Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Three posts in one day - WHAT IS GOING ON?

The Safari snuck out with the long lens after tea to have a blast at Jupiter - never been able to do that before and we had a modicum of success :-)

Not sure if it's a bit of dust on the lens or if there's a very faint moon between Ganymede and Callisto but a little to the left of the straight line alignment of the 'big four' - any astronomers out there able to shed a bit more light on this?

Two posts in one day - what's going on!

The Safari has been able to get out on Patch 1 again this evening and there's even MORE Frogs and they've made EVEN more spawn!
We soon lost the light under the trees.

All good fun and a big thanks to Frank for deciding he wanted to go Fox sniffing again.
Where to next? Same as before applies.
In the meantime if anyone knows how to cut out the grotty bits using Movie Maker we'd be grateful - it's probably easy but got easily confused by the snip tool :-(

Still as grey least in the morning

The Safari was encumbered by a very plodding Frank this morning but we did get as far as the small field on Patch 1 only to note that there were no Peregrines on the tower. All the usual suspects were singing heartily including a Wren not far from Base Camp; somewhere in a neighbouring garden which was good to hear.
During breakfast we thought we heard Grey Lag Geese calling but a quick dash to the window only gave us a few Herring Gulls, we weren’t really concentrating so could have mistaken the yakking of the gulls for the honks of geese. However, one of the Peregrines was seen to be sat on the tower’s wide ledge.
At Patch 2 it was another grey, dismal, no visibility start to the day which was a shame as the sea was as flat as a silvery carpet and for a change counting the Common Scoters (well those we could see) was easy...247.
The beach was disturbed by fishermen, bait diggers and dog walkers and there wasn’t much out there; a handful of Oystercatchers, a couple of Sanderlings and nothing of note in the three dozen or so gulls.
Behind us a pair of Pied Wagtails danced around calling loudly.  
Fortunately by lunchtime the mist had cleared and we had a stunningly clear view around the bay from the Welsh hills to the Lakeland fells. We were now able to get a reasonably accurate count of the Common Scoters, c5000!!! They stretched in a fairly narrow band right round the horizon a couple of miles or so out. Apart from a few Cormorants we couldn’t see anything else with them. Until that is we picked up a Grey Seal (mammal #9) fairly close inshore but so distant we couldn’t see it with the naked eye.
Looking southwards with the Lennox Rig off Formby across the far side of the estuary. The black dots are some of the Common Scoters btw.
 Looking more or less straight out, due west. We sailed the other side of this rig at the weekend.
 Looking west north west to the first meteorological mast.
Looking north west to the second meteorological mast with Walney windfarm in the distance beyond.
 The invisible to the naked eye Grey Seal - honest!
Back in the office we took a call on our mobile and lost the signal _ the office has really dodgy reception – so went outside in  - - - wait for it - - - - - the sunshine!!! – and found the most bizarre thing...
Did you spot it?
 In one of the raised planters was a dead Hedgehog. Now was it put there or had it climbed up looking for somewhere to hibernate and not been able to dig itself far in enough down. Never seen a Hedgehog here before and never had one reported in the six and a half years we’ve been working here – seen a Fox, an American Mink and a Grey Squirrel (no trees for miles!) but never a Hedgehog.
Then it was off to the north end of town to meet a colleague and mark out the position of a new pond.
The area had already been ripped in preparation for tree planting in a couple of weeks time.
The ripper had pulled some nice pieces of Bog Oak out of the ground, these will be used as a feature/wildlife shelter in the new pond. A couple of bricks were found lying around and turning one of these over revealed a colony of Gammarid Shrimps lurking beneath. They weren't happy about being exposed to the  light and bounced around all over the shop trying to find a dark corner to hide in.

