Tag: Sparrowhawk

Punk’s not dead; Otter mini-Safari 22/01/22

by on Jan.23, 2022, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was our first mini-Safari this year, after filling the first three weeks of the year with stargazing events and all of the planning for other projects we’re going to be involved in this year, so it was great to meet up with Clare and Lisa, then Monica and Michael, for a few hours around our local patch

The Wansbeck is a vast mudflat currently, and after a stop at the weir, where cormorant, little grebe and goldeneye were all feeding, we walked upriver to Castle Island. Scanning through the roosting gulls and dabbling ducks, a larger white bird was unhelpfully directly in the glare from the sun. There’s no mistaking the long thick legs and ruffled crest of a spoonbill though, and we found a spot where it was easier to see as it obligingly woke up, preened, looked around and then seemed to be on a mission as it marched along the muddy margins. Cormorants stretched, little egrets darted at small prey in the shallows, redshanks flew off calling, the eerie cries of curlew echoed along the valley and, uncharacteristically, a single fieldfare was hopping around a large paddock.

As dusk approached only five starlings appeared at a regular roost site as lapwings were scattered by a sparrowhawk and then teal and wigeon took to the air as a juvenile marsh harrier drifted over. Competing against the spoonbill in the hairstyle stakes, red-breasted mergansers paraded in front of us and the harrier reappeared…accompanied by a second juvenile, and then a male harrier joined the party and started talon-grappling with one of the juveniles as a Cetti’s warbler delivered it’s explosive calls from deep in the reeds and Jupiter shone through the evening twilight.

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Living on the edge; Otter mini-Safari 05/08/21

by on Aug.06, 2021, under Druridge Bay

One thing that’s always impressed me about wildlife is the almost constant effort needed just to stay alive, contrasting with the technologically advanced, comfortable, lives that many of us lead…

I met up with Cath, Andy, Beth and Dan for an evening around Druridge Bay, and the weather was pleasant…particularly compared to what was forecast for the next few hours! Mute swans were feeding unhurriedly, grey herons were stalking along rushy edges, black-tailed godwits were wading and probing, and bumblebees were shifting position to take shelter underneath teasel heads – often a sign of a drop in temperature and approaching bad weather. Swallows, martins and swifts were hawking insects as a lone ruff flew through.

As the wind started to pick up, and the first of several heavy showers passed through, a great crested grebe with a single juvenile aggressively evicted a little grebe, also with a single juvenile, from a prime patch of amphibious bistort, as cormorants sat motionless, two Arctic skuas muscled their way into the stiffening breeze, and Sandwich, common and Arctic terns obligingly lined up alongside one another like an animated field guide to separating confusion species πŸ™‚

Seven starlings was a start to a murmuration that eventually built to several hundred birds, as three marsh harriers went to roost and a sparrowhawk pestered and pursued the starlings repeatedly. We saw it pass by at least a dozen times without any apparent success by the time the starlings had all settled into the reeds, expending vital energy in a late evening attempt to feed before nightfall.

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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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Mud, mud, glorious mud; Lindisfarne Safari 21/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Lindisfarne

Yesterday was Colin and Charlotte’s second day out with NEWT this week and this time we were heading north to Lindisfarne

A quick look at Monk’s House Pool on the way up the coast revealed the continued presence of the Long-tailed Duck that we saw with Sue earlier this month and then we headed to the causeway. It was still impassable but that was intentional because it put us in position to watch how quickly the birds exploit the newly revealed food supply as the tide falls. Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Shelduck, Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Curlew, Turnstone, Redshank, Knot, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Little Egret were all feeding or flying past us and a Merlin flew over the causeway as we drove towards the island. The eerie moaning of Grey Seals carried on a southerly breeze and we set off to walk around the main body of the island. A Sparrowhawk flew low through the dunes, a male Stonechat was in rank pathside vegetation and Roe Deer were watching us warily from the dune tops before bounding away and, as the light faded, Starlings began streaming across the saltmarsh and dunes towards their nighttime roost.

