Tag: Spoonbill

Seabird Spectacular; Birdwatching magazine Reader Holiday 25-28/06/17

by on Jun.29, 2017, under Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands

Day 1 25/06/17

After collecting Malcolm, and then John, from Alnmouth railway station we headed to Seahouses and the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of a short break concentrating on the seabirds of the Northumberland coast.  Nigel, Janice and Cliff and Lesley had already arrived and at dinner we discussed the plan for the next two days.  I’d brought our Farne Islands day forward from Tuesday to Monday, and moved Coquet Island and Druridge Bay to Tuesday, and had my fingers crossed that it was the right decision…

Day 2 26/06/17

We boarded Glad Tidings IV after breakfast and headed across to Staple Island at the start of an all-day trip to the Farne Islands.  Staple doesn’t have any breeding terns, and has fewer visitors than Inner Farne, so is altogether a much more relaxed experience 🙂  Puffins, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Rock Pipits and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all coming and going as, just north of the island, Gannets were plunging into the sea.  Transferring across to Inner Farne for the afternoon, we made our way past Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and up to Lighthouse Point  where, alongside Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Kittiwakes, Rock Pipits were carrying food into nests tucked away out of sight in narrow crevices in the cliff face.  At the base of the cliffs the water was so clear that we could watch Guillemot, including a parent joined by a jumpling as we watched, and Razorbill as they swam with slow-motion effort under the water.  Back on the mainland we walked along the edge of the rising tide and watched Little Terns, Dunlin and Ringed Plover as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from the dunes and a maelstrom of Arctic Terns responded to marauding Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls and a real bonus bird came in the form of a 2cy Glaucous Gull.

Day 3 27/06/17

I woke up to the sound of a stiff breeze and rain, and breathed a sigh of relief that we’d moved our Farne Islands day to Monday.  We headed south along the coast towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and our first stop was to look for 3 Spoonbills which had been reported.  Just before we reached them, Nigel spotted a Cuckoo perched on a tree protector and we quickly found the Spoonbills.  Next stop was for a bird that’s straightforward to find in Northumberland during the winter, but a rare thing indeed in breeding plumage in late June.  The Slavonian Grebe was asleep, tucked up against the wind and rain but soon roused itself from slumber and started feeding.  Sedge and Reed Warblers were playing hide-and-seek with us in reedbeds, Tree Sparrows were feeding on the paths ahead of us and we spent some time watching an entertaining dispute between a Little Gull and a 1st summer Arctic Tern.  The tern seemed to have a case of angry little man syndrome and, as well as persistently harassing the gull, it took umbrage at the presence of Avocet, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow and ShelduckBlack-tailed Godwits were probing in the shallows, Curlew were in newly-mown fields and the air was filled with Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts.  Soon after lunch the weather deteriorated and as we could hear the sea crashing against the shore is was obvious that our planned sailing around Coquet Island wouldn’t be happening.  There’s always the telescope though, and although distant, we could identify Roseate Terns as Bar-tailed Godwits pottered along the shoreline below us.  As Great Crested Grebes somehow managed to look elegant even in the stiffening breeze and increasingly heavy rain we headed back to Seahouses.

Day 4 28/06/17

After breakfast together, everyone headed their separate ways.  I dropped Malcolm and John back at Alnmouth, and then I was on my way to a physio appointment – really not as much fun as watching Northumberland’s stunning wildlife 🙂

We’ll be adding more holiday dates to our online calendar in the next week, so make sure you book your place early before they’re all gone!

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Batty; Cheviot valleys/Druridge Bay Bespoke Tour 08/06/2015

by on Jun.10, 2015, under Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay

Looking back through previous blog posts I was reminded that we’ve done a few days combining the best of the hills and the best of the coast, and I headed towards Old Bewick to collect Helen for an afternoon and evening exploring the Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay.

As a Common Buzzard soared over the steep valley sides, Curlews launched from the heather, calling in alarm.  Dippers bobbed on mid stream rocks, a Nuthatch with young was busying itself along tree trunks and branches, Whinchats flicked nervously through the bracken, the air was split by the explosive trilling song of Lesser Redpoll and Spotted Flycatchers perched upright on fence posts before sallying forth after flies.

