Tag: Common Tern

Divebombed; Farne Islands Safari 03/06/2015

by on Jun.04, 2015, under Farne Islands

Wednesday’s weather was a complete contrast to Tuesday as I collected Mike and Janet from Dunstan Steads.  This was their second trip with NEWT, after a Lindisfarne trip last November, and today we were heading across to the Farne Islands.

Starting on dry land, we watched Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine as Skylarks soared overhead, Sandwich Terns plunged into the sea and Gannets soared by on the gentle breeze.  Crossing to the islands on St Cuthbert II, we soon had streams of Guillemots, Puffins and Razorbills passing by as Grey Seals popped their heads up out of the water around us and Kittiwakes called their name around the cliffs.  Once landed on Inner Farne we came under attack by the feisty Arctic Terns 🙂  Common Terns and Sandwich Terns kept themselves to themselves as Black-headed Gulls attempted to rob any Puffins that flew back in with fish, Common Eider and Shags continued incubating eggs and brooding chicks, apparently unconcerned by the presence of so many people, and amidst the mayhem and noise of the tern colony one call stood out.  ‘Choo-it, choo-it’ grabbed the attention as a ghostly Roseate Tern flew around the lighthouse and then off towards the mainland, and we had another four encounters with this beautiful species befopre we departed for the mainland 🙂

Comments Off on Divebombed; Farne Islands Safari 03/06/2015 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Dodging the showers; Otter mini-Safari 27/05/2015

by on May.28, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

A weather forecast that ‘promises’ heavy rain for the entire duration of an evening with clients isn’t what we would hope for, but you can’t always trust the forecast…

As I arrived at Church Point, followed soon after by Lesley and Andrew, the rain was falling steadily and the sky looked ever so slightly ominous.  Gordon and Mandy arrived a few minutes later and we set 0ff on an evening exploration of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in search of Otters.  Our first site revealed a skittish Mallard, although we couldn’t see what was spooking it, Little Egret, Common Terns and very close views of a Mink.  The weather had improved by this point, although there were still some ominous dark clouds away to the west as we headed north along Druridge Bay.  A Barn Owl broke off from hunting and perched obligingly on a fence post for several minutes, before launching a persistent attack on a male Marsh Harrier that was quartering the reeds.  Tufted Ducks were looking very alert, as were a pair of Great Crested Grebes, although we couldn’t be certain whether this was because of the harrier or another threat that we couldn’t see.  A Mute Swan pair with nine fluffy cygnets seeemd unconcerned and, as dusk approached, we positioned ourselves overlooking a spot where I was reasonably confident we’d find an Otter.  With hardly a breath of wind, and an overcast sky, viewing conditions were near perfect; very still water and a pale surface against which anything moving, particularly anything dark, would stand out…

After a few minutes Mandy spotted something swimming along and diving, just visible above the tops of the reeds in front of us, and we were soon all watching an Otter 🙂  After a few minutes of feeding it changed direction and headed quickly straight across the pool and out of sight into the reeds.  Then the dark clouds arrived overhead, accompanied by a strong breeze and heavy rain…

Comments Off on Dodging the showers; Otter mini-Safari 27/05/2015 :, , , , , , , , , , more...

Feeding frenzy; Farne Islands Safari 26/05/2015

by on May.28, 2015, under Farne Islands

Tuesday was our first landing trip to the Farne Islands this year, with the breeding season well underway for some species, and only just getting started for others.

I collected Sally, Ian, Ben and Hannah from Waren Mill (you’d be surprised at how well hidden a holiday cottage can be in such a small village…) and we headed up the coast towards Holy Island for the first part of our day out, soon encountering Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common BuzzardGrey Seals were ‘bottling’ offshore, Whitethroat were singing their scratchy warble from the tops of hawthorn bushes, Brown Hares were chasing each other in and out of dense crops and a group of Sandwich Terns feeding close to the shore were joined by a single Little Tern.

