Sunday, 31 October 2010

Another crackin day out

The Safari had an afternoon visit to the nature reserve close to Base Camp after yesterday's far flung adventure. One day we'll forego the Sunday morning bacon, mushroom and brown sauce butty and get out earlier in the day...or perhaps we won't!
Spoke to the wardens by phone as we arrived and was told of a strange call coming from the reeds adjacent to where we had parked...we heard it too...twice...a it like a slow Little Grebe trill...dunno, no idea, never heard anything like it before and didn't hear it again during the afternoon...a Cetti's Warbler singing an unusual secondary song? 14 Pink Footed Geese went over and two Whooper Swans also headed south east. A Jay flew north, not a commonly seen species here. The wardens also told us that the Starling roost was somwher in the region of a whopping 25,000 birds.
Nearby a Robin did a great impression of a Red Breasted Flycatcher launching itself out of a Willow after flies fairly successfully.
Moving round to the hide it was very peaceful with the splooshing and splashing of the gulls bathing along with the quiet pleeping of the Teal.

At first it appeared fairly quiet with just the usual ducks and a few gulls to grill but we soon found some better stuff. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over from the north while we thought a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull flew past but we didn't get a decent view of it before it went round the corner and out of sight when a small male Sparrowhawk shuffled the gulls around. Then we saw bird of the day, an unusual gull...a Common Gull with a huge amount of white in the wing tip, more like a well marked 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull or a more typical pale wing-tipped argentatus Herring Gull. Very unusual but we didn't get a good look at the rest of it as it disappeared behind us - would it come back.

11 Redwings and a single Fieldfare passed over at the opposite end while a Cetti's Warbler gave excellent views but sadly too brief. Had it stayed still it would have been in the circle.

Two Whooper Swans dropped in, very likely the ones we had seen earlier. The west end Mute Swans were quickly on the scene.
Two Whooper Swans with a proper bird!

We quickly made our way to the next hide to get less obstructed views. Really like these winter wanderers. A second Cetti's Warbler was heard here.

There's something a bit more 'special' about them than the normal Mute Swans...could be their atmospheric calls.
We watched as the two pairs of Mute Swans homed in on them to drive them off, the Mutes are just too territorial for just two Whoopers to be able to roost over night, need to wait till later in the winter when upto 50 might come to roost - the Mutes can't deal with that many!

We left the Whoopers to their fate and went to see if the Tree Sparrows were still on site. On route we watched a Migrant Hawker dragonfly catch a couple of midges.
There were four Tree Sparrows on the bird table, excellent news, really pleased they're still around. Other species around were the ubiquitous Blue Tits
And Great Tits.

A Coal Tit nipped in and out, always in a hurry there are.
Unfortunately some numb-skull let of a nuisance firewirk close by and everything flushed from the feeders. Still it gave us the opportunity to go and see how the Whoopers were getting on. On the way back 75 Pink Footed Geese went over and a female Sparrowhawk looked as though it was dead set on getting settled into a decent hidey-hole before the Starlings come in to roost.
The Whoopers had indeed been driven off. We heard another Cetti's Warbler then saw a different one zip across a gap in the reeds, possibly the one we had heard earlier, now we're up to three, at least six were reported from the reserve today. We saw the unphotographed Cetti's Warbler again but this time it was far to quick for us.
Moving back to the first hide we had a Redshank fly in, two weeks running - WOW.
Watching it we spotted four Wigeon tucked under an overhanging bank. A Water Rail called from close to the edge of the nearby reedbed but didn't come out for a photo opportunity.
The gulls went up en-masse - something had put the fear of God into them. One of the ladies in the hide pointed - there it is - a Short Eared Owl was the cause of the panic! Brilliant stuff.
The resultant confusion had really shuffled the gulls around. We didn't see it fly in so don't know if this is the same Common Gull as earlier but it was right on the extreme limit of variation for that species, unless it was a hybrid or even a 2nd generation back-cross, certainly very different to the other 'normal' ones close by. sadly they wereall moving around a bit and this was the only shot we got that was any good - damn that flying thing! How annoying is that! Didn't see the arrowed one in flight or bathing so couldn't say what colour its legs and feet were.
Here's a typical one for comparison - note the extent of white in the wing tip, and slimy greeeen bill with just yellow at the tip - the oddball one's bill was that yellow all the way to the face. The dark eye is a noted feature of Common Gulls, ours was certainly a lot paler and even through bins we could make out the difference between the iris and pupil but it was nowhere near the paleness of Ring Billed Gull, nor was the mantle pale enough.
The rangers popped in to the hide asking if anyone needed a new pair of shrews. Poor taste, sorry, two deceased Common Shrews. Probably got caught out in last night's rain and succumbed to hypothermia.
The 1st winter Mediterrean Gull did a fly-past confirming that we almost definitely had seen it earlier.
At the end of the day we watched three Grey Wagtails fly in.
One thing we did note was that there were quite a few people about enjoying the wildlife on offer - and there was some great stuff to be seen too - sadly we were one of the youngest and there were very few families out on a perfect autumn afternoon. Not cold or windy with loads to see. Shame the families weren't there taking advantage of what was on FREE offer.
Where to next? After seeing tonight' News we've decided we're going to become a Druid!
In the meantime let us know what's on special offer in your outback.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Any one seen Cliff?

