Living on the edge; Otter mini-Safari 05/08/21

by on 06/08/21 11:18, under Druridge Bay

One thing that’s always impressed me about wildlife is the almost constant effort needed just to stay alive, contrasting with the technologically advanced, comfortable, lives that many of us lead…

I met up with Cath, Andy, Beth and Dan for an evening around Druridge Bay, and the weather was pleasant…particularly compared to what was forecast for the next few hours! Mute swans were feeding unhurriedly, grey herons were stalking along rushy edges, black-tailed godwits were wading and probing, and bumblebees were shifting position to take shelter underneath teasel heads – often a sign of a drop in temperature and approaching bad weather. Swallows, martins and swifts were hawking insects as a lone ruff flew through.

As the wind started to pick up, and the first of several heavy showers passed through, a great crested grebe with a single juvenile aggressively evicted a little grebe, also with a single juvenile, from a prime patch of amphibious bistort, as cormorants sat motionless, two Arctic skuas muscled their way into the stiffening breeze, and Sandwich, common and Arctic terns obligingly lined up alongside one another like an animated field guide to separating confusion species πŸ™‚

Seven starlings was a start to a murmuration that eventually built to several hundred birds, as three marsh harriers went to roost and a sparrowhawk pestered and pursued the starlings repeatedly. We saw it pass by at least a dozen times without any apparent success by the time the starlings had all settled into the reeds, expending vital energy in a late evening attempt to feed before nightfall.

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Triple crown; NEWT’s North Sea pelagic 07/07/21

by on 09/07/21 09:40, under Bottlenose Dolphin, North Sea

Wednesday’s 4hr pelagic had a forecast that promised rain, although we only had a few drops, and it took just a few minutes for our first cetacean to appear as a harbour porpoise crossed the mouth of the Tyne in front of us. 90 minutes of intense scanning eventually produced bottlenose dolphins off Whitley Bay and they swam alongside us for an hour as we headed slowly south, finally leaving as we passed the mouth of the river again. On a glassy sea we headed beyond the Tyne and with conditions so perfect I spotted fins that were 2nm ahead of us…and then the white-beaked dolphins appeared πŸ™‚

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Back on track and tracking the storm; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 04/07/21

by on 05/07/21 13:05, under Druridge Bay

With so many postponed trips last year, it’s been great to get out again and start meeting clients who we’ve been chatting to via email for a long time πŸ™‚ I arrived in Druridge Bay and met up with Phil, then Melanie, then Marjorie and Ollie for an evening searching for otters and other wildlife. The weather forecast was promising us heavy showers and the potential for thunderstorms, so I suggested our best option was to stay very local and try to avoid getting too wet…

There are two schools of thought about wildlife watching: stay put, immerse yourself, take in whatever’s in front of you, or roam and search. I frequently use both when I’m out and about on my own but with clients we usually move between sites so the stay put approach seemed to be a gamble πŸ™‚

That gamble produced what must be one of our best mini-Safaris over the last 13 years…tiny avocet chicks, defended against ‘encroaching’ coots, moorhens, and lapwings by a furious adult, contrasted with another one of this year’s young that was close to adult size, alongside a wader line-up that also included common snipe, common redshank, ruff, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, dunlin, ringed plover, and curlew arriving to roost with their eerie cries cutting through the ethereal mist rising from the marsh as the first heavy shower approached. A grey heron was stalking through the rushes as teal, mallard, gadwall and shoveler dabbled in shallow water, Canada and greylag geese grazed beside pied and yellow wagtails foraging through the lush vegetation and the songs and calls of meadow pipit, common whitethroat, willow warbler, grasshopper warbler, chiffchaff and reed bunting filled the air as a noisy flock of common terns arrived. The crazy, leggy joie de vivre of roe deer triplets attracted the attention of Exmoor ponies, brown hares loped through recently harvested fields and then, as mute swans, tufted ducks and mallards all started to look concerned, Marjorie spotted the tell-tale ring of bright water as an otter surfaced nearby before slinking off just ahead of a torrential downpour that cleared to make way for a swarm of swifts, sand martins, house martins and swallows gorging themselves on newly emerged insects against the backdrop of a stormy sunset.

