Monday 28 February 2011

Where did the spring go?

The Safari woke up to a frosty dawn this morning. Gone are the double figure temperatures, hope it’s not too long before they return.
This morning on Patch 1 we were out at the normal time but the Moon and Venus now have to compete with the ever brightening sky in the east.
With it being so light the Magpies had all but left the roost although the Woodpigeons still didn’t seem to have woken up yet, about twenty of them and no song, if you can call it that, from them.
In the park the usual Song Thrush sang but other than him it was pretty quiet. The Golden Triangle had a Wren, which was duetting with another from an adjacent garden. No sign of the Peregrines on the tower this morning.
Still waiting to see our first bird in the new trees, we can guarantee we’ll be keeping a list. We should be taking bets on which species will be first to take advantage of them – the clever money will probably go on Blue Tit but Long Tailed Tit could sneak it. All will be revealed in due course.
At Patch 2 the tide was full and there was little happening on the sea. A few gulls loafed on the swell close to the wall, further out there were only a small number, about 50, Common Scoters and a handful of Cormorants; that was as exciting as it got – hardly thrilling so with the cold beginning to bite we wimped out after about five minutes and aimed for a nice warming cuppa. Looking out of the office window, whilst stood by the heater, there on the lawn with a bunch of Starlings was a Pied Wagtail; possibly the first to be seen from this office window as from our desk we can’t actually see the ground outside just the top of the hedge and the top of the seawall over the road. The Starlings were poking around in the lawns for LeatherjacketsCrane Fly larvae – while the wagtail was a little behind them on the former wildflower strip, ‘former’ because it was classed by the powers-that-be as ‘untidy’ and ‘had to be’ put back to close mown grass - - dohhhhh...And don’t get us on our high horse about what the so called ‘gardeners’ have done to the Forsythia in the park on Patch 1...suffice to say several bushes were just about to flower but now won’t be...and you were wondering why the UK’s bee populations are such dire straits. BTW ‘gardeners’ these days might be better described as ‘landscape technicians’ as many seem to have very limited traditional gardening or horticultural knowledge but are great with power tools. OK OK we’ll dismount now. The early morning update call from the Rangers for BEAT Naturewatch contained info about a dozen Siskins feeding in the Alders at the nature reserve. A call from us to them at lunchtime confirmed they were still there so the low tide gulls were abandoned to their sandy fate (WHAT???, we don’t belieeeeeve it, exclaim!!!) and a twitch was undertaken...blimey twitching Siskins now whatever next, well they’ve been landing in everyone else’s garden but bypassing Base Camp so a twitch it had to be...just in case we don’t connect with them during the rest of the year, unlikely but last year we did only get two Goldcrests so nothing can be taken for granted!!!....That Monika and our year list challenge has a lot to answer for. We arrived on site ignoring the multitude of gulls on the events field which has held up to three Mediterranean Gulls in recent days (WHAT???, we don’t belieeeeeve it, you exclaim!!!). It was only minutes after getting out of the Land Rover and walking a few yards down the track that we heard the distinctive calls of Siskins (115 – n/r 67) coming from the tree tops. Scanning with craned neck we saw a couple of Chaffinches and Blue Tits, a Great Tit and a Goldfinch. Eventually we managed to spot one of the tricky little fellas hanging upside-down from an Alder cone and once we’d found one we found more right up in the topmost twigs. At least three males and two females although there had been twice this many earlier but they were just out of range of the lens and against the sun...ha ha euphemism for bright cloud...these are the best we could manage.

We had enough time for a short look in the Feeding Station and decided to stay until we’d seen one of the Bramblings. Still Tree Sparrows aplenty and just how Chaffinches and Reed Buntings? A female Great Spotted Woodpecker bounced on to the peanut feeder, a first year bird perhaps as she had very chestnut brown coverts – any ringers out there confirm this? There were more than enough Great Tits and a flock of about seven or eight lively Long Tailed Tits too. Eventually just as we were thinking it was time to head back to the office the female Brambling put in a brief objective achieved it was deffo time to skidaddle. A quick squint at the gulls on the field on the way back down the track revealed no Meds...well we had to look!!!

Where to next? Back to the gulls, please can we have a goody, or a cetacean out at sea.
In the meantime let us know what was on the lunchtime menu in your outback.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Pretty pics but not much else

The Safari has nothing to report from our whizzes up the and down the motorway today except for Buzzards 2: 1 Kestrels.
On the way home the sunset was quite fine but catching it at 70mph before we disappeared into another cutting was quite tricky.

The stripe is a lamp post - would have to be right in the middle of the pic wouldn't it.
Where to next? Back to the usual patchy stuff which will produce...???
In the meantime let us know where the sunsets in your outback.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Trying to emulate the masters

The Safari was allowed a lie in this morning and it was Wifey that went out and got duly drenched in the lashing rain. When we finally crawled out of our pit the sun had come out so we had a couple rounds of toast and stared out of the kitchen window for a while. A nice slection at the feeders include Blue and Great Tits, Goldfinch and a couple of really snazzy looking Greenfinches. A Chaffinch popped in briefly but didn't stop and Base Camp's first Wren (22) of the year sang extremely loudly from next door's Laburnum tree before dropping our side of the fence to look for spiders enticed out of their winter hidey-holes by the recent mild weather.
All of a sudden a Blackbird's alarm call rang out, the Blackbird appeared from behind the garage and shot between the houses, everything else vanished in an instant - didn't see what had caused the panic, but the Peregrine on the tower hadn't moved an inch.
A Common Gull flew over, surprisingly quite scarce here, a few moments later a large female Sparrowhawk whazzed over the fence - that's probably what had ccaused the commotion earlier!
At lunchtime we took Frank round Patch 1 but at this time most stuff had gone quiet, a distant Song Thrush was still in voice - not any of our 'normal' ones. Best was a flock of Long Tailed Tits that infuriatingly kept just a few feet out of range of the little camera.

On the way back a neighbour's early flowering Heathers was being visited by a few Honey Bees, didn't really expect these to be our first bees of the year. Look at the light catchig the eyes of this first one, not noticed that before.

Wifey headed off to the shops with eh-up muvver we were allowed to head off to the nature reserve where the target was 70 species - one more than the young masters the day before yesterday. They got 69 in 11 hours - we had two hours, three at the most! First in the book was the female Brambling something that probably won't ever happen again. The feeding station was busy but there were no Siskins in the adjacent Alders where they have been on and of recently.
A Snipe flew over, hard to find these days, wonder if we'll ever get the tripe figure counts again , like 192 in December '92. It was follwed soon after by a lone male Shoveler. A nice young man told us one ohe Long Eare Owls was showing well with the sun on it, rather than the usual looking in to the sun scenerio, so we had to go and investigate. It was exactly as described.

Nearby the puffball we photographed recently was still dry enough to puff out spores, might have to stick it on Wild About Britain for an ID.
A Kestrel was very interested in something in the grass in the fields to the east where we akso had three pairs of displaying Lapwings - beautiful - - the sight & sound of my childhood, 100+ Linnets, 100+ Woodpigeons with four Stock Doves but strangley no Buzzards, upto early 1996 there had only been three sightings, the boys had eight in the air together the other day!
On the mere 12 Pochards was a high count, where are they all? There should be over 100 here at this time of year.
30 Cormorants was good but without the scope some that looked sort of sinensisy may not have been.
A gull with plenty of white in the outer primaries was only an argenteus. Almost a full whitetip to P10, the mirror seperated from the tip by a faint black band and big broad primary tips but the mantle was the same silvery grey as its mate.

