Sunday 31 July 2011

Golden eyes!

The Safari is going to start off with another wasp thingy for Cliff to have a stab at before we stick it on iSpot tomorrow morning...shame it was on the inside of the window and not in the best of light - look at that weird head shape.

This morning we opened the moth trap to find just a few Large Yellow Underwings...22 of them...had to happen sooner or later.
Dotted Clays were still on the menu, these are the two forms.

Common Rustics have several morphs - this is the palest

while this one is just about as dark as they get. Thought at first it might have been something else but about 98% sure its a Common Rustic.

And now a few unknown micros

No1...don't recall seeing this one before

No 2 - nice rusty colours - very small

No 3 - perhaps we should know this one

No 4 - one we really ought to know

No 5 - Crambus pascuella again?

And now your appitite is whetted - a pug for you to have a bash at.

Also in the trap was this Caddis Fly - not checked yet but it could be the same species as last week. A good dozen Water Boatmen - front swimmers, and a single Whirligig Beetle.

Biut what of the title - 'Golden eyes' - well have a butchers at this beauty - wouldn't mind finding one of these quartering the rough field on Patch 1 !!! This chap hasbeen rescued from someone who kept him in conditions that were far too cramped - so much so he couldn't fully open his wings. Now he is being trained to fly to the hand for displays.

We were at an event and had a Kestrel fly over, probably on the move, a Brown Hawker and what was probably a Common Hawker cruised about. butterflies included a good number of Gatekeepers ands some stonkingly fresh Red Admirals, at the death a Peacock put in an appearance in the local produce stall, probably checking out the fresh veg, pickles, cakes and jams.
Where to next? Back to the patches and things are on the move so you never know...

in the meantime let us know who's looking at you in your outback.

Saturday 30 July 2011


The Safari's sleep was seriously disturbed by a very ill Frank hacking, retching and honkin up all night. Add to that a phone call, in one of Frank's quiet moments, from Wifeys work's burglar alarm company and you'll guess sleep was barely an option last night. So after taking Frank on just about the shortest version of a Patch 1 safari possible (did see about 200 Starlings coming from the direction of the pier in a few loose flocks) we headed to Preston to do a bit of twitching. Arriving in the city centre we immediately spotted another birder lurking on the street corner camera in hand...not even 07.30 yet! He'd seen one of the target birds very briefly a few minutes earlier but nothing since. We hung around with him then mooched up and down a couple of streets and eventually got the briefest of views of one of the Black Redstarts (192) before it flew over the roof-tops.

There has been some concern on the interweb over the potential for birders/photographers to disturb these Schedule 1 breeding birds but by 08.00 the streets were filling up and by 10 o'clock we reckon there would be thousands of shoppers bustling up and down the narrow lanes...we reckon that unless someone was working on the roof areas disturbance would be almost impossible.

Perhaps needing the attention of someone up on the roof is this specimen of Lesser Reedmace growing in the rather unusual place in the gutter. It is vegetation like this that has managed to cling on in awkward places aloft that provide the insects that feed the Black Reds.

What was most enjoyable to learn was the area we saw it in twice more was behind an old office we used to work from in Cannon Street, where many years ago we created a courtyard wildlife garden...wonder if it still there and if it is has been used by these avian urbanites? Would like to think so!

The bird showed about half way down the narrow street on the left, just past the van, on the roof line of the lower older buildings; it was one of those buildings, the second to furthest one was the one we used to work in. Almost too conveniently located opposite the chippy!

Not much else about, a few Swallows hawking around and a lone Swift. A brief view of something followed quickly by a flurry of Feral Pigeon activity suggested the something could have been a Peregrine.

With only three very brief sightings of the Black Redstart and no chance of a pic in over an hour we called it a day and went back to Base Camp to look after Frank while Wifey went out to get the week's supplies in.

More gardening was undertaken but far less intensive today as the hands needed frequent rests and we weren't up to the heavy duty stuff we were doing yesterday, so we set about a bit of light weeding,

We kept an eye on the sky and the other on the inverts and found a couple of leaf-mines on our idea who made them but there is a man that might

15 Swifts went over, with odds 'n' sods more during the day - that's the most we have in one go all season!!! A few Swallows went past with one House Martin seen later in the afternoon.

