Saturday 31 March 2012

Embarrassing late up date

The Safari somehow forgot to note in the previous post that just after Frank's lunchtime stroll we had four Waxwings (138, 29) go over calling that shrill trilling call which drew our attention to them in the first place. (Making the Osprey #139). They went over the font garden heading NE on a day with little small bird movement - where'd they come from?
Garden lifer!!! Patch 1 No 82 - never to be repeated?

Pretty good safari-ing without going anywhere

The Safari was able to accompany Frank to the park this morning - A full Patch 1 walk for a change. Dunnocksville! including a big fight lots of singing and wing flicking ended in a Coot-like brawl with one pinning the other to the ground by standing on it then pecking at it - never seen anything like it before...the two others, assumed females, just looked on. Saw several others scattered around too. blackbirds were also squaring up to each other over boundary disputes. 
We went past the Golden Triangle where we heard the Song Thrush, then into the park past the Common Winter-cress, which is an omission from the 'Flora' - no dot for it in Patch 1's tetrad.
Once in the park we started whistling chiff-chaff and within seconds we had a response from the real thing - Chiffchaff (P1 #27).
We went to check the Frog pond and disturbed a Heron which had just caught a Frog or Toad, need to check this pond for Great Crested Newts soon.
Another Song Thrush sang loudly from the top of the park.
Back at Base Camp we emptied the moth trap - only four this morning; Early Grey and a cracking Early Thorn and two Hebrew Characters.
Early Grey
Early Thorn
As we were mothing a Great Tit sped past us with a beakful of moss and dived straight into our House Sparrow terrace.
The garden is beginning to get a nice show of Cowslips, they're becoming a weed! There should be lots of seed later in the year.
At the base of one of the trees planted on the main road's verge last year is a nice patch of Dove's Foot Cranesbill - Not sure what the passing motorists thought of our big ar*e sticking up skywards as we got this pic.
A Sparrowhawk was 'given' to us by the gulls but they failed to find us any other raptors.
Much later in the afternoon we got a txt off Young Un AB saying he'd just had an Osprey and it was coming our way. We dashed outside to the top of the garden and started scanning and listening for the gulls. It was crystal clear we could see all the way to the fells to the east but the only raptor we found was a Kestrel being chased by a Magpie over the North Blackpool Pond Trail
Then we heard a slight commotion from the gulls and scanned around - we found it - an Osprey (138) going north at great height just below the cloud base. But was it the same bird as AB's? His was low and a good half hour or so earlier - probably not! Unfortunately it was too far out to the east and wasn't a garden or Patch 1 tick, it did, however, go almost directly over CR's place.
Where to next? An exciting far flung safari beyond the South-side tomorrow with an early start.
In the meantime let us know what had you craning your neck in your outback.

Friday 30 March 2012

Froggy went a-wooing, or for a trip in a Land Rover

The Safari had a couple of volunteers working in the gardens today. First up was to remove the last of the few Sticklebacks from the pond. Last autumn we took out well over 100 of the scaly devils - why are they such a nuisance...they eat just about ALL the invertebrates in our dipping pond -so they have to go. We thought there were only a handful left in there...eventually we hoiked out well over 30 and we hazard a guess there are still some lurking in there that we'll have a bash at next week.

Some inverts manage to escape the multitude of jaws. The back swimming Water Boatman is capable of chomping through small Sticklebacks.

The snails are reasonably well protected from all. There are at least four species in the pond, three of which can be found in the second picture down.

The it was out to a local home to help a lady rid her pond of a plague of Frogs! She had concerns that her pond was a danger to her small child and as much as we don't like having to move wildlife from perfectly good habitat for 'sentimental' reasons we appreciate this was case when the end was probably justified. The pond was small and full to the brim of spawn - there was tons/gallons of the stuff!
The young uns wielded their nets with aplomb and within half an hour 19 Frogs were in the bucket, along with an unfeasible amount of spawn! A very very gentle drive saw them released to a pond where they should be safe for a good many more years. The Sticklebacks were also released but not in the same place, somewhere where they can't interfere with any Great Crested Newts which might be in the vicinity.
While we were tying up some loose ends in the office we left the young uns to tidy away a bit of timber for a job next week - as they were doing so they disturbed a Wren, a species we've yet to find on Patch 2.
Where to next? Mothy is out, hope there's something in it in the morning...
In the meantime let us know who needs evacuating from your outback.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Diesel fitter or diesel do

