Sunday, 28 February 2010

No such luck

The safari had no luck with the Green Woodpecker yesterday morning and hasn't been out since. Below are some shots from the cemetery of a Starling singing and preening and a Blackbird that was getting loads of worms out of a wet patch, probably very thankfully after all the freezing weather recently.

Did you notice the rarity? BLUE SKY!!!
Pool lost in the footy, England lost in the rugby, Everton lost mid week, Frank up and down in discomfort every hour during the night - all in all not a good weekend...and we coulda gone quarrybashing in the Land Rover today but hands are just too sore with the change in the weather.
Where to next? The same little but more from patch 2 hopefully - it's hotting up out there.
In the meantime let us know how well you've been doing in your outback this week.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bad weather hinders birding

The safari has been unable to get out for the last coupla days. Big Frank had his op and won’t be able to walk more than a few paces for some time so Patch 1 news is going to be limited to what can be seen from Base Camp. Poor mutt really is in the wars this time, he’s got some serious healing to do.
No time for a Patch 2 visit today but with torrential rain it was never going to be a pleasant experience anyway.
So there you go – no news today what-so-ever! Hang on a mo,Geronimo – there is some news - a Slug was slowly slithering about in the street last night – heaven knows what it was doing or where it was going. Yes, it was a little bit warmer than it has been, but still only 5ºC! Still too cold for slugs and snails to be coming out of hibernation – musta been the wet rain and damp that’s gone and woken it up.
Apparently the Poulton Crem Green Woodpecker is still knockin’ about so we might have a short try for that over the weekend. What is it with cemeteries and Green Woodpeckers? Must be the wood-pasture like habitat with open areas of short grass and scattered trees. Can’t imagine there would be any ants at this time of year for them but they must have an alternative ground based winter food supply. Whatever it is that is attracting them we’ll go and have a look, respectfully of course. It was a bit uncomfortable hovering around the periphery trying to be as unobtrusive as possible at the other cemetery while mourners were arriving for a funeral.
Never seen a woodpecker in the little churchyard by the Crown and Anchor at Spurn yet. An unusual place that, often full of excited birders hunting rarities, but the two unnamed sailors in the corner always leave us with a resounding feeling of sadness. Who were they? What must their families have gone through not knowing where their loved ones were buried? If indeed they ever thought they could have been buried and not lost forever at sea. I think they give us more of a sense of our own frailty than the named souls lying with them. One day we’ll all be there…will we have clear consciences when the time comes, have we done right by the planet and all its inhabitants?
Where to next? Apart from the above probably not very far.
In the meantime let us know why you’re unable to get to the farthest corners of your outback.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Not sure wot to call this rubbish

The safari and Frank literally bumped in to a Fox on the way home from yesterday’s final Patch 1 visit. Nose to nose we were, or rather Frank and the Fox were. Foxes can shift a bit and a 40kg lumbering Labrador has the acceleration of a Ferrari when the mood takes him. I now have a very sore shoulder and feel lucky not to have a torn muscle or ligaments!
Patch 1 this morning had a light dusting of snow. Looked like someone had left the top off a tub of icing sugar and sneezed. The cold, dark, grey, damp seemed to have put most of the birds off singing as it was logarithmically quieter than the last few mornings. No sign of the Peregrines on the tower after last night’s aerobatics but given the wind direction we weren’t really expecting to be able to see them.
Patch 2 was no good either. The falling tide was just exposing the beach so nothing on there. The sea was cloaked in a thick cold mist reducing visibility to a few hundred yards so anything coulda been out there…including Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets or even Moby Dick but we were never gonna see em! A 50 foot Fin Whale was washed up dead in a little cove on the Cornish coast recently – that’s really gonna stink if it can’t be moved! Hopefully it died of natural causes and wasn’t hit by a ship or trapped in a fishing net. These are still classed as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN but would be less endangered if the Icelanders hadn’t killed 125 of them last summer. That number seems a lot to me and surely barely sustainable. I don’t know what the North Atlantic population currently is, but wouldn’t have thought it was more than a couple or so thousand. Google research gives me this:- The comprehensive assessment of current whale stocks for fin whales in the North Atlantic is 30,000 (23-39,000) (1996-2001) – from the International Whaling Commission website – not sure if I like the word ‘stocks’ as it implies something that can be used/taken/harvested. This somewhat high number is at odds with the 2300 estimate from the USA’s Office of Protected Resources 2006 by a factor of 10. Being cynical the people that want to hunt them would say there were more than there are – wouldn’t they? WWF (no not the wrestlers!) quote, an undated, 46,000. Someone has got something wrong somewhere. So how much movement is there of ‘different’ populations around the North Atlantic? Recent studies from Basking Sharks and Leatherback Turtles suggest that many animals follow the seasonal pattern of the currents, hence prey, around the North Atlantic so if the Americans are only seeing 2,300 off their eastern seaboard they are possibly closer to the mark with perhaps just one meta-population cruising around the whole ocean following the seasonal foods and eventually getting counted off the coast of Maine…that said there didn’t seem to be much data out there…The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group are satellite tagging this impressive and enigmatic animal, could also be a job for the Japanese to fire tags from their harpoons rather than explosives, now that WOULD be scientific whaling. The numbers seen by MarineLife researchers in the Bay of Biscay seem to be showing a decline recently, although it is equally possible the whales have moved to different feeding areas away from the survey transect for some reason.
How did we get from the lack of Redshanks on the beach to satellite tagging Fin Whales?
Had a little twitch a lunchtime to see if the Green Woodpecker was about – its only 3 miles down the road but it took nearly half an hour to get there – too many dithery ditherers on the roads! The crem was full of people attending its normal ‘business’ so we felt a bit uncomfortable wandering around the bushes covered in optics but life is to be lived and Green Woodpeckers have to be ticked – unfortunately it wasn’t there, very quiet apart from a couple of nice Redwings. On the way back we stopped off at the supermarket for essential office supplies – tea bags – in the car park the Land Rover – not the world’s smallest car - was nearly rammed three times by those same old fart ditherers. Not only that, a few minutes later a pair of totties in a hot hatch pulled right out in front of us from a side street and slowed down!!! Duhh…it’s the right-hand pedal to make it go quicker…eeejits! What were we today…in stealth mode???
Where to next? Just the patches and even then Patch 1 will be severely curtailed for a few weeks as Frank has his second operation tomorrow so will be on short walks until he’s fully fit again. Luckily that’ll be before the summer stuff starts moving through.
In the meantime let us know what’s not where it should be in your outback.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New kid on the block

