Sunday, 17 May 2015

More from the east coast

The Safari has a few more updates from our journey across the country.
As ever, when not driving, we play Buzzards versus Kestrels and our tally was 11 v 4 just short of 200 miles. 
Alongside the motorway the Howgill Fells have always look stark and bare, nibbled down to the roots by the sheep in some areas and swathed in impenetrable Bracken on the rest; once forested probably up to the summits they really need to be re-wilded and to our joy we saw a large part of them has been replanted with thousands of saplings - excellent! Now we're looking forward to travelling the route in 5 - 10 years time to see how they've established. A really positive and encouraging sign - well done that landowner. We wonder if SE had anything to do with it as he does some farm conservation advisory work up that way. Dead things were also noted the 'best' sightings being a fresh looking Roe Deer and a Polecat both on the cross-country road from Carlisle to Newcastle. In all the 200 miles we didn't spot a single Hedgehog, not at all sure if that's a good thing or not! Dead Pheasants outnumbered all-comers by at least 10 to 1 they were everywhere, obviously all those Buzzards carrying them off then dropping them on the road to make it look like roadkill - how very dare they...CULL CULL CULL.
We forgot to tell you that at one of our sussing out stops yesterday we nearly parked on a stonking male Yellowhammer.
This morning we were up and at em early doors, not quite as early as we would have liked but there was still a six on the clock when we arrived at our chosen site a few miles down the coast from Temporary Base Camp.
Opening the car door we immediately heard the fluty tones of a Blackcap singing from the bushes at he side of the car park. The walk along the dunes had us watching Meadow Pipits flitting about and some Linnets too, everything has to be checked as there can be some unusual birds grounded here. Last night was cold and windy, down to 5C so there might have been the chance of something taking shelter among the long grass.
After several minuted the Skylarks all seemed to wake up about the same time and filled the air with their exaltation's, marvellous to hear. A pair of Grey Partridge flew across the track even closer than the one that did the same in front of the car yesterday. It was good to get a close look at them even if only briefly in flight as they are not as common as were in recent years back on our normal haunts.
A glint of light catching a movement in the long grass up the dune a hundred yards in front of us caught our eye. We stopped raised the bins and went ahhh, a family of Foxes was out enjoying the early morning sun. Lovely to see but perhaps not such good news here for reasons which will become obvious in a bit. We walked a bit closer and got the camera ready and then closer still and they continued to sit out.

A bit of quiet pishing made them turn to look at us.
They're deffo not good news here but how dare the psychopaths threaten to re-legalise tearing them to bits with a huge pack of dogs in the name of 'control', 'sport' and tradition - lets keep the vile barbarism firmly where it belongs, in the history books!
A male Reed Bunting sang his tuneless ditty from the top of a wind-shaped lonely Hawthorn a little further on and while listening to him was then we first heard the noise from the tern colony
Climbing up over the last dune we reached the wardens hut and immediately saw the huge number of Arctic Terns (what should have been 156 yesterday) all around and at the back of the colony were several Little Terns (now definitely 158). We spent a cold and windy hour and a half with the warden and he tried his best to find us a Roseate Tern on the beach, there had been odd once in the last few days but the light was against him this early in the morning. The warden's cabin is only feet from the nearest nests, although only a few eggs have been laid so far and many birds are still in the later stages of courtship and pair-bonding.
Birds were bringing fish as presents for mates all the time, some were tiny but this one was larger than most.
Nearby was a pair of Stonechats with a brood of nestlings deep a tussock of Marram Grass protected by the noisy and always alert terns. They were continually coming in with large juicy caterpillars.
Checking back at the Little Terns, they are such delicate wee things, we watched a Ringed Plover get blown down the beach it's legs going ten to the dozen as it tried to keep it's balance, eventually it turned and sat down in a shallow depression in the sand to get out of the fierce wind the best it could. We also watched Little Tern dig itself a cup in the sand to hunker down into - that wind was really not nice!
Every so often the Arctic Terns would 'dread', all rising into the air almost silently before starting their cacophony again, usually it was a large gull that  had gotten too close to the colony but the warden said it could equally be a Carrion Crow or an idiot dog walker ignoring the signs, the tern actively mob Stoats following them from above as they make the predator makes its way through the grass. Those nearby Foxes could wreak havoc on the colony over the next few weeks so the wardens on 24 hour watch will have their work cut out trying to chase them away and hoping they don't jump over the electric fence that protects the nesting area.
It was during one such dread that we spotted a 1st summer Little Gull (159) our first for the year and also the sites first too.
A couple of Swifts bombed their way northwards, apparently they'd only had the first ones in here a few days ago, and that was our cue to bomb northwards back to tBase Camp and make Wifey her breakfast - a great morning out on safari!
After lunch we went for a sit on the beach overlooking the Farne Islands - we even had a bit of a paddle with Frank but the water was icy cold on our tootsies.
There were several Eiders bobbing about on the choppy water not too far out. Our marine biologist friend DB was out there somewhere under the waves too. Sandwich Terns dived spectacularly only a few yards away as the tide rose, pairs of Red Breasted Mergansers and Shelducks flew past as did a small flock of Ringed Plovers. At least half the Cormorants we saw were Shags (160) but we couldn't pick out any Fulmars among the more distant feeding flocks nearer the islands.
Just like yesterday the weather began to turn and we only just made it back to the car before the heavens opened so back to tBase Camp it was.
Where to next? We have another early morning safari on the cards tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's dreaded in your outback.


cliff said...

Love the foxes Dave, very cute, nice Terns too.

Cold'n'windy here today too.

Ian Doyle said...

Nice photos.