Wednesday 31 December 2014

Evereyone's doing a review of the year

The Safari is going to be different and only you highlights of the last week - and only from the garden at that...and only during the day, not sure what's happened to the camera at night. Enjoy but view full-screen for best effect.

In other news we've been soundly thrashed by Monika in our annual year list challenge but we've got loads of lame excuses so that's OK.
All will begin again tomorrow, not heard from her for a while but I suspect we'll be 'on' again and our target will be the usual 200 species. So far we haven't got a foreign adventure lined up, unless you count Northumberland in May and perhaps mid-Wales in September.
Where ever we end up on a day to day basis we'll be enjoying and sharing our wildlife adventures with you, I hope you'll enjoy joining us as often as you can.
Where to next? Maybe a trip a little further than of late tomorrow.
In the meantime Happy New Year, hope 2015 is a good one for you and don't forget - Rewild yourself!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Still a bit of ice about

The Safari was back at the nature reserve by late morning today but with Frank this time so it was Guide in the Hide or bust.
It was a little warmer than yesterday but hazy cloud and a very light breeze made it feel colder...put it this way we were glad we've gone wussy and brought a cushion to prevent a bad attack pf numb-bum on the wooden seats in the hide.
Outside the hide something had come to grief at the talons of a Sparrowhawk more than likely. Talking of Sparrowhawks one put everything to flight as it cruised along the tops of the reeds along the far bank.
This wasn't the only time the waterfowl, mostly Teal, Wigeon and Coots over that side, were flushed; often it was a Cormorant fishing the reed edge popping up to the surface unexpectedly that was upsetting them. Nine Cormorants was the maximum count but odd ones came and went throughout the afternoon.
In the reeds close by a Cetti's Warbler 'chipped' frequently for several minutes not long after we arrived but refused point blank to show itself, we could see where it was by the reed stems shuddering as it moved around tantalising close to the edge.
A Robin was doing its best at a poor impression of said warbler but it was jumping around flycatching Winter Gnats.
The gulls proved interesting but there was no ice in view for them to roost out on today and nothing out of the ordinary was noted.
There were many ducks out of sight but we counted 114 Coots, 26 Shovelers, 14 Gadwall and a single Pochard but these are very much minimum numbers.
Around half time the sun came out and Frank slonked off out of the hide for a Rabbitty sniff-athon
Looks a bit guilty doesn't he
Now he's doing his best to look cute
We're biased but he's a lovely boy!
Four Grey Lag Geese flew in and flew out an hour later and towards the end of our four hour hide-athon a Little Grebe just about came in to view on the limit of our vision to the left.
Still the gulls refused to give anything out of the ordinary up.
The sun started to drop as a pair of Mallards came in as close as the ice would allow and started to get fruity with an extended mating session. The Teal too were getting n the mood with some eager displaying and lots of 'pleeping'.

A Buzzard seen quartering the field where the shooter was yesterday from the Land Rover as we drove home was a good end to a great day.
Where to next? Not sure tomorrow as we've got a hospital appointment but that could mean a walk through the big park to see what's about in there - we've not been for a good while.
In the meantime let us know who's melting the ice in your outback.

