Druridge Bay

Wading through the sublime light; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 20/08/2020

by on Aug.21, 2020, under Druridge Bay

I arrived to meet Paul and Helen ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and we set off to walk south along the coast…

A mixed wader/gull/tern roost produced Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Sandwich Tern and Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull as Grey Herons stalked the water’s edge and three Marsh Harriers quartered back and forth along the reeds. The waders all lifted a couple of times and Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Coot all looked panicky but we couldn’t see what was causing all of the concern.

Starlings were roosting among the waders and a large flock speckled the sky before heading away out of sight to the north as Stonechats and Linnets perched on top of scattered bushed in the dunes, beautifully illuminated by low angle diffuse sunlight. One male Stonechat was sharing a prominent perch with an undeniably cute juvenile Common Whitethroat and the raucous calls of Pheasant came from rough pasture as Silver Y moths were nectaring busily on Red Clover.

With the Sun setting away to the west, and the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb about to make an appearance through a break in the clouds, a Sparrowhawk flew low over the dunes and a Barn Owl ghosted across the path ahead of us before making its way along dips in the dunes and eventually heading away north as daylight faded to darkness and the calls of Greylag Geese coming to roost accompanied our departure.

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Druridge Bay mini-Safari 12/08/2020

by on Aug.13, 2020, under Druridge Bay

With COVID19 having brought about some changes to how we deliver our mini-Safaris, I arrived at Druridge Bay to collect John and Jo for NEWT’s first land-based tour since February…

Our tour model for the last 12 years has been built around the use of the NEWTmobile (initially our Land Rover Defender, and more recently the Galaxy) to transport our clients between wildlife watching locations. Our new model involves still visiting a couple of locations on each mini-Safari, but walking between sites and I was curious how that would work.

Stonechats and Linnets were perched on top of bushes along the coastal path as a Cuckoo flew towards us before vanishing into a dip in the dunes and a Marsh Harrier was quartering a field edge below the setting Sun. As the harrier settled on a fence post, a Barn Owl took it’s place patrolling the same edge, below the Sun and above a Brown Hare that allowed occasional glimpses as it made it’s way along the back of a field. Skeins of Greylag Geese were scattered across the background of a stunning orange sunset as a second Cuckoo took off and flew along a fence line before looping around a patch of Sea Buckthorn and vanishing into the bushes.

As the Sun dipped below the horizon and Vega shone almost directly overhead, Grey Herons were chasing each other from favoured feeding spots and a Barn Owl appeared in front of us and plunged into the grass just a few metres away before emerging and flying off with it’s prey! Then, with light levels fading rapidly a Long-eared Owl flew head-on towards us.

I like our new model: see more, cover more ground, don’t have dead time traveling 🙂

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Bespoke Otter Safari 07/02/20

by on Feb.10, 2020, under Druridge Bay

As I collected Amy and James from Warkworth, ahead of a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the forecast for the morning was good, but there was a chance it would start to deteriorate during the afternoon…

With only a gentle breeze every area of water we looked at was close to mirror-calm. Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese were all staying low on the water as Grey Herons sat in their usual pose of misery and Water Rails began squealing from the reeds. Little Grebes were diving, Cormorants were drying their wings with heraldic majesty and Lapwings flushed in panic, caught on the now stiffening breeze like windblown leaves. Curlews flew off, their eerie cries carrying over the calm water and a presumably confused Fulmar was soaring around over a coastal pool before heading back out to sea. More Fulmars accompanied our lunch stop, arcing along the clifftop with an uncharacteristically calm North Sea behind them. With the breeze picking up there was an obvious lack of passerines. Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons were sitting in bare trees, Little Grebes were patrolling close to overhanging vegetation where Moorhens were dabbling and as the Sun was setting in the west, remarkably orange, 3 Roe Deer were chasing around a steep field overlooking the river.

