Tag: Waxwing

Winter birdwatching

by on Nov.30, 2012, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

With the cessation of the rain that plagued Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday dawned cold and breezy; almost ideal for a day out on the birdwatching paradise that is the Northumberland Coast in the Winter.

As I collected Ele and Lisa from their holiday cottage in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, the icy northerly wind cut through the multiple layers that I’d put on before leaving the house.  We started our day’s birdwatching at Budle Bay, where the wind somehow seemed even icier, and Oystercatchers, Redshank and Curlew were probing the oozing mud as a distant Peregrine flushed flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Eiders were surfing the top of the impressive swell on the open coast and we headed south towards Druridge Bay. Mediterranean Gulls drifted overhead, ghostly pale, as Oystercatchers, Curlew, Turnstone, Redshank and Sanderling worked along the edge of the surf.  Among all the immaculate ducks, two species really stood out; Goosander sleek and menacing, and Red-breasted Merganser drakes all trying to out do each other in their attempts to attract the ladies. A flock of Pink-footed Geese fed in a nearby field

As daylight faded a flock of Waxwings were in the distant tree tops and two species that are always a pleasure to see put in an appearance.  Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl drifted along the edges of the reedbeds; death on silent wings.  Here are a couple of pictures of them from earlier this year (in better light and a gentler breeze!).

Short-eared Owl,Asio flammeus,Northumberland,bird photography courses

 

Barn Owl,Birdwatching Northumberland,bird photography holidays,bird photography courses,Northern Experience Images

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Hide and seek

by on Oct.31, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

Sunday was a Prestige Otter Safari for Chris and Sophie.  It was Chris’ birthday and, as I collected them from Berwick in some pretty horrible conditions, I was hoping that we would drive south into better weather.  Sure enough, we did pass out from under the rain clouds, but the day stayed quite gloomy and windy.  I’d already had an excellent start to the day’s birdwatching, with a flock of 14 Waxwings flying alongside the road as I approached Berwick.  I’m often asked what my favourite bird is, and usually reply that it’s impossible to have a favourite…but Waxwings have a special place at the top of my list 🙂

Down in southeast Northumberland we found an adult Mediterranean Gull, and Chris proved to be remarkably eagle-eyed – picking out a sleeping Jack Snipe in an area of cut reeds.  On the water the usual suspects (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall) were joined by some less regular species; Scaup, Pintail and a pair of Long-tailed Ducks. Some surprising entertainment was provided by a Merlin which spent several minutes harassing a Magpie, and then there was a sudden movement of Goldeneye, Coot and Moorhen away from a reedbed.  They stared intently at the reeds for a few minutes before drifting back towards the edge, then repeated the whole process twice more!  There was something in the reeds that was causing concern, but it didn’t reveal itself (not an unusual occurrence in strong winds – and who could blame anything for staying sheltered?).  We moved on to another pool…and had a repeat performance, this time with Pochard, Goldeneye, Teal, Tufted Duck and Whooper Swan being a bit on edge.  Sometimes wildlife can be frustrating…

Given the low temperatures and high wind, it seemed a little over-optimistic to get the bat detector out.  However, just to confirm that you can’t ever predict wildlife, we had at least two or three Common Pipistrelles, including some frenzied feeding activity around a streetlight, before heading back up the coast.

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Happy New Year

by on Jan.04, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Our first blog post of 2011 has been slightly delayed by some technical difficulties, but we’re up and running again 🙂

We decided that the first few days of the year would be spent birdwatching around southeast Northumberland.  New Year’s Day saw us spending a couple of relaxed hours around Druridge Bay, producing 63 different bird species…followed by a very cold, windswept seawatch from Snab Point as we waited for the Humpback Whale found by Mark Newsome and Steve Addinall at Whitburn.  It didn’t pass by us (at least not at the sea surface) but hopefully it will herald another excellent year for cetacean sightings off the northeast coast.  With the cetacean species accounts for ‘Mammals of the Northeast’ to write, Martin will be hoping for more additions to the already comprehensive Northeast Cetacean database as the year progresses.

Sunday was a family and friends day at the christening, and then birthday party, for Annabel, Sarah’s god-daughter.  The only new bird for the year was our garden speciality Willow Tit.

