Tag: Wigeon

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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Waves of panic; Otter mini-Safari 16/11/21

by on Nov.17, 2021, under Druridge Bay

The time of year when we have to start mini-Safaris early afternoon always seems to creep up before unexpectedly arriving.

I met up with James, Michael and Colin ahead of an afternoon around Druridge Bay searching for otters and our first site had played host to four of them earlier in the day! Regular ripples of panic spread through the wigeon out on the water and that turned into terror as a juvenile marsh harrier made it’s way up and down both sides of the water. A little egret flew over a wader roost that was mainly common redshank, with a sprinkling of turnstones and a couple of common snipe. Our second site for the afternoon had at least two marsh harriers, including the same juvenile we’d seen earlier, and as pink-footed geese yapped overhead, water rails squealed, a Cetti’s warbler belted out it’s song and starlings blew past like leaves on the wind, the flocks of coot, mallard, wigeon, shoveler and gadwall kept nervously moving away from one reedbed as roe deer grazed near the water’s edge and dusk took hold of the little remaining daylight.

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Vital signs; Otter mini-Safari 12/01/20

by on Jan.15, 2020, under Druridge Bay, Southeast Northumberland

A dual purpose title for today’s blog…

I collected Fara, Andrew and Nicola & Graeme and Jen from Newbiggin and we set off to explore Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland on a Sunday morning that was thankfully lacking the stiff breeze that has characterised the winter so far…

Water that was almost mirror-calm was patterned with the concentric circles of diving Little Grebes, Goldeneye and Cormorants as a Grey Heron stood motionless, uncharacteristically obliging, and a Little Egret darted at small fish in the shallows before flying upstream, followed by noisy Oystercatchers, into what little breeze there was.

En route to our second site I thought it would be worth stopping to check for Little Owls, and one was sitting quietly sunning itself. If you’ve never seen one of these elfin sprites, here’s one of Sarah’s photographs from a few years ago πŸ™‚

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The temperature was starting to drop and a breeze was becoming noticeable as we settled to scan over a pool and reedbeds. Suddenly the Lapwings all took flight, forming a tight wheeling flock tossed on the breeze as Mallards turned and stared at one area of reeds. After a couple of minutes the Lapwings were back down, as the discordant calls of Canada and Greylag Geese carried on the breeze and Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Wigeon were all dabbling contentedly again. The calm didn’t last long though and the Lapwings were soon scattering in panic again. The third time they flushed the Mallards were once again looking at the same reedbed, this time with three Little Grebes joining with the intense study of a very localised area. Everything we’d look for when searching for Otters was happening right in front of us…the only thing missing was an appearance by our quarry itself. Here’s an Otter from January 2015, sporting a very fetching boa of seaweed πŸ™‚

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Lovely clients, lots of photography discussion, great weather and I brought home an owl pellet to dissect πŸ™‚

and ‘Vital signs’ as a blog title? It’s a track on Rush’s album Moving Pictures and our tribute to Neil Peart who sadly passed away last week.

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Halcyon days; Otter Safari 19/12/19

by on Dec.27, 2019, under Druridge Bay

After a couple of weeks where we didn’t have any scheduled trips it was a nice change of scenery to have a day out around Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland and I collected Kev from Woodhorn as the rain started to fall…

Mid-morning produced a trio of great birds. A 1st winter Glaucous Gull had just settled back into a roost when Kev spotted a Kingfisher perched in front of us as a stunning drake Pintail up-ended just beyond it. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe all scattered in panic as a young male Marsh Harrier drifted over the pool and along the reeds where Water Rails were squealing.

Our picnic spot produced a Fulmar arcing over the sea in sight of cliff-edge nest sites and Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone and Oystercatcher all flew from rocks and along the shore.

The afternoon brought more Goldeneye and Little Grebe, another Kingfisher in the deepening gloom of dusk, noisy flocks of Pink-footed, Greylag and Canada Geese and a remarkable flock of possibly as many as 50 Greenfinches as Cormorants perched menacingly on fallen trees and Grey Herons stalked through the shallows.

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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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Wind-blasted; Bespoke Lindisfarne Safari 05/11/19

by on Nov.06, 2019, under Lindisfarne

I collected Sue for her 10th NEWT safari and we headed north in weather that didn’t seem to be quite certain of what it was…

Along the causeway, with the tide only just receding from the road, Curlews, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were probing the freshly exposed mud as Pale-Bellied Brent Geese, Wigeon, Mute Swans and Shelducks were grazing along the water’s edge and Little Egrets were dotted around the saltmarsh.

Soon we had one of the best sights you can hope for when arriving on the island…Andy M on the main road staring intently into a tree πŸ™‚ Among a scattering of Goldcrests a Yellow-browed Warbler was exploring the canopy and we watched it for a few minutes before exploring around the village. With Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers just offshore, as dense wader flocks wheeled over the mudflats, Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and an unseasonal Spotted Flycatcher were searching for food as a stiff northerly brought repeated stinging rain showers. What we thought was a tree covered in dead brown leaves suddenly burst into life as a dense flock of Starlings left the bare branches behind and a Kestrel flushed from the hedge top before hanging motionless in the wind.