The Safari took Frank out for his evening game of footy. Two Peregrines on the tower, one tucking into its tea. The Goldcrest was still in the line of dense conifers.
There were some Blackbirds in the Golden Triangle and one of them gave that high pitched thin call that means duck! Actually that quacking duck but fast movement 'duck'. A Sparrowhawk came leathering through and then belted down the side of Magpie Wood producing an explosion of Magpies that had started to think about settling down for the night.
Mid afternoon Frank barked at something banging outside, we think it might have been thunder as the sky to the east was as black as black can be. But when we were out footying this cloud was hovering over Cliff's gaff - just hope he wasn't sucked up into it - it looked pretty fierce!
Where to next? Not goin out in that !!!
In the meantime let us know if you've seen Cliff

'Mexican' gold

The Safari had a Fox with a bit of a hind quarter limp on shortened Patch 1 early morning do. Frank was given his breakfast and sent upstairs while we grabbed the scope and the Land Rover keys and set off without him.
An hour later we were on site before dawn at a stake out. In the gloom a friendly Robin appeared.

We scuffed the ground as a large herbivore might do and he soon found a worm that took him a bit to wrangle down.

We've never taken a pic of a wild bird with the macro setting on the camera before! The lens was within 6 inches of him(her?). Something caught his attention.
We hadn't put any food on the scope he just hopped up on the off-chance.
And stopped there for a good while - macro again!
Pity it was still quite gloomy and the pics are a bit grainy.
We were well chuffed to have this amazingly close interaction with a such a tiny and truly wild creature. Brilliant! Made our day.
As we were concentrating on the little Robin we heard a roar like the drumming of a thousand hooves on the plains but it wasn't hooves it was Starling's wings.
No idea how many are in the pic but this is only a small part of the flock, by the time the camera had found something to focus on MOST of them had passed over - they're going from left to right. We guesstimated 15000 but how many there actually were is anyone's guess, if that makes sense.
At our stake out we heard a Jay and several Water Rails calling. Over 350 Fieldfares, in several parties, came over the hill from the north and dropped in to the woods. An early Buzzard called from somewhere behind us, as did our quarry, sounds like someone twanging a tight elastic band...
Four Reed Buntings went over all headed west and a Heron did a low pass but probably saw us and turned around.
In the distance a flock of about 50 Golden Plovers looked like they were going to land but there was no sign of them later so they mustn't have done.
As the sun peered over the crest of the hill to the east it illuminated the trees on the top of the hill on the opposite side of the valley, bringing out all the autumn golds - beautiful. If that wasn't enough a shower brought on a rainbow - stunning...what a safari this was turning out to be.
There is supposed to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and today there was...
The golden reeds held feathered gold, or at least feathered tawny!
Four Bearded Tits (184) in this pic but our best count was eight together.
The grit trays are just a bit far for the big camera so we tried digiscoping them - difficult as the little blighters won't keep still.
Reasonably happy with the results.
Whoever called them Bearded Tits has obviously never seen a moustache!
You can almost see the Magnificent Seven coming to the rescue of those guys...were's his sombrero?
A Weasel shot across the open area and into the reeds near the trays - we dipped it...not seen one yet this year!
The battery in the little camera was getting a bit low by now and we headed off to see if there were any early morning Red Deer at the other end of the reserve. There wasn't but it didn't matter it was a grand morning to be out, even allowing for the showers, they didn't do anything to dampen our spirits.
After our Mustellid miss earlier we had the back end of either a Stoat or a Mink disappearing into the path side reeds in a flash as we rounded a corner.
More Bearded Tits were heard then seen at the far hide, as they were at all the hides we visited! Probably saw a minimum of 15, possibly more than our grand total for the last 20 years!
From the path side bushes a Marsh Tit called but we didn't get on it.
Ducks included a few Gadwall, the ubiquitous Mallards, about three dozen Wigeon, some Pochard and Tufted Ducks. There were plenty of Teal too but when a shooting party fired up in the woods opposite they beggared off down to where we had come from, probably about 250 or so of them altogether. Couldn't find any Snipe bizarrely and a thorough search of the muddy bit revealed no Jack Snipe - hardly surprising.
A total plonker in a microlight flew low, only about 100 feet, over the reserve right along its length flushing everything - what a total dork.
The feeding station was busy, Coal Tits, more Marsh Tits but far too quick to get a pic of, plenty of Greenfinches and Chaffinches, this young male was having a ball searching through the leaf-litter at the base of a tree.
Best of all was a Bullfinch - one of the Safari's favourite birds. But could we get the camera to focus on the bird - next camera WILL have manual focus!!!
He started venturing on to the feeders but only stopped very briefly. Then a Sparrowhawk wazzed through a put everything off sending them fleeing in to cover.
Eventually hunger overcame fear and they started to drift back...a squeaky 'peuu' call alerted us to the Bullfinch again but this time it was the female who at least stopped long enough for her pic to be taken.

