Tag: Whitethroat

Stoatally amazing ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 16/06/17

by on Jun.19, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I collected Eileen, Malcolm and Ben from Newbiggin and we headed up the coast for a day around Druridge Bay

We started a bit further north, with Fulmars and Kittiwakes battling the breeze as Common Whitethroats sang from deep cover and Shelduck sat on the sea far below our clifftop position.  Common Swifts were heading southeast in numbers and we went the same way ourselves.  A flycatching Grey Wagtail was jumping up from mid-stream rocks as Chiffchaffs darted around the trees and a stiff breeze was developing.  Down into Druridge bay and Avocets, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes provided a touch of elegance alongside dainty Little GullsBlue-tailed Damselflies were remarkably obliging, tolerating Eileen and Malcolm’s cameras and not worrying about the close approach of smartphones either, but the real star of the afternoon was one of my favourite land mammals.  Bounding along a fence line before disappearing to the grass, the Stoat was soon back out and running towards us, mobbed by Lapwings as it carried a Short-tailed Field Vole.  A few minutes later and it was back out again, vanishing into a reedbed as the Lapwings continued to fret and panic. Nature, red in tooth and claw and just really impressive 🙂

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Localised; Bespoke coastal birdwatching 06/06/17

by on Jun.09, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I left the house to head to Newbiggin to collect Andy and Caroline, ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland, in weather that was slightly less than pleasant with heavy drizzle covering the windscreen in flowing water every few seconds…

…12 minutes later and I’m Newbiggin, where all the roads and pavements were bone dry and there hadn’t been any rain.  Unfortunately we couldn’t restrict the trip to the one dry corner of the coast so we headed on.  Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts were feeding frantically on a vast hatch of flying insects that were emerging into the warm, damp air.  Little Egrets were standing by the water’s edge, Grey Herons were stalking so slowly that they barely seemed to move and Cormorants were sitting around drying their wings or generally doing nothing.  Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were flycatching in the leaves of tree canopies and proved difficult to pin down, and Fulmars were soaring along the cliff edge as the drizzle became more persistent.

Just as thought I’d seen a dark shape beyond a group of roosting Cormorants, Caroline asked if there was any chance of seeing an Otter, as she’d seen the same stealthy shape 🙂  We watched as it fed for nearly an hour before vanishing from sight and then we continued on our way.  Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Lapwing were all feeding on marshy fields and Andy spotted a couple of stunningly bright Yellow Wagtails, standing out against the backdrop of drizzle and general murk.

We were once asked, “what do you do if it’s cold and wet?”.  The answer’s simple; wear warm, waterproof clothing…or get cold and wet 🙂

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Lazy days; Otter Safari 25/05/17

by on May.26, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

I’m meticulous about checking the car before a day out with NEWT’s clients.  Oil, air, water, screen wash, tyre pressures.. All checked and adjusted as necessary, at least one hour before I set off from the office.  I went through that routine yesterday, before heading to Newbiggin to collect Carl and Joanne for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

All was fine…until I was less than 100m from our drive and the car suffered a puncture 🙁  Luckily the fantastic Stakeford Tyre Services is between our house and Newbiggin and the car was soon sporting a new tyre and we were underway…only to be hit from behind by another car just a couple of minutes after we’d left Newbiggin 🙁  I couldn’t see any damage to the back of our car so we headed on.  Orange-tip and Green-veined White butterflies were busy in the warm sunshine, Mallard and Shelduck were shepherding ducklings, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow and Swift were harvesting a dense hatch of flying insects and Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat were singing from hidden perches.

Our picnic spot was beside a rock pool, with the warm sunshine, flat calm blue sea and lack of people on the beach giving it almost an ‘island feel’ as a dense flock of Herrring Gull and Gannet wheeled around offshore.  Then all of the birds started circling with intent…and below them were 4 Bottlenose Dolphins 🙂  After the dolphins moved around the headland and out of sight we continued on our way.  It’s May but the evening light is still sublime, and the sunshine picked out Mute Swans and Grey Heron against the subtle hues of everything else around as the peace and quiet was disturbed briefly by an altercation between a Coot and a Moorhen.  Towards dusk a Roe Deer was in a distant field and as we headed back towards Newbiggin a Barn Owl flew across the road ahead of us 🙂

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May magic; Otter Safari 09/05/17

by on May.10, 2017, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

After a week away from home, leading a wildlife photography holiday for another company, I was looking forward to getting back to all things NEWT and as I collected Mike and Barbara from Low Newton, ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay searching for Otters, I was thinking that the afternoon sunshine was maybe just a bit too bright and hot but that the evening could be good…

Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Blackcaps were all singing, and occasionally affording brief glimpses, and a male Bullfinch was equally stunning in the few seconds that he perched at the top of a small tree.  Little Egrets and Grey Herons were hunting in the shallows, Shelduck, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall were all feeding and a Lesser Whitethroat was a nice addition to the trip list.  Lapwing were displaying and Avocets were sitting on nests and occasionally getting up to rearrange their precious contents as the Sun headed westwards.

