Tag: Cormorant

Head’s up :-) Bespoke Farne Islands Safari 27/06/19

by on Jul.01, 2019, under Farne Islands

Thursday was a Farne Islands Safari, and after we cancelled Wednesday’s 4hr pelagic due to the rather lumpy sea I was pleased to see that it was nice and calm as I collected Peter and Jan from Newbiggin…

A Kestrel perched obligingly on a telegraph pole as we headed up the coast and our first stop, for Arctic and Little Terns, produced an unexpected Spotted Redshank and a Ringed Plover as well as an extraordinary number of Common Blue butterflies and a good number of Painted Ladies over the incredible carpet of Bloody Cranesbill in the dunes with Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and Stonechat all along the walk.

After having our picnic on the beach at Beadnell we headed to Seahouses and discovered that parking spaces were in short supply so we parked on the edge of the town and walked down to the harbour where Eiders were on the water with well-grown young, for our sailing on board Glad Tidings. Rafts of Puffins on the water scattered ahead of the boats heading towards the islands as lines of Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin headed back to their hungry chicks. Gannets soared past as Grey Seals lazed on the rocks, Cormorants and Shags dried their wings in heraldic pose, Fulmars skirted the clifftops, the onomatopoeic cries of Kittiwakes echoed in the rocky gullies and the stiff breeze spared us the ‘experience’ of the unmistakable aroma of a seabird colony πŸ™‚

Landing on Inner Farne we walked along the boardwalk, where the Arctic Terns were less aggressive than just a week earlier, tern chicks were starting to extend and flap their still developing wings, Black-headed Gulls were mobbing Puffins as they tried to get back to their burrows, and the pufflings waiting inside, Common and Sandwich Terns kept themselves to themselves (something we should all be grateful for, particularly in the case of Sandwich Tern!) and I mentioned that halfway along one stretch of boardwalk there would probably be an Arctic Tern that would approach you but not attack, and would adopt your head as perch if you stood still. Sure enough, the tern behaved just as predicted and landed on Jan’s head πŸ™‚

After the short journey back to the mainland we headed back down the coast with a brief stop to admire an Avocet close to the road πŸ™‚

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About tern :-) Farne Islands Safari 20/06/19

by on Jun.21, 2019, under Farne Islands

Yesterday was an opportunity to head to ‘the Galapagos of the North‘ and I collected Ruth D from Newbiggin then Ruth S and Margaret from Seahouses before heading a few miles down the coast for a morning walk to the Long Nanny…

With brilliantly coloured Common Blue butterflies, some very worn Painted Ladies and a Cinnabar moth in the middle of the track, the dunes were a stunning carpet of Bloody Cranesbill, studded with Pyramidal and Northern Marsh Orchids. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and with the breeze carrying sound out to sea, we were almost at the tern colony before we heard them. Little Terns were sitting quietly on the sand and Arctic Terns were feeding chicks just a few metres away from us. As each adult tern arrived with food, every chick it passed over raised a wide-open beak in hope of being fed πŸ˜‰

After a picnic lunch on the beach (“winning at life” in the words of Ruth S), it was time to head to Seahouses and board Glad Tidings III for the sailing to Inner Farne. I first did that trip with Sarah while were students at Newcastle Uni in the late 90’s, and there’s still the same sense of wonder as you leave the harbour with it’s creches of Eider and head the short distance to the islands…

First there’s an occasional Guillemot or Puffin sitting on the sea or flying past. Within a few minutes there are rafts of auks on the water and the air is filled with lines of Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot returning from foraging trips, or heading out to sea, as Kittiwakes shriek their name from precipitous cliff ledges, Gannets soar by effortlessly, Grey Seals laze on the rocks and the smell, the indescribable smell of a colony of seabirds that have an almost entirely fish-based diet, hits you for the first time πŸ˜‰

Once your visual, auditory and olfactory senses have all been given a good hammering it’s time for the final assault. Sandwich and Common Terns are relatively peaceful, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags are apparently indifferent to humans standing just a few feet way from their nest sites, Black-headed Gulls reserve their menace for kletoparasitism of the island’s Puffins who have become rather adept at flying straight into burrow entrances and the Puffins themselves wander across the boardwalk in front of you or poke their heads out of burrows and have a look at you as you walk past.