Luvin the bodyless Pochard.
All in all a good afternoon in the very pleasant early spring sunshine. 42 species and a dodgy Ruddy Shelduck thingy out of the park. No new year birds but hey it was a grand day out.
Where to next? Possibly a fluke along the motorway tomorrow but that'll be about it.
In the meantime let us know how far behind the masters you are in your outback.

Friday 25 February 2011

Got a bit lazy.

The Safari opened the door to an almost tropical Patch 1 this morning with the digital mercury a tad over the 10ºC mark, not quite enough for evidence of global warming but 20 degrees warmer than a couple of months ago and only 20 degrees cooler than them rainforests of Borneo, or at least what’s left of them. A dramatic and disturbing loss since the safari was there in 2000!
Graphic from UNEP – legal stuff ...
Extent of deforestation in Borneo 1950-2005, and projection towards 2020. (2007). In UNEP/GRID-Arendal Maps and Graphics Library. Retrieved 10:37, February 25, 2011 from

Blackbird song dominated Patch 1 this morning with several heard singing locally and others more distant competing with the pre –rush hour (now two hours) traffic and trains etc. Where are all the Dunnocks hiding, since we threatened to count them cos they were everywhere we’ve hardly heard a single one! No Peregrines this morning either, and the only Song Thrush was in the butterfly zone, hope they’ve not all moved through as several birders and bloggers have reported movements of winter thrushes in recent days.
There was the hint of a subtle rosy glow emanating from beneath the clouds on the horizon as we left Base Camp, consequently the Magpies were starting to rouse and bounce round the tree tops in Magpie Wood, judging from the chattering elsewhere some had already left the roost so regular morning counting may be coming to an end but we’ll still be able to do the late night count if Frank can be bothered to walk that far before bedtime – he didn’t last night! There was a lot of noise coming form the gull roost on the office block roof as well on the way back and we could see light from the street lamps catching the birds' undersides as they took to the air - unfortunately there is nowhere convenient to view this roost.
This morning’s Patch 2 safari was a breezy affair with a south-westerly picking up and blowing straight in our face. The tide wasn’t too far out and there were good numbers of gulls scrambling for the best position at the water’s edge. Unfortunately we were looking straight up their backsides! Not the best view in the world!!! We did manage to pick out a nice Scandinavian Herring Gull before moving along the wall to have a look at the northern part of the patch. Here the gulls were side on but there weren’t so many of them except for a flock higher up the beach right at the northern end and too far away to really do anything with. There were plenty of uncounted Oystercatchers, easily over 100 and at least 200 uncounted Sanderlings but we still haven’t find the first Ringed Plover of the year for Patch 2. Several uncounted Turnstones and Redshanks were in the runnel and walking up and down the wall.
Away over the southern border the beach was awash with Oystercatchers and just exactly how many gulls were there? There were three huge squabbles going on along the tide line with several thousand others resting on the sand higher up away from the water’s edge, all too far away to work but for anyone with time at the weekend it must be worth a walk down there to check em out, there’s got to be a few goodies to be gleaned from the masses. Low tide is around lunchtime so an early start would give the best of the light and have the gulls closer to shore. Sadly we won’t be able to indulge ourselves.
We did indulge ourselves at lunchtime and on reaching the wall was disappointed to see barely a bird but kite surfers (5), fishermen (2), dog walkers (3), grockles with pram (family of 5), courting couple (1 [= 2 people]) instead. The few gulls present didn’t present any ID difficulties although a 1st winter Lesser Black Back was the first we’ve noticed for while. That’s far from saying there haven’t been any.
Out at sea it was very grey and murky with a heavy chop, not much doing there apart from a few Common Scoters ‘dancing’ on the waves and a couple of Cormorants flying past.
Nothing for it but to have a look at the northern patch and see what if anything was happening there. As look would have it just one dog walker was seen leaving the beach and from the tracks in the sand there hadn’t been much beach activity that way during the morning.
Glad we did as on one sandbank there were about 100 Oystercatchers roosting and on the next one back about 200 Herring Gulls and a handful of Black Headed Gulls. Make that 199 argenteus Herring Gulls and one argentatus Herring Gull, which was very easy to pick out for a very refreshing change. At first we thought it was a Yellow Legged Gull as we could only see its darker back surrounded silvery argenteus Herrings as it slept in the middle of the flock but as the tide rose and disturbed them it’s true identity was revealed. Not sure if it was the same one as on the pre-work safari, it seemed darker but that could have been due to angles and light direction. One of these days we'll be close enough to get a pic.
Where to next? Not sure what the weekend will hold but Sunday is out due to family stuff.
In the meantime let us know what changed into what in your outback.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Brightening up, but for how long?

The Safari was out last night on Patch 1, no sign of the Peregrine but we did get a good count of 59 Magpies in Magpie Wood. Once again this morning we could hear the local Song Thrush was giving it plenty of welly before the alarm went off. It had gone quiet by the time we left through the front door. On our way round the ‘dry run’ we passed by the bottom of the tower and although we couldn’t see it we could certainly hear the Peregrine making a right old racket.
A Song Thrush sang loudly from Magpie Wood, the first we’ve heard from there.
Even at 08.00 Patch 2 felt like a summer’s day in Paradise. The dropping tide was already well out and had left a full strandline of shells for the gulls to rummage through. But it was the Sanderlings that first caught our attention. A concerted count gave us at least 386, there was a bit of flightyness before we got to the end of the flock. We didn’t see any Dunlins among the Sanderlings but two Knots were sufficient recompense. Oystercatchers were numerous but not as numerous as yesterday say 200 – 300 tops.
There were good numbers of gulls both searching through the strandline and waiting for goodies to be washed up in the surf. Nothing to get the juices flowing could be found; if yesterday’s late Mediterranean Gull was there it must have been with the multitude further to the south along with all the other exciting ones.
We totally ignored the sea so there was probably something worth seeing out there, there certainly wasn’t at lunchtime!
We still had the beautiful sunshine and that was what was causing the visibility problems – gee we just can’t win! Nowt was about as they say.
Where to next? We’re seriously tempted to follow the youngsters JS, AB & AC around the nature reserve as we heard they had just short of 70 species by midafternoon and were staying out til dusk!!!
It probaby looked something like this today...Also heard on the grapevine that CR was out with his long lens so there may be some decent pics to be seen later this evening.
In the meantime let us know how long the sunshine is going to last in your outback.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Wet wet and wetter still

