Wednesday 31 March 2010

Would you beleeeeeeve it!!!

The safari has had a weather-induced monk on today.
Patch 1 was dire; a speedy, head-down, trudge round the patch before the rain set in was all we could muster – no enthusiasm for the note book at all – just get round and get back to Base Camp for hot tea and toast in as little time as possible before we got drenched. Only the Blackbirds were singing, everything else had more sense and was still tucked up in bed. We could see plenty of Woodpigeons still fast asleep on their twigs – it was apparent that they sleep on the slenderest branches that will support their weight.
Last night we went out to the NW 4x4 Response meeting and ended up getting thrown out of the pub…oh dear we shouldn’t have brought Frank in during food serving hours. They wouldn’t have known he was there but a small child kept staring at him and he let out two horrendously loud woofs…and attracted the attention of the landlady. Fortunately the meeting was drawing to its conclusion and the poor lad didn’t have to spend too long in the back of the car. That said we couldn’t afford to stay drinking much longer – not at £2.75 a pint - HOW MUCH! Nice pint and we much prefer a proper pint in a proper glass in a pub by the fire with our mates than drink at home watching dross on the telly, but you can get the same beers in the supermarket for not far off half the price – no wonder people are drinking at home and the pubs are suffering. AND you can’t take your mutt in most pubs nowadays – what happened to Pub Dog? Every pub used to have a dog of their own, this particular pub used to have two! It’s a flippin’ country pub too fer gawd’s sake!!! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were moaning about beer going up to 20p a pint. Flippin eck we’ll be asking for the reintroduction of Pounds, Shillings and Pence in a minute – bring on the Euro and have done with it!!! According to our ‘inflationary’ calculations pub beer should be about £1.50 - £1.75 a pint, sort of where the supermarkets are selling it. I know pubs have big overheads and supermarkets have scale on their side but much of the inflated price hike is tax! Good beer from quality local and regional producers should be given a decent tax break and just hit the big chemical beer giants – oh they’re the ones that lobby parliament and put huge sums in to the coffers of the political parties – my mistake. Can’t believe that Darling of a man put tax up on cider last week just because some loopdy-loo alcky-junkys drink White Lightening at 8 am on a Sunday morning – we see em all the time at the start of our weekend safaris. White Lightening isn’t cider – its not far off apple(ish) flavoured meths and has less to do with cider than the safari has to do with nuclear warheads! Proper cider makers like Weston’s, Thatcher’s, Sheppey’s et al are being punished for no good reason. Rant, rant, rant and rant some more. AND another thing – it was far too wild, wet and windy for any chance of a Barn Owl on the way home too…bally weather…rant, rant, rant. Not a BAD pub all the same, 16thC, log fires, slate floor, beams, AND it’s along long time since I heard the riffs of UFO coming from a pub’s PA system (other 70s hard rock bands too) – excellent stuff
Didn’t even attempt Patch 2 this morning, due to ferocious wind and horizontal, torrential sleet. Driving in to work we could see that the visibility was less than a mile so it would have been a pointless exercise in getting cold and wet. The wind had also changed from the forecast SW to NW and with the temperature as it was we had a wind-chill equivalent of -12ºC with driving rain at lunchtime so we wimped out of going to the ultra exposed marshes for the local lifer – seriously hope the wind has dropped tomorrow. This particular species is a regular winter visitor and until now we have not really thought about making a serious attempt to go and see it even though its less than 10 miles from Base Camp. This time of year is probably the best time to look for it as it is moulting in to its summer finery and this should make it a lot easier to pick out from its very similar congeners – so what is it???. There have been nine other species seen in our local area this week that aren’t on the safari’s year list. About half are easy and will be picked up in due course – we hope! - The other half might prove to be somewhere between tricky and one-offs impossible to claw back.
No photos today - if you think we were going out in that to take pics for your delectation you got another thing comin!!!
Where to next?? Come hell and high water it'll be the marshes - unless conditions are bad and we wimp out again!
In the meantime let us know if you wimped out of visiting your outback today.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Proper patchwork

