Friday, 31 August 2012

Not much doing today...until...

The Safari wasn't wrong; yesterday’s cool wind was the precursor to a very chilly night, our ears really felt the drop in temperature this morning – went down to almost as low as the average night-time temperature for November!
Driving up the hill a Sparrowhawk flew over us but there was no sign of any Peregrines on their usual ledges.
Once we got to the prom we could see how flat calm and inviting the sea looked and we were eager to get the scope to the wall. Needn’t have bothered! 
The rising tide may have flushed a Whimbrel off the beach, we didn’t see it but heard it making its way northwards along the water’s edge.
Out at sea there was very little, by far the most unusual sighting was of a Black Headed Gull way, way further out than we normally see them.
A handful of Sandwich Terns passed by and three were found roosting on the beach. On a distant sandbank to the south about 30 Cormorants roosted as others headed off in small flocks to their fishing grounds. A few Oystercatchers were probing the sand between the gulls on the beach in front of us but there were much high uncounted numbers further south, a couple or three hundred or so. Just three Sanderlings were found today.
Overhead we had a Grey Wagtail and two Pied Wagtails for a bit of audio-migration listening.
Mid morning the sound of rattling of keyboards in the office was broken by the urgency of our mobile ringing – a call, not a txt; that’s a rarity in itself in our office with its lack of reception! – MJ! “Oh my, what’s he found?” We thought.
A Shag – nice – SITTING ON THE WALL !!! Bizarre. Very feeble excuses were made and we grabbed the bins and camera and dashed out over the road by which time it had been flushed but only on to the sea a hundred yards down. Crippling close in views we enjoyed through MJ’s scope (thanks M); normally we just get a distant fly-past or brief surfacing views between lengthy dives in a choppy sea.

By lunchtime it had moved on and there was nothing of note to tell you about, but at least the weather had warmed up a bit and it was now quite pleasant.
Where to next? Doesn't look like the moffer will be out tonight but we should get a bit of a seawatch in the morning.
In the meantime let us know what's off the wall in your outback.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Desperate times

The Safari took Frank out very early after a fitful night of doggy puke - loverlyyyy - NOT: too much bonefor his tea! - A cold wind blew from the north this morning cutting through our thin jumper like a knife in the half light of dawn.
As we drove down the prom looking at the choppy sea a Wheatear was seen in an unusual place; on the tram-side railings at the top of the promenade just south of Chat Alley. Never seen one there before but suppose they have to pass by the very urbanised town centre frontage, once they’ve reached the southern end of the slightly more natural Chat Alley there’s not a lot of options but to head straight along the seafront to the dunes three or four miles to the south.
Once past the tower the new seawall offers some respite from the concrete in the form of the new grassed areas and associated puddles where invertebrate prey may be encountered; probably more in future years as they are still very new. The puddles offer the best chance as could be seen by R’Ouzel Puddle – now ‘repaired’. Piedy Puddle had us going a bit but the little white thing bobbing about was a small piece of litter and not a Pied Wagtail (or anything more exotic).
Patch 2 was a cold affair, positively a fleece and waterproof jobby! That wind was fierce; a taste of things to come!
The absence of other seawatchers at the shelter wasn’t a good sign and light wasn’t good either. A few Gannets, terns and Common Scoters, the current 'holy trinity', wombled about in the wobbly haze.
Slightly more exciting but hardly earth-shattering were half a dozen Sanderlings poking around in the up-wash from the breaking waves. We went back for the camera and fired a few shots off but it was difficult to hold the camera steady whilst leaning over the wall, which is a bit too high for this type of gymnastics, and that wind was making us wobble all over the place!!! How’s that for a few reasonably decent excuses for the poor pics.

