coquet nature lover

Saturday, 30 July 2016

from the garden and orchard

song thrush waiting for a clear passage to feed young
wild flower border

white campion

common cats ear

ox-eye daisy

nipplewort in fedge border

red campion


spiny sow-thistle

smooth sow-thistle


germander speedwell

small tortoiseshell on creeping thistle
heath speedwell

red hot poker


waterlily and spearwort in pond
blackbird emerging from molehill

return of the song thrush

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A walk at Beadnell Bay, Northumberland

Coquet nature lover on the coast



If you've been following for a while, you'll know I enjoy walking - particularly on the coast! So, if you have a couple of hours to spare on a balmy summer's evening, you can't go far wrong if you head out to Beadnell Bay.

Now, this is the sort of place where you don't have to take a picnic as it's not a million miles away - like some footpaths in rural Northumberland! On this stretch of the coast, you can have a good walk, then find somewhere you can rest and recharge with a drink and a bite to eat. For starters, there's a pub in Beadnell, then there's the Joiner's Arms at High Newton and further on, at Low Newton-by-the-Sea, you will come across the Ship Inn which we will come to at the end of the walk. 

Back to the walk...

From High Newton where you can park the car, scramble down a path through the dunes to reach Beadnell Bay.  

absolute bliss, don't you think?


Birds at Beadnell Bay

Further ahead, you can see Beadnell Bay with its horseshoe shaped sandy beach. This stretch of the coast is a wildlife haven with many seabirds, in particularly Arctic and little terns. I have seen seals here on several occasions and a friend of mine was lucky enough to see a pod of bottle nosed dolphins in the bay last year.

When the tide is in and the weather conditions are right, there is always plenty going on in the bay with locals and visitors having fun kite surfing, wind-surfing and sailing just to name a few activities... 

Beadnell Bay - a favourite spot for loafing gulls too!

Common terns  (Fr-Sterne pierregarin D-Flussseeschwalbe)

I thought I would include this photo of a common tern as the orange-red beak with black tip which will help you identify it is clearly visible here. These summer visitors breed on the Northumberland coast.

common tern coming into land - note the beak with black tip 


Little terns (Fr-Sterne naine  D-Zwergseeschwalbe)

Between Beadnell and Low Newton, the National Trust manage a 'little tern' breeding colony which is known as the Long Nanny project. Thanks to their work, these rare sea birds are steadily increasing and there are now approximately forty pairs on the site. During the breeding season, rangers set up camp on the beach and protect the area 24/7. Although part of the beach is closed off, you can take a short walk round the back to a viewing platform. The rangers are very friendly and will help you find the little terns with either binoculars or using their telescope.

nesting boxes provided by the wardens

You should be able to identify the little terns quite easily as they are much smaller than the numerous arctic terns that also make their home here during the summer months.  Also, look out for their bright yellow bills with a black tip.

spot the little tern

ringed plover (left) with dunlin, another migrant
(RINGED PLOVER: Fr-Bécasseau variable   D-Alpenstrandläufer)

(DUNLIN: Fr-Grand gravelot   D-Sandregenpfeifer)

Along with the little terns, ringed plover can also be found breeding in the protected area of Beadnell Bay.  I managed to take a photo of this one above but unfortunately I couldn't get a close up shot as they don't seem to stand still for long!

Arctic terns (Fr-Sterne arctique  D-Kustenseeschwalbe)


In comparison with common terns, Arctic terns are perhaps more elegant with their longer tail streamers.  Their bills are a deep blood red colour and are slightly shorter than the common tern.

This bird posed for the photo, unlike the ringed plover!

La belle plume fait le bel oiseau - Fine feathers make fine birds
Arctic tern calling

taking off


out fishing

returning with sand eel - success!

One last look at this beautiful beach...

Au revoir Beadnell Bay

It's probably about a four mile walk along the beach from Beadnell to Low Newton by-the-Sea however, if the tide is too high, there are plenty of paths that will take you back southbound through the dunes.  If you are tired and your legs are aching, it's much easier and quicker to walk on the headland paths.

