Friday, 30 November 2012

Nice but sort of expected porpoise

The Safari closed the front door onto a cold morning with more ice to scrape off the windscreen before going anywhere.
Once it was light enough to get outside Patch 2 was flat calm but it was difficult not to turn round and look inland at the post-dawn sky which was glowing with the colour of hot coals. The only clouds in the sky were jet-plane vapour trails which would later disperse and create a high level haze which significantly reduced the effect of the sun.
Good numbers of Cormorants went out to their fishing grounds but they went into the mist and out of view. It seems that the fish have moved further north and further offshore.
A couple of Red Throated Divers and a Great Crested Grebe were the best of the rest, so not a lot really happening. Given the millpond-like sea we were hoping for a mammal or two.
At lunchtime a mist had descended to the north and sun glinting strongly on the water to the south made viewing only easy straight out. Fortunately the sea conditions were just about perfect and we soon picked up the roll of a Harbour Porpoise, the third sighting off our coast this month making November the fourth most likely month to see them here, after April, January and March.
There were now seven Great Crested Grebes and an extra Red Throated Diver. Well over 100 Cormorants continued to lurk in the haze along with a fair number of Great Black Backed Gulls but they were more intent on bickering and squabbling with each other than foraging so we assume that there weren’t any fish and submarine predators about.
The high tide did bring nine Turnstones to roost on the wall, the calm conditions producing no waves or spray to force them to roost elsewhere.
Good job the school group came yesterday and not today as we couldn’t see any ships, rigs, turbines nor the snow capped peaks of Lake District’s or North Wales’s  mountains today.
Sorry no photos today.
Where to next? A family wedding tomorrow so if we're back in time and sober enough you might get part three of the Lancashire Raft.
In the meantime let us know what's rolling around in your outback.
Late update - Golden Plover heard over Patch 1 (P1 #42) while out with Frank. It is now confirmed that it's impossible to count the Magpies in Magpie Wood with the new street lights. We could hear 'several' moving about and calling as we walked underneath but could only see six!
At the end of November our lists stand at World 275; BI 189; P1 42; P2 87; Garden 46; Marton Mere LNR 96 (can we get to 100 there?)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Bubbling under

The Safari has been busy with a school group today so hasn't been able to get out and have a look see. Shame as the sea this afternoon, when we were looking at its 'natural resources, was like a mill pond and visibility was crystal clear absolutely perfect for cetacean spotting - hope it's the same tomorrow.
So you will have to endure the second half of our raft nonesense.
Here goes:-
6. Great Crested Newts – prehistoric monsters. The planners’ nightmare...don’t yer just luv em!

7. Salmon – we’ve yet to see this majestic fish leaping the rapids of safari-land – got to be one of the most impressive sights in nature. Unlike this sorry but impressive  none-the-less specimen we found a couple of years ago. Good to know good sized fish are coming back to our rivers - bring them on!

8. White Letter Hairstreak – Really glad to have these little stunners on Patch 1 so deffo taking them on the raft...Better take an Elm tree too but not a diseased one.

9. Wall – where’d they go? And more importantly WHY? Took this pic with our first digital camera years ago and don’t think we’ve seen one since! The habitat locally hasn’t changed too much and that patch of Fleabane is still there and there are others.

10. Garden Tiger – a widespread stunner and a real ambassador for moths to prove they aren’t dull brown things that flutter round light bulbs and eat your clothes. But hardly anyone ever sees them and they seem to be declining, certainly in the nearer reaches of Safari-land.
News just in is that they (and Jersey Tiger, not yet recorded in Lancs) are the Target Species for National Moth Night 2013 (8-10th Aug) - see you there!

So there you go - our Lancashire Top 10, ohh but wait there's loads more and in the event of not being able to get out tomorrow we have another five in reserve...ohhh lucky you!
Where to next? We're looking forward to a flat calm patch 2 but bet it'll be chilly out there.
In the meantime let us know what's bubbling under in your outback.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Best nip out quick while the rain's stopped and build an ark

The Safari is thinking of building a raft in the manner of Noah but our woodworking skills aren’t as good as his were. Just in case we get more rain like wot we had earlier this week.
Following David Attenborough’s programme  and JA’s blogs going onto our raft two by two will be the following examples of Lancashire and Lakeland’s wonderful wildlife.

