Saturday 31 July 2010

Still here - just!!!

The Safari just about survived tthe onslaught and was able to get out for an hour in a bit of sunshine - so we wazzed round to Patch 1 and the White Letter Hairstreaks. Before we started to stake them out we went to investigate a couple of fungi we had seen this morning. A big brown one about 15cm across...

And one that looks like it could be 'Supermarket' Mushroom aka Field Mushroom.
In the butterfly glade we scanned and scanned both sides of the trees at all levels and came across a pair of twizzlers that were suspicious in their small size but nothing gave their true identity away as they disappeared over the trees never to be seen again. Lots of Speckled Woods were out as was our first second brood Peacock. Two Gatekeepers were nice to see, it seems they are now reasonably well established even if in only small numbers.

Plenty of skippers including this fresh Large Skipper.
Did you spot the Blackfly aphids under the flowerhead?
A few Small Skippers and loads of Meadow Browns about enjoying the chance to stretch their wings after the recent deluges.
We chased a couple of Holly Blues around without success and then did the same to a male Common Blue before finding this more sedate female Common Blue.

Same pic treated differently.
Bird-life included a tree-top skimming WLH chomping Swift, and six low-level Swallows (family party?). Another Sparrowhawk was seen again, this time being mobbed by a gaggle of Magpies.
We finished in the glade chasing another potential WLH round the tree before that too disappeared to where-ever they disappear to.
A couple of Black Headed Gulls finished the afternoon off nicely...
Then Wifey's sister rang and sh*t hit the fan...
Where to next? Exhibition hanging at Stanley Park visitor centre tomorrow morning and then we might have a short round the park, but we'll have to be quick VIPs arriving for a slap up feast.
In the meantime let us know what's been giving you the run around in your outback.


The Safari was out very late last night and we saw a black blob on the water tower which can only have been the Peregrine. A few moments later we saw a Fox cub by the Golden Triangle, they've almost definitely bred in there. As we carry the little camera in the coat pocket we got it out and had it 'ready snapping' as our old Praktica's manual said. We weren't expecting to find this little chap out in the open. Not often we see Hedgehogs these days and those we do are usually snuffling around deep in the shrubbery with no chance of a pic.

Apologies if the pics are a bit 'samey' but he wasn't moving about much and thankfully didn't roll into a ball when Frank got a bit too near.
Back round to the Golden Triangle we tried a bit of pishing and the Fox cub reappeared but way to distant for this camera in the pitch black. It's eye shine is the circled dot beneath the street light. (If you can see the circle!). Have to say it isn't often we get to photograph two species of mammals in one night!
Back home a concert was in full swing as Wifey entertained her friend who had come visiting so with an (almost) hidden camera we took some video - and this might well be the end of the Safari - - if so it was nice knowing you all. Use your browsers BACK button to return to the Safari after enjoying the musical interlude.

Apologies for the cricked necks but we forgot you can't use the camera portrait style in video mode..duuhhh.
Back on Patch 1 early doors we can confirm that the black blob was indeed the Peregrine and a juvenile Sparrowhawk was seen, confirming breeding on the patch this year at last. A Curlew called as it flew south inland of us, not often we get them during the hours of daylight..
A lunchtime visit was made to somewhere we haven't been for ages - Mossom Wildlife Field - where we had a Swallow, 15+ Goldfinches feeding on the Creeping Thistle seeds with a couple of House Sparrows and the following butterflies for the Big Butterfly Count...Small Tortoiseshell - 2; white sp - 2, Common Blue - 1 (Fresh as a daisy!), skipper sp - 1, Small Skipper - 1; Meadow Brown - 3. Numbers are bit low but it was overcast, not too warm c16C, and breezy. Some nice patches of wildflowers too including Yarrow, Hardheads (aka Black Knapweed), Birds Foot Trefoil and Meadow Buttercup, although we'd say there could be more wildflowers and less extensive grass with careful introductions and management.
Where to next? Back later if we're not buried face down in a shallow grave beneath the patio!
In the meantime let us know who's been singing in your outback.

Friday 30 July 2010

Will it ever end?

