Monday 31 August 2015

A brilliant day on safari with our friends from Yorkshire

The Safari met up with our AFON mentoree, AH, and her family for a day's wildlifing. We were supposed to go over to her local reserve on the far side of the Yorkshire Dales and watch her ringing and find out how she's been getting on, as well as getting the grand tour of the reserve but the stars aligned against us and a half way meet was arranged at the big reserve to our north instead.
We had a superb day in the warm sunshine with an amazing plethora of wildlife seen.
here's a selection of what we saw in no particular order. We almost bit a pic of a Kingfisher, much nearer than last week in the Midlands, but youthful excitement and over-exuberance meant it wasn't to be.
Black Tailed Godwits - a small section of the flock
Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar found by the young lad on whose arm it is crawling
Great White Egret (180)
Greenshank, the first three we saw - more were to be seen later
Told you
Heron hiding in the reeds
Heron in the marsh
Marsh Harrier - the only one of this year's youngsters left on site
Red Deer fawn
Red Deer hind and fawn
Young Red Deer stag
Spotted Redshank
Juvenile Robin - cute as can be
A welcome return to our 'tick' list was a Stoat, it's been far too long since we've seen one of those sinuous little beasties bouncing around as if powered by an over-tightened elastic band. Not so the other mustelid at his site, the Otter, we could hardly look anywhere without seeing one at the farthest two hides. No pics though, sadly too far away.
We've not told you too much about the day's adventures as we're going to leave that to Alicia and we're also fairly sure her pics will be a tads better than ours and might (better had!) include a lovely portrait of a Kingfisher.
Here's a bit of video of the Red Deer, all very Serengeti-like

Where to next? We've been out n about on safari over the holiday weekend and Alicia will be sending us the second installment of here Scottish trip shortly - that'll certainly one to watch out for!
In the meantime let us know who's 
In the meantime let us know who's bouncing around with too much youthful exuberance in your outback.

Friday 28 August 2015

Underwing hell

The Safari was able to put the big light out on the moth trap but only due to sad circumstances, the lovely elderly lady next door passed away peacefully the night before last. Our neighbours on the other side are away on holiday both events allowing the use of the big light. An excited night followed but with hindsight we needed have been so eager to get down stairs and have a look at first light. At least we spotted the Common Wasp on the top egg box and that made us turn the others slowly and warily, there were two others lurking within. For the moths underwings out-numbered all-comers 24, of the three common species but mostly Lesser Yellow Underwing, to eight, three of which were micros, the very common Light Brown Apple Moth (2) and Codling Moth (1)
All of which somehow reminded  us that we've had a couple of Patch 2 ticks this week we've forgotten to tell you about, namely three Teal (P2 #61) and Common Sandpiper (P2 #62) along with some good skua action which included a possible Pomarine Skua yesterday seen circling very high northwards, only trouble is we had a it down as a Bonxie and the group of far more experienced seawatchers and better telescoped birds a little way to our south thought it was Pom - final verdict? Skua sp, dohhh! Far more easily IDd was the really close Arctic Skua giving a Sandwich Tern a mild bit of grief, one of the best views of an Arctic Skua we've ever had; too close for the scope really, bins woulda been better.
Wifey had to work this morning but we had a day off as we're another year closer to our telegram today so went down to the northern estuary for a shuffy at the waders. We got there a little late as the tide was well up but it couldn't be helped. The normal wader roosts were already almost underwater and most of the waders had been washed off. The nearest patch of mud held a couple of dozen Lapwings and a small bird hidden among them, was this what we had come for? No, the Lapwings were forced to walk up the bank a little by an incoming wavelet and our mystery bird turned into a Little Ringed Plover, a nice find, never seen one of those here before. A wander past the yacht club had us find all the smaller waders - about a flippin mile away on the far bank!!! Time to give up and go elsewhere, we'll try again another day over the holiday. although the tide will be even higher then and will probably flood over the road.
Our elsewhere turned out to be the nature reserve. We walked in from the north very briefly seeing the first Goldcrest of the autumn at the site work its way down the ancient hedge along the original bank of the pre-1741 mere.
The warm sun was tempered by a rather strong south westerly wind, we'd been sheltered from it on the estuary but in the lee of the denser patches of scrub Common Darters chased each other around their shadows on the path being easier to see than the insects themselves. Occasionally they'd land on the path and present a photo opportunity but they spotted our movement miles off and were gone in a flash. There were Brown Hawkers in abundance too along with a few Migrant Hawkers, one of which almost settled long enough for a pic. 
Concentrating on the eastern end we scoured the scrub for the elusive Garden Warbler without success, there were plenty of Woodpigeons in there and a lone Blue Tit.
Can't string this into a Garden Warbler
The scrape looked promising but there wasn't so much as a feather on it from which ever angle we viewed it from. Don't let the blue sky in the pic above fool you, we got a drenching from a heavy shower which we just knew must have dropped something so we went round to the embankment to look over the mere for a Black Tern or something similarly exotic - nowt, there was zilch there out of the ordinary.
Studying the water we counted 13 Shovelers, a couple of Teal well tucked away in the edge of the reeds and right at the far end a pair of Gadwall were found. From the reeds to our left a Cetti's Warbler fired up and we heard another round by the 'Panoramic' Hide a little later. A couple of Reed Warblers scooted across the reed tops but other than the 'regular stuff there wasn't much else, then Wifey phoned for her lift home - her car was in for a service. On the way back to the Land Rover we had enough time for another look at the scrub where we found our first Shaggy Ink Caps of the year and not more than a yard away a big clump of another Coprinus sp fungus.

