Tag: Common Pipistrelle

The delights of dusk

by on Jun.09, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

There have been times, during the 3 and bit years of NEWT, when it’s almost seemed like working 9 to 5 (although with the difference that you never really know how any given day will turn out).  Gradually though we’re shifting to early starts or late finishes, and it’s really paying off for our clients.

I collected Mike and Sue from their accommodation at The Swan, ready for an Otter Safari around Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland.  Clients who were both teachers in the area of North Lincolnshire, where I spent my childhood, showed once again, just what a small world it is.  After a few hours birdwatching around some of our most reliable otter sites, and dodging the rain showers, the evening developed into a stunning sunset.  As a group of ducks scattered into an almost perfect semicircle I concentrated on the centre of that circle…and an Otter surfaced exactly where I was looking.  After just a minute or so, it vanished into a reedbed….and we waited.  Sure enough, a second example of synchronised scattering indicated where it had re-emerged from the reeds.  Then we were treated to 20 minutes of madness as the otter raced across the water, porpoising and breaching!  All of this was set against a backdrop of clouds of Swifts, hawking insects above the water, slowly morphing, as Swifts gradually departed and denizens of the night appeared, into a cloud of Noctule and Common Pipistrelle Bats.  Almost perfect…

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Those lazy, hazy days…of early spring

by on Apr.20, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

I’ve often said that what really makes our tours so enjoyable is our clients, and yesterday was no exception.

I collected Dave, Rachel, Emily and Thomas  from their holiday cottage in Bamburgh and we drove down the Northumberland coast.  The warm sunshine, and layer upon layer of birdsong, was more like late spring or early summer, and 8-year old Thomas was soon constantly attached to his camera viewfinder; a wildlife photographer of the future I think 🙂  Emily kept us all entertained with suggestions as to how native Northumbrians will evolve and why several common flowers should be renamed.

Our picnic spot, overlooking Druridge Bay, produced an interesting observation.  As we watched a roosting flock of Turnstones, Oyestercatchers and Purple Sandpipers I could see a raft of birds well offshore.  Closer inspection revealed nearly 100 tightly rafted Pink-footed Geese.  Perhaps the mystery of where they roost when we can’t find them at their usual winter haunts is close to being solved?  It’s going to make our winter roost counts for the IGC a bit difficult though 😉

As the red orb of the sun sank behind the slate grey clouds we settled into position by a coastal pool.  3 Roe Deer wandered through a nearby field, Common Pipistrelles hawked insects in front of us (described as “awesome” by Thomas), Mute Swans and Greylag Geese paddled serenely across the pool and the whole scene was given a surreal air with thick layers of mist hanging just above the water.  Still my favourite time of day…and there really isn’t anything better than sharing it with our clients 🙂

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Going batty at Bamburgh

by on Nov.01, 2010, under Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Saturday saw our annual Halloween bat walk, again at the excellent location of Bamburgh Castle.  Bookings had been slow until the end of last week but we eventually had 24 participants booked on the walk.  As we set off just after 5pm, the sky darkened and the first drops of cold rain began to fall.  With Chris’s excellent commentary about the history of the castle and it’s surroundings, and the two of us filling in with wildlife info, we were soon round at the base of the Miller’s Nick – a route into the castle that isn’t open to the public.  Once inside the castle walls, Chris regaled everyone with a series of ghostly tales about the castle.  Then, as we walked around the eastern edge of the castle grounds, the first Common Pipistrelle of the evening was spotted.  As well as listening to them using our bat detectors, everyone managed to see them as they raced and swooped along the walls.  Then it was time to head inside for pumpkin soup, homemade bread…and a walk along an unlit tunnel beneath the castle.

We’re adding more family events to our calendar for 2011 so keep checking to see what we can do for your family.

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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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A pelagic birdwatching guide’s approach to exercise

by on Aug.03, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Family and friends, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

In the last week we’ve had a few days out with clients, but gentle, short walks birdwatching in Druridge Bay, southeast Northumberland and on Holy Island rather than the somewhat more strenuous treks into the Cheviots or the North Pennines.  I can’t currently use the exercise bike when I’ve got a day in the office – because I broke one of the pedals.  Yesterday though, I managed to find an activity which, after 2 hours left me barely able to move…

I’d had a good day, stayed focused, achieved (almost) everything on my daily task list and decided to start preparing things for this coming Friday’s pelagic (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday daytime are already booked with clients).  First task was to strip, clean, oil and re-assemble our chum grinder.  Then the bulk of the ‘chum’; prepare 3.5kg of popcorn…that’s 35 large pans full of the stuff.  I dropped the pan lid on myself, along with some sizzling hot oil, but not to worry…it’s a purposeful activity.

Then a brief detour into a very important task; Sarah’s on her way home from work and it’s my turn to cook.  Having checked the contents of the freezer, the fridge and the cupboards earlier in the day I decided that the all-new efficient Martin was going to serve up something special;  Guineafowl breast, stuffed with mozzarella and chorizo, wrapped in streaky bacon and served on a bed of couscous and roasted vegetables.  More by good luck than good judgement, everything was ready at the same time.  Then I cleared away the dishes, did the washing up, cleaned all the kitchen work surfaces…have I been taken over by aliens 🙂

Then to the real work of preparing the ‘chum’.  Slowly, painstakingly, just a few handfuls at a time all that popcorn needed to go through the grinder.  Sarah did some work in the office, I was grinding popcorn.  Sarah went for a 5km run, I was still grinding popcorn.  Eventually, after 2 hours, it was all done.  Moths were swarming around the patio, Common Pipistrelles were swishing close by my head, Red Foxes were calling in the woods behind the house and it was so dark that I could only just see to find my way around the garden.  I added a mixture of oils to the popcorn, put the lid on, and there it will sit until Friday evening when it will be put to use as we continue our quest for petrels.

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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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NMN 2010

by on May.16, 2010, under Family and friends, Lee Moor Farm, Northumberland

Our NMN event at Lee Moor Farm was plagued by the scourge of moth trappers everywhere; cloudless skies and plummeting temperatures.  The early evening entertainment included an impromptu cricket match during the BBQ (which was being expertly and skilfully, poked by the two chefs for the evening; Ian and yours truly), where my best off-breaks were dispatched imperiously to all corners of the business park by Ian’s youngest daughter, Larissa 🙂

We did catch some moths though;

0647 Brown House Moth Hoffmanophila pseudospretella 2

1728 Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata 2

2190 Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica 1

We also recorded one species of bat; Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus, with up to four flying around as darkness closed in and our cricket match came to a close.

We’ll be back at Lee Moor for Open Farm Sunday on June 13th, and planning to round off the day with another BBQ, bat walk, moth-trapping session, cricket match.  It’s excellent family fun so give us a call and join us for what promises to be another great evening at Lee Moor 🙂

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