Monday 30 November 2009


The safari probably isn’t the only one to notice the distinct change in the weather over the last couple of days. Distinctly chilly now after the recent mild but very wet and windy rubbish.
No sign of the Peregrine on the water tower over looking Patch 1 this morning and despite us walking a different (dry) route if he’d have been there we would have spotted him as the wind was in the north and he’d have been sitting on the sheltered south face of the tower illuminated in all his muscular glory by the glow from the street lights.
From Patch 2 this morning we could see that the Lake District fells have had a fair dusting of snow overnight.

The thick socks are on and any future visits to Patch 2 will have to be accompanied by a better pair of gloves!
But as entertaining as distant snow is it wasn’t as good as what was in front of us on the rising tide. As we approached our favoured watch point a Great Black Backed Gull sailed majestically along the top of the wall with only inches of clearance – jeez those guys a big and barrel-chested when seen close up - plenty powerrrr! Got the scope set up on the sea wall and within 30 seconds had dropped on to the sighting of the day – a Harbour Porpoise and quite close in too. Don’t think we would have seen it had it been further out as the rising tide pushing against the stiff NNW breeze had chopped the water up. A concentrated scan to the north following the direction of travel revealed nothing; didn’t see it again. Very much a very lucky looking in the right place at the right time sighting.
But all was not lost more was out there…a trio of Eiders, two males and a female, came in from the south which was going to be the pattern of the watch – everything was going northwards. The low early morning pink sunshine illuminated a gorgeous female Common Scoter, making her look a rich ‘rusty’ brown. A few yards beyond her a 1st winter Little Gull bounced over the choppy sea, nice to see they’re still about after last week’s splendiferous adult. Within a few minutes a Red Throated Diver motored north passing within a few feet of the gull. Looking to be going somewhere on a mission! By now the fingers were beginning to feel the effects of the wind chill but we stuck it out a couple more minutes and connected with a stunning Guillemot (Common Murre for our north American readers – I do wish you’d call stuff by its proper name – what’s all this Winter Wren and Parasitic Jaeger nonsense?) going north at close enough range to get an unusually good view for this species, not a distant ‘auk sp’ and certainly not stringable as a Little Auk. One of those would be very nice off this coast; we used to have a stuffed one on view in the centre at the nature reserve that was found on the beach locally many years ago – wonder if they still have it. A few Common Gulls were out amongst the white horses but somewhat surprisingly no common gulls were seen.
Enough was enough - the wind-chill on the fingers now said ten minutes out there was more than long enough and it was time to dash back in to the warmth of the office. Not a bad ten minutes at all…missed a Great Northern Diver at 08.00 by faffing around in the office too long before getting out on site though…that’ll teach me…
Out on Patch 2 at lunchtime in very crisp light – can even make out the two wind farms and almost see the party of Boy Scouts on the summit of the Old Man of Coniston - but very little to report wildlife-wise apart from a pair of Common Scoters sitting just behind the surf and 8 Sanderlings buzzing around just in front of it. My bogey, Velvet Scoter, is reported to have reached Rossall Point…its getting closer…
Where to next? Bloomfield Road for the big match…in a few minutes…UP THE ‘POOL!!!
In the meantime let us know if the snow is settling in your outback
PS. For those that like gruesome gore – if you’re wondering why I was going on about my hand yesterday this is a pic of my ‘good’ hand from not so long ago.

Makes holding my bins steady a little tricky. You don’t wanna see the bad hand.

Saturday 28 November 2009

You couldn't write it!

The safari can report that the Peregrine was still on the water tower at 10.00pm last night but we were excused the early morning walk with Frank so don't know if it was still sat on its ledge at 07.00hrs. Must get in touch with my contacts in the water board and see if they can get a nest box put up there.
We weren't sure we were going to get out today but the sun was shining and we were able to get to the local park to try out a bit of digiscoping. All hand held, not got one of those stick your camera to your scope adaptors. But the results aren't too bad. The light was variable but when it was strong it was a bit dazzling as you can see from the white parts on these Herring Gulls. They were a good distance away more than could be achieved with the 'normal' camera and a better result too I think.

We tried to get the Cormorant as it was preening but lost the sunlight behind hazy cloud unfortunately.
With the 'normal camera and no scope we hit the duck feeding zone and got a couple of shots of much nearer quarry without too much zoom.
We were hoping for a Mediterranean Gull as they are regularly found amongst the Black Headed Gulls here. The Black Head below is digiscoped at a range of about 50 yards.One of the Black Heads was ringed but as we were about to set up the scope and get some shots off to see if we could read it all hell broke loose - total mayhem...
A CAT ran past us...with its LEAD dragging behind it...too much for Frank...The reason we were in the park in the first place was so that he wouldn't run round too much and get all muddy on account of his stitches. The park is ideal, all the paths are well tarmaced and generally puddle free unlike the nature reserve or the access to Patch 1. He had been well behaved, just sniffing other dogs backsides, as they do, almost ignoring other dogs' balls (throwing balls - not testicles), he even managed to ignore the Grey Squirrels although other people around made getting shots impossible which was a shame as they were undeniably cute today. But the cat was the straw that broke the camel's back - what freakin' dough-brained numpty idiotfink brings a cat to a place full of dogs for a walk? A bearded twit of one that's who. Well you know what happened next, Frank set off after it at breakneck speed snapping his lead, felling the scope (it's OK Mick it fell on to the muddy grass not on the hard tarmac - dirty but undamaged fortunately). The cat disappeared; Frank was here, there and everywhere looking for it - it had jumped on a bench and was trying to make itself as small as possible. What a bloody pillock! Frank was now mud-up; I had blood on my hand from where I grabbed the lead, not, fortunately, from his stitches. Even more fortunately the blood was from the finger NEXT to my bad one otherwise I'd be in hospital by now and not ranting away at the computer in my sitting room. Not badly hurt just skinned by the fast moving lead.
If you're wondering why I was so worried about Frank take a look at his wounds - he's got a stitch in his eyelid too.
If we hadn't have had to dash home to de-mud then we could have had an hour looking at the sea - flat calm today for the first time in ages...picture taken almost legally from a moving Land Rover on the way home. If you can't tell the sea is the shiny patch behind the people below the darker grey of the sky. Not a white horse in sight...annoying!!! Bloody pillocks!!!