The Safari had the usual late night Patch 1 mooch last night and had the bizarre but wonderful incident of a Swallowtail moth landing on our shirt sleeve. We’d noticed a large pale moth fluttering about over the road and up and down the pavement where the gardens have some good nectar plants at the moment and guessed it would be this species. It passed us a couple of times and then circled out wide over the road and came back in bee-line for us and landed on the aforementioned arm just above our elbow…great stuff. Nearly had a Long Tailed Tit land on our head once, we’ve had a Goldcrest on the coat at dawn at Spurn and a Yellow Browed Warbler landed on a large wooden plank inches from where we were sat, again at Spurn, but don’t ever recall a moth deliberately landing on us like that.
There were quite a few other moths flitting about on this muggy evening and we could be tempted to grab a pocketful of pots and the net next time – now that would get some interesting looks from the great unwashed driving past up and down the hill. Many of the gardens have (mostly) uncut, and therefore flowering, Japanese Privet but just one has a leggy specimen of the native Wild Privet; the Japanese variety seems to be smellier and attracts more moths!
Frank was late getting up this morning so the Patch 1 visit was reduced to a spin round Magpie Wood and back past the Golden Triangle, which has been very quiet of late. Nothing what-so-ever to report.
Patch 2 didn’t produce the yesterday’s floating Harbour Porpoise although a sandy coloured blob way, way down to the south far out on the end of a sand spit could have been it but it was indeterminate even with the scope wound up to full blast. Dark clouds laden with heavy rain were coming in from the west (AGAIN!!! – that’ll make a refreshing change NOT) and visibility out at sea was desperately poor (understatement of the year) a brief view of a single Sandwich Tern was all we could muster – we want (NEED) an Arctic Skua or a Little Tern – the year list has ground to a grinding halt – either that or hit the buffers with a resounding thud!!!
Turning our attentions to the gulls and other stuff (of which there was only a smattering of Oystercatchers in the end) on the beach our initial ‘speed’ scan revealed a lack of juvenile Black Headed Gulls so we decided to do a proper look through said Larids. Lots and lots and lots (= easy 500+) Herring Gulls with a healthy crop of juveniles, an adult Common Gull was pecking at seaweed on the higher part of the beach and we counted 67 adult Black Heads but not a single juvenile! Where are they? A second adult Common Gull was way out on the tide line as was a 4th summer Yellow Legged Gull. This was first picked up during the count of Black Heads and passed over after a short look with a ‘hmmm that’s interesting thought’. Now with dodgy gulls we like to relook for them and find them again – if you don’t refind them chances are they weren’t that dodgy after all. We did refind it after a couple of scans and were lucky enough for a Lesser Black Back, a Herring and a Black Head all to be in the field of view at the same time and, importantly, all stood facing the same way so we could assess the mantle shades accurately. A nice bright billed, almost adult, bird, quite long legged compared to the adjacent Herring Gull – would have been better if it was much closer in so we could have got a shot or two of it. As for the Lesser Black Backs there were very few no more than a dozen including juveniles and a Great Black Backed Gull also out in an appearance…it’s definitely Autumn now!
Patch 2 at lunchtime – a wet wash-out…nuff said. But on getting back to the office what should we find lying dead on the carpet but a hoverfly…now Cliff was asking what a haltere was (see comments yesterday). Well this was too good an opportunity to miss. So here are some pics of the hover with one of the pair of halteres circled – it’s the little white blob – on this species the ‘stem’ appears to be quite short and hard to see in the pics…ohh wouldn’t we like a decent microscope for stuff like this…can’t see us getting one with all the government cutbacks…conversation was something like this; “errr boss can I order a “… “ 'KIN' ELL NO! and don’t ask again”.

We noticed the antennae are unusual in that they are made up of two components, a thick bit and a wispy, thin bit, never noticed that before but they’ve almost definitely got a technical name…over to you Dean? And while you’re at it the species is???

Many thanks…
Continuing the hoverfly theme; the curl on the wings of the Great Pied Hoverfly – excellent name – we’ve scoured Google Images and it would seem that it is a species-wide phenomenon not something that was peculiar to that individual. Thinking about it they are very like the tertials on a bird.