Monday 29 December 2014

Merely icy

The Safari met up with CR on a frosty but sunny nature reserve at lunchtime today and boy was it a good day to be out.
The cold nights and far from warm days meant that there was some ice across the mere which gave the gulls somewhere solid to haul out.
This was good news as it gave us the opportunity to spot any with rings, only one Black Headed Gull had one, a BTO type and too distant to read. No sign of the Iceland Gull or any Mediterranean Gulls
A Cetti's Warbler sang from our left and was instantly answered by one to our right which flew across the gap in the reeds in front of us and a Water Rail flew across the same gap.
Then we heard a  bang and another - some numpty was illegally shooting in the fields to the east. A call to the local constabulary had them make a visit but they didn't get out of their squad car and don their wellies to apprehend him. He hit and wounded at least one Woodpigeon while he was in view. While we've nothing against sustainable hunting provided all kills are eaten and Woodpigeon isn't a species at any particular risk the decent thing would be to only shoot them from places where it is permitted. The sheep in the field weren't too keen on his shots either running this way and that away from the noise.
Time for some 'We See You' Birders Against Wildlife Crime posters to be put up in the area
Anyone recognise him - must be a local
With not much movement in the gulls so we decided to wander round to the other side to have a look at the Long Eared Owl.
Outside the hide the frost was still lingering on the ground.
Another Water Rail was seen in flight but we didn't notice the Stonechat that was seen here yesterday.
It was amusing when a couple of walkers asked us if we were here to see the owl, according to them its all over a website - yes we thought we put it on there. Then one of the regular non-birding visitors told us there were two owls being watched by several birders already.
At the owl site we soon saw the one we've been watching over the last couple of days but the second we could have easily missed if we weren't put onto it, having said that we don't think it was there yesterday or the day before - will have to check any original pics we've not deleted.
Not the best Long Eared Owl pic in the world but it gives a flavour of how tricky it was
After a few minutes chatting to other birders we wandered down to the viewing platform from where we could see another gathering of gulls and on our second or third scan we picked out the Iceland Gull. It flew round and had a bathe before flipping out onto the ice for a preen.
It seemed to be settled so we high-tailed it round to the 'Ice Station Zebra' hide where it was showing pretty well!

We even managed a bit of video

Also here was another Cetti's Warbler which as ever provided not a sniff of a photo opportunity.
It was almost time to leave when a really interesting looking gull flew past; we called to C to get some pics, as many as he could.
This was the best he managed as it came towards and over us.
Looks nice - dark mantled with a clean head, big dark wedge at the wing tip, is that a largeish bright yellow beak? Looks reasonably Yellow Legged Gully - anyone able confirm or not?
All in all a gulltastic day with plenty of other interst to keep us both busy.
Where to next? Not sure yet, maybe a further flung safari eastwards
In the meantime let us know who's the star of the ice show in your outback.

Sunday 28 December 2014

By eck it's gone a bit chilly

The Safari woke to the frostiest morning of the season so far.
We weren't able to get out until lunchtime by which time it was still frosty out of the sunniest places.
The hope was to get out into the hills to get close up an personal with some of the chilly white stuff but we didn't get out early enough so had to had a change of plan. That plan was to go back to the nature reserve and see if we could see more than one Long Eared Owl.
The walk down was tortuously slow with rheumaticy Frank in tow, so slow we wondered if we'd ever get the 200 yards down the track! Our 'speed' did give us a chance to enjoy a few Fieldfares in the Hawthorns.
The sun was out and the air warm away from the shadows. Look at the colour of the sky behind the Teasel heads!
There was a Goldfinch on them until we raised the camera...dohhh
We found the Long Eared Owl in exactly the same place as yesterday but took no pics as it was just as obscured although by manouvering the scope around we were able to get a glimpse of amber eye. There were neither many punters or other birds about but we did get a few other birders on to it.
Higher in the trees beyond the owl two Blackbirds tried to get the last of the Hawthorn berries.
Some were easier to reach than others
Also around were a Greenfinch, two Chaffinches, a couple of Goldcrests, a Robin keeping an eye on  proceedings, a Dunnock popped up and called its winter 'peeep', the large Willow tree was brief supermarket to a roving flock of Long Tailed Tits with a couple of Blue Tits thrown in. Behind us a Cetti's Warbler's song exploded from the reedbed and a Snipe flew over.
One particularly obnoxious dog walker appeared with his out of control spaniels coming towards us, fortunately he saw us stood on the path scoping the owl and turned back to leave the reserve. Moments later a Woodcock flew from that direction close by us, no doubt flushed from deep in the scrub by his dogs.
There were a couple of other target birds we'd liked to have seen so we moved on to the viewing platform to see what we could find. All the usually watery suspects were there but it was the gulls we were most interested in. The hope was that the Iceland Gull might drop in, it didn't, or a Mediterranean Gull with the large number of Black Headed Gulls, there wasn't but it was great fun searching.
A friend we've not seen for yonks turned up and promptly picked up some activity over the east fields, a Peregrine!
A couple of Cetti's Warblers fired up at each other and a Water Rail squealed.

