Monday, 31 March 2014

Mega at work

The Safari was unable to much wildlifing yesterday as we had family duties instead. In our parent's garden the sun shone and the butterflies were out in force. Small Tortoiseshells were the most numerous followed by Peacocks and then a few Commas. All very welcome after the seemingly interminable winter even if it has been a mild one.
We met up briefly with IH who had motoring problems and wasn't able to join us for the pecker jaunt. He'd had a good morning close to home with two Barn Owls and a Short Eared Owl on his local patch. As we strolled round the block a couple of Meadow Pipits flew over the roof-tops which are apparently scarce there. Before we'd set off from Base Camp we saw a small flock flying over (Garden #22).
This morning we didn't get much a chance to look at Patch 2 and at first we had a little panic as it was the first time we'd seen, no = zero, Common Scoters but then we found five - phew. Later we found a few more, about 90 all told but still significantly fewer than of late - it was pretty misty though so there could have been more further out.
Talking of Meadow Pipits there were nine grounded on the back lawn when we got back inside, an unusual occurrence, it's very seldom that they come down here, too many dog-walkers and maybe too little habitat to feed them although these looked like they were finding stuff out there.
At lunchtime we took a call from former Ranger LR who was having a reasonable morning at the nature reserve with Sand Martins dropping in all the while. As we were chatting we noticed a small bird sally out of one the small shrubs in the work's garden - it had a sort of Redstarty feel to it although it's a bit early and we didn't see any red. Going outside we saw it do the same again and was able to sneak up slowly on it...only a flippin Tree Sparrow (P2 #46) the first we've had hear since we started on site in 2004 and only rarely seen away from the local farmland hotspots.
Where to next? Day off tomorrow with a couple of target species and locations, doubt we'll be able to top this lunchtime's mega though.
In the meantime let us know who put in an unlikely appearance in your outback.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Can always take Moore of that!

The Safari had a very early start this morning, as soon as Frank had been walked and breakfasted we fired up the Land Rover and headed south for our annual jaunt for a meet with our mates of old and a special little bird.
On the way we spotted a Brown Hare, our first live one of the year, then a solitary Shelduck on a flood in a roadside field. The main motorway was dead Pheasant carnage but we were somewhat relieved not to see any Hedgehogs lying on the hard-shoulder, either they haven't woken up yet or there are no so few of them they are no longer showing up as roadkill. A large dead Badger near our destination reminded us we haven't seen a live one for far too long.
We arrived early but one of our comrades was still in the radio studio doing his monthly slot so we had a bit of time to kill. Nothing for it but to go and have a look for the target species to see if we could nail it down for the late comers.
Only one person was in position but he was photographing a displaying Wren so we left him in peace and had a wander a little further down the track where we saw several patches of beautiful Primroses.
Coming back we saw that an organised group led by recent returnee from an amazing trip to Extramadura, Spain (with our compadre AB ), JC . Before long someone gave the cry "up there!" Everyone spun round and there it was, a male high in a dead tree and it started drumming - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (122) - well chuffed but would it stick around long enough for our late arriving chums to see it too?
There wasn't a great lot else about, a Chiffchaff sang sporadically and we wee put onto a Willow Tit (123) calling behind us but none of the group were able locate it finding a nearby Treecreeper instead.
We left the group to continue their tour and went to wait in the car park for the rest of the gang to arrive. It took them a while but the wait provided us some exceptional views of a Jay in the woods and then flew into a tree which also held a pair of Magpies and a pair of Carrion Crows, three corvid species in one tree!
A chat to a birder who had finished his rounds revealed an Iceland Gull had been on the river earlier and they were now arriving at the arby tip - we must have looked at well over a couple of thousand coming in without finding a white winger amongst them. The day 'looked good' for a passing Osprey and every time there was a little more noise than normal from the gulls we scanned hard but only ever found the local Buzzard.
The others turned up so it was time to have another go at the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but sadly we had no luck. We shudder to think how many hours we stood motionless on those few yards of path over the years, must be well into double figures now!
AB suggested me drive down to the far end of the reserve to have a look at the reedbed, on the way the first pool we passed was seething with gulls - of course we screeched to a halt - you didn't expect us to go straight on past did you? As we came to a halt they were spooked by something unknown and most left leaving just a few to search through.
Nothing outstanding apart from a nice almost white winged 'argentatus' Herring Gull with only small flecks of black on the closed wing tip.
All of the water was packed with gulls when we drew up this is all that remained after what we think was a Buzzard flushed them, could have been a Peregrine we didn't see as a pair is apparently nesting nearby.
At the reedbed a tame Robin entertained us.
We tried to tempt it with some breadcrumbs laid out on the top of our flask which it liked but wouldn't stay still long enough for a pic. Eventually it took the cheese from our butty and was never seen again?????
Across the reedbed we had a couple of Sparrowhawks going north and a superb Buzzard perched on a snag nearby but was very annoyingly flushed by a Carrion Crow milliseconds before the auto-focus had locked onto it - so no pics.
A few Sand Martins (124)were picked up high over the water but they didn't stick around and a single Swallow was missed by us.
Time to go back for another motionless stand on THE track, throwing our gear in the back of the Land Rover two if us simultaneously saw and called 'Brimstone' - our first properly ID'd butterfly of the year.
At the Lesser Pecker track by far the best sighting of the day was had, a day-flying Noctule Bat which hawked over the tree tops for about quarter of an hour.
Again we gave it a while but then gave up and went to look at the feeding station where this little fella turned up.
Two species of woodpecker for us today but no Green Woodpecker, they usually at least give us a couple of yaffles when we visit here.
A change of tactic saw us sneaking round the back of the Lesser Pecker wood to confuse it. On the boardwalk we had a couple of Peacock butterflies and a really bright Comma. At our usual waiting place another tame Robin was performing to the patient crowd and a couple more Brimstones were enjoying the warm afternoon sun, but STILL no mini pecker for our crew...nightmare.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back north.
Did we get a pic?...yes we did - mid drum!
What a great day full of laughter, tales of wonder from Extramadura...if you haven't been - GO we'd love to having heard what we've heard today and raking up wacky wildlife memories from the last 30 odd years - is it really that long??? Liked the 'fell asleep and out of a tree while Badger watching' tale the best - you've all done that - right?
Where to next? Mother's Day duties tomorrow so no safari-ing.
In the meantime let us know which patch of ground you spent hours motionless on in your outback.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Quick round up of not a lot

