Tuesday, 13 November 2012

8-11th November, a Northumberland long weekend

A little planning and a confirmation that our friends John and Karen could join us, a successful property search and fingers crossed for some good weather, Northumberland sees some fantastic wildlife particularly at this time of year with Siberian and Scandinavian birds arriving here for the winter and so we headed north.

Successful journeys for us all saw us spend a pleasant evening chatting over a drink or two and planning our first day. From our base at Warkworth there are several wildlife reserves within easy distance plus miles of beautiful coast with dunes and sandy beaches.

An early start on Friday, and why not with a sky like this to greet you!

The weather soon deteriorated to a flat greyness, not ideal for photography but at least it was dry.

A short walk by the river Coquet yielded a goldeneye duck and a robin.

Warkworth Castle is a notable landmark, had the day been a wet one we may have been lured inside to see what it it had to offer, for now we were happy to wander past it!

Walking back to the car we saw a bashful looking cormorant and then a black headed gull obliged for an in flight shot! The time spent on the flight shots was to pay dividends in a big way the following day.

We drove just down the coast to Hauxley Nature Reserve, stopping on the way to identify a bird which turned out to be a thrush, always a pleasure to see..

I cannot recall my first photograph at a reserve ever being of a rat!

Soon afterwards a stoat appeared, the first sight of one for John and Karen, I thought it may attack the couple of rats that were feeding under the bird tables but I think it sensed human presence and disappeared.

A tree sparrow was a more conventional sighting!

Down at the lake we soon had a lovely sighting of a redshank..
We had lunch and then spent a while on the adjacent beach, ringed plover are a real delight to watch, the now squally wind and dreadful light meant getting a decent photograph was difficult:-(

Back up at the lake the we saw a few things, certainly enough to keep our interest though most were out of range of the camera.

This little grebe came briefly close enough though, my first shot of this shy little bird.

Almost as a signal for the rest of the break late in the day the sun appeared, hightlighting the colours on these lovely wigeon and the surrounding scenery.

Light turned to dark and this part of our day was done, plenty of hours left for us to enjoy a few cups of tea, a look through the pix of the day and a lovely meal together in our cottage.

Another check on our local sightings list led us to Druridge Country Park the next morning, I soon focused on a treetop robin but in the brief time between that and me pressing the shutter release it appears to have fallen off!

A couple of miles or so to walk around the lake in the morning sun was wonderful, wildlife sightings were not great but there were plenty of swans to be seen:-))

A cuppa from our flasks back at the car were welcome, sunny it may have been but there was a cool, cool breeze! When the cold wind is blowing and the sun is out there is only one place to go up here...the beach!

The high tide meant sightings were unlikely so we returned to the car park and had lunch, a check of our maps showed some nearby reedbeds which are always a likely site for birds of various kinds.

The reeds were interspersed with bushes and shrubs, pretty soon we saw a stonechat.

A racket overhead as a large group of geese, probably greylags, arrived.

Flocks of goldfinches twittered around us, stopping briefly in the reeds and shrubs..
Another stonechat in beautiful afternoon light...

Josie spotted a large bird hovering over a nearby field, the sun glinted on the lovely honey, orange and gold of the feathers of a short eared owl!!! I moved swiftly up an adjacent lane to get a closer position, moved the camera dial onto the manual settings I had used for the gulls the previous day, crossed my fingers sort of, held my breath sort of, and said a silent prayer as the owl flew directly towards me......

Now how the heck do you follow that!! We were all enthusing about our luck as we wandered on the coastal trail, a small hawk flew by at great speed twisting and turning in flight as it pursued a little unidentified bird...as the hawk made contact they disappeared into a bush, I hastened my way there hoping the victor may stop for a while for a preen after its meal which I know they sometimes do. I was in luck, a short while later this beautiful female merlin posed on a post!

This was turning into an epic day but it was late now, we almost got a great sunset to cap it off...

We took the beach route back to the car...wait for me!!!!!!!!!!!!

 The weather had been so kind and over our meal on Saturday night we discussed perhaps having another walk on Sunday morning as it looked like being a stunning day, discussions were successful, an early morning start was planned..

Early morning on any beach is a special time, with a chill breeze and a blazing sun it was spectacular!

The waves crashed in...........

We witnessed a rather strange incident as John claimed to see a rabbit in the sea! Well the wine consumption had been good...but a check through the binoc's proved him right...I moved nearer, at first I thought it may be dead but there was life in its eyes, as I got really near I clapped my hands to see if it would respond, it did and it hopped a little slowly back to the dunes obviously unwell, a far from swift moving labrador appeared and swiftly despatched it! Oh dear, at least it was quicker and probably better than freezing or drowning in the sea...nature has many facets not all of them pleasant.

Our collective mood was quickly raised by the sights of the sanderling marching their merry little dance on the sands....

Gulls were hunting over the incoming tide swells.......

A wander inland on the coastal trail found some starlings vying with cattle for a feed!

Out at sea we identified velvet scoter, shelduck and black throated diver, nearer to us this red throated diver came in close to shore.

The sanderlings continued to make us chuckle!

Nearly time to think about lunch and the journey home, up on the dunes a kestrel hovered...

As we passed the reed beds on the way back the short eared owl appeared as if to say goodbye, what a brilliant weekend!!!



  1. What a brilliant weekend Dave, I love it up there especially the beaches. So pleased you had so many sightings, I did wonder if you might spot some Waxwings. Brilliant shot of the owl, you must be tickled pink with that! :)

  2. Hi Dave I have enjoyed reading your blog & looking at your photographs, it brought back happy memories of a fantastic weekend. Cheers John & Karen

  3. Good pics. Liking the robin falling off, the owl & the merlin.


  4. Hi Dave, what a fabulous weekend you had with good weather and beautiful coastal scenery. Some super sightings, my favourite shots were the owl and the merlin. Maggie

  5. Dave, this album was outstanding in every respect. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing those wonderful wide expansive beaches. Your bird photos were simply stunning, that photo of the owl must be your best ever. Loved the handsome merlin one too, and also the little stonechat. What gorgeous photos of the relaxed looking swan too. The one that really made me chuckle was the robin 'falling ' off the branch !