The answers to the ‘sketches in the notebook quiz’ are:- Top – Harbour Porpoise, next down – Bottle-nosed Dolphin, next - Basking Shark, then – Grey Seal bottling (trying to show difference in profiles between males and females), bottom – Grey Seal resting prone at surface - - you did get em all right didn’t you?
Where to next? Ah the weekend…but will it stop raining?
In the meantime let us know what wildlife you’ve tripped over in your outback

Thursday 29 July 2010

Things can only get better

The Safari reckons you can’t beat a bit of D:Ream.
Yesterday evening out on Patch 1 whilst chatting to our doggy walking chums we were being strafed by a kamikaze Swallow – we must have been kicking up some insects as we played ball with the mutts, whatever the reason it gave us stupendous views as it whizzed past at ankle height. Walked back through the butterfly ‘glade’ where there were no butterflies but came across this whopping great hoverfly, Volucella pellucens, nectaring on the Creeping Thistles. We have seen these many times before but not noticed the curl on the wing where it joins the thorax. It can be seen clearly on the pics. At first we thought it might be the haltere but, again, that can be seen (just about) on the first pic. So what is it?

This morning’s visit to Patch 1 was a little later than normal and it’s a whole new world; you see people and their dogs you never knew existed by being just 10 minutes out of synch. Wildlife-wise a clump of Common Inkcap’s were pushing their way through the turf and a Sparrowhawk flew over – we weren’t able to get a good view so not sure if it was a juvenile or not. When do the adults moult, as the wings looked feather perfect? Not a lot else about.
Patch 2 was a dead loss before work, the short watch gave us two Sandwich Terns and they were distant. Other than that it was hard work and a pointless waste of time so we high-tailed it back to the desk before the next deluge landed – made it with a couple of minutes to spare.
At lunchtime it wasn’t a lot better but before long we were accosted by one of yesterday’s fishermen who had seen the Grey Seal but also something else which he thought might have been a dolphin. He was asking if we’d seen it but sadly we hadn’t. As he described it nothing was ringing a bell. So we drew the most likely suspects in the notebook for him – nope not any of those apparently – so can you recognise what we drew for him…hint: none are birds!

He said this thing spent several minutes looking head-up out of the water. Sounds like a seal but it was near the seal and the fishermen are very familiar with them – see yesterday’s rant - so we can discount that, Bottle-nosed Dolphin doing extended spyhopping? Do they do that? His son only ‘thought’ he saw a dorsal fin so I’d guess not a BND as the fin should have been obvious when the animal moved. Our money’s on a piece of wood doing the Loch Ness Monster thing. Whatever it was we didn’t see it and there was quite a bit of wood floating around closer in. anyway, as we were chatting we talked about the Porpoises and how he used to see shoals of them when he was a kid, but only when he was out on a boat. We leant over the sea wall pointing at how close we have seen them and there in the swell right up against the wall was a dead one! How weird was that??? Looked like half or all its head had been chopped off, caught in fishing net and hacked out perhaps. We nipped down the nearest steps and fired a few pics off as it drifted past on the tide. Doubt if this is what they saw yesterday as from the pale colour we’d say this has been rolling around on the surface for some time.
Where to next? More of the same but hopefully including live rather than dead cetaceans.
In the meantime let us know what is pretending to be something it’s not in your outback

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Not at all like yesterday

The Safari was involved with a pond dipping session by some of our Cub Scouts and others last night and our little pond is suffering a ‘hang-over’ this morning. Plenty of 3 - Spined Sticklebacks were netted including lots of this years fry which will account for the lack of smaller invertebrates – they’ve been eaten! A small number of Water Boatmen were caught along with just a solitary Backswimmer. Best captures in our opinion were the grey Flatworm and the very tiny, dark red Water Mite. One of the group caught a damselfly nymph so there must be some hatching still to happen if the weather ever warms up. On the terrestrial side we had a good look at the bees on the wildflower patch and found a good selection, Common Carder Bee, Red Tailed Bumble Bee, Buff Tailed Bumble Bee and White Tailed Bumble Bee (2 species?). No Colletes succintus though so it might have been a bit late in the day or too still too cold even though the sun had come out for the visit. A few Common Meadow Grasshoppers were potted and a Brown Froghopper jumped ship before the lid went down on the pot. Orange Skirted Slugs seemed to be very popular with the youngsters.
Nothing of note for the Safari on Patch1 this morning. No Peregrines, no Sparrowhawks, barely a Woodpigeon today. A Blackbird with a beakful of worms heading into the shrubbery was probably the sighting of the walk.
We didn’t get a Patch 2 early morning do…due to the weather conditions – heavy rain! At lunchtime we did manage to get over the road for a few minutes and immediately noticed that it was a lot quieter than yesterday, not a lot about at all on the rising tide. A very distant Gannet, a very distant Common Scoter, a very distant Manx Shearwater was yer lot! Closer in we saw just three Common Scoters bobbing up and (mostly) down on the waves and as we turned to leave our friend the Grey Seal bobbed up very briefly. This annoyed the fisherman stood next to us; he had a little rant about it being a nuisance as he and his mates never catch anything when it’s about. They didn’t seem to twig that it’s sat about 300 yards further out than they can cast. Nor does it leave bits of Lugworm scattered all over the floor – what a waste – along with bundles of newspaper, plastic bags and other litter which all ends up getting blown in to the sea. Neither does it leave lengths of broken line with hooks snagged in the sand on the beach waiting to spear the next passing child, dog, gull etc. What is it with people and wildlife getting in the way of their hobby? Recently not too far from here three almost fledged Peregrine chicks were shot dead in their nest - allegedly by the racing pigeon fraternity…an absolute disgrace from people who are using another species of ‘wildlife’ to try to make themselves some money. And anyway the few Pigeons the Peregrines catch are probably knackered or lost and therefore no good to those who want to make money out of them or just in the wrong place at the wrong time ie plain unlucky. No need for the slaughter – just hope the evil sh*ts get caught and then prosecuted properly…won’t be holding our breath…!!!
Enough of the rant – well not enough - really need more right-minded individuals to rant against these low-lives and their antiquated Victorian attitudes.
No other news from the prom though; that was it! Disappointingly much less than expected.
Where to next? Anywhere with a bit of sunshine might make a refreshing change.
In the meantime let us know if the sun still shines in your outback.
And finally Anno has very kindly photoshopped yesterday's Small Copper - many thanks.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

