Northumberland The Farne Islands And So Much More

Puffins on lookout

No better place to see wonderful Puffins - The Farne Islands.

We are just back from a wonderful five day Birdwatching Trip to Northumberland, huge thanks to Ray, Jayne, Chris, Anita and Tony and Eva for their company.

We picked up Chris and Anita, then Tony and Eva from their Llandudno hotels, next Jayne at RSPB Conwy and finally Ray from his home in Warrington and headed North-East. Our first stop was at RSPB Saltholme where even before we parked we watched a Marsh Harrier over one of the pools. We were greeted by friendly staff and volunteers one of whom gave us a talk about the reserve. From the lovely visitor centre we watched the colony of Common Terns, a pair of Great crested Grebes with two young, Tree Sparrows and lots of Stock Doves. Walking down to the hides we enjoyed lots of birds in the warm weather. A Little Ringed Plover fed right in front of the hide and cameras were busy capturing this lovely bird. Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits were also very close and we enjoyed these lovely waders. Wildfowl were well represented here too with Pochard, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Teal.

Glossy Ibis Cley 3

A Glossy Ibis was a real bonus bird to enjoy on our way north.

Back at the centre we had a lovely lunch before continuing our journey North-East. Next stop Druridge Pools on the coast and we walked north from the parking area. A Cuckoo flew low across the path and in the first wet field we watched Dunlin and Ringed Plover. The second field was even better, a Glossy Ibis was feeding around the edge of a shallow muddy pool and amazingly right next to this rarity was a Wood Sandpiper! Brilliant birds to see in June and there was more, a summering Whooper Swan was in the same field and a lovely pale male Marsh Harrier hunted nearby. Very well pleased indeed we completed our journey and settled into The Black Bull Pub in Lowick, our base for the next four nights. This pub with superb rooms comes highly recommended with lovely staff and great food, we will be back!

Wood Sandpiper pool

A Wood Sandpiper sharing a pool with a Glossy Ibis was a huge surprise.

After a great breakfast we were off to nearby Seahouses to take the boat out to The Farne Islands for a full day of wonderful seabirds. Even in the harbour we enjoyed close up views of Eider ducks some with young. A calm sea was very welcome and it wasn’t long before we encountered the first Puffins of the day, many thousands more were to come! Small numbers of Common Scoter and Gannets flew north as we headed out to the islands. As we neared the rocks we could see masses of birds, a fantastic experience. The ledges were jam-packed with Common Guillemots, Kittiwake nests were plastered to the sheer rock faces, Razorbills were paired up here and there, Puffins lined the top of the cliffs and Atlantic grey seals popped up alongside the boat – just wonderful.

Landing on Staple Island we enjoyed super close-up views of hundreds of Puffins literally at our feet! What a magical experience and cameras were very busy capturing these so comical birds. Lots of the Puffins were feeding chicks, pufflings, so were coming in with bills full of sand-eels making for wonderful classic photos of these “sea-parrots”. Of course, lots more to see, hundreds and hundreds of Common Guillemots were crowded onto the cliffs, again many just a few feet from us, Shags were nesting right by the path and many had naked rather ugly young. A few Fulmars were on the ground near the National Trusts wardens hut where both Herring and Great-black-backed Gulls had small chicks. We sat amongst the seabirds enjoying our picnic lunch before boarding the boat for the short trip to Inner Farne.

Here we were greeted by Arctic Terns and they made it very obvious we were not welcome! These amazing birds dive-bombed us and pecked us as we walked up the path onto the island. The Arctic Terns were nesting on the path in some places and they even landed on our heads at times, an amazing experience. A few pairs of both Common and Sandwich Terns were also nesting here, and it was good to compare the three species. Lots more Puffins too, you can never see too many Puffins. More Eider duck were close to the quay where lots of Arctic Terns were loafing about but despite a lot of careful scanning there were no Roseate Terns amongst them sadly. All too soon it was time to head back to the mainland, what a wonderful memorable day amongst the seabirds of The Farne Islands. We can’t wait to come back again.