Alls well that ends well, thankfully.
Where to next? There's a Grey Phalarope near the hospital, hope it's still there tomorrow; might just be able to sneak half an hour before visiting time.
In the meantime let us now how many pillocks, numpties, dough-brains, there are lurking in your outback - I know Fleetwood Birder has had problems with them recently.

Friday 27 November 2009

What makes the wind blow? + Update

Late Edit - Peregrine was on the water tower on our shortened Patch 1 teatime walk - will it still be there at 10.00pm and 07.00am tomorrow morning.
Still no Patch 1 visits yet but the safari was out on the windswept sea wall at first light this morning. Sadly no White/Black Bellied Petrels, Frigate Birds or Masked Boobies to challenge our ID skills, just several Common Gulls going south to the nearby beach as it became uncovered by the receding tide.
What’s slightly more worrying is that the safari has been faffing around with statistics again…”Oh no not more pseudo-scientific drivel”; I hear you moan.
Here at the Solaris Centre we have been open exactly 5 years and we have a full five years worth of electrical generation data from our wind turbines.

Somewhat bizarrely our ‘wind generation profile’ correlates fairly well with the recent el Niño/la Niña sequences.
After a the very hot summer of 2003 el Niña flipped to la Niño in autumn 2004 just as our turbines came on line. Our chart shows a steadily increasing output from the generators. There was another el Niño from September 06 to April 07. Since then, through most of 2008 and into 2009 la Niña has been dominant. Three grotty summers on the trot for us up here. There has certainly been a drop in average daily maximum and minimum temperatures since mid 2007 (in Blackpool at least). Only three months have been 2°C warmer than the average daily maximum, two have even been almost 2°C cooler – unprecedented in recent years, and only four months have shown an average daily minimum temperature of 2°C over the long term average. In the last few months the la Niña has started to wane and el Niño is in the ascendancy. I think this fits with the observed peaking and now tailing off in our electricity generation. What is going to happen next? I’ll get back to you in about 50 years time and let you know…was it all supposition and looking for patterns when there aren’t really any there…or…did I really suss out the correlation that early?

We had our last hot summer spell (topping 30°+ C for several days) in 2006 - 25°C was hot day when I was a lad. With el Niño back in charge, depending on how strong it is or how long it lasts, will we finally see 40°+ C here in the UK? With la Nina and a bit of PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation – although the PDO cannot directly explain global temperature variations) masking the ongoing warming anything is possible. Get your sunscreen supplies in Warren – it could well be in your neck of the woods when it happens.

Out on Patch 2 at lunchtime the tide was out and thankfully the wind had dropped considerably. It was unusual to note that the most numerous species of gull on the beach was in fact the Common Gull, out-numbering the other species put together…which is weird!
The recent heavy weather has made the beach change considerably and there are channels and sandbanks in odd patterns. This obviously suits the local Redshanks as there were 17 of them. Turnstones hit a count of 8 and a single Ringed Plover buzzed about on stop-start twinkling legs between them. Nothing of any particular note out to sea…apart from, briefly…the SUN, right in our eyes…bloody typical.
Where to next? Better get some Christmas shopping in soon, but not tomorrow as it is Buy Nothing Day 2009 – possibly my favourite day of the year, not that I buy much any day of the year – mother-in-law doesn’t call me Frugal McDougal for nothing!
In the meantime let us know if the rain has stopped and the sun is shining in your outback.

Apologies for lack of wildlife photos - again...

Thursday 26 November 2009

A little bit of what you fancy…

The safari had no visit to Patch 1 nor an early morning patch 2 session either, unfortunately, as that could have been quite good on the falling tide with the strong overnight squally wind.
But a lunchtime venture on to the seawall just about at low tide was worth it. We only had a few minutes and scanning the wall to wall white horses didn’t reveal much, smaller numbers than recently of Common Scoter were being thrown about in the maelstrom, a couple of Kittiwakes headed south and a Herring Gull were all we had to show for our efforts. So we turned our scopes on the strandline to see if we could pick up any Sanderlings or Ringed Plovers and give the gulls a going through. No waders apart from the Oystercatchers but flitting about over the Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls scouring the strandline was a beautiful adult Little Gull. We watched it for ages as it pattered on the surface of the water like a petrel deftly dodging the incoming breakers. Stunning bird – I really like them and was lucky enough, in the 70s, to have been a volunteer warden at very rare UK breeding attempt in Norfolk. Still can’t work out why they are ‘upside down’ though. The underside of the wing is much darker than the upper unlike the majority of gulls. I know Black headed Gulls have a ‘smoky’ underwing but it’s nowhere near as dark as the Little Gull’s.
As it gave up its search for food and drifted off down the beach it was time to get back to work with chilled toes; the time for thicker socks is getting nearer! Deffo worth going out though, there’s been a few of these little beauts up and down the coast and it would have been a shame to have missed them – the winds are forecast to drop and we might even get some chilly but sunnier weather at last.
Where to next – A safari on Saturday is likely, what we had planned for Sunday has been replaced by hospital visiting – it was exciting too….doh.
In the meantime let us know what little beauts have turned up in your outback.
Sorry no wildlife pics today.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Didn't last!!!

