Tag: Willow Tit

Fantastic Mr Fox; Another walk in the woods 02/11/18

by on Nov.03, 2018, under Choppington Woods

Under a leaden overcast sky the cold air wraps its damp tendrils around every exposed bit of my skin.  Jays are making their way across open ground between the plantations with a stuttering flight, white rumps flashing in the gloom, and a Woodcock heads out as the unseen sun dips below the horizon.  A last good feed of the day for Coal, Blue, Great and Willow Tits is on offer at a makeshift feeding station as I start scanning the hedgerow along the southern edge of a field of verdant green with new growth.  In the distance a lump breaking the gentle undulations of the field isn’t straightforward to identify in the half-light.  Moving along the hedgerow a few metres at time I get close enough to identify it as a Red Fox.  Closer still and I get a great view as he stands up and has a good stretch.  Now awake, he trots along for a few seconds and then sits, gazing intently around him.  I move through the hedge and watch him from a well concealed position and then parallel his movements, stopping regularly to watch what he’s doing.  By the time he eventually disappears through a hedge and into a small plantation 45mins have passed and I make my way home along dark paths wrapped in the scent and sound of the woods at dusk.

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A walk in the woods 01/11/18

by on Nov.02, 2018, under Choppington Woods

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks in the NEWT household.  We’d had a week away in and around Glencoe checking locations for a landscape photography holiday I’m leading over Christmas, then a couple of days after we got back home I wasn’t feeling well.  Sarah took me to see our GP and they sent me straight to the excellent Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.  Four days later I was discharged, limited to a liquid-only diet and with surgery scheduled for early January.  Luckily I’m well enough to work, as we’ve got a very busy November ahead of us.  This week has been mainly recuperation at home, but I need to keep my mind and body active and daily walks in the woods behind our house are the best medicine…

With the light of day fading to dusk, the harsh ‘chek’ calls of Jackdaws and deep ‘rawk’ of Rooks gathering together to roost were layered with the staccato ratting of Magpies.  The woods are familiar and comforting, and a place to clear my mind.  We’ve walked them countless times over the last 18 years and the benches, interpretation boards, boardwalk/dipping platform and well-surfaced paths were the result of a successful funding bid that I presented back in 2009.  We know which intersections of the footpaths and tracks will produce the pungent scent of Red Fox, temporarily overwhelming the sweet earthy smell of Autumn decay and the heady perfume of Himalayan Balsam, which areas of the wood will have Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit and where to search for Red Squirrel and the other inhabitants of this reclaimed colliery site.  Woodpigeons were gathering in treetops frosted orange by the setting Sun and, applying the shape, shadow and shine elements of concealment I chose a position on the shaded side of an Ivy-covered hedge.  Willow Tits and Coal Tits gave quiet alarm calls as a Sparrowhawk flew along the hedge and a Kestrel hovered over the field in the half-light.  Jays were crossing between plantations, Roe Deer ventured out from cover to forage close to the field edge, Redwings arrived to roost and the chacking calls so typical of pre-roost Blackbirds penetrated the crisp, cold air under a clear blue sky layered over the pastel pink of the Belt of Venus away to the east as I had a feeling that there was something close by.  A brief whirr of wings so I turned my head slowly…and found myself eye to eye with a handsome cock Pheasant 🙂

A connection with nature allows us to disconnect, even if only for a short while, from our connection with everyday life.  It’s good for body and soul and so many of our clients comment that one of the things they most enjoy about their days out with NEWT is just how relaxing it is to be taken away from work and the stresses of life.  Applying that to myself is working well too 🙂

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Northumberland in the win(d)ter; Winter Wonderland holiday 19-22/02/17

by on Feb.23, 2017, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Grey Seal, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

Day 1. 19/02/17. I arrived at the Bamburgh Castle Inn for the start of our Winter Wonderland holiday, then met up with with Christine, John, Linda and Rosie in the bar and outlined the plan for the next two days while we enjoyed a fantastic meal.

