Saturday, 23 November 2013

Living legends

The Safari is having minor computer problems and everything is taking 10x as long as it should so please bear with us.
On Friday morning we  had the last of our Year 6 classes out exploring the habitats near their school. It was much colder than previous visits and the chances of finding invertebrates was a lot slimmer so we had a wander down to the nature reserve. The sun was out and we had a look at the mere and the reedbeds. It warmed up enough for inverts to come out and be found and the class found loads of stuff. The inverts were good but what on earth is this snotty stuff - a Slime Mould
Look at that child's dirty hands; no fear of mud there - legend!
We saw two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Sparrowhawk flap flap flap glide-ing then a super fast stoop - not long after mentioning why the House Sparrows hide in the thick Blackthorn scrub - brill!   
We also showed them the old Bumble Bee's nest which now everyone has seen it much of it was taken back to school for a closer look and we got a couple of pics of a bee that didn't make it - any ideas? Unusual blue hue to it's abdomen could be a clue to its ID.
One child surpassed themselves by bringing a leaf with a mine in it saying 'what makes lines like this - it looks like it's been eaten' - great observation.
Then they all went yuk when we held it up to the light and showed them the frass inside...they loved it really.
Great stuff! And great youngsters none of them were in the least bit frightened of mud and dirt.
Later in the day we went with Wifey to see a real live living legend - Bob Dylan. Never thought we'd ever get to see him when we bought his albums over 30 years ago. To be honest we haven't heard any of his recent stuff - recent being since Slow Train Coming in 1979! Vocally he'd never get past Barlow, Osbourne, Walsh and Scherzinger in this day and age but what do they know he's only sold 60 million records in a 50 year career, not bad for a little wizened old man. He said nothing to us, just stood there and sang but was totally captivating, his rocky version of All Along the Watchtower combined elements of his original and Jimi Hendrix's awesome cover and brought the house down.
Today we had an early start but slept in! We wanted to get to the NW Bird Festival early but ended up going to the coast on the Southside first instead. Driving along the marsh road we kept an eye out for the Ross's Goose, is it dodgy or not the camps seem to be split 50:50 - that's the trouble with geese!  From the moving vehicle we didn't see it. Scoping up we wandered back down the road having a scan of the marshes every few yards. First bird seen was a Great White Egret (188), still three behind Monika and not much chance of getting to our target of 200! A Sparrowhawk had an unsuccesful dib at a couple of Snipe. Lots of Pink Footed Geese were out there but there was no sign of the Ross's Goose. We somehow manged not to see the Long Tailed Duck either that was seen earlier on a tiny unfrozen pool with a few Pintail - how'd we manage that?
So off to the bird fair we went where as soon as we got through the door we bumped in to Young Uns AB and JS.
A mooch around the exhibits had us mentally spending thousands, melting the credit card even but we resisted all temptation. We were on the look out for something unusual or unique that Frank could spend his pocket money on for Wifey's Christmas (there we've said the 'C' word) but there wasn't anything suitable, there could be an opening for a birdy type jeweller/crafts-person next year.
Of to the wildside and the hides it was. The light was a bit weird not bright but not dull enough to prevent squinting and shadowless but not flat...nothing for it but to set the camera to auto and hope for the best!
A selection coming up...
Grey Lag Geese coming in to land
Pink Footed Geese whiffling in
Drake Pintail
Who cares where the food is!
Female Pintail
Male Ruff
Tawny Owl - best view we've had of one for many years!

We went to the lecture on the Red Breasted Goose conservation scheme in Bulgaria by local wonder-boy and soon to be legend Kane Brides for whom we've been recording colour-ringed Coots for for some time - keep your eyes open for them some of them go further than you think! Look out for his darvik ringed Black Headed Gulls too.
50% of Red Breasted Geese have been lost in only a few years, now there are less than 1/3 the human population of Blackpool. If we can't protect something as beautiful as this gorgeous and very obvious goose what chance have we got for species that no-one sees or aren't particularly pretty and the worst of it is the decline could be at least halted if illegal hunting could be stopped...isn't that the case for too many species these days...what is it with the need to kill things...OK so some/many of theese may well eb eaten but they shouldn't have been shot in the forst place and the people doing the shooting know this only too well. With KB and his colleagues on the job things will surely turn round.
We had a quick chat about an idea for a project for which he's already put out tentative feelers and if (BIG if) it comes off will be the pinnacle of our conservation career - wish him well and cross as many fingers as you can manage. Don't have a time scale yet could be next year could be five could be 25 but watch this space!
More bird fair pics tomorrow.
Where to next? We're back to more normal haunts tomorrow but with a possible twitch and maybe some blubbery action too.
In the meantime let us know who's illegally hunting what in your outback.

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