The safari has absolutely no wildlife news today. With Frank incapacitated there was no visit to Patch 1; where yesterday, at about the time we are normally on site, a young girl was attacked. Weird as we very rarely see anyone else during our predawn birding visit and if we do they are invariably someone else walking their dog before work. There's not half so dough-brained numpties out there.
No chance to get out onto Patch 2 at lunchtime today, unfortunately, as there has been some good stuff up and down the coast over the last day or so. A Little Auk - that would be a great Patch 2 tick...evn better in Patch 1!!! A few Little Gulls too, more Kittiwakes, a Leach's Petrel, Great Northern Diver, Velvet Scoters, Slavonian Grebe, Great Skua, Walney Island to our north had Arctic Skuas although dark phase as opposed to our light phase ones yesterday and quite a late Gannet.
Tomorrow is going to be another windy day but looks like there might be a little sunshine - whoopy-doo.
Where to next? Hopefully Patch 2 a couple of times although the tides are a bit duff at the times we can get there.
In the meantime let us know what the wind is blowing in to your outback.
Sorry no pics today...too gloomy.

Monday 23 November 2009

Some sunshine at last.

At long last the sari has had a little sniff of limp winter sunshine. Not a lot you understand but at the moment a single sunbeam is extremely welcome. How long will it last? Wind is still blowing up but nothing like the 60mph gusts we had last night.
No visit to patch 1 this morning as poor Frank was of to the vets first thing for his op – got himself a six inch long scar on his belly to show off to his mates now.
Patch 2 at lunchtime was almost pleasant for the ten minutes or so we managed to get out for. The usual Common Scoters were there, bouncing on the waves as they do – tough little cookies these ducks. Really difficult to count in the conditions but I’d guestimate at between 100 and 150 altogether. Two adult Kittiwakes scythed their way south through the waves followed by a nicely marked 1st winter bird a bit closer in a few minutes later. A Great Blacked Backed Gull had a look of a giant Manx Shearwater as it careened through the troughs. Best sighting was saved ‘til last – what looked suspiciously like two light phase Arctic Skuas travelled south together in the middle to far distance. Some thing on, or in, the water caught the eye of one of them and it wheeled round and dropped to the surface, the other kept on going until it was right in the sun and we could watch it no more. A third adult Kittiwake was seen just before the calling of the desk got too strong and we had to return back indoors.
Great to be out and not get wet!
Couple of pics for you from yesterday – the Magpie appeared as if out of nowhere hopping down the ridge on the roof then hovered for a milli-second before clinging on to the wall to investigate whatever it was it thought it might have seen.

Don’t know where it came from as I had been watching out of the kitchen window for a digi-scoping opportunity…which in the end we got...our first attempt. Bear in mind this is taken through dirty double glazed window on the dullest of afternoons through 15m (50’) of intervening garden with a very basic cheapo camera, but Goldfinches are always nice! There’s definitely room for improvement but we’ll get there – eventually.

Where to next – Patch 1 trips are curtained until Frank recovers from his op but there really ain’t no point being there over an hour before first light anyway. If the Peregrine is on the water tower we could probably see it from his reduced ‘dry’ walk depending on the wind direction. So it’ll probably be Patch 2 news only for the time being unless we can get out at the weekend but with the large number of invalids to be attended to that is looking unlikely.
In the meantime let us know what operations are being performed in your outback.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Flowers in November

The safari has just been out to Patch 1 between showers. I say between but actually we got aught in a downpour. We noticed a remarkable range of flowers still flowering:-
False (= Tall) Oat Grass
Yorkshire Fog
Wall Barley
Prickly Sow Thistle
Smooth Sow Thistle
Common Catsear
Bramble - buds about to burst.
In the garden at Base Camp I can see:-
Evening Primrose - buds just bursting
Clematis - The President I think
Pansies (supposed to be spring flowering but have been going nonstop for about 18 months)
Ladies Mantle
Rosemary - buds about to break
A pink thing in the pond that is normally a late flowerer anyway
Herb Robert
and a low growing Sedum thing that normally flowers around June/July

At Parch 1 we saw exotica like Collared Doves, a very nicely marked 1st winter Blackbird - very scaly on the breast - confiding too - wish I'd taken the camera! (hmm electronics - torrential rain), a Mistle Thrush, proving me a liar on the AutumnWatch thread when I replied to another correspondent and told them all ours from Patch 1 had long gone and not reappeared - this one must have been a long distant migrant - honest!?! Frank saw a Grey Squirrel on the ground but it beat him up the nearest tree by about half an hour.