Down on the coast we enjoyed the sight of Avocets mating, two Spoonbills feeding with their heads sweeping from side to side and bills submerged, a female Marsh Harrier causing alarm as it flew over the edge of a pond and Swallows singing and bringing feathers to line their nests.  Dusk brought a remarkable wildlife spectacle, with 30-40 bats hunting in front of us.  The bat detector revealed an astonishing wall of sound as Common Pipistrelle and Noctule swooped, tumbled and hunted insects…right above an Otter that was stalking Tufted Ducks 🙂

The journey back to Old Bewick produced Barn Owl, and a Tawny Owl in the middle of the road sitting on a baby Rabbit!  Then it was time for me to head back towards southeast Northumberland…and Northumberland’s country lanes produced a late night plethora of wildlife; Red Fox, Brown Hare, Roe Deer, Barn Owl, another Tawny Owl sitting on a baby Rabbit, and three Badger cubs trotting alongside the edge of the road 🙂

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Mini-beasting; Bespoke Otter Safari 02/09/2014

by on Sep.10, 2014, under Uncategorized

It’s remarkable how often a theme seems to develop during a trip; flocks, migration, raptors, birds with similar names – all have happened over the last few years.

I drove up to the Breamish Valley to collect Donna and Andy and we headed towards the coast and Druridge Bay with the plan of spending the afternoon and evening birdwatching, finishing at what has been our most reliable Otter site this year (although a run of five successful trips eneded with our last two Druridge Bay safaris not producing any sightings of this enigmatic predator).  Starting in the hills on a nice afternoon, I thought it would be good to search for Adders, and Andy’s sharp eyes produced the goods, with the smallest Adder that I’ve ever seen 🙂

The afternoon continued with the waders we would expect – Ruff, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Common Snipe – and one much more scarce, in the shape of two Little Stints.  We had a rear-end view of a Spoonbill heading north and a Little Egret was stalking along the shallows.  It may be a predominantly white bird, but it’s stunning in good light.  Adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were picked out from the roosting Black-headed Gulls and, as dusk approached, we settled into position to watch for Otters.  A juvenile Marsh Harrier was quartering the reedbeds, Starlings were arriving to roost, with some murmuration, a Spoonbill flew in, magnificent in the sunset, then, in the fading rays of daylight, there was an Otter 🙂  Clearly a theme was developing, as this was a very small Otter cub.  Eventually light levels reached the point where we decided to call it a day and head back northwest.  The day’s theme continued, with a tiny Rabbit along the roadside, and then the final wildlife experience, on a day with wildlife and clients that reminded me so often why I love my job; a Barn Owl crossing the road ahead of us before perching in the beam of our headlights 🙂

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“That’s not a bill. That’s a bill”; Otter Safari 12/07/2014

by on Jul.15, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Often, the species that we’re specifically searching for appears and is the highlight of the day.  Sometimes, the scenes involving the supporting cast take some beating though…

I arrived at Church Point to collect Rose, Tom and Alison, and we headed up the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay searching for Otters.  July is one of our favourite times to visit the coast, as wading birds are starting to head south, still in breeding plumage.  Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Dunlin were all lazing at the water’s edge in the increasingly breezy afternoon, and one of our most delicate looking birds provided a lot of entertainment.  Avocets are a fairly recent addition to Northumberland’s breeding avifauna, and their delicate appearance belies their feisty nature.  As three fluffy Avocet chicks swept their heads from side to side in shallow water, occasionally breaking off to go and tuck themselves under their parent’s wing, the adult Avocets were busy keeping the area clear of other birds.  Black-headed Gulls, and even Pied Wagtails were driven off, but the most ferocious assaults were reserved for a flock of Common Snipe.  Secretive and usually hidden out of sight, the snipe had ventured away from the shelter of the reedbeds and into shallow water where they were feeding with a sewing machine action, faces in the water and constantly probing the soft mud beneath.  The Avocets weren’t having that though, and the snipe were persistently flushed by attack after attack.  When we’d first arrived a Spoonbill had been flying above the pond, and it settled and went to sleep.  Eventually it woke up and began walking along the edge of the pond before disappearing from view.  Then it took off and flew across the water, settling near the Avocets

