Friday, 31 May 2013

Funny coincidences or just making silly connections

The Safari went to the moth trap full of eager excitement as it hadn't rained overnight...but the dew!!! It was almost as wet inside from that. We reckon there's gotta be a big hole in the trap and all the moths are sneaking out as once again there was only one to wrangle out. It turned out to be a little more interesting than your average moth..a darker than normal form of Scalloped Hazel, so much darker than normal that it isn't illustrated in the field guide.
After breakfast and a morning's worth of chores we headed to Chat Alley to have a look at the sea for cetaceans. It was lovely and warm in the sun but the breeze was a bit cool - still it was t-shirt sleeves weather for a very refreshing change...but not for long, the breeze picked up and the jacket went on! We didn't find any Harbour Porpoises but a female Grey Seal was eating a large flat-fish just beyond the gentle surf and another was a similar distance from shore away to the south.
Bird-wise it was very quiet, a few Gannets went by mostly very distant, two Swallows were seen high over the sea heading north but the best sighting was the flock of 15 Kittiwakes also going north. With increasing chill and lack of wildlife we called it a day after an hour.
The ships were perhaps the high-light of session. A huge tanker was moored at anchor in an usual place off the mouth of the river about five miles away...the British Falcon and to the north a bit further out at around seven miles was the huge wind farm construction vessel Pacific Orca.
These two vessels are topical in that there is a very un-British falcon lurking around Lakenheath at the moment which LC was lucky enough to be able to go and see last weekend and he reports  it's an absolute stonker. Also topical is the current Kestrel survey by those great guys at the Hawk and Owl Trust which you can all get involved with very easily.
And the Pacific Orca ties in very nicely with our arch rival Monika in our annual Year List Challenge; wonder if she'll be out an about giving us a run for our money this weekend?
Talking of the weekend we'll be having a go at the 24 hour Garden Bioblitz but before we start that the mothy will be out again tonight but it might be a bit cold with that wind. Even our sister-in-law is having a bash at it and she's not normally noted for her safari-ing being dangerously, possibly fatally so, to Horsefly bites; such is the inspiration of Springwatch - well done guys.
While preparing this pile of nonsense a movement outside the sitting room window caught our eye...
Where to next? In between bioblitzing we may be able to get out on safari somewhere local.
In the meantime let us know what's providing a  dodgy coincidence in your outback.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hitting the higher ground

The Safari has been out testing lungs, heart and calves to their limits...well we're not as fit as we used to be!
We went first to the river where we hoped to find a Dipper. We quietly sat for over half an hour listening to the sound-track of the day, Willow Warblers! Fish, probably Brown Trout, jumped taking emerging Mayflies from the surface. Green Veined Whites fluttered by. A Robin played at being a flycatcher and a pair of Pied Wagtails skipped around the weir looking for insects for their growing brood. A female Mallard came out of the undergrowth with half a dozen very well grown youngsters while a Chiffchaff sang with a beakful of bugs above our head - all very nice but no Dippers - yet!
We moved to another nearby site and soon had cracking views of a singing Garden Warbler, views much better than these two pics suggest.
If Willow Warblers were the sound-track for the day then May Blossom, Hawthorn, was the scent of the day. We spent ages watching the river again but only found several Grey Wagtails, no Dippers, just this nest that looks to be in use but no-one visited and no sound was heard not surprisingly seeing as how its under the busy motorway and above the babbling river.
Time to move to another site and this is the one were we tested our legs by trundling up hill and down steep dale on the search of what we might find.
We turned a lot of rocks and found two of these...
This was the small and more slender of the two the other had lost the end of its tail not too long ago. We found them difficult to wrangle for a pic on our own. We really like Slow Worms but we couldn't find any Adders. On a warm muggy day like today Green Tiger Beetles are often out at this site but we didn't see any :-(
More Green Veined Whites were seen and a single male Orange Tip
Overhead a Lesser Redpoll was song flighting and up the hill in the Heather we watched a Red Legged Partridge giving it some serious vocal welly, but we refuse to put it on our Year List Challenge.
There were some others about on the main path, including some young families which was good to see,  but we were well away from that and well away from all the modern world entails, we had no mobile signal, could here no cars and saw no planes going over - bliss!!!
Just before it was time to turn round and head back to the Land Rover and Base Camp to get Wifey's dinner on we saw a crackin little butterfly, a pristine Small Copper.
The walk back took us past a lovely patch of Bluebells, still out very late into the late spring.