Then the waders took centre stage; a male Ruff, coming into his breeding finery, Black-tailed Godwits (and single Bar-tailed), noisy Curlew and a Whimbrel flew right overhead uttering it’s distinctive call as Lapwings were tumbling and calling and at least 20 Common Snipe took flight.  Male Stonechat, male Reed Bunting and dapper Tree Sparrows, all excellent attractive birds, still paled when compared to at least 7 Yellow Wagtails, including an exquisitely beautiful Channel Wagtail (perhaps should be known as Chanel Wagtail!), which were in a feeding flock with both Pied and White Wagtails.  A real bonus bird came in the form of a Long-eared Owl, hunting masterfully in and around the bushes it passed by just 20m in front of us at one point! A male Marsh Harrier was another great bird for the trip and he engaged in an overly optimistic attempt to chase and catch a Black-headed Gull in flight 😉

As the Sun dropped lower the light was simply sublime and we settled into position at our final site for the evening.  Canada and Greylag Geese were incubating, a Grey Heron took a Mallard duckling and swallowed it whole right in front of us as the agitated parents called in vain before returning to protect their one remaining offspring.  A small group of Black-headed Gulls caught my attention, circling persistently as Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts swirled around and feasted on the bounteous hatch of flying insects that the warm weather had brought.  There, directly beneath the gulls was an Otter 🙂  We watched it’s progress along the shadowy water near the reeds and a couple of times it got out and bounded along the bankside.  A second Otter was also given away by the bright trail of its wake, as the swifts and hirundines were replaced by the insectivorous night shift of Pipistrelle and Noctule Bats, and by the time we headed back to the car the Moon and Jupiter were both shining brightly in the darkening sky.  Through the ‘scope the quality of seeing was extraordinary; without any atmospheric turbulence Jupiter was a perfect disc, the Galilean moons were pinpoints of light surrounding it and the craters of the Moon were impressive at 60x magnification.

Wonderful wagtails, stunning waders, Otters and astronomy; that’s a lot of quality packed into one afternoon and evening 🙂

Druridge Bay and Otter Safaris are available all year round, so have a look at our calendar for available dates and get in touch to see what we can do for you.  If there isn’t date that’s good for you, still get in touch – we’re always happy to add additional trips to our calendar!

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Small things; Druridge Bay 24/05/16

by on May.26, 2016, under Druridge Bay

Waders are often spectacular, seabirds are enigmatic and raptors are, well, raptors, but sometimes the smaller birds deserve a lot more attention…

I collected Stephen from North Shields for his 7th day trip with NEWT and we headed north to Druridge Bay.  Days out with Stephen are always enjoyableStarting in bright sunshine under blue skies, it soon clouded over, then cleared, then clouded again.  Wigeon, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall all looked in excellent condition, and a Whimbrel was good to see.  Great Crested Grebes had their feathers ruffled by a stiffening breeze as Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins were all feeding only a metre or so above the water.  Tree Sparrows are always very smart looking birds and a male Yellowhammer provided an extraordinary touch of brilliant colour as the northerly wind brought the first spots of rain.  As we sat eating lunch on the clifftop at Cresswell, Fulmars were gliding effortlessly by and a Rock Pipit appeared, carrying food back to it’s nest as the scratchy warble of a Whitethroat carried on the breeze.  The rhythmic ranting of Reed Warbler and scattergun song of Sedge Warbler emanated from deep in the reeds and a Reed Warbler obligingly shuffled to the reed tops close to a singing male Reed Bunting.

