Tag: Salmon

Wild Goose chase; Bespoke Birdwatching 30/10/2014

by on Nov.03, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Holy Island, Natural History, Northumberland Coast

Thursday was Pete and Janet’s 6th trip with NEWT, and the dismal, gloomy, drizzly south easterly weather as I drove to Embleton seemed ever so slightly promising 🙂

We started around Druridge Bay, checking a small area of woodland close to the coast, and soon encountered one of my favourite passerines, with three Brambling feeding quietly high in the canopy and two more flying over noisily.  Everywhere we went there were Robins and Blackbirds, although little sign of any other migrants other than a large flock of Redwing over Cresswell and a flock of Fieldfare near Beadnell.  Leaping Salmon on the River Coquet provided a lot of entertainment and a Cormorant which had been catching small fish, dived, causing a large Salmon to leap clear of the water.  The fish splashed back down and the Cormorant surfaced, gripping it behind the gills.  As the bird drifted downstream with its catch, we couldn’t believe that it would be able to deal with such a large fish…then it manouvered it so that the fish’s head was pointing down it’s throat and swallowed it whole!

As dusk approached, we were on the coast near Holy IslandLittle Egrets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Redshank were on the mudflats and the high yapping sound of Pink-footed Geese could be heard distantly.  Skein after skein appeared against the dark clouds overhead, settling close to the oncoming tide.  Then more, and more, and more…thousands and thousands of geese, still arriving when it was so dark that they were just a slightly darker speckling against an almost featureless backdrop.  Finally, as we headed back to the car, the ‘teu-it’ call of a Spotted Redshank cut through the gloom as the geese continued to arrive.

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The magic of dusk; Otter Safari 20/08/2014

by on Aug.25, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

After four consecutive successful Otter Safaris since mid-July, I was fairly sure that dusk would be the best time to search for them, and the afternoon could be spent enjoying some excellent birdwatching with the added possibility of stumbling across an Otter in broad daylight…

I arrived in Craster to collect Dave and Naomi and we headed south towards Druridge Bay.  We started with Grey Wagtails bobbing up and down on mid-stream rocks, as Salmon hungrily seized flies from the water’s surface, and then moved on to large roosting flocks of Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Lapwing with two Little Egrets standing sentinel-like on an elevated bank above the roost.  Knot, Dunlin, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Black-tailed Godwit added to the wader haul for the afternoon and real surprise came in the shape of a Kingfisher over Cresswell Pond.  Ghostly white Mediterranean Gulls drifted over Newbiggin and, as dusk approached, Naomi started spotting mammals.  First a Roebuck, prancing, leaping and sparring with tall plant stems like a boxer with a punchbag.  Then, the big one; an Otter 🙂  Swimming towards us, we followed it’s dives by the trail of bubbles on the water’s surface, before  it eventually disappeared below the edge of the reedbed that we were looking over, with just the tell-tale ‘ring of bright water’ as it surfaced.  After a few minutes without any sign, the Otter, or a second one, reappeared.  As we each gave directions to where the Otter was, it quickly became apparent that we weren’t all watching the same animal.  Then there were two together to our left, and a third away to our right 🙂  At least three Otters, including the smallest cub that I’ve ever seen, and we eventually left, when the light levels had fallen so low that binoculars were all but a hindrance.  As we walked back to the car a Barn Owl passed by, carrying prey, as skeins of Canada and Greylag Geese flew noisily south.

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The pot of (White-beaked) gold at the end of the rainbow; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 01/08/2014

by on Aug.07, 2014, under North Sea, Northumberland

Our penultimate evening pelagic had near perfect conditions, calm seas, good visibility – and recent sightings of White-beaked Dolphins in our regular search area…

Puffins, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Fulmars were expected, but we had a real surprise in the shape of three Harbour Porpoises.  In proper porpoise style they didn’t approach the boat, but they didn’t beat a hasty retreat either so everyone managed to see them.   We began making our way back south, closer to the shore, but there was still no sign of any dolphins.  An interesting sunset over St Mary’s generated a rainbow over the mouth of the Tyne and a remarkable ethereal atmosphere with the quite flat water.

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Then, as we approached the mouth of the river, Allan spotted something splashing between the piers.  Might be Harbour Porpoise?  Might be Sea Trout or Salmon?  No, neither of those, as two White-beaked Dolphins breached at the entrance to the Tyne and then swam across in front of us and back again before heading offshore, as daylight faded to black 🙂


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The Kill; Druridge Bay birdwatching 24/09/2013

by on Sep.26, 2013, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

Through the thickening mist, just inches above the ground, the Sparrowhawk maneuvered it’s way at speed around bushes and the edge of a reedbed.  From that position it couldn’t see any possible targets.  Of course, that meant it couldn’t be seen either…