This was the largest piece a little over 6 feet (2m) long and about 18 inches in diameter (45cm), whether or not it is actually Oak or another species - well you tell us cos we don't know!
Where to next? Anything could happen tomorrow - we've got a late start followed by a long lunchtime session at the 6th Form College.
in the meantime let us know what's buried just below the surface in your outback.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A bit on the busy side with a bit of a bonus later

The Safari didn't get far with Frank this morning although we did come across a Frog, a different one to the one whose ar*e Frank sniffed last night.
With persistent drizzle at first light we didn't even think about going over the road on to Patch 2. The day was filled teaching a full on school visit so we only had a very short time on the sea wall. We needn't have bothered as a very thick low mist blanketed the world. A hundred or so Common Scoters was all we had, no sign of the recent Scaup and Velvet Scoters, TBH the Loch Ness Monster could have been doing a hat and cane dance routine two hundred yards beyond the scoters and we'd never have known.
After work a certain dog decided that he wasn't going to play ball but have a full blown trip round Patch 2 for a (to us) a very refreshing change, particularly considering it was still light. 
About thirty Magpies were in the pre-roost trees at the Butterfly Zone, where we heard but didn't see a Long Tailed Tit.
We risked taking him past the top pond (the bottom one has been drained over the winter) and we're glad we did. There were at least fifty Frogs and a MASSIVE dollop of spawn...we have sneaky plan for some newt surveying later in the spring.
A Song Thrush sang from the Golden Triangle and there were Dunnocks and Robins aplenty but no sign of the Peregrines on their sleeping ledge.
Where to next? Hopefully the fog will have lifted a bit tomorrow and we'll get a better gawp at the sea.
In the meantime let us know if the frogs are getting fruity in your outback.
Sorry no light and little time for pics today.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Oh deer a shortage of Shorties

The Safari headed out mid-morning to the site where a couple of Short Eared Owls have been hanging around for a while now. It might have seemed like a strange time to go owling but they were seen yesterday at lunchtime so after a night of rain we thought they might be hungry and up and about at that time again.
It was a mild enough morning as we wandered up and down the tracks keeping an eye on the rough ground either side. Two Buzzards called noisily to each other and then gave us a short display flight.From the pasture beyond the far end of the rough we could hear a Curlew exersizing its vocal calls but not quite doing the full bubbling call; one of the best sounds in nature anywhere in the world IOHO. A flock of six was seen to briefly rise above the trees possibly flushed by the Buzzards
Meanwhile a few Skylarks went over calling but we didn't hear any song form them - ditto about  their sound!
A mooch round a bit of a wet area flushed two Snipe and a little later we had a flight of 12, then another, so a max of 15 or a total of 12? Splashing sounds from a small patch of open water here gave us several amorous Frogs some of which had contributed to the rather large blog of spawn in the middle of the pond, our first spawn of the year.
Leaving the little boggy patch we noticed the dark tipped ears of a Brown Hare as it slunk away unsuccessfully trying to remain unnoticed - think Frank smelt it too as his nose was twitching in that direction.
We had another wander up and down the banks of the dyke hoping that the Shorties would show themselves but it was to no avail and as the wind was picking up and  spots of rain were in the air we decided that any self-respecting owl would now be staying cosy in its roost...time for some lunch.
It just so happened that our route back to Base Camp took us past the Hooded Crow site so we stopped for another look - nothing again! But we did call in at the farmland birds feeding site round the corner. Here it started raining quite heavily but we had a decent numbers of crows to work through - nothing :-( and two distant Buzzards sat on adjacent posts along a fence-line. To our right near the farmyard a Song Thrush sang and in our bins we picked up a singing Skylark hovering over a distant field, we could just about hear its song with strained ears as the wind was blowing the sound away from us.
Scanning through the corvids we saw a group of four Roe Deer appear from behind a hedge and start grazing in the open on the stubble field about 500 yards away. Brown Hare and Roe Deer were only added to the year list yesterday and then both seen again today - almost weird?
Carefully we went back to the Land Rover for the camera and took the following pics - not the world's best of Roe Deer but at that range in the rain they ain't too bad!

Did you spot the Magpie?

Shame the Carrion Crow in the top corner wasn't the Hoodie
Also seen today were the first Blackthorn flowers of the year and the first fresh green shoots covering a roadside Hawthorn. 
Where to next? The Common Scoter-fest that is Patch 2 beckons tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what's putting in appearances on consecutive days in your outback.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chance of a bit of a catch-up?

The Safari set off for the South-side just after dawn yesterday morning, in fact we were going to cross the river at the southern end of the South-side through the delights of the Mersey Tunnel.
On the way we saw a Brown Hare (mammal #6) in the field at the motorway intersection that usually has a Roe Deer or three, but not today, don't recall ever seeing a hare in this part of the world  before and will report it to the North-west Brown Hare Project later. At the beginning of the third motorway of the morning we had two Jays ((117) fly over us. A single Buzzard was seen still roosting in its overnight spot in a tree close to the carriageway.
We ended up on the Stena Feronia at Birkenhead Docks on our survey for Marine-life. As we entered the bridge with out team-mate we had a superb view of Liverpool's 'Three Graces'...

