Tuesday 30 November 2010

The quick red fox jumps over the lazy brown dog.

The Safari was out at tea time for the usual post-work game of footy with big Frank when we noticed a young Fox poking around along the footpath at the edge of the Golden Triangle.
Before too long it had come right out onto the field in full view of the big fella. A bit of a mistake as the ball was quickly abandoned in favour of a harder to catch play-thing. Poor Fox really needed to be conserving energy and looking for something to eat rather than have to run for its life.
We managed to call Frank off and grab hold of him and made him sit quietly. The Fox soon reappeared and by making pishing noises we got it to come slowly our way. Within a couple of minutes it was close enough to throw a couple of broken dog biscuits towards it. The movement shied it off a little but then it saw Frank’s ball sitting in the middle of the field. At first it was a little nervous of it but once it had decided it wasn’t going to be a threat it walked up to it sniffed it and then peed on it – wow, or yuk as we had to pick it up later. All this time Frank was well behaved and sat quietly although restrained by a tight grip on his collar and scruff. When he saw the Fox at his ball maybe he thought it was going to nick it off him as he made a massive lunge and nearly had us over. The Fox saw this too and scarpered back into the cover of the Golden Triangle. Frank investigated his ball decided it was still his and our game resumed.
Before too long the Fox reappeared, it must have been really hungry to risk coming out while Frank was still charging about the field. Once again we stopped the game and threw a couple of broken bits of biscuit towards it which it gratefully accepted. That was it, time to let the little mite search for some food – game over.
On our late night walk once again the Fox was out, this time some other kindly soul had left some chicken bits for it and it was tucking in to them. We left him a large handful of dog biscuits and one of Frank’s bones that we keep in the freezer...we trust they were appreciated.
Might try for a pic at some stage, using the Land Rover as a hide.
Getting to Patch 2 proved tricky after last night’s smattering of snow, which had frozen in to a thin film of ice.
Very annoyingly once we had safely reached the sea wall there was little to see as a pair of dog walkers down by the water’s edge had managed to flush almost all of the birds off our stretch of beach.
In the far southern distance we could see a long line of Cormorants stood on a sandbank, 87 of them.
All we had to look at in front of us was a few Sanderlings and Oystercatchers and several gulls, hardly worth the risk to life and limb!
Getting back to the office down the slope from the prom was ‘interesting’; certainly a lot less control than Amy Williams but maybe a fraction more than Eddie the Eagle!
No news from the patch at lunchtime, many miles away in the dentist’s chair, being relieved of cash rather than teeth.
Where to next? With little chance of a thaw more skating lessons on both the patches will probably be order of the day.
In the meantime let us know who’s relieving you of what in your outback.

Monday 29 November 2010

Bird count, can’t count

The Safari headed out into a frightfully cold Patch 1 this morning, the mercury was still asleep showing a beyond cool -3.5°C, still it was warmer, or should that be less cold, than yesterday’s minimum of MINUS EIGHT (17.5°F) – how cold is that! Stupidly cold that how cold! If you’re reading this in Churchill, Fairbanks or Moscow ‘cold’ for us is normally about -1°C and -2°C is VERY cold.
The Park gave us nothing except our little Wren was up early again, well before the sun had started to lighten the dawn sky.
Patch 2 was interesting and despite the sub-zero temperature wasn’t too bad due to the lack of wind...that might change later in the week as sub-zero temperatures combine with 20mph winds to give a fierce wind-chill factor.
We set to work having a good blimp through the gulls, nothing over exciting. Almost all were Common and Herring Gulls this morning. A couple of the Herring Gulls had extensive white on the primaries suggesting a northern origin, another distinctive bird had a heavy ‘executioners hood’ similar in looks to this one at Seaforth yesterday but there’s no way we’re anywhere near good enough to suggest it might be from the other side of the Atlantic and no way could we see any of the necessary features from half way across the beach – interesting bird all the same and relatively easy to pick out from the thousands of others down at the water’s edge. Deffo photo time if it sticks around when the tide is up nearer the wall this week.
Wader counting gave us around 150 Sanderlings, with many more beyond our southern boundary which is where all but a few Oystercatchers were along with ‘thousands’ more gulls too.
Close up singles of Dunlin and Grey Plover were nice to see but only one Turnstone was disappointing, as were just eight Redshanks.
Out at sea the light and sea state were just about perfect but we couldn’t find any mammals. We couldn’t find much at! The monotony was relieved only by the distant appearance of a lone Red Throated Diver flying south across the mouth of the estuary.
Counting done we now wonder how accurate those figures are, obviously the singles should be OK but looking at other blogs over the weekend we noticed that FB had counted differently to us at Fleetwood Marine Lake, but he did get out of his car! And MW, too, had different counts to us at three locations we were there at almost the same times, think we were at Fleetwood an hour or so before him.
Here is each of our results.
See how hard this counting m’larky is!
At lunchtime Patch 2 was ruined by a woman who walked her dog and threw it a ball right along the water’s edge flushing everything in sight. Eventually the birds started to return as she passed, they can’t afford to waste the energy flying far at the moment. We did better than earlier with 175+ Sanderlings and a very high tally of Dunlin, 4! The Redshanks didn’t reappear and for some reason there weren’t any Oystercatchers to start with. We saw just a single Great Crested Grebe on the sea and struggled to find two Red Throated Divers. 14 Cormorants flew north but we saw no Common Scoters at all, not a single one! Interestingly a Slavonian Grebe has turned up at Walney; it’s only ten days ago we thought we might well have had one here...hmmm interesting but is the one on Pine Lake still there, is Pine Lake frozen solid?
Looks like we might be taking the Safari much further afield next year - into the wild woodlands of south west Western Australia no less! We will be taking small groups into the outback along 4WD tracks to look at Numbats, Woylies, Black Cockatoos and all the other fascinating wildlife this area has to offer; accommodation will be the luxury farmhouse at Maroo Wildlife Sanctuary. Fancy joining us? – See here for full details, dates, itinerary, prices etc.
Where to next? Australia here we come.
In the meantime let us know if there are any marsupials are lurking in your outback

Sunday 28 November 2010

Wax disaster

The Safari set off after a tasty bacon butty for the Firecrest(s?). But we only got a couple of miles before coming to a stuttering smokey halt. After a three hour wait for the AA the verdict was that perhaps the fuel we bought at a well known supermarket yesterday might not have had winter anti-waxing agent in it and the temperature went down to a numbing -5C- flippin cold for these parts - and if it managed to creep above freezing this afternoon we'd be very surprised.
No chance of getting up to the Purple Sandpipers either.
So what did we get up to while we were waiting? Fortunately, if that's the right word, we came to a stop opposite the park and were able to have a look round the mostly frozen lake. Plenty pf gulls were sat out on the ice. Two Black Headed Gulls had rings, ordinary rather than readable Darviks, and two already had almost fully black (brown actually) hoods.
Also there was a park tick - a Redshank, very unusual and only present because of the ice. Ducks were well represented by 67 Shoveler, 2 female Goldeneyes, 34 Tufted Ducks and 5 male with one female Pochards. The family of two adult and two still stripey headed young Great Crested Grebes, along with 122 Coots, many of which were sporting natty multi-coloured jewelery courtesy of CB.
Flitting about in teh trees was a small flock of Long Tailed Tits - they are really going to suffer if this very cold weather continues much longer.
That, we're afraid is yer lot, really hope the Land Rover starts tomorrow morning...and then continues to run...we have topped up with more diesel from a reputable source.
Where to next? Could be to both Patches on foot.
In the meantime let us know what caused any breakdowns in your outback this weekend.