Another relaxed birdwatching day yesterday produced, amongst others, a Waxwing, 5 Goosanders, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Nuthatches.  All very attractive birds, that brought a warm glow to a cold winter’s day.

Now the working week starts again, and we’re busy dealing with enquiries, bookings and 3 major projects that we’re going to be involved in this year.  There’s always time for a spot of birdwatching or photography though 🙂

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Stormy weather

by on Nov.12, 2010, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

November is generally a quiet month for NEWT; the half-term rush in late October has come and gone, thoughts are turning to Christmas…and the weather can be a bit suspect.  We had a Safari Day around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland at the end of last week that could have succumbed to the elements but, as it turned out, a combination of excellent birdwatching sites that could be watched from the Land Rover, clients with a real interest in natural history (and expertise in wildlife sound recording)and a badger-watching spot where the trees sheltered us from the rain, made it an enjoyable afternoon.  The flock of Waxwings in Ashington delighted yet again.  Who could fail to be impressed by them? After a spell of birdwatching that was then characterised by ‘lovely weather for ducks’ (Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Goosander, Goldeneye and Pochard were all seen), and some good flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank and Pink-footed Goose, we headed inland to the steep, wooded hillside that has produced some excellent views of Badgers on our Safaris in recent months.  Only one Badger came wandering along – perhaps the others that we’ve watched so often this year were indulging in that particularly human pastime of curling up somewhere nice and warm out of the wind and the rain.

Since then it’s been a busy week, mainly with planning and preparation for 2011 but also giving 2 presentations about the Northeast Cetacean Project.  The first was to a group of postgrad students and lecturers at Newcastle University and then last night, to the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club.  Both presentations produced some interesting questions, and some potentially excellent volunteers to assist with our ongoing survey work.

Now it’s Friday morning, the howling westerly winds are bringing waves of rain and then sunshine, there’s an intense rainbow visible from our office window and a flock of Redwings are being blown about like autumn leaves.  No matter what the weather throws at us, Northumberland is still a superb county for wildlife and birdwatching; you just need to know how to enjoy it 🙂

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In a dark wood

by on Nov.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

October ended with a Prestige Tour around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.  I collected Christine and Mark from Stannington and we headed across to the coast.  Flocks of Linnets. Lapwings and Grey Partridges were close to the road and we settled to check one of our regular Otter sites.  All of the assembled Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Coot were concentrated in one area of the pool and clearly nervous about one particular corner.  We weren’t fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of any predators, but the behaviour of the waterfowl was typical of the type of indication you get that there’s an Otter about.  Our lunch spot for the day was beside the River Coquet and, along with the Cormorants and Grey Herons that were patrolling the water’s edge, an Atlantic Salmon provided some spectacular entertainment as it launched itself vertically out of the water, three times in rapid succession, just a few metres away from us.

As we walked along the River Wansbeck after lunch, via a detour around the north edge of Ashington to enjoy the spectacle of 90+ Waxwings gorging themselves on Rowan berries, skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed overhead and, as the sun sank towards the horizon, it was time to seek out the wildlife that occupies that magical time of day.  As we settled into position near one of our favourite badger-watching spots there was an incredible commotion from the trees on the other side of the stream.  Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Wrens, Robins and Magpies were all alarming loudly.  The mobbing was too intense, and too stationary, to be the mild alarm that a Red Fox or Badger often triggers and shortly after one Tawny Owl flew through the trees opposite, a second bird finally got fed up with the mobbing and flew from it’s perch.  An unwelcome sighting was a Grey Squirrel, in a woodland that until recently still held Red Squirrels.  Our first Badger of the evening was a big adult, trotting across the top of the clearing.  Then, after a few minutes of near silence, two Badger cubs came crashing through the undergrowth.  They crossed the stream beneath a fallen tree, paused briefly rising on their haunches like stripy black-and-white meerkats, and then headed uphill behind us.  Our fourth Badger of the evening followed the same route before we headed back to the Landrover and civilisation.

I dropped Christine and Mark back at Stannington and there was time for one last piece of magic as a Barn Owl floated lazily from a fence post as I drove back towards the A1.

