Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Ursa major - the big dipper

The safari had another visit to Patch 1 this morning where we counted seven Blackbirds including a male with a beakful of worms and a female being chased around by a rather podgy looking fledgling. Wrens were noticeably loud but remained uncounted. A rarity in the form of a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard from the trees near last year's nest hole. A few minutes later we saw it launching itself high over the houses to the south west.
Once again after some brekkie we hit the road and were once again frustrated by the flat hat and cauliflower brigade. The really are doing our fruit now, becoming so intolerant of slow drivers. And all so they can go to a caff and get tea and a bun - make it at home and stay OFF the roads!!! Over an hour and a half to go thirty miles - jeez be reckless and do 2mph OVER the speed limit rather than 12 below it. Got stuck behind Mr & Mrs Speed-merchant doing 27 mph in a 60 zone with no chance of getting past them...then they SLOWED DOWN for a corner the Safari's wibbly-wobbly Land Rover can take at at least 65 without turning turtle...do they not realise modern cars can actually take corners at reasonable speed or do they still think they are in their first Ford Popular, Ford Anglia or Moggy Minor...and why do gimmers slow down when traffic comes towards them...for crying out loud it's more than likely to stay on its own side of the white line.
Crikey McMoses by the time we'd reached our destination stress levels were at double maximum, half an hour's birding time had been lost and most of our back teeth had been ground to a pulp...there are far too many people in this country...it's time for a severe CULL starting with anyone who drives/would consider buying a Suzuki WagonR, Hyundai Atoz, Hyundai Getz (gets in yer way!!!) or a Kia Rio being first in line for the chop!
Eventually the camera and bins were round the neck and we were under the calming canopy of woodland...which by this late hour was almost silent, and unsummery cold as well. Not alot about and on the lakes little more.
A few birders/naturalists were already on site to tell us what we'd just missed, like the Stoat which is hiding under the nearest pile of brash.
This reserve is a great place for bats and we really like this 'new' style of bat box the Wardens have provided. Not sure how you would monitor them if you were a bat worker, perhaps they are just artificial hidey holes and they don't get monitored.There are eight species found here - that's pretty good going this far north.
We were also told of a Tawny Owl which "you go past the hide, round the corner, turn round and look up - you can't miss it it's in the Birch tree". We didn't see it! Which Birch tree 99% of the trees in the wood are Birch. Went back and forth three times and still couldn't find it!!! So much for "you can't miss it" We did see a crackin crack in the base of one of the Silver Birches last time we saw something like that was in a giant Tingle tree in WA, the hole was a bit bigger as you could have easily housed a family of four in there along with their car.
We do actually quite like this little reserve. In the very early 80s we spent a lot of time here hacking the Rhododendrons, setting out the paths, clearing the areas which would eventually be were the hides are etc etc. Before it was even a reserve in fact as the site was a seven days a week working sand quarry we had to get special dispensation to work in certain areas. The sand works were coming to an end - just about mined out and the owners were handing it over to the Wildlife Trust. Remember one day we had a gang of vols out and two memorable ones stand out from the crowd; Frank and Hazel - who permanently got up to no good. Wonder what they are up to these days? Anyway this particular day we'd bashed the Rhody but the with the rain the fire wouldn't get going. Frank took it on himself to 'help it along a bit' with some diesel - only he'd picked up 5 gallons of petrol. The cry went up FFFRRRRRAAANNNNNK NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Whoooooosh - the biggest flame we've ever seen headed straight from the smouldering embers towards Frank and the remain 4 1/2 gallons - Boom - - lucky it was an old army surplus metal jerry-can and not one of the modern plazzy things we have today. Never seen anyone look like a cartoon explosion with the singed and sootied look and dazed expression before nor since!
The bright green bit in the middle of the pic is an island we built using hessian sacks filled with mud dug out of the nearby drainage channels - heavy, wet and smelly work - but nearly 30 years on you can hardly tell its man made. Probably only Canada Geese have ever nested on it.

