Tag: Badger

Call of the wild

by on Sep.15, 2011, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Otter, Southeast Northumberland, Water Vole

Yesterday was the second of four Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland afternoon and evening trips this week, and I collected Natalie and Clive from Newton on the Moor just after lunch before heading south.

Starting with a short woodland walk, we enjoyed close views of those arboreal specialists Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker, but this time Red Squirrel eluded us.

At East Chevington, we were watching a roosting flock of Lapwing, Ruff and Curlew, and checking through the mass of assembled ducks, when a distant call caught my attention.  It was a minute or two before the birds appeared high in the sky to the north, but there they were; 29 Pink-footed Geese, the arrival that for me always heralds the end of the summer.

A flock of Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew at Cresswell contained a Little Stint, and a brief seawatch produced a small flock of Knot heading north.

A patient wait as the orange glow of the sunset illuminated the surface of a pond brought rewards as our attention was drawn to a scattering flock of Coot.  Just a few metres from the ripples left by the rapidly departing birds, the menacing shape of an Otter was twisting, turning and diving.  As it vanished in to the dark shadows of a reedbed, the final indication of it’s presence were the bright trails left by Mallards and Little Grebes as they made a frantic effort to be anywhere other than where the Otter was.  Even more exciting for me, was the completely unexpected appearance of a mammal that I haven’t seen since childhood, as the twilight was punctuated by a loud ‘plop’ and a Water Vole swam cross in front of us 🙂 Tawny Owls were calling and Common Pipistrelles flitted back and forth as the full moon, and cold wind, made the evening feel really autumnal.

I dropped Natalie and Clive back at Newton on the Moor, and decided to avoid the roadworks on the A1 on the route home and instead took the minor road from Shilbottle to Warkworth.  I was still delayed though, but by a young Badger that trotted along the middle of the road ahead of me for a quarter of a mile before wandering into the verge and watching as I passed by.  Expect the unexpected…

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4 out of 5

by on Aug.11, 2011, under Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland

A lot of enquiries that we receive are along the lines of “we’d like to see a…”.  Naturally, we do our best to oblige (and, far more often than not, successfully).

Paul and Louise had a list of 5; Grey Seal, Puffin, Badger, Otter  and Kingfisher.  The first 2 were straightforward; a trip around the Farne Islands on Glad Tidings V produced plenty of each.  We headed south towards Druridge Bay and enjoyed close views of a huge bull seal, as he hunted fish in the Coquet estuary.  Our one Otter sighting of the day came at the NWT reserve of East Chevington; a young kit feeding in the North pool.  With lots of terns, cormorants, geese and 3 Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard, there was plenty to see.  Kingfisher, however, eluded us.  They’ve been quite scarce this year, in fact, during 2011, I’ve seen more of each of the other 4 targets for this trip than I have Kingfishers.

As the sun headed down towards the horizon, our favourite Badger sett once again produced the goods as a Badger passed within a few metres of us, completely unconcerned, before vanishing up an adjacent hillside to continue foraging.

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An eventful evening

by on Jun.17, 2011, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Red Fox, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Thursday was my 3rd consecutive late finish.

Before setting off for a ‘Red Squirrel and Badger Safari’ I had a few admin things to get done including some more planning for the Birdwatching Northumberland stand at this year’s British Bird Fair (I’ve got 2 lecture slots at the Bird Fair this year!).

After collecting our picnic from The Swan, I headed to Church Point to collect Vince and Karin for their second safari day this week.  Some unexpected birdwatching highlights included a Little Tern and a Cuckoo.  A group of Tufted Ducks staring at a reedbed, and a clearly annoyed Mute Swan staring at the same reedbed and hissing, suggested that we were close to an Otter but in the blazing sunshine it stayed in the shade of the reeds and out of sight.

The first of the day’s targets was achieved with possibly the reddest Red Squirrel I’ve ever seen, simply stunning as it ran along the sun-dappled canopy, and then it was time to position ourselves close to our favourite Badger sett.  Would the badgers come close?  would they only appear when it was too dark to really appreciate what magnificent animals they are? all worries were eased when, in broad daylight, our first Badger of the evening came trotting along only 5m away, apparently oblivious to our presence.  Another 3 Badgers followed, as well as 3 Red Foxes, and Tawny Owls were calling from the trees around us.

Of all of our tours, our evening mammal trips perhaps have the greatest unpredictability and the most remarkable ‘atmosphere’ of them all.  It’s still my favourite time of the day 🙂

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Contrast and compare

by on Apr.19, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Choppington Woods, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

Sunday and Monday illustrated the range of things that NEWT do on a regular basis.