Saturday 27 November 2010

More icy than Iceland

The Safari was out pre-dawn with Frank this morning and we got a fair bit. A very early rising Wren was flitting about in a thick Hawthorn, this cold early bird was certainly hoping to catch the worm. Next Frank spotted a Fox out in the open on the lawn at the sidde of Magpie Wood - well they can't half run!!! And so can Frank when the mood takes him, no chance of catching it as it dived into a dense Bramble thicket under the trees. A dawn Sparrowhawk made a decent early morning trio.
Then it was twitching time, not even time for a breakfast, it was that serious! We headed straight to the dock and pulled up by the, now famous, burger van. Nightmare - hardly a gull in sight and all those that were were Black Headed Gulls - had it gone? Possibly not half way down the dock, and it is massive (about 1/2 a mile long) there were more gulls and better still they were coming to bread - we had to investigate. Setting off a trot we discovered that these gulls were being attracted to another burger van by a small girl throwing chips for them. But thankfully we caught a glimpse of more gulls wheeling around at the far end - someone else was chucking food and they had TRIPODS - result. Leggin it as fast as we could we reached the first birder who very kindly let us have a look through his scope, what a lovely bird a first winter Iceland Gull (189) is. It was stood on the frozen water which had started to thaw a bit and it fell through which was cue for it to go. So off we all went haring after it back from whence we came. On the way a flock of about 50 Waxwings flew right over our heads...easily the most we've ever seen at one time.
It seemed like a long long way back to the start of the dock but it was worth it the Iceland Gull was on one of the pontoons tucking into a deceased Black Headed Gull, a victim of the cold perhaps.
It was just a bit distant for the big camera and the low sunlight back lighting it wasn't helping although it did give that hint of salmon pink to the primaries and tertials...ooohhh loverly. We tried digiscoping it but it had now become a bit more animated and started swimming about mostly going away from us. Out of about 50 swimming shot this one is the only one that is almost presentable.
After what seemed an age it hopped up out of the water and back on to one of the pontoons - where we cut its feet off! Who cares - what a little pink legged pearler.
Next stop was up to the north where a couple of Purple Sandpipers had been seen during the week. These are scarce along our stretch of coast and worth a look, it's far too many years since we last saw one here early 1990s if memory serves.
On route to the site we passed the lake which has held the Great Northern Diver for a while. Didn't see it as we drove past but we did get Fleetwood Birder on our day list as he got in to his FWAG wagon.
The prom was icy cold with an Arctic blast coming straight across the bay from the snow laden hills in the distance. We checked every groyne and every Turnstone. There were plenty of birds but there were also far too many dogs on the beach and they were constantly being flushed and not getting the opportunity to feed or rest - they must be right on their limits of survval in these conditions but we'd put a bet on the dog walkers going up in arms if they were to be resrticted from the beach - it's not as if there are no alternatives near by either - blissfully ignorant of their crimes no doubt but bloody-minded if someone were to try to stop them.
A Sparrowhawk zipped past trying to flush one of the tasty Meadow Pipits we'd just seen in the thin strip of dunes.
You name a wader and we had plenty of them - except Purple Sandpipers - couldn't find it/them unfortunately - and the mile walk back to the Land Rover against the wind was severely cold with the wind going right through our fleecy keks and wooly hat....bbbrrrrr....Out at sea we counted six Teal sitting just off the mudflats and 84 Eiders.
A quick look at the lake on the return journey produced a female type Red Breasted Merganser, a female Goldeneye and six Tufted Ducks but no Great Northern Diver, don't think it has been reported for a day or two now.
A lunchtime sunny walk around Patch 2 with Frank at lunchtime was still icy cold at just 0.5C, but pleasnat in the sun shelteredd from the breeze.
Here is last summer's Sparrowhawk's nest, taken from the path below it.
Where to next? Purposefully we didn't go looking for the two Firecrests this morning so they'll be on the agenda tomorrow. Might also try for the Waxwings we rudely ignored earlier today. Then there's the matter of the missing Purple Sandpipers.
We're on 189 for the year, be nice round numbers to have 190 by the end off the month, then could we get a further 10 in December - doubt it!
In the meantime 'Pool are 1 - 0 up approaching half time so we're gonna get a cuppa and eagerly await the second half. Pleeeaaaasssee don't chuck these three points away - go get another goal!...Sea...Sea...Seasiders!!!!
Let us know what the summat good your're hoping for tomorrow is.

Friday 26 November 2010

Deffo the wrong gloves!

The Safari spied the Peregrine leaving its roost as we drove up the hill on the way to work, if we’d have left Base Camp a fraction later it would have flown directly overhead. There was nothing else to report from Patch1 other than it was seriously cold; sub-zero minus freezing temperatures!
By the time we’d got to Patch 2 the sun was out but it was still a tad on the cool side. Immediately we noticed the gull-fest on the beach but as the sea was flat calm we had a look across that first. Maybe we should have gone straight into the gulls as there was little to see at sea; a few small flocks of distant Common Scoters and that was it.
So we settled into the stuff on the beach which were enjoying a hearty breakfast of the plethora of shellfish and Starfish down by the low water mark. Casually looking through the gulls we noted more than a few Redshank so decided a proper wader count was in order before giving the gulls a serious going over. Did you spot the Redshank in the pic?
Oystercatchers numbered 121 with ‘a few more than plenty’ further to the south beyond our boundary. Redshanks came in at a respectable 76, among them, skittering around on the edge of a runnel, was our lost and lonely Dunlin. Strung out all along the tide’s edge we counted 84 Sanderlings and with them was bird of the morning; a single Grey Plover. Meanwhile a dozen Turnstones pecked around the in seaweed on the wall. We are seriously hoping for a Purple Sandpiper down here on day soon, particularly as two have turned up at Rossall Point only a few miles up the road and there are more at Walney and Hilbre Islands at either end of the bay - don’t see why they don’t take advantage of the wall with its shelter and feeding opportunities then there’s the Mussel covered outfall pipe for them to explore too.
All this accurate wader counting took longer than anticipated. We started to give the gulls a grilling but had to give up due to freezing thumbs, crikey it was cold, still only -2°C in the sun, and the gentle breeze brought the temperature on exposed flesh down further. We’d picked up the wrong gloves when we left Base Camp grabbing the fingerless ones instead of the thick winter ones – a bad mistake which resulted in the gulls being abandoned less than a quarter of the way through them...what a wimp!
We dared to brave the cold at lunchtime with the temperature a balmy 3°C and the sun giving us a tiny bit of heat it was almost bearable. Trouble is the wind was coming from the shady side and that poor exposed thumb was once again succumbing to the cold. (Once had proper frost nip while out birding in the 70s on the Alt estuary when a couple of our fingers froze to our bins for a while – extremely painful when we got back home and they started to thaw out). The digital mercury reached the giddy heights of 4°C later in the afternoon; the average maximum daily temperature for November here is a scorching 9.75°C.
So was all the pain and suffering worth it, in a word an emphatic ‘no’ (lordy only knows what we’ll be like when it gets properly cold in the New Year, but we might be in the habit of picking up the right pair of gloves by then though). It was absolute birding tosh, barely a gull in sight and if it wasn’t for a few Cormorants and distant flights of Common Scoters there would have been nothing at all! Where has everything gone?
Tomorrow ‘Pool are playing a re-run of the famous 1953 ‘Stanley Matthews’ FA Cup Final in which they beat Bolton Wanderers 4 -3 with a late goal...be nice if we could get a win tomorrow although Bolton are flying high at the moment and enjoying a great start to a their 2010/11 campaign. At the end of the 52/53 season Blackpool finished 7th and Bolton 14th.
‘Pool too are enjoying than excellent start to a season not having been in the top flight for so long; with just over a third of the season played they have almost half the points required to avoid relegation – keep it up lads. A win would take them to over that all important half way mark, just a draw would keep them on course for a decent mid-table place next May. Unfortunately key goal scorer Marlon Harewood will be out for a while due to a hamstring injury, just have to leave it to DJ Campbell to put a Stan Mortensen style hat-trick in won’t they!Where to next? That Iceland Gull is in our sights, if we can get out of Christmas shopping that it is!
Just in case you didn’t know, and we doubt if you did, tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day as a counter to the blatant consumerism that is the cause of all that is wrong and unsustainable with our society. Rest assured the Safari will be keeping the wallet well and truly pocketed – so what’s new you ask!
In the meantime let us know if it’s a bit nippy in your outback.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Gull fest for starters

