Holy Island

Raptors, raptors everywhere

by on Feb.02, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Standing on the Heugh on Holy Island with Jill and Steve, we’re all scanning towards Guile Point.  Cormorants, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and Eider are all bobbing about on the water, Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Curlew and Oystercatchers are flying by, Common and Grey Seals are splashing in the surf as the tide falls…and I’m focused on the sea with one species in mind.  Then 2 distant white dots, gradually narrowing the gap toward us, and I know I’ve achieved that primary target.  Soon, I’ve got 2 very happy clients watching an immaculate drake Long-tailed Duck.  Outrageously attractive, he waved that eponymous tail in the air before taking off and vanishing out of sight around the headland.

At the other end of the day we watched a flock of 20 Slavonian Grebes and a similar number of Common Scoter, another 6 Long-tailed Ducks, an elusive Black-throated Diver and 3 equally elusive Red-throated Divers and 2 Harbour Porpoises as the light faded to the point where even the impressive assembly of optical equipment wasn’t offering an advantage any more.

Sandwiched in between though, was a veritable feast of raptors;  we’d already had a couple of Common Buzzards (and I’d had 2 on the drive to Hauxley before collecting Jill and Steve), 2 Sparrowhawks and several Kestrels by lunchtime, but the best was yet to come.  First a Merlin perched on a post in front of us for 10 minutes, then we found 2 Peregrines sitting on boulders at low tide.  Soon a wave of panic spread through the assembled waders, and the Barnacle, Greylag, Pink-footed and White-fronted Geese, as the 2 Peregrines swooped back and forth.  Then, our second Merlin of the day began harrassing one of the Peregrines. As chaos raged across the mudflats, one of the Peregrines made a kill; an unfortunate Redshank.  It took it’s prize to a rock and began plucking it…and 2 more Peregrines arrived!  All 3 tussled over the spoils of the hunt, before 2 of them conceded and sat a little distance away.  A dry, cold wintry day and spectacular drama played out by some excellent wildlife.  The Northumberland coast in the winter – there’s nothing better 🙂

Comments Off on Raptors, raptors everywhere :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Here for the weather?

by on Jan.30, 2012, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Just as I arrived at Harkess Rocks to collect Andy and Helen for an afternoon of birdwatching around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast, the first drops of sleety rain began splattering on the windscreen.  We haven’t really had any sort of winter yet, apart from an hour of snow on December 16th, but yesterday afternoon did feel positively chilly.  Undaunted by the easterly wind and icy showers we enjoyed the wader and wildfowl spectacle that is the Northumberland coast in the winter.  Curlews  singing as they flew by must have a joie de vivre that lets them vent that emotional haunting call wherever they may be.  Other wading birds entertained as they probed, prodded and buried their bills face-deep in the mud; Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were all making the most of the exposed mud at low tide.  A big flock of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows and Reed Buntings held our attention for a good while and wildfowl were well represented with Shelduck, Eider, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goosander and Pintail.  As we watched a very obliging Dark-bellied Brent Goose, it was a sobering thought that our wintering birds are generally here because conditions in the areas where they breed are too harsh at this time of the year.  Mammals were braving the cold too; 7 Roe Deer, a Brown Hare and 5 Common Seals made a not too shabby mammal list for the afternoon.

I often reflect on my decision to return to Northumberland from Arizona, and as we watched that lone Brent Goose, with the biting wind driving waves of showery rain, were my thoughts of the warmth and sunshine of Tucson?  No, what I was thinking was that this is the weather I came home for…and the reason that good outdoor clothing is a necessity 😉

Comments Off on Here for the weather? :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Rough…

by on Oct.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

The last 2 days were spent running 2 Prestige Tours for Peter and Alison, and the Northumberland coast delivered plenty of birdwatching gems.

On Wednesday we were covering Holy Island and the Northumberland coast, and planned to spend the morning on Holy Island and then come off at lunchtime just before the tide covered the causeway (remember – the crossing times are published for a reason, don’t drive into the North Sea, it won’t end well!).  A thorough check around the village, and the Heugh, produced 2 Black Redstarts, Blackcaps, lots of Blackbirds, Fieldfares, Redwings and an intriguing Chiffchaff (almost sandy brown above, very unlike our breeding birds).  Grey Seals and Pale-bellied Brent Geese were out on the mud, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal were roosting on the Rocket Field and a Woodcock was flying circuits of the village.  As well as an almost continuous wave of thrushes leaving the island, the distinctive flight calls of Skylarks and Lesser Redpolls could be picked out.

