Tag: Reed Bunting

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 🙂 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 🙂

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 🙂 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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Otter Safari 15/05/21

by on May.17, 2021, under Druridge Bay

The last 14 months has been a strange time of arranging, postponing, rearranging, postponing, so it was a relief to finally be heading to Newbiggin to collect Mel, George, Betsy and Ernest for a few hours around southeast Northumberland and Druridge Bay.

Starting with clear blue skies we watched mallards, gadwall, Canada geese, mute swans, cormorants, herons, and pied wagtails as common whitethroat, willow warbler and chiffchaff all sang from the bushes around us and sand martin and swallow plundered the myriad of flying insects over the water. Pygmy goats that had found a way out of their enclosure watched as we walked by, demonstrating an apparent disdain for thorns as they munched on bramble leaves.

After a picnic stop on a clifftop overlooking the North Sea, with gannets heading north and fulmars arcing gracefully by, just a few metres away from us, we headed up the coast, stopping when we saw a group of photographers, and were treated to incredible views of a barn owl as it quartered rough grassland. As cloud cover enveloped the entire sky, other than a small strip on the western horizon, reed buntings sang their simple song, coots, mute swans, tufted ducks and great crested grebes drifted through flat water and the reeds were lit orangy-red by a spectacular sunset as the explosive rant of a Cetti’s warbler burst from the reeds as a red fox made it’s way through poolside vegetation.

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Wading through the sublime light; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 20/08/2020

by on Aug.21, 2020, under Druridge Bay

I arrived to meet Paul and Helen ahead of a few hours around Druridge Bay and we set off to walk south along the coast…

A mixed wader/gull/tern roost produced Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Sandwich Tern and Common, Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull as Grey Herons stalked the water’s edge and three Marsh Harriers quartered back and forth along the reeds. The waders all lifted a couple of times and Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Coot all looked panicky but we couldn’t see what was causing all of the concern.

Starlings were roosting among the waders and a large flock speckled the sky before heading away out of sight to the north as Stonechats and Linnets perched on top of scattered bushed in the dunes, beautifully illuminated by low angle diffuse sunlight. One male Stonechat was sharing a prominent perch with an undeniably cute juvenile Common Whitethroat and the raucous calls of Pheasant came from rough pasture as Silver Y moths were nectaring busily on Red Clover.

With the Sun setting away to the west, and the Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair and Deneb about to make an appearance through a break in the clouds, a Sparrowhawk flew low over the dunes and a Barn Owl ghosted across the path ahead of us before making its way along dips in the dunes and eventually heading away north as daylight faded to darkness and the calls of Greylag Geese coming to roost accompanied our departure.

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Under the moonlight; Otter mini-Safari 15/07/19

by on Jul.17, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

Arriving in Newbiggin to collect Dave and Dawn ahead of an evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland exploring NEWT’s favourite Otter sites I smiled when Dave said “We have no idea what the plan is or what’s happening. Our daughter just told us to be here to meet you”…

We started with our usual riparian woodland walk, and Dave spotted a Dipper sitting quietly on a mid-stream rock. It started preening and bathing and then took a few short swims underwater before flying off upstream.

With a gentle breeze cooling the warmth of the Sun, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers were putting in brief appearances in the reeds, Reed Buntings were singing their simple song, flocks of Starlings flew to roost and a dense flock of Sand Martins alternated between gorging themselves on flies and perching along the face of a reedbed as a Barn Owl quartered the dunes before flying past us carrying prey.