The Safari spotted the Peregrine late last night but it wasn’t there this morning perhaps having moved to the far side after the wind had swung round a bit. Nothing else of note other than Venus shining clear, big and bright in the cold pre-dawn sky (Saturn is up to the right of it at this time and should be easy to spot in the coming week).
At Patch 2 it was shortly after low tide and there had been an extensive Starfish wreck. Consequently we had a gi-normous number of gulls to work through. There weren’t too many Black Headed Gulls; they were easily outnumbered by Common Gulls which have become the second most numerous species on the beach. Four adult and two first winter Great Black Backed Gulls easily sliced the legs of the Starfish. One of the Herring Gulls had so many in its crop it was struggling to swallow the final one and stood for several minutes open beaked with a leg poking out. Searching through the thousand or more Herring Gulls, we found at least four northern type Herring Gulls with a slightly darker mantle and much white in the wing tip (although in the low sunshine and at that range slight differences in shades of pale grey are horrifically difficult to accurately discern).
Could really go one of Monika’s Glaucous Winged Gulls – there we’ve done it now; if one does happen to turn up no-one will ever believe us now we’ve mentioned it tongue-in-cheek, ohh errrr.
Waders were represented by 25 Sanderlings and about two dozen uncounted Redshanks most were in the gully by the wall with a handful at the tide’s edge. There was only a single Oystercatcher on the beach this morning.
We didn’t look at the sea on the pre-work safari.
Our lunchtime safari wasn’t a long protracted affair by any stretch of the imagination. After a few minutes we were chilled to the core in the brisk northerly breeze, the midday sun having little or no effect today.
The tide was up and the wind had chopped the sea in to veritable stampede of white horses. The bright sunlight gave rise to a very shimmery horizon and it was almost impossible viewing to the south due to the dazzle on the water. Not much was doing! So much so that the first two ‘birds’ we saw were pieces of driftwood. A flock of seven or eight Common Scoters rode the waves while they slept as did a small number of gulls.
Pick of a bad bunch was a flock of three Eiders flying south and that was about the size of it today. These were easily beaten by two Pink Footed Geese first heard then seen through the office window from our desk.
Where to next? More news of not a lot tomorrow probably.
In the meantime let us know if there was enough about for you to be able to fill a notebook in your outback.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Base Camp bizarreness

The Safari can report from Patch 1 the almost interesting news that a few Robins were noted, one of which was seen and another was singing, both in the light from the street lamps.
No Patch 2 early doors safari as we had to wait in for the fire fitting man who was battling his way through the, becoming nonsensical, traffic.
It was at that time the bizarreness happened. Our fire fitting man turned up and as we left Base Camp we trod on something that went crunch. Bending down to investigate we discovered we’d just trodden on a live, or at least only recently deceased, Rayed Trough Shell which had been dropped by a gull that must have carried it a minimum of 1385 metres (1515 yards/0.86 miles) as that is how far from the beach Base Camp is.
Probably a bit far gone to take it back to the beach and release it back into its natural habitat.

Not sure which would be the most bizarre tick, yesterday’s Red Throated Diver desk tick or this morning’s Base Camp tick; Frank’s real Arachnida Tick turned out to be not so real at all, rather a dark raised pimply spot when he visited the vet last night for his annual doggy MOT...really do need to go to Specsavers! (Other opticians are...)
At lunchtime the tide was only a few minutes past full. The breeze was cold but the bright sunshine made life tolerable; unlike the wildlife – or should we say lack of it!
A handful of gulls were asleep bobbing on the wavelets and a flock of seven, six males and one female, Common Scoters were a little further out. It was a good while before we spotted our first Cormorant and even longer to the second! Only a single Red Throated Diver was found on the sea but we did have one in flight coming in from the horizon.
It was at the horizon the interest was...not wildlife but a very fast boat. It was kind of hazy out there but we could see the spray from the bow as this smallish boat thrashed along at speed. It looked like it was towing three water skiers behind it – it wasn’t, not sure what they were but certainly not skiers; far too big, far too choppy and far to cold!!! Some kind of military ship perhaps or coastguard/fisheries cutter although what they would be doing towing a whatever-it-was is anyone’s guess. Every so often it would put up small flocks of Common Scoters and it flushed a single Red Throated Diver too.

As it was running parallel to the shore we didn’t hang around to find out where it was going to.
Where to next? Still hoping that a certain gull and Firecrests will stay put until the weekend.
In the meantime let us know what the bizarrest find in your outback has been.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Blistering sunshine – for a while at least

The Safari has nothing to report, not even a roosting Peregrine, from a very early Patch 1 walk in the brilliant light from an almost full moon; no need for a torch in the park today, not that we normally take one.
Patch 2 gave us a swiftly disappearing beach which held 264 Oystercatchers, 59 Redshanks and the lonely Dunlin was there again. As with yesterday there were far more Oystercatchers out of range, off patch, to the south. Similarly once again we weren’t able to pull a dodgy gull out of the many hundreds scratting around on the sand in front of us.
The sea gave us a pleasant change in the form of a flock of seven Eiders. Yesterday’s bait-ball/line was nowhere to be seen and consequently there was little in the way of Cormorant activity. Only two Red Throated Divers were seen too. As for mammals – no chance!
The lunchtime watch was disappointingly devoid of mammals, not a sniff of a shoal of fish to attract them or the Cormorants.
A cold northerly breeze had the water chopped up a bit and viewing was singularly uncomfortable. However the seven Eiders were counted better as they rode the waves and we got eight with a Great Crested Grebe and a first winter Herring Gull joining them.
The tide was only just on the ebb and ebbing out with it, floating face up, just beyond the wall was a dead Great Black Backed Gull.
A small flock of Common Scoters was nearby again with a Great Crested Grebe in attendance.
Bird of the day was without doubt Red Throated Diver with a minimum of 24 seen and if conditions had been easier we probably could have doubled that – they seemed to be everywhere; near, far, left, right and in flight too, even had one from our desk later in the afternoon which means it was very close inshore, possibly almost over the beach, and was high up! Pretty good bird for an ‘at work at your desk’ tick!
Where to next? Only more of the same for the foreseeable – hope that Iceland Gull doesn’t get its fill of bacon butties and chip barms before the weekend!
In the meantime let us know what your favourite office ticks are – poor big Frank has come home from his jaunt in the woods with a REAL Tick - - yuk!