The Safari is extremely pleased, overjoyed even, to announce that Patch 1 now has a plethora of new trees which were planted yesterday in the grass verge along either side of the main last! We first mooted this idea two or three years ago but was told that it wasn’t feasible to because of under ground pipes and cables etc, but whatever obstacles there were have now been overcome and we have trees. In the dark without close inspection they look to be a species of Maple, berry-bearing Sorbus might have been better...bring on the Waxwings...but hey we ain’t complaining!!! Hopefully there will be more planted today and tomorrow going all the way to the top of the hill past the roundabout and down the other side towards the sea.
Other good news from last night was a very welcome win for ‘Pool against high flying Spurs, lets hope their downward spiral to oblivion has been averted and with confidence restored they can continue their winning ways at Wolves on Saturday. Last night they conceded a last minute injury time goal which fortunately was of no consequence. Other goals given away in the last five minutes could prove to be more costly as nine points have been lost through last minute leaks. Those nine points would have seen them in sixth place after last night’s win. Far from punching above their weight they are actually underachieving! ‘Pool have won more away games than league leaders Manchester United and scored more away goals than all but Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs – not bad for the team that the pre-season pundits said would be relegation favourites. Let’s hope they can go on to do even better things next season; 11 games left to play 10 points needed but in those matches lurk Manchester Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs again...ohhh errr gettin twitchy.
Nothing of note from Patch 1 last night nor this morning which was the ‘dry run’ again due to dismal weather.
Patch 2 before work was extremely busy down at the water’s edge and today we decided to ignore the waders and focus solely on the gulls – this might have been a mistake as at first glance it was obvious there were a lot of waders down there. Numbers appeared to be higher than yesterday with a minimum of 750 Oystercatchers, with how many more to the south???, about 125 Sanderlings and five Curlews standing tall over about 100 roosting Oystercatchers were first of the year for Patch 2, we don’t often see them actually on the beach. Dunlin numbers had also gone through the a massive three but we only saw one Redshank at the water’s edge all the others remained uncounted in the runnel by the wall.
For every Oystercatcher there must have been five or six gulls, the water’s edge and various strandlines were crawling with them. None counted but easily triple figures of Common Gulls were outnumbered by Black Headed Gulls who in turn were out numbered by Herring Gulls. Despite the conditions being better than yesterday, the birds a hundred yards nearer and the light nice and flat we couldn’t pick out anything special, just one Herring Gull caught our eye as being different enough to perhaps be an argentatus, looked to be a shade or two darker, but the light was playing tricks with the shades of grey, and although it was a big brute we weren’t totally convinced. Three Great Black Backed Gulls waited to for the opportunity to undertake smash and grab raids on their lesser cousins. We still can’t find a Med and a nice 'white winger' would go down a treat, got to be one somewhere in there.
Still a heavy mist over the sea reducing visibility to next to nothing so no news from there.
At lunchtime a miracle had occurred and there was a rare phenomenon – a horizon! And we could see cloud lifting of the lower Welsh hills with sunshine trying to break through over the sea. Over the seawall, however, hung a low cold mist.
Out at sea visibility was good for the first time in ages but disappointingly there was precious little to see.
As we were leaving work a Mediterranean Gull (P2 #32) flew over the back field towards the sea with a few Black Headed Gulls, although where they were going as the tide was in is anyone's guess - lets hope it's still there in the morning.

Where to next? Later tonight we are on an Amphibian training session in the north of town so if anyone is passing look out for a gaggle of khaki clad figures with whips and chairs facing down vicious Toads, hiyyahhh...kerrraaaakkk, and then attempting that most dangerous of tricks...the potentially lethal putting your head in the Frog’s mouth.

In the meantime do not try that in your outback and here are the details of the ringed Mediterranean Gull seen yesterday near the nature reserve, it started life, well adult life, with a different ring.

Green 3JH7 3CY 14/06/2004 Berendrecht, Antwerpen, BELGIUM
White 3N92 >3CY 24/06/2006 Zandvlietsluis, Antwerpen, BELGIUM
Sightings for individual: 16504
Green 3JH7 06 - 15/03/2005 Stanley Park, Blackpool, Lancashire, GB
Green 3JH7 13/06/2005 Seaforth Nature Reserve, Liverpool, Merseyside, GB
Green 3JH7 02/04/2006 Le Platier d'Oye Plage, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE
Re – ringed 24/06/2006
White 3N92 21/04/2008 Oostburg, Sophiapolder, Zeeland, NL
White 3N92 01-02/02/2009 Stanley Park, Blackpool, Lancashire, GB
White 3N92 11/04/2009 Cley Nature Reserve, Norfolk, GB
White 3N92 19/01/2010 Sefton Park, Liverpool, Merseyside, GB
White 3N92 24/03/2010 Minsmere, Suffolk, England, GB
White 3N92 22-23/02/2011 Stanley Park, Blackpool, Lancashire, GB
Total number of sightings : 19

Looks like it’s due to leave for the East Anglian coast any day now, if you’re over that way keep your eyes peeled. Although it was seen in the park this arvo so hasn’t left yet.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Wot - no Slaty Backs?!?!

The Safari was out on Patch 1 after work yesterday and it was still light! So we decided on doing a full patch walk keeping Frank off the sodden footy field. We were surprised by little Blue playing King of the Castle – there were teeth and snarls aplenty coming from under the bushes at the top of the wall. Frank was taken aback but barking with a mouthful of football isn’t easy. If we’d have known he was going to be out video-mode on the camera would have been on stand-by. Worse was to happen – his gate was open and he charged out with 110% attitude. Frank, still ball in mouth, could do no more than turn away and fend him off with his ample rump. We’d swear the Blue bounced off the football during one of his full frontal attacks. But then it dawned on the little old fella that he was out in the street and his demeanour suddenly changed as if he realised ‘oh sh*t I’m off my territory’...and he was gone -back through the gate with his hackles up a last snarl of the teeth and a wag of his tail - - priceless. Frank just waddled onwards towards his game of footy.
The Magpies were beginning to assemble in magpie wood, there being about 30-40 of them bouncing around the tree tops and chattering away noisily. Also up there was a number of Woodpigeons, not counted but probably 15 -20. Going through the butterfly zone we did get a count of the Woodpigeons there as there were several perched around the scrub, 23 in all.
Frank played ball and was patted by a gaggle of teenagers who were having a loud swearing contest among themselves as those of a certain age have a yen to do. As we left the gang broke up and three of them followed us out of the park. At the tower we could see one of the Peregrines sitting on the ledge and pointed it out to them...disinterested wasn’t the word; they wondered how a Cheetah got up there - we’d told them the fastest animal on the planet was looking down at them! Never heard of Peregrines and birds obviously aren’t animals!
This morning Patch 1 was cold and wet and we did the ‘dry run’ with not a lot to report. Before we set off we could hear the lovely refrains of a Song Thrush singing somewhere in the distant darkness coming through the bedroom window. On route up the hill a couple of Blackbirds were starting their songs and the school’s Mistle Thrush could be heard, otherwise it was fairly quite. Good numbers of Starlings were seen coming from the roost this morning, several thousands heading out to the open countryside to the north east.
Patch 2 was busy busy busy though. The tide was well down and fortunately the bait diggers were on the far side of the outfall pipe and the birds were on our side – there were shed loads to go through. The light was awful, grey, misty and downright dingy, so much so that we could hardly see the sea. But count up we did. Sanderlings first, 79, not bad. Then Oystercatchers, at least 500 with more off-patch to the south in the gloom. Redshanks came in at a respectable 64 and just singles of Turnstone and Dunlin down there.
The gulls were ‘on the numerous side’, thousands of white/brown dots walking about at the water’s edge. We get slightly miffed when we read on various sites like here and here that they are disappointed to get what they call poor (= stonking) photographs of gulls in bad light at a range of 50-70 yards – they should try truly despicable light and a range of 500 – 700+ yards! So what did we find??? - - nowt that’s what – not even an argentatus Herring Gull and certainly nothing that looked anything like what they were looking at or PKs potential smithsonianus! In fact we could only pull out three Great Blackies of any note.
The lunchtime safari was again fraught with fog the visibility being no better and the tide was well up the wall. Just this side of the gloom three small flockettes of Common Scoters snoozed on the swell, the closest were near enough to be able to tell the males from the females but not so close as to see the yellow on the males’ bills.
The watching conditions were very mild and almost wind free so we could have comfortably stayed out for hours if there had been anything to see!
Details of the ringed Mediterranean Gull left leg white 3N92 were received from the Rangers. Initial investigations suggest it was ringed as a pullus somewhere in the Low Countries, full details to follow.
And finally some good news and a sigh of big relief, an Otter was seen by the Rangers in the small channel down to the left of the Container Hide at the nature reserve this arvo after the disturbing news at the weekend that one had recently been found dead at the side of a nearby road where a culvert passes underneath, this wasn’t confirmed as no carcass could be found. Today’s sighting was of an animal very much alive and well.
Where to next? More of the gloomy same...mist murk go away come again some other day!
In the meantime let us know if anything is roamin in the gloamin in your outback
Pictures? You want pictures? No chance in these awful conditions...

