Tag: Whimbrel

Summer…; Otter Safari 25/07/16

by on Jul.28, 2016, under Druridge Bay, Otter

July is a month when most of my time is spent at sea, either carrying out transect surveys or leading pelagic trips, so an afternoon and evening looking for Otters brings some welcome variation…

I collected Susan and Mike from Seaton Burn and then Frank, Gabrielle, Boudewijn and Odette from The Swan before heading to the coast.  Boudewijn’s sharp eyes picked out tiny insects as we made our way along footpaths with dense vegetation alongside as Swallows and House Martins swooped low over the fields, picking off flying insects that had strayed just a bit too far from safety.  Adult Swallows were feeding young in a nest just a few feet away from us and, out on the water, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon and Pochard were all decked out in the shabby chic of late summer and a Grey Heron caused alarm as it flew in, scattering Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls from the edge of the pool.  Cormorants dived, doing their best Otter impressions, Common Sandpipers bobbed nervously on the riverbank, a well-grown brood of Goosander were remarkably well camouflaged amongst piles of rocks and Little Egrets were stalking tiny fish in the shallows.  As the wind started to pick up and the first few drops of rain began to fall, Swifts scythed their way through clouds of insects overhead.  Whimbrel was a nice addition to the wader list for the day along with Curlew and Redshank which are much more expected.  Common and Sandwich Terns called as they flew by and Eider were rafting on a flat sea as we had our picnic.  Our final site for the day was where I was confident we’d find an OtterStarlings were murmurating, Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits flicked through the vegetation just ahead of us, a roe Deer emerged from behind a reedbed to take a drink at the water’s edge…and then the sky turned dark rather quickly and the rain started hammering down 🙁 That did produce one entertaining moment though, as a rather large Great Crested Grebe chick took shelter on its parent’s back just before we admitted defeat to the weather.

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Small things; Druridge Bay 24/05/16

by on May.26, 2016, under Druridge Bay

Waders are often spectacular, seabirds are enigmatic and raptors are, well, raptors, but sometimes the smaller birds deserve a lot more attention…

I collected Stephen from North Shields for his 7th day trip with NEWT and we headed north to Druridge Bay.  Days out with Stephen are always enjoyableStarting in bright sunshine under blue skies, it soon clouded over, then cleared, then clouded again.  Wigeon, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall all looked in excellent condition, and a Whimbrel was good to see.  Great Crested Grebes had their feathers ruffled by a stiffening breeze as Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins were all feeding only a metre or so above the water.  Tree Sparrows are always very smart looking birds and a male Yellowhammer provided an extraordinary touch of brilliant colour as the northerly wind brought the first spots of rain.  As we sat eating lunch on the clifftop at Cresswell, Fulmars were gliding effortlessly by and a Rock Pipit appeared, carrying food back to it’s nest as the scratchy warble of a Whitethroat carried on the breeze.  The rhythmic ranting of Reed Warbler and scattergun song of Sedge Warbler emanated from deep in the reeds and a Reed Warbler obligingly shuffled to the reed tops close to a singing male Reed Bunting.

Tree Sparrow,Passer montanus,Northumberland,Northern Experience Wildlife Tours

As we headed back to the car Swifts were racing by at head height and the wind seemed to be strengthening…

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Porpoiseful birdwatching; Druridge Bay Safari 06/07/2015

by on Jul.08, 2015, under Druridge Bay

mid-Summer can be a quiet time for birdwatching, but there are some days where everything just falls into place…

I arrived in Seahouses to collect Nigel and Barbara for a day birdwatching further south on the Northumberland coast, and we headed towards Druridge Bay in beautiful hot summer weather.  With a flat calm sea we started with a little while seawatching.  Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Eider and Fulmar were all flying by, but our attention was gripped by at least 6 Harbour Porpoise, including a mother with a very small calf 🙂  Moving on we watched the elegant trio of Little Egret, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit.  There were at least 22 of the latter, in a mixed roosting flock with Lapwing, Wigeon, Curlew and 9 Mediterranean Gulls of varying age.  More gull interest came in the form of 8 Little Gulls, also with a range of ages.  A Sedge Warbler clambered to the top of the reeds briefly before dropping out of sight and breaking into song, a male Linnet looked garishly pink, male Stonechat and male Reed Bunting vied for the award of ‘most attractive’ and we steadily made our way north.  Male and female Marsh Harriers impressed, as they always do, Great Crested Grebe sailed serenely by and our wader count for the day rose, with Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Redshank.  A quick ID masterclass was helped by Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls all sitting in a line, surrounded on both sides by Cormorants.