Monday 22 November 2010

What do you call a linear bait-ball?

The Safari didn’t get as far as Patch 2 this morning due to a knackered Frank after his woodland excursions with his mate Benny yesterday. However Patch 2 was pretty lively in the half light of dawn before work. The beach was literally covered with gulls but try as we might we couldn’t pick any dubious ones out, certainly no juvvy Iceland Gull amongst them. We counted exactly 75 Oystercatchers but there were at least 10 times that many off Patch to the south, along with ‘thousands’ more gulls. We also got a fairly high count of 74 Redshanks then something unseen flushed more off the seawall and we had to revise this to 100+.
A scan of the sea revealed a veritable Piccadilly Circus of Cormorants, it was as if the Common Scoters had tripled in size, plenty of them were going every which way. A small number of Red Throated Divers were seen, nothing like the 180+ from last Friday when we couldn’t get out!
A little to our right we noticed a thin string of gulls sat on the water, as we scanned further it was obvious something was going on. Cormorants were popping up craning their necks upwards in the act of swallowing large fish. In the end we had a top count of 44, but as some would undoubtedly have been underwater and others were flying in to join the throng this will have been an underestimate by perhaps as much as 20 - 25%. A first winter Shag was with them, always a good find along this stretch of coast. A single Great Crested Grebe was a poor showing considering the 65 seen at the end of last week.
Red Throated Divers started to arrive at the feast and our best count was 11, outnumbered by 12 Great Black Backed Gulls, a high count for the Patch. We started to hope that a Great Skua or a mammal might turn up but the flock began to disperse before any of these ‘species of more major interest’ put in an appearance. From the several fish we saw disappearing down the Cormorants’ gullets we’d hazard a guess they were Whiting.
At lunchtime there were still a fair few Cormorants feeding along ‘the strip’ although with not so much gusto as earlier. A single Red Throated Diver was still there as was the Great Crested Grebe and just one of the Great Black Backed Gulls hung around hopefully. As sort of predicated a Grey Seal was seen bottling briefly at the surface before sinking beneath the waves for some lunch.
Scanning around we noted at least the same amount of Cormorants in the mouth of the estuary and a similar number were counted heading towards the rigs out over the horizon, total for the day must have been in the order of triple figures.
Red Throated Divers for this session had dwindled to just four including the one mentioned earlier.
However, again as sort of predicted we got a Harbour Porpoise. Actually we saw three ‘surfacings’ and thought there may well have been two. Back at our desk an email from another Cetacean aficionado, SD, confirmed there had indeed been two.
This sighting sits nicely very close to our ‘curve of expected time of porpoise sightings’, being an hour and a quarter after high tide on a fairly high tide.
Shame about the Great Skua – woulda been the hat-trick!
A good look through the gulls on the rapidly expanding beach gave us nothing to get excited about, Redshank numbered a measly compared to earlier but still good for here 34 and in amongst them we spotted a Turnstone pecking at a bit of washed up seaweed.

Exciting and somewhat bizarre news was heard that the enigmatic and ‘extinct’ Thylacine may have been seen recently and even captured on video – is this more Crypto-zoology weird type stuff or is it real? We certainly hope it is real!

Where to next? Wonder if that bait ‘ball’ will still be about.
In the meantime time let us know what’s been balling up in your ouback

Sunday 21 November 2010

Sunday stroll

The Safari had a stroll with some good friend and our two mutts this afternoon. Not a lot about, none of the Starlings were Waxwings despite there being some in the area.
A lot of Yew trees are in these woods.

There were only a few fungi to be found, not sure why, perhaps the very porous limestone rock doesn't hold enough moisture, could beway off mark with that statement though!

Think these are Spindle tree berries, not a tree we're very familiar with - anyone know any different?
An acorn hunt for another friend proved difficult, plenty of shells left by the mice and squirrels but finding undamaged ones was hard - we got seven in the end. But...have these been missed by the rodents or ignored because they're not viable? Time will tell.
One of the acorns main enemies/friends was out in force - we saw several Jays.
Where to next? Back to the Patches? Hope a certain Iceland Gull flies past but with all the freeby left over fry-up nosh it's getting that is very unlikely.
In the meantime let us know what the waxwings are upto in your outback.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Sort of slow

The Safari was lucky enough to get out onto Patch 1 during the hours of daylight today. Not a lot to report. There are a few trees down after the storms last week, one of which is a nice dry dead pine which we have our eye on. We did find the Sparrowhawk's nest now that the leaves have dropped - almost right over the path high up in a substantial fork in a Willow tree.
One of the Peregrines was sat on a different ledge from their usual favoured ones. No sign of any Waxwings on the Patch but almost all the berries have disappeared already so there will be little to attract them down if they do ever fly over...unless of course they've been during the week and scoffed the lot while we were at work - somehow we doubt it!
An old tree stump was covered in Stag's Horn fungi - this one was easily the largest and the only pic we took that was anything like in focus.

We mentioned the dead pine before as at Base Camp we are swapping the inefficient, lose-all-the -heat-up-the-lumb, open fire with a wood burner. The works are in the early stages but it's flipping cold sat here with the room's main source of heating out of commission just as the temperatures are set to tumble to Arctic lows...brrr
Where to next? A more distant safari northwards tomorrow and a bit of hiking around the woods and countryside, not sure exactly where so don't know what might be seen...anything is possible after the promised pub lunch!
In the meantime let us know how much heat you need at your Base Camp.

Friday 19 November 2010

Way too late

The safari was mega-busy indoors today with no chance of getting out onto Patch 2 before work or at lunchtime. When eventually the doors opened and we were free the following rather pleasant and de-stressing sight awaited us.