Monday 21 February 2011

As dull and grey as it gets

The Safari had an attack of the Monday mornings today and paid little attention to what was going on on Patch 1. Suffice to say we didn’t go past the Magpies of Magpie Wood and neither of the Peregrines were on the ledge.
A few Blackbirds song half-heartedly from various rooftops in the cold pre-dawn. Just one Song Thrush was all we could muster along with the odd Robin and Dunnock – nothing much to write home about.
Patch 2’s early morning safari was kyboshed by heavy sleety rain – not going out in that to see nothing and get cold and wet. By lunchtime it had stopped raining but wasn’t much better. The tide was well up the wall, not quite as high as yesterday but still a real biggy. Out on the sea the horizon merged in to the grey expanse on nothingness only about ¾ of a mile out. A Great Black Back Gull could be seen at some range with the naked eye but the smaller gulls closer in required the use of the scope to pick them out in the gentle swell. Beyond them a flock of about 250 – 300 Common Scoters were much more flighty than of recent but despite being airborne for extended periods and not too far out we couldn’t see any Velvet Scoters with them – not that we were expecting any of those mythical beasts to be out there.
Here's our only pic from yesterday showing the high tide flooding the marshes. The green in the bottom left of the pic had about three minutes grace before that too was flooded.
CB's musings only the day's events can be read here. Three Marsh Harriers - the swine!!!

Where to next? Still stuck to the patches lets hope the weather improves.
In the meantime let us know if you found anything in your grey expanse of nothingness.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Cold day in heaven

The Safari met up with NS at the marshes as planned, along with A.N Other. We had arrived in plenty of time the river was still well down in its channel and a long way off.
The first birds to find their into the notebook were five Little Egrets (108) a couple more were seen as the morning progressed. Whilst we scanned the in coming tide a few Long Tailed Tits worked there way through the scrubby Hawthorns on the bank to the side of us. Behind us we heard our first singing Chaffinches of the year and a Song thrush was heard too. A little later a Skylark was flushed off the marsh on to the fields and began to sing despite the icy cold strengthening wind.
Several parties of whooper swans came down the river, we counted a total of 29 along with a skein of 17 Pink Footed Geese. Already on the marsh were several Grey Lag Geese and a flock of Canada Geese.
A Stock Dove landed just down in front of us and another flew over. Then the third member of out 'team' called Merlin (109), it was a little distant at first but then swooped through the bushes very close to us - great stuff. N saw a large flock of something away over the river on the South-side - about 1000 Lapwings and under them, and perhaps the reason they were up, two Marsh Harriers (110) were just discernable.
On our side of the river a flock of about 50 Golden Plovers flew by while we were waiting for one of the stars of the show, again our third member was the first to pick one up flying out over the water flushed by the rising tide...Short Eared Owl (111) - a lifer for N - Excellent! We found another sitting high and dry on a rapidly disappearing patch of slightly higher vegetation.
Once the water had reached the bottom of the bank it was Pipit time back near the car park. Straight away we were put on to a bird on a fence post, a cracking Water Pipit (112) a Lifer for the Safari and not for want of trying over the years. There were several Rock Pipits and plenty of Reed Buntings there too and in the end we got another Water Pipit and perhaps a third. A third Short Eared Owl was seen but the others who had been watching from here all the time had had five.
as we were deciding to leave and head off somewhere else a fine pair of Grey Partridges (113) lifted off the last of the rapidly disappearing marsh and flew right in front of us - what a shame these little beauties are getting so rare.
N went off home to thaw out while we went to the nature reserve for more cold-punishment where we saw our first Great Crested Grebe (66) at the site. In the feeding station two Bramblings showed really well but unfortunately the light was far too poor for any pics.
We met up with the Ranger and at the far end spotted a potential Yellow Legged Gull bathing with a couple of Herring Gulls about half way down the mere but on reaching the best hide from which to see it we discovered it had gone - dohhh.
By now hypothermia was setting in even though we were wearing two pairs of socks one of which were supposedly 'the warmest socks ever invented'...time to get back to Base Camp after a successfully few hours birding.
Where to next? Back to the patches and hoping for some good stuff.
in the meantime let us know what came in on the tide in your outback.
Sorry but lack of light and PC problems meant no pics for you today.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Stuck indoors

The Safari hasn't really been out today but that doesn't mean we've not been looking at what might or might not have been happening out there.
With reports from CR of a Siskin on his feeders only a few hundred yards from Base Camp and then a call late last night form the Rangers saying a Red Kite had been seen over the reserve during the afternoon there was plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the windows. Even the hint of a squeak from the gulls resulted in a dash to the front or back door just in case. No joy but at least one of their squeaks may have been due to the Peregrines as both were on their ledge most of the day.
The feeder didn't produce the wished for Siskin but we did have a three finch moment with a few Goldfinches and a Greenfinch on the feeder and a Chaffinch waiting in the wings.
We took Frank to the park - not to exercise him but to remove the trip hazard tree that fell down in November, its only now we've had time while it has been light to attack it, trouble is it'll soon be light enough in the early morning to be able to see it and not trip over it. anyway it's now well chopped and destined for Little Bertha.
Just before it went dark we spotted that the Crab Apple tree's buds are well on their way to unfurling.
Where to next? Tomorrow's monster tide is too much to ignore - 10.3 metres it's a marsh smothering whopper so hopefully there will be some decent birding and hopefully mammaling to be done AND we've planned to meet up with fellow local blogger NS for the first time.
In the meantime let us know what's been circling just out of sight in your outback.