Lunchtime was no warmer and still windy. A juvenile Common Gull picking up small bits of ??? from the water surface with three juvenile Herring Gulls was the first of the autumn and unexpected although given the date and wind direction it probably shouldn’t have been.
Out in the wobbliness the holy trinity were still about. Viewing conditions close in were excellent but anything after a few hundred yards wobbled in the haze like a jelly on a spin-dryer going full frap.
A bit of late news on the hoverfly front is that the Helophilus trivittatus photod at work last week is a new record for south Fylde, in fact it has hardly been recorded throughout Lancashire but we suspect that has more to do with a lack of recorders/reporters than any particular rarity value the species has. Another direct hit for ‘untidiness’!!!

Where to next? More of the same but hopefully something might pass by that add to our year list as we're currently a long way behind Monika with her 212 convincingly out-pacing our 196. It's only for fun and we've both had some superb wildlife sights to enjoy so far this year, but we really don't like being that far behind!
In the meantime let us know what's never been seen in the untidy parts of your outback.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Crash bang wallop

The Safari had a short ten minutes on Patch 2 this morning. A few Gannets, Common Scoters and Sandwich Terns were going through at varying distances.
For the first time in a long time it actually felt cold standing there in the wind – which being southerly should have been warmer.
Seawatching stalwart MJ was stood a few hundred yards away but we didn’t get a chance to go and chat to him so will find out what we missed later...please, please, please not another Sabine’s Gull.
Half way through the morning there was a right royal commotion from the gulls outside that had ‘raptor’ written all over it! Like a flash we jumped from our desk and dashed outside; everything was in the air, the Starlings were bunched up tight, feral Pigeons wheeled round unsure whether to land or not and the gulls circled still calling loudly but we saw nothing that might have been the cause of the disturbance.
Lunchtime came round and we popped overt he road again. It was much warmer now but along the horizon loomed a huge sinister looking, brooding dark blue-grey mass of cloud.
It didn’t look good out there but the sunshine picked out a distant flock of terns dancing for fish in front of it. After several attempts at counting we got at least 79 terns, a dozen or so Gannets and three darker spots were, from their jizz, skuas. Small parties of Common Scoters ‘fled’ from its path, mostly southwards. None of ‘our regular’ dolphins could be seen although at that range it is possible they were around but unseeable. Best of all was the flash of lightning, not often you get one of those in the scope’s field of view...a taste of things to come!
The wind was south south-easterly but the cloud drew ever closer from the west as the wind changed and once over the beach we could see its ominous form – it looked a real devil...better get some pics then!

 We went out to the front and then the back. 

Whilst stood at the back door a friend turned up to show us the truly awesome picture with his phone from the other side of the road, looks like we’d come in a few minutes too soon. As we were chatting a flash of lightning struck very close by, no time to count 1000, 2000...before the thunder crackled then boomed.
A few more flickers were more distant as the storm rolled inland where it looked like they were getting a pasting. We just got a short heavy shower. Then the sun came out and it was summer at last!
After the sun had been out for an hour or so walking down the corridor we noted a Small Tortoiseshell and a Small White nectaring on the Ragwort on the other side of the window. By the time we’d done what we had to do and gone back to the office to get the camera they’d both gone but the large numbers of hoverflies entertained us for a few minutes. A very quick and probably highly inaccurate count revealed at least 110 individuals of a variety of species including bees and one very small unusual looking hymenopteran – no pots in the pocket today :-( . 

A comparison count on the ‘tidy’ side towards the car-park gave us only 19 insects, almost all of those on a large Yarrow we planted as a small wildflower plug a couple of years ago that has somehow survived the ravages of the ‘tidy brigade’. Beneath it and just coming in to flower is a small patch of Sea Holly which again should be much larger but has variously been dug up and sprayed as a weed but has still just about managed to hang on and is doing quite well so far this year - the patch should be huge by now though!

Untidy but buzzin with birds n bees n hovers n butters etc etc - those Formiums will have to go sooner rather than later though

Tidy but more or less lifeless


Sea Holly - 7 years old and this is all there is due to 'weeding' & spraying!
Where to next? Hopefully more good stuff on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's enjoying the nectar in your outback.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

More dipping, today of all days!

