Sunday, 11 March 2012

Newbiggin By The Sea

On Wednesday I headed back home to Newbiggin By The Sea. My rucksack packed and camera bag all on my back. The train journey home was as usual, bliss, the countryside views from Cumbria to Northumberland looked a lot better than normal as the sun was shining. Once back in Newbiggin I headed out to the moors, to look at what would be my playground for the next few days. A vast amount of land home to many species and also to the villages golf course. Over the past few months the moors of Newbiggin have been very popular with birders, the banks of the old ash lagoons have seen many Short Eared Owls taking refuge in the thickets of bushes growing there, the Desert Wheatear that spent it's winter on the cliffs of the moor rather than the Sahara Desert with the rest of his species.
After visiting family and friends it was time to charge the camera batteries and prepare my self for the morning.


Waking up at the crack of dawn, I headed out towards the moors and walked up the steep banks of the old Ash Lagoon's ready to catch the sun rise over the North Sea, however no photos, I appreciated this with my own eyes rather than the viewfinder. After a peaceful thirty minutes, I headed back down the bank and began my search for the Short eared Owls, having my fingers crossed that they would be hunting in grasses for their next meal. I wasn't walking long, when I heard the calls in the distance, then out of nowhere sure enough there was an owl circling around the gorse bushes.

Obviously not bothered my presence he continued to hunt for a further twenty minutes, before landing on the banks to eat his prey.

After standing around for what I thought was minutes in fact had been an hour, mesmerised by the action that was happening around me, I started to walk further when I noticed some movement in trees/shrubs, surprised at was looking at me a quickly raised my camera and got what was possibly the closest encounter I have ever had with a Sparrow Hawk. This bird did seem bothered by me as it did'nt stay in the same position for long.

At this time I couldn't believe my luck, owls and a sparrow hawk in less than an hour. Today the wildlife was on my side. As I walked about I began to appreciate the village I had once dissed as being nothing but what I would call "rubbish".  Before I started University, I was excited to be getting away from Newbiggin, after spending twenty three years here, I suppose I just became ignorant to what was actually around me, however after a short morning back, it got me thinking how much of a gem this place is. Over the rest of the day, my appreciation for Newbiggin grew dramatically. As the sun rose further, the sounds of tree sparrows began to decrease and the sight of SEO's vanished. Looking around I began to think where else I could explore, and remembered a small wood that I used to play in when I was younger.

Walking around the woods, there was only the sounds of gulls in the distance, everything inside seemed barren, the trees that used to be so dense, had become very sparse. Remembering my childhood I could never remember looking through the woods and seeing straight through, obviously my group of friends were not the only ones that thought these trees were our jungle, with a camp at one side the rest of the woods a different adventure everyday. This seems to have had a massive impact to the density of the trees. However I was surprised to find, when I was walking around, acorns on the woodland floor, looking like they had just been used as a meal. After a while, noises from the trees got my attention, after a moment or two, a red squirrel came to view. I couldn't believe my eyes. I have never known for any squirrels to be in Newbiggin By The Sea. After spotting the red, I searched the internet for any sightings, and nothing. On the understanding of this I checked the Red Squirrels Northern England website and no sightings have been reported for my area, so I reported it to them. Quite pleased with my self after that.

I moved to an area close by to the woods, a new plantation, what used to be used as a field to keep horses. Above me, sparrow hawks could be seen hovering the skies, I continued to walk across the long grass till I seen a flash of red. I stopped and observed the area for a while till a stoat popped up.

It was comical to watch him scurry around and pop up every now and again.

As the day came to an end, the sounds of birds became more audible, with a lot of noise coming from a large number of goldfinches, which where spending there time perched on a telegraph pole.

Before the sun set fully I decided to walk back to where I was in the morning and capture the red skies before night set in, and thought I would go for something a little bit different and include the local power stations smelter (which is due to close down in the next few months) and the newly erect wind farm.


Another early start to capture the sun rise again, this time to photograph it. As the sun began to rise at around 6:30ish, I observed the the horizon for any signs of owls, nothing yet.

After a long wait, no SEO showed up, I began to walk around the areas i covered the day before, in hope of anything that I spotted. For the rest of the day my luck didnt seem as good as the day before. A short rain shower swept over the moors around midday, so I took refuge in an old air raid shelter, that was built in the at the beginning of the first world war for the villagers that used to occupy the moors.

After a lot of time waiting around, I headed off towards a few fields in search for something simple, not as adventurous as other species but some species that don't seem to get as much attention.

A Rook.

 A partially albino Jackdaw


I thought this was my last day in Newbiggin. I arrived at Carlisle train station waiting on the Penrith train, when I received a message saying that I didnt need to work..... The Penrith train came and went, I was back on the train, heading back to Newbiggin, with more time on my hands, Newbiggin was the place to be, rather than campus doing nothing.

Good job I came back.... after I arrived back, I took my camera out my bag and headed back to the moors, certain that there would be something. Photography is like an addiction.
And sure enough coming back home paid off.
Short Eared Owl hunting.


After a hectic yesterday, there was a much needed rest, I spent most of the day looking through images and deciding which ones i actually liked. Afterwards back to the moors I went. 

On arriving there was plenty songs from birds.... Goldfinches,

And Curlew

I had heard stories for while about Foxes being present around this area, but never seen them for my self. However I walked for what seemed hours until I stumbled upon a fox den. I began to think this little sea side village is a goldmine for wildlife, so much to explore and so much to see. My summer is looking good! 

What used to be an old dumping ground for the power station has transformed in to a wildlife hotspot, the ash has somehow grown a mass of reeds, grass and gorse bushes. The old platforms from the lagoons look a lot smaller than they used to. Sunk in the waste, this has become home to a Fox.

Under the platform, the den can easily be seen, with escape routes located nearby.

After spending a lot of time at this den, til literally the sun was setting and for sure nothing was coming about I began to explore more of the top of the old lagoon, it wasn't long before I was again in company of the SEO, before it flew beyond eyesight.

For the remainder of the night I spent most of my time sat beside the fox den, in hope that who ever was occupying it would either return or come out. Unfortunately, nothing appeared, obvioulsy aware of my presence. After this I felt that any more time spent outside the den would be harmfull and decided to not to back, incase my presence, disturbed them to abandon the den all together.


The moors are a definite place to be. The amount of wildlife that is around is unbelievable. After spending most of the day just walking about, and taking in what was around for my self rather than for an audience. It has made me more aware of some issues that are faced around these areas for conservation and how to keep the wildlife at the stage that it is at, and to keep the abundance of species to a level where the enjoyment can be received from spectators or to just general people on a stroll.
From time to time I did take my camera out to capture moments that I thought would be an ideal photo opportunity, and just as well, a kestrel which was obviously looking for food kept flying around till eventually dropping to the ground and scooping up his prize..... a vole, which can be seen in his talons.

Dinner time.

 and not far from the kestrel was the short eared owl, doing exactly the same.

After a successful time at Newbiggin By The Sea, I left happy and confident that this had been time well spent.
On my return back to Cumbria, I wrote a number of emails with my findings of the red squirrels that I found inhabiting the area of woodlands to various charities and organisations that I felt would need to know about them. On return, my findings were congratulated my the Red Squirrels Northern England, and Morpeth and District Red Squirrels, and I have been asked to help in numerous ways to protect this species in my area, as well as using some of the photography I obtained in their monthly news letters. Of which I have to say..... it's a good job I went back to Northumberland.

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