Once we were off the island, I’d decided to head north to Goswick.  Another Black Redstart and a Yellow-browed Warbler were around Coastgurad Cottage, and we made our way through the dunes.  The adult drake Black Scoter was still present, although less than easy to see with a line of rolling surf impeding the view.  As the tide rose, flocks of Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover rose from the exposed sandbar, shuffling along to the next ‘dry’ spot.  A Short-eared Owl was seen coming in-off, harrassed by Herring Gulls before finally finding sanctuary on the Snook, and then the bird of the day (well, I think so anyway) appeared just behind us.  Tracking south along the coast a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard was given a bit of a going over by the local corvids.

Heading back towards Seahouses we stopped off at Harkess Rocks,  where Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones, Redshank and Oystercatchers were all flitting from rock to rock and Eider were bobbing about just offshore as daylight faded and it was time to return Peter and Alison to their holiday accommodation.

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Arrivals

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

The autumn regularly produces excellent birdwatching experiences, and our Friday afternoon Lindisfarne mini-safari was no exception.

I collected Pat and Ian from Glororum and we headed north towards Holy Island.  With the tide falling, the newly exposed mud provided a veritable banquet for the massed waders and wildfowl.  As far as the eye could see the shoreline was lined with Pale-bellied and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Barnacle Geese were arriving and the mud was a hive of activity with Wigeon, Teal, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Redshanks, Oystercatchers, Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover all tucking in.  2 Carrion Crows were administering a warm welcome to a Peregrine, and a Little Egret flew in, landing beside another egret that was stalking around the edges of a pool on the mudflats.  As the afternoon wore on, we relocated to Bamburgh, and the rocks there produced excellent views of the waders we’d seen earlier as well as a few Purple Sandpipers.

Then came one of those real experience moments.  Despite the strong offshore winds 3 Fieldfares were battling against the headwind, low over the waves.  They crossed the beach, flew by us and as they dropped towards the shelter of the coastal fields they were intercepted by 2 Sparrowhawks.  The final act of the encounter happened out of sight, but you can’t help thinking that it was a cruel end to a herculean effort.

Comments Off on Arrivals :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Stranded

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

I love Holy Island, but it can be a bit crowded sometimes…

I collected Mike and Maggie from St Cuthbert’s House on Tuesday morning and we began birdwatching our way north.  In the shadow of Bamburgh Castle we watched Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Eider and Gannets in a bitingly cold northwesterly wind.  We crossed onto Holy Island just before the rising tide covered the causeway…and found that the car park was empty!  For the next 5 hours we practically had the island to ourselves, and enjoyed swirling flocks of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatchers, Shags, Gannets plunge-diving, Red-breasted Mergansers,  Grey Seals, Fieldfares, Redwings, Curlew, Teal, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Kestrels, Peregrine and then, as the tide began to recede, flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Pale-bellied Brent Geese took to the air, heading for the newly exposed mud and the feast it brings.

Deliberately stranding yourself on Holy Island always carries risks as a birdwatcher; what if something really good turns up on the mainland? As an experience with clients though, particularly when one of them is a very keen wildlife and landscape photographer, it really is something special.

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

A matter of timing

by on Aug.31, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Being in the right place at the right time is so critical to everything we do; if we’re searching for Otters we need to be there when they rise from their slumber and become active, if Badgers are the target for the trip then arriving the correct length of time before sunset is important, and if we’re visiting Holy Island then timing is a real key to success.

I set off up the A1 with Jo on board, and collected Paul from Bamburgh.  The plan for the day was a simple one; spend a few hours birdwatching on Holy Island, then leave as the tide was rising and check sites down the coast towards Bamburgh.  From the top of the Heugh, we scanned across the sandflats whilst listening to the ghostly moaning of a group of Grey Seals.  An Arctic Skua was harassing the roosting terns and gulls, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits were probing along the water’s edge, Grey Plover, many of them still in their incredibly beautiful breeding plumage, seemed to be everywhere that we looked and a Kestrel chased a Peregrine through the dunes around Snook House.  Back on the mainland we found a Whimbrel in a group of Curlew, our second Peregrine of the day beat a menacing path along the shoreline and there was a real surprise in the shape of 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.  Budle Bay produced a Little Egret, a flock of 150+ Grey Plover and a distant feeding frenzy of Gannets that could be seen above the breaking surf.  Finally, as the tide begin to crash against the dunes in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we watched as a flock of Knot, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Sanderling and Dunlin braved the onrushing waves for longer than the human visitors to the beach 🙂

Comments Off on A matter of timing :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Crossing the causeway

by on Aug.26, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Holy Island, Northumberland

In what appeared to be worsening weather, I drove north to Bamburgh to collect Lyndsey and Petter for their Lindisfarne Safari…and then things improved dramatically, with warm sunshine tempered by a cool southerly breeze 🙂  We started in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, with Common Eider on the water, Turnstones on the rocks and Sandwich Terns and Gannets fishing just offshore.  A stop at Budle Bay revealed a Greenshank amongst the masses of roosting Redshank and we continued to Holy Island itself.  Waders continued to be the theme of the afternoon, with Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and Lapwing all either roosting or feeding on the mudflats close by and Whimbrel calling as they passed through.  As the tide fell, Grey Seals could be seen hauling themselves out of the water, ‘bottling’ in the afternoon warmth, swimming along with a remarkable turn of pace for such big animals, and splashing around like kids in a paddling pool.