Final sighting of the trip was a Peacock butterfly but we would really have liked to find a Green Hairstreak or two.
So no Dipper - dipped out; have to save them for another trip out this way.
Only one moth in the mothy this morning - and a lot of rain water :-( an out of focus phone-cammed Garden Carpet.
Where to next? Not sure what's happening tomorrow, chores n other stuff but no doubt there'll be something of interest in the garden here at Base Camp.
In the meantime let us know if you're fit for nothing in your outback too.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cull required no doubt

The Safari was coming to the end of a stint of gardening when we received a txt from Young Un JS saying that there were at least two Spotted Flycatchers at the Community Orchard on the North Blackpool Pond Trail so once a much needed cuppa had been drunk we set off down the road. We're glad we did it was beautiful out there this arvo. Warm and quite with plenty of insects about. 
Song Thrushes were singing all over the place and we saw a brood of three well fledged youngsters, several Swallows a few House Martins (NBPT #60) and Swifts (NBPT #61) wheeled through the tree tops after the flying tiny hordes. At first we couldn't find any of the Spot Flys (NBPT #62) but eventually patience and perseverance won the day and we found one high in the canopy of a Sycamore tree. Is it just us or does there seem to be more Spot Flys than normal this year.
A Chiffchaff was seen with a beakful of insects for a hungry brood deep in the undergrowth. Robins, Dunnocks and a female Chaffinch were all out foraging too.
We saw our first Speckled Wood of the year but so had a Great Tit and now said butterfly is now being converted into avian biomass - should be cull of these damnable butterfly predators!!!
We just stood and watched and listened to the activity around us for what we thought was a few minutes but looking at the time was nearer three quarters of an hour - so easy to lose yourself in this wildlife m'larky.
Moving on the wildflower area we had a look for Bee Orchid rosettes, we found a few but most had been damaged probably by being trampled by dogs!
The undamaged ones we found are coming along nicely and could well be in flower, just, at their normal time of the end of the first week of spring.

Not much else in flower apart from Lesser Trefoil  
and we did see our first opening buds of Red Clover.
The Cowslips are nearly finished and nearby there were a number of Black Slugs (Arion ater), this one was a bit shy and would put its tentacles out.
We like grasses with all their intricate forms and flowering times, a good show of Meadow Foxtail is coming to a end and the first purple plumes of the lovely Yorkshire Fog are opening, if only it was called Lancashire Mist ;-)
Across the way a Sedge Warbler sang as did a Lesser Whitethroat by the railway line.
An extremely pleasant way to spend the last bit of a good afternoon.
Where to next? inspired by the clip on Springwatch about the orchard we've already got the mothy fired's to some moffs in the that'd be a change!
In the meantime let us know if there are more than the usual numbers of Spot Flys in your outback.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Will someone please move that Jet Stream a few miles north!!!!!!!!!!!

The Safari has been out all day today and 16 hours after meeting up with mah boy we're sitting here typing away still soggy!
We drove two hours down the motorway leaving Base Camp just after 05.00 meeting LC for seven and first having a look at three Common Terns another birder had told us about. When we scanned the reservoir we found a fourth! Loads of hirundines including several dozen House Martins but very few Swifts.
Then it was off to an increasingly wet Cannock Chase. We had some target birds and other wildlife but from the moment we set out we realised that some or all of these were going to be a struggle.
Anyway before walking too far we heard a Tree Pipit (168) we looked at the tops of the nearest trees until LC called out it was singing from a much nearer low tree stump. we enjoyed close views and a little more song until it walked over the back of the stump and was lost from view. minutes later a bird shot across the track in front of us and it landed on a distant tree and called...a Cuckoo (169), in fave despite the rain the remainder of the day at almost all sites we were accompanied by the song of several Cuckoos - just a brilliant soundtrack for such an otherwise miserable day.
Can you tell it's a Cuckoo?

Unsurprisingly in the heavy rain the hoped for Woodlarks and Crossbills didn't put in an appearance called . A Green Woodpecker called in the distance and a Jay flew over but very little else was seen or heard...all the while we were on the look out for artifacts lying on the ground in the heathland which could provide a refuge for Adders, Slow Worms or other reptiles...but no so far...time to move on to another site.
Another wet walk ensued this time on the hunt for a Pied Flycatcher or two. The woods here at this second site were absolutely devoid of birdlife. So now soaked to the skin we headed back to the car and the flask of hot coffee. A different route back gave us a little purple patch of a few trees inhabited by a nice selection of birds including a very nice pair of Wood Warblers, a pair of Treecreepers, a Nuthatch, Great Tits, and a Spotted Flycatcher and continuous calling Cuckoo - all good stuff!!!
Our next stop had us venturing through some very wet and drippy Ancient Woodland. Some of the Oaks are very old pollards, we were remiss and didn't look to see if they were Sessile or Pedunculate Oaks.
ISO just plain silly!
Many of the larger Silver Birches had Birch Polypore brackets sticking out of them but one had a rather large Hoof Fungus...always a trear.

