Tag: Starlings

Bittern by the birdwatching bug; Druridge Bay 01/10/2013

by on Oct.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

The cold wind that had developed during Monday was still whipping across the Northumberland coast as I collected Sara from Church Point for an afternoon birdwatching around Druridge Bay.  Newbiggin Bay was an impressive mass of rolling swell and white water as we headed along the coast.

Damp, cold and misty were the conditions for the afternoon, but there were plenty of birds to hold our attention.  with Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper and Golden Plover still around from the day before it was good to find another wader species; a small flock of Dunlin flying by caught my eye, not so much because they were Dunlin, but because there were two smaller birds flying with them.  Small enough to only be stints of some description, they resolved through the telescope into Little Stints and, as Sara watched them through the ‘scope, I sent a text to Ipin, so that he could get them on his patch list for the year…and he repaid me by describing me as Scotland Gate’s second best wildlife tour leader 🙂

In the increasing murk we headed to East Chevington and had two Bramblings flying overhead and calling.  A reported Corncrake didn’t show itself, but there was an odd call, that I’ve never heard before, coming from a patch of rank grass just a few metres away from us…

Probably the bird of the afternoon was an unexpected surprise; as Sara watched the assembled waders through the ‘scope, and skeins of Pink-footed Geese lifted from nearby fields with calls rising to a crescendo as they approached the pool, I was scanning around the water’s edge…and a Bittern walked out of the reeds and into full view 🙂  For a few minutes we were treated to excellent views of this strange skulking heron.  It seemed to be confused as to where it was in relation to the reeds as it suddenly stood upright and stretched it’s head and neck skyward in the classic ‘bitterning’ pose.  When it finally took flight, it was mobbed by a flock of Lapwings before dropping out of sight into a reedbed…where it was soon joined by the members of a Starling murmuration 🙂

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Evening flight; Druridge Bay birdwatching 05/09/2013

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

Sometimes we see birds that are rare or spectacular, but sometimes the common birds are the ones that are the highlight of the day…

I collected Julia and we set off for the coast, and an afternoon and evening birdwatching around Druridge Bay.  A Merlin passed by on pointed wings, racing across a nearby field and causing panic amongst the birds in the hedgerows.  Eiders and Goosanders were on the River Coquet and we found the first of two Stoats for the day.  Grey Herons and Cormorants were standing statue-like by the edges of pools, and waders included Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Ruff, Lapwing, Redshank and no less than five Greenshank.

As dusk approached a small murmuration of Starlings quickly dived into the cover of a reedbed and then one of nature’s great spectacles unfolded before us as skein after skein of geese arrived noisily for their evening roost.  Canada and Greylag Geese may not be any peoples favourites, but as the numbers swelled and the noise level rose to a cacophony it was a bewitching sight.  On the edge of the roost two birds caught the eye; not genuinely wild, although nobody seems to be entirely sure where they came from, the two Bar-headed Geese were still worth watching.

Then, on the journey back to Netherton, two mammals were caught in the glare of our headlights.  First a Hedgehog, crossing the road in the middle of Warkworth, managed to avoid being run over then another mammal…nearly a week later, and I’m still not sure what it was, although Polecat/Ferret seems the best option.  Who knows what’s roaming the countryside…

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To intervene in nature…or not?

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

We were watching Autumnwatch yesterday evening and one discussion between the presenters, concerning intervention when you’re filming/photographing an animal in distress, was particularly pertinent to the mini-safari that Martin led earlier yesterday evening…but back to that later in this post.

The half-term week was busy, as expected, and included some fantastic wildlife watching; Salmon leaping up a weir on the River Coquet, Starlings massing and swirling above a coastal reedbed before dropping to roost, 2000+ Pink-footed Geese filling the sky overhead, as they left their feeding sites and headed for the overnight safety of the water, and Grey Seals around the Farne Islands as they approach the height of their breeding season.

Yesterday brought an evening mini-safari in southeast Northumberland.  Damp gloomy conditions and increasingly glowering clouds weren’t making things look too promising.  Our walk along the River Blyth produced a Nuthatch, and a Kingfisher called as it flew along the swollen, muddy river.  Two birdwatching gems, but quality rather than quantity was the order of the evening.  A Sparrowhawk provided some entertainment as it swooped repeatedly down towards the trees, flushing flocks of Woodpigeon with each descent, before finally vanishing into the canopy.  We continued our walk and, as we rounded a bend in the path, we found the reason for the Sparrowhawk’s disappearance; flapping lamely in the undergrowth was a Woodpigeon with a nasty head wound.  The predator had presumably flushed as we approached.  We’ve seen similar before and the question from clients is always “what are we going to do?”.  The answer may seem quite cold and heartless but we do nothing.  The pigeon was mortally wounded and would provide a meal either for the hawk or possibly a Red Fox would come along and make off with it.  Nature really is ‘red in tooth and claw’ and we shouldn’t interfere in the everyday life (and death) of our wildlife where we can avoid doing so.

Our next destination was what is rapidly becoming our favourite Badger sett.  As we watched quietly (and we really have to congratulate the 6-year old in our group for remaining so very quiet) over the open area close to the sett, a Red Fox crossed the track ahead of us, we could hear scuffling in the undergrowth and then two stripy black-and-white faces appeared out of the gloom.  After a withering stare in our direction the two cubs trotted along the hillside and were joined by a third before vanishing into the night.  The final leg of the trip was a search for owls.  Local knowledge paid off, as the ghostly figure of a Barn Owl floated through the beam of our headlights just where we expected it to.  There was still time for more wildlife though and the application of our bat detector revealed a Common Pipistrelle feeding on the rich bounty of moths.  After the recent frosts it was good to find bats still active, and our final event for this October is a Bat Walk at Bamburgh Castle tomorrow evening.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place for what should be an evening of family fun.

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