The best things in life are free!
Where to next? Hopefully Patch 1 will produce a Firecrest,Waxwing or even an Iceland Gull going over...hahaha but all three have been seen in the Fylde today, the Waxwings only a mile or so from Base Camp.
In the meantime let us know what freebies are to be had in your outback.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Singing in the rain

The Safari heard a heart-warming sound on a chilly, dank, dark November morning on Patch 1, the fluty strains of a Blackbird singing away as if it were spring. The only other news was the Peregrine hadn’t moved over night.
On Patch 2 a Grey Seal bottled among the white horses but other than that there didn’t seem to be too much about. a couple of Great Crested Grebes sat quietly on the water and while we were waiting for them to do something suddenly there was a flurry of activity. It was as if all of a sudden there was a good reason not to be to the north of us as we had a total of eight Red Throated Divers and another five Great Crested Grebes all come form that direction within a few minutes of each other.
Great Black backed Gulls were well represented this morning with two adults going north, an adult on the sea and a youngster milling around over the beach to the south.
A very grey day with limited visibility making the horizon only about a mile out but at least there wasn’t any of that really nasty stingingly cold driving rain today.
By the time the lunchtime safari had come round the tide had dropped and the beach was brim full of gulls and Oystercatchers. 25 Redshanks fed around the edges of one of the gullies, and with them a little ‘rarity’, a Dunlin. A group of 12 Turnstones pecked around in the seaweed on the wall. The gulls had nothing outstanding to show for their grilling, two adult Lesser Black Backs were outnumbered by three adult Greater Back Backs. There were Oystercatchers as far as the eye, or scope, could see, no idea as to the number...four figures perhaps.
Out on the water only a single Great Crested Grebe was entered into the notebook.
Where to next? Very little chance of anything wildlifey tomorrow too many ‘little darlings’ to keep entertained all day.
In the meantime let us know if there have been any little rarities seen in your outback.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Freakin evil

The Safari is referring to a couple of things in the title of this post...the first being the weather! No chance of doing much at all today, winter has arrived with a wet Arctic blast. Peregrine was on its normal roosting spot but in view of what's coming next all mention of said raptor might have to stop, or at least be even less specific as to its location!
Did anyone see this yesterday? The second Osprey from the Swedish conservation scheme to be shot in the UK this year...we are becoming as bad as Malta for this sort of gun-toting low-life. May be the EU should look at fining the government every time something like this happens, they'd soon find a way of catching the numpty and getting their money back.

Maybe the team responsible for the conservation project over in Sweden should sue for damages if a conviction is made. Say the scheme cost a miilion pounds this year and they got a hundred young fledged then compensation of at least 10,000 quid should be demanded from the perpetrator, on top of their conviction of course.
That might make the trigger happy baffoons sit up and take notice that this sort of nonsense won't be tolerated.

We're seeing a very graphic image of where we'd shove that shotgun!!!

Wildlife has to be given some sort of financial value, after all it is tax payer's money and/or public donations that fund these projects, In fact wildlife does already have a financial value but too many people don't or won't recognise the fact. Think of all those tourist pounds wildlife brings in, healthy ecosystems can save billions of pounds on flood defences etc etc

Actually we think we might try and make some money out of wildlife - no not by taking people to look at it - you only get paid peanuts for that; taking rich people to kill it that's where the big money is...sick.

So what we're going to do is use our life savings to buy 100 Gazelles, we're going to keep them in a little yard and fatten them up. Later on we'll turn them out in some fields near here, perhaps near the nature reserve there's some nice fields over there with some bits of scratty hedge. Once they've been out for a week or so we'll invite a couple of oil princes and a merchant banker or two to come and have some fun with them (= kill them), at a small fortune per person of course - oh and to make it a bit harder we'll have someone in the field waving flags to make them run round a bit.
Sounds like a great business plan to me should be earning a fortune this time next year - when can we start - anyone got any Gazelles going spare? If we can't get Gazelles we'll just have to 'farm' native Roe Deer, you know burn some strips of grass, kill off a few wolves...oh we already did that one...

Where to next? With slightly improving weather the Patches should be back in play.

In the meantime let us know if you've got any bright ideas for the wildlife in your outback.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Sort of seabirdy

The Safari didn't get anyrhing of note on patch 1 just before dawn today. But Patch 2 gave up a few secrets. After only a few minutes scanning we'd found a Great Northern Diver out in the middle distance, it was coming towards us but then it veered off to the south into the haze. A really good start, wonder if the Fleetwood bird is still on the marine lake. More divers were found in the water in the form of three Red Throated Divers. Looking superficially like divers were four Great Crested Grebes. In the distance not too far off shore was what looked seriously like one of the smaller shorter necked stub necked grebe, probably a Slavonian Grebe, but it was too far to clinch. About 200 Common Scoters were here, there and everyhere, an auk species flew south and a Razorbill was identified much closer to the shore.
No shore birds as the tide was in right up to the seawall but about 50 Oystercatchers went past looking for somewhere the tide has dropped from.
Where to next? Got a group of youngsters on the beach tomorrow looking for whatever the tide washed up last week. Hopefully there'll be some goodies for them to get to grips with.
In the meantime let us know what's veered off in your outback.

Monday 15 November 2010

Just too busy

The Safari has little to report today - hardly worth putting finger to keyboard really. Nothing of note what-so-ever on Patch 1 and only a short early morning safari on Patch 2. The ebbing tide was just leaving a bit of beach and the gulls were having a fierld day. The light wasn't good but we couldn't pick out anything unusual amongst them. A first year and two adult Great Black Backed Gulls were the best of the bunch. Six Redshanks fed in the gutter at the bottom of the wall.
At sea only a couple of Great Crested Grebes and a small flockette of Common Scoters broke the nothingness. As we turned to leave the thin call of a Rock Pipit was heard from below us on the other side of the sea wall - -the best bird of the day.
Where to next? Less manic tomorrow so more chance of a longer look and a lunchtime visit as well.
In the meantime let us know hou quick you were in your outback today.
Sorry no pics today

Sunday 14 November 2010

Getting colder, nah otter n otter!

The Safari went out last night and heard a couple of Redwings going over in the dark.
Back at Base Camp we have a bone to pick with a leading 'posh'(ish)supermarket. If we are supposed to be creating less waste why oh why are you giving us more pointless packaging and why on earth do half a dozen spuds need to be presented in a plastic tray? What is going on? Ahh but is OK as the tray says it is made of 50% post consumer recycled material, doesn't say where the other 50% comes from. And supposedly being PET it should be recyclable again - but we still can't fathom out why we need it, or is it just something to do with all those pop and water bottles we send for recycling? Actually we don't really need those either, managed quite well 'in the old days' without those - if you needed a drink when out you had to wait til you got home or take a flask...those were the days!
We went out this morning and got a very useful year tick in the form of a Grey Phalarope (187) which has pitched in after the storms on what is essentially a big puddle in the corner of a field. It was doing what phalaropes do best and was making us feel dizzy.

The field is on the edge of the moss which is as flat as flat gets and has little or no cover. The Phalalrope finder turner up with his wife and kids. As we were having a chat one of the birders decided he needed a leak - the only cover was the car. As the leaky gent turned he realised there were people on the car - what a priceless look of embarrassment on his face!
Next was a short drive for a Waxwing or two. Good job we have sat-nav as we visited a corner of Preston we never knew existed never mind knew how to reach.
A few birders were already present and walking up to them we immediately heard the distinctive shrill trilling call. They were flighty moving from tree to tree and staying up in the tops of the trees making getting a decent pic in the dull rainy coditions just a bit tricky. Out of nearly 200 shots these few are about the best - shame cos they are special little chaps. We counted 22 Waxwings (188) at one time then headed off to try to find 40 more near the university.