The safari noticed how the dawn is deffo getting earlier now. This morning, for the first time at this hour, it was more daylight than night-time when we left the front door.
Once gain no Peregrine on the tower but there was a new Song Thrush warbling away in the ‘triangle’. Our usual one was giving it some welly from its patch of scrub across the other side of the houses; it now has a bit of competition.
The ‘triangle’ is a little left over corner of scrub no more than 150 x 50 m, so less than 4000sq m, but it is possibly the most productive patch of Brambles in the whole town. Last year it held breeding Fox and Hedgehog. The following birds held territory and probably bred successfully (it’s a bit impenetrable) - Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Collared Dove and (probably) Wood Pigeon and Long Tailed Tit (possibly). Not a bad list for a few square yards. Blue and Great Tits didn’t nest there as there are no boxes and the trees aren’t big enough to have suitable sized holes but both species used it for finding food for their families close by. The safari is always worried that some well meaning numb-nuts will want to ‘tidy it up’ by getting rid of the Brambles and planting a selection of ‘nice’ wild flowers, putting a path and a bench in so they can sit and ponder how is it they’ve done all this ‘good’ ‘conservation’ work but there’s no nature anymore.
Nothing much else to report from Patch 1 just the usual stuff although the Mistle Thrushes have either shut up or moved on as we haven’t heard them for a few days now.
Back at Base Camp we tried to photograph the Starlings coming from their roost again, but again without success – none of the flocks going over were particularly impressive this morning, perhaps we missed the main exodus while we were having breakfast – that’s probably not a good enough excuse.
Patch 2 wasn’t much cop either. Very little on the dropping tide. The beach was fairly devoid, about the same as yesterday; the only highlight was a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls lording it up, watching everything else going about its business with malignant intent from the ‘high’ vantage point of the top of a sandbank.
Out at sea the viewing conditions were excellent but there wasn’t much to spot. Seven Eiders flew south flowed by another singleton a few minutes later. A Great Crested Grebe also flew south. Hardly any Common Scoters out there today but there was a Red Throated Diver that flew north. Another diver was sat on the sea quite a long way out but looked a bit too dark and ‘chunky’ to be a second Red Throat – way too far out to clinch an ID.
Back there at lunch time and absolutely zilch! Horrendously disappointing. The sea was empty save for a single Great Crested Grebe and a few Cormorants flying about. The beach was no better! Pick of the bunch was a pristine Herring Gull kicking about in the strandline near the sea wall – what a beauty through the scope. Elsewhere on the beach a handful of Oystercatchers and even fewer Redshanks along with some of the other smaller gulls did their best not to be noticed…very quiet this arvo. But never mind as tomorrow is another day…and anything can happen, could even be more of the white stuff…ohhh nooooo.
The routine evening kick-about game of rugby with Frank was interrupted by the best Patch 1 flying display ever! The pair of Peregrines were really going for it! The male had a prey item and was being hounded by the female. Up and over the tower then stooping down in between the houses almost at garden fence height - what a crackin' garden tick that would be for a modern suburban housing estate! Upsetting the Magpies congregating at their roost site. Back up and round the tower again and again. Best of it was that while I was stood there transfixed and Frank was waiting impatiently for his next kick of the ball 'normal' daily suburban life was going on all around. Kids were coming home from school, commuters driving to their houses, people out with their dogs, just hum-drum normal stuff and yet less than 100 feet above their heads a pair of the fastest animals on the planet were doing their best aerial stuff - - MAGNIFICENT - - but no one except me noticed...maybe the locals have seen it all before...somehow I doubt it, apart from one or two of them!
Where to next? Still got that Green Woodpecker to knock of if we can get out that far at lunchtime tomorrow…assuming it’s still knockin’ about.
In the meantime let us know if there has been any major flurries of activity in your outback.
Sorry no pics again today…Starlings tomorrow if you’re lucky.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Nowt about!

The safari endured a frustrating day today - reasonable weather but no chance to get out. Early morning dawn is brightening up it won't be long before we will be able to see in colour at that un-godly hour. No sign of the Peregrine again this morning and we didn't see it late last night but we did hear it making a right racket. All the usual suspects, except Wrens, were tuning up, still not quite there yet but getting better...thankfully Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is at least another year away.
Out on Patch 2 the light was stunning, what a shame the wildlife wasn't. All we could muster were four, yes a grand total of four, Redshanks and a dozen Oystercatchers. A coupla dozen gulls sat in Med Gull pool but the star of the show wasn't with them.
No chance of a lunchtime session - coulda done with one in the pub though...
Back on Patch 1 for Frank's nightly game of rugby and the Peregrine didn't show or call this time, wonder if it'll be there on our last round later tonight.
Where to next? Better opportunities for Patching tomorrow...and there's a Green Woodpecker still to be found a little ways down the road.
In the meantime let us know what was or wasn't sat in the pool in your outback today.
Sorry no pics...didn't take any from the innards of the conference hall as I didn't think you'd be particularly interested in seeing the backs of peoples' heads.
A word of warning - Wifey bought a tambourine on ebay today to accompany her kareoking, so if you're in the vicinity of Base Camp you might be wise to cover your ears - she could be LOUD. Good but LOUD. Bring on Green Day, Debbie Harry, Annie Lennox and the rest of the gang...I can feel another recording session in the offing.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


The safari waits all year for some species and then - wham - more turn up within the week! More later - In the meantime we woke up to more of the white stuff this morning - we weren't expecting it, soft wet snow and trying to dry laundry don't really mix too well.
Bumped in to the Tiger Man, Craig, again this morning and couldn't show him the Peregrine as it wasn't there for the second time in two days, it was last night - how unlucky is he? Maybe next time. As the morning progressed i.e. it got to 07.30 the Starlings started to come over in their droves - really hard to photograph through the snow filled sky - by the time you had picked them up coming out of the cloud they'd flown over. Must try harder!
After a cheese and bacon butty with lashings of brown sauce, the safari and Extreme Photographer, Raf - sans camera due to the thick grey sky - set off for the local cemetery where there have been sightings of a rare (for us) Green Woodpecker - could we find it?...No chance! But we did get the Rose Ringed Parakeets (109) Four of them in all. We had a Great Spotted Woodpecker and another drumming.
On the little pond the Coot were enjoying the snow, still got dimpled heads though. I like Coots and have spent alot of time counting them but never noticed this feature until the other day.

