Tag: Pipistrelle

Putting the bite on; Bespoke safari 20/06/2014

by on Jun.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Some wildlife is popular with everyone, some isn’t popular with many people at all, and some, despite the best efforts of Springwatch/Autumnwatch/Winterwatch…

I met up with Niel and Nicky at Church Point, and we set out on an exploration of Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Despite several incidents involving agitated ducks, indicating that they were worried about something in the reeds, we didn’t manage a sighting of any Otters.  The typical quality birdwatching of the Northumberland coast in late June was still in evidence, with at least 5 Avocets and 11 Little Gulls among the throng.  A tiny Tufted Duck travelled back and forth across the water, in what appeared to be an unsuccessful search for it’s parents then, as the sun dropped towards the horizon, we headed to our regular Badger site.

Intriguingly, no Badgers appeared – which is unusual at a site where we have a 95% success rate – but, as at least three Tawny Owls began penetrating the gloom with their eerie calls, the sharp alarms of Blackbird, Robin and Song Thrush heralded the arrival of another mammal that inhabits the darker parts of the day.  Bloodthirsty killer of farmyard chickens, attempted abductor of babes from cribs in the south of England…whichever way you look at it the Red Fox gets a bad press…which sadly glosses over just what wonderful animals they are.  Sleek, beautiful, playful…we watched as three adults trotted across the clearing in front of us.  As Niel photographed one peering from the undergrowth (oh, for a Nikon D4!), I lifted my binoculars and realised that there were three small cubs chasing around too 🙂  Two of the adults, and the three cubs, disappeared along a track up the hill, and then the adults came out into the clearing again, presumably having tucked the kids up safely in bed.  Pipistrelle bats were flitting across our field of view as we conceded that our vision could no longer penetrate the enveloping dark.

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that foxes have a real magic…a bit like Luis Suarez 🙂

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Call of the wild; Druridge Bay 17/09/2013

by on Sep.18, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to describe my favourite wildlife experience…and how many times I’ve said that I don’t think it’s possible to narrow it down to just one choice.  There are a few though, that would make a great ‘top five’ (or ‘top ten”)…

I collected David and Sue from their holiday accommodation and we headed north along the Northumberland coast.  The plan for the afternoon was to search some of our regular Otter sites, and have a good look at the other wildlife that was around.  There’s really only one weather condition that I’m not keen on for wildlife-watching, and unfortunately we got it yesterday afternoon.  A stiff wind is not ideal for finding wildlife; insects are likely to stay deep in vegetation and mammals and birds are more likely to find somewhere sheltered and have a nap than subject themselves to the ravages of the wind.  One bird that seemed to be everywhere we went was Kestrel; we must have seen seven or eight of these small falcons hovering in the breeze during the afternoon.

As we watched Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Mute Swan a rarely seen denizen of our reedbeds put in a brief appearance.  In just a few seconds the Water Rail ran out of one reedbed, quickly crossed a patch of open mud and vanished into the depths of another reedbed.  Wader passage was still evident, with Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Lapwing, Curlew and Dunlin.  One bizarrely comical moment was caused by a Starling flying into the middle of the wader flock to bathe.  We can only guess at what the roosting waders thought it was, but it caused a ripple of alarm that could be traced through the flock as it flew in.

Then, drifting on the breeze, a high-pitched yapping marked the beginning of one of my favourite wildlife experiences.  First a flock of Pink-footed Geese came in low and splashed down on the water.  Soon after a flock of Greylag Geese arrived, then more Pink-feet, a large flock of Canada Geese and four very endearing, but obviously escaped, Bar-headed Geese.  More geese followed, and then a flock of Pink-feet, heralded by those yapping calls, could be seen as tiny specks high against the clouds overhead.  These birds were surely just arriving from far-flung parts, to join the wintering goose flocks around Druridge Bay.  Suddenly birds took to the air; Dunlin first, then Lapwing, followed by ducks and then geese.  Too much panic, surely, for an Otter?  What the birds had seen, and we eventually spotted as it drifted high against the clouds above us, was a Marsh Harrier.  Making it’s way steadily north west, it eventually drifted out of sight and the birds settled back down.

As dusk approached , the breeze finally relented and, with the backdrop of a stunning sunset, both Noctule and pipistrelle bats flew by.  The cause of a sudden panic amongst the assembled ducks was caused remained unseen, and as the light faded to the point where it was time to head back, we could still hear the geese – over a mile away from where we were.  The dark of the night brought one last wildlife experience though, as a Badger trotted along the road just in front of the car.

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Stoatally different to yesterday…

by on Sep.03, 2013, under Birdwatching, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

By extraordinary coincidence, one of our least observed mammals put in an appearance for the second consecutive day…

I collected David, Jackie and Alexander from Bamburgh and we headed south to start their Prestige Tour of the Northumberland Coast.  As Swallows and House Martins flitted about low over the water in front of us, a Stoat proved elusive as it darted in and out of the vegetation close to the water’s edge, momentarily startling the dozing ducks before vanishing back into the edge of a reedbed.  As ever something wholly unexpected appeared, on this occasion a Peregrine over Cresswell village.  A Roe Deer walking through an arable field appeared like a disembodied head – only popping up, like a Jack-in-the-box, every few metres as it made it’s way across the field.