Tree Sparrow,Passer montanus,Northumberland,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

As we headed back to the car Swifts were racing by at head height and the wind seemed to be strengthening…

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Welcome to the dance; Druridge Bay Safari 11/05/16

by on May.13, 2016, under Druridge Bay

The influence of the weather on our wildlife can never be underestimated.  Strong cold winds are often a signal for everything to go into hiding, seeking warmth and shelter in reedbeds, bushes, behind rocks…pretty much anywhere where they’ll be tricky to see.  Last Saturday was in that cold and windy category so I was pleased that Wednesday’s Druridge Bay trip looked as though it would be blessed with warm sunshine 🙂

I collected Karen and Richard from Newbiggin by the Sea and we set out for a day birdwatching around NEWT’s local patch.  With a slight change in the weather, the wildlife responded obligingly; the onomatopoeia of Chiffchaffs was near constant throughout the day, as was the rough throaty warble of Whitethroat.  A remarkably obliging Sedge Warbler sat in the reed tops in front of us, occasionally sallying forth in song-flight before returning to his stage, close to a male Reed Bunting who was singing his somewhat simpler song.  Avocets were an elegant study in black and white, Dunlin and Ruff are both attractive birds in breeding plumage, Little Gulls are incredibly tiny when seen alongside other birds, Skylarks were dust-bathing, Tree Sparrows were hopping around on the footpath just a few feet away from us and goslings were grazing close to the water’s edge.

A food pass between male and female Marsh Harriers happened in front of us, Great Crested Grebes were engaged in their elaborate courtship dance and two male Lapwings left a cloud of feathers as they came to blows over what was presumably a prime patch of mud and rushes.  With the warmth of the sunshine and an obvious hatch of insects, the air overhead was filled with Swifts and it finally felt like the summer was here as they started screaming 🙂

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Feeding frenzy; Farne Islands Safari 26/05/2015

by on May.28, 2015, under Farne Islands

Tuesday was our first landing trip to the Farne Islands this year, with the breeding season well underway for some species, and only just getting started for others.

I collected Sally, Ian, Ben and Hannah from Waren Mill (you’d be surprised at how well hidden a holiday cottage can be in such a small village…) and we headed up the coast towards Holy Island for the first part of our day out, soon encountering Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common BuzzardGrey Seals were ‘bottling’ offshore, Whitethroat were singing their scratchy warble from the tops of hawthorn bushes, Brown Hares were chasing each other in and out of dense crops and a group of Sandwich Terns feeding close to the shore were joined by a single Little Tern.

After lunch it was time to head across to the islands, onboard Glad Tidings IV, and we soon had lines of Guillemots flying past, Gannets soaring effortlessly by, Puffins on the water close to the boat, Ben and Hannah spotting jellyfish in the clear still water and the extraordinary experience of the cliffs on Staple Island, up close and personal with the sight, sound, and smell of a seabird colony.  Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags may be the staple (sorry, please excuse the pun!) fare of the islands precipitous cliffs, and Grey Seals always grab the attention of everyone on board, but the highlight for many of our clients over the last seven and a half years has been landing on Inner Farne.  Female Common Eiders, easily overlooked as they sit quietly on their nests, are remarkably approachable and Puffins are a firm favourite, particularly with clients who are taking photographs, but there’s little to compare with being dive-bombed by an angry Arctic Tern 🙂  Ben had his camera with him, so we spent a while watching the behaviour of the Puffins, determining what they were about to do just before they did it (the secret to great wildlife photography…) and Ben was soon taking some impressive flight shots as birds flew back towards their burrows after fishing forays out to sea.  After returning to the mainland, passing dense groups of terns and Kittiwakes as they plunged into shoals of small fish, we spent some time scanning the mudflats of Budle Bay, as Eiders with ducklings swan along the Waren Burn and Curlew probed in the soft gooey mud.

Always an impressive day out – we’ve lived up here for over 20 years and still marvel at the stunning wildlife spectacle of a trip to the Farnes each time we head across there.  It’s Thursday now, so we’d like to say “Happy Birthday Hannah” 🙂

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Variety is the spice of life; Coastal safari 26/05/2014

by on May.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

A brilliantly sunny Bank Holiday Monday is the only time you’re likely to encounter anything even remotely approaching crowds of people in Northumberland, but it does happen occasionally.

I collected Marcus, Alison, Norman (Grandad) and Isobel from their holiday cottage in the shadow of the Wandylaw wind farm, and we set off for a day wildlife-watching.  With it being such a sunny morning, I thought it would be worth starting with one of our trickier animals; if it’s too cold they won’t be out and about, if it’s too warm they’ll already have slithered off somewhere cooler, and if they feel the ground vibrate as you approach they’ll beat a hasty retreat.  We know just the spot to see them when everything falls into place though; a warm, bare, stony patch of earth surrounded by tall grass.  At first we couldn’t see any sign, but I crept through the vegetation for a closer look.  Two Adders weren’t keen on this, and quickly slithered away into the long grass.  The third one was much more obliging though, and I motioned for Isobel to come a bit closer.  Incredibly, the snake remained coiled, and settled, for a few minutes.  It eventually lifted it’s head to fix us with a baleful reptilian glare for another minute before following it’s companions into the vegetation and out of sight.

