Monday, 20 July 2009

National Whale and Dolphin Watch – day 2

Yesterday’s best sighting was a Land Rover Discovery 3 with a very sleek and snazzy snorkel fitted, must be new on the market; not seen one before. That’s how good the wildlife watching was!
Today the weather was a little more promising with a lighter wind and the sea much calmer although still a little too choppy to see any Porpoises well.

But we ended up staring fruitlessly at an empty sea in the pouring rain. Eventually the rain stopped and people started to wander about and ask the usual questions; "surely it’s too cold for Dolphins", or the other favourite, " isn’t the water too dirty?" Neither are true with Bottle-nosed Dolphins being found in the, much colder than here, Moray Firth in NE Scotland and our water is cleaner now than it has been for the best part of 150 years. The persistent over-fishing might be more likely the reason we don’t see so many but the position of Blackpool right at the innermost point of Liverpool Bay doesn’t help much either and our very shallow water will keep out most of the larger species which would be longer than the water is deep!
A small flock of Common Scoters bobbed about in the middle distance to break the monotony.
Later in the morning we were joined by the youngsters from a Wildlife Watch group from out of town and they were lucky enough to see a Grey Seal bottling just behind the surf only a few yards away from some boys playing in the waves. Maybe the water wasn’t as cold as it looked. A distant flock of Common Scoters flew south along the horizon as did a Gannet and that was about it in the four hour watch! Thrilling…not.
The group then went rock pooling on the beach. Great fun as pots were filled with Brown Shrimps and the tiniest juvenile Green Shore Crabs I’ve ever seen, the smallest no more than a millimetre across. A juvenile Blennie looked like a miniscule Flying Fish with its overly large pectoral fins sticking out sideways. Further out on the beach we found a few Compass Jellyfish with their lovely rich brown markings.
Back home it was time to venture out to pastures new and see if there were any Salmon leaping at the falls about an hour’s drive north. But when we got there the roar of water immediately told us that the river was far too high.

Right enough getting down to the riverside we saw the water was torrenting through the falls.

The first bird we saw was a Dipper,

sorry about the pic quality it was pretty dark in the gorge, but this is my very first attempt at this species. Apart from a very brief Grey Wagtail, Dippers were the only birds we saw, four in total, probably a family. On the cantilevered walkway under the road bridge we came across a very interesting scat from a Mustelid, looked too much for a Stoat but no obvious fish scales so probably not Otter or American Mink, hmm Polecat? Pine Marten?? Whatever did it it had a few small stones in it – residue from the stomach contents of its prey? On the drive back down the motorway a dead animal on the hard shoulder looked very Polecatty unfortunately it is impossible to do a U-ey on the motorway to go back and check it out.
The wild flowers were nice with Hemp Agrimony just coming in to flower,

along with some Monkey Flower and Meadowsweet,

whose leaves smell like the pink Calamine Lotion when bruised.
This part of the rapids is known for its peculiar holes in the rock where hard pebbles have been washed around and around by the torrent wearing away the softer limestone.

Some of the holes go right through the rock!

Ever daring our Extreme Photographer is trying to get a shot looking UP through the hole!
The rock formations are impressive with spring water flowing from cracks all over the place.

A large old Oak tree can be seen growing precariously out of a crack in the strata. Worryingly this plastic bag was caught in the base of the tree by flood water. It is about 10 feet (3m) above the level of the river, that’s a lot of water!!!

Nearby the roadside verges were full of wildflowers. Not sure what species this Allium is as it’s not something I’ve seen for a long time.

Hardheads are common everywhere and a favourite of bees and butterflies, like Hogweed which is being visited by a Hoverfly for its nectar.

Never noticed those pink sticky up things on the flowers before, obviously wiping the face of nectaring insects with pollen – fascinating and another new thing learnt.

Where to next? More NDWD tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what is in the pools in your outback.

1 comment:

Flores Hayes said...

a great find for panda fanatic!
my roommate and i LOVE this bag