Next up we hit the coastal many Little Egrets!!!!!?????!!!!!
The nearest pool held an enormous number of Black Tailed Godwits and a lot of Redshanks. A Kingfisher was heard and fleetingly seen as it flew low past the hide...and was later found on a post by one of the other birders. A bit distant but great views, if that makes sense.
A kerfuffle between two Little Egrets had us pondering...watching the brief scuffle at an angle through an unopened window we couldn't see much detail but it looked like one was much bigger than the other, unfortunately the 'smaller' one landed in the open while the larger disappeared into a creek before we could get enough on it...bally typical! If on Monday the Great White Egret comes up on the reserve's website as seen today then we're claiming (stringing) it. We should have gone the few yards further to the next hide and either seen if it was in view from there or asked the incumbents what they had seen but we spent too much time chatting birdy chat and then the phone alarm went off indicating going home time.
we really could have stayed out till well after dark here today, beautiful.
Back at Base Camp whilst riting this rubbish a Long Tailed Field Mouse scampered around the tubs of dying plants just outside the windy - gee he's wick!
Where to next? Back to reality
In the meantime let us know if you had a good day in your outback.

Friday, 29 October 2010

The darkness

The Safari isn’t referring to an early 21st Century rock(ish) band with noted for their high pitch lead vocalist but rather to the fact that it barely managed to get light today. Grim, dreary and grey is the only way to describe the morning.
The only thing we got early doors was the Peregrine, it had moved round a bit overnight and was again sheltering very close to the comms conduit, although there wasn’t excessive rain last night and the gentle southerly breeze was extremely mild. Indeed the 13ºC pre-dawn temperature is way way above the +4ºC ‘panic’ climate change increase for an October minimum temperature. Although with only a couple of days to go October, Blackpool at least, is set to be about as average as average gets. But don’t be fooled – take a look here at what the rest of the world has been up to so far this year.