As we watched the transition from a rapidly falling tide to slack water, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and a lone Purple Sandpiper were probing through piles of seaweed with impressively breaking surf just a few feet beyond them, Cormorants and Shags battled into the wind, Roe Deer were on the sheltered side of a hedge and an unexpected Long-tailed Duck on a freshwater pool was followed as dusk approached by a Fox trotting across the road in front of us before slowly making it’s way along a field margin.

Another great day out with Sue. See you next year!

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Murmuration; Bespoke Druridge Bay Safari 21/10/19

by on Oct.31, 2019, under Druridge Bay

Late October and big flocks of stuff are starting to feature more and more prominently…

I collected Caroline, Ian and Ted from Embleton and we headed down the coast towards NEWT’s local patch, Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland. Little Grebes were diving in calm water as Cormorants sat on long dead branches and a Kingfisher raced past as Little Egrets and Grey Herons demonstrated very different approaches to hunting; debonair darting and dashing and steady, stealthy menace.

A Common Buzzard was perched on a fence as flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye and Gadwall drifted quietly on the water and Lapwings flushed in alarm as Curlews left a nearby field, their eerie cries cutting through the cool air.

As dusk approached and the squeals of Water Rails emanated from the reedbeds a Starling murmuration grew into a swirling cloud against the darkening sky. Twisting one way then another and then splitting, rejoining and tightening as a Marsh Harrier chanced it’s luck in a desparate attempt to grab a bird from the writhing amorphous mass while high overhead the high yapping calls of skein after skein of Pink-footed Geese continued as daylight faded to black and we made our way back north.

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Magic tricks; Druridge Bay mini-Safari 06/06/19

by on Jun.18, 2019, under Druridge Bay

With a busy week and a bit ahead of me (guiding a 7 night wildlife photography holiday and then recceing landscape photography holiday locations in the Lake District) I headed to Amble to collect Val and Jimmy for a morning around Druridge Bay

The rhythmic chuntering of Reed Warblers and scattergun song of Sedge Warblers filled the warm air as we watched several Avocets sitting on nests. One pair seemed agitated but the others didn’t which is unusual in an Avocet colony, where they’re nearly always up for a fight, and then one of the pair adopted an unusual crouched position…and laid an egg!

Next we stopped to look for our regular Little Owl. It wasn’t where I expected it to be…and then suddenly it was πŸ™‚ Next up was a genuine rarity…although it remained stubbornly asleep while we were watching it – I’ve seen a Baikal Teal in the UK previously but this one is just 15mins from our office and had a small audience already watching it when we arrived. Displaying Lapwings, Canada and Greylag Geese (with goslings) and Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck were all on the marsh.

Great morning, with surprises and a rarity πŸ™‚

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Warm spring evenings :-) Otter mini-Safari 20/04/19

by on Apr.22, 2019, under Druridge Bay, Otter

As much as I love the winter, there’s something special about warm spring and summer evenings with Otter Safaris and Druridge Bay Safaris finishing at dusk…

I collected Andy and Helen from Bedlington for their second trip with NEWT, following a cold wet Lindisfarne Safari in 2012, and Kate and Rob and Keely and John from Newbiggin and we headed out for a few hours searching Druridge Bay and southeast Northumberland for Otters

16 Avocets, with some displaying and mating, was an impressive total as Oystercatchers, Common Redshanks and a Little Ringed Plover patrolled the mud in search of food. At least 4, and possibly as many as 6, Little Egrets were stalking in and out of channels between the reeds and a Barn Owl hunted over rough grassland before perching obligingly on a fence post in beautiful evening light. Β Then Rob spotted an Otter and we watched it for a few minutes as it fed before vanishing out of sight into the reeds πŸ™‚

With dusk approaching we headed to the site that I was confident would produce an Otter sighting in twilight. A Roe Deer was standing on the far side of the water before racing off up the bank and heading into cover as Little and Great Crested Grebes dived in search of fish. Tufted Ducks were suddenly looking alert and small groups started flying off. Kate thought she’d seen something close to the Tufties but it had gone out of sight behind the reeds. With daylight giving way to dusk and Arcturus and Capella both shining through the twilight sky I was scanning a patch of flat calm water and realised that there was a fine trail of bubbles and a pattern of swirls…then an Otter popped up πŸ™‚ It quickly moved away towards the dark shadows of a reedbed and a small group of Mute Swans, with it’s presence eventually only betrayed by the ring of bright water each time it surfaced.

6 clients, 4 hours, 2 sites, 2 Otters, 1 great evening of wildlife watching on the Northumberland coast πŸ™‚

Here’s an image of an Otter family in January 2018 from one of our regular sites πŸ™‚

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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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