The Safari had a couple of good friends round last night who brought round a cracker of a birthday cake. If it tastes as good as it looks (and we're sure it will) it'll go down a treat!

If anyone would like a gorgeous novelty cake for any occasion let us know and we'll pass on your details; prices vary with species of cake, size, decoration etc etc.
This morning Frank had his stitches out and the vet says he's coming along very well, in advance of where he should be 10 days post op so lets hope he continues to keep improving...still a long way to go before he's fit enough to do more than 10 minute lead walks 3 times a day.
After the vets we headed off for some birthday lunch and to twitch the long staying Spoonbill...lunch was excellent vut the spoony wasn't there!!! No ornithological birthday present then,,,to rub salt in there was an Osprey close by, possibly even overhead if the racket the gulls started making at 07.30, and then a Sabine's Gull past work this morning :-( Not to mention the two Bottle Nosed Dolphins very early in the morning.
We had an hour on the prom at Chat Alley this evening but there was nothing doing apart from a a handful of distant Gannets. We gave up when the very pleasant afternoon sun made viewing conditions almost impossible. The gull pics don't do the warm afternoon justice.

Where to next? Back to work tomorrow and hopefully not an empty Patch 2,
In the meantime let us know what the favourite flavour of cake is in your outback.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Worra lorra moffin

The Safari was joined by 19 other moth-ers, some staying longer than others but all eager to see what the light might draw in.
The bats were very disappointing with only one Pipistrelle making the detector titter early on.
First moth in was this Orange Swift as darkness began to envelop the park beyond the immediate are of he lamp.

While moths trickled towards the light some of the others went walkabout searching other areas of the park looking at any of the flowers they came across and returned with a nice fresh Herald.

Not sure what this little Tortrix is, Rhomboid Tortrix perhaps, or perhaps not!
The stalwarts stayed on after most of the others had left. Lucky we did as this Swallow Prominent hit the trap! What a stunner!!!
The full list of the night's catch, no counts as we were just showing the different species, colours and patterns.
The Rustic/Uncertain
Blastobasis sp
Agriphila tristella - probably
Light Brown Apple Moth
Old Lady
Silver Y
Orange Swift
Willow Beauty
Dark Barred Fruit Tree Tortrix
Swallow Prominent
Straw Dot
Lesser Yellow Underwing
Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing
Large Yellow Underwing
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Flame Shoulder
Flame Carpet
Dun Bar
Square Spot Rustic
Copper Underwing (not sure which one(s?))
Mother of Pearl
Dotted Clay
Small Angle shades
Angle Shades

Might be one or two more we've forgotten although we did make the list from the pots around the lamp at the end of the night.
As we were packing up a bat appeared from nowhere and nearly took our head off! Too close for comfort! No idea which species as we'd turned the detector off by then.
Some of the others saw a couple of Foxes a pretty good night all round!
Where to next? Got an extra day off tomoz, Frank gets his stitches out and we knock off yet another year off our wait for the telegram from Shh you know who...the countdown is getting relentless! Might get a chance to try for a species that spends most of its time asleep, that's if another Osprey hasn't flushed it.
In the meantime let us know what the bright lights attracted in your outback.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Safari spent two hours staring at a fairly empty sea, five close-ish Manx Shearwaters were the best of a limp bunch, then noticed a movement on the rocks below us...our first Wheatear of the autumn.

Also on the rocks, one of our faves...
A quick visit to the nature reserve gave us a nice peacock before the drizzle started and one each of Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. Not a great lot else but 19 Barnacle Geese flew in from the zoo and flew round and straight back out again!

