Tag: Sparrowhawk

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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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 😉

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 😉

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A hard act to swallow; Otter Safari 20/11/18

by on Nov.21, 2018, under Druridge Bay

In March last year I was knocked off my bike by a car in Bedlington (which is our local town).  The day after the incident, I posted in our local Facebook group, thanking everyone who helped me.  “I don’t know if they’re in this group but I’d just like to say a huge thank you to the people who looked after me until the paramedics and police arrived after I was knocked off my bike opposite the market place, especially the lady who held my hand and talked to me...Laid in the road, unable to move your head and with one leg twisted painfully, is a scary experience so it’s hard to put into words how much it helped having people who stopped the traffic, held my hand, talked to me and kept me calm.”

I collected Stephanie and Gary yesterday, just up the road from the NEWT office and Stephanie said “My friend Leigh was the one who held your hand when you were knocked off your bike.” and told me that Leigh decided to train as a first-aider after helping me 🙂  Bedlington and it’s surrounding villages is a small world…and then we headed to Newbiggin to collect Susanne and Leanne.  As they walked across the car park towards us, Leanne looked familiar – one of my chemistry students from 14 years ago!  Small world indeed!

We headed out to explore Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in search of Otters and, from the state of the sea crashing against the breakwaters of Newbiggin Bay it looked like the wind would present a challenge for the day.  The rest of the day was a series of squally showers, increasing in intensity as the day progressed.  Noisy flocks of Long-tailed Tits foraged in pathside trees and Cormorant, Little Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were diving in search of fish.

A Cormorant managed to generate a false alarm as it wrestled with a large Eel – the bird’s black body and the tail of the fish combining to do a remarkable impression of an Otter fishing with it’s tail up out of the water 🙂  Having managed to swallow the Eel, the Cormorant caught an even larger one a few minutes later and we were able to watch as it tossed the Eel until eventually grabbing it around the head and swallowing it in one go.  That was followed by a couple of minutes of watching the Cormorant’s neck bulging and writhing as it struggled to get the Eel down into it’s stomach.  Incredibly it started fishing again straight away and caught and swallowed a much smaller Eel.

A theme in the last couple of weeks has been Sparrowhawks causing consternation among roosting wader and wildfowl flocks, and yesterday was no exception.  Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Curlew, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall and Wigeon all took flight repeatedly before the Sparrowhawk eventually flew past us.  A dense flock of Kittiwakes flew along over huge rolling waves and foaming surf and as Starlings, Lapwings and Golden Plover struggled against the strengthening breeze and geese arrived to roost the next squall took the light levels from challenging to near dark in a matter of minutes and we headed back toward he bright lights of Newbiggin 🙂

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Easterlies; Druridge Bay Safari 19/11/18

by on Nov.20, 2018, under Druridge Bay

There was a gentle breeze as I collected Nigel, Corina, Victoria and Rob from Longframlington and we headed towards the coast for a day around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland…

Waders and wildfowl were in abundance, as they tend to be in the late autumn.  A huge roosting flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing were restless and vocal and Redshank, Dunlin and a lone Curlew were sleeping until disturbed by a marauding Sparrowhawk.  Drake Shovelers and a lone drake Scaup were still patchy, coming out of eclipse plumage, a flock of Eider flying north over white foaming surf on a strengthening easterly contained a mix of females, young males and a couple of pristine adult males and Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Teal drakes were all sporting their very best finery.

Our picnic spot was graced by a Kestrel hanging on the stiff breeze so close that we could see how he held his head stationary while making minor movements of wings, body and tail.  An apparent absence of small birds was suddenly broken by a noisy foraging flock of Great, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed Tits.  Hunched against the wind, a Grey Heron looked even more miserable than they usually do and, as Little Egrets shone in the gloom, at least 20 Little Grebes, including a group of 12 together, were along one stretch of river.  With dusk fast approaching a noisy mixed flock of Canada, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese arrived to roost as Starlings passed by in small groups, foregoing the murmuration in favour of a quick dash to the reeds and Whooper Swans trumpeted their own arrival and the light faded to a barely penetrable gloom.

