Druridge Bay

Under the moonlight; Otter mini-Safari 15/07/19

by on Jul.17, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Dave and Dawn ahead of an evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland exploring NEWT’s favourite Otter sites I smiled when Dave said “We have no idea what the plan is or what’s happening. Our daughter just told us to be here to meet you”…

We started with our usual riparian woodland walk, and Dave spotted a Dipper sitting quietly on a mid-stream rock. It started preening and bathing and then took a few short swims underwater before flying off upstream.

With a gentle breeze cooling the warmth of the Sun, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were putting in brief appearances in the reeds, Reed Buntings were singing their simple song, flocks of Starlings flew to roost and a dense flock of Sand Martins alternated between gorging themselves on flies and perching along the face of a reedbed as a Barn Owl quartered the dunes before flying past us carrying prey.

A Spotted Redshank feeding frantically in the shallows joined a mass panic as Curlews, Avocets and Lapwings took to the air before gradually settling back down as Grey Herons and a Little Egret darted at small fish. Scanning around the edge of the water I noticed a swirl lingering close to a reedbed and then all of the waders took flight again. For a few minutes all we could see were the ripples from something disturbing the water in a gap in the reeds…and then the Otter swam into view 🙂 We watched it for around 30 minutes before it vanished into a reedbed as the full Moon rose, flanked by Jupiter and Saturn, and the Barn Owl perched on a pole near the car and almost directly in front of the Moon 🙂

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Heron there ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 09/07/19

by on Jul.10, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Robin and Cia, and Linda and Pete, from Newbiggin ahead of a day exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Over the years we’ve refined our tours on the coast to included different habitat types and starting with a walk through some riparian woodland we were rewarded with great views of Nuthatches and a Dipper as a Banded Demoiselle proved flighty and the quiet calls of Bullfinches revealed their presence in rank vegetation and the treetops.

On the coast a Kestrel was hanging in the breeze as Curlews, Oystercatchers and Common Redshanks explored rockpools and a Meadow Pipit lined up alongside a row of Tree Sparrows as the simple song of Reed Buntings, the fast chatter of Sedge Warblers and the rhythmic chuntering of Reed Warblers emanated from the reedbeds around coastal pools and a very vocal Linnet was incredibly obliging just a few feet way from us on a fence post. Linda and Pete’s experience of birdwatching in the warm sunshine of Portugal hadn’t prepared them for the sight of a Spoonbill in the cool heavy rain of Northumberland in early July, and Little Egrets added to the southern feel alongside the much more regular sight of Grey Herons stalking imperiously through the shallows as a fantastic group of waders included Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin, Common Redshank, a lone Golden Plover, brief Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper that only showed for a couple of seconds as they flew from the mud along the reed edges in front of us, Black-tailed Godwits in fantastic orangey red plumage and a Spotted Redshank that stopped obligingly alongside a Common Redshank allowing a great comparison. Another set of species that allowed an impromptu ID masterclass were Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns as the rain intensified and we headed back in the late afternoon.

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Dipping, owling and haring; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 04/07/19

by on Jul.09, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Thursday’s bespoke Druridge Bay Safari for Keith and Jean was forecast to be dry…so it was unexpected when the first drops of rain started hitting the car windscreen as we headed south from Outchester…

With fish taking flies from the surface of the River Blyth a Dipper flew past as Song Thrushes, Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs sang from cover and we took shelter from the rain under the trees.

Lapwings, Dunlin, Redshanks and Curlews were roosting, heads into the wind, as Avocets fed busily and Grey Herons and Little Egrets stalked along the reedbed edges, a Barn Owl ghosted over the fields and an Otter swam across the pool wrestling with a large Eel 🙂 Our regular Little Owl was sitting in it’s usual spot, sheltered from the wind and rain and, as the gloom of dusk gave way to a stunning pink sunset over Little Grebes, Great Crested Grebes, Coots, Moorhens and Greylag and Canada Geese, a male Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds and Brown Hares raced ahead of us on roads and footpaths.

The journey back north brought another Barn Owl hunting along the roadside verge as the sunset faded to near darkness.

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London buses; Bespoke Red Squirrel Safari 25/06/19

by on Jun.26, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday was one of those days with a very specific target, this time one of our favourite mammals, and a real Northumberland specialty, Red Squirrel

I collected Lynne and Rob from Lowick and we headed down the Northumberland coast towards Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. I’d got an itinerary in mind, based around good wildlife locations that have squirrel feeders. Plan A was the site where I was sure we’d find squirrels but they weren’t showing so we headed off to Plan B. We’ve been stocking feeders there and Sarah had replenished them all on Monday evening…and every scrap of food had gone by the time we arrived there on Tuesday morning! The extraordinary number of Jays flying around, as Goldcrests sang from dense dark conifer plantations and Bullfinches called from pathside hedgerows, may have been a clue to where all the food had gone and the only squirrel we saw was a Grey Squirrel. Plan C was a site we haven’t visited for a couple of years, and the well-stocked squirrel feeders there were a very positive sign, but Great Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinches and a Magpie were the only visitors to the feeding station while we were there. Plan D is a site that has produced some memorable squirrel experiences for our clients over the years, but it’s also a site that is periodically overrun by Grey Squirrels and the unstocked squirrel feeders left me less than optimistic, although a small flock of Bullfinches added a touch of colour in the increasing gloom as the first raindrops began to fall.

