Monday, 7 January 2019

One week in

The Safari has been out n about in the gloom this week hitting off the new year's wildlife lists. our mammal list at the end of the week stands at a massive two, the ubiquitous Grey Squirrel being first on to the page in the notebook, seen at just about every site we've been to with more than one tree but the other species was more of a surprise so early in the year a Harbour Porpoise quite close in on the morning of the 3rd just breaking the surface of a flat calm grey sea a couple of times before disappearing. As soon as we reached the top of the cliff on Monty's dog walk we felt the sea looked 'porpoisy' and it only took us a couple of minutes scanning to find it, at first we were looking too far out!
The mammal tally will surely grow but we're back in the bird photo challenge with Monika and her friends from Washington state and other places so we've been concentrating on getting a few birds submitted to the SD card - the dingy grey January days haven't produced the best of pics but some of the more dodgy ones can be replaced at a later date hopefully. So far we've managed 34 species out of 78 recorded. It should be 35 but for some reason we didn't lift the camera when a Barn Owl flew within a few yards of us at Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB reserve the other afternoon - in broad daylight (such as it was) as well. Think we were just so engrossed and mesmerised watching it in the bins that there was no thought of the camera. That sounds like good old fashioned bird watching! The memories are etched into our mind and we'll fondly recall the trip out with our Southside friends for many years to come - who needs an SD  card?
The general rule for the Challenge is to photograph as many species as possible and hopefully more than everyone else...that's not going to happen in our case as others in the group live in more ornithologically diverse areas than we do and others have trips abroad or at least to different biomes within their continent lined up. But then the challenge is also to beat your previous year's tally so we have a target of 180 species, and/or achieve a higher strike rate, % species photographed out of your total year list. The aim is also to get better or different photos from your previous attempts. And then this year Monika has come up with a new rule - No 'hand of man' so no birds on feeders, wires, fence posts in the backgound, buildings, birds sporting rings etc etc etc - - just to make it a tad more trickier.
Here's a selection of what we've managed so far
Female Blackbird at Marton Mere - in the sunshine!!!
Water Rail at Marton Mere - sunny but in the shade - - this one nearly caught us out lucky to have captured one so early in the year
Mute Swan over Lawson's Wetland - different to our previous year's efforts as it's in the air not on the water
Moorhen at Marton Mere
Teal at Marton Mere
Wood Pigeon at Lawson's Wetland - and that was the last we saw of the sunshine for the rest of the week
Herring Gull paddling for worms close to Base Camp
Starlings approaching North Pier to roost - a tiny portion of an enormous flock joining the guestimated 20000 already present - but sadly no murmurations again
A chilly morning in Stanley Park gave us five Ring Necked Parakeets - the other one is out of frame by several yards
There's been a nasty bloom of the invasive alien Azolla in the park lake which is showing no sign of abating but this pair of Shovelers don't seem to be bothered by it
Great Tits in Stanley Park
Mugged by a Robin in Stanley Park
Canada Goose in Stanley Park
Black Headed Gull in Stanley Park
Tufted Duck in Stanley Park
As mentioned early we'd met up with our Southside friends, the original plan was to join them at a flock of Waxwings in Liverpool but news on the way was that they'd had no joy despite extensive searching and attracting the attention of the local Boys in Blue so they'd decide to make tracks to Southport where we diverted to en-route and met them at Marshide RSPB reserve. 
They arrived only minutes before we did and had lined up a nice Merlin for us.
A little too distant in the grotty light but it's on a post so can't count for our new rules challenge
Fortunately AB spotted another raptor, which turned out to be another Merlin, sat on a lump of driftwood - which does count - on the marsh across the road - - unfortunately it was about ten times further away.
Rubbish pic but at least it counts - one to replaced ASAP!
Pintail at Marshside RSPB
After a goody shuffy round Marshside we decamped to the other RSPB reserve Hesketh Out Marsh a few miles away after the gang had scoffed in to a very tasty portions of chips n gravy/curry from the Chinese chippy opposite Booths in Hesketh Bank - mucho recommended by all - - we'd brought pies and cheese n ham butties with us so didn't partake of chips - - they did look and smell temptingly good though.
At HOM the light was horrendous and the pools mostly devoid of birds, apparently earlier in the morning, when the tide was in, there'd been a good selection of waders and waterfowl to perise and enjoy. We could only manage a few Redshank, Lapwings and distant Black Tailed Godwits. And the flock of Wigeon which holds the American Wigeon somehow didn't give up its interloper despite others having seen it that day, we've even seen pics of it taken from where we ere stood...dohhhhh...and then the aforementioned Barn Owl happened. But hey-ho who needs pics when there's good fun going on and good birds to be seen, even if there were no Bewick's Swans in the two flocks of Whooper Swans we scanned - we;d seen one earlier at Marshide but it was a long way off and spent all the time we were there fast asleep so not much more than a slightly smaller white blob than the sleeping Mute Swan sitting next to it.
Earlier in the week we dipped the Snow Buntings at Starr Gate and nearly did again today. We were on our last walk up along the beach to the Christmas Tree some one has 'planted' on the edge of the dunes - we'd done the walk three times already - when one of the other two birders looking for them called us over. Success - he'd found them in a deep blow-out in the high dunes when they flew past him on to the strandline on the beach. Quite close to the Chtristmas tree we were going to turn back at - phewwwwww!
The three of us enjoyed close views as they picked out seeds from among the Mason Worm casts and bits of dried seaweed. The other two birders left and after a few more minuted the birds flew well out on to the beach where they continued to find seeds on another but much reduced strandline.
Snow Bunting at Starr Gate today bringing our PYLC 2019 tally to 34 - Really pleased they've come back for another winter - are they the same birds as last year???
 While walking upu and down the beach as usual we kept our eyes peeled for anything of note in the strandlines. Lots and lots and lots of Mason Worm casts and not a lot else but it did strike us that there were more Mermaid's Purses than we normally see and that all those were Thornback Ray egg-cases, no Lesser Spotted Catshark cases at all, or at leaset none that we spotted. And then we came across this cluster where a little depression in the sand had made a shallow pool that they'd got trapped in, never seen anything like this concentration of them before, there's two dozen in the pic and others out of shot top and bottom.
Apologies for the blurry bit - rain on the phone-cam lens we guess
That's the wonder of wildlife, you never know what you're going to find. Yes we struck lucky with the Snow Buntings, our target for the day but we nearly missed out on them and yet we had no idea when we left Base Camp we'd see that cluster of mermaid's purses, the like of which we've never seen before - isn't nature great!

Where to next? A safari up north with CR tomorrow, not sure exactly where yet but hopefully the natiral world will provide some goodies and some surprises. 

In the meantime let us know who's all clustered up in your outback

We're still in the planning stage of the YouTube Vlog, trying to work out logistics of bins, scopes, cameras, phones etc etc and the format it's going to take so please 'bear with' as they say in the telly.

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