The safari was out on Patch 1 before sun up this morning. One disadvantage of this is that we could barely see the notebook to write down our sightings.
Not a bad morning as the promised heavy rain hadn’t arrived yet. Even at that early hour listening for all the singers was made more difficult by the traffic noise on the not too distant main roads, the cacophony of waking gulls on the nearby office block roof didn’t do us any favours either.
Blackbirds were singing all over the shop, the finally tally revealed 20 of them. Wrens too were very vocal and there seems to be enough about to quickly make good any loss of numbers due to the harsh winter, nine singing males were recorded. We heard “Fraaannnkk” – not someone calling the mud-hound but two Herons going overhead, a third came out of the pond a little later. We don’t visit the pond in the middle of the park but stick to the perimeter – to much temptation for our four legged companion… Two Mallards popped up and did a circuit –it was still too dark to sex them, but they were probably the pair that has been seen here on and off recently.
Five singing Robins was a reasonable tally and the Song Thrush is still giving his vocal chords some serious welly. Yeah OK I know they don’t have vocal chords they have a syrinx instead.
We were a few minutes too early for some species as we didn’t get any Dunnocks until well in to the return journey, four was a somewhat disappointing count as were only two Greenfinches and no other finches at all. We didn’t do the Woodpigeons, Collared Doves or Magpies today although we did watch a pair of Magpies courting doing the wing shaking thing a bit like House Sparrows do…can’t recall ever seeing that before…surely we have but there again maybe not…you see you can see/learn something new everyday you just don’t know what or when it’ll be so keep your eyes, ears, and most importantly your mind, open. Someone with a closed mind has taken a stick to the fungi we showed you the other day and smashed them to smithereens. Why? Obvious really - if it’s a mushroom and it isn’t in a punnet wrapped in cellophane sitting on a supermarket shelf it MUST be poisonous therefore it MUST be destroyed…freakin’ simpletons! Or it’s the local destructive kids on their usual rampage – one in particular is like a mini nuclear bomb with all the devastation he causes – ripping off branches from trees, hacking at their bark and general thuggery to anything growing. Worst of it is he ain’t no chav he’s supposed to be from a respectable area, sadly no-one has taught him to have respect for other living things…the little gobshite.
By the time we got to Patch 2 the rain had begun, not heavy but still wet enough. Not a lot doing, the beach was fairly empty; 22 Oystercatchers outnumbered the gulls. Interestingly the gulls were tucking in to the large blobs of Whelks eggs that have been washed up; some of the blobs are almost as big as the gulls.
Out at sea the murky grey-out wasn’t too far away and the only thing we found was a Razorbill – this time in flight zooting northwards on its whirring wings. Enough was enough, but as we turned to get back indoors a Meadow Pipit flew overhead and we heard a Goldfinch call, at last the tiniest bit of vis mig. We found three Goldfinches sat on the somewhat unusual location, the top of one of the seawall shelters. They headed inland towards our garden after a couple of minutes; which reminds me…must check the feeders that some nice members of the public regularly fill but which were empty the other day, so we had to do it.
Lunchtime session produced a mammal at long last, a distant Grey Seal. Something else we don’t see all that often was a lone, solitary, single Knot flying past, usually seee them in multiples of a hundred. The Common Scoter flock is now down to only six birds although another was sat on its own some way apart from them. As we were scanning we had six Meadow Pipits come in off, followed a few minutes later by four more; taking today to the top of the vis mig leader board by a good few points!
Where to next?? No chance of a marshes visit today so it’ll have to be tomorrow or Thursday.
In the meantime let us know if there has been anything moving in your outback

Monday 29 March 2010

BST (Bally Sleepy Today)