Butterflies were only represented by two Speckled Woods, two Large Whites and a Small White, all successfully avoided the Buddlieas which are going well over now.

We continued to look for the fluttering of butterflies and listening for the tweets and twitterings of small stuff going over and any raucous clamour from the gulls which might indicate a raptor going over high above in the azure ether. However every passing dot was either another gull, a 747 or a Willowherb seed.

Over the pond two Blue Tailed Damselflies were seen, one of them today was a teneral.

Rarity sighting of the day was two Starlings flying over NOT going to or from the roost at the pier.

More Swifts, with some Black Headed Gulls, were jinking and stalling after a swarm of flying ants.
Below is about half of the Mare's-tails we pulled out today. Gardeners enemy numbero uno, along with Water Plant and Quaking Grass in this garden!

Where to next? Mothy will be going out on that table tonight.

In the meantime let us know what's jinking and stalling in your outback.

From those very clever iSpotters we have some some bad news for Cliff - It is a Eumenid wasp rather than the Crabronid wasp, Argogorytes mystaceus. Eumenids (in common with Vespids) always fold their wings in this diagnostic fashion. So we live and learn; BTW what on earth is a Eumenid wasp and what do they do?

Friday 29 July 2011

Sick as a dog, parrot, etc

The Safari had planned to twitch into the next town's back streets to hopefully see the fresh brood of Black Redstarts and then go on to a more suburban/rural area to have look for Purple Hairstreaks - a species of butterfly that has evaded us so far. Our thanks go to ZH for the very detailed directions to a selection of locations for the hairstreaks, didn't realise there were tht many in that area...which has got us wondering if there are any nearer ones

But poor Frank has been taken poorly and was throwing up all over the place so can't be taken anywhere except to see the vitnery. Instead of twitching we spent the morning more usefully cutting logs, we need 2000 or there abouts for the winter...haven't counted how many are in the wood-store but it doesn't look anything like that amount although we do have two more piles to attack with the chainsaw...still won't be anywhere near 2000!

In between bouts of mopping up we spotted two Swifts going south in a sort of determined manner and a Speckled Wood scooted through the garden.

With Frank feeling pretty sorry for himself we decided to take hima short walk - he met Blue, his sparing partner, which probably wasn't ideal. Shortly after the 'encounter' we had a Great Spotted Woodpecker come overhead from the direction of the school playing fields.

After our walk we sat in the garden and relaxed for a while in the afternoon sun. The bees were quite active, this is either Bombus terrestris or B. lucorum on Evening Primrose, a common 'weed' at Base Camp but great for moths.

Common Carder Bees were out in force but too quick for the auto focus. The prefered much smaller flowers like this Oregano (could be Marjoram)

but spent most of their time visiting the tiny flowers of Herb Robert.

Over in the pond we spotted this 14-spot Ladybird trundling about on the Water Lily leaves. We think this is the first record of this species at Base Camp.

Also flitting about the pond, especially when the sun shone were a couple of male Blue Tailed Damselflies. Still not seen a Large Red Damselfly at Base Camp this year although there was one on the southern section of the North Blackpool Pond Trail earlier in the week.

A Marmalade Fly had us chasing about for a while.

Out of the corner of our eye we noticed another hoverfly land on the lily leaves but on closer inspection it turned out to be a species of Sawfly.

We could do with help from DS with the wildzone of our garden (could he have had three Glossy Ibises over his Base Camp today?),
Looking north

and this is the same hidden behind the garage patch looking south

If anyone wants a Small Leaved Elm or two we've got a couple of suckers that need digging out before they have the garage retaining wall over...not sure if they are any use to White Letter Hairstreaks, although we have seen the little fellas on the one in the Butterfly Zone, dunno if they lay their eggs on it though.

Untidy it may be but this year it has produced a hefty crop of seriously delicious Loganberries.

Plenty of room left in Barbara...(Woodhouse ;) ) for the remaining uncut piles of branches..spotted a couple more nice pieces on Patch 1 this arvo too.

Where to next? Could be an early start for the Black Redstarts if we don't put the mothy out. Hands could well be far too painful for faffing around with little things like moths in the morning, probably wait until tomorrow night as there will be plenty of time before we have to be at an event on Sunday morning to sort through them.

In the meantime let us know who's hiding in the woodpile in your outback.
Late vitnerian update - Frank has Kennel Cough; not nice...loadsa pills...