Nigel had mentioned a species that they hadn’t managed to see previously, and as the cold wind cut through the overcast conditions – did I forget to mention the weather had changed 😉 – we went in search of it.  “Curlew…curlew…curlew…stripy mean-looking face with shorter bill”, and there was another ‘lifer’ for Nigel and Barbara – a Whimbrel, and a great way to end the day 🙂

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Showstopper; Otter Safari 04/06/2015

by on Jun.10, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

Every so often, there’ll be an experience during a trip with clients that is simply jaw-dropping…

I arrived at Church Point in summary weather and set off with six clients to explore Druridge Bay and south east Northumberland in search of OttersAvocets with eggs and chicks were delicately, elegantly beautiful, a Whimbrel flew around, calling noisily, Great Crested Grebes with chicks rivalled the Avocets in elegance, a Cuckoo made its way along a fence line, the rhythmic song of Reed Warbler provided an aural backdrop for much of the afternoon and a Roe Deer appeared from a reedbed at dusk before clearing a fence and bounding away.

The jaw-dropping moment came, not with an Otter, but with another predator.  Usually when we encounter a Barn Owl you get a brief view before it heads off elsewhere to hunt.  This time though we had a prolonged view with the ghostly white bird no more than 20m away from us at times as it quartered rough grassland, hovering in beautiful golden light, a translucent-winged, silent angel of death scouring the ground below for small rodents to dispatch.

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Lifers; Druridge Bay birdwatching 13/08/2014

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

It isn’t unusual for our clients to see species for the first time on one of our tours, but it’s much less usual for me to see something new…

I collected Chris from home in Gosforth and we headed out towards the coast and Druridge Bay.  It’s always a great pleasure to have Chris out on a tour with us, although this one held the possibility of an early, and sudden, finish as his step-daughter was due to have her second child.  Mid-August is still an excellent time for wading birds and the selection on offer was impressive; Dunlin, Knot, Avocet, Lapwing, Curlew, Whimbrel, Redshank, Ruff, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher were perhaps overshadowed by one of Chris’ two lifers for the day; Stilt Sandpiper 🙂  Pied, Yellow and Grey Wagtails were all flycatching close to water and a 2cy male Marsh Harrier managed to be both impressive and educational at the same time.

Chris’ other lifer for the day was a new bird for me too.  Gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the Caspian Gull in Amble Harbour was an impressive bird; a whole lesson in structure, behaviour, moult and ageing all wrapped up in in one ‘large white-headed gull’; the alternative to ‘little brown jobs’ for birders who prefer staring at mud rather than bushes 🙂

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Twitching; Druridge Bay 29/07/2014

by on Aug.05, 2014, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

I collected Stephen from home in North Shields and we headed north to Druridge Bay for an afternoon and evening of birdwatching.  Late July can produce some very good birds, and this was to be no exception…