Sitting in the tree above the Coot were our 'keets'.
Moving round the pond the sun came out and the light was much better.
Another was by a potential nesting hole.
The grounds were full of Mistle Thrushes.We also had a Coal Tit, 'bus' number one after Friday's tick. In the fields behind the cemetery there were about 250 Black Tailed Godwits with a similar number of Lapwings and a few Redshanks. A small bird disappearing in and out of the flock could have been a Ruff. Identifiedwith much more certaintanty was the Brown Hare we startled.
A visitor to the cemetery laden with a bunch of flowers managed to identify us as potential workers, not sure how as we were bedecked with our bins, cameras, scopes and stuff but he musta thought we looked like grave diggers.
After giving the cemetery a thorough going over and not finding the Green Woodpecker (better be there on Tuesday lunch, the next opportunity to go for it) we set off for some farmland species north of the river. a field at the side of the road held about 20 or so Whooper Swans but we were going far to fast to pick out any Bewick's Swans that might have been lurking with them, there probably weren't anyway.
Couldn't find any of the target species despite driving slowly round the mosses for an hour. However if you wanted Little Egrets that was a different matter - loads of them in the fields and ditches, more than expected. A large flock of geese close to the roadside was difficult to view through a small gap in the hedge and involved some reversing manoevers to get better angles. All Pink Footed Geese unfortunately.
Giving up on the farmland, we'll pickup those species later in the year anyway ((fingers crossed) the coast beckoned.
Parking up there were a nice flock of Knot close in shore. Frank put paid to any digiscoping - never go serious birding with yer dog! He sniffed this way and that at this new site and wouldn't stay still, so we've only got 'normal camera' shots.A little further on a pair of Shelducks were similarly close.The second 'bus' was a cracking Mediterranean Gull I picked up in flight without optics whilst clinging on to a sniffy dog who was after another dog's backside - why do they do that? It flew over us and into the town centre where it was lost to view. Along the sea wall there were a few Meadow Pipits and two Rock Pipits. A Wren and a Pied Wagtail kept us company as we strolled along. A hidden Raven cronked from behind the rooftops.
A total prat in a blue Freelander gave 4x4 drivers a bad name by charging across the sands making water splashes...d**khead - exactly the sort of stupid behaviour that gets us tarred with the same brush and banned from the lanes...if you want to be a dipstick buy a battered old Clio or or Corsa and put a fat exhaust on it! Worst of it despite having a notebook to hand I didn't get his number - just stood there incredulously, chin down by knees. Now here's the thing - he almost drove over a large flock of Redshank and Ringed Plovers and they didn't budge an inch, after he'd gone a man, his wife and dog went down the same slade and woosh - they emptied the beach - prats Mark II.
Heading back to our Land Rover a target species flew past and settled on the saltmarsh a hundred yards down the prom. Twite (110) about 60 - 70 of them. Excellent close views but they were a bit flighty.Several wore colour rings from the scheme across the bay in the mist. Not the best view but this one stayed the closest but wouldn't turn face on.All in all not a bad safari with two year ticks bagged. When we got back to Base Camp we were knackered and we don't know why.
Where to next? Patchwork will continue.
In the meantime let us know if you failed to miss a suite of stuff in your outback this arvo.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Not a lot of late news

The safari didn't get a chance to have a look over the marshes yesterday but we did a Coal Tit (108) looking for the fir tree my cousin had chopped down in ma 'n' pa's garden the previous day.
We were there to tidy up the disaster he had made with a little bow saw - bring out the safari's chain-saw and sned up and log the trunk properly - also took the two foot+ stump down to about 5mm. All grist to the mill for next year's fires.
On the way home we passed the marshes without stopping. wifey was hoping for a Short Eared Owl from the driving seat, but we were unlucky. A few Little Egrets and a massive flock of Wigeon were easily spotted.
Tried to get a pic of the Starlings leaving the roost for Forest this morning but got waylaid by a gadger looking for the Peregrine on the tower and bizarrely ended up learning about the genealogies of dozens of Siberian Tigers from the stud book - weird or what at 07.30 in the morning in the middle of a suburban street!!!
Today was mostly householdy type stuff followed by more wood cutting stuff. Hands will be suffering like mad tomorrow no doubt.
Not alot of time to see anything in the garden but we did hear Dunnock, Blue Tit and Wren. Bird of the day at Base Camp was the Peregrine circling several times during the mid-afternoon.
'Pool won 2 - 0 this arvo so with two 2 - 0 wins this week; thankfully they're getting back on track.
Where to tomorrow? Those green things still need to fall and there is plenty of farmland stuff that needs knocking off too. Unless we get a offer to join a green-lane tour.
In the meantime let us know what you've been up to in your outback, safari-ing or chores?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Down to earth with a dull thud

The safari missed out on the Peregrine this morning, might have been somewhere ‘round the back’.
Usual Patch 1 stuff singing in the pre dawn darkness but the numbers of birds and their intensity is increasing daily now. Frank was on a speed mission today following his nose at high speed hither and thither, indicating overnight Fox activity perhaps. At the end of the park before we get on to the road he is always made to sit before he goes back on his lead but today was different. He sat but before we could get the lead on he got a wiff of summat interesting and shot off at breakneck speed (for a Labrador at least)…naughty boy! He dashed along the hedge and around the end of it, charged through the bushes and on to the rough field. When we caught up with him he was giving a small area behind the bushes a good going over with his nose, something had been sat there not so long ago. We couldn’t be cross with him because we heard at least two Snipe (WT 55) fly over; this commotion must have flushed them off the field. Not a bad Patch 1 year tick.
Over on Patch 2 our ‘commercial’ all night bait diggers were still filling their buckets – between them they’ve taken over 60 gallons of Lugworms off the beach so far this week. Not too many birds to work through. Barely a gull to be seen and certainly no sign of yesterday’s Mediterranean Gull – probably because there’s no food for them. BTW what does eat Lugworms? I’ve heard Curlews allegedly do but we don’t get those on this section of the beach and the length these guys push their siphons down there’s nowt else on the beach that can reach them so I suppose it must be OK to take em AND what do that many Lugworms eat? – there’s nowt there but sand – organic particles, never seen one apart from big lumps of drift wood surely they can’t all be munching into that!.
A Grey Plover was picking its way along the tide line and ‘towered’ over the few Sanderlings. Very few Oystercatchers today.
Sadly out on the sea the mist closed down the horizon again, the flat calm conditions otherwise ideal for viewing. A flock 45 Common Scoters was all we could muster...
At lunchtime we were hoping to get out and twitch some green things a few miles down the road but rain, rain, rain, rain and more rain had us bottling out and we didn’t venture far from the desk.
Where to next? A family visit might allow a south side short safari tomorrow – weather permitting!
In the meantime let us know how weather affected your outback has been.
No pics today not sure you want to see photos of millions of raindops.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