Thursday 28 July 2011

Bully boys come to town

The Safari was climbing the hill this morning when we heard the deep throated bellow of a Great Black Backed Gull (P1 62). Looking up we saw two cruising around, dwarfing the local Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls. Not often we see them this far inland up this way although they do visit the nature reserve frequently which is further inland still.
Rounding the corner into the side street we spied the familiar form of PL on yet another early start in an attempt to get some pics of the Peregrines. He’d succeeded but we were too late as the female had already left. Nothing else of note in the park but we did get our last sample of Sycamore leaves for the OPAL air survey we’ve been doing this week.

This is a horrendously easy survey to help with; provided you can count and identify Sycamore leaves the hardest bit is choosing ten at random from each tree. For anyone that likes playing with bubble mixture and staring at the sky the climate surveys are easy-peasy too. Simple citizen science that can give a huge range of data for the boffins and number-crunchers to work with.
Patch 2 was dire almost devoid of anything apart from new families of gulls. A few Sandwich Terns head out towards their fishing grounds and two small flocks of Common Scoters headed north in the middle distance. Hardly earth shattering.
If any local folk read this you might be interested in the following events being held over the next couple of weeks or so, or perhaps others from further afield might like to make the trip to the coast.

Wed 3rd August

National Marine Week family event
South Beach - Beach Care survey, rockpooling & beach fun
Meet at the Mirror Ball at 11am

Thurs 4th August

National Marine Week family event
Central Pier - Beach Care survey, shell search & beach fun
Meet at the south side of Central Pier at 11am

5-7th August

National Whale & Dolphin Watch 2011

Friday 5th Mirror Ball - 2pm - 6pm
Saturday 6th St Chad's headland - 2pm - 6pm
Sunday 7th Bispham tram station - 2pm - 6pm

Monday 8th – Friday 12th Mirror Ball - 12 - 1pm

For full details contact the Solaris Centre

Wed 10th August

National Marine Week family event
Gynn Square - Beach Care survey, shell search & beach fun
Meet by Gynn Square tram stop at 2.30pm

Thurs 11th August

National Marine Week family event
Little Bispham/Princes Promenade
Beach Care survey, shell search & beach fun
Meet at the south end of Princes Promenade at 2.30pm

All events are free and the Marine week events will last about an hour to an hour and a half.

Hope to see you at one or more of them.
A Grey Seal put in an brief appearance for the lunchtime safari and a trawler, the Emily-J was collecting a big following of gulls to the north. Hoped it would come past us and we could check to see if there were any Storm Petrels in its wake (unlikely but you never know) but it didn’t reach us before we had to go and wait for our pond dipping group.
The nets hit the water and stuff, mostly Common Pond Snails and Keeled Ramshorns were hoiked out. Several 3-spined Sticklebacks made it into the trays, including a couple almost big enough to accompany a plate of chips.

One had a couple of unpleasant looking swellings; at first we thought the spots were part of the disease but on closer inspection they appear to be normal, but stretched, patternation of the skin.

The Sticklebacks, although great for the kids to catch, are a bit of a pain as they eat anything smaller than themselves; case in point was this arvo we were trying to get a pic of a small unusual something we’ve not seen before when the inevitable happened...gone in two bites right before our very lens!!!
There are only ever three species of snail found in the pond, the two already mentioned and Bithynia tentaculata. We joked about a big prize to anyone who could find a fourth...really shouldn’t do that...someone did! It’s not a species we come across before in any pond so where has it managed to sneak in from we haven’t added any water, mud or other animals for a couple of years now, another species of Bithynia perhaps with a longer spiral.

Really could use some new water it’s about a foot down on its maximum level.
A few Water Mites came out, mostly small brown ones but also this rather nice almost ladybird-like red one.

A single small Water Hog Louse also found its way into the tray as did a bright green Damselfly nymph which for some reason we didn’t point the camera at.