Talking of Autumnwatch they showed the spectacular Buckenham Rook & Jackdaw roost. Now many years ag I used to live less than 5 miles from there and never knew about it. The presenter was shown the spectacle by Mark Cocker, a well known wildlife writer. He and I were contemporaries at uni but I can't remember anything about him despite surely us both being in the extremely active Bird Club. Maybe I have beer induced amnesia from that time. He sudied English literature I only studued Biological Sciences so he has written lots of books and got them published - even got a couple myself - whereas I have written one book that'll never get published it would seem - not unless I pay £600 for the priveledge. Good luck to him but i still can't see his face on any of those maniacal minibus tours we used to go on - he probably has no clue as to who I am either. My only regret in life is I didn't take the opportunity to learning ringing when it was handed to me on a plate - now I couldn't get up early enough and haven't got enough fingers left!
Above is our student house at Plumstead Green, Norfolk

Still very grey...and guess what - it's raining again now!
Here's a quiz for you mathematicians/statisticians - If 12.4 inches of rain fell at Seathwaite the other day and that is the new record and being hailed as a 1 in 1000 years event how come it only beat the previous record by 1.4 inches which occurred in 1955. Was that day only a 1 in 500 years event? Or will it not happen again until (approx) the year 2982? 2982 = (2009 - 1955) / 2 + 1955 + 1000. That sort of statistic should be some sort of consolation to those flooded out - somehow I don't think they'll have to wait the best part of 1000 years before it happens again.

Where to next? Out in the wet somewhere tomorrow hopefully.
In the meantime let us know what's trying to avoid drowning in your outback.

PS we have discovered that of our three digicams the crappy 20 quid little one will take photos through the have been warned.

Thursday 19 November 2009

New and old

New - Just put on a link to the SW Lancs Ringing Group - the places where they ring was where I grew up and learnt my birding. CHET is Crosby Hall (Environmental Trust) where I used to help out with the Riding for the Disabled group, pick sprouts, dig potatoes, cut cabbages etc; and IB is Ince Blundell where we used to bunk over the wall to see real rarities like Nuthatches and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Old - proper version of the chart from a couple of days ago for you to peruse.

Later dudes...


The safari is sitting waiting for something to happen. Like the calm before the storm.
Ehh-upp muther is in hospital today undergoing heart surgery, the weather outside is wild, it’s barely daylight even mid-afternoon. Can’t concentrate at work. It’s like waiting for a dose of swine fever. It’s all soooo depressing.
Could do with something rather special wildlifey turning up unexpectedly and lifting this miasma of gloom. Can’t see it happening in these raging, but freakily mild, southerlies though.
The south side has a Shore Lark, why couldn’t it be flitting around on the beach by the dunes just down the road, and they still have a Great White Egret, but not a chance of getting over there to see them in the foreseeable future. Oh woe is me with a wailing and gnashing of teeth. Think I’m coming down with SAD. Will have to go and stick my head in under a UV lamp.
After yesterday’s disappointing and humongously embarrassing mammalian mix up i.e. lump of dross posing as a rare, on our coast, Harbour Seal (almost as bad as the Cley Mud Owl of many years ago) here’s a mammalian holiday snap from a few years ago to brighten our day. No; its not in the local zoo.
No news from Patch 1 again today, too dark, and no chance to get anywhere near Patch 2.

What an old picture of a Cormorant has got to do with the price of fish is anyone's guess but there it is anyway.

Where to next? Hmm wind and rain allowing...

In the meantime let us know how much rain has fallen in your outback this week.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Surely not more grey and wet weather!

The safari is wet through!

Carrying on the theme of recent days/weeks/months it’s raining again. Yesterday there was an Environment Agency Tidal Breach alert due to the high(ish) tide and strong winds but it didn’t happen. Not that the tide was that high – only 9.3m it can go nearly another metre on top of that. That’s got absolutely nothing to do with all this rainfall what-so-ever just thought I’d tell you about it cos it was almost exciting and news only filtered down to staff here this morning so the alert was late getting through to people, they’d have needed their flippers yesterday not this lunchtime!
But today is a grey, grey day it really doesn’t look like it’s gonna get properly light out there.
Oh PS…I’ve put the spreadsheet into yesterday’s post – had to take a photo of the offending article and add it as a jpeg – is there another way?
Patch 1 was visited in total darkness early doors so nothing at all to report from there, no Peregrine on the water tower, it can be seen in the glow of the street lights if it’s present, and Patch 2 was avoided before work due to lashing rain and total greyness, impossible to tell where the sea finished and the sky started on my drive in to work …no better, perhaps even worse at lunchtime… Did think I saw a Harbour Seal, which would have been an excellent spot, but once the zoom on the scope was turned up a bit it turned in to a lump of floating marine litter unfortunately…doh
So maybe today will be a day for grey birds like the Grey Wagtail; which seems to confuse many an Autumnwatch viewer…lots of comments on their messageboard (OK I admit I read it AND contribute sometimes) about ‘Yellow Wagtails’ keep appearing so much so that it appears the wintering population of these scarcities must be higher than the summer breeding population!
Grey Herons rarely visit our stretch of beach favouring the more estuarine and salt marshy bits round the corner but they are a nightmare in the spring when they try to catch wifey’s fish back at Base Camp’s pond. Grey Plover is a rare and very welcome find on Patch 2. For one day only a Grey Phalarope was across the bay at Walney Island recently. On the safari’s recent visit to the nature reserve we didn’t see any Grey Lag Geese and we have just about forgotten what Grey Partridge look like. Talking of a safari we might twitch out up north to see if we can find the Great Grey Shrike that has taken up residence in the hills again. Can’t believe they bred in Cumbria this year…strange goings-on indeed.
Finding a Grey Tailed Tattler in amongst the Redshanks on Patch 2 would have us cock-a-hoop. As would finding a Grey Catbird at the nature reserve…now that WOULD cause a major stir! A trip to the arid interior of Australia to find Grey Falcons, and other good stuff, would go down a storm, as would a trip to the jungles of West Africa to look for African Grey Parrots, or even a trip up to the frozen north for Great Grey Owls… All of these would be nice but no where near as nice as a Grey Headed Gull…now we ARE talking quality birds. Monika, have you got Gra(e)y Foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) up your way? I have a Grey Wolf in my sitting room; well a slightly modified one but still genetically 98+% Wolf – Big Frank. OK, OK its wearing a bit thin now!
We can all dream our lives away on rainy days like today….

