Tag: Stoat

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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Stoatally different to yesterday…

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

By extraordinary coincidence, one of our least observed mammals put in an appearance for the second consecutive day…

I collected David, Jackie and Alexander from Bamburgh and we headed south to start their Prestige Tour of the Northumberland Coast.  As Swallows and House Martins flitted about low over the water in front of us, a Stoat proved elusive as it darted in and out of the vegetation close to the water’s edge, momentarily startling the dozing ducks before vanishing back into the edge of a reedbed.  As ever something wholly unexpected appeared, on this occasion a Peregrine over Cresswell village.  A Roe Deer walking through an arable field appeared like a disembodied head – only popping up, like a Jack-in-the-box, every few metres as it made it’s way across the field.

Another elusive mustelid put in a brief appearance too, as a Badger trotted along between reedbeds, but unfortunately hidden from view by the vegetation on our side of the pool.  As dusk approached, pipistrelle bats were flitting back and forth, tiny Common Froglets hopped across the path in front of us and the drive back to Bamburgh produced another impressive mammal, as a Brown Hare loped along the verge as we passed.

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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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“I am Gadwall…”

by on Aug.07, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

After the heavy rain of Monday, it was good to drive to Newbiggin, to collect Bryan and Zoe & Simon, in warm sunshine and broken cloud.  Our evening Otter mini-Safari would take in the best of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

One thing that I always enjoy is the response to bird names from clients who’ve never come across a particular species before.  Godwit is a name that always raises a chuckle, and both Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit, resplendent in their breeding finery, were among the noisy flocks of Redshank and Curlew.  Turnstones were also looking particularly stunning, two juvenile Marsh Harriers were drifting over reedbeds, a particularly dark male Pheasant couldn’t make his mind up which way to run when we stopped to admire him and a Stoat poked it’s head out of the grass, then back in, then out again, before finally running across in front of us.  Gadwall and Wigeon invoked more bemusement at bird names and we added Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Magpie Moth to the trip list.  Small groups of Starlings were heading to roost and it was time for us to head to our final site of the evening.

As the sun dropped towards the horizon we settled to scan for any indication of Otter activity.  A Sparrowhawk passed through, causing consternation in the Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins and a Common Snipe was illuminated by a patch of sunlight, raising it from the level of ‘brown bird with long bill that pokes it’s face in mud’ to something quite sublime.  Then, a sudden panic among the ducks.  Females with ducklings were fanning out rapidly from one edge of the pond and we intensified our scanning of the reedy margins.  Nothing, but the birds weren’t settling.  Then a pair of Mute Swans gave a call that we’ve come to associate with one thing, and it was only a matter of time…in the dark shadow of a reedbed, I saw a line of bright water appear.  Everyone’s attention turned to that edge of the pool and then the Otter popped up at the surface 🙂  For 20 minutes it made it’s way steadily across the water, including a stunning few minutes in the reflection of the sunset, before finally vanishing into the darkening gloom.

As we headed back towards Newbiggin, the discussion turned back to bird names and led to one of my all time favourite things that any client has said “I am Gadwall, a wizard of the elven kingdom, and you are Turnstone, a Dwarf” 🙂

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Seabird Spectacular

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Our Seabird Spectacular package holiday managed to coincide with some increasingly heavy seas and strong northerly winds.  Getting on a boat would have been somewhat inadvisable , but we still managed to get good views of all the target species for the holiday, including Roseate Tern, Little Tern and Puffin. Perhaps we should have renamed the holiday Mammal Magic as Noctule, Pipistrelle, Red Fox, Rabbit, Grey Seal, Weasel, Stoat,  and Otter were all seen during the 2 days 🙂  With excellent accommodation and food at The Swan throughout the holiday, it was a great way to spend a weekend in late July.  We’ll be running Seabird Spectacular again in 2012 (11th-14th June) so give us a call now on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

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Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 3: 09/07/2011

by on Jul.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

On Saturday morning our destination was Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and another poor weather forecast ( a bit of a running theme during the holiday…) suggested that we may well get wet.  An addition to the mammal list for the trip raced across the road ahead of us; a Stoat – an endearing predator and one of NEWT’s favourite animals.

