Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Attacked at Base Camp!

The Safari was sat out in the hot heat and high humudidity waiting for it to happen...Then it DID...a Clegg, aka Horse Fly landed on us!
Oh no don't tell us that Base Camp's garden is going to become a no-go area.
We're now sat there scared stiff with one eye on the blue sky and multitude of con trails, the other eye on the look out for horrors landing on exposed flesh. Suppose we could always cover up but that would defeat the whole point of summer.
So while we're sat watching the con trails evaporate waiting for the Red Kite, Black Kite, Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Goshawk, White Stork, Black Stork, Crane, or whatever else deigns to break the monotony of one Swift, happens along we got to thinking how Humans coped with the bitey things in our distant past. cos no matter where you go they are there.
Ticks, Fleas, Horse Flies, Mosquitoes, Tsetse Flies, Black Flies, Leeches, even the Scottish Mighty Midgy (about which my brother said he'd rather be eaten by a Tiger at least you'd only get bitten once). We remember only to well a field trip to the Fens in Cambridgeshire where all our bare flesh was just about covered in Mosquitoes our hands looked like we were wearing Mosquito gloves! Don't tell me we need to rummage out the tropical holiday insect repellent just to sit out at Base Camp...oh noooooo...and still no sign of any of those large winged things listed above. Just how did we manage as a species before DDT and DEET?
Maybe we used plant extracts as repellent possibly from species like this rare Lancashire plant, Tubular Water Dropwort, seen here as a specimen in Base Camp's pond grown from wild collected seed.

Now another disaster has struck - the seat on the garden bench has disintegrated!...Total , total calamity.

If we sit on the good side (how long will that survive?) our kit and notebooks etc are on the bad bandaged lefthand side so not easy for a quick grap should a wandering wonder from the earlier paragraph actually put in an appearance. Now that National Insect week has finished we've started to get some good insect action! Half a Blue Tailed Damselfly has been found on one of the Lily leaves.

But is the Pond Skater guilty, has he left that wing at the scene of the crime and is backing away surreptitiously or is he the detective coming to investigate?

Whilst watching this Syrrphid hoverfly (Marmalade Fly?) sun bathing we noticed behind him was the first of this year's Poecilobothrus nobilitatus is doing his dance on the Lily padsThe males have the longer white tipped wings - all important in that wing buzzing display dance they do. The females are more normally proportioned and obviously lack the white tips.

Great excitement...six Oystercatchers flew inland at height piping as they went AND at the same time a Speckled Wood flitted through the garden. Despite being less than a mile from the sea Oystercatchers are a rare bird over Base Camp. More excitement...a Small Tortoishell flitted through but like the earlier Speckled Wood wasn't tempted by our variety of flowers to stop and have a glug of nectar.
Where to next? More of the same for at least a week or so, hope you can stand the ever increasing excitement!
In the meantime let us know what's so exciting in your outback
Cooo that lot took bally ages to rattle off...the next few missives might well be shorter if not to ache in a quiet corner now....

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Still the spuggies come

the Safari has managed a few pics of our 'new' House Sparrows.
Taken through the kitchen window this youngster is sat on the rim of the bird bath.
Mum and two of the kids at bathtime.
Kids have gone leaving mum to clean up after them.
We also have a Woodpigeon nest building in the big Sycamore, its bringing in some very long twigs and just clatters through the foliage - it'll have someones eye out if it's not careful.
Hey GB Frank ain't fat he's barrel chested!!!
Where to next? Might be allowed out later with Wifey and the mud-hound from hell.
In the meantime let us know whose been bathing in your outback.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Still here

The Safari has no pics for you today, been the quacks to have the hand rebandaged, wot a bludy mess - big holes in the middle of our hand. Now the hurting part begins - - physio...oh noooooo.
Anyways we've had a quiet day at home in the rain...yes some wet stuff fell this arvo. wifey came home and suggested we take Frank for a walk up to the Bee Orchids where the Safari could do a count and see if the Broomrape has come up this year.
Frank put the mockers on the proceedings by diving in the brook which, due to the lack of rain, is just a mass of stinking black sludge....ohhhh FRAAAANNNK!!!!!! IDEEE-OT!!!!! All we saw was a single Common Blue butterfly.
Whilst watching him being hosed down in the garden we heard the cheerful chirruping of more than one HOUSE SPARROW - there was a female and at least three youngsters hopping in and out of our trees and on to the feeder - great stuff but will they stick around for the rset of the summer and tell their mates.
A Great Tit also put in an appearance for the first time in a while. Not interested in the feeder it spent its time searching for spiders on the laths of the fence panels. Talking of spiders we have spotted a belter on a piece of dead stem overhanging the pond. Can't get a pic until the hand improves as it's in a tricky position.
That's all for today folks the pain is kicking in now.
Where to next? More Base Camp stuff and maybe we'll get over to the Bee Orchids tomorrow evening - doubt if Wifey will want to take Frank anywhere near that stinking ditch for the rest of the summer though.
In the meantime we hope your footy team is still in with a shout cos our shower of useless sh*tes will be home tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A big win?

