Wednesday 30 March 2016

An offshore mystery

The Safari decided not to venture out onto Patch 2 early doors in the heavy and frequent hail showers yesterday morning  so we had to wait while lunchtime before we could get out. Half way through the morning we heard the gulls start kicking up a fuss and looking out of the window – really need to keep these open for better listening now – we saw the local Starlings and Feral Pigeons flying about bunched up too; something had upset them, not another unseen Osprey???
At last lunchtime arrived and out we went. The choppy water made viewing tricky and at first we saw nowt.  After a while, close in not far behind the surf, a dark shape came and went. Focusing hard on that area it took a few more minutes before the shape popped in to view again and was seen to be a small female Grey Seal. Always nice to see and we’ve not seen very many so far this year.
After a few more minutes of seeing nothing all of a sudden a huge flock of Common Scoters numbering at least 500 lifted in to the air just this side of the horizon. Last time we saw a flush like this a boat was involved this time there was no boat so what had caused the panic? We saw nothing to suggest anything in particular. It would be nice to think a pod of Humpback Whales had come up from beneath them blowing their bubble traps but that’s a little unlikely. We didn’t see any dolphins break the surface so a superpod of Common Dolphins haring through them at breakneck speed chasing Mackerel is also unlikely. A flock of Common Scoters that size covers some acreage of sea and for them all to get off the water as one surely there must have been something they didn’t like out there. Any other suggestions?
Whatever it was they were in the air a good while before settling back down small groups going this way and that disbanding the original ‘super-flock’. A small number of gulls became interested in something below the surface and followed it/them/nothing for about half a mile or more dipping and plunge diving from time to time. Interesting enough to attract the attention of a Great Black Backed Gull to come in and bully the other gulls off their prize. All very mysterious!
This morning we did manage to get out on the seawall and straight away it was obviously very different to yesterday even though we’d recently had heavy rain – not as wintry as yesterday though.
As soon as we put our eye to the scope’s eye-piece a distant Gannet (120, P2 #45) was seen cruising steadily northwards. Between us and it and a good way offshore well over a hundred little dark bouncy dots passed through our field of view, possibly as many as 200 all told in the time we were out watching. Our first Meadow Pipits (P2 #46) of the year for Patch 2. Above and slightly behind us a Rock Pipit (121, P2 #47) was heard as it too made its way north.
A steady movement of Common Gulls was also evident with singles and small groups flying over the tide-line or in the middle distance, a flock of five Kittiwakes came by in the middle distance too. A Curlew flew north along the water’s edge and a pair of Eiders went south while out on the horizon four more Gannets played follow my leader as they swooped low into the troughs and rose again. The sixth Gannet of the session came through a few minutes later. For a while it was busy with northbound migrating birds, how long had it been going on for before we got there we wonder. There was no wondering about when it finished as it all went very quiet all of a sudden, our cue to leave.
Once back indoors we saw we’d had an email from SD alerting us to a pair of Goosanders coming our way…yes we’d left too early! And not by long either – drat!!! Their similar-ish looking cousins, Red Breasted Mergansers, are much, much more likely to be seen here, indeed checking our records it appears the Goosanders would have been our first ever at Patch 2. He also mentioned he’d seen a Black Throated Diver going past, that would have been while we were just about arriving at work so would have been out too late for it anyway – still a great find though.
During the morning there was no repeat of the gull commotion, not that we noticed – the windows are still tightly shut against the chilly weather.
At lunchtime there wasn’t as much excitement as earlier either. A small group of Meadow Pipits went through at about the same range as this morning but there was little else to get enthusiastic about. Odds n sods of Common Gulls still drifted by but the Common Scoters were scattered far and wide and very settled on the rising tide. We scanned the horizon for more Gannets or maybe an Arctic Skua or Manx Shearwater but nothing and in the shallower outer estuary the first of the year’s Sandwich Terns hadn’t shown up yet either.
Looking at the weather forecasts and Atlantic charts it looks like Friday will be the day the birding floodgates open but we’re on covering duty for a colleague so won’t be able to get out. Hopefully the flood will still be going strong on Saturday.
The Patchwork Challenge results for February are out and in our two patch categories Inland North and Coastal North our results are as follows.
For the nature reserve we're lying in 10th place but if 'Points per Bird' was counted we'd be 4th with 1.108PpB - not bad at all. We're not doing so well on Patch 2 down at the lowly position of 29th if league positions were from PpB we'd be a fraction higher at 25th but with a better PpB than the nature reserve at 1.15 so the quality of birds in the north must be better on the coast so far, but all could change in the next couple of months.
How will we have fared during March?…Well there’s still a day left to add something new so fingers crossed.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 in the morning with high hopes for some good sightings.
In the meantime let us know who's been frightened of the big bad nothing in your outback.