Another great day on safari.
Where to next? More safari-ing somewhere tomorrow if perhaps only briefly
In the meantime let us know who's making the frost patterns in your outback.

Saturday 27 December 2014

The Extreme is back in town

The Safari was out to day with our Extreme Photographer back in town from his escapade down in SW Wales.
The rain was heavy and cold but recent news had told us of definitely two and probably three Long Eared Owls at the nature reserve. It was there we headed first, at the car park there was a Holly bush complete with berries that have somehow survived the wreath -making season.
Apparently the owls were near to the place they've been before but not visible from there. He described where they were as precisely as he could but it still took us the best part of half an hour before we spotted one tucked tightly into the thick stems of a dense Hawthorn bush as far out of the weather as it could get. Being secreted deep in the bush the chance of a half decent pic was nigh on impossible and there wasn't any angle to be found that would get it's face from behind the intervening twigs.
There was little else around apart from a couple of Wrens and a Blackbird or two so we wandered down to the nearest hide for nothing more than to get out of the rain for a bit. The reeds here  haven't been crushed down by the roosting Starlings so seeing out of the window was tricky. Looking through the reed tops we had a good rummage through the gulls on the water for the local Iceland Gull but it wasn't on the water for a wash n brush up with the many other gulls.
We phoned our friend to let him know we'd been successful with his Long Eared Owl. As we were chatting our Extreme Photographer saw a Cetti's Warbler, not just any Cetti's Warbler but the best one he's ever seen totally out in the open without a twig or reed-stem in front of it but it dived back into the depths of the reed bed before he could lift his camera. Only seconds later a second was seen but this one didn't come out into the open or stick around long.
Our friend also told us he'd seen a Barn Owl on the reserve early in the morning too.
As we were leaving a visiting party of birders walked towards us so we put them onto the owl and they pointed out a passing Goldcrest - a fair exchange is no robbery!
Told you it wasn't showing particularly well
With the nature reserve quiet, although we did see a Fieldfare briefly, not been many round these parts this season.
Our next port of call was up at the coast as our Extreme Photographer hasn't seen a Shore Lark for many years. Arriving at the car park there it was right in front of us on the green by the picnic benches which has been its favourite spot for a while. We unloaded our gear and as soon as the cameras were out of the Land Rover it flew on to the beach where it took a good while to relocate.
Once we'd re-found it our Extreme Photographer belly crawled across the shingle for fear of flushing it again but couldn't get quite close as he would have liked before it was 'dogged off'.
Still not a bad pic though.
We had a look for the Snow Bunting where we saw it last week but were told we were looking in the wrong place as it had moved further up the coast towards town.
From there we drove the few short yards down to the drained marine lake for a look at the waders roosting over the high tide. At first scan there were only Redshanks and Turnstones there but eventually we did pick out a lone Sanderling.
Among the Turnstones were three with a single green ring on the right leg with no BTO ring to be seen.
A move along the road a little way to view an area where some of the Turnstones were flying to. Here we found a single Purple Sandpiper in the assembled throng.
The sun was setting illuminating the snow covered fells to the east. 
A good end to a good day.
Where to next? Might take the Disco for a look a close up look at the snow tomorrow, there,s a year-bird up there even if it is far too late to catch up with Monika.
In the meantime let us know who's hiding in the bushes in your outback.