After lunch it was time to head across to the islands, onboard Glad Tidings IV, and we soon had lines of Guillemots flying past, Gannets soaring effortlessly by, Puffins on the water close to the boat, Ben and Hannah spotting jellyfish in the clear still water and the extraordinary experience of the cliffs on Staple Island, up close and personal with the sight, sound, and smell of a seabird colony.  Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags may be the staple (sorry, please excuse the pun!) fare of the islands precipitous cliffs, and Grey Seals always grab the attention of everyone on board, but the highlight for many of our clients over the last seven and a half years has been landing on Inner Farne.  Female Common Eiders, easily overlooked as they sit quietly on their nests, are remarkably approachable and Puffins are a firm favourite, particularly with clients who are taking photographs, but there’s little to compare with being dive-bombed by an angry Arctic Tern 🙂  Ben had his camera with him, so we spent a while watching the behaviour of the Puffins, determining what they were about to do just before they did it (the secret to great wildlife photography…) and Ben was soon taking some impressive flight shots as birds flew back towards their burrows after fishing forays out to sea.  After returning to the mainland, passing dense groups of terns and Kittiwakes as they plunged into shoals of small fish, we spent some time scanning the mudflats of Budle Bay, as Eiders with ducklings swan along the Waren Burn and Curlew probed in the soft gooey mud.

Always an impressive day out – we’ve lived up here for over 20 years and still marvel at the stunning wildlife spectacle of a trip to the Farnes each time we head across there.  It’s Thursday now, so we’d like to say “Happy Birthday Hannah” 🙂

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Challenge; Farne Islands Photography 20/07/14

by on Jul.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Our rearranged Farne Islands photography workshop was a second day out with NEWT for Bryan, and a chance for him to take on the challenge of Puffins in flight 😉  We sailed across to the islands on Glad Tidings IV (returning at the end of the afternoon on St Cuthbert III), and amidst the chaos of Arctic, Sandwich and Common Terns, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags we worked on camera settings for action photography, but also on the elusive, almost instinctive skills that need to be developed to capture flight photographs of such a fast moving target.  At one point we swapped cameras, with Bryan taking on the physical challenge of the substantial lump of kit that is a Nikon D300s and 70-200mm f2.8 lens 🙂  As he settled into a smooth panning action, aided by the weight of my camera/lens, and began taking the shot at just the right time, he switched back to his camera with Puffin after Puffin captured through the lens, and I grabbed a couple of shots myself 🙂

Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography workshops,photography holidays,photography tuition

Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography workshops,photography holidays,photography tuition

Black-headed Gull,Chroicocephalus ridibundus,Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography workshops,photography holidays,photography tuition

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , more...

Farne Islands; Beginners Photography Workshop 28/06/2014

by on Jul.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Photography

Saturday afternoon was our Farne Islands Beginners Photography workshop.  I picked Peter up from Eshott as I headed north, and we met up with Doug at Seahouses harbour.  This was Peter’s fourth trip this week (on his birthday, following his North Pennines trip on Friday – his wedding anniversary!).  Doug had been out with me before too, on our Coastal Dawn photography workshop in March, although the weather was a bit more amenable this time round 🙂  Settings for wildlife and action photography are very different to the settings for extracting a landscape image from the gloom of an early spring morning, so I ran through the settings on Doug’s camera with my recommendations for how to improve his chances of catching ‘the moment’.

Perhaps the greatest skill a photographer needs on Inner Farne is the ability to tune out the chaos that surrounds them.  Common and Arctic Terns form an angry buzzing cloud around the heads of visitors to the island, the harsh calls of Sandwich Terns cut through you as they fly to and from their colony, Puffins shoot by with beakfuls of sandeels, so close that you can feel the rush of air from their wingbeats and the clifftops are covered in Shags, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots as Fulmars soar by on stiff outstretched wings.  Around the Puffin burrows, groups of Black-headed Gulls sit and wait for the return of what should, on the face of it, be an easy meal.  It doesn’t always work out that way though, and the melee provides excellent photo opportunities.  That chaos is the Farne Islands strength as a location for our photography workshops though.  The wildlife is approachable and obliging, so it’s a great place to concentrate on learning, and practicing, new photography techniques.

