Tag: Peregrine

Ringing the changes; Druridge Bay 18/04/2015

by on Apr.21, 2015, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Saturday saw Roger returning for a second day out with NEWT, after Kielder in May 2012, and, as he was stopping at The Swan, we chatted on Friday evening about the possible options.

Although Druridge Bay was still planned to be the focus of part of the day, we decided to start with a quick trip into the Cheviot Valleys first.  Lapwings were displaying, newly arrived Willow Warblers seemed to have comandeered almost every bush and tree, Dippers were bobbing up and down on mid-stream rocks, a Peregrine soared along the top edge of the valley as Red Grouse chuckled and chuntered from the heather-clad slopes below and then, in a bare tree in a narrow steep sided valley, a real prize – a stunning male Ring Ouzel 🙂  Roger spotted another Peregrine and then a female Ring Ouzel perched obligingly in another bare tree.

The coast had lots of what we would expect…but the ‘quality over quantity’ of the hills won out on the day 🙂

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Dreich; Kielder Safari 17/03/2015

by on Apr.01, 2015, under Kielder

Dull, overcast, drizzly, misty, cold, miserable…the sort of day that makes Kielder a place where you really have to work for your wildlife sightings.

I collected David from Byrness and we headed into the border forests.  After his coastal holiday with us in 2013, and a Farne Deeps pelagic trip in September last year, I was looking forward to meeting up with him again.  One look at the weather told me this wasn’t likely to be a good Goshawk day, but it’s always worth trying 🙂  The ‘phantom of the forest’ did remain elusive, but another Kielder speciality put in an appearance with a flock of 15 Common Crossbill chipping away noisily around the forest drive.  A Roe Deer crossed the track ahead of us, and we headed across the border.  A tumbling Raven was demonstrating its prowess, Red Grouse popped up and down in the heather and, probably the highlight of the day, a pair of Hen Harriers soared over the moor; the female unobtrusive and low over the heather, her mate an enigmatic ghostly grey against the dark background.  Common Buzzards circled against the sky and, above one of our favourite Goshawk sites, a Peregrine soared over a clearing between plantations, all muscular menace and effortless grace.

Even the days that don’t look promising still hold excellent wildlife 🙂

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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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The Island; Lindisfarne Safari 12/10/2014

by on Oct.15, 2014, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

After a break from work and blogging, and our first proper holiday in quite a while, I got back into the swing of things on Sunday with a visit to probably my favourite mid-October location…

Crossing the causeway to Holy Island is always accompanied by a sense of anticipation, and when I collected Graham and Joan from the Manor House they mentioned that Yellow-browed Warblers had been seen the day before.  Checking the bushes and trees in the Vicar’s Garden didn’t produce any sight or sound of the Siberian speciality, but everywhere was heaving with Robins – presumably recent arrivals from the continent – and Grey Plover, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Seal could be seen, and heard, by turning through 90 degrees from the trees.  After checking other suitable spots around the village, and finding a couple of Goldcrest, we crossed to the mainland and down to Bamburgh.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Curlew, Purple Sandpiper and Knot were around the rocks as Eider and Guillemot rose and fell with the gentle swell of the sea and Gannet and Sandwich Tern plunged into shoals of fish offshore in conditions that wouldn’t have been out of place in mid-June.  We made our way slowly back up the coast, taking in vast flocks of Wigeon over the mudflats and a Weasel that responded obligingly to my imitation of a dying mouse (the sound, rather than a visual imitation!).  Little Egrets and Shelduck were exploiting the food supply on the exposed mud and we crossed back on to the island…only to learn that a White-tailed Eagle had been soaring high inland of us while we were watching the Weasel 🙁  We headed down to the causeway, to see if the eagle would make a reappearance, as flocks of Sanderling, Dunlin, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Golden Plover concentrated on the rapidly diminishing areas of mud above the rising tide and a Peregrine powered across our field of view before it was time for me to cross back to the mainland and head south.

