Tag: Goldfinch

When the wind blows; Whales, waders and wildfowl 4-7/09/2015

by on Sep.11, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland Coast

Last weekend was our ‘Whales, waders and wildfowl’ mini-break, with an extension to include our Farne Deeps pelagic.

Day -1 (Friday 04/09/15).  A late cancellation left Sandra and Linda as the only guests on the holiday, and with conditions unsuitable for being offshore, we headed to the far north of the county.  Fulmars and Gannets were battling into the stiff breeze and Eiders were riding the deep troughs and towering crests of the waves that were pounding the shoreline.  Bar-tailed Godwit busied themselves along the water’s edge and the eerie moaning of Grey Seal and haunting cries of Curlew, carried on the rushing wind, enveloped us in the atmosphere of Holy Island in the early autumn.  By mid-afternoon, the wind had died down and the sea was calming – had the forecasters got it wrong…

Day 1 (Saturday 05/09/15).  04:00 and I wake up to the sound of a strengthening northerly 🙂  Throughout the day, we were close to the sea and could see the amount of swell close to the shore.  Linnets, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits and Greenfinches were tossed like leaves on the breeze as they ventured from the cover of bushes along the dunes, a stunning male Stonechat looked equally uncomfortable and Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit were roosting facing into the wind as Grey Herons sat motionless and a Little Egret still radiated elegance as it’s feathers were disarranged by the now rather stiff wind.  Always impressive, a male Marsh Harrier flew by before vanishing over a distant ridge, and the day finished with Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and 30 Little Grebes.

Day 2 (Sunday 06/09/15).  No breeze, bright warm sunshine 🙂  An extraordinary contrast to the preceding days, and with close views of Cormorant and Eider as they dived in calm water.  The Cormorants spent a lot of time standing with wings spread in heraldic pose, drying them before heading back into the water, always an impressive sight.  Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Mute Swan were swimming lazily around in the afternoon sunshine and a huge flock of gulls, roosting, bathing and following the plough, exploded into the air like a burst eiderdown as a Common Buzzard drifted over.  Dinner at the excellent Ashianna in Bedlington ended the holiday after three great days with Sandra and Linda 🙂

Our next holiday is Winter Wonderland in early December, so give us a call on 01670 827465 to find out more and to book your place now 🙂

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Autumn passage; Northumberland Coast Bespoke Birdwatching 01/09/2015

by on Sep.03, 2015, under Druridge Bay

The start of the month brought returning clients, David and Mary who were out with us in 2009 and 2012 and who we see at the Bird Fair each August.

Starting at Newbiggin we set out south down the coast and soon found ourselves standing on a track with nine Blackbirds ahead of us, along with Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Linnets and House SparrowsLittle Grebes slept and dived as young Grey Herons stalked along the water’s edge and demonstrated just how inelegant they are in flight – and especially in landing 🙂  A lunchtime stop overlooking the North Sea produced rafts of Eider, Fulmars arcing effortlessly over the waves and a Harbour Porpoise feeding just offshore as Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Turnstone explored the shoreline.  The afternoon was dominated by waders; Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing, Ruff, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin. Greenshank, Oystercatchers arriving for their high-tide roost stunning in beautiful light against a dark brooding sky and Common Snipe demonstrating their exceptional camouflage in amongst clumps of rush.  Stonechats flicked their tails nervously from precarious perches on barbed wire and Goldfinches, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs swarmed in rank vegetation and nearby trees.

See you at the Bird Fair next year 🙂

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A chill wind; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 08/07/2015

by on Jul.17, 2015, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Church Point to collect Ray and Joan & Ian and Kate, and we headed up the coast for an evening around Druridge BayMediterranean Gulls, Little Gulls, Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits and a huge flock of Lapwing flushed as a young male Marsh Harrier flew through, Goldfinch, Linnet and Tree Sparrow were busying themselves in the hedgerows and a male Ruff was tucked in amongst a flock of Redshank as a Little Egret stalked elegantly along the water’s edge.  As the evening headed towards dusk there was a noticeable increase in the strength of the breeze, carrying the noisy rustle of a Starling murmuration through the air from the reedbeds that were in near darkness, and an equally noticeable drop in temperature, as we headed back to the car and our drive back was slowed briefly as a Brown Hare loped along the road ahead of us.

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Weasily identifiable; Lindisfarne Safari 20/04/2015

by on Apr.21, 2015, under Lindisfarne

April is when we start to spend more time visiting our inland areas, but the coast can still deliver real quality, and quantity, at this time of the year too.