The safari was out on a cold frosty Patch 1 at the usual time. Still too dark to see the colour of the grass but the clear dawn sky had more than a hint off light in the east. The birds are still quiet at that time of morning. A few Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and the usual ‘rough field’ Song Thrush were all half-heartedly warbling away…now if we’d had been there an hour later we’d probably have been deafened!
Our friendly neighbourhood Peregrine was still asleep on his ledge but chatting to one of the Frank’s friends owners apparently there were yik yik yikking sounds coming from that direction in the middle of the night. She’s not a naturalist so as well as possibly being the Peregrine I suppose it could have been almost anything else.
Patch 2 was bright and sunny, the frost made crossing the road a somewhat scary slippery experience – certainly didn’t feel that bad under the wheels driving down but on foot it was lethal.
On the beach the head-torched Lugworm diggers were at it again – just how many have these guys taken from the beach this week? They must be collecting them commercially. Is that rate of industrial ‘predation’ sustainable? Is it legal?
Plenty of waders this morning so a full count was made and the totals were as follows:- Oystercatchers - a tidy 166, Sanderlings 90 – not bad at all, 9 Redshanks – where were the rest? 1 Ringed Plover – notable by their absence recently, and zero Turnstones – not surprising as the outfall pipe was mostly covered by the tide
There weren’t too many gulls for some reason. Hardly a one even along the water line. Most were sat roosting in a runnel and fortunately the dog walkers managed to avoid disturbing them. Not many to check through but right in the middle was - YES YES YES - a second winter Mediterranean Gull (107) – YES YES YES - Best bird in the book (what about Moorhens?) - about time we had some luck! The sun was shining brightly for a perfect photo opportunity; if only we had the camera(s). Nothing for it but to dash back across the ice rink of the road and get them. Easier said than done as it wasn’t the conditions to be taking a risk dodging the traffic so it took quite a bit longer than hoped. As we were grabbing the kit a freakin’ sea mist had developed from who knows where and knocked a lot of the light off – how annoying. Sadly the photos reflect this. We managed to blast a few dodgy cold handed digiscope pics off before the dog walkers did their worst and flushed the lot.
Can you find it? It’s not the Common Gull in the middle.
It’s not in the middle of this pic either It is in the middle now but hopefully you’ll have found it in one or both of the previous two pics – please say you did. Hopefully if you click on them they will enlarge - for some reason sometimes they don't when I try it.They really are just record shots – probably not even that. This one is the pick of the bunch, but we aren’t going to win Wildlife Photographer of the Year with it are we?

The lunchtime session was disappointing in comparison. The tide was just about full and the sea was flat calm but again a low sea mist devoured the visibility. A little to the north a flock of seagulls (that could be a good name for a band!) sat on the water, approximately the same number as were stood in the runnel earlier. Were they the same ones? If so the Med was no longer with them. Beyond them was a solitary summer plumaged Great Crested Grebe and further still, out in the fringe of the mist, sat a Red Throated Diver. A huge total of 14 Common Scoters was never going to attract the Patch 2 bogey bird. Nothing what-so-ever flying about – probably wouldn’t have been able to see where they were going if they were airborne anyway, so safer to sit it out on the sea.

Where to next? More of the same please, about time things started to look up. Any chance of the Patch 2 bogey bird? Please, pretty please…
In the meantime let us know what has turned up at last in your outback.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Any better today?

The safari has no real news from Patch 1 other than the Peregrine was still fast asleep at 6.15 this morning.
Patch 2 was a mixed bag out at see the light was awful with squally showers of sleet driving in on the strong breeze. Somewhat strangely although it was cold enough to snow it didn’t feel it and we were able to use the focus wheel on the scope without the aid of gloves…weird or what, as it was only 2°C and the wind was coming in a full frontal attack.
Out at sea there was nothing to trouble the scorer but the beach was a different matter altogether. The light on the beach was excellent for viewing and the tide was about half way up the beach so the birds were reasonably close. A quick cursory scan revealed a good number of gulls, many of which were Common Gulls, and a shed load of Oystercatchers. Nothing for it but to start counting. 20 Sanderlings were entered into the notebook followed by 148 Oystercatchers. There were more of both away down the beach, over our southern ‘boundary’ beyond the three Lugworm thieves (who must have been out a long time as they still had their head torches switched on and each had a large bucket full of worms). By the time we’d got into the gulls many of them had been flushed by a dog walker and our anticipated triple figure count of Common Gulls ended up being no more than a paltry 28, one 1st winter and two adult Great Black Back Gulls were also on the beach.
By the time the short lunchtime session came round the tide was well up. Yesterday’s displaying Great Crested Grebes were still at it but no sign of the gooseberry today. So far this year numbers of Common Scoters have been rather low but today was an exception with a decent sized raft sitting in the swell. Probably around 200 – 250 of them but hard to tell with any great conviction given the sea state. Not a huge number but good by this winter’s standards.
That was it! But we did have a resounding clap of unseasonal thunder.
Where to next? More of the same? – Tomorrow’s another day and anything can happen.
In the meantime let us know if there have been significant numbers of anything in your outback today.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Another misty morning

The safari was out at the usual time this morning – no late lie-in today (if you can call a weekend 7.00am start a lie-in) so it was still pitch black. Misty again too but not frosty, it felt somewhat mild with the temperature around 3°C. The still dawn air was heavy with the strong aroma of chocolate from the nearby biscuit factory – Bourbons being baked today me thinks…mmmmm.
Not much about except for a few early rising Blackbirds which were tuning up rather than singing properly. The usual Robins were giving it rice in the streetlights but none in the dark park. That was about it apart from a couple of Dunnocks – they’ve been really unobtrusive until recently – unless they’ve nicked off somewhere to avoid the weather and just got back. Are they something you ringers out there catch many of?
Driving in to work there was a thick low mist over the sea. In fact coming down the Prom we could only see the top half of the tower. So not worth having an early morning pre-work blimp. We had to wait a little while until after nine to get out for a few minutes.
A few short minutes was all it was. The short horizon still disappeared in a haze of low mist but we managed to find about half a dozen Cormorants fishing away in the calm water. A lone Great Crested Grebe didn’t want to be playing gooseberry with a displaying pair a few hundred yards to the south. Best of all was a ‘walking’ year-tick, three Wigeon (52) – two males and a female were sat quietly on the sea not too far offshore. Occasionally we see them fly past but very rarely do we see them actually sat out there riding the waves – or wavelets in today’s case.
To be extremely in-eloquent...nob all else.
Lunch-time was even worse…even less than nob all if that’s possible. Dire, perhaps?

