Tuesday 31 August 2010

Low tide at a different place

The Safari has nothing of particular note to report from Patch 1 other than three Wrens auditioning for 'Devvy Road Rock Gardens has Talent'. 20+ Magpies bounced and chattered their way through the ‘burbs as a couple of Dunnocks seeeeeep-ed their autumn call from deep within cover. And by ‘eck it was autumn this morning – the first time we have walked up the hill and you could see our breath this ‘summer’ and on reaching the butterfly glade it looked like there had been a pre-dawn frost. At least five Blackbirds were noted but they were quite mobile with all the doggy disturbance goin on at that time of the morning. A new ‘species’ – and we use the word very loosely - of dog hit the tick list –a Weimardoodle, and a belting looking tufty mutt-thing it is too.
Also noted were more Collared Doves than usual, or possibly/more likely the usual amount of Collared Doves in unusual places. A small flock of Blue and Great Tits contained no Long Tailed Tits or anything else today.
Patch 2 was horrifically quiet, the sea held a big fat zero of anything and the dropping tide had left seemingly little to interest the local gulls, very few of them this morning and just a handful of Oystercatchers loafing around too…that was it…very, very quiet.
The long march back to the office gave us a pair of Linnets on the overhead wires, a passing Meadow Pipit, and then, bird of the day, a Tree Pipit flew over calling, only our second of the year.
Then it was off to meet the group of little people on the beach, a bit of the beach we haven’t studied before…oooohhh. What a beautiful warm and sunny day it was too…and not before time!
Not only was it a bit of beach we haven’t looked at previously but it is also one of the main tourist beaches and so gets mechanically over-cleaned every day which certainly had some bearing on our finds.

Lots of Banded Wedge ShellsCommon Scoter food.
Sea squirt Corella parallelogramma? awaiting confirmation, could be anything really and we didn't get a pic...doh...
Sponge sp

Many Brown Shrimps – many even big enough to eat
Just a single tiny Common Prawn
Sand Gobies
Common Razor
Baltic Tellin including a tiny one no more than 3mm across which had the tell tale drill hole of Necklace Shell predation
The normally abundant Rayed Trough Shell was hard to find and no whole ones.
Small Common Cockle shells
Edible Mussels
Sand Mason Worm
Compass Jellyfish
Edible Whelk

A few ‘peeler’ Green Shore Crabs hiding around the legs of the pier and talking of legs just one leg from a Masked Crab.
The smallest Starfish we’ve ever seen, with one tube foot poking out.

Striped Venus, which if the growth rings are laid down annually as in a tree then this individual is about 50 years old.

Not a bad haul, species-wise if not quantity-wise for an hours work
A short late lunchtime/early afternoon safari back to Patch 2 was similarly quiet to this morning’s visit but without the gulls and Oystercatchers as the tide was in. Double quiet indeedy then! A small string of around a couple of dozen Common Scoters flew northwards along the shimming horizon while 50 or more sat out in small groups scattered far and wide. A single male sat all on his lonesome close inshore. Nearby a Cormorant wrestled with a large flattie for a few minutes before it was no more than a strange shaped bulge in the birds crop – shhhhh don’t tell the fishermen or they’ll be baying for a cull. “How very dare they make a living from our fun!!!”
A dead Harbour Porpoise at the southern end of the Patch was reported to us and so we just had to go and have a look…bit of a mess on the throat and chest - impossible to tell what made the injuries or if they are an after death thing.

Then we were off to the big park to collect our exhibition pics so they can be relocated on the walls at work for September - so if you missed them at the Visitor Centre and your desperate to see em you still have a chance.

Had a look on the lake, got about 100 Coots and lots of Black Headed Gulls, one with a BTO type ring far to far away to read but none with Darviks. This young gull looked very Yellow Legged type when on the jetty with obvious Herring and Lesser Blackies around it for comparison, very white flat head, big dark bulbous bill with strong gonydial angle, very pale belly but in this pic just looks like a Herring Gull to me, the mantle was the usual mottled brown not showing much sign of any grey coming through..any advice anyone. Sorry about the quality of the pic it was a long way off and as soon as we started taking pics it hopped in to the water on the far side of the jetty had a quick bathe then flew off, could only get this one flight pic before it disappeared over the trees. Coverts are more brown than the grey in the pic and you can't really see the patternation.
The mystery stuff continues...a colleague of Wifey wants to plant some acorns to grow Oak trees and asked if it was possible to plant crinkly acorns...duhh what? Well he brought one in to work and Wifey brought it home. It sits on the top joint of our thumb - just. I think I know what it is over to you...anyone got any thoughts?

Where to next? Just the usual patchy stuff tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what’s all washed up in your outback.