Love the wind caught crest on this one.

We could find the large flock and as we used to live near here we checked out a whole A-Z worth of side streets where we knew there were Rowan and other berry bearing trees. It a wonder we didn't get pulled for kerb crawling going up and down the student quarter peering out of the windscreen and side windows at anythig that moved at a very slow speed, now we know what the transfer gears on Land Rovers are for - urban Waxwing spotting!

Double thanks to ZH for the heads up yesterday.

After the disappointment of not finding this large flock we set off for the nature reserve where we learnt that TWO Otters had been showing for an hour and half this morning - holy wow!!! On arrival the first bird we saw was a very tidy White Wagtail which was totally unexpected, we thought they'd all have moved through by now.

We soon copped all the normal stuff and set off to have a look to see if there were any Tree Sparrows hanging around, six but not the ringed one today. The Coal Tit was very active today. Next up was the Long Eared Owl, or three of them, no wait the Ranger found a fourth - not great views as they were in the depths of a bush but nice all the same.

Movimg back to the hide one of the junior Rangers found the first year Scaup again, first time it has been reported since last weekend but present all that time probably. We had no success with either the Bittern or the Otters though.

We went to the top end of the reserve to watch the Starlings come and they didn't disappoint although there were probably only about 15000 this evening. A Buzzard and at least three Sparrowhawks were in attendance. we mentioned the Scaup to the assembled crowd and within a millisecond there were two pairs of very clean heals showing and the banging of car doors - what happened to them? Two of the biggest local listing lads hadn't had scaup yet this year which goes to show how scarce they have become in this area. It took them a while but they both scored in the gathering gloom of dusk...phew they might have thought we were being a bit stringy.

A grand day out and after Preston it din't rain which made a refreshing change.

After the storm we reported seeing the skua and shearwater, recent news in is that a few Manx Shearwaters have been seen in other parts but none of the other species, and all three main skuas so we are none the wiser on that one.

Where to next? Back to the Patches with a vengeance...but horribly busy with that nasty work stuff this week.

In the meantime let us know what's chomping the berries in your outback.

Saturday 13 November 2010

The Safari hasn't been out safari-ing today, been working in the garden instead. Not a great lot to report. . Wifey was watching Vampire Diaries last night and when we opened the front door to take big Frank out we got the shock of our lives, a Magpie was roosting under the eaves on the telephone wire above the front door - never known this to happen before, as we opened the door we disturbed it and it clattered up into the eaves then swooped down and up over the roof - gave us quite a start it did after all those vampires and werewolves and so on.
One of the Peregrines was on the tower but we didn't get anything else. This morning there were two Peregrines sat up there and while we were chopping wood the Mistle Thrush was around and about. Also in the garden was a flock of at least six Long Tailed Tits along with a couple of Blue Tits.
After the storm we were reviewing the damage to the fence and working on our Elm tree that had blown over to a jaunty angle, this needed serious pruning to see if we could get it upright again. Anyway Wifey appeared through the rotten hole in the fence and a Robin appeared from nowhere and nearly crashed in to her before doing a 'U'ey and nipping back from whence it came - a close shave!
Nothing of note going over this arvo, hardly even a gull.
Where to next? Those Waxwings in the next town a calling...
In the meantime let us know how many vampires are lurking in your outback, you can hardly move for the damn things in that Mystic Falls place...and damned they are if you're into that religious hocus pocus.
Sorry no photos today.

Friday 12 November 2010

You know it’s windy when...

The Safari took Frank out before bed last night and by ‘eck was it windy! Even big Frank’s six stone (40kg) bulk, low centre of gravity and four leg drive staggered about like a drunkard as he was momentarily caught off balance by a severe gust.
We could taste the salt in the air and sand was stinging our eyes, the air was hazy with dust, sand and salt spray.
The 24 hour average here was 20m/s which is 45mph or Severe Gale 9 in old money. Top gust on our anemometer was just under 80 mph (over the hills not overly far to the north east 100mph was recorded, and that before the wind really picked up!) There were extended spells in the small hours when sustained wind speeds of 55mph were recorded, Storm 10. The weather buoy out by the rigs was showing 5+m waves.
On Patch 1 there was no sign of the Peregrine and given the wind direction we would have expected to have been able to see it if it was up there. An early Blackbird poked about on the grass verge on the way down the hill. A few lost fence panels lay forlornly on the ground in several of the gardens. We only did a short version of the walk – wonder why?
As we shut the door at Base Camp on the way out to work a Mistle Thrush shot out of the Rowan tree in next door’s front garden doing the ‘Merlin copying a Mistle Thrush swoop’ into the garden across the road whilst letting out the familiar rattle. Shame it wasn’t a Waxwing but an unusual record in itself as the tree had hardly a berry left on it.
At Patch 2 it wasn’t too bad, the wind had dropped to around 30mph but was still strong enough to blow water off the incoming waves over the top of the sand bank. Tried to video it for you as we’ve never seen that before but made a right pig’s ear of the filming...doh – you know the patterns sand makes as it is swirled by the wind across the beach as it dries? That is what the water was doing – just a skin of water being blown over the sand – impressive. Some of the uprights at the top end of the outfall pipe had large accumulations of sea foam stuck to them, again, unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a pic as we didn’t have suitable footwear and so were unable to venture on to the beach – never seen that before either.
Wildlife-wise there were only five Oystercatchers and three Redshanks on the beach. Over the sea we hoped we might find a Kittiwake, Little Gull or something else a bit different but the only bird we saw was a single Common Scoter.
At lunchtime conditions were a little better although the sea was still mountainous and foaming, some of the larger breakers were forming tube waves but we doubt if any surfers would be brave enough to even think about taking them on!
A large all dark skua sp carved its way north through the waves towards the horizon and a fair few Common Scoters were about. A flock of about a dozen was sat right in the middle of the tumult not far out but were really hard to see spending so little time at the top of the waves. Sighting of the day went to the cruciform shape of a shearwater sp following almost the same track as the skua a few minutes earlier. At that range it wasn’t possible to get anything on it and the light wasn’t brilliant either, so we couldn’t tell if it had pale underparts or not. Just have to hope it made its way past Heysham or Walney...There’s a fair chance we just missed out on two more species for the year!
There weren’t too many gulls about and one we watched go north close inshore had more than a hint of Yellow Legged Gull about it, there were no Herring Gulls about at the time to get a direct comparison but it did look very dark and bluey, trick of the light? A couple of Kittiwakes made their way southwards at range.
No sightings of the Pied Wagtail in the garden today but that’s hardly surprising because there is so much salt spray on the windows we can’t actually see through them.
Where to next? Could be a meander along the cliffs tomorrow morning but we’re far too late for a Whinchat – missed them altogether.
In the meantime let us know what whizzed past in your outback.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Wind in the willows

The Safari approached today with some trepidation as the forecast for tonight’s strong winds has been revised to gusts of 80mph. That’s a bit on the breezy side!