The Safari fell foul of the fuel panic today. In order to be able to go on a far flung safari well beyond the South-side at the weekend we needed motion lotion for the Land Rover. An orderly queue was waited in for what seemed like an interminable time. 
Eventually we were marshalled to a pump where we spent almost as much time filling as were were waiting in line! A king's ransom later (you really don't want to know how much - only a few pennies short of triple figures!!! - oh how we've all fallen foul of the useless politicians games/blunders) and we're mobile again and now looking forward to a bumper long as it's not bumper to bumper; shouldn't be at the ungodly hour we're intending to travel.
Patch 1 - didn't get very far this morning and nothing to report - distant Song Thrush singing in the far this evening during our game of footy on the little field - my it was eye wateringly cold in that wind.
Patch 2 - too hazy to see anything at all!
No pics today, and possibly none tomorrow either, unless the young un's find summat while their helping with our work;s garden - they often do!
Where to next? More of the chilly same.
In the meantime let us know whose queuing for what in your outback.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

A sunny day on the beach

The Safari lay awake waiting for the alarm clock to go off listening to the dawn chorus which is getting louder and more impressive every day now; no summer migrants yet though.
We reckon it’s the best its been for a coupla three years or more– despite the recent ravages of garden habitat locally during the last two or three summers – no ‘Silent Spring’ here thankfully. The Song Thrush could be heard from the Golden Triangle which was good as we’ve not heard him for a few days or more.
We didn’t get far on Patch 1 for the usual upside down dog reason; only far enough to watch the Goldfinches leaving their roost in a neighbours Holly tree.
Patch 2 gave us a hazy couple of hundred Common Scoters and two Red Throated Divers. A Skylark (P2 #51)  calling unseen overhead was a useful addition to the patch total
The morning was taken up with a very excited school group who found just about everything on offer between them. Namely...


Sea slug eggs- looked like a soft spotty horseshoe
Common Periwinkle
Common Whelk
Edible Mussel
Thin Tellin
Baltic Tellin
Bean-like Tellin
Iceland Cyprine – one of the worlds longest lived animals
Common Otter shell
Common Cockle
Prickly Cockle
Striped Venus shell
Rayed Trough shell
Banded Wedge shell – very important for the 10,000+ Common Scoter ducks that spend the winter just offshore
Common Razor
Pod Razor
Curved Razor – quite a good number of these which are not often found, perhaps because it has been so calm recently and they normally get broken up, being very fragile, in rougher weather.


Honeycomb Worm – stuck to the seawall, a nationally scarce animal
Spirorbis spirorbis tubeworm – inside an old pod razor shell
Pomatoceros  triqueter (?) tubeworm – inside an old pod razor shell
Sand Mason worm – only empty cases of silk stuck with grains of sand and bits of shell


Acorn Barnacles – not ID’d to species level for Year 2 children!
Green Shore Crab
Common Prawn – but no Brown Shrimps for comparison


Horn Wrack – looks like pale brown seaweed but is actually a colony of thousands of tiny animals a bit like coral

Sea urchins

Sea Potato


Common Blenny

Sea weeds

Gut Weed
Sea Lettuce
Purple Laver
Spiral Wrack

Edible Whelk - no one home!
Green Shore Crab
Green Shore Crab
After they’d been the tide came in an erased all trace of their presence. With the tide we had two Guillemots both still in winter plumage and the same Common Scoters were out in the haze.
The children had their lunch our gardens and while they were out there we saw they were making Daisy Chains and 'admiring' (=picking!) our Coltsfoot.
Daisy - from Day's eye; so called cos the flower follows the sun from east to west during the day
Coltsfoot - so called because the leaves are hoof shaped
Also known as Son before fathers as the leaves appear after the flowers
Where to next? More of the same without the gang!
In the meantime let us know who's been ransacking your outback

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Fine fare but fuzzy focus

The Safari gazed over a flat calm sea this morning barely a ripple made it to the beach. To the south was a herd of 18 Whooper Swans (P2 #48) ‘grounded’ on the sea if you can have such a thing.
3 Scaup flew past going south but then turned and went north as far as the eye could see – no, but wait; the two males had black rather than grey backs – Tufted Ducks (P2 #49); Patch 2 tick – get in!!!
There wasn't a lot on the beach besides a bait digger, a few gulls and a handful of Oystercatchers but nothing noteworthy.
By lunchtime the tide had just hit the wall and it was gloriously sunny which meant it was seriously hazy out to sea.
At least 3000 Common Scoters sat at the far side of the unfocusable middle distance while a bit nearer but just as fuzzy was one of the larger divers – but which one?
Try as we might we couldn’t find a mammal although a dark coloured Turtle gagging ballon looked very much like a seal's head at a glance. It was all was a bit ‘samey’ until two male and a female Eider flew past. This encouraged us to stick it out a little longer in the hope of a Red Breasted Merganser... not a merganser but the Fylde’s second, our first, Sandwich Tern (137, 50) came by – deffo worth hanging around a few more minutes.
Behind us we thought we heard a Mistle Thrush which would have been pretty good for here but it turned out to be  a Starling doing a very passable impression, it, or another - there were several on the wires, also did a good rendition of a Grey Wagtail.
Shame to waste such a bright sunny day without getting the camera out but nothing of significant interest within range :-(
Where to next? Rockpooling tomorrow – what exciting goodies will the kiddies find?
In the meantime let us know what's shimmering in the distance in your outback.
BTW Sunday's 'Wainscot' wasn't, it was a very worn Noctuid of some other species but deffo not a Wainscot sp.