Monday 30 August 2010

Quite a lot about not a lot

The Safari was out before the sun peeked over the eastern fells but it was just too clear for many migrants to have plummeted to earth overnight on Patch 1 or along Chat Alley. Having said that there was a Robin tic-ing in one garden and another singing from a garden down a side street for the first time on Patch 1 and the little park by which we leave the Land Rover for the cliff top walk had at least two Dunnocks calling. It was, however, crystal clear with views all around the bay. This early morning Wheatear was stonkingly bright, Greenland?, but wouldn't allow a close approach to snap him in all his glory.
Looking towards town and beyond you can see the Welsh hills of Snowdonia just above the deck of the pier. The cliffs were notable for having two Rock Hyraxes running about over their bare slopes - well they were Rabbits really, but there's no harm reminiscing about long past days in the Sinai Desert.
Three single Pied Wagtails went over and a true sign of autumn, a Meadow Pipit.
Looking out to the north west we could see the Isle of Man over the Penny Stone (more of which later). You won't be able to see it on the photo but through bins it was a clear as a bell. On the pic you can just about make out some thin cloud (between the arrows) that was sitting over the high ground. It's 90 miles (145km) away.
Northwards the Lake District hills were so clear that we could almost make out the sheep! Circled is our new friend the Penny Stone.
As for Wheatears we could only manage a grand total of four on the way out. not as many gulls on the beach as in recent visits and only a lone Great Black Back stood out from the crowd...no Connoisseur Gulls today.
Just one Swallow hawked back and forth skimming the grass on the cliffs. A single Redshank was heard which reminds us we forgot to mention the 27 and 100+ Turnstones we saw on the wall of the boating pool over the high tide on the 27th.
The walk back only gave us three Wheatears, so a top tally of four for the day wasn't as many as hope for.
This Herring Gull made us snigger - you shouldn't really laugh at another's misfortune - it was collecting Mussels and flying up with them to drop onto the concrete. This time it landed on the green slippery seaweedy slope and slithered to the bottom on its backside, then looked around to check if anyone had noticed!
Can't have hurt anything other than its pride as here it is searching for another Mussel.
A further three Pied Wagtails flew over and then the best/strangest sighting of the morning. Checking the higher ground for chats we somehow disturbed a Sparrowhawk from the long grass way above our heads. now was this a migrant or a local looking for tired migrants - which ever it was it flushed the third and final Wheatear of the walk back.
A quick play on the beach with Frank gave us a few Compass Jellyfish and a masses of Hornwort washed up on the sand .
After brekkie we set off for the nature reserve in bright sunshine and calm conditions. Lots of butterflies and good to see the most common by far was Small Tortoiseshell, and slightly disappointingly we couldn't find a Wall.
The local farmer was making hay while the sun shone - actually he was harvesting his Barley, not making hay. if this field is left fallow over the winter the spilt grain and weed seeds will be a useful source of food.
At the first hide we noted a Reed Warbler hopping about and a Sparrowhawk dashing over the tops of the reeds. Waterfowl included a Little Grebe, always nice to find these days, at least 12 Shoveler and 16 Teal, with 4 Gadwall thrown in for good measure. Didn't count the Tufted Ducks or Pochards but by the duck feeding area we noted 67 Coots, most were in the water bloated by the weekend's bread-fest so we couldn't check to see if any were ringed.
An unseen Curlew called from somewhere and a Chiffchaff/Willow Warbler hweeted from the bushes near where we parked. Later, from another hide, we would see a Chiffchaff leave the reedbed. As for other passerines only a Blue Tit and a couple of Reed Buntings were obvious.
Three Snipe were on the scrape and probably the same female Sparrowhawk whizzed past. Dragonfly action was good with Brown Hawkers, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters are showing really well, the latter two also seen in tandem. The summer sun was making them too lively to consider sitting for their portraits to be taken.
Then all the gulls got up with a wall of sound. Dashing out of the hide we scanned for the Osprey/(Honey) Buzzard/Marsh Harrier/Goshawk and found a very high soaring Sparrowhawk!
Nice plants included the usual clump of Purple Loosestrife which hasn't changed in size in 20 years and just one flower of Soapwort left, the others having gone to seed.
The Buddlieas by the Fylde Bird Club Hide were their usual butterfly magnet...how many did we manage to get in the pic? - there were plenty more fluttering around the half dozen or so bushes.
Try as we might we couldn't find the biggy, tried turning the Sparrowhawks into Goshawks, none of the Teal were Garganeys, the Little Grebe wasn't a Black Necked Grebe and this Grey Heron isn't a Purple Heron.
Then, just as we were about to leave we met up with MM who said he'd just had the MEGA, not a bird but a butterfly, a pristine Brimstone! Fortunately not needed for a site tick but well worth a look, they are as rare as rocking horse do-do in these parts. We went off to look for it but to no avail, we saw no butterflies on our mini expedition!
What we did find was a total ar*ehole getting his family to climb the fences and take the apples off the trees. We asked him not to and asked what would he do if someone climbed the fence into his garden and started removing his lawnmower etc - well wot a mouthful of abuse, some example to set your children! Apparently they were only having fun, so its OK to tell your kids stealing is fun now is it? And its not stealing if you haven't seen any signs - next time you're in the bank look round for the sign that says 'Please don't steal our money'. Just cos you didn't see the sign doesn't mean you can go ahead and do it.
So that was about it for the day's safari-ing - not bad but not massively brilliant.
going back to the Penny Stone here is some more information about the village that was lost to the storm Singleton Thorpe . The story sounds true enough and there seems to be evidence for houses etc but the geography is weird. The Fylde is a glacial plain so Singleton Thorpe may have been part of the end of the terminal moraine. The northern end of the coastline was sand dunes until Fleetwood was built. If it hadn't have been built the long shore drift would probably have developed a brackish lagoon behind a sand spit at some stage in the future. But the village would not have been viable on sand so must have been on clay. The name is a mixture of Viking and Saxon SingleTON (Saxon) Thorpe (Viking) as are many places in the Fylde, eg Kirk(Viking)HAM (Saxon) so it would seem that the Viking 'occupation' was friendly rather than violent as in other places in the country, possibly they farmed the marginal land the Saxons hadn't bothered with. The last northermost outpost of clay is Anchorsholme - a holme being a tying up place for boats, possibly belonging to a chap called Akker, or even Agger (as in Daniel Agger the Danish Liverpool player). Gynn, where we start the cliffs walk, is a Viking word for a cleft in the cliffs and that is where we park, it's still there but is it the same as it was 1500 years ago...no maps at that time but the early maps of Lancashire, showing the manor houses, 17th Century, shows the coast much as it is today - straight aligned south to north. The plot thickens - if we find out more we'll let you know.
Where to next? Back on the beach tomorrow morning with a gaggle of kids looking for the elusive Wendle Trap shell, we're on a stetch of beach we don't normally get to visit. Oh, and the Patchy stuff of course.
In the meantime let us know if your outback delivered thr goods today.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Still the wind howls