Another great winter’s day with lovely clients 🙂

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Vital signs; Otter mini-Safari 12/01/20

by on Jan.15, 2020, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

A dual purpose title for today’s blog…

I collected Fara, Andrew and Nicola & Graeme and Jen from Newbiggin and we set off to explore Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland on a Sunday morning that was thankfully lacking the stiff breeze that has characterised the winter so far…

Water that was almost mirror-calm was patterned with the concentric circles of diving Little Grebes, Goldeneye and Cormorants as a Grey Heron stood motionless, uncharacteristically obliging, and a Little Egret darted at small fish in the shallows before flying upstream, followed by noisy Oystercatchers, into what little breeze there was.

En route to our second site I thought it would be worth stopping to check for Little Owls, and one was sitting quietly sunning itself. If you’ve never seen one of these elfin sprites, here’s one of Sarah’s photographs from a few years ago 🙂

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The temperature was starting to drop and a breeze was becoming noticeable as we settled to scan over a pool and reedbeds. Suddenly the Lapwings all took flight, forming a tight wheeling flock tossed on the breeze as Mallards turned and stared at one area of reeds. After a couple of minutes the Lapwings were back down, as the discordant calls of Canada and Greylag Geese carried on the breeze and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Wigeon were all dabbling contentedly again. The calm didn’t last long though and the Lapwings were soon scattering in panic again. The third time they flushed the Mallards were once again looking at the same reedbed, this time with three Little Grebes joining with the intense study of a very localised area. Everything we’d look for when searching for Otters was happening right in front of us…the only thing missing was an appearance by our quarry itself. Here’s an Otter from January 2015, sporting a very fetching boa of seaweed 🙂

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Lovely clients, lots of photography discussion, great weather and I brought home an owl pellet to dissect 🙂

and ‘Vital signs’ as a blog title? It’s a track on Rush’s album Moving Pictures and our tribute to Neil Peart who sadly passed away last week.

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Halcyon days; Otter Safari 19/12/19

by on Dec.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

After a couple of weeks where we didn’t have any scheduled trips it was a nice change of scenery to have a day out around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and I collected Kev from Woodhorn as the rain started to fall…

Mid-morning produced a trio of great birds. A 1st winter Glaucous Gull had just settled back into a roost when Kev spotted a Kingfisher perched in front of us as a stunning drake Pintail up-ended just beyond it. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe all scattered in panic as a young male Marsh Harrier drifted over the pool and along the reeds where Water Rails were squealing.

Our picnic spot produced a Fulmar arcing over the sea in sight of cliff-edge nest sites and Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone and Oystercatcher all flew from rocks and along the shore.

The afternoon brought more Goldeneye and Little Grebe, another Kingfisher in the deepening gloom of dusk, noisy flocks of Pink-footed, Greylag and Canada Geese and a remarkable flock of possibly as many as 50 Greenfinches as Cormorants perched menacingly on fallen trees and Grey Herons stalked through the shallows.

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Waxing and Murmuring; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Colin and Charlotte for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, but sadly not Tony who’d had a fall earlier in the week and wasn’t able to be on the trip with us…

On calm water Little Grebes were constantly diving as a Kingfisher flew by and settled in a bush overhanging the river and a flock of Goldeneye were a reminder that we’re really into the realm of wintering birds now. A mixed flock of Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest also contained a nice surprise in the form of a Treecreeper. We were in the right area for Waxwings too, with sightings in a few places nearby over the last few days. No sign of the Bohemian beauties but we bumped into Hector who was also searching for them. We headed to our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea and had just stopped the car when Hector ‘phoned. The answer to the question “Would you like your lunch, or to see some Waxwings first”? was answered with a resounding “Waxwings!” from Colin and Charlotte and a few minutes later we were watching 13 of them beside a main road in Ashington 🙂

After lunch we found ourselves watching a mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew and Common Snipe as skeins of Pink-footed Geese yapped overhead. With the Sun dipping towards the horizon, although it doesn’t really get that high above it at this time of year, Roe Deer were exploring rushy fields and poolside reedbeds, the trumpeting calls of a family of Whooper Swans heralded their arrival at a nighttime roost site and then there were the Starlings. Thousands and thousands, swirling in front of us, funneling down into the reeds, panicking as a Sparrowhawk flew by, keeping up a constant chatter like a myriad of leaves rusting in the breeze and then, as the light faded towards unmanageable, streaming out of the reeds in wave after wave of black towards an alternative roost.

