Thursday, 18 June 2009

We're all goin' on a summer more......

The safari heads off down south in the next couple of days to a stunning little oasis in (for Aussie readers - original) South Wales. Where we hope to be able to take a boat trip out into the bay to look for these superb marine mammals in one of their few UK hotspots.

This super photo of a Bottle-nosed Dolphin was taken off the prom just over the road from work by my mate, who I've not seen for a while and I hope he doesn't mind me using his pic. If I'd have stood on the desk I could have seen it from the office window. What a local patch tick...well chuffed, not seen one since off our coast but I keep looking.
So no more posts for a while but hopefully the safari will bump in to lots of goodies from a part of the world we've not been to in the summer before, which we'll share on our return.
In the meantime let us know what you have found on your far flung holiday outback adventures.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The good...the bad...and the sad

The safari had a mixed weekend. The good...a muggy, warm, windless night had the Base Camp moth trap bulging at the seams. Well almost...and some of them put the butterflies to shame.

This little chap is Small Magpie.

Followed by one of the three Brimstones we caught. Even brighter than the butterfly of the same name.

This one is the diminutive Green Pug, all of a centimetre across, if that. The fluffy stuff it is on is an egg box.

Pick of the bunch was this rather splendid Lime Hawkmoth. Again the gratuitous on the finger shot.

After the moths had been duly recorded and sumptuous sausage barm cakes had been devoured the land Rover was filled with biodiesel and pointed at the hills.

Where the prime target was something bad and scary. Scary enough to close public footpaths, not normally an easy task.

No; this Heath Spotted Orchid is certainly not scary enough.

And nor is this fish, which I think is a Salmon smolt.

Was it this clear felled hillside...danger from falling trees?

Certainly some serious dangerous machinery been at work here, but don't worry it's not as bad as it seems - an 'industrial' conifer plantation has been removed to make way for a new woodland of native trees as part of the programme to re-forest large areas of the currently almost treeless Forest of Bowland. A 'forest' in this sense being a mediaeval hunting area for kings queens and other rich bods...nothing much changed in the intervening 1000 years then.

The white sticks are freshly planted saplings.

Could it be this little Common Lizard...hardly a Komodo Dragon is it...Something bigger and scarier looks to have tried to grab it because it looks like it has lost its tail at some stage.

What about this load of old bullocks...well hardly old...

This is pretty scary, no not our Extreme Photographer but the fact he's standing in freezing cold water looking for White Clawed Crayfish with big pincers...but still not scary enough!

No we're thinking something with bigger teeth and much more attitude...Wolf? There is a Wolf Fell and Wolf Hole Crags up here - this was the last stronghold of the Wolf in England.

Five kilometres up the track it lives here. Nearly there and Extreme Camera gear is beginning to weigh very heavy - the 20kg bag feels like 40kg after the last steep climb, but its down hill all the way now...the quarry is in sight.

Made it... but what lives in an old landslip like this?

Getting closer...but what is it??? You certainly can't tell from the pic at this stage.

This is as zoomed as I could get...and you're still none the wiser. From the annotation the critter is obviously a bird and probably quite a big one..
The bird in question (and shot) is a young Eagle Owl. You'd never have guessed from these pics, maybe the Extreme Photographer's will be better on the next post. They deserve to be after he lugged a lens as long as your arm up the hill.

Scary??? Yes apparently the Rangers and the Police have been attacked by th parents when they have been near the nest site taping off the footpath. one of the police officers was hospitalised needing stiches when dad came out of nowhwere with all talons blazing. An angry 3 foot tall bird armed with 8 razorsharp daggers is going to pretty scary to most folk.

These landed gentry, or at least their servants have all the fun. They can drive the remote hills excersising their Land Rovers in their natural habitat and don't have to carry their very heavy shotguns.

While the rest of us get back ache, leg ache, neck ache humping heavy gear up a perfectly servicable road. Now if I were the farmer I'd be running a tractor and trailer up and down from the village at a pound a throw and earning me a few tax free dollars.

But then we wouldn't have seen the fish, the Lizard, nor heard the Cuckoo or the Red Grouse, or had the opportunity to spot the only orchid in the valley. So I guess walking is really the only way to travel on safari proper.