Another elusive mustelid put in a brief appearance too, as a Badger trotted along between reedbeds, but unfortunately hidden from view by the vegetation on our side of the pool.  As dusk approached, pipistrelle bats were flitting back and forth, tiny Common Froglets hopped across the path in front of us and the drive back to Bamburgh produced another impressive mammal, as a Brown Hare loped along the verge as we passed.

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Summer birdwatching

by on Jul.16, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Southeast Northumberland

As I collected Alison and David from The Swan for an afternoon and evening  around Druridge Bay, southeast Northumberland and the Northumberland coast, the weather was continuing in the glorious vein that it had struck a few days previously.

Mid-summer can be a quiet time, other than the obvious hustle and bustle of the Farne Islands, but there’s always something to see.  At the moment wader numbers are starting to build; Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher have all come down to the coastal strip from their breeding grounds and Black-tailed Godwits are moving through.  One of the first things we came across was a group of four of these beautiful elegant waders as they rested with a flock of LapwingsLittle Gulls were flycatching and then sleeping and a male Marsh Harrier gave views that were simply breathtaking.  As we headed up the coast, a female Marsh Harrier flew low over the car, being equally as obliging as the male.  Grey Herons were stalking along pool edges, Common Spotted Orchid, Bloody Cranesbill and Harebell added colour to pathside vegetation, hirundines heading to roost formed swirling clouds of dark dots against the greying sky, a Common Frog sprang across the path in front of us and a Barn Owl hunted over rough pasture on silent wings.

The thing that always characterises days out with clients who are passionate about wildlife, and Alison and David have a mouthwatering list of wildlife they’ve seen around the world, is that before you know it, it’s nearly dark, pipistrelles are hawking insects in the last vestiges of daylight and it’s time to head back.

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Wildlife in the heat of the summer; Otter Safari 06/07/13

by on Jul.07, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Otter, Southeast Northumberland

After an enjoyable few hours watching the British & Irish Lions demolition of Australia, I loaded up the car, collected our picnics from The Swan and headed north to collect Jacky and Marcus from their holiday accommodation at the stunning St Cuthbert’s House.  A quick drive back down the coast and we collected Alice and John and embarked on our search of Druridge Bay, southeast Northumberland and the Northumberland coast.

I’d identified a site where Otters have been active in the late afternoon, so that was our first port of call.  With Common Terns dip-feeding just in front of us, Canada and Greylag Geese with goslings, Gadwall with ducklings and lots of Sand Martins and Swallows there was plenty of birdwatching interest as we waited in hope for the possible appearance of our target species for the trip.  Jacky’s excited comment “there’s a…yes, it’s an Otter” marked the start of nearly an hour of Otter activity.  The initial animal turned out to be two together, and then eventually we were watching four of them as they swam back and forth, feeding, clambering on poolside rocks and play-fighting 🙂

Lapwings, Curlew and a Greenshank were all evidence of post-breeding gathering/migration, Starlings were grouping into larger flocks as daylight faded, Sand Martins were swirling in a big pre-roost flock, a Barn Owl drifted on silent wings over a reedbed and, as the falling light levels finally rendered everything as a silhouette we headed back to the car with pipistrelles hawking just over our heads.

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Elusive

by on Jul.25, 2012, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

With our focus in late-July on the North Sea and its enigmatic wildlife, a land-based trip makes a pleasant change from riding the waves.  I collected Catherine, Mark, Jacob and Izzy from their holiday accommodation in Howick and we set off down the Northumberland coast towards Druridge Bay.

We started at Newbiggin, following up a recent report of a small pod of White-beaked Dolphins. Only brief sightings of distant dorsal fins were possible, proving just what an elusive species this can be.  An adult Mediterranean Gull drifted close by with a few Black-headed Gulls, Jacob  concentrated on the flight identification of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, and another short spell of seawatching just up the coast produced lots of Eiders, and a Gannet heading south.

Cresswell Pond produced Little Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Curlew and lots of Lapwings, and then a real star performer as a Barn Owl quartered the dunes.  As is often the case, we had a particular target species for the evening and, as Mallards scattered from one section of a pond, and a small group of Teal suddenly became very alert, we concentrated on scanning that area.  Sure enough, the swishy, waving tail of an Otter was soon spotted near the Teal, and for a few minutes it gave brief views of it’s tail, head and body as it spread panic throughout the assembled wildfowl.  As darkness descended it vanished into the inky gloom and we headed back to the car, encountering Common Frog, Common Toad and Pipistrelles on the way.

