“That’s not a bill. That’s a bill”; Otter Safari 12/07/2014

by on Jul.15, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter

Often, the species that we’re specifically searching for appears and is the highlight of the day.  Sometimes, the scenes involving the supporting cast take some beating though…

I arrived at Church Point to collect Rose, Tom and Alison, and we headed up the coast for an afternoon around Druridge Bay searching for Otters.  July is one of our favourite times to visit the coast, as wading birds are starting to head south, still in breeding plumage.  Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Dunlin were all lazing at the water’s edge in the increasingly breezy afternoon, and one of our most delicate looking birds provided a lot of entertainment.  Avocets are a fairly recent addition to Northumberland’s breeding avifauna, and their delicate appearance belies their feisty nature.  As three fluffy Avocet chicks swept their heads from side to side in shallow water, occasionally breaking off to go and tuck themselves under their parent’s wing, the adult Avocets were busy keeping the area clear of other birds.  Black-headed Gulls, and even Pied Wagtails were driven off, but the most ferocious assaults were reserved for a flock of Common Snipe.  Secretive and usually hidden out of sight, the snipe had ventured away from the shelter of the reedbeds and into shallow water where they were feeding with a sewing machine action, faces in the water and constantly probing the soft mud beneath.  The Avocets weren’t having that though, and the snipe were persistently flushed by attack after attack.  When we’d first arrived a Spoonbill had been flying above the pond, and it settled and went to sleep.  Eventually it woke up and began walking along the edge of the pond before disappearing from view.  Then it took off and flew across the water, settling near the Avocets

The first furious airborne assault on the Spoonbill left it completely unmoved, so the Avocet landed nearby and charged at it, head down and neck stretched forward, menacing with that long, upcurved rapier like bill.  The Spoonbill lifted it’s head from the water, opened it’s bill and waved it as if to say “Do you really want me to slap you with this?” 🙂  Obviously a different approach was required, which involved the Avocet pretending to feed, whilst slowly sidling towards the Spoonbill, ready to launch another attack.  That was greeted in the same manner, and when the Avocet tried again, the Spoonbill simply kept it’s head in the water and charged straight at the Avocet, sweeping it’s bill from side to side.  Eventually the Avocets gave up the attack, but kept a close eye on the Spoonbill, as another ten Avocets flew over and a Little Egret put in a brief appearance.

As dusk approached we settled into position overlooking another pool.  All seemed calm, Marsh Harriers were hunting the reedbeds as daylight faded, and then an Otter appeared, making it’s way across the shadow-dappled water, twisting, turning, diving, pausing at the surface to consume its catch before resuming the hunt 🙂  A second Otter was hunting in the deep shadow of a reedbed, and the closer one betrayed it’s own presence with the classic ‘ring of bright water’ each time it surfaced.  A Barn Owl came as a shock, when it flew through Rose’s binocular view, and a white Rabbit and four Brown Hares were illuminated by the car headlights as we made our way back to Church Point in the rain.

:, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment for this entry

  • Chris

    Great post! You’re so lucky to have seen some otters! I haven’t seen a wild one in a long time, I’m quite tempted to come up to Druridge Bay just to see one!

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Archives

All entries, chronologically...