On a different tack altogether…
Climate scientists have taken a few big hits recently with revelations that data has been mis-represented, hidden or ‘tweaked’ to favour their preferred outcome – or the perhaps the preferred outcome of their political masters who pay for the research.
Today it is alleged that the monitoring stations used to collect temperatures have been moved, or not as in the case of some, so that now they are picking up the urban heat island effect. Others, at altitude or in rural areas, which would tend to show cooler temperatures, have been dropped.
The time has come for them to wake up and smell the coffee – Fair Trade of course – and bring their house back in to some semblance of order.
Is man made climate change happening or not? The problem is still that the sceptics are funded by the ‘opposition’ ie oil and coal interests so proper scientific debate can’t happen.
As the safari posted a few days ago the natural world is telling us something is definitely happening. Here in the UK spring is 11 days earlier than a decade ago. But is it natural or man-made? The natural environment is an extremely complex beast and we are only just beginning to understand a small percentage of the processes through which it functions. Accurate records don’t go back far enough.
One thing we need to look at carefully is the causes and rates of change of temperature on a continental scale over the last (say) 3000 years. Not easy as there have only been accurate thermometers for 10% of this time. Some form of extrapolation is going to be needed. There are tree rings, sediment cores, ice cores and now coral reef cores but these need interpretation and it is in the interpretation of these data sets that the opposing views come to blows. The current I say “it is”, you say “it isn’t” scenario is no good to anyone. There needs to be dialogue between the two factions “I say it is, why do you disagree with me? Can we, together, find the correct explanation for the observed results?”
There is no doubt that observed climatic changes like the Mediaeval Warm Period and the 17th-18C Mini Ice Age were real. What we need to know is how fast the changes took place and, importantly, what caused them and how likely that is going to happen again in the future. What were the effects on the natural vegetation and crop types/yields at those times of change, not at the maxima of each event?
Someone told me that putting an extra bit of CO2 into the atmosphere won’t make any difference as it’s such a small percentage of the total volume of the atmosphere to start with. To counter that you could say that one drop of Rattlesnake venom in your blood is only a small percentage and won’t do you much harm, make you feel a bit woozy perhaps – two drops however is still only a tiny proportion of your total blood volume but will kill you. Are we killing the planet by adding more and more CO2? This is an experiment too far in my opinion. I like to think of myself as a scientist and follow the definition of scientific proof - Hypothesis→Theory→Law but even then Laws may need to be modified or amended as further research or discoveries bring new evidence to light. Therefore a theory is just that until it is proven but in this case I don’t think we have the time to waste waiting for a definitive proof that might not come for two or three generations by which time it could well be too late, which is why statistical analysis of the various probabilities of the various scenarios is needed – of course these can be amended as more research is done and new information/evidence is discovered, that doesn’t make them wrong per se.
For whom is it too late? Civilisation as ‘we’ know it! No, it won’t be the end of humans; it might very well be the end for a lot of humans reducing the population to a fraction of what we have now – no bad thing (as long as I’m not one of them!). It’ll be someone else’s turn to dominate the world – who? – We don’t know and that can’t be predicted – that is what we are most scared of – will we like it when it’s changed and what will the new ‘master race’ do to us or make us do? – It’s all very uncertain and despite being the most adaptable animal on the planet humans don’t like change and uncertainties! What it won’t be is the ‘end of the world’ as the Earth has a various times in its long history been a total snowball and a raging ball of fire, it just happens to be quite comfortable for lots of humans at the moment!
What I do know is that wasting resources and polluting the environment is no use to anyone no matter which civilisation you are from. For example much of the world’s current excess food production is dependent on oil, for machinery fuel, pesticide and fertiliser manufacture. Will we be able to feed ourselves (all 10 billion+ of us) when the oil runs out? Every population of every species has an environmental carrying capacity – basic ecology (not environmentalism but ‘Pure Ecology’) take more from the environment than it can replenish and you go bust. So far advances in technology and medicine have kept us one step ahead of that game – but for how much longer? Apparently in the USA to produce 1000 calories of food at the table takes over 10,000 to get it from the field to the kitchen cooker – The difference is proved by non-renewable oil. That surely is unsustainable!
Apologies for the politics hope it’s not too biased – I’d hate that.
Where to next? Here’s hoping the patches are at least a little bit more exciting tomorrow, we can hardly stand the pace!
In the meantime let us know what’s not being seen in your outback.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The safari was out at dawn again in a nice crisp frost. Strangely quieter than yesterday. The usual suspects were about but not making as much noise by a long chalk. We watched the Peregrine fly over Magpie Wood (below) to the east as the mist started to form across the rough field.

Nothing of any note in the park except for Roger the black Rabbit - he could easily be several individuals but as we only ever see one at a time Roger 'he' is.
On the 'sports' field the mist was thickening but only to about 10 feet high - had Frank wandered much further he'd have disappeared from view.

Coming back down the hill there were very few Starlings about - pre-empting Forest's comment on yesterday's post we took the camera this morning specifically to try and get a shot or two of them - tomorrow we'll be too early and it will still be dark, but these are the houses they fly over - just imagine 15000 black dots spread out over them in a narrow vertical plane

After a pub lunch with wifey we set out along the embankment in Birds2blog-land. The tide was just on the ebb and we soon found a reasonable sized flock of Wigeon to grill coming up a creek. Sadly nothing from 'across the pond' with them. A much larger flock was on the far side of the estuary but well out of range to work through them properly. A Golden Plover (106) added excitement by engaging in some remarkable swooping and stalling with bizarre half turns aerobatics and provide the only year tick of the day . The supporting cast on our side included Redshanks, Curlews, Little Grebes and Mute Swans. Over at Conder Pool there were Tufted Ducks aplenty and we watched a Little Grebe subdue a small fish. A good number of Common Gulls were roosting on the water with a few Black Headeds.
By now it was time to give Frank some freedom so we set off back home, to play ball for half an hour before it went dark, and didn't take a short detour down Jeremy Lane where apparently there were a couple of White Fronted Geese (one of each race) and a Tundra Bean Goose nearby too - a big mistake. Not only that we had aready dipped out on Spotted Redshank and Greenshank on the estuary. Not to worry we'll have to pick em up next week.
Where to next? Back to the patches and if we're lucky a photo of the Starling spectacular later in the week.
In the meantime let us know what you missed in your outback today.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

One for Forest

The safari was feeling a bit down this morning. Hardly surprising when we have recently learnt our pay is being cut by a pocket busting, mortgage crunching, home losing savage 21.5%!!! Even worse the Land Rover is losing gearbox oil at a rate of knots so an expensive repair is looking likely - a few pence for a seal - probably a few hundred pounds to get the gearbox out to fit it...dohhh. Wouldn't mind but it's hardly given much rough treatment!
We certainly needed something to lift our spirits. Thankfully Patch 1 provided just that this morning. It was cold but noisy! We were out an hour later than normal and the birds did not disappoint. Dunnocks were singing from almost every garden as were Robins. Over them the song of Blackbirds filled the still morning air. The usual Song Thrushes were battling it out for vocal supremacy. The day dawned with a superb, almost cloudless, red sky. Greenfinch and Great Tit were heard singing for the first time and from the little patch of scrub two Wrens challenged each other in a high volume duet.
Up on the tower the Peregrine surveyed the scene beneath him, whilst in the park a little male Sparrowhawk yik-yik-yikked, terrifying two Blackbirds which were puling their breakfast of worms from the gound. They were stock still as we passed within a few feet of them - they dared not take to the wing as the Spar was sitting on a low branch not 20 feet away and they knew it!
Woodpigeons were waking up and the park filled with their hoo-hoo-hoo--hoo-hooo cooings.
Through the trees we heard a distant skein of Pink Footed Geese followed by another 27 right overhead. Also overhead was a lone Oystercatcher - a good find on the patch - and a pair of Great Back Backed Gulls calling their baritone aughh aughh aughh, these too are a good find over the patch, later there were two more!
We roughly counted at least 30 Magpies leaving their roost in Magpie Wood, these were just the ones that had gone north so there must have been others.
Best was saved until last; the Starlings were phonenemal again. One large flock today, no idea how many but they were in a much looser formation than the other day. They passed overhead just above chimney height as we reached the crest of the hill. Looking down on them they followed the contours staying a few feet over the rooftops - there were thousands of them covering the whole eastern side of town that we could see - musta been over a SQUARE MILE of Starlings - what a truly impressive sight. And most people think they are a pest to be despised (might be true if you're in the States, New Zealand or Aus) but I think they provide one of Britain's best wildlife spectacles. Indeed this morning if you took away the houses and replaced it with hot dry grassland you could almost imagine them to be Wildebeest racing across the plains of East Africa.
Our Extreme Photographer popped round later for a chat and a brew in his replacement for the Moose. A very tasty looking Land Rover it is too and some nice mods to folllow.