A Spotted Redshank feeding frantically in the shallows joined a mass panic as Curlews, Avocets and Lapwings took to the air before gradually settling back down as Grey Herons and a Little Egret darted at small fish. Scanning around the edge of the water I noticed a swirl lingering close to a reedbed and then all of the waders took flight again. For a few minutes all we could see were the ripples from something disturbing the water in a gap in the reeds…and then the Otter swam into view 🙂 We watched it for around 30 minutes before it vanished into a reedbed as the full Moon rose, flanked by Jupiter and Saturn, and the Barn Owl perched on a pole near the car and almost directly in front of the Moon 🙂

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Heron there ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 09/07/19

by on Jul.10, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Robin and Cia, and Linda and Pete, from Newbiggin ahead of a day exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Over the years we’ve refined our tours on the coast to included different habitat types and starting with a walk through some riparian woodland we were rewarded with great views of Nuthatches and a Dipper as a Banded Demoiselle proved flighty and the quiet calls of Bullfinches revealed their presence in rank vegetation and the treetops.

On the coast a Kestrel was hanging in the breeze as Curlews, Oystercatchers and Common Redshanks explored rockpools and a Meadow Pipit lined up alongside a row of Tree Sparrows as the simple song of Reed Buntings, the fast chatter of Sedge Warblers and the rhythmic chuntering of Reed Warblers emanated from the reedbeds around coastal pools and a very vocal Linnet was incredibly obliging just a few feet way from us on a fence post. Linda and Pete’s experience of birdwatching in the warm sunshine of Portugal hadn’t prepared them for the sight of a Spoonbill in the cool heavy rain of Northumberland in early July, and Little Egrets added to the southern feel alongside the much more regular sight of Grey Herons stalking imperiously through the shallows as a fantastic group of waders included Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin, Common Redshank, a lone Golden Plover, brief Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper that only showed for a couple of seconds as they flew from the mud along the reed edges in front of us, Black-tailed Godwits in fantastic orangey red plumage and a Spotted Redshank that stopped obligingly alongside a Common Redshank allowing a great comparison. Another set of species that allowed an impromptu ID masterclass were Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns as the rain intensified and we headed back in the late afternoon.

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Gloom; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 23/06/19

by on Jun.24, 2019, under Druridge Bay

The NEWT team had been out for a walk yesterday afternoon, in bright, hot sunshine but by the time I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Gordon, Judy and Mike, for an evening exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, it was a few degrees cooler and no longer sunny…

We started with a riverside walk and with Song Thrushes singing from the trees around us, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers posing obligingly for a minute or so as Mallard ducklings skittered across the water, our attention was drawn to a commotion in the trees on the opposite side of the river. Jays, Magpies and Blackbirds were all hopping around the branches and alarm-calling although we couldn’t see the source of their annoyance.

With the gloom getting gloomier we watched Avocets preening and feeding, a Grey Heron stalking patiently in shallow water, Lapwings, Curlews and Black-headed Gulls, with a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull, roosting as Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted in and out of cover, Reed Buntings sang their simple songs from the reed tops and a Barn Owl ghosted along the water’s edge before settling on a fence post.

A Kestrel hanging almost motionless above the cliff top indicated that the direction of the wind that was starting to bring the first drops of rain was north easterly as Mute Swans fed in an impressive group, Great Crested Grebes still managed to radiate elegance in the enveloping gloom of dusk and the staccato laughing cries of Little Grebes echoed across the water as we headed back to the car and down the coast to Newbiggin.

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In the summertime…Druridge Bay bespoke birdwatching 26/06/18

by on Jun.27, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was Sue’s 8th day out with NEWT and after I collected her from Old Swarland we headed south east towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

We’re now starting our Druridge Bay trips with a riparian woodland walk, and Nuthatches were feeding noisy fledglings in the branches overhead, Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all busily gathering mouthfuls of insects, a Common Buzzard was soaring just above the treetops in the bright sunshine and Bullfinches betrayed their presence by calling and drawing attention to themselves.