Friday 18 February 2011

Disappearing Dunnocks

The Safari’s best laid plans came to nought this morning. After hearing masses of Dunnocks the other day we decided we’d better get a count in. Well this morning Patch 1 was devoid of Dunnocks – not a single one heard! Before we had opened the front door at Base Camp we could hear a Song Thrush so they went in the notebook too and promptly disappointed! There was a ‘new’ one singing from somewhere downhill, the one we could here was the uphill regular but none were singing from the Golden Triangle and only one in the park, somewhere along the hedgerow down the side of the rough field by the sound if it.
One of the Peregrines was on the ledge and a few Blackbirds were tuning up.
The walk back down the hill was tentative as it was at the bottom old the leg muscle went ping, fortunately we survived and better still could see the faintest hint of dawn in the eastern sky through the thinning clouds.
Patch 2 was again a dull, grey, murky cool affair. Out on the edge of the mist we noticed a couple of Cormorants and then a few more; some were struggling to swallow fair sized flatfish. A full scan from left to right gave us a total of 171 and nine Great Crested Grebes.
The tide was ebbing but still high for the lunchtime safari and the light was still a dirty shade of hazy grey.
More Common Scoters had drifted close to shore getting up for 500 altogether perhaps. The Cormorants had all but left although the stragglers were still catching fish right on the limits of our visibility. A flock of 13 Great Crested Grebes quietly snoozed being rocked by the gentle chop while a 14th flew past beyond them. Two Red Throated Divers roosted closer to shore giving much better views than we normally get from this species.
Where to next? Might get out somewhere tomorrow but there are chores to be done at Base Camp.
In the meantime this article headlined this week’s Wildlife Extra e-news/mag. Has no-one told these SS buffoons that Corvids are songbirds too, as we heard for ourselves last week when a Magpie gave a beautiful but very quiet warble. Corvids regularly predate Collared Dove and Woodpigeon nests yet these two species have increased over the last 40 years (as per BTO population trends figures). Habitat, habitat, habitat guys...

Thursday 17 February 2011

Still slowed by injury

The Safari’s gammy leg is still causing mobility problems. No evening game of footy and no late night traipse round the first half of Patch 1, so we weren’t able to check on the Peregrines.
We did have a chat to NS about an unfortunate dangling duck, whilst we on the phone outside checking out a parcel by the back gate the local flock of Goldfinches flew over, their numbers now swollen to about 50, which is a Base Camp record! Our feeder will need a good scalding out and refilling if that lot have been using it.
We felt fit enough to do the shorter ‘dry run’ alternative Patch 1 this morning but didn’t see the Peregrines. This route gives a slightly different view of their ledge but includes their favoured corner, if a round structure can have corners! A few Blackbirds were singing and others were hopping around on the grass verges looking for breakfast but easy winner of the Bird of the Morning Competition were the Dunnocks. We really must make an effort to get a proper count as there seemed to be one singing form every other garden all the way round the circuit.
Patch 2 early doors was a cool and grey affair. Not much doing on a fairly flat sea, a couple of Great Crested Grebes and four Red Throated Divers moved southwards, as did three flocks of Knot of about 100 or so each. Common Scoter numbers were nothing to write home about.
A narrow line of around 50 Cormorants fished very successfully just out of sight of the anglers who lined the wall. Judging by the gagging movements many were making at the surface the fish they were catching were of a decent size (the Cormorants that is, not the anglers!). A few Great Black Back Gulls were milling around hoping to snatch a freeby but once again the shoal of fish hadn’t attracted any sea mammals.
Errands at lunchtime meant that the safari was only a short one. Not so many gulls on the beach this arvo and little out at sea in the misty haze. A decent number of gulls were on our ‘new’ northern section but they were a long way off and well disturbed by the doggy brigade. Nothing of note was seen in their midst but we only had a few minutes looking.
Wifey dropped us off at Chat Alley while she hit the shops for tea. not been for a while and its still far too early for it to come in to play.

With the tide along way out and only bins there was no chance of getting anything down by the shore line.

However at the top of the cliffs we saw our first Coltsfoot of the year.

Just before we left a flock of about 200 Pink Footed Geese came close to landing on the beach but veered off at the last minute.

Where to next? Depends how the crook leg holds up.
In the meantime be thrilled to learn that the hybrid Shelduck in the big park could well be Paradise Shelduck all the way from New Zealand.

Where did all that underlining come from?????

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Cor blimey – blistering sunshine!

The Safari was out with Frank last night for the early evening kick about. The ‘lower’ Song Thrush sang from the Golden Triangle all the while we were there. No sign of any Peregrines on their ledges but a a skein of about 100 Pink Footed Geese flew north directly overhead – one of those moments when you really don’t want to be looking up with yer mouth open! There was a horrendous racket from the Magpies as they began to come in to roost – sounded like there was quite a few gathering in there but we didn’t go over to count them.
Then it happened...we’ve been suffering from a twinge in the back of the leg for a few days now and almost back at Base Camp – twang and a groan/squeal of pain - what the ^%&^$&*** was that? Not only did we feel it we think we might have heard it go as well. A pulled muscle probably, thence followed a slow painful 50 yard hobble back to Base Camp; gee those steps up to the front door looked like something you might encounter on K2.
Consequently there was no early morning Patch 1 safari, Wifey very kindly taking over that duty today. Good job the Land Rover is an automatic as the chances of pressing a clutch this morning would have been slim to remote!
We did manage to stagger over the road on to Patch 2 for a pre-work shuffy. Lovely sunshine but still chilly. In fact we got to work without needing the lights on the Land Rover this morning – first time this year; spring is beginning to sprung...
The sunshine however did make it hazy over the sea. The tide was in so no beachy stuff beginning with ‘g’ to bore you with. In the distance just this side of the haze we had six individual Red Throated Divers, all going south. There was a bit of a swell which kept a decent sized flock of Common Scoters mostly out of sight in the middle distance. Closer in about 50 were easier to roughly count and whilst trying to get that count an auk sp flew over them heading further out to sea. Nearby probably the same two Great Crested Grebes as yesterday drifted past on the incoming tide.
Going to the ‘g’s’ a noticeable number of Common Gulls passed by heading towards the river mouth probably to a high tide roost.
The lunchtime session was a pleasant 20 minutes away from the desk. Leaving the front door a Pied Wagtail sang from the roof just above us to our left.
The sun warm on the back and the tide not dropped too far so everything was within very comfortable range. Plenty of gulls both on ‘normal’ Patch 2 and on the northern half, we had to flit between the two depending on where the worst doggy disturbance wasn’t. Three Great Black Backs included one well up the beach on the northern half, usually only see them hanging round the water’s edge. Best of the bunch and the only odd one we could pick put was a nice adult argentatus Herring Gull. Almost got a pic of it stood surrounded by ‘normal’ Herring Gulls but one of the eejits with the mutts got to them before we could get the camera set up.
Still plenty of uncounted Redshanks and a dozen or so Turnstones clambering about on the wall and wading through the runnels, but not so many Oystercatchers this arvo, unless you looked over our southern boundary in which case you would have seen the beach swarming with them.
Didn’t look too hard out to sea and it was still hazy especially looking towards the south and the sun but what we saw didn’t seem to have changed much since early doors.
Where to next? More of the same...
In the meantime let us know what the eejits preventing you from doing in your outback.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Knot a lot

The Safari opened the door on to a much cooler day today, temperatures having plummeted to normal after a run of nights which have been as warm as an average February day.
It was just about frosty and the cold seems to have made the birds go a little quiet. Only one Song Thrush was singing as we ventured out on to Patch 1. We didn’t go past the Magpies today and after seeing two Peregrines yesterday evening we were surprised to note that at this early hour they had both moved off.
By the time we were on the return leg of the safari a few Blackbirds had woken and started to sing from roof tops on the estate, along with a couple of Robin and a Dunnock in the Golden Triangle.
It was a short cold vigil on Patch 2 before work; the tide was in so we could only scan the sea. Out there in the dull greyness were a small number of semi-distant Common Scoters and two Great Crested Grebes. Hardly earth-shatteringly thrilling!
By lunchtime the tide had fallen and most of the beach was exposed. Plenty to look at but as usual it was the gulls that commanded our attention. 39 Redshank were directly beneath us with at least double that number further down with 12 Turnstones. Leaning over the wall in order to get a full count of the Redshank below we ended up flushing them and two weren’t Redshanks but Knot.
Down nearer the tide line there was a reasonable number of Sanderlings which were flushed by a dog walker before we could count them, roughly 30. Oystercatchers were uncounted too but there were many more of them, well over 100.
As for the gulls – several thorough scans gave us just three Great Black Backs, two Lesser Black Backs and another Yellow Legged Gull, seems to be a bit of passage off these going on at the moment, that were in any way out of the ordinary. Away to the far south there were thousands of gulls working the tide line and shallows and plenty more Oystercatchers too. On a distant sandbank we could see a long line of tightly packed roosting Cormorants – easily triple figures.
Out at sea it had become even greyer and choppier than before so we didn’t give it any real attention.
Where to next? Some really big, and we mean REALY big tides coming up so we’ll probably put our visit to the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker site (are they drumming yet Annno?) on hold for a couple of weeks so that we can have a look at the marshes this weekend.
In the meantime let us know how well you’re doing finding the odd one out.
After flushing the Redshanks we successfully flushed the nearby gulls too...dohhh

Just leaned a little too far over the wall!

