Saturday, 6 June 2015

Brilliant bats and miserable moths on World Environment Day

The Safari wanted a worthy wildlife encounter for for our #30DaysWild on World Environment Day, we had a bit of a wait but got two in the end although we did struggle for a pic.
Patch 2 was dire over the low tide in the morning and the cold wind meant we didn't stop out long. But it was all change on the rising tide at lunchtime - by eck was it different! It was still windy but the tide wasn't high enough up the wall yet that it splashed over. We set the scope up and had a scan, a sailing yacht was moored out by the Gut Buoy and in front of it two Manx Shearwaters careened southwards at speed. Scanning north to see if any more were following we picked up a couple of Sandwich Terns heading our way and a flock of very close auks came into the field of view and landed on the water - five Guillemots, we never get close flocks like this. So we had a look where they'd dropped in from...a feeding frenzy was going on!!! At least 20 Gannets and more Common Terns were fishing like mad only a couple of hundred yards off the end of the sea wall, never seen Gannets that close before. They were fishing over the beach, the water was so shallow they were dropping into it from less than 10 feet up with not enough time to fold their wings properly. We stood and watched in awe, if only they'd been right in front of us we could have got some fantastic video. We never saw them come up with any fish, it was very choppy in the strong wind and if the fish weren't too big they'd be swallowed underwater anyway - Whiting???? watching the Common Terns we couldn't pick out any Arctic Terns - still need them for the Patch list - but far better was a diminutive Little Tern (P2 #55) that had a brief spell at fishing before moving on northwards past us - by far the best Little Tern views we've had on Patch 2. This was beginning to be like being in the middle of a David Attenborough documentary, we stood there lapping up the spectacle for the best part of half an hour and it was still going on when we had to head back to the desk. Work really is the bane of the birding classes but those few minutes rank amongst the best wildlife spectacles we've witnessed on Patch 2...and not a mammal in sight!
Still struggling for a pic the walk back along the corridor had us looking through the windows at our wild area being blown around like Billyo in the cruel cold wind. But we did see the sun catch the Cranesbills and wow how intensely blue did they look - camera time!
Looks like it's smiling and sticking it tongue out at us
In the evening we were at a Bioblitz on the estuary with the moth trap and bat detector. We set up the trap in a glade between the trees where there was a bit of shelter from the fierce cold wind and away for the other trap near the visitor centre so as the two lamps wouldn't be in competition. Day gave way to dusk and a few moths began to flutter through the nearby long grass. We netted one, a nice male Common Swift. Only minutes later there were hundreds, this was going to be a good night -  despite the wind. A bat fluttered overhead, then another one, time for the bat detector. We made a bat attracting 'fly' out of a long stalk of grass turned the detector on and held the 'fly' up. Well the next two hours was bat heaven. With the light from the moth trap behind us we had spectacular views of the bats as the circled the 'fly' some even tried to wrench it from our hand - never had it work so well in the at least 25 years we've been employing this trick. in simple terms we were awestruck - how many times did we gasp or saw wooowwww out loud, our grin was as wide as the river on very a full tide. no chance of any pics in the dark although one of our fellow bioblitzers tried a bit of video on her phone but it was too dark. Almost all were Pipistrelles, certainly the ones investigating our 'fly' were, Our detector isn't sophisticated to distinguish the calls of Soprano Pipistrelles but we're sure we did get some feint connects with Brown Long Eared Bats and one of the first we saw looked Noctule-big as it disappeared round the top of the tall trees above, shame we didn't get a better/longer look at it.
The moths however were worse than poor. Those Common Swifts were just about all that was about. while batting we'd been keeping an eye on the sheets around the trap but the only things fluttering across it were bits of leaves torn from the trees. A few Flame Shoulders appeared at almost packing up time as did a couple of other species yet to be identified which we potted for identification in the morning but it was hard work. As we were leaving we chatted to the other moth trappers to find they had exactly the same experience - virtually no moths. They were running their trap off the visitor centre mains electricity rather than a genny like we'd done so were able to keep it running over night hopefully they'll have caught a reasonable selection of species to show all the visitors in the morning.
On a slightly different note we had superb views of the International Space Station as it passed over looking down on our amazing mothless planet. From their lofty position 230 miles up they get the best overview of the world there is and they see what should be obvious to all of us but certainly doesn't seem to be - there is only one Earth, there is no Planet B - we've got to take far better care of the one we've got not just on World Environment Day but every day, that's today, tomorrow and all the other tomorrows yet to come until the sun explodes.
Where to next? Back at the bioblitz to lead a kiddies mini-beast safari - can tell you now it's gonna be good and there'll be lots of #30DaysWild fun to be had.
In the meantime let us know who's spying on your outback from above

1 comment:

cliff said...

Must have a go at your piece of grass bat attractor, sounds like great fun.