Tag: Common Sandpiper

Raptor Day; Kielder Safari 23/04/2015

by on Apr.29, 2015, under Kielder

There’s a lot of very impressive wildlife in and around Kielder, particularly if you extend your visit across the border into Scotland, and we always hope for bright clear weather with a bit of warmth and a breeze…

I collected Brian from Bellingham and we headed up the valley in just the sort of weather conditions that I was hoping for 🙂  Our day followed the typical pattern of one of our Kielder Safaris; some time in Kielder, some time over the border into the hills and moors of southwest Scotland, some more time back in Kielder.  With the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warbler dripping from what seemed like every tree, the swee-wee-wee-wee-wee of Common Sandpiper around the water’s edge and Siskin, Chaffinch and Goldcrest all singing enthusiastically, the aural backdrop to the day was a canvas on which the raptors danced.  Common Buzzards soared and mewed as Wild Goats trotted along a narrow valley with Hen Harriers, ringtail females and ghostly pale males, patrolling the fells above, Sparrowhawk soared just over a small plantation and then, the big three;  Osprey, the stunning ‘fish eagle’ hovering over the water before plunging, unsuccessfully, in search of fish, Goshawk, the ‘phantom of the forest’ rising from a nesting plantation that we’ve been watching for a few years now before soaring up on a thermal to take station high over his mate and their nest and, the most surprising find of the day, dwarfing the Common Buzzards it was sharing a thermal with, a Golden Eagle casting it’s majestic shadow over the hills.  One day it may be a common sight, but it still won’t lose the magic of a chance encounter 🙂

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The magic of dusk; Otter Safari 20/08/2014

by on Aug.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

After four consecutive successful Otter Safaris since mid-July, I was fairly sure that dusk would be the best time to search for them, and the afternoon could be spent enjoying some excellent birdwatching with the added possibility of stumbling across an Otter in broad daylight…

I arrived in Craster to collect Dave and Naomi and we headed south towards Druridge Bay.  We started with Grey Wagtails bobbing up and down on mid-stream rocks, as Salmon hungrily seized flies from the water’s surface, and then moved on to large roosting flocks of Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Lapwing with two Little Egrets standing sentinel-like on an elevated bank above the roost.  Knot, Dunlin, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit added to the wader haul for the afternoon and real surprise came in the shape of a Kingfisher over Cresswell Pond.  Ghostly white Mediterranean Gulls drifted over Newbiggin and, as dusk approached, Naomi started spotting mammals.  First a Roebuck, prancing, leaping and sparring with tall plant stems like a boxer with a punchbag.  Then, the big one; an Otter 🙂  Swimming towards us, we followed it’s dives by the trail of bubbles on the water’s surface, before  it eventually disappeared below the edge of the reedbed that we were looking over, with just the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ as it surfaced.  After a few minutes without any sign, the Otter, or a second one, reappeared.  As we each gave directions to where the Otter was, it quickly became apparent that we weren’t all watching the same animal.  Then there were two together to our left, and a third away to our right 🙂  At least three Otters, including the smallest cub that I’ve ever seen, and we eventually left, when the light levels had fallen so low that binoculars were all but a hindrance.  As we walked back to the car a Barn Owl passed by, carrying prey, as skeins of Canada and Greylag Geese flew noisily south.

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Lifers; Druridge Bay birdwatching 13/08/2014

by on Aug.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

It isn’t unusual for our clients to see species for the first time on one of our tours, but it’s much less usual for me to see something new…

I collected Chris from home in Gosforth and we headed out towards the coast and Druridge Bay.  It’s always a great pleasure to have Chris out on a tour with us, although this one held the possibility of an early, and sudden, finish as his step-daughter was due to have her second child.  Mid-August is still an excellent time for wading birds and the selection on offer was impressive; Dunlin, Knot, Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Whimbrel, Redshank, Ruff, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher were perhaps overshadowed by one of Chris’ two lifers for the day; Stilt Sandpiper 🙂  Pied, Yellow and Grey Wagtails were all flycatching close to water and a 2cy male Marsh Harrier managed to be both impressive and educational at the same time.