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Here come the dolphins; NEWT’s 4hr North Sea Pelagics 02/07/21

by on 05/07/21 12:16, under North Sea

Friday’s back-to-back 4hr daytime pelagics both started with few dolphins having been reported locally, but a strategy of heading in the general direction where we think they’re likely to be paid off, with a wall of bottlenose dolphin faces charging towards us off Souter Point on our morning sailing, and the same off Collywell Bay in the afternoon πŸ™‚

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Druridge Bay Safari 21/06/21

by on 05/07/21 12:05, under Druridge Bay

Sandwiched neatly between two weeks working away from home, Sue’s 11th trip with NEWT was a day around our local patch…

mid-Summer is a time when a lot of birds are well through their breeding season and in moult, so can be secretive, but there’s always plenty still to see. Dunlin, black-tailed godwit, avocet, snipe, curlew, lapwing, common redshank and spotted redshank were all roosting or feeding around pools and rushy marshes, teal, tufted duck, gadwall, mallard, shoveler and little grebe were all dabbling or diving and common, arctic and sandwich terns arrived to bathe in freshwater as reed, sedge and willow warblers and whitethroat all sang from cover. Add in a fantastic luch at the Drift Cafe and a day quickly passes πŸ™‚

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summertime?; otter mini-Safari 13/06/21

by on 14/06/21 14:34, under Druridge Bay

After a few very warm sunny days, it was grey and cooler when I arrived to meet up with Teresa and Pam for an evening in Druridge Bay

In the cooler conditions the dense clouds of chironomid midges had gone, but the songs of meadow pipit, reed bunting, skylark, willow warbler, common whitethroat and chiffchaff were all typical of an evening trip at this time of year. The chip-chip-chip calls of a snipe came from a clump of rushes and avocets were keeping watch over chicks and angrily pursuing crows that flew by, while lapwings harassed a marsh harrier, and common terns fished in front of us. A pair of great crested grebes were just a few metres away from where we’d seen them recently, mute swans brought their cygnets out from a reedbed, two male marsh harriers flew by in quick succession, the eerie cries of curlew drifted across the pools, grey herons squabbled over fishing spots, an otherwise uninspiring sunset painted the northern and western horizon with a pastel pink glow, and mini-murmurations of starlings formed and twisted and turned as Teresa spotted a dark sinuous shape that vanished behind the reeds in front of us.

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This is the sound of the summer; otter mini-Safari 10/06/21

by on 11/06/21 11:46, under Druridge Bay

As I arrived to meet up with with Peter and Melanie, and Kristina and Paul, for an evening in Druridge Bay, the sky overhead was fluffy white clouds on an azure background but away to the north it looked grey and ominous…

Tufted ducks and Canada geese were alert as a Marsh Harrier drifted by, mobbed by lapwings and gulls, and a whimbrel flew north with just one burst of its distinctive trill. Swifts, swallows and black-headed gulls were all feasting on an abundance of chironomid (non-biting!) midges and, as we paused to admire a common toad that was staring impassively at us from the footpath, a common snipe was drumming high overhead.

Walking along the coastal path we were accompanied by the songs of common whitethroat, chiffchaff, willow warbler, reed warbler, skylark, meadow pipit and reed bunting, another marsh harrier was quartering reedbeds and fields and the loud song of a great reed warbler carried across fields on the southerly breeze as we came across northern marsh orchids and bloody cranesbill. As common and sandwich terns bathed in fresh water, a pair of great crested grebes radiated elegance, and the head of tiny chick put in a cameo appearance between it’s parent’s wings πŸ™‚ A roe deer was grazing, unconcerned by our presence, on the edge of a reedbed and later in the evening we watched a younger deer that seemed to be struggling with the concept of needing to jump over a fence to get out of a field (despite having jumped over it to get in there in the first place!).

A starling murmuration contained around 100 birds and as a stunning sunset gave way to dusk, with Arcturus and the summer triangle prominent overhead, grey herons decided to end the day with a dispute over prime feeding spots.