After yesterday’s marathon hike of 5 or more miles the safari struggled to roll out of the pits this morning. So it was a foreshortened, in both time and distance, Patch 1 safari this morning (back in the dark too). Nothing to report other than the usual residents were all in fine voice particularly the Dunnocks.
By the time we hit Patch 2 a chilly wind had struck up and the promised rain/sleet had started – it was straight back to winter out there. The rising tide was swiftly covering the beach and 19 Sanderlings were making the most of what the tide might offer them. Most of the 72 Oystercatchers just stood crowded close together against the cold waiting to go to roost. A Penguin was seen stood on the water’s edge among a group of Herring Gulls. It waddled a few steps up the beach when the water lapped round its ankles. Penguin? - you ask – no, sadly, it was an oiled Guillemot (132, 67) and those gulls had more than a passing interest in it, hopefully they would wait for its passing rather than set about it while it was still alive. Hardly seems appropriate to year tick it really. Thankfully It has been a good while since we’ve noticed any oiled birds and we hope this isn’t a sign of bad things to come – not good to have a patch of oil lurking out there at this crucial time of year…or any other time of year for that matter. The Common Scoter flockette has dwindled to just 9 birds – they are a species that is at serious risk of oiling, with a bit of luck the majority that winter in the bay will be long gone by now.
During a short, cold, wet and miserable lunchtime session the only thing new was a/the Razorbill back roughly were it was at the end of last week. Really hoping this wintery wet stuff doesn’t last too long – we were starting to get used to the warm sunshine. Having said that it always snows around now, manys a time on the nature reserve we used to feel sorry for the Sand Martins huddled together on a fence wire in a snow storm wishing they hadn’t left Africa so dang early. Fortunately it was usually on a few days worth of iffy weather before the sun regained the upper hand. At the moment it looks like a cold, wet and windy week ahead. Doh…if Monika has anything like decent migration weather she’ll sail past us…
Where to next?? Big tides and a gusty SW wind mean there could be a chance of finding something good being flooded off the marshes round the corner – watch this space for some midweek lunchtime excitement.
In the meantime let us know how bad the weather has turned in your outback

Sunday 28 March 2010

Good day up north

The safari decided to have another trip for the Smew as it had ben reported during the week after last weeks dip.
About 500 Pink Footed Geese were flighty over the marsh area - are these the last left in Lancashire - we didn't see any anywhere else today.

Down the track Hawthorn was coming in to leaf.

On the pols we had a nice selection of birds starting with a Little Egret, amazing how blasé we have become about thse recent invaders.

Shreddies were sniffed out by Frank - what a bizarre find out in the wilds.

Do you know the rhyme?
Shreddies keep you healthy
Shreddies keep you fit
Wake up in the morning to a steaming bowl of Sh....
A Little Ringed Plover (127) on the shingle island hit the notebook along with a dozen Shelducks. A Sand Martin (128) flew over. One male Wigeon and two male Shovelers were also on the pool. A pair of Goldeneyes, a male Pochard and some Tufted Ducks gave diving duck interest. but no sign of the Smew - again! - it was there on Thursday. In the trees next to where we stood a Chiffchaff chirped away briefly.
Out on the river this jetskier flushed a female Goosander (129).

Seven Meadow Pipits and a single Pied Wagtail went over, again the wind was wrong for passerine migration.

A second trip around the curcuit gave us a Green Sandpiper (130) and a Small Tortoiseshell - the safari's first butterfly of the year.
A flock of ten Goldfinches picked for seeds amongst the flotsam and jetsam (= plastic bottles) along the edge of the marsh.
Moving a little south along the estuary we found this Greenshank. Didn't notice it had pulled a worm out until we downloaded the middle picture. "I can see you..."
"Out you come..."

"Yuk...sticky - sandy...need to rinse my beak now... "Plenty of the usual estuarine fare here, Redshanks and Black Tailed Godwits in good numbers and excellent close views of Curlews.
A stop at the freshwater pool gave us two Spotted Redshanks (131)...great stuff.
Heading off home we called in at the farmland feeding station and hit the favourites, Yellowhammer

and Corn Bunting.

Our Extreme Photographer takes much better quality pictures. Perfect portrait of a Collared Dove.

Lovely goose-stepping Stock Dove here.

Where to next? Back to the Patches with some wintery weather on the cards.