From left to right they are the Liver Building, adorned by the Liver Birds ie Cormorants or characters in a 1970s sitcom, the Cunard Building (with the Pier Head and Mersey Ferry the Royal Iris beneath) and the Port of Liverpool Building. There is an ambitious plan to redevelop a major part of the derelict docks near this UNESCO World Heritage waterfront but provided they 1) don't affect the fantastic Seaforth Nature Reserve, 2) don't over-power the Three Graces and 3) do build structures that will be iconic in their own right in a hundred years time we can't really see a problem.
The voyage started as the tide rose and we were the only ship going against the flow of traffic coming into the port.

The red tanker is the Hanne Knutsen a full 235m long and 40m wide weighing in at 123,500 tonnes bringing oil from the Norwegian oilfields half way between the Shetland Isles (location of corrupt 'what quota' fishermen) and the Norwegian coast. As we write it has been off-loaded is is back out on a two day sail for another can follow its progress here.
Quite fun was counting the Cormorants and Herring Gulls on and around the buoys marking our route out of the river mouth as we passed at about 20 knots
You did get the fourth one didn't you? We'll have to check our record sheet to make sure we did!
As we exited the river mouth our captain told us that in recent days he had seen up to three seals hauled out on the sandbank on the port side. Time and tide wait for no man, least of all Marine-life surveyors and today the tide had flooded the bank and they were nowhere to be seen.
Once out in the open sea we started to pick up a few small flocks of Kittiwakes, two of which also held Little Gulls which were good to see. Before too long we'd also picked up the first flock of Razorbills (118) too. These ended up being far more numerous than Guillemots.
As the highest peaks of the Isle of Man loomed of the horizon our team-mate called a Harbour Porpoise very close to the bow of the ship - we completely missed it :-( . But the nearer to the Isle of Man the more and more Gannets (119) we began to see, so many that we didn't think they would be back in such numbers this early in the year, a small number of Fulmars (120) also started to grace the record sheet.
Counting the Cormorants (or at this distance they, or some of them, could have been Shags) on Chicken Rock at the southern-most tip of the Isle of Man was still proving challenging...

Did you spot the Great Black Backed Gull?
Leaving the Calf of Man in our wake we pressed on towards Belfast.

With the hills of Eire as a backdrop we watched a distant Gannet being hounded by a Great Skua (121) which must have been successful in its piracy as the Gannet continued on its way but we didn't see the skua after it dropped down towards the surface of the water. Not long before our final sighting of a small flock of auks as we approached the harbour one of the crew told us he'd just seen a Harbour Porpoise from the other side of the bridge. Only a few minutes after that it was too dark to identify identify anything else unless it was right on the bow...time for a well earned hearty supper in the Officers' Mess.
We docked back in Birkenhead at dawn after an on-board sleep-over. Three Buzzards were quickly spotted once we had left the city streets behind (passing very close to the hallowed ground of Goodison Park but we couldn't stop for a photo as we a had a taxi right up our ar*e :-( ).
At the motorway junction where we saw the Brown Hare on the way out there was indeed a Roe Deer (mammal #7) happily grazing just a few yards from the racing traffic.
On our third and final motorway we had another Buzzard sat on a tree but not much further on a sad sight met our eyes, A few hundred yards before the bridge over the canal we saw a dead Barn Owl lying on the hard shoulder. As bad luck would have it there was second dead Barn Owl no more than a few hundred yards on the other side of the bridge too, two in less than a mile isn't good :-(.
Yet another Buzzard was entered into the memory banks as we pulled off the motorway totally confusing Satellite-Annie (not sure why we still had the sat-nav on as once we were out of the confusing dock area we knew our way home) in search of a recent split. A Hooded Crow has been hanging around the fields not far from the Mother-in-law's so we took an early morning detour. Trouble was we only saw one flock of corvids and they were nowhere near the 'usual' place the Hoodie has been seen in so no 'armchair tick' for the Safari today.
Whilst relating our nautical adventures to Wifey we spotted a Long Tailed Field Mouse (mammal #8) shoot out from under the garage door (where it had no doubt been chewing something it shouldn't) and dart into the log pile.
Where to next? A day off recovering from all that standing and concentrating tomorrow so a short safari somewhere could be on the cards - we'll see what's been seen today before making our mind up.
In the meantime let us know if anyone is singing 'Hooray and up she rises' in your outback

