Saturday, 18 July 2009

National Whale and Dolphin Watch - Day 1

The safari took off to the sea side to start the annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch. Not a good start - the wind was up and the sea was rough. Looks like we were going to be flogging a dead (sea)horse (Not a Dead Sea Horse - ahh the Dead Sea; I have swum in it and can confirm it is as salty as they say). Worryingly I had been told of a dead Porpoise being washed up last week and other reports of it, or some more, one of which may have been a dead sheep? More of the sheep later - I may have found it. But dead Porpoises are not good news especially just before the national watch as we don't have many to start with.
The sea was rough, the Isle of Man boat went out and I could see the waves breaking high over the bow. Then I noticed a sailing yacht leaving Fleetwood...hardy souls, or should that be foolhardy. They were being tossed about like...well like a boat in a storm; which is exactly what they were. Ended up having great fun tacking up and down the coast with the spinaker flying.

As it turned out it was diabolical, thoughts of exposure entered my head with the knowledge that I was going to be stood there for four hours. A brief but very distant Gannet broke the monotony. Hardly a soul was about; a, because it was still quite early b, the weather was [suger lumps] and c, with the tide in there was nowhere for the dog walkers (aka bird scarers) to go...more on that later too. Eventually a man came past and had a word; apparently he was waiting for tractor training as part of his boat club duties..which he eventually got.

After driving down the slade and back up again he and his mate are now a fully fledged boat-launcher-with-a-tractor-ers.
As the tide dropped and the beach was starting to be revealed a nice flock of Turnstones dropped in just a little too distant for a good pic.
They didn't stay long, with the beach growing by the minute the dog walkers started to appear en-masse and their pooches soon began stalking/chasing this flock and it left probably to be disturbed somewhere else.
A pair of Great Black Backed Gulls were having fun on the wind - putting the wind up all the other gulls on the beach. No we weren't having an earthquake at the time!
Look at the beak/axe on that.
A few Lesser Black Backed Gulls came to see what goodies the receding tide had left behind. Some of them had recently fledged youngsters in tow. One of them was ringed with a Darvik ring but infuratingly it would omly stand still when it was up to its knees in water. When it did eventually rest on a sand bank guess what...yep..a dog almost immediately rushed at it and it did one in to the distance. The ring was black with yellow/dirty white lettering I think W(or N)L2Y but I could be miles out!

Note the smokey grey mantle of the Lessers compared to the black of the Greater pictured earlier.
I noticed a bloke and his girlfriend taking pictures of something just off the sea wall. Ever the curious one I just had to go and investigate. A long dead and strangely headless Grey Seal...what a smell...wish I hadn't prodded it with my boot! The blubber was breaking up in to a fringe of rotting strips...could this be the wool from the 'sheep'?
In the first picture you might be able to make out some lost fishing line but I'm pretty sure the carcass pre-dates that as it still has a fairly fresh lugworm bait on the hook. Happen a fisherman hooked in to it whilst reeling his tackle back in.
Seals have big claws!
But only little tails.
That was it, just another slightly less distant Gannet to report. Wind is forecast to remain strong and Pete over at Heysham Bird Observatory (see blog links on right) reckons we could be in for some Storm Petrels tomorrow or Monday - - ohh I hope so!!!
Watch over domestic duties beckon..the first is to take Frank out for his walk and so we set off with the camera in to the Butterfly Zone...(Warren prepare to eat yer heart out!) Nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry; and that was nothing like friendly rivalry. So Warren no offence mate but you have been getting some mighty fine butterfly pics recently. Edit- just had a thought about your snail dilema...your tap water might have a snail unfriendly additive in it and your rain water will be calcium carbonate therefore no snails.
The field is wet with all the recent downpours and Frank being a Labrador was quick to take full advantage of any puddle no matter how shallow. Look at that flying jowlly cheek on the right and those quality ears.

But the sun was shining and we soon tallied up over 50 Meadow Browns and about 25 Small Skippers. The latter are beginning to fade now, looking washed out and pale compared to their flashy orange/coppery bronze of last week. A small number of Large Whites were lazily flitting about the field. The second brood of Common Blues has also hatched in the last day or so.
But in the copse is where the real action is. Speckled Woods are appearing again although this individual looks like its been around for a long, long time, don't think I've ever seen such a faded and battered specimen before. We did see a couple of Holly Blues too.
Commas are always nice to see, big, bright and brash.

A rather large bee, looks like a White Tailed Bumble Bee, caught my eye resting, or cooled, high in the canopy of an Elm tree, somewhat unusual. Now here's the fluke. As I was getting a few shots off a little pale, bronzy butterfly flew past it and seemed to land in the leaves nearby. OOHHH interesting...and I had no binoculars. But I did manage to pick it out with my naked eye hanging underneath a lucky was that!

AND at long last I got the picture I've been waiting for
Not brilliant so far but full size its fine by me! Just a shame that the twig is obscuring the white 'W' but you can just about make out the 'eye' and the tiny tail...will I better this pic this season?
Where to next? More NDWD news for you tomorrow and we have a group of kiddies coming to do some rock pooling once the tide has fallen. An interesting post coming up!
In the meantime let us know what's swimming about unseen in your outback.
BTW the TV programme I had to turn down has appeared. Wildest Dreams (BBC1 Wednesday 7.00pm) it is called and will probably be at If only I was 30 years younger, footloose and fancy free - well mortgage and pension free. Will be interesting to see who the contestants are and how they get on?...I woulda won it...yeah right!


Warren Baker said...

Thanks for the snail tips Dave, so its the wrong type of water!
I'll have to put some of my mums calcium tabs in the pond!!!

PS. For a moment I thought you were going to post some class Butterfly pics! ;-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Haha Warren - had a look on your mate Greenie's blog - now they ARE the butterfly pics to beat!

Warren Baker said...

its all right for him, he only visits top spots.
Easy life!!