In the meantime let us know what quality pictures someone else has taken for you in your outback.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Weekend boating safari

The safari apologises for the misleading title! We meant a safari to the old boating pool at the bottom of the cliffs. The gooey tiny salt marsh here is all the wetland habitat we have along this stretch of coast and in the right conditions can be quite a bird attractor. Today the wind was wrong - straight off the sea with a bit of north in it. Still it's not a bad walk and a dry change from the, currently, quagmire-like Patch 1 - so we didn't have to hose down the .mud-hound from hell' when we got home. Still had to dodge the shog dite though.
Not sure what those two scrotes had been up to just after 07.00 but they looked a right dodgy pair.

The tide was up as you can see and the roosting ledge held 130 Redshanks and just seven Turnstones, As we finished counting another, noisy, 23 Turnstones appeared possibly from the ledge just above the waves on the other side of the wall. A Starling flew of the cliff top with a beakfull of moss for a nest under the eaves of Uncle Tom's Cabin. (BTO Breeding Atlas record) Out at sea we caught sight of a Red Throated Diver heading northwards low over the waves.

We heard the call of an 'alba' Wagtail echo round the pool and searching the 'salt marsh' found, a little disappointingly, a male Pied Wagtail as another 'alba' called overhead.
Not the best pic of the Redshanks on their roosting ledge but it gives those who have never been to Blackpool an idea of what we're on about.

And a bit more closely cropped - only took the little camera, no scope and not digi-binned - too much dog interference! Sorry Frank but you are a nightmare to go birding with.

Later a few of the Redshank had moved to the top of the wall.

The same ones from the other side of the wall.
We walked along the top of the cliffs looking down on 'Chat Alley' - well if Warren can have a Migrant Alley...
The wind was cruel and soon had our ears begging for mercy and looking out to sea the eyes quickly began to water. The warm sunshine was on the back was little consolation.
A Jackdaw headed south, not a species that hits the notebook very often.
We reached the northward limit and turning point of the walk - 'Meadow Pipit slab', where there weren't any! But only a minute or so in to the return leg, along the sunless but pleasantly out of the wind lower walk, one flew over. Before we got back to the Land Rover we had the grand total of two more!!! - hardly mind boggling vis mig this morning. Stopping every few hundred yards or so at each set of beach steps we scanned the sea and had three more Red Throated Divers in the middle distance. A little white bullet going south was an Auk sp, most likely a Razorbill.
Chat Alley was totally chat free...sadly no sign of any of the Black Redstarts that have been working their way through the various sites along the coast to the south of us. Going to look for one or two of these was one of the main reasons for doing this safari. Frank could have got up an hour earlier, at his normal time, which might have been better - he never has a lie in! Musta played too much rugby with his chums/pals yesterday evening!
Last week on this safari we had a nicely marked Rock Pipit - it was there again this morning in almost the same place...has it been resident all winter?
Where to next? Some winter dips to knock off tomorrow, hopefully, before they beggar off to their breeding grounds to the north and east.
In the meantime let us know if you were out an hour too late this morning in your outback...many might do it tomorrow morning...BST starts - remember your clocks.

Friday 26 March 2010

Same or not?