And still the wet stuff falls

The safari was out on Patch 1 twice yesterday after work. At teatime seeing as there was some feeble sunshine we had a bit of a hunt for the White Letter Hairstreaks but without any joy; d’ya think we’ll get to see em again this year? We did get a Speckled Wood and this nice fresh Small Copper, if anyone is any good with Photoshop you could get rid of that grass leaf for us. In our area at least they appear to be having a good year this year. Not much else there but we didn’t look too hard for anything else. Although we did notice a small all black Ichneumon Wasp with a ‘tail’ approximately as long as its abdomen. As we were trying to get a pic of it we were interrupted by a gaggle of kids asking “are you the ‘Butterfly Man’”...”yep ‘fraid so!”. “You’re really good at finding butterflies aren’t you”…”hey kids look here at this tiny butterfly, it’s a Small Skipper”. It was roosting head down deep in the thistles. Too small and not colourful enough for them they lost interest and wandered off, bet they woulda been more interested in the life cycle of the parasitic wasp. Just as we were leaving a small bronzy butterfly whipped across the face of the trees high up on the other side of the glade, we took off in chase but lost it as we came to a stop against the huge bramble thicket. Now was it one of those mythical White Letter Hairstreaks or was it just a male Vapourer moth?
Much later, getting towards 11pm, we set off again on the last tour of duty of the night. A steady fine mizzle was in the air and we were soon wet – who’d have a dog? Coming round the corner, off the main road and facing the water tower, from the glow of the street lights we saw a shadowy silhouette swoop up land on the usual ledge – the Peregrine had just come in to roost. It was still there at 06.15 this morning. One thing is obvious from these times – the Safari needs to be getting more sleep!
Other than the Peregrine sat up under the overhang the only other thing we got was very, very wet as we got caught in a bit of a rainstorm. In the distance a feeble, skinny flicker of lightning shot from the base of the thickest part of the rainstorm, turned round and disappeared back in to the cloud.
Too wet to contemplate a Patch 2 visit this morning – probably would have risked it if we didn’t have to do the ‘Long Walk’ as that would only have resulted in the second soaking of the day before 08.30.
Lunchtime on Patch 2 was a breeze by comparison by that we mean breezy and DRY with a hint of sunshine. Our big bull Grey Seal was fishing again and as with the other day getting pics of him proved to be a nightmare. He was close, well over the beach, but wouldn’t stay at the surface long enough to get him in the scope, focus, raise the camera to the eyepiece, focus the camera and snap; no chance he just took a couple or three huge breaths and down he went for another five minutes or so. By the time he’d come back up he’d drifted on the current and so wasn’t in the same place. Now you see him...
Now you don't...
Not only that we’d got bored waiting for him, easily done when there were loadsa Manx Shearwaters shooting through. Brilliant little barrels of feathers flicking themselves up and over the waves with barely a twitch of their long stiff wings – luv em! In a few short weeks they’ll be off the southern coast of Brazil.
Probably about 30 – 40 of them in all but we weren’t sure if they were doing a circuit of the bay. The southbound birds were distant whilst those travelling northwards were much closer in. Only three distant Gannets today each moving south with the distant shearwaters.
A flock of six Common Scoters managed to remain mostly hidden in the chop just off shore not far beyond the seal. Barely a gull was seen on the full tide and only three Sandwich Terns were noted too, but with all those Manxies to enjoy we aren’t complaining.
Where to next? More of the same please but would the seal in the front row please sit still and we’ll have more of the supporting cast as well please for tomorrow’s performance. And we’ll be hitting the pond life with a vengeance later tonight as the Cub pack descends on our habitats.
In the meantime let us know what won’t keep still in your outback.

