Tag: Whitethroat

Watching; Bespoke Safari 25/04/2014

by on May.28, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland, Northumberland Coast

The first part of the Bank Holiday weekend was a washout, with our scheduled Dark Skies event, for a Hen Party in Kielder, falling victim to the weather ūüôĀ Sunday was a bespoke wildlife Safari for Claire and Sophie and, as I collected them from home in Gosforth, things were looking a bit more promising.¬† Away inland we could see a lot of general murkiness, so we headed for the Northumberland coast – planning to drop down to Druridge Bay as the afternoon progressed.

Glorious, yet chillingly breezy weather was waiting for us at Bamburgh and we watched Eider and Common Scoter as they bobbed about in the swell.¬† We checked the wake of very passing boat for any sign of Bottlenose Dolphinsand continued south down the coast.¬† Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings andWhitethroats were singing all around and Little Grebes were diving for prey before bobbing back to the water’s surface.¬† Our picnic stop featured Fulmars arcing just above the clifftops a few metres away from us and a viewpoint over the River Wansbeck revealed lots and lots of ducklings; Gadwall, Mallard, Shelduck all had broods of between eight and eleven – although this prime source of Otter food didn’t seem to have attracted the attention of any Otters.¬† A Roe Deer on the far bank appeared than quickly vanished again as it made it’s way through the bushes, and Swifts, Swallows, House Martins andSand Martins feasted on the buzzing clouds of insects overhead.¬† As daylight faded we arrived at one site to find a Mallard and a Grey Heron both staring intently into a hole that we’ve long suspected of being an Otter holt.¬† More Mallards, and the three of us, joined the staring contest but the adversary that eventually flushed the heron, and had the Mallards waddling away at a rate of knots, remained unseen as bats began flitting past our ears.

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Eye of the storm; Druridge Bay 13/05/2014

by on May.17, 2014, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

The deep ominous rumble of thunder was all around us now.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel though, but could we make the most of it?

I’d collected Stephen from home in North Shields and we headed up the coast for an afternoon and evening birdwatching around Druridge Bay.¬† The early part of the trip was in fine weather and we watched Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers singing from the bushes, Wheatears flitting from ground to fencepost and back and House Martins andSwallows twisting and turning in pursuit of the bountiful harvest brought about by warm damp conditions.¬† Part way through the afternoon things began to change; away to the north the sky was darkening and we could hear the deep rumble of distant thunder.¬† Another storm was looming to the southwest, and gradually we were encircled by a menacing gloom.¬† The rain began hammering against the car, but there was one ray of hope.¬† At the centre of the storm was a break in the clouds; blue sky and sunshine of sorts.¬† I could see which way it was heading and knew that we had one excellent option.

Down the coast to a Barn Owl breeding site, with the rain relentlessly challenging the efficiency of the windscreen wipers on the car, we positioned ourselves so the owl’s regular hunting area was in view.¬† I was fairly sure that the break in the weather would be over us in about ten minutes, and that we’d have a window of opportunity for about another ten minutes prior to the next downpour.¬† As the rain eased to just a few drops, we concentrated our attention on the dunes and, within a couple of minutes of the rain stopping, the Barn Owl appeared.¬† Quartering , hovering, diving out of sight into the grass before lifting again, carrying a vole back to the nest then resuming the hunt only to abandon as the next edge of the storm hit with a vengeance and we headed off with flashes of lightning illuminating the darkened landscape.

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A damp day in North Northumberland

by on Jul.13, 2012, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Northumberland

As I got home on Tuesday night after our evening pelagic the rain was still hammering down.  With a forecast of more rain for Wednesday, and a planned Farne Islands safari, I started thinking about a contingency plan as I dried off all of my camera equipment.

