Wednesday 30 July 2014

Never seen that before in 40 years of looking

The Safari started the annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch on Monday and within five minutes of the start we'd had a couple of distant Bottlenose Dolphins - not bad at all! Prior to the watch a couple of regular visitors and occasional wildlife reporters told us they' seen a Weasel in the car park - what on earth was that doing there, certainly one to look out for we've not seen a Weasel since 2010, that's far too long!
The Tuesday watch was dire, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, isn't that always the case with National Whale and Dolphin Watch. AB came to help out and he had a Grey Seal close in that disappeared soon after and we found a Fulmar close inshore, possibly the closest we've seen off here...and then the rain started. We did see the seal again but it had drifted much further towards town.
After the wet watch AB helped with some wildlife gardening to get the area back to some semblance of order. A 7-spot Ladybird was seen but no moths were disturbed today. Behind us the giant Cardoon plant was being thrown around in the strong wind but that didn't deter a small number of Bumble Bees. In just ones and twos they looked lost on the giant flowers. Our record is 13 bees on one flower they are that big!!
We couldn't find the Deptford Pink that has come up at this time of year.
A de-3-spined Stickleback-ing session saw us remove about 150 from the pond but we had no sign of the Goldfish. We knew we hadn't got them all but we must have got most of them.
Today's Whale and Dolphin Watch was even worse, windier but at least drier and not too chilly. The only thing of note was five Manx Shearwaters going south then one going north about ten minutes later. SMcC may have had a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins on her watch right at the north end of the coast but alas it was too choppy for her group to get confirmation.
Once our watch was finished we had to get the pond dipping kit out for a Family Day event and how good where the dozen or more kids that turned up.
They were soon netting Common Pond Snails and front swimming Water Boatmen and what for it - - - 3-spined Sticklebacks! Ohh no!!!
Then one of the children asked 'what's this?' A tiny tiny Blue Tailed Damselfly nymph. Another child called out too, his find was a just a bit bigger, a Chaser dragonfly nymph. 
It was quite happy in the tray, and then a Waterboatman swam past...bang!
D'yer know we've been watching wildlife and pond dipping and stuff for over 40 years and we've only ever seen dragonfly nymph predation on the telly before.
The Waterboatman survived, or at least was released severely depleted of internal fluids but it did swim off.
A different species of diving beetle to the one we had in the moth trap at Base Camp was also netted. That one those clever i-Spotters identified as Colymbetes fuscus for us. We hope they'll be able to help with this one too.
Just how many 3-spined Sticklebacks did the youngsters find?
This many!
Count them if you like.
Great stuff and loads more children's events coming up next week.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 for those pesky dolphins, fortunately the weather should be improving again.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in prodigious numbers in your outback

Sunday 27 July 2014

It's the high seas for the Safari

The Safari has been out on the ocean waves, or lack of them as it was almost like a mill pond out there.
Once we were underway our seabird and cetacean survey started with a plethora of Herring Gulls in their bewildering variety of plumages that they have a this time of year. Once we reached the river mouth the Common Terns were passing too and fro from the nature reserve at the end of the dock, the ones coming in were all carrying small fish although we didn't get to see the location of their fishing grounds. Just one was going the 'wrong' way to the next nearest colony some distance away in the other river but why fish here when 'our' colony's birds were coming from that direction or was the fish brought in deemed unsuitable and had to be taken away!
Once well out of the river and in  'open' water the Gannets and Manx Shearwaters started to show and become more and more frequent but there were very few Kittiwakes out there today. 
Many of the Gannets were becalmed in the light winds and flat sees, most were just sitting on the water and very very few were fishing. That is until the boat was closing them down at 20+ knots and threatened to run them over, only then did they lift and fly out of the way.
We tried to get a few pics but failed miserably, her's the only one we dared keep and even then we've only included it in a highly processed state - the original is just about unviewable and this is by far the best!
No, that paler blotch isn't what you first thought it was
The first cetaceans weren't far off and were probably just out of sight over the horizon from Patch 2, a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, sadly they didn't stick around. Harbour Porpoises followed later in small groups. Bizarelly all were first seen dead ahead of the ship, the last Bottlenose Dolphin came out of nowhere at us almost like a Mediaeval jouster - and whoosh went straight down the side of the ship padding only yards away.
Once past the Isle of Man the weather closed in and rain started making spotting somewhat difficult but we passed through it and out the other side the approach to Belfast was very pleasant with another Harbour Porpoise.
Highlight of the trip for us is looking out for the Black Guillemots that inhabit Belfast Loch, somehow they remind us of mad moths, particularly Humming Bird Hawkmoths for some reason.
Tired but content in the knowlwdg3e we'd done a good job helping contribute to the knowledge of our brilliant marine life and hence its conservation for the future, we had a couple of well earned beers of a certain Irish species.
If you fancy joining the survey teams there's a list of the forthcoming training courses  for the rest of the year is here - we look forward to having join us on a survey one day.
The return to Liverpool, actually Birkenhead, is overnight but at this time of year it's light enough to have your fill of the great (and becoming more imposing with some interesting designs) skyline as the ferry approaches it's berth.