Sunday saw me leaving the office at 03:30 and driving to Alnwick.  Highlight of the drive was a Barn Owl, hunting alongside the A1 near Eshott.  After collecting Helen and Steve, two of our returning clients, we headed to Bamburgh, and a rendezvous with the sunrise.  Landscape photography tuition was first on the menu, followed by some macro photography around the rock pools at low tide.  All the while, the crowds were building further along the beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, enjoying views of the Black Scoter just offshore.  Once the sun was well above the horizon, and the shadows were getting too harsh, it was time to drive back to Alnwick.

A walk around Choppington Woods in the afternoon produced plenty of butterflies, Small White, Large White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma, and the unexpected patch tick of Hooded Crow.  We weren’t finished yet though, and  an evening excursion in southeast Northumberland produced excellent views of 2 of our favourites; Tawny Owl and Badger.

Yesterday morning, the day dawned overcast and calm; ideal for our latest Northeast Cetacean Project Transect Survey.  I met up with Maeve, Claire, Rachael and Steve at Royal Quays and we set out on just about the flattest sea I’ve ever seen.  Even 4 miles offshore it was glassy calm.  Cetacean sightings were down compared to the February/March surveys, with a pod of 4 Harbour Porpoises being the only sighting of the day.  Avian highlights were our first Manx Shearwater  and Pomarine Skua for the year, and lots of Puffins throughout the day.

Now it’s Tuesday morning and I’m getting ready for 9 tours with clients in the next 11 days.  Hopefully I’ll find time to blog…

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Getting ready

by on Mar.07, 2011, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

We just had an all too infrequent ocurrence; both of us at home and able to go out and about together for a whole weekend 🙂

On Saturday we decided to concentrate on our local area.  Southeast Northumberland offers some excellent wildlife and birdwatching opportunities and, with bookings for the rest of this year coming thick and fast, we’re checking over our Safari Day routes whenever we get the chance so that we hit the ground running once the season gets properly underway.

If our morning excursion is the shape of things to come then it’s going to be an excellent Spring 🙂  Little Owl, Roe Deer (including a handsome buck with velvet antlers, who watched us between the trees as we trained our binoculars on him), Red Squirrel, point-blank views of Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker and lots of fresh Otter spraint all combined into a memorable morning.

As dusk approached we were out and about again.  We monitor a few Badger setts regularly and the activity around the sett we checked on Saturday evening was exactly what we’d expect in early March.  Another successful outing 🙂

Yesterday we were doing something completely different (although birdwatching featured again, of course).  We set out for the southwestern border of Northumberland, and beyond, as we pre-walked the route that Martin will be leading for the North Pennines AONB ‘Know Your North Pennines’ course on Wednesday.  Journeying to Upper Teesdale gave us the chance to check out some of our favourite Black Grouse sites en route (you’ll be pleased to know that the species hasn’t vanished from Northern England!) and enjoy the sight of Lapwings displaying and flocks of Golden Plover  in the fields.  Our photography holiday in late October ‘Autumn Colours’ is based in the North Pennines and we finished the day with a visit to one of the area’s gems.

North Pennines,Photography Holidays,Northumberland,Photography Tuition

Low Force

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Stormy weather

by on Nov.12, 2010, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

November is generally a quiet month for NEWT; the half-term rush in late October has come and gone, thoughts are turning to Christmas…and the weather can be a bit suspect.  We had a Safari Day around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland at the end of last week that could have succumbed to the elements but, as it turned out, a combination of excellent birdwatching sites that could be watched from the Land Rover, clients with a real interest in natural history (and expertise in wildlife sound recording)and a badger-watching spot where the trees sheltered us from the rain, made it an enjoyable afternoon.  The flock of Waxwings in Ashington delighted yet again.  Who could fail to be impressed by them? After a spell of birdwatching that was then characterised by ‘lovely weather for ducks’ (Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Goosander, Goldeneye and Pochard were all seen), and some good flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank and Pink-footed Goose, we headed inland to the steep, wooded hillside that has produced some excellent views of Badgers on our Safaris in recent months.  Only one Badger came wandering along – perhaps the others that we’ve watched so often this year were indulging in that particularly human pastime of curling up somewhere nice and warm out of the wind and the rain.

Since then it’s been a busy week, mainly with planning and preparation for 2011 but also giving 2 presentations about the Northeast Cetacean Project.  The first was to a group of postgrad students and lecturers at Newcastle University and then last night, to the Northumberland & Tyneside Bird Club.  Both presentations produced some interesting questions, and some potentially excellent volunteers to assist with our ongoing survey work.