Wednesday dawned…with more heavy rainfall.¬† I needed an idea of what was happening further north¬†and a quick text to William was soon answered; the rain in Seahouses was light and sea conditions were fine so boats were sailing ūüôā¬† I collected Louise and Martin from Warkworth and we headed north along some decidedly damp roads.¬† A morning birdwatching on the Northumberland coast, including Grey Seal, Roe Deer, Swallow nestlings, Shelduck, Eider, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank¬†and a very obliging Whitethroat, was followed by a lunch break just north of Bamburgh Castle, and then it was time to board Glad Tidings for the sailing across to the islands.¬† With a bit of swell on the sea, a chilly wind kicking spray from the bow, and another¬†oppressive sky the islands were incredibly atmospheric.¬† Puffins were sitting in huge rafts just off the islands, Guillemots and Razorbills were flying back to the cliff ledges with fish, Gannets were soaring majestically by the boat, Grey Seals lazed in the surf and Kittiwakes called incessantly from their precipitous nest sites.¬† As we landed on Inner Farne the aerial bombardment from the Arctic Terns was much reduced from the level of recent weeks, and there were plenty of young terns trying out their wings in short flights across the boardwalk.¬† Sandwich Terns were carrying food back to quite large chicks and the island seemed to be awash with Puffins.¬† Every flat area next to the sheer cliff faces was covered in them and¬†hundreds were flying around the island.¬† Louise, like¬†many of our clients when seeing Puffins for the first time said “Aren’t they small”.¬† Everyone expects them to be bigger than they actually are.¬† Kittiwake chicks were almost too big for the nest ledges, and Razorbills and Guillemots were watched at close quarters too.¬† With the poor weather the number of visitors to the island was quite low, making for quite a different experience to¬†our trips earlier this year when all of the boats were full.

Most of our Farne Islands trips this year have been on Glad Tidings 1, and Bobby and Billy always keep their passengers entertained.¬† Now,¬†as I look out of my office window while I’m typing this on a fine, dry, sunny afternoon, Bobby’s words, as he delivered us safely back to Seahouses come to mind “Aye, it’s improved.¬† Now it’s like a fine autumn day rather than a bad winter one”.

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2 days on Lindisfarne

by on Apr.28, 2011, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Holy Island, Northumberland

Well, a day and a half really…

On Sunday I collected Helen from her parent’s house in Swarland and we crossed the causeway onto Holy Island.¬† A good walk around the island provided excellent views of Wheatears, displaying Lapwings, a cacophony of Grey Seals and a very¬†inquisitive Stoat.¬† Helen spotted it and, once it ducked out of sight, I enticed it back out by pishing.¬† Thrift and Bladder Campion were both in bloom and, once we were back on the mainland, we enjoyed a Whitethroat as it song-flighted from tree to tree.

Our final port of call was Stag Rocks.¬† A¬†scan seemed to reveal little other than a raft of Eiders but there, amongst the black-and-white ‘Cuddy Ducks’ was a smaller dark bird; the vagrant Black Scoter, still there and still applying his transatlantic affections to a female Common Scoter.

Tuesday’s wildlife walk was slightly different.¬† I met up with Jude and her parents at the Beal Road end car park and we drove across the causeway.¬† 48 hours after our previous Lindisfarne trip, and the Wheatears had moved on.¬† A¬†recent arrival though, was a Sedge Warbler.¬† Skylarks provided a continuous backdrop to our walk and a pair of Roe Deer were bounding through the fields, leaping fences and apparently keeping an eye on us.¬† 4 hours passed quickly and it was time to head home…and get ready for¬†Wednesday’s Kielder Safari.

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A day in the Bay, Birdwatching Northumberland (part 2)

by on May.22, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Northumberland

Our second day out with the winners of last year’s Birdwatching Northumberland¬† competition, was a day in Druridge Bay.¬† It provided a real contrast with our earlier trip to the Harthope Valley.

After collecting Jean and Andy from the Bamburgh Castle Inn¬†we headed down to Embleton to collect Helen, our third client on this trip, pausing for a few minutes to watch a very obliging Brown Hare in a field near Chatton.¬† As we toured our usual sites the weather was more like the caribbean than Northumberland ūüôā¬† Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Herons, Mute Swans, Lapwings¬†and Coots were around the coastal pools, Sedge, Reed and Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and Reed Buntings were singing from hedgerows,¬†sedges, reeds and willows¬†and Fulmars were arcing gracefully along the cliffs at Cresswell.¬† On a woodland walk along the River Blyth we heard more than we saw (as you would expect in mid-May) with Nuthatch, Chiffchaff¬†and Great Spotted Woodpecker¬†all being particularly vocal.¬† Eventually the two days of the Birdwatching Northumberland prize were over and I returned all of our clients to their respective holiday accommodation.

The day wasn’t finished for NEWT though; as dusk approached we were out on the coast, at separate locations, checking for Otters.¬† I did have one brief sighting, and on the journey home we began the process of redeveloping our Otter Safaris to make them an even better experience than they already are.

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Something for the weekend

by on May.12, 2010, under Birdwatching, Druridge Bay, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

There are times in the winter when I’m mainly office-based¬†and what I really look forward to, during what often seem like interminably long days, is the arrival of the Spring and increasing numbers of ‘client days’.