I collected Sue and Colin from Beadnell and we headed north to Holy Island.  Crossing the causeway we paused to watch Eider and Red-breasted Merganser in the channel under the road.  The mudflats produced Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, as well as a lot, and it really was a lot, of Grey Seals.  Close to 2000 were hauled out and soon began their eerie moaning.  Black-tailed Godwit and Teal were sleeping by the edge of the Rocket Pool, a lone Brent Goose was kept company by a herd of sheep, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches and Skylarks were hurrying back and forth, a Redwing was foraging on the ground close to the field edge, a Sedge Warbler was singing it’s repetitive song from the reeds by the Lough as a Common Snipe put in a typically brief appearance and 12 Roe Deer were grazing near the Straight Lonnen.  Then we struck gold…walking slowly along the Hawthorns, a bird flushed from beside us.  The views were only brief but the white breast band, and silvery wing flashes, identified the bird as a male Ring Ouzel.  We continued walking slowly along the lonnen, and the bird kept a few metres ahead of us.  Then we lost track of it but stopped to watch two Blackbirds grubbing about in the undergrowth…and the ouzel called from a tree we’d already passed.  We turned as it flew out of hiding…followed by another, then another, and another and finally, a fifth male Ring Ouzel 🙂

Over on the mainland we had our picnic lunch as the eerie calls of Curlew floated through the heat haze across the mudflats and Sue spotted a Weasel.  It was running in and out of the vegetation so I started pishing…and it popped up and began running in our direction, sitting up on its hindlegs and staring straight at us 🙂  Eventually it got back on with whatever it was doing, and it put in repeat appearances for a few minutes.  A Brown Hare gave tantalising close views before vanishing into the crops and we finished in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle with Sand Martins hawking insects over the beach, Eiders bobbing in the gentle swell, a pair of Common Scoter slightly further from the shore, more Grey Seals, plunge-diving Sandwich Terns and lines of Gannets heading, mainly, north.  Not a bad range of wildlife for seven hours in mid-April 🙂

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Stoatally different; Beginners Photography Workshop 19/04/2015

by on Apr.21, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Photography

Sunday afternoon was, thankfully, sunny and (reasonably…) warm for our NWT Beginners Photography Workshop.

Once I’d found everyone near the entrance to the Druridge Bay visitor centre, we walked through to the feeding station hide at East Chevington.  Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits were around the feeders, some remarkably shy Pheasants were quite stunning in the sunlight and we covered the usual beginners workshop topics of shutter speed, aperture settings, ISO, histograms, exposure compensation, and how to attract wildlife close enough to your camera.  Then an opportunity that really doesn’t come along every day as Joan spotted a Stoat.  I started pishing and it popped back up briefly, sitting on a rock for just long enough to allow a few frames to be fired off 🙂  Colin’s shot of the Stoat was a great one to demonstrate how cropping can improve the composition of an image.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was sitting high above the feeding station, frustratingly not coming down low enough to be in front of the array of cameras (Nikon, Canon, Fuji and Sony).  Then, one of the perpetual drawbacks of wildlife photography on a public nature reserve…the Pheasants scattered, all of the small birds left the feeders and a Black Labrador ran through the edge of the reeds 🙁 All it needed was a few minutes after the dog had gone though, and all returned to normal 🙂

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Springtime in Northumberland; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 02/03/2015

by on Apr.03, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Unexpected safaris are always a pleasure, and yesterday was a mini-Safari around Druridge Bay that was only arranged on Tuesday.

I collected Alison, John, May and Isaac from Low Hauxley and we headed down the coast.  In glorious weather, the cacophony of unbridled bird song was a noticeable contrast to the gloomy days of March.  Chaffinch, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Robin were all singing and the onomatopoeia of our first Chiffchaff of the year was emanating from deep cover.  A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, all crazy hair do and striking pattern, were swimming back and forth with their heads below the surface in search of fish, a Little Egret stalked elegantly through the shallows, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank prodded and probed in the gooey mud, Goldeneye and Cormorant imitated the Otters we were looking for and Grey Herons stood, sentinel like, against the riverside bushes.  Canada and Greylag Geese were noisily proclaiming their arrival, a young Whooper Swan lived up to it’s name and Great Crested Grebes and Pintail vied for the accolade of elegant beauty.