The safari’s tea time visit to Patch 1 saw the return of the Peregrine Falcon. But, and here’s the rub, it was sat on the telecoms cabling. What’s odd about that you might ask? Well after watching it up there all winter we never saw it sat on there. So is it the same bird or a different one? Hardly a quality pic at distance in poor light with the little camera on full zoom.
Further into the walk Frank was with his doggy mates playing ball when a large flock of about 50 small birds flew low across the rough field. They circled round and looked like they were going to settle in the old hedgerow but didn’t. What were they? Being just out of earshot and a bit too distant to see any detail my guess is Meadow Pipits due to the number of them but in reality they could have been almost anything of that sort of size.
This morning the Peregrine was sat up on the tower again, calling like mad, but again it was sat in an unusual place, on a ledge between the cables we’ve never seen it on previously…so is it the same bird or a different one…just seems strange to me that it has chosen to sit in another place after spending months on the same favoured ledges.
A concerted count of singing Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins was poor by recent standards, at 4,4 & 2 respectively. Maybe 06.30 is now too late, we’ll have to see what happens on Sunday morning after the clocks change and we’ll be an hour earlier. The torrential overnight rain might not have helped too much either. All seven Blackbirds seen were males including one with a bit of leucism around it’s face, not seen it for a few weeks, will try to get a pic for you – its usually fairly confiding providing Frank doesn’t get too close or move too quickly. Strangely one of the Rangers was speaking to me yesterday about a Blackbird showing more white than this one that has reappeared in his park after an absence of a few weeks too…wonder if they’re related and where have they been.
The female Sparrowhawk was about again and we had excellent views of a Grey Squirrel raiding a bird feeder, they have become much more active in the last few days. During the harshest weeks of the winter we didn’t see them at all.
Patch 2 was v. poor indeedy again. The Razorbill hadn’t moved in the 24 hours since we saw him last! Well not laterally at least because it was still moving vertically for food.
Another 1st winter Common Gull moved south and on the choppy water we could only find two Common Scoters. As the tide was up there was no beach consequently there were no waders.
Where is all the vis mig? All the other sites around the bay seem to be getting stacks of Meadow Pipits and other stuff going over in the mornings but once again not a peep (no - not a North American sandpiper) was heard nor any little bouncy things seen.
Out at sea the same sites have been recording sizeable flocks of Little Gulls – again nothing along our strip of coast…doh - feels like we’ve been short changed!
Talking of the sea, news just released from the Marine Conservation Society from their Beachwatch survey last summer shows there has been a more than doubling of plastic litter on the nation’s beaches in the 15 years they have been conducting the survey. 63% of all rubbish collected from our beaches is now plastic. They found that the total amount of rubbish has increased by 77% during that time and that the biggest source of the rubbish was pubic littering – disgusting! The MSC also revealed that in some parts of the oceans plastic fragments are SIX TIMES more numerous than plankton. A couple years ago we were at a beautiful stretch of beach, Freshwater West in South Wales but the strandline was a 2 metre wide 30 cm deep mass of plastic - we humans are a disgrace! About time the planet thought of a way to ‘dispose’ of us.
Wait! We might have been too hasty – there is hope! This morning, as we have been wandering up and down the corridors of power(usually with a cuppa in hand), we have been tripping over two lovely young ladies working on the Young Seasiders Exhibition and speaking to them we discovered that their school, Hambleton Primary School, was responsible for this most very excellent, well presented, extremely timely and pertinent piece of art. Lovin' that happy fish!
Looking round the displays we found another piece with a marine theme – this time from Roseacre Primary School, just round the corner from the Solaris Centre and regular visitors here. What a great message to put in a bottle and a crackin’ strap-line too.The camera doesn't do the glitter of 'sparkling' justice.
Could this be Blackpool’s first Caspian Gull…hmm maybe the bill isn’t quite long enough, dark eye is right on though.A super colourful coral reef from the children at Marton Primary School reminds me of my dives at Ras Mohammed in 1978.If anyone thinks there are no clourful fish in British waters just google Ballan Wrasse.
All is definitely not lost if our younger generation is thinking like this thoughtful 8 year old from Anchorsholme Primary School.
Well done one and all…you have rekindled our hope for, and faith in, humanity.

By lunchtime the tide was well out and there were 26 Redshanks, 2 Sanderlings and a smattering of uncounted Oystercatchers. Eight Turnstones picked their way along the outfall pipe. This afternoon there were only five bait diggers in action. Our Razorbill is actually a buoy that looks like a Razorbill – it has barely moved a yard from where it was yesterday morning. A diver close inshore, right behind the breakers was the closest we’ve ever seen one to the beach. The chances of it being something other than a Red Throated Diver are horrendously slim and we didn’t get a decent long look at it in the chop, just short glimpses, but it did seem a bit chunky, showed a lot of dark down the nape and onto the sides of the neck, smudgy cheeks and an obvious large white triangle above the waterline towards the stern…whilst fumbling to get the camera out of its pouch for what would have been the grottiest of record shots it did one never to be seen again…really coulda done with getting a shot or two off…why wasn’t it twenty yards behind the surf at high tide i.e twenty five yards away!
Where to next? The weekend promises a safari or two to wild wilderness places.
In the meantime let us know what is giving you hope for human kind in your outback.