In the bright sunshine Kestrels hovered over roadside fields, Willow Warblers sang their silvery descending cadence, Chiffchaffs endlessly repeated their name, Chaffinches were proclaiming their territories (and Isobel had done a very impressive colouring of a Chaffinch picture), the scratchy rattle of Whitethroat song buzzed through the warm air, flotillas of goslings patrolled the water with their parents in close attendance and darting damselflies added a streak of azure to the lush green of the grass.  Down on the coast, dainty Avocets swept the water edge for morsels, Grey Plovers (probably my favourite wader, certainly when they’re in their summer finery) chased back and forth, Common andSandwich Terns roosted together, Fulmars rode the updraft of the warm breeze along the clifftops, Eiders were resplendent in the sunshine, and ‘wooly bear‘ caterpillars and cuckoo spitwere just the thing for a six year old to enjoy 🙂

Most entertaining though, judging by the giggling, was a Rook that was rummaging through a bag of rubbish and found what it seemed to consider a suitable food item.  That item was a (full) dog-poo bag…  So disgusting that I almost titled the blog after it 🙂

 

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Watching; Bespoke Safari 25/04/2014

by on May.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

The first part of the Bank Holiday weekend was a washout, with our scheduled Dark Skies event, for a Hen Party in Kielder, falling victim to the weather 🙁 Sunday was a bespoke wildlife Safari for Claire and Sophie and, as I collected them from home in Gosforth, things were looking a bit more promising.  Away inland we could see a lot of general murkiness, so we headed for the Northumberland coast – planning to drop down to Druridge Bay as the afternoon progressed.

Glorious, yet chillingly breezy weather was waiting for us at Bamburgh and we watched Eider and Common Scoter as they bobbed about in the swell.  We checked the wake of very passing boat for any sign of Bottlenose Dolphinsand continued south down the coast.  Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings andWhitethroats were singing all around and Little Grebes were diving for prey before bobbing back to the water’s surface.  Our picnic stop featured Fulmars arcing just above the clifftops a few metres away from us and a viewpoint over the River Wansbeck revealed lots and lots of ducklings; Gadwall, Mallard, Shelduck all had broods of between eight and eleven – although this prime source of Otter food didn’t seem to have attracted the attention of any Otters.  A Roe Deer on the far bank appeared than quickly vanished again as it made it’s way through the bushes, and Swifts, Swallows, House Martins andSand Martins feasted on the buzzing clouds of insects overhead.  As daylight faded we arrived at one site to find a Mallard and a Grey Heron both staring intently into a hole that we’ve long suspected of being an Otter holt.  More Mallards, and the three of us, joined the staring contest but the adversary that eventually flushed the heron, and had the Mallards waddling away at a rate of knots, remained unseen as bats began flitting past our ears.

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Eye of the storm; Druridge Bay 13/05/2014

by on May.17, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

The deep ominous rumble of thunder was all around us now.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel though, but could we make the most of it?

I’d collected Stephen from home in North Shields and we headed up the coast for an afternoon and evening birdwatching around Druridge Bay.  The early part of the trip was in fine weather and we watched Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers singing from the bushes, Wheatears flitting from ground to fencepost and back and House Martins andSwallows twisting and turning in pursuit of the bountiful harvest brought about by warm damp conditions.  Part way through the afternoon things began to change; away to the north the sky was darkening and we could hear the deep rumble of distant thunder.  Another storm was looming to the southwest, and gradually we were encircled by a menacing gloom.  The rain began hammering against the car, but there was one ray of hope.  At the centre of the storm was a break in the clouds; blue sky and sunshine of sorts.  I could see which way it was heading and knew that we had one excellent option.

Down the coast to a Barn Owl breeding site, with the rain relentlessly challenging the efficiency of the windscreen wipers on the car, we positioned ourselves so the owl’s regular hunting area was in view.  I was fairly sure that the break in the weather would be over us in about ten minutes, and that we’d have a window of opportunity for about another ten minutes prior to the next downpour.  As the rain eased to just a few drops, we concentrated our attention on the dunes and, within a couple of minutes of the rain stopping, the Barn Owl appeared.  Quartering , hovering, diving out of sight into the grass before lifting again, carrying a vole back to the nest then resuming the hunt only to abandon as the next edge of the storm hit with a vengeance and we headed off with flashes of lightning illuminating the darkened landscape.

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