We identified an old broken dead tree which looked 'just bob on' for a Redstart...we saw a bit of movement in the canopy nearby, a Chaffinch, another movement was a Treecreeper and another a Nuthatch but then guess who came to the party - Yes a male Redstart with food...a nest - told you it looked a good bet! We used the time he was away foraging to gain a bit  of ground and get a little closer without causing any disturbance - not something we wanted to do on such a poor day.
Wandering further down the track gave us a woodpecker's nest almost definitely Great Spotted Woodpecker but better than that was  the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (170) we heard calling from the other side of the stream.
Double wet now we called it quits here and aimed for our butties and a conflab about what to do next; give up or try another wet site.
Butties were quickly chomped and we easily decided to have a bash at another site for the chance of Dartford Warblers. Finding the site was a bit tricky and we discovered later that we failed by a couple of parking areas. We had a look around in very heavy rain so even if we had been in the right place chances of seeing them would have been very very very slim. We did however get our best most prolonged views of Green Woodpecker that we've had for a long time, shame it was far too wet to get the camera out.
A look at the watch revealed it was time to head back up the motorway - well we hadn't seen everything we'd hoped for but given the weather conditions we'd had a really good day out with LC...and we have a good excuse to have to go back later in the year.
The next two hours was spent negotiating one of the most atrocious drives we've ever done with visibility down to the end of the bonnet at times. Thankfully we made it back to Base Camp in one piece...good old Land Rover!
Where to next? still got a coule of days left before we go back to work and anything could happen and anywhere could be visitited.
In the meantime let us know if the rain let up in your outback.
LATE EDIT - Just found out that the flippin Jet Stream has made temperatures in Finland, only 1200 miles away, soar to an unprecedented 30C+, melting their tarmac it's so hot...their average for this time of year is the same as our about 15C...the swines; why can't we have some of that?

Monday, 27 May 2013

Any thoughts?

The Safari is very concerned about the state of Britain's wildlife as are many others after the recent report unfortunate Cameron, Benyon, Paterson, Gove etc don't seem to think the environment matters or that some way it is something best got rid of in case it somehow gets in the way of economic growth or inspires children to ask 'awkward' questions. 
Another Buzzard-gate hit the headlines around the same time? How did they get away with it. I feel for Natural England, I have worked with their staff for many many years and think they are being given the foul end of a very shitty stick  from 'higher up'  at the moment.
There is no way any licences should be given to 'manage' a native species to protect what is essentially a pastime, and that includes shooting and fishing. In fact I would go as far as to say that licences should be obtained for 'sporting' purposes and that the release of none-natives eg Pheasants, Carp, etc should be strictly controlled and done on an area basis of (figures only intended as an example) 10 Pheasants per hectare. Any 'interference' with native wildlife would mean the loss of the licence for x years. And no releases with a mile of an nature reserve, SSSI or Local Wildlife Site (County Biological Heritage Site).
But here's another example filmed recently - what do you do about this?
Is the Fox out in daylight a sign that food is otherwise scarce or  has it taken advantage of the glut of chicks on the nature reserve? Foxes aren't endangered because they can survive alongside man and our activities but Lapwings numbers are plummeting because they can't anymore.
Do we kill the Fox or make sure that the overall Lapwing population can withstand the predation. i know which I would prefer and it's an easy thing to do. Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy - which we as tax payers provide the money for - could be directed to providing far more environmental and wildlife benefits for our bucks. Maybe upland farmers could be paid to produce trees and wildflowers and not sheep, that way we might not have to pay yet more in tax for flood defence and higher insurance premiums to cover flooding. 
Lowland farmers could be encouraged to keep pollutants out of our rivers and stream, increasing the width of their hedgerows and leave field margins for wildflowers
Badgers do not need to be culled, we could - and should - eat less meat meaning less intensive grazing.
If anyone says what about food production then think again, we need to cut out the waste, there is plenty of food for everyone on the planet it's the distribution that is wrong. And the poor of this world don't eat expensive beef they need a variety of easy to grow, cheap and plentiful staples. Cows don't seem to eat much grass these days, they eat Lapwing chicks (silage) and Howler Moneys (GM Soya grown on cleared rainforest) and of course you have to cull Cormorants because they are eating someones prize Carp instead of fishing out at sea where all the fish have been turned into fishmeal to feed - - livestock.
What a mess.
On the other hand this looks promising but if the 'powers that be' don't like something as innocuous as Buzzards how is it ever going to get  off the ground? lots of the usual mis/un-informed nonsense in the comments.
Where has all our wildlife gone...evidence for it at Base Camp and the moths this morning - only one very common micro, a White Shouldered House Moth - very disappointing for the middle of May.
Come on govermint time to wake up and smell the organic fairtrade coffee get your fingers out before you do any more damage to our precious heritage.
Where to next? A very exciting day out tomorrow - weather permitting observations!
In the meantime let us know what this greenest govermint ever is helping destroy in your outback

