Thursday, 15 December 2011

What’s gone wrong with the weather? There wasn’t not a breath of wind first thing

The Safari stepped out of the front door to a bit of a welcome surprise this morning. We didn’t hear the whooshing of wind across the rooftops or through the branches of the trees and the telephone wires; instead we were very pleased to hear the delightful twitterings of a couple of Robins. Walking round the corner we  bumped into another Robin pecking around on the footpath where we had wrangled a soggy crust from the vice-like jaws of Frank late last night – he is basically a canine hoover when it comes to littered food and has been known to swallow half a pizza without even breaking stride.
A Blackbird was on the grass verge listening for worms in the sopping wet grass. On the far side of the road yet another Robin was singing its little syrinx out – seems like all life was glad to back to normal. A far longer than of recent but still shortened wander round Patch 1 gave us more Robins and Blackbirds and we’re pretty sure we could see not one, not two, but three Peregrines tucked up on the tower! And at long last we’ve managed a count of the Magpies roosting in Magpie Wood. Very cautiously we walked slowly passed trying to pretend not to look up and disturb them – 45 but we could easily have missed a few as it was quite dark in there; still, not a bad count!
At work we put our wellies on and hit the beach to see what the last few days’ storms had brought up. The answer was loads but on the way we found a dollop of Fox doo-doo on the promenade which might go a little way to explain the reason why some of our punters at work have been coming in asking where all the Rabbits have gone.
On the beach the strandlines held vast numbers of starfish and shells. Most of the starfish were Common Sand Stars, but there were also a good number of Cushion Stars and a few broken Brittle Stars. Some of the Common Sand Stars were big, up to ten inches (25cm) across.

Huge numbers of Prickly Cockles were also a feature of the strandline.

Of note was the number of complete Common Otter Shells

despite them being common and easy to find we very seldom find them whole, this is a bit weird considering the weather we’ve just had; you’d think the severe storms would have broken them all up.
One species we came across was one we’ve not recorded on the beach before, Queen Scallops. We found three and each was encrusted with what proved to be a species of soft coral - Dead Man's Fingers - Thanks to our marine biologist friend DB for the ID. 

The same, or a similar, coral/sponge was also seen unattached but in much smaller pieces perhaps broken off but they didn’t look it – thing to the right under the Pod Razor. Stalked Anemones also featured, some were still alive like the one on the left in the pic.

We came across several well pecked fish remains before stumbling over this very fresh Dab

Masked Crabs were quite numerous but undamaged ones were few and far between, this one is a female, easily told by the short chelipeds – the ‘legs’ the claws are on, the males having much longer ones for use in display. The antennae form a respiratory tube when locked together as they are in the pic helping them ‘breath’ when buried in the sand. 

Sea Hearts (aka Sea Potatoes) were numerous but being fragile few were in good condition. They are a species of Sea Urchin but a hairy rather than spiny one; it’s very seldom we find them with some of the hairs still attached.

Apologies for the grotty pics – we never did get round to cleaning the salt spray off the lens. (Have done now).
We also picked up a bulging pocket of sea coal in a matter of minutes; not carbon friendly but it’ll supplement the wood burner over the weekend. There was buckets of the stuff enough to keep the home fires burning for a coupla-three weeks if we’d have had the time and a big enough bag.
Fast approaching heavy rain had us heading back to the office before we could have a proper look out to sea so not a lot of birds were noted. Four Knot with a Dunlin and only two Sanderlings was an unusual ratio of waders. Lots of Oystercatchers, well over 100 and, best of all, our firstargentatus Herring Gull – ye olde gulling season has starteth! Could do with finding one like the one in the first pic here from just down the coast aways.
Lunchtime and the wind had picked up again, nothing too serious but it had made the sea very lumpy on the rising tide. It was pleasantly warm stood in the sun provided we didn’t look to the south and burn out our retinas with the glare off the water. Looking north however the light was very good and we had a decent variety of seabirds to keep us entertained – seven or more Great Crested Grebes, three definite auk sp, of which one was a probable Guillemot, one a definite Razorbill, several Kittiwakes including a 1st winter, at least five Red Throated Divers. 300+ Common Scoters, all very mobile and we'd probably reckon all our counts are under-estimates. Much more like it! Would have been better if we’d been able to stay out another hour or so over the high tide and watch it start to drop.
Where to next? More of the same please!
In the meantime let us know how lumpy your outback is.


Warren Baker said...

I can smell the sea-side air from here Dave :-) lovely :-)

cliff said...

A cracking selection of finds/photos there Dave. The Sea Heart's a beauty, reminds me of a cricket ball.

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Warren - with a couple of days of sun it'll all stink summat awful- thankfully it's not summer!

Cliff - you'd have to be very gentle trying to put a shine on one of those :-)



Anonymous said...

Yesterday whilst at blackpool beach i found a queen scallop with dead mans fingers coral attacthed, also lots of other little findings too, lots of shells unopened and undamaged plus lots of sea snails alive as well :)