Friday 29 June 2012

Shunshine n showers

The Safari was able to get back to Patch 1 yesterday after work and this time we took the camera, just in case the Tree Bees were about. After a wet and dark thundery morning the sun was now out and it was warm and  sticky...excellent invert-ing conditions.
Our quarry was seen almost immediately but was across a wide expanse of Brambles and point blank refused to come any closer. Nothing for it but to try to get a record shot or two. We leaned against the very prickly shrubbery arm outstretched and pointed the camera in the vague direction of the bee, which was deep in shadow. With the sun over our shoulder we couldn't see the camera's screen so just pressed the shutter and blasted away...not the best results but if you turn your head to the right, squint hard and de-focus your eyes you can just about make out it is a Tree Bee.

The last pic in the sequence shows its big white bottom quite nicely - how these things get airborne must be an aeronautical engineers worst nightmare!
Whilst hoping it would come closer - it didn't - we mooched round snapping away at the other invertebrates around and they were in abundance. We saw our first Meadow Brown of the year, shed loads of bumble bees of various species, solitary bees, a lot of Honey Bees, bee mimicking hover flies, beetles and two dueling Large Skippers, one returning to his look out post after patrolling his territory and seeing off his neighbour.
At the far end of the Bramble thicket we spotted a burnet moth climbing to the top of a grass stem...A lovely fresh Narrow Bordered 5-spot Burnet.

Not a bad half hour session...and we take back some of what we said about the current crop of juvenile females. There were two girls from the local secondary school in the drier pond catching and admiring the tiny Froglets; wonder if they were doinfg it for fun in their own time or as past of a school project - either way they seemed to be having a great time.
No Patch 2 today as we're on a day off. we did have some chores to do and one of those meant we were able to revisit the wildflower meadow at the health centre - here's the view from the bonnet as you park your car...stunning!
One of the biggest threats to this meadow may not be mowing but atmospheric pollution, read somewhere the other day that locally nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere is in the order of 20kg/ha/yr - that's a lot of fertiliser on plants that could really do without it.
This arvo we had another wander down to the Tree Bees and met up with CR. On the way we spotted some gormless nerk, probably the landscape gardener, had trimmed part of the Philadelphus hedge along side the Golden Triangle...nothing wrong with that apart from his done it the day before it was about to burst into flower...what possesses them??? In fact there is no need to ever trim this side anyway, it's only against the field and the wind carves it back in the winter! The white flowers above right of the oval are on the top of the 'inner' hedge and sow what this side should look like right the way down to the ground - surely the most inexperienced landscape technician (won't call them gardeners) can spot and know the significance of flower buds - - numpty!!! Wouldn't let them loose with scissors never mind power tools!

Also seen on the way round was the Peregrine sat on the tower, no long lens with us today and it was a bit dull. we took a series of pics and by the time we'd stood there a few minutes he was clocking us
Then we got all arty when we saw the lovely pinks of the Sycamore seeds alongside the path.

The Butterfly Zone was busy. Loads of Large Skippers, several very mobile Meadow Browns, a Holly Blue, a  Red Admiral and a Large White. We had our first Silver Y moth of the year and shed loads of these tiny Straw Dots.
Tried something a bit different with one particular Large Skipper.

The bees weren't so numerous as yesterday and we only 'may' have had a brief view of our intended quarry. We did see a huge queen Garden Bumble Bee (Bombus hortorum) and a chunky queen Red Tailed Bumble Bee but nothing big  with a gingery thorax.
A few hoverfliees were about including both forms of the Volucella sp which mimics white and red tailed bumble bees. This one is Chrysotoxum festivum.

Still no Tree Bees but we did bump into a confiding Magpie.

Cloudy spells allowed a closer approach to the Large Skippers but still not the Meadow Browns.

A very fresh Small Tortoiseshell was also seen, almost not seen was Serengeti Frank! Where's those Wildebeest Frank?

A Dog Rose was just itching to be photographed - did anyone else make itching powder out of the hips many years ago when H & S in schools didn't exist.

Where to next? A breezy night might make an earlyish start on the Prom an option.
In the meantime let us know what was doing its best to avoid you in your outback.

Thursday 28 June 2012

More surprises

The Safari managed to get out on a full Patch 1 walk yesterday evening and after a day of surprises at work was granted one more by the Surprise Gods! Nothing appeared anything out of the ordinary as we climbed the hill, rounding the corner Frank’s nemesis Blue and his two hench-dogs weren’t at the gate ready to pounce and the Peregrine wasn’t on the tower, all seemed normal. At the Golden Triangle it was good to see a Song Thrush collecting food for hidden nestlings and an unseen Greenfinch sang loudly. We walked into the park and immediately heard a Blackcap and saw a Speckled Wood, nothing unusual there. We watched the butterfly flit along the track in front of us and once at the more open area of the Butterfly Zone it hung a right over the Bramble patch. Something rather large on the Brambles caught our eye...a huge Tree Bee, very possibly Blackpool’s first record (Anyone know any different?). We watched her for a good few minutes but no flamin camera!!! Gee are they a bonny bee!
A Chiffchaff was also singing on and off. Frank decided he wanted to wander round the rough field so we followed him – he dived straight into the filthy puddle – bad dog! After dragging him out (not quite by his ears!) we thought he best have a mooch through the long grass to dry off a bit...but then he found another puddle, again muddy – he did disturb a couple of Large Skippers and a little further on another couple although it could have been one of the first doubling back and a third.
It became rather humid as the evening wore on and after we’d woken up from the dream that Spain v Portugal was a good match we took Frank out. Several moths were seen, one of which was probably a Brimstone.

