Saturday, 31 January 2009

They're here!!!!! or 'it's' here!

The safari is stuck behind a desk at work today but managed a few short minutes staring at a cold grey sea. Bingo!!!...After hearing reports of Harbour Porpoises on the south side of the Ribble and even closer down at the southern end of the Prom we got one 800 yards straight out; could probably see it from the office if we stood on the desk (not that the Health and Safety gurus would be too pleased about that) - maybe we should have an observation room built on the roof but someone would need to invent proper salt-free self cleaning windows first or we wouldn't be able to observe much at all.

This Porpoise is the first one the safari has seen for a while and very welcome. Not much else out there on a fairly calm sea, a couple of Red Throated Divers, and unidentified auk going south at a rate of knots (that's nautical miles per hour knots, not Calidris canuta the wading bird Knots (named after king Canute, who incidentally also gave his name to Knott End a few miles up the road, perhaps even the place where he showed to his entourage he was not able to hold back the sea - never-the-less he did rule over the largest empire in Europe after the Romans until the 'Colonial Era' but that's another story) , a few Cormorants mooched about, and there were about 100 Common Scoters sitting in the swell just offshore.

Where to next? Safari into the wilderness tomorrow perhaps.

In the meantime let us know what have you seen from your office window.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sods Law and the GGBW

Today was a day of mixed fortune. The safari was out at dawn with Frank the Sloberador but it was still too dark to count the Magpies the roost in the tiny little copse, there's quite a few there possibly as many as 50. Then after bacon butties it was time to start recording for the Great Garden Bird Watch, but while butties were being chomped the garden was alive, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Chaffinch, Greenfinches, a couple of Woodpigeons, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Robin, and a Herring Gull on the garage roof. Then I went out to put some last minute food - big mistake! The watch started and nothing happened...nothing, no birds to count at all; a very slow start. A Chaffinch appeared and was joined by a Dunnock, not seen one of those in the garden for ages. Still slow though. Eventually the Blackbird and Robin from earlier reappeared and a Collared Dove sat in the tree for while. A flock of Greenfinches stopped by, things were looking up. Overhead was quite lively a female Sparrowhawk soared past, a Blue Tit almost hit the watching window...perhaps investigating the hole in the brickwork, where an old drain pipe used to stick out, for an nest hole. Tough...a Swift nest box is going up there shortly. Up on the tower two Jackdaws messed around and there were Herring Gulls aplenty but strangely none coming down to the lovely bread on the garage roof. Bizarrely I mentioned that it would be nice if a Grey Wagtail stopped by the pond; not two minutes later two flew over but without stopping so couldn't be counted.
Spring is getting nearer; a Collared Dove was doing a half hearted display flight...practicing? A Mistle Thrush flew over, again not seen one of those from the garden for a while, they never drop in though its too enclosed.

Right at the end of the recording time a very skittish Carrion Crow landed in our tree. Would it come down for the bread, it took ages for it to make its mind up and only just made it to the bread before time was up.

Minutes after the recording hour was up eight...EIGHT...Herring Gulls descended on the bread and devoured it in seconds...why did they have to wait so long?

And what...NO Magpies!!!

He is the crow in all its, through a salt encrusted double glazed window (excuses excuses), glory - regular not far away up the hill but a very scarce visitor to the garden.

Final count:

Blue Tit 1

Chaffinch 4

Greenfinch 4

Blackbird 1

Robin 1

Collared Dove 1

Dunnock 1

Carrion Crow 1

Just missed

Great Tit 2

Woodpigeon 2

Herring Gull 8

Black Headed Gull 3

Later back on the park spring was in evidence with Daffodils just about to flower, Robins twittering away, a Wren giving its usual high decibel lip and a Great Spotted Woodpecker battering the living daylights out of a dead branch.

Spent the afternoon sawing logs for the fire...its not spring yet and there will be a cold snap or two before the days warm up properly, it is still only January after all.