Back at Base camp we turned on the puter to input our moth sightings on to our spreadsheet and our bird sightings on to Birdtrack, then we had a peek at the FBC website to see if there was owt about - beejeeezuzzz wouldya look at that - how'd we miss those Little Ringed Plovers? Must have flown almost right over our head - and we didn't even see TS!!! We just knew that shower would drop something! Does that count as a dip?

We put our sighting on later but before riting this blog - obviously...
It all goes to prove you can't see everything all the time, but it was a tad miffing!
Wifey's  car was ready at 5 o'clock and as the sun was still out we decided to walk down to the garage to collect it rather than both of us go in the Land Rover, much more sustainable...and we saw our first Painted Lady flying low along the roadside grass verge - wouldn't have spotted that from the driving seat! So not such a miffing day after all.
Seeing  as it's our buffdy here's a sort of relevant song, guitar played by a local lad from not far up the road near the in-laws

Where to next? Might try an early start on the nature reserve in the morning providing there's not too much quaffing of quality ales this evening.
In the meantime let us know what's missed is mystery in your outback.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Did we tell you we've been on a twitch?

The Safari seems to have been neglectful of our duties and not informed you we went up north a-ways with BD at the weekend to see if we could see an American visitor to our coast.
We drove up in sunshine and arrived at the site only to be told our quarry was no longer in the roadside creek only a few yards away but had flown onto the estuary where there was a huge expanse of mudflats for it to enjoy and huge numbers of Redshank in which to secrete itself. Off to the estuary we went and found a small crowd of telescoped birders stood on the seawall. The only trouble was we could tell they hadn't found the bird as they were all looking in different directions. We'd have to wait til the tide rose and limited the amount of mud available and probably forcing it back to the creeks. 
Cloud rolled in from the south and a cool wind picked up. Out on the river something flushed about 500 or more Lapwings off the flats but the distant Redshank flock stayed put on the deck. We saw four Little Egrets, no sign of the Spoonbill that had been here for the best part of a week though - it would be reported again the following day, would have been a nice bonus bird for our Year List Challenge with Monika, we've not seen one for a few years now dipping out on one a couple of years back.
People drifted away, some giving up and others going to have a look back in the creeks, we chose the later as the sky become more and more threatening and a brief but ferocious squall whipped up out of nowhere. 