Chris’ other lifer for the day was a new bird for me too.  Gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the Caspian Gull in Amble Harbour was an impressive bird; a whole lesson in structure, behaviour, moult and ageing all wrapped up in in one ‘large white-headed gull’; the alternative to ‘little brown jobs’ for birders who prefer staring at mud rather than bushes 🙂

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Marshland magic; Druridge Bay 04/07/2014

by on Jul.08, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Natural History, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I love all of the different locations that we visit on our tours, but a day around NEWT’s local patch of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland is always special.  Maybe because it’s so close to home, maybe because of the incredible industrial heritage that has gradually been transformed into fantastic wildlife habitat or maybe just because it’s really, really good 🙂

I collected Sue from Church Point and we headed north up the coast.  A brood of Goosanders were perched on mid-stream rocks as Grey Wagtails flitted back and forth across our field of view, tails wagging vigorously each time they settled before flycatching again just above the water.  An insistent squawking made us turn our heads – and there was a brood of Blackbird fledglings, just a few metres away, watching us with curiosity as their parents brought food.  Great Crested Grebes, Gadwall and Tufted Duck all had young in attendance too and, as is often the case once we reach July, a lot of our attention was taken by wading birds.  30+ Black-tailed Godwits were sleeping as a Common Sandpiper bobbed around their feet, a group of unusually obliging Common Snipe fed out in the open water, black-bellied Dunlin searched purposefully around the godwits, Redshank stalked along the pool edge and into the longer vegetation and three Wood Sandpipers added a touch of ‘scarce’ to the afternoon.  Two Spoonbills spent most of the time, as Spoonbills do, sleeping until a helicopter passing over roused them from their slumber and they did a fly-around before settling back to their previous spot and immediately returning to sleep close to a Little Egret.  Juvenile Marsh Harriers were making short flights over reedbeds, Reed Buntings were still singing their simple song with enthusiasm and a pair of Avocets with four chicks launched repeated furious assaults on any other birds that came too close; Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull and even the ‘so cute they surely couldn’t do any harm’ Little Gulls all came in for a hard time as the young Avocets pottered about in the shallows.

A great day with a lovely client (we don’t have any other type!) and even the added bonus of bumping into my favourite double act, Gavin and Syd 🙂

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Kettling; Kielder Safari 23/04/2014

by on Apr.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

The alarm went off at 06:00 on Wednesday, and my heart sank as I looked out of the window…heavy mist, not ideal for any of our tours, but particularly not good for a day in Kielder.  I drove to Kingston Park to collect Steph and we headed west in much more promising conditions; low cloud in some valleys, but some sunshine too.  We collected Paul and Trish from Wark, and then Ivan from Tower Knowe and headed into the forest.  It was a bit cool and misty for any raptors to be up and about, but two Common Crossbill flew by and the air around us was filled with the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers as Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Carrion Crows caused a brief quickening of the heart rate as they flew between plantations.

A walk to the Bakethin reserve produced lots of Siskin, and Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Teal, Oystercatcher, Cormorant and Common Sandpiper were around the water’s edge.  As we got back to the car park, which provided good views of Treecreepers, Paul spotted a raptor high overhead, and binoculars resolved it into the impressive shape of an Osprey.

Over the border into Scotland we were soon encountering Common Buzzards, lots of them, and a remarkable number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.  We reached our picnic spot and, as soup, sandwiches and carrot cake were consumed, raptors began to appear above the skyline.  First Common Buzzards, then a female Hen Harrier, followed soon after by a skydancing grey male 🙂  Then more Common Buzzards, and more Common Buzzards At one point we had between four and six birds behind us, while higher up the valley at least ten were kettling in one thermal along with a Peregrine 🙂  Absolute heaven for any birdwatcher who enjoys raptors…and who doesn’t?  Along the stream Reed Buntings were pretending to be Dippers, but we did eventually find the genuine article, which obligingly bobbed up and down on a rock before diving into the fast flowing water, and Wheatears were perched on old stone walls.  On the hillsides high above the valley bottom, Wild Goats were grazing as we enjoyed close views of Common Buzzards both perched and flying, and Red Grouse were found as we crossed the moors back towards England.

We finished the trip with an uncountable number of Chaffinches and a real Northumberland speciality as a Red Squirrel ran around on the ground before deciding to hang upside down on a peanut cage, and it was time to reverse the route and drop everyone off.

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Heading for the hills; Birdwatching in the Cheviot Valleys 06/06/2013

by on Jun.10, 2013, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

Thursday brought a trip that I’d been looking forward to for some time; I first met Chris many years ago, while I was Field Trips Officer for the Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club, so it was going to be a day out with a client who knew me several careers ago.