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Mesmerising murmuration; Druridge Bay Bespoke birdwatching 15/11/18

by on Nov.17, 2018, under Druridge Bay

A lot of our clients muse on the possibility of retiring and moving to Northumberland, and John had done just that and booked a bespoke day out with us to explore some of the lesser-known birdwatching sites around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland

With an almost cloudless blue sky and a chill wind we set out and were soon watching Common Redshanks as they probed the mud along the waterline with Red-breasted Mergansers in the background, a Grey Wagtail flycatching from rocks amidst fast flowing water, and a Sparrowhawk against the azure sky mobbed by a swarm of JackdawsBullfinches and Goldcrests called from hidden positions in hawthorn bushes and a Short-eared Owl quartering rough grassland plunged out of sight after prey repeatedly without ever appearing carrying anything.  The plan for dusk was a visit to (hopefully) a Starling roost.  With Water Rails squealing from reedbeds, and Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Mute Swan and Whooper Swan on the water around roosting Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Cormorants, Starlings started to arrive.  Cloud after cloud of birds landed in a small section of reeds before leaving again in groups of a few hundred birds every few seconds.  A sudden panic ran through the flock and as they bunched tightly, twisting and turning, a Sparrowhawk came through before settling on the ground before reappearing around the end of the reeds and flying past us carrying a Starling.  With dusk descending to darkness the murmuring rustle of birds in the reedbeds faded to silence as we walked back to the car.

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A walk in the woods 01/11/18

by on Nov.02, 2018, under Choppington Woods

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks in the NEWT household.  We’d had a week away in and around Glencoe checking locations for a landscape photography holiday I’m leading over Christmas, then a couple of days after we got back home I wasn’t feeling well.  Sarah took me to see our GP and they sent me straight to the excellent Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.  Four days later I was discharged, limited to a liquid-only diet and with surgery scheduled for early January.  Luckily I’m well enough to work, as we’ve got a very busy November ahead of us.  This week has been mainly recuperation at home, but I need to keep my mind and body active and daily walks in the woods behind our house are the best medicine…

With the light of day fading to dusk, the harsh ‘chek’ calls of Jackdaws and deep ‘rawk’ of Rooks gathering together to roost were layered with the staccato ratting of Magpies.  The woods are familiar and comforting, and a place to clear my mind.  We’ve walked them countless times over the last 18 years and the benches, interpretation boards, boardwalk/dipping platform and well-surfaced paths were the result of a successful funding bid that I presented back in 2009.  We know which intersections of the footpaths and tracks will produce the pungent scent of Red Fox, temporarily overwhelming the sweet earthy smell of Autumn decay and the heady perfume of Himalayan Balsam, which areas of the wood will have Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit and where to search for Red Squirrel and the other inhabitants of this reclaimed colliery site.  Woodpigeons were gathering in treetops frosted orange by the setting Sun and, applying the shape, shadow and shine elements of concealment I chose a position on the shaded side of an Ivy-covered hedge.  Willow Tits and Coal Tits gave quiet alarm calls as a Sparrowhawk flew along the hedge and a Kestrel hovered over the field in the half-light.  Jays were crossing between plantations, Roe Deer ventured out from cover to forage close to the field edge, Redwings arrived to roost and the chacking calls so typical of pre-roost Blackbirds penetrated the crisp, cold air under a clear blue sky layered over the pastel pink of the Belt of Venus away to the east as I had a feeling that there was something close by.  A brief whirr of wings so I turned my head slowly…and found myself eye to eye with a handsome cock Pheasant 🙂

A connection with nature allows us to disconnect, even if only for a short while, from our connection with everyday life.  It’s good for body and soul and so many of our clients comment that one of the things they most enjoy about their days out with NEWT is just how relaxing it is to be taken away from work and the stresses of life.  Applying that to myself is working well too 🙂

