Friday, 23 April 2010

Mission impossible…

The safari had a poor Patch 1 walk this morning with just two Blackcaps and a single Willow Warbler which didn’t reveal itself until we had almost left. Highlight of the morning was we actually saw both the male and female Sparrowhawks.
Just to disappoint local raptor man, Craig, the Peregrine was nowhere to be seen and we couldn’t possibly hazard a guess as to when its next visit might be.
Patch 2 was useless, the long walk giving us only a solitary Guillemot and two Sandwich Terns.
A morning trip out to our local ‘snake’ site started out far too cold. We turned over plastic sheets, wooden boards, sheets of tin had a poke about in and around umpteen likely looking ‘snake pits’ to no avail. Several Frogs and Toads were found but no Newts (or snakes). This Frog is one of the largest any of the 'hunters' have seen in recent years and beautifully marked it is too. You can even see its Tympanum (eardrum) really clearly just behind the eye.Looking further afield we came across two more specimens of the ground beetle Carabus nemoralis, as seen for the first time(?) in the Fylde last week, one looked like a female bloated with eggs. A scale perfect Small Tortoiseshell basked in the weak sunshine trying desperately to warm up. A couple of fellow Bloggers, including Dean, have been photographing Banded Snails on their travels. As this site is quite good for them we searched some unbleached specimens out so here goes - - they are all Cepaea nemoralis, the Black Lipped Banded Snail we were unable to find any of the extremely similar species Cepaea hortensis, the White Lipped Banded Snail.
Adapted from Wiki - Apart from the band at the lip of the shell, these snails are highly polymorphic in their shell colour and banding. The background colour of the shell can sometimes be so pale as to be almost white; it is more usually yellow, pink, or chestnut but can be dark brown when the bands are difficult to see, and the shells can be with or without dark bandings. The bands vary in intensity of colour, in width and in total number, from zero up to a total of six. Normally there are 0,1,3,5 or 6. These polymorphisms have been highly studied as part research in heredity and evolution. They are thought to act as camouflage to avoid predation from, for example, the Song Thrush, but also have implications for the body heat of the animal: darker shells heat up more quickly, with consequences for rates of metabolism and loss of moisture (crucial in snail locomotion). In particular, snails with dark brown appear to preferentially be found in dark woodlands, whilst snails with light yellow shells and thin banding are more commonly found in grassland.
So here we go...far left brown 5 banded, brown 1 banded, yellow 5 banded, pink 1 banded
Left - yellow(showing a bit of pink in the upper whorls) 5 banded, middle - yellow 5 banded, right- yellow 5 banded
Close up of a yellow 0 banded form.
Close up of a yellow 5 banded form.
Banded Snail lesson over...for thee time being. If you come across a thrushes anvil use the bits of shell to determine the ratio of the different forms the thrush is predating. Then have a mooch about and find your own - are the proportions the same or is the thrush predating one form in preference to the others, is this the most common or is ity the one that stands out in the environment the most?
A bit of a weird sighting was of two owls we accidentally flushed which flew over the main road and out of sight...Long Eared Owls???...oohh errrr...
A short look over the sea at lunchtime was pointless as it was TOTALLY DEVOID of living creatures on or above the surface, if anything was beneath the surface (unlikely) it was off our radar.
A short stop on the way home from work at the no messing easy tick Treecreeper nest site gave us nothing, no Treecreepers so no tick.
Once we were home it was time to take Frank back for a leisurely evening stroll around the nature reserve where there have been sightings of four year birds today! Four, yes FOUR Barn Owls were seen flying together at dawn, Lesser Whitethroat was singing at 8.00am (heard over my mobile phone), a few House Martins were reported to have flown through and a Grasshopper Warbler was singing near one of the hides mid morning, and there then were goodies like Wood Sandpiper, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel and Yellow Wagtail not too far away which could easily have bobbed in for an evening wash and brush-up . At least one must fall, surely! Two Cetti's Warblers and a few fly through Swallows accompanied by three Swifts were the best of a quite stroll...doohhh, might have been better going to Patch 1.
Where to next? Will the Safari be more akin to Cap’n Ahab, Cap’n Pugwash (the somewhat suggestive names of his crew are an urban myth!) or Cap’n Nemo on our cetacean survey tomorrow?
In the meantime let us know what succeeded in avoiding your radar in your outback today.


Craig said...

Hi Dave....thought you might say that regarding the peregrine.
Guess i will just have to wait for my 3 days camping in June at Malham (its peregrine paradise...can't wait).

best wishes,

Monika said...

Interesting stuff about the snails. Good luck on the cetacean survey, I hope you see some!!

Monika (148)

cliff said...

I agree with Monika re. the snails, very interesting. Unlucky with the Treecreeper(s) Dave, was it the park ones that failed to show?

My snake hunt today also drew a blank, but plenty of Slow Worms and Common Lizards, oh & green theme too with Green Hairstreaks & Green Tiger Beetles, so a very enjoyable day.



Stu said...

Wow, FOUR Barn Owls.

Dunno about picking up frogs though..........!!!