Tag: Pink-footed Geese

The star of the show

by on Jan.27, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

When we’re out with clients, or even out on our own, there are days when nothing stands out and,¬†simply, everything is memorable ūüôā¬† Sometimes though there will be one thing that really sticks in the memory.

I collected Vin and Nicky from Whitley Bay yesterday morning and we set out on an exploration of the Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland area in idyllic weather conditions.¬† Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tits, Mallards, Kestrels and a Buzzard all entertained before we came across the remarkable goose flocks that we’re enjoying this winter.¬† Pink-footed, Bean and White-fronted Geese were bobbing about on lakes, flying in skeins towards other geese feeding in nearby fields and…scattering in panic.¬† That scattering always focuses everyone’s attention; we know that there’s something happening that the birds are unhappy about, and that something is often the arrival of a predator.¬† Sure enough, as the Common and Black-headed Gulls took to the air and made a mad dash for the centre of the lake, a Peregrine scythed through the flock.¬† For 20 minutes it climbed, stooped and harried the gulls, who had presumably realised that it wouldn’t dive into the water so became less¬†willing to take flight as it repeatedly buzzed them.¬† Eventually, and preumably tired after all the exertion without a kill, it settled in a nearby field with a goose flock.¬† We all had the same thought whilst we were watching it; when we were young and first interested in birdwatching this was an almost mythical species.¬† Once incredibly rare, due to a combination of persecution, egg-collection and the effects of organochlorine pesticides, it takes my breath away that I have the opportunity so often to watch Peregrines in the wild, and share the experience with our clients.¬† It probably deserves the title of this blog post…but the flock of 50 displaying Goldeneye in the hour before dusk were something special too ūüôā

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Winter Wonderland 28/11/11-01/12/11

by on Dec.07, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Last week was our Winter Wonderland birdwatching¬†holiday, although as I arrived at Saughy Rigg¬†I wondered if Windy Wonderland would be a better name for it ūüėČ

The original itinerary involved the Solway coast on Tuesday and the North Pennines on Wednesday, but a quick discussion with our guests on arrival meant that our coastal day was switched to Northumberland to avoid the poor weather in the west.

The plan worked well, at least until mid-afternoon when the weather caught up with us and we had a couple of hours of dodging the showers.  The waders and wildfowl that winter here featured throughout the day and Greylag, Pink-footed, Pale-bellied Brent, Barnacle and Eurasian White-fronted Geese were all enjoying the mild weather on the Northumberland coast.  3 splendid drake Goosanders  were blown across Druridge Pools before battling their way back against the wind, and a Roe Deer was grazing in the gap between 2 reed beds.  As so often seems to happen, some of the best wildlife of the day saved its appearance until the light began to fade.  First a Short-eared Owl, with a strikingly white face, quartering backwards and forwards along the margins of a field, then 2 Water Rails, those small, secretive denizens of the reeds, stepped gingerly into view; prodding and poking and squealing like piglets as they vanished back into the gloom.  Then, as flocks of geese descended to roost, a Bittern flew from the reeds and headed south.

Wednesday brought another breezy morning, and we headed into the hills.  Remarkable numbers of Red Grouse chuckled at us as we watched from the comfort of the car, and 7 Black Grouse were the first of no less than 75 that we found during the day.  The weather closed in all around us and, after a quick check of a lough wher Teal, Wigeon and Lapwing were roosting and Goldeneye were feeding, we finished the day at one of our favourite evening venues.  An unidentified raptor flew low across the heather moorland and out of sight over a ridge, Red Grouse burst from cover before settling again a short distance away and a lone Short-eared Owl battled into a brutal headwind as the evening faded to darkness.

Winter Wonderland is one (in fact, two) of the holidays on our itinerary for 2012, so give us a call on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

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Magic moments

by on Nov.01, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

They happen all the time when we’re out with clients; unexpected, breathtaking, spectacular.¬† All part of that ‘every day is different’ thing that comes with being a wildlife guide ūüôā

On Saturday, at the end of a day of good autumn birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, I was privileged to share an extraordinary moment with Richard, Hazel and Ruth.

It started with the familiar call of distant Pink-footed Geese.¬† The weather had begun to deteriorate, dark clouds covering much of the sky, and heavy rain falling, but with the sun still managing to burst through in places.¬† Then it all came together; birds, weather, light, as skein after skein of geese headed north to roost, framed by a double rainbow ūüôā

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Bittern by the birdwatching bug

by on Oct.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Clients often comment¬†that what really appeals to them about birdwatching is that every day is different and there’s always something new to learn. I couldn’t agree more; I have lots of days out with clients, and a lot of time in the field on ‘non-client’ days, and still feel enthusiastic every morning when I wake up, knowing that I don’t know what the day will bring.