We arrived in Amble for our sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises; as Dave manoeuvred the excellent Steadfast into the harbour, the rain arrived from the northeast.  The sailing around the island produced excellent views of Roseate Terns, as well as Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.  As we sailed in a wide arc from the island to begin the journey back to the harbour an Arctic Skua was harassing terns away to the north.  Four more Arctic Skuas were followed by a real seawatching prize as a Pomarine Skua lumbered menacingly by before settling on the sea.    Our final Arctic Skua flew over the harbour just before we docked and I suggested that the Country Barn Coffee Shop at Widdrington would be the best destination once we were back on dry land.

Refreshed, dried and ready to go we visited the NWT reserve of East Chevington.  The tern roost allowed close comparison of Common and Arctic Terns, but the bird described by one participant as ‘bird of the holiday’ was a superb male Marsh Harrier.  A juvenile harrier appeared briefly over the reedbed as well, but the male perched for several minutes on a fence post.  Just after we reached Druridge Pools, the heavens opened, lightning flashed, thunder rolled and 2 Wood Sandpipers bobbed along the edge of the main pool.  A trip to Cresswell, and the most northerly breeding Avocets in England, followed and we all enjoyed  views of a very obliging Brown Hare, Little Gulls and both Little and Great Crested Grebes.  Another excellent evening meal and entertaining conversation (including David’s comment about Captain Birdseye in a cape..a reference to my appearance during the Coquet Island trip), concluded our final night in Seahouses.

As I put my coffee cup and glass of orange juice on the table at breakfast on Sunday morning I looked out over the harbour and the words “it’s a glorious morning” were quickly followed by “and there’s a Spoonbill!”.  Everyone rushed to the window to watch, as Northumberland delivered a fantastic finale to the holiday; poor weather forecasts, some stunning downpours, big seas, beautiful weather, iconic landscapes, excellent birdwatching…all in four days!

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Sights and sounds; North Pennines 10/05/2011

by on May.10, 2011, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland

With a run of 3 North Pennines trips in 6 days, I’m going to be seeing a lot of what is rapidly becoming my favourite birdwatching location (outside of the Northumberland coast in mid-October of course…).

05:30 and the incessant ringing of the alarm clock lets me know that it’s time to be up and about.  Within an hour I’m on my way to Hebburn and then heading west with Kathleen and Brian, 2 of our Prestige Clients, in the car.

The elements aren’t playing fair; a biting cold wind just adds to the ‘feel’ of the North Pennines, but even the stinging raindrops don’t dampen the enthusiasm.  An imperious Blackcock, taking shelter from the wind behind a dry stone wall, allows a prolonged view (we weren’t to know that he was the first of no less than 21 Black Grouse that we were going to enjoy, including 7 birds lekking as we had our lunch).  Red Grouse popped up like Meerkats from the heather as we passed, Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe were all calling over their territories, Skylarks were singing a song that was carried far on the wind and a Golden Plover called plaintively as its little shockingly yellow chicks bobbed up and down around it.  A Stoat dashing across the road in front of us, quickly vanished into the heather; the predator’s route signposted by the string of Meadow Pipits flushing as it passed.

One down, two to go…and I might go there early on Thursday myself when I’m in the area for a Northern Experience Holidays business meeting.  Addicted?

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2 days on Lindisfarne

by on Apr.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Holy Island, Northumberland

Well, a day and a half really…

On Sunday I collected Helen from her parent’s house in Swarland and we crossed the causeway onto Holy Island.  A good walk around the island provided excellent views of Wheatears, displaying Lapwings, a cacophony of Grey Seals and a very inquisitive Stoat.  Helen spotted it and, once it ducked out of sight, I enticed it back out by pishing.  Thrift and Bladder Campion were both in bloom and, once we were back on the mainland, we enjoyed a Whitethroat as it song-flighted from tree to tree.

