Tag: Badger

A real challenge

by on Jul.02, 2010, under Birdwatching, Natural History, Northumberland

In the 17 years that I’ve lived here, I’ve always believed that Northumberland is one of the finest counties for birdwatching in the whole of the UK.  That belief played a big part in reaching the decision to launch NEWT, and it’s why we’re such an enthusiastic member of the Birdwatching Northumberland Consortium.  We’ll be at the Bird Fair in August (Marquee 1, Stand 53/54) so come along to meet us and find out just how good Northumberland is.

This morning, though, my attention is on mammals.  We don’t do too badly for them either; Badger, Red Fox, Grey Seal, Red Squirrel, Roe Deer, Weasel, Stoat and Brown Hare all feature regularly on our safaris and, on our Northern Experience Pelagics, there’s the possibility of Minke Whale, White-beaked Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and other cetaceans.  We’ve had some random sightings as well; a Bank Vole that sat munching on a leaf just a few feet away from us and a Mole that walked into a hide we were sitting in were both bizarre (especially the Mole; I hadn’t seen a live one for a long, long time).

With the exciting news earlier this week of the first confirmed evidence in 16 years of Pine Marten in Northumberland, we’ve got a new challenge 🙂  We’ve spent some time in the last couple of years checking likely sites and following up reports that we’ve received.  Some of those have been very tantalising, and the species may be more widespread than people imagine.  Otters and Badgers are fairly difficult, but we’ve developed an excellent track record with those two species.  Pine Marten is going to be an altogether different proposition, but we relish a challenge.

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Thursday (part 2); birdwatching and badgers

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After collecting Gill and Richard from Bamburgh, mid-afternoon Thursday, we had another southeast Northumberland safari.  This one was scheduled to finish at dusk, “a 50-year quest to see a live Badger”.  No pressure there then 🙂  As so often, with late finishes, the final hour was simply magical.  We’d made our way to the hillside opposite a Badger sett that we’ve been watching for a few weeks.  Within a minute of settling into our watching position the tables were turned and we found ourselves under the baleful glare of a Tawny Owl.  Still in good daylight, our first Badger of the evening walked across the hillside opposite.  Over the next 40 mins we had 7 sightings of at least 5 BadgersPipistrelles flicked back and forward across our field of view, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Mistle Thrushes were all alarming from the trees around our watchpoint and we enjoyed all of this with the Badgers carrying on with their dusk perambulations around the woods, safe and undisturbed by anything we were doing.

After returning Gill and Richard to Bamburgh, through what seemed to be a blizzard of moths, it was time to head home.  3 Barn Owls between Bamburgh and Seahouses were an excellent start to the journey and, near Rennington, I had to stop and wait as a Red Fox cub walked across the road in front of the Land Rover.  Back home it was time to sleep, ahead of Friday’s Otter Safari.

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On the trail of the otter…and then some

by on Jun.13, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

Yesterday was the first of several forthcoming days where we’re running multiple trips on the same day, and with 6 clients during the day, and 2 of them joining us for an evening safari as well, it was a day that could go really well, or not…

The primary target species for everyone was our old favourite, Otters. We started with a spot of birdwatching, and excellent views of the Little Owl that we should probably be adding to the NEWT payroll 😉  Our first Otter site didn’t produce the goods, although 2 Brown Hares chasing each other around a nearby field provided good entertainment.  Once we’d been there as long as I’d decided in advance of the trip, I had a hunch that another site, that has disappointed for several months now, might just produce the goods.  As we arrived I pointed out the location of a holt and suggested that the area around that was a good place to check.  Within a minute, Anthea had found 2 Otters, and we watched them for 75 mins as they fed, played, paddled along the surface, dodged in and out of the reeds and eventually vanished, probably to have an afternoon nap after their marathon feeding session.  A bit more birdwatching further up the coast produced excellent views of Common and Sandwich Terns and then it was time to return Liz & James and Kate & Take (pronounced Tarka – the most appropriate name for any participant in a NEWT trip so far) to their respective holiday locations and start the second trip of the day with Andy and Anthea.

Anthea is an Australian with a fascination for British wildlife and the day out was part of a target list that she has for a 3 month trip around Britain and Europe.  Red Squirrel was next on the list and patience and persistence paid off as we settled ourselves close to a feeding area and eventually had excellent views of at least 3 squirrels, and some very close Jays, Great Spotted Woodpeckers  and a Nuthatch.

With such a long day, sustenance came in the form of a meal at The Swan before we were on our way again.  Myriads of Rabbits were along the roads and we made our way along the heavily wooded valley of a small stream and got into position opposite a Badger sett.  A Red Fox walked along the hillside before vanishing into the undergrowth and causing consternation in all of the birds that were settling to roost.  It re-appeared just up the track from where were sitting and ran up the hill behind us, then a 2nd Fox crossed the hillside.  Soon we were treated to the sight of not one, not two, but three Badgers crossing a clearing.  As the light levels in the wood dropped to unmanageable we relocated to a feeding area that’s popular with Badgers and Foxes where we watched another Fox as it stalked along an edge, apparently invisible to the Rabbits that were sitting on the grass.  As we walked back to the Land Rover we added mammals #7 and #8 to the day list; Common Pipistrelle and Daubenton’s Bat.  A long day, but a really, really excellent one 🙂

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Badger watching people birdwatching

by on Jun.04, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland, Wildlife

Yesterday’s Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland trip was focussed on coastal birdwatching and, particularly, mammals.  We’re moving more and more towards early starts and/or late finishes on our Safaris; some of our clients like the 9-5 sort of day out which slots easily into their daily routine whereas others are more adventurous and a mid-afternoon start means that we’re still out at what is, in my opinion, the best time of the day…

It’s near to dusk and we’re sitting on a hillside in a shaded wood.  Opposite us is an area of open ground that will, I hope, provide a longed-for lifer for my clients.  Pipistrelles are racing backwards and forwards around our heads and everyone is following their pre-trip instructions to the letter; no movement, no sound, make sure there’s something behind you to break up your silhouette.