The Safari won a thousand on the lottery last night, sadly pence not pounds. We need five nu,bers and the bomus ball just to break even, and we've probably paid for the 2012 Olympics TWICE!
After yesterday's Drone Flies we had another today which today looked like a Red Tailed Bumble Bee.
Any one got any suggestions?
Today was the hottest day of the year so far here. 30C one day soon or will the weather break before then? Yes we know the sun was hitting the thermometer but still 24C in the shade...loverly.
Too hot for Frank though.
We're still waiting for that rarity to drop in. We mentioned Red Kites as they are nesting not too far away in south Lakeland and more are about to be introduced there too. It's not a long flap to north Lancashire and thence to Over Wyre and the Fylde. In fact most of Lancashire west of the Pennines looks ideal for them, lots of Rabbits, lots of small woodlands - lets hope they do well in the county in the next five yeatrs or so.
On the pond there has been a 100% increase in the number of Pond four.
A chunky teneral damselfly avoided the pot. Could it have been our second Large Red Damselfly or one of the even scarcer, for Base Camp, Common Blue or Azure Damselflies. Have to hope it sticks around and matures.

After the referee/linesman from hell all was soooooo silent in the vicinity of Base Camp, a strange sort of silence...apart from the cheerful chirrupping of a HOUSE SPARROW coming from the direction of our recently filled feeder - a female!!!!! Almost makes up for THAT result. A bit of watering before the hosepipe ban is announced flushed a Yellow Shell moth from deep within our vegetation.

Where to next? Sepp Blatters gaff with a sacful of goal line technology and a lynch mob - the Safari a sore loser - never...

In the meantime let us know who needs lynching in your outback...any Mexicans read this rubbish?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The longest post

The Safari will take ages to type this out one fingered! Today's news comes from a sunny Base Camp garden, which was somewhat surprisingly quiet compared to last week.
There seemed to be fewer bees, hovers and damsels; not even the Jasmine and the Scarlet Pimpernel were attracting much this arvo.

Two Pond Skaters ran the gaulntlet of the fish lurking beneath them. There was a bit of hoverfly action with a Syrrphid laying its eggs, while a Large White butterfly fluttered through without even thinking about stopping.
Birdwise not a lot was moving. A few Feral Pigeons, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls flew over. In the garden the feeders are empty and we're unable to fill them at the mo so the Goldfinches are no longer visiting.
Overhead a couple of Swifts didn't linger long. Where are they all this year? We've not had any anywhere near our box and haven't even heard them screaming round the houses yet this season!
Today even the Magpies have been noticeable by their absence.
Could really do with something exciting like a Red Kite going over or an early moving Redstart sat in the Sycamore tree.

A bit of Drone Fly action for you!
Where to next? With so little happening we'd better go and watch some more footy.
In the meantime let us know if you fancy USA or Ghana to be beaten by England in the next round.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The last post...

This is the last post before the Safari goes under the Sturgeon's knife...again!
Patch 1 was wet and rainy this morning - where did that come from...but not much other than Woodpigeons, Collared Doves and Blackbirds about.
As you will be aware we have been taking an interest in the man from Moore's missives and mathmatical gymnastics.
So using his theories we put our year list to the test. By the way - if you haven't been to Moore, near Runcorn and Widnes, then we thoroughly recommend it. A great site all year round, good birds, good insects, gulls gulls gulls for the Laridophiles from the landfill next door and there is always the chance of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Don't go when the Safari is in town as you will get nothing more than a short burst of call but if you visit when we're not there the bird will be performing somersaults so close you won't be able to focus your bins on it! - not sure how good it is for other stuff like plants and fungi etc - a chap called Anno might like to stick something in the comments and let us know.
So what about our list - In January we predicted 175, the Moore Mathmatical Genius's Universal Birding Truth says...176.7 as you can't have 3/4 of a bird it'll have to round up to 178.
Our total so far, with a full six months gone, is 167. That Law of Diminishing Returns is fierce - only 11 more species mathmatically available to get in the second half of the year. We have already dipped 11 species but clawed back two of them. To beat the mathmatics we are going to have to do some serious twitching but that bends the rules as the 'effort' is supposed to be constant throughout the year...doesn't say you can't twitch just means that that is 'cheating' to beat the maths!
We do have a trip to North Wales planned for later in the summer when a couple or three 'extras' might fall. Other than that it seems that the Universal Truth of Bird Listing might just be true...try it on your lists and let us know how your 'actual v the maths' bears out.
On a totally different tack...
The safari uses this Green Lane from time to time and has witnessed some of the damage the numpties had done - disgraceful. But what a pity about the last line of this press article in relation to other areas not very far from this woodland and the creatures that live there which suffer (allegedly we hasten to add!!!) persistant illegal persecution.
If we are fit we will be standing up to be counted as one of the responsible users of a 4x4 in the countryside.
Where to next? We can smell those scalpels being autoclaved.
In the meantime let us know whose been up to numptiness in your outback.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Wou'ja look at the pollen baskets on that

