Tag: Whooper Swan
Sunday was a second day out for Edward and Isabel, although this time a bespoke trip. I collected them from Greycroft and we headed south. Brambling was the first target on our list for the day and an impressive flock was alongside Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and a male Siskin. Red Squirrel was another target species for the day, and we enjoyed prolonged views of one, as another male Brambling called from a treetop nearby and Goldfinches plundered a feeding station. Long-tailed Tits fed just above our heads and Fulmar found themselves in range of Edward’s camera as we had lunch overlooking the North Sea. Twite, Pied Wagtail and Sanderling on the beach were our first post-lunch stop and then we headed further north to our last site for the day, with a brief glimpse of a Stoat as it ran across the road in front of us.
Dusk often brings the best of the day and, as Whooper Swans swam across the reflection of the setting Sun, a Kingfisher dived from the reeds, a Water Rail flew between reedbeds, Grey Herons squabbled over prime feeding spots and the assembled wildfowl followed the progress of a Red Fox as it trotted along the bank. Once it was too dark to see anything in front of us we headed back to Alnwick.
Another great day out with clients who were really good company. It’s never really any other way 🙂
In glorious sunshine I arrived in Longframlington to collect Lisa and Lucy ahead of a day searching for Otters, Red Squirrels and Kingfishers around Druridge Bay and the Northumberland coast. I was greeted by Ridley, Lisa’s cockerpoo, and it was quickly decided that he would be joining us on the trip 🙂
Our first Otter site had an obvious area of water that the Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe were all avoiding, and Greylag Geese left in a bit of a hurry, but no sign of the sinuous predator we were searching for. A change to our usual picnic spot brought a brief glimpse of a female Merlin as she chased Lapwing and Wigeon, and then a Bittern flew between reedbeds. Red Squirrels were next on our planned route for the day and I had 20mins dog-sitting while Lisa and Lucy checked the edge of the trees that I suggested. Sure enough, they returned with photographs of Red Squirrel and we were on our way to the next Otter site 🙂 Through binoculars I could see dark shapes twisting and turning at the water’s surface and, with the additional magnification of our telescope, those shapes resolved into two Otter cubs in a play-fight 🙂 We went along to where they were, but by that time they were out of the water and running around on boulders and through the dense undergrowth before quickly vanishing.
We headed to our final Otter site to finish the day, and the weather was starting to deteriorate. As the breeze whistled in our ears, the temperature dropped so our breath was condensing into lingering clouds, a cold damp mist took hold over the water and Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were displaying, Starling arrived to roost, foregoing the elegant ballet of the murmuration in favour of quickly finding shelter, the eerie cries of Curlew echoed across the pool and Lapwing formed a tight panicked flock as a Sparrowhawk flew low over the reeds, a Bittern flew by in the gloom and Little Grebe scattered as an Otter swam across in front of us, tucked in to the reed edge and sheltered from the breeze 🙂
We met up in Newbiggin and set off on our search. Our first site had plenty of birds but no Otters, so we headed on to the site where I thought it would be good to be at dusk. A Kingfisher provided a splash of iridescent brilliance in the fading light of mid-afternoon and a group of Teal, Goldeneye, Mallard and Tufted Duck drifting away from a reedbed caught my attention. Scanning the reed edge with our telescope revealed a dark shape, twisting and turning but mainly hidden from view in the reeds. It soon vanished, but the ducks were still wary, so I continued scanning that area. After 20mins the Otter finally came out into open water and each time it dropped out of sight we tracked it by the current location of agitated wildfowl 🙂 It was clearly making it’s way towards us and, after a few minutes without a sighting, it was suddenly running along the bank right in front of us! It quickly disappeared into another reedbed, triggering the begging calls of it’s cubs, before reappearing in the water with one cub, as two more continued calling, drowning out the calls of Snipe and Water Rail 🙂 As a Starling murmuration began to develop, the calls of Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose cut through the gloom as they arrived to roost and eventually it was too dark to see anything out on the water.
