Tuesday, 14 December 2010

What was it the Safari saw?

The Safari plodded out in the cold dark early morning to the melancholy winter song of Robins again today. At least it wasn’t sub-zero although there was a frost on the ground. Walking past Magpie Wood (perhaps soon to be ‘officially’ renamed as ??? Wood – you’ll have to wait for the ‘official’ decision) we saw there were at least 50 Magpies sitting in the uppermost twigs. Better was to come a few moments later when we heard the rasping call of a Snipe overhead always a good patch tick in the middle of a housing estate – it had probably come off the reservoir grassland (the reservoir is covered so no chance of any waterfowl) or the wet fields at the far side of the estate.
We moved on into the park past the White Letter Hairstreak zone, where yesterday we saw what can only be described as a strange silhouette right at the top of one of the trees. This morning it wasn’t there but a totally different ‘sort of silhouette’, of about the same size, was a little lower down in a tree not too far away – was this the same thing? Bear in mind that in this part of the park after ‘moon-set’ the only light is from Venus or distant streetlights – it’s pretty black in there!
Thinking it was interesting but not entirely sure why we continued round the patch, Frank met up with his early morning pals and a few Blackbirds chacked away in the undergrowth. Getting back to the butterfly zone and approaching from the opposite direction we could see our silhouette but again it wasn’t giving anything away. We decided to see if a closer look might give us any pointers – Damn! We flushed it and didn’t get a good look, still far too dark and it flew off through the trees away from us. But it didn’t clatter on take-off so probably not a Woodpigeon and it didn’t give an alarm or flight call so probably not a thrush – the flight was, as far as we can ascertain, silent – which leaves the possibility of a small owl...Little Owl? A waif from freezing conditions in the countryside? They used to be present in the dim and distant past... Could it be something like a Kestrel? – Do they/can they hunt when it’s that dark? We’ve only ever had one owl on the patch; an ‘eared’ owl which flew low across the main road a hundred yards or more in front of us early one morning a couple of winters ago – no chance of getting it down to species. We’re taking the bins tomorrow so fingers crossed it’s still there.
After the excitement of Patch 1 we came back down to earth with a bump – unlike the shooting star we saw last night – patch 2’ best bit was a lovely view through the scope of a snow covered Carnedd Llewellyn across the bay, at least we think it’s that mountain.

Our Extreme photographer had a crackin mountain app on his iPhone which told you the names of the nearest mountains if you held the phone in any direction. But he was last heard of heading into the desert somewhere between Darwin and Cairns...The two black dots at the bottom of the pic are Cormorants...don't say we don't photograph birds anymore!
The beach was empty save for a few Black Headed Gulls and a single Common Gull roosting in a runnel. There was much more of the usual stuff away to the south beyond our boundary. Out at sea Common Scoter numbers seemed a bit down, perhaps only abut 350 of them this morning but 10 Great Crested Grebes were nice to see, including a flock of four, two of which did a little chest to chest shimmy – their breeding season mustn’t be very far away if they are practicing already!
We could only find one distant Red Throated Diver but a close fly-past by a male Eider gave us our bird of the session.
Once again the excellent calm conditions were ruined by a complete lack of mammals.
Our lunchtime session was a pleasant enough affair with warm sunshine and no wind but there was nothing new to tell you about.

Where to next? More of the tedious same unless we can nail the mystery silhoutte.

In the meantime let us know what's silhouetted in your outback.


cliff said...

The White Letter Hairstreaks seem like a lifetime ago Dave.

Fingers crossed your mysterious silhouette does turn out to be a Little Owl, how cool would that be.

Warren Baker said...

It gets more and more intriguing Dave, I gotta know what it is !!!