Yesterday’s lovely sunshine had disappeared and that put the mockers on looking for any terrestrial stuff but before the group arrived we’d potted a Marbled Beauty moth to show them and later found one of the older lads a Campion moth caterpillar hiding away in the seedhead of one of our Red Campion plants.
Then it rained...where’d that come from and can we have our blistering sunshine back?
Where to next? Day off tomorrow with a safari a little further afield planned.
In the meantime let us know what’s snuck in under the radar into your outback

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Dunno what to call this missive

The Safari was told of a really rare bird as we were leaving work yesterday. One of the fishermen came in and told us he and his mates had managed to grab a Puffin that was struggling in the surf and being bashed against the sea wall after the storms last week. They took it home and fed it up but he came in to let us know it had died yesterday and is now buried in his garden. Puffins are very seldom recorded along our coast.
Last night we took Frank to the beach, the tide was almost up to the wall but we managed a quick kick around on the sand and spotted quite a number of Compass Jellyfish ranging in size from a couple of inches to just short of a foot in diameter.
On the way we were stuck in the commuter traffic and we managed to get these shots of Rest Harrow growing on the edge of the grass verge on the top of the kerb and one of a number of Starlings running about behind it.

Not the best pics as the sun was directly behind them – suffice to say Wifey was in the driver’s seat. As we were setting off from Base Camp waiting to turn onto the main road a cracking male House Sparrow with a huge deep black bib was hanging from the hedge of the corner house – unfortunately we couldn’t wrangle the camera strap from the seat belt before a gap in the queue of traffic had us moving off.
This morning Patch 1 gave us nothing except that the Woodpigeons seemed to be fired up; we witnessed three battles, one, in a tree in the Butterfly Zone, went on for ages, they were going at each other hammer and tongs.
No sign of the Peregrine on the tower but as we rounded the corner onto the main road we heard it calling as it came in. Looking round we saw it carrying a prey item and go round the back of the tower still calling. Then it reappeared and flew low, just above the roof-tops right over our head – fantastic naked eye views which included the entrails of its victim dangling out of the open body cavity...not before breakfast please...
The fisherman also told us he’d seen a dead Harbour Porpoise yesterday on the high tide. We went out onto Patch 2 as normal and there it was floating on the rising tide a few yards offshore.

Also there were about a dozen Sandwich Terns and a pair of noisy Common Terns appeared over the wall heading out to sea as if they’d come from down the road leading to the motorway. Whilst going sown the steps to get closer pictures of the porpoise we flushed nine roosting Redshanks off the bottom of the wall, the first we’ve seen on Patch 2 this autumn.
Went back out as the tide dropped and got chatting to two dog walkers who said they ‘d first seen the porpoise on Monday.
At lunchtime it hadn’t been left on the beach and there was no sign of it, not on the beach nor bobbing about on the tide...strange as we doubt if anyone would have been down at high tide with a grappling hook to drag it in for disposal. With such a gentle tide it can’t have gone far unless it burst in the hot heat...ohhhhh yukkkkk.
The lunchtime safari was blighted by litter. The ebbing tide was covered in it; warm weather, massed crowds and an easterly breeze meant that there were umpteen pop bottles, carrier bags, crisp packets etc to work through. A possible Basking Shark dorsal fin or Grey Seal’s head in the distance was eventually nailed as a squashed plastic cider bottle...nice. While giving this unique bit of jetsam a grilling a white butterfly flew over it...from the distance and the fact we could see it, it was probably a Large White.
Not so much found during gardening club today. A few white butterflies and A.N. Other were flying around our front garden. Of more interest was this mummified moth, beautifully iridescent, an Old Lady perhaps? If so is it tickable as we've not seen one before?

Where to next? Yet more of the sunny same.
In the meantime let us know what’s been mummified in your outback.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Madogs and Englishmen

The Safari yet again precious little to whet your appetite for wildlife with. The Peregrine was asleep on the narrow ledge late last night but gone by the time we headed out this morning. Quite a few moths were buzzing around the Privet flowers in the warm still conditions, shame one of the neighbours has ripped his hedge out this week- why do they do that when the bushes are full of flower? Wonder if a suitably qualified ecologist checked for birds’ nests before work started too... of course one did...yeah right!
Out on Patch 2 it was as dead as the proverbial Dodo. Full tide and nothing but a few gulls to look at.
By lunchtime the beach was full of holiday makers enjoying the warm sunshine. Directly out in front of us was large ship, well not huge but much bigger than the usual anglers light craft...a proper boat. As it came towards us it turned enough for us to read the name...the Prince Madog a marine research vessel run by a nearby university.
Whilst watching that beedling about, there wasn’t much else out there, we saw our male Common Scoter back in its usual must be firmly anchored. Around and about it a dozen, at most, Sandwich Terns fished and were generally successful bringing up fish of about three inches long. Nice to watch and listen to, as they were quite vocal. We weren’t expecting what we saw next...a Bonxie came from the north low over the water and wapped straight in to the terns. There ensued a full blown aerial chase which made the weekend’s Red Arrows look like a bunch of amateurs...OK they can go fast in a tight bunch and make nice patterns but they can’t jink, twist, dive and climb all at the same time, Bonxies might be big but they’re not half agile! Needless to say the Sandwich Tern lost its lunch. Once the Bonxie had won its fish it resumed its southerly journey.
A good find and worth a brew!
Where to next? More of the same but you never know what the same will produce.
In the meantime let us know who lost a fish in your outback