Arctic Tern,Sterna paradisaea,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,bird photography courses,bird photography tuition,Northumberland,bird photography holidays

Sandwich Tern,Sterna sandvicensis,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,bird photography courses,bird photography tuition,Northumberland,bird photography holidays

Razorbill,Alca torda,Inner Farne,Farne Islands,bird photography courses,bird photography tuition,Northumberland,bird photography holidays

We’ve still got a few spaces available for our Farne Islands photography workshop this Saturday (July 5th), so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you’d like to come along 🙂

Comments Off on Farne Islands; Beginners Photography Workshop 28/06/2014 :, , , , , , , , , more...

A game of two halves; Farne Islands Safari 24/06/2014

by on Jul.01, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Even when you can see inclement weather ahead of you, there’s usually a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

I collected Stephen from home in North Shields, and then Peter from his holiday cottage at Eshott, and we headed north towards the Northumberland coast and the Farne Islands, our destination for the afternoon.  The first half of the day was planned to be a walk along the coast from High Newton, but the deteriorating weather made that an unwelcoming prospect and instead we had a ‘car as a hide’ morning of birdwatching.  A Spoonbill in Budle Bay was an unexpected find and the eerie calls of Grey Seals carried through the mist and drizzle across the low-tide mudflats.

Then the light at the end of the tunnel appeared, well not so much a light as an incandescent ball of wildlife magic.  We were eating lunch, and looking forward to the journey across to the islands, when Peter said “They look like dolphins off the end of the rocks”.  I lifted my binoculars and the view was filled with Bottlenose Dolphins 🙂  We watched as they passed close to the shore, then they settled and began feeding between Bamburgh Castle and Inner Farne.  A quick text to William meant that, by the time we arrived at the harbour, all of his skippers knew where the dolphins were and our journey across to the islands included several minutes with them bow-riding our boat.  I’ve been studying this group of dolphins for the last three months, and some inital findings are in MARINElife’s press release.  Following a cruise around the islands, we landed on Inner Farne.  One of the wardens mentioned that the Bridled Tern had been seen, and a quick sacn soon revealed it’s location in amongst the roosting Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns.  Here are a few pictures of this stunning seabird from last year on Inner Farne

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

Bridled Tern,Onychoprion anaethetus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,bird photography, bird photography tuition,bird photography holidays,Northern Experience Images

After an hour amongst the Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Shags and terns, we crossed back to the mainland and headed south.  Miserable morning, magical afternoon 🙂


Comments Off on A game of two halves; Farne Islands Safari 24/06/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Monday’s trip was a birdwatching tour of two of Northumberland’s excellent locations; the Cheviot Valleys in the morning, and Druridge Bay in the afternoon.

I collected John, Graham, Andy, Sue, Sue and Lesley from their cottage in Shilbottle and we set off inland towards the imposing landscape of the Cheviot massif.  As we got out of the car and donned waterproofs we had the first rain shower of the day, but it quickly passed and the path began gaining in altitude as Oystercatchers perched on fence posts, swallows and martins hawked back and forth through air buzzing with insects in the warm, humid conditions and Willow Warblers and Chaffinches competed with their congeners in a singing contest.  The plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the steep valley sides, the high calls of Siskin and the buzzy rattle of Lesser Redpoll  came from overhead and one of the archetypal valley birds put in an appearance as we found a succession of adult and juvenile Dippers.  A lone Common Buzzard hovered high over the moors in search of prey and a Peregrine repeatedly rose above the skyline before dropping back down in a prolonged attack on an unfortunate, and unseen, victim.