Just feel a bit sorry for those living in central Norway – what happened there?
Patch 2’s lunchtime visit gave us excellent views of some of the 19 Sanderlings dancing along the water’s edge. One had us sniggering; we know you shouldn’t laugh at others misfortunes it skittered along it seem to trip over its own feet and did a couple of somersaults before righting itself and carrying on as if nothing had happened. Only ever see a bird suffer in this way once before, many years ago at the nature reserve, when a Little Grebe was bowled over and over trying to fly in to a very strong wind.
22 Oystercatchers completed the wader interest. Out at sea disinterest was provided by 50 or so Common Scoters, the black blob monotony almost alleviated by the appearance of first one then a second Common Gull – Cor gee wow!
Yet again the works gardens came up trumps. A Dunnock flitted, or should that be ‘flut’, in to the shrubbery where a couple of a Blackbirds turned the woodchip looking for tasty morsels. Out on the grass nearby was a very nicely marked Pied Wagtail, sat much further away in the far corner was a Lapwing. WOT a Lapwing on our lawns!!!! Got to get a pic of that chance-in-a-million event. Get the scope set up and just getting the focus right before removing camera from the pocket our Lapwing turns, as if by a magic, into a bally Pigeon...a) shoulda gone to Specsavers (other opticians are available) and b) shoulda got a the pic to show you just how Lapwing-like it actually was!!! – honest!!! If we ever see it again we’ll try for the pic.
Where to next? A bit of more distant safari with a couple or three year ticks thrown in might be nice for the weekend. Anyone know the whereabouts of any Waxwings?
In the meantime let us know what’s had you fooled in your outback.
Had a snigger when CP got his old notebook outlast night, seemed somewhat familiar, don’t you think?
Late Edit - Not sure how we forgot but we did neglect to mention the two Foxes we saw playing on Patch 1 late last night...really is about time we got them in the garden here at Base Camp.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Not so depressing after all

The Safari went out into the darkness, as is the norm these days, with trepidation that it would be as bleak as it has been recently. But this morning that wasn’t the case at all. Almost immediately we heard a Robin and not long after a Blackbird clattered away in one of the gardens after something had disturbed it. It wasn’t too windy and it wasn’t raining, things were looking up – including us, as we heard a Redwing going over. Dunno why we looked up cos there was no way we were ever going to see it in the blackness, suppose it was force of habit.
In the topmost branches of Magpie Wood we casually counted about 40 Magpies still fast asleep in the Land of Nod, there could have been more but it’s difficult to see past the branches and twigs of first couple of rows of trees. Wonder if any of these are the same ones as seen by Cindy from a certain message board. Checking the tower we saw that one of the Peregrines had got itself tucked tight in against the comms cable ducting in an attempt to keep out of last night’s torrents of rain.
A little further on still and we heard our first Wren for a while chittering away on the edge of the Golden Triangle, a Robin was ticking from deeper in the dense cover there too. This morning was turning into a far better wildlife safari than we had hoped for and there was more to come. On the home straight Frank veered off on to the grass and sniffed a blob tight against the bottom of the fence – sure enough he had found Mr Snuffles again. There were quiet a few slugs and snails on the paths so our Hedgehog should be having no problems feeding and getting up to the necessary 600g needed to successfully survive hibernation and have enough reserves left to start feeding next spring. The forecast (so far as they can tell – still reckon that for all their rinky-dinky computers they are no more than 36 hours ahead of that guy with his string of seaweed!) is for mild and damp for the coming week so he should have a few more nights of good feeding opportunities left before the big sleep.
We even managed a decent, fully quarter of an hour, Patch 2 safari this morning...things are deffo looking up and the gloom and depression is easing. Patch 2 wasn’t as good as Patch 1 had been earlier but it was still good to get out and see something through the scope.
There were at least 100 Common Scoters scattered about in small flocks and the usual flighty singles going to a ‘better’ patch of sea. One got the blood pumping! On odd occasions the morning light catches their wings and they appear to have a patch of white... this morning was one of those mornings but as is 999.99% of the time as the bird winged round it was as plain as the nose on your face that it was just that – plain, not a sniff of Velvet Scoter for us...yet.
Over the sea a young Lesser Black Backed Gull was being followed by three Black Headed Gulls when suddenly it dropped to the surface almost Gannet-like having seen something of interest. The Black Heads followed suit and the four of them were milling around for a few minutes and pulled in a few more gulls curious to investigate what they had idea what it was, we didn’t see them pick anything up.
A Black Headed Gull on the beach was having some success finding live shells in the large strandline wreck. Surprisingly this was the only bird investigating this potentially large food store. A Redshank was flushed from one of the nearer pools by a guy setting off down the beach to fish the low tide; a dozen Oystercatchers were far enough away not to be bothered by his presence.
At the lunchtime safari some kindly souls threw a bit of bread down for the gulls and Starlings right by where we were stood. We were a bit too close as the birds were very wary of coming down and kept swooping overhead. The light was worse than horrid; a low sea mist coated the promenade as can be seen from the greyness of the sky in these pics of a hungry Herring Gull. The Black Headed Gulls didn’t present a decent opportunity for a photo nor did the Starlings.