We met up at Church Point and headed inland towards the Cheviot Valleys, a location that features some stunning landscapes; steep-sided valleys, towering hills, mysterious sun-dappled woodland, heather moorland and all that goes with it.  As we approached the start of the higher ground, I suggested we check a damp area of an arable field.  It’s often good for wading birds and this was no exception; two broods of Lapwing chicks, as well as Oystercatchers and Redshank, were pottering around the edge of the now small puddle.

Perhaps the best thing about our forays into the Cheviots is the chance to stretch your legs, get some fresh air…and see hardly anyone else while you’re there 🙂  The time passes quickly and the cackling of Red Grouse, simple song of Spotted Flycatcher, silvery descending cadence of Willow Warbler, plaintive mewing of Common Buzzards and the eponymous songs of Cuckoo and Chiffchaff all accompanied parts of our walk.  Grey Wagtails, Dippers and Common Sandpipers were all occupying that particular ecological niche that they’re all so suited for, a Redstart delivered his distinctive song from a hidden perch, Curlews gave their haunting cries from high on the hillsides, Tree Pipits sang from treetops and a Kestrel was hanging in the air over the ridge at the top of a steep valley.  Away from civilisation, surrounded by wildlife, it was the relaxed enjoyable trip that I always knew it would be 🙂

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Head for the hills

by on May.29, 2013, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland

Away to the northwest of our base in southeast Northumberland is the skyline-dominating range of the Cheviot Hills.

I collected Susan from Cheviot View and we headed towards the Harthope Valley via the ford at Coldgate Mill.  A stop along the road produced Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and the always impressive Brown Hare.  In glorious weather we walked for nearly five hours around various parts of the valley.  Curlews sang their eerie song from the heather clad slopes above, Tree Pipits delivered their challenge to rivals, and serenade to potential partners, the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers shimmered in the air around us, a Whinchat flitted from rock to heather, and back again, Grey Wagtails lived up to their name – wagging their tails from rocks and fence posts along our route – and the ‘swee-wee-wee-wee-wee’ of Common Sandpipers echoed around the sides of the swiftly flowing stream in the valley bottom.  As the afternoon wore on we watched as a Kestrel patrolled the steep valley sides, a Sparrowhawk soared across the valley and a Common Buzzard hovered over a distant plantation.

Delivering peace, solitude and some excellent wildlife-watching opportunities, the hills are a great place to enjoy your wildlife and get some exercise too 🙂

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Black Grouse Bonanza Day 2; Cross-border birding

by on Apr.23, 2013, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

Saturday saw a much more relaxed start, at a much more civilised hour, for the second day of our Black Grouse Bonanza guided holiday.  After another filling breakfast at Peth Head we set out for a day around Kielder and the Borders.  With beautiful blue sky, fluffy white clouds and a nice breeze, it looked very much like a ‘Raptor Day’.

After a drive up the North Tyne valley, the first thing that struck us when we arrived at the dam end of Kielder Water was the number of Willow Warblers that were singing.  Swallows were zipping back and forth and there was a real springtime feel in the air.  As always, flocks of Chaffinches seemed to be everywhere, and we made our way to NEWT’s favourite raptor watchpoint.  In our quite exposed position we were at the mercy of what turned out to be a bitingly cold westerly wind so hats, gloves, fleece jackets and windproof layers were required.  There was an extraordinary difference between being in the sunshine and being under the layers of cloud that were scudding across from the west, and that had an effect on the birds too.  After a couple of hours of occasional sightings of Common Buzzard, and one Goshawk that shadowed a buzzard over a distant plantation, midday was approaching when it all kicked off; first one pair of Common Buzzards appeared opposite our watchpoint, then a second pair appeared alongside them, and a third pair over an adjacent plantation were probably responding to the flurry of activity.  Six buzzards in the air at the same time was only a start though, as the harsh croaking of a pair of Ravens drew our attention and these big, impressive ‘honorary raptors’ materialised from the background of the trees below our eyeline, breaking the skyline and soaring across the valley and disappearing over the trees to the northwest as another four Ravens rose into view away to the east.  The buzzard activity drew the attention of a male Goshawk, who circled with one bird before gliding away over a distant plantation.