Thursday was Peter and Alison’s second day out with us, and this time we were birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

The weather forecast had shown the edge of the rain staying south of Newcastle all day, so that should have been alright…

As it turned out, we had rain for a good chunk of the day, but the birdwatching was still excellent.  From Black-headed Gulls, and a lesson on moult and ageing, Mediterranean Gulls scavenging in the Church Point car park, 4 Short-eared Owls and a Hen Harrier quartering the ash lagoon bank, a Sparrowhawk hunting as a group of Starlings came swirling in to roost, a tiny Goldcrest flitting about in a windswept Willow, a skittish Water Rail apparently struggling to summon the courage to run across the gap between reedbeds, a thousand Pink-footed Geese flying in at dusk, 300 Barnacle Geese taking to the air together, all the way to the finale of the trip as a Bittern flew between the north and south pools at East Chevington as dark descended, it was another day of outstanding experiences.

And tomorrow…is another day ūüôā

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Hiding from the wind

by on Oct.25, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

With a forecast for heavy rain today, we had one more client than expected yesterday for our Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland tour.

I c0llected Annie from High Weldon, Brian from Bedlington and then David from Warkworth before our first stop at one of our favourite birdwatching spots beside the River Coquet.  The first thing that was apparent was that there was a not inconsiderable wind-chill factor in play.  Thankfully our local area has plenty of reserves with north-facing hides, so plotting a route that would keep us out of the wind wherever possible was quite straightforward.

It wasn’t a day for passerines, although Blue Tit and Goldcrest could be heard calling from deep inside coastal hedgerows, and we found ourselves in the middle of a big swirling flock of Starlings as we ate lunch overlooking the sea, so waders and wildfowl provided the main focus of the day.¬† Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin and some very nice flocks of Golden Plover, Curlew, Knot and Lapwing were feeding, roosting and, at Cresswell, taking to the air in a panic as a Peregrine exuded menace as it passed over.¬† ‘Scope-filling views of Common Snipe always go down well, and there was an excellent array of wildfowl and waterbirds to enjoy; Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon,Pochard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, and Pink-footed, Greylag and Barnacle Geese were all well appreciated, especially with a lot of the drake ducks out of eclipse plumage and looking quite stunning. especially when the sun broke through the clouds.

When the autumn really starts to feel autumnal, I’m always optimistic ūüôā

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Beginner’s Birdwatching 16/10/11

by on Oct.17, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

I collected Ruth and Margaret from The Swan for their second trip with us; this time a half-day Beginner’s Birdwatching trip around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.¬† After scouring some bushes where we could hear a roving tit flock, and enjoying excellent views of a flock of Tree Sparrows in the beautiful sunshine, we visited Hadston Scaurs in search of the Yellow-browed Warbler that had been seen there earlier in the morning.¬† We were unlucky, although we could hear the flock of Goldcrests that it had been with but they were deep in the hedge and we only had occasional brief views as they hurried about.¬† Reed Buntings, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Bullfinches all performed well, Robins were calling from what seemed to be every bush, Linnets and Skylarks were moving south overhead and skeins of Pink-footed Geese passed over.

We had a session looking at shapes of ducks, and how to use that skill to separate similar species, and finished at Cresswell with a species that Margaret was really keen to see on this trip, Eider; our county bird, and a real stunner ūüôā

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Autumn winds

by on Oct.17, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Thursday afternoon found me leading an afternoon of birdwatching, and searching for Otters around our local area; Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.

I collected Ruth and Margaret from the Swan at Choppington¬†and we drove the short distance to Newbiggin to collect Mike and Maggie (for their second trip with us this week), Ben and Siobhan.¬† A ghostly white Mediterranean Gull drifted by the car¬†before we headed north.¬† The River Coquet produced one of my own favourite wildlife experiences as we watched Salmon leaping, and Cormorants, Grey Herons and Goosanders fishing.¬† Lapwings, Redshank, Curlew and a Greenshank all flew by and, after enjoying our lunch by the river, we headed down the bay.¬† East Chevington produced lots of Knot, Dunlin, Ruff, Lapwing, Curlew, Golden Plover, Pintail, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal and Wigeon and our next stop was Cresswell.¬† Along the hedge leading down to the hide there were at least 8 Goldcrests, and from the hide there was another nice wader roost.¬† As well as the species we’d already seen at East Chevington there was a single Black-tailed Godwit, plenty of Turnstone and 2 Purple Sandpipers.¬† As the sun began falling towards the horizon, we settled into position to search for Otters.¬† Flocks of Pink-footed Geese filled the sky to the north and a Daubenton’s Bat moved back and forth over the water.¬†All of the signs were there; ducks, Coots and Swans moving en masse from one spot to another, nervously moving back before reversing direction again and, successive groups of birds across the water exploding into the air in a state of panic.¬† The only thing that didn’t happen, was the Otter coming out into view!¬† Still, with a success rate of 75% on Otter Safaris since mid-April, we’re always optimistic whenever we go in search of them.