We’ve already had an excellent afternoon in the stunning weather;  a Little Owl sat and watched us without any concern – perhaps it recognises our Land Rover after a few visits, and realises that we aren’t a threat?  A Barn Owl flew close by, taking prey back to the nest and a Reed Bunting sang from a reedbed just a few meters away, it’s simple song drowned out by the extraordinary performance of a Sedge Warbler.  Now though, we’re approaching the culmination of the trip and there’s a strong sense of anticipation.  A movement on the hillside opposite, and there’s our first Badger of the evening 🙂  Trotting along a track near the top of the hill, we get just a few seconds as it’s clearly on a mission.  Everyone sits still and silent; discipline indeed after the appearance of the day’s main target.  A Red Fox came down off the hillside then walked past us and up the bank we were sitting against, as unconcerned as the Little Owl by our presence.  Patience pays off a few minutes later when two young Badgers appear low down on the hillside.  After a few minutes of playing around behind a tree trunk, and only being visible briefly, one of them comes out into the open; snuffling and foraging it’s way across the clearing, these are the views of wildlife that make what we do so much fun.  A brief pause, and it turned to face us, lifting it’s head high.  Have we been spotted?  A lot of succesful wildlife encounters depend on not being seen, or at least not appearing to be a threat.  As it returns to happily foraging on the hillside I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we’d got it right, and once it had vanished into the undergrowth we retreat silently from our watchpoint, treading carefully; after all, we’ve managed to watch these iconic animals without disturbing them, it would be a real shame to cause them distress as we leave.

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2 out of 3

by on Jun.02, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Otter, Red Squirrel, Southeast Northumberland

As the damp, dreary weather of yesterday was giving way to brighter conditions I found myself heading up the coast to collect clients from Craster.  Our targets for the evening were Red Squirrel, Otter and Badger; in that order of priority, so an evening safari in Southeast Northumberland had been planned to try and encompass all three species.  A walk along the River Blyth produced what could well be a ‘must see’ for natural history enthusiasts over the coming years.  Scampering along branches and leaping through the canopy, our first target entertained as it made it’s way through the trees – causing agitation in two Great Spotted Woodpeckers which had been feeding quietly before the squirrel’s appearance.  A Jay allowed us an unusually close approach before it vanished into the trees and Dippers were zipping back and forth along the river as we returned to the Land Rover, and we set out to search for Otters.  It wasn’t to be, although some compensation came in the shape of a Barn Owl, drifting along the dunes and then catching a vole before revealing the location of it’s nest by taking the food back to the waiting mouths.  That’s the great thing about running birdwatching and wildlife tours; it may be unpredictable, but there’s always something to enjoy and appreciate.

With heavy drizzle hampering visibility, we made our way to a site where Badgers would hopefully be out and about.  Sure enough, James spotted one as soon as we arrived, and a second movement on the hillside was probably another one, although it slipped out of sight in the undergrowth soon after being spotted.

Finding 2 out of 3 elusive mammals that we were looking for was a good success rate and, with some new sites for Otters  that we’ve been monitoring, our bespoke ‘multi-mammal’ trips are sure to prove popular this summer.

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Setting the scene

by on May.31, 2010, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

Sunday started with a journey to inland Northumberland, birdwatching on some heather moorland in order to complete our final 2 ‘early season’ visits for the BTO Bird Atlas.  Contrary to the forecast weather, it was cold, windy and drizzly.  However, we set off and were eventually rewarded with a dramatic improvement as the sun came out and so did the birds.  Alongside all of the Willow Warblers, Chaffinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits the highlights were at least 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a stunning male Whinchat.  A pair of Curlew began alarming as we crossed the moorland, constantly changing position to draw us away from their nest location.

After a walk of just over 5 miles we headed home and decided that we would venture out towards dusk in search of badgers.  We’ve got an Otter and Badger trip on Thursday so we needed to check on the current status of a couple of setts that we’ve been watching for some time.  As we settled into position, with what appeared to be a horde of bats flying around, Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes were alarming (as they often do late in the day).  Soon, movement on the hillside opposite revealed our first badger of the evening.  Very grey, with cream stripes, it came out of a sett, squatted on a patch of bare earth and then vanished into the undergrowth.  A second animal quickly followed, much more gingery than the first, and then a third, starkly black and white.  It really is a privilege to sit and watch these magnificent animals as they go about their business (no pun intended).

After such a successful evening, getting a ‘phone call earlier today “can you take us out to look for Red Squirrels, Otters and Badgers tomorrow please” was exactly what we wanted.  Once upon a time I wouldn’t have been happy working on a Bank Holiday weekend, now it’s an enjoyable part of my career choice.  Just over 2 years in, and I don’t regret even a tiny part of that decision.

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