Monday 26 July 2010

Yet more of the wet stuff

The Safari is a bit miffed as it really hasn’t stopped raining since the hosepipe ban was announced. Last Friday we managed a little bit of sunshine before finishing work and a quick sprint round the gardens gave us a nice bright Chicory flower. Restharrow was in flower too. And better still our best ever shots of Common Blue butterflies, not that there anything like very good. We counted three which constitutes a major hatch here. Still not brilliant pics but they have been giving us the run around for the best part of three decades Small Tortoiseshells are always nice to see and appear to be having their best year for a long time. We were really hoping for a Grayling which is becoming a very scarce butterfly on the nearby dunes but with a southerly wind you never know your luck; we did have one in the garden a few years ago, a second wouldn’t go amiss.
Went up to the north of our area this weekend and all looked very promising; we even had a BBQ on the Friday evening, lovely and warm as we sat out on the patio drinking beer in t-shirts…all went horribly pear shaped on Saturday morning almost as soon as we’d put our boots on. Saturday was the start of the Big Butterfly Count and we were slap bang in the middle of the regions top-dollar butterfly area. So off we headed into the encroaching gloom and freshening wind, not what we had in mind for the last week of July! Five miles of walking later and we had only had one Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary,one unidentified Fritillary (probably SPBF – looked very fresh), a couple of distant whites and a Meadow Brown to show for our efforts. Birdwise we struggled to see or hear anything of note but a late fly past Green Woodpecker was a brief and unexpected bonus as was an, even briefer, mammal tick in the form of a Weasel – with prey – which darted across the path only to disappear into a hole at the base of the adjacent dry stone wall.
This was mid-day in the woods, needed the flash to get anything like a picture.We stopped for an ice cream, homemade on the farm and fabulously delicious, but we didn’t need to rush as there was no chance of it melting, although we had to rush as the bench we were sat on was a tad exposed to the elements and heavy rain was moving quickly across the bay straight towards us.
Sunday was decidedly worse with no butterflies seen apart from a couple of unidentified whites and not a single dragon or damsel despite spending a few minutes at a real hot-spot. Bird interest was provided by a family of Jays and the call of a Bullfinch from the depths of a thicket. We did see a mammal, a Grey Seal that bobbed offshore for a minute or two before disappearing under the waves. Here's yours truly looking out to sea for it while Benny leaps for his ball.Frankie and Benny enjoyed being out and about in the fresh air. Just who would have called their dogs after a restaurant chain?Best tick of the weekend wasn’t wildlife but a pub! Been visiting this area since before we were legal to drink but never knew of this place and it looks like hasn’t changed in forty years ie a refurb and modernisation would ruin it…the locals call it ‘Spookies’ as it looks a bit like the Adams Family’s house…shoulda really taken a few pics, but here’s one of a gorgeous pint of beer and a couple of cheeky mutts trying to scrounge a crisp or two. A great weekend…if only we’d had a bit of sunshine to bring the butterflies out…lack of sunshine kept the Clegs at bay though so quite good from Wifey and our friends’ point of view. Sparrowhawk seen attacking a Blackbird on Patch 1 this morning – not sure if it got it; couldn’t see through the foliage, dang close if it didn’t was only inches behind it!
Too wet and too busy for Patch 2 today. And why too busy? Former World Champion Formula 1 and Indie Car driver Nigel Mansell popped in on his bike after an 80 mile ride from Chester during his nationawide tour of the Cyling Towns.

Where to next? Back to the Patches and bit of pond dipping coming up.
In the meantime let us know if the weather is scuppering the wildlife watching in your outback.