Finally to Plan E…which was a reprise of Plan A. No sign of any squirrels but it’s always good to catch-up with Anthony – and in the 30s I looked away from the feeders to tell him where we’d been during the day…one popped up on top of a feeder! It’s always a relief to get a target species safely observed then, as Lynne used her ‘phone to photograph the squirrel through the eyepiece of our telescope a second one appeared and they disputed the right to be on the feeder. Then a third Red Squirrel appeared above the feeder as the second one launched a sneaky attack from below and the squirrel occupying the feeder was knocked clean out of the tree. Like London buses, you wait ages and then three come along together 🙂

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Gloom; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 23/06/19

by on Jun.24, 2019, under Druridge Bay

The NEWT team had been out for a walk yesterday afternoon, in bright, hot sunshine but by the time I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Gordon, Judy and Mike, for an evening exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, it was a few degrees cooler and no longer sunny…

We started with a riverside walk and with Song Thrushes singing from the trees around us, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers posing obligingly for a minute or so as Mallard ducklings skittered across the water, our attention was drawn to a commotion in the trees on the opposite side of the river. Jays, Magpies and Blackbirds were all hopping around the branches and alarm-calling although we couldn’t see the source of their annoyance.

With the gloom getting gloomier we watched Avocets preening and feeding, a Grey Heron stalking patiently in shallow water, Lapwings, Curlews and Black-headed Gulls, with a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull, roosting as Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted in and out of cover, Reed Buntings sang their simple songs from the reed tops and a Barn Owl ghosted along the water’s edge before settling on a fence post.

A Kestrel hanging almost motionless above the cliff top indicated that the direction of the wind that was starting to bring the first drops of rain was north easterly as Mute Swans fed in an impressive group, Great Crested Grebes still managed to radiate elegance in the enveloping gloom of dusk and the staccato laughing cries of Little Grebes echoed across the water as we headed back to the car and down the coast to Newbiggin.

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Magic tricks; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 06/06/19

by on Jun.18, 2019, under Druridge Bay

With a busy week and a bit ahead of me (guiding a 7 night wildlife photography holiday and then recceing landscape photography holiday locations in the Lake District) I headed to Amble to collect Val and Jimmy for a morning around Druridge Bay

The rhythmic chuntering of Reed Warblers and scattergun song of Sedge Warblers filled the warm air as we watched several Avocets sitting on nests. One pair seemed agitated but the others didn’t which is unusual in an Avocet colony, where they’re nearly always up for a fight, and then one of the pair adopted an unusual crouched position…and laid an egg!

Next we stopped to look for our regular Little Owl. It wasn’t where I expected it to be…and then suddenly it was 🙂 Next up was a genuine rarity…although it remained stubbornly asleep while we were watching it – I’ve seen a Baikal Teal in the UK previously but this one is just 15mins from our office and had a small audience already watching it when we arrived. Displaying Lapwings, Canada and Greylag Geese (with goslings) and Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck were all on the marsh.

Great morning, with surprises and a rarity 🙂

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A punny evening on the coast; Otter mini-Safari 30/05/19

by on May.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Lucy, William, David, Bella and Maia from Wallington and we headed eastwards to Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for an evening searching NEWT’s favourite Otter sites…

A very obliging Dipper was perched on a mid-stream branch at our first stop with the songs of Chiffchaff, Robin, Chaffinch and Song Thrush adding to the aural backdrop. On the coast, Avocets were alarming every time a Carrion Crow or Grey Heron flew by, Lapwing crests were being ruffled in the breeze that eventually brought a heavy rain shower, Shelduck and Mallard parents were tending to their broods of undeniably cute fluffballs and a Barn Owl ghosted along the dunes before obligingly settling on a fence post.

With dusk being marked by the sky getting slightly darker than the overcast glowering gloom of earlier in the evening, Mute Swans were feeding quietly, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese arrived to roost, anything other than quietly, a Great Crested Grebe repeatedly caught and consumed small fish in front of us, a Roe Deer hurtled along the bank and swallows, martins and Swifts were flycatching through a mesmerising whirling flock of Black-headed Gulls as we reached the point of ‘difficult to see anything out there now’.