Back to reality with a big bump – remember yesterday’s essay/statistical analysis/lies... well we saw on the news today that a global temperature increase of an almighty 6°C is on the cards within a hundred or so years if we don’t buck our ideas up! That could have the Sahara reaching as far north as Paris! So what has brought about this over exaggerated, alarmist hike in estimated temperature rise? A 30% increase in global emissions since 2000 that’s what. “Nothing to do with us” you shout…”we’re cutting our carbon footprint like crazy”. Well OK you’ve stabilised it sort of so that it’s not climbing anything like as fast as it was a couple of decades ago so you can blame it all on the developing nations. Almost all the rise is due to places like China, India, Brazil, Indonesia etc all those places that are trying like crazy to catch us westerners up in the Destruction of the Planet stakes. But at least 30% of their rise in emissions is because they make stuff and provide services for us – in effect we’ve ‘exported’ our carbon footprint…nice try but it won’t wash…nothing will get washed if we turn the planet into a desert in the next 100 – 150 years! Remember yesterday I told you the planet was only 5°C cooler during the last glacial maximum, now were looking at a 6°C rise…making London the equivalent of Tripoli or Algiers and Paris more like Timbuktoo, hahaha. Scary stuff for our wildlife to have to contend with or adapt to.
Where to next? to look for field guides to desert animals…Oh look at that! A Fennec Fox in the garden at Base Camp…or is it just a drowned rat?
In the meantime let us know what the predictions are for the future of your outback and don’t forget the wise words of wisdom of our favourite non-Native American from Brighton, Chief Grey Owl – We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children…he seems to have a point.
It’s all still a very ‘grey’ area. I bet you’re really ‘greytful’ for all that woffle
Sorry – no wildlife pictures again today.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

10°C at 6.00am in mid November!

Oh no the safari has been messing with figures and statistics...

That is a very balmy (or should that be barmy) temperature for the time of year.
Is this ‘normal’ or is it a sign of climate change? A ‘normal’ expected ‘average’ temperature for that time of day at this time of year would be 4°C – so certainly some difference there!
We have been keeping a beady eye on the daily temperatures here in Blackpool since the turn of the Millennium and have started to notice some trends. The weather station we use is at the airport and has been operational for many years with Met Office records dating back to before 1961. Although it has been operational for all that time it is not an ‘official’ National Weather Station and does not contribute to the Central England Temperature (CET) records. This is a triangular area through the, obviously, centre of the country with its apices at Preston, Bristol and London.
The airport weather station is far enough out of town to be unaffected by the residual heat from the built up area but is near enough to accurately reflect the conditions experienced locally.
The graph below has two components; the upper three lines represent the daily maximum temperatures and the bottom three lines the daily minimum temperatures, usually but not exclusively night time temperatures.
The two ‘paired’ lines give the values for the two thirty year periods, 1961 – 1990 and 1971 – 2000 and show that there was little difference in either the maximum or minimum daily temperatures between.
We are now getting towards the end of the current thirty year period 1981 – 2010. How will it compare with the previous two?
So what do our records show?
Instantly noticeable is the brown line that is clearly above the lowest pair of lines. This tells us that the average daily minimum temperature is now significantly warmer than in previous years.
The yellow line shows a slight increase in maximum daily temperatures during the spring and early part of the summer, the rest of the year being pretty much as expected.
Strange goings on then…and not particularly easy to understand. If the current increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing climate change you would be excused for thinking that they would work during the day as well as at night. I have no rational explanation for the observed difference…can any wise and knowledgeable person shed some light on our mis-matched phenomenon? It’s not only us there has been an observed shrinking of the max-min temperature differential from many places around the world.
Now it is important to understand that you shouldn’t really make direct comparisons of only nearly ten years of data with a thirty year sequence. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the information to be able to go back to 1981. When the official figures are released in early 2011 we’ll be able to see how much change there has been between the three thirty year periods. The next set of data, 1991 – 2020 will be even more interesting as it takes us beyond the 1961 – 1990 data. I wonder what it will show…can’t wait! But if it warms up enough to secure Cetti’s Warblers as a breeding species I’ll be a happy bunny. What if we get temperatures more akin to Benidorm than Blackpool? What might we expect to colonise then? Over the last 10 -15 years we’ve already seen the northward march of Migrant Hawker and Ruddy Darter dragonflies, Large and Small Skipper butterflies – it’ll take a very observant and/or lucky person to pull out our first Essex Skipper when they get this far north. I say ‘when’ because I think it’s much more likely than if. I’m looking out for our first Marbled White – a really bonny looking butterfly. If these are all winners, which species will the losers? It’s really hard to be able to make a prediction. Some of those currently declining ‘seem’ to be doing so for reasons more akin to negative habitat changes, such as the oft cited farmland birds. So who knows? All we can say with any certainty is that there is change afoot, probably quite a lot of change in the coming decade or two, and we need to monitor our wildlife carefully so that climate change, which in the short term at least we are probably not going to be able to control, is not used as an excuse for a particular species, or suite of species, not doing so well when poor habitat ‘management’, which we do have some control over, is actually the cause.
As for sea-level rise – 170mm (7”) in the last 100 years preceded by about the same in the previous 2000 years - how much will we get and when is very much open to debate and possibly more closely linked to post-glacial isostatic adjustment (rebound) than increasing temperatures. It’s still gonna go up though whichever mechanism is in control. A metre by 2100 – I like to live long enough to see that! It’ll make quite a mess. Where’s me boat?
For all you climate sceptics out there surely it’s best not to add to the GG load in the atmosphere just in case…or you can go on polluting and hope the IPCC etc have got it wrong as you suggest. One thing I think will happen is that humans will use every last drop of oil, wisp of natural gas and lump of coal…how fast we do that will have a bearing on our future, do it quick without a care in the world and we’ll make a rod for our own back, but slow down and let the technologists find solutions and we’ll do OK. With big bucks and big greed in charge the former is more likely than the latter.
Essay over- - where on earth did that little lot come from?
Where to next? I’ll bet you’re hoping we get out on safari and see some wildlife SOON…some mammals would be nice.
In the meantime let us know how far up the pier legs the sea is rising in your outback.