Thursday 22 July 2010

When will I see you again?

The Safari reckons you can't beat a bit of Motown!
Took Frank to see if the White Letter Hairstreaks would show. Weather was iffy, it had cooled down and a stiff breeze had struck up. Frank was unimpressed with the hanging around and made bee-line to his favourite - - not our favourite - - puddle which has been refilled by the recent rains...the numptie.

Something in there was catching his attention. Being a bit dim he nearly drowned cos he didn't realise he can't stick his nose underwater and sniff...kept coming up coughing and sneezing - can't believe he did it three or four times!!!

He's just heard his friends further down the field.

We couldn't find the White Letter Hairstreaks but there was a directly overhead flyover from the male Peregrine and then moving through the 'woods' we saw the male Sparrowhawk nippin out for a bite to eat for the kiddies.
Still not got that 'proper' bee pick. Is this a male Red Tailed Bumble Bee? Can't lay my hands on my field guide at the mo as it was tidied away! along with loads of other reference books never to reappear.
So when will I see you again - we're off into the wilds at our friends gaff up north. Hopefully lots of pics will be took but no PC until we get back on Monday.
if anyone is wondering what the WLHs actually look like have a blimp at this pic by CR - on MY Creeping Thistles!!!
In the meantime enjoy your weekend.

Still dry(ish)

The Safari was out on Patch 1 last night after news from CR of a White Letter Hairstreak in the ‘glade’. Excellent news – see what a bit of sunshine can do! But we were too late, by the time we got out it was well into the evening and the temperature had cooled down and most of the glade was in shade. We had a mooch about and found a Gatekeeper. A Holly Blue flew past and we struggled to get a decent picture of a female Common Blue…you can tell we struggled as the results haven’t been posted here, this is a species we’ve bizarrely still not got a decent shot of for either any of our wildlife/sustainability publicity work or this blog.
A fair number of Soldier Beetles were mating among the flower heads of the large patch of Creeping Thistles.

Secretly we were hoping that a WLH might come down for a bit of nectaring before retiring for the night. No such luck, just a couple Meadow Browns taking advantage of the last of the sunshine and a final drink before bedtime.
Found out today that this is exactly where one had been seen…dohhh
On the way back we saw that the Peregrine was back on the ledge.

This morning the Patch was quiet, too early for butterflies, too much doggy disturbance for many birds to be about and the Peregrine wasn’t on the tower. However, Patch 2 looked good, grey sky – no shadows, and flat calm. Sadly it didn’t live up to the early promise – but that’s not to say it was no good. A Grey Seal fished annoying close in shore, annoyingly as the light was ‘photo perfect’ but it wouldn’t stay at the surface long enough for us to get a shot and eventually drifted away and out of range.
We did see something we’ve never seen before; on hearing the calls of Sandwich Terns and the shriller begging call of a youngster we managed to scope the two birds coming towards us, the rear one had a small fish. The nearer one, now obviously the juvenile, landed on the water and craned its head skywards whereupon the adult hovered above it and gave it the fish – brilliant bit of behaviour we’ve never witnessed before.
Yesterday’s Gannet-fest had disappeared leaving just a solitary adult sitting out on the water in the distance. Oddly the feeding frenzy wasn’t picked up by an observer(s) further up the coast; they only recorded 12 Gannets, although they did have a Fulmar - a very good find in calm weather along this stretch of coast.
Much closer was a House Martin working the sea wall, we’re not sure if these are nesting locally this year. Then a Collared Dove came in off the sea and landed on the sea wall. Ohhhhh at first we thought we were on a winner as it looked a bit dark when we first picked it up and it disappeared out of view under the overhang - - ohh thoughts of the mega, Turtle Dove, loomed large but were instantaneously dashed once it had landed…doh…if only. A sort of mega was seen a little further down on the walk back to work – a Dunnock singing from the back of the sea wall, possibly breeding in the bushes in the ‘out of bounds’ area cordoned off by the tramway construction works.
The lunchtime safari was a little on the strange side and started out with a Funnel Cloud lurking ominously over the Cumbrian coast to the west of Black Combe. Then scoping the sea we found no Gannets but four adult Mute Swans sat line astern about a mile out drifting south, weird or wot!
A scan of the gulls on the beach revealed about two dozen adult Black Headed Gulls but again only one juvenile. One of the adults sported a Darvik ring – details duly forwarded.
Over the sea four Sandwich Terns fished noisily but none of this morning’s feeding behaviour was seen. They did fly over a large dark bird with a cocked tail sitting someway off shore; juvenile Gannets are weird looking things. While giving that a grilling a lone Manx Shearwater shot through much closer in, barely behind the surf, one of the closest low tide sightings we ever had. There endeth a short but strange safari.
Where to next? Will the WLH be out and photographable, will the Peregrine be digiscopeable, the answers and more tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what wasn’t where it should have been in your outback.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Don’t believe it!