Where to next? The great St Valentine's Day twitch with wifey and Frank somewhere up north - need someone to home in on that American Wigeon tonight - or failing that have to find it ourselves.
In the meantime let us know what the wildlife spectacular is like in your outback.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Ludicrously little

The safari was out on Patch 1 early doors as usual. Not much to write home about. The usual Song Thrush was warbling away but in the lightening dawn there were a few more Blackbirds fluting out of the gardens so spring, dare we say it, is getting a bit closer every day. There are Snowdrops blooming in the garden at Base Camp now.
The Peregrine had left his roost; he was there late last night but no sign this morning.
Patch 2 before work was no better, possibly worse. Hardly a bird out there at all. The tide was on the rise so we had expected there to be some movement. The sun was shining and despite the gentle northerly wind it didn’t feel too chilly. A single Shelduck flew past and seven Turnstones landed at the base of the sea wall to roost up over the high tide – nice and safe down there provided the sea isn’t too rough. Out on the sea itself there were only a handful of Common Scoters today. A small flock sat close enough in to be able pick out the facial markings of the females and the yellow patch at the top of the males’ bills. Where were the Cormorants this morning, hardly a one seen? Things have got to pick up soon. A/the Black Throated Diver was seen again a few miles up the coast – this would be a nice find on the Patch if it deigned to paddle south one day. We say ‘A/the’ as we assume it’s the same one that was seen there a while back and has returned from wherever it might have disappeared to or drifted back inshore and come within scope range again.
Lunchtime was just the same with barely a bird troubling the notebook. The tide was only just at the point where the beach was becoming exposed but there were dog walkers aplenty getting on to the sand so no birds. Out at sea only a few Cormorants and small numbers of scattered Common Scoters were mooching about.
Patch 2 with Frank after work saw the Peregrine back on the tower.
Where to next? Not sure over the weekend – there was a rather tasty American Wigeon within striking range, along with a sackful of other year-ticks, but it seems to have vanished. It might be relocated by the Saturday birders, if that’s the case a twitch could well be on the cards. Some mammals might be nice too. We always feel that at this time of year the other groups of flora and fauna tend to get a bit neglected in favour of the much more visible birds.
In the meantime let us know what has done a vanishing act in your outback.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


The safari is deeply unhappy about last night’s 2 – 0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, ‘Pool are now sliding down the league table, nightmare. Pull yer fingers out this Saturday boys, can’t be going to PNE and getting beaten at Deepdale – NOT an option!
Frank was playing up this morning after a restless night – the idiot musta followed his nose and eaten something he shouldn’t…happens all the time…doh!!! Anyway the upshot was that we didn’t get round the patch, just a foreshortened route. We could hear the nearer of the two Song Thrushes but that was about it – no sign of the Peregrine.
However, driving past the tower on the way to work he was back and we could see falling feathers glinting in the sunshine…breakfast was being munched!
Another cold but sunny Patch 2 visit produced at least three Red Throated Divers, not sure if one doubled back on itself and landed on the sea before setting off north again or there were actually two birds. Good to see them with the bright crisp morning sunshine shining on them all the same. Not much else about; like yesterday there were reasonable numbers of uncounted Cormorants mostly headed south west towards their unknown roost or high tide feeding site. We have never seen so many singleton, pairs or trios of Common Scoters, again flying all over the shop but no larger flocks this morning.
Best sighting of the session was a small flock of Knot (105) whizzing past. A bird which really we should have come across already this year but has somewhat strangely successfully avoided the notebook until now.
The lunchtime session was a bit hairy with the results of our work’s pay review trickling in and some people weren’t looking too happy at all…despondent might be a better expression. The safari had to sweat it out until we got home and read the letter the posty had left on the mat. In the meantime it was over the road to Patch 2 for us. Unfortunately there was very little to keep us interested, or warm. Very few gulls on the beach and nothing out of the ordinary amongst them. The only thing of note out at sea was a flockette of two male and two female Eiders. Hardly worth going out into the bitingly cold wind…but you never know – the biggy coulda been out there…oh for a Ivory Gull sat with the Black Heads in that runnel by the next dead Harbour Porpoise. Better stop dreamin’ now…
Where to next? Not really likely to be able to do anything other than more patchy stuff until the weekend.
In the meantime let us know what you’re dreaming of landing in your outback.
No photo today to despondent to get the camera really don't want to know, anyone got a big cardboard box, might need it to live in in a few months.
For Forest the Bear - here's what we could have been doing last weekend with the lads if we hadn't had family stuff to stated sooooo jealous.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Precious little to disturb the notebook…but then again…

The safari’s adventure to Patch this morning was nothing to write home about. Apart from the usual Robins twittering away just a couple of Song Thrushes were sparring from the opposite sides of the park in the early morning half-light. A Wren blasted out a few short phrases from a clump of dense dark cover, the first of the season. A little later one was seen ‘mousing’ about in the garden at Base Camp, a seldom seen species recently – probably because we’ve been out at work during daylight hours! Two bright male Chaffinches in next door’s little Beech tree were nice additions to the day list.
The Starlings flying out of their roost were most impressive, three waves of them. The noise of the wind in their wings as they flew overhead from behind us heralded their imminent arrival – what a din. Whoooooshhhhhh and they were gone. Well over 5000 in each flock. A full blown wildlife spectacle of David Attenborough proportions and all you have to do is take a few seconds to stand still and look up – magical!
If we had 15000+ going off to feed to the NE by the application of ‘birders logic’ there must/may/might/could have been similar numbers leaving the pier roost due east and SE, making a very provisional total of somewhere in the region of 45-50000.
Late in to work due to having to wait for a decorator to turn up so no Patch 2 early morning visit. Conditions did look good on the drive in though so we could well have missed something worth seeing. No lunchtime visit either, as we had to nip home to pay aforementioned decorator. Me thinks wifey is preping the house for sale…nooooo we haven’t got any money!!!!!!!!!!
That was yesterday’s news which didn’t get the chance to hit the world wide web – too much to do at home last night and then our Extreme Photographer came round in his shiny, nearly new, Moose replacing, Extreme Land Rover – oh boy, it looks bog standard but hides a multitude of power enhancing toys like a double sized intercooler, ecu remap, de-catted exhaust, egr valve removed, wider tyres on spacers for extra road holding in corners. Not only will it be supreme off the tarmac but now also has 175 horses under the bonnet, just right for peeing off chavs in their souped up Clios and Corsas. It goes like greased sh*t from a Teflon coated shovel – hardly Land Rover like at all!!!
Where to next? Hopefully better attempts at Patching tomorrow.