Where to next? Lets see what drifts in over the next few days

In the meantime hows spring (or autumn if you're in the southern hemisphere) progressing

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Great Garden Bird Watch

This weekend is the time for this year's RSPB's Great Garden Bird Watch. Literally millions of households up and down the country will be glued to their gardens for an hour's recording. The safari will be no exception, after the traditional Sunday morning bacon butty it will be pencil and notebook in hand. The garden has already been 'seeded' with sunflower seeds, a fat-ball hangs in the tree and in the morning half a loaf of stale bread will be thrown on the garage roof. The event depicted in the picture in the previous post will no doubt be repeated, but other than gulls and Magpies, will there be anything else...birdlife in the garden has been a bit sparse recently...oh to have the House Sparrow flock from my previous house!

I really miss those little guys. This is only about a quater of the full flock - wonder if they are still there and doing OK?

I came across this old photo whilst searching for the sparrow pic above. It shows Yours Truly in a spot of bother at a 4x4 driver training day my boss and I attended some time ago. Where is he, he ain't in the car! Despite being told to sit very still and not to shift about he opened the door and fled up the hill. (I think the guy in the background is watching him zoom past). Aficionados of off road driving will notice I have the wheels pointing up the hill - - never but never do this on a tricky side slope or you will very likely roll the vehicle over...I should have the lock on the downhill side and allowed the car to slither gently into the muddy hole.

Trouble was no one seemed to know how deep it was; eventually two more of the chap with the very clean boots friends appeared to counter balance the vehicle whilst I was winched out backwards. Next rule...get some decent tyres, these were only 80% on road/20% off and it really showed, with decent mud terrains the initial slide to port wouldn't have happened and there wouldn't have been a predicament.

So there you go... a bit of seat of the pants fun.

Where to next? The back garden beckons after the bacon butties...update on what was spotted tomorrow.

In the meantime what have you recorded in your garden and tell us about your hair raisng predicaments.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

East Pacific or Atlantic coast gulls are just the same

Not the best pic in the world taken through the kitchen window blinds but just to show Monika over on the Pacific coast of USA (see Orca watcher in the links on right) that she isn't the only one with gulls on the bird table. Over on the Isle of Man I'm sure Babooshka of Ramsey Daily Photo fame also gets gulls on her bird table.

Any one else feeding gulls peanuts or other unusual foods?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

South of the river

A bit of Ebay business saw the safari travel south of the Ribble today. Business completed it was time to hit some of the wildlife hotspots. First stop a bleak cold windswept beach at Ainsdale where we found five Snow Buntings dodging the dog walkers, kite surfers, and the few hardy birders. Can you see them? There are 2 blurred blobs in the picture - the poor camera wasn't sure what to focus on and with the wind in my face I couldn't really make them out in the view finder so it was a case of point, click and hope!
They were pretty little things, the white wings of the males flashing really brightly every time they took flight from yet another disturbance...(shame really they must have wasted so much energy today) no wonder some people call them 'snowflakes'.
Moving a little further up the coast to Birkdale (both Viking settlements) we called in at the Twite flock and within a few minutes we were again stood out on a cold exposed windswept beach/salt marsh looking for small well camouflaged flighty birds. A few Skylarks and Starlings were feeding on the marsh but nothing smaller. Then we spotted a flock of about 40 small brown birds, a quick check revealed at least some of them had the tell tale pale yellow bill. Twite were in the chance of a photo each time we approached them they moved further down the beach. time to leave them alone and get out of the wind.