Now it’s Friday morning, the howling westerly winds are bringing waves of rain and then sunshine, there’s an intense rainbow visible from our office window and a flock of Redwings are being blown about like autumn leaves.  No matter what the weather throws at us, Northumberland is still a superb county for wildlife and birdwatching; you just need to know how to enjoy it 🙂

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In a dark wood

by on Nov.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

October ended with a Prestige Tour around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.  I collected Christine and Mark from Stannington and we headed across to the coast.  Flocks of Linnets. Lapwings and Grey Partridges were close to the road and we settled to check one of our regular Otter sites.  All of the assembled Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Coot were concentrated in one area of the pool and clearly nervous about one particular corner.  We weren’t fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of any predators, but the behaviour of the waterfowl was typical of the type of indication you get that there’s an Otter about.  Our lunch spot for the day was beside the River Coquet and, along with the Cormorants and Grey Herons that were patrolling the water’s edge, an Atlantic Salmon provided some spectacular entertainment as it launched itself vertically out of the water, three times in rapid succession, just a few metres away from us.

As we walked along the River Wansbeck after lunch, via a detour around the north edge of Ashington to enjoy the spectacle of 90+ Waxwings gorging themselves on Rowan berries, skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed overhead and, as the sun sank towards the horizon, it was time to seek out the wildlife that occupies that magical time of day.  As we settled into position near one of our favourite badger-watching spots there was an incredible commotion from the trees on the other side of the stream.  Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Wrens, Robins and Magpies were all alarming loudly.  The mobbing was too intense, and too stationary, to be the mild alarm that a Red Fox or Badger often triggers and shortly after one Tawny Owl flew through the trees opposite, a second bird finally got fed up with the mobbing and flew from it’s perch.  An unwelcome sighting was a Grey Squirrel, in a woodland that until recently still held Red Squirrels.  Our first Badger of the evening was a big adult, trotting across the top of the clearing.  Then, after a few minutes of near silence, two Badger cubs came crashing through the undergrowth.  They crossed the stream beneath a fallen tree, paused briefly rising on their haunches like stripy black-and-white meerkats, and then headed uphill behind us.  Our fourth Badger of the evening followed the same route before we headed back to the Landrover and civilisation.

I dropped Christine and Mark back at Stannington and there was time for one last piece of magic as a Barn Owl floated lazily from a fence post as I drove back towards the A1.

Throughout the late autumn and winter we’ll be scheduling most of our trips to finish in darkness.  Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne are both excellent locations through the winter, and as darkness descends, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out how we can bring that experience to you.

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To intervene in nature…or not?

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

We were watching Autumnwatch yesterday evening and one discussion between the presenters, concerning intervention when you’re filming/photographing an animal in distress, was particularly pertinent to the mini-safari that Martin led earlier yesterday evening…but back to that later in this post.

The half-term week was busy, as expected, and included some fantastic wildlife watching; Salmon leaping up a weir on the River Coquet, Starlings massing and swirling above a coastal reedbed before dropping to roost, 2000+ Pink-footed Geese filling the sky overhead, as they left their feeding sites and headed for the overnight safety of the water, and Grey Seals around the Farne Islands as they approach the height of their breeding season.

Yesterday brought an evening mini-safari in southeast Northumberland.  Damp gloomy conditions and increasingly glowering clouds weren’t making things look too promising.  Our walk along the River Blyth produced a Nuthatch, and a Kingfisher called as it flew along the swollen, muddy river.  Two birdwatching gems, but quality rather than quantity was the order of the evening.  A Sparrowhawk provided some entertainment as it swooped repeatedly down towards the trees, flushing flocks of Woodpigeon with each descent, before finally vanishing into the canopy.  We continued our walk and, as we rounded a bend in the path, we found the reason for the Sparrowhawk’s disappearance; flapping lamely in the undergrowth was a Woodpigeon with a nasty head wound.  The predator had presumably flushed as we approached.  We’ve seen similar before and the question from clients is always “what are we going to do?”.  The answer may seem quite cold and heartless but we do nothing.  The pigeon was mortally wounded and would provide a meal either for the hawk or possibly a Red Fox would come along and make off with it.  Nature really is ‘red in tooth and claw’ and we shouldn’t interfere in the everyday life (and death) of our wildlife where we can avoid doing so.

Our next destination was what is rapidly becoming our favourite Badger sett.  As we watched quietly (and we really have to congratulate the 6-year old in our group for remaining so very quiet) over the open area close to the sett, a Red Fox crossed the track ahead of us, we could hear scuffling in the undergrowth and then two stripy black-and-white faces appeared out of the gloom.  After a withering stare in our direction the two cubs trotted along the hillside and were joined by a third before vanishing into the night.  The final leg of the trip was a search for owls.  Local knowledge paid off, as the ghostly figure of a Barn Owl floated through the beam of our headlights just where we expected it to.  There was still time for more wildlife though and the application of our bat detector revealed a Common Pipistrelle feeding on the rich bounty of moths.  After the recent frosts it was good to find bats still active, and our final event for this October is a Bat Walk at Bamburgh Castle tomorrow evening.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place for what should be an evening of family fun.

