Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Our first low tide for a goodly while

Our first early morning low tide look over the wall gave us 75 Oystercatchers, at least 20 very mobile Sanderlings – how many exactly there were we’re not sure as groups kept flying about all over then running round like mad things, there was at least one Dunlin with them. 21 Redshanks were all that we could find today.
Huge number of gulls fed at the waters edge as the tide stirred up the shellfish wreck from yesterday’s storm. There was a large number of starfish washed up too.
At lunchtime the tide was at the base of the seawall and the beach was fully covered. The recent string of  500-odd Common Scoters was still bobbing about on the waves in similar numbers. Almost all of those in flight close in where moving from north to south whereas further out it was about 75% moving north to 25% south.
More distant gulls were represented by a few Common Gulls and a Lesser Black Back, all moving south. No Cormorants were seen today and where are the Great Crested Grebes and Red Throated Divers?
After lunch a punter came in showing a pic of a dead Harbour Porpoise he'd seen further down the beach way beyond our southern boundary. With a bit of 'luck' the carcass will be washed up on our stretch tomorrow morning after the tides and we can get out and collect it for a post mortem as, for a change, from the photo it didn't seem to be in too bad a nick.
No pic today as the sea wasn't quite as dramatic as yesterday although up to and including the weekend the wind is set to come back with gusto with gusts to 50mph again.
We'll leave you with a nice sunset from a while ago.
Where to next? More seabirds please, or at least more variety of seabirds please - a late Sabine's Gull wouldn't go amiss, nor would one of those, or 'the', Hilbre Island Little Auks.
In the meantime let us know what's skittering around the water's edge in your outback.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Got a bit wet today!

The Safari only had the chance to nip over the road for a  couple of minutes today. The wind was howling and the waves were crashing. It was too wet to stand up by the seawall so we had to lean the scope on the far less robust railings. All we got was a similar number of Common Scoters to yesterday and a Great Black Backed Gull ridin the storm out (also an REO Speedwagon tune - remember them? We'll leave you to find it for yourselves on You Tube) on the water.
With the tide almost full, about another half an hour to go, we shot back for the camera to try to get some pics of the impressive breakers. It wasn't raining when we got back to the wall, but after a couple of shots it started spitting and after a couple more it was torrential and horizontal, we were wet. Juat as we turned to leg it back over the road a huge wave came over the top of the wall - if we weren't wet before we certainly were now. And so it was off to physio to drip in the waiting room - we were so bad one of the staff brought out a 'Warning - Wet Floor' sign!

You'd wonder at people needing to be warned to Keep Out when the sea's like this - often they don't head the warning...either they think they are tougher than the sea or it's drunken bravado...which ever the sea always wins with the inevitable consequence.
A week or so ago qwe found this moth flying around the garden at Base camp - not the best pic - perhaps Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix Pandemis heparana but a very late one - anyone any other suggestions.

Where to next? More wind and rain probably.
In the meantime let us know what's all washed up in your outback.

As a quick aside now might be a good time to think about a purchase of a download of What a Monster Week or a bagful of  Burston Blues to help with the rehab of the injured animals that are going to be brought to Maroo in the next few days. The poor wee mites will need all the help they can get.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Serengeti of the seaside

The Safari was back on a cold and gloomy Patch 2 at lunchtime, the first time in over two months. Not far offshore was a thin string of Common Scoters was sitting around the low tide mark, it might not have been wide but it was certainly a long string stretching well over a mile! How many were there? hard to tell as they were mobile with flocks of between one and two dozen coming past from the north all the time we were there, but probably in excess of 500 altogether. Other than the scoters only Cormorants a Great Black Back Gull and a Common Gull were seen.
Too dark for much to be found on patch 1 but a Peregrine was asleep on the ledge.
Where to next? More from Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's sitting in a long line in your outback - talking of long lines it is good to see that the RSPB/BirdLife International's campaign to reduce Albatross deaths from being caught as by-catch from long-line fishing vessels is beginning to bear fruit in many areas of the Southern Ocean with deaths down around 90%...just need to sort out the atrocious Taiwanese shark finning nonsense now...maybe they have taken note and taken the first positive steps...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Waiting for a train in vain?