The safari bunked in to the windfree and relatively warmth sand grounders hide at RSPB's splendid Marshside reserve. Plenty to look at including a couple of Little Egrets. Not so long ago these were a 'twitch' species to add to your list, not any more, common as muck - round here anyway! We watched a Great Black Backed Gull trying to be a Peregrine Falcon. It would soar and swoop over the flocks of duck and waders putting them to flight and a couple of times actually had an unsuccessful stab at catching a victim in mid air - something I have not seen these bully boys doing before. They continued to harass the flocks probably looking for sick, weak or injured birds, which the two pictured above eventually did. not sure what it was they had as it was hidden behind a tussock but it could have been a Teal. Whatever it was was picked up by its wing and given a bit of a shake but it must have had enough life left to fight back or escape as these two brutes gave up on it.

A study of the gulls in one of the pools revealed one to be a little different, perhaps a Yellow Legged Gull, but John Dempesy et al from Mersey Bird Blog (see blog links on right) who were also in the hide assured me I was mistaken. I bow to their superior experience of the species and am relieved I didn't add an erroneous sighting to the day's log.

With darkness gathering it was time to head back north, as we drove past the end of the marsh another Little Egret flew just above our vehicle, superb, just like being on the Mediterranean coast but without sun, sand or warmth.

Where to next? Anything could happen in the next few this space.

In the meantime let us know whats on your beach this week.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Wet, wet, wetland.

This afternoon the safari went to see how the Rangers and the Environment Agency were getting on rejuvenating a drying wetland.
Two diggers on site meant work was progressing apace. A series of ponds of various depth are being scraped out of the existing wetland. some are interlinked with shallow channels so will only be connected when water levels are high. Variety is the stuff of biodiversity!

This large digger was nearly lost in the bog yesterday so today 'bog mats' have been brought in to support its weight on the soft 'ground'.

Beneath the digger you can see the end of a piece of Bog Oak that has been excavated. The drivers come across these quite frequently and call them 'Moss Stocks'. Whilst on site this small skein of Pink Footed Geese flew over, possibly to join another 500 or so feeding in a nearby field just out of view.

The site will look a bit of a mess for a few days until all the spoil is graded out, but once the machinery is off site and spring comes along you will hardly be able to tell they were ever there.

We can't wait to see what wildlife will be attracted to the new ponds. In the past while there were still areas of open water there was a diverse range of aquatic and wetland plants which have recently succumbed to succession and been smothered by the tall Reed Canary Grass (most of the straw coloured stuff in the photos). It will be interesting to discover what germinates from the seed bank.
Where to next? Still a sandy type of trip on the cards for the weekend.
In the meantime let us know whose been digging in your outback.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Too cold for standing too still for too long

And guess what? We missed them! The prize of the day. A very quick watch over today's 9.9m monster tide revealed just a few Common Scoters and a very distant Auk sp whizzing its way north. Ill dressed for the cold wind we didn't stay out long and within a few minutes of retiring back behind the desk news came through of 2 (possibly more) Harbour Porpoises only a few hundred yards to the south...wooly jumper and thicker coat tomorrow!
Where to next? Back to the prom but properly dressed for the elements I think!
In the meantime what have you found in your sunny seaside? Let us know.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The sea was full today

The safari nipped out to see the sea at lunchtime today for a 9.9m high tide. There was nothing to be seen.

It did look as though a bunch of angels might be decending on the Lennox gas rig.

Yesterday the safari was out at Staining Nook Marsh where the Environment Agency and the rangers were pegging out for the new ponds that are being dug tomorrow to help reinvigorate the wetland. Whilst we were there a Fox dashed across the open ground in to a thicket of scrub flushing a Woodcock in tthe process. We watched where it landed and went to see if we could get a look at it on the ground, but as you would expect for a creature so well camouflaged we couldn't see it. As soon as our backs were turned we heard the clatter of wings and as we turned it was lifting out from where we had just been searching. Perfect camouflage.

Where to next? A somewhat sandy safari at the weekend perhaps.

In the meantime let us know what you haven't seen in your outback

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A Blackpool sunset for you

Enjoy, from the end of last week before the lurgy hit me.

First to last picture about 20 minutes.

Where are those pesky owls?

