Wednesday, 5 August 2015

More gull trouble

The Safari got back to Base Camp after work yesterday evening in better weather than anticipated and had a shuffy round the garden after noticing that Wifey's red Calla Lily was out and looking rather splendid.
Nearby a long thin wasp flew round the Sweet Peas with waving antennae which unusually had a central white stripe and bright red long dangly legs. It wouldn't land in a patch of bright sunshine that would show it's colours to best advantage, it barely settled anywhere for long preferring to hunt in flight by scent using those massive antennae.
Earlier the sea had been pretty poor on Patch 2 with nothing to report. Today however saw a very slight improvement in the shape of our first Great Crested Grebe of the autumn and a bit of Cormorant movement.
Mid morning we had a group of disabled children to entertain on the beach up by the pier. They had a great time collecting all manner of shells, rocks and gull feathers. The best find of the day was towards the end of the session made by one of the young girls, a medium sized Native Oyster shell with some holes from a Boring Sponge in it; that's a sponge that makes holes not an uninteresting sponge!
Unfortunately somehow we've managed to delete all the pics we took of their finds. We don't like to take the 'proper' camera on to the beach salt water and sand don't mix well with optics and electronics but we had brought it deliberately. Last time we were here we'd had to make do with a distant phone pic of the Yellow Legged Gull which lurks round these parts.
We didn't see it while we were waiting for our group to arrive but it appeared right in front of us when we were taking our kit back to the Land Rover at the end so we dropped our pots and nets and swung the camera into action.
Back at Base Camp once downloaded we saw that it is not a Yellow Legged Gull at all but probably a hybrid Herring x Lesser Black Backed Gull. It is deffo not the same bird as was here a few years ago.
Although mantle shade-wise it stands out like a sore thumb between the Herrings and Lesser Black Backs looking more closely at it you can see it has a pink leg and a yellow leg and the eye-ring is orangy yellow not red.
In flight it's very moulty so we'll lhave to keep an eye on it over the coming months and see if we can get some open wing shots once it's replaced all the worn feathers it has now.
The head doesn't look square and heavy enough for YLG being quite domed in almost all the pics we took and perhaps the primary projection even allowing for the worn tips isn't enough either. Some YLGs have the red gonydeal spot 'bleed' over onto
the upper mandible, that clearly isn't the case in this individual.
It could just be a rather dark backed manky legged Herring Gull or even a (H x LBBG) x Herring Gull back-cross. Any thoughts anyone?
There was more gull trouble when we heard that a Sabine's Gull had arrived at a site tantalisingly close but sadly just out of range - even worse, we saw the pics people were getting of it and it's a really stunner. The big question is how long will it stick and can we get there in time...we've not seen one since the mid 90s - far too long ago! Oh for more time, a faster car, less traffic...
After work we had an important mission, to meet a bloke who had reported a Grass Snake and photographed some eggs in a compost heap on a small patch of rough ground at the back of his house...and only a mile from work!!! When we first heard the news we expected the sighting to have been from our 'snake pit' on the allotments but it was nowhere near there being in a well established residential area instead.
We met up with the lad who was eager to explain what had happened and where the action had taken place. He'd been helping an elderly neighbour tidy a bit of overgrown garden that was formerly a bit of veggie patch but the old fella could no longer manage it and had had to abandon the garden. Setting too with his clearing our new friend moved some junk lying on the ground and saw a strange curled 'snail' beneath it. He went to touch it with his rake and it slithered off taking him by surprise. About 4-5 inches long as thick as a pencil about the same colour as the ground and he noted it had an orangy mark on it but couldn't say where on the body, he was a bit taken aback by his find. Not sure what type of snake - he was pretty sure he had just seen a snake - he wasn't too happy about the chance of getting bitten.
Later in his clearing duties he said he was moving a tarp over an old compost heap and discovered some eggs beneath it saying most had a hole in them. He left the area once he'd finished work but didn't cover it back over and the following day some eggs had gone leaving only already hatched ones. We were hoping he'd kept one or more of these but sadly not he'd swept them up and put them with all the other sweepings on his bonfire.
Not the best pic sent from his phone to CR - thoughts anyone...
Apparently there were more behind the four showing.
We have no reason to doubt the lad's tale and so we're 99% sure there are still some Grass Snakes left in town, if there's been eggs and now there's at least one juvenile there must be at least two other bigger ones! We just need that 1% more proof so we've asked him to put some metal sheets down in around the area and lift them carefully, camera at the ready, every couple of days...we're confident he'll strike lucky soon enough - pun intended this space!
Where to next? Back on the beach tomorrow with another group of youngsters - will they find that Native Oyster again and we have a mini-beast safari in the big park too?
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in the compost heaps in your outback.

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