A fly over Grey Wagtail brought the year's nature reserve total to 90.
Moffs in a mo! And the weather looks goooood!!!
Where to next? Not sure what's on the menu for tomorrow's Bank Holiday.
In the meantime let us know if it's autumn in your outback yet.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Land of the pinging capsid

The Safari was out on a very murky Chat Alley this morning. Not much visibility but in the limited visibility there wasn't much to see.
Best was a small green bug of which there were lots bouncing around all over the place including mostly stoting off us!

A few Sandwich Terns buzzed by and we managed just one poor picture from our cliff top position.

Continuous scans of the rocks didn't give us any migrants.
Where to next? Moth night tomorrow but we might get out for a while in the morning too, not sure where yet might depend on the weather.
In the meantime let us know what's been bouncing off you in your outback.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Not much ado about nuthing

The Safari once again drove down the prom with one eye fixed firmly on the sea, and what a sea it was with grey skies (= no shadows) and barely a ripple it looked bob on for seeing stuff.
There was doggy disturbance when we were passing Piedy Puddle so no birds there today.
Within a few minutes of arriving at work we had the scope on the wall and were scanning. Sadly the conditions were far superior to the fare on offer. It wasn’t long before we found two Grey Seals bottling fairly close together and then a third well away from them in the middle distance and that was about as good as it got! A few Sandwich Terns blogging about and a couple of Cormorants went past hardly warranted the ink in the notebook...all somewhat disappointing.
Still we looked forward to lunchtime and our next session with the scope. This was a little better. Conditions were still pretty good and we could see a long string of Common Scoters sat out close to the horizon, very difficult to count with any accuracy but we estimated between 1000 and 1500 were out there rolling around on the gentle swell.
The Sandwich Terns were still blogging about, the light so good that we could see the yellow tip to their bills at an enormous range! A small flock of Sanderlings flew south followed by a single Turnstone that may have been flushed off the outfall pipe by the rising tide but that was about the size of it. Of the earlier Grey Seals only one could be found...why couldn’t the conditions have been like this last week when we saw the whale sp? Woulda got a crippling views!
No chance to look around the gardens today although we did check the pond and found seven 3 Spined Sticklebacks – they’ll have to go next week!!!
Where to next? Bank Holiday weekend promises to be a wet one – nothing new there then but at least (at the moment at any rate) Sunday evening/night looks OK for our moth n bat night in the Rock Gardens.
In the meantime let us know what wasn’t happening in your outback.
We almost got away with a pic free post but walking up the front path at Base Camp we spotted a little green thingy on next door's window frame, so we leaned over the wall and potted it...a...

...Hawthorn Shield Bug nymph.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

We didn't get em all!

The Safari had a mixed bag today. The Peregrine was seen on the tower on the drive up the hill. On the prom R'Ouzel Puddle has been drained, filled in and resown with grass, but a new puddle has developed a little further down which held a (local?) Pied Wagtail this morning; still haven't seen a Blackbird on those new grassy areas!
A marine biology student and her tutor came in for a bit of advice/ideas about her dissertation and itt would seem that the distribution of the Sabellaria reefs is going to be well analysed over the course of the winter months.
The Young Uns came round to do a bit of work in the Untidy Garden getting it ready for the autumn, it is currently swarming with hoverflies at the slightest hint of sunshine. They found a roosting pug which we all thought was a worn Double Striped Pug. But we could all be wrong.
Only a few bees were around in the mostly dull conditions but this Buff Tailed Bumble Bee was truly enormous and not at all happy with our close approach with the camera, persistently waving her middle leg in the air as a warning for us to back off. A pose we somehow failed to capture on digital film!

After the borders had been attended to it was time to see how many 3 Spined Sticklebacks were left in the pond after the last 'battle' in the 'war' against stickles. A few days after our last netting session we counted about half a dozen still in the pond but yesterday we had a slow walk around the pond and counted at least 30!
With three of  us netting we soon had 50 in the bucket! No wonder there is virtually no invertebrate life in the pond these days.