A male Marsh Harrier drifted by and a Mediterranean Gull, ghostly white against the speckled backdrop of Black-headed Gulls, performed for some of the group, before frustratingly hiding in the middle of the gull flock.  Common Buzzards were soaring against the blue sky and hovering Kestrels were a feature throughout the morning and early afternoon, as Meadow Pipits song-flighted from coastal fence-posts.

It certainly feels like the spring…

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Mud, glorious mud; Lindisfarne Safari 28/11/2014

by on Dec.02, 2014, under Birdwatching, Holy Island, North Sea, Northumberland Coast

The Northumberland coast in the late autumn is a birdwatching destination that I’ll never tire of.  Even in weather that could best be described as inclement, there’s a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.

I collected Mike and Janet from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north for a day birdwatching around Lindisfarne and the North Northumberland coast.  Starting with a walk around Holy Island village, a harsh chuckling call betrayed the presence of a Fieldfare in a small tree. Two others joined it, before they all departed noisily.  Then more chuckling Fieldfare, and the high seee calls of Redwing, carried through the air from high overhead and we could make out, in the mist, a mixed flock of these thrushes arriving high from the north east and bypassing the island on their way across to the mainland.  A Sparrowhawk raced by, hedge-hopping and swerving out of sight behind The Heugh, as thousands of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew out onto the exposed mud of the wildfowl refuge area and Shag, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser dived just offshore.  A couple of very obliging Rock Pipits showed the subtle, dusky beauty that can only be appreciated with close views and Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover were reaping the rich bounty of the mud, as Dark-bellied Brent Geese settled in the newly exposed mud of the harbour, and the high whistling calls of drake Teal carried across to us from the Rocket Field, a Little Auk flew along the main street through the village.  Crossing back to the mainland, a Little Egret was stalking through the shallows along the roadside and Curlew and Oystercatcher were so close we could have almost reached out of the car and touched them.  As the falling tide exposed sandbars, Grey Seals were moaning eerily and splashing about in shallow water.  Suddenly, there were thousands of Wigeon and Golden Plover in the air.  They settled but then flushed again so I started a methodical check of every rock that I could see on the mud.  Then I found what I was looking for – a rock that was just too vertical…and the view through our ‘scope revealed the impressive muscular menace of a female Peregrine 🙂  She shuffled around and took off, only to settle on another rock closer to us.  Our attention was drawn to a charm of Goldfinches feeding nearby, and the Peregrine departed while we weren’t looking.

As the weather moved through in waves of varying grot, we watched a group of three Roe Deer grazing in a roadside field, and then headed a bit further down the coast.  Dusk was approaching rapidly as we watched more waders feeding busily as the tide rose, Lapwings flew over like giant bats and thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls arrived to roost.  Wave after wave of mist and drizzle, wave after wave of birds, wave after wave of  waves 🙂

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Charming; Bespoke Birdwatching 10/11/2014

by on Nov.22, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Even after 40+ years birdwatching, there are times when I’m not sure whether the thing that excites me the most is a lone rarity, a life or death interaction involving one of the predators we encounter, or an impressive flock of something common…

I collected David and Dot from Gosforth and we made our way across to the coast for a day of mid-November birdwatching.  This proved to be a day of flocks; Pink-footed Geese rose then dropped in nearby fields, peppering the sky and cutting through the autumn air with their yapping calls.  Mini-murmurations of  Starlings twisted, turned, bunched and swirled, demonstrating that they don’t just reserve that spectacle for the fading light of evening.  Common Snipe were sitting in the vegetation close to the water’s edge, extraordinarily well camouflaged when asleep and only really betraying their presence once they woke up and started probing in the soft mud of the shallows.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Eider are almost a given on the coast in the winter, a lone Sanderling hurried back and forth in a flock of Ringed Plover and Teal, Wigeon and Goldeneye are eyecatching whether in flocks or alone.  Elegant Pintail glided by and Stonechats flicked their tails nervously perched in the tops of bushes in the dunes along the coast.  One isolated tree brought a memorable spectacle, with a charm of Goldfinches, and a lone Greenfinch.  For a couple of years now, a lot of our clients have reported increasing numbers of Goldfinch, and a tremendous decrease in Greenfinch.  No matter how numerous Goldfinch become, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever become blase about them; strikingly patterned, with their red face, black and white head and yellow wing flashes, and with liquid, twittering songs and calls, they really are quite charming 🙂