Date Time Temp Wind Dir Speed Gust Visibility
Thu 11 Nov 1500 10 °C SW 36 mph 54 mph Very Good
1800 11 °C WSW 45 mph 66 mph Good
2100 11 °C WSW 53 mph 80 mph Excellent
Fri 12 Nov 0000 11 °C W 50 mph 75 mph Excellent
0300 11 °C W 47 mph 70 mph Excellent
0600 10 °C W 44 mph 66 mph Excellent
0900 10 °C W 39 mph 58 mph Excellent
1200 10 °C W 35 mph 54 mph Excellent
1500 10 °C WSW 31 mph 46 mph Excellent
1800 10 °C WSW 25 mph

Watched the (local) news last night and couldn’t believe what we saw – there is a Yankee-doodle Pied Billed Grebe on a reservoir not too far away, a good bird for this area but one we are unlikely to go and see (saw the 1997 one up the road – was it that long ago?). Anyway the good old BBC sent a film crew up there to do a report and interview some of the birders which they did reasonably well but then for the closing comments the ‘piece de la resistance’! The flamin reporter was stood round the FRONT of the hide...and after the risk we took with the drug-crazed chavs the other day we just hope said numpties weren’t watching...nice one Beeb!
No Patch 1 safari this morning, we were allowed a lie in after a dog-disturbed night – do wish big Frank wouldn’t scavenge lordy knows what when he’s out on his walks!!! Whatever it was had given him ‘serious bowel problems’ at regular intervals throughout the small hours
The tide had dropped enough so that about half the beach was uncovered at Patch 2 but little was taking advantage of what was on offer, or there wasn’t much on offer to be taken advantage of.
The sum total was only 15 Oystercatchers, 10 Sanderlings, nine Redshanks and a lone Turnstone.
Getting back to the office as the rain started the male Pied Wagtail flew across the lawns, looks like he’s taken up residence here for the winter. Got to be a photo opportunity with him one of these days.
At lunchtime we received a short email from our contact on the north east (leeward) side of the Isle of Man which read “Are you battening down the hatches? We're expecting force 11 tonight and the bay is full of ships taking shelter, eek!” We liked the ‘eek’!
So there was nothing for it but to venture, telescope in hand, into the increasingly wild weather. Thankfully it was fairly warm.

The wind was already gusting storm force 8/9 and the waves on the other side of the sea wall were about 6 – 10 feet high (2 – 3m), huge out on the horizon. We could feel the thud of the waves as they broke at the base of the wall – we were glad it’s there and very substantial at that. Despite it being well over an hour before high tide the splash from the waves was coming over the top and there were blobs foam blowing all over the place – good job it wasn’t like this earlier in the week when the tide was over a metre higher than today!
Did we see anything? Viewing was difficult to say the least. When you can lose a bird as big as a Great Black Backed Gull in the troughs for ¾ of a mile you know you’re probably not going to see much. A few Common Scoters buzzed here and there – are they really going to sit it out offshore all night? – Much respect to them, they are tough little hombr├ęs.
Where to next? Might be back tomorrow wind permitting.

In the meantime let us know if there's a breeze whipping up in your outback.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Today is Orange for Orangutan Day

The Safari remembers well our trip to the rain forests of Borneo to see these wonderful animals. Some other marvellous wildlife there too. Can’t make up our mind whether we like rainforests more than deserts or visa versa, both a fantastic extreme places, and then there’s mountains – like them too. The closest we got to orange was a maroon jumper although we did find two tasty mini oranges in our butty box at lunchtime.

What we as a species need to do is swap our greed gene and replace it with their gentle gene, that above all else would make the world a far better place. Looking into the eyes of one of these remarkable animals is like looking in to your own soul and seeing all that shouldn’t be there, it’s a very humbling experience – if only we could be more like them. And then we treat them like we do...an absolute disgrace on our part and almost all in the quest for one particular commodity.
We could give you a list of all the products with unsustainable palm oil in them but it would be so long you’d still be reading this time tomorrow, almost every food-stuff we buy and many non food items contain the stuff, look for ‘vegetable oil’ (or fat) on the label...why do we ‘need’ it? Because it’s ‘cheap’ of course – but it isn’t cheap at all we just haven’t paid the full cost of the environmental degradation...yet!
You think the current unsustainable financial melt down is hitting you hard; it will be as nothing in comparison to the environmental meltdown that’s going to happen due to our unsustainable use of the resources at our disposal, but the politicians don’t seem to see that. The recent discussion document ‘Shaping the nature of England’ sort of alluded to it but will this ‘greenest ever’ government put their environmental money where their environmental mouth is, somehow we doubt it.
Enough of the quasi-political rant what has been happening on the patches you ask. The Peregrine was up there this morning but all else was very quiet on Patch 1. A fair few Starlings came over Base Camp from the Pier roost, probably a couple of thousand in total, but we only see a small proportion of the roost as they head inland in all directions.
A cold northerly wind greeted us on Patch 2; there is a heavy dusting of snow on the Lake District fells down to a lowish altitude, fairly unusual for early November. The signs of a cold winter to come? Who knows? Later this week the warm wet and very windy is due to make a vicious comeback with gusts over 70mph (110 kph) forecast tomorrow night although daytime temperatures should reach the giddy heights of double figures.
The tide was low and we counted 93 Oystercatchers, with another seven north of the outfall pipe making a nice round 100 in all. 20 Redshanks was a decent count for Patch 2 but one Sanderling on the beach and two others whipping south across the waves was a paltry tally.
A Great Black Backed Gull was tucking in to the remains of a sizeable fish (dogfish?). Nothing out of the ordinary was lurking in with the other gulls...oh for a white winger feeding on the bits and bobs left by the tide. A Glaucous Winged Gull would do very nicely thank you!
At sea we struggled to find much. An auk sp. went south and it was a good while before we found a flock of just four Common Scoters, with only one more seen in flight at distance. They were outnumbered by six Eiders coming towards us from the south...Common Scoters not the most numerous duck seen at sea - - How unusual is that?
Lunchtime on the rising tide wasn’t a lot better, a couple of small flocks of Common Scoters not too far away with larger numbers of mobile birds in the shimmering distance. There was a good bit of haze at wave level though the snow on the hills to the north was picked out in the midday sunshine as clear as crystal.
We had two Red Throated Divers in view at the same time, something that doesn’t happen all that often, one going left the other going right. While we’re on the subject of divers if anyone wants to know what the Fleetwood Great Northern Diver really looks like have a look at Cliff’s pics, he cheated and took his camera during daylight hours!
Where to next? Yet more of the same drivel unless a Waxwing turns up within shouting distance...some hope.
In the meantime let us know what’s shimmering in your outback.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Goin a bit batty on the patch

The Safari was pleased to see the Peregrine on the tower this morning. It was away and facing into the chilly stiff breeze out towards the lightening sky, thinking about breakfast?
Nothing much else about on Patch 1 but getting back to Base Camp after brekkie we looked out of the bedroom window to see if the Peregrine was still there, it wasn’t, and noted five Waxwi... sorry, Blackbirds in next doors small Rowan tree, they’ve eaten all the berries from the larger one and ours hasn’t grown above the height of the fence yet, think it’s stunted for some reason. Still none of the peachy wonders in town – how long will we have to wait?
A lovely calm flat sea greeted us at Patch 2 and the beach was full of birds. We counted over 400 Oystercatchers but this was a tiny proportion of the numbers out of range to the south. Among them on ‘our’ bit of beach were 11 Redshanks with two more in the runnel under the seawall, and three Sanderlings. Like the Oystercatchers there were many more, what were almost definitely, Sanderlings further down the beach. The couple of hundred or so gulls didn’t produce anything of note although again there were several thousand out of range to the south.
Out at sea it was a little disappointing with only two Cormorants fishing the shallows behind the surf and no more than a handful of Common Scoters. The conditions were ideal for picking out a mammal of any description.
No Patch 2 visit as we had an appointment with the Rangers and some bat boxes on Patch 1.
Hopefully one or two might be used by our local Pipistrelles next spring.
Then we went to investigate tales of unusual beasties on the beach at North Shore after the recent storms.
Plenty of Herring Gulls about, some had happened across a dead Dab.