The Safari has been a bit disappointed today after yesterday afternoon's excitement. But all is not despair and despondancy. Early doors a Heron (Garden #22) flew over calling 'Frannnnkkk' as we lay in bed waiting for the alarm to go off. Not a bad start to the day getting a garden tick without even getting out of  bed - great these 'rules' aren't they.
We came down to earth with a bump when we arrived at work to see a deceased do killed Rabbit on the front lawn, we've moved it out of general sight under the hedge in the hope that a Fox will sniff it out and carry it off, remind us to let you know if it's still there on Monday.
Yesterday we had a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers sitting on the sea which is good 99 times out of 100, and not seen anywhere near 100 at Patch 2 in all our years watching, they are fly-bys.
Today all we could muster in pretty good flat calm conditions were a Great Crested Grebe and a closer than normal Red Throated Diver in the morning and a Grey Seal miles out at at lunchtime. 
All day long we were seeing reports of Wheatears and local-ish Ospreys and dearly wanted to get out but couldn't. We got a report of two at the nature reserve and one lucky so-n-so witnessed a fall of 29 Wheatears right in front of his eyes a few miles up the coast. We kept an eye on the back field and an ear open for gull commotion but noting was forthcoming.
After work we needed to get fuel for tomorrow's safari so stopped off at Chat Alley on the way...sadly not a sniff of a Wheatear, bet it was crawling with them earlier in the day.
Sorry no pics today, camera hasn't come out of the bag.
Where to next? Our annual safari south of the South-side tomorrow  with a particular target species and much mirth and merry making to be done - well you shouldn't take this birding m'larky too seriously should you! Although we won't be very merry if we don't find a Wheatear!!!
In the meantime let us know what's giving you the run around in your outback.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

An afternoon on the waves

The Safari was invited to join our local radio station in the big park to talk about the heronry and other wildlifey matters along with RH who we've never met before although have conversed with electronically a few times recently.
We had a bit of time before we were on air so we went to check how many Heron's nests we could count.
On the way round we saw a severely wind damaged tree from the recent storms, it has a certain something about it - hope it doesn't get 'tidied up' its full of micro-nooks and crannies for all sorts of mini-beasts to exploit and it's got a sackful of character.