Monday 25 July 2011

Almost lost for words

The Safari almost had nowt to tell you today. Patch 1 and the early Patch 2 safari gave us nothing. At lunchtime Patch 2 turned up two Grey Seals but they we both nearly half way to Ireland!

After work at Base Camp this Cranefly crawled out from behind the computer desk...anyone got any ideas? Must admit our knowledge of Tipulinidae is severely limited. One for those iSpotters we think.

One a more random note, has anyone seen any bats this year? we haven't seen any apart from round one pond on a newt survey...none at Base Camp, none round Magpie Wood, none to?

Where to next? more of the same.

In the meantime let us know what's crawling around out of sight behind the furniture in your outback

Sunday 24 July 2011

Big butterfly counting

The Safari saw that the Peregrine was once again roosting on the tower late last night but again had gone before we were out and about this morning.
Once back at Base Camp it was time to check the contents of the moth trap. Something had laid its eggs on the outside of the 'funnel'...
New for the year was this Bright-line Brown-eye

And a Yellow Shell

Topping the bill was this second generation Early Thorn with its butterfly-like stance.

After a hearty Sunday brunch it was out into the sunshine at the Butterfly Zone again, we had hoped to go a bit further but are financially embarrased at the mo due to an impromptu car service so we decided to stick local. This arvo we did a 15 minute count on the rough field and another 15 minute count in the Zone itself.

A dozen or so Swallows wizzed about over the tree tops with a hard to count exactly two or three Swifts. A Sparrowhawk zapped by and made the Swallows twitter like crazy. From deep within the scrub a Blackcap sang and a female was seen while at the other end of the scrub a Chiffchaff 'hweet'ed.

Our quarter of an hour in the rough field gave us a grand total of 36 butterflies of six species and we nearly got a decent pic of a Small Copper.

By contrast the Butterfly Zone gave us 46 of nine species, 10 if we count the out of time Large White...and no White Letter Hairstreaks today.

We chased round after this Comma that was laying its eggs on the nettles. We tried unsuccessfullyy to get a side on pic of her reaching round with her abdomen to place the egg on the leaf but she would only do this in dense cover so you'll have to make do with a full 'ID' laying shot on the edge of the scrub.

Two Common Blues were found in the field but this one was the only one we saw in the Butterfly Zone.

After their recent colonisation of the site Gatekeepers are now fairly numerous.

And in the Butterfly Zone we did, after some hectic chasing around, get a half decent pic of the Small Copper. With the warm sunshine and being sheltered from the stiff breeze they were pretty lively today!

No Red Admiral today, instead we found a very fresh Small Tortoiseshell which very obligingly fed on the Creeping Thistles.

All the time we were there the grasshoppers sang without a break, a beautiful chorus of sunny summer afternoons. This is Field Grasshopper told by the sharp angles on the pronotum.

We spotted these two Brown Lipped Banded Snails - not exactly sure what they are upto - but on downloading the pic spotted a third little on under the lefthand one and a hoverfly on the right hand one...weird or what, some species of flies lay their eggs in snails but do any of the hovers?

We abandoned ship when the Cleggs appeared - got bitten just above the sock on BOTH legs...
But just before we left we took a couple of videos of the Butterfly Zone to give you a bit of an impression of what it's like, you'll notice that it's only quite small.

On the way back to Base Camp there were more Swallows and even a couple of House Martins flying about!

And no White Letter Hairstreaks at all today!

Where to next? Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

In the meantime let us know if the biting things are still biting in your outback.