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Forecasting; NEWT’s 4hr North Sea pelagic 02/06/21

by on 03/06/21 15:10, under Uncategorized

Yesterday’s 4hr evening pelagic looked in doubt a few days ago, with stiff easterlies and 1.5m waves in the forecast. As the day approached, the forecast was looking much more promising, so I left the office under clear blue skies and bright sunshine for the 25min drive to the marina. Half way there and Jo ‘phoned “There’s a thick fret rolling in”, and by the time I reached the marina it was murky, overcast, and a chilly southeasterly breeze had everyone checking that they’d packed hats, gloves and spare layers…

NECP surveyors braving the cold were watching bottlenose dolphins in the mouths of the Tyne and the Wear as we sailed from the marina but, as we reached the fish quay, the dolphins in the Tyne had headed south, other than two briefly seen fins between the starboard navigation markers. South was the obvious direction for us too, and in increasing swell we passed Marsden Rock as kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills, guillemots and gannets flew by. Jo spotted a small group of dolphins and we lowered our speed and changed course to avoid heading straight for them. We were on course to pass a few hundred metres to the side of them, but the dolphins had other ideas…

A few of this year’s sailings are fully booked already but there are some with spaces still available. Have a look at our pelagics page to see which sailings are available and get in touch to book your place and join in the fun πŸ™‚

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Druridge Bay bespoke birdwatching 27/05/21

by on 28/05/21 14:48, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Church Point to meet up with Sandra and Francis, and we set off for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, an alternative to the bespoke Farne Islands safari originally planned (a long time ago…) but currently not possible for circumstances that are beyond our control, and bafflingly inexplicable…

Starting with a riverside walk chiffchaffs, whitethroats, wrens, chaffinches and dunnocks were singing as we passed sea buckthorn, pygmy goats, and gadwall, mallards, mute swans, canada geese on a river watched over by cormorants perched on semi-submerged trees and branches.

Lunch at the Drift Cafe was accompanied by whitethroat, swallow and pied wagtail, all singing or calling from rooftops, aerials and telegraph poles around us. A stop at Cresswell Pond produced a very obliging Barn Owl, hunting along the edge of the pool and in the dunes before returning with prey to it’s nest, and we continued our journey north along the coast road.

Lapwings were chasing summer-plumaged dunlin who’d strayed too close to their chicks, avocets graced the pool edges with their elegance, whimbrel and curlew called as they flew over, before settling out of easy viewing range in the heat haze, gadwall, teal and mallard dabbled as little grebes and tufted ducks dived and a mute swan escorted her cygnets. Marsh harriers exchanged nest duties, taking it in turns to quarter the reedbeds, sandwich and common terns arrived to bathe in fresh water and a very showy sedge warbler kept returning to the same perch in a hawthorn bush. Our walk between dunes and fields had an impressive chorus line of whitethroats, skylarks, stonechats, a single reed warbler rhythmically chuntering from cover and the reeling of a grasshopper warbler from a tangle of brambles.

After so many years of NEWT, and the last year of hardly being able to work, it’s great to be out and about again with lovely clients enjoying our local wildlife πŸ™‚

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Anticipation; Otter mini-Safari 19/05/21

by on 20/05/21 16:53, under Druridge Bay, Otter

At this time of year our new ‘mini-Safari only’ approach means a late(ish) start so I can spend time earlier in the day doing other business jobs, and cooking. As I get older I’m getting better at timing things so I made a tartiflette, and a tomato and aubergine curry, and still had time to make a cuppa for the other member of the NEWT team before I headed out to meet up with Anthony, and Louise and Tony, ahead of an evening searching for otters around Druridge Bay

With the breeze in our faces, and some ominous looking weather ahead of us, we watched shelducks, common and Sandwich terns and mute swans until the rain had passed by, then we continued walking south. Some very obliging stonechats posed for photographs while whitethroats proved more elusive and grasshopper warblers, chiffchaffs and skylarks were singing, a calling lapwing had two fluffy chicks near a small puddle in a field and the eerie cries of curlew echoed across the fields. The next squally shower caught us in the open but we were soon settled, and sheltered, watching pairs of tufted ducks at close range as they dived for food and the heavy rain continued with glorious sunlight from the west. A roe deer was quietly grazing on the opposite bank, a whimbrel whistled it’s distinctive call as it flew north, and, as a barn owl flew by, I scanned the edge of the pool that was noticeably devoid of birds…and there were two young otters play-fighting πŸ™‚ We watched them for 10 minutes then they vanished, before one reappeared and headed straight towards us before turning back and vanishing into the gloomy shadows of the reeds, underneath a glorious sunset. The walk back to the cars produced another barn owl and then, with the dusk air damp and hazy with insects, noctule bats swooped over the trees and bushes.

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