We left the pond to settle and the fish to forget about the nets and went to have some lunch. After three quarter of an hour we crept up to the pond again and started fishing. before long we had added at least another 30-40 to the bucket!!! All were released unharmed to a site where there are plenty of their brethren and they can do little harm to the ecosystem...But how many do you think we'll see when we get to work tomorrow morning? There's bound to be more than two and if we don't get them out there won't be any pond life for the kiddies to study next season. We'll have another netting session later in the autumn and another around Easter just to make sure we either got them all or have the 'starting' population as low as possible to give the other animals a chance.
Next it was a site visit to our now well grown, and difficult to crash through, Water Vole site. And what a sight it was; the Purple Loosestrife was simply stunning.
One of the main reasons for going was to check on the locals and see if they had done the jobs we'd asked them too a while back - disappointingly they hadn't although that could have been due to the high water levels in the pond after all the recent rain. We couldn't find any Common Meadow Rue either despite it being quite numerous when we were last here, but it did look like Meadowsweet had had a bumper year as had the Spearmint. If access was easier we're sure this would be a crackin place to put a moth trap out.
The dull blustery conditions kept the larger insect down but we did find a nice bright male Common Darter who wouldn't stay still enough for a pic and later a stonking Brown Hawker.
Lifting the sheet put down for amphibians and reptiles only produced Red Ants and ground beetles although a very neat grass nest suggested a Short Tailed Field Vole had been active recently.
But what about the Water Voles - well we still haven't actually seen any, nor heard them 'plop' at this site but we did find some nice feeding signs and a latrine, in the pond too rather than the ditch so our habitat works have been successful but we think we'll need to put up a trail-cam to stand any chance of actually 'seeing' the cutesy little blighters!
So not a bad day's safari-ing and it just goes to show you mightn't see what you want to see but there is ALWAYS something of interest to be seen!
Where to next? Gotta be something on the sea tomorrow - we gave it a short go with precious little success this morning but Young UN AB watched a reasonably close Arctic Skua pass by on the rising tide a couple of hours after we'd left.
In the meantime let us know who's eating you out of house and home in your outback,

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Like a bat out of...

The Safari got a couple of crackin pics of an unknown species of bat emerging from its roost. Not sure what species, one that is found in the forests of Poland.

Shame that in the last one the bat is fuzzy but bear in mind they were taken in pitch darkness and there wasn't the opportunity to bring something in to the forest to set the camera up on in the right place to nail the shot. A valiant effort and two out of three ain't bad...if you'll excuse the pun.
The first Cuttlefish bone we've heard about in seven years of beaching was found by one of our Family Learning group today, they are slightly more numerous on the next beach to the south with maybe as many as two or three finds a year. Eggs have also been found on the legs of a couple of the piers in previous years so give us a few warm calm days and we might get the snorkels out.
Just hope it's not come from someone's Budgie cage and somehow found its way into a drain and thence in to the sea.
An undamaged Sea Potato (aka Sea Heart) was a super find as they are so fragile. You can easily see the relationship of sea urchins to starfish in the pattern of the five 'arms'.

A very quick walk last night round Patch 1 gave us a Buddleia bush full of butterflies including a rather rare this year Red Admiral which would stay still enough to for a pic in the windy conditions. We were luckier with  a couple of Peacocks.

Where to next? A bit of gardening mayhem then a sneaky safari in the afternoon.
In the meantime let us know what's newly discovered in your outback.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Plant ID by torchlight

The Safari and Little Chris (who ain’t so little) joined a group of enthusiastic moffers on the dunes close to work as dusk fell last night.
The plan was to torch – not with matches n petrol; Silly! – the Sea Couch grass on the embryo frontal dunes to see if the mythical Sandhill Rustic has at last leapt across the river from the much larger dune system on the South-side. To help us search and point us to the most likely spots we were led by County macro recorder GP and, to cover all bases and possibilities, County micro recorder SP.
With torches blazing we headed off in to the dunes where we immediately came across a few moths nectaring on Ragwort flowers. A couple were duly potted and ‘saved for later’.