Cute, aren't they?

These two were squabbling over a small Starfish.

We got all arty with the wavelets washing over the pebbles as the tide ebbed.

A Sanderling appeared and whizzed around the beach for a while.

Our best find was this Sea Mouse, Britain's largest worm (Annelid variety). Look at the colour of those 'optic fibre' hairs, the camera can't do them justice unfortunately - totally iridescent..

More arty m'larky.
Where to next? Back to the patches with a bit more normality.
In the meantime let us know what's worth an arty shot in your outback.
Heres a vid of a Magpie pretending to be a Blue Tit, anyone else seen them do this?
And here are the famous Tree Sparrows.

Monday 8 November 2010

Predators on the loose

The Safari had a cold wet and windy scurry round part of Patch 1 last night and disturbed a Blackbird from the edge of some shrubbery in one of the neighbour’s gardens, a grounded migrant? This morning it was colder, wetter and windier but we went a bit further. There were still a few Blackbirds about in places we don’t normally come across them, maybe a bit of an overnight fall?
From this side the tower was soaking wet where the driving rain had fallen but the far side was bone dry. It was round here that we could see one of the Peregrines roosting up waiting for dawn and breakfast. There was no way it was going to enjoy the warming rays of the breaking dawn sun this bleak morning. It was hardly ‘on the loose’ but it’s still a predator.
We walked the ‘wrong’ way round Magpie Wood (it’s only tiny, 30 x 20 yards if that) and at the end Frank’s nose and tail both went up simultaneously...cat or Fox? Fox...it ran across the road and lay down in front of the little island of shrubby vegetation on the field not far away. We made Frank sit for a few moments and it watched intently as we quietly crossed the road towards it. Frank got a little excited when it moved again but sitting him down and keeping him calm we managed to get within about 10 feet of it, unfortunately it was still far too dark for a pic. Moving away we let him go about his business and sneak off to get a good day’s sleep. What a privilege to get so close to a wary wild animal. This particular Fox must be getting used to us just being quiet and crouching down when we see him so he really doesn’t feel threatened by us and allows a slow close approach. Hopefully once the mornings start brightening up or we get some good moonlight we may be able to get the camera on to him. A lot of patience is going to be required though.
Bad weather killed off any chance of a morning safari to Patch 2...who shouted “wimp”?
The worm turned at lunchtime and we went out to view the receding tide. My eye! - that wind was cold and the spitting rain didn’t make watching all that comfortable, go as far as to say it was an unpleasant experience. The marine life must have been in agreement as there were only two each of the two usual suspects on view, juvvy Herring Gulls and Common Scoters. A scan to the south and another to the north and back revealed nothing more so we gave up, just in time as the rain came on heavy again as we reach the safety of the office front door.
After work we shot up through the nightmare that will be SEVEN MONTHS of roadworks for a look at the Great Northern Diver that had been reported as still present. We took a chance it would still be there although the light was fading fast and Sterling Moss wasn't the driver in front of us going through the chicanes.
It was still there and we are glad we went cos as we arrived there was another birder there but he'd come out of the house so quick he'd left his bins on the cupboard by the front door, anyway we let him have a good look through ours - a lifer for him! Fortunately we didn't need it for the year but they are much better enjoyed at close range rather than a distant blob in flight way out over the sea.
The pair of us scampered round to the far side of the lake to get a closer view and we then took a couple of 'record' shots, of which this one is by far the best.

Told you it was getting dark!!! Hopefully the it'll stick around and our friend can get a proper look at it in daylight tomorrow lunchtime - he deserves it.

No Peregrine during our eveing footy game but with the wind swinging round to a rather cool easterly it would be round the other side if it has any sense.
Where to next? Unless something over exciting happens it’s only gonna be yet more news of nothing much in particular from the cold wet and windy patches.
In the meantime enjoy the two videos you should have got yesterday. Apologies for the Pink Footed Geese vid, looks like we scanned a bit too quickly at the beginning.

and one of the Scaup preening

Sunday 7 November 2010

Two days running

The Safari was allowed to take Frank back to the nature reserve for the whole of the afternoon.
On arrival a gaggle of birders looked very interesting - what were they grilling? - Answer; a rather bedraggled 1st winter drake Scaup (186). It was diving a great deal and gave only short views in very dull conditions.

A Buzzard overhead was about as typical as they come. Certainly nothing like a Rough Legged Buzzard, one of which was reported from the South-side yesterday. The Cetti's Warblers were strangely quiet today with only one heard all afternoon.
14 Pink Footed Geese flew east at height and thankfully there was no shooting today. Moving round to the little gull watching hide - that's a hide that's small not for watching Little Gulls exclusively). The rangers have cut a narrow gap in through the reeds and we saw a Water Rail nip quickly across it. In the distance we scored a direct hit! Under the apple tree laden with very green apples we once again saw the Otter at about 12.45. Twice in less than 24 hours, don't think we've managed this strike rate before not in Scotland! We put the news out but only the first lad to reach us managed to get on to it before it went back in to the reedbed. Within a couple of minutes the hide was full to bustin with disappointed naturalists.
We made our excuses and had a quick shuffy from the bench but there wasn't much doing other than a top count of eight female Goldeneyes and a solitary Skylark heading southwest.
At the Feeding Station we found five Tree Sparrows including the one with the ring.
On the way round to the Long Eared Owls we watched a Woodcock weave through the trees, didn't see what disturbed it but they don't normally fly during the day. Couldn't find the owl but was shown a pic later by someone who had been successful.
About 1500 Pink Footed Geese landed briefly in the fields at the far end, the noise from them was beautiful.
Then it was down to the embankment to wait for the 45000 or so Starlings, we obviously seriously undercounted yesterday. They didn't disappoint - this is a tiny proportion of the total number.
Frank wasn't bothered by the Starlings he just wanted someone to play ball with him.
We did get another year tick this afternoon - Cliff!!!!
Where to next? Some wild weather with 50-60mph winds due this week so seabirds seabirds seabirds or is it a little late in the year now.
In the meantime let us know what's massing in your outback.
Had acouple of vids planned for today but the puter isn't playing ball with them, so if nowt appens tomorrow you'll get em then.