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Whistle while you work

by on Aug.26, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday was one of what are rapidly becoming our favourite trips; afternoon/evening safaris.  I collected Claire and Stuart from their holiday cottage near Brinkburn Priory and we headed towards the coast.

Our regular Little Owl watched us imperiously, before turning tail and scuttling out of sight as a dog walker came along the track.  The coastal pools along Druridge Bay are hosting an ever increasing number of waders; Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank, Knot, Ruff, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper and Curlew were all roosting, a Spotted Redshank called but remained frustratingly out of sight behind a reedbed, and Greenshank and Whimbrel both responded to imitations of their calls.  Then, that most majestic of waders graced the air in front of us, although only briefly; a Black-tailed Godwit flew low over the roost, everything panicked, and a Peregrine carved through the flock before heading out over the sea and then away high to the north.  Little Grebes and Grey Herons were both well appreciated, then it was time to check some of southeast Northumberland’s finest mammal sites.

Red Squirrels always go down well with our clients, and the one we watched feeding was no exception.  A juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was equally obliging and we watched it for a while before moving on to our favourite site for Badger watching.  Probably the biggest Badger we’ve seen so far trotted across the hillside opposite us and a much smaller animal (maybe a young cub) made it’s way through the undergrowth just over the stream from our position.  As darkness approached we found ourselves on a hilltop with a Tawny Owl calling ‘ke-wick’ from the woodland below us.  After whistling at waders during the afternoon I imitated the quavering hoot of a male Tawny Owl and waited.  The bird called from closer.  I called again, and it came closer still.  Eventually it flew up into a bare tree, silhouetted against the final glow of daylight in the sky, only 20m away from us.  I switched to copying the bird’s ‘ke-wick’ call and it turned to face us directly, ready to challenge this impertinent intruder.  I remained silent, not provoking any further response, and the bird flew to a nearby tree, screeching defiantly as we made our way back down the hillside.  Common Pipistrelles and Daubenton’s Bats were picked up on the bat detector and seen as they flitted back and forth.  The final wildlife of the evening though was close to the cottage at Brinkburn, and was another piece of Northumberland magic; a doe Roe Deer and her fawn ran along the road in front of us.

As Autumn approaches evening safaris mean finishing at a quite amenable hour, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out how you can share in these memorable experiences with us.

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Variety Show

by on Aug.05, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday we had an afternoon/evening safari around southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay, an exciting prospect as these are producing some of our most memorable sightings.

Around lunchtime I started to receive calls about Bottlenose Dolphins, 5 past Newbiggin and 20-40 E of St Mary’s.  When I arrived at Church Point at 14:40, the dolphins had departed but a Harbour Porpoise was close inshore.  Once our clients had arrived we set off up the coast.  First stop produced a juvenile Little Owl, lazing in the afternoon sunshine.  A seawatching session revealed plenty of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, and Katie quickly spotted more Harbour Porpoises.  The rest of the afternoon’s birdwatching produced excellent views of Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Tern and some very entertaining Grey Herons.  Non-birdy interest included Small Copper and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, Blue-tailed Damselfly and a Common Frog.  I chose a picnic spot giving us a wide view over the increasingly calm sea, producing further sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a distant group of Bottlenose Dolphins and a Peregrine.

Then we were on our way to the evening’s final destination.  As we walked, quietly, through a heavily shaded steep wooded valley, I began to question myself; could we really be succesful with a group of 6 clients, when we were searching for an animal that is so easily disturbed?  A Red Fox crossed the path ahead of us, although everyone other than Alice was looking the other way.  I allowed everyone to settle into position on one side of the valley and we waited.  In what seemed like no time at all, a stripy black-and-white head appeared from the undergrowth on the opposite side of the stream and our first Badger of the evening came trotting along.  It paused briefly and then crossed the stream before vanishing up the hill behind us.  After 30 mins, and another 6 Badgers!, we headed back to the Landy.  With the bat detector switched on, we listened to, and had close views of, Common Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s Bat.  Family bookings are always interesting, but the enthusiasm and cheerfulness of Emma, Katie and Alice made it such an enjoyable day (not forgetting the three older members of the group of course).

We’ll be running afternoon/evening safaris throughout the year, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to arrange your own Northern Experience 🙂

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