On Tuesday morning I headed to Newbiggin to collect John and Christine, clients from last year’s Beginners Birdwatching ‘Seabirds and Waders’, who were back in Northumberland for a birdwatching morning in Druridge Bay.¬†¬†The weather was erratic to say the least, with bright warm sunshine, a bitterly cold northeasterly wind, sleet and even snow it was a morning to be wrapped up warm.¬† The birding was as excellent as we would expect in mid-May; the morning’s highlights included a male Ruff in full breeding plumage, eight elegant beautiful Black-tailed Godwits, a pair of Garganey and some incredibly close views of Whitethroats as they warbled their scratchy song from hedgerows, trees and telegraph poles.

This morning brought something completely different; a Lindisfarne Safari with our first Spanish clients.¬† Alfredo and Nieves had managed to get across from Ibiza, despite the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano, and were looking forward to a day birdwatching on Holy Island and the north Northumberland coast.¬† The weather was changeable again but, as yesterday, we stayed dry.¬† A flock of 80 Ringed Plover on Holy Island were very vocal as they repeatedly flew overhead, 2 Little Egrets in Budle Bay flew by calling and a Little Gull and a White Wagtail at Monk’s House Pool were both nice surprise finds.¬† Eventually we found ourselves bathed in warm sunshine as pairs of Arctic Terns displayed high overhead against the azure sky and, looking inland, we could still see a lingering snowfield on the Cheviot.¬† Alfredo and Nieves both have a broad, and quite detailed knowledge of natural history, and Alfredo is a keen, and skilful, photographer.¬† I only have a very limited grasp of Spanish but through a combination of Spanish, English, Latin and a shared love of natural history and photography, any language barriers were easily transcended.

We’ve got Northumberland birdwatching¬†tours for the rest of the week and then on Saturday it’ll be time to chill out with a glass of wine, a BBQ and our¬†National Moth Night event at Lee Moor Farm, near Alnwick.¬† All are welcome, so give us a call on 01670 827465 if you would like to come along for an evening of wildlife watching fun, suitable for young or old, beginner or expert.

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What does my office look like?

by on May.08, 2010, under Birdwatching, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Occasionally I find myself pondering that question.¬† On Wednesday I left home early to drive to Seahouses¬†and collect Carolyn and Brian, two clients who we first met last year.¬† As we headed up the coast through Bamburgh and towards¬†the Lindisfarne NNR¬†for a day of birdwatching, we stopped at each promising area.¬† Before we reached¬†Holy Island¬†itself we’d already had excellent views of 4 Harbour Porpoises, good views of three Whimbrel (alongside a Curlew for comparison) and a Brown Hare as well as the growing numbers of House Martins and Swifts.¬† A Sedge Warbler perched helpfully on top of a stunted Hawthorn as he belted out his song, a Whitethroat was elusive before eventually showing off the bright white throat feathers that give it it’s name and a Wheatear hopped along a drystone wall.¬† On¬†the island¬†we watched a Heron as it preened whilst hidden in a reed bed, listened to another Sedge Warbler and tried to locate a calling Water Rail.¬† Skylarks and pipits were unobtrusive in a sheep field that¬†also contained¬†at least 6 Wheatears and, once we’d left the island we watched over 1000 Grey Seals as they relaxed in the bright sunshine.

After dropping Carolyn and Brian back in Seahouses, I headed home, packed my bag and drove down the A1, out of Northumberland,¬†to my sister’s house.¬†¬†04:30 Thursday morning¬†and I was on the road again, this time travelling to King’s Lynn.¬† Two days of being a student were relaxing and enjoyable, studying the acoustic signals used by cetaceans being my own personal highlight, before the north beckoned.¬† Finally, just before 10pm yesterday, I arrived back at home, headed to the ‘beer fridge’, sat down to a delicious Chinese meal with Sarah and then collapsed into bed.¬† With tomorrows “Beginners Birdwatching; Songs and Calls” being close to home we don’t¬†have a really early start so this afternoon is a chance (something that’s going to¬†happen less and less over the next few months) to catch up with e-mails, ‘phone calls and product planning/development.¬† It’s the great paradox of running your own business; many people choose that option in order to have more free time…but if your business is successful there’s a period, certainly during rapid growth/expansion, when 9 to 5 doesn’t look so bad after all.¬† Would I go back to that? What do you think? ūüėČ

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