Friday, 13 August 2010

National Whale and Dolphin Watch – Day 7

The Safari likes this week – there’s no problem trying to think up a (sometimes) witty but relevant title. What ‘week’ is it next week? Can’t find anything relevant but European Bat Weekend is coming up at the end of the month.
With all the horrendous weather this week making finding cetaceans impossible we might abandon the idea next year and focus on National Insect Week instead (last week of June?). Having said that you can guarantee that the pit fall traps will be full of drowned bugs come the morning!
For those of you wanting to enjoy far better pics of the Cuckoo from last night have a butcher's here for 8th August. Hopefully someone will be able to post up some flight shots showing the beautifully spotted spread tail.
If you’re not familiar with the call of the Quail we heard coming from the depths of the Barley field have a listen here – choose any that say ‘song’ click on the ‘play’ arrow in the left hand box. This is a sound we’ve not heard for many years, not since we were last in Norfolk with mah boy who was still in school and he’s now a fully fledged twitching policeman (detective - taking sergeant’s exams no less…who’da thought he’d have chosen to be a rozzer…???...little upstart got the Franklin’s Gull in Staffordshire recently and didn’t he let us know it – hope he didn’t use his blues & twos to twitch over the County line).
This morning Patch 1 was deathly quiet but 2PsPEM on the water tower, just one Sparrowhawk heard calling from somewhere near where we think the nest site is – have to wait until the leaves drop in a few weeks and see if we can find it. we did learn that later in the morning that there was a Peregrine sat up on the church in the town centre - is it one of 'ours'?
On Patch 2 the tide was well out with still away to go, big high tides = low low low tides. A shed load of gulls were out on the tide line, most of them Herring Gulls, only a couple of adult Lesser Black Backs, A count of Black Headed Gulls gave 101 adults and just a single juvenile. 21 adult Common Gulls represents a major influx. A bruisingly large Great Black Back was down there too. Oystercatchers were counted but only reached 195 today although there were plenty more further to the south. A few scans of the sea gave us absolutely nothing, niet, nowt, nichts, zilch!
At 12 noon we started the seventh NWDW with a bit of sunshine and huge crunching white horses on the horizon. The wind was northerly, more a wintery direction than the height of summer.
A tight flock of about 12 Common Scoters were seen a long way south, a Great Black Backed Gull headed out to sea and a Cormorant passed overhead. Thrilling! With the wind direction we had the opportunity to view along the troughs when looking straight out – unfortunately there was nothing in them.
We could hardly contain ourselves when a Swallow nipped over the sea wall and nipped back in again.
Not a speck of black, a glint of white nor a smudge of sludge brown to be seen in any direction – no ocean wanderers today, barely even a gull.
Another Swallow broke the monotony heading due south a few hundred yards out to sea, closely followed by a second.
From somewhere unknown two Common Scoters drifted into view, when not hidden behind the waves, on the water not too far away.
Making full use of the useless shelter we had a change and looked north-westwards for a while, the light was superb with the sun behind us. Over the horizon we could see the tips of the new gigantic wind turbines turning for the first time – it’ll be interesting to see how big these babies really are compared to the existing ones to the north when we do our next ferry survey in September. One of these beauts can provide enough juice in 3 hours 45 minutes to power Base Camp for a year! (Using an average correction factor of 0.3 and upping our usage to a wasteful 4000kWh/yr – TURN THAT BLOODY LIGHT OUT!!!; if we downgrade the conversion factor to a swingingly cruel 0.25 (no generation company would consider wind power if the working time was only 25% of the year) but then saved some energy at home to, a still too high, 3500kWh/yr it’ll take one of those turbines only an extra 10 minutes to provide us with our year’s worth of electricity). If we were able to use only 3000kWh/yr and then use the industry standard conversion factor of 0.33 we are looking at 2 ½ hours of turning time! That shows the benefits of being energy conscious.
Whilst musing over the cost of free electricity we noted a lone Manx Shearwater, a single Cormorant at height and finally bird of the day an adult Kittiwake battling into the wind. More interesting were the local Starlings which started fighting over a piece of bread, this one being the eventual winner – think we need to clean the salt spray off the lens more effectively…

Hardly an inspiring hour. Fortunately it didn’t start raining until we had almost completed the Long March back to the office.

The Safari has also learnt that there is to be a consultation on Hen Harriers and their impact on the local economy – certainly if the Safari was real and not virtual we would be wanting to take paying guests to see the Skydancers – if they could be (almost) guaranteed.

GEES is undertaking a broad-based community consultation across the north of England to examine the public awareness of, and attitudes to, hen harriers and to gauge the demand for future public engagement activities (e.g. guided walks, viewing opportunities, education programmes, web-cams and interpretation materials) relating to hen harriers. From this evidence, it is hoped to be able inform decisions on how these activities might, or might not, be developed in future bids and work. Some of the sectors being consulted include: communities, schools, businesses, landowners and the general public. The consultation work is concentrated, in three areas of northern England: north Tynedale, Northumberland; the Geltsdale area (south of Brampton), Cumbria; and, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.

Have you seen a Hen Harrier?
Have you taken part in any activities around them?
Or would you like to see more public activities?
Do you think that more Hen Harriers in the uplands is a good thing?

This consultation is being conducted by independent consultants, ‘Glead Ecological & Environmental Services’ (GEES) and has been commissioned by the RSPB, with support from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If anyone in the local area feels this applies to them and hasn’t seen it yet please let your views be known to GEES (we have the contact details if you require them).
Some readers of this rubbish wot we rite may well think there are far too many Hen Harriers already and they should be blasted out of the sky, or at least their eggs and nestlings trodden on or attacked by wild stoats (aka tame ferrets - allegedly). It was the (in)Glorious 12th yesterday after all.

This is very good tackle and well worth sniffing out wherever you purchase your favourite tipple.

And now for something completely different…Where to next? The penultimate invisible cetacean watch beckons, this one is from the cliffs near Base Camp so we’ll have a different view to enjoy in the wind and the rain.
In the meantime let us know what the sighting of the day was in your outback.


Monika said...

I can just imagine hearing the quail song from across a field - it's a nice one. Why have they declined so much?

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - Quail are scarce up here but more numerous in the warmer south, though not common and depending on the weather more appear in some years than others. Over Wyre is a 'stronghold' for them in this area with a couple or three calling males each year. Very secretive and difficult to determine if they actually breed - some other readers might be able to shed more light on this.
There would be more if huge numbers weren't hunted on spring migration in southern Europe - illegally and north Africa - allowed? but not sensible to sustain a population. As Phil noted in the previous post we twitched this one, the first quail twitch Over Wyre we've ever done...must be my competitive nature coming out...wonder why?