Late August, sunny weather, masses of visitors on Holy Island…and the wildlife is still as good as ever 🙂

Comments Off on Crossing the causeway :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Dodging the showers

by on Aug.12, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Things weren’t looking too promising as I headed up the A697 to collect Ian and Barbara from their holiday accommodation at The Coach House; rain, mist and fog were all conspiring to reduce visibility.  Once we were on our way towards Holy Island things improved though, and our walk on the island was in reasonable weather.  Plenty of Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits were along the water’s edge and little parties of Guillemot and Red-breasted Merganser were spotted on the relatively calm sea.  Back on the mainland, things took a turn for the worse and the rain hammered down, making the mudflats seem to be boiling.  The numbers of Curlew grew and grew, all demonstrating just how vigorous their feeding technique is.  As everything began to disappear into the rain, the eerie calls of Grey Seals came echoing across the mud.  Eider, Common Scoter, Puffin, Shag, Cormorant, Guillemot and Razorbill  were all on the sea in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, Turnstones were doing just what their name suggests, 2 Little Egrets were in Budle Bay and 3 Common Buzzards were soaring around as the sun finally began to beat down on the northern edge of the Cheviots as we returned to Crookham at the end of a day of changeable weather, and good birdwatching.

Comments Off on Dodging the showers :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Seabird Spectacular

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Our Seabird Spectacular package holiday managed to coincide with some increasingly heavy seas and strong northerly winds.  Getting on a boat would have been somewhat inadvisable , but we still managed to get good views of all the target species for the holiday, including Roseate Tern, Little Tern and Puffin. Perhaps we should have renamed the holiday Mammal Magic as Noctule, Pipistrelle, Red Fox, Rabbit, Grey Seal, Weasel, Stoat,  and Otter were all seen during the 2 days 🙂  With excellent accommodation and food at The Swan throughout the holiday, it was a great way to spend a weekend in late July.  We’ll be running Seabird Spectacular again in 2012 (11th-14th June) so give us a call now on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

Comments Off on Seabird Spectacular :, , , , , , , , , more...

Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 2: 08/07/2011

by on Jul.12, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

Friday morning dawned dry and bright; again not exactly as predicted by the weather forecast!  After breakfast we headed south to Newton by the Sea, and the tern colony at the Long Nanny estuary.  The walk through the dunes was enlivened by a myriad of Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Dark Green Fritillaries as well as 2 strikingly attractive moths; Cinnabar and Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet, and Harebell, Pyramidal Orchid and Bloody Cranesbill.

After the tern colony, with its ~1000 pairs of Arctic Terns and 40 pairs of Little Terns we headed north through Seahouses and towards Holy Island.  As we passed Budle Bay, Geoff spotted a Little Egret, still a relatively scarce species up here, and we stopped for a while to search the mudflats.  As well as wading birds, we found 3 Goosander.   A further stop before Holy Island provided an ideal picnic spot and the theme of passage waders continued with Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, and Curlew.  A walk around the iconic location of Holy Island produced Grey Seals, Red-breasted Merganser and breathtaking views from The Heugh.  We were scanning the mudflats around the mouth of the South Low when a nearby Oystercatcher began calling in alarm.  The cause of that alarm appeared just a few seconds later and we watched the Peregrine Falcon as it raced low across the mud before perching obligingly.

Against the backdrop of another iconic location, Bamburgh Castle, we scanned the Eider flock just offshore.  A lone drake Common Scoter was proving difficult to pin down, but the arrival of a flock of 60 scoters allowed everyone to enjoy good views and appreciate the variation in the bill pattern of the drakes.  Just before returning to Seahouses, we stopped to scan Monk’s House Pool; a Pintail was picked out by Roy, and 2 Common Sandpipers were walking along the edge of the pond.  8 Golden Plover flew by and a male Stonechat perched close by on a fence post.

An after-dinner excursion produced 2 Brown Hares, a Roe Deer and her fawn in the gloom, and the first rain of the trip…

Comments Off on Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 2: 08/07/2011 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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...