Friday, 8 July 2011

They're back - and fine and dandy too!

The Safari's Swazzas are back from their sojourn back 'home' to Austria. A big thanks to the guys and gals at Swarovski and our local dealer for sending back what we not quite sure might be a breand bnew pair of bins...if it wasn't for the serial number we'd have been fooled into thinking they replaced them rather than faff around with a repair - they've even removed all the beach that was encrusting them! Have to try not to wear out the focusing mechanism for another 10 years...or more. And all for the price of a few stamps.

Still the trip to retrieve them meant we had to give them a try out on the way back to Base Camp so we stopped off at a local site on the edge of Lancaster renwned for its Green Sandpipers. Down the old railwayline we didn'thave much, a couple of churring Whitethroats and a few Goldfinches but by 'eck were we glad we'd doused ourselves in about a gallon or so of Jungle Formula cos 'Satan's Own' were out in force in the muggy conditions.

Over the pool there were plenty of House Martins and Swallows as well as a few Swifts and at least a couple or so Sand Martins. A Common Sandpiper pretended to be a Green Sandpiper for a moment and we found four Little Ring Plovers, the pair at the far end of the pools gave alarm calls and a bit of distraction display when a family of Carrion Crows came down to drink. The island held a fair number of roosting Lapwings but other than that lot it was pretty quiet. A small gull roost on the muddy river bank only held the three expected species.

A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on the inner track was the first of several butterflies seen. A couple more of this species and two Red Admirals were attracted to the Thistles on the embankment as we headed out over the marsh towards the Land Rover. Meadow Browns hit double figures and we had a few S(s)mall Whites, one of wich was definitely a Green Veined White. Speckled Woods came in with three along the hedgerow which wasn't bad for such an exposed area.

We kept a close eye on the weather approaching from the direction of the river mouth, it was as black as can be with all too visible very heavy showers.

Out on the marsh fighting for spce with the myriad of sheep were a singing Skylark and a singing Meadow Pipit. The hedgerow alongside the embankment gave us at least three Song Thrushes and a Chiffchaff kept pace with us for several hundred yards as we pickedup the pace in an effort to beat the weather; which we did just in the nick of time!

Stopping again a little further south, woulda been rude not too, we had a quick look over the pool. Again not a lot. hndful of Oystercatchers and a few Mallards, one of which at the back turned into an eclipsed drake Shoveler. Along the edge of the island we counted about 55 Redshanks but when something flushed them we were able to up that to about 80. But of PW's Greenshanks and Spotted Redshank from yesterday there was no sign!

Again the weather was on the move...
And a minute or so later - we were still dry at this point...

Turning round to have a look at the creek we saw nine Common Sandpipers, two Curlews and a Black Tailed Godwit. One of the Curlews gave a masterclass in how to forage under large stones by skewing its head into uncomfortable angles to get that long beak down and underneath the rocks.

At the edge of the creek wasa reasonable sized patch of Marsh Sow Thistle - we went for the pic, it was only ten yards away after all. You can see the first drops of rain landing in the the time we'd got a couple of pics and dashed the ten yards back to the Land Rover the heavens had opened and we were soaked! Needless to say we didn't dare have a look at the rest of the estuary.

Just as we drove away a Common Tern flew in off the estuary and over us. Not sure but we don't think they're all that regular here, maybe PW will let us know.
We took the 'country' road back rather than do a 'Uey' and managed to find a flock of 50 or so Swallows sat on a fence line in the downpour near the Little Owl site, needless to say the Little Owl wasn't sitting out in view - had more sense than that!

Further on a Little Egret flew over Head Dyke Lane heading inland. Great names they have for the roads and lanes Over Wyre! Although many of those roads and lanes have already had their hedgerows and verges flailed to within an inch of their lives. No wonder farmalnd birds are doing so badly. Mr Packham's show on BBC 2 last week highlighted the fact that although agri-environment schemes have been running for so long and cost 10s of millions of squids most of the farmland species haven't recovered and the science is pointing to the lack of food after Christmas. The populations build up feeding on the headland wild bird planting but that all gets eaten and the population crashes in the second half of the winter. Wonder what would happen if the hedgerows weren't mechanically massacred and still had a supply of insects and berries, not to mention more shelter from adverse weather, wuldn't help Skylarks but would the Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrows etc. Would less of the seeds be eaten and more be left for the tough times ahead. Denser hedges and longer verges would have more cover and that should help the Grey Partridges. He also reckoned that more farmers needed to be in the schemes, 'landscape scale conservation' is the buzz word/phrase - maybe it should be an opt-out thing rather than an opt-in...over to the politicians...and which ever they choose its got to pay at least the same as the crop its replacing...over to the economists and commodity traders...

This last pic is purely gratuitous and totally self indulgent.

Where to next? Back to work tomorrow but there could well be some beachy stuff going on.

In the meantime let us know how black the sky went in your outback.


Phil said...

A good observation about the hedgerows over here Dave, seems most of the OW farmers go to the same hedge destruction training school and pass the exams with flying colours. Looks like you got the same weather as I did the day before, and the day before, and the ........

Barry said...

Hi Dave,
For what it's worth I think your Marsh Sow Thistle (absent from north of East Anglia)looks more like Perennial Sow Thistle.


Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hedgerow b*ggering is one this grumpy old man's biggest bugbears Phil! Why do they do it? It's not as if decent hedgerow management has been taught at the likes of Myserscough for over 30 years!

Barry - thanks, I learnt most of my formative botany on the cold windy horse fly ridden marshes of East Anglia but still no excuses for a mis-ID...If anyone else spots an ID gaff don't be shy please let me know. We're never ashamed/upset to be lerning new/more stuff.



Stephen Dunstan said...


For your porpoise database there was one at Starr Gate at 0700.