The Safari had an hour to kill before the footy started so we tried to get some pics of the bees outside the front door here at Base Camp. The bush is one of the Ceanothus species and it just reeks of honey...the bees simply love it - it is covered in them.
The top two pics are White Tailed Bumble Bee, the others are all Red Tailed Bumble Bee.

Tricky little Sheilas cos they just won't keep still!

Where to next? Deffo off round to our mates to watch the footy on the world's biggest telly. Hope they take a leaf out of Portugals book and score a netful. Alternatively Rooney et al could always do a Maradonna, Henri or Luis Fabiano if the ball isn't finding the net often enough ie cheat! Apologies to any Slovenian readers but this is football - no offence meant.

In the meantime will we be able to stand the nerves?

Aye Aye Skipper

No, the safari doesn't mean the weird looking thing with the kinky finger from the darkest depths of the (rapidly diminishing) Madagascan rainforest.
We actually mean our own fairly common Large Skippers, from Patch 1 - which is nowhere near Madagascar.
Male, with the black scent brand.
And female without.
Try as we might we just couldn't get a decent pic of a female Common Blue that was flitting about and settling to feed on the patch of Meadow Vetchling.
A few Meadow Browns on the wing too, but still no Small Skippers. A pristine Small Tortoiseshell was far to active for a shot.
Going back to the Common Blues some dweeb has piled a load of cut brash right on top of their best and sunniest patch of Birds Foot Trefoil!
Had reports of another dead Fox in patch 1 yesterday, the safari thinks they are getting hit by cars on the main road as they cross from the park to the golf course opposite. A young Fox was out on the edge of the Golden Triangle late last night.
Where to next? Plonking down in front of the telly with our vuvuzela! COME ON ENGLAND - COME ON ENGLAND...
In the meantime let us know how the butterflies are doing in your outback this season - unless of course it's winter and they aren't on the wing.

The answer to 'Spot the birdy'

The safari was back in the farmland early this morning. Not so bright and sunny today nor as 'birdy'. Yes there were plenty of birds but they were nowhere near as vocal as the other day.
As soon as we got out of the Land Rover we spotted a family of fledgling Willow Warblers in the bush next to us, still with their nestling gape showing.
Moving along the hedgerow at the edge of the field we saw no sign of our intended quarry. Reed Buntings and a Robin gathered insects but they weren't what we were after. A quick call to the Ranger revealed it was sat on a waymarker post just beyond the trees on the other side of the field.; would we see it today.
He joined us and we stood in a little nook in the hedge out of sight of the main part of the field but affording us a good view - nothing. 20 minutes later we gave up and had a wander around the track to the west where some higher ground might be to our advantage. Still no sign but we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away and a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly from an area we'd never heard them in before, not too far from their normal patch but far enough to make us note it as odd.
A quarter of an hour later and still no sign. A Curlew wailed mournfully overhead - more 'autumn' passage.
We parted company and the safari headed back to the field on the off chance...good move! It was there quartering the damp rough to the south - Barn Owl (167) -at last!
It disappeared behind a scraggy bit of hedge so using the cover we snuck down to get a better view. Where had it gone? It lifted out of the thick long grass with a vole too close for us to get the camera fired up in time, it screeched at us mockingly as we panned round behind it. Was that to be it for the day as it was getting late in the morning by now.
Fortunately not. It reappeared and successfully hunted two more voles.
Getting a decent pic proved to be a nightmare. Despite their floppy slow looking flight they cover the ground pretty quickly. Add to that that it was over the middle of the field and the camera kept trying to focus on the trees at the back. Not only that even though the morning was cloudy compared to the other morning the whiteness of the owl still bleached out on the pics. Doh...a bad workman always blames his tools!
Anyway it was nice to get the scoreboard moving again before we go in to hossy.
Here are the very best of a very bad bunch of Barn Owl pics.