Mediterranean Gull is a bit of a southeast Northumberland speciality, and the ghostly white adult drifting across the field of view of Stephen’s new binoculars was a lifer for him.  The rest of the afternoon was dominated by waders, with flocks of Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit all flushing in alarm at an unseen (at least by us) menace.  The banks of the River Aln produced Curlew, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and four Little Egrets.  We bumped into a few of NEWT’s other clients during the afternoon and, when Len and Gill calmly mentioned that there was Stilt Sandpiper at Cresswell, we restructured the afternoon 🙂  Arriving at Cresswell, the news wasn’t good; the bird had apparently disappeared into long grass on the edge of the pool four hours earlier and hadn’t reappeared.  Knot, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Avocet are all very nice birds, but they’re no Stilt Sandpiper.  We decided to head down the coast and have something to eat while scanning the sea.  As we left Cresswell, Gill said that they’d ‘phone me if the bird reappeared so I took my mobile off silent although, with a four and a half gap since the last sighting, I wasn’t overly optimistic.  Ten minutes later, I’d just poured the soup and we were enjoying our picnic when my ‘phone rang.  I didn’t manage to get it out of my pocket in time to answer it, but it soon rang again and this time it was a call from Ipin “Martin, it’s back”.

Stephen had his second lifer of the afternoon, and late July was doing what it does really well – excellent waders 🙂

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Stumbling across a twitch

by on Sep.11, 2013, under Bamburgh Castle, Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Late August/early September is an exciting time on the Northumberland coast; wader passage is still ongoing, wintering wildfowl are arriving and you just never know what could turn up…

I collected Andy and Lia from Alnwick and we set off for a day birdwatching on the Northumberland coast from Bamburgh to Druridge BayKnot, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Sanderling and some very elusive Purple Sandpipers started the day for us, as Linnets fluttered around in the long grass, Meadow and Rock Pipits were around the tideline, Gannets were soaring majestically by and Eider and Common Scoter were bobbing around just beyond the surf and a mixed flock of Common and Sandwich Terns were flushed by walkers before settling back on the rocks close to the breaking surf.  Offshore a small flock of birds grabbed my attention, and through the telescope resolved into one of Northumberland’s winter specialities; seven Pale-bellied Brent Geese steadily heading north were our first of the autumn.

Further south, waders were still the main focus of our day;  Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ruff were all pottering about in the water’s edge.  When we arrived at East Chevington to look for the Spotted Crake, there were a few local birders already there.  With an astonishing amount of luck, we’d arrived just as a White-rumped Sandpiper was being watched 🙂  Not the easiest of birds to identify, but as it wandered around a flock of sleeping Teal with Dunlin and Snipe alongside for comparison it stood out quite well.

Another cracking day’s birdwatching, with a proper rarity to add a touch of the unusual 🙂

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Change of plan

by on May.20, 2013, under Birdwatching, Cheviot Valleys, Druridge Bay, North Sea, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

Snow on Monday, glorious weather on Tuesday…and torrential rain on Wednesday 🙁  When I arrived to collect David and Janet for their Prestige Tour in the Cheviot Valleys we quickly decided to head towards the Northumberland coast instead as that would offer the chance of plenty of birdwatching with the prospect of being able to shelter from the worst of the weather.

Starting at Stag Rocks, we watched flocks of Eider and Common Scoter as they rolled up and over the substantial waves and a Grey Seal swam just beyond the breaking surf.  One thing that was immediately obvious was that there was a movement of Gannets; birds were flying over the rocks and more could be seen offshore.  Heading down the coast, the intensity of the rain increased and we had our second seawatch of the day, this time just south of Cresswell.  An almost continuous passage of Gannets was evident as they headed north, flocks of Kittiwakes and Guillemots were passing by, the occasional Fulmar arced up above the clifftops and a single Manx Shearwater easily outpaced the GannetsAvocets sat tight as the rain hammered down around them and, when the deluge finally ceased and blue sky and sunshine replaced the gloom, we watched a male Marsh Harrier as he quartered a nearby field before soaring heavenwards. A Great Crested Grebe sailed by serenely, a Whimbrel flew north, five Brown Hares were engaged in some half-hearted chasing and Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins all took advantage of the feast of insects that had been stirred to activity by the improvement in the weather.