So that was the good and the bad...the sad was that back at Base Camp our little cat Pippin (aka The Pipster) had to be put to sleep today after a short but terrible illness. Sweet dreams Pip. We'rd like you to remember her as she was only a week or so ago spaced out in the summer sun - see post 'No need to go far'.
Where to next? Hmm tricky do you beat the UK's third largest raptor. Off to the depths of Wales soon so Kites, Otters and Badgers will abound...not
In the meantime let us know what is too well camouflaged or too distant in your outback to photograph properly

Friday, 12 June 2009

To bee or not to bee...

Enough of Billy Waggledagger as we used to call him at school. How many bees?
Well only 17, so probably not bees as in the insects.
These... in Bee Orchids. That's far more than we've found so far but they are in flower and that makes life a lot easier. Still tricky when they are secreted amongst taller vegetation.
Most had only one flower but this one has three and another bud looks like it gonan open during the next bout of summer sunshine.

Cute wee things I really like 'em.
And you get a cunning pollination strategy the 'bee' really does imitate a bee - even smells like one - to attract passing male bees. Trouble is we don't have that species here in the UK so how does it reproduce? Well it does a bit of self pollination and relies on some other dumb insects that don't kmow they're not bees. If you're thinking I just regurgitated that info straight off Springwatch I have to tell you I already knew it.

Little belters aren't they. One of my favourites; never tire of looking at them.

Support for the Bee Orchids came in the form of a lone Orange Hawkweed, its alternative name of Fox and Cubs is much more fitting. Another one of my favourites.
Where to next? Weekend safari to distant hills I think.
In the meantime it's orchid time - let us know what orchids are about your outback.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Garlic and bread?

More pics from Raf's Extreme Images, this time from the garden at base camp.

A male Blue Tailed Damselfly is watching over his mate laying her eggs in our pond.

Laying an egg...

Getting deeper...


All this action only 10 feet from the kitchen window.

But up on the garage roof a Herring Gull gets to serious grips with a chunk of stale garlic bread.

A totally handsome brute...

Whilst taking these pics we noticed a dollop of Fox doo-doo on the garage roof. A good leap required to get up there. Baited up with a chicken carcass for a photo opportunity but it disappeared during the dark hours.
Where to next? A trip out coming up soon.
In the meantime let us know what's been chomping your left-overs.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Oh it's hot hot hot

A hot day saw the safari wheel down south of the river to try to find the Sand Lizards. Guess what we failed miserably, but then in three years I worked on these dunes I saw one once and that only fleetingly so what do you expect in an afternoon. We did find some tracks, how did we know they were lizard tracks?...Seen loads in Australia.

We also found a lizard egg laying burrow but for some bizarre reason we didn't take a photo...

Another dune speciality is the Natterjack Toad. It lays its eggs in the seasonal dune 'slacks' to avoid competition from Frogs and Common Toads. But it is a risky strategy because the slacks can dry out before the tadpoles have had a chance to develop sufficiently to leave the water.

Frank did his best to flatten them. Poor dear was on his paws all day in that heat and the Hippo in him just came out.

There are some crackin' plants in the dunes too. Early Marsh Orchids were abundant but finding a decent specimen proved to be hard work many were either going over or had been squashed.

Northern Marsh Orchids, on the other hand, were looking at their very best.

And we came acroos this Helleborine which due to its position high on the side of a dune could well be Dune Helleborine - one of the worlds rarest plants, only found at a handful of sites in the country and nowhere particularly numerous. Unfortunately this individual has had its flower buds nibbled off, probably by a Rabbit, or perhaps a Slug.

White Satin moths were emerging all over the stands of the low growing Creeping Willow. There were thousands of them, all except one were female. This is the male with his featehry antennae.

Couldn't resist the on the finger shot.

This is the caterpillar

A Drinker moth caterpillar was a nice find. A biggy at about 75mm long (3 inches)

As well as moths with it being hot there were plenty of butterflies on the wing including a good number of Common Blues.
A movement on the ground drew our attention and at first we couldn't see anything but we did notice the little hole. Then after a couple of seconds this Wasp reversed out dumped a tiny pile of sand and disappeared back down to continue digging.

In a few places throughout the dunes we came across small groups of the rare Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. This species is only found on one other dune system in the UK but is still fairly common in Europe. Infuriatingly they have exceptional eyesight and the annoying habit of leapfrogging along the path in front of you just out of camera range. Patience was required to get any sort of a shot off.

An excellent day's safari and soon to be repeated I hope.
Where to next? Back on to more familiar territory I think as 20+ Bottle Nosed Dolphins were seen off shore to be worth a scan!!!!!!!
In the meantime let us know what is rare and exotic in your outback.