Tag: Mistle Thrush

Caught short

by on Jun.22, 2012, under Birdwatching, North Pennines, Northumberland, Photography

Tuesday was Christina’s second day out with us this week, and we had a very specific target for our afternoon and evening of birdwatching and photography, luckily I’d already spent a lot of time this year checking out breeding locations for the species concerned…

As the stunning weather illuminated the North Pennines AONB in beautiful light, Mountain Pansies and Cotton Grass were gently swaying in the breeze, Curlews and Lapwings were calling as they traversed the fellsides, Skylarks were singing from high overhead, Ring Ouzels and Mistle Thrushes flitted from tree to boulder to grassy slope and back again, a lone Woodcock (presumably with a faulty body clock) was roding in bright sunshine and there, on a fence post not 50 metres away was our quarry; stretching, posturing and delivering a haughty stare with piercing yellow eyes, the Short-eared Owl sat obligingly as Christina rattled off frame after frame of pin sharp owl portraits.  The owl was just one small part of the whole experience, but it was the part that the afternoon had been structured to deliver and it slotted into its appointed place in the vast landscape and soundscape.  Our wildlife doesn’t always perform to plan (and it would be rather dull and predictable if it did!), but when everything comes together perfectly it feels sublime.

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Substitute

by on Apr.23, 2012, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

There are times when you can visit the same location on successive days and see exactly the same wildlife, other times something you saw the day before has moved on but there’s compensation in the form of something unexpected…

I collected Julie and David from The Swan and we set off for day of bespoke birdwatching, combining the best of our uplands with the post-industrial birdwatching wonders of southeast Northumberland.  As we headed inland towards the Cheviot valleys the spectacular scenery (not for the first time) elicited a number of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the passenger seats of the car. Crossing the ford where the Harthope Burn becomes the Wooler Water we enjoyed very close views of those two riverine specialists, Dipper and Grey Wagtail.  I’m enthusiastic about most, if not all, birds but male Grey Wagtails are truly stunning birds, and one that often holds our clients entranced for extended periods of time.  We continued along the valley, and set off to walk up a narrow valley leading up into the hills from the main valley.  Red Grouse were cackling all around us, flying from one side of the valley to the other and occasionally perching in full view, imperiously staring at us as we followed the burn their territories.  A female Ring Ouzel flew down the valley, over our heads and away to a distant clump of trees, a pair of Sparrowhawks displayed ahead of us, and we stopped for lunch.  Our post-lunch walk was another spectacular one.  This time in a steep-sided valley, with Peregrines, Kestrels, Common Buzzards and Ravens soaring overhead, Mistle Thrushes carrying food to hungry nestlings and the song of a male Ring Ouzel carrying on the strengthening breeze.  An icy April shower added to the wild, remote feel of the valley and we headed back downhill into glorious sunshine.  Our assemblage of raptors (including the honorary member – the Raven) didn’t feature the Osprey I’d seen the day before, but we did have a real bonus bird…one of the things about birding in narrow steep-sided valleys is that birds appear very unexpectedly, and on this occasion it was the enigmatic ‘Phantom of the Forest’ as a male Goshawk broke the skyline in front of us and beat his way powerfully across the moors.

The second half of the day was spent on the Northumberland coast, finishing close to home around Druridge Bay.  The Common Eiders we found were greatly appreciated and the tour of NEWT’s ‘local patch’ produced a number of highlights with Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet, Pintail and Red-breasted Merganser all going down particularly well but, perhaps, the bird of the day was a Short-eared Owl that perched on a roadside fencepost and watched us just as intently as we were watching it; piercing yellow eyes holding us all enthralled as we completed a long day of birdwatching that seemed to be over too soon.  Isn’t that always the way 😉

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Setting the scene

by on May.31, 2010, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

Sunday started with a journey to inland Northumberland, birdwatching on some heather moorland in order to complete our final 2 ‘early season’ visits for the BTO Bird Atlas.  Contrary to the forecast weather, it was cold, windy and drizzly.  However, we set off and were eventually rewarded with a dramatic improvement as the sun came out and so did the birds.  Alongside all of the Willow Warblers, Chaffinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits the highlights were at least 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a stunning male Whinchat.  A pair of Curlew began alarming as we crossed the moorland, constantly changing position to draw us away from their nest location.

After a walk of just over 5 miles we headed home and decided that we would venture out towards dusk in search of badgers.  We’ve got an Otter and Badger trip on Thursday so we needed to check on the current status of a couple of setts that we’ve been watching for some time.  As we settled into position, with what appeared to be a horde of bats flying around, Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes were alarming (as they often do late in the day).  Soon, movement on the hillside opposite revealed our first badger of the evening.  Very grey, with cream stripes, it came out of a sett, squatted on a patch of bare earth and then vanished into the undergrowth.  A second animal quickly followed, much more gingery than the first, and then a third, starkly black and white.  It really is a privilege to sit and watch these magnificent animals as they go about their business (no pun intended).

After such a successful evening, getting a ‘phone call earlier today “can you take us out to look for Red Squirrels, Otters and Badgers tomorrow please” was exactly what we wanted.  Once upon a time I wouldn’t have been happy working on a Bank Holiday weekend, now it’s an enjoyable part of my career choice.  Just over 2 years in, and I don’t regret even a tiny part of that decision.

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When the weather is miserable…

by on Jan.21, 2010, under Lindisfarne, Northumberland

After the changeable weather during the Birdwatching Northumberland press trip culminated in excellent conditions on Monday, I hoped that we would get more of the same on Tuesday for a Lindisfarne Safari that I was leading.  It looked good; at home we had a heavy frost and clear blue skies.  Yet just a few miles down the road, as I headed to Gosforth to collect our client, there was a bank of thick fog.  Not to worry, conditions might be better on Holy Island…they weren’t, in fact the fog was even thicker.  As we stood on the Heugh it was eerie.  A bitingly cold southeasterly wind and visibility down to just a few metres.  Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Herring Gulls could all be heard through the mist and we continued our journey around the island.  Song Thrushes lifted from each clump of grass as we walked towards the harbour and slightly improved visibility allowed us to look closely at Teal, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew.  Lichens and mosses came under great scrutiny (remarkable structures when viewed under a hand lens).  Off the island we found Pale-bellied Brent Geese, small groups of Whooper Swans, a field with lots of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese (and a ‘Canalag’ hybrid), several Kestrels, an incredibly obliging Common Buzzard, a mixed thrush flock (Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbird), plenty of waders and, finally, as the mist returned and brought steady rainfall with it, Common Scoter, Shag and Eider on the sea. As we drove back down the A1 the worsening weather made it seem likely that we’d had better conditions than back at home.  There’s always something to see, whatever the weather.

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