarity to add a touch of the unusual 🙂

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Breathtaking menace

by on Sep.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

One of the species that our clients are always keen to see is the Otter.  From my own perspective though, one of it’s smaller relatives is a much more attractive mustelid.

I collected Jackie, and Steve and Karen, from Church Point, and we set off on an exploration of Druridge Bay and the Northumberland coast.  As we sat scanning a coastal pool, watching for any sign of agitation among the assembled Mallards, Gadwall, Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes, Teal and Mute Swans, there was a rustling in the grass just in front of us and a Stoat popped it’s head out.  I started making quiet squeaking noises, and soon it peered out at us, then came out in the open and reared up on it’s hind legs – presumably fooled by my pishing into thinking that a small rodent was in trouble and in need of a Stoat to do it’s good deed for the day and end it’s misery 🙂 The Stoat is one of those species that are fairly common and widespread, but rarely seen.  When you do get one sitting out in full view though it really is a quite beautiful creature; lithe and muscular, inquisitive and deadly, it was a real treat to have this little predator right in front of us.

As the evening wore on, small groups of Starlings were gathering ready to roost, Snipe seemed to be everywhere that we went and the eternal game of cat and mouse, between predators and prey, that is the natural world was still all around us as the sun dropped below the horizon away to the west.

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