And still the Safari hasn't taken advantage of it...
The tide this morning was already low and still falling so we thought better of it and decided to give it a miss. Wonder what we missed?...TWO Long Tailed Skuas went past Seaforth on the South-side!?! They certainly aren't on the 'ought to see' or 'might see' lists!
Not much chance of any visits later in the day except for a stroll round an empty Patch 1. A superbly fresh Red Admiral graced the very blustery Base Camp garden mid afternoon.
Where to next? If the wind has dropped and turned northerly as forecast tomorrow morning Chat Alley may well produce the goods, although it is likely to be clear overnight. We won't want to get involved with the stress inducing Holiday traffic so a safari around the nature reserve could well be on the cards.
Sorry no pics today - cameras not seen light of a bright sunny day.
PS - Found out from a mate today that the Penstone Rock is actually known as the Penny Stone from people with horses having to pay a penny to tie their horses to a ring bolted to it. There was also a pub nearby on what is now the beach. This must have been in the 17th or 18th Century, perhaps earlier. Erosion has been an ongoing force along this section of coast - hence our current concrete covered cliffs. Looking straight out to sea you are looking at a lost Viking settlement that was washed away in a storm with the residents managing to evacuate and were ''allowed' to relocate inland at Thistleton.

Saturday 28 August 2010

First home game

The safari wasn't able to go either safari-ing nor to the match today...to busy getting a year older and watching the wind toss the tree tops around and the rain lash against the windows.
We didn't put the moth trap out last night, perhaps we should have done but it was a bit on the windy side; a lame excuse!
2-2 with an equaliser for Fulham in the last minute and after the Seasiders had come back from 1 - 0 down! Double dagnabbit!!! 2 point's thrown away? Hope it doesn't make a difference at the end of the season. Still 3 games played 4 points in the bag is a good enough record as it equates to 50 points after the full 38 games - if they can keep that rate up it'll be more than OK it'll be great!
A long game of footy with Frank on patch 1 between downpours gave us nothing but Magpies and Woodpigeons and the tape recording on constant loop repeat of the Wren.
Where to next? Still forecast a bit wild overnight so the cliffs could well be getting a visit early in the morning.
In the meantime let us know if our outback is still on target.

Friday 27 August 2010

Wot? More wheatears?

The Safari didn't have a Patch 1 visit this morning - "what!, you cry - "you've missed a day!" We actually went a bit further afield as we have a day's leave today to make a long Holiday Weekend so we decided to give Chat Alley a stab. It was a just a bit too clear over night and as we arrived at 6.30 there was nothing going over in the flat calm but cool conditions (single figure centigrade cool, with a heavy dew, but no light Arabs). Fleetwood Birder, SE, a couple of miles to the north of us, might well have had a net full before we'd dragged ourselves and Frank out of our pits, always assuming he hasn't been thwarted by trespassing dog walkers flushing his birds again - bally eejits - get a dog - lose the ability to read a notice board/keep out sign in many cases it would seem!
Crossing the road on to the Prom footpath we soon had a Pied Wagtail calling as it passed overhead but nothing was moving as we looked down onto the rocks below. A scan of the flat, mirror calm, sea (why can't it be like that on National Whale and Dolphin Watch?) gave us small scattered flocks of Common Scoters and the pale chin of a Grey Seal glistened in the sunshine a good way out. The conditions were just about bob-on perfect for Harbour Porpoise spotting but we couldn't find any although the tide was well out and our research is showing that most sightings are and hour or so either side of high tide (but there could be a lot more observer effort at those times).
Chat Alley then started to produce the goods and live up to its name, two Wheatears hit the notebook, then another and another. But no Whinchat! A couple of Swallows buzzed the cliffs going northwards.
On the beach there were thousands of gulls, >95% Herring Gulls at a guess - we largely ignored them...what, can't believe we said that!!! Two Redshank were seen close to the sea wall.
A nicely silhouetted Carrion Crow warmed itself in the early morning sun on one of the Illumination's poles.
We went a wee bit further than normal passing over the top of an empty Pipit Slab. By the time we turned at our northernmost point we hadn't added to the four Wheatears nor had any other 'Connoisseur Migrants'.
The Penstone Rock is level with Pipit Slab and normally the turning point on our cliffs walk. Not sure what it is, a glacial eratic perhaps. It's at the end of Red Bank Road...weren't those soft cliffs great before all the concrete! The last pic shows the start of our walk, no it didn't take us over 70 years to walk the mile and a half there and back! This pic from later in the day is taken at around the same place as the old black n white one in the link.