Friday, 24 February 2012

A four tit day

The Safari was thwarted by the weather this morning. we had hoped to get out and about but by the time we were ready to rumble a solid wall of heavy drizzle had arrived...and we weren't going out in that, how disappointing. So in the gloom we set about a few jobs round Base camp whilst keeping an eye on the feeders and the weather. Before too long a pair of Long Tailed Tits arrived. Not the worlds best pic but we put it in as proof for our marine biologist friend DB as we were chatting yesterday about Lotties in the garden.
Taken at full zoom without the telephoto through the rather dirty and wet kitchen window.

The feeder situation is rather interesting in that we have changed supplier back to good old Wilkinsons for  our sunny seeds from Pets at Home. 
The birds deffo prefer the ones from Wilkies, maybe they smell better or they can detect a higher fat content. 
Anyhow the mesh feeder took ages to go down with PaH sunnies but was the favoured feeder today even over the standard tube with portholes filled with the same seeds. Only three of the four Greenfinches that arrived with a solitary Goldfinch used the porthole feeder, the Goldfinch was on the mesh with the other Greenfinch.
As there was a bit of activity we put the big lens on but it was a bit too dark

After lunch, by which time we had other jobs to attend to and it was too late to go out the flamin sun came out!!! Isn't that always the way! We got a few minutes outside without the telephoto - what a difference a slightly shorter distance and no window combined with a bit of light makes.

With Long Tailed Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits in the bag we were quite surprised to see a Coal Tit appear and grab a sunny seed. Whilst on the phone to the Rangers, who had seen a Red Admiral today, we saw two Coal Tits do a lightening fast raid on the feeders - very nice; paired up already and probably going to nest in the park again. It's not often we get a four tit day!
Other garden spots included two Blackbirds and a Collared Dove, and an unseen singing Dunnock was heard from a nearby garden, along with a slightly less welcome visitor a queen Wasp, hope she's not thinking about making a nest in the garage.
The pleasant afternoon sunshine brought out a flurry of Winter Gnats dancing over the pond, wonder if there'll be any Frogs in there to night; again the Rangers had seen Frogs, Toads and a trodden on Smooth Newt this morning.
Where to next? A full day's safari with a difference tomorrow but you wont get to hear of all our exciting stuff until Sunday.
In the meantime let us know if the weather was against you in your outback.
Cute pics of last weekend's Ring Tailed Possums can be found here...all say aaahhhhh...
And Monika is racing into a very commanding lead in our year list challenge...all say's a wonder her notebook is big enough to put all those new species in!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