There were over 30 nests but some won't have been in use. Another was on the other island in the lake.

The do look somewhat incongruous all legs and neck stood in the outer boughs of a tree.
Slightly less incongruous sat up a tree are the Moorhens around the margins of the lake
We almost missed this one sitting tight not far away through the dense lakeside vegetation.

Continuing round the lake something dark floating at the edge of the water caught our eye, it turned out to be a dead Cormorant. We wrangled it out on to the bank and saw it had a ring - but no head! Where's that gone? Why do we always think the worst and fishermen was the first thought we had. The bird was minging but nothing we grabbed fell off and we tried to prise the ring off but the metal was too rigid to open the joint with our fingers.
Shortly afterwards we met up with the show's presenter and his assistant who offered her hand but we warned her we weren't being rude but she'd probably be better not shaking hands. Cooo it was a bit wifffy.
After we'd done our first stint over the air-waves we went for another wander back to the Cormorant to see if the old friend and Mute Swan molester, CF, who we'd not seen for many years had found the corpse and recovered the ring.

The path along the waterside passes underneath our favourite branch in the whole park, there aren't many this mossy.
RH wanted to get some pics of the Gadwall, dunno if he got one but they were very skittish and sailed out of range as soon as anyone stopped walking and stood by the water's edge. They are a very bonny but extremely under-rated duck, both the males and the females. They even feature here as 'unfairly ignored'.
Really!!! How could you ignore these vermiculated beauts?
There were very few gulls on the lake today, being a cool mid-week day and out of the school holidays there  wasn't much food being heaved in for them and the ducks. However one Black Headed Gull hung around hopefully.

A commotion broke out across the lake as a male Mute Swan laid in to the juvenile from another pair.
Well that was enough...father came to the defence of his offspring even though he'd probably been trying to get it to leave for the last few weeks so as he and Mrs Swan can get with this year's business
As the light faded we had a little play with the park's Grey Squirrels. They are very tame if you have food, keep still and there's no dogs around.
Another quick chat on the air finished our most enjoyable afternoon away from the desk, we were pleased to be able to give the big park and its fantastic wildlife a good plug.

Once back at Base Camp we got an email from our Extreme Photographer with a couple of pics he'd taken recently. The first of a Dunnock on his garden feeder, something that seems to be becoming more frequent.
The other pic was of a Great Tit he'd taken a few days ago in the big park. Not quite sharp but he sent it for its fun value.
My wings are like a shield of steel - your bullets cannot harm me!
Where to next? Today was our median date for the arrival of Sandwich Terns we've redcorded them on this date in three of the last five years...none out on Patch 2 this morning, will they be there tomorrow?
In the meantime let us know what the parklife's like in your outback.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A pond visit today

The Safari saw a Grey Seal on Patch 2 yesterday but not a great lot else. This morning was a little better with calmer conditions but no blubber just a fairly close Guillemot, a distant Red Throated Diver and some passing Meadow Pipits - still no Wheatear for us! 
At the end of the day we took advantage of the dry conditions and had a visit to one of our more difficult to access sites for the first time this year. The vegetation is still in winter mode but the tripsy Brambles were still out to get us. We couldn't see anything that would specifically tell us that the Water Voles had been active, a little grazing lawn on the little island (centre left on pic below) looked to be most suspicious but the grass was nibbled straight across rather than at the 45 degree angle more diagnostic of Water Vole feeding activity.
We walked the circumference of the pond without seeing any thing of note. The land based refugia held no reptiles or amphibians but we did find two too speedy Short Tailed Field Voles. One of the slabs in the water had a large Frog underneath but upto then we'd not seen any spawn. There were no pond plants large enough for Great Crested Newts to lay their eggs on. An unusual 'thing' caught our eye, no idea what it was it looked like something you might find in the deep sea rather than a pond, didn't get a good look but it appeared to be transparent with a few symmetrical bio-luminescence we weren't dreaming there was something there - honest 
Almost all the way round we found this pondweed, any ideas we're not good with aquatic vegetation.
It wasn't until we 'd got all the way round before we found any Frog spawn but when we did there was a little more than plenty.
Where to next? Off to the big park to talk about Herons tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime let us know what the mystery creature was in your outback - ohh if it was a mystery you won't know...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Foxy info required