Throughout the late autumn and winter we’ll be scheduling most of our trips to finish in darkness.  Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne are both excellent locations through the winter, and as darkness descends, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out how we can bring that experience to you.

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A swell weekend for a survey or two…or three

by on Feb.22, 2010, under Birdwatching, Harwood, Photography, Surveys

Saturday was planned as the next survey day for NEWT/Marinelife…and then in the early hours of Saturday morning the sea began to turn ‘a bit lumpy’ (c)Allan Skinner.  With over 3m of swell smashing it’s way through the harbour mouth at Amble there was no chance of getting the boat out.

With all three NEWT guides having the day together we headed inland to finish our BTO Winter Atlas timed tetrad visits in Harwood.  Ironically, given the wintry weather on the coast, there was less snow than on our last visit.  Birds were few and far between and, after what turned out to be a strenuous 4 miles over rough ground, as we headed back towards home the late afternoon light looked just about perfect for a visit to Nursery Park to photograph the Waxwings.  The light was as good as we could have wished for and the 20 or so birds that were still present were much more obliging than they had been in previous days.

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Waxwings stacked on top of each other

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Do you think I can swallow this in one?

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

Bohemian Waxwing, Ashington, Northumberland 20/02/2010

On Sunday we separated out to do different surveys; Sarah covered the WeBS count stretch from Cresswell-East Chevington and back (taking her total distance walked over the weekend to nearly 12 miles) and Martin and Andy set out from Amble along with Tim Sexton, on calmer seas, to start surveying the Farne Deeps.  Remarkably, all three surveyors on this trip used to live within 100m of each other in the late 90’s, on Percy Park in Tynemouth.  Tim was on the famous Wilson’s Petrel pelagic back in 2002, and Andy only missed that one as he was delayed while heading back from Mull.  The journey out to the deeps was unremarkable, other than for the number of Gannets that we found, and a lone Common Seal was an interesting find.  Fulmar and Guillemot were also seen throughout most of the survey, and a small number of Puffins were around as well.  As we headed east on the first transect we could see some very dark clouds massing to the south.  By the time we’d completed the 13 mile run and turned to follow the next transect west the clouds had caught up with us.  Sea state 5 in a near white-out was one hell of an experience, but we continued to keep our attention on the sea, still surveying in the hope that the weather would soon pass by.  It did, and we completed that transect before heading north and then east along the next survey line.  Ten miles along the transect we were hit by another winter storm, this time coming from the east.  With the turning tide making our skipper’s task increasingly difficult, we made a note of the position we’d reached and headed back to the warmth and comfort of the shore.  Two days, three NEWT guides, four surveyors.

Now I’ve got a couple of days of office stuff to catch up on; press trip proposals to write, images to process for articles I’ve written and we’re already well into planning for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at the British Bird Fair.  I reckon I’ll be able to fit in some time for photography though 🙂

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Wax(w)ing lyrical

by on Feb.19, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday was a Druridge Bay Safari and, after collecting Katrina, Craig and their boys from Church Point, I was astonished to see how much snow was on the ground as we drove towards Cresswell.  A Stoat played hide-and-seek with us…and proved to be masterful 🙂

The plummeting overnight temperatures had frozen nearly all of the pools along the bay.  Each one still had it’s own little area of open water though, and these held a lot of ducks.  Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck and, almost indescribably handsome, a drake Pintail were all enjoyed by everyone.  A mixed herd of Whooper and Mute Swans provided an identification diversion and a few Pink-footed Geese flying over nearby fields alerted us to the presence of several thousand feeding below them.  After marvelling as the entire flock lifted into the air we were then transfixed by a Barn Owl hunting over the reedbeds at Cresswell.  A brief detour into Ashington for a spot of birdwatching, Northumberland housing estate style, where we had excellent views, and enjoyed the trilling calls, of 37 Waxwings, was followed by a walk along the Wansbeck.  With bone-chilling temperatures, not a breath of wind, and a river that was mirror-like the walk was sublime. We don’t get a lot of days like that, but they always feel special when we do.  Goldcrests called from the trees, Canada Geese were clamouring around Castle Island and almost the entire length of river that we walked along was dotted with Goldeneye, as the sun dropped below the horizon.

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