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Six of the best; Cheviot Valleys and Druridge Bay 09/06/2014

by on Jun.13, 2014, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Monday’s trip was a birdwatching tour of two of Northumberland’s excellent locations; the Cheviot Valleys in the morning, and Druridge Bay in the afternoon.

I collected John, Graham, Andy, Sue, Sue and Lesley from their cottage in Shilbottle and we set off inland towards the imposing landscape of the Cheviot massif.  As we got out of the car and donned waterproofs we had the first rain shower of the day, but it quickly passed and the path began gaining in altitude as Oystercatchers perched on fence posts, swallows and martins hawked back and forth through air buzzing with insects in the warm, humid conditions and Willow Warblers and Chaffinches competed with their congeners in a singing contest.  The plaintive cries of Curlew echoed around the steep valley sides, the high calls of Siskin and the buzzy rattle of Lesser Redpoll  came from overhead and one of the archetypal valley birds put in an appearance as we found a succession of adult and juvenile Dippers.  A lone Common Buzzard hovered high over the moors in search of prey and a Peregrine repeatedly rose above the skyline before dropping back down in a prolonged attack on an unfortunate, and unseen, victim.

Lunch overlooking the sea was accompanied by Fulmars gliding gracefully back and forth on stiff wings, before we switched our attention to waders, wildfowl and waterbirdsLittle Egrets and Grey Herons were stalking menacingly along shallow pool edges, at least 50 Black-tailed Godwits were roosting, and a small group of Little Gulls looked diminutive alongside Black-headed Gulls (which aren’t all that big themselves!).  Reed Buntings were singing their rather repetitive song, Sedge and Reed Warblers flew by before vanishing into the depths of the reedbeds and we enjoyed the sight of delicate and dainty, yet incredibly feisty, AvocetsGreat Crested Grebes were feeding their stripy offspring, Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns perched obligingly, allowing easy comparison, and the afternoon brought an unexpected surprise in the shape of no less than six Spoonbills.  They did little more exciting than occasionally wake up and preen for a short while before nodding off again, but the sight of six of these impressive birds together wrapped up the day nicely 🙂

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Kettling; Kielder Safari 23/04/2014

by on Apr.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Kielder, Northumberland

The alarm went off at 06:00 on Wednesday, and my heart sank as I looked out of the window…heavy mist, not ideal for any of our tours, but particularly not good for a day in Kielder.  I drove to Kingston Park to collect Steph and we headed west in much more promising conditions; low cloud in some valleys, but some sunshine too.  We collected Paul and Trish from Wark, and then Ivan from Tower Knowe and headed into the forest.  It was a bit cool and misty for any raptors to be up and about, but two Common Crossbill flew by and the air around us was filled with the descending silvery cadence of Willow Warblers as Woodpigeons, Stock Doves and Carrion Crows caused a brief quickening of the heart rate as they flew between plantations.

A walk to the Bakethin reserve produced lots of Siskin, and Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Teal, Oystercatcher, Cormorant and Common Sandpiper were around the water’s edge.  As we got back to the car park, which provided good views of Treecreepers, Paul spotted a raptor high overhead, and binoculars resolved it into the impressive shape of an Osprey.

Over the border into Scotland we were soon encountering Common Buzzards, lots of them, and a remarkable number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.  We reached our picnic spot and, as soup, sandwiches and carrot cake were consumed, raptors began to appear above the skyline.  First Common Buzzards, then a female Hen Harrier, followed soon after by a skydancing grey male 🙂  Then more Common Buzzards, and more Common Buzzards At one point we had between four and six birds behind us, while higher up the valley at least ten were kettling in one thermal along with a Peregrine 🙂  Absolute heaven for any birdwatcher who enjoys raptors…and who doesn’t?  Along the stream Reed Buntings were pretending to be Dippers, but we did eventually find the genuine article, which obligingly bobbed up and down on a rock before diving into the fast flowing water, and Wheatears were perched on old stone walls.  On the hillsides high above the valley bottom, Wild Goats were grazing as we enjoyed close views of Common Buzzards both perched and flying, and Red Grouse were found as we crossed the moors back towards England.

