Tuesday 30 September 2014

Sea and shore birds start to show

The Safari doesn't have a great lot to blab on about today but it does include a couple of items of interest. Yesterday we got out of the Land Rover at work and a Grey Wagtail flew over, perhaps rather oddly we've not seen too many of these here this year, what would we have given for one of the Jays? the sea was flat calm and we were able to get a few minutes out at lunchtime which was good - very good cos just about the first thing we spotted was two Harbour Porpoises rolling very briefly. They surfaced together a couple of times but it was all over very quickly, how do they just melt away in to 'thin air' like that. We could see for miles and not another sniff of them anywhere.
The calm conditions meant we could see just how many Common Scoters were out there. We didn't have time to count them properly but a roughly counted 50 multiplied up across the whole flock gave us a 'total' of about 1000. A Guillemot sat on the water not too far out and a Red Throated Diver buzzed past. The gulls were interesting in something floating which had a bit of a look of dead sea mammal about it. A little further out a live Grey Seal bottled and drifted on the tide.
We had an evening Beaver pack visiting and they gave us the opportunity to get another quick look in before they arrived. No more blubber but a late Sandwich Tern was seen winging south along the tideline.
We had a talk to the Beavers about real Beavers and the hope that they will see one in the wild not too far from here in the not too distant future...they weren't sure about visiting the countryside if there was the chance of bumping into Brown Bears or Wolves though but we did try to reassure them that both are far more dangerous to Beaver scouts in the fairy tales than real life...Beaver scouts are far to noisy to sneak up on either very effectively.
This morning we were able to get a good look at the sea but it was much more chopped up and spotting any Harbour Porpoises would have been extremely difficult. The Common Scoters were impossible to count too but the dead thing was still lurking and was still unidentifiable. 
Another late Sandwich Tern came by and we found a Red Throated Diver on the sea when a Guillemot flew past -the 'mirror image' of yesterday! Also out there were a couple of distant Gannets.
Beavering away driving our desk mid morning we heard a familiar sound, the churr of a Wren. OK it's very familiar but certainly not here, a check back at Base Camp revealed our earlier suspicions were correct - it was the first for the year here. (P2 #71). Wrens are scarce here, obviously, but the 'big' two are Blue and Great Tits!
Our lunchtime look didn't give us much but a couple of dog walkers flushed a Redshank and a Ringed Plover. We saw the Redshank land and stood up on the wall to find the Ringed Plover which we didn't but did see another Redshank and a couple of Turnstones. Not a bad mix for the day to keep us scribbling in the notebook today.
In the afternoon we had a mission over at the nature reserve on the way back to Base Camp. What a lovely afternoon to be out n about. As soon as we got out of the Land Rover we heard Long Tailed Tits calling in the hedgerow by our old cabin. Long ago when we first started working at the nature reserve, a tad over 24 years to be accurate, Long Tailed Tits were a seriously rare bird there. Going through the gate we heard the rattling call of a Carrion Crow and soon saw it blitzing after a Sparrowhawk which did a bit of fancy flying and turned the tables giving said crow a bit of a serious scare.
Once we were at the point along the path where you can see the mere all the gulls on the neighbouring caravan site's swimming pool roof got up, scanning the sky we soon picked up a Buzzard soaring over them. Another species we'd have had no chance of seeing there in those early years.
We did what we'd set out to do - all will be revealed in due course - still a bit hush hush but it will be good! - - and along the path on the way back we spied a female Common Darter basking on the Brambles to the side of us. Taking extreme care not to cast our shadow over it as we snuck in for a closer look. Behind us a Cetti's Warbler broke into a short bit of quiet subsong.
Over the other side of the mere we spotted PL lurking furtively probably hoping that the Kingfisher would come in and perch within range of his lens.
Our Extreme Photographer told us he's been out exploring his new local area down in Pembrokeshire and then promptly sent through some beetle pics from his new back garden - almost total concrete!
Not sure what this one is
This one's easier - Devil's Coach Horse
He's promised some from his travels in due course and we're looking forward to showing you them soon.
Where to next? A change in the weather coming up which might affect something we have planned in a very annoying way but could produce something new on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know who's on a mission in your outback.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Jay movement reaches Base Camp