The Safari was out on a very chilly Patch 2 this morning looking at the beach and sea but apart from the usual gulls and Oystercatchers there wasn't much about until a tight flock of about 15 Grey Plovers flew past. A few minutes later a male Eider flew south over the top of about 300 Common Scoters bobbing about in the chop in the middle distance. A small number of Meadow Pipits were heard passing high overhead
By lunchtime the wind was as cold as it's been all winter, it was brassic out there and we didn't last long and saw naff all apart from the Common Scoters and a couple more Meadow Pipits inclucding one coming directly towards us 'in-off'.
Behind us the Bloomfield Bear, 'Pool's' mascot was being videod dancing around under the mirror ball.
Yesterday while our Extreme Photographer was up the ladder and we were trying to get the best angle for the pic of it from the patio we spotted that one of our Foxgloves is peppered with holes from the munchings of some unknown nibbler.
Our first thought was the bonny little moth the Foxglove Pug but we're now educated to the fact that they chomp on the flowers not the leaves. So does anyone know what wee beasty is responsible?
We also spotted a Tree Bee fully laden with pollen disappearing in to a hole in the brickwork above the kitchen door, cracking news, hopefully we'll be able to get some pics of them coming and going in a few weeks time. 
Where to next? More chilly Patch 2 in the morning probably.
In the meantime let us know who's making all the holes in your outback.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Back on dry land

The Safari had a nautical adventure yesterday. An early start saw us in the port of Birkenhead across the river from it's bigger and more illustrious sibling Liverpool. Bang on time our ferry departed its berth and we started our seabird and mammal survey from the bridge of the ship once the captain had maneuvered the vessel in to the middle of the river and pointed it towards the open sea. There are often Harbour Porpoises to be seen in the river but sadly not today.
Once out of the shelter of land the open sea was rough. The conditions not really conducive to finding sea mammals but a selection of seabirds made the most of the wind Kittiwakes and other gulls were careening this way and that and wasn't long before we saw our first Gannet (118) of the year. This part of the Irish Sea is crawling with Common Scoters but the ferry's route must be just outside of their favoured areas as we only saw two parties of three.
Rain showers obscured our view out of the windows with monotonous regularity, a few small parties of mixed Guillemots and Razorbills were seen but nothing liked the huge autumn flocks which contain all the juveniles and of course many will have perished in the storms. A Fulmar (119) cruised past, the first of several.
As we approached Belfast the sky broke in a series of sunny spells and hefty hail showers giving us epic  dramatic skies to enjoy.
As the water narrows towards Belfast harbour there is the hope of Black Guillemots and today was no exception with three of the little stunners seen (120). A good flock of Common Scoters were here to and deep in the harbour a pair of 'normal' Guillemots nearly got run over by the boat. By now it was nearly dark and this pic was taken at just 1/20th of a second so a long way off sharp.

The only mammal we saw was after our survey had finished and the boat was turning to reverse onto its berth. Facing back the way we'd come we saw a dark shape in the water which was one of the harbour's regular Harbour (aka Common) Seals.
Today we had a lazy chilling day after all the concentrating yesterday but we did have a good reason for waiting in. Our Extreme Photographer had told  us he had something for us...a new bat box....and he'd be round later in th afternoon to help fit it.
Great stuff, we're well chuffed - all we need now are some bats.
While the ladder was out he had a look at our Swift box before they return for Africa but it looks like it might be on its last legs. A Great Tit has been roosting in there and left the gaff in a bit of mess - squatters ehh a real menace!
Where to next? Back to our land-lubbing Patch 2 version of sewatching tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's been sneaking in where they shouldn't in your outback