We finished the trip with an uncountable number of Chaffinches and a real Northumberland speciality as a Red Squirrel ran around on the ground before deciding to hang upside down on a peanut cage, and it was time to reverse the route and drop everyone off.

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More five star birdwatching; Northumberland coast 24/02/14

by on Feb.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Yesterday continued to lay to rest the myth that February is a quiet month…

Starting in the north of the county, overlooking the iconic landscape of Holy Island, brought the expected waders and wildfowl, and three lifers for Paul and Katie, who were back for another day out with us, following a trip in 2009; Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Twite. A Peregrine muscled its way menacingly through the air above a flock of Dunlin, Grey Seals were ‘bottling’ at high tide and Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Curlew were probing the soft exposed mud as the tide began to drop.  Eider, Shelduck, Red-throated Divers, Wigeon and Teal were all at or near the water’s edge and the songs of Skylark and Yellowhammer reverberated in the warm sunshine.  Perhaps the highlight of the morning was a bird that is always breathtaking; sailing elegantly into the stiff breeze, a male Hen Harrier was tracking along a hedgerow heading inland 🙂

The afternoon brought Paul and Katie’s fourth lifer of the day, a Red-necked Grebe, with Little, Great Crested and Slavonian Grebes all close by for comparison.  Two Avocets were rather unseasonal, a pair of Pintail exuded elegance, drake Goldeneye looked very smart in their contrasty breeding plumage, Red-breasted Mergansers looked quite, well, comical as they always do and two Brown Hares were sitting motionless in a nearby field.  With 30 minutes until sunset a small flock of Starlings flying in from the north led to me suggesting that we go and see where they’d gone, and to check if there was going to a significant murmuration…

What followed was, quite simply, one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed.  Initially the Starlings were about a mile south of where I expected them to roost, and there were a lot of them.  Soon two other large flocks merged with them and they moved slowly north, eventually passing directly overhead with the sound of wingbeats like a gentle breeze rustling through a forest.  The murmuration drifted away to the south again, then back north.  Almost an hour had passed when the activity levels within the flock were ramped up.  Twisting and turning with more urgency, the density of birds in different parts of our view coalesced to form writhing shapes from the previously uniform oval.  With light levels fading, the birds vanished from sight, only to betray their presence in a series of shapes that resembled a slug, then a snail, then a car.  We soon lost them in the gloom again, only for the finale to the evenings proceedings to take us all by surprise as the flock compacted over the reedbed where they were going to roost, forming a dense arrowhead as they funneled into the reeds.  With the first birds down in the reedbed, the rest of the flock wheeled slightly higher, then repeated the maneuver, a second arrowhead driving into the reeds.  A third, then a fourth, cohort entered the roost and all was quiet.  Fade to black…

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Winter Wonderland Day Two 05/12/2013

by on Dec.09, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography, Southeast Northumberland

04:30, and I wake to what sounds like a train crashing through our garden.  It isn’t though, instead it’s the howling gales that had been forecast.  Meeting up with David for breakfast at The Swan, I’m glad that we switched our day in Druridge Bay and Southeast Northumberland to today.  Lindisfarne in howling gales and torrential rain would be close to unbearable, Druridge Bay would be much closer to manageable…

Starting with a seawatch as the rain lashed against the rear window of the car, Eider and a single Common Scoter were just offshore as Sanderling scurried around the piles of seaweed on the shore, a ghostly white adult Mediterranean Gull struggled past against the wind and two Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew north low over the waves.  Then the weather cleared and we were suddenly in beautiful sunshine and blue skies with a light breeze…before the wind strengthened again, the sky turned black and a squally shower had the entire surface of the pool at Hauxley looking like it was boiling.  Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Scaup and Little Grebe

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all faced the elements…then it turned nice again and a Peregrine flew through, scattering Wigeon and Teal but paying them no heed 🙂  A line of Black-headed Gulls dip-feeding into the breeze at East Chevington contained a surprise in the dainty form of a Little Gull, then it started to rain again.  Sitting by the River Coquet eating lunch, we watched Eider and Red-breasted Merganser, as well as Lapwing, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank…as the first of the afternoon’s hailstorms began.  Another break in the weather brought David an excellent photo opportunity with a flock of Eider

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before hailstones the size of peas led to a hasty retreat back to the shelter of the car 🙂 Soon the hail was replaced by snow, before another break in the weather brought some simply sublime late afternoon light.