The Safari was out of the door well before first light this morning, no stars or Jupiter this morning rather overcast but there were a considerable number of Robins singing and calling from almost every garden, far more than yesterday's clear and later sunny morning. 
It looked like a good promising start to the day.
The temperature was very mild for late September and that had us hoping for a good moth haul. After Frank was breakfasted it was time to look in the box. A quick shuffy round the outside gave us a nice Caddisfly.
A Garden Carpet was nothing out of the ordinary and neither were two Light Brown Apple Moths. All the while we kept an eye and an ear open on the sky given the conditions we expected some visible migration to be happening but strangely there wasn't.
Deep inside the depths of the trap we had a couple of nice surprises, an easy one and a harder one. The easy one was an Angle Shades, we thought it was the first of the year but checking our redcords it was the second the other being caught in the first week of May.
The other proved trickier, our second Turnip of the year, not the Pearly Underwing we originally tentatively IDs it as.
The clouds thickened a little to the south and all of a sudden a bit of 'vis' started in the form of a Heron going over low westwards...or was this a local bird coming to try to steal Wifey's fish and saw us in the garden at the last minute? A loose strung out flock of 29 Meadow Pipits was next in the notebook with a Pied (Alba) Wagtail and then it happened, only a flipping Jay (Garden #41) - going north - why??? Only the second we've seen here at Base Camp and the other one also came by in a year of a mass influx due to an acorn failure, just like this current invasion. We did wonder if we'd get one at Base Camp and now wonder if one will pass over Patch 2 but sadly we don't have much time in the mornings this week to look.
More Meadow Pipits passed over and 79 was the final tally when they stopped abruptly just before 10.00. Others included a flock of 5 Greenfinches going straight south at reasonable height so unlikely to be local birds, a few Chaffinches, three of which dropped in to Base Camp briefly.
A 'probable' Chiffchaff was seen but not heard flitting through the shrubs at the bottom of the garden but with still a full compliment of leaves to hide behind never gave itself up for a clinching view.
A Speckled Wood butterfly put in an appearance about 09.30 showing how warm it still is.
Once the passage had dried up it was time to get the bacon on...well it is Sunday!
Looks good enough to eat - sure was!!!! Home grown tomatoes too - delish mmmmm

After Wifey had taken eh-up muvver to the shops as per unusual on a Sunday we had a chore to do which took us towards the nature reserve but we opted not to duck in there as Frank was with us and wasn't up for a wander all the way round and it was the scrubby areas rather than the water or reedbeds we would have been most interested in. So we doubled back a bit and called in to have a look at our 'usual' Great Crested Newt site - just on the off chance there'd be one or two there.
The walk down the road had us listening to a multitude of Goldcrests, how many? - impossible to tell!
A Great Spotted Woodpecker dropped in to the top of tall tree in the adjacent zoo. from within the wood to our left Robins and Wrens sang and Dunnocks called. Where the patch sightly diverges from the woodland edge the sub-song of a Blackcap came from within a dense Elder bush bedecked with berries - it didn't show itself.
Frank stopped to sniff something a little more intently than the 101 other sniffings he'd already done so we had a look at what had peeked his interest - the remains of an unfortunate Song Thrush.
Looking down the path the yellowing shape of Field Maple stood out against the still more or less green of the other bushes.
A small dragonfly then caught our eye and landed on the path not far in front of us. We'd hardly seen a soul all trip, OK so it was only about 400 hundred yards from the Land Rover but with Frank's mobility issues and super sniffing had taken half an hour, but just at the wrong time a dog walking family came round the corner and flushed it. In flight it looked quite weeny and went over to the other parallel path - great we'll catch up with it there - oh no we won't the only jogger of the whole safari came past and we never saw it again. We did see a Speckled Wood do exactly the same and this wasn't flushed by anyone.
When we eventually reached the appointed place we lifted the refugia to find nothing under the first one apart from a crushed Garden Snail, even less under the second one and the third gave us the best but no Great Crested Newt, not even any Smooth Newts, 'just' two Common Toads an adult and a one year old. So they weren't Great Crested Newts but we've not seen many Toads at all this year = happy!
Frank was dreadfully slow on the way back, sitting sown every five yards or so but that gave us another chance to look for the iffy dragonfly - it didn't reappear but we did watch the aerial acrobatics of two Migrant Hawkers.
The sign seems rather apt considering the old fella's Creaky bones!
By now it was after lunch on a warm summery day and the zoo car park was jam packed and a constant stream of cars came up the road
Great to see so many people coming to see and enjoy animals even if captive and not wild. And they've paid good money to get in. But why is it so popular when the nature reserve a mile away is free to get in? The animals are bigger, more exciting or is it just that they're easier to see? There's not much hard work or patience required in the zoo (except for those pesky Porcupines!) whereas at the nature reserve the biggest animal you're likely to see is the Mute Swans (patience luck and being out at the right time might give you a Roe Deer but it's far from guaranteed) and they can't compete with an Elephant or two. The way things are going today's youngsters are the last generation who will have the opportunity to see Elephants (Asian or African) in the wild, same goes for Rhinoceros - how terribly sad, what have we done? We sincerely hope we're very very wrong.
There needs to be more connection between the populace and their local wildlife not just the 'exciting' exotica - we could have that in the form of Lynx, Wolves, Beavers and more if the Establishment would feck off and leave even the little stuff alone. But with tales today of Mountain Hare massacres, the desire to bring back the barbarism of Fox hunting and the continuing rancid persecution of our birds of prey, Stoats, Weasels, Pine Martens incredibly rare  Wild Cats (Scottish - but they used to be British until they were wiped out south of the border, possibly the most endangered cat in the world but that doesn't stop them).
If you haven't (and you should have done by now) please sign the petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Don't let them get away with destroying our future generation's wildlife heritage. Worth casting your eye over this whether you agree with Mr GM much of the time or not. His book Feral is a starting point for discussion. Here's another
Where to next? Only a short Patch 2 visit will be possible tomorrow so just in case our Extreme Photographer has sent some pics from sunny Pembrokeshire.
In the meantime let us know who's appearing sporadically in your outback