A fantastic end to the year, and a welcome break from mince pies 🙂
There are a few species that really epitomise winter wildlife-watching, and they include my favourite bird, one of my favourite mammals, and another bird that never fails to excite…
I collected Andy from Whitley Bay (it’s great to have him back from Mull for a few months over the winter!) and we had an interesting chat about plankton sampling and microscopy as we drove up the coast to collect Genine from Newbiggin. Genine’s last trip with NEWT was a breathtaking pelagic in early September, and now we were out in search of Otters and any other birds and wildlife that we could find around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. I suggested that we started with a quick search for Waxwings, just a few minutes down the road. As we approached where they’d been seen the previous day, a flock flushed from a rowan tree where they were gorging themselves on berries. We watched them land in the bare branches of a tall tree nearby and counted at least 120 birds, with another 60 flying around and landing in trees just along the road. In the cold and damp, we started our search for Otters, and were soon watching one as it fed on small fish. With hardly a breath of wind, the water was flat calm and we tracked the Otter‘s movement by the trail of bubbles it left each time it submerged before, after around half an hour, it left the water and vanished up the bank and behind a fallen tree. Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Oystercatcher were probing the mud along the water’s edge and a flash of electric blue heralded the arrival of a Kingfisher, which played a game of hide and seek with us as Goldfinch and Bullfinch perched in the tops of trees, the disembodied weak winter song of a Robin came from the depths of a hawthorn and two Sparrowhawks tussled in mid-air overhead before one gave up the fight and flew well away. Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Common Eider, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser and Tufted Duck were a nice haul of wildfowl as Little Grebe warily watched the spot where the Otter had vanished and Long-tailed Tits called unseen from nearby bushes.
The approach of dusk brought thousands of Starlings in a swirling murmuration before they dropped into the reedbeds for the night as the high-pitched yapping of Pink-footed Geese and the discordant honking of Greylag Geese betrayed the presence of skein after skein arriving from feeding areas to the south of us. Squealing Water Rails remained hidden and, as the last rays of daylight filtered through from the western horizon, Whooper Swans arrived. Big, ghostly and quiet on their approach, as they hit the water they began whooping and their haunting voices accompanied our walk back to the car in the dark.
Proper wintry cold, almost continuous drizzle, stunning wildlife and lovely clients – just a great way to spend a day in mid-November 🙂 We’ll be running Otter Safaris, Druridge Bay Safaris and Lindisfarne Safaris right through the winter, so get in touch, wrap up warm and come and join us for a day searching for Northumberland’s fantastic wildlife!
The best thing about wildife, and at the same time occasionally the most frustrating thing, is that you can’t ever predict exactly what it’s going to do…
I collected Jeff and Helen, and Kevin, from Church Point and we set off for an afternoon around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. The afternoon had an almost constant aural backdrop of Chiffchaff song, and Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird and Goldcrest all added to the springlike feel of the afternoon. Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher were all probing in gooey mud but with no sign of agitation to suggest that there was an Otter around. A family of Whooper Swans were a reminder that winter is only just behind us, while Swallows and Sand Martins heralded the move towards the summer. Skylark and Meadow Pipit both demonstrated that they’re more than brown and uninteresting, Marsh Harriers and Common Buzzards are likely to remain a feature of our Druridge Bay trips for a few months, a handsome Roebuck ran across the fields and vanished behind a hedge and the assembled wildfowl had got their eye on something in the reeds…Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Canada Goose and Greylag Goose were all fixated on one small area of a reedbed. Alert, nervous and barely breaking their gaze they’d obviously spotted something. What though? Whatever it was remained hidden from our sight, although it held the attention of the birds for a long time. The reedbed was probably a much better option than braving the keen northerly breeze!
Our Winter Wonderland holiday started on Sunday evening with Ben and Diane, and David, arriving at the Bamburgh Castle Inn.
Day One 22/02/16. Our first full day was around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast and everything that makes the area so good in the winter put in an appearance. Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Knot represented wading birds, Common Scoter, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe were just offshore, Grey Seal and at least 16 Roe Deer provided some mammal interest and there were lots and lots of geese. Pale-bellied Brent, Dark-bellied Brent, Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle filled the air, the fields and the mudflats as Skylarks sang and fought, heralding the arrival of spring 🙂
Day Two 23/02/16. Our second day was spent around NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. One of our favourite mammals was soon on the trip list as an Otter cub appeared from its hideaway in a pile of boulders and spent a little while feeding close by 🙂 The long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher joined the trip list too, feeding alongside Knot, Common Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit and unexpected birds included Marsh Tit and Treecreeper. As the afternoon light faded, we watched a family group of Whooper Swans and a pair of Dippers sat almost motionless on a mid-stream rock as the water rushed around them and a Barn Owl was a welcome addition to the trip list just before an incredibly brief sleety shower reminded us that this is the winter 🙂
24/02/16. Departure day dawned bright, cold and encased in frost at the end of the holiday. Just the way the winter should be!