Monday 26 March 2012

Sum mor moffs

The Safari's first job today was to empty a rather dewy moth trap. Same usual suspects but a few more individuals today; namely...
a single Early Grey, seven Hebrew Characters, 4 Common Quakers, a couple of Clouded Drabs and new for the year and no doubt first of many, a Light Brown Apple Moth.
Clouded Drab, same individual.

 Light Brown Apple Moth, first attempt with the manual focus on the new camera.

After the trap was ransacked we had an hour in the somewhat cold garden waiting for some vis mig...we got a little bit! Three birds in the hour, one didn't call so remained unknown, the last one was a Meadow Pipit, the middle one going over was Lesser Redpoll (136; 27) - result.
More chores were order of the rest of the day, so no chance of any more safaris on our long weekend, but Barbara the wood-house is now brim full and ready for next winter!
We kept an eye on the sky and an ear on the gulls but nothing went over today.
Another swim for Frank in the sea saw us paddling...jeeeeezzz that water is still flippin freezin!!! Not only was it freezin but flat calm too - couldn't see any fins or noses breaking the surface but we didn't have our bins with us.
Just now we've had a Pipistrelle bat wizz through the garden while we putting the dinner dishes in the sink.
Where to next? Patch 2 vis back in action tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what bounced over your outback without calling.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Mor moffs

The Safari was only able to do a bit of moff trappin today;  or more accurately was only able to open the box after last night's trapping session.
Four Hebrew Characters and a couple of Common Quakers were soon released leaving the more 'exciting' stuff which included this very worn and obviously overwintered Common/Smoky Wainscot - didn't know they did that!
A bit of gentle teasing with the paint brush got it to reveal its underwing but that too looks to be just about scale-free.
Suggestions as to which species anyone? And have any other moth-ers out there known either of these species to over winter?
Double Striped Pug was bound to turn up sooner rather than later.
 Early Grey is becoming a favourite
As hairy as a hairy thing from Hairysville, Arizona!
A Grey Heron being chased by a few gulls over the garden was garden bird no. 27 for the year.
After some errands an hour was spent on a very busy beach with Frank.
All too much fun in the end...
Where to next? Hopefully somewhere away from Base Camp tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's spark out in your outback
Our Extreme Photographer was out on the North Blackpool Pond Trail, without his 'proper' camera (dohh) and found this Tortoise Beetle, we think it's a Thistle Tortoise Beetle, Cassida rubinosa; if it is it's a first for the Fylde and pretty scarce/under-recorded in Lancashire as a whole...and they shouldn't be out til May. The Common Green Tortoise Beetle doesn't have the brown on the scutellum.

Thoughts anyone.
He also had 27 Small Tortoiseshells, a Comma, a Speckled Wood and two Peacocks - not a bad butterfly haul!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Not a bad day at all

The Safari's day started pretty well. We peered into the moth trap to find more than two Hebrew Characters!
In addition to four Hebrew Characters there were two Early Greys, two Clouded Drabs and a Common Quaker - not a bad haul.
Clouded Drab

 Common Quaker
And now our fave shot of the day...Early Grey...what a hairy little chappy!
The final moth out, squeezed in to the tightest corner and not immediately identifiable was this somewhat different and well marked variant of Hebrew Character.

The rest of the morning was spent in the garden, mostly waiting for the gulls to find us a raptor going over. they find the hazy conditions easier to deal with with their polarising eyesight - why don't they make bins with polarising lenses? Eventually they did..a Sparrowhawk, not one of the bigger, dare we say 'more desirable' species.
A loud honking from out of sight to the south heralded the low fly over of a pair of Grey Lag Geese (Garden 26), not an expected species for Base Camp although they were on the garden list last year too.
Several Meadow Pipits went over, mostly unseen, but unlike others nearby we failed to connect with any Siskins or Redpolls.
The camera was pointed at the feeders for a while.
Peek - a - boo

Inverts started to put in appearance as the temperature sizzled towards 20C. White Tailed Bumble Bees and a Peacock butterfly but our fave was a Drone Fly that kept buzzing us but kept out of range of the camera.
In range of the lens but extremely mobile was this tiny Zebra Spider on the garage wall. Shame we just dipped out on the focus.
Must try harder...or get him on a cooler day when he's less active.
Late in the afternoon a Goldcrest dropped in to the top of a neighbours tree (from where?) called a couple of times then immediately flut into the depths of the adjacent conifer.
Where to next? Hmmm...not sure yet.
In the meantime let us know what dropped in from on high into your your outback.