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by on Oct.13, 2011, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Holy Island, Northumberland

I love Holy Island, but it can be a bit crowded sometimes…

I collected Mike and Maggie from St Cuthbert’s House on Tuesday morning and we began birdwatching our way north.¬† In the shadow of Bamburgh Castle we watched Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Eider and Gannets in a bitingly cold northwesterly wind.¬† We crossed onto Holy Island just before the rising tide covered the causeway…and found that the car park was empty!¬† For the next 5 hours we practically had the island to ourselves, and enjoyed swirling flocks of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatchers, Shags, Gannets plunge-diving, Red-breasted¬†Mergansers,¬†¬†Grey Seals, Fieldfares, Redwings, Curlew, Teal, Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Kestrels, Peregrine and then, as the tide began to recede, flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Pale-bellied Brent Geese took to the air, heading for the newly exposed mud and the feast it brings.

Deliberately stranding yourself on Holy Island always carries risks as a birdwatcher; what if something really good turns up on the mainland? As an experience with clients though, particularly when one of them is a very keen wildlife and landscape photographer, it really is something special.

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by on Sep.19, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Friday was our fourth Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland safari of the week, and it was a real pleasure to meet up with Lawrie and Linda, 2 of our returning clients from last year.

We started with a specific request; Brown Hare.¬† In the strong wind, persistent drizzle¬†and biting cold they were keeping their heads down…all except for one which raised it’s ears, and then it’s head, above the stubble before demonstrating a remarkable vanishing act.

In Newbiggin Bay, with a big menacing sea breaking in the background, a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew north as we watched the Turnstones, Ringed Plover, Redshanks and Sanderling on the edge of the surf.

Fields of Curlew, and fighting cock Pheasants, provided additional entertainment as we drove down the coast.¬† I’d decided on East Chevington as our final destination of the trip and, as we arrived and began walking down to the North Pool, it looked as though the weather¬†might get the better of us.¬† The wind was strengthening and the first few drops of rain began to fall as¬†a juvenile Merlin raced across the fenceline in front of us looking, in the fading light, like an¬†oversized hirundine.¬† The evening roost on the pool was building and hundreds of Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls were sitting in the shallow water with Sandwich Terns, Lapwings, Knot, Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen¬†and Canada and Greylag Geese.¬† Then Pink-footed Geese and more Greylag Geese began arriving, and the 4 Snow Geese that we saw last Sunday flew in to join the throng.¬† A wave of panic spread through the roost, and many of the birds lifted into the air as a Bittern flew from one reedbed to another.¬† Eventually, even the silhouettes began to merge into the darkness and the birds began to settle as we left the hide and braved the driving rain.¬† With the footpaths and roads now covered in puddles the walk to the car, and the drive back to Alnwick, featured lots of Common Frogs and Common Toads, as well as a Tawny Owl that was perched on a fence post next to a line of trees.

It was a great experience to enjoy some pretty awful weather, and some superb wildlife, with Lawrie and Linda.¬†I’ll never get fed up with what¬†we do, and the weather is all a par tof the tapestry of that.

Thanks for the chocolates ūüôā

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Heron aid

by on Sep.19, 2011, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Our 3rd Druridge Bay/southeast Northumberland trip in 5 days began with an old friend as our regular Little Owl sat sleepily in the sunshine, only opening an eye to check who we were before nodding off again.  Further north, we watched a flock of 59 Pink-footed Geese as they headed south high overhead.  3 Grey Herons flew south past us, then north over Warkworth before heading south again.  Incredibly. later in the afternoon, the same 3 herons flew south overhead at East Chevington, followed soon after by another 4, and we found another 3 sitting in a recently mown field near Hauxley.  East Chevington also produced a good flock of Lapwing, with several Ruff scattered amongst them, and Cresswell held a flock of Dunlin with a Little Stint.

As sunset approached we settled to the waiting game of quiet observation by a small pool.¬† Tawny Owls called nearby, a Buzzard was perched obligingly in the open, a Sparrowhawk was hedge-hopping to see what it could scare up for dinner, Jackdaws and Rooks were gathering noisily before going to roost¬†and there was a notable level of panic and a high level of alertness in the assembled ducks.¬† The cause of the panic didn’t show itself though, and we walked back to the car with Common Pipistrelles flying just above our heads before I returned Tamasin and Daniel to Newbiggin.

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