1 Hen Harrier – should it be on the list as it is now extinct as a breeding species in Lancashire due to entrenched Victorian attitudes that need to be addressed SOON – will our new Police and Crime Commissioner believe that wildlife crime by the Establishment ought to be a priority, will he take up the baton? We can always use his website to let him know how we feel.

2. Grey Partridge/Black Grouse combo (declining ‘game’ birds - hate that expression, they’re hardly playing Monopoly or Cluedo are they?) – both are beauties; the former suffering from current land management (scorched earth-style) the latter needs trees on moorland edge – heaven forbid – but don’t we all to slow down some of that excessive water run-off we've witnessed recently. Competition with the seemingly increasingly popular non-native Red Legged Partridge could be an issue along with the general greencreting of our farmland for the Grey Partridge.
See which grouse the Moorland Association prefer  please follow the story by clicking the continuation to find out about ‘valueless scrub’ that Black Grouse need...we’ll be coming back to that and the Moorland Assoc later in Part Ducks.

3. Ladies Slipper Orchid – just such an exotic stunner and some plonker tried to dig IT up. We visited the plant a couple of years ago.
We do know the location of that mysterious second plant in the Yorkshire Dales and even went to see it (successfully) many years ago – even took some old fashioned film photographs to prove it somewhere.
Fortunately the re-introduction scheme now seems to be working well on a nearby nature reserve and other places

4. Jennings’s proboscis worm – a bizarre creature  

The only known population of Jennings'Proboscis-worm (Prostoma jenningsi) on Earth occurs in a flooded former clay pit, a man–made habitat. Which begs the question, how did it get there and where did it come from??? Why isn’t it anywhere else? 
More info about its status and protection here, here, here and here.

5. Grass Snake – we’re still to see any species of snake in Lancashire; we’ve found a sloughed skin 20 odd years ago and we’re desperately hoping that there are some left at the top secret location but that’s yet to be proven. If anyone has any direct evidence of them in Safari-land, eg dated photos, old note books etc we’d love to hear from you.
We have lots of circumstantial evidence word of mouth evidence but need something more concrete for a top secret mission.
At least if we do have some they aren’t going to suffer the same fate as these poor pythons – what is it about rich people and wearing formerly live animals – get a life and give them a life! Far too much real dead animal on Made in Chelsea (particularly the girls) - case in point.

250 Cormorants still feeding at the fish shoal. A bit more gull activity and some Red Throated Divers flying about was the best of the day. 
Shells have been collected for a project  tomorrow
 One of them we didn't recognise, the one in the middle
We eventually found it ont'interweb - a Sand Gaper...didn't realise they we so much bigger than Blunt Gapers. seen here with Common otter Shell, Native Oyster (quite fresh) and Iceland Cyprine.

This mornings moonset wasn't too bad.

Where to next? Little chaance of much tomorrow so Part Ducks of the Lancashire Raft.
In the meantime let  us know what's falling into the sea in your outback.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Pterodactyls galore

The Safari's day dawned dry but breezy and as we headed to work we could see the sea was to choppy to be able to find and cetaceans.
Once it became light enough we took the scope over the road to Patch 2 anyway and found that the visibility was much better than expected, the wind was a bit keen though.
The sea was indeed pretty chopped up and there was no chance that we’d see the/any dolphin(s). There might have been one/some out there as the constant passage of large flocks of Cormorants heading out to sea was impressive. We’d noted a couple go past before starting to count them; at least 550 went out of the estuary low over the waves and about 100 or so (less rigorously counted) came back in to the estuary at a greater height. How many were double counted is impossible to know. Not too far offshore there was a huge feeding frenzy going on with Cormorants all over the place. If it had been Gannets during the summer it would have been even more spectacular. The surface of the sea was dotted black with them, when they could be seen in the chop and the sky above was filled with them wheeling round looking for the best spots to drop down.
Not much else was with them, no more than a handful of gulls and no other fish eaters. Perhaps there were no mammals or predatory fish driving the shoal to the surface and the gulls knew that they were too deep and only accessible to the Cormorants.
Plenty of Common Scoters milling about in their usual way and a very dapper drake Eider was close inshore were the best of the rest.
Even though the wind was on the cool side had we been able too we would have given it a lot more time just in case anything else was drawn to the frenzy.
 Not so many at lunchtime – only 50 or so Cormorants still heading out to sea but no gull activity to suggest anything near the surface.
The supporting cast was just a couple of Red Throated Divers and a Great Crested Grebe were seen.
This article appeared in our local paper, obviously the press has picked up on the 2500+ birds/day disappearing from our lovely countryside. Rachel Carson might well have been right all along.
That’s about 2500 birds ‘disappearing’ every day for 46 years!!!
Luvin the mostly inane comments!