Monday 14 February 2011

St Valentine's Day mass...acres of nothing much

The Safari wasn't out much today - St Valentine's Day car repairs!
This arvo we got a trip out to the river and estuary - the tide was out and the birds duly scattered. Decent numbers of Lapwings and a few Shelducks pottered about on the mudflats in the stream.
A Meadow Pipit flew over but the large flock of Skylarks present during the cold spell have moved on.
Through the trees/hedgerow on the top of the bank a few Chaffinches and Great Tits flitted along. At one point a huge electricity pylon transported the wires hissing and crackling across the river - many years ago we walked out on to the marsh under the wires and found a dead Zebra Finch, don't really think it was a genuine vagrant but if it died from hitting the wires 100 or so feet above then it must have been going for the altitude record for its species -the ones we saw in Western Australia never got more than low bush high.
Also in the bushes was a flock of 16 Linnets, some of the males were getting their summer finery and starting to put a few notes together.
A small flock of Pink Feet went over, love the sound of geese particularly at night
Frank had a great game with a sackful of other Labradors but only managed to get the ball once and then only because it was thrown at his feet.
Then it rained and heavy cold rain it was too.
Still no sign of that elusive Little Egret - we have seen them here a few times before.
Where to next? Back to the patches - two Peregrines on the ledges at tea time.
In the meantime let us know what's lying deceased under the pylons in your the nature reserve we succeeded in getting the electricity company to put markers on them a few years ago after a spate of Mute Swan 'accidents'.
WOULD you believe it - we've jsut finished a post without mentioning those 'g' s once!!!!!

Sunday 13 February 2011

All on our little lonesome

The Safari decided to stay local and hopefully avoid the worst of the predicted weather. We went to the nature reserve where there are a few hides to duck into if necessary. As it transpired it only started spitting once we were in the Land Rover driving off some 5 1/2 hours after arriving on site. In that time we managed only 1 1/2 ''laps' of the circuit and didn't get to the Long Eared Owls. There was nothing outstandingly special but there was plenty to be looking at and listening to.
First things first get in tot the first hide and out of any invisible inclement weather - we were fully togged against the elements waterproof trousers and all - not getting caught out like last week again.
11 Lapwings hit the notebook first - a site year tick, the first of several which would see the tally get to 65 by the end of the day.
A fair few ducks to work through, A pair of Gadwall, about 220 Teal and, eventually, 22 Wigeon. The Goldeneye didn't get an eventual figure they were too mobile so about 5 males, with one immature, and four, five or six or more females.
A large number of gulls were hidden behind the tops of the gently swaying reeds - tine to move down to the next hide.
Two adult Mediterranean Gulls. One at the front of the flock, pic, and one at the back - couldn't fit them both in the pic at the same time.
A walk round the far side saw us searching the usual place for Bee Orchid rosettes but didn't find any. This small puffball was interesting and still puffing spores - anyone got any ideas. Surprisingly for a Sunday afternoon it was very quite with hardly another birder about, probably the weather forecast had something to do with the lack of visitors.
A Mole was found dead on the grass which got us wondering when was the last time we saw a live one - musta been a good few years ago now!
The Feeding Station was lively with a flock of over a dozen Great Tits working their way through the bushes. At least six Tree Sparrows were counted but it was impossible to put a number to the amount of Reed Buntings popping in and out, one was heard singing at the far end of the reserve our first for the year.
A year tick came in the shape of a Goldcrest (107) near the unfound Bee Orchids.
We struggled with the Cetti's Warblers only hearing a 'chiip' as we were almost ready to leave although this was one of three that others had heard throughout the day.
More gulls dropped in from a field out east, we coudn't see what was going on but it was attracting plenty.
In this lot was a pair of Mediterranean Gulls. tried to digiscope them without any success at all. Plenty of LWHG too but other than three Lesser Black Backs, 2 fourth winter and a 1st winter Great Blacky nothing noteworthy.

Interestingly Lesser Blackies are very thin on the ground round here whereas other areas locally seem to have good numbers.
Our only raptor all day was a fine male Kestrel.
Towards the end of our visit a real bonus flew past - a striking male Pintail.
If anyone wants to know what a total ar*ewipe looks like - here's one. he is renowned for putting his Alsatian over the fences to deliberately flush the birds and run in front of the hides. Shame he wouldn't turn round when we shouted say cheese! Can you believe how belligerent a supposedly middle aged middle class man can be? Sadly he's not the only one who doesn't/can't/won't appreciate his natural heritage - that is until it's gone!
Just had Wild at Heart on the telly - is it me or is this just Daktari in 2010/11 (and SA rather than Kenya?)
Where to next? Day off tomorrow with the good chance of a safari out somewhere to the 'far east'.
In the meantime let us know how many ar*ewipes there are in your outback.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Beautiful sunshine. duff timing

The Safari lost a day of glorious sunshine today being engaged in other matters all day - and tomorrow it is forecast to pour down all day.
mot much to report on - early on the Peregrines were creating a holy racket which we could hear from Base Camp. A singing Wren was the first we heard locally for ages and just outside the 'garden recording area'.
A morning outing to the shops via a run on the beach with Frank gave us find of the days, 100's of people and 100's of dogs on the beach along with several hundred wary gulls amongst which we found nothing. But out at sea a large number of gulls massed around the end of the outfall pipe. No Cormorants so probably no fish so what they were after you probably don't want to know. In the throng we pulled out an adult Mediterrean Gull.
Later a quick trip put to play ball gave us a superb sighting of about 30 Goldfinches in one of the gardens not far from Base Camp.
Where to next? Dunno yet but we'll probably be donning the waterproofs, hopefully it'll won't be too gloomy for the camera.
In the meantime let us know how glorious the sunshine was in your outback today.

