Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sometimes there's no need to go far

The Safari checked the mothy this morning and found our best catch of the year within its deep dark recesses - 19 moths of 11 species is hardly earth-shattering but given what we've had so far it's pretty darned good, been if 1/3 of them were Heart & Darts!
The diamond shape is diagnostic
Dusky Brocade - IDd thanks to our chums on Facebook's Lancashire Lepidoptera group
On the path near the trap we spotted a movement in the corner of our eye and bent down to pick up this little chap
Hawthorn Shieldbug
Then when we lifted the trap to put it away until next week look what was lurking beneath
Poplar Hawkmoth       
One remains unidentified - if anyone is any good with worn pugs please give us a clue - we think it might be a Common Pug.
We didn't get out again until almost lunchtime and then we only went across the road to the southern end of the North Blackpool Pond Trail.
The sun shone but the wind was a right royal pain. In the more sheltered areas insects were buzzing about and we saw our first Meadow Brown of the year, a couple of Common Blues and a few Speckled Woods. Just before we left we found three absolutely pristine Small Tortoiseshells on just opening Bramble flowers. The day-flying moths were represented by many Latticed Heaths and a few Narrow Bordered 5-spot Burnets.
We found six Bee Orchids today and were speaking to a lady who had brought her husband to see them after being on the Wildlife Walk in the week she showed me a seventh that still had a tight bud.

Then we got all arty looking for stuff that might be suitable for the wildlife photograph display at work, hopefully we won't have to display any of these as there will be loads sent in by Blackpool's residents and visitors.
A Flesh Fly
A Hawkbit or is it a Hawkweed - any ideas anyone?
Herb Bennet seedhead
A millipede
A wall, some barley...must be Wall Barley ;-)
So there you go a shed load of goodies and none any more than 1/2 a mile (1 km) from the front gate at Base Camp.
For a better look at the pics at full-size check out our Flickr page.
Where to next? Excitement guaranteed tomorrow as we have a school group from well inland on the beach in the afternoon.
In the meantime let us know how far you've had to travel in your outback today .

Saturday, 29 June 2013

What time d'yer call this?

The Safari's mystery find yesterday was identified as Sea Chervil Alcyonidium diaphanum, not a sponge but a bryozoan. Good old iSpot!
Last night the Hedgehog put in a very early appearance at only 8.30, more late afternoon than evening at this time of year! We missed it then as it saw us through the kitchen window but came back an hour later by which time we lost a lot of light...and the kitchen window's mot the cleanest after last weekend's storm.
This morning we were at the nature reserve a few minutes after 05.00. The Grasshopper Warbler was singing in the distance and near the cabins a Lesser Whitethroat rattled away. We waited for CB to return from his net round ready to do the scribing while he concentrated on processing the birds.
This Reed Warbler was the first juvenile of the site of what we hope will be very many.
 Sedge Warblers always look good, even when their starting to fray a little around the edges.
A walk down to see if we could find any Bee Orchids revealed a load of Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Great Tits, Song Thrushes, Reed Buntings and another very showy Sedge Warbler in the ever-increasing Bramble patch.
We found two quite large Bee Orchids. Crikey the vegetation has grown up densely despite the best efforts of the Yellow Rattle keeping the grasses in check - it's all the wildflowers that have gone bananas especially Hardheads and this Tufted Vetch.
At the cabin chatting while waiting for the next net round we had a male Kestrel and male Sparrowhawk go over, the latter was very seriously mobbed by an Oystercatcher - at one point it looked as though the Spar was going to be speared by that blood-orange bill! Had to have been defending young somewhere but the Kestrel was probably a bigger threat to them. Two Curlews flew towards the sea, one was significantly smaller than the other.
We helped do a bit of remedial work to the nets and very unsuccessfully attempted to extract a Dunnock, will need to take our specs next time so that we can see what we're doing!
Back at Base Camp there wasn't much to point the camera at but that's thing with wildlife there's always something of interest if you look long or hard enough.
Ox-eye Daisy with Herb Robert in the background
Ox-eye Daisy with a 2-spot Ladybird...Phone-cam
Close-up with big camera + extra lens
We weren't expecting our next subject. A teneral Blue Tailed Damselfly was chased around the garden until it clung to the laundry hanging on the lined. we thought that they'd all have emerged from the pond by now.
Still with the extra macro lens we struggled to get plant pics in the increasing wind but this tiny Thyme flower-head stayed just about still enough long enough.
After tea we put the mothy out and would you believe it the rain started within minutes! Hopefully it'll blow over quickly.
Where to next? What time will Hedgy appear tonight and will there be anything other than water in the mothy in the morning? If the sun dares to come out tomorrow afternoon we might even have a stab at finding some butterflies, either on Patch 1 or the North Blackpool Pond Trail...or both!
In the meantime let us know what put in a totally unexpected appearance in your outback.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Beat the weather!

