Anyone with any interest in the natural world can’t fail to have noticed changes in the distributions in certain species which can only be explained by warming. For example, on Saturday the safari received news of a Peacock butterfly flying around a site not far from Base Camp, this is just a bit too weird for December! While no one particular event can realistically be attributed to climate change there is so much circumstantial evidence mounting up that only the blinkered (Gordon Brown’s ‘flat earthers i.e. my own father (who thinks its all a con to raise even more taxes from us)) or those with vested interests (Australian opposition parties/heavy industry) can seriously think about ignoring it and continuing with ‘business as usual’. Anyone with any sense or understanding of the science can see it’s as plain as the nose on your face that something needs to be done and soon – the time for faffing about at the edges passed long ago.
Sunday saw the safari on a trip to the south side in another brief attempt to find the Shore Lark. Driving down the coast road it was obvious that we had arrived during a much higher tide than normal. There was even water under the pier at Southport. It NEVER comes this far in; this is the first time in 12 years of travelling this route that wifey has seen the sea here!
At our destination the tide was right up and had covered the area the Shore Lark is normally found. With so little beach/marsh uncovered disturbance levels were high and all the land birds were very mobile dodging the dog walkers, ramblers, sightsee-ers etc – its unbelievable how many people walk right in front of your ‘scope without so much as a by-your-leave when it should be fairly obvious you are looking at something further down the track – selfish ignoramuses (ignorami?) the lot of them! Plenty of Skylarks were mooching around on the remaining patches of dry(ish) land and the flock of Twite was persistently flushed from the sea wall area a little further along the beach. Two Pied Wagtails flitted among the Starlings and a pair of Reed Buntings appeared on the beach then moved on. None of the three Meadow Pipits could be strung into Water Pipits. A Short Tailed Vole was spotted desperately half swimming/half scurrying to the highest point of the little island it was on. But sadly no sign of the elusive Shore Lark – is it still about or has it done a bunk – please don’t tell me it’s flipped over to the north side.
A tidy flock of gulls sat on the water a hundred yards or so off shore so it was time to give them a good grilling. Nothing out of the ordinary stood out from the crowd. As we were working through them again, to make sure we hadn’t missed a goody like a Ring Billed Gull, eminent local naturalist Phil Smith sidled up for a chat and told us of a Snow Bunting further down the coast. Unfortunately we wouldn’t have time to stop off to bag this cracking little bird. As we both continued to hunt through the gulls for the chance of an odd one out we had nice fly pasts of Bar Tailed Godwits – a very rare bird on Patch 2; which could be seen across the estuary from where we were stood – and a large flock of Knot.
Time was up and we had head off to go visiting family.
During our usual Patch 1 walk in today's early morning pre-dawn darkness the Peregrine was spotted roosting on his high ledge on the water tower. A very quick morning blast across Patch 2 revealed nothing of any consequence. Patch 2 at lunchtime was little better, only a handful of Common Scoters sat out in the cold. A passing Herring Gull looked to be somewhat darker and more contrasty than it ought to have been but in the poor light, barely daylight, and the lack of any others about to make a comparison with it’ll have to be ignored. Certainly no ‘southern’ Skuas or Little Auks whizzing past this arvo…just nearly horizontal raindrops. Maybe Reservoir Cats has got it right and it is time for the government to ban this ‘dangerous cult of seawatching’.
Where to next? Really must twitch those Great White Egrets, but they’ll probably end up as a regular UK breeding species before too long anyway, and then there’s the increasingly rare Willow Tit on the outskirts of Preston for a Fylde tick.
In the meantime let us know what’s done a bunk from your outback.