The Safari got out for the afternoon on the nature reserve for our last day of 'freedom' - yes we're fit enough to go back to work in the morning :(  We had a few hours to wait before it went dark enough for the Otter(s?) to put in appearance. Nothing for it but to look for something else, particularly as a Smew was present briefly yesterday morning, or even roosted overnight.
Settling down in the Fylde Bird Club hide we witnessed a real humdinger of a Mallard fight that started then they broke off and then went at each other again. This time the bout went on for a good five minutes.

We counted a decent number of Coot - at least 180, half a dozen Gadwall and a lorra-lorra of Teal which were bit flighty in the wind which was gusting to over 50mph at times...still none of those  American Green Winged Teals though. Since our last visit there has been an influx of Pochards, probably the carrier species for the Smew, which we didn't find.
A scan of the east fields gave us a Stock Dove on the barn then a movement in a bush had us looking at about eight Magpies and a few Carrion Crows. As we were looking at those a crow flew past its bright red bill catching the low sunlight and standing out like a sore thumb - could only be a Chough!!! We grabbed the scope but time wasn't on our side as it flew behind the big barn rather than in front and must have landed in one the fields as it didn't emerge from behind the far end of the barn. But was it Chough or just a Carrion Crow carrying something bright red? If any Chough are reported within a 20 mile radius in the next few days we saw it first! Also out that way was a flock of about 30 Linnets.
With the light starting to fade we nipped down to the other end of the reserve to get ready for an Otter-fest. Frank found a ball and had a little play but then got tired and needed a lie down.

Whilst waiting the gulls started to pass through on their way to the coast and with the mostly Black Headed Gulls we found an adult Mediterranean Gull, this was after moaning to MMcG that we hadn't seen any decent gulls here for ages, he couldn't remember when he'd last seen a Med here either!
There must have been more Linnets out in the fields as two flocks of at least two dozen and a smaller one of about a dozen birds each flew to roost somewhere to the west. A dozen or so Collared Doves in bits and bobs also flew past going to roost, there used to be a substantial roost in the zoo, wonder if they are still there...
PL and a couple of others were waiting on the Viewing Platform and we saw camera flashes so they might have been in luck or were just getting pics of the pair of Goldeneyes or Shovelers that were over there - either way we didn't see any Otters.
This was the scene as we were waiting - for those that haven't been before look for the small Willow tree that the sun is picking out and scan a hundred yards left and right of here as that seems to be its favourite area.

Where to next? Back to work...but that does mean that Patch 2 will come back into play - might even be some late seabirds after the blow we've been having.
In the meantime let us know who was battling in your outback.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Braving the elements?

The Safari had every intention of nipping out to the nature reserve for a couple of hours Otter spottin this arvo but totally bottled out when the weather turned for the worst. 
Earlier we'd been out before the lashing rain started for a short wander with Wifey and Frank. Not a lot doing but we came across yet another arty autumnal scene that was worthy of pointing the camera at.

Pity the sun wasn't out to catch the intense purple of the Dogwood stems by the bench.
We came across yet another flock of Long Tailed Tits but didn't bother pointing the camera at them today.
A fallen log was home to a sizable colony of Stag's Horn fungus. 
Didn't see the spider's webs in real life, but then our eyes aren't as good as they used to be.

Looks like a tiny miniature version of the aftermath of this. In all probability the Refuge may have some new arrivals requiring tender care in the near future. To help indirectly you can always download the story wot we rote to your Kindle device as a proportion of the proceeds will be donated to the refuge to help with their vital conservation work protecting some of the world's rarest species. 
Where to next? Even worse weather is forecast tomorrow but we hope to get out and check out the very high tide at the southern estuary followed by more Otter spotting if we aren't too cold and wet by then.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Safari was out on a windy Patch 1 again this morning. No Peregrines, unless they were round the back out of the wind.
Everyday we pass this disgraceful pile of snotty grass dumped in Magpie Wood. It now covers about 10% of the woodland floor. Gonna kick up a stink about it with our local Councillors next week when we get back to work. We can already guess the excuses - too expensive to take it away, nowhere else to put it, there's too much to put anywhere else....etc etc...Well get it out of the best habitat on the estate is our reaction...trouble is the great unwashed, even - or perhaps especially - the posh clean ones that live here, see bright green cut grass as 'nice' while Brambles, Nettles, Figwort, Foxgloves (poisonous!!!) are untidy weeds!!! The Robins, Dunnocks, Wrens, and Blackbirds that nest in there don't see them as weeds!