Friday 26 September 2014

Anglesey marine

The Safari has got just a couple of snippets of video from the rockpools on Anglesey. To be honest the ones we looked at at Penmon Head and Porth Eilean weren't as lively as we'd hoped, in fact there was more life in the artificial pools on Patch 2! We were somewhat surprised at that but perhaps we didn't look in the best parts of the coast - the seaweeds were much better than back on the prom though.
Think these are Black Gobies - if they are it's a fish 'tick'.Try the vids on full screen.

Prawns are a nightmare cos they're flippin transparent and brave! They don't flee fom the new artifact in their pool they come out and investigate it, usually getting far too close!

Best fishy find but sadly unvideod, not without trying was a small Pipefish about 3-4 inches long which maybe we should have got the normal camera to as it sat fairly still right at the surface so would probably been photographable.
Where to next? Mothuy is out tonight - wonder how may more trapping sessions we'll get in this year.
In the meantime let us know who's skimming over the stones in your outback.

On a far less fun note it would appear that two of the Hen Harriers that have been followed on blogs from one of the nests in Forest of Bowland have gone 'missing in suspicious circumstances' a week or  so ago. They were still in the area but away from their nest site.
Now was a Fox responsible or did they meet flying lead? With all the 'legal' predator control that goes on up there there can't be that many Foxes in the vicinity. Which brings us on to our  next query, how come the poor mammals don't get the same protection as birds, surely great little creatures like Stoats and Weasels, and even Foxes deserve the same legal protection as their feathered cousins from the bloodthirsty brigade and others - they realy aren't that bad just irrationally vilified for nothing!
Please sign the petition please if you haven't already.