Ah tomorrow – ie now today – was indescribably better. What was lacking yesterday was there this morning. Patch 1 was nothing to write home about, the two Song Thrushes were still playing X-factor with each other…”I can sing louder than you!”…”No you can’t!”…”Yes I can!”…etc, etc. Looking up in to the breaking dawn we saw the International Space Station fly past…it doesn’t look that high, brightest thing in the sky apart from the moon, but we couldn’t see the Space Shuttle trying to catch it up. I believe you may be able to see them docking tomorrow morning.
Patch 2 was much better. First thing we noticed were dribs and drabs of Cormorants all heading southwards to some high tide roost site. In the short time we were out there we must have had over two dozen. Plenty of Common Scoters in several packs probably totalling over 200 in all mostly way, way out on the horizon so no chance of picking up the Patch 2 bogey bird. Shelduck are always nice to see off the prom and this morning we had two pairs about five minutes apart, both pairs heading north. Two Red Throated Divers were also about five minutes apart but going in the opposite direction. Also a long way offshore two Great Black Backed Gulls wheeled around the horizon, their contrasting under and upper parts catching the sunshine (YES SUNSHINE!!!!!!!) making them look like oversized Manx Shearwaters.

A lively few minutes in a lively, freezing cold northerly wind with the wrong gloves…brrrrr.
Lunchtime if anything was even colder despite the very welcome sunshine – tha’s a bitter nor’erly wind tha’ knorrs; ee bah gumm. Not much to show though for freezing our nads off. Similar to earlier with plenty of Cormorants mooching about in every direction. No Shelducks this time but they were replaced by five Eiders heading south. The receding tide had left a small amount of beach uncovered where a few gulls and Oystercatchers had the pick of the shellfish. Two Sanderlings buzzed around the edge of a pool. That was about it really.
Where to next? More of the same; here’s hoping that nasty wind drops.
In the meantime let us know in which direction the wind is blowing in your outback

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Stuff from the South side

The safari had another trip over the river today. But before we crack on with the details here's a pic of Bloomfield Road. We normally don't get this view because we're usually halfway up the righthand terrace. The three yellow jersey'd bods in the foreground are the cheats, particularly the old gimmer with the bald head nearest the camera (he was even older than me!) who couldn't keep up with play and never saw a dozen or more offsides! Hard enough playing 11 good players without having to play against two officials too. Lets hope we steam-roller Sheffield Wednesday away on Tuesday night.
Continuing our North side theme for a minute, we found this broken piece of sign on the marshes by the car park which has been smashed by numpties and thrown in the sea. Eventually it washed up on the South side. It refers to the 'Birth of Venus' Illuminations tableau by TV celebrity artiste Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen. Wonder if my bosses want it back?
On to the real stuff. We hit the marsh road and looked for the Bittern but no luck this week, although it's still about. Two Merlins sat up nicely on posts as did two Kestrels. Sackfuls of Little Egrets but no Great White Egret. We went into the hide and had a chat with the Warden who put us on to a Brent Goose (Thanks GC) whilst we were nicely on a Barnacle Goose (103) nestling in a large flock of Pink Footed Geese. Three Brown Hares were a mammal tick for the year. Lots of commoner ducks and waders out there too.
After that we headed of to the Marine Lake and driving past we saw this...A very strange Red Crested Pochard but can we tick it...Possibly not but this one is a much better candidate.The latter appeared during the cold spell after an influx from the contintent...not sure about the plae one, part of the same or from somewhere a lot nearer? 104 now bagged.
Look closely at the Coot's head, weird or what!
Several gulls were hanging around waiting for the copious amounts bread the loving public have been chucking at the Mute Swans. This Black Headed Gull is still in full winter plumage.The safari loves immature gulls, like this 1st winter Herring Gull.

After our family Sunday do we had a qick look on the beach and bumped in to another mammal tick - a Stoat. We gave about 2000 gulls on the beach a good grilling but nothing stood out as being Twite there today again, might have to wait 'til next autumn for them now.
Where to next? Back to the Patches...a somewhat scary week coming up...more later.
In the meantime let us know what yuo seen over the river in your outback.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The safari was up and out early on Patch 1 today. Frank has no concept of weekend lie-ins! When he's up he's up and he's gotta go out. Only just 6 O'clock and frosty but for the first time this early there was birdsong in the moonlight. A Blackbird and Robin were singing nearby in the street . On the patch a Song Thrush was giving it non-stop welly from a small patch of scrub in the rough bottom field. The darkness of the patch was still quiet except for a couple of Robins singing on the roadside in the light from the streetlamps. Even at that time of the morning on a Saturday standing quietly in the middle of the park we struggled to hear a second Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush in the distance over the noise of the (seemingly) sparse traffic and trains being shunted around on the not too distant railway line.
The Magpies of Magpie Wood were just beginning to stir, cackling and rattling as we walked beneath them. Very difficult to count them in the darkness and standing still under the trees upsets them and they start hopping around all over each other. But a reasonable guesstimate would be about 35 - 40. There was relief all round when we saw that the Peregrine was back.
We won't mention the footy - not good and a league place lost - a good job most of the other teams close behind us had a bad day too. Teams above widened the gap unfortunately. They really need a win now to get their confidence back and some form going again. Damned unlucky with a beltin' shot smashing in to the woodwork again.
Where to next? Off to the marshes of the South side tomorrow, but if it's foggy like this morning we'll struggle to see anything at all!
In the meantime let us know how your outback team fared today...better than 'Pool I hope.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Godwits raise the bar

The safari was disappointed this morning on Patch 1 as the Peregrine was nowhere to be seen. But being a little later than usual there was a good deal of bird song in the air although it still wasn’t light. Mostly Robins and Blackbirds but a Mistle Thrush and a Dunnock too. A Song Thrush hopped along the path in front of us for a few yards. We didn’t have time to do a full patch walk; the park might have been quite lively this morning.
At Patch 2 before work the tide was well out but the beach was fairly devoid of birds. A scan along the tide line gave us a count of 102 Oystercatchers and in their midst was a small group of seven Bar Tailed Godwits. A surprise and an excellent count for this section of the coast where they are rare visitors. They are far more numerous round the corner in the estuary. Four Turnstones pecked around the base of the outfall pipe, with just five Redshank. A search for the rest of the Redshank found them roosting a bit further along the beach under the sea wall in a runnel, 36 of them. Nothing of any excitement in the few gulls present, a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls cruising up the coast was the highlight. Out at sea…absolutely nothing. Well there could have been allsorts but with the horrendously reduced visibility again we were never going to see it.
No Patch 2 lunchtime visit today, a funeral took precedent.
Where to next? Bloomfield Road for more footy followed by an estuarine marshy safari on Sunday.
In the meantime let us know what you haven’t been able to see in your mist ridden outback.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Early morning pea soup