Out at sea the rising tide gave us a Great Crested Grebe drifting by through the troughs and a fair few Common Scoters, hard to count but probably in the region of 2-300 scattered about at all points of the compass – well not East, obviously!
We nearly stripped off and jumped in to rescue a dog swimming beyond the surf and frequently dipping under the waves. (Never but never do this!!! The dog often/usually survives and climbs out unscathed, shakes and trots off while the human ‘rescuer’ is carted off on a slab in an unmarked black van). After a while, as it got nearer, it began to look more like a small seal until eventually it was correctly identified as a piece of driftwood – just as well we didn’t dive in...maybe shoulda done....can’t let a good bit of firewood go to waste.
Back on Patch 1 as it was getting dark we didn't count the Magpies, but we did see the Peregrine come from the north to roost. A Goldcrest popped out of the line of large conifers and into the garden where we've heard it before and it really sounded like there was one already there from all the 'seeep seeep seeeping' coming from the treees.
Where to next? This is more like it - more of the same please.

In the meantime let us know if the dark clouds of birding depression have parted in your outback.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

No news is...

The Safari has been unavoidably detained by a central heating boiler, amongst other things in recent days. We have been out on an unproductive partially full but very dark Patch 1 walks, sans Peregrines. Just a small number of ticking Robins going about their early morning business, no sign of any further Redwings going over.
Out on Patch 2 safari's have been limited to less than five minutes so nothing other than the odd Common Scoter, not that they are in any way odd individually. The smattering of gulls haven't given us anything to get remotely excited about.
Where to next? Anywhere with the chance of a bird, insect, mammal or two.
In the meantime let us know if you've been able to see anything in your outback this week.
Sorry no pics - nowt to point the camera at but tomorrow's another day and the boiler is fixed!

Monday, 25 October 2010


The Safari awoke to a crispy cold morning. Hardly surprising as the frost was already settling on the grass on Patch 1 last night.
Anyone else old enough to remember the Jack Frost patterns on the inside of their bedroom windows? Ahh the memories of scraping away the ice while still in our jim-jams and peering through the glass to see if there were any Redwings feeding on the berry bushes or fallen pears or apples at the bottom of the garden - still got the daily notes somewhere. (Late edit - see below)

The almost full moon sent a beautiful cold blue light through the park, we really hate street lights as this morning they totally ruined this natural spectacle until we got well away from them.
A small number of Robins ticked in the gardens, overhead we heard only three Redwings passing by on their way to who knows where.
No Peregrines this morning...wonder where they've found to roost out of the cold.
Due to the supposed early arrival of the boiler engineer there was no Patch 2 safari which was a pity as the sea was pancake flat. He eventually turned up x hours later than promised!!! Makes up for Friday's chap who was bang on time.
Whilst waiting for him we heard the sound of Pink Footed Geese going over and dashing outside counted 75 heading north. A large flock of Corvids away to the east drifted south eastwards while small numbers of Carrion Crows then Jackdaws went over heading south with a larger mixed flock a little later, followed by another 80 or so Jackdaws wheeling round. It was just after these had gone out of earshot when we heard Base Camp's first and Patch 1's second Skylark, saw it disappearing in to the blue too.
Being at Base Camp during daylight hours at the weekend revealing the disheatening sight of exactly how many trees have gone missing from neighbouring gardens in recent weeks. It would seem that there has been a purge on anything that sticks up above fence height. We now have open vistas in to every body's back gardens and beyond. It's very sad.

Where to next? Hopefully Patch 2 will produce something worthwhile in the morning.

In the meantime let us know how frosty it's likely to get in your outback.

PS Our Extreme Photographer has disappeared to the other side of the planet, just nipped to Aus for 3 months lucky devil