A big sarcastic “thank you” to the tw*t who has stolen/chucked the feeder by the office window.

At teatime Frank was eager for a trip around Patch 1 for a very refreshing change. The Peregrine wasn't on its ledge but a Fox in the Golden Triangle (how long is it since we mentioned there?) got Frank's engine re-tuned! A wander past Magpie Wood was informative - we could only see nine Magpies but the new street lights throw a totally different pattern of light and don't illuminate the higher branches of the trees half as well as the old lamps - fancy that street lights that light the pavement and road instead of the sky...woulja believe it!
Where to next? Another sunny day with light winds according to the forecasts, could be good!
In the meantime let us know what's doing the fishing in your outback.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Dolphin leads the way

The Safari hasn't had the best of days but it started very well indeed. We hit the gloom at the seawall and hoped to chance a few scans with the scope before the gloom turned into rain we could see it looming on the horizon. But almost as we put our eye to the scope a Bottle Nosed Dolphin did a large roll in the distance out where we had it/them on our watch day earlier in the month.
Downhill from that sighting with nine Great Crested Grebes and two Red Throated Divers being the best apart from the usual multitudes of Common Scoters.
The rain started and didn't let up all day, it barely got light. The puddles grew and the local roads are awash but at least we're not suffering floods like some folk.
Where to next? More of the wet same.
In the meantime let us know how wet it gets in your outback.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blackpool chainsaw massacre

The Safari has written today's news over on the Fylde Amphibian & Reptile Group's blog

Where to next? More Patch 2 grey drizzly stuff probably
In the meantime let us know who's wielding the weapons in your outback.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Nearly didn't get out

The Safari didn't get far today with things to do far removed from safari-ing.
Frank has just turned 9 YO recently and passed his 4th Gotcha Day so we took him to the beach for his first time since July and his knee injury. Needless to say he loved it!!!

We did have a reason to go down there - we have to collect enough shells for a school geography & art project in the week - 30 students are gonna needa lorra lorra shells - no idea what they are going to do with them...all will be revealed on Thursday no doubt, providing we've collected enough shells.
Most of the usual suspects in the shell-line were collected but there were a good number of Curved Razors, not something we see too many of, a single undamaged Iceland Cyprine and more than usual Common Otter Shells were eclipsed by a small Sand Gaper, rarely see those on our beach. Couldn't find any Tower Shells though - where are they?
SD had had a Harbour Porpoise earlier in the morning but a couple of quick scans with the bins rather than the scope at low tide only provided us with a Grey Seal.
Back at Base Camp a big flock of Long Tailed Tits went through the garden on their way to roost completely avoiding the feeders :-(
Nothing from British Columbia yet this evening.
Where to next? A date with a pond tomorrow, one of the best ponds in Lancashire that requires a bit of de-Willowing...see you there?
In the meantime let us know what's roosting in your outback.
Late Edit:- Nice group of Stellar's Sealions on the webcam this evening - no pic/screengrab sorry.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Two new mammals on the list