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Murmuration; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 21/10/19

by on Oct.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Late October and big flocks of stuff are starting to feature more and more prominently…

I collected Caroline, Ian and Ted from Embleton and we headed down the coast towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Little Grebes were diving in calm water as Cormorants sat on long dead branches and a Kingfisher raced past as Little Egrets and Grey Herons demonstrated very different approaches to hunting; debonair darting and dashing and steady, stealthy menace.

A Common Buzzard was perched on a fence as flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye and Gadwall drifted quietly on the water and Lapwings flushed in alarm as Curlews left a nearby field, their eerie cries cutting through the cool air.

As dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rails emanated from the reedbeds a Starling murmuration grew into a swirling cloud against the darkening sky. Twisting one way then another and then splitting, rejoining and tightening as a Marsh Harrier chanced it’s luck in a desparate attempt to grab a bird from the writhing amorphous mass while high overhead the high yapping calls of skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese continued as daylight faded to black and we made our way back north.

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Fishing; Otter Safari 22/09/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Ulf and Alison, Ian and Lainey and Leigh and Paul from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

Little Egrets were darting at small fish in the shallows as Mute Swans and Canada Geese got out of the way of two paddle-boarders who were making their Sunday afternoon leisure activity look like awfully hard work 😉 A Kingfisher flew by and settled briefly on a tangle of fallen branches before plunging into the river and reemerging and vanishing into denser vegetation on the river bank. A second Kingfisher perched on a post in front of us, Snipe, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing were roosting on exposed mud, a Harbour Porpoise was feeding just offshore as we had our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea and as dusk closed in quickly a Marsh Harrier flushed roosting Starlings from a reedbed, a murmuration developed, a Water Rail darted across the gap between reedbeds and the high yapping calls of Pink-footed Geese coming to roost continued beyond the point where it was too dark to see them against the steely grey sky.

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Mystery; Otter Safari 05/09/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I’ve neglected the blog over the last month so here come a series of short posts to get us back up to date…

Sometimes we see things that our clients can’t believe, sometimes we see things that we can’t believe and sometimes, we see things that we can’t find any explanation for…

At the end of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, Paul had just spotted our third Marsh Harrier of the trip. This one was different though, as it was wing-tagged. I’ve never seen a wing-tagged Marsh Harrier so I was immediately wondering who’s tagging them and where. An orange tag on each wing was all we could see so I searched the colour scheme website the next day…and discovered that no tagging scheme is using orange tags on both wings of Marsh Harriers.. More enquiries over the last few weeks, and it’s still a mystery…

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Quick start; Otter Safari 20/08/19

by on Aug.23, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Jo from Newbiggin for her 2nd day out with NEWT and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters

As we set off I decided to change the order that we’d visit our usual sites…and it paid off almost immediately with an Otter cub feeding mid-river as Little Grebes watched it warily as Cormorants dried their wings nearby 🙂 Pochards, Shovelers, Mallards, Teal and Moorhen all got out of the way as a Grey Heron flew in and throughout the trip Sparrowhawks flushed birds that were quietly roosting. After having our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea, with Fulmars gliding along the cliff faces and Gannets offshore we collected Yvonne, Fiona and Liz who were joining us for the second half of the trip.

In the evening sunlight Lapwings, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Redshanks, Dunlins and Turnstones were roosting, Brown Hares were half-heartedly chasing each other in the field margins, a Little Egret flew high away to the north, a Marsh Harrier caused panic as it flew low over the marsh before dropping into the rushes, Water Rails squealed from reedbeds, a dense flock of Swallows and Sand Martins headed to roost as Canada and Greylag Geese departed noisily and, as the light faded to unmanageable, Jupiter and Saturn were both observed through the ‘scope 🙂

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