A site visit to the nature reserve was required today so the safari piled in to the new Disco to get some mud on the wheels. We were to investigate the extension area...our thoughts turned to Jack Snipe in this very undisturbed wet part of the reserve. None! but plenty of Wrens, and a fair few Pheasants...refugees from the nearby shooting estates.

After the recce job was done there was a few minutes in which to track down the ever popular Long Eared Owls. 9 in the bushes today, one fairly easy high up, the others ranging from not too bad through tricky to damn near impossible! We didn't really have a chance to look for anything else so most of these photos are from our visit last weekend.
A location plan for Jack (Lancashire Nature in blog links on right) and his mates who are visiting this coming weekend; and anyone else who isn't sure where to look. Also check with the Rangers just in case they have moved.
My best picture of a Robin yet! Maybe a better camera does make a better photographer to some extent.
Disco in its natural habitat.

Frank looking like he doesn't like being shoved in the back. He doesn't mind really.

Where to next? Mud, mud,mud here we long as there's some interesting wildlife to find as well!

In the meantime...what's in your mud?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The best of Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris

Caught the lurgy

No safaris for a few days now as I am stuck at Base Camp 'crook' with a virus...not the cosiest of bed-fellows! Very little to report other than a flock of at least five Long Tailed Tits buzzing around Base Camp this morning and bread thrown on the shed roof was taken by Black Headed Gulls - where did they come from - normally everything chucked up there gets eaten by the local Herring Gulls or Magpies.

Anyway the old safari truck is up for sale and the new one is waiting to have all the mods fitted...definitely some under body protection and hopefully a bit of tricky suspension.

I didn't see this badge when I was looking the vehicle over on the forecourt, my co-pilot did but didn't say anything until quite a bit later on. Quite apt don't you think?

Can you guess what it is yet (as Rolf Harris used to say)?

Kooky and Roo have been joined by Hoopy the Hoopoe and Caper the Capercaillie for all the forthcoming adventures.

Yes you guessed it - another Disco! Luxury version this time though...hope it serves as well as the old one did.

Where to next? I'll let you know as soon as I have shed this infection.

In the meantime let us know what you have found in your outback - illnesses permitting.

Monday, 5 January 2009

It's here!!!!!

Yes...the safari took delivery of the new vehicle on Saturday and what a beaut it is to drive.

Its first safari was a short affternoon visit to Marton Mere nature reserve. What a trip it turned out to be. Within minutes of setting off along the path we had crippling views of a Kingfisher resplendent in the sunshine. Probably the best views of this species I have had at this site in 18 years! Not a hundred metres further on we came across a very obliging male Stonechat which sadly didn't want to be photographed. A female was in the rough ground on the opposite side of the track.
Following the path round through the reedbed we arrived at the first line of bushes...we had had a tip off that there was a Long Eared Owl in the second Hawthorn along. Sure enough a good scour with the binoculars revealed him(?) secreted deep in the bush.
Most of the mere itself was frozen and there was a huge number of gulls. A patient scan revealed no Glaucous Winged Gulls...a bit hopefull but the recent one at Teeside hadn't been reported on the pagers so there was a very, very, very slim chance it could have been lurking in the it was there were no oddball gulls at all, not even a (relatively common) Mediterranean Gull.
We moved on passing the same Kestrel that I posted a fewe blogs ago sitting in almost the same tree. Leaving the reserve the safari took the outer perimeter path where there was very little wildlife action. Stopping at the usual bushes we could see no Long Eared Owls but were told they had moved a few metres further east and were visible but difficult as we were looking in to the low winter sun. Careful scrutiny of the scrub eventually revealed five, only one of which was particularly obvious.
Whilst we were searching for the owls our attention was drawn to a remarkably confiding Robin, which approached to within a metre of us. Frank the 'slobrador' had a messed up a small drainage channel, as Labradors do, and the resultant turned mud was of great interest to the Robin. As soon as Frank moved out of the way the Robin was in there gleaning invertebrates...we couldn't see any but it managed to find some every time Frank churned up the mud.
Returning along the embankment we saw the Kingfisher again, this time face on but the sun had dropped lower and it the Kingfisher was as glorious as before. We dropped in to the Fylde Bird Club hide and saw the hybrid(?) female Ferruginous Duck thingy. It looks pretty good for a pure bred female of the species but there are doubts over the actual colour of its wing bar, which should be pure white, but no-one has yet had a convincing view of. A lengthy scan of the reedbed illuminated in the winter sunshine revealed no Bitterns sadly.
Moles in the grassland around the southern edge of the mere had been very active, some of there molehills were huge...and there were plenty of them...I should have taken a photo.
A short but sweet safari. Photos to be added later...sorry...downloading problems!
Where to next? a bit further afield perhaps.
In the meantime let us know where you new or old vehicle has taken you in to your outback.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