And this one shows the rock hidden under the waves a few hours later, with the Lake District mountains/fells in the distance across the bay.
The walk back was long and quiet, our Wheatears had moved on. A third Redshank had joined the other two or had walked into view if it was hidden from us at the base of the seawall earlier. Taking Frank for a quick play on the beach gave us six Pied Wagtails (Albas?) going south closely followed by a seventh.
Climbing the steps back up onto the lower walkway we immediately saw a Wheatear on the path not five yards in front of us, one of the original four? Then another and the other two, we had our four in the notebook for the return journey and these continued to keep ahead of us. A minute or so later another overtook us landing on the rocks 20 yards beyond where we were stood. Hmmm, turning round we scanned the rocks and found another, now we're up to six! We climbed the steps to get back to roadway level and there on the top path was another, the seventh. Another scan looking downwards onto the rocks didn't give us any more nor anything else so seven it was - or was it 11? Seven will do nicely to keep Chat Alley's reputation intact.
An hour or so after getting back to Base Camp it started to cloud over, why could it have done that at about 05.45hrs?!
Oops the camera hit the floor with a thud, fortunately no serioius damage done, only a dent in the filters.
As alluded to earlier it did cloud over and it did rain heavily for an hour or more so we decided to get back out just incase anything had been dropped. The wind had swung round and was now coing off the sea but it was notherlyish when the rain started. We did the same walk as this morning and on the way out got four Wheatears but nothing else, certainly no Whinchats - do they actually exist? We checked each and every dead Dock stem, not even a Stonechat. On the way back we stayed on the high path and got a count of seven Wheatears, all of which we would think were different to this mornings seven as we saw none where they had accumulated at the south end of the 'patch', so we're claiming a minimum of 14 for the day.
Frank got his swim this afternoon.
Where to next? If the weather stays suitable we might get the moth trap out overnight for a birthday treat in the morning.
In the meantime let us know let us know if anything hit the floor with a thud in your outback.

Thursday 26 August 2010

frying tonight?

The Safari was following a friends car this arvo and noticed they had a rather amusing badge on it - we wanted one!!! So a bit of googling later and here it is - suggest all rationally minded people get one - and you won't get stuck behind us doing 6.66mph because we drive normally unlike drivers of cars sporting a similar logo!
No wildlife news today little time was spent out and there wasn't much there, unless you want to hear about our 14 Sandwich Terns? You didn't...OK.
Where to next? Hell? But before that we could be at the cliffs early in the morning as there is a bit of east in the wind forecast over night and you never know your luck...hahaha
In the meantime let us know what's going to earn you eternal damnation in your outback.

On a completely different tack - do you remember Arthur Miller? Of course you do...you know, the famous playwright...oh him...
Well here's our version...(h)alfa mirror
The world's biggest mirror ball has been refurbished and is about to be relocated on its stick - all 49000 tiles have been replaced! Boy is it shiny, just look at the reflections on that!!!
The three poles have each have a laser on top, there are three others on the opposite side, which project the myriad of coloured patterns onto the rotating ball at night.
We were hoping the top half would have been in position before we had to leave but as you can see it wasn't!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

If only one more day

The Safari woke up this morning to – calm – NOOOOOO. We wanted another day or two of heavy weather to bring those lovely sea birds in, one day was good, at least for others, but we really could have done with a bit more.
A bright sunny morning on Patch 1 gave us PPEM sunning herself after a cooler than of recent night. Would have been an excellent photo opportunity as the sun was rising over the fells to the east for those with a long lens.
Nothing else really noteworthy but the Great Spotted Woodpecker revealed its presence and several Robins were ‘tic’ing or doing that autumnal ‘trim phone’ type call. A Wren blasted out song all the time we were there. And we have another pic of the rather large mushroom for you, this time with a large dog to scale it by.

The calm weather had really put the mockers on Patch 2. A few gulls faffed around on the beach with even fewer Oystercatchers, not counted today – hundreds were way, way to the south on the huge expanse of beach, a very low, low tide this morning.
Heard a smashing expression the other day regarding gulls that’s new in the vocabulary – ‘Connoisseur Gulls’ meaning those ‘tasty odd ones out’– just brilliant – luv it!
Looking straight down the sea wall with the scope we could see the Ainsdale ranger’s base on the South-side where JD had the Pomerine Skua on the beach yesterday, couldn’t pick it out sat there this morning! Crackin pic of it in the rain storm – the rain was that bad! Now you know why we pegged it back inside.
Our top bird of the morning was a Curlew pecking about in one of the gutters – not often we see these feeding on this part of the beach, normally they are just fly-bys. Talking of fly-bys three Cormorants went past towards the roost on the sand bar followed closely by the Shag – its becoming a long stayer! Three Sandwich Terns sat on the beach with a fourth not too far away, maybe one day another species of tern could sit with them…
Out at sea the calm conditions were good for seeing mammals but there weren’t any. A couple of single Common Scoters were all we could glean. Still good conditions at lunchtime but this time there was a distant Grey Seal. A few Sandwich Terns did a bit of diving and one of the fishermen caught a small Flounder and promptly moaned that the seals have eaten all the fish and that it was better in the 50s and 60s when the seal population was much lower than today and that ‘something needs to be done about them’. Good job we didn’t tell him there were a few Cormorants out in the distance too. Freshwater fishermen have to kill Cormorants because cows don’t eat grass! Cows now eat fishmeal more than grass which is made from none quota-ed small fish therefore there are less fish in the sea so some of the Cormorants have moved inland and started eating Roach much to the annoyance of people who fish for fun! But its still all the seals fault! It’s never the fisherman’s fault they can’t catch fish it’s always because there’s just too much wildlife eating them!
Two Eiders were rocked by the swell as they slept with a few young gulls and that was about as exciting as it got.

Where to next? Yet more patch stuff, but will we get another unexpected patch tick?

In the meantime let us know if it's calmed down in your outback.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Are we feeling lucky?

