Friday 30 October 2015

Work was the plaice to be today

The Safari wasn't over-enamoured by the heavy rain early this morning but it abated after an hour or so and we were able to sneak out for a few minutes. The sea was terribly murky and the visibility was totally dreadful. We did manage to find a Red Throated Diver and a Great Crested Grebe among the not so numerous as recently Common Scoters. Something made us wander round the garden as well and that's when we found two Song Thrushes (P2 #69) under one of the Tamarisk shrubberies, we think that's a site record! A Wren was in the garden too.
Late morning was when the main event happened, the marine biology students arrived with their touch tank for the public to get up close and personal with our superb watery wildlife. They had dry specimens as well as live exhibits including Common Prawns, Hermit Crabs, a Sand Goby and these chaps.
Coral - not from round these parts!
A hungry Beadlet Anemone with its mouth open waiting for some grub
7-Armed Starfish - collected by the students in Scotland, not found along our coast - we've never seen this species before

Can you see it?
A master of camouflage!
Grumpy the Green Shore Crab...he had to be kept in a tank on his own otherwise he'd have eaten everything
It's all out there, just get your wellies on check the tides and get looking.
Where to next? Weekend so anything could happen...and we have a bit of a plan that may or may not come off.
In the meantime let us know who's wearing the camouflage suit in your outback.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Odds n sods videos from recent adventures

The Safari hasn't seen much today although we did get soaked by a wave coming over the wall on Patch 2 at lunchtime and went decidedly batty with the halloween kids this arvo.
So instead we've got a little hotch-potch of video from Scotland and Spurn, the Spurn ones shot masterfly by that well known wildlife cameraman LCV.

Don't blink!
And now to the Solway...
We should really try taking more videos, we rarely remember to press the video button, and then learn how to edit them more betterer, particularly splicing together footage from two different clips.
Where to next? Anything could happen tomorrow!
In the meantime let us know who's hogging the footage in your outback.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

More tales from the Solway coast

The Safari is continuing the tales of south west Scotland today. Somewhat strangely the only two Coots we saw all week despite visiting two quality wetland reserves, one of them repeatedly, was this one on a mural in a hide! And the other? Behind us on the other wall.
A drive over the hills to Newton Stewart had us stopping to enjoy the mountain view and hearing some Crossbills (197) calling from the forest on the far side of the road. A plump looking finchy thing sitting at the top of a Fir tree like a Christmas fairy was probably one of their number but for some weird reason our bins weren't to hand for once.
A lovely river runs through the town with bankside parks and picnic benches where we had our lunch and got mobbed by the Jackdaws for titbits.
A scan through the gulls on a pebbly shoal in the river didn't give us any unusual larids but at the back of the group was our first Goosander (198) of the year. It was to be the only one of the trip.
More walks on the beach at Temporary Base Camp had us looking for shells for Wifey's collection, they have to be just right to pass muster! There were trillions to chose from but only three made the cut!

Visits to the nearest reserve gave us nice views of House Sparrows gleaning Oats from stooks that the wardens had made for them. The crop had failed through being too wet so couldn't be combined and had to be hand scythed the old-fashioned way. 
The path through the woodland to one of the hides was littered with golden Beech leaves.
One morning there was a Roe Deer in the undergrowth on the left-hand side so close we could almost have reached out and petted it but we didn't see it until its ears twitched and as soon as it saw us looking at it it bolted off, we totally hadn't seen the even nearer well grown fawn that jumped up and followed mum almost giving us a hearty. The trees hear held the only Great Spotted Woodpecker of the holiday and while walking through it we missed a female Hen Harrier quartering the marshes at the end of the track.
If you go the other way a similarly wooded track leads to the beach, at the start of it there is a bench carved out of a fallen tree trunk well on its way to rotting now where we found this wee little fungus.
A look at the beach proved fruitless with not a bird in sight but there was a pair of Stonechats where the scratty woodland gave way to the sand dunes.
 But the star of the show is the Barnacle Geese.
Although they were present in prodigious numbers a lone individual was very hard to get pics of. Early morning light and their constant motion made sharp pics difficult - yeah we've always got a feeble excuse!
The noise of the flocks on the ground is phenomenal at close range and the woosh of their wings when they all take off when they spook is like a jet fighter. Enjoy the spectacle on Autumnwatch next week if you can't get there in person to witness it first hand. Either way you're in for a treat.
We spent an hour with a family in one of the hides showing them the distant ducks through our scope which they enjoyed, otherwise they'd have left bored having not seen anything. We left with them and the young lad at the front of our group spotted a lovely Brown Hare nibbling the grass at the side of the track only a little way in front of us.
Surprisingly it didn't bolt and allowed the children prolonged views through our bins...brilliant! The main thing they noticed was how much bigger than a Rabbit it was and how black the tips of its ears were...great observations from the youngsters.
Here's some pics from the beach near the cottage.
Pitted rocks on the beach
Out on the beach there's a lump of rock sitting on the rocks. It has a name - Cold Magma - a lump of Pluton which is a a remnant of a cooled blob of magma from deep underground which has been driven upwards by tectonic forces over countless millenia. It's from the nearby mountain, Criffel.
Criffel - with the cloud hat
The top of the mountain has been eroded by glaciers and that's how the lump got on the beach. There's a couple of much smaller ones too.
This one's the size of a suitcase rather than a small car
Lovely place, great wildlife, beautiful scenery and some folk think its OK to chuck their bagged dog turds into the bushes...what disgusting shits! What possesses them, shouldn't be allowed out and shouldn't be allowed a dog either.
 Where to next? We could be going a bit batty tomorrow
 In the meantime let us know who's doing all the gaggling in your outback.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Super south west Scotland