Day 2. 20/02/17.  Our first full day was targeting Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Stopping at Budle Bay on our way north we soon found a Spotted Redshank amongst the Common Redshank, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Shelduck and Curlew as Pink-footed and Greylag Geese and Lapwing swirled distantly against a leaden grey sky on a stiff breeze and Red-breasted Mergansers looked even more comical than usual with their tufts blown to odd angles.  A heavy misty drizzle took hold, yet cleared within minutes, leaving a beautiful azure sky draped in fluffy white cloud.  A Kestrel perched obligingly as we stopped along a hedgerow that was heaving with Chaffinches.  As the receding tide cleared the Holy Island causeway, waders dropped in to feed along the edge of the recently exposed mud.  Knot, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit were all close to the road and easily observable by using the car as a nice, sheltered, warm hide as Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew over us 🙂  Over on the island we found a mixed flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Curlew and Lapwing.  As an unseen threat spooked them and they lifted from the field, it was obvious that the number of birds present was far greater than we thought.  Grey Seals were hauled out on the now visible sandbars and we headed back across to the mainland.  Lunch overlooking the vast expanse of mud produced more geese and ducks, including Pintail, and a distant Little Stint in amongst a flock of Dunlin and Knot.  A Merlin had spooked the Chaffinch flock as we headed back south and a quick stop at Bamburgh produced Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Eider but nothing on the sea in what the wind had whipped up into a frothing mess of whitecaps.  The stiffening breeze was making viewing conditions awkward but the final stop of the afternoon brought Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch and Goldcrest before we headed back to Seahouses.  Dinner was accompanied by a discussion of the plan for Tuesday, and a target list was quickly developed…

Day 3. 21/02/17.  Tuesday saw us heading south towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Our first target for the day was a species that’s scarce and often only offers fleeting views…Willow Tit is a regular visitor to the NEWT garden feeding station but I’d got a different site in mind and we enjoyed prolonged views of at least two of these gorgeous little birds, as well as a detailed discussion about how to separate them from Marsh TitReed Bunting, Common Snipe and Common Buzzard joined the day list as an impressive flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover swirled against the sky as we headed off in search of our next target for the day.  This one proved fairly straightforward and we had great views of both male and female BramblingLittle Grebe, Goldeneye and Common and Black-headed Gulls accompanied our lunch stop before we had excellent views of some very obliging Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ruff, Tree Sparrow and Little EgretShorelark was the one target for the day that eluded us, as we had several flight views of a vocal flock of Twite while Ringed Plover were displaying on the beach, Sanderling were scurrying back and forth and a flock of Common Scoter were offshore with Red-throated Divers and Guillemot just beyond the breaking surf.  A handsome male Stonechat flushed from bush to bush ahead of us as we walked along the path and the long-staying Pacific Diver eventually gave great views close to a Slavonian Grebe.  There was one target species still remaining on the list for the day though, and I was sure that the last hour of daylight would bring that one for us.  Scanning the edges of reedbeds through the telescope revealed a dark shape that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier during my last scan of the reedbed, and that dark shape stretched and began loping along, still partly obscured by the reeds.  Within a minute everyone had located the Otter as it moved quickly around the edge of the pool and then it vanished, only to appear in the water a few minutes later 🙂  We watched as it swam towards us before losing it from sight behind the near vegetation.  After a few minutes of calm all of the Mute Swans were suddenly staring towards the bank right in front of us, and the Otter passed by just a few metres away 🙂  A great finish to our final full day in the field.

Day 4. 22/02/17.  Departure day dawned dry, bright and with an icily cold breeze as we gathered for breakfast before all heading off our separate ways.