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Brought the sun back with us

The Safari is back at Base Camp after a very peaceful week away. We went out at dusk last night to listen for roding Woodcocks. No luck there but on the walk down to the river we saw our first bat in a long time, didn't take the bat detector with us on this break for some reason - we always pop it in the travel bag! Also in the general area we heard two Tawny Owls. As we approached the river we heard an Otter whistling over on the far side of the river so we cautiously took advantage of as much cover as we could and found a little nook to sit down in and waited. We didn't see them at first but then saw two heads making their way across the river not far away. We held our breath and hoped they would come our way and pass within a few inches of us - they didn't musta gone upstream instead.
The bats were putting on a show and a half whizzing on;y a few feet in front of us. Daubenton's Bats plucked emerging Mayflies from the surface of the river, while Pipistrelles darted along the riverside vegetation and Noctules as big as Swallows cruised high over the centre of the river.
The weather over our week didn't really allow the moth trap to go out :-( but the steath-cam was set up over the garden most of the time and apart from getting good close ups of the gardener mowing the lawn we did get this...
All in all a good break although we would have liked to have connected with the big passage of Long Tailed Skuas  along the east coast a couple of days ago...but you can't have everything.
This morning as we were packing we had a new species to add to the week's list, a Jay.
On the way back we counted Buzzards and Kestrels as always on our trips...the final result, Buzzards 6 v Kestrels 1...not good for Kestrels at all, where are they all???
Dead Badgers outnumber dead Hedgehogs on the road too, where are all the Hedgies???
Where to next? At last the mothy has gone out - for only the third time this year.
In the meantime let us know what's missing from your outback.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Back on dry land

The Safari has had a couple of days of duff weather so we've not been out of local area much.
Peaceful round here though.

Unknown wildflower, anyone know?

Where to next? Last night away tonight but before we leave there's the small matter of trying to find a roding Woodcock if we can.
In the meantime let us know if all is quiet and peaceful in your outback.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Island life

The Safari was a little overwhelmed once we'd landed on the island, we've not been on it for many years. All the others shot off in all directions armed to the teeth with their binoculars and cameras, not that you actually need bins if you visit. We chose to find somewhere in the sun, out of the wind, to have our butties and just chill out and take it all in for a while. The wind was light enough that sitting in it wasn't going to be a problem anyway. And we weren't missing out on any of the wildlife either
While we were having lunch a pair of Rock Pipits (166) hopped around just beyond the rope. We usually catch up with these over the winter on Patch 2 but failed to find any this back end.
There's human history here as well as natural history. The beginnings of the world's Life Boat rescue services started here with a young girl and her dad who lived in theis lighthouse.
and more castles than you shake a stick at along the mainland coast
The wildlife on the islands is used to humans, provided they stay on the marked boardwalks
Did you spot it?
Plenty of all the faves too

Fast asleep inches away

Was this badly photographed Fulmar subathing or ill, or just crash landed on flat ground
Unlike the well camouflaged females the male Eiders looked positively gaudy against the golden lichen covering the rocks
The one on the right is doing the Frankie Howerd 'ooohhhh' (Matrrronnn) call

Gulating in the warm sun

Amongst the thousands of Arctic Terns were a few Sandwich Terns (unphotographed) and a handful of pairs of Common Terns (167).
The stars of the show have to be the Puffins.
Most of the visitors couldn't get enough of them and we were no Sand-Eels yet this year as everything is late due to the prolonged winter.

Great aren't they!
Our two hours went all too quickly and we could easily have stayed two or more hours but our time was up and the weather was closing in, the sun had gone and sharp wintry showers were being driven in by a strengthemning cold wind.
The boat ride back was a much bouncier affair than the ride out! The boat operator reckoned his boat would tied up fr at least a couple of days.
We went back to tBase Camp very tired but very happy.
Where to next? Not sure yet - might depend on what the weatherman says...lashing down, extremely windy and cold as we type...yuk!
In the meantime let us know what islands of wonder can be found in your outback.