Tag: Meadow Pipit

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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Getting ahead of the weather; Cheviot Valleys Bespoke Birdwatching 04/06/19

by on Jun.05, 2019, under Cheviot Valleys

I collected John from Cramlington, earlier than originally planned because the weather forecast wasn’t looking great and I wanted to stay ahead of what promised to be some heavy rain, ahead of a day in the Cheviot Valleys and we headed north west in bright sunshine…

Roadside verges left unmowed are a haven for invertebrates and Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies were alongside Red and Black Froghoppers and bees busied themselves searching for pollen and nectar as Oystercatchers engaged in noisy aerial chases.

The riparian triumvirate of Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper all put in an appearance, Willow Warblers, Chaffinches and Song Thrushes were all singing as the buzzing calls of Lesser Redpolls wrapped around the taller conifers, Meadow Pipits song-flighted over open ground, the eerie cries of Curlew rolled down the valley sides and a Peregrine soared in the updraft over a ridge. Green Tiger Beetles were around areas of the path left puddled by recent rainfall, Red-legged Partridges and Pheasants added a touch of the exotic (both very underrated birds…), a lone Brown Hare on one side of the valley contrasted with a field full of Rabbits on the other and a Common Buzzard in heavy moult laboured up the fell side. A pristine Adder slithered away from it’s newly shed skin and as we returned to the car the first few raindrops began to fall ๐Ÿ™‚ A trail runner came down off the hillside, having hit ‘the wall’ 32 miles into a 36 mile run and we gave him a lift into Wooler before heading south as the rain intensified.

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Group birdwatching; Druridge Bay and Lindisfarne 21-22/05/19

by on May.29, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Southeast Northumberland

We usually limit our tours to a maximum of 6 participants, and our increasingly popular bespoke tours to 2 participants, but over the last 11 years we’ve done a few tours for larger groups. 34 members of an RSPB group was on a different level though…

With Sarah and Tom assisting we separated the group into 3 each day. Sarah took a group who preferred very short walks and a very relaxed approach to their birdwatching. Myself and Tom separated the remainder into two equally sized groups and covered a bit more ground each day.

Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland produced a day that included Little Gull, Willow Tit, a very obliging baby Rabbit, and a Heron wrestling with, and finally subduing and eating a huge Eel, nicely bookended by a couple of local specialties with Red Squirrel at the start of the day (just as we got off the coach at our first stop!) and two incredibly obliging Dippers on the River Blyth at the end of the afternoon.

Lindisfarne was bathed in the complex song of Skylarks and the parachuting songflight of Meadow Pipits. Grey Seals meandered through the surf as Curlews and a lone Whimbrel flew along the shoreline and Roe Deer were quietly grazing close to the dunes. A flock of waders roosting on a distant shingley sandbar could just be identified as Grey Plovers with bright sunlight silhouetting them and the scattered reflections off the water challenging observation. Then a cloud passed in front of the Sun and there were close to 100 breeding-plumaged Grey Plovers! Just one is a spectacular sight in itself but this was a jaw-dropping flock ๐Ÿ™‚ Breeding-plumaged Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstone and Sanderling were feeding along a pebbly shoreline where Little Terns were roosting and the north side of the island was a stunning carpet of orchids.

Two great days out with a lovely group and excellently assisted by Sarah and Tom ๐Ÿ™‚

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Exultation :-) Bespoke Lindisfarne mini-Safari 05/05/19

by on May.08, 2019, under Lindisfarne

On Sunday I collected Nick, Mel, John and Heather for another day out with NEWT – this time heading to Lindisfarne

Blackbirds and Robins flitted out of the hedgerows as we walked along the Straight Lonnen, Swallows swooped overhead, Meadow Pipits were song-flighting and ten Roe Deer were quietly grazing and resting in one field while another four were away to the east of us. Grey Herons flew by, no doubt looking for a suitable spot to stand motionless in, Mallards and Shelducks flew past, a Curlew was wandering along the edge of the mud with lots of Grey Seals out on the mudflats at low water and a Brown Hare loped across the road in front of us.

One bird was very conspicuously advertising it’s presence though. Around the island the complex song of Skylarks was almost ever-present. It’s a species that’s undergone a dramatic population decline (75% between 1972 and 1996, with the decline continuing since then) so it’s always a joy to hear them and then watch as they perform a vanishing trick as they land.

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Everything ‘adding’ up to a great day; Cheviot Valleys Bespoke Birdwatching 28/03/19

by on Mar.29, 2019, under Cheviot Valleys

Yesterday was Sue’s 9th day out with NEWT, and the first time we’d headed into the Cheviot Valleys together…

In warm sunshine and under blue skies we started with a search for Adders. Sue’s sharp eyes spotted two, and we watched both from a respectful distance so they continued basking in roadside vegetation. Great Crested and Little Grebes were perhaps expected, but a Little Egret was a first for our Cheviot Valleys safaris before we headed deeper into the hills and a Brown Hare loped up the road ahead of us.

