The Safari has been busy out and about this week enjoying the local wildlife when wind and rain have permitted. To be honest we expected to be doing much more writing now we're retired but we note we've only writted 20 blog posts since the end of September whereas we reckoned we'd be doing at least three a week.
Mostly we've been trying to keep our Photo Year Bird Challenge YBPC) ticking over, it's going OK but we have some missions to accomplish as this year's pics are supposed to be better or different to last year's so we haven't added some species we could easily have got yet. We're up to 28 species but the front runner has already snapped a substantial lead on 84.
A sunny but crisp wintry morning was spent in Stanley Park. Down at the boat house a plethora of pigeons wait for someone to arrive with bread or grain for the ducks and swans.
Passing by the lake there were plenty of gulls on the rail and many more stood on the frozen ice. The light was against us so we didn't point the camera at them. As far as we could tell there wasn't anything out of the ordinary lurking in the flock.
One of our main targets for the day was the pair of Ring Necked Parakeets which are proving very popular with the local birdarazzi. When we arrived at their tree there was only one on view and we were looking right up it's **** as it sat high in the treetop twiggery. We'd have to have a walk round and come back later and hope for a better view. First stop on our circuit of the lake was the feeders several kindly souls keep topped up. We got great very close views of Blue Tits, Great Tits, a too quick for our camera Coal Tit and a couple of Nuthatches.
As we drove past earlier we'd seen a Heron sat on one of the nests, this was one of those 'different' pics we hope to get for our YBPC but unfortunately it wasn't there by the time we'd walked round - never mind there'll be plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks. Crossing the bridges we saw several cameras pointing upwards beneath THE tree so we assumed (you really shouldn't assume anything unless told to in a maths or physics exam) that the main event was occurring...and we weren't wrong. The pair of Ring Necked Parakeets were doing some canoodling at the entrance to an old Great Spotted Woodpecker's nest hole.
After a while the male flew off leaving the female to make some essential modifications to the nest hole.
After filling our boots and memory card with parakeet pics we went round to the far side of the lake so that the sun would be over our shoulder when giving the gulls a good old peruse. There were a lot, mostly Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls but also a few Common Gulls too.
At the parakeet's tree it had been almost tropical, warm in the sunshine out of the breeze but here although were we in the sun there was an icy wind whipping across the frozen lake. From the tropics to the Arctic in no more than 200 yards! Although it was cold the heavier Herring Gulls were having trouble on the thin ice as the sun warmed it and several were seen to fall through by just standing still...no laughing matter but still quite amusing in a You've Been Framed misfortune kinda way.
|Gee that water's cold!|
|Never mind - someone's got chicken!!!|
Back at the pigeon squabble we got half decent pics of Moorhen and Coot for our YBPC although both are remarkably similar to last years pics, the Moorhen is deffo of a seriously better quality though.
We had a look for any colour ringed Coots but didn't find any, it could well be that all those that were blinged up a few years ago have now died or moved on - we'll keep checking though just in case one reappears.
The following day we were out on shopping errands with Wifey and at the end of them decided to give Monty, who'd been in the car with us all afternoon, a bit of a leg stretch along the North Blackpool Pond Trail. It was getting dark and there were a few Blackbirds going to roost and with them at least a couple of Redwings so we made a point of returning the following day in day time to see if we could find them. We thought they might be in the horse field searching for worms but unfortunately they weren't although a couple of Herons and a pair of Mistle Thrushes were, all too far away to consider taking a pic.
Further on at the first pond there was a Little Egret sitting in the bankside Hawthorn bushes!House Sparrows we'd heard calling from the bushes on the near side of the pond.
A look around the Community Orchard section of the trail had us looking up to see if we could see the singing Song Thrush and found a cracking 'Face in a Tree' instead. if the right hand branch hadn't been broken off it might have looked like some bizarre kind of horned Viking helmet/mask...OK OK we know the Vikings didn't really have horns on their helmets.