So did ya get the answer to Spot the birdy right?
Where to next? Might get a brief soiree into Patch 1 before the torture that will be England v Slovenia.
In the meantime let us know if the scoreboard in your outback is still ticking over.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Look what happens when…

The safari promised you invertebrates. Well you’re gonna get by the sackful.
After the ill-fated farmland safari we started to empty the moth trap and there were plenty in there to keep us busy! So many that we had to stop for a rest and enlist some help, in the form of our Extreme Photographer – Raf, for the second half!
Sitting right at the top of the trap was this rather splendidly superb Gold Spot.

Small Magpie is just about the biggest of the ‘micro’ moths.
More typically small but still quite chunky is this little chap that looks like a blob of birdy doodoo, Hedya nubiferana – many thanks to SP for the ID on that tricky little chappy.

Before we started the trap ‘part deux’ we did a butterfly survey over on Patch 1’s rough field. The safari was in charge of the notebook while our Extreme Photographer was in charge of the camera – naturally…the results speak for themselves – didn’t know our camera could do that – just think how good the pics would have been had he brought his super-duper rinky-dinky dslr and mega lenses out on safari.
What a great day for a bit of butterfly surveying – not too hot and a bit of a light chilly wind so they weren’t over mobile and would sit still for their portraits to be taken. In the end we had 76 individuals of 7 species although exactly 50 were Large Skippers; no Small Skippers here yet despite some being seen locally in the last week.
Not often you get to see the underwing of Large Skippers,

it’s not that exciting but it is only rarely witnessed as they normally rest in the ‘jet fighter’ pose.

Similarly the underside of Speckled Woods are rarely seen – they are usual seen, and photographed in the ‘wings wide open pose’. This one appears to be sucking at the honeydew on the leaf.

Both the Large Skipper and the Speckled Wood must have been warm enough as they were sat 'with the sun' so as not to absorb anym more heat. You can see this by looking at their shadows.
A fallen log provided a warming spot for a few different species of insects. Including this lovely Flesh Fly who has obviously fallen out with the Green Bottle. Oohh it looks like handbags at dawn!

Some bees were seen disappearing into a small crack in the log. A bit dark for a decent photo but later one sat still enough for a proper shot. Any bee specialists read this rubbish?
Talking of bees how about this whopping White Tailed Bumble Bee.

And this hugely gi-normous one, which we think is one of the Cuckoo Bees due to the smokiness of the wings.

Plenty of other insects about including this gorgeous blue Hoverfly of unknown usual.

A much more familiar Blue Tailed Damselfly.

Another tidy looking species of Sawfly to add to our current sawfly list of a grand total of … one!

Grasshoppers were abundant, their stridulations filling the summer afternoon’s air.

Above them, at the top of the grass flowerheads, this one is Timothy, were myriads of little Grass Bugs.

Best spot of the day was predation in action. Look how this Robber Fly is dangling by just a single leg as it subdues and ingests its hoverfly(?) prey that it caught before our very eyes. Really wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of that very vicious looking beak.

There was heaps more exciting stuff out there and the more we looked the more we found we didn’t know or recognise…and we don’t remember coming across any beetles- aren’t they supposed to be the most diverse of all the invertebrate groups? But, sadly, you can’t get pictures of everything so there’s bound to more new stuff for you to gawp at throughout the summer.
Didn’t really have time/inclination to look at/listen to the birds but a Magpie giving us an alarm call resulted in spanking views of the Sparrowhawk weaving through the trees.
This has to be one of our best safaris yet – just doing the ‘Springwatch thing’ and looking closely at what’s around in our own back yards – no need to go to the Serengeti with all that, and much, much more, going on in a grassland near you!
After all that excitement a brew was needed and then it was back to the moth trap…
Final result was c.80 individuals of 25 or so species including this very nice Flame Shoulder, one of 7 of these.

And this as yet unid’d individual which my ID mate reckons is probably a Rustic Shoulder Knot…anyone (dis)agree with him?

Our final moth is the tiny Middle Barred Minor, those ruled lines on the paper are 6.5mm apart. First record of this fella for the Base Camp garden.

This morning Patch 1 gave us Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat, Patch 2 gave us heartache – nothing there after weekend reports of Arctic Skuas - plural! - and a Harbour Porpoise – no sign of our regular Grey Seal, probably because the tide was in and had he been there he would have been well within camera range!
Where to next? After that lot a good rest wouldn’t go amiss but we’ll be out on the Patches as per usual… for a coupla days at least.
In the meantime let us know if your outback is behaving like the Serengeti in miniature