BTW does anyone else have trouble with blogger? Often when we close someone’s blog it reopens itself repeatedly and the only way to stop it is to shut down the ‘puter. Does it a lot at home but did it on the works super duper rinky dinky ‘puter this morning too.

Thursday 25 March 2010

The scoreboard keeps ticking over

The safari was double impressed with Everton’s 2-0 win away against the multi-billion pound wannabes Man City last night – come on you Blues!!! Roll on a good away win for ‘Pool at Plymouth on Saturday – some travelling form wouldn’t go amiss in the season’s finale, coulda done with it earlier on.
Patch 1 hit the migrant jackpot early this morning too, with the long anticipated Chiffchaff (126, 65) finally falling – heard in the distance across the field. S.C.E is right - I need to relax more, they’ll get here eventually. Now we had mentioned we were listening out for them to the other early morning dog walkers and done the chiff – chaff whistle for them so they knew what to listen for and report so we are hoping that what we heard was actually the bird and not a dog walker doing the whistle and misleading us à la the Bill Oddie and the Long Eared Owl on a bird race fiasco. If you’ve read his books you’ll know what we’re on about, if not you’ll have to make an educated guess – suffice to say ‘probably’ no Long Eared Owls were actually involved in the tale.
Nice selection of resident stuff too with at least six singing Wrens, a couple of Robins, and lordy only knows how many Dunnocks; they seem to be ‘bird of the season’, and a Chaffinch.
We did see a fungus which we’re fairly certain we didn’t see yesterday; maybe we just didn’t notice them but given the damp warm conditions fungi can grow pretty rapid.. No camera and still too dark so we nipped back on the way to work. No idea with fungi, too many Latin names and not enough inclination I’m afraid but then we’ve never worked in any real fungi ‘hotspots’. So if any one cares to put a name to it we’d be grateful.

Out over the seawall on Patch 2 conditions were absolutely bally perfect, with a flat calm, shadow-free, grey sea. A grey-out at about a mile and half didn’t make much difference there was b*gger all out there – what a waste of the excellent conditions! A lonely Razorbill dived for fish a few hundred yards offshore. The usual count of fourteen Common Scoters was reached but in two distantly separated flocks rather than the ‘normal’ single one. Two flocks of fourteen Redshanks totalled 28 on the rapidly growing beach.
Also on the beach was a noticeable increase of Lesser Black Backed Gulls, the commonest gull this morning. One Great Black Back kept a watchful eye on its smaller cousins.
The gentle SE breeze promised much by way of vis mig but nothing flew over at all – just too much low cloud perhaps but in complete contrast to Heysham Observatory a few miles up the coast.
Recently at Heysham PM had warned birders not to be fooled by a Song Thrush that was imitating a Green Woodpecker – a rare find up that way. A similar thing happened at Base Camp this morning when we looked skywards for the calling Buzzard overhead – a Starling singing from a nearby chimney pot! Better at Base Camp was the sound of House Sparrows, almost forgotten that happy chirruping. Until a year ago they used to nest over the road but the home owners have replaced their old rotten soffits with new PVC ones and the poor sparrows have lost their nest site. Hopefully they will find somewhere else to get in.
How sustainable is PVC? Talking of sustainability the green credentials of our Leader of the Opposition are now called in to question – why what has he done? Didn’t he have a wind turbine on his house and ride a bike everywhere once? Well he’s about join the more than two children world population explosion brigade! Thus blowing any green credentials straight out of the window.
We also heard the tragic story a mother talking on TV who had lost a child to illness – never a pleasant experience. But she did come out with a pearler…she said “it wasn’t natural for a parent to outlive their children”. Maybe not in the 20th/21st Century in the West but it is a normal thing to happen – think Frogs and tadpoles, Mallards and ducklings, Turtles and turtlings…Herrings and their eggs, even happens with humans away from modern medicine and guaranteed food supplies. There is enormous wastage at this time of year just so that two offspring might survive and keep the population stable…slightly over simplified but you get my drift…it’s all these people having more than two surviving children that are causing much of the worlds problems. Who’s gonna feed us all when Peak Oil passes…most of what we humans eat is oil based, from fertilisers, pesticides, machinery fuel and distribution to safe storage and processing…someone’s gonna be very hungry in a few years time.
After all that gubbins it’s time to tell you that, sadly, there was no lunchtime Patch 2 visit today as conditions were still top dollar.
Just in case you hadn’t realised this week is World Water Week (dirty water is responsible for tens of thousands of child deaths [see above] in the Third World and coming up on Saturday is WWF’s Earth Hour so don’t forget to turn those lights out at 8.30pm.
Where to next? More patchy stuff followed by a more distant safari to the farthest flung reaches of safari-land – Chancellor permitting - ANOTHER 3p/litre on fuel - that’s 15p a gallon and taking diesel to £5.45+ a gallon (=US$8.20) – the thieving ratbag - but we’re still not gonna buy an unsustainable green-wash Prius.
In the meantime let us know where you’ve not been able to get to in your outback this arvo.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Has the spring has dried up?