The Safari went to the dentist this morning which is in the same town as the plethora of Waxwings and after the pain of emptying the wallet we should have gone and collected a bag full of berries from the visiting beauties favourite trees.
Back at Base Camp we spent the remainder of the morning cutting wood in the back garden and heard a Goldcrest - very nice, flushed a Chaffinch when we put some kitchen bits in the composter and a heard a Dunnock. Overhead a Collared Dove whizzed between the houses so the garden isn't quite as dead as we thought.
A short walk with Frank was bins-less but not birdless. We found the finch flock on the North Blackpool Pond Trail but could only see and hear Goldfinches and Chaffinches - how we wished we'd taken the bins with us. Also present was a Coal Tit and a small flock of Long Tailed Tits.
Much later while waiting for the oven to cook our chips we decided to have a look at the Orca webcam, out in the channel off the northern end of Victoria Island British Columbia; usually by the time we get to it it's gone off air (7pm our time) but today we were much earlier and in luck!!!
As soon as we tuned in we saw a blow and minutes later several more but way off in the distance - well 10000 miles is quite far away. Before long an Orca breached and after a bit of practice we managed to get a 'reasonable' screen grab. How many of you have seen a live Orca in your sitting room?...and without getting wet!!!
Think we can just make out a tall dorsal fin which would make this tiny speck a male - it's a long way off as they are significantly heavier than African Elephants!
Also seen was a Bald Eagle and a lot of little blobs which were probably gulls.
All of a sudden the operator panned the camera round and zoomed in; this web cam has one of those the old Orca-cam we used to use could be manoevered from this chair although we never saw an Orca from it.
Not Orcas this time but two Humpback Whales, at least that's what we think they are (are we right Monika? Any around at the moment, or are they something else?)
Two Humpback Whales(?) and a Glaucous Winged Gull(?)
Swimming from right to left
Swimming from left to right
Unfortunately we narrowly missed a great tail fluke pic.
Where to next? Not sure what's happening tomorrow and we might not get anywhere near a safari...ohh dear.
In the meantime let us know what;s huge and swimming through your outback.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

How rank can a day get?

The Safari looked at  the weather this morning with disdain - simply awful! We tried a look at Patch 2 but gave up in the murk with very little visibility. On the bit of beach there was a fair sized flock of Sanderlings but we only got to 15 when the nearby dog walkers pesky mutt charged at them and they all took flight away from us landing well down the beach over our southern border...freakin numpties - some dog owners not Sanderlings.
The only thing we have for you is some more Starling action from yesterday afternoon with Young Un's AB and JS, joined a little later, by CR

Where to next? Nowhere if this rotten weather holds all day again. Still we've seen an optomistic blog today which noted that it's only a month until the nights start drawing out again and spring will be round the corner - still seems a long way off though.
In the meantime let us know if the rain eased up at all in your outback.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Murmurations from this evening

The safari has a second post for you this evening.

Not the best director in the world but hey this is one of the world's best wildlife spectacles and is so accessible to almost anyone - no need for expensive flights to the Maldives or the Serengeti - it's here and now at a pier/reedbed/woodland/town centre near you!


See yerz tomoz

Not a bad day after all

The Safari had a bad start today dark and dank and busy  in the office first thing. Then the rain fell heavily during the morning making us pessimistic about getting out at lunchtime. Luckily the rain had abated and we got out and soon found a a nice female Scaup sitting with a handful of Common Scoters...a good start but there wasn't anything else of note.
Just before going home time the clouds broke and a bit of a sunset started to appear which by the time we got to the pier was coming along nicely and showed off the Starlings murmurations to best advantage.

Pity there were no predators about to make them bunch up a bit more

Anyone fancy hazarding a guess as to how many are there - plenty more were arriving as we drove along the Prom.
 The the sunset started in earnest as we stopped off at the Post Office
Like we said not a bad  end to the day.
We got some video of the Starlings which may well appear on our Flickr site a bit later after we've faffed around a bit with  them.

Where to next? Wonder what Patch 2 will bring tomorrow - probably no lunchtime visit as we have a group in so the morning better be  cracker.
In the meantime let us know what's throwing the shapes in your outtback.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Wrong type of dolphin

The Safari looked somewhat despairingly at the sea today, far rougher than we had expected given the offshore wind direction, looking the other way the sunrise was quite spectacular but we couldn't find a decent location along the Prom to stop to get a pic.
We got the scope and went out but only lasted a few minutes - by eck that wind was cold!
Back in the office we had an email from an unknown person about a dolphin he'd found dead on the beach at the top end of town . Quite wrongly we assumed it was something to do with the local Bottle Nosed Dolphins that are being seen off Patch 2. His attached pictures, taken last night on his  phone showed it certainly wasn't one of the Bottle Nosed Dolphins
Blimey a Common Dolphin!