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Waxing and Murmuring; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/19

by on Nov.22, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Colin and Charlotte for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland, but sadly not Tony who’d had a fall earlier in the week and wasn’t able to be on the trip with us…

On calm water Little Grebes were constantly diving as a Kingfisher flew by and settled in a bush overhanging the river and a flock of Goldeneye were a reminder that we’re really into the realm of wintering birds now. A mixed flock of Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest also contained a nice surprise in the form of a Treecreeper. We were in the right area for Waxwings too, with sightings in a few places nearby over the last few days. No sign of the Bohemian beauties but we bumped into Hector who was also searching for them. We headed to our picnic spot overlooking the North Sea and had just stopped the car when Hector ‘phoned. The answer to the question “Would you like your lunch, or to see some Waxwings first”? was answered with a resounding “Waxwings!” from Colin and Charlotte and a few minutes later we were watching 13 of them beside a main road in Ashington πŸ™‚

After lunch we found ourselves watching a mixed flock of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew and Common Snipe as skeins of Pink-footed Geese yapped overhead. With the Sun dipping towards the horizon, although it doesn’t really get that high above it at this time of year, Roe Deer were exploring rushy fields and poolside reedbeds, the trumpeting calls of a family of Whooper Swans heralded their arrival at a nighttime roost site and then there were the Starlings. Thousands and thousands, swirling in front of us, funneling down into the reeds, panicking as a Sparrowhawk flew by, keeping up a constant chatter like a myriad of leaves rusting in the breeze and then, as the light faded towards unmanageable, streaming out of the reeds in wave after wave of black towards an alternative roost.

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Quick start; Otter Safari 20/08/19

by on Aug.23, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

I collected Jo from Newbiggin for her 2nd day out with NEWT and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland searching for Otters

As we set off I decided to change the order that we’d visit our usual sites…and it paid off almost immediately with an Otter cub feeding mid-river as Little Grebes watched it warily as Cormorants dried their wings nearby πŸ™‚ Pochards, Shovelers, Mallards, Teal and Moorhen all got out of the way as a Grey Heron flew in and throughout the trip Sparrowhawks flushed birds that were quietly roosting. After having our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea, with Fulmars gliding along the cliff faces and Gannets offshore we collected Yvonne, Fiona and Liz who were joining us for the second half of the trip.

In the evening sunlight Lapwings, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Redshanks, Dunlins and Turnstones were roosting, Brown Hares were half-heartedly chasing each other in the field margins, a Little Egret flew high away to the north, a Marsh Harrier caused panic as it flew low over the marsh before dropping into the rushes, Water Rails squealed from reedbeds, a dense flock of Swallows and Sand Martins headed to roost as Canada and Greylag Geese departed noisily and, as the light faded to unmanageable, Jupiter and Saturn were both observed through the ‘scope πŸ™‚

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Warbling :-) Kielder Bespoke Birdwatching 03/05/19

by on May.04, 2019, under Kielder

I collected Nick and Mel (for their 3rd day out with NEWT) and John and Heather from Bellingham and we took a short drive up the North Tyne valley for a day out around Kielder and the Scottish Borders…

Birdwatching in a dense forest in early May is a challenge and a small flock of Chaffinches feeding on the track ahead of us were particularly obliging. Robins, Blackbirds and Chiffchaffs were singing from the trees around us, flight calls betrayed Siskins and Crossbills as they passed overhead and a Willow Warbler sat out on a dead tree and was visibly shaking with the exertion of delivering that silvery descending scale. Five Roe Deer stared at us over an open grassy bank before nonchalantly trotting off towards the cover of a small copse.

Birds on the reservoir tend to be concentrated in favoured areas and Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mandarin and Little Grebe were all on the water as an Oystercatcher waded in the shallows.

On the other side of the border Ravens and a Common Buzzard accompanied our picnic stop, Wild Goats were grazing close to the road and a Sparrowhawk flew low over the valley bottom before heading through the trees and out of sight. Red Grouse were chuckling in the heather and two of them were sitting very still and offering very accommodating views. A pair of displaying Hen Harriers quickly moved over the moor and away out of sight before a lone male quartered the valley bottom, occasionally dropping and apparently tussling with prey.