Sunday 15 November 2009

A better afternoon

The safari was stuck indoors this morning during bouts of torrential downpours but the weather perked up after lunch so we dashed out to our local nature reserve. As soon as we arrived we met up with a few birders looking, or more accurately listening, for the Cetti's Warblers. They had only had brief calls from one individual so we decided to have a listen at a few other points around the site. Nothing doing. It would be wrong to say there wasn't a great lot about but there was nothing out of the ordinary. If we had braved the weather earlier in the day we would have bagged a Goosander. But it had gone by the time we got there.
Pick of the bunch were probably 4 female, 1 1st winter male and an adult male Goldeneye. As the afternoon started to turn to dusk small flocks of Starlings came in from the fields but not in the tens of thousands as there has been recently. At least two and probably three Sparrowhawks manoevered themselves in to the best positions for a lightning strike. A Peregrine was seen carrying a small victim, probably a Starling, to its regular perch on the nearby pylon. A Kestrel hovered oblivious to all the flying meat, its attention focused on the ground below for Voles, beetles or worms.
A lucky bonus was a flight of twenty two Pintails going over, not a regular species at this site. Nicking in to the hide we sat watched, listened and waited. Nothing much doing, very few gulls to get the juices flowing. But when things were not looking promising suddenly from the reeds to the right a quiet, or distant, Cetti's Warbler shouted out a short blast of song. Listening intently, nothing further. Settling down to scan the reeds opposite for Bitterns became our focus but just as we were getting in to it the Cetti's fired up again, closer and/or louder this time. There was too much vegetation between us and it to really stand much of a chance of getting a glimpse of it.
Still no sign of the Bittern. There was another birder away up the reserve so we walked over to him to see if he'd had any joy. Joy of joys he had. Two Cetti's, making at least three and probably four for the day.
We hung around to the last of the light but still the Bittern didn't show.

Hope the Long Eared and Barn Owls get a chance to hunt tonight, it looks like its going to be reasonably rain free for them - they must be getting pretty hungry by now. The warden told us there were two Long Eareds on site but they were very tricky so we'll wait a little while longer until after the frosts have dropped the last of the leaves and thery are a bit easier to spot.

Where to next? Still need that third tick on Patch 1 - d'yer think we'll get it?

In the meantime let us know what's invaded your outback in huge numbers.

Friday 13 November 2009

Ha ha ha very funny!

Wifey’s colleagues were obviously concerned by my ‘horrific’ accident but amused themselves by making sure it doesn’t happen again. If I nearly took my eye out shouldn’t that safety helmet need a visor too? On Patch 1 no sign of the Peregrine this morning but we were very late on site today and didn’t do the full round. Best bird was a very loud Dunnock doing its ‘swweeee’ autumn call.
Patch 2 at lunchtime was interesting with the season’s previous high count of 8 Ringed Plovers the other day being improved on by a further two – Double figures – whay-hey! Also on the beach were 2 Sanderlings and 13 Redshanks…hardly outstanding.
Out at sea there was only a handful of Common Scoters, earlier on, before work, all we had was a lone Guillemot or Razorbill zooming south at a fair distance out.
Where to next? Weekend safari plans may have been scuppered by a crisis of the heart operation type!!!
In the meantime let us know what's breaking all records in your outback.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Change of scenery