We got to the little roadside car park and had a look in the creeks from a variety of angles to no avail, just a few Mallards, a Redshank and a Curlew where there. At the furthest point of our short walk there was a rumble of thunder and the heavens opened - we'd set off in sunshine and hadn't brought a coat! A very fast dash to the Land Rover was made without getting too wet. Once the rain eased something made us look over the hedge onto the pool on the opposite side of the road to the creeks and there on the point of the furthest island was a very pale undersided bird with a handful of Redshanks. It was too dark to see it properly but it looked mightily suspicious.
Scanning further round there was a Greenshank and a Little Grebe of note. Something flushed some of the Redshanks but all wings showed thick white trailing edges - no joy, then a lone bird flew over the road and a shout went up 'white rump - long trailing legs' - Lesser Yelllowlegs (179) in the bag!
Once again we walked down the road to see where it had landed on the far side of the marsh. Once again the rain came down this time we weren't so lucky and got a bit soggy running back to the Land Rover.
We drove round to the other side and eventually got terrible views in torrential rain in almost night-time dark light, it wasn't even tea-time! BD fired off a few record shots and then it was tick n run; or at least tick n drive as the rain fell even heavier. Thanks v muchly to the folk who generously allowed us a look through their scope standing aside in the deluge while we had a quick peek.
Where to next? Bank holiday weekend and we've a couple of safaris lined up for you and we should be able to get the mothy out tonight - with the 'big' light for a change.
In the meantime let us know who's been braving the deluges in your outback.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

We have been out on safari - honest

The Safari has been out n about but not had many photo opportunities this week. We'll start off with a bit of a moth we found early the other morning settled high up on a window at work. It took a good tip-toe  stretch to get the phone anywhere near it.
Word on the virtual street is that it's Agriphila straminella, a common enough species but we'll have to check the records to see if it's been recorded at work in the past.
Patch 2 has been a bit hit abd miss, when it's been quiet it's been very quiet but when it's been good there's been some superb skua action. Yesterday we watched two Arctic Skuas giving a poor Sandwich Tern a right royal mugging. This morning only one was seen but there have been up to half a dozen out there relieving the 300 or more Sandwich Terns of their hard earned fish.
There was a huge shoal of dish this morning which had attracted a good number of gulls, terns and Gannets but none were diving, the fish must have been visible but just too deep so as to be out of reach, there can't have been any marine predators like our blubbery friends the Bottlenose Dolphins or other larger fish to drive them to the surface.Talking of the dolphins a short piece of video appeared on the social media from the weekend of a pod of about 30 Bottlenose Dolphins just out of range from us in the mouth of the River Mersey off Liverpool filmed from a small boat
Other birds of note this morning were a juvenile Kittiwake and three Manx Shearwaters, the fist of those we've seen for a fair while now. Today was too choppy but yesterday's much calmer conditions gave us a Grey Seal in the middle distance.
We had our last children's group of the holiday yesterday afternoon and this time we were at a site we rarely get to explore on the beach in the town centre. We took the kids with their pots and nets to the pools round the pier legs and there they caught hundreds if not thousands of Brown Shrimps. However, there was little else, certainly no large Common Prawns but they did find some tiny juveniles barely bigger than plankton! A few Green Shore Crabs were netted mostly very small ones, the biggest being about an inch and a half across the carapace. A lone piece of seaweed was where they found a Sand Goby and couple of very tiny juvenile Blennies.
After they'd exhausted the possibilities around the pier legs we had a look in a runnel. My word the water was warm, felt almost tropical as we picked out a variety of shells from the shallow pool. The standline beyond the pool gave us a Curved Razor Shell and several broken carapaces of Masked Crabs
There hasn't been much wind recently, which thankfully is what you'd expect in the summer, so there weren't too many shells washed up. The oddest find of the year must have been the black pudding lurking on the'd that get there?
If only we'd taken a tub of mustard with us!
You just never know what you're going to find.
Where to next? Last day at work before the holiday tomorrow and we might be able to get a little adventure in.
In the meantime let us know who's doing the mugging in your outback.

