Posts Tagged ‘Northumberland


Bathing beauties

Don’t you just love a Purple Sandpiper?


Black Yank Back

When we went on the East Coast Seabird Tour last year one of the intriguing birds we saw was a Black Tern in Northumberland. That in itself is not so unusual. What was a little different was Black Terns are Marsh Terns and wouldn’t normally be found in close association with Common, Little and Arctic Terns in a beach colony.

I’ve never seen an American Black Tern in summer plumage. I’ve only seen winter plumage birds – that wear distinctive ‘headphones’ like the one I photographed in 2011 at Covenham in Lincolnshire.

It transpires that the white leading edge to the wing and sparkling white underwing, shown by the Northumberland bird are two features not shared by the European Black Tern in Summer Plumage. The bird was in fact an ‘American Black Tern’ of the race surinamensis.

Amazingly, what was undoubtedly the same bird returned this year and we called to see it on the East Coast Seabird Tour last week. When we first arrived at the colony it was nowhere to be seen. However, it wasn’t long before we saw, and heard, it fly in from the sea and come over the beach to where we were standing with the wardens. Being quite vocal it wasn’t difficult to keep track of and it showed amazingly well, enabling me to fire off a few frames as it flew overhead.


A Tern for the Better

On the ‘East Coast Seabird Tour this last weekend I expected to see several tern species; Arctic, Common, Sandwich and Little. Even a Rosette or two. However I didn’t expect a velvety summer plumage Black Tern. One showed extremely well in Beadnell Bay and we took advantage of the opportunity. We also saw a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphins which did what Bottlenose Dolphins do and were attempting to bow ride our boat. Great weekend with great company and some fabulous birds.


Talk it up!

After one Beluga in Northern Ireland we get a pair off Northumberland in August. Last seen swimming south. TOWARDS US … in Norfolk!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of sea watching of late. It’s easy to let one’s mind drift off sometimes with outlandish thoughts. Very therapeutic this staring at the sea. The thought of seeing a pair of Belugas drift passed like the two I photographed a couple of years ago in the St Lawrence; well, to assign a rating it would definitely fall in the ‘orgasmic’ bracket.

I’m not asking for much am I? Just a little extension of travel, a small deviation of direction and we could get those two in Norfolk. Talk it up. TALK IT UP!



First Swim

Over the edge. A jump into the unknown. This young Guillemot ‘glided’ down to the sea as we watched it from the boat off Staple Island in the Farne Islands earlier this month. ‘Glided’ is a bit strong really; it was more like ‘plummeted’. Anyways he was on the sea and out of the nest. Being looked after by his parents he had escaped the attentions of the marauding Herring Gulls when we left him.

The place and surrounding area is just utopia for Wildlife Photographers. Next years tour will be advertised very soon.



Completely Un-Bridled


I am in the process of gathering material for a promotional job so I needed to pay a visit to the Farne Islands this summer. A couple of days on the islands was going to be enough to gather all I needed. The fact a Bridled Tern was visiting the area around the quay on Inner Fane was just an additional lure … but initially it wasn’t as easy to see as I expected.

Having driven from Norfolk I joined a boat hauled up off Inner Farne quay for the afternoon; apart from a couple of stunning Lion’s Mane Jellyfish and some nearby bathing terns … nothing. The Bridled failed to turn up. It was a little galling that the wardens had apparently seen it while doing a tern count at 8pm that evening after we had left.

I decided to visit Staple Island the following morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon. This was a good move as the Bridled wasn’t seen during the morning on Inner Farne.

Staple Island was as good as it could be; Auks and Shags everywhere.

Approaching Inner Farne I could see the Bridled Tern roosting in the beach. So lucky. I hastily took a few photos at distance before it flew further back among the rocks and then shortly after flew off north. I was pleased.

I continued to take the video and photo material I needed as I walked up the island and decided to take my packed lunch in the shade of the lighthouse. I was not more than a single bite into my bagel when a dark tern nearly took my head off. It was back! Moreover it swung around the Sandwich Tern Colony and went down a few metres from the boardwalk. I hastily gathered up my belongings and ran. It was still there. I took a few shots and it flew. Excellent. I was  very happy. When a few minutes later it came back and landed not 15 feet from me I was like a dog with two tails!

It did appear to be loosely associating with the Sandwich Terns. Given there are small colonies of Bridled Terns in West Africa from where our Sandwich Terns herald, I guess that’s where it’s from. This seems to be backed up by the contrasting mantle and upperwing, pale grey/white collar and extensive white in the tail all pointing towards the Atlantic form melanoptera.


Bridled Tern


Down at the water’s edge

Returning from Scotland last month and a quick stop off for lunch gave us the opportunity to take a few photographs of Eiders. The males at this time of the year look quite stunning. Always distant in Norfolk on the east coast they were far more obliging.



All fluffed up for the camera

When you are the smallest thing on the beach despite having a big mum you have to keep your eyes on the sky for danger. This very young Eider was one of a small flock we saw on the recent East Coast Seabird Tour in Northumberland.

2013 06 22 Eider Seahouses Northumberland_Z5A7973


Maori Invaders in Northumberland

Some alien species have become embraced into our countryside; the Little Owl and the Horse Chestnut for instance. They are now almost quintessentially British. Others are a constant threat to our own wildlife. I seem to receive e-mail after e-mail from the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership telling me Himalayan Balsam in the broads is rampant. Indeed as I was waiting yesterday for guests that were staying in a river fronted property, I noticed the whole of the garden was overrun with it!

At the weekend, on the Farne Islands Tour we called at Holy Island on the coast of Northumberland; a marvelous place of ruins, racing tides and rolling dune slacks. The place is steeped in history and intrigue; invaders of various nationalities have played their part in shaping that history over the centuries.

The latest invaders are from New Zealand. As we walked through the dunes they attacked us in numbers. Brought to the UK within sheep’s wool the prolific nature of The Pirri Pirri Bur soon became apparent. For what seemed like an age we were picking the seeds from our boots, socks and trousers to which they clung with vigour. Although I have already seen this invader in Norfolk on Kelling Heath we didn’t want to add to its distribution.

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Mar 2023


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