(Old pic from the moth trap)
This morning saw us back on Patch 2 where there was some of the most ominous cloud formations we’ve ever seen fortunately drifting northwards away from us, we hoped to get a pic but by the time we’d got back to the office and the camera they’d dissipated. Talking of cameras, one of yesterday’s dunked ones seems to be fine (the more expensive) but the handy little compact isn’t responding to treatment yet.
Three Grey Seals and one of the big lumps of driftwood were seen along with the lone male Common Scoter, a dozen or so of his friends flew south at range followed a few minutes later by another 75 or so. Also at range was a skua sp which disappeared once it dropped below the horizon. Three pairs of unidentified terns made their way southwards as did another surprise, three Mute Swans, a Shelduck also appeared out of the gloom to the north – were they all escaping so rotten weather?
At lunchtime we got the periscope from the cupboard and headed off to the beach. No good! Too dull today due to a thunderstorm brewing out at sea. There were some good flickers of lightning including one massive one bouncing along the base of the clouds for about 10 miles and a couple of others that forked into sea.
We tried to get pics of the Plumose Anemone but now think a bright sunny day is needed along with a dark cowl over our head – we’ll get there in the end!

Another anemone was seen in the same pot, this one bright orange, Elegant Anemone, Sagartia elegans - thanks to  DB for the ID. Easier to get a pic of it from above the water surface even if the shutter speed is still too slow. 

A meander along the beach before the deluge arrived gave us plenty of Sea Potatoes, a few more Hermit Crab-free Edible Whelk shells and two clumps of Squid eggs.

With large drops of rain landing with decided thuds on the beach we thought it best to leave and let the fishermen down on the water’s edge be the target for any more lightning that might be around.

Where to next? A day off tomorrow then the weekend so anything could happen! Who knows- even the moth trap might get an airing!
In the meantime let us know how hot n sultry it was in your outback

Wednesday 27 June 2012

A day full of surprises

The Safari wasn’t out long as usual on Patch 1 but still managed to get a patch tick when a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls (P1 #36) flew over calling loudly and causing a more than a bit of panic amongst the rooftop nesting Herring and Lesser Black Back Gulls. Just goes to show how little we’ve done on the patch this year if we’ve had to wait a few days short of a full six months to find this species AND we’re still waiting for a Patch 1 Common Gull!!!
The drive to work showed a slightly choppier than of late sea and nothing again on R’ouzel Puddle. Grabbing the scope we headed over the road to strain our eyes into grey murk for...wait for it...a distant Grey Seal and a couple of Sandwich Terns...and a silvery something floating in the distance, possibly some inflatable cartoon character or other – deffo not the driftwood from yesterday which had disappeared off the beach.
We settle down at our desk and began the days toil. Not long after our second brew of the morning we got a txt from a colleague telling us she was at a site and it was a sight worth seeing, a quick conversation later and the Land Rover was out of the car park and pointing north to a new Health Centre complex. Here the landscaping had included much groundworks and some wildflower sowing along with SUDS – Sustainable Urban Drainage – pulling into the car park we were met with a veritable riot of colour and life – WOW – IMPRESSIVE. A school group was also on site planting wetland plants into the drainage swales – EXCELLENT. A PERFECT foil to the doom n gloom about ‘over-tidying’ we ranted on about yesterday.

We met the landscape manager who was really enthusiastic about what he and his team had created. It’s to be hope the site’s top brass don’t see it as ‘untidy’ and order someone to mow it to death although we did discuss management and maintenance options to hopefully head that nonsense off at the pass.
Whilst there we spotted a plant we didn’t recognise – it may be ‘just’ White Campion but we don’t think so the leaves aren’t right. BTW the some of the Red Campion seedheads at work have Campion moth caterpillars in them.  

Yellow Rattle was good to see as it should help keep the longer grasses at bay. 

Although it wasn’t sunny the place was alive with bees and we saw a spankingly fresh Small Tortoiseshell, a Common Blue, a pair of dancing Holly Blues and this rather battered Small Copper.

Back at the office butties were rammed down our cakehole so as we could get on the beach and try to photograph the Plumose Anemone. We couldn’t; our sneaky plan of putting the camera in a placcy bag failed when the bag in question sprung a leak and drowned the camera – good job it wasn’t the new posh camera...have an even more cunning plan involving a periscope tomorrow!!!
With a failed camera we wandered around a bit on the beach spotting goodies like Squid eggs! Nothing for it but to race back to the office and get the good camera. Never seen Squid eggs before although we have discussed with others the possibility of snorkeling around the pier legs in summer if the water ever gets warm and clear enough looking for Cuttlefish.