River crossing as promised

Pics from our outback adventure last week.

We are stopped on Kingfisher Island...not that there is any where for Kingfishers to perch - apart from the wing mirrors! But they are seen quite regularly on this stretch of river.
The red tie isn't recovery equipment it's holding the waterproof camera to the bullbar for the next bit of the crossing...the deep bit. This is a bona-fide road...wouldn't like to try it in the safari's other car -a Toyota Corolla good as they are.
About to go in!

It really is an island.

The safari took delivery of the new vehicle yesterday...more news later.

Heres a pic of the new leaf we found last week on a small Hawthorn...only 4 months too early, but possibly a response to a Roe Deer nibbling the end of the twig off.

Where to next? The new vehicle has to be kitted out and 'prep'ed for the outback, so we won't be adventuring til later in the week.
In the meantime let us know where you have been on your outback adventures.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Lunchtime peek at the sea

Very nice to see a bit of sunshine for a change but otherwise it was very quiet on the water. Two male and a female Eider were bobbing about asleep on the gentle swell fairly close in, a Cormorant flew past in the middle distance and right out on the horizon ther were small flocks of Common Scoter flying about. Nothing else to report and still very very cold in the slight breeze.
Someone has put up a few feeders in the gardens at work and they are attracting some attention from a small flock of House Sparrows which are always nice to see and there cheeky chirruping brightens up an otherwise quiet mid winter day. Thank you whoever you are. Three Oystercatchers were on the green at first light this morning and very sluggish there were too, maybe struggling to find enough food in the current frozen conditions, Dunnock also present mooching around the cover of the Gorse bushes.
Where to next? Pick up the new car.....wheyyy-heyyy...good job too because we've broken the old one; it has an electrical problem perhaps from fording the river the other day and is powerless.
In the meantime whether it is freezing cold or the sun is cracking the flags let us know what you have found in your outback.

Happy New Year to one and all

It happened - the safari manged to get a new camera in the sales...sadly funds wouldn't run to an slr but a decent Fuji compact was purchased off the web at a knock down price so hopefully the quality of the pictures from our adventures will improve...but I can't promise. The camera might have improved but not the photographer!

So far this year - not that there has been much of it - but early in the morning, before dawn, there do seem to be more Robins singing. Blackbird has also been added to the 2009 list but very little else. What will today bring? A lunch time peek at the sea is on the cards, the recent dense fog has been replaced by a thin winter sunshine today so fingers crossed there may be something out there to report later today.
The photo is of the now not so recent Bottle-nosed Dolphin taken by my mate Phil - it would be nice to see another one off the prom here this year along with a Basking Shark and some Storm Petrels...who knows what we will be able to show you in 2009...whatever it is it'll be good!
Where to next? Obviously a quick safari over the road to the beach.
In the meantime I hope all the safari's readers have a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year...but please let us know of your outback adventures and sightings...remember there is nothing ordinary about the familiar and commonplace.

Oh and by the way the safari is picking up a new luxury vehicle tomorrow morning...Betcha can't wait to find out what it is.