The safari’s early morning visit to Patch 1 produced not a single Chiffchaff again! No sign of the recent Blackcap either. The Greenfinches were still going round in twittering circles but the park was eerily quiet. I think we are getting there too late now – 06.15 is TOO LATE??! That can’t be right. The clocks change this weekend so it will be interesting to see if that lost hour makes a difference.
A female Sparrowhawk flew past Woodpigeon/Magpie Wood at tree top height and scattered the remnants of the roost with about a dozen Woodpigeons which clattered through the twigs and branches to get out of range.
No sign of the Peregrine, nor was there on the late walk last night, we haven’t heard it calling for a while now either so it might have done a bunk before we’ve had a chance to get a nest box up – next season perhaps.
Pre-work Patch 2 was miserable. A cool breeze, very murky, hazy sea and persistent drizzle made for an even shorter than normal watch. All we could muster were a few Herring Gulls, a pair of Lesser Black Backs, a handful of Black Heads a lone Great Black Back and no more than a dozen Oystercatchers. A single Sandwich Tern proved it was actually spring and not late November. Whilst we were scoping this bird of the day floated by – a first winter Common Gull, with good numbers on the beach recently there have been few young birds. Then, following it, a few hundred yards behind, another one – weird or what, but no adults on this watch.
We were having a quick shuffy on the web last night (after seeing ‘pool’s 5 – 1 win – bring it on!!!) and came across a discussion ,by gradders52 and WyreWader, about the huge roosting Starling flock at the pier ‘feeding?’ on the beach before settling down for the night. We have noticed this spectacle several times on the way home and not been able to stop in the traffic to get a better view. Why do they do it, what are they looking for – surely they can’t be feeding??? Questions, questions questions…the best place for observations and a photo would probably be looking down on them from the pier itself. What the great shame is that I would hazard a guess that 99.9% of people driving home don’t even notice them even when they are swirling around in the air. Must make a point of taking more notice of them when they are on the beach and following the thread on Bird Forum to see if any theories emerge. Blackpool is the most urbanised borough in the country outside of Inner London so we really need to make more of our wildlife spectacles like this one.
Had a look on the way home tonight but the tide was in so no beach for them to sit on/forage over today. Wonder how long it will last as the big roost will be breaking up shortly as birds make their way back to their breeding grounds where-ever that might be.
Where to next?? There's a Chiffchaff with my name on it somewhere!
In the meantime let us know what you ought to have seen by now in your outback but which is still eluding you.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Beef, tuna mayo, prawn, tern?

The safari set off up the hill with our back against a glorious red dawn. Nowt really happening other than the usual. No migrants today what so ever. Greenfinches were tweeting prettily above the tall conifer hedge, almost definitely going to be a nest in there in a coupla weeks.
Nothing doing on the Patch proper until we were back at Woodpigeon Wood when a little male Sparrowhawk was being escort off the plot by a pair of Crows.
Out on Patch 2 little was doing again. Three Meadow Pipits appeared way out over the waves and headed in towards the dunes not far to the south. While we were watching those a fourth one flew low overhead traveling in a more sensible northward direction. A Pied Wagtail went over too but it has gone down as an 'alba' cos at this time of year they could easily be White Wagtails.
Low over the waves a blisteringly white Gannet showed against the dull grey sea. Ten minutes was enough to realise there wasn't really much to get excited about.
The lunchtime session struck gold. Before we had set the scope on the seawall we could hear them - kerrick kerrick - the Sandwich Terns (125, 64) have arrived, eight of them were sat on the inspection chamber of the swiftly disappearing under the tide outfall pipe. They were forced off and sat on the beach with a few Oystercatchers. While they were going about their business they had a few 'dreads' and once up in the air they were joined by a ninth.