The next day saw us take another visit to Marton Mere. Again it was quite crisp. We had two main targets in mind, either or both of the two Bitterns would have done nicely and a little later chatting in the hide we learned there are now three on site, excellent news! The other target was that Iceland Gull for a better pic in glorious sunshine. It wasn't to be, we missed a Bittern sitting out in the open within range (just!) by five minutes and the Iceland Gull didn't show. Never mind it was still a pleasant wander around and we heard the Bullfinch again but couldn't find it in the depths of the dense scrub. We've been beaten to the best Bullfinch pic taken at Marton Mere by JH although his perfectly focused pic is of a female slightly obscured by twiggery so we still have the 'best' pic of a male.
|Great Black Backed Gull|
The hide also gave us the opportunity to get a rather different and more interesting pic of a Moorhen when one came out of the reeds, strode up the grassy bank and shooed a Woodpigeon off the bird table, shame it was in the shade of the hide but hey it's not something you see every day.
There are several small patches of Teasel scattered along the path through the reserve and often we find we flush a group of Goldfinches off one of them before we've realised we ought to have stopped to check them out first. Today we did remember to stop at one and struck gold(finch), shame we were being dragged a bit by Monty who'd managed to wrap his lead round our legs in the manner of an Argentinian cowboy's bolas so it's not as pin sharp as we'd hoped...plenty of tie for an improvement but will we strike gold(finch) again?
|Goldfinch on the obligatory Teasel head|
As we were just about to leave a Kestrel swooped in to view just above tree top height and began to hover - excellent!
And almost back at the car a trackside Robin posed very nicely for us - thank you very much we'll take that one.
Today we had to wait in in the morning for a delivery, that didn't bother us too much but Monty who likes to be on the road as soon after 09.00 was climbing us like the north face of the Eiger. We had a plan for the afternoon and late morning the sun began to come out and lifted our spirits - the plan might just work!
We headed down to the beach and in the distance saw SD pointing his camera at the sea wall so we were in luck the recent Purple Sandpipers were likely still there.
We wound our way round to him keeping well out on the beach and giving Monty a good play with his ball so that he's be at least a little tired and less lively when we approached closer. S told us there were four Purple Sandpipers present and we immediately got on two together. The sun had gone in again by now and a thick sea mist was rolling in from the north west on the light wind so it was back up to ISO Stupid for our pics, not quite Iceland Gull Stupid but not far off. The other day CR told us he'd never dared push his camera to such giddy ISO heights in case it exploded but needs must when the devil (or Monika) drives, so we fired off a few shots and left them to their Barnacles in the hope that one afternoon when the tide is out it'll be sunny too and they won't have left for more northern climes.
With the tide on the turn it was time to leave the beach so we headed back to the slipway where in a large runnel we saw a fairly distant Redshank working its way towards us. Now if we sit down and stay still and hope Monty does too it'll walk right past us in a few minutes and barely 20 yards away - and so it did
And as soon as it reached the closest point Monty, who had been watching its progress intently, made a lunge for it. his lead was as short as it goes but his sudden jolt upright to four legs flushed it which wasn't good as the birds need to rest and feed as much as possible without being disturbed during low tide.
So where does all that leave us?
Well we're only really visiting Patch 1 in the dark of pre-dawn at the moment so that's not doing brilliantly with just 13 species recorded
The garden at Base Camp has been far better watched but has been an absolute dead loss with only seven species seen and most of those have been fly-overs. Really hope it picks up before the Big Garden Bird Count at the end of the month - if you've never done it before sign up and join in one of the world's biggest citizen science projects.
We're doing pretty well at Marton Mere, our target is 100 species there this year and so far we've made a good start and got to 39.
The Purple Sandpipers brought our overall year list to a rather meagre 56 of which we've taken pics for our YBPC of exactly half at 28 although we halve declined the opportunity to take pics of at least half as many again by being more discerning and wanting to wait for THE shot...bet we're not that fussy come the end of June when it's all gone horribly wrong and we're missing loads we should have got by then!
Where to next? Probably back to Marton Mere tomorrow and then perhaps a safari further afield on Friday, but to where???
In the meantime let us know who's enjoying the tropical winter sunshine in your outback