So Sad

The Safari is about to rant about Blogger and span – not the delicious tinned pork/ham combo! The recent default for comments with the two words to recognise is doing our crust!!! We don’t stand a chance if we’re not wearing our we felt that if it’s like that for us it must be similarly annoying for others. So we set about finding a cure and happened across a lovely man in a camper van in Utah who had found the simple way of disabling said word ID. Without further ado we followed his instructions but now are inundated with flippin spam for the first time in our 3 ½ year blogging career (has it really been that long? Musta riten some awful rubbish in that time!), often on posts from way back when so at least someone must be still reading them. So for the time being comment moderation has been activated until we can reactivate the two word thingy and then you’ll have to make sure you’ve got your specs handy; if you leave a comment it may be a few hours before it pops up.
Frank behaved enough for us to do the residential part of Patch 1 this morning and we had a three thrush morning with the Mistle Thrush being heard ‘off patch’ in the distance across the school playing field. The Song Thrush at the Golden Triangle was silent but we did have our first Wren singing on this part of the patch this year from there...just woken up from vocal hibernation or new in from elsewhere with the recent mild weather? The warm damp overnight conditions (a full 6 1/2°C above the February long-term night-time average for Blackpool – last night was actually warmer than the long-term daytime temperature for February) brought out a couple of Leopard Slugs which were spotted making their way back to their hidey-holes in the garden walls after a night-time’s feasting on the grass verge. Further round, as we approached Magpie Wood we saw three Magpies fly over our heads so they were likely to flighty and difficult to count as they were already awake. Coming round the corner we could hear a lot of chatter coming from the tree tops. Counting was indeed difficult, they were hard to see in the gloomy light and as predicted very mobile and easily disturbed – we got about 60 which we thought was a pretty good effort.
At Patch 2 we counted a mobile 200 or so Oystercatchers trying to feed on the rapidly being covered by the rising tide strandline from yesterday’s rough weather. Also there were two Knot and 62 Sanderlings...we’re hoping for a Ringed Plover but they seem to be avoiding our stretch of beach at the moment. Deffo need some new year birds soon as Monika is compiling a serious lead on her hols in California.
At sea the same flocks of Common Scoters sat close in and it was too murky to be able to tell in all those involved with yesterday’s exodus had returned to their stations.
Today was the day that the dead Otter was to be collected by the Environment Agency to be taken to Cardiff for its post mortem. The Ranger had collected it from the cold store and kindly brought it down to show us.
What a beast! It was 50 inches (127cm) from nose to tail and weighed in at somewhere between 17.5 and 20lbs (c8kg+). About as long as Frank (55" including his snout which an Otter doesn't have) with a tail a little longer but just as thick at the base and a little over 1/6 of his weight (or 1/5 of his ideal weight!!!) – all in all a big animal, apparently about two years old.
The fur wasn’t as soft and smooth as we had imagined an Otters would be it felt fairly coarse. The most noticeable thing was the tiny size of its ears for an animal of that bulk and what big whiskers it has...stands to reason that whiskery touch sense will be more important to a submarine hunter than hearing though.
High tide at lunchtime didn’t give us any photo opportunities with he long lens – was hoping that some of the Common Scoters might heave been sat within range.

 After work we needed fuel so headeed a little past Base Camp with a master plan in mind. The flooded field opposite the Supermarket/filling station had a fair few Shovelers on it, uncountable as we were approaching a very busy  junction. After emptying the contents of the wallet in to the land Rover - HOW MUCH a gallon!!!) we headed another couple of miles north to Fleetwood Dog Toilet (aka the Nature Park) where the lovely and long staying Ring Necked Duck has been re-sighted in the last few days. Pulling up at the pool and grabbing the bins it was the first bird seen and the nearest one to us. RND (116) in the bag! We fumbled together the mighty lens kit but it was with a few shy Pochards and all set off at a pace to the furthest side of the pool leaving us with only this poor record shot.

A proper pic can be seen here.
Where to next? Day off tomorrow with a bit of a Frank-free plan.
In the meantime let us know who's regurgitating all the spam in your outback.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


The Safari didn’t get far on this morning’s Patch 1 walk, Frank spent most of his time upside-down point blank refusing to go any further – he really is becoming a lazy and very defiant dog! We did see something a little out of the ordinary though. As we were waiting for him to finish YET another frutching-about-back-rub (is there no end to them???!!! – it’s all a ploy to go no further and head back to Base Camp for his  breakfast sooner)  on the grass verge a Song Thrush appeared on the top of the hedge only a few feet from us which was very nice to see. Once again it was the Dunnocks whose voices were most noticeable in the darkness.
By the time we set off for work the rain had started and it was still very gloomy. We did risk a quick shuffy at Patch 2 after a particularly heavy downpour had passed over and were lucky enough to have a few minutes watch without getting wet.
In the distance there was a very shimmery wobbly heat haze, more reminiscent of July then February and in general the low grey cloud meant visibility was poor and the choppy sea driven by a stiffening wind made counting the Common Scoters a no-no.
With nothing else about we were seconds away from giving up and heading back over the road for a warming cuppa when we saw a huge flock of scoters lift off the sea and head south. We couldn’t make out anything that had made them do this and it was soon obvious there were far more out there than we first imagined – they just kept coming and coming and coming...counting in ‘50s’ as they past we got to an estimated 2500 before they started to dwindle to a trickle. In all that time only a couple of small flocks were seen to go northwards. Wonder what the ‘signal’ was to make them all move like that? An exodus to where were and what were were they going to do when they got there? A Grey Plover flew past close in over the top of a small flock of Common Scoters which didn’t seem the least bit interested in moving off to join the massed ranks.
The rain started so back it was for that warming cuppa but it was deffo well worth staying out for those few extra minutes to witness a real (if distant) wildlife spectacle.