A sad end to a marvelous creature and wheels were set in motion to see if it was still on the beach or had been collected for an autopsy.
Searching through the records (only available to the end of 2001) we discovered it is only the ninth record of a stranded Common Dolphin along the inner Liverpool Bay coast since 1879, involving 10 animals! 
We're not sure about the Cheshire situation but can't think of any strandings along the Lancashire coast since then.
Live animals aren't that much more common. There being only three records from the various whale and dolphin websites between Cornwall and the Isle of Mull in the last six months! Off north Cornwall in the mouth of the Bristol Channel, off the Calf of  Man and off Ardnamuchan in Scotland.
So where did it come from, are there anymore as they are usually social animals and if there are more where are they now? Is this death something to do with the Bottle Nosed Dolphins, well the do do in Harbour Porpoises?
Must be still be some serious amounts of fish out there. By the close of play it still hadn't been found unless someone from the Strandings Scheme has already been down and taken it for analysis, colleagues will be checking the tidelines tomorrow just in case it reappears.
Not a lot else happening today but the sunset on the way back to Base Camp is a lot easier than sunrise to photograph from the Prom so we stopped for five minutes.
This chap must have seen it all before as he walked the entire length without looking anywhere else other than the toe of his boots.
In the end it sort of brightened up and faded out to nothing to write home about...five minutes enjoyed and well spent.
On a much more importantly sad note we read today that there are now 44 million birds less in our countryside than when we first picked up a pair of bins. Really feel we've cheated the young generations out of their inheritance. Something needs to bed done so that 44 million more aren't lost on their watch. The farmers incentives look like they may be lost or severely cut and that's going to be the start of the next 44 million :-( Maybe the farmers should be paid more for positive results, not getting anything until, for example, they raise the number of successfully breeding Yellowhammers on their farm by 50% or whatever - but who would be able to monitor that? We had the perfect workforce until very recently - the FWAG officers...boy do we need them back now! We've stepped up - have you?
The Peregrine was on the tower during Frank's walk.
Where to next? What'll be in the inbox tomorrow morning?
In the meantime let us know what's catching the last of the rays in your outback.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

We watched while the willow wranglers worked

The Safari had a late start this morning - well we didn't get in until the wee small hours last night - but by mid-morning we were out on site with the Rangers and volunteers who were wading in to the ponds at the little wetland to remove as much of the invading Willow as possible.
A large piece of Bog Oak was half buried in the long grass, we put a fork under it and prised it up to see who if anyone was underneath...just one rather large Frog.
Several Snipe flew round as the ponds were relieved of their young Willows. It looked hard wet work getting the drag rakes and spades under or through the roots.
This pond had been worked in for most of the morning when a Jack Snipe (W 275, BI 189, MM LNR 96) came up from almost under a foot, we missed another at lunchtime. Also at lunchtime a Reed Bunting dripped in to investigate the freshly turned mud and  Mistle Thrush flew over.
Only one 'sitting down on the job casualty' - can you guess which volunteer just had to sit down on  in the job?
A Kestrel hovered over the drier parts of the field for much of the time we were there and dived into the long grass once but we didn't see what, if anything, it caught. Very annoyingly our camera batteries died while trying to get some pics of it problem spares were in the pocket - but they'd been in the pocket so long they were dud too...doooohhhhhhh.
Frank was acting as foreman making sure that everyone was doing what they should have been and enjoyed a right royal slosh around in the water, something he's no been able to do for months, not that dogs should be in these ponds at all!

Before too long he got tired and had to be taken back to Base Camp and dried off...he's on the mend so will be enjoying more watery mayhem in the not too distant future.
Where to next? Back to that well known Bottle Nosed Dolphin hotspot; Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know who's up to their necks in it in your outback.