The Safari was ‘lucky’ enough to get an extra Patch 2 visit at tea time yesterday – an evening meeting meant not going home so we had an extra half hour’s watch. Not a lot doing but a nice close pass from a Manx Shearwater with another ten or so doing the big dipper thing out on the horizon. Finally got home almost 14 hours after leaving the house.
Back on Patch 1 a little later than usual at 06.15; the Peregrine was back on its favoured ledge on the water tower. The park itself was a dead as the ‘proverbial’ apart from a Coal Tit calling from the central conifers, new in or the same one as the other day? (Have you seen the sick advert featuring a Dodo – should be banned!!!) No sign of the Great Spotted Woodpecker this morning but we don’t think it will have gone anywhere last night in the howling wind and lashing rain.
Under the trees we found this rather large mushroom, for comparison Frank's lead is 5 inches (12cm) in diameter.

Patch 2 gave us a Lesser Black backed Gull with shocking pink legs. There were seven ‘normal’ ones with a few Herring Gulls sat on the beach and just singles of Great Black Backed, Black Headed and Common Gulls. 47 Oystercatchers were there too.
Wat out over the rolling white horses a distant large dark bird had the hint of a Bonxie about it but it just wouldn’t turn into the light. While our interest was focused on that bird a small dark bird flipped over the breakers much closer in. Tracking quickly back to it we caught up with it again but only got the merest glimpse of its backside as it flipped over another wave, decidedly small and black(ish) but we couldn’t see/didn’t notice any white/pale on the rump…dunno what it was but too small for a Manxie. And what about the possible Bonxie? – lost in the oncoming downpour unfortunately.
No luck so far – and no visit to Patch 2 at lunchtime, errands had to be run.

This evening the lure of a Yankee gull proved irresistible and even before having so much as a cuppa we set off eastwards towards the blackening skies.

Arriving at the site we witnessed gull watchers heaven- a constant stream ofdistsnt white dots toing and froing from the watesr to the bank and back, with hundreds of others constantly streaming in from the surrounding countryside. nothing for it but to set the scope up and settle down to methodically work through them time and time again. What are we looking for? Well. somewhere in the pic, or the identical one that could have been taken either side of this melee of gulls, there might be a Ring Billed Gull - its just a matter of spot the odd one out.

So what did we see? 47 (today's magic number!) Tufted Ducks and 21 Goosanders were on the reservoir and there were some sizeable fish jumping too. Around and about were a dozen or so Swallows whizzing about our ears and the 'chizik' of Pied Wagtails were a constant accompaniment to our scanning.

What about the gulls? We've found out where all the juvenile Black Heads are, that's for sure, oodles of them! we also found a leucistic adult Black Head and two or maybe three juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, at long last we have ticked this particular age group! Plenty of Lesser Black Backs but only a handful of Herrings. Common Gulls were few in number but easy to pick out but sadly either the Ring Billed wasn't there or in the hour and a half of none-stop searching we somehow failed to spot it...darn, darn and double darn. It is ringed and the hope is that someone will get a good enough pic to be able to read the numbers and get some info about this bird. It looks like we'll have to wait for one to land on the beach at Patch 2! So far that is the 12th species we have dipped this year but it wasn't on the 'ought to see' or the 'might see' lists so would have been a bonus bird.

Where to next? Lets get back down to earth on the patches.

In the meantime let us know if you have got lucky and picked up any bonuses in your outback.

Last minute edit - - - just read this and this am thinking a possible ARRRRGGGHHHHHH - how unlucky could that be - par for the course for the Safari!!!

Double late edit - good things come to those who are unlucky at times - PATCH TICK at 11.00pm - out with Frank - GREENSHANK over (96)!!!!!! A large slug of Glenmorangie to celebrate we think.

Monday 23 August 2010

The beach is sandy

The Safari’s Patch 1 early morning walk gave us the Great Spotted Woodpecker again so we are now wondering if it is gonna stick around for a while, all winter?
At Patch 2 FB was already noting that it was very, very quiet but he had had 15 Sandwich Terns sat on the beach away to the south, which although not a huge number was a vast improvement on recent weeks. We set the scope up and immediately found another dozen sat on the beach to the north. Checking back southwards FB’s lot were still there and with another ten or so fishing offshore numbers were up to the 40 mark – a decided influx! Away down with the first 15 were two Sanderlings sprinting along the tide line.
A Great Black Backed Gull sat head and shoulders above its congeners on the beach as FB announced he had just had his record count of Grey Seals from this stretch of coast a pretty impressive seven! As the safari was crossing the tram tracks we were chatting to a lady with a Black Labrador and mentioned we’d be looking for seals. She replied she’d been coming to the beach with her dog for years and never seen a seal, didn’t know they were to be found off Blackpool…As her dog played in the surf there was one bottling about 50 yards offshore. When we asked her on her return if she’d seen it, “Oh yes, aren’t they big!” was the reply. She was going to make a point of looking out for them from now on. Good job it was flat calm and the big male was asleep not so far away, if it had have been rough she wouldn’t have seen it and possibly not believed us when we told her they were quite easy to see if conditions are good.
Later, at lunchtime, the tide was dropping and once again very little was about. A few sandwich terns were fishing distantly to the south and were joined by a much smaller tern for a minute or so before it headed out in to the bay and the oncoming heavy shower, a Little Tern? Probably, but not claimable at that range unfortunately. We headed off and scurried back to the warmth of the office before the weather landed and drenched us.
Three of our unknown moths from the other night have been kindly identified and are Agriphila tristella, Shuttle Shaped Dart and Small Square Spot,
which we should really have got the latter two but we are so out of practice this year due to the naff weather, the only decent spell was when we were hospitalised and consequently out of action. The others were too worn for the pics to be any use to our ‘resident expert moth identifier’ or County Recorder as he is better known. Many thanks SP.
With an evening meeting tonight we managed to get back to Patch 2 at teatime after an afternoon of driving rain
Where to next? More patchy stuff, be nice to get the 175th species on one of the patches rather than having to ‘twitch’ it.
In the meantime let us know if it’s sandy in your outback…if you live in a certain town in Bedfordshire best known as being the location for the HQ of the RSPB it probably is – always thought it would be a great address to have seeing as how we are from the seaside – Sandy, Beds…hahahahaha …sorry...