If you decide to do a circular walk, it's a good idea to take the beach one way and then return on the paths above the shore as this way, you get to see lots of different birds, flowers and maybe even a seal or two! 

heading back southbound on the dune path

Here is a selection of photos of birds along the path and I have included a few typical dune grassland plants

(STONECHAT: Fr-Traquet pâtre   D-Schwarzkehlchen)
stonechats breed in coastal dunes - here is a female stonechat perched on fence post

pyramidal orchid
and here is the stonechat's mate wondering where she is...
quite easy to identify with its white collar and rusty breast

bloody cranesbill

(MEADOW PIPIT: Fr-Pipit farlouse   D-Wiesenpieper)
meadow pipit with a tasty insect


 spotted this young goldfinch eating sow thistle seeds
(Fr-Verdier   D-Grűnling)

Next photo is taken heading south towards Embleton Bay 

...yet another great place for wildlife and sea birds and yes, that's an idea for another post!

evening light falls across the bay


Twilight falls - arrival at Low Newton by-the-Sea

ruins of 14th century Dunstanburgh Castle in the distance

Here, in the village square, just yards from the sandy beach, you will come across the Ship Inn. Serving great meals using local ingredients, it's the ideal place to have a drink and a bite to eat. It even has its own microbrewery which makes it ever so popular! Not being a real ale drinker myself, I can vouch for the coffee whether it be espresso or cappuccino and they also have a good selection of soft drinks.

Sounds perfect doesn't it? Well, just like the Marmite advert says, you'll either love it or hate it! Mmm, I know what I think - only problem for me is getting a table in the high season... so I have to admit that I tend to stuff my bag with sandwiches and bottles of water just in case!

* * * * * * * *
As a garden and beach lover, I thought I would finish by sharing this short poem with you.

My Garden - like the Beach 

by Emily Dickinson

My Garden - like the Beach -
Denotes there be - a Sea -
That's Summer -
Such as These - the Pearls
She fetches - such as Me

Friday, 8 July 2016

A walk by River Coquet in Northumberland

Coquet nature lover on and around the Coquet


What and where is the Coquet?

In case you aren't familiar with this part of the world, the Coquet is a river with its source in the remote Cheviot Hills, marking the border between England and Scotland. Twisting and turning in a more or less easterly direction for forty miles through the county of Northumberland, the Coquet finally flows into the North Sea at Amble.

I started this walk downstream at Warkworth (just five minutes drive north from Amble) taking the path that runs alongside the river. Whether you continue to walk along the riverside, row a boat or take a short hike up to visit the castle, it's up to you - you won't go far wrong - there is an incredible amount to see for nature lovers and if you are a history lover, the castle is a bonus!

Warkworth is a fantastic location for nature lovers - as well as the riverside walks, there are amazing beach hikes too.. Seriously, I saw several white beaked dolphins here earlier this year - how fantastic! The RSPB reserve of Coquet Island is also close by so if you want great views of seals and sea birds, book a boat trip round the island with Puffin Cruises, based at Amble. You will see puffins galore and rare roseate terns also breed on the island in the spring.


song thrush with its beautiful speckled front

female mallard with chick (Fr-Canard colvert D-Stockente)

Dose of cute

Grey heron on the riverbank (Fr-Héron cendré D-Fischreiher)

Which way do I go... right?

...or left?

decision made!

Heading upstream - still along the riverside path

When you think how the source of the river Coquet is in the Cheviots, the following french expression which translates to 'little streams make big rivers' springs to mind. In English, we are perhaps more likely to say 'mighty oaks from little acorns grow' but what it really means is that great things often start from small beginnings. This certainly applies to the Coquet and its surrounding area which has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) .

 'les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivières'

foxglove on the riverbank

Further upstream, in the heart of the Coquet valley, there is pasture land where you will find sheep and cattle grazing. 