Even in poor weather, Northumberland can produce some excellent birdwatching 🙂

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Spotting the Otter

by on Jun.28, 2012, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast, Otter

They’re the sort of words I always want hear at the start of a day out with clients “The sole reason for coming to Northumberland on this holiday was to see an Otter“.  So, no pressure there, then…

I collected Ann and Glyn from their b&b in Seahouses and we set out on an exploration of the best birdwatching and otter spotting locations on the Northumberland coast around Druridge BayAvocet and Whimbrel were among the birdwatching highlights of the afternoon then, as dusk approached, it looked as though everything was going to go wrong; wave after wave of torrential rain battered down so the surface of the pond looked as if it were boiling and columns of mist were drifting across our field of view.

I was still confident though.  The ducks, swans and other waterbirds were looking nervous, and that’s always a good sign.  Then it happened, as Ann said “what’s that over there by the reeds?”,  I got the end of the reedbed in view, steadied my binoculars, and an Otter surfaced before swimming along, allowing all of us to get it in focus, and vanishing into the reeds;  Ann had managed to see her first wild Otter and she’d found it herself 🙂 As the rain cleared a Long-eared Owl flew straight toward us and the Otter reappeared, this time trying to grab a Moorhen that was perched half-way up the reeds.  It twisted and turned, sleek and sinuous, and once again sought the cover of the vegetation at the water’s edge.  As the waterfowl settled and began to look much less worried, we left the hide and waded back to the car 😉

I managed a good bonus bird myself on the drive back down the coast as a Little Owl flew from a roadside fencepost.

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Lightning strikes twice

by on May.11, 2012, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Harwood, Northumberland

Trips with existing clients are always a pleasure, not only because it’s very gratifying to get a booking from someone we’ve taken out before, but also because we already have shared memories.  I had 3 things vivid in my mind from when I took Pete and Janet out in September 2008 – it rained, we saw 11 adult Mediterranean Gulls on the beach at Newbiggin and Janet found an Otter.

I collected Pete and Janet from their holiday cottage in Embleton, and we headed across to Sharperton to collect David and Mary.  They’re all members of the same Natural History Society, who were our first group booking, back in 2009, and we always enjoy catching up with them, and the other members of their group, at the Bird Fair each August.  Tuesday was a bespoke trip, combining Harwood and Druridge Bay, and the weather forecast suggested that it wouldn’t rain…

As we approached Harwood a Roe Deer crossed the track, walked into the trees and then stopped to watch us.  This was the first of 11 that we saw on our journey through the forest (well, it was about 11, and if I say 11, it’ll help the punchline to this post!).

Harwood again produced memorable sightings; Roe Deer, Tree Pipit, at least 3 Cuckoos, Siskins, plenty of Crossbills, more Roe Deer and a mouth-wateringly attractive male Common Redstart.  A list of species can never really do justice to just how good encounters with wildlife can be though; as 2 Roe Deer bounded across the clearfell area beside the track, 2 Cuckoos were engaged in a frantic chase, calling frequently and mobbed by Meadow Pipits every time they left the safety of the trees, while the male Redstart flicked along the edge of a nearby plantation, red tail shivering as he perched on a tree stump, black face contrasting with his white forehead and supercilium, the subtle grey of his crown and mantle and the orangy-red of his breast.

As we tucked in to our picnic lunch, overlooking a very calm North Sea, the first drops of icy rain began to patter down.  Then, a comment from Janet to set the pulse racing “I’m sure I just saw a fin”.  With such calm water the sudden appearance of black shapes at the surface stood out, and Janet had found yet another exciting mammal on a NEWT safari.  This time it wasn’t the sleek, sinuous predator of our lakes and rivers, but another sleek, sinuous predator. We watched for several minutes as the pod of Bottlenose Dolphins moved slowly south.  At least 6 animals, including a very small calf, they surfaced lazily every 30seconds or thereabouts as I texted observers further south to let them know what was coming.

Avocet, Garganey (2 handsome drakes), Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, clouds of Swifts, Swallows and martins, and weather best described as changeable, all contributed to an excellent afternoon around Druridge before I completed our circular route, dropping Pete and Janet, and then David and Mary.  See you at the BirdFair 🙂

So, it rained, we saw 11(ish) Roe Deer in Harwood and Janet found some Bottlenose Dolphins

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