Tag: Grey heron

Back on track and tracking the storm; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 04/07/21

by on Jul.05, 2021, under Druridge Bay

With so many postponed trips last year, it’s been great to get out again and start meeting clients who we’ve been chatting to via email for a long time 🙂 I arrived in Druridge Bay and met up with Phil, then Melanie, then Marjorie and Ollie for an evening searching for otters and other wildlife. The weather forecast was promising us heavy showers and the potential for thunderstorms, so I suggested our best option was to stay very local and try to avoid getting too wet…

There are two schools of thought about wildlife watching: stay put, immerse yourself, take in whatever’s in front of you, or roam and search. I frequently use both when I’m out and about on my own but with clients we usually move between sites so the stay put approach seemed to be a gamble 🙂

That gamble produced what must be one of our best mini-Safaris over the last 13 years…tiny avocet chicks, defended against ‘encroaching’ coots, moorhens, and lapwings by a furious adult, contrasted with another one of this year’s young that was close to adult size, alongside a wader line-up that also included common snipe, common redshank, ruff, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, dunlin, ringed plover, and curlew arriving to roost with their eerie cries cutting through the ethereal mist rising from the marsh as the first heavy shower approached. A grey heron was stalking through the rushes as teal, mallard, gadwall and shoveler dabbled in shallow water, Canada and greylag geese grazed beside pied and yellow wagtails foraging through the lush vegetation and the songs and calls of meadow pipit, common whitethroat, willow warbler, grasshopper warbler, chiffchaff and reed bunting filled the air as a noisy flock of common terns arrived. The crazy, leggy joie de vivre of roe deer triplets attracted the attention of Exmoor ponies, brown hares loped through recently harvested fields and then, as mute swans, tufted ducks and mallards all started to look concerned, Marjorie spotted the tell-tale ring of bright water as an otter surfaced nearby before slinking off just ahead of a torrential downpour that cleared to make way for a swarm of swifts, sand martins, house martins and swallows gorging themselves on newly emerged insects against the backdrop of a stormy sunset.

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This is the sound of the summer; otter mini-Safari 10/06/21

by on Jun.11, 2021, under Druridge Bay

As I arrived to meet up with with Peter and Melanie, and Kristina and Paul, for an evening in Druridge Bay, the sky overhead was fluffy white clouds on an azure background but away to the north it looked grey and ominous…

Tufted ducks and Canada geese were alert as a Marsh Harrier drifted by, mobbed by lapwings and gulls, and a whimbrel flew north with just one burst of its distinctive trill. Swifts, swallows and black-headed gulls were all feasting on an abundance of chironomid (non-biting!) midges and, as we paused to admire a common toad that was staring impassively at us from the footpath, a common snipe was drumming high overhead.

Walking along the coastal path we were accompanied by the songs of common whitethroat, chiffchaff, willow warbler, reed warbler, skylark, meadow pipit and reed bunting, another marsh harrier was quartering reedbeds and fields and the loud song of a great reed warbler carried across fields on the southerly breeze as we came across northern marsh orchids and bloody cranesbill. As common and sandwich terns bathed in fresh water, a pair of great crested grebes radiated elegance, and the head of tiny chick put in a cameo appearance between it’s parent’s wings 🙂 A roe deer was grazing, unconcerned by our presence, on the edge of a reedbed and later in the evening we watched a younger deer that seemed to be struggling with the concept of needing to jump over a fence to get out of a field (despite having jumped over it to get in there in the first place!).

A starling murmuration contained around 100 birds and as a stunning sunset gave way to dusk, with Arcturus and the summer triangle prominent overhead, grey herons decided to end the day with a dispute over prime feeding spots.

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Druridge Bay bespoke birdwatching 27/05/21

by on May.28, 2021, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Church Point to meet up with Sandra and Francis, and we set off for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, an alternative to the bespoke Farne Islands safari originally planned (a long time ago…) but currently not possible for circumstances that are beyond our control, and bafflingly inexplicable…

Starting with a riverside walk chiffchaffs, whitethroats, wrens, chaffinches and dunnocks were singing as we passed sea buckthorn, pygmy goats, and gadwall, mallards, mute swans, canada geese on a river watched over by cormorants perched on semi-submerged trees and branches.

Lunch at the Drift Cafe was accompanied by whitethroat, swallow and pied wagtail, all singing or calling from rooftops, aerials and telegraph poles around us. A stop at Cresswell Pond produced a very obliging Barn Owl, hunting along the edge of the pool and in the dunes before returning with prey to it’s nest, and we continued our journey north along the coast road.

