Friday, 28 November 2014

Not so dull today

The Safari was out on Patch 2 as soon as it was light enough this morning, much better morning than the previous two there was even some sunshine on its way once the sun had risen above the eastern horizon. There was still a murky low mist over the sea making distant viewing impossible but at least there was a Grey Seal close in or at least as close in a the quite low low tide would allow.
The beach was busier today, dog walkers, fishermen and bait diggers contrived to ensure there was little wildlife.
With the sun rising the light was pretty good so we made some excuses to get the camera out and go down on the sands.
There's been something down there we've been itching to get some pics of for a while. But on the way we got distracted by a strap of Laminaria seaweed, not something we see too often on our beach. There were a couple of others lying around. We saw that it was covered in white stars.
It's the colonial Bryzoan Electra pilosa noted for its star shaped colonies.

The harsh low light gave us some arty opportunites
All this was distracting us from our mission which was to have a close look at a huge piece of driftwood that has been wedged up against the outfall pipe for a few months now.
Some days it is more covered than others and today was a more covered than not day. The sand to the right being of a very close consistency to quick sand and we very nearly lost a welly as well as being told we had mud all over our back and sleeve when we got back in the office, from trying to extricate said bot without falling over!

Other than Barnacles there didn't seem to be much colonising it.
Being so far out down the beach we got a view of the three piers across the misty beach being lit by the rising sun.
At lunchtime it was very mild and the tide was up. No blubber this time and not much else other than a Great Crested Grebe, just the one - where are they all? A near  fishing Red Throated Diver and a far flying one was best of the rest until an unidentified butterfly flew past us! That's a late one we thought and then a flippin bee came in-off and past our nose!!! It's the end of November, what's going on???
Also out were the Black Redstart's favourite flies, there were lots of them!
A gust of wind caught this one and blew it off its six feet, with the wall being wet it struggled to right itself
But did after a minute or two its wings looking a bit worse for wear.

All today's pics are off the phone, a bit more light might have been better for the macros they're a bit blurry from the darned thing not keeping still.
Where to next? It's the weekend and there's bound to be some wildlife involved some time somewhere.
In the meantime let us know who got stuck upside-down in your outback.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

All cloud and no sun makes Thor a dull day

The Safari endured another desperately dismal day of thick low cloud. Our early morning Patch 2 visit was a low tide, the beach was just about devoid of life apart from a few Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls. Two bait diggers working well apart weren’t the reason for the lack of birds,  There’s a serious distinct lack of gulls so far this back end disappointingly few to work through for the more interesting odd ones out. Best of the rest were a Sanderling and a Redshank – hardly earth shattering where are they all?
At sea the visibility was on the lower side of poor and we saw nothing.
By lunchtime the tide was well up but the sea still seemingly quiet. A small mixed group of gulls, Herrings, Black Headeds and a Great Black Backed Gull were showing some interest in something so we stuck with them for a while until a Grey Seal popped up beneath them. It might well have been chomping on a fish at some point by the way the gulls were dipping down to the water to pick bits of the surface
Other than that interest was limited to a Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Red Throated Divers and at least 50 Cormorants most leaving the estuary and heading out to sea.
With nothing close in on the grey and murky sea we needed a quick poke around the works garden to see if w could find a worthy subject for our #100moredaysofnature tweets (Day 27 today). There’s nothing much about at this time of year and with no sign of the sun there wasn’t going to be a basking insect so we looked for flowers. A little bit of success was had when we found one of our clumps of Perennial Cornflower was seen to have a couple of open flowers on it. 
Nice but not quite what we wanted, a native plant would be more up our street. Nearby there were some manky past their best flowers of Scentless Mayweed that might have done at a pinch but we were hopeful we could find better.
A wander across the green gave us just what we were looking for. There amongst the acres of green was a bright fresh new Daisy in flower – that’ll do nicely! 
And proof that even on the dreariest of days there’s always something to see in the natural world if you look hard or long enough.
At going home time we looked out of the office window to see the sun glowing like a blazing ember just above the horizon, it's first appearance all day. With a sunset on the cards we dashed over to Patch 2 camera in hand to witness the spectacle.
Conditions weren't quite right and the clouds weren't for lighting up fiery red like the other evening. 
Driving past Central Pier there was a small murmuration of about 2000 Starlings throwing some half decent shapes nut by the time we'd covered the half mile to North Pier there were only a couple of hundred there - either we'd missed them and they'd all gone in, most hadn't arrived yet or that's all there were, might have some idea when we pass tomorrow morning if we're at the right time to see them leave.
The sunset didn't materialise any further either.
Where to next? More Patch 2 stuff and we're in town at around murmuration time if we've finished in school by then.
In the meantime let us know what bit of summer is still happening in your late autumnal outback

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sunset and a few starlings

The Safari hadn't seen anything of note on either of our short visits to Patch 2 other than two each of Great Crested Grebes and Red Throated Divers.
The day was quite bright with a few isolated clouds and by mid afternoon it looked like a sunset was on the cards. We txtd CR and arranged another meet at the pier to watch the Starlings. On the dive in to work we were too far away to get a decent guesstimate but there was an impressive solid stream of them leaving the roost and flying off over the town centre.
A we drove down the prom the clouds thickened a nit and thoughts of a sunset were beginning to be dashed just like yesterday which promised so much through the afternoon then delivered zilch.
Today was a bit different
All pics straight of the phone with the only processing to straighten the horizon and resize to fit the screen. They are posted in the order we took them.
Not sure why they congregate on the beach like this - they look like an oil slick
We reckon about 10000 Starlings but in the absence of any predators, although the Peregrine has reappeared in the town centre, there was no throwing of shapes just a general mooching about without really coming into tightly packed groups.
Even if there weren't any Starlings it would have been well worth stopping just for the light show - simply stunning! The best things in life are free and open for all to enjoy.
Where to next? A repeat of the above wouldn't go amiss.
In the meantime let us know what's been set on fire in your outback.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Birding - fair dos