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Rain song in beautiful light; Northumberland Birdwatching 12/03/2014

by on Mar.17, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Last Wednesday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for some time.  Janice and David have visited Northumberland annually for many years and it was David’s 50th birthday so Janice had arranged an afternoon out for him 🙂

Arriving at Cresswell, I was impressed by the naked-eye view of a Red-throated Diver from the window of the cottage, and we were soon on our way up the coast, for an afternoon’s birdwatching concentrating on locations where there is a better than average chance of seeing an Otter.  David is a keen reader of some of our local birdwatching blogs and it wasn’t long before we bumped into a familiar name as we enjoyed East Chevington’s quartet of grebes Little, Great Crested, Slavonian and Red-necked – in the company of Alan Gilbertson, who showed us an image he’d taken of Bean Geese at HauxleyGoldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Gadwall were all stunning in the beautiful afternoon light and we continued on our way.  The closure of one of the footpaths at Hauxley was going to make viewing the geese slightly tricky, as we’d have to be looking into the sun.  We managed to find one spot that gave us a good view of the birds and, after we’d sifted through plenty of Greylag, Canada and Pink-footed Geese, which were obligingly on the pool rather than on a distant field, I spotted the brown wings and orange legs of a Tundra Bean Goose, which was asleep but woke to allow excellent comparison with the Pinkfeet.

On to a delightful spot that we’ve been checking recently for Otter, and the songs of Wren, Greenfinch and Goldfinch filled the air, as well as the persistent ‘rain song’ of a male Chaffinch, a Dipper came along the river, calling, and secreted itself away from view under the bridge we were standing on, a Grey Wagtail flew over calling, a Common Buzzard glided low over the trees and a flock of Curlew rose noisily from nearby fields.  The Chaffinch and his mate were busy helping themselves to flies that were trapped in spider webs, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers really looked at their best in the sublime low sunlight.

Our final port of call was Cresswell Pond, which was bathed in warm orange sunlight with the tops of the reeds appearing to be aflame as the sun sank closer and closer to the horizon.  Common Snipe were roosting at the water’s edge and a Starling murmuration twisted and turned above the skyline to the north as the light faded and I returned David back to the cottage.  Incredibly, five hours had quite simply flown past as we enjoyed an afternoon birdwatching and chatting about wind farms, raptor persecution, marine conservation and Scottish independence.  Do you know, you can easily tie all of those topics together 🙂

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Fantastic Mr Fox; Moorland and Coast 07/03/2014

by on Mar.14, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland

One of the best bits of being outside and searching for wildlife is the how everything around you ties together to create an experience; the landscape, the wildlife and the weather all come together to produce whatever they may…

I collected Paul and Jeanette from their holiday accommodation in Warkworth and we started out down the coast towards Druridge Bay.  Originally the plan had been Harwood and then the coast, but weather conditions suggested it would be better to reverse that.  Then there was a sudden change from the poor conditions and it was looking like a glorious morning after all so we reverted to Plan A.  The Northumbrian weather responded by throwing everything it could at us; sunshine, azure blue skies, fluffy white clouds, torrential rain and brutal biting winds all came, went and came again 🙂 There was no sign of any Goshawk activity in the good spells but you could hardly blame them 🙂  Eventually we retreated back down to the coastal plain…and had the same sequence of changeable weather all over again!  Feeding stations were a hive of bird activity, with Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and a very bright male Siskin all entertaining us, but Red Squirrels weren’t to be seen.  Some of our coastal ponds have been producing regular Otter sightings over the last few months…but the most notable thing was that the howling gale was generating waves that you could have surfed on!  Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches were clinging on to branches as the wind buffeted them and, as Curlew, Lapwing and a nice mini-murmuration of Starlings were tossed about on the breeze, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye; Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Slavonian, Red-necked, Great Crested and Little Grebe struggled in the waves.

Our final destination for the day was one of our favourite Badger setts.  There was rustling in the scrub on the valley sides, but no stripy black-and-white head appeared, at least not before it was too dark to see.  What did come along though was a Red Fox.  Unusually obliging, this one trotted along just above the sett before stopping and fixing us with a stare.  It didn’t bolt, as foxes so often do, but watched us, and some passing dog walkers, before continuing with its exploration of the hillside.  Often underrated, undervalued, frequently despised…but a thoroughly engaging animal if you take time to watch the almost feline grace of this wild canine.

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