Sunday, 12 October 2008

Mists of mellow (un)fruitfulness

The safari received two tip-offs this week. The first was of a Long Eared Owl, the other, from the incomparable Anno, of a mysterious Red Kite. So two targets for the safari to aim for....AND there was a morning high tide after a couple of days of offshore breezes....promising....very promising.

First off we hit the Prom. It was draped in a thick mist. Meadow Pipits were going over in some numbers and the 'chisick' calls revealed Pied Wagtails in amongst the Skylarks.

Out on the flat calm sea we scanned hopefully for Porpoises without any luck. There were a few Common Scoters in the distance, a female Eider was much closer in; only a few feet offshore with a Great Crested Grebe. With the tide in there were the usual flock of Redshanks and Turnstones was on the seawall, obviously oblivious to the racket of the neighbouring go-karts.

As we watched a flock of about 75 Pink Footed Geese going south to Martin Mere WWT Reserve we heard the familiar screech of Sandwich Terns, there won't be many more of these this year.

One of my biggest bugbears is litter. This plastic bag could be floating round the currents for years before a turtle or some other marine animal mistakes it for a jellyfish and eats it - with dire consequences....TAKE IT HOME.

On a lighter note but still sort of serious if you're ever at the Gynn in Blackpool have a look at our superb fossil collection. There's all sorts of creatures poking out of the ornamental rocks. It's just a shame that these rocks were someones best Limestone Pavement at one time - now a really rare and precious habitat!

Next stop was the brilliant (but misty) Marton Mere Nature Reserve.

(Not to be confused with Martin Mere mentioned above) The early morning mist was lifting and it started to feel more like midsummer than autumn. The sun brought out a good selection of insects. The dragonflies included many Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers (pictured - look for the 'wine glass' just behind the wings).

The butterflies included a Wall, a surprising find as these seem to have become very scarce in recent years, a couple of Peacocks, Speckled Woods, and a Red Admiral - not a bad haul for mid October and better than most of the summer!

A Buzzard eased itself overhead and a flock of about 30 or so Pintails circled above the mere. Despite a thorough scan of the usual suspects we were unable to find the reported Long Eared Owl. Never mind; if they're not there yet they will be soon - a sharp frost is needed to drop the leaves for a better look into the bushes.

Looking over the water I managed to pick up a first winter Mediterranean Gull, supporting cast included Wigeon, Little Grebe and a rather disturbing crashing deep in the reeds nearby accompanied by a low croaking grunt - was it a Bittern? We'll never know - whatever it was didn't show.

Tufted Ducks look fine at this time of year.

Most of the plants have finished flowering now but the Evening Primrose is still going strong. This is a great plant for attracting moths as it releases its fragrance at night.

I'm no expert at fungi etc but this cup fungus on its bed of moss with a Liverwort close by caught my eye.

As for the Kite, well sadly we ran out of time. We hope to get more information and nail the fella down next week.

If anyone is interested in the birds of Marton Mere I still have a couple of copies of Pauline McGough's excellent book which gives details of the 216 species recorded to the end of 2001. Only £5.00 each including p & p. If you would like one drop me an email or contact me at the Solaris Centre.

Where to next? The Kite is currently top of the list! Superb birds - effortless fliers, good looking and charismatic - great to have one in our area - lets hope we can track it down.

In the meantime let us know what you have found in your 'outback'.

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