Friday, 21 March 2014

Hope you didn't think we'd disappeared

The Safari has hardly been able to get out for the last few days we've been that busy. A few minutes on a couple of occasions over on the seawall at Patch 2 haven't produced anything of any note, choppy seas have prevented accurate counts/estimates of the Common Scoters and yesterday we only saw two gulls on the beach, yes that IS correct, just two whole Lesser Black Back Backed Gulls on the vast expanse of the low tide beach...what's that all about, about 225 mixed gulls today but there was a shellfish wreck. The only Common Gulls we saw were three heading north just over the tide-line.
Mid-morning we made a refreshing brew and spent two minutes watching the Rabbits nibbling the lawn outside the office window -that's about as good as it's been for us of late. 
Yesterday a struggling male Common Scoter was on the beach, we watched it waddle into the water but it came straight back on to the beach so must have been in serious trouble. We also heard a Meadow Pipit as we were unloading our science bits n bobs at school which was nice.
No chance of any photos, the camera hasn't been out of the bag for yonks.
Today is International Forests Day - what a shame our illustrious government would rather waste its (= our) money on a fancy train set than safeguard the few remaining tiny remnants of what's left of the once extensive forests we once had.
Where to next? We're off on a big safari tomorrow, we're on the ferry to Belfast for MARINElife however the weather looks like it's going to be a bit of rough crossing.
In the meantime let us know if your outback has been providing the goodies this week.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A day with Year 1

The Safari is taking part in Science Week with a local school this week and today we were at the nature reserve with two classes from Year 1. Sadly the weather wasn't as good as it has been over the last few days, being on the chilly side, breezy and with heavy showers blowing through. Early on it looked like we were all in for a very off-putting soaking but thankfully the persistent heavy rain dried up minutes before the mini-buses of children arrived.
They'd been studying plants in class and so we had a good rummage round to see what of interest in the greenery line we could find. It didn't take long to find some Gorse flowers but the lack of sunshine meant they didn't smell of Coconut today, nor did the Blackthorn flowers smell of almonds. We talked about leaves, buds, bark and branches and had great fun with some particularly long Common Reed stems.
They all enjoyed a look across the mere through the telescope at distant 'ducks' (mostly Herring Gulls actually but we didn't want to get them into a discussion about the vagaries of immature gull plumages just yet, although one budding young ornithologist noticed some where white with silver backs and black 'tails' - we liked that boy!!!)
We had a look in the not-so-secret place for a Great Crested Newt or two but only found a couple of Brown Lipped Banded Snails and an old Short Tailed Field Vole's nest for them to inspect. One of the hawk-eyed youngsters spotted a Toad but sadly it was deceased, they weren't at all shocked by the innards hanging out...more fascinated really similarly with a huge Lobworm no shrieks of fear just enjoyment and everyone was lining up to hold it...great stuff! So where does the terror of invertebrates come from - parents?
Another go with the telescope this time at the feeding station had them enjoying a female Pheasant who sat still preening long enough for everybody to have a good look at the 'chicken'.
Walking round to view the mere from the other side we passed a Fox's run and they correctly guess what made the Mole-hills.
Alder catkins and associated 'pine-cones' came next.
Enough excitement for one day for that group lunchtime had come round all too soon.
We had a look round for some Frogs and Toads to show the second group without any joy, we did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a displaying Sparrowhawk.
We hit the feeding station first with group two to avoid a rather nasty shower, lots of Great Tits and a Reed Bunting but no sign of the earlier Pheasant. Then we had a look at the mere going past the Fox hole and the Rabbit droppings on the Molehills taking in the Ash tree and telling them of the Oak/Ash rhyme and asking if they thought it would a splash or a soak year. Nearby a Chiffchaff started singing, our first of the year (118; MMLNR #67).
Two dollops of Fox droppings had them fascinated as did the 'Penguins' through the scope (Cormorants to everyone else).
Again time had snuck up on us and it was time for them to go back to school.
Where to next? Might get a look at Patch 2 in the mornmning before we're back in school for the afternoon session - no wildlife this time just science.
In the meantime let us know what got mis-named in your outback.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A very mixed bag today