Arctic Terns though, they’re a different kettle of fish-eating aggression altogether. Occasionally you’ll get a loud chattering warning, some of them will jab at your hands from fence-post perches if you’re getting too close to the edge of the boardwalk or if you have the temerity to lift a camera to take a photograph of them and some will just decide to perch on your head, giving themselves a ‘king of the castle’ view of their nest. Then there are the ones that relentlessly swoop and peck at your head/hat/ears/sunglasses. Wear a hat and keep moving πŸ™‚

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Warbling :-) Kielder Bespoke Birdwatching 03/05/19

by on May.04, 2019, under Kielder

I collected Nick and Mel (for their 3rd day out with NEWT) and John and Heather from Bellingham and we took a short drive up the North Tyne valley for a day out around Kielder and the Scottish Borders…

Birdwatching in a dense forest in early May is a challenge and a small flock of Chaffinches feeding on the track ahead of us were particularly obliging. Robins, Blackbirds and Chiffchaffs were singing from the trees around us, flight calls betrayed Siskins and Crossbills as they passed overhead and a Willow Warbler sat out on a dead tree and was visibly shaking with the exertion of delivering that silvery descending scale. Five Roe Deer stared at us over an open grassy bank before nonchalantly trotting off towards the cover of a small copse.

Birds on the reservoir tend to be concentrated in favoured areas and Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mandarin and Little Grebe were all on the water as an Oystercatcher waded in the shallows.

On the other side of the border Ravens and a Common Buzzard accompanied our picnic stop, Wild Goats were grazing close to the road and a Sparrowhawk flew low over the valley bottom before heading through the trees and out of sight. Red Grouse were chuckling in the heather and two of them were sitting very still and offering very accommodating views. A pair of displaying Hen Harriers quickly moved over the moor and away out of sight before a lone male quartered the valley bottom, occasionally dropping and apparently tussling with prey.

With the first few spots of rain speckling the windscreen we headed back towards Bellingham and civilisation πŸ™‚

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Calm; Otter Safari 30/04/19

by on May.01, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Marilyn, Lesley, Penny, Dave and Trai ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland the first thing that struck me was just how calm the sea was, and how the mist hanging over it left water and sky linked by an invisible horizon…

We started with a riverside walk, accompanied by the songs of Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blackcap and Chiffchaff as a Grey Wagtail sallied from mid-stream rocks in pursuit of flying insects, a Jay showed briefly as it flew from one tree to the next and a Grey Heron flew adeptly between branches overhanging the water. Along a wider stretch of river, Shelduck, Gadwall and Mallard were up-ending, a Cormorant was perched on a dead tree mid-river and a Whitethroat was song-flighting as the crunchy aggressive warble of a Blackcap came from deep cover.

Our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea brought Fulmars soaring effortlessly along the clifftop, a Tree Sparrow calling as it passed overhead and a Grey Seal just offshore.

Avocets were feeding, sleeping and squabbling as Dunlin probed the mud in the shallows, a Lapwing ran across the mud in short bursts, Black-headed Gulls engaged in some very noisy display and posturing, Carrion Crows pursued a female Marsh Harrier and a Bar-tailed Godwit slept through it all.

With the approach of dusk a female Marsh Harrier was heading to roost as Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Teal remained calm and unflustered on the water below, a Canada Goose lifted its head above the vegetation surrounding its nest and the incessant reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler contrasted with the scattergun song of a Sedge Warbler as sunset, and then dusk were just a darker shade of grey than mid-afternoon.