Dipper was next on the target list and Sue spotted one as it sat motionless on a mid-stream rock. Grey Wagtails were resplendent in breeding plumage and Goosanders gave brief flight views as they headed up a narrow valley. Chiffchaff and Chaffinch were singing, Common Crossbills called overhead, Green Woodpeckers yaffled from the woods and the eerie calls of Curlew rolled down the wind-blasted fells. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were in song flight as a Ring Ouzel foraged in rough rocky pasture and as Red Grouse engaged in territorial disputes on the hillsides a remarkable few minutes brought Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine and then a pair of Ravens in glorious synchronous display flight. When the Ravens reappeared from behind the high peak they were in pursuit of an interloper before dropping out of sight again. Common Buzzards were surprisingly scarce on higher ground, although there was little flying in a stiff breeze that it wasn’t easy to stand up in, but suddenly conspicuous in the afternoon sunshine as we headed back down through lower sheltered valleys.

Great weather, great company and great wildlife. See you again soon Sue ๐Ÿ™‚

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In the bleak midwin…wait a minute :-) Kielder Safari 24/03/19

by on Mar.25, 2019, under Kielder

Yesterday’s Kielder Safari was filled with returning clients; Stephen on his 3rd trip, Andy and Jill on their 3rd and Gordon and Mandy on their 7th. We’d got one species in particular on the target list for the day…

The forecast was for blustery showers but it started off fairly fine. Once we were out of the car though there was a bitingly cold stiff breeze and low cloud arrived from the north west, interspersed with bright sunshine. Each patch of better weather saw Common Buzzards rise from the trees and Peregrine and Sparrowhawk flew by. Common Crossbills called overhead, a distant Green Woodpecker was yaffling and Chaffinches were singing from exposed perches. Our persistence and resilience paid off and the ‘Phantom of the forest’ put in an appearance. With powerful effortless flight the Goshawk drifted along just above the treetops before rising higher and drifting away to the south and out of sight.

On exposed moorland after lunch, Meadow Pipits were diving for cover, Wild Goats were grazing amongst the heather, Ravens were sitting on the hillside and a Red Grouse called from deep cover.

Our finale was a flock of Goldeneye, with two drakes displaying and trying their hardest to impress the ducks, and then a noisy flock of Goldcrests calling and singing from the trees as we walked back to the car.

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Hazy, lazy afternoon; North Pennines Safari 17/05/18

by on May.19, 2018, under North Pennines

I collected James and Emma from Hexham and we headed into the North Pennines for a day searching for the flora and fauna of the hills and moorland…

We were soon watching our first Black Grouse of the day, which remarkably also proved to be our only Black Grouse of the day, as Common Snipe flew by and Lapwing and Curlew displayed over the road ahead of us.ย  Crossing heather moorland we started to find Red Grouse, then more Red Grouse and more Red Grouse; engaging in territorial disputes with each other, chuckling from the fellsides or just quizzically raising a big red eyebrow in our direction they provide entertainment whenever we come across them.ย  Brown Hares loped along the road ahead of our car and almost every fence post seemed to be adorned with a Meadow Pipit.ย  Our post-lunch walk produced the best display of Spring Gentian and Birds-eye Primrose that I’ve seen in ten years of leading tours in the North Pennines and we could hear, but not see, Peregrines as Grey Wagtails were flycatching along shallow streams.ย  eventually we did see a Peregrine, spotted by James as it soared distantly before drifting right over the car, and the plaintive call of a Golden Plover heralded a flyby from the beautiful black-bellied gold-spangled ‘Pennine Whistler’ before we headed back across the moors to the bustling metropolis of Newcastle ๐Ÿ™‚

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Into the arena; North Pennines Safari 03/05/18

by on May.07, 2018, under Uncategorized

After collecting David from Newbiggin we headed across to Hexham and quickly found Becky, for her 2nd day out with NEWT, and then Emma and Rob before heading into the North Pennines, with one particular experience high on everybody’s wish list for the day…

In a bitterly cold westerly wind, birds were mainly keeping their heads down.ย  Red Grouse popped up on the heather, Wheatears and Meadow Pipits hopped along drystone walls, Snipe, Curlew and Lapwing were displaying and Buzzard and Kestrel occasionally braved the breeze.ย  A Red Squirrel ran across the road and vanished into a tree, a Stoat ran up a wall and Roe Deer were grazing in the relative shelter of the valley bottoms.ย  A quick check of our favourite Black Grouse spot just before lunch produced no birds, and just a lone Blackcock feeding in a nearby field.ย  A post-lunch walk didn’t last as long as planned, with fairly ferocious wind-chill making it seem more mid-Winter than early May so we headed back to look for grouse

Where there were no grouse a couple of hours earlier, now there were 17 Blackcock, some feeding in long grass and some sleeping in the open.ย  Then, an unseen trigger launched the lek.ย  White tail feathers could be seen with the naked eye from our vantage point and the birds were struggling for dominance of the gladiatorial arena.ย  Some were half-heated about it and quickly stopped displaying and just watched the remaining birds.ย  Some were aggressively charging at each other and, eventually, just two birds were still displaying.ย  One seemed to be the alpha male of the lek, perched on a tussock in the centre of the lek he was holding the prime spot.ย  Undaunted, his one remaining challenger continued displaying and, as far as we could tell, the challenger had more stamina than the ‘king of the castle’ who lowered his tail feathers, dropped his wings, hopped down from the tussock and made a slow dignified exit from the arena into the surrounding long grass before flying away and leaving the one last displaying Blackcock strutting his stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

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