Don't know why we didn't get a pic of the Ruby Princess that was docked at the Pier Head when we were leaving - one huge ship!
The drive back to Base Camp was witness to a sad carnage of Hedgehogs, there were far too many recently killed, some from their position on the road looked as though they'd been deliberately murdered rather than unavoidably accidentally hit.
Nothing much of note in the garden at Base Camp this arvo but our Extreme Photographer has very kindly fixed our moth trap socket before he sets off on an adventure to wildest west Wales at the end of the week - for ever! We're going to miss his company on safari but he promises to keep his camera handy and send pics for us to show you what he's been finding on his travels.

Where to next? National Whale and Dolphin Watch next week and we have a few you can join in with.
In the meantime let us know who's been leading the charge in your outback.

Friday 25 July 2014

A quieter day all round

The Safari was a little disappointed with Patch 2 today, very very quiet out there. seems 'our' Bottlenose Dolphins have nicked across the bay to North Wales. 
We've got you a sort of pic of the Ladies Bedstraw from yesterday.
Nice to have it on site, let's hope it spreads.
We were there snapping away at the Ladies Bedstraw because we wanted to get better pics of the Leaf Cutter Bees that have been hanging around the adjacent Hardheads and had a bit of a wait for them to return after we'd seen them earlier.
Still no sign of the Leaf Cutters when a Meadow Brown turned up so we pointed the camera at that.
Then we saw them, the little rotters had moved down the hedgerow a few yards on to some really scratty Hardheads struggling in the hot dry conditions we're enjoying at the mo.
Got them in the end but still don't know what species they aare.
Back at Base Camp just before tea-time this little beaut started flying round the kitchen.
 Once potted and settled it began to do a weird headstand and proceed to clean its hind legs.
Where to next? No blogging tomorrow as we're Cap'n of the High Seas on a marineLIFE survey across the Irish Sea.
In the meantime let us know what came in to help with the cooking in your outback.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Another late addition

The Safari didn't see any blubber today - well not marine blubber, plenty of human blubber on display in the 27C+ temperatures.
We were looking for (marine) blubber when a huge Salmon leapt out of the water through our field of view. Nothing much else was out there.
A break from the heat of the office (over 30C showing on the thermometer on the desk by our side) saw us back on the seawall for a bit of breeze. There we found a real rarity, a Ladybird! And not just a 'normal' one a slightly unusual 10-spot Ladybird.
A meander round the gardens gave us a Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies but no Graylings yet.
The Leaf Cutter Bees were out enjoying the nectar in the Hardheads again but we really do need a better pic to get them IDd to species.
It was while we were kneeling down trying to get better bee pics we noticed a  small yellow plant by our knee, Ladies Bedstraw, the first we seen in the grassland here and probably a result of our 'Say No to the Mow' policy for 2 metres from the hedge.
At lunch we had a rendezvous with former comrade at arms LR for a bit more blubber spotting. No joy but a couple of Swallows zooting about the wall gave up an interloper in the form of a House Martin (P2 #64) was a very late addition to the Patch list. They used to breed nearby until development robbed them of their mud supply putting paid to their local breeding site. 64 species for the year on the Patch is still a long way off our target of 90!
A bit of god news from last night was that while Pimms was being enjoyed on the patio in the balmy evening a Pipistrelle Bat flew over us (along with many moths) the first we've seen - actually we didn't see it but Wifey and our guests all spotted it. Excellent news - we know what we're doing tonight and it involves, not unsurprisingly, the bat detector.
Where to next? Back to the sweltering inferno tomorrow - actually we really like the heat but if hear one more whinger saying it's too hot we swear blind we'll swing for them! It'll only be a matter of a few days before this gorgeous sunshine will be but a distant memory.
In the meantime let us know who;s sprung up unexpectedly in your outback

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Weather's to nice for blogging

The Safari went trying to catch a year bird up on arch year-listing rival Monika yesterday. There's been a Mandarin duck on a local wetland for a week or so and so having a day off we decided on a filthy twitch.
Try as we might we couldn't find it, three circuits we did to no avail but there was plenty there of interest and we spent a a few minutes over two hours there in the end.
Iffy pic but it shows the fish is a Perch
Now you see me
Now you don't - or won't in a tick
Before setting off we opened the moth trap and had a micro-fest
Diamond Back Moth
A deceased one of those nightmary ones
Second brood Shuttle Shaped Dart
Also in the trap was one for those clever iSpotters, a rather chunky diving beetle
Once we were back from the wetland we spent the rest of the day in a rather hot garden - loverrrrly!
Next door's Rowan tree was bedecked with berries at the weekend 
but has been severely ravaged already!
 There wasn't quite as much by way of invertebrates but enough to keep us and the camera interested
Honey Bee - to be honest we didn't recognise it as such and had to get help!
Time out for a wash n brush up
The most interesting sighting wasn't able to be photographed - a small dark butterfly flitting along the tree tops past our Silver Birch and lost in amongst the neighbour's Sycamore...too dark for a Holly Blue...White Letter Hairstreak...oooohhhh possibly???
Today we weren't able to get out much but did see a Sandwich Tern fishing catch a large silver fish (species???) and feed it to its youngster.
Two, possibly three, Bottlenose dolphins were reported to us and we put the news out but there was no way we could get away from the desk unfortunately. We had no blubber at all today.
Where to next? Hopefully we'll be able to get out on to Patch 2 for a bit longer tomorrow and have a proper look.
In the meantime let us know who's scoffed all the what in your outback.