With the first few spots of rain speckling the windscreen we headed back towards Bellingham and civilisation πŸ™‚

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Waiting on the weather ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 26/04/19

by on Apr.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

As I arrived in Newbiggin to collect Sue, Nick, Mandy and Ian for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland the sea was looking much calmer than it had done on Wednesday, but the sky was ominous and the forecast more so…

We started with a couple of riverside walks through woodland dripping with bird song. As Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush fed in open grassland and Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Robin sang from exposed, and not-so-exposed, perches, Grey Wagtails were flycatching from rocks in the fast flowing water and a pair of Dippers were taking food to their nest. Cormorants were perched on dead trees mid-river, Canada Geese were fighting and calling, Gadwall were dabbling serenely and a Grey Heron stalked patiently along the water’s edge in the shadow of the trees as the forecast weather seemed to have arrived, with cold rain driven on a southerly breeze making viewing a challenge.

The rain soon eased though and on the coast Mandy spotted a Barn Owl perched on a fence post, sheltered from the wind. It left it’s perch and was soon offering very obliging views as it quartered and hovered over rough grassland as a Meadow Pipit perched on a wall nearby and a handsome male Wheatear hopped along the track ahead of us. Avocets, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and a lone Curlew were standing in the shallows as Bar-tailed Godwits probed incessantly in the mud while wading belly deep in the wind-ruffled water and three Grey Herons did that very heron thing of flying around after each other rather than just accepting that there’s plenty of space for everyone to hunt in.

After an afternoon of what seemed like permanent dusk, light levels did start to dip towards darkness as a female Marsh Harrier quartered a roadside field, a Sparrowhawk hedge-hopped over the road in front of us, Pheasants and a Red-legged Partridge took their chances crossing the road, a Brown Hare loped away along tractor tracks through deep cover, a Roe Deer raced backwards and forwards through long grass and Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Great Crested and Little Grebe and Mute Swan were all on the water as the squealing of a Water Rail cut through the gloom before we headed back towards civilisation πŸ™‚

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In the bleak midwin…wait a minute :-) Kielder Safari 24/03/19

by on Mar.25, 2019, under Kielder

Yesterday’s Kielder Safari was filled with returning clients; Stephen on his 3rd trip, Andy and Jill on their 3rd and Gordon and Mandy on their 7th. We’d got one species in particular on the target list for the day…

The forecast was for blustery showers but it started off fairly fine. Once we were out of the car though there was a bitingly cold stiff breeze and low cloud arrived from the north west, interspersed with bright sunshine. Each patch of better weather saw Common Buzzards rise from the trees and Peregrine and Sparrowhawk flew by. Common Crossbills called overhead, a distant Green Woodpecker was yaffling and Chaffinches were singing from exposed perches. Our persistence and resilience paid off and the ‘Phantom of the forest’ put in an appearance. With powerful effortless flight the Goshawk drifted along just above the treetops before rising higher and drifting away to the south and out of sight.

On exposed moorland after lunch, Meadow Pipits were diving for cover, Wild Goats were grazing amongst the heather, Ravens were sitting on the hillside and a Red Grouse called from deep cover.

Our finale was a flock of Goldeneye, with two drakes displaying and trying their hardest to impress the ducks, and then a noisy flock of Goldcrests calling and singing from the trees as we walked back to the car.

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Dabbling in duck ID ;-) Druridge Bay Safari 28/02/19

by on Mar.01, 2019, under Druridge Bay

I collected Toni and Tom from Newbiggin and we headed off to explore NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Late winter often features wildfowl expressing their affection, and yesterday was no exception. Drake Goldeneye and drake Red-breasted Mergansers were enthusiastically following ducks around and a violent altercation between two Mute Swans eventually ended and the victor returned to their mate and a display of mutual affection. Lots of other birds were just getting on with the important business of feeding; Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose,Whooper Swan and a rarity, Green-winged Teal – which eventually turned side on to us and gave very obliging views of it’s key ID feature. A sudden panic, and birds scattering in every direction, heralded the arrival of a female Sparrowhawk that twisted and turned before grabbing a Redshank and going down behind a clump of rush.

Roe Deer were grazing among the rushes and our attention turned from wildfowl to waders. Dunlin were busying themselves in shallow water, a Ringed Plover put in a brief appearance and Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing and Snipe were all feeding or roosting. 5 Avocets were a reminder that winter’s over and spring is nudging it’s way in. Disclaimer – don’t base any decisions on Avocet-based weather predictions πŸ˜‰

As a misty dusk began to descend we had an entertaining chat with an angler on the banks of the Wansbeck. I didn’t have to translate too much of what he was saying πŸ˜‰

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