In other news our Year List Challenge ‘arch-rival’, Monika , is currently on a trip down the west coast of the USA stopping at San Luis Obispo, between ‘Frisco’ and LA. She’s only just got off the train and already raced ahead in the challenge from the comfort of the carriage! Wonder if she’ll visit our own personal wildlife refuge  while she’s in that part of the world. Whether she does or she doesn’t this year’s challenge looks like it’s going to be an interesting one as we may have a trip or two up our sleeve for later in the year when we might be able to play catch-up....if not we think the technical expression is “we’re stuffed!”

Where to next? More of the wet and windy same.
In the meantime let us know if anything is on an exodus from your outback

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A slow sort of a day

The Safari’s mystery gull turned out to be a Herring Gull due to the wide white trailing edge to the secondaries and broken tail-band – really shoulda known that! Looks very dark on the mantle for a bog-standard argenteus but from the little we can see the head looks too clean for an argentatus at this time of year. It’s hard this gulling – you think you know something and then you find out you didn’t at all!!! Maybe Wifey will let us join this gulling event at Moore next month although we are in the planning stages of going there with our birding chums from that part of the world anyway.
Patch 1 was Dunnock city this morning – has there been an influx or have all the shy and retiring males come out of vocal hibernation? They seemed to be everywhere even to the extent that they were out –singing the local Robins.
A wander round Magpie Wood gave us a reasonable count of 46. There must be another roost nearby cos when we were in the park the other evening we counted at least 60 moving through the leafless trees making their way towards Magpie Wood – unless there are far more in there than we can tell at that time of the morning.
The tide was rising rapidly on Patch 2 and only one small sandbank was left uncovered by the time we reached the wall. 146 Oystercatchers were roosting on it but their time was nearly up! It wasn’t long before they had to abandon ship and join the couple of thousand others over our southern boundary where the there is no sea wall and the tide doesn’t reach so far up the beach although today’s tide is quite a big one so they will be forced to find somewhere else if they are to avoid the lunchtime doggy disturbance. Wilful or reckless disturbance of birds on an SSSI/SPA/Ramsar Site should be an offense but you’d never get the doggy people to change their ways unless a few dozen of them ended up in prison for few years each. “Little poochy is only ‘playing’ with them he’d never harm them”
Out at sea visibility was once again very poor due to low cloud. Close inshore there were only a couple of hundred Common Scoters that we could see in the choppy conditions. Besides a handful of Cormorants heading towards the estuary there was nothing else about.
At lunchtime the sun was out but that just made everything beyond the near-middle distance very hazy. The same few scoters were close in but further out we could make out the numerous white spots of gulls at a shoal of fish. We couldn’t see any mammals with them. The only excitement occurred when a Red Throated Diver flew past the feeding frenzy.
We had a look for the Sea Slaters but they were in hiding well out of sight.
Back at Base Camp the nights are drawing out enough to be able to have a bit of a mooch so we looked for some subjects to try the new lens on. Had to raid the compost heap for this Brandling.

In the absence of anything else we found a tiny piece of grit on the bench amongst the Pleurococcus, the thin green film that coats your wooden garden furniture. The piece of grit is about the size of a pin-head.
Gonna be fun when the inverts wake up...hopefully we won't be on 1/30th sec by then either.

Where to next? Really hoping for more visibility on Patch 2 but got a feeling it's gonna be windy!
In the meantime let us know what's slithering around your outback.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Not something we wanted to hear at all

The Safari took Frank around Patch 1 yesterday late afternoon. To our surprise, and Frank’s great joy, a Fox was sniffing around on the rough grass of the Butterfly Zone...not for long though!!! Poor Frank had no chance of catching up with it as soon showed him a very clean pair of heals and vanished before his very nose into the Bramble thicket...well you’ve never seen a Labrador do so much sniffing and scent marking after that, a full ten minutes worth of back and forth following his nose! Nothing else of note was seen or heard there.
Patch 2 this morning on the rising tide gave us about 500 or so Common Scoters on the very choppy sea but no sign of yesterday’s Velvet Scoters or Harbour Porpoises :-(
On a much smaller theme we did see two Sea Slaters, one tucked up in a crevice where we rest the scope and the other trundling across the promenade walkway – have to say it’s quite a while since we’ve seen one on the seawall...always nice to make a re-acquaintance.
Once back in the office we had an email from the Rangers with some very sad and disheartening news. Some time yesterday the Waste Services team were called out to dead animal on the roadside by the big park, only a few yards from where we were photographing the Herons on their nests the other of the Otters from the nature reserve had been killed by a car as it tried to cross the road.
The corpse was taken to the deep freeze and will be sent for a post mortem, the animal was an adult male so perhaps it has already mated with our female...fingers crossed. Otters don’t have a breeding ‘season’ as such.
A few minutes before lunchtime the Posty delivered a rather large package. Hidden in the depths of the bubble wrap were two goodies...a super-macro conversion lens and at the other end of the scale a 2.2X teleconverter. A quick play with the macro indoors – that ‘M’ is actually 2mm tall 
Ultrat-macro with new lens
 Super-macro straight off camera
 'Normal' camera