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Speed birding

The Safari had family business to attend to today so birding was limited to what could be seen along the motorway from the passenger seat of at 70 mph; "yes Officer we were only doing 70" - honest.
Amongst the multitude of Eddie Stobart trucks sports cars were limited to a Porsche 911 4S and an Audi cabriolet. A Defender travelling northbound looked a tricky beast and we got a Land Rover tick in the shape of Freeloader Td4.e; the new one with the auto engine stop/start gadgetry, we hope it didn't come in to lay on his motorway drive. Really fancy one of the new all electric Range Rovers with independently driven electrically powered wheels and charges wirelessly from an induction plate - any one got a spare 150 grand in their back pocket?
Birds weren't much better with little in evidence. Kestrel 1 v 1 Buzzard were the only raptors. Two Jays flew over the carriageway, one on the outward journey and one on the return. One of which looked to be carrying an acorn or something similar.
A Stock Dove from the dual carriageway near our destination and a Pheasant in the fields were disappointing, there could have been a bit more, where are the Golden Plovers and Lapwing flocks of my youth.
Best sighting of the day was a very nicely tricked up Discovery outside the shops at the end of the road were we lived some 40+ years ago.
Where to next? Patch stuff, so more news of motionless Peregrines for you.
In the meantime let us know if you'd ever made an almighty c*ck-up like what we did on a certain wildlife messageboard last night - we'd blame the wine but we hadn't had that much...dohhh

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Only the shortest venture out.

The Safari was thwarted today. After yesterday's happy ending with the electrician today gave us a disaster!!! The central heating boiler has decided to try to blow itself up, fortunately the pressure release valve is working. So while waiting in for an engineer who can't turn up til Monday and bad weather the only safari today was a short spin round a bit of Patch 1. suppose its better that it fails now rather than when it gets really cold or over the Christmas holiday. But the Safari always catrries a camera - just in case - and on the tower the pair of Peregrines were doing their best to stay dry, sorry about the quality it is a bit high up for the pocket jobby. You might have to go to Specsavers but there are two in the pic - honest!

Dunno if the Tree Sparrows are still present on the nature reserve but we have found out that they have been seen on odd occassions in recent years, usually, if not exclusively, singles.
Where to next? Family birthday so perhaps no safari except the early morning Patch 1 darkness.
In the meantime let us know if any domestic appliances have come to grief in your outback

Friday, 22 October 2010

Not what we were after but we'll certainly take it!

The Safari was worried that Warren's comment yesterday would come true and we'd be waiting all day for the electrician. Thankfully he called early to say he was on his way and then his job didn't take too long. We had a light lunch then hit the nature reserve.
Not much on the water on a murky grey afternoon. About 200 Teal on the scrape and after lengthy scanning we rooted out a single Snipe. A pair of Gadwall were briefly joined by a second male who was swiftly sent packing. Something upset the Teal and they had a bit of a flurry during which we managed to pick out a lone Shoveler, we didn't see the cause of the ago and the nine Cormorants on the bund were as impassive as ever so it almost definitely not what we had come to see.
A solitary Redwing went over the bushes on the far side of the mere, while close by in the reeds we had a Cetti's Warbler giving a snatch of sub (or perhaps juvenile?) song. This Moorhen came so close to the hide window but saw us setting up the camera and scarpered back down to the water' edge and a little out of range.
MMG joined us an we had a mooch down to the next hide where we saw two then a third female Goldeneyes, we knew two were back but the third is a new one in and all three were the first of the season for use. Meanwhile over on the far side a stream of Fieldfares came in, sort of counted at around 200 but we could have missed a few from the front of the flock. Too good an opportunity to miss we high-tailed it round to the Feeding Station where we hoped to find some of them chomping on the apples. No such luck. Plenty of Blue and Great Tits, a Robin or two and a Dunnock or two too. We couldn't decide whether or not there were two Coal Tits.
Checking the feeders a dodgy looking thing was hanging off the far left hand seed. Knock us down with a feather - a Tree Sparrow!!! Site tick and a real rarity here, MMG hadn't seen one here before either and without checking we think it's the first since the 50s or early 60s!!! Needless to say both of us we chuffed to bits. Couldn't get a pic as it disappeared but then fortunatley reappeared in the tree next to the table in front of us. Thank goodness for record shots and a reliable witness otherwise...

It came onto the table and started to feed giving the opportunity to get the little camera out and do a bit of digiscoping...but the scope wouldn't focus that close so we had to move it to the far end of the hide. Luckily out of a load of shots we got a couple of half decent ones, apart from the anti Pheasant wires that is.