Monday 24 August 2015

Odd ball plant at the nature reserve

The Safari had a meeting to attend which was close to the nature reserve and once we were done we were able to have a sunny hour our so over there.
We had a couple of targets for our Patchwork Challenge to find. A quick look from the hide down from the new Visitor Centre, which is looking good with it's new artwork, gave us very little other than the two Garganeys over in the scrape.
We had a look down the dyke and across the fields but there wasn't anything to see. Once near the scrub the dragonflies started to make their presence felt. We had Common Darters basking on the stone path, several Migrant and Brown Hawkers
At the 'new' rear scrape there was a Green Sandpiper (MMLNR #93) asleep in the farthest always seems to be the farthest corner for us pic-wise at the mo.

We had a chat to GN who was gathering dead hedge material for tomorrow's volunteer group. He'd had a bit of fun disturbing a Wasp nest. While chatting a Cetti's Warbler called from the reeds beyond the bush behind him, the first he'd heard for a while.
He also showed us some plants that had come up put of the seed bank after last winter's construction work. Several lovely blue Cornflowers had come up, how long has that seed lain dormant in the soil? There was also a pretty pink flower we didn't recognise at all. Any ideas anyone?
Rather straggly, about a foot tall at most, with only a few lanceolate leaves.
From there we had a slow walk through the scrub listening out for a chance of Garden Warbler but the scrub was just about silent, nothing was calling or moving in there other than a couple of Woodpigeons, not really surprising given the temperature and time of day, we'd have more luck in the morning.
Out of the scrub on the old track the butterflies were impressive, a Peacock, several small Whites some may well have been Green Veined Whites but wouldn't settle and a fair number of Common Blues. Gard to count as they kept doubling back behind us and then the same or others overtaking us as we walked. Best were a couple of Small Coppers.
Nothing else of any new note was on found on the way back. But annoyingly once near the Land Rover and under the trees all the gulls went up in a noisy panic, a few minutes earlier we'd have stood a chance of seeing what all the fuss was about.
Where to next? A look at Patch 2 and our final kid's group on the beach of the holiday tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's hiding in the farthest corner in your outback.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Moths, bats and an old lady