– then it was out onto a very grey and dingy sea wall to see how the teleconverter would fare...nothing else for it but to wind it up to full whammy and blast away at some gulls; they are all a minimum of 30 yards away. The melee at the water’s edge pics are about 70 yards away. All pics are hand held...looks like another bean-bag like the one we have for the scope will need to be made to make sure there’s a bit less wobble in the pics.
Black Headed Gull
 Herring Gull
 Redshank - a  bit blurry but they were running around all over the shop
A random melee of feeding gulls formed at the surf, these were a long way off! Keep your eye on the one bottom left as it moves across the group.

Any ideas yet?
Looks to us like a 2nd winter (3CY) Yellow Legged Gull we've fluked on to there...Nerd Forum will no doubt give us the answer later.
Not sure about the BiF shots, did them on rapid fire mode but can’t quite seem to get the focus just right ...bit of sunshine giving a faster shutter speed and smaller aperture might help there.
Herring Gull with a full belly giving the 'long call'
 Lesser Black Back Gull also with a full tummy

Then the rain started so it was a quick dash back inside before all this new-fangled equipment got wet.
Where to next? No matter where we get to, although it’s hardly likely to be anywhere other than the patches, it’ll be cold, wet and very windy.
In the meantime let us know what runs the risk crossing the roads in your outback.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Ring tail in the sitting room!

The Safari was asked by our  'Pool' match-going companion what the score would be before the big game yesterday. We predicted 2 -1 in favour of Everton, no doubt he wasn't happy about that response, and we would have got it right had KP not missed a penalty in the dying minutes. Not that it probably would have done Blackpool any good anyway as there might not been enough time left to force an equaliser. 

Everton could deffo do with a good cup run culminating with winning the competition and Blackpool won't be too upset being able to now fully concentrate on achieving an automatic promotion place...starting with a good home win against West Ham Utd on Tuesday night please.
Facebook 'friend' DD posted that it was 'only a game'! WHAT??? In the words of the late great (even though he was of the 'wrong' colour) Bill Shankly, "Football's not a matter of life or death - it's  more important than that!"
Disaster happened when we discovered that the poles delivered for our engineering project were a foot too short - sure we ordered 9 footers not the standard 8 foot that were delivered! So we could only get the footings in...tomorrow we'll have to argue the toss with the supplier and see if he'll trade the short ones for the right ones without adding to the price!
At lunchtime we had a nice surprise. This chap Skyped us...his face is covered to protect the innocent and vulnerable...and from what you can see you'll understand why!

However he was kind enough to bring two gorgeously cute Ring Tailed Possums within range of the webcam. Wifey returned from a shopping trip just in time to see one of the little wee beasties across the thousands of miles via the wonder that is the interweb...thanks J :-)
No other news from today other than an early morning Sparrowhawk that nearly took our head off as he whizzed across the garden when we were hanging laundry out; garden tick #23.
The feeders have been all been cleaned and refilled with quality sunny hearts for them to enjoy tomorrow.
Last night we had a bash at spotting Jupiter as it was shining very brightly over the water tower. Great scope views - wound up to full mag we could see some of the bands of coloured gas that encircle it and four of the moons...might even try to get a pic later in the week if we can work out the required settings, shutter speed etc on the camera. It wasn't only Jupiter that was visible in the scope - even in the darkness at 23.00hrs we could pick out the shape of the Peregrine fast asleep on its ledge on the tower!
Where to next? Back on Patch 2 tomorrow but we're not sure how far round Patch 1 Frank will get, he was a bit stiff after his beach exertions.
In the meantime let us know what the cutest animal was in your outback today - bet whatever it was a can't out-cute baby RTPs!!!