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Shifting breeze; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 17/09/18

by on Sep.18, 2018, under Druridge Bay

Yesterday was a Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari for Russell and Elena and I was glad it was happening before the forecast deterioration in the weather over the next few days.  I collected them from Rothbury and we headed towards the coast and an afternoon and evening around NEWT’s local patch, which turned into an enlightening discussion about photography, food, fly fishing and Sea Buckthorn…

Tufted Ducks, Mallards and a very smart Wigeon were all illuminated by some very nice light and, as we watched a Little Stint scurrying around between Curlew, Lapwing, Common Redshank and Spotted Redshank there was obviously some unease among the waders.  Canada Geese and a Cormorant were looking very alert and the Lapwings took flight before settling again.  Then the cause of all the agitation appeared and we watched the Otter on and off for around 90 minutes before it disappeared next to a reedbed 🙂  Little Egrets were roosting in riverside trees and there was another outbreak of consternation as Mallards all hurried off and a flock of Black-headed Gulls circled something swimming across the river.  It was long and sleek like an Otter, but there was something about the way it was holding its head at an angle that just didn’t seem right…then the Grey Squirrel got out of the water and ran towards the trees!

Our picnic spot overlooking a fairly calm North Sea brought Fulmars and Gannets, and a walk along a well vegetated track produced lots of bees, relatively docile in the cooling evening air, and a Red Admiral as well as plenty of Speckled Wood butterflies.  As dusk approached Swallows and House Martins were gorging themselves on a myriad of flying insects and there was more unrest among roosting birds.  First a sudden departure of Cormorants, then ducks scattered and an Otter appeared briefly before vanishing into the reeds next to a group of Mute Swans.  A female Marsh Harrier caused even more panic then, with Water Rails squealing all around us, a Sparrowhawk was harassed by Carrion Crows and Pink-footed Geese arrived in noisy yapping flocks against a darkening sky with Mars, Saturn and the Moon all bright away to the south there was another kerfuffle against the reeds and not one, not two, not three, but four Otters feeding in the shallows as the light levels dropped to ‘challenging’ 😉  Fade to black…

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Between a rock and a hard place; Druridge Bay Safari 25/08/18

by on Aug.28, 2018, under Uncategorized

I collected Barbara and Jeff from Newbiggin and we set off for an afternoon and evening around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland in conditions that felt slightly cooler than of late…

A walk along the Wansbeck brought 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Greenshank, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Lapwing, Curlew, 2 Little Egrets and some delicious blackberries and sea buckthorn 🙂  Grey Herons were tussling over favoured feeding spots and our picnic stop overlooking the North Sea produced lines of Gannets heading north, distant Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, a raft of Eider in the gentle rolling swell just offshore and a feeding frenzy around the edge of the rising tide were startled by a skua; Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Dunlin and a noisy swirling flock of Black-headed Gulls were accompanied by at least 8 Mediterranean Gulls as Fulmars soared by on stiff wings.

More waders and more herons followed, and then Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck, in sublime low angled sunlight, and a variety of bumblebees and hoverflies becoming slower as the temperature started to really drop.  A Barn Owl quartered the dunes before settling first on the ground, then a telegraph pole then a fence post, offering great views in flight and then through the telescope when it was perched.  A Sparrowhawk hedge-hopped just ahead of us and 2 Little Owls had made their way out on to the edge of a roof and a stone wall as dusk approached and our final stop saw us watching a dense roosting flock of geese and some very vocal Black-tailed Godwits as hundreds of Greylag Geese suddenly appeared out of the gloom and settled in for the night and the bright triumvirate of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were spread across the southern sky.

Probably the best moment of the day was when a Brown Hare leveret loped along the track ahead of us before darting up a narrow tree-lined footpath, only to come back out and sit just a few feet from the car!  What could be scarier than a car bearing down on you?  The answer, in this case, was a Woodpigeon that was blocking the hare’s escape route 🙂

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