Could you see the Kingfisher in the pic above - No? Neither could we, apparently we shoulda got there earlier (By heck we tried!!!) as the two parents were feeding their two youngsters, year tick duly dipped.
The cool wintry weather meant that insect activity was almost nonexistent which was a shame as this site is full to the gunwales with dragonflies currently being preyed upon by a fairly regular Hobby. We did get the Safari's first Gatekeeper butterfly and Common Darter dragonfly for the year when the sun tried to break out for five minutes. We weren't the only ones dipping, one chap had been told there were Bee Orchids still in flower which we though was a bit late, but he couldn't find them and deciding to help him for ten minutes we couldn't either, nor was the usual show of Southern Marsh Orchids doing anything this year - couldn't find a single spike. Yellow Loosestrife, however, was having great season, buckets of the stuff and loads of Common Centaury as well, theirs was about three times the height of the ones near Base Camp we showed you recently.
Never would have considered Oystercatchers as breeding birds of woodlands - which is almost what they are here.
As for the birds we did see - a stonking Buzzard sat in the bare branches of a tree near one of the hides which you nearly got to see too, but it saw us pointing the camera at it even though we hadn't dare open the window and it was gone through the canopy.
Plenty of Jays about including several youngsters. Blackbirds were very tame hardly moving from the side of the path as you walked path. Chiffchaffs were still singing away, or one was following us round.
Mammals included a mouse/vole which scurried half way across the path a yard or so in front of us turned saw us and scurried back twice as fast. But no sign of the Red Squirrels for which the site is noted today.
The bird table held the best of the days photo opportunities but with the weather being poor - understatement of the year; wish we'd taken a coat or at least a jumper - and the table being secreted amongst some thick Rhododendrons - musta missed some way back in the 80s - the light was atrocious and consequently the pics are very grainy.
Young Robins were probably the most numerous terrestrial bird of the day; don't ever recalled having seen so many on one site in one morning before - everywhere!Plenty of recently fledged Great Tits learning about feeding stations too. And Blue Tits too...Coal Tit appeared briefly but no photo.
Nuthatch used to be a really rare bird in this part of the world but now they are all over the place.
At last a hint of brightness and this worn male Chaffinch was by far the best of the bird table shots. Remember Frank n Hazel from earlier - well if the Safari ever goes to Hilbre Island (see blog links on right) we'll tell you Hazel's tale.
Where to next? No chance of trying for the White Letter Hairstreaks later this evening - it's pouring down! And we expected at least a couple of nights moth trapping while we were recuperating but that looks highly unlikely now. Physiote**rorism tomorrow possibly followed by a wet walk along the cliffs or some such nearby safari.
In the meantime let us know of your memories from your outback.
Some good news today - the judges have called a halt to the proposed Welsh Badger cull - well the government's/farmers science was always spurious to say the least for our tenpenneth we'd go for better control of animal movements between farms and a round or two of vaccination - oh no more beaurocracy and more cost to Mr Farmer. Did anyone ever tell em Deer carry Bovine TB too and most everything else in the countryside!
Late update:- missed Hobby by 3/4 of an hour yesterday and had we had enough time to do the other site today coulda got Yellow Wagtail too...doh this twitching m'larky ain't easy.


Monika said...

On several occasions I've had people tell me the exact location of an owl saying "you can't miss it" and I always do!

To bad with all those near misses - you'll get 'em next time!

cliff said...

Dave - I definitely can relate to your frustration getting to MSW's, I was going to go last Saturday but the prospect of skirting around Preston twice on a day when everyone and his Uncle go shopping (why do they do that? Keeps 'em off the nature reserves though) put me right off. Like you say it's ridiculous it takes so long to get somewhere just 30 odd miles away. It must be satisfying to return to a reserve you've previously been involved with & see the fruits of your labour paying dividends now - shame the wildlife on the day wasn't more cooperative.


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - I'm really good at near misses - made a birding career out of it!

Cliff - more frustratingly in a straight line its only 10 miles away - damn that river!!! Autumn 1981 is when we first started working there or a few blinks ago aka just under 30 years crikey that's scary!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where did time go??????