The Safari set up the Stealth-cam last night but when we looked out of the kitchen window before going to bed the intended quarry was no where near the camera but tucking into a pile of old  muesli we'd put out on the patio, didn't know they were veggie! We grabbed the normal camera and very quietly snuck outside until we were within a couple of feet of him/her.
This morning we were late in again due to vehicular failure last night and having to use Wifey's car. The weather was simply awful when we dropped her at her work and we didn't hold out much hope of our family group coming out later in the morning.
Fortunately the rain stopped as we set off and although all of us were dressed as if it was a wet weekend in October the rain held off and it was quite mild.
The children soon got their eye in for good finds...
Baby flatfish, only about an inch long, Dab?
Mermaid's purse, Spotted Catshark egg - there's an embryo inside but you can't see it because we didn't spot the shell fragment - it won't hatch as the case is torn.
The main feature of the morning was the huge numbers of jellyfish that were washed up, varying in size from an inch or so across to over a foot in diameter. They were this dense for hundreds of yards and probably similar on the next strandline down the beach too. Tens of thousands have been washed up along the NW coast this week, maybe even millions, not seen anything like this for years, if indeed ever before! Most were the harmless Moon Jellyfish, a few Compass Jellies were found and just a handful of Lion's Manes.
Note nos 2 & 3 trapped in a plastic bag - just right for murdering a turtle
Compass and Moon Jellies found side by side - we didn't place them like that but someone else on the beach earlier might have done
Find of the morning was a ???
 No not the little bug, we know that's an Idotea baltica.

Soft but firm and looked like it had some kind of holdfast,which we're holding so you're not able to see it
We think it's some kind of sponge, one for those clever iSpoters.
Another great day on the beach, hopefully there'll be some good pics of some of the other things we found sent in over the weekend for our wildlife exhibition at work.
Where to next? Could be an early start in the morning, if Frank can be prised out of bed...he's lost two kilos at doggy fat-club this week.
In the meantime let us know what's lethally squidgy in your outback.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Summer's gone again but someone else has returned

The Safari set off up the hill as usual and almost immediately spotted that there was a bird sitting on one of the ledges on the water tower, we hoped it was the long missing Peregrine but it could have been a Feral Pigeon. Nothing for it but take a detour to the base of the tower and have a look from there. Good news! It was indeed the Peregrine back from its travels - but is it one of the two that are being seen in town?
It was  a having a good old shake down and wouldn't stay still which made getting decent pics at long range in duff light a bit tricky.
The first pic is full zoom and a very heavy crop, the second is with the long lens attached and a lesser crop.
It wasn't until this evening when we were going through the pics properly that we noticed that this individual is ringed.
Are either of the ones in town sporting bling? Our marine biologist chum DB now has an office from where they can sometimes be seen so maybe she'll be able to answer that in due course.
This bird has turned up almost exactly a year after one turned up after a lengthy absence last year, 27th this year (might have been there yesterday too) and 28th or 29th last year!
Patch 2 was pretty much D-E-D Dead again this morning, the only thing of note was a Curlew heading north over the surf. 
Heavy rain and an errand meant that we didn't get a lunchtime look. But our errand took us to a mate's workplace where there is some rough ground adjacent and he showed by a couple of nice Marsh Orchids, no idea which species and of course they could have been hybrids - there's a field full nearby but we didn't have time nor, given the conditions, the inclination to have a look; and there was loads of Common Centuary about to burst into flower - shame it's going to be built on soon.
Last night our Hedgehog was right outside the sitting room window as it was going dark but it scarpered when we opened the kitchen door for a pic and hadn't got into range of Stealth-cam.
Where to next? A cold wet and windy session on the beach at the start of Chat Alley with some families tomorrow morning, then the afternoon off to take Frank to Fat-club so we should have time for a shuffy at the North Blackpool Pond Trail Bee Orchids - wasn't able to make their Wildflower Walk last night - - too shattered after all our teaching...coo it's hard work.
In the meantime let us know what's all blinged up in your outback.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Indoors all day