The safari was not happy with the referee at last night’s footy match – the Seasiders lost 3 – 2 to a very dubious penalty decision, a dodgy offside goal for Albion’s second too – have to see the TV replays but we wuzz deffo ROBBED! Not good enough in the first half, we appeared to be frightened of them but in the second a clever set of substitutions had us attacking with venom, a couple of close misses, a clatter off the bar, header off the line by a defender (who shouldn’t have been stood there) and right at the death the ball shaved the paint off the wrong side of the post in a goal mouth scramble – all in all a good close game but it wasn’t to be! Still need 11 points to be guaranteed safety for this season; bring on the first three of them on Saturday against the Foxes of Leicester City, got my ticket – but will I have got my voice back by then?
Out as usual on Patch 1 and yes you’ve guessed it - the Peregrine was fast asleep on his usual ledge. We’re gonna miss him when it gets lighter earlier in a couple weeks time and he’s flown the coop by the time we get there. No sign of the Fox this morning although by the serious amount of sniffing Frank did it had definitely been out and about over night. There had been a bit of overnight mist which had condensed and frozen on the ground making walking rather interesting shall we say.
By the time we got to work the mist had thickened in to a full blown pea soup fog over the Promenade and out to sea, so getting out would have been pointless; wouldn’t have been able to see to the end of the telescope!
Our lunchtime visit wasn’t much better. Crackin light but hopeless visibility. Nothing much to show for the few minutes we spent searching a rather lifeless sea. A few gulls bobbed about between the white horses, a handful of Cormorants peered out from between the waves like bizarre periscopes and a dozen or so fairly distant Common Scoters flipped in and out of view in the swell. Pick of the bunch…two Great Crested Grebes flying south about five minutes apart…yes it was that exciting – absolutely riveting!
Where to next? More of the gloomy, grey same for the rest of the week TFI Friday tomorrow!
In the meantime let us know what is lurking in the gloomy greyness of your outback this week.
No pics again today, not a lot of point showing you the inside of a drizzly grey cloud.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Another one bites the dust

The safari reckons you can’t beat a bit of vintage Queen.
Out on Patch 1 pre-dawn, now with more than a hint of light in the eastern sky, the Peregrine was on its usual roosting ledge. We bumped in to a neighbour who told us that her dog had just sent the Fox dashing for the safety of its underground earth deep in the bushes.
By the time we’d done the circuit it was hardly any lighter but the Peregrine had flown off. Recent webcam observations at Derby cathedral have shown that they are able to successfully hunt at night. Not surprising when you consider the size of their eyes – big in relation to their body.
Patch 2 before work was beset by bait diggers; four were spread out along the low water line in front of us, upsetting the waders. The Sanderlings, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were skittish and moving about uncountably. The gulls were calmer and we started to count the Common Gulls after the other day’s good guestimate it would be nice to know how many there actually are. About half way through the count we came across one that appeared to be much darker than the rest. A trick of the morning light or a real difference? It helped solve the problem by picking up a shell and flying up then dropping it. It did this a few times, as luck would have it when the shell broke it was near another ‘typical’ Common Gull which walked up to it in the hope of scraps or a steal and we could compare the saddle colours. They were noticeably different; in comparison the darker one was almost approaching Lesser Black Backed Gull darkness more smoky dusky grey than dove blue grey and a little ‘heavier’ in overall build but at that range we couldn’t tell if the bill was any stouter…a full L.c.heinei? Perhaps not, but probably one from further north and east than our ‘normal’ ones which are mostly Scottish breeders. Best bird we’ve found on the beach for a while. After all that 53 was the final count.
A numb-nut in a bright yellow jacket appeared and started to pick Mussels off the outfall pipe – well I tried them once and never again – as gritty as a gritty thing from Gritsville, Arizona! – they’ll appear on a restaurant menu somewhere in town tonight probably…oohh err. He did, however, flush two Turnstones – dough-brain! Pick of the best of the rest was a north flying Great Crested Grebe and a tiny scattering of Common Scoters, Not near enough to check for any Velvet Scoters – our Patch 2 bogey bird – there have been some on the South side and others off Walney Island to the north. Bally typical! Stuck in the middle with(out) you... Oh no not more musical references viz. Stealers Wheel featuring a very nice chap named Tony Williams who is now one of our local Councillors!...and Nilsson (not written by him though but by a 60’s/early 70’ s group called Badfinger (appropriate - given my condition!) – Don’t ever, ever, ever mention the diabolical wailing, shrieking version by an American female, who can’t sing, in my presence – she destroyed the song in my (humble haha) opinion.
Lunchtime saw a reduced Patch 2 visit, more Common Scoters this time, about sixty, and most of them close enough to be grillable but no Velvets…what were you expecting. We did get four Great Crested Grebes this time and a mammal year tick – Grey Seal, but that was very distant to the south. A necessary errand out of town left us within striking distance of an area from which a mixed wild swan flock, of approximately a hundred birds, had recently been reported. We had to check it out. Rounding the corner we could see the flock away across the fields in the distance – they were still there…phew. Most of them were Bewick’s Swans (102), outnumbering the Whooper Swans by about 3:1, not that we had time to count them.

What was noticeable was that there were very few birds off the year so last year’s breeding season might not have been too good. Four Grey Lag Geese were sat in the middle of the flock. Impossible to tell if these are feral local British breeders or genuine wildlies from the Northern Isles or Iceland. Five minutes was long enough to get some dodgy digiscope pics (long range, old scope, cheapest camera, gloomy conditions) before having to head back at breakneck speed to the desk. Nowhere near enough time to think about going for the now very close lifer, we’ll have to wait until the next high tide at the end of the month.
Good to get Bewick’s Swans on the year list as they have been a bit tricky in recent years, the milder winters have resulted in many of the western European wintering population staying on the continent. In the early 90’s a good sized flock of roosting birds used to appear nightly on the nature reserve and it was a real joy watching them coming in each evening and settle down on the mere.
So 102 in the bag only 98 to go…we should be so lucky…(lucky, lucky, lucky - Oh no not Kylie!)
Where to next? Small matter of an important footy match tonight as the Seasiders take on the always in form and hard to beat West Bromwich Albion – a clean sheet no score draw will do nicely…a win, of course, would better!!!
In the meantime let us know which tricky species you’ve just seen in your outback.