The Safari was up and out at the nature reserve a few minutes after first light. We had hoped for a fall of some migrants but the overnight weather was back-to-front for that; it rained in the early part of the night and cleared up to leave a fine morning which meant a clear-out of birds was more likely than a drop-in. Not to worry it was still good to be on site before the dog-walkers (aka bird flushers). There wasn''t all that much for them to flush. A Whitethroat or two crept about low down,  Blackcaps 'teck'ed in the not yet ripe Elderberry bushes and unseen Willow Warblers/Chiffchaffs 'hweet'ed from the cover of the dense Hawthorns
A flit in a bush caught our eye and we stood and watched a party of Long Tailed Tits go about their business gleaning tiny invertebrates from the leaves and twigs as they moved single file through the scrub. There were a couple of Blue Tits with them but when they crossed the path we were able to get a count of nine, four Blue Tits and no less than FIVE Chiffchaffs in the flock!
Coming out of the scrub we rounded the bend overlooking the new scrape with caution, it was here we hoped we might find a decent 'drop-in' in the form of a wader, perhaps a Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank or something rarer like a Wood Sandpiper or even a Spotted Crake (if only!!!). From our view point we could only see about half of the scrape but there were two ducks in the middle visible just above the tops of the Reeds. Good job it had been raining heavily most of the night and these were weighed down with raindrops otherwise we'd not have see the ducks. They had seen us too so we ever so carefully raised our bins to see they were two Garganeys. Slowly we lifted the camera to our eye and fired of a couple of shots at the one showing most in the open. The second bird started to swim towards it and we were just about to get some pics of them together when the first dog walker came striding up from the opposite direction where a gap in the reeds meant the ducks could see him and off they went like a flash. Why don't these fools (polite version - it's Sunday morning) stop and wait when they see someone with a camera to their face, it's not like it's not obvious what's happening!
Still a bit dark and distant
Rain weighted Common Reed
We walked round to the FBC hide and had  a few minutes in there seeing the Garganeys again on the mere before they flew back to the channel scrape. Not long after that we saw two ducks fly off east into the glare of the rising sun which could have been them. A Reed Warbler flitted through the reed tops and a Water Rail called from the depths but other than those and the incessant mithering squeals of the juvemile Great Crested Grebe it was quiet. We gave it a few more minutes and were rewarded with a Common Sandpiper dropping in and flying up and down the mere calling before landing on the scrape. Almost what we'd been hoping for but the 'wrong type' of sandpiper.
Now it was decisions decisions time - do we continue on the full circuit or go back the way we came? Back the way we came won so off along the embankment we went seeing a Sedge Warbler on the landward side then hearing a Cetti's Warbler halfheartedly singing from the reeds on the lakeward side. The scrape was empty apart from a couple of Coots and a young Moorhen. Stopping in the scrub to see if any of the hidden 'tecks' were going to be a Lesser Whitethroat or a Garden Warbler the only two birds we could get the bins on to were Blackcaps. Behind us a Blackbird rattled its alarm call and we saw the tail end of a Sparrowhawk disappear at speed between the bushes.
In the more open scrub we watched a couple of Whitethroats but it was still pretty quiet and we were running out of time. Along the path bordering the reserve extention (actually both sides of the path here are in the reserve but one side is fenced) there is a large thicket of  Wild Raspberry, one of the luscious fruits was within reach - a real taste sensation! In the main (original) part of the reserve there is a small patch of Soapwort which we didn't notice but at the end of the 'extension' fence and just outside the reserve by an inch or two you couldn't fail to spot a much larger patch of those delicate pink flowers.
While doing some weeding in the garden back at Base Camp a Common Darter was over flying pond for several minutes trying to find a way to the water being thwarted by the anti-heron net. It gave up in the end a and flew off. Increasing cloud later in the afternoon brought about a dozen Swallows swooping low overhead, but as ever there wasn't a House Martin with them, still not had one at Base camp this year; no doubt there's be more if the tidy brigade didn't (illegally) knock the nests off their eaves.
Around tea-time we saw that our Extreme Photographer had sent us an email with some pics of a vole fin his garden, he wanted confirmation that it was a Bank Vole.
With such a lovely reddish fur it is indeed a Bank Vole and although we hate the word we have to say it is exceedingly cute.
In the evening we'd been booked to do our annual moth and bat watching session at a nearby park. The weather forecast didn't look hopeful but it was still quite sunny when we left Base Camp on the three mile drive. However we got to about half way there and it was like driving into the gates of doom - the sky went as black as the Obs of Hell (whatever they are but they're well known round theses parts) and a few raindrops on the windscreen soon developed into a full blown Noah-esque deluge.
We arrived to a distant rumble of thunder but the ran soon eased as we waited for the public to show up. Sure enough a small crowd of waterproofs-clad families began to arrive but the sky darkened again and more lightning showed from the south, where the weather was coming from. With everything sopping wet putting out the moth trap and its electrics wasn't going to happen but a bit of bat detecting was on the cards if the rain held off as the darkness grew. 8.30 was the start time and we had the bat detector switched on and ready to go, we'd even had a distant contact while we waited. As our leader began his welcome introduction lightning flashed all around us 1-and 2-and that's just about overhead! And then Noah joined us with a bucket of tar, a couple of planks of wood and a big bag of nails and that was the end of mothing and batting.
Or was it???
Back at Base camp we got a call from our Extreme Photographer and took it in the kitchen so as not to disturb Wifey watching the telly. We moved a tea-towel and an Old Lady appeared and made bee (or moth)-line for the pot of tea-bags!
Outside the deluge continued so it was probably just as well the event was abandoned - hope we have better luck next year.

Where to next? There's a bit of a south easterly blowing today and heavy rain is forecast later, we might try to get out when (or just after) it lands to see if anything is dropped by the storm.
In the meantime let us know who's trying to nick off with the beverages in your outback.