The safari ended up at the docs with a bad eye. Scratched cornea, swelling and bruising of the eyeball and got some sticky antibiotic drops - the same species of antibiotic as Frank has for his pimply belly- which I hasten to add he probably wouldn't get if he didn't wallow like a Warthog in every mudhole he came across. So no work today, went for a gentle stroll along the cliffs to see if any Black Redstarts were about as there has been some passage all along the coast recently.
Set off a hour or so too late really but beggars can't be choosers. The tide was just on the ebb and the sun was warm, felt more like spring than autumn. First bird of the day was a feather perfect male Pied Wagtail who would not pose for his photo to be taken.
At the boating pool the numbers of roosting waders was pretty low with only 5 Turnstones and 31 Redshank. Herring Gulls waited for either bags of bread or the tide to go out so that they could start feeding again. this is a nicely marked, long-winged individual seemed to have a longer primary projection and a 'tidier' head than the other adults around it. Staying on the cliff tops there were few dicky-birds about apart from the usual Starlings buzzing around here there and everywhere. Two Meadow Pipits came 'in-off' and then followed the cliff face south.
Scanning out to sea produced very little, the flat conditions in the light offshore breeze were ideal to pick up a sea mammal if there were any out there. 8 Common Scoters flew south quite close in and a bachelor party of eight Eiders sat a little way out, their bright white chests glinting in the sun. We found a few other small wader roosts, 18 Turnstones and 6 + 8 Redshanks and another two singleton Redshanks flying out over the waves.
On reaching the point where the cliffs drop down to the remnant dunes we also dropped down onto the seawall to make the return walk.
A party of two male and a female Common Scoter sat just offshore, close enough to see the yellow in the male's bill.
As the tide receded and exposed the beach we found increasing numbers of gulls and a nice party of 16 Sanderlings.
It was very remiss of us not to count the Oystercatchers but there were no more than a handful. As more beach was exposed the dog-walkers arrived in force and most of the birds flushed to other areas. Here's a fuzzy pic of some Redshanks with an Oyc for company, just a bit too distant for my lens.A couple of Great Black Backed Gulls were joined by a juvenile/1st winter and proceeded to harrass the Herring Gulls if they found any pickings that might be worth thieving. Shame they don't swallow terriers whole like they do Rabbits, Puffins etc.
Still very little in the passerine line...another couple of Meadow Pipits mooching about on the cliffs and we heard a Skylark going over but that was it.
Walking back the sun had risen over the clifftop and it was severely uncomfortable in the duff eye! But we didn't miss any Black Redstarts, there wasn't even a Stonechat to be found sat up on the wind-proof, stick like remains of the Docks.
A couple of years ago, in the pre-blog days, there was a regular adult Mediterranean Gull along the beach here but today there was no sign of it.
At the death we came across this 1st winter Herring Gull that was having a terrible time trying to swallow a young Dab. It just would not fold up in to a swallowable sized parcel.
Several attempts later and it was gone! Nice to capture a bit of behaviour.
Where to next? Could be back on Patch 1 - missed out this morning, and there could have been that third tick there - what was I thinking!

In the meantime let us know who is a dab hand at catching the fish in your outback.

PS Mid afternoon edit - Peregrine on water tower on walk out to Patch 1 with big Frank. saw it on the north face on the way back (a southerly wind today), probably explains why the gulls were up on the way out.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Eye, eye what’s goin’ on ear?

The safari thinks patch ticks must be like buses. You wait for ages and then two come along together. Yes that’s right folks we got another tick on Patch 1 this morning! Nothing was out off the ordinary as we walked up the hill, the usual Robins warbled away in the gardens and the early Blackbirds made the most of the light from the streetlamps. As we rounded the corner on to the first field we came across a Hedgehog. It’s getting quite late in the year for these little fellas to still be out and about and this one didn’t look all that big so we hope it has a chance during the forthcoming mild weather to lay down a few more ounces of fat before it goes to bed for the winter. (That’s one helluva sentence!)
Onward through the posh houses and into the pitch black of the park. As soon as we hit the darkness a Snipe called overhead…tick! Don’t know if it had been on the ground, feeding in the rough grassland adjacent or was on its way somewhere. Nice one why-ever it was there and again totally unexpected. Years ago we used to get triple figure counts of Snipe on the nature reserve but their numbers seem to have dropped considerably recently. This could be due to continental winters being warmer so less are coming to the UK, or the wet summers and autumns have led to more available habitat elsewhere, or there are just fewer of them. One of my best pictures is of a Snipe showing how well they are camouflaged against fallen reeds, pity it’s on a slide so I can’t show it to you – must get round to converting them to digital one day. I remember the day well – it was nice and sunny but cold. In front of the hide only a few yards away I could see about a dozen Snipe, one was particularly close. I cautiously stuck the telephoto out of the window, slowly focused and CLUNK the shutter went with a clatter on that old Praktica, over 50 Snipe got up from the fallen reeds in front of me – how come I’d only seen a dozen? At least the picture came out well.
Nothing much else out on the patch. The sweet smell of ‘herbal cigarettes’ still hung in the air after lasts night’s chav-fest in there. No sign of Mr Fox today but walking along the path I bumped straight into an overhanging branch/twig in the darkness and nearly poked my eye out – it is now horribly bloodshot, painful and blurry…not to mention swelling up and looking a bit blue round the edges…Patch 2 was a struggle looking down the scope with a dodgy eye and we couldn’t pick up much; best of the rather limited bunch was a drake Eider sitting aloof from a handful of Common Scoters and two Cormorants fishing together, looking very Silurian. I feel a compensation claim coming on or at least an early finish to go and sit in a darkened room for a couple of hours…
Where to next? Not sure if we’ll be able to see to go anywhere or use the optics if we get there. Patch 1 might be on the cards as they say good things come in what's next; another wader, overflying Redshank or Green Sandpiper perhaps...who knows.
In the meantime let us know what’s likely to cause actual bodily harm in your outback.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Patch 1 tick!!!

The safari’s late night venture around Patch 1 was rewarded with the sounds of a skein of Pink Footed Geese going over followed a few minutes later by a flock of Golden Plovers calling overhead. Patch tick…totally unexpected - nice one!
Then, round the corner we had a nose to nose encounter with the Fox. One of the neighbours leaves a tray of food out for him, and/or the local cats, and there he was hiding in the bushes not five feet away probably waiting until we had passed so he could venture out to the tray. We stopped and we had a good look at each other until Frank made a lunge then he was off like a shot. Saw it, or another, on Patch 1 again this morning in the pre-dawn darkness.
Patch 2 also provided a pleasant surprise before work. The beach was relatively empty but six Ringed Plovers were new in and making the most of any goodies along one of the strandlines.
Lunchtime saw some Common Scoters close in behind the surf. So we grabbed the camera and headed off across the sand. The results weren’t brilliant in the gloomy gloom.