Lunch overlooking the sea was accompanied by Fulmars gliding gracefully back and forth on stiff wings, before we switched our attention to waders, wildfowl and waterbirdsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons were stalking menacingly along shallow pool edges, at least 50 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting, and a small group of Little Gulls looked diminutive alongside Black-headed Gulls (which aren’t all that big themselves!).  Reed Buntings were singing their rather repetitive song, Sedge and Reed Warblers flew by before vanishing into the depths of the reedbeds and we enjoyed the sight of delicate and dainty, yet incredibly feisty, AvocetsGreat Crested Grebes were feeding their stripy offspring, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns perched obligingly, allowing easy comparison, and the afternoon brought an unexpected surprise in the shape of no less than six Spoonbills.  They did little more exciting than occasionally wake up and preen for a short while before nodding off again, but the sight of six of these impressive birds together wrapped up the day nicely 🙂

Comments Off on Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Bottlenose Dolphins; Farne Islands safari 06/06/2014

by on Jun.11, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Whenever I head out for a  day guiding clients, I have a plan.  Occasionally we deviate from that plan…

I was heading to collect Liz and Mark from the Lord Crewe in Bamburgh, for their Farne Islands prestige tour, and I thought I knew what we’d be doing throughout the day – a walk along the coast in the morning, picnic lunch overlooking the Farne Islands and then the 13:00 sailing on Glad Tidings.  Simple, straightforward and a routine we’ve followed so many times with almost military precision.

However, just before I arrived in Bamburgh, Alan P. played a wild card 🙂 “Hi Martin, the dolphins are in Newbiggin Bay”.  This introduced another option for the morning…a drive south to try and catch up with the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins that have been hanging around the north east coast since late March. I presented the options to Liz and Mark and they didn’t hesitate to decide on a wild dolphin chase 🙂  Alan was sending texts to keep me up-to-date with the location of the pod, so the latest information I had as we reached southeast Northumberland was that they’d headed south.  A day earlier I’d tracked them down the coast at the same time of day, so I thought they may well have repeated their movements.  It isn’t always that simple though, so I headed for a viewpoint that would give us the widest possible spread of coastline in view.  That strategy proved the best one as, away to the north, but further offshore than they’d been earlier in the morning, we could see a dark dorsal fin breaking the surface close behind a small fishing boat 🙂  Having located the pod distantly, we headed for a much closer viewpoint, and enjoyed prolonged views of ~16 Bottlenose Dolphins as they surfaced, breached, and charged through what was presumably a large shoal of Mackerel.  As the pod headed north, it was time for us to do the same so that I could get the day back on track.

Lunch was followed by a trip to Inner Farne in a stiff cold breeze.  The cliffs were echoing with the onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were coming off the clifftops like guided missiles as they headed out to fish, Gannets soared effortlessly by on the breeze, Fulmars arced around the cliff faces on stiff wings, Grey Seals were hauled out, soaking up the rays, and Cormorant and Shag seemed to be causing confusion amongst some passengers on the boat.  As we waited to land at the Inner Farne jetty, a call stood out from the general background mayhem of a seabird breeding colony; ‘choo-it, choo-it’, so distinctive, and a ghostly pale Roseate Tern flew just above our heads before landing with the Arctic, Sandwich and Common Terns roosting near the jetty.  On the island we ducked to avoid the attention of some rather agitated Arctic Terns, and concentrated on Liz’s aim for the afternoon – getting a good photograph of a Puffin 🙂  There were plenty of obliging models to choose from, and we watched as birds returning to their burrows with beaks filled with sandeel were mobbed by Black-headed Gulls.  After the chaos of the island, we finished the afternoon relaxing in the dunes at Bamburgh, eating carrot cake as Meadow Pipits and Skylarks sang and displayed in the sky around us 🙂

2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Drizzle; Farne Islands Press Trip 04/06/2014

by on Jun.10, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Seeing a familiar location, in unfamiliar conditions, can be like visiting somewhere for the first time.  Over the years nearly all of our trips to the Farne Islands have been in glorious weather.  I could never be blase about the islands, but sometimes I hope for a new experience…

I arrived at Seahouses Harbour just after 11:30 to meet up with Melanie and Gustavo.  Melanie is a journalist from Germany, currently writing a piece about Northumberland, and I’d been asked to be her guide to the Northumberland coast (Farne Islands, Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island).  We hit a snag straight away – they’d been delayed in Alnwick and didn’t arrive in Seahouses in time for our sailing around the islands!  A quick change of our booking, and a drive to Bamburgh for the quickest tour of the castle imaginable (thanks to Chris and his staff) and we were back in Seahouses for the 13:30 sailing.  The earlier sailing had gone out in fine weather, but this one was cold, densely overcast and drizzly; very, very drizzly.  The sea was mirror calm all around the islands, disturbed only by the patter of raindrops, revealing huge rafts of Puffins, Guillemots andRazorbillsKittiwakes shrieked from the cliff faces, Fulmars glided effortlessly overhead and Grey Seals watched warily as we passed by.  Common, Arctic andSandwich Terns were fishing, Shags and Cormorants were standing, sentinel like, on the rocks and Gannets passed by on their way to and from distant feeding grounds.