The Safari and Wifey drove north beyond Carlisle and once we'd snuck over the border into Scotland without being noticed we took a sharp left and headed into a superb part of Scotland we've never really been to before only shooting through at breakneck speed to catch the ferry to Northern Ireland at Stranraer.
After about another half an hour we turned left again and aimed for the coast. Our cottage for the week was so close to the firth that had we driven 10 more yards our hats would have floated off!
The first morning the Barnacle Geese were superb flying past our window, there were thousands of them.
They went to the right so we had a wander along the beach to see if we could relocate them - didn't have to go far.
They were spread all across the mudflats. What a beautiful sight and sound. There was a small flock of Grey Lag Geese out on the mud too which in this part of the world could well have been 'proper' wild birds from Iceland. There was a bit of passage going on too with Meadow Pipits, a few Siskins and Redwings going over.
We had a quick pop into the nearby RSPB reserve for a bit of a reccy and haven't seen so many Linnets and Yellowhammers in one place for years. all too quick for our lens and we weren't able to stay long enough to see the male Hen Harrier that had been reported almost daily during the previous week.
The reason we were only had a time for a quick reccy was we were off to the 'competition' where BBC2's Autumnwatch will be beamed from next week. We arrived with an hour to spare before their Whooper Swan afternoon feed although only two had arrived from Iceland and the local breeding pair of Mute Swans were still seeing off all-comers on their lake. The hide offers really good close views of all the regular species of waterfowl.
The following morning we were out on the beach again and this time it was waders on the move amongst the very many Oystercatchers and several Curlews, there was a sizable flock of Turnstones new in and a few Bar Tailed Godwits.
Another day out followed with a trip inland through the southern part of The Galloway Forest Park
We saw the forestry areas sneaking as 'weeds' up the hillsides - interesting in that this might change Scotland's upland ecology substantially in the coming decades.
If the clearfell areas (outlined) are to be replanted some native broadleaves around the perimeter of any new forestry planting would be a beneficial addition. Other areas are totally 'sheep-wrecked' with barely a tree in sight!
Any tree planting has to be protected from deer and these bad-boys.
Next stop was a Red Kite feeding station. Where we saw lots and lots and lots of Red Kites (196).
Just look how many there are and this is nowhere near all of them! There's more in the pic than in the whole country 25 years or so ago when we used to go to mid Wales to see them.
Real beauties they are and only a danger to already dead stuff and worms so why they are still illegally persecuted by the landed guardians of the countryside. Having said that we very nearly hit one which was feeding on roadkill Pheasant round a tight bend.
We spent a superb hour or more in lovely warm sunshine and gave up snapping away to properly enjoy the spectacle.
A bit of culture followed with a lazy wander round the pretty village of Gatehouse of Fleet.
More culture occurred in the form of the 'Artists' town of Kirkcudbright (pronounced Ker-coo-bree for Sassenachs).
The town gives its name to the local style of dry stone walls - know as dry stane dykes in these parts. The normal way of building a dry stone wall is to have two faces with a rubble infill, these are unique (we think)  in that they are only one stone thick and there are obvious gaps that can be seen through.
Allegedly the gaps make the sheep think the wall will fall as it looks insecure so don't try to climb them - now that's what you call a cunning plan!
Where to next? More from sunny Scotland tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know whose not knocking the walls over in your outback.