Introduction

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Upper Coquetdale

Introduction

The River Coquet, (designated an SSSI) the most famous of all Northumberland's trouting rivers and many say the most beautiful, bisects the county from west to east for a distance of some 57 miles, its many loops and twists spelling out its name according to country folk.From its source, the windswept border country of Brownhart Law, with its Roman camp at Chew Green in the Cheviots, the river passes the picturesque villages of Alwinton, Harbottle,Holystone,Hepple,Thropton, Rothbury, Felton, and Warkworth,before its waters empty into the North Sea at Amble opposite the RSPB reserve of Coquet Island.
For the visiting birdwatcher, the sheere variety of habitats along the river's course and the spectacular birdlife of Coquet Island, means that all of Northumberland's birdlife,with a few exceptions can be found in this one easily explorable area, indeed over 265 species have been recorded (2001) and without doubt many more will have gone undetected.

When to Visit

When to Visit

Spring; Late April early May can be particularly excellent for birdwatching at any location throughout Britain and at this time of the year the River Coquet is no exception.Visitors to the area can explore its birdwatching locations with the knowledge that the number of visible species will be at its greatest with many winter visitors lingering on into May, being joined by others which have spent the cold winter months in much warmer climes.A trip around Coquet island for example might well produce divers and grebes as well as the expected terns.Likewise inland, redwing and fieldfare are often seen in May, indeed there are several summer records of Fieldfare (a winter visitor), one was found as the prey of a Merlin on June 29th! May is a splendid time to practice birdsong recognition and the dale woodlands are alive with sound as are the moors of Upper Coquetdale.
Late Summer and Autumn; The coastal locations of the Coquet Estuary and Hauxley are at their most interesting with an abundance of terns and returning passage waders.This is the best time to see the rare Roseate Tern, as they leave their breeding site on nearby Coquet Island, often to roost and preeen with the more numerous Common, Arctic and Sandwich terns...Autumn can produce spectacular coastal movements of Skuas....Arctics can often be seen pirating sand eels from terns above holiday makers' heads on Wakworth beach! Lapwing, Golden Plover and Curlew return to the estuary from Upper Coquetdale and can be joined by passage waders such as Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank,Whimbrel and Little Stint. At Caistron, inland passage waders can be joined by Black Tern, Osprey or Hobby.September through to November is rarity time.Some of Britain's rarest birds have been discovered on the Northumbrian coast.
Every year, 'falls' of migrants appear, goldcrests, robins, flycatchers and redstarts are regular and they can often be accompanied by the rarer warblers such as yellow-browed, barred or icterine, Hauxley a genuine rarity 'hotspot'.
Winter; December through to march is the time to look for Sea-duck, 'sawbills' and divers.Goldeneye, Long-tailed duck, scaup and common scoter often winter around the Coquet estuary.Whilst a walk along the 'gut' may well produce Little egret (a new arrival) , Brent Goose, Jack Snipe, Peregrine and Twite along with flocks of both wigeon and teal feeding on the grasses and margins of the marsh.The visitor should also find, stonechat and possibly snow or lapland bunting.The beach here has regular flocks of sanderling and the harbour at Amble may hold Glaucous and Mediterranean Gull as well as Eider, Cormorant and Turnstone.Hauxley and Druridge Bay Country Park is a favoured site of the Smew, both 'redheads' and the striking black and white 'winter nun'.These birds often commute between several sites along Druridge Bay, a winter home to herds of Whoopper Swan. By contrast, with the exception of Caistron, another good wildfowl reserve, the Coquet can seem devoid of birds at this time of the year, especially the woodlands and high ground, but the more persistant birder may find Crossbill and Siskin in the conifer forests, whilst moorland edges may produce Black Grouse or even Hen Harrier.

The Birder's Market | E-bookstall & birding Apps | The Birder's Guide to Coquetdale (Northumberland) |  Introduction

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