Sunday 22 August 2010

A good day but...

The Safari is convinced technology is moving faster than the wallet can keep up! Below is a dodgy digiscoped pic of a fishing Little Egret, taken at a site we've not visited before, Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB reserve. We met fellow Blogger, CB , there, always good to meet an 'ethereal' in the flesh so to speak and many thanks to him for all the info about the site; we'll deffo be making more safari's to this new reserve over the coming months if only to check out the new Water Vole habbo that was being created as we chatted.
The pic is nothing special but if the pennies were available instead of using a heavy scope with equally heavy tripod, two cameras, bins and having a dog in tow we could have just had the dog the bins and a HD digi-video camera from which 5MP stills can be taken - voila best of all worlds, light and easy to carry, great magnification and stunning quality vid and pics..we're saving up!!!

Not alot else happening from the viewing platform - we found a Wheatear perched up on the fence-line but it was a while before we heard the thin call of an over-flying Yellow Wagtail (173) in with the Pied Wagtails. It took a while but eventually we had the briefest of views of one landing in the saltmarsh vegetation and instantaneously disappearing from view - not brilliant but hey they all count!
The saltmarsh is newly developing on flooded crop fields and clumps of Sea Aster were attracting good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and a few Peacock butterflies despite the stiff breeze. The track to the car park had a good tally of Common Blues but we failed to pick up a Wall Brown.

Other birds included a lone Curlew and a distant Greenshank calling with a Kestrel the only raptor seen although Peregrine and Marsh Harrier had been seen by others during the morning.

There must have been an airshow somewhere as we picked up on a Dakota and this Hurricane coming out of the airbase over on our side of the river.

At least we think it is a Hurricane rather than a Spitfire due to the extended canopy but I could be wrong - which ever aeroplane it is we, who are at liberty to write whatever rubbish we like on these blogs, owe the boys that flew them in combat 70 years, ago often against severe odds, a huge debt of gratitude.
Moving on to a more established reserve we visited a while back which also barely gave trouble to the note book. A Heron fished successfully, catching three, but try as we might we couldn't get the catch pic.

Dragonflies were thin on the ground, or should that be in the air. It was a beautiful, warm summers day and this reserve should have been crawling with them - a bad season? We had a single Brown Hawker and what was tentatively id'd as a Southern Hawker. Butterflies were represented by plenty of Speckled Woods but not a lot else unless it was white. But we didn't visit the meadow area so there could have been more about.

The reason for not doing the main part of the reserve was because we'd high-tailed it down the the Kingfisher zone. After counting the waterfowl (which didn't take long!) it was a matter of sitting hoping and waiting. And after what seemed like an age we got one, a couple of calls followed by the fleetingest of glimpses. Kingfisher nailed ! (174) One to go for our 'expected total. We did get a good view of a Buzzard pretending to be an Osprey hovering over the end of the mere

We moved round to another hide expecting to get a better view - we didn't we got another fleeting glimpse as it disappeared and then we sat round for three quarters of an hour waiting for it not to show again. At this hide a young lady asked if we could identify a white headed bird of prey she had photographed taking off from a small patch of reeds and rushes - don't tell us we misidentified an Osprey as a Buzzard...no, her pic was of a juvvy Marsh Harrier - the second we'd not seen today!

That was enough and afternoon was pressing on, we've a cousin we don't visit too often who lives a mile from this reserve who has lots of Labradors so we decided we scrounge a cuppa of her and introduce Frank to his 'cousins' too. Both Bullfinch and Nuthatch were heard but not seen on the way back to the Land Rover. In the car park was a total surprise - well out of habitat a different cousin, her partner, and an auntie thrown in for good measure too. It was a family reunion!!! And we got told off for not visiting often enough - and there was us thinking it was going to be a quiet day's safari-ing!

First cousin (mother's side) we intended to visit wasn't in so Frank didn't get to meet his cousins and we didn't get our cuppa.

As an aside on Patch 1 this morning there was a very recently fledged Blackbird and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling indicating it had probably been present overnight.

Where to next? The quest for the 175th continues and with Little Terns being seen from Patch 2 in the last day or so fingers are well and truly crossed - those we still have at least.

In the meantime let us know if family popped up from nowhere in your outback this weekend

Saturday 21 August 2010

The darkness

The Safari joined three other intrepid adventurers in the darkest depths of the local allotments all armed with pots, nets and torches. Before we chose a suitable location where we could move around safely in the dark we had a quick look at the 'snake pit which had obviously dried out but had re-flooded - looking good! Plenty of patches of Purple Loosestrife had sprung up where the ground had been disturbed and the Flag Iris we planted has established well - - all looks good for next year.
At last the bally big bulb was set up over the trap. As darkness fell the genny was fired up and UV light flooded the area. It wasn't long before the first moth arrived, an Orange Swift, the next two moths were also Orange Swifts, all three of them males and these were the only one we got all night! Large Yellow Underwings numbered a few more than plenty and there were even more Flame Shoulders which came in at crouching height and stoated off our heads, shoulders, backs etc.
There was plenty of variety to keep us interested as the trap filled up including some not seen since last year in the park when Frank was eating them as they approached the trap - silly dog! The Copper Underwings sp lived to tell the tale as Frank wasn't with us tonight.
Both specimens of Peppered Moth were of the 'melanistic; industrial' form carbonaria - sounds like something tasty you might serve with spaghetti! - at Base Camp we only see the 'normal' form, not sure why they should be so different only a few miles apart and we certainly aren't in an area that has ever suffered too much industrial pollution.
Very few micro's were recorded but of those that we did see all were identified except for this one - which for those present was a very good strike rate.