The safari set off around patch 1 this morning and for once it WASN’T raining! Having said that nothing much was happening at all. The Woodpigeons were out in force doing whatever it is they do on the grass. A couple of Wrens sang from deep in the bushes. Best of the safari were two female Blackbirds feeding recently fledged young. Nice to see the Magpies haven’t had all the young birds this year and with the possibility of another brood to follow the Blackbirds et al should do OK this breeding season – as usual! - - Please take note any of you Springwatch ‘cuteandcuddlylovers’ who read this rubbish.
A Great Tit was heard singing, the first on Patch 1 for a while.
Down on the seawall, Patch 2 was a dream compared to recent visits. The sun was out and pleasantly warm on our back, not too much breeze and better still there were some living things to be seen!
We arrived a few minutes after high tide, a very modest 7.5m today, and immediately got onto three Sandwich Terns heading out to sea. Whilst watching where they were off to an auk flew past low and fast as did two Dunlins, one of which was showing its black belly patch as it jinked across the waves. During the whole watch we were to have somewhere between 100 and 150 mixed Dunlins and Sanderlings going past, most were the former.
Out in the distance to the north west there was a large congregation of feeding Gannets. The fish they were interested in must have been at some depth as they were diving vertically from great height. Watching them we saw a flock of 14 Common Scoters going north beyond them. All the while we were noticing the Dunlin/Sanderling flocks shooting through the field of view but totally uncountable while we were concentrating on the more distant stuff in case of marauding skuas.
An excellent quarter of an hour or so – set us up for the day nicely and got us looking forward to the lunchtime session if we’re going to be able to get one in today...which we did.
By lunchtime the Gannet feeding frenzy wasn’t as frenzied and they had moved a little to the south and were now straight out in front of us but still along way offshore. A few had broken ranks and come a good deal nearer giving excellent scope views as they sailed past; others had moved into the mouth of the river channel but didn’t seem to be having any luck locating fish. A Great Black Backed Gull towered over its more numerous smaller relatives, the Black Headed Gulls, of which there were 38 adults but only one juvenile on our stretch of beach.
The shrill shriek of a Sandwich Tern was heard but it was a while before we located a solitary bird.
Best of the safari was a Grey Seal bobbing about just behind the surf. A bit tricky though as it spent most its time submerged.
On the way back passing through the garden we noticed a tiny species of bee buzzing about on the wildflower bed we’ve planted up this season, grabbed a couple or three shots with the ‘little’ camera which happened to be in the pocket and then got the biggy out from the office and took some more – enjoy the results…species anyone? The plant it was taking pollen from most frequently was the Yarrow.

Good pic of the pollen baskets coming up...

Hope you enjoyed those Amila - worth the wait?
Where to next? Anywhere with sunshine so that we can get the camera out and re-activated.
In the meantime let us know what’s been removing the pollen in your outback.
As a bit extra we have loads of stuff coming up on the coast soon as it's National Marine Week when we'll be surveying the thousands of artificial rockpools to get baseline data of their flora and fauna , followed or more accurately concurrently with, the second week of NMW is National Whale and Dolphin Watch when we will be doing our usual watches from the promenade.

Just incase you need some practice for these marine/coastal events why not join in the Great Eggcase Hunt and look for the eggcases of the sharks, skates, rays around the coast. If you are really keen you can let us know which species you think these egg cases we collected last summer are from - check out the key on their website. To help you in the key the big one is 6x4cm, the two smaller ones are 5x1cm.

And don't forget Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count 2010 starts on Saturday so now's the time to decide where you're going to do your count.

That lot should keep you busy - for details of local events check out BEAT Naturewatch

And finally - at last they sigh - from 1st - 31st August the Safari is holding a photo exhibition in Stanley Park visitor centre so if you're in the area why not pop in and have a look at the full size version of some of the pics you've seen on the blog; you never know some of them might even be in focus!