There used to be Grass Snakes here until they built the houses on their habitat, but even if they were still around the stinking rotting mass is on the shady side of the wood - well you wouldn't want it up by the road would you - so the snakes probably wouldn't have used it anyway!
In the park the Long Tailed Tits, at least 15 today, gave us the total run-around but at least Frank sat patiently while we edged from tree to tree trying to anticipate the next direction the flock would take - all to no avail.

This was the best we could muster, don't think it's as good as yesterday's even!

Then he saw or got wind of something and was off...
And after running round like a mad thing trying to keep up with a totally barmy Springer Spaniel he plonked himself down and refused to move for 10 minutes.

Unlike yesterday bird life was hard to come by with the exception of the very annoying Long Tailed Tits. So as sort of promised here's a pic of the as yet waterless waterfall/cascade thingy - should be impressive when it's going full pelt.

Then we found this - evidence that either a Tiger or Bear has been living in the park sometime in the not too distant past, the tree is about 50-60 years old and the top of those claw scratches are about 6 foot 2m off the whatever made them had to be around in the last 1/3 of the tree's life, or the last 15 - 20 years...ooohhhh errrrr hope it's gone now...

Less scary is the cutesy little mammal that left this sign - one was even seen burying the fruits of its labours in the footy field bit of the park...that was until a certain dog got wind of him and made him scamper for high  cover at breakneck speed

Did you guess what it was?...of course you did!
On the way back to Base Camp we spotted a decent fungus growing in a neighbour's lawn...not long after leaving a comment on Dean's blog that we are devoid of interesting mushrooms and toadstools here. Tried to get a pic but leaning over their fence with the camera had the curtains twitching - tomorrow earlier if it's still there and hasn't been blown over in the gale we're having at the mo.
Then we spotted one of greatest bugbears, even more worserer than snotty manky grass cuttings - waste of electricity. No-one home, broad daylight and the not at all necessary anyway ornamental lights are still on - WHY??? Ask them if they want a new Nuclear Power Station building up the road and you can probably guess they'd say NOT BL**DY LIKELY MATE!!! Well turn the flamin things off then!!! And the rants about wind turbines we've seen recently would have you thinking they are the devil's spawn...

At the nature reserve in the afternoon we sat for 2 1/2 hours in the cold windy hide known locally as Ice Station Zebra for an Otter no-show :(
This Blackbird has been hanging around one particular section of Brambles for at least three years.

 On the water were good numbers of Wigeon, at least 25 (good for us at least), occasionally interrupted by Coots causing mayhem.

 Dreadful light though...

Where to next? Not sure about tomorrow but deffo something on the cards for Sunday.
In the meantime let us know what didn't show in your outback.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Art for art's sake

The Safari is a firm believer in the 'fact' that there is no such thing as bad art. Some art might not be very interesting to you, or indeed many people at all, or may be difficult to appreciate and some might be just down right weird but none of these necessarily make the work bad.
So without further ado we'll crack on with a fairly arty post for today with a snippet or two of wildlife thrown in.
A breezy day but quite bright in the morning had us reaching for the camera after a trip to the compost bin at the bottom of the garden had us passing this newly opening Rose.
With the fairly pleasant conditions a mid-morning mosey around Patch 1 was called for. Passing the tower we saw there were two Peregrines and whilst looking up at these we could hear a Goldcrest in the conifers behind us.

Their favourite ledges are just a bit too high up for our camera. Having said that these are the lowest ledges anyway.
In the park the light was good and we happily snapped away for well over an hour. These Cotoneaster berries are just begging for a flock of Waxwings to find them.

Then we did get all arty and had the thought "what is the quintessential part of autumn?" Obviously it's the leaves changing colour and falling off the we set about trying to capture that moment - not easy!!! In fact bally dang difficult!!! We'd go as far as to say it proved to be almost flippin impossible! But feint heart never won fair photo as they say so we persevered, the other dog walkers must have thought we were some kinda nutter throwing leaves up and pointing the camera at them only to say shagmfagmgnagm....rrr...rrrr and other expletives followed by a minutes worth of beeps from the camera as pic after pic was deleted. Yet our dogged persistence paid off and in the end we got this sequence - hardly spectacular but we hope it captures the essence of the season.