Before crossing the border into Scotland we sat by a small stream and watched two Dippers as they bobbed up and down on mid-stream rocks and dived into the crystal clear, and presumably icy cold, water.  During our lunch break a Common Buzzard soared along a ridge just above our position, and as we crossed the moors a Raven was flying over a nest site, a Kestrel was hanging in the wind, Wild Goats were grazing contentedly, and a single Red Grouse raised its head above the shelter of the heather and into the breeze as we passed.

A stop at the Bakethin reserve on the way back down the North Tyne brought excellent views of an Osprey as it circled over the water, Common Sandpipers were displaying noisily, Oystercatchers had a noisy exchange during changeover at a nest, Teal were displaying, Goldeneye and Cormorant were diving, Chiffchaffs seemed to be in every tree and a Green Woodpecker was persistently yaffling.  Each time it called we all scanned the ground in the direction the calls were coming from, more in hope than expectation.  Eventually Derek managed to locate the  bird…perched at the top of a tree, yaffling away like a Blackbird would sing from an exposed perch!  The sky beyond the woodpecker held our 5th raptor for the day, a soaring Sparrowhawk, and we headed back to Peth Head.

The holiday was to produce a final bit of magic, as a night-time drive along a narrow country lane produced excellent views of two young Badgers, running across just a few metres ahead of us, a third Badger along the roadside and a Roe Deer running along the verge towards us before springing over a wall and away across the fields.

With such lovely clients, an excellent accommodation base and a whole series of stunning wildlife experiences during the holiday, I’m excited about next year’s Black Grouse Bonanza already 🙂  We’ll be announcing 2014 holiday dates shortly, but please get in touch if you would like to be kept informed of the details of what we have on offer next year.

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Wading through August

by on Aug.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

August is always a stressful month for NEWT.  As well as leading our regular safari days, it’s British Birdwatching Fair month, and the week leading up to the Bird Fair is always frantic; checking that we’ve got everything for the stand, mounting a new series of limited edition prints for sale, liaising with all of the other Birdwatching Northumberland partners to make sure that everybody knows exactly which aspects of the project they’re  responsible for, and making sure that we’ve got a supply of local beer for the 4pm ‘free bar’ on our stand 🙂

Then, after a busy three days, it’s all over and we head north…this year to the thankfully cooler temperatures of Northumberland.  From leaving Rutland at 6pm on Sunday to arriving back in Northumberland just after 10pm, the temperature drop was an impressive 14C.

Yesterday was our first post-BirdFair trip, a day of birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  I collected Alex from Church Point, and we started with a good scan of the beach. 4 Mediterranean Gulls were close by and a small group of waders contained Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Waders proved to be a theme for the day and we added Common Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Curlew, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Golden Plover and Avocet to the day list as we made our way around NEWT’s local area.  With an impressive supporting cast that included Water Rail, 3 Little Egrets and a Spoonbill it was a great day to be watching the edges of our local ponds, and a real education in just how much inward and outward movement of birds there is from the feeding and roosting wader flocks that grace southeast Northumberland at this time of the year.  It was a great day too, to appreciate just how friendly and helpful local birdwatchers are in Northumberland – many thanks to Len and Gill for pointing us in the direction of the Wood Sandpiper, and Gill’s sharp eyes picked out the Spotted Redshank which then vanished without trace soon after being found and appreciated 🙂

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On passage

by on Jul.05, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

A second consecutive Druridge Bay mini-safari was our activity on Friday morning and I arrived at Church Point to meet Gavin, Mark, Cindy and Esther for morning’s birdwatching around the NEWT ‘local patch’.  My main concern was how the previous afternoon’s torrential downpour would have affected ground conditions at the sites we visit.  As it was, the ground wasn’t too wet and everywhere we went was easily accessible.

Late June and early July is always a good time to start to search for passage waders, with the earliest returning adult birds often still in their breeding garb.  Two Dunlin, still with solid black bellies, dropped in, a Common Sandpiper was sitting motionless, before setting off along the water’s edge with that characteristic bobbing motion and 5 Black-tailed Godwits flew low over the water before dropping out of sight in a dip in a nearby field.  Two Avocets arrived and at least 7 Little Gulls were roosting.  As we continued up the coast a Marsh Harrier rose from, and dropped back in to, a reedbed, Great Crested Grebes cruised around serenely and Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns were all splashing about as they bathed.  Is there a better place than the southeast Northumberland coast at this time of the year?

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