The Safari met up with a team of experts and volunteers yesterday who were surveying one of our sites along the North Blackpool Pond Trail. They were from The Biodiverse Society, a fantastic project to engage and train volunteers in biological recording focusing on the sites listed as County Biological Heritage Sites (aka Local wildlife Sites in other areas of the country). It's well worth getting involved with if you're in our area as you will find out.
Going back a day we were able to get a member of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue via the UK Strandings Programme to come out and collect the Harbour Porpoise we'd discovered and get it taken to London, along with the baby that stranded earlier in the week, for a post-mortem at London Zoo. Emails to the programme went back and forth as did our pics and from this rather bloody one the suspicion came back that it was caused by a Grey Seal!
A quick browse of the interweb revealed a few instances of Harbour Porpoises being killed by Grey Seals but certainly not many and in many of the cases there was clear evidence of the victim being eaten or at least parts of it. That hasn't happened here, there's just one bite. We're not sure if the post-mortem will shed anymore light on this as a cause of death because by the time the carcass had been collected the local gulls had significantly enlarged the wound. When we get the results we'll let you know what they say.
Anyway back to the Biodiverse Society...When we arrived we had a chat with another visiting naturalist and as we chatted a Heron landed on the side of the lake at the other end of the path.
After our chat we joined the team to find them rummaging around at the water's edge just round the corner. Expert botanist DE pointed out a plant we must have passed 100 times or more over the years but had never even heard of, Brown Sedge...we're not brilliant at grasses and totally useless at sedges. But this plant is scarce in the county and being found in only 18 tetrads (out of a possible 150ish) in lowland north west Lancashire. It was good to be shown it and when it is in flower we ought to be able to recognise it again...we wonder if it lurking undiscovered at any other sites on our patches.
Wandering around the grassland disturbed a few insects, mostly Straw Dot moths, several with every foot-fall but there were also a couple or three each of Meadow Brown and Large Skipper butterflies and two Mother of Pearl moths. On the drier higher mounds away from the water there were a few bedazzling 6 Spot Burnet moths on the wing.
More locally scarce plants were found at the foot of the fence posts along the open bankside namely Northern Yellow-cress, Annual Wall Rocket with its lovely little lemon yellow flowers - another species we've never seen/noticed before...do we go round with our eyes half closed?
And another locally scarce one we must have seen there before surely to goodness...maybe we really do go round with our eyes half closed or maybe three quarters closed in this case - it's huge! Greater Spearwort...or has it been recently planted? There's a big patch of it mixed in with the Typha right next to the duck feeding area - we must have seen it here before!
Today we rummaged out the old management plan for the area wot we rote in the mid 90s and there's no mention of it, nor is there any mention of it on the original site description so maybe it is a newcomer by fair means or (water)fowl.
While we were in the general area we took the opportunity to have a quick visit to a couple of nearby sites while the others had their lunch. At the first pond we met a couple of college staff collecting aquatic invertebrate samples for their students to study that afternoon. One of them pointed out a female Emperor dragonfly cruising round then laying eggs.
It stayed in one place long enough to get pics from a variety of angles and as we did so we noticed its abdomen getting deeper and deeper into the water. Shame it was just a little bit too far out, a couple of yards nearer the bank would have given us much better pics, these are all very heavy crops.
Also on the pond were families of Coots and Moorhens.One of the juvenile Moorhens seem to spot the dragonfly in the water as made a bee-line towards it across the Water Lilies.
The other site we didn't stay long at as the Cleggs were in biting mood and the 10 or so low swooping House Martins weren't doing enough to dent the numbers of the evil suckers. Nice to see was a recently fledged Pied Wagtail catching small flies off the recent mown lawn area nearby, we wonder if that had come from a nest close by or was a dispersing bird. Either way it was camera shy flying off as soon as we aimed the lens in its direction.
We met back up with the surveyors who had just finished their work and were stood chatting by a lamp post at the side of the road. At the base of the lamp post at the edge of the grass verge was another quite scarce plant locally Lesser Swine-cress, these scarce plants are turning up everywhere! Just shows you what might be about if you have a little knowledge and take the time to look, there's all sorts of wondrous stuff out there waiting to be discovered and recorded. We'll spare you a pic of this one, it's tiny and not much to look at...well not without a hand lens!
They went off on their way back to base and we had another quick look at the lake seeing a pair of Great Crested Grebes, one of which was on its nest tucked under the overhanging branches but we couldn't see any young, and got a count of 55 Mallards in various stages of feather disarray and managed to get a pic of the pair of Coots before they savagely attacked one of the other pair that frequents this side of the lake.
Nothing much out to sea on Patch 2 today, just a Grey Seal - just bobbing quietly beyond the surf not ripping chunks out of innocent porpoises - and a couple of distant Gannets. And the noisy Oysttercatchers we hear from our desk are nesting on the flat roof of the flats across the road from the work's back garden, do the young jump or do they get a lift down?
Where to next? It's the weekend and we have a couple of wildlife challenges in mind - weather permitting it's supposed to be cold wet n windy so at least one or more of our quests may be out of the question.
In the meantime let us know who's ripping into who in your outback.