Friday 21 August 2015

Way down south to the Midlands

The Safari is taking you south today and we hope it's exciting as Alicia's adventures to the north, can't wait for her second installment, can you?
We met up with our best boy LCV down on his local patch at breakfast time. We dumped the Land Rover after a quick look at some gulls on the adjacent lake and headed off in his motor. With the gulls, nearly all Black Headed Gulls, there were loads of Great Crested Grebes and a single Little Grebe. Overhead we saw a couple of Swifts, would they be the last of the year? In the distance we heard a Green Woodpecker and a Nuthatch.
We had a few target species, a twitch to do and LCV had quality 'fillers' to add to the day's entertainment. We started at a heathland car park where a lovely tangled piece of Hawthorn had been laid down to make an improvised bird table. Beneath it a Grey Squirrel filled its face.
The food attracted several Blue, Great and Coal Tits, and then a Marsh Tit turned up. Chaffinches and Goldfinches were about and a female Chaffinch had a wash in a pothole puddle. It flew off and came back only when it came back it had turned into a juvenile Bullfinch!
We walked onto the heath and had a scan over the valley. Lots of Swallows hawked insects in the warm sunshine and a Kestrel swooped down to be lost below the tree-line. The target here was a long shot at this late stage of the season and being now hot and late in the morning it was going to be double impossible. On the point of, somewhat sensibly, giving up and moving on the ground wasn't as well vegetated as it first appeared and we were in an Adder hotspot, nothing else for it but to tip-toe through the rough scanning as we went and then LCV flushed a bird from almost under his feet - BINGO - a Woodlark, (175) our target species and carrying a huge caterpillar too. 
He also spotted a Brown Argus butterfly which we rarely see but dipped then he came across a very fresh Small Copper. We could only find Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers.
LCV then suggested we walk down the valley too the woods along the stream at the bottom where there was a chance of finding a Redstart.
There were more Swallows than we thought whizzing low over the Heather which wasn't quite in flower it needed another couple of days of sunshine to bring it fully out. At the bottom it was hot and there was no wind, not ideal birding conditions and it was indeed apparently birdless, not a peep was heard from our feathered friends. But we did spot a skipper butterfly which settled long enough for us to see it had extremely obvious 'dipped in ink' tips to its antennae but not long enough for us to point the camera at it. 99.9999999999% certain it was our very first Essex Skipper, having seen lots pics of them on WB's blog.
Wandering slowly back up the hill we saw a male and juvvy Stonechat. By now we were positively overdressed in our coat and it was time to move on to the next site, a woodland walk with another chance of Redstarts. On the walk in there were Goldcrests calling in the conifers and Long Tailed Tits flitting through the branches. The site is an Ancient Woodland and there are some cracking old trees scattered through the wood. Some of the dead trees are really impressive.
It was getting cloudier and darker now!
We've seen Redstarts in this old monster in the past but no such luck today.
The stream there is a known to have some of those invasive American Signal Crayfish lurking in its stony bed. Between us we must have turned over a hundred or more stones without any success at all.
Time for lunch which was taken at a nearby nature reserve with a boardwalk and viewing area over a bend in the river. It was a very pleasant spot with lots of  families enjoying the wild surroundings. There were 'games' for the young ones to have a go at including musical animals like this fish. 
Half drum half xylophone
A dank dark pool had one mother asking her child if there were any Crocodiles in the water, having seen the Red Eared Terrapin she perhaps should have asked if there were any Alligators in the depths; just like the Florida Everglades it was.
The boardwalk had a bench overlooking the river and it was there we dived into our butties. We weren't the only thing diving in! A Kingfisher (176) appeared with a fish and landed on a snag only a few yards away but it didn't stay long. Its nest was under an overhang on the far bank and it had a favourite perch just out of camera range. It came and  went and went and came all the time we were there, flying from perch to perch, from river to lake and back, diving for fish and diving to have a wash - simply brilliant if only the distance had been a little less and the light a lot better.
Banded, or perhaps Beautiful, Demoisels flitted over a little bay and a Common Tern flew over - it really was a lovely spot but butties finished it was time to move on to our next site and the 'big' twitch.
Were taken to a reservoir which seemed almost as big as the Irish Sea at Patch 2. Below us on the gravel were some Ringed Plovers, which LCV told us were very unusual here, Little Ringed Plover had nested on the gravel but we didn't see any of those. Two Dunlin suddenly became three but we didn't see the third fly in.
This is the smaller half of the reservoir, the other half is across the road which runs along a causeway
But it wasn't small stuff we'd come to see it something much much larger. LCV found our quarry fairly quickly even though only is head was sticking out of a creek. It came into full view after a couple of minutes. It was a long long long way off but it was still a Common Crane (177). His nibs found a Wheatear at that range too - wow!!!
It was so far away it was almost half way back to Base Camp
LCV had a plan though, there were hides much nearer and it had started spitting quite heavily with rain, so a drive round was in order. We stopped at a Little Owl site but our chauffeur wasn't sure exactly where to look for them, it was raining  heavily now so it was likely that any owls would be tucked away well down in their holes anyway.
We arrived a t the first hide, which overlooked another arm of the reservoir so the Crane couldn't be seen from there. Several birders were already scoping an Osprey (178) tucking into a huge fish in a dead tree over on the far bank, the fish was almost as long as the bird itself. Unfortunately the action was too far away through torrential rain to be able to get any pics. Greenshanks were probing the nearby mud and we saw a couple of Ruff and Dunlins.
One of the other birders asked our opinion on a distant gull.
The light was dreadfully poor but we came down on the side of Caspian Gull along with about half of the other birders, the other half were rooting for Yellow Legged Gull. What do you think?

