Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Well we mist it (them) yesterday alright

The Safari is a bit disillusioned with yesterday’s thick mist. As we were sat in the office looking out of the window barely able to see the garden wall a few miles up the coast a couple of Ospreys were noted – did they fly past above our low cloud? Once again we took advantage of the longer evenings and took Frank down to the estuary...he loves it there. We do a bit of a walk there-turn round-and walk back job and at our end point a few larger wading birds were not too far out on the mudflats. A quick shuffy with the bins got us half a dozen Black Tailed Godwits (136), can’t believe it’s the end of March and we’d not had these already. Concentrating on the godwits we didn’t spot the Ringed Plover until we were sifting through the photos back at Base Camp. Not much else doing on the river, a few Shelducks, two Curlews flew round our heads giving Wifey excellent views when we whistled their call to them and a pair of Teal were disturbed off the marsh by one of the multitude of dogs that are taken out there well away from the path. Later that night Blue was out and in fine snarling form launching his attacks on frank from the gaps between the bushes along his garden wall. His owner, a lovely lady, said “he won’t bite”, as we put our hand out towards him – WRONG!!! Instead of sniffing the back of our hand he grabbed it HARD, fortunately taking more glove than skin, and gave it a good old chomp and a severe shaking – OWWWW that’ll teach us!!! We had a quality bruise when we got up.

This morning the Patch 1 dawn chorus didn’t seem quite as loud as yesterday, maybe the still cold air amplified the sound more, but it was still impressive. We stopped in the Butterfly Zone and closed our eyes for a minute or two (or did we just fall asleep on our feet) and stood and listened – truly wonderful – but still no Chiffchaffs! We did get the impression that there are more Robins than we first thought so a count will have to be done.

Patch 2 was very gloomy, almost as bad as yesterday but we did give it the benefit of the doubt and are glad we did. Visibility was poor and it was darker than yesterday, but on the edge of our focusable vision we saw three Common Scoters which were joined from beneath by about a dozen more, do they hunt in packs or spread out underwater as individuals, which ever it is they all broke the surface together – perhaps those shells take some herding and running down? A pair of Herring Gulls bathed close enough for a good inspection of their primary patterns, the male having much more white in the wing tip than the female – is this a regular occurrence? We can feel a photo survey of the town’s chimney pot nesting gulls coming on....anyone with a camera and thick skin is welcome to help out...”No Officer I wasn’t taking photos into the bedroom windows – honest...”

Just as we were thinking about calling it a day three geese flew by going south, a big pale one, a Canada Goose, very unusual here and Patch 2 tick number 45; the other two became three as another caught them up, dark bellied Brent Geese (137, 46)! Weird as at Hilbre Island yesterday there was a Canada Goose with their pale bellied Brent Geese but at least we’ve now got our annual sighting of this species for the patch.

At lunchtime it was still very grey but despite the low cloud we could feel the warmth from the sun. The light was pretty good to and we had no trouble identifying 10 or more auks fishing some distance out as Razorbills. From the way the gulls were behaving there must have been quite a shoal of Sprats or other small fish. They were plunge diving along a narrow strip at about half a mile long. The Razorbills were rather more successful bringing up fish for a bit of courtship feeding or pair bonding. There was a good bit if bill tapping going on too.

A fisherman tending a long net kept the beach bird free but further down we counted 41 Oystercatchers. This net thing seems to become more popular and we resent people coming on to ‘our’ beach to take ‘our’ fish – how very dare they, the thieving ratbags can’t they leave anything alone!

Another advert for an event for your diaries –

On Friday 15th April the Sand Dunes Project Officer is holding a training event to learn about the scarce Vernal Mining Bee, Colletes cunicularius, which can be found on Lytham St Anne’s Nature Reserve. Listed in the Red Data Books, this species is confined to sand-dunes in northwest England and a few places in Wales. Nicked from Phil Smith over on the South-side – ‘About the same size as a Honey Bee, but stockier and dark-brown, it is a “solitary” bee which forms loose colonies, tunnelling into south-facing dune slopes and busily collecting pollen, mainly from willow catkins’.

Dr Carl Clee from Liverpool Museum’s Entomology Dept has been invited to lead the day...Meet at the reserve’s Information Centre on Clifton Drive at 10.00am...see you there... Where to next? On the beach for part of the day tomorrow perhaps followed by a bit of botanising. In the meantime let us know what’s been lurking in the corner of your outback.

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