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and a flock of Lapwings were tossed about in the air like pieces of black and white paper.

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With the howling northwesterly winds, the water at Cresswell was being driven towards the channel under the road and between the dunes.  A Black-necked Grebe swam by and then, subtly, and with the inevitability of the tide, water started flowing the other way and a boundary between wind-driven pond and incoming tidal surge developed in front of us.  After a Starling murmuration just up the coast,

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we followed the road back down through Druridge and discovered the tide had overwhelmed the culvert and was still coming in, but now straight over the road in front of us.  Watching the car in front safely traverse the water, we made our way across and headed back to The Swan at the end of an extraordinary day.  David was a pleasure to guide on this holiday, and he kindly sent us the images that illustrate the two blog posts 🙂

We’re taking bookings now for our 2014 holidays, so please get in touch for more details or to book.  We’ve got a range of holidays, each designed to showcase the best of Northumberland, the North Pennines and the Scottish Borders at the best times of the year.

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The enchanting isle; Lindisfarne Safari 29/11/2013

by on Dec.03, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

After a planned 5 week break to recover from surgery I headed to Bamburgh, to collect Laura and Richard for a mini-Safari around Lindisfarne, brimming over with enthusiasm to be back and doing what I love.

Starting in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle, we watched Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Redshank and Oystercatcher as they flew from wave-blasted rock to wave-blasted rock with Eiders appearing and disappearing in the swell just beyond them.  A flock of Twite rose briefly from the weedy fields and, sitting on a ridge in adjacent field was the largest Peregrine that I’ve ever seen.  As we neared Holy Island a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese were making their way along the shoreline and Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit were exploring the recently uncovered mud as a Greenshank slept with it’s head tucked between its wings.  We were using two cars, as Laura and Richard thought it would make more sense then transferring their three dogs to my car.  As we headed across the causeway a Merlin chased a flock of Snow Buntings, but they were up and over the dunes before the second car reached them 🙁

As daylight faded we enjoyed excellent ‘scope views of a crescent Venus in the western sky, and then I was on my way back down the coast to get ready for a full day trip on Saturday 🙂

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Shining in the gloom;Druridge Bay 02/10/2013

by on Oct.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Photography

I always look forward to trips with returning clients, and Louise was booked in for her third bespoke photography day.  A client who’s a professional photographer is a real treat as there’s a lot to chat about; equipment, photo libraries, how to deal with your images being used without permission, wildlife photography workshops, other photographers… What I’m not so keen on though, is weather forecasts that promise rain for the Northumberland coast 🙁

With occasional heavy showers, the day around Druridge Bay brought a mixed bag of photographic opportunities for Louise.  Too quick, and in rain that was just too heavy, a Peregrine entertained us during our lunch break as it targeted a flock of Starlings. First it appeared just few metres in front of us, coming from below our feet and shooting up above a clifftop.  A few minutes later it was heading at breakneck speed in the opposite direction, straight through the StarlingsCurlews, Dunlin and Little Grebes all appeared in front of the camera and, as a female Eider drifted by, Louise mentioned that drake Eider was something that had so far evaded her camera.  A few minutes later, after a quick change of location, a flock of drake and duck Eiders were particularly obliging, cooing contentedly as Louise focused on them from just a few metres away.  Turnstones posed helpfully on fishing nets laid out on the sides of trawlers in Amble harbour and, as the light worsened, we had a surprise in the shape of an Arctic Tern, roosting next to a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull.

Even in poor weather there are lots of possibilities for excellent wildlife experiences.  Having a client who’s excellent company helps too 🙂

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