We’ll be adding 2017 and 2018 dates to our holiday page shortly but please do get in touch if you’ve got any questions about what we offer.  Our short break holidays have a maximum of 6 participants, and a relaxed pace, and we’re always happy to create something bespoke too 🙂

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From the office window

by on Feb.21, 2013, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I’m easily distracted and always have been, but also quite obsessive.  Maybe an odd combination, but it seems to work for me.  With an office window that looks over several allotments and gardens, as well as the 76ha of mixed woodland that is Choppington Woods Local Nature Reserve, I’m quite keen on keeping a close eye on what turns up in the garden…

With the shaded areas of the garden still carrying a light veneer of frost, and a stiff southeasterly breeze cutting to the bone as I filled the feeders yesterday morning, a Common Buzzard soared overhead as the Coal Tits perched just a few feet above me, providing encouragement for me to hurry up and fill the feeders.  As soon as I was back inside, the tree was a mass of excitement.  Chaffinches were dropping in from every direction and I settled to checking through the birds on the feeders, and on the ground below them, hoping that the Bramblings we’ve had for the last few couple of months would be still around.  What I found instead were visitors that were even more unusual in the context of our feeding station – 3 Lesser Redpolls were picking at fallen seed on the ground and a Goldcrest was hurrying around the edges of the shrubbery nearby.  The Redpolls were just another episode in what has been an unusual winter in our garden; our first garden record of Marsh Tit, second record of Tree Sparrow (2 birds which have been with us every day for a few months now), third record of Nuthatch, the return of Willow Tit after nearly a two year absence, regular sightings of Brambling and occasional Treecreeper have made this a winter where we really couldn’t predict what would be on the feeders whenever we checked them.

As I sat down to write this, I glanced out of the window and my eye immediately fell on seven bulky finches in our neighbour’s Silver Birch trees.  As one of the birds was hanging upside down while feeding, lifting my binoculars only confirmed what I already knew; another infrequent visitor had put in an appearance this winter.  I opened the window, and heard the metallic ‘chip-chip’ as the flock of Common Crossbills flew into the pines behind our house.  Now, what was I meant to be doing ? 🙂

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

by on Jan.31, 2013, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch and we followed tradition by sitting in our kitchen with a mug of coffee, and a bacon and tomato sandwich, having topped up all of the feeders the evening before.  An hour later, we’d racked up a list of 21 species; Blackbird 3, Jackdaw 2, Collared Dove 2, Robin 3, Chaffinch 20, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 3, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 8, Jay 1, Bullfinch 1, House Sparrow 1, Greenfinch 1, Woodpigeon 2, Redwing 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Song Thrush 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Brambling 2. Quite a successful hour, although most species weren’t present in the numbers we would have expected and, as usual, several species that had been visiting the garden in recent days (Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker) failed to appear during the 1 hour of the survey.  Easy birding, and part of a huge national survey.  If you didn’t do it this year, give it a go in 2014 🙂

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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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Big Garden Birdwatch

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Birdwatching, Surveys

We had a leisurely hour of birdwatching yesterday morning.  With all of the feeders stocked with top class bird food from Poltross, and a bacon and egg butty and a mug of coffee in hand, we settled down into our respective positions on either side of the kitchen.  With commentary on the dismantling of Andy Murray in the background, binoculars were trained on the feeders, the ground, the shrubbery and the Ash tree.  After a slow start, things began to gather pace and we finished with 76 birds of 20 species;

Collared Dove 4

Wood Pigeon 2

Jackdaw 1

Carrion Crow 1

House Sparrow 1

Starling 7

Blue Tit 2

Great Tit 3

Coal Tit 7

Willow Tit 2

Long-tailed Tit 3

Chaffinch 14

Greenfinch 5

Goldfinch 2

Bullfinch 4

Goldcrest 1

Robin 6

Dunnock 2

Blackbird 5

Redwing 4

There were a few absentees as well, all seen regularly in the days leading up to the Big Garden Birdwatch;

Jay

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sparrowhawk

Siskin

Maybe 25 species in 1hr is a target to aim for in our garden next year.