Avocets proved to be the star of the show again but a good selection of other waders included Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, a very white Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing and a Wood Sandpiper delicately picking its way along the edge of a muddy puddle as Brown Hares loped along at the other side of the marsh.  Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Small Skipper butterflies and a selection of dazzling damselflies added invertebrate interest to the afternoon but they were outshone by a micro-moth.  Nemophora degeerella isn’t exactly a name that trips off the tongue, but it’s a strikingly marked little moth and, in the case of the male, has what look to be unfeasibly long antennae.  Shelduck ducklings were wandering off and ignoring their parents and Great Crested Grebes demonstrated remarkable prowess, surfacing with fish after every dive, only to be pestered by Black-headed Gulls looking for an easy meal.  Strikingly yellow and seasonally appropriate, both Yellow Wagtail and Yellowhammer flew by and Reed Bunting as well as as Sedge and Reed Warblers sang from nearby reed beds as Swifts, Swallows and both House and Sand Martins carved their way through the dense clouds of flying insects in the afternoon heat haze.

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In the wake of Hector; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 15/06/18

by on Jun.18, 2018, under Druridge Bay

I collected Alison and Paul from Amble and we set out for an afternoon and evening exploring Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, in search of Otters and Badgers

One Otter site had to be removed from our itinerary after a walk along it on Thursday, following the passing of Storm Hector, had revealed a path deep in leaves, branches, twigs and, in some places, blocked by fallen trees 🙁  There was still a keen breeze and Otters seemed to be keeping their heads down although a commotion at one corner of a pool saw sheep scattering and Canada Geese taking to panicked flight.  Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were diving and offering an interesting ID comparison, Black-tailed Godwits were probing the mud beneath shallow marshes as Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting only put in brief cameo appearances before diving back into cover and 2 Spoonbills were doing that typical Spoonbill thing of having an afternoon nap.  A Grey Heron, approaching with lumbering flight, triggered an extraordinary response from Lapwings, Common Redshank, Dunlin and no less than 19 Avocets who all took to the air and subjected it to an onslaught from all sides.  As calm began to settle, minor skirmishes involving Avocets and Shelduck began to break out and a Brown Hare loped across a distant field with an ever-growing Starling murmuration above it.

With dusk approaching we headed off to our regular Badger sett, and more post-storm destruction.  Broken branches, twigs and leaves littered the footpath, bushes and trees were bent over and the whole area around the sett looked as though it had taken a real pounding.  Song Thrushes were singing, Blackbird, Robin and Wren were alarm calling as light levels continued to fall and pipistrelles flew back and forth in front of us, and an unidentified mammal ran across in front of us, then suddenly all was silent for a few minutes until the tremulous hooting of a Tawny Owl cut through the gloom beneath the woodland canopy and we could hear twigs snapping as something explored the undergrowth close to the sett entrance but remained frustratingly hidden from view.

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A swift return; Druridge Bay birdwatching mini-safari 23/05/17

by on May.25, 2017, under Druridge Bay

I arrived at Newbiggin to collect Brendan for a mini-Safari around Druridge Bay, in weather that was little short of glorious…

Brendan lives just a few miles from the village where Sarah’s parents still live; an area that’s historically similar to southeast Northumberland – although we’ve got the North Sea, beaches etc. 🙂  Our first stop was a search for waders, and Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover were all pottering around on the mud and we concentrated on the differences between the two plovers and the subtle distinctions that allow them to be identified at some distance.  We were discussing the difficulties of identifying birds by their songs and calls, and the loss of high-pitch hearing with age, when one of those high-pitched birds started calling from the trees above us – Goldcrests are great at hiding but they persistently give themselves away by being so vocal.  Avocets, including one bird with a single chick, were lazing in the sunshine and occasionally calling in agitation when anything they didn’t like the look of flew over.  Grey Herons and a Little Egret stalked through the edges of the calm water and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits displayed overhead as a Lapwing returned to her nest right in front of us.  More songs from hidden birds enhanced the discussion about ID by sound; Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat were all delivering their serenades from deep cover.  Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot and Great Crested Grebe were all on the water as Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow gathered flying insects, an underwhelming Starling murmuration passed by and 2 Common Swifts flew over – a real sign that the summer’s here…

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