The first furious airborne assault on the Spoonbill left it completely unmoved, so the Avocet landed nearby and charged at it, head down and neck stretched forward, menacing with that long, upcurved rapier like bill.  The Spoonbill lifted it’s head from the water, opened it’s bill and waved it as if to say “Do you really want me to slap you with this?” 🙂  Obviously a different approach was required, which involved the Avocet pretending to feed, whilst slowly sidling towards the Spoonbill, ready to launch another attack.  That was greeted in the same manner, and when the Avocet tried again, the Spoonbill simply kept it’s head in the water and charged straight at the Avocet, sweeping it’s bill from side to side.  Eventually the Avocets gave up the attack, but kept a close eye on the Spoonbill, as another ten Avocets flew over and a Little Egret put in a brief appearance.

As dusk approached we settled into position overlooking another pool.  All seemed calm, Marsh Harriers were hunting the reedbeds as daylight faded, and then an Otter appeared, making it’s way across the shadow-dappled water, twisting, turning, diving, pausing at the surface to consume its catch before resuming the hunt 🙂  A second Otter was hunting in the deep shadow of a reedbed, and the closer one betrayed it’s own presence with the classic ‘ring of bright water’ each time it surfaced.  A Barn Owl came as a shock, when it flew through Rose’s binocular view, and a white Rabbit and four Brown Hares were illuminated by the car headlights as we made our way back to Church Point in the rain.

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Marshland magic; Druridge Bay 04/07/2014

by on Jul.08, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Natural History, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I love all of the different locations that we visit on our tours, but a day around NEWT’s local patch of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland is always special.  Maybe because it’s so close to home, maybe because of the incredible industrial heritage that has gradually been transformed into fantastic wildlife habitat or maybe just because it’s really, really good 🙂

I collected Sue from Church Point and we headed north up the coast.  A brood of Goosanders were perched on mid-stream rocks as Grey Wagtails flitted back and forth across our field of view, tails wagging vigorously each time they settled before flycatching again just above the water.  An insistent squawking made us turn our heads – and there was a brood of Blackbird fledglings, just a few metres away, watching us with curiosity as their parents brought food.  Great Crested Grebes, Gadwall and Tufted Duck all had young in attendance too and, as is often the case once we reach July, a lot of our attention was taken by wading birds.  30+ Black-tailed Godwits were sleeping as a Common Sandpiper bobbed around their feet, a group of unusually obliging Common Snipe fed out in the open water, black-bellied Dunlin searched purposefully around the godwits, Redshank stalked along the pool edge and into the longer vegetation and three Wood Sandpipers added a touch of ‘scarce’ to the afternoon.  Two Spoonbills spent most of the time, as Spoonbills do, sleeping until a helicopter passing over roused them from their slumber and they did a fly-around before settling back to their previous spot and immediately returning to sleep close to a Little Egret.  Juvenile Marsh Harriers were making short flights over reedbeds, Reed Buntings were still singing their simple song with enthusiasm and a pair of Avocets with four chicks launched repeated furious assaults on any other birds that came too close; Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull and even the ‘so cute they surely couldn’t do any harm’ Little Gulls all came in for a hard time as the young Avocets pottered about in the shallows.

A great day with a lovely client (we don’t have any other type!) and even the added bonus of bumping into my favourite double act, Gavin and Syd 🙂

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A game of two halves; Farne Islands Safari 24/06/2014

by on Jul.01, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Even when you can see inclement weather ahead of you, there’s usually a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

I collected Stephen from home in North Shields, and then Peter from his holiday cottage at Eshott, and we headed north towards the Northumberland coast and the Farne Islands, our destination for the afternoon.  The first half of the day was planned to be a walk along the coast from High Newton, but the deteriorating weather made that an unwelcoming prospect and instead we had a ‘car as a hide’ morning of birdwatching.  A Spoonbill in Budle Bay was an unexpected find and the eerie calls of Grey Seals carried through the mist and drizzle across the low-tide mudflats.