Monday 28 March 2016

Who'd be a birder?

The Safari was out early on Easter Sunday hoping that something interesting had been dropped by the overnight rain. We turned up at the nature reserve to find practically the first bird we put our bins on was a Black Necked Grebe, a great find but not a bonus pointer in the Patchwork Challenge. was this the same individual that was here a couple of weeks back? It was cold and quiet, compared to the sunshine of Good Friday, but the Chiffchaffs were making their fresh presence known. Down at the scrape we had great views of a Water Rail for a few minutes. Other than that there were just a couple of dozen Teal and a pair of Moorhens in the shallow water, no waders again today.
Moorhen and Teal
Down on the embankment there was no hint of the Bearded Tit. Several Reed Buntings, the ubiquitous Cetti's Warblers and another 'sharming' Water Rail were all that was to be had there. The strong wind was putting paid to much activity. No hirundines dropped in during a short, sharp shower
We decided to have a check on the Long Eared Owls, news on the street is they haven't been seen for a few days and we didn't see them on our last visit, but they could have moved. We checked their usual perches and then had a good look in nearby trees and bushes to no avail so it does look like they've gone to where-ever it is they go for the summer. Lets hope the come back and grace us with their presence next October. 
With rain spitting and not a lot happening we called it a day and headed back to the car somewhat earlier than we'd hoped. But we did pass the first Cowslip fully in flower of the year which lifted our spirits somewhat.
Today we had a bit of a plan but it didn't come to fruition, then the rain started, then let up again. We got wind of an Osprey potentially coming our way and waited at the bedroom window for it to appear over the rooftops to the east warning CR of its imminent arrival too. But it must have gone along the coast to the west of us as we didn't pick it up and nor did the local gulls.
A little too late in the afternoon we hit the road north over the river stopping first to check out the farmland feeding stations. The first had no food and was consequently dead, the second had plenty of food out but only had a pair of Mallards, skulking in the nearby grass, and a Woodpigeon in attendance - not the best start to birding afternoon.
From there we pointed the car way up north to the little estuary driving through some serious squalls on the way. And arriving in a serious shower.
The tide was well in and the creeks full to busting.  A quick scan gave us plenty of Redshank and Teal and not a lot else. It was on the second or third scan we noticed a Redshank walk in to view from round a corner, it looked well silvery, the Spotted Redshank (119). It's a bit of a local celebrity here but could do with moulting into that awesome black plumage soon.
Dreadful pic in the dark through the rain soaked car window
A look on the pool was unproductive, the water level was very high and only a few Oystercatchers and Redshanks were roosting on the islands along with a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. A Little Grebe was the only thing of note on the water. No sign of the hoped for Kingfisher today.
Retracing our steps we called in at the saltmarsh where we didn't see any Twite but the weather is on the horrid side! The wind was cold and the rain stinging. A few Redshank flew past from their high tide roost but no Grey Plovers. In the creeks there were a couple of Little Egrets.
There were plenty of Oystercatchers out on the mudflats and a couple of them flew over the seawall and landed fairly close.
We didn't walk as far as we hoped and were glad to turn round and get our back to the bitter wind - if this is summer we want our money back!
A brief bit of sunshine brought out a singing Skylark and tumbling Lapwings in the nearby field - lovely to hear these sounds of spring.
In the distance the last squall had reached and covered the tops of the Bowland fells.
Wonder if an Hen Harriers will nest successfully up there this coming summer. Given the recent universally welcomed - albeit reluctantly by some - Hen Harrier (non)plan, we wait with baited breath of news of 20 or more fledglings leaving the nest and, just as importantly, surviving to return next year. But the plan has no targets and no time limits and no sanctions for those who aren't playing ball. After all the logo of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a Hen Harrier and the area is  designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive for its upland birds including the Hen Harrier. We do worry that the 'powers that be' will be working their socks off for the next few weeks to ensure no Hen Harriers manage to settle an make a nest! Time will tell, dare we hold our breath?
Take it you've all seen this pics (stolen) from Twitter of an Osprey caught in a spring trap apparently 'close' to a grouse moor. It looks 'legal' as it's on the ground but still not particularly moral and obviously indiscriminate...what bait was down there that would attract an Osprey?
Totally unnecessary and out of order by our self-appointed 'guardians of the countryside'. Please sign and share the latest petition to get them outlawed. We will win! Don't forget Hen Harrier Day 2016 - Sunday August there to show your support for our beleaguered wildlife.
Who'd be a birder? Over-excited by exotic summer migrants that will always return (or they better had), thwarted by bad weather and totally frustrated by criminal elements. 
In much more promising news the re-introduction of Lynx may be on the cards later in the year, assuming those 'guardians of the countryside' permit it and don't kill them of soon as they slink into the woods. Be