Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Joy of joys

The Safari did the dry version of Patch 1 this morning. The Mistle Thrush was giving it plenty of welly from the school grounds. Round by the water tower we came across a Blackbird ‘lek’, two males strutting there stuff along an invisible boundary while a female looked on impassively. All it needed was a couple of nappies and some weird sounds and we could have imagined ourselves out in the wilds of mid-Wales watching Black Grouse, something we really ought to do again as we haven’t been for many years.
Last night the ‘upper’ Song Thrush was singing from the Golden Triangle but this morning all was quite there, the nearest park Song Thrush could be heard as we walked past the end of the road that leads to the park entrance. No singing Blackbirds this morning.
What a sight beheld us when we got to Patch 2 in the early morning gloom!!! A veritable feast of gulls was on the beach in front of us. In the runnel near the wall we counted 99 Redshanks and eight Turnstones but it was the various shellfish strandlines where the main interest lay.
On the nearest strandline, within binocular range – not that we had any, only ever take the scope (and ears) – there were over 100 Black Headed Gulls with more joining all the time, but this number was paltry compared to the numbers lower down the beach and if anything Black Heads were outnumbered by Herring Gulls! There were well over 1000 of each but looking over our ‘boundary’ to the south we saw that our ‘huge’ numbers paled into insignificance compared to what there was down there – the beach was a seething with the little beauties!!! Put it this way the massed herds of Wildebeest on the Serengeti would have been lost amongst that lot; there were thousands upon thousands of them – a real life wildlife spectacle happening right before the commuters’ eyes – not that any of them would have noticed even if they were able to see over the sea wall from the driving seat of their cars.
We could have stayed out all morning giving them a thorough grilling, as it was we spent about double our normal ‘allotted’ time, about as much as we could get away with plus a few extra seconds...All this extra effort gave us the grand total of...wait for it...just two ‘argentatusHerring Gulls...dohh big wow, not even a Med amongst the plethora of Black Heads – musta been one somewhere in there, with a Caspo, Ring Billed, a white winger and a summat else probably.
We did have a good check of the hundreds of Common Gulls, no Franklin’s imposters today, but one was particularly interesting in that it was extremely dark and quite chunky looking. There were only a handful of Lesser Black Backs on the beach and none nearby to give a direct comparison but this Common Gull was almost as dark as a typical Lesser Blacky, having very little contrast between the coverts and the primaries. We have seen these before a couple of times over the years on the nature reserve but what exactly they are and where they are from is a mystery. In the old days we thought they might have been 'heinei' but conventional wisdom is now suggesting that this subspecies is probably indistinguishable in the field.
One Common Gull we saw recently at the nature reserve we really wished we’d been able to get a decent pic of as it showed an awful lot of white on the wing and hardly any black, potentially a Mew Gull or just an aberrant ‘normal’ Common Gull. We did mention it at the time and in flight it was easy to pick out – all goes to show that out of 10000+ gulls finding two the same is almost as hard as finding the odd one or two out.
We didn’t pay much attention to the sea but there were good numbers of Cormorants fishing successfully just behind the surf with several Great Black Backs in close attendance. Further out it was too grey and murky to see anything, a Kraken could have been attacking a Somali pirate infested supertanker but we’d never have seen the action through the low cloud.
At lunchtime the tide was in and we were forced to pay attention to the sea but apart form a few loafing gulls and a small number of fishing Cormorants there wasn’t much about. A Great Crested Grebe had gate-crashed a Common Scoters only gig and a single Red Throated Diver flew south just this side of the murk.
After work, with it still being light, we took Wifey and Frank on a trip of a lifetime to Fleetwood Dog Toilet aka Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve. While Frank added to the piles (duly removed of course) and ran round with some new friends we successfully twitched the Ring Necked Duck at long last (106). In our over excitement we didn't count the Coot, Tufted Ducks or Pochard but did note a Great Crested Grebe and three male Goldeneyes on the pool. The adjacent pool was disappointingly devoid of gulls. A quick walk round to catch up with Wifey gave us about 80 Wigeon bobbing about on the river but the elusive Little Egret still eludes us.

Pipping the Ring Necked Duck in to poll position here was the first singing Skylark we've heard this year, always one of the best sounds to be heard whilst on safari.

Where to next? Can only be straight back to Patch 2!
In the meantime let us know whose doing the gate-crashing in your outback


Warren Baker said...

106, i'll have to see how many Monikas up too :-)

Well done on the Skylark, not heard one sing yet this year.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Monika is pulling well ahead at the mo - scarily so



Stu said...

Skylark singing? Must be spring eh?

Nice to see Ring Necked Duck too.......