To us the bill looked a bit too long and thin and dull for an adult Yellow Legged. Others liked the look of the long dingy greeny-yellow legs, full high 'Dolly Parton' breast and dark beady eye. Their companions weren't convinced. Fight views weren't very informative at the long range. Showing the pics to our friends at the Nature Reserve they were unanimous with Yellow Legged Gull, MMcG having just returned from the south of France where he had seen a good many Yellow Legged Gulls.
It wasn't a long walk to the other hide but it was a wet one! We passed another impressive dead tree.
A Peacock butterfly braved the rain flitting around under the umbrella of low branches. Out of the woods we came upon a shallow bay with five Ruff. And there on the far side of the creek was the Crane.
A couple of Yellow Wagtails flitted around the sheep and on the short grass there were loads of Pied Wagtails and a/the Wheatear. We had a wander upstream aways looking for Mandarins LCV had seen on a previous visit, but we couldn't find any ducks of any description.
All too soon our day was up and we had to head back to Base Camp after a superb day out even if it was a little damp. Many thanks to LCV for chauffeuring us around and having a good laugh all day. we'll have to do it again at some of his other winter sites.
Yesterday we had a mystery moth on the front window at work - answers on a post card please.
A meeting at lunchtime gave us the info that three Garganeys were at the Nature Reserve. After the meeting we had a trundle down there and had a bit of wait but our patience was rewarded with good if a little distant views. Garganey (MMLNR #92) a good addition to our Patchwork Challenge list, one we were hoping would have been on the list already and were beginning to run out of time for.
Today we spotted a nice Hoverfly enjoying a sunny interlude in the work's garden before we headed off to meet another family group on the beach. CR should be able to ID it for us, he's pretty good at them.
We met the kids at the beach up by the pier where they found tons of Brown Shrimps, a few Common Prawns, some Blennies and a couple of  Sand Gobies. Whizzing around in the pots were several tiny Speckled Sea Lice.
One of the youngsters told us about a giant jellyfish on the beach - we had to investigate and he was only too willing to show us his find. It was disappointingly small in the end...a baby Barrel Jellyfish.
Another family returned from under the pier with a pot full of goodies and when we looked in to see what they'd found  - the jackpot that's what! Another Idotea linearis and this time it was going to be photo-able.
 A bit of wrangling using a Cockle Shell saw it moved to an empty tray.
All good stuff! Isn't wildlife brill!
Where to next? Might have a very early pre-dog walker wander round the Nature Reserve in the morning.
In the meantime let us know who's prancing around on the longest legs in town in your outback.