The evening added to considerably to our 11 year development of Otter-related puns. ‘otterly amazing/terrible/wonderful’ are all tried and tested, but a couple of new ones put in an appearance “What’s an Otters favourite food? Frittotter” and “What’s an Otters favourite opera? La Traviotter” 🙂

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Why did the Roe Deer cross the pool? Otter Safari 28/05/19

by on May.29, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Some days are memorable because of the volume of wildlife we encounter, and then there are the days when what the wildlife is doing defies belief…

I collected Sarah, and then Chris and Alex, from Newbiggin and we headed off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Our regular riverside walk brought Treecreeper, Blackcap and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker that had found a reliable food source on mid-stream rocks. We couldn’t see what she was collecting but every few minutes she headed off into the trees with a beak full of food before returning to the edge of the water.

Avocets were next up and, as well as a cacophony of alarm calls every time a Carrion Crow flew by, they were taking a dim view of Grey Herons. One Avocet in particular had singled out a heron that it harrassed, flapped it’s wings at and continued pursuing even as the heron walked away not even bothering to give it a moment’s attention. As Brown Hares loped through a rushy marsh a Barn Owl ghosted by just a few metres away from us.

With a stunning sunset developing and bathing everything in beautiful low-angled light I spotted an Otter briefly in almost the same spot where I’d first spotted one on Sunday evening. Mute Swan threat posture and agitated Canada Geese gave us a good idea of where it was, but frustratingly it remained hidden from sight. Something did come out of the reeds though – a Roe Deer that waded through shallow water onto an island, followed by a second deer. After a couple of lengths of the island they continued into the water before returning to the island for a few minutes and then out into the water again, this time with the water getting deeper until just their heads were visible as they swam across the pool with a flock of Black-headed Gulls directly above them. As they reached the shallows they were suddenly running at breakneck speed out of the water, up the bank, through a hedge and out of sight.

I’ll leave the final word to Chris, with his punchline to our discussion about what the benefit was to the deer of crossing water rather than just walking around the edge of the pool, which would have been quicker. “To get the the Otter side” 😉

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Circuit; Druridge Bay Safari 26/05/19

by on May.29, 2019, under Druridge Bay

After collecting Jane and Graham from Newbiggin, ahead of an afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, we set off on what has become a regular route around our favourite sites…

A Grey Wagtail flew over and perched high in a riverside tree as Swifts, swallows and martins gorged themselves on flying insects overhead.

Summertime safaris often feature a few mammals and Brown Hares were laying down in the long grass. Avocets, Dunlin and Lapwings were joined by a Common Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover around the boundary of mud and water. A Little Owl was sitting framed by a window as we headed towards our final site for the day…

Frantic feathered flocks feasting on flies included Swift, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow and Black-headed Gull and, distantly, there was an Otter 🙂 Watching the gulls and the agitation spreading through swans, geese and ducks allowed us to track the Otter‘s progress and it was eventually much more obliging as it went into shallow water. It vanished into the reeds again before reappearing and quickly crossing the pool, occasionally pausing to raise it’s head in annoyance at the flock of gulls following it as a Roe Deer waded out into belly-deep water before turning back and heading to shore as the encroaching dusk made observation more and more of a challenge.

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Group birdwatching; Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne 21-22/05/19

by on May.29, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Southeast Northumberland

We usually limit our tours to a maximum of 6 participants, and our increasingly popular bespoke tours to 2 participants, but over the last 11 years we’ve done a few tours for larger groups. 34 members of an RSPB group was on a different level though…

With Sarah and Tom assisting we separated the group into 3 each day. Sarah took a group who preferred very short walks and a very relaxed approach to their birdwatching. Myself and Tom separated the remainder into two equally sized groups and covered a bit more ground each day.

Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland produced a day that included Little Gull, Willow Tit, a very obliging baby Rabbit, and a Heron wrestling with, and finally subduing and eating a huge Eel, nicely bookended by a couple of local specialties with Red Squirrel at the start of the day (just as we got off the coach at our first stop!) and two incredibly obliging Dippers on the River Blyth at the end of the afternoon.

Lindisfarne was bathed in the complex song of Skylarks and the parachuting songflight of Meadow Pipits. Grey Seals meandered through the surf as Curlews and a lone Whimbrel flew along the shoreline and Roe Deer were quietly grazing close to the dunes. A flock of waders roosting on a distant shingley sandbar could just be identified as Grey Plovers with bright sunlight silhouetting them and the scattered reflections off the water challenging observation. Then a cloud passed in front of the Sun and there were close to 100 breeding-plumaged Grey Plovers! Just one is a spectacular sight in itself but this was a jaw-dropping flock 🙂 Breeding-plumaged Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling were feeding along a pebbly shoreline where Little Terns were roosting and the north side of the island was a stunning carpet of orchids.

Two great days out with a lovely group and excellently assisted by Sarah and Tom 🙂

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