Thursday 25 September 2014

More from the island of the Druids

The Safari keeps a tally of Buzzards v Kestrels and dead stuff on our longer journeys. Our trip to and round Anglesey gave us a minimum of 17 Buzzards and only three Kestrels, the first of which wasn't seen until our first morning at the cottage perched on the electricity pole in the garden. The number of Buzzards is a minimum as we only counted them in general areas once we were only the island to try to avoid double counting.
We also try to count roadkill except Rabbits which were squished everywhere. Thankfully our drive to the cottage only gave us singles of Hedgehog (worrying hat there weren't more perhaps), a Badger, and near Chester a Polecat (or a Polecat-Ferret hybrid - hard to tell at 60 mph!).
Other notables were a couple of Jays, part of a then unknown about movement.
Once at the cottage we set about exploring early the following morning and the commoner birds soon made the notebook; Wren, Blackbird (more about them in a bit), Swallows gathering on the wires, Carrion Crows, a Pheasant calling somewhere down the hill, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robins, Magpie, Grey Wagtails, Woodpigeons, a Curlew calling somewhere down towards the coast a short mile away. A Chiffchaff almost came into the porch but best was a small flock of Yellow Wagtails (164) going over to the south east, a relief to get those on the year list as we're running short of time for summer visitors.
There were four or five Blackbirds in the hedge by the kitchen but then we found more in the big garden hedge. At first we thought they may have been some of the same and we counted 16 working their way down the hedge towards the road! Only to find the original family were still poking around on the lawn. There were no were near 16 ever seen again along that hedge and they picked up a Song Thrush from somewhere. Blue Tits, Greenfinches and Goldfinches were entered on the page followed by skulking Dunnocks and noisy Jackdaws.
A wander down to the beach to suss it out gave us a Sanderling while we were having a paddle with Frank, it flew right in front of us. A Raven cronked unseen, gulls loafed on the nearly empty beach and Cormorants flew here and there. In the dunes a Wheatear skipped a long across the top of the scrub at the back of the dunes.
The trip to South Stack gave us our wanted Choughs but the seabirds had left as we had expected, no Puffin on the list this year. Wifey's sharp eyes spotted one then another juvenile Stonechat along the cliff top path and the Warden picked out a Gannet before it was lost to view round the far side of the lighthouse. Several each of Peacocks and Red Admirals passed us going south, probably on migration.
Further round the coast a small lake on the inland side of the road held a herd of Mute Swans. The last few yards of the drive back to the cottage saw a Bullfinch dive in to the roadside hedge yards in front of the bonnet, the only one we saw all week.
Swallows still chittered around the wires and Ravens and Buzzards soared over the garden. Frank wanted a pee in the middle of the night and when out in the garden the stars were stunning and a Tawny Owl hooted from the woods in the little valley we cross on the way to the beach.
In the early morning light two Chiffchaffs sang in the 'migrants' hedgerow.
Our next day trip was out to Penmon Point where we were lucky enough to see at least three Bottlenose Dolphins feeding in the rip to the north of the lighthouse, closer inshore was a winter plumaged Black Guillemot, the other side of the lighthouse nearer the island an 'ordinary' Guillemot dived for fish. Across the bay a Fulmar wheeled but despite the glassy calm sea didn't give up a Harbour Porpoise. The supporting cast was made up of Herons, Rock Pipits, lots of Oystercatchers, Shags and Cormorants as well as distant Common Scoters. The environs of the cafe were the home of a good number of House Sparrows and the usual cheeky Robin. A juvenile Hobby cruised over upsetting the local Swallows.
A school group that had been doing some geology fieldwork came to enjoy the tea and cakes when to two or more of the girls found the only tree in the area behind where were sat. They proceeded to giggle and climb it and encouraged some more of their friends to join them in the tree - and then we heard it - - crrraaaaackk followed by thud thud thud as their ar*es hit the ground - my how we sniggered but daren't turn round to look! The did a good job of of putting the branch back you could hardly see the join but it won't last!
Back at the cottage an after dinner stroll along the cliff top saw us watching a Buzzard sparring with a very large Peregrine for several minutes - a masterclass in flying skills. Out to sea we added Red Throated Diver to the notebook, the clifftop edge vegetation held a good flock of Linnets while a spit of rocks below had a roosting flock of about 40 Ringed Plovers, a Sanderling or two, a Turnstone and a few Curlews. The way back took us through a sheep field where two Ravens were on the hunt for who knows what - worms? Not a bad hour out at all.
Here's some pics of dubious quality.
The kitchen garden Blackbirds
Black Bryony - not a plant we see much in our normal haunts
Yummy and sweet with just enough 'tang'
Almost finished Sneezewort
The wildflowers in the hedgerows along 'our' lane would have a sight worth seeing through the summer but almost all had gone over by now.
Where to next? We'll let you know about some of the marine-life we found tomorrow and you might get a bit of video if we can edit it into something worth watching.
In the meantime let us know who's wandering round with the sheep in your outback.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Some invertebrate shenanigans from Angelesy

The Safari took the UV lamp on our break to north Wales but we couldn't take the full trap, there's no way it would fit in the fully laden car. But there's always somewhere to hang it and our cottage this time round was furnished with whitewashed walls - just the ticket. The easiest window was beside a downspout behind which we wedged a few egg boxes as a makeshift trap - all very ramshackle and Heath Robinson but it worked. The blustery wind didn't help much but there was some vegetation about so we were hopeful of getting something attracted to the light.
Spruce Carpet - new for the Safari
20 Plume Moth
Canary Shouldered Thorn
Dusky Thorn
Eudonia angustea
Flame Carpet
Square Spot Rustic
Unknown - Help!!!
In the moth 'trap' but not a moth was this bronzy-golden Caddis Fly, one for those clever iSpotters we think, although we don't get a lot of joy there doesn't seem to many Caddis experts on there or at least only infrequently.
Several of these little blighters were found in one of the pots we'd taken from Base Camp, hatched from eggs laid by...we can't remember. It's less than a millimeter long!
Lurking a bit too close to the makeshift trap was another tiddler, this one a bit more ominous than the caterpillars
Identified on Facebook's British Spiders group with kind assistance from @HesitantWeasel as a male Pachygnatha degeeri, whose claim to fame is that it is illustrated on the cover of the spiders field guide. And that was written by a lad who used to live in our street when we were kids whose family had a holiday caravan in Trearddur Bay, guess where...OK you got it - Anglesey. So it's probably not him, just someone with the same name but an unlikely set of coincidences all the same.
We'd come off the beach with Wifey and Frank and were sat on a rough-hewn bench overlooking the bay enjoying a coffee from the beach shack when Wifey noticed something crawling in the grass close to Frank's nose. A quality 'trundle-bug'!
More news from the lovely isle of Ynys Mon tomorrow as there's unlikely to be any news from round here. Today a short lunchtime Patch 2 watch only gave us about 50 Common Scoters, a very distant haze-ridden Gannet and a speeding unidentified auk.
Where to next? Might get another titchy Patch 2 lunchtime watch...there again we might not!
In the meantime let us know who's trundling doggedly through the undergrowth in your outback.