Lapwings were chasing summer-plumaged dunlin who’d strayed too close to their chicks, avocets graced the pool edges with their elegance, whimbrel and curlew called as they flew over, before settling out of easy viewing range in the heat haze, gadwall, teal and mallard dabbled as little grebes and tufted ducks dived and a mute swan escorted her cygnets. Marsh harriers exchanged nest duties, taking it in turns to quarter the reedbeds, sandwich and common terns arrived to bathe in fresh water and a very showy sedge warbler kept returning to the same perch in a hawthorn bush. Our walk between dunes and fields had an impressive chorus line of whitethroats, skylarks, stonechats, a single reed warbler rhythmically chuntering from cover and the reeling of a grasshopper warbler from a tangle of brambles.

After so many years of NEWT, and the last year of hardly being able to work, it’s great to be out and about again with lovely clients enjoying our local wildlife 🙂

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Wading through the sublime light; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 20/08/2020

by on Aug.21, 2020, under Druridge Bay

I arrived to meet Paul and Helen ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and we set off to walk south along the coast…

A mixed wader/gull/tern roost produced Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Sandwich Tern and Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull as Grey Herons stalked the water’s edge and three Marsh Harriers quartered back and forth along the reeds. The waders all lifted a couple of times and Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Coot all looked panicky but we couldn’t see what was causing all of the concern.

Starlings were roosting among the waders and a large flock speckled the sky before heading away out of sight to the north as Stonechats and Linnets perched on top of scattered bushed in the dunes, beautifully illuminated by low angle diffuse sunlight. One male Stonechat was sharing a prominent perch with an undeniably cute juvenile Common Whitethroat and the raucous calls of Pheasant came from rough pasture as Silver Y moths were nectaring busily on Red Clover.

With the Sun setting away to the west, and the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb about to make an appearance through a break in the clouds, a Sparrowhawk flew low over the dunes and a Barn Owl ghosted across the path ahead of us before making its way along dips in the dunes and eventually heading away north as daylight faded to darkness and the calls of Greylag Geese coming to roost accompanied our departure.

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Druridge Bay mini-Safari 12/08/2020

by on Aug.13, 2020, under Druridge Bay

With COVID19 having brought about some changes to how we deliver our mini-Safaris, I arrived at Druridge Bay to collect John and Jo for NEWT’s first land-based tour since February…

Our tour model for the last 12 years has been built around the use of the NEWTmobile (initially our Land Rover Defender, and more recently the Galaxy) to transport our clients between wildlife watching locations. Our new model involves still visiting a couple of locations on each mini-Safari, but walking between sites and I was curious how that would work.

Stonechats and Linnets were perched on top of bushes along the coastal path as a Cuckoo flew towards us before vanishing into a dip in the dunes and a Marsh Harrier was quartering a field edge below the setting Sun. As the harrier settled on a fence post, a Barn Owl took it’s place patrolling the same edge, below the Sun and above a Brown Hare that allowed occasional glimpses as it made it’s way along the back of a field. Skeins of Greylag Geese were scattered across the background of a stunning orange sunset as a second Cuckoo took off and flew along a fence line before looping around a patch of Sea Buckthorn and vanishing into the bushes.

As the Sun dipped below the horizon and Vega shone almost directly overhead, Grey Herons were chasing each other from favoured feeding spots and a Barn Owl appeared in front of us and plunged into the grass just a few metres away before emerging and flying off with it’s prey! Then, with light levels fading rapidly a Long-eared Owl flew head-on towards us.

I like our new model: see more, cover more ground, don’t have dead time traveling 🙂

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Bespoke Otter Safari 07/02/20

by on Feb.10, 2020, under Druridge Bay

As I collected Amy and James from Warkworth, ahead of a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, the forecast for the morning was good, but there was a chance it would start to deteriorate during the afternoon…

With only a gentle breeze every area of water we looked at was close to mirror-calm. Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese were all staying low on the water as Grey Herons sat in their usual pose of misery and Water Rails began squealing from the reeds. Little Grebes were diving, Cormorants were drying their wings with heraldic majesty and Lapwings flushed in panic, caught on the now stiffening breeze like windblown leaves. Curlews flew off, their eerie cries carrying over the calm water and a presumably confused Fulmar was soaring around over a coastal pool before heading back out to sea. More Fulmars accompanied our lunch stop, arcing along the clifftop with an uncharacteristically calm North Sea behind them. With the breeze picking up there was an obvious lack of passerines. Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons were sitting in bare trees, Little Grebes were patrolling close to overhanging vegetation where Moorhens were dabbling and as the Sun was setting in the west, remarkably orange, 3 Roe Deer were chasing around a steep field overlooking the river.

Another great winter’s day with lovely clients 🙂

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Vital signs; Otter mini-Safari 12/01/20

by on Jan.15, 2020, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

A dual purpose title for today’s blog…

I collected Fara, Andrew and Nicola & Graeme and Jen from Newbiggin and we set off to explore Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland on a Sunday morning that was thankfully lacking the stiff breeze that has characterised the winter so far…

Water that was almost mirror-calm was patterned with the concentric circles of diving Little Grebes, Goldeneye and Cormorants as a Grey Heron stood motionless, uncharacteristically obliging, and a Little Egret darted at small fish in the shallows before flying upstream, followed by noisy Oystercatchers, into what little breeze there was.