Easier to get was a pic of our favourite young Beech tree catching the low sunlight nicely framed by the twin trunks of a Sycamore tree.

Easier still was this pale flowered Fuchsia bush, when we were kids we used to call them Dancing Ladies.

The park has a superb water feature which is in the process of being restored to it's former glory. There is a high pond with a runnel leading to a ten foot (3m) waterfall into the larger lower pond - we've never seen it working but it ought to be spectacular. We just hope that when it is in full flow the local brain-dead don't empty a jar of Fairy Liquid or bubble-bath into it like they do with monotonous regularity with the small version at the start of Chat Alley. Today there was no water just a fall of golden leaves.

If you think that's not a 10 foot+ drop you're right, the main fall is just out of shot to the left, this is the stone edging to the lower pond.
The bird-life in the park gave us the run around. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard a couple of times but not seen, several Robins made their presence known by their singing and we counted at least 10 rather mobile Blackbirds not really being allowed to settle by the numbers of people and dogs around - how much energy must they waste through disturbance?
A mixed flock of tits contained mostly Long Tailed Tits, at least eight; unfortunately they kept high up in the tree-tops and stretched our patience to bursting point - once again almost triple figures of deleted shots and this was by far the best, hardly brilliant but you can just about make out what it is...can't you?

With lunchtime looming we headed back through the Butterfly Zone and found this Drone Fly, one of the Eristalis species of hoverfly, probably Eristalis pertinax. At first we tried to get him in flight but he was having none of it, he'd allow a fairly close approach but by the time the camera had focused on him he'd buzzed off. After a little game of chase me - chase me the sun went in and he landed on a bramble leaf. But with no sun and a lot of wind-shake the pics are quite sharp enough...dohhh

To finish we'll leave you with an autumnal view of the Butterfly Zone. The central stag-headed tree is one of the ones favoured by the White Letter Hairsteaks in the summer and indeed featured in some of the pics of the aforementioned species a few short months ago.

Nice to see a blue sky without aeroplane con trails
This arvo we went back to the nature reserve a little earlier than yesterday with the specific intention of having a look to see if the Short Eared Owl was still about - it might be but we didn't see it. Then it was up to the opposite end to stake out the Otter and Bittern. One out of two ain't bad, we had a bit of a wait but the Otter showed really well, so well it could almost have been doing a top hat and cane dance routine! Our Extreme Photographer is now on a serious mission to get proper top quality pics of the beast which isn't going to be easy as it is normally at about 400m range. However, he has a cunning plan - watch this space.
Where to next? More of the same tomorrow arvo we hope.
In the meantime let us know what's been performing to an admiring public in your outback.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Can I swear???

The Safari would like to say b*gger - why? We've just found out about this that was trapped, ringed and released while we were there!!! We were sat next to JW counting the Little Egrets coming into roost, and earlier we'd seen his car parked up where he punts off down the dyke to the ringing sites - OK it was too late too look by then but someone could have mentioned it to us while we were there - couldn't they? AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH - fortunately the chances of seeing it were probably slim to remote as not even the Bearded Tits were playing ball but it would have been good to get two Lifers in a day...wonder if there's enough time to get 10 for the year? A feat not achieved since either our earliest twitching days or perhaps even earlier than that! Could have done it if we'd been able to get to the coast during the blast that was Hurricane Katia. We're on eight which is still more than the last decade combined! 
Later in the afternoon, towards dusk even, we set off to the nature reserve. As we pulled up this Kestrel was hovering only a few yards away but it was already too dark for decent pics by then.