Plenty of Necklace Shells about and still alive too. 

A few Edible Whelks were found and checked for Hermit Crabs, the last one did have a crab but ‘only’ a very small and shy Green Shore Crab.

More Necklace Shells were found including some with their foot out and a couple with the prickly piggy-back riders Hedgehog Hydroids – at least that’s what we think it’s called.

And we got our best, but not really any good, pic of the Plumose Anemone...

Better luck with the periscope tomorrow? We’ve a feeling it’ll the periscope will make it too dark for photography but we can but try and see what happens.
Where to next? Who’s going to have to try to beat the Germans; Spain or Portugal?
In the meantime let us know what surprises lay in wait in your outback.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Half hour blast on the beach

The Safari noted some articles in magazines today. The first two were by 'Twitcher' in British Wildlife both of which struck a chord. (20 quid of anyone's money well spent IMHO) The first about youngsters was particularly relevant in that we had a horde of rampaging young naturalists having great fun laying waste to our habitats yesterday but how many of whom will take that lesson and enjoyment further when they are older? Fortunately our Young Uns don't conform to his stereotype and do go out birding and other wildlife-ing even on their own unlike Mark Cocker's observations "So what is different today? One critical development I notice is the almost total absence of representatives of my childhood self from today’s countryside. In the last 20 years I cannot recall seeing a teenager birdwatching by themselves.

Britain’s deep collective anxiety about paedophilia has devastated the possibility of solitary activity for children. It means that there are no young people of my daughter’s generation wending their way through a self-motivated childhood of observation and intimate encounter with nature to a point where they have highly developed field skills. It means that one whole route to becoming what the grand old man of birds, Ian Wallace, would call ‘purposeful observers’ has been shut down completely.
Hopefully they'll instil their love of all things wild on their girlfriends, when they come along, and maybe just maybe entice them away from the shallow nonsense that is make-up, fashion and Z-list celebrity that seems to be overwhelming many of the juvenile females of our species.
(He was a contempory of ours at UEA but we don't remember him from the Bird Club...having said that he probably doesn't remember us either).
The other was on the cover of either Bird Watch or Bird Watching magazine, the one with the eagle on the front, when we were waiting in the queue at the pet shop...the article headline was something about being tidy could be causing a mass extinction...something we've been harping on about for ages...and trying to get our colleagues in the Council to take up...need to get a copy and read it...
Enough meandering on with today's show...
This morning R'ouzel Puddle was devoid and Patch 2 almost so with only a solitary male Common Scoter and handful of scattered Sandwich Terns and three Great Crested Grebes to be seen on an otherwise perfect 'cetacean sea'. Also out there was a huge piece of driftwood, but perhaps not quite so big as this monster stranded on the beach.
 Not a lot was o the beach but we blasted away at the nearest Herring Gull for the sheer hell of it. Caught in flight too which almost made a cracking pic but with the gloom it was  just a bit to fuzzy so hit the digital cutting room floor.

At lunchtime we headed on to the beach after news of our coasts first Plumose Anemone yesterday...well found by our marine biologist friend DB. we soon found it, exactly where she'd told us - well it wasn't going anywhere was it?!? But again could we get a decent pic of it through the water...need a waterproof camera or at least a holder for the cameras we've got.
Did find a very freshly deceased Masked Crab complete with seaweed it's attached to itself to help camouflage it.
we spoke to a couple of fishermen coming off the beach who'd had nothing but did have a big bucket of Green and Black Lugworms. They asked a few questions about lugworms we couldn't answer hence the link from our research.
They were genuinely gobsmacked we'd seen the Bottle Nosed Dolphins a couple of weeks ago, likewise we were gobsmacked when they said they'd had a short session off one of the piers last week and caught eight different species of fish including a Tub Gurnard which have only in the last decade moved into our waters perhaps as a response to climatically changed warmer conditions.
Where to next? Might well try again for a pic of the Plumose Anemone.
In the meantime let us know what's sneaking in to your outback almost unnoticed.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Tiny success!

The Safari and our Extreme Photographer met up with AB at his Smooth Winged Conehead site. He'd got there a little before and already had one in the net...this was gonna be easy!
We swept the vegetation and got another two, yes that was all.
The pond was beautiful in the afternoon sunshine with Azure Damselflies everywhere and a couple of  4-Spotted Chasers whipping round after each other. The netted small stuff was varied and interesting with a plethora of beetles, mirid bugs and spiders, none of which we knew the names of.

Nursery Web Spider?
A rather dapper Frog

But all the fuss was about the coneheads - at the time we believed these to be the first record for the Fylde but alas AB has been beaten to it that six years!
Still cracking little beasties though - wonder how many other marshy areas along the North Blackpool Pond Trail have them, or other ponds in town for that matter...only one way to find out...get sweeping!

Back at Base Camp we found a Small Angle Shades on our new brick wall- National Moth Night has been and gone but this just about made up for not being able to get the trap out at all over the three nights

Brilliant afternoon, beats twitching a Little Swift or dipping a very late news White Winged Black Tern
Where to next? Just the small matter of a footy quarter final to be enjoyed/endured.
In the meantime let us know what the nets in your outback have revealed.