On the seaward edge of the dunes we split up into small groups and walking along the beach gave each patch of Sea Couch we came across a good grilling, looking low down amongst the stems for thee tell-tale glint of eye-shine. This is probably where we went wrong last year as we were chasing airborne moths in the pitch black across the dunes with flailing nets like demented cartoon characters.
The beach has a row of stout posts set about 10 yards away from the toe of the dunes to keep the mechanical beach cleaner out, the result has been a spectacular increase in embryo dune vegetation. Along with patches of developing Marram Grass, Sea Couch and Sea Lyme grass we found some very prickly Prickly Saltwort.

A few patches of this Atriplex sp

And copious mounds of the very attractive Sea Rocket.

None of these would have stood a chance of growing much beyond germination had the beach cleaning machine still been able to operate in this area. Now a team of volunteers remove all the man-made litter by hand leaving the natural flotsam where the tide or wind dropped it. Have to say it has made the beach much more attractive although we’d happily bet the ‘tidy brigade’ don’t like on the beach! Who ever heard of such nonsense???

We reached the northern end of the beach and it was time for us to head for bed; the others started a new search south from the original starting point but enquiries today revealed they didn’t have any success and although a Red Sword Grass moth was a good find it wasn’t a Sandhill Rustic.

Under the light from the streetlights we delved in to upr pockets for the potted moths and tried to get some pics by the light from LC’s mobile, one stayed still(ish) the other was quick off the mark and was soon running up our sleeve in true Kate Bush style

(Met her briefly before she was famous and got a signed pic of what was soon to become the cover of her first LP – a 12 inch disc of black vinyl plastic containing vibration induced analogue music for younger readers – cracking lass! Brilliant artist without her innovative stage style there would probably have been no Madonna etc – ahh well can’t have everything!)

Both are probably White Line Darts.

Little on the sea today and what there was can’t compete with yesterday’s highlight – a Hawker sp way way offshore! Was it migrating? If so would it have been a Migrant Hawker ;-) ?

This morning we had two trios of Dunlins and five Gannets fly south counted by two Great Crested Grebes going the other way...hardly breath-taking.
Our lunchtime session was worse following shortly after a deluge of either biblical or monsoonal proportions – take your pick but it was flippin heavy and all went dark.
Apart from a couple of flocks of Cormorants heading out of the estuary to the favoured fishing grounds nothing much seemed to be happening.
We looked beyond the Cormorant in to the face of another dirty black cloud and wondered if that was going to land on us too. As we stared we began to notice little white pixels that were terns fishing in the far distance. Concentrating harder we realised there were quite a few, may be as many as 20, and where there are terns feeding there are often skuas at this time of year. We watched and waited.
As time ticked by the flock grew in size and got perceptively closer. By now there must have been at least 100 terns and several dozen gulls including a couple of Great Black Backs.
At last we saw what we were searching for the unmistakable jizz of a harrying skua – a pale phased bird. In the end we might have seen as many as three skuas but they were very hard to follow at that range. The final score of terns as the first splats of rain fell was about 150 joined now by half a dozen Gannets too.
With the rain threatening to be double torrential again it was time to beat a hasty retreat – in the end we only copped for the edge of the storm and had a heavy shower quite unlike the cloud burst earlier.
Where to next? The beach beckons again tomorrow as we entertain the final family group of the summer holidays.
In the meantime let us know if the puddles became lakes in your outback.
This arrived in the post this morning. 

Not going to open it just yet – got a cunning plan for reading it but we will be giving it a bit of review in due course...seems to be selling like hot cakes, certain more than our own missive.Says he's been in the conservation business for 25 years, that's nearly as long as us...wonder if he's any good!
If you’ve already delved in to its pages please keep schtum...bags n cats etc...wonder if cats get a mention; we know their not the favourite of the chap who penned the Forward!