Our final port of call was Stag Rocks.  A scan seemed to reveal little other than a raft of Eiders but there, amongst the black-and-white ‘Cuddy Ducks’ was a smaller dark bird; the vagrant Black Scoter, still there and still applying his transatlantic affections to a female Common Scoter.

Tuesday’s wildlife walk was slightly different.  I met up with Jude and her parents at the Beal Road end car park and we drove across the causeway.  48 hours after our previous Lindisfarne trip, and the Wheatears had moved on.  A recent arrival though, was a Sedge WarblerSkylarks provided a continuous backdrop to our walk and a pair of Roe Deer were bounding through the fields, leaping fences and apparently keeping an eye on us.  4 hours passed quickly and it was time to head home…and get ready for Wednesday’s Kielder Safari.

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A real challenge

by on Jul.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Natural History, Northumberland

In the 17 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve always believed that Northumberland is one of the finest counties for birdwatching in the whole of the UK.  That belief played a big part in reaching the decision to launch NEWT, and it’s why we’re such an enthusiastic member of the Birdwatching Northumberland Consortium.  We’ll be at the Bird Fair in August (Marquee 1, Stand 53/54) so come along to meet us and find out just how good Northumberland is.

This morning, though, my attention is on mammals.  We don’t do too badly for them either; Badger, Red Fox, Grey Seal, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Weasel, Stoat and Brown Hare all feature regularly on our safaris and, on our Northern Experience Pelagics, there’s the possibility of Minke Whale, White-beaked Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and other cetaceans.  We’ve had some random sightings as well; a Bank Vole that sat munching on a leaf just a few feet away from us and a Mole that walked into a hide we were sitting in were both bizarre (especially the Mole; I hadn’t seen a live one for a long, long time).

With the exciting news earlier this week of the first confirmed evidence in 16 years of Pine Marten in Northumberland, we’ve got a new challenge 🙂  We’ve spent some time in the last couple of years checking likely sites and following up reports that we’ve received.  Some of those have been very tantalising, and the species may be more widespread than people imagine.  Otters and Badgers are fairly difficult, but we’ve developed an excellent track record with those two species.  Pine Marten is going to be an altogether different proposition, but we relish a challenge.

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Oats, coast, stoat

by on Mar.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Today dawned bright and clear; very cold but just the sort of day to spend birdwatching in southeast Northumberland.  After a breakfast of porridge I was warmed through and ready for the day ahead.  I collected Keith and Chris from Morpeth and took them on what appeared to be a magical mystery tour as we searched for Little Owls and Waxwings before reaching the coast at Newbiggin.  20 minutes later we were on our way towards Druridge Bay, with two clients who now had the knowledge of how to identify Mediterranean Gulls, and had put this into practice on at least two birds.

Wildfowl are still the major attraction in the bay, and the bright sunlight really showed Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Gadwall, Red-breasted Merganser and even the humble Mallard in their best light.  Big flocks of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese featured throughout the day and binocular-filling views of Skylarks and Twite went down very well.  A Little Owl watched us intently from high in a tree and a Common Buzzard was soaring over East Chevington.  Eventually we located a big flock of Pink-footed Geese on the ground and we searched through them for Bean Geese.  No luck, but just as we turned our attention to a flock of Greylags, Keith spotted a white blur and we watched the tail of a Stoat vanishing into some long grass.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I started squeaking and kept going for a couple of minutes until the ermine predator came to see what was in distress.  It showed incredibly well, first poking its nose through the grass before reappearing behind a fence and fixing us with a Little Owl-esque stare.  As it slipped out of sight again I looked up…and there was a Bittern overhead.  Another stunning end to another stunning day 🙂

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