Is it Crambus pascuella? The pale longitudinal line might not be white enough - last night we thought it was goldenish by torchlight - and it might be too narrow, with no white under the 'fingers' at the wingtip either, so something else?
Last moth of the night just as we were deciding to call it a day was a cracking Willow Beauty. But sadly, especially for one adventurer, no hawkmoths.
Jupiter and five of its moons was showing very well in the binoculars.
On Patch 1 mid morning a migrant was heard, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and it was still 'chip'ing away later in the afternoon. another freshly hatched Woodpigeon's egg was found on the grass verge of the main road.
Not a bad 18 hours safari-ing but 'Pool lost 6- 0 this afternoon - nightmare, some of us were hoping for a well earned draw...there is an enormous gap between the teams vying for the Premiership crown and those hoping to avoid relegation. Some say that between the 20 teams there are actually three, if not four, 'mini'leagues the the Premiership.
Where to next? A far flung safari beckopns tomorrow, maybe somewhere on the South-side we've not visited before, or it could be northwards as we have an errand that could be done at the same time - we'll check what the weather is doing in the morning and decide then.
In the meantime let us know if you have been overrun with micromoths or not in your outback.

Friday 20 August 2010

Friday morning blues

The Safari’s early morning wander around Patch 1 on a muggy and drizzly Friday morning was D-E-A-D dead; although the female Peregrine was sitting up on the water tower for the first time in a few days, there have been sightings in the town centre while they have been absent from the water tower – but are they the same ones?
The only thing of note was an old gent we’ve never seen before who we believe might well have been Mr Kipling .He must have been out very early as he had already collected four carrier bags full of Blackberries. Not many left for the birds in that area. The scent of Fox hung heavy in the air in the butterfly glade. In the park there is one of our favourite trees an Aspen; why is it our favourite - the Latin name Populus tremula - and the leaves were certainlly trembling in the breeze.
That’s yer lot from Patch 1 – not a lot!
Patch 2 didn’t get an early morning blimp due to torrential rain. It wasn’t overly brilliant at lunchtime. The falling tide had left a bit of beach for a small number of gulls to rest on. A single Great Black Back was the only notable amongst them. Off shore a few Sandwich Terns mooched about searching for fish without any success, going back and forth but no stalls and hovers for a look-see seen. A Gannet broke the horizon and a midget flock of Common Scoters sat on the water to the south. Best were three Grey Seals. Hardly inspiring stuff…and not even any gull pictures for your delectation today.
Hardly worth putting finger to keyboard.
Where to next? Moth trapping tonight…could be good if it stays warm and humid providing the wind doesn’t pick up as forecast.
In the meantime let us know how rubbishy your outback was today.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Found it/them!

The Safari has discovered the identity of yesterday’s mystery gull and as predicted it was a juvenile Lesser Black Backed Gull. To reach this not-so astonishing conclusion we had a good shuffy through the pages of Olsen and Larsson and found the answer by morphing the tertials of the bird shown on plate 544 with the scapulars and greater coverts of the individual on plate 545. Why do the little so’n’so’s have to be so variable? It’s probably easier looking at em with old, out of alignment bins when the nuances and subtleties of the variation in plumage can’t be seen and so it’s are far more obvious what they actually are then when trying to be a tad too clever with a scope…something to be said for ‘ignorance is bliss’, it might not be bliss but it is certainly a lot less confusing! Would it be too much to ask that they were all as easy to identify as this one?

Not only that a trawl through Google images as Anno suggested gave us the answer to the mystery bone which he correctly identified as being a vertebra from a Porpoise. We shoulda known that, but he is one clever chap! (Let us know when the Willow Tits are back on the feeders and we’ll have another stumble around Moore after your boaty ride).
Patch 1 was double quiet this morning apart from the Magpies still giving one of the Sparrowhawks a shed load of grief. A new bird ‘in’ at the Golden Triangle was a Chaffinch; have they been away or just been silent and unobtrusive?
At Patch 2 MJ and FB were already ensconced but hadn’t had anything to shout about. We gave it a few minutes but with only a couple of distant Gannets, a flock of six Common Scoters in flight and three more bobbing about like corks on the water it wasn’t really worth staying out long, so we didn’t! The thought of a nice cuppa was too inviting and easily took precedent.
Don’t know how many of our UK readers saw this?...it’s very scary!!! Probably a ploy to soften us up for something a little less radical but possibly equally sinister. Isn’t the new government’s logo a tree – probably to remind us what they used to look like by the time they’ve finished with our environmental heritage! This arvo's visit to Patch 2 surprised us with a good bit more than earlier. A Grey Seal bottled beyonfd the surf and a Ringed Plover was picked up on the sand banks up the beach until it and another seven we hadn't spotted were flushed by a bloke and his kids. Out over the sea a couple of Sandwich Terns went north while a handful of others were blogging about. amongst the gulls were an adult Common Gull and at last another juvvy Black Headed Gull with only a couple of dozen adults today.
The long march back to the office gave us a male Linnet sat up on the overhead tram wires.
Mid afternoon we had a site meeting at the local recycling centre to assist with the setting up of a conservation area. A Speckled Wood was casing the joint for next year but here was our best tick of the day - one of our Green Laning buddies was seen hurling lordy-knows-what into the skips...
Where to next? Yet more patchy stuff but, weather permitting, a moth trapping session tomorrow night too...results on Saturday.
In the meantime let us know what's been lurking around the rubbish dumps in your outback.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Very mixed feelings

The Safari learnt yesterday morning that a good friend had just passed away. May her birds be colourful and easily identified from now on.
Maybe in a few years time one of the up and coming youngsters will revisit the book she co-wrote with former County Recorder MJ, The Birds of Marton Mere, and hopefully there will be some interesting and positive information to share at that future time.