En route to our second site I thought it would be worth stopping to check for Little Owls, and one was sitting quietly sunning itself. If you’ve never seen one of these elfin sprites, here’s one of Sarah’s photographs from a few years ago 🙂

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The temperature was starting to drop and a breeze was becoming noticeable as we settled to scan over a pool and reedbeds. Suddenly the Lapwings all took flight, forming a tight wheeling flock tossed on the breeze as Mallards turned and stared at one area of reeds. After a couple of minutes the Lapwings were back down, as the discordant calls of Canada and Greylag Geese carried on the breeze and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Wigeon were all dabbling contentedly again. The calm didn’t last long though and the Lapwings were soon scattering in panic again. The third time they flushed the Mallards were once again looking at the same reedbed, this time with three Little Grebes joining with the intense study of a very localised area. Everything we’d look for when searching for Otters was happening right in front of us…the only thing missing was an appearance by our quarry itself. Here’s an Otter from January 2015, sporting a very fetching boa of seaweed 🙂

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Lovely clients, lots of photography discussion, great weather and I brought home an owl pellet to dissect 🙂

and ‘Vital signs’ as a blog title? It’s a track on Rush’s album Moving Pictures and our tribute to Neil Peart who sadly passed away last week.

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Halcyon days; Otter Safari 19/12/19

by on Dec.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

After a couple of weeks where we didn’t have any scheduled trips it was a nice change of scenery to have a day out around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and I collected Kev from Woodhorn as the rain started to fall…

Mid-morning produced a trio of great birds. A 1st winter Glaucous Gull had just settled back into a roost when Kev spotted a Kingfisher perched in front of us as a stunning drake Pintail up-ended just beyond it. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe all scattered in panic as a young male Marsh Harrier drifted over the pool and along the reeds where Water Rails were squealing.

Our picnic spot produced a Fulmar arcing over the sea in sight of cliff-edge nest sites and Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone and Oystercatcher all flew from rocks and along the shore.

The afternoon brought more Goldeneye and Little Grebe, another Kingfisher in the deepening gloom of dusk, noisy flocks of Pink-footed, Greylag and Canada Geese and a remarkable flock of possibly as many as 50 Greenfinches as Cormorants perched menacingly on fallen trees and Grey Herons stalked through the shallows.

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Murmuration; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 21/10/19

by on Oct.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Late October and big flocks of stuff are starting to feature more and more prominently…

I collected Caroline, Ian and Ted from Embleton and we headed down the coast towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Little Grebes were diving in calm water as Cormorants sat on long dead branches and a Kingfisher raced past as Little Egrets and Grey Herons demonstrated very different approaches to hunting; debonair darting and dashing and steady, stealthy menace.

A Common Buzzard was perched on a fence as flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye and Gadwall drifted quietly on the water and Lapwings flushed in alarm as Curlews left a nearby field, their eerie cries cutting through the cool air.

As dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rails emanated from the reedbeds a Starling murmuration grew into a swirling cloud against the darkening sky. Twisting one way then another and then splitting, rejoining and tightening as a Marsh Harrier chanced it’s luck in a desparate attempt to grab a bird from the writhing amorphous mass while high overhead the high yapping calls of skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese continued as daylight faded to black and we made our way back north.

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Lindisfarne mini-Safari 02/10/19

by on Oct.03, 2019, under Lindisfarne

With a biting northwesterly tearing across the causeway I arrived on Holy Island and met up with Ollie, Neil, Dawn and Sarah for a few hours birding around the island. I was really looking forward to this trip because I’ve known Ollie since we first started NEWT as he has his own outdoor activity business

Around the village House Sparrows were abundant, Pied Wagtails were in the churchyard, Blackbirds were grubbing around in tangled vegetation, Red Admirals added a touch of the exotic and around the edge of the harbour Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew and Ringed Plover were busily feeding as the eerie moaning wails of Grey Seals carried on the stiffening breeze. Along the eastern shore Grey Herons and a Little Egret were in the rock pools, sheltered from an angry looking sea, and we headed back along the Crooked Lonnen to have lunch at the Post Office Cafe.

Our post-lunch walk along the Straight Lonnen, past hawthorns with Goldcrests in constant motion, fields with Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Roe Deer and a dry stone wall with a pair of Stonechats brought us eventually to the exposed wind-blasted north of the island with it’s strange stunted Viper’s Bugloss and a shoreline with more Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers and Dunlin on the beach and a couple of female Eiders and one pristine drake in the frothy foaming surf of the rising tide.

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