The pics aren't upto much but the scope was wound up a fair bit cos of the distance and it was a very dull day so that's what yer get...first of many we hope. So 125 species for the year are now in the book with less than three months gone. Looking through the field guide we can just about see another 50 but getting to the upper target of 200 might prove a little too tricky.

Where to next?? That missing Patch 1 Chiffchaff is doing our fruit! Tonight the weather forecast is supposed to be better than last night so hopefully it'll be there all chiffing and chaffing.

In the meantime let us know if anything turned up in your outback today.

Monday 22 March 2010

The notebook snoozes

The safari was out on Patch 1 a few minutes past 6 this morning. Far too late for the Peregrine now but a Mistle Thrush was singing somewhere in the distance. Nice to hear so many Wrens, it would seem they have survived the bad weather around here at least.
Little else to make it in to the book...a large female Sparrowhawk flew along the edge of Woodpigeon Wood, she seems to be becoming the new Peregrine.
Patch 2 was even worse if that's possible. Seven Oystercatchers were ALL that was on the beach and there was nothing, absolutely nothing to be seen on or above the sea. Eventually a couple of young Herring Gulls came in to view mooching about dipping and diving a good way out.
Whilst watching these another gull flew through the field of view; refocussing fast we saw that it was something just a little bit different...Either a rather large, long winged Common Gull, or, more accurately, a perfectly normal 2nd winter Yellow Legged Gull. Just reward for a dull and increasingly wet quarter of an hour!
No chance of a lunchtime jaunt, nor an evening Patch 1 visit today...the Chiffchaff and Sandwich Tern will have to wait another day.
Where to next? Better Patch opportunities tomorrow and the rest of the week weather permitting.
In the meantime let us know what's been avoiding you in your outback.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Summat different for yer

The safari had a different sort off trip out today - looking for bits to add to the Land Rover and get some ideas from the 'big boys'.
A jaunt down 100 miles of foggy motorway only gave us a grand total of one Kestrel and three Buzzards, the last of these was over the showgound car park.
A nice Series II from 1971 rubs shoulders with a 2002 Defender - there is a distinct family resemblance. We used to have a LWB Series IIa - great fun but long gone now.
It wasn't all Solihull specials as this rather tasty Toyo shows - don't see many of these SWB Cruisers.

A pair of G4 competition look-alikes. Likin' the tricked up D3, but will wait for the improved D4 version and a lottery win!

Lovely pair of Disco's. Everyone stopped to have a closer look at the 'micro-ute' cropped job - the owner should have charged a quid a look - he'd have made a fortune!
Don't think wifey would let me do that to ours as it wouldn't very practical for Frank - he'd get wet when it rained!
A Disco, rather similar to ours, sat next to an Alter - whatever one of those is - never seen one before - it was as rusty as...but it was the best part of 20 years old.

Finally - the sublime and the rediculous - but which is which - the two extremes of Solihull products, one sort of messed with, the other hot from the factory floor. Scary thing is the one on the right is probably the better on the rough stuff - and far far far more comfy - and does more mpg!
So what goodies did we cone home with? A bigger shackle for the tow rope - that was it - last of the big spenders eh!
The retuirn journey saw not a single raptor. Plenty of Crows, Magpies and Woodpigeons and not a lot else. Roadkill was plentiful, mostly over fed and over produced Pheasants and a fair few Rabbits but did include a definite Polecat and another probable one - didn't think they were becoming that common!
Where to next? Normal service will be resumed on the Patches tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know which Solihull products can be found in your outback