As much as watching wildlife I really enjoy spending time with our clients, and with a range of topics discussed that included Natural England’s general licence controversy, open-casting, wind farms and the good, bad and ugly of wildlife photography the afternoon passed just too quickly πŸ™‚

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Misty, murky :-) Druridge Bay Safari 24/04/19

by on Apr.25, 2019, under Druridge Bay

As I collected Patrick and Susan from Newbiggin for an afternoon and evening exploring NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, there were some impressive waves breaking in the bay…

A flock of Black-headed Gulls were pestering a Grey Heron that flew off, voicing its disapproval, and then they turned their attentions to a female Red-breasted Merganser who had to surface and dive in quick succession to avoid their attentions as a Curlew probed the mud along the water’s edge, Cormorants sat sentinel-like on dead trees mid-river and a handsome Grey Wagtail had taken an unusual perch on a folding chair πŸ˜‰ Robin, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Blackbird were all singing and a song-flighting Whitethroat settled in a spot where we could see him through the branches as a charm of Goldfinches landed in a small tree nearby.

For the last year we’ve had a really nice Dipper nest site that can be watched without disturbance and a Dipper with a beakful of food soon appeared and flew up to the nest. It returned to a mid-stream rock and spent a little while preening before sticking it’s head into the water and looking around for food. A second bird brought food to the nest and then the first bird was remarkably obliging and fed underwater almost directly below us so we could see it as it darted around and probed in the river bed as Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Long-tailed Tits called nearby and the trilling of a Nuthatch cut through the trees around some open grass where two Song Thrushes were gathering food.

Our picnic spot overlooking the huge crashing waves of the North Sea produced lines of Gannets offshore, Eider riding the swell just beyond the breaking surf and a Kestrel hovering on the wind nearby and demonstrating it’s scanning technique very obligingly.

Dusk came sooner than expected in increasingly heavy mist and as a flock of Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Redshank, Avocet and Curlew repeatedly flushed, Grey Herons disputed feeding spots and Water Rails squealed from the reeds the hectic warbling of Sedge Warblers and the reeling of Grasshopper Warblers cut through the gloom as we headed back to the car.

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Cold westerlies; Otter Safari 29/03/19

by on Mar.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay

There was a chilly breeze as I collected Kev and Heidi from Newbiggin ahead of an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, but the weather is otherwise quite pleasant at the moment…

A Cormorant in proper heraldic pose was well appreciated, as they always are, as Goldeneyes and Little Grebes dived in the clear water, Redshank and Curlew awoke from their slumber to probe in mud freshly covered by the rising tide and a Grey Heron stood motionless while a Little Egret close by was taking a much more proactive approach to feeding. As it put each foot down it kicked around in the mud before darting at any prey that it managed to disturb. Compared to Tuesday there was noticeably less wildfowl, so it looks like there’s been a substantial movement out of wintering sites and back towards breeding areas. Great Crested Grebes are back so the changing seasons take with one hand and give with the other. A Water Rail put in an appearance in glorious sunlight as a Roe Deer grazed in deep bankside vegetation. In low-angled evening sunlight Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher were all raised way above the level of ‘ordinary’ and Avocets woke from roosting to start busily sweeping back and forth in shallow water as noisy yapping flocks of Pink-footed Geese lifted from nearby fields before dropping back out of sight, Grey Herons disputed feeding spots and daylight turned to dusk turned to darkness.