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All is quiet

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Choppington Woods, Photography

The world around us was cloaked in white as we walked home from The Swan early this morning.  A Tawny Owl was calling from the woods, but there was little other sound – muffled as it was by the snow.  By the time we woke up, there was a lot more snow than there had been when we finally fell into bed.  To shake off the lingering after-effects of Old Year’s Night we decided to take a walk around Choppington Woods, wrapped up warm and armed with a camera.  Photography, rather than birdwatching was our main aim, and that was fortunate as there were a lot more birds in our garden than we encountered on the walk; Great, Blue, Coal and Willow Tits, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were around the feeders and, bird of the day, a Common Buzzard flying north over our allotment.  Snow can make a relatively mundane landscape into a photogenic delight, but exposure calculations can be tricky and we spent a lot of time checking compositions and looking for obvious ‘lead-in’ lines.  As we made our way back towards home 350 Pink-footed Geese flew south overhead.  Moving ahead of more wintry weather maybe?

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Sarah scanning the trees

Sarah scanning the trees

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

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A change in the weather

by on Dec.29, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends

The feeders in our garden have been busier in the last couple of days than at any time during this winter.  No less than 6 Blackbirds have taken up residence, 3 or 4 Robins are posturing and defending territories, a steady stream of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, along with our 2 regular Willow Tits, are emptying the feeders rapidly and a flock of 8 Long-tailed Tits are putting in daily appearances.  Chaffinch numbers are way down on previous winters, but Greenfinches are now almost ever-present during daylight hours and three pairs of Bullfinches are never far away.  It’s interesting that, even on a very short-distance scale, there’s such a noticeable movement of birds from their ‘normal’ habitat (Choppington Woods) to the gardens around the edge of the woods whenever the weather turns colder.  Birdwatching doesn’t get any easier than sitting in the kitchen, glass of port in one hand and a slice of Christmas cake in the other 🙂

First thing this morning everything was frozen solid again.  However, by lunchtime when Martin took Dad to the railway station there was a noticeable thaw – even though the thermometer was showing the temperature having only just crept above freezing.  Then it started to rain and most of the remaining patches of ice and snow vanished.  The birds were still around in the numbers of recent days though and, if the weather forecasts are anything to go by, we’re in for some more very hard winter weather at the end of this year and the start of the new one.  Wrap up warm.

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The little fir tree

by on Dec.14, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland

As Chair of Governors at our local First School, I had an invitation to attend the Christmas production this afternoon.  It was a heartwarming tale of a little fir tree who was teased for being so small but eventually found his place as a Christmas tree in a children’s hospital.  The characters included several fir trees, angels, snowflakes, raindrops, sunbeams, doctors, nurses, foxes, owls, rabbits and a woodcutter…as well as kings, shepherds, Mary and Joseph.

Which brings us nicely to the little fir tree on our patio.  I haven’t had as much time to work on my bonsai display as I would have liked this year (one of the perils of running your own business…) so most of the trees have developed dense, lush foliage.  I have been regularly trimming any over long shoots so they’re all still quite compact.  The display sits midway between six feeders in the apple tree and two feeders on the garden wall, so it’s a regular perch for many of the birds that are visiting.  As the weather has turned towards wintry, the number of birds in the garden has increased to the point where it’s almost impossible to watch everything that’s going on.  Sarah was at home this morning and we spent a little while just watching the comings and goings.  The highlight was two Willow Tits together but there were 15+ Coal Tits, 5 or 6 Bullfinches, 10 Chaffinches, 4 House Sparrows, 4 Greenfinches, a couple of Goldfinches and little groups of Blue and Great Tits.  Birdwatching begins at home…and once we get some cold, frosty or snowy weather, my bonsai display should produce some excellent photo opportunities as well.

A cold, wet mid-December night might not seem that promising in terms of wildlife but we had something new for the garden about an hour ago when a Winter Moth Operophtera brumata landed on the outside of the kitchen window.  Our little southeast Northumberland garden now has records of about 250 different species of moth.  It helps that there’s a 76ha woodland behind us though.

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