Then the light at the end of the tunnel appeared, well not so much a light as an incandescent ball of wildlife magic.  We were eating lunch, and looking forward to the journey across to the islands, when Peter said “They look like dolphins off the end of the rocks”.  I lifted my binoculars and the view was filled with Bottlenose Dolphins 🙂  We watched as they passed close to the shore, then they settled and began feeding between Bamburgh Castle and Inner Farne.  A quick text to William meant that, by the time we arrived at the harbour, all of his skippers knew where the dolphins were and our journey across to the islands included several minutes with them bow-riding our boat.  I’ve been studying this group of dolphins for the last three months, and some inital findings are in MARINElife’s press release.  Following a cruise around the islands, we landed on Inner Farne.  One of the wardens mentioned that the Bridled Tern had been seen, and a quick sacn soon revealed it’s location in amongst the roosting Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns.  Here are a few pictures of this stunning seabird from last year on Inner Farne

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

After an hour amongst the Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Shags and terns, we crossed back to the mainland and headed south.  Miserable morning, magical afternoon 🙂

 

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Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Monday’s trip was a birdwatching tour of two of Northumberland’s excellent locations; the Cheviot Valleys in the morning, and Druridge Bay in the afternoon.

I collected John, Graham, Andy, Sue, Sue and Lesley from their cottage in Shilbottle and we set off inland towards the imposing landscape of the Cheviot massif.  As we got out of the car and donned waterproofs we had the first rain shower of the day, but it quickly passed and the path began gaining in altitude as Oystercatchers perched on fence posts, swallows and martins hawked back and forth through air buzzing with insects in the warm, humid conditions and Willow Warblers and Chaffinches competed with their congeners in a singing contest.  The plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the steep valley sides, the high calls of Siskin and the buzzy rattle of Lesser Redpoll  came from overhead and one of the archetypal valley birds put in an appearance as we found a succession of adult and juvenile Dippers.  A lone Common Buzzard hovered high over the moors in search of prey and a Peregrine repeatedly rose above the skyline before dropping back down in a prolonged attack on an unfortunate, and unseen, victim.

Lunch overlooking the sea was accompanied by Fulmars gliding gracefully back and forth on stiff wings, before we switched our attention to waders, wildfowl and waterbirdsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons were stalking menacingly along shallow pool edges, at least 50 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting, and a small group of Little Gulls looked diminutive alongside Black-headed Gulls (which aren’t all that big themselves!).  Reed Buntings were singing their rather repetitive song, Sedge and Reed Warblers flew by before vanishing into the depths of the reedbeds and we enjoyed the sight of delicate and dainty, yet incredibly feisty, AvocetsGreat Crested Grebes were feeding their stripy offspring, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns perched obligingly, allowing easy comparison, and the afternoon brought an unexpected surprise in the shape of no less than six Spoonbills.  They did little more exciting than occasionally wake up and preen for a short while before nodding off again, but the sight of six of these impressive birds together wrapped up the day nicely 🙂

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People watching; Red Squirrel Bespoke Safari 03/06/2014

by on Jun.10, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland, Red Squirrel

I love watching wildlife, always have done since I was very young and I love watching wildlife with our clients.  Sometimes though, people are just as interesting…

I collected Richard and Jan from their b&b in Chatton and we headed down through the centre of Northumberland in search of the Red Squirrel.  Our first stop was one of our regular sites for squirrels, but didn’t produce the goods this time.  Next was what a friend described as the best ‘guaranteed’ site for Red Squirrel in Northumberland…no joy here either, although it looked perfect.  We weren’t the only people in the hide – a couple came in and he set up his camera while his wife tried to keep their dog quiet.  Then she dropped his tripod on the hide floor.  Unfortunate, and could happen to anyone, but likely to reduce the chance of seeing a squirrel.  Then it happened again, careless, but still not helping the cause of wildife watching.  Her husband didn’t even flinch as the tripod crashed to the floor and, when it happened for a third time, we were all wondereing if it was his wife’s way of trying to get his attention.  If it was she was failing spectacularly 😉 At that point we gave up and headed across towards the coast, where I’d planned to have our lunch stop at another site that has worked well for us on previous Red Squirrel trips.  Sure enough, as soup and sandwiches were consumed, a squirrel came down from the canopy in search of it’s lunch 🙂  It made off with a peanut and was soon back for more.

