Monday, 3 August 2015

Lightning can indeed strike the same place twice

The Safari has had a rather mixed weekend. For starters the weather looked good overnight Saturday into Sunday so we put the moth trap out but then when we woke to take Frank out it was lashing down with rain and the trap was awash, all we could do was pull the plug on it so as not to get electrocuted and throw a sheet of ply-wood over it to keep out any more of the wet stuff and we hoped none of the incumbents would try to do a runner until we got to it later. The rain lasted well into the early morning and gave us no chance to go and investigate its contents as we had the final session of National Whale and Dolphin Watch to set up.
Arriving at Chat Alley all looked as good as it can get. There was a light offshore breeze and the sea had calmed down to little more than a rumpled carpet, there was no sun so no black shadows to confuse the issue, this was going to be a blubber-fest at last!
A chap came paddling by in his kayak, an indication of how calm it was, we've hardly seen any of these guys this year.
So we scanned and scanned again hopeful that one or more of the six Bottlenosed Dolphins seen just over our northern horizon a couple of days ago would put in an appearance. They didn't and there was little bird-life out there to give any clues to the whereabouts of any fish shoals.
A Grey Seal was found early on but it drifted round the old boating pool on the incoming tide and was soon lost to view.
The bird-life was poor other than about 1500 Common Scoters with more seeming to join the stretched out flock from inside the bay, had they been in there all the while just out of sight or had they over-landed at height following the river valley and dropped to an inch above the sea once over the water?
Nothing much else moved, even the local young gulls just mooched about aimlessly until someone arrived behind us with a loaf of bread. Eventually a young Gannet appeared drifting casually northwards without breaking off in any direction to suggest there might be something scaly about.  A Bar Tailed Godwit went past southwards, then a Curlew and after some time eight Golden Plovers it really was as exciting as that!
Menacing dark cloud grew to our south and with it came light flecks of rain, meanwhile out to sea a cluster of gulls began to gather with a bit of animation but it as the excitement grew so did the cloud and nearer it came until first the distant rig then the tug boat off Patch 2 disappeared in the wall of rain and visibility dropped to a couple of miles. A few more minutes and those flecks of rain had become rather large and more numerous droplets not long afterwards we could barely see the sea and were now soaked so abandoned ship again. What a disappointing end to such a promising start to the session.
Once back at Base Campit was another couple of hours before we could go and look in the moth trap. Fortunately this turned out to be far better than the blubber watching. Some local moth-ers have been reporting catches in the hundreds of individuals of dozens of species but our sessions so far this season have been ultra poor. Today's was easily our best yet! 15 moths, 12 species including a new for the garden, the very small and nondescript micromoth Bryotropha terrella, and over half new for the year with NO Large Yellow Underwings! We were expecting to be deluged by them.
Grey Dagger
A different view of Scalloped Oak
So the day might have been a bit of a washout but it wasn't lost altogether.
Then later in the evening we saw news of a Ring Billed Gull at the Common Tern nesting site a few miles away and to far to think about going three and then. We resolved to go at the earliest opportunity even though it's quite likely to hang around for a while.
This morning we had a children's holiday group mini-beast hunt on Patch 1. Just before we were about to leave the office the rain in a similarly dark and ominous looking cloud to yesterday's hit the window with a vengeance, ah well we thought, another soaking coming up!
Thankfully it wasn't to be and the kids that turned up had a great time finding Red Soldier Beetles, Honey Bees, Carder Bees, lots of different hoverflies, Large White, Speckled Wood and Small Skipper butterflies. They found tiny 'money'  spiders on cobwebs, Woodlice in the leaf litter heard a young Sparrowhawk begging for it's breakfast and they saluted chattering Magpies. They watched Iris Sawfly caterpillars devouring the reeds in the pond, had a look at huge Ramshorn and Great Pond Snails but their best find was a couple of the tiniest little Frogs you ever a did see.
The hour came and went and lunchtime drew near as the weather warmed up bringing out the  little horrors that are known in 'Latin' as 'Blood Drinkers of the Rains', the Cleggs so the parents decided the little ones had had enough and some dinner was needed. It had been a great session! They went their separate ways and we decided to head gullward. If we could get out of town to a point of no return in good time we'd continue if not then once we hit that pint then we'd veer back to the office. The stars (and stripes) must have been aligned in our favour for once as we made it out of town very easily and not too many minutes later were pulling in to the car park with eager anticipation.
It was as we approached the binoculared and camered crowd that we realised the stars and stripes had been aligned very much in our favour. A lad walking away told us exactly where to look and said he'd been waiting ages and it only showed up five minutes earlier - well past the time he should have been back at work by!
First three pics - camera

Next four digiphonescoped
One first summer moulting into second winter all American Ring Billed Gull (173) - almost to the inch from where we saw our first one way back in 1991. Lightning certainly does strike the same place twice!
It might be the 'easiest' American species to find over this side of the Atlantic, although some might say Pectoral Sandpiper is, but it's very welcome all the same.

Where to next? Not sure what's on the menu tomorrow
in the meantime let us know who's crossing ponds in your outback.

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