On a much lighter note, today marks the inauguration of a ‘new’ partnership project, The North Blackpool Pond Trail, which the BEAT Naturewatch group has been working towards for a number of years. So if you are ever in Bispham area look out for events and improvements centred around the many ponds and other snippets of habitat in the area. And if anyone is after a job in the community/environmental field then look in the usual places now!
Patch 1 early morning wasn’t up to much. A hoard of cackling Magpies alerted us to a brief view of a Sparrowhawk desperately trying to avoid their attentions. Frank sniffed out both halves of a freshly hatched Woodpigeon’s egg lying on the grass – they seem to have had a good breeding season.
Back at Base Camp we came across two moths indoors – one was released back to the wild – a male Orange Swift,

the other, as yet unidentified micro, evaded capture. That painted wall it is sitting on is supposed to be magnolia or some other similar shade of not-quite-white!
No Patch 2 today, we were hoping to twitch the sort of local Wood Sandpiper but it appears to have done a bunk and then there was tempting news of a Ring Billed Gull not so far away seen until late yesterday evening. But in the end we plumbed a short morning’s safari to the nature reserve - where we had very little.
Over the woods to the east a Buzzard circled and was later ‘replaced’ by a hovering Kestrel.
On the scrape a few Mallards mooched about with about a dozen Teal. Moving round to the hide on the opposite side we found three Shovelers and counted exactly 20 Pochards. Coot numbers in the area we could see from the hide weren’t high with only about 15.
From the bushes adjacent to the hide a Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff said ‘hweet’ a couple of times; other than that the reserve appeared just about passerineless. The ‘horsey’ farm across the way had a good number of both Swallows and House Martins hawking insects above and around the stable blocks.
Then we spotted a young gull that caught the eye. Doh not again! you’re all thinking – can this guy not sort out 1st yr LBBGs yet!!!!!
Well no, not exactly – the more we look at them the more we see things that don’t add up, yes we’re sure they’re all juvenile/1st winter LBBGs but just have a look at this one and let us know what you think. Why they have started to cause confusion is a mystery…think we’re looking too hard. Even a good scrutiny of everybody’s favourite website still hasn’t given us a definitive answer…yet! So, can you?
Where to next? Back to the normal patchwork tomorrow
In the meantime let us know what’s causing you ID problems in your outback.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

An Arctic blast

The Safari’s early morning walk wasn’t looking too clever in the heavy drizzle with nothing really of note apart from an increase in the number of Robins ‘tic’ing away from their hidey holes in the bushes. That was until we noticed a large flock of Blue, Great with a fair few Long Tailed Tits thrown in and a bonus bird too, a Blackcap. Again not a raptor to be seen this morning.
At Patch 2 the tide was falling but at least by now the rain had eased. Not a lot on the beach, plenty of Herring Gulls but only small numbers of Lesser Black Backs and Black Headed Gulls, not a single juvenile of these so its looking like they might have had a calamitous breeding season, at least locally.
A Cormorant sat on the beach drying its wings looking as prehistoric as they get, not a common sight along this stretch of beach, they usually roost in numbers a mile or so to the south a good bit off our patch. Poorly digiscoped in the gloom.

Out in the distance the sea was quiet with just a few small flocks of Common Scoter flying about. Then we got on something a little more interesting, a brown long winged thing careening between the waves. Winding the mag on the scope up a notch or two we ‘got in front’ of it and waited…nothing happened; where had it gone? Going back to wide angle view we picked it up again not far from where it was first seen but this time at great height – our second Arctic Skua of the season was giving a young gull some serious aerobatic grief. We watched the excellent but one sided dog-fight unfold until either the gull gave up its meal or the skua gave up because the gull didn’t have a meal to give – couldn’t really tell at that range. The skua then glided (should that be glid?) back down to the waves a mile or so away in a shallow dive without so much as a flicker of its wings. With nothing else happening and rain in the air – that makes a refreshing change!!! - we called it a morning.
A trip to the shops on the milk run gave us a Grey Wagtail, another first for the season.
Lunchtime on Patch 2 was useless with more rain coming on the breeze. A Sandwich Tern was sat on the beach with a two others a little further down and yet again a Collared Dove landed on the wall close to us then shot off northwards over the beach, so are they/is it a local bird or movers?

Then it was a quick lunch and back to the rockpools with a gaggle of loud and excited youngsters.

We found this vertebra on the strandline - it's about six inches (15cm) across - any ideas anyone? the circular disc in the middle is about an inch (25mm) in diameter and doesn't have a hole through the middle so we doubt if it's a mammal.

Side on it has strange protrusions.

The other end on view.
The pools released their goodies, best of which was this pair of Green Shore Crabs.

Where to next? Back to the birds with the chance of something a little different tomorrow morning.
In the meantime let us know whose vertebrae have been left lying around in your outback.