We scanned the edge of the reedbed along the far bank . Not a lot a few Teal, a couple of male Goldeneyes with  a female some way apart from them and the ubiquitous Coots. Then after about half an hour we saw a larger shape in the water, much bigger and more solid than the last of the Water Lily leaves blowing around in the stiff breeze - Otter - RESULT!!! We hung around waiting for it to reappear, it didn't but we were joined by MJ and ML. MJ left ten minutes too soon because as we were chatting to ML a little later a  Bittern flew over from the Viewing Platform area and landed in the reeds just to our right, only the second one ML has definitely seen here in 20 or so years!
Other odds 'n' sods amounted to one, possibly two Sparrowhawks, a small number of small Starling flocks all heading towards the pier, no murmurations here now :( , and a few Blackbirds coming into the nearby Blackthorn thicket to spend the night in the safety of the thorns.
The waterfowl started moving around, the Canada Geese, Teal and Gadwall were seen to leave to find their favoured feeding areas and flock of four males and a female Shoveler landed right in front of us. Also arriving to spend the night on the water was the free flying flock of Barnacle Geese, no more than two dozen now (used to be 44) from the zoo, their higher pitched yapping calls easily heard over the noise from the many more Canada Geese.
We didn't see the Barn Owl as we had hoped nor were any Woodcocks seen leaving their daytime roosts.
With the light totally gone it was time to point the Land Rover at the rush hour traffic and head for home with a big broad smile.
Where to next? Back tomorrow in all likelihood - well with that on offer it would be rude not to!
In the meantime let us know what you filled your boots with in your outback.

Published at last - like a real author!

The Safari is now a bona-fide real-life published author. 
After many tens of rejection letters from publishers on all continents (except Antarctica), but not as many as J K Rowling, we have now been able to self-publish thanks to the wizardry that is e-books and those amazing pageless reading machines the Kindle...whatever one of those is - the future apparently!
We wrote the story a couple of years ago whilst recuperating from yet another hand operation and after a few tweaks we believe we've developed a good read. 
The amazing illustrations have be drawn by our good friend and former work colleague James McLean.  
In addition a proportion of any royalties we make (hahaha)  will be donated to Maroo Wildlife Refuge in Western Australia where they do sterling work helping conserve some of the world's most endangered wildlife and where inspiration for a significant part of the story came from.
So with Christmas coming up and all those children receiving their new Kindle machines why not download this as their first's only a few quid.
Chapter One

A day at the lake

It was one morning early in the summer holidays and although the weather was warm it was still raining.
Peter and Hannah were playing upstairs, Mum was home doing the laundry... again, Dad was already at work.

Peter was getting impatient with the weather he didn’t fancy spending the whole six weeks of summer indoors. He liked to be outside. “How much longer is this awful rain going to last” he thought. He was getting bored driving his virtual Ferrari F1 around Silverstone for what seemed like the seven hundred and ninth lap. Despite all this practice he still managed to race down Hangar Straight to fast and spin off at Stowe Corner most laps. 
Peter was good at computer games but really preferred to be playing outdoors in the open air.
Suddenly Hannah burst into Peter’s room “it’s stopped raining!” she cried, “the sun has come out at last.” Peter had missed this exciting event, as he hadn’t yet opened his curtains. “Let’s ask Mum if we can play out.” Hannah went on.

“Everywhere is still wet,” said Mum, “and stay away from the lake it will be very muddy around the edge, mind you don’t come back filthy dirty like last week. The washing machine nearly spat your clothes back out at me last time” she joked.

Hannah and Peter lived in a house with a little garden, which had a shed, a bit of lawn, a few bushes and a small pond. There were no fish in the pond but every spring frogs and toads appeared from nowhere, or so it seemed. They spent ages watching the tadpoles develop into miniature frogs. Once, last summer, Hannah thought she saw a newt peering out from under the waterweed at them. 
She put her hand in to catch it, but no luck; it just vanished....

A little later...

 "Look! What could have made a track like that?"

To find out what mischief Peter and Hannah get up to and the adventures that follow you'll have to read the rest of the story which is available for download on Kindle here 
If your children like it please leave write us a good review on  Amazon. 
We hope it will inspire children to look at their local environment, be that out in the sticks, the cosy suburbs or even the concrete jungles of inner city centres. Wherever they are there is wildlife to found, appreciated, enjoyed and in point the second bird we heard in the darkness of the not-so-leafy suburbs here this morning were the Peregrines stretching their vocal chords even before the Blackbirds had got out of bed...they didn't beat the Robins though; we're not actually sure if Robins ever go to sleep...
We have already started the sequel just in case sales go well ;) ...but where in the world will Hannah and Peter end up and what will they find when they get there???
Where to next? Small matter or some very interesting wetland wildlife to get to grips with later this arvo...if it's not too windy that is - the trees in the garden here at Base Camp have just started shaking somewhat excessively.
In the meantime let us know how many copies have been ordered in your outback.