Monday, 14 September 2009


The safari just got back from sunny climes to discover – shock horror – that our FB ranking has crashed almost 100 places. In true Bridgit Jones style – “note to self – must get blogging again!” Not that the safari is that competitive – honest…but a 3 at the front would be better than a 4 and definitely better than a 5!
So what was out there in the sunny climes…copious amounts of sunshine, cloudless (almost) skies (any one else remember Puff the Magic Dragon?), hot heat, a bit of dust and plenty of warm sea…oh the Mediterranean is a joy to behold.
Arriving in the dark you just don’t really know what’s out there. But a hint at things to come after rinsing out the day’s travel clothes.
“Where do I hang out the washing?” Wifey’s answer “Just past the Scorpion and turn left”…”What - past the what???” “Oh that Scorpion!” Big claws (relatively)/small sting = fairly harmless??? or is it the more potent European Black Scorpion? And she said that without the usual 'it's a bug hullaballoo!'The darkness was a revelation – a total cacophony of bizarre sounds. Some numpty had put bells round the necks of a flock of sheep. The irregular clonking sounded like the sound track to some strange eastern opera.Above the din half the known universe’s Stone Curlews wailed away, a Little Owl mewed and shrieked outside the bedroom window and a Fox yelped almost all night – it was actually quieter at home with drunks caterwauling at each other, police sirens, and cars with boom-blasters whizzing past the house most nights.
Morning broke to an azure sky – full of Kestrels, 10 in the air together was the best count. Buzzards and Hooded Crows sat on posts and wires all over the place. A scuttle below the balcony revealed a lizard of some description.
Never mind all that the beach beckons but it is so windy no chance of getting in the water, so we try somewhere more sheltered.
Nice. No not the place in France although it wasn’t that far away as the Blue FinTuna swims – if they do in the Med anymore?
Really do need to get a field guide to the fish of the Med – see loads when snorkelling, some are even colourful – but haven’t got a clue what they are.
Back at the ranch a Golden Eagle quarters fields adjacent to the garden as we drive up to the house, deffo don’t get that at home! Then four – yes FOUR – Marsh Harriers drifted past.
Still can’t photograph the scuttlers…proving to be nigh-on impossible, like the very wary Buzzards, Hooded Crows and the plain just-too-mobile Sardinian Warblers zipping in and out of the dense scrub.Picked out a ‘patch’ to walk which had the added benefit of the half way point being at the cliff top to check if the beach was OK for swimming. Got plenty of Stonechats and Cirl Buntings, OK, OK I know I said buntingS

They are one of only two regular UK breeding species I’ve not got on my UK tick list – the buntings not the chats, silly! – probably cos I’ve never been to south Devon to see ‘em.
The wind died down and the beach became a second home…sunbathe or swim, swim or sunbathe - the decisions are endless.
Yellow Legged Gulls regularly loafed about on the rocks but couldn’t get to grips with any Audouin’s, nor could I turn any of the multitude of Kestrels into an Eleanora’s Falcon.
A Blue Rock Thrush warbled away half-heartedly in the heat from the crags above the beach.
At one point a Swallowtail butterfly landed on my leg, as did a Red Veined Darter; now that’s never gonna happen too often back in Blighty. Meadow Browns were numerous and a Clouded Yellow in the garden is always a joy.A few sightings of blues were eventually revealed as Long Tailed Blues.
Insects were on the whole pretty good. But again the heat makes em pretty active. There were loads, I mean hundreds, of this lime green coloured Darter and several others including this dark Hawker. Anyone got any ideas? I’ve not got a copy of the European dragons guide. But not a Hobby in sight which I thought was a bit strange with all this Odonata on the wing. Whilst photographing the hawker something crashed into the top of my head. Looking round with a start I saw this bright green apparition tumble into the bush next to me. Nice one – a Speckled Bush Cricket.
Red and black Capsid Bugs were everywhere and a favourite prey of ants. The scuttlers however, seemed to ignore them. The warning colours must mean more to lizards than ants! I think the species is Lygaeus equestris - they are common throughout the warmer parts of Europe, although there are a couple of confusion species but this one seems to have the white dots in the right places.
The Scorpion was out later that evening, this time with prey.
The thing with the med at migration time is you just don’t know what you’re gonna get next. A Whinchat appeared amongst the Stonechats and a flight of Sand Martins was mixed in with the Swallows one morning, but it took almost the whole week to bag a Crag Martin despite the habitat looking absolutely ideal for them. A Peregrine appeared for a couple of days and a guy walking his dogs – is there NO escape – flushed what I thought to be a tad unusual for a dusty dry cliff top…a flock of eleven Golden Plovers.
The fields at the top of the cliffs gave Woodlarks plenty of foraging and singing opportunities but it wasn’t until the last day when a pair where in the garden that I managed anything like a half decent shot. Great camouflage when you see like this.
The walk to the cliffs and back gave me Western Whip Snake, a sizeable specimen and A.N.other much smaller snake, along with a Gecko, either Moorish or Turkish Gecko – far too quick into its hidey-hole in the wall to get much on it.
Also on the last day I managed to eventually get some shots of the scuttlers. I think I’d missed during the week by being out when they had been most active and least wary.
Mammals were thin on the ground, except dead Hedgehogs on the road and no bats despite large numbers of moths (mainly micros) and Ant-lions coming to the driveway lights! But a glimpse of something dashing across the road in front of the car looked suspiciously like a Genet which from the info I can glean off the interweb I dodn’t think are supposed to be present on this island.
For those of you who might wish to know where we went the lizard and the Meadow Brown are endemic forms…over to you budding Sherlocks! Brilliant place, and not too expensive provided you don’t go to a hotel and you don’t eat out! Deffo going back to check out the east coast which could be even better. Lovely sunset made even better by the fact that the car in the bottom right is a Disco just like who's an anorak twitching Land Rovers.
Full (haha – didn’t even look at the plants, but most dried up by this time of year anyway) species list:- Birds - - -
Stone Curlew
Hooded crow
Sardinian Warbler
Golden Eagle
Little Egret
Spanish Sparrow
Feral Pigeon
Yellow Legged Gull
Coot - yes - nice one!
Collared Dove
Marsh Harrier
Blue Rock Thrush
Cirl Bunting
Spotted Flycatcher
Golden Plover
Little Owl
Cetti's Warbler
Sand Martin
Spotless Starling
Peregrine Falcon
Crag Martin
Great Tit - looking bizarrely lost and out of place flitting through the maquis
Spectacled warbler/Whitethroat
Grey Heron - which wifey got but I dipped...and she was driving; shouldn't she have been watching the road?
Barn Owl - dead on road - horribly unlucky seeing as how rush hour lasted about 10 minutes
Sparrowhawk - right at the death as we loaded the car to head back to the airport
Butterflies - - -
Large White
Meadow Brown
UnId white sp.
Red Admiral
Clouded Yellow
Long Tailed Blue
Painted Lady
Not bad considering we did no real birding and tried to avoid taking the bins to the beach for fear of getting them scratched (or more likely being accused of perving the well tanned totty)
Where to next? Back tomorrow with some interesting survey results - - - - frightening!!!!!
In the meantime let us know what's been the highlights of your holiday outback adventures.


Warren Baker said...

Bloody hell Dave, that was a long one! Ive made your FB counter stop plummeting!!

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Thanks Warren - becomming a slave to those three numbers....ooohhh errr.
Worth it for the great break though. If we go again we'll deffo do some real birding.