Further down the beach were some Oystercatchers mooching about, some bathing, some feeding and some having a well earned rest. We snuck up on them using the old storm water pipe as a bit of cover. Again the results aren’t brilliant but it was hardly daylight out there this arvo.

Guess what…I flushed them. One of them must have found an extra tasty Mussel as you can see it being carried off. Obviously it didn’t want to lose it.
Where to next? Anywhere with some daylight will do.
In the meantime let us know what’s ‘a roamin in the gloamin’ in your outback.

Monday 9 November 2009

I tort I saw a dicky bird

The safari deedn’t, deedn’t, deedn’t see a dicky bird!
Where have all the birds gone? – Scarpered from the frost or drowned in the torrential rain earlier in the week.
Back on Patch 1 with the warming reds of early morning lightening the eastern sky but did nothing for my toes as we walked through the frozen grass.It was as quiet as a grave yard. Hardly any Robins or Wrens heard, Blackbirds were well down not getting to double figures a solitary Redwing left its overnight roost and the tits hadn’t woken up yet. Last night’s Fox was nowhere to be seen and last week’s Peregrine hasn’t reappeared.
If anything Patch 2 was worse! The sea was devoid of life! Nothing out there at all this morning. A tiny speck of white turned out to be nothing more exciting than a Herring Gull. On the beach all we could muster was a single Redshank in with the 25 – 30 Oystercatchers, didn’t count them with any conviction. A quick scan through the gulls revealed a lone Common Gull among the small numbers of Herrings and Black Heads out on the waters edge following the tide down the beach.
Very quiet indeedy. By lunchtime the tide will be back on the rise and things might have improved.
Mid morning we got a call from the Rangers, Bittern seen and three Cetti's Warblers within a few yards of each other. Then later on another call - at least 4 Cetti's now recorded and possibly as many as 6! Now that's what I call unprecedented.
Lunchtime on Patch 2 never materialised - too much to do!
Where to next? If only we could squeeze some time out of the office to get down to the reserve for a coordinated Cetti's check.
In the meantime let us know what's totally unprecedented in your outback.
Sorry no pics, again, today.

Sunday 8 November 2009


The safari was in the club having a pre match beer with great expectation of a good result. Banter was focussing on wether or not the new stand would eb ready in time for the local derby at the end of the month. Probably not but the ground is looking good now the South Stand is almost ready to be filled by passionate supporters.
The new Armfield stand is named after the legendary Jimmy Armfield

The players take the field
The first half was a waste of time with too much possession and teritory given to the opposition who were giving a good account odf themsrelves. If, and footy is full of ifs, our 90th second strike had gone in rather than stoat off the cross-bar then the game might have been a very different one.
Scunthorpe came out with vigour in the second half perhaps sensing an upset. They scored...aaarrrgggghhhhh. But an equaliser came before too long. Note how the light had gone in about an hour.
A reactive, superb save by their keeper was out of the area and he was duly sent off. Then the rout started...4 - 1 final score...Excellent stuff...keep it up boys, soon as you get to 50 points as soon as you can and then enjoy the rest of the season.
After the match straight uop the motorway to my mates' new place. Nice gaff. Following morning we set off for a leisurly stroll through the woods and came across the Fairy Steps. A rather narrow fissure in the rock face which in times gone by was the route of the coffin trails from nearby villages to the churrchyard - I'm sure they could have found an easier way down or up we did and it wasn't far. Don't fancy squeezing through here carring a coffin.
That's wifey peering round the corner at the bottom. We had to send Frank down - he tried to barge past me and nearly came a right cropper on the slippery rock.
View from the top is worth the squeeze. You can see the top of the 'steps' on the right of the picture and in the middle of the pic is the Armnside viadduct a quality piece of Victorian engineering
The woods were picturesque but mostly empty of animal life. Wifey picked up 4 Roe Deer in a field but too far away and skittish to get a shot off. A Buzzard just cleared the treetops and a Raven honked in the distance.
We only came across a couple of winter tit flocks. Marsh Tit(s) were present in the final flock of the day.
Frank was on a roll, in his element out sniffing in the wilds. A Jay launched a considerable verbal attack on him.

Not much exciting in the vegetation line but lots of Hazel catkins were out. Despite the very wet weatehr and recent mild spells we didn't find any fungi which is rather strange considering the excellent woodland habitat.Back on the outskirts of the village we came across this huge Oak tree. Couldn't get to it for a close inspection but a reasonable guess we be about 36 feet around, maybe more like 40...a veritable, venerable tree.

By now our friends will have assembled their feeder gift and tomorrow it should be full of visitors and hopefully they'll get hooked. In the few minutes we spent looking out of their windows we saw a great variety of birds viz. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Redwing, Robin, Jackdaw, Starling - but no House Sparrows, although we did hear some in another part of the village. That little lot should keep em busy for a while. In the meantime I'm expecting dodgy pictures taken through dirty windows on a phone camera being emailed for me to identify...can't wait.

Where to next? Patch 1 and Patch 2 beckon...almost been missing them.

In the meantime let us know what you've been seeing in your mates' outback.