The Safari is enjoying a throat soothing beer after taking almost non-stop all day.
Our sessions at the Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference went very well we thought - we hope the kids thought so too and learned loads.
We were riveting but may be not to everyone - note the yawning young lady far right!
If you're not sure what the connection between a pile of old stones, a gallon of diesel (actually it's water inside - elf n safety n all that) and a freezer bag from a well known supermarket is then you'll have to send a child-spy next year!
Where to next? Back  to the excitement of Patch 2 in the morning.
In the meantime let us know who's been spouting off in your outback.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Little about at the mo

The Safari thought more of you might have had a stab at our picture quiz and we're a bit shocked that the two 'expert' respondents didn't get them both right. The first one was correctly IDd as a Dunnock but the second was our Wren.
We've not had a great lot of time to do much watching of late. A Devil's Coach Horse beetle giving us lip on the path early one morning, all tail up 'come on if you think your hard enough!' at us and Frank combined weight a billion times the little fellas at least.
Yesterday the sea was pretty much D-E-D dead, a Great Crested Grebe was a returning bird and four either Curlews or Whimbrels flying straight out to sea in to the teeth of the gale were unusual.
Today was little better, a couple of Gannets and a few terns, a couple of Commons and four Sandwich, but only passing by, no fishing activity at all. There was a  fishing match going on and the general topic of conversation was the total lack of fish and the persistent easterly winds - rubbish for fishing apparently.
Our Great Crested Newt licence came today so we're able to molest the little chaps for another year, not that we've found many at all this year and not a single egg so far!
Back at Base Camp we spotted a Ruby Tailed Wasp on a neighbours gate-post but by the time we'd parked the car and got Frank out it had done a bunk. Little beauties they are, can never get enough pics of them.
This Spleenwort growing out of another neighbour's wall has been waiting to have its photo taken for ages.

Where to next? No update tomorrow where doing workshops at the Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference for schools, lots of schools - gonna be hard work but a fun day is guaranteed.
In the meantime let us know if anything's happening in your outback.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Where'd they all go?

The Safari has a little quiz for you first up today, two screen-grabs from Stealth-cam, can you ID the LBJs? They may or may not be the same species. Not the Blackbird silly!
Same or different? - what do you reckon?
Sensibly we didn't bother with the mothy last night so had a lie in listening to the wind hammering rain against the bedroom window hoping Frank wouldn't wake up and ask to go out until it had passed - he didn't wake up...phewwwwwwww!
Mid-morning gave us the chance to get down to Chat Alley and have a look at the rising tide - we were very optimistic about seeing something as reports of unprecedented numbers of Manx Shearwaters from further south were being posted on Twitter all morning.
As soon as we put eyeball to eyepiece a Manxie shot through the field of view...this was going to be a good session!
Oh no it wasn't! We struggled to find another dozen in the next hour and a half, our grand total was 10 north and four south along with four Kittiwakes, while others almost within view to the south - just over the horizon - had QUADRUPLE figure counts along with Gannets, skuas, Fulmars etc. No-one seems to have had the hoped for Storm Petrel yet today, maybe tomorrow but we won't be able to get an early Patch 2 watch in unfortunately.
It was a bit rough out there...
The Beach Patrol guys weren't too impressed with this cyclist, they'd been stopping people thinking about going down to the lower level and even had a word with us while we were getting these pics advising us not to go down to 'nearer the action'. There's usually at least a couple of casualties/fatalities a year in conditions like this.
Back in the safety of  Base Camp the wind was still wrecking the garden so we decided to take a look at the now empty Wren's nest by taking a pair of scissors to the defunct and rotting hanging basket they were living in.
Lovely - about the size of a tennis ball.
Whilst doing all this surgery we noticed that the feeders were low so went to fill them up when we spotted this little lady struggling on the ground.
Apparently we should have given her a drink of two parts sugar to one part water in a saucer and place scrunched up kitchen towel on top so she doesn't fall in.
We struggle to get good pics of bees with their dark unconstrasty faces and their often Frank-like nose down posture - might need a ring flash or something to highlight the minor dimples.
Patch 1 got a new tick for the list this arvo. We were doing nowt in particular just looking out of the window at the garden being ravaged by the wind when two terns flew over just beyond our airspace so unfortunately can't count as a garden tick under this year's rules. They whizzed by that fast we didn't get a decent look and we were so taken aback at them but if we had to plumb for any species in particular we'd go for Common Terns on their slender jizz.
Where to next? Only a slim chance of an early look at the sea tomorrow and the high tide is a high one at lunchtime so we'll probably be sprayed off. Might have an evening look somewhere at Chat Alley after picking Frank up from his minders.
In the meantime let us know who's struggling in the wind in your outback