The Safari started out on a choppy Patch 2 this morning but other than about 200 Common Scoters was out there. 
Mid morning a call was received form one of the offices in the building who had been doing some office rearranging over the weekend and found a couple of dozen of these Harpalus beetles dead behind a filing cabinet - why there? Why so many? How long have they been there? Anyone know anything about them?
Our lunchtime Patch 2 session gave us many more Common Scoters, at first we though the steady stream coming south was due to the little survey boat going north disturbing them but no scanning further round there were loads still coming towards us from way beyond the boat. Over 500 of them came past us but no Velvet Scoters and no Long Tailed Ducks, all were Commons.
The only other things of note were two male and a female Eider going past close in and a far out Red Throated Diver. Secretly we'd been hoping for a little more than this but perhaps the wind wasn't quite strong enough to bring anything else closer to shore.
Once back at Base Camp Frank had to be taken out. Round the corner adjacent to where the big house has 'pruned' the tops off all its trees a nearby tree was crawling with Greenfinches waiting to go to roost. A few were already sitting on the top of the trees in the line of large conifers and we dare say some may already have gone to bed.
How many can you see in the pic? we reckon there were about 25 up there altogether, a couple or three above the upper edge of the pic.
Frank was bored with us looking up and started rolling around on the grass where we noticed several flowering heads of Meadow Foxtail. After taking a multitude of duff pics with the phone we took one home for the proper camera to have a go at.
 One the return to Base Camp we noticed several tiny flies resting on one of our window mullions. Time to bring out the macro lens.
It's about 2-3mm long.
So that was today's rather mixed bag.
Where to next? A breezy day on the nature reserve showing the wonders of nature to Yr1 tomorrow. They're going to get a goody-bag...thing is unlike 'ordinary' goody-bags the children will have to fill theirs with whatever catches their eye and takes their fancy. Sort of a modern version of the good old Nature Table...something we'd like to bring back into schools - Elf n safety rules permitting.
In the meantime let us know what mix bag of goodies was seen in your outback.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


The Safari has had a bit of a duff Sunday. It didn't start off too well with a big fat zero in the moth trap again. Last night we set up the steath-cam overlooking the pond, a bit of a forlorn attempt to get some pics of our very illusive Frogs, we didn't hear them croaking last night and didn't really expect them to be caught on the camera as it works on infra-red and Frogs are the same temperature as their surroundings - but you never know...either it didn't work (most likely) or the Frogs didn't show (possible).
we could here the Song Thrush sang from the Golden Triangle and our now resident(?) male Chaffinch was singing from the end of the garden.
We were waiting to go out when it started raining so we left it a bit longer. By now Frank needed to go out for a walk so he took us to Magpie Wood where we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly in, the direction it came from suggested if we'd stayed at Base Camp a few minutes longer we might have seen it as a garden tick, they've become very scarce since the neighbours hacked the top off their large Sycamore tree.
It took a good while for Frank to get back home and then he was too tired to go out anywhere else so we had little option but to watch the garden.
The feeders at Base Camp are still busy with six Greenfinches visiting at one time. Goldfinches and a pair of Great Tits were also regular visitors. Three Collared Doves together was a bit of a surprise. Later a small flock of Long Tailed Tits came through suggesting they haven't started to think about pairing up yet.
The light was grotty and although it was passing the time watching the feeders we felt like there should be more to the day. Then, rather too late, we had a bit of a brainwave; yesterday we'd been reading arch-rival Monika's blog about a book based on the life of 19th century botanist Alma Whittaker. 
Inspired about mosses we got the macro lens out and headed off in to the deepest depths of the garden in search of miniature forests, the plastic/fibreglass waterfall gave us our only subjects but the light was awful by now even with our ring-lights shutter speeds were too slow to negate any hand-shake...these are the best of a big bad bunch...need to try on a brighter day.
Alma Whittaker was right - there's a whole new universe down at the almost microscopic scale, lovely textures and colours too...certainly more to investigate more thoroughly...can't wait!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow and the rest of the week we've got loads of school groups to keep enthralled for Science Week. One of the days we're out of school with a class on the nature reserve.
In the meantime let us know who's been revealed in the microscopic world in your outback.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