Friday 11 February 2011

The Safari is pleased to report four singing Song Thrushes on Patch 1 this morning but not much else.
Arriving at Patch 2 we were concerned to see a dense sea mist and hear the yapping of dogs below us. Right enough not a lot going on. Through the mist we could see plenty of gulls away to the south but too far to do anything with. Our bit of beach was dogged to death!
At lunchtime we were greeted by the sight of this chap below us so once again nothing on the beach - how annoying particularly as one or more Glaucous Gulls have been cruising the coastline in the last couple of days.
In half an hour he must have walked back about 150 yards as the tide rose.
On the sea wall well over 100 Redshanks were persistantly disturbed by the doggy brigade as they tried to feed in the runnel.
Out a sea it was lovely and calm but we're still waiting for our first marine mammal of the year. A flock of nine Eiders made a change and a close raft of Common Scoters numbered 122 with a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers thrown in for good measure.
The flock of birds approaching the fisherman from the right are Oystercatchers.
Where to next? Whayyy-haayyyyy the weekend...'Pool better beat Villa tomorrow!!!
In the meantime let us know who's doing the flushing in your outback

Thursday 10 February 2011

Oh no not more gulls

The Safari was again on the dry run this morning and it was noticeably thrushy. A Song Thrush was heard away over in the Golden Triangle as soon as we opened the door. On a chimney pot on a house on the opposite side of the road up the hill a bit a Blackbird sang loudly. Getting round to the Golden Triangle all was now quiet apart from the twittering of a couple of Robins and the chattering of waking Blackbirds. The closest park Song Thrush was heard again in the distance and both Peregrines were still asleep on their respective ledges. The Magpies were beginning to wake up and stretch their wings so we could only get a rough count of about 60.
Just as we reached the turning in to Base Camp a Dunnock fired up from a garden opposite...It’s getting more spring like everyday now and maybe next week we’ll be able to get to work without the headlights on, assuming it’s not cloudy of course.
Patch 2 wasn’t quite a gully as yesterday, certainly not actually on the patch right in front of us but over our border to the south there was still a prodigious number of them and a big few more than plenty Oystercatchers too. In the runnel we guestimated around 100 Redshanks without looking at them too closely while we checked the Black Headed Gulls for any Meds that might have been lurking amongst them – we’re determined to pull one of these beauties out of the throng this week!
Most of the LWHG were much further away and going through them wasn’t that easy despite the excellent viewing conditions, we did manage to find two fine adult Yellow Legged Gulls though.
The sea had only a gentle swell and the light conditions were just about perfect for viewing – it was so clear we could see the tips of the wind turbines off the coast of North Wales. We didn’t see any Harbour Porpoises or Grey Seals just a few Cormorants scattered about not really actively fishing otherwise the Great Black Backed Gulls would have more far more interested. A decent number of Common Scoters seemed to out there, mostly distance flocks, probably in the order of around 500 or so.
At lunchtime the conditions were still god but the rising tide had covered more than half the beach and there were four legged bird scarers everywhere. 135 Redshanks tried to roost in peace on the wall along with 22 Turnstones after being flushed from the runnel...not by the photographer peering over we might add!!!

There were significant numbers of gulls away to the south but on the nearest small were close enough to work through, nothing of note noted.
Out at sea nothing much had changed from first thing this morning. Best was a flock of about 20 Kittiwakes way out certainly interested in something and we saw one of those large splashes we reported a couple of weeks ago, are they to do with a large marine mammal, dunno didn’t see anything breaking the surface today.
Where to next? More of the same than its the weekend...and a safari to who knows where...
In the meantime let us know what’s not showing itself in your outback.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Joy of joys

The Safari did the dry version of Patch 1 this morning. The Mistle Thrush was giving it plenty of welly from the school grounds. Round by the water tower we came across a Blackbird ‘lek’, two males strutting there stuff along an invisible boundary while a female looked on impassively. All it needed was a couple of nappies and some weird sounds and we could have imagined ourselves out in the wilds of mid-Wales watching Black Grouse, something we really ought to do again as we haven’t been for many years.
Last night the ‘upper’ Song Thrush was singing from the Golden Triangle but this morning all was quite there, the nearest park Song Thrush could be heard as we walked past the end of the road that leads to the park entrance. No singing Blackbirds this morning.
What a sight beheld us when we got to Patch 2 in the early morning gloom!!! A veritable feast of gulls was on the beach in front of us. In the runnel near the wall we counted 99 Redshanks and eight Turnstones but it was the various shellfish strandlines where the main interest lay.
On the nearest strandline, within binocular range – not that we had any, only ever take the scope (and ears) – there were over 100 Black Headed Gulls with more joining all the time, but this number was paltry compared to the numbers lower down the beach and if anything Black Heads were outnumbered by Herring Gulls! There were well over 1000 of each but looking over our ‘boundary’ to the south we saw that our ‘huge’ numbers paled into insignificance compared to what there was down there – the beach was a seething with the little beauties!!! Put it this way the massed herds of Wildebeest on the Serengeti would have been lost amongst that lot; there were thousands upon thousands of them – a real life wildlife spectacle happening right before the commuters’ eyes – not that any of them would have noticed even if they were able to see over the sea wall from the driving seat of their cars.
We could have stayed out all morning giving them a thorough grilling, as it was we spent about double our normal ‘allotted’ time, about as much as we could get away with plus a few extra seconds...All this extra effort gave us the grand total of...wait for it...just two ‘argentatusHerring Gulls...dohh big wow, not even a Med amongst the plethora of Black Heads – musta been one somewhere in there, with a Caspo, Ring Billed, a white winger and a summat else probably.
We did have a good check of the hundreds of Common Gulls, no Franklin’s imposters today, but one was particularly interesting in that it was extremely dark and quite chunky looking. There were only a handful of Lesser Black Backs on the beach and none nearby to give a direct comparison but this Common Gull was almost as dark as a typical Lesser Blacky, having very little contrast between the coverts and the primaries. We have seen these before a couple of times over the years on the nature reserve but what exactly they are and where they are from is a mystery. In the old days we thought they might have been 'heinei' but conventional wisdom is now suggesting that this subspecies is probably indistinguishable in the field.
One Common Gull we saw recently at the nature reserve we really wished we’d been able to get a decent pic of as it showed an awful lot of white on the wing and hardly any black, potentially a Mew Gull or just an aberrant ‘normal’ Common Gull. We did mention it at the time and in flight it was easy to pick out – all goes to show that out of 10000+ gulls finding two the same is almost as hard as finding the odd one or two out.
We didn’t pay much attention to the sea but there were good numbers of Cormorants fishing successfully just behind the surf with several Great Black Backs in close attendance. Further out it was too grey and murky to see anything, a Kraken could have been attacking a Somali pirate infested supertanker but we’d never have seen the action through the low cloud.
At lunchtime the tide was in and we were forced to pay attention to the sea but apart form a few loafing gulls and a small number of fishing Cormorants there wasn’t much about. A Great Crested Grebe had gate-crashed a Common Scoters only gig and a single Red Throated Diver flew south just this side of the murk.
After work, with it still being light, we took Wifey and Frank on a trip of a lifetime to Fleetwood Dog Toilet aka Fleetwood Marsh Nature Reserve. While Frank added to the piles (duly removed of course) and ran round with some new friends we successfully twitched the Ring Necked Duck at long last (106). In our over excitement we didn't count the Coot, Tufted Ducks or Pochard but did note a Great Crested Grebe and three male Goldeneyes on the pool. The adjacent pool was disappointingly devoid of gulls. A quick walk round to catch up with Wifey gave us about 80 Wigeon bobbing about on the river but the elusive Little Egret still eludes us.

Pipping the Ring Necked Duck in to poll position here was the first singing Skylark we've heard this year, always one of the best sounds to be heard whilst on safari.