After achieving our main aim for the day we spent the rest of the afternoon around Druridge BayAvocet, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Bearded Tit, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Great Crested Grebe and much more made for an excellent afternoon birdwatching. following on from a morning of squirrelwatching and peoplewatching 🙂

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Feels autumnal

by on Aug.28, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland, Wildlife

As I drove through the rolling hills of rural Northumberland to the west of Morpeth, the weather was looking superb; blue sky, sunshine, a nice breeze.  I collected Mark and Nicola and we headed back towards the coastal plain, for an afternoon of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

The conditions looked good for raptors, and it wasn’t too long before we had our first Common Buzzards of the afternoon.  Then another raptor appeared, soaring just overhead.  With long, thin wings, and a long narrow tail, it didn’t look like another buzzard, but it had the sun behind it so was a difficult to view silhouette.  Eventually it moved away to the north and, as it engaged in some mid-air sparring with one of the buzzards, its identity was revealed; juvenile Marsh Harrier.  As the two protagonists drifted further north, the orange crown of the harrier flashed in the sunlight as the bird soared in circles, contrasting with the rich dark chocolate brown of the rest of its plumage.

Reaching the coast, we stopped off at Newbiggin to look for Mediterranean Gulls and it didn’t take too long before we spotted our first as it flew across from the southern end of the bay and landed on the beach right in front of us.  More followed, including a juvenile bird, and Nicola soon commented that, regardless of any plumage differences, the structure of the birds was noticeably different to the nearby Black-headed Gulls.  Leaving the Meds behind we began our journey along the coastal road through Druridge Bay.  A quick check of the Bewick Drift Flash produced 9 Ruff, 10 Dunlin and a Curlew Sandpiper and we spent a little while comparing the differences between the two sandpipers as well as having a very close view of just how different male and female Ruff are in terms of size.

Our picnic stop, overlooking the North Sea, produced a beach filled with Ringed Plovers, and a lone Sanderling, as well as soaring Fulmars and rafts of Eiders, bobbing in the gentle swell far below us.  It was starting to turn colder, breezier, and the first drops of rain started to fall.  Cresswell Pond was very productive, as it has been for a few weeks now, but a few species really stood out;  a Spoonbill, which had been at East Chevington during the afternoon, flew in and made its way right round the edge of the pond, sweeping that extraordinary bill from side to side in search of food, Yellow Wagtails arrived to roost and sat along the base of the reeds, where they provoked a very aggressive response from the Common Snipe that were feeding there and a Barn Owl came out following a heavy shower and caught a vole in the dunes away to the north before carrying it within a few metres of where we were sitting.

The finale to the trip came beside a fast flowing river, downstream was dark, inky blackness, but upstream the water was lit by the eerie glow from a nearby town.  Daubenton’s Bats were trawling the water surface, their presence betrayed by the expanding circles where they’d gaffed prey at the surface.  Then, a ripple too big to be from a bat; and an Otter surfaced for a few moments before disappearing into the dark.

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Wading through August

by on Aug.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

August is always a stressful month for NEWT.  As well as leading our regular safari days, it’s British Birdwatching Fair month, and the week leading up to the Bird Fair is always frantic; checking that we’ve got everything for the stand, mounting a new series of limited edition prints for sale, liaising with all of the other Birdwatching Northumberland partners to make sure that everybody knows exactly which aspects of the project they’re  responsible for, and making sure that we’ve got a supply of local beer for the 4pm ‘free bar’ on our stand 🙂

Then, after a busy three days, it’s all over and we head north…this year to the thankfully cooler temperatures of Northumberland.  From leaving Rutland at 6pm on Sunday to arriving back in Northumberland just after 10pm, the temperature drop was an impressive 14C.

Yesterday was our first post-BirdFair trip, a day of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I collected Alex from Church Point, and we started with a good scan of the beach. 4 Mediterranean Gulls were close by and a small group of waders contained Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Waders proved to be a theme for the day and we added Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Golden Plover and Avocet to the day list as we made our way around NEWT’s local area.  With an impressive supporting cast that included Water Rail, 3 Little Egrets and a Spoonbill it was a great day to be watching the edges of our local ponds, and a real education in just how much inward and outward movement of birds there is from the feeding and roosting wader flocks that grace southeast Northumberland at this time of the year.  It was a great day too, to appreciate just how friendly and helpful local birdwatchers are in Northumberland – many thanks to Len and Gill for pointing us in the direction of the Wood Sandpiper, and Gill’s sharp eyes picked out the Spotted Redshank which then vanished without trace soon after being found and appreciated 🙂

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