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Seabird Spectacular

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Our Seabird Spectacular package holiday managed to coincide with some increasingly heavy seas and strong northerly winds.  Getting on a boat would have been somewhat inadvisable , but we still managed to get good views of all the target species for the holiday, including Roseate Tern, Little Tern and Puffin. Perhaps we should have renamed the holiday Mammal Magic as Noctule, Pipistrelle, Red Fox, Rabbit, Grey Seal, Weasel, Stoat,  and Otter were all seen during the 2 days 🙂  With excellent accommodation and food at The Swan throughout the holiday, it was a great way to spend a weekend in late July.  We’ll be running Seabird Spectacular again in 2012 (11th-14th June) so give us a call now on 01670 827465 for more details or to book your place.

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Burning desire

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Northumberland, Otter, Wildlife

Tuesday, and I’m sitting with Matt and Becky, waiting in anticipation as dusk approaches.  An orange/yellow glow rimming the horizon and the pallid, diffuse nature of the clouds covering the rest of the sky enhancing the impression that a thousand fires were burning in the distance.  Through the flames, dark ashes danced across our field of view; Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Coots skittering across the water.  Against the smoke, more dark soot tossed on the strong northerly breeze, this time Noctule Bats and Pipistrelles.

Then a burst of excitement as a whirling dervish appears, chasing ducks and geese; the Otter porpoising with serious intent, hitting the water with a splash like the crackle of a burning log.  Then the flames die and we’re left with the last few pops of the dying embers.

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Thursday (part 2); birdwatching and badgers

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

After collecting Gill and Richard from Bamburgh, mid-afternoon Thursday, we had another southeast Northumberland safari.  This one was scheduled to finish at dusk, “a 50-year quest to see a live Badger”.  No pressure there then 🙂  As so often, with late finishes, the final hour was simply magical.  We’d made our way to the hillside opposite a Badger sett that we’ve been watching for a few weeks.  Within a minute of settling into our watching position the tables were turned and we found ourselves under the baleful glare of a Tawny Owl.  Still in good daylight, our first Badger of the evening walked across the hillside opposite.  Over the next 40 mins we had 7 sightings of at least 5 BadgersPipistrelles flicked back and forward across our field of view, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and Mistle Thrushes were all alarming from the trees around our watchpoint and we enjoyed all of this with the Badgers carrying on with their dusk perambulations around the woods, safe and undisturbed by anything we were doing.

After returning Gill and Richard to Bamburgh, through what seemed to be a blizzard of moths, it was time to head home.  3 Barn Owls between Bamburgh and Seahouses were an excellent start to the journey and, near Rennington, I had to stop and wait as a Red Fox cub walked across the road in front of the Land Rover.  Back home it was time to sleep, ahead of Friday’s Otter Safari.

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Badger watching people birdwatching

by on Jun.04, 2010, under Badger, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland, Wildlife

Yesterday’s Druridge Bay/Southeast Northumberland trip was focussed on coastal birdwatching and, particularly, mammals.  We’re moving more and more towards early starts and/or late finishes on our Safaris; some of our clients like the 9-5 sort of day out which slots easily into their daily routine whereas others are more adventurous and a mid-afternoon start means that we’re still out at what is, in my opinion, the best time of the day…

It’s near to dusk and we’re sitting on a hillside in a shaded wood.  Opposite us is an area of open ground that will, I hope, provide a longed-for lifer for my clients.  Pipistrelles are racing backwards and forwards around our heads and everyone is following their pre-trip instructions to the letter; no movement, no sound, make sure there’s something behind you to break up your silhouette.

We’ve already had an excellent afternoon in the stunning weather;  a Little Owl sat and watched us without any concern – perhaps it recognises our Land Rover after a few visits, and realises that we aren’t a threat?  A Barn Owl flew close by, taking prey back to the nest and a Reed Bunting sang from a reedbed just a few meters away, it’s simple song drowned out by the extraordinary performance of a Sedge Warbler.  Now though, we’re approaching the culmination of the trip and there’s a strong sense of anticipation.  A movement on the hillside opposite, and there’s our first Badger of the evening 🙂  Trotting along a track near the top of the hill, we get just a few seconds as it’s clearly on a mission.  Everyone sits still and silent; discipline indeed after the appearance of the day’s main target.  A Red Fox came down off the hillside then walked past us and up the bank we were sitting against, as unconcerned as the Little Owl by our presence.  Patience pays off a few minutes later when two young Badgers appear low down on the hillside.  After a few minutes of playing around behind a tree trunk, and only being visible briefly, one of them comes out into the open; snuffling and foraging it’s way across the clearing, these are the views of wildlife that make what we do so much fun.  A brief pause, and it turned to face us, lifting it’s head high.  Have we been spotted?  A lot of succesful wildlife encounters depend on not being seen, or at least not appearing to be a threat.  As it returns to happily foraging on the hillside I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we’d got it right, and once it had vanished into the undergrowth we retreat silently from our watchpoint, treading carefully; after all, we’ve managed to watch these iconic animals without disturbing them, it would be a real shame to cause them distress as we leave.

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