Friday 26 December 2014

An unwelcome guest

The Safari has been a little occupied the last 48 hours or so and we've not had a chance to do much wildlifiing. The drive down to our bro's on the South-side yesterday took us past the American Wigeon but no chance of spotting it at 50mph, had there been anyone on the roadside scoping it it was quiet enough to have stopped on the normally busy road and ask for a sneaky-peeky.
The tide was exceptionally high and rising covering much of the marsh but we saw no owls or Hen Harriers quartering the as  yet unflooded areas.
Today we topped the feeders up, pretty much depleted yesterday after a few hours of plummeting down to normal temperatures, doing so we saw there were several flowers still open on our Fuscia bush.
Greenfinch, Robin, Great and Blue Tits were about so we put out a fat block with added mealworms. We've never had much luck with these here but we try every year, hopefully the Robin and the Dunnock that's learned to hang off the wire sunny seed feeder will find it a bit easier to get a beakful.
This arvo we heard the anxiety calls of gulls that indicate a Heron is about. we looked through the upstairs window to see it hadn't come down to take its pick of our fish but had perched up on a neighbour's chimney pot. 
The Herring Gulls don't like it at all.
While all the commotion was going on a Sparrowhawk sped through un-noticed.
Where to next? A full day's safari-ing is earmarked for tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's getting all the grief in your outback.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Canadas from Canada?

The Safari was allowed out very briefly this morning and managed to catch up with the dodgy Canada Geese at last - fifth time lucky! Unfortunately the Barnacle Goose we would have liked to have seen too, for our Year List Challenge, was no longer with them.
But what exactly are they? Some are saying they are of the sub-species parvipes, others interior, to be honest we wouldn't know where to start in separating the two.
They're certainly small and short necked compared to the 'atlanticas' we were watching the other day.
The other big question is are they really from Canada? How do you tell without doing an isotope analysis on a feather or two? 
There were about 500 Pink Footed Geese in the flock and around 100 - 150 Lapwings dropped in, nice to see.
A Sparrowhawk was inches away from the tail of Feral Pigeon over the road on the way back to Base Camp...we didn't see the outcome in the rear-view mirror.
In the afternoon we hit the pub with Wifey for our anniversary slap up feast. The pub overlooks the creeks we visited with BD recently, no birds in them today, they were full to beyond busting on the very high tide.
The road by the viewing screen for the freshwater pool was flooded - no doubt there would have been loads of birds on the islands there but no chance of a stop to look.
Where to next? Reindeers anyone? Have a great Christmas, might not get a chance ot post owt tomoz.
In the meantime let us know what's causing all the mystery in your outback.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

A surprise visit sees the Safari heading up northwards again

The Safari was up early with Frank but missed a txt from @HesitantWeasel Saying he was with some friends from the Cheshire Mammal Group on their way to the local Great Grey Shrike and would we like to join them...of course we would but suggested we all meet up at the Shore Lark as they were about to leave the shrike on a dip.
We battled through stupid amounts of slow traffic to arrive at the car park with rain starting to get heavier. We had to wind down the window just enough to poke the bins through to see the Shore lark only yards away on the grass by the picnic site. We txtd them the news and they replied they were only 4 miles away (or an age through the traffic) but thankfully the wind and rain combined with high tide meant it would stick around for them. But we hadn't taken numpty dog walkers into account. Minutes before they arrived one almost stepped on it flushing it seawards and the high tide meant there was little or no beach for it to settle on - would we be able to relocate it for them???
Only one thing for it we all had to venture onto the wind and rain and spray soaked prom and look for it. 
The waves crashed, the sea foam whipped around on the wind, a group of Sanderlings found just about the last of the dry(ish) spots but that was never going to last long and they got flushed off by the next wave.
Everyone loves the spray - like a foam party Ibiza some wag said recently
We made the decision to look at a few more groynes and came across a couple of Meadow Pipits when one of the group shouted "Snow Bunting". One of the pipits had magically transformed in to a lovely 'Snowflake'. It was flighty being disturbed by dogs and passers-by but eventually settled on the top of the wall near us, close enough to point the lens at, and tried to preen in the wind - almost got blown over.
Returning to the car park we immediately saw the Shore Lark was back in its favourite place - someone should chuck some seeds down for it next time they're passing. Job done! It was close but still not quite close enough and the light was minging.
Our best effort yet but we could still do with a better pic
The youngest member of our merry band snuck up on his belly commando style to get his 500mm lens close enough for a full framer. Seen it on Facebook already and what a pic it was - It will appear here in due course.
Next stop was a short drive away to the drained marine lake where the sand is being dredged out making perfect habitat for waders to continue to forage or roost safely when the tide is high. It didn't take long to find the Turnstone flock which held two Purple Sandpipers - possibly the most mis-named bird in the book! If that's purple then we're a Dutchman!
By now the crew were getting peckish and what to eat in one of the seafood capitals of the world, fish n chips of course. A little local knowledge took us to a chippy we've not been to for over 20 years and we were treated to an extremely tasty slap up Christmas feast...thanks Hesitant much appreciated!!!
We had an errand to run but the lads went back to Great Grey Shrike and were successful this time. 
Back at Base Camp a txt on our other phone told us the Iceland Gull was back in town, both the finder and us thought we might have seen it independently while driving past last week but at 40mph views were inconclusive but we have been proved right - which is good. Our friends were able to get on this too, so they had a very productive day only missing on the ?Todd's Canada Geese that have turned up on the way to the Shore Lark that we didn't know about while we were there so could have stopped buy for a look on the way back down to the shrike.
A wet and windy but great day in great company...we do like a surprise day's birding.
Where to next? Wedding anniversary tomoz but we should be a ble to sneak a few minutes wildlifing in before we hit the pub.
In the meantime let us know who's making all the foam in your outback.