What a little beauty!
What happened next had us in raptures...two!!!
Then FOUR...
Then FIVE one of which was ringed, but we were unable to read the numbers. There are several colonies of Tree Sparrows not overly far away including a next box scheme and due to the recent rarity staus of this species they are intensively studied so we would imaging a ringing rate of just 20% is either flukily low or means that the birds aren't locals, maybe some of the ringers who read this can shed some light on these figures.
The one in the middle is a male Chaffinch, the fourth Tree Sparrow is hanging on the wires at the back...
A stonking male Great Spotted Woodpecker was more or less ignored - poor thing turned up at the wrong time!
Talking of turning up, CB turned up at just the right time as the sparrows had vanished when a heavy shower set in but not long after he arrived the rain eased and the Tree Sparrows reappeared. Lucky guy and an up and coming youngster.
Where to next? Back to the reserve there's still a matter of a mammal to complete.
In the meantime let us know what was waiting for you round a corner in your outback.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Too much weather

The Safari has little to report after a foul night. We can confirm that one of the Peregrines was on its ledge late last night but we don’t know if it was still there this morning. As we walked up the hill yet another torrential shower was about to hit us hard. Further up the hill we could see the lashing streams of rain dancing crazily through the pools of light from the street lamps. Hunched against the howling wind we battled on, well one of us did, Frank just trotted along, tail up, a sniff here, a sniff there, totally unperturbed by the impending downpour and when it landed it didn’t bother him at all. Even the short alternative Patch 1 walk was shortened this morning and we so we didn’t get round to check for the Peregrine – it was probably still there being last seen on the most sheltered side of the tower and only a numpty would have ventured out in the teeming rain during the small hours.
With the rain came warmer winds, if no less strong and the temperature is back up to a more comfortable warmer than ‘normal’ for the time of year and from a more comfortable direction for Patch 2 too.
Unfortunately the improvements in viewing conditions had made a jot of difference to the amount of wildlife viewable which remained ‘limited’ at a handful of mobile Common Scoters dodging the breakers. A single Sanderling skittering around in front of the incoming waves was bird of the morning. We haven’t seen many of these since the mass arrival a few weeks ago.
Was lunchtime any better? Not really but the temperature had risen so far it was almost reaching ‘normal’ and if it hadn’t been so windy would have been pleasant in the sunshine. Still nothing to see but the usual handful of Common Scoters, the dropping tide hadn’t yet left any beach available for stuff to forage for stuff on.
Got the Goldcrest again this evening in the same garden but wasn't able to get a Magpie count going. On the way back to Base Camp a Blackbird shot in front of us going to roost in the Golden Triangle followed by a Song Thrush - how invisible have they been in the last few months!
Where to next? Day off tomorrow so after tradesmen have been might be able to get out for a while.
In the meantime let us know how wet the rain is in your outback.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Not much ado about nothing

The Safari hasn’t seen much today. Barely a feather! The temperature before dawn on our Patch 1 alternative was only just above freezing and the wind-chill probably had it a couple degrees below.
The result of all that wintery stuff was that we got nothing at all and no Peregrines on their roosting ledges either.
Patch 2 was exposed to the wind from the north and it was the first time for a long time we’ve pulled the jacket tight to prevent a bad attack of wind in the willows. The light was good, the sea not too chopped up, the tide was rising but the birds failed to put in appearance. Just a handful of Common Scoters to keep us occupied. And they didn’t have the pulling power keep us occupied for long!
At lunchtime there was not a lot of difference apart from the light was bad and the tide was dropping. The wind was still cruelly cold.
The small number of Common Scoters were still faffing about but the increasing beach was proving a good hunting ground for an increasing number of gulls. None of the dozen or so Herring Gulls looked anything like PK’s probable American Herring Gull, there again they probably never will. A couple of Black Headed Gulls were joined by bird of the day...a cold and lonely Common Gull. Actually that’s not quite true, bird of the day, or more accurately ‘birds’ of the day were the first three seen on Patch 2 this morning. Three finchy things bouncing northwards that looked like they dropped on to the sea wall a little to our right just as we arrived. We legged it to the gate and down the slade a bit but couldn’t locate them, probably because they hadn’t stopped just dropped below the top of the wall to get out of the wind. Had that ‘hmmm...interesting’ look about them but we’ll never know if they were three of the local Linnets or something a bit more exciting.
After work we had a mooch with the pooch down the river to see if there was owt about - there wasn't! It was a nice cold evening.But totally devoid of birdlife or invertebrate life or mammal life, except hominids and their flippin mutts. Frank's ball found its way in to a puddle or two and sure as eggs is eggs he followed it.

Where to next? Things have got to pick up on the patches soon, haven’t they?
In the meantime let us know what’s bouncing along in your outback.