The Safari has been able to get out much recently, mostly due to work and fog in more or less equal measures.
Today we would have liked to have had a day out somewhere but in the week we were invited to do a talk for the Friends of Stanley Park as they'd had a last minute calamity and need a quick substitution. Never one to miss an opportunity to blab on for an hour or more about Blackpool's wonderful wildlife of course we said yes. we gave them a choice of topics and they chose the marine option...a wise choice (but then so would the other options :-)
We gave our presentation and as soon it was over was approached by two other 'speaker secretaries' to come to their groups and woffle on for ages at them...all good stuff, let's get the message out there, Blackpool might be the most urban English borough and 'socially 'deprived outside of inner London but we are blessed with some totally quality wildlife, where else can you be watching Bottle Nosed Dolphins one minute and no more than a half hour walk later be enthralled by a hunting Barn Owl?
We didn't do a half hour walk after our talk but waited for Wifey to arrive with Frank so we could have a family afternoon in the park.
Wandering down to the lake there was a huge amount of bread lying in the water - the ducks, swans, geese and gulls must have been full to busting! There certainly weren't too many in the favoured feeding place. Moving on Frank was terribly slow he's beginning to struggle walking any distance now but he keeps plodding on following his nose to every tree, tussock, fence post so we suppose he walks further than we think with all those zig-zags! We listened to Pied Wagtails singing and looked through the gulls but only found many Black Headed Gulls a few Herring Gulls and a couple of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. We turned round before we got to the wilder area of the park but doing so Frank broke from slow waddle to Chhhhhhaaarrrge when he saw a Grey Squirrel on the grass in front of him.
It scarpered pretty quick up the nearest tree but stayed very conveniently in range of the lens.
On the way back to the car park Frank would stagger ten or so paces the flop down in a heap for a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere and the adoration from thhe passing public especially one very small boy who were sure thought he could take home like a cuddly toy.
Ohh he's a lovely boy!!!
Where to next? Moth trap is on! And we'll be out somewhere tomorrow, maybe even have a go with the new underwater cam to see if we can see those pesky invisible Frogs.
In the meantime let us know who's being so slow in your outback.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A fish fest

The Safari saw that conditions looked like they weren’t far off perfect for blubber spotting as we drove to work yesterday
The scope was soon on the seawall ready for action. There wasn’t too much happening apart from the usual Common Scoters and a couple of Red Throated Divers. Try as we might we couldn’t find anything blubbery although we did hear a single call from a Meadow Pipit (P2 #45) somewhere over our head as we scanned.
The tide had dropped by lunchtime and conditions were still pretty good if a little hazier. Still nothing mammalian could be found but a cluster of active gulls swirling round in the distance gave us hope. They were following something in the water and occasionally swooping down to the surface, it was then we noticed rather large splashes – was this the hoped for mammal? No, it appeared to be a shoal of large fish driving smaller bait fish to the surface and into the reach of the gulls. Every now and then one of the predatory fish would leap clean out of the water showing they were a good couple of feet long but we’ve no idea what they were, Sea Trout or Salmon perhaps. This went on for a good quarter of an hour until rather abruptly the gull activity stopped suggesting that the fish had stopped feeding.
Four Shelducks came past us along the water’s edge while we were watching the fish-fest and a Cormorant fished not far beyond the very gentle surf.
For the rest of the afternoon we had a group of youngsters from a local school join our beach clean. We went north towards town for the first time in months and despite all the storms found very little litter, most of what we did find was old stuff which had been revealed now a lot of the sand near the wall has been stripped away by the heavy seas...that’s also revealed lots of shingle we don’t normally see full of interesting stones and pebbles with fascinating stories to be investigated by the class next term.
After we’d collected as much as time allowed the group had a great time in the warm sunshine making messages in the sand.
Looks like they love their beach - and so they should it's beautiful!
On our way back up the slipway a butterfly whizzed past at eye-line, our first of the year but we didn’t get a good luck at it and carrying a large bag of rubbish couldn’t run after it to identify it so it remains a mystery.
More butterflies were out in the sunshine today and we successfully managed to identify a Peacock and two Small Tortoiseshells.
On Patch 2 there was a sea mist and visibility was poor consequently we have very little to report other than a group of Eiders and a couple of Red Throated Divers this morning and a pair of loved up Great Black Backed Gulls at lunchtime, the male thought about offering a small Dab to his girlfriend but ended up swallowing it himself.
A rather dapper male Pied Wagtail entertained us as it flittered along the top of the wall catching almost invisible flies...well we couldn’t see any by us but he didn’t seem to have any problem picking on off after another.
Where to next? Hopefully a chilled out Patch 2 session in the morning with no fog followed by a very fine detailed look at the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, Part 1 - more info this time tomorrow perhaps...lets just say we're more than a little bit peeved.
In the meantime let us know where the beauty lies in your outback.