The Safari is issuing a RANT WARNING; those of a nervous disposition should scroll down to the pretty pictures later in the post.
We had an evening soiree planned with the crew from the South-side and for that we'd need some 'baggin' (aka 'snap') as we'd be setting off before tea-time, so Wifey headed to the shops for pies n stuff and returned with a copy of the local paper...we NEVER get that...bear in mind that 8th June is always World Oceans Day...have alook at the front page...shocking!
WHAT??? A seaside town without seagulls??? You really couldn't make it up! Not only that the town's crest/coat of arms has a seagull slap bang in the middle of it!!!
A classic case of if there's a problem blame the wildlife and get rid of it, no matter that the river catchment for our beaches contains probably well over a million people all putting lordy knows what down the drains. The gulls thrive because of the vast amounts of litter that are left...by humans; and have learned to rip open plastic bags of rubbish put out overnight by the countless takeaways...get up earlier and out it out just before the refuse wagon comes in the morning. Some days the drive to work looks like Litter Armageddon just happened. The lads do sterling work picking it all up but they don;t start til 06.00 and the gulls are up n at em around 03.30 now. They are just taking advantage of our sloppy, lazy ways then get all the stick - WRONG we're supposed to be the clever ones, time to get a bit cleverer - or a lot less lazy...and to any tourists out there...you obviously like coming herree so why sh*t the place up with your crap when you leave - bin it or take it home done't leave it on our streets you dirty b******s!!!
But which species is going to get it in the neck next; arre there too many seal and porpoises pooping in the sea, will they have to go too, what about the fish - oh there aren't any the trawlers have got rid of that problem for us, then there's 10000+ waders on the saltmarshes all pooping away that'll wash onto the beaches...get real, there's nothing wrong with wanting clean wholesome bathing waters but there are limits and we should be looking closely at ourselves first before pointing fingers at innocent wildlife.
By the way the sea is not dirty - its much much much cleaner that it was 20 years ago and orders of magnitude cleaner than in the resorts heyday when visitors were like ants on the beach - you really didn't want to go in the water then! Probably cleaner now than for any time in the last 100 years, it's just that the new EU regulations are stricter..and so they should be the sea is NOT a dumping ground!
Ahh dumping that brings us nicely on to rant number two again associaterd with World Oceans Day and our unsympathetic, unsustainable and downright callous use of wildlife.
We went to the beach to find it full of families enjoying the beautiful sunshine. The sand was golden, the tide was in ( and clean!) the big boys were playing with their toys.
Frank had a little play with his ball and a paddle
and in the midst of all this a fisherman had been digging bait and chucked away wait he didn't want/couldn't use...no thought of not digging so many Lugworms or taking them home and freezing them...no chuck em and get some more - what a waste! And then fishermen often have the audacity to say they are 'guardians of the environment' well a few might be but a fair proportion aren't.Speckled Sea Lice will take ages to eat that lot!
The previous night's moth trapping was the best of the year so far with two moths and two caddisflies succumbing to the lure of the UV light.
Another, more normally marked, Scalloped Hazel and a Bee Moth along with two individuals of Mystacides longicornis.
Eventually evening came round and we picked up our Extreme Photographer and headed down the motorway to meet up with the gang, from where we followed their lead to our site for the night.
And what a site it is, somehow we've never been there before; 85 ha of mature woodland surrounding a remnant lowland mire - beautiful. We were taken up to the tower hide by the Ranger and were duly impressed with the surroundings. So much so that we spent so much time taking it all in we totally forgot to get the camera out! A Buzzard flapped lazily at eye-level and away over the trees while a Yellowhammer looked for all the world like a Canary in the scrub below us.
A train rattled by in the distance beyond the far trees on the world's first ever railway line between built between two cities.
The central part of the reserve is former peat workings, manually extracted by hard work rather than machine cut like the illegal turf cutting going on in Ireland at the moment.
The Rangers have been busy creating bunds and blocking drains over the last 20 years or so in an attempt to rewet the peat and it's working
They've also been removing encroaching scrub and invasive non-native Rhododendron all of which is having the effect that Sphagnum Moss is regrowing and the area is once again become an active raised bog...gonna take a long long time to get it back to pristine but the longest journeys start with the shortest of steps...and more importantly it doesn't take humans long to undo what Nature took thousands of years to create!
In the low evening sun the Cotton Grass was looking splendid
In areas were mire vegetation was becoming well established Round Leaved Sundew was found in abundance, this one had caught an insect (arrowed) despite being rather smothered in Cotton Grass seeds - an occupational hazard here we would imagine.
But it wasn't the plants we had come to see, here's a clue...
Now what might live under refugia like these???
We got a Slow Worm under an early lift, close but not close enough! Then a few lifts further on we connected with our quarry for the evening - an Adder! our first in Britain - - at laaaaaasssstttttttt!!!
Too quick for a pic on this very warm evening. The warmth somehow hadn't brought the dragonflies out and we only saw one 4-Spotted Chaser all the time we were out so there were none of the hoped for Hobbys that are a specialty of the site.The Ranger lifted more tiles for us until at last another Adder and this time it stuck around just about long enough
Shame about those two grass leaves right in front of her face. getting pics wasa nightmare, the light under the tiles was dark but all around was bathed in strong low sunlight...we pitied the poor camera - our Extreme Photographer might have got a much better shot from a slightly different angle - we'll wait and see what he sends through.
An excellent evening our with the Hesitant Weasel (that's him in the white t-shirt above) and crew and thanks to all involved especially the Ranger for taking the time to take us in to this normally out of bounds part of the reserve. We'll certainly be visiting this most very excellent site again and aren't sure now why we've never been before - been missing a treat!
And it wasn't quite all over, after dropping of our Extreme Photographer back home we tired but happy drove the lat three miles and waiting at the last set of traffic lights we had a Peregrine fly over going to its roost site in the town centre followed by about half a dozen Swifts - good end to a perfect evening especially after all the earlier rants - all is not lost keep up the good work folks!And we got three Kestrel records for the current survey...please take part if you can.
Where to next? Another hot day so we probably won't be out with Frank til it cools down a bit and we've got chores with a paint brush to do in the garden so news from Base Camp is quite likely - what will we find?
In the meantime let us know where you have been missing in your outback.