I’d collected Laura and Barry from Church Point at midday. for an afternoon birdwatching around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland.  Unlike the stunning sunshine and warmth of Monday, conditions were rather overcast.  On a walk through woodland, we came across a roving tit flock.  Goldcrests could be heard high in the trees, and a quick session of pishing soon had one just a few feet away from us as it descended to investigate where the squeaking noise was coming from.  Our lunch stop, overlooking the length of Druridge Bay, gave us the opportunity for a spot of seawatching although, with the lack of any substantial breeze, there wasn’t a great deal of movement offshore.  Eider were dotted here and there, Cormorants were flying along the coast, a few Swallows  were catching insects low over the clifftop vegetation and flocks of Goldfinch and Linnet were noisily flitting about.  Lapwings, Curlew, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe, Ringed Plover and Redshank, the latter in what seemed to be a state of perpetual motion, were working their way along exposed mud as Grey Herons stalked with an imperceptibly slow motion that  spells danger to fish, frogs and ducklings everywhere.  As the afternoon continued, we were suddenly confronted with heavy mist.  Then the rain started.  Thinking this would clear the mist proved a forlorn hope, and we watched a flock of Dunlin make several low passes over the mud in front of us before they vanished into the mist.  Eiders and Cormorants were diving repeatedly on the River Coquet near Amble and Salmon were leaping from the water – a real joy to watch when all three of us in the car are keen flyfishers.  With dusk approaching, although this wouldn’t differ too much from the rest of the afternoon, the yapping of Pink-footed Geese could be heard from behind the grey impenetrable curtain of mist.  Growing louder, and with the calls of Greylag and Canada Geese intermingled, the flock appeared on the edge of the mist.  Just beyond the limit of clarity, the amorphous mass of several hundred geese dropped onto the water and then upped the volume of their calls.  As another flock arrived they were greeted noisily by the birds already on the water.

…accelerating on powerful wings, following an approach of supreme stealth, the Sparrowhawk exploded from a gap in the reeds, still just inches from the ground.  Lapwings and Starlings took to the air in panic, but the predator quickly fixed it’s baleful stare on the three closest birds to the edge of the reeds.  The Dunlin took flight, but the concealed approach by the Sparrowhawk had given it the edge that it needed in the game of life and death that was playing out in front of us.  With lightning quick reflexes it plucked the Dunlin deftly from the air, turned back through the channel in the reeds, and settled to devour it’s catch out of sight.  Not out of sight from us though 🙂

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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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To intervene in nature…or not?

by on Oct.29, 2010, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland, Southeast Northumberland

We were watching Autumnwatch yesterday evening and one discussion between the presenters, concerning intervention when you’re filming/photographing an animal in distress, was particularly pertinent to the mini-safari that Martin led earlier yesterday evening…but back to that later in this post.

The half-term week was busy, as expected, and included some fantastic wildlife watching; Salmon leaping up a weir on the River Coquet, Starlings massing and swirling above a coastal reedbed before dropping to roost, 2000+ Pink-footed Geese filling the sky overhead, as they left their feeding sites and headed for the overnight safety of the water, and Grey Seals around the Farne Islands as they approach the height of their breeding season.

Yesterday brought an evening mini-safari in southeast Northumberland.  Damp gloomy conditions and increasingly glowering clouds weren’t making things look too promising.  Our walk along the River Blyth produced a Nuthatch, and a Kingfisher called as it flew along the swollen, muddy river.  Two birdwatching gems, but quality rather than quantity was the order of the evening.  A Sparrowhawk provided some entertainment as it swooped repeatedly down towards the trees, flushing flocks of Woodpigeon with each descent, before finally vanishing into the canopy.  We continued our walk and, as we rounded a bend in the path, we found the reason for the Sparrowhawk’s disappearance; flapping lamely in the undergrowth was a Woodpigeon with a nasty head wound.  The predator had presumably flushed as we approached.  We’ve seen similar before and the question from clients is always “what are we going to do?”.  The answer may seem quite cold and heartless but we do nothing.  The pigeon was mortally wounded and would provide a meal either for the hawk or possibly a Red Fox would come along and make off with it.  Nature really is ‘red in tooth and claw’ and we shouldn’t interfere in the everyday life (and death) of our wildlife where we can avoid doing so.

Our next destination was what is rapidly becoming our favourite Badger sett.  As we watched quietly (and we really have to congratulate the 6-year old in our group for remaining so very quiet) over the open area close to the sett, a Red Fox crossed the track ahead of us, we could hear scuffling in the undergrowth and then two stripy black-and-white faces appeared out of the gloom.  After a withering stare in our direction the two cubs trotted along the hillside and were joined by a third before vanishing into the night.  The final leg of the trip was a search for owls.  Local knowledge paid off, as the ghostly figure of a Barn Owl floated through the beam of our headlights just where we expected it to.  There was still time for more wildlife though and the application of our bat detector revealed a Common Pipistrelle feeding on the rich bounty of moths.  After the recent frosts it was good to find bats still active, and our final event for this October is a Bat Walk at Bamburgh Castle tomorrow evening.  Give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place for what should be an evening of family fun.

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