Monday 22 December 2014

Change of plan

The Safari decided not to make it fiver dips in a row with the dodgy geese today. We had an errand to do at work, we'd forgotten to do something before darting out the door on Friday arvo so had to make good to today, that meant going out which meant we could do a bit of wildlifing. At the back door at work we  saw that the first Daffodils of spring??? are opening, it was only Winter Solstice yesterday and we ain't had Christmas yet. It's very mild here 10C last night, that's the average daily minimum for June!!!
From work we went to the nature reserve for the first time in ages.
There were a good few gulls coming and going dipping in for a wash n brush up.

The light was dreadful and the wind worse. The sound track of our visit was the very pleasant pleeping of the Teal and the wind rustling the Reeds. We counted 67 Coot but there must have been plenty more out of sight, in plain sight were 13 Cormorants sat on the remains of the bund round the scrape, the adults already showing their white thigh patch - not seen any like that on Patch 2 yet. 
There wasn't a lot happening best of the rest were singles of Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck. We spent a good deal of time looking at the gulls but without finding anything out of the ordinary. There were a good number of Common Gulls and someone to our right turned up and started chucking some bread around much to the delight of the gathered gulls and a few Carrion Crows. Rule one - don't be the first bird to the slice of bread - - odds are you won't be the one that swallows it!
Leaving the hide we heard a Goldcrest calling from the Blackthorn thicket, we didn't hang around to see if we could get a glimpse of it.
We had a wander down to the 'affectionately' known Ice Station Zebra hide - we'll let you use your imagination as to how it has come to be called that. Suffice to say it lived up to its name today. Here the soundtrack was the whistling of Wigeon, beautiful.
There was a large flock of Canada Geese to our left, not quite as exciting as the genuine wild ones maybe only a mile or so down the road.
A scan around before we took to looking at the gulls gave us a few Mallards, a pair of Goldeneyes, more Coot.
While we were searching the gulls for odd-balls we heard a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler but saw little else. The gulls gave us only seven 1st winter Black Headed Gulls out of a count of about 130, which is 5.4% not sure if that's normal, good or bad.
Wigeon were all around but we didn't see very many at all.
The Canada Geese started to cruise bu in a serene flotilla, proably to go and roost on the island even though the wind would be stronger down there.
We took a bit of video, which species can you see, there's no Common Gulls as far as we can see.

Answer tomorrow.
Where to next? Hopefully there'll be a safari tomorrow, but where - still likely to be v v windy though.
In the meantime let us know who's doing the whistling in your outback.