Heading to Bamburgh to collect Michelle and Pam, I was feeling optimistic that the mist was going to lift and we’d have good weather…
As it turned out, the mist came and went throughout the day – but the wildlife was the usual high quality that the Northumberland coast delivers throughout the year. A singing Dipper broke off from proclaiming his territory in order to dive into the river as another Dipper bobbed up and down on a nearby rock. Otter site ‘B’ looked promising as we arrived – Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon were all clustered on one edge of the water so I scanned the large area of bird-free open water…and there was an Otter 🙂 After entertaining us for 45 minutes it vanished into the reeds and we continued along the coast. Whooper Swans called in the mist and Gannets were plunging into the sea as we made our way to Site ‘A’…where an Otter cub was sitting on a rock 🙂 It was soon in the water feeding within 30m of us, as Little Egrets and a Kingfisher added a surreal luminance to the misty afternoon, then it seemed to realise it’s mum and sibling weren’t around and decided to go in search of them. Initially that involved getting out of the water and persistently calling – while running straight towards us! Soon it was back in the water and we followed it’s progress by the bright water of it’s wake as it disappeared into the mist and murk of the late afternoon.
I collected John and Pam from home in Cullercoats and we drove up the coast. As we ate our picnic lunch in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we could see Gannets diving offshore, beyond the rafts of Common Eider that were surfing the gentle swell. Kestrels were seen throughout the afternoon and a real ‘from the car’ bonus came in the shape of three Roe Deer. As so often happens as we approach the winter, wildfowl dominated the birdwatching. As well as the Eiders, with males resplendent in their breeding finery, Teal, Mallard and Goldeneye looked at their best. As a Grey Wagtail perched on a mid-stream rock, and fish swirled and leapt from the water, a male Kingfisher perched on a branch overhanging the river, flocks of geese peppered the sky wherever we were, and a flock of Greylag Geese began to flush as the search and rescue helicopter passed noisily overhead. Whooper Swans looked as stunning as ever, flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover swirled in the stiff breeze and, as dusk approached, Pink-footed Geese began arriving to roost. Flock after flock of Pink-feet appeared out of the gloom, announcing their imminent arrival with their yapping calls, eventually in near darkness when they were just a black speckling against the dark grey brooding clouds.
Yesterday afternoon brought quite different conditions to Tuesday evening; still cold and windy, but the clear skies had been replaced by gloomy cloud as I collected Charlotte, Ali, Ben and Thomas from Newbiggin for their second NEWT trip in two days.
In difficult light, and occasional rain, we didn’t manage to find an Otter, but there was a wealth of birdlife to enjoy; a Cormorant was drying it’s wings as Little Grebe, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Moorhen and Mute Swan fed nearby, flushed briefly by a Sparrowhawk that landed on a small rock in the water before heading off to menace something else. As dusk approached, although it was hard to discern any difference from mid-afternoon, Starlings began a murmuration, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese arrived noisily to roost, Whooper Swans were whooping loudly and there was the ‘is it a heron, is it an owl?’ moment as a Bittern flew lazily from the reeds, passing by us on it’s way to another reedbed 🙂
With a holiday for a family wedding in Scotland looming, my last day out with clients for a couple of weeks was a mini-safari around Druridge Bay. The unpredictable weather of recent weeks had been replaced by something much better as we headed north along the coast.
The remnants of winter birdwatching, in the shape of Wigeon, Goldeneye, Pintail and Red-breasted Merganser, were intermingled with the early spring in the elegant form of at least three Avocets, and a lone Whooper Swan, in the midst of a herd of Mute Swans, probably hasn’t made it’s mind up what it’s doing for the summer yet. Towards the end of the afternoon a yapping flock of Pink-footed Geese flew north, quickly gaining altitude as if heading off towards Iceland…before encountering the stiff northwesterly wind and looping back round again…and again…and again, before they eventually gave it up as a bad job and settled on the water with the discordant sounds of Canada and Greylag Geese around them. The comings and goings at a feeding station held the attention for some time, with Great Tits, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches all clustering around the feeders.
Trips including young children can be a bit fraught but 3-year old Sylvie demonstrated a sharp eye for finding spiders, and 5-year old Felix, with some help from his little sister, wove a remarkable tale of a superhero Otter with a poisonous sting in it’s tail that I could have listened to for the rest of the day – a great way to finish work before NEWT’s first ‘proper’ holiday for a long time 🙂