Where to next? Can only be straight back to Patch 2!
In the meantime let us know whose doing the gate-crashing in your outback

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Just a tad better

The Safari left Base Camp with Frank on a thankfully windless morning. We did an alternative Patch 1 walk to avoid getting him totally mud-up and needing to be cleaned before going to work. We did however see the Peregrine on the ledge as the first hint of dawn appeared on the eastern horizon giving the hint of a fine day to come.
The nearer of the two Song Thrushes in the park was heard but not so much as a cheep from the Golden Triangle. Some thrushes sp. were on the now very wet field and from a garden further down the estate we heard our first Blackbird of the year in full song. In the school grounds the Mistle Thrush was also singing.
Out on Patch 2 the tide was just about fully out but a fisherman was stood on the tide edge waiting to walk in with it so there wasn’t much about. Over on the ‘north-side’ a runnel held a few gulls, nothing exciting except that we had our first fully hooded Black Headed Gulls of the year, two of them. Since we’ve decided to make an effort and look through the Common Gulls for any Franklin’s ‘imposters’ there have been very few on the beach and as time goes on those strange hood markings are going to be replaced by pristine shiny white heads.
After yesterday’s 400 Oystercatchers it was some what surprising not to see any at all, in fact not a wader in sight.
We had a walk down to the water to take the sea temperature after a conversation with Monika. The thermometer showed 4.9ºC a little below the air temperature. See here for UK wide sea temperatures.
You wouldn’t last long if you fell in at that temperature! There were plonkers playing chicken with the waves earlier in the week – despite all the fatalities they never seem to learn.
As left the beach a Goldfinch flew by calling, the 38th species for the patch and a somewhat belated one at that.
Not a great deal on the rising tide, a few Cormorants fishing here and there and small flocks of Common Scoters scattered about in the middle distance. We could only find a single Great Crested Grebe, many may now be moving to their inland breeding sites. A Shag flying out to sea was a bonus but we couldn’t find any Red Throated Divers.
Where to next? More of the same unless we can cram in a visit to the Ring Necked Duck - always assuming the mobile little tyke has stayed put for a change.
In the meantime let us know who’s posing as what in your outback

Monday 7 February 2011

The boy's a fool

The Safari learnt this news tonight. Enjoy FBB's clip - play it loud!!! We saw the maestro too many years a go in his Colosseum II incarnation - unbelievably good...still got the album along with several others he featured on too...pure bluesy genius!
This morning we had 121 Oystercatchers on the 'normal' Patch 2 before they were flushed by Cockle pickers. Seeing a large flock on the beach in the distance on the 'north-side' we moved over there and counted another 239 Oystercatchers, hundreds of gulls were too far away down by the pier to be able to do anything with. Nothin else about other than a small number of Redshanks messing around in the seaweed on the wall.
No chance of doing much at lunchtime - just a bit too windy...50+mph and gusts to over 60mph combined with a fairly high 9.1m tide made a safari pointless. Rashly we nipped over the road to get some pics of the waves crashing over the wall. the results don't do the ferocity justice.

We weren't too good a dodging, not that there was anywhere to go so we spent a very soggy, uncomfortable afternoon in what turned out to be a rather productive meeting...two drenchings in two days!
The Peregrine was on the ledge when we took Frank for his evening game of ball on the quagmire formerly known as the field.
Where to next? Hopefully there'll be a whole host of gulls to work through tomorrow on the early morning lowe tide providing the wind has dropped and it isn't lashing down again.
In the meantime let us know how wet and windy its been in your outback...had a txt from our Extreme Photographer last week - stuck in a basement in Cairns listing to the edge of a typhoon battering the house overhead - sounded as though it was nearly as windy as it gets here!

Sunday 6 February 2011

Still very wet and windy

The Safari wasn't hopeful of getting out today as the weather was mostly atrocious. Early morning on Patch 1 the Peregrines were very vocal and we counted 38 Magpies which just shows how the light can affect a count. Last night we could only see 22 and thought that the rest had gone to roost somewhere more sheltered. However the morning count, which was quite late and some had already left the roost, showed that probably the full compliment of over 50 spent the night being swung around in the wind and battered by torrential rain; at least the Peregrines choose the side out of the wind and are protected from the elements to a large extent sat huddled tight against their artificial cliff.
After a substantial sausage sarny there was a break in the weather and we chance a trip out to the big park, not our usual Patch 1 park. We stopped on the way to have a quick look on the wild-side of the road and saw that the Snowdrops were out at last.

The wind was howling and bits were falling off the trees, the paths were littered with twigs and small branches that had come down over the last couple of days, so we decided to head in to the park where the trees are not so big and not so directly overhead.

A look at the lake where families were throwing bread at the ducks gave us the opportunity to get some Coot colour ring sightings and take a few art shots of the family of Mute Swans.

This male is doing the bubbling/gurgling call.Shame we chopped the top of his head off.
Tried to get some pics of the youngsters but they were too interested in the bread and would keep still enough; hardly anyone seems to take pics of the 'ugly ducklings'.
Further on away from the mayhem we found a small flock of 17 Shovelers. Most were cruising around in the middle of the lake but this one was asleep close to the bank.

There are always a few Mallards scattered about.

In the wooded area we met up with one of the Rangers and while we were chatting a Nuthatch (105) appeared in the tree above our heads and started to investigate a potential nest cavity. We couldn't find any Treecreepers or Goldcrests but we don't think we've every seen as any Great Tits as this winter, they must have a had a superb breeding season last year - dunno if the ringers can back this up with hard evidence? A good flock of Goldfinches was in the vicinity of the feeders high up in an Alder tree taking advantage of the seeds still left in the cones.
You can't fail to miss the Heron's nests at this time of year. The adults are now back on them fettling them up after any winter damage.

The wind was in the wrong direction so you've got technically awful going away shots and apologies to the easily offended for this gratuitous bum pic.
We were glad to get back across the road to the quiter area as its really awkward to hold the bins or take some photos when holding on to dag that really wants to a) dive in the lake, b) pee on every tree, (thousands) and clump of grass (how much pee can one dog hold - must be gallons of the stuff in tehre!) and c) sniff every other dogs' backside of which there were millions out despite the decidely iffy weather.
The gardens border the Zoo which was formerly an airport and was defended by several pill boxes of which only this one now remains.
I don't think we would have been brave enough to stay in there with a little Enfield 303 if the Panzer divisions had been landing on the nearby beaches.

Behind the pill box is a small pond through which the little stream flows. It is full of Sticklebacks and sometimes attracts a Kingfisher...not today as there was far too much doggy disturbance, or is it an Otter - could do with some mammal ticks not had many this year. There was however a white Aylesbury type duck which wasn't over bothered about sharing the pond with the giant Otter.
Throughout the wood there are some nice pieces of simple but effective wildlife interpretation.

Back near the exit we found this dead tree sprouting several good sized Birch Polypore fungi but as you can see the light was dreadful.

It started to lash it down and we were a fair distance from the Land Rover so we had to do one, the bins are waterproof but the camera isn't. We were hoping to be able to show you the impressive artwork at the main entrance - maybe next time. By the time we reached the Land Rover we were absolutely sodden so it was back home to Base Camp to fire up Little Bertha and await the 'pleasant aroma' of towel dried dog baking in front of the fire...pheeeeeuuuueee

Where to next? Here's hoping that Patch 2 has a gull or two tomorrow - we didn't gat a chance to watch the dropping tide today more's the pity.

In the meantime let us know what's being protected in your outback - probably not Hen Harriers or Golden/Sea Eagles!!!