Word of warning... If you are walking in the countryside, keep on the look out for cows with calves. You need to follow the warning signs and always keep well away from the cattle or you could be putting your life at risk.  The photos below were taken with a zoom lens with the animals on the other side of the fence.

Oystercatchers (Fr-Huitrier pie D-Austernfischer)

In the photo below you can see the winding river with its shingle beds where oystercatchers lay their eggs. These wading birds are quite easy to identify with their black and white plumage and very brightly coloured orange bills. Although you are more likely to see them on the coast, in the spring, they head inland to breed in the river valleys.

To the right of the photo, sand martins burrow into the banks to make their nests. I first spotted these summer visitors back in May but sadly, they will be heading south to Africa sometime next month. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to take a photo of them yet as they fly so low and at great speed. 

Instead of building a nest, oystercatchers lay their eggs in a scrape in the ground as you can see in the photo below. It's all rather a risky business - especially with the flooding of the Coquet valley over the ten years!  Anyhow, I watched this oystercatcher and his mate sitting on their eggs day in, day out, for what seemed like ages.  Amazingly, at least two chicks hatched out! I only managed to take a photo of one of them as they are well camouflaged and blend into the shingle - unlike their parents with their distinctive plumage and bright beaks!

beautiful baby oystercatcher!
oystercatcher with his beady eye - on the lookout for worms
Click here to help you identify this bird
oystercatcher's call 


Otters in the Coquet

The population of otters in Northumberland declined a lot in the last century due to the polluted waters and the fact that they were also hunted. The rivers are now much cleaner and with the plentiful supply of fish, the numbers have been steadily increasing in the Coquet.

Last month, when I was walking by the river early one warm summer evening, I heard a plopping sound.  Thinking it was a large fish, I looked across the far side of the bank and yes, there was an otter diving. I watched it dive and surface for almost half an hour and luckily I was also able to take a few close up shots. It was the first time in my life I had seen an otter in the wild and the sense of elation I felt was amazing!  Unfortunately I haven't seen it since but I continue to listen out for the 'plop' as they dive into the water followed by the huge ripples. You need to be patient as it can take a good half minute for them to re-surface.

Now you may not think this first photo of an otter is worth publishing but, considering I took it with my iPhone, I think it's not too bad! To be honest, this is the sort of view you are more likely to have unless you have your binoculars with you so bear this in mind when you go otter spotting! Look under the bough of the tree on the right hand side of the far bank and you will see the head to the right, with the body and tail to the left. I also have a video that I have tried to post but without success to date.

Spot the otter!

Turning to swim on your back,        
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck

(extract from The Otter by Seamus Heaney)

'turning to swim on your back'

're-tilting the light'

Time for supper
possibly a lamprey?  Can you help me identify it?

Summer visitors breeding on the Coquet

Here is a common sandpiper (Fr-Chevalier guignette D-Flussuferläufer) flying downstream.  These small wading birds tend to arrive in the north of England in the spring and head off again in August after the breeding season. I find it more usual to see two birds together rather than the solitary bird in the photo below. Common sandpipers make quite a distinctive call on take-off (described by experts as a 'shrill, three-note twee-see-see') so be ready to scan the river if you hear this sort of sound!

Click here to hear its flight call
common sandpiper
Common sandpiper

Here we have a willow warbler (Fr-Pouillot fitis D-Fitis) with an insect in its beak. This photo was also taken by the riverside where alder trees are fairly common as they like damp locations - the Coquet valley being ideal!

'plutôt oiseau des bois que oiseau de cage'
willow warbler perched on alder tree

Click here to hear the song as they are usually quite difficult to spot amongst the foliage

and to finish... an old favourite

Song thrush (Fr-Grive musicienne D-Singdrossel)
nearly always found singing from a high perch
Click here to hear its song


So that's it for this post. Hope you enjoyed it! Stay tuned as if the weather stays fine, I'm planning a trip on the ferry to Coquet Island soon.  I should be back with shots of seals and if I am lucky, some photos of those rare summer sea birds that visit our shores!