Another great day out with clients, talking cycling, running, Scotland, camper vans and wildlife πŸ™‚

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A herd of pygmies; Otter mini-Safari 26/03/19

by on Mar.28, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Jennie and Dean from Newbiggin and we set out for a few hours exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

A chilly westerly wind kept temperatures down and the wildlife was a mixture of winter and spring; Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and flocks of Mallard, Teal and geese were a lingering reminder of the big flocks of the winter, while Chaffinch, Robin, Wren and Great Tit were all singing as we found ourselves next to a group of Pygmy Goats who’d been let out of their usual enclosure to graze on a verdant pasture. Conversation switched to how much space would be needed to keep some πŸ˜‰ Another sign of spring was provided by 2 Avocets that flew from the muddy shallows that still held Redshank and Curlew in the shadow of dead trees festooned with Cormorants. A Roe Deer was out in the open before settling into bankside vegetation with only its ears betraying its hiding place and a splash of colour was provided by Shelduck and Great Crested Grebe. A Water Rail gave uncharacteristically obliging views as it fed in the gap between two reedbeds and time passed quickly and we were on our way back to Newbiggin.

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Early spring :-) Otter mini-Safari 23/03/19

by on Mar.25, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Jonathan and Emily & Scot and Sam, there was chilly breeze but a definite feel of changing season in the air…

Cormorants were roosting on fallen trees in the river and with a big tide they soon found their tail feathers and feet getting wet πŸ™‚ Oystercatchers, Redshank, Lapwing and Curlew were all on the muddy edges and Mallard, Gadwall, Shelduck, Little Grebe and Moorhen were in the water. A Little Egret darting in the shallows took off and headed downstream, standing out against the backdrop of dark vegetation on the river bank.

Heading towards dusk a Starling murmuration began developing, Greylag Geese were grazing in a nearby field , Whooper Swans flew north and a Roe Deer spent several minutes hurtling headlong back and forth near the water’s edge.

With daylight fading fast, the loud trumpeting of Whooper Swans arriving to roost drifted across the water and as we headed back to the car Pink-footed Geese, unseen but well heard, joined them.

Clients who understand the environment and have a passion for it always make the time pass far too quickly, and it was dark as we headed back towards the bright lights of Newbiggin.

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Fretting; Otter mini-Safari 24/02/19

by on Feb.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I usually say that the only weather condition that isn’t good for wildlife-watching is really strong wind. There is another one though, but it’s pretty infrequent…

I collected Barry and Bridie from Warkworth under blue sky and beautiful late winter sunshine and we headed towards Druridge Bay for a few hours. I knew what we were heading towards though as I’d driven through fog on the way north. We started with an hour or so of rolling sea fret that brought visibility down to tens of metres, as Cormorants did their very best Otter impersonations and the loud calls of Oystercatchers carried through the mist as they flew overhead. Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Whooper Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Pink-footed Goose were all feeding, resting or diving, two drake Pintail were stunning in the low-angled sunlight, the squeals of Water Rail emanated from the reeds as the chill of late afternoon began to probe and nip at our exposed faces and the evocative calls of Curlew cut through the hazy mist of dusk.

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Spring has sprung? Otter mini-Safari 23/02/19

by on Feb.24, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

After a break from Safaris and blogging, after I was diagnosed with a rare illness last year and had surgery in early January, it was great to be back out in the field with clients yesterday.

I collected Paul and Jennifer, Paul and Kirsty and Alastair and Jess from Newbiggin and we set off for a few hours around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. With temperatures in double figures, Robins, Chaffinches and Dunnocks were singing and a noisy flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through the riverside vegetation. Goldeneye, Gadwall, Mallard, Little Grebe and Cormorant were on the water and a Little Egret was stalking along the edge of a rapidly filling tidal channel. Grey Herons were nest-building and you could be forgiven for forgetting that it’s still winter here…

As daylight faded small flocks of Starling were heading to roost, a Roe Deer was close to the water’s edge and Whooper Swans noisily heralded their arrival. A pair of Canada Geese were looking alert and agitated then Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and the geese took off in a panic. From the direction they scattered we could tell where the source of their consternation was…hidden from view by a reedbed in front of us.

As darkness began to exert it’s grip on the eastern sky hundreds of Pink-footed Geese arrived at their nighttime roost, still coming in from all directions when they were only visible as a dark speckling against a leaden grey sky and we headed back to Newbiggin.

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