It really did feel like a completely different experience to usual, and Holy Island in the rain, although it’s a very special place too, was going to struggle to match that strange other-worldliness of a seabird colony in the gloom 🙂

Comments Off on Drizzle; Farne Islands Press Trip 04/06/2014 :, , , , , , , , , , , more...

Choosing your battles; Farne Islands bespoke photography trip 31/05/2014

by on Jun.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Photography

Last Thursday should have been a bespoke photography trip to the Farne Islands, but a discussion with William on Wednesday evening confirmed what the forecast had been suggesting for a few days – heavy easterly swell would make it impractical to sail.  I was out and about in the drizzle so Sarah got in touch with John, David and Sheila and we rearranged the trip for Saturday instead.

That turned out to be an excellent decision, with  Saturday dawning dry, bright, sunny and with only a hint of a breeze.  We arrived in Seahouses just after 09:00 and were soon onboard Glad Tidings II, with William at the helm, on our way to Staple Island, passing groups of Grey Seals lazing in the sunshine.  Staple can be a difficult island to land passengers on, but it’s always worth the effort.  Puffins with beakfuls of sandeels were next to the landing and many photographers from our boat didn’t make it any further on to the island for quite some time.  Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Guillemots and Razorbills are all good photographic subjects, Puffins are the real stars of the island but there were some very accessible female Eiders incubating too. A frequent mantra that I try to instill into our photography clients is to choose their battles carefully – whatever focal length lens you have, there’s always the opportunity to take stunning images.  Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to over-reach the performance of your equipment.  I had a camera with a 70-200mm lens in my rucksack – not a long focal length, but enough when you’ve got a subject quite close.  We explored bits of the island looking for a spot that offered Puffins in flight at reasonable distance, and the best bit of the morning on Staple came during our lunch break, when  Puffins were flying so close overhead that you could hear the whirring of their wings, and everyone sat back, relaxed and tried to second-guess which direction each Puffin was going to fly 🙂  With a lovely group of clients, the day was a real pleasure, and we were soon on Glad Tidings IV, transferring to Inner Farne for the afternoon.  Inner Farne offers similar to Staple, but with the addition of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns and we explored the island in search of photographic subjects.  The first three images below are my own.  Puffinin flight, Black-headed Gull tussling with Puffin, Arctic Tern and Common Tern images are all (c) J. Spence.  Many thanks to John for letting us use his stunning images in this blog post 🙂

Beautiful weather, great clients and the ‘Galapagos of the North’ – what a great end to the month, although for NEWT the month wasn’t quite over yet…

Photography tuition Northumberland,photography courses Northumberland,bespoke photography Northumberland,Farne Islands,Northumberland

Common Eider,Somateria mollissimma,Staple Island,Farne Islands,Northumberland,phtography courses Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,photography holidays Northumberland,

Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Staple Island,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photogarhy courses Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,photogarphy holidays Northumberland

Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,bird photography Northumberland,photography courses Northumberland,photography Farne Islands

Atlantic Puffin,Fratercula arctica,Black-headed Gull,Chroicocephalus ridibundus,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,bird photography Northumberland,photography courses Northumberland,photography Farne Islands

Common Tern,Sterna hirundo,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,bird photography Northumberland,photography courses Northumberland,photography Farne Islands

Arctic Tern,Sterna paradisaea,Farne Islands,Northumberland,photography tuition Northumberland,bird photography Northumberland,photography courses Northumberland,photography Farne Islands


2 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!


All entries, chronologically...