The Safari didn't do much on Saturday, we went a-visiting friends with Wifey. Just before we set off three Jackdaws flew over Base Camp, quite a high count for here when the big migrant flocks aren't about. Also in the air were a shed load of Feral Pigeons and gulls so the recently invisible Peregrine may have been about or perhaps 'just' a Sparrowhawk
Our trip up the motorway was uneventful, the weather too poor to play Buzzards v Kestrels, not raptor fling weather at all! We did get a Jay flying over the carriageway which was nice. It was sad to see quite a number of squished Hedgehogs, most were small juveniles so may not have been large enough to survive the winter in hibernation but better that than run over we think.
The afternoon was spent in the pub catching up, being arm-chair football managers and generally drinking too much beer.
The rain came in waves and the sunshine shone between showers while the tide ebbed. The freshly uncovered mudflats had a Little Egret stalking around the channels - one for the 'seen from the pub while drinking beer' list.
Sunday we visited the NW Birdwatching Festival at the place which  sounds similar to our nature reserve 'that we do not mention by name' across the river. We had a plan and (some) money to spend but we'd left the credit card back at Base Camp just in case, after all we can resist everything except temptation. A quick look round the exhibits saw us keep the wallet firmly in the pocket, there wasn't really anything we could splurge out on - unless of course we'd gone overboard on the credit card so a good job we'd left it safely at home.
So off out we went to look at some wildlife. For a change we took a wander through the collection zone where we've not been for about 30 years. Great to see lots of families out n about feeding the ducks and having fun in the outdoors.
A nice flock of a species we're yet to see in the wild this year was grazing but were almost as shy as their wild counterparts, looking at us with great suspicion and keeping their distance and their backs turned.
Soon enough we were ensconced in the nearest hide and just sat listening to the gentle honking of the Whooper Swans, other waterfowl and Lapwings outside the window. There were birds everywhere!
A Buzzard sat on a distant post and a distant Kestrel hovered over the wet grassland. It was all very idyllic but really it could have done with some big mammals to complete the scene. They have Longhorn cattle but these are moved between small fields rather than being allowed to range freely - there'll be a well thought out plan; woulda been good to see some wallowing going on sure the ducks wouldn't mind either.
A Marsh Harrier flew over upsetting everything.
We do like Lapwings, a sight and probably even more, a sound of our youth.
A small number of Ruff were poking around at the water's edge and eventually one came close enough for the camera
 Whooper Swans kept coming in as the morning turned to afternoon.
We watched the punters in the hide, lots of men with beards and green jackets and mostly new Swazzas, the Swazza marketing team must be on good bonuses there were two of these for every one of all other comparable brands put together. The Canon crew were doing well too, lots of white lenses were being poked out of the windows. A few families came in but like last year teenagers were the rarity but certainly not absent altogether thankfully. We had a good chat with the lad next to us, a Nikon lad, and ear-wigged the others - without meaning to sound arrogant or elitist there was some guff being spoken from scary identification (the Ruff was a Dunlin!?!) to some ecological nonsense about Magpies and Sparrowhawks worthy of a 'You forgot the Birds' forum rather than a WWT hide.
Time to go to listen to the Urban Birder give his talk. Not a bad lad at all and some interesting places visited, but all under his catchphrase of Look Up - rather a kin to our own if you don't look you won't see - but that's what it's all about - looking, learning and especially looking in some obscure places finding your own patch and studying it rather than going to superb reserves like the one we were at all the time.
DL says Look up but what about looking down - we rather un-nerved some gents when we got the camera out to to get a pic of this.
Glad our ones at work are much cleaner - and we weren't getting too close to ID the the Shieldbug to species
Just goes to show what you can find if you look.
DC then strode into view as a skein of Pink Footed Geese came into view - nothing for it - Look Up!!!
That's him in the middle - not often he's the tallest in a crowd
Back to the hide for the rest of the afternoon where the light was low and strong.
Looking dapper and showing off for the ladies
 The sun dropped further
We took a wander to the next big hide along which Mr & Mrs C went off to look for the Tawny Owl we'd told them about.
There was a nice Marsh Harrier sat up in a tree and an expectant crowd was waiting to see if the local Barn Owl would put on a show. Inside the hide a huge Harlequin Ladybird crawled across the window frame.
The walk back caught another of our senses, scent - the wet woods the other side of the Fox-proof fence smelt wonderfully wet and fusty - just right for the increasingly rare Willow Tits of which there is one about visiting the feeders here from time to time.
Surprisingly green still considering it's the end of November
 At the end of the day the car park had us looking up for the last time
Twas a grand day out, good chat, a good talk, good laughs and great birds - the simple pleasures and didn't cost us more than a couple of gallons of fuel in the end! Phewww!!!
Today we didn't get a chance of a morning look at Patch 2 and our brief lunchtime look didn't give us much . But then a bit a mid-afternoon job by the windows in the corridor gave us a Magpie, which at the time we thought was the first for Patch 2 this year but later when checking records we found it was actually the second.
Not long after we saw a Sparrowhawk going over, the Feral Pigeons alerted us to the presence of a raptor. This was the first of year here (P2 #81) - only nine to go to get to our target, gonna be hard with less than a month to go now on Patch 2.
Where to next? More Patch 2 tomorrow
In the meantime let us know who's paddling away furiously in your outback.