Day three and we headed out early for some pre-breakfast birding, a strong wind kept the birds down, but we still saw some good species. We visited Ford Moss nature reserve where we enjoyed singing Yellowhammers, Lesser Redpolls, Willow Warblers, Buzzard and roe deer before another great breakfast back at the pub. A pair of Spotted Flycatchers were in residence around the car park and enjoyed super views of these pretty migrants.

Next, we headed out to Lindisfarne, where you can only cross to the island at low tide via a causeway. A lovely island complete with castle and priory. We watched Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach where Rock Pipits posed for photos. Huge numbers of Atlantic grey seals were loafing on the sandbanks offshore and some distant Little Terns were seen. From the castle we scanned the sea and watched Puffins, Fulmars and Gannets passing. A male Reed Bunting sang from a field below the castle. Back on the mainland we had lunch at Beal Barns and then visited Low Newton, a lovely small village on the coast to the south. Here, pools behind the beach held plenty of birds. A Pink-footed Goose was a nice surprise amongst the Grey-lag and Canada Geese. Gadwall and Teal were showing well on the water and a Lapwing fed on a muddy area as Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang above us. Two juvenile Stonechats fed on the track ahead of us and a Chiffchaff showed off in the bushes.

On the beach, in the sunshine but with a strong wind, we watched Little Terns zooming past and luckily one bird landed allowing us telescope views. Five Ringed Plovers were also on the beach and more Eider were offshore. Day four and another sunny but windy day. Our pre-breakfast birding took us to Holbrook Moss nature reserve where we again enjoyed singing Yellowhammers and Skylarks. Plenty of Red-legged Partridge along the lanes here and many brown hares – great to see so many. Roe deer were also seen again, and we watched both Tree and House Sparrows feeding together. The scenery was lovely with views across to the hills.

After breakfast we headed for the Harthope Valley, a lovely scenic valley that had plenty of birds to enjoy. Stopping at a bridge over a stream we soon found target bird number one – Grey Wagtail – and the number two, Dipper! The Dipper showed off very well indeed allowing us lovely views of this wonderful bird. Next, we watched displaying Curlew as a Peregrine powered over. Further up the valley we saw a Red Grouse on the slope above us, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll and a real treat for us a Green Woodpecker. We rarely see these colourful woodpeckers in North Wales these days. We had lunch in the nearby town of Wooler.

Northumberland Group June 2018

Our Birdwatching Trips group enjoying the birds of Northumberland June 2018.

We then headed back to the coast and to Amble dunes where we scanned offshore. Here we were right opposite Coquet Island and through the Leica telescopes we could see Roseate Terns, all be it very distantly! But the Leica telescopes did allow us to see just how pale these rare seabirds are compared to the many Arctic Terns here too, both birds showing lovely long tail streamers. Hundreds of Puffins were on the island too, many flying round and round putting on a real show! Two Common Scoter loafed off-shore and we had good looks at these so often distant sea-ducks.

Day five and it was a wet morning in Northumberland, we had breakfast and then headed off towards RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire. A rather slow drive but we made it in time for lunch and we were greeted by lovely views of Bullfinches. After a nice meal we headed out on to the reserve. First stop was at the feeders, Marsh Tits were showing really-well here and again cameras were busy as these black-capped tits showed off right in front of us. We then climbed the tower that gives a wonderful view across the reserve and down on to some of the pools. An RSPB volunteer here told us that a Bittern had been seen earlier flying in to feed chicks in the reeds opposite the tower and thought it might do so again. We waited, scanning, waited and scanned some more. Three Marsh Harriers showed off in the warm sunshine and a young Peregrine cruised over. Then Bittern! This large brown heron flapped slowly over the reeds and landed opposite the tower, amazingly we could still the head and neck of this rare bird through the telescopes. We watched for some time but the Bittern seemed happy in the reeds looking around so we headed for home.

A super five-day Birdwatching Trip with so many great birds, lovely scenery, a super place to stay, wonderful food and great company! Come and join us soon for the very best bird tours. Please email us here for full details….

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you soon.

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