Tag: White Wagtail
Friday was Adrian and Ruth’s 2nd day out with NEWT, after Monday’s Cheviots Valleys/Druridge Bespoke tour, and I arrrived at Church Point to collect them, as well as Sandra and Paco, and Rachel and Andy. A torrential downpour passed mercifully quickly and we were on our way for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters…
The transitional nature of mid-April was really obvious; Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Teal and Wigeon are typical birds of winter on the Northumberland coast, but now they were alongside displaying Great Crested Grebes and Avocets as a White Wagtail pottered along the edge of a shallow pool, Swallows and Sand Martins were hawking newly emerged insects as the songs of Chiffchaff and Sedge Warbler emanated from deep cover in trees and reedbeds and the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warbler trickled on the breeze. A noisy flock of Long-tailed Tits were just above a male Blackcap who chacked angrily as we disturbed whatever it was that he’d been up to before we walked by and the peace and elegance of Little Egrets was shattered as a Great White Egret objected to their proximity to the rushes where it was hiding. Grey Herons stalked the water’s edge as Skylarks ascended heavenwards, Meadow Pipits parachuted back down at the end of brief display flights and Reed Bunting and Stonechat perched at the tops of isolated bushes in the dunes.
With an icy cold breeze rippling the water’s surface and nipping at noses and fingers we finished at sunset with our quarry for the day having eluded us.
We’re often asked what the chances are of seeing an Otter on one of our trips, and it isn’t an easy question to answer. They’re wild animals and they don’t run to a timetable that guarantees we’ll find them. That’s something that makes wildlife watching so great – the unpredictability of it all 🙂 To put some numbers to it though…this was our 12th Otter Safari since the start of November 2016, and only the 2nd of those where we haven’t found at least one Otter!
Even after 40+ years of wildlife-watching, there are still (in fact, quite often) occasions when I see something that’s really quite special.
After an afternoon around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland with Michael and Wendy, we were heading for one of NEWT’s favourite spots along the River Wansbeck. The afternoon had produced some excellent birdwatching, with four Yellow Wagtails, including one bird that was almost canary yellow, a White Wagtail, four Avocets, a female Marsh Harrier, and a Peregrine hunting pigeons. As we passed Ellington a Barn Owl flew low across the road from our right, narrowly missing the oncoming traffic and quickly gained elevation above our side of the road with what appeared to be a look of surprise on it’s face 🙂
Surprise of the day came as we walked along the Wansbeck. In still quite good light, a Daubenton’s Bat was hawking low over the water. It’s a species we’ve encountered frequently on our trips, but never in such good light that we could really appreciate the beautiful red-brown of it’s upperparts and the white underside. As darkness fell, and we headed back to our starting point, another red-brown mammal finished the day for us, as a Red Fox trotted across the road.
A couple of months after I left my teaching career, I was sent a link to this webpage… and I ended up in a pub at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning, explaining my ideas to an interview panel.
A few weeks after that interview I found myself on an Enterprise Island residential weekend and when we were asked the question “how will you know when your business is a success?” almost everyone answered that the measure of that would be if their customers were happy.
We had our first Cheviots Safari of the year yesterday. I collected Sally and Tony from Morpeth and we headed northwest. On a day that was cold, windy and overcast, the quality of the birdwatching in the Northumberland hills more than made up for the weather; 3 Ring Ouzels perched obligingly in one tree, allowing us a prolonged opportunity to watch them, Curlews were displaying high over the heather moorland, male Red Grouse were as stunning as ever, Chaffinches, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Robins, Redpolls, Meadow Pipits, Mistle Thrushes and Wrens were all singing and we had an unexpected bonus in the shape of a White Wagtail. A real highlight of the day, although it wasn’t a highlight so much as a constant backdrop, was the number of raptors; 14 Common Buzzards (including 7 in the air at the same time), 2 Kestrels chasing each other around and a Sparrowhawk would have been a good haul on a cold day, but as we watched a Peregrine go into a stooping dive we were amazed to see that the object of it’s ire was a Goshawk, beating it’s way steadily across the hillside. As the falcon repeatedly buzzed the ‘phantom of the forest’, buzzards were hanging in the wind high above it, and a kestrel was hovering against the hilltop. It was one of those moments that I really can’t do justice to in writing.
And the connection to the anecdote at the start of this post? My answer to the question was that I would consider NEWT a success if I was happy with what we’re doing. Of course, me being happy requires happy clients… and the reason we had Sally and Tony out with us yesterday was that Sally had been given a gift voucher by one of our previous clients. Happiness is infectious 🙂
There are times in the winter when I’m mainly office-based and what I really look forward to, during what often seem like interminably long days, is the arrival of the Spring and increasing numbers of ‘client days’.
On Tuesday morning I headed to Newbiggin to collect John and Christine, clients from last year’s Beginners Birdwatching ‘Seabirds and Waders’, who were back in Northumberland for a birdwatching morning in Druridge Bay. The weather was erratic to say the least, with bright warm sunshine, a bitterly cold northeasterly wind, sleet and even snow it was a morning to be wrapped up warm. The birding was as excellent as we would expect in mid-May; the morning’s highlights included a male Ruff in full breeding plumage, eight elegant beautiful Black-tailed Godwits, a pair of Garganey and some incredibly close views of Whitethroats as they warbled their scratchy song from hedgerows, trees and telegraph poles.
This morning brought something completely different; a Lindisfarne Safari with our first Spanish clients. Alfredo and Nieves had managed to get across from Ibiza, despite the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano, and were looking forward to a day birdwatching on Holy Island and the north Northumberland coast. The weather was changeable again but, as yesterday, we stayed dry. A flock of 80 Ringed Plover on Holy Island were very vocal as they repeatedly flew overhead, 2 Little Egrets in Budle Bay flew by calling and a Little Gull and a White Wagtail at Monk’s House Pool were both nice surprise finds. Eventually we found ourselves bathed in warm sunshine as pairs of Arctic Terns displayed high overhead against the azure sky and, looking inland, we could still see a lingering snowfield on the Cheviot. Alfredo and Nieves both have a broad, and quite detailed knowledge of natural history, and Alfredo is a keen, and skilful, photographer. I only have a very limited grasp of Spanish but through a combination of Spanish, English, Latin and a shared love of natural history and photography, any language barriers were easily transcended.
We’ve got Northumberland birdwatching tours for the rest of the week and then on Saturday it’ll be time to chill out with a glass of wine, a BBQ and our National Moth Night event at Lee Moor Farm, near Alnwick. All are welcome, so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you would like to come along for an evening of wildlife watching fun, suitable for young or old, beginner or expert.