Tag: Bird watching holiday Northumberland

Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 3: 09/07/2011

by on Jul.13, 2011, under Birdwatching, Coquet Island, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

On Saturday morning our destination was Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and another poor weather forecast ( a bit of a running theme during the holiday…) suggested that we may well get wet.  An addition to the mammal list for the trip raced across the road ahead of us; a Stoat – an endearing predator and one of NEWT’s favourite animals.

We arrived in Amble for our sailing around Coquet Island with Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises; as Dave manoeuvred the excellent Steadfast into the harbour, the rain arrived from the northeast.  The sailing around the island produced excellent views of Roseate Terns, as well as Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.  As we sailed in a wide arc from the island to begin the journey back to the harbour an Arctic Skua was harassing terns away to the north.  Four more Arctic Skuas were followed by a real seawatching prize as a Pomarine Skua lumbered menacingly by before settling on the sea.    Our final Arctic Skua flew over the harbour just before we docked and I suggested that the Country Barn Coffee Shop at Widdrington would be the best destination once we were back on dry land.

Refreshed, dried and ready to go we visited the NWT reserve of East Chevington.  The tern roost allowed close comparison of Common and Arctic Terns, but the bird described by one participant as ‘bird of the holiday’ was a superb male Marsh Harrier.  A juvenile harrier appeared briefly over the reedbed as well, but the male perched for several minutes on a fence post.  Just after we reached Druridge Pools, the heavens opened, lightning flashed, thunder rolled and 2 Wood Sandpipers bobbed along the edge of the main pool.  A trip to Cresswell, and the most northerly breeding Avocets in England, followed and we all enjoyed  views of a very obliging Brown Hare, Little Gulls and both Little and Great Crested Grebes.  Another excellent evening meal and entertaining conversation (including David’s comment about Captain Birdseye in a cape..a reference to my appearance during the Coquet Island trip), concluded our final night in Seahouses.

As I put my coffee cup and glass of orange juice on the table at breakfast on Sunday morning I looked out over the harbour and the words “it’s a glorious morning” were quickly followed by “and there’s a Spoonbill!”.  Everyone rushed to the window to watch, as Northumberland delivered a fantastic finale to the holiday; poor weather forecasts, some stunning downpours, big seas, beautiful weather, iconic landscapes, excellent birdwatching…all in four days!

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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…

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Bird Watching Magazine Reader Holiday Day 1: 07/07/2011

by on Jul.11, 2011, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland

I met with Geoff and Jenny, Roy and Lorraine & David and Linda on the Wednesday evening in the bar of the Bamburgh Castle Inn and, after introductions and drinks, we went upstairs to the conservatory for dinner.  A steady stream of Gannets was heading north and I outlined the plan for the coming days; modified in light of the weather forecast!

An 06:30 start on Thursday morning appealed to three of the group, so we set off to walk around Seahouses Harbour and along to the golf course.  Lorraine had dreamt the night before that we found a Bluethroat.  Not just any Bluethroat though; a Fork-tailed Bluethroat (something that doesn’t exist…although we spent the rest of the holiday looking for one!).  The heavy swell and breaking waves gave the sea an imposing look, and the strong, cold southeasterly wind and dark clouds all around added to the atmosphere.  With high tide approaching, wading birds were concentrated onto just a few exposed rocks; among the Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Curlews were a single Ringed Plover and 5 summer-plumaged Knot, their peachy-orange underparts showing why, in some parts of the world, they’re known as Red Knot.  A Whimbrel flew by and Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Rock Pipits and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler were all added to the day list and we headed back to the inn, and breakfast.  No less than 6 Rock Pipits were outside the window during breakfast and an all too brief probable Hummingbird Hawkmoth whizzed by.

The main question was whether our all-day birdwatching trip to the Farne Islands with Glad Tidings would go ahead; the weather forecast wasn’t promising, and the sea looked foreboding.  I was optimistic though – by our planned departure time the tide would be ebbing and should take off some of the swell.  Sure enough, we boarded Glad Tidings III just after 10am and headed towards the islands.  Gannets soared majestically above the swell, Puffins raced by on whirring wings and our passage wader list grew with the addition of Grey Plover and Purple SandpiperGrey Seals bobbed around, watching as we passed by on our way to Staple Island.  Enjoyment of the breeding auks, Shags, Kittwakes and Oystercatchers was enhanced by the wild feeling of the islands, as waves smashed into the cliffs and fountained high above the birds.  Transferring to Inner Farne at 1pm, we were the first group onto the island for the day.  The Arctic Terns gave us their usual warm welcome and we spent the afternoon enjoying the fascinating bird behaviour that can be witnessed at close range.  The group were keen to fix the separation criteria for Common and Arctic Terns firmly in mind, so we spent some time looking carefully at lots of birds and considering individual variation.  We spent a lot of time watching Puffins as well; not an identification problem, but endearing and fascinating!  With mobs of Black-headed Gulls waiting to rob the adult Puffins as they return with beaks filled with Sand eels, the Puffins have quickly developed strategies to deal with this; circling back out over the sea until the gulls have moved away from your burrow is an obvious one, but the one that is most fascinating involves a Puffin running into another  bird’s burrow, waiting until the gulls have moved and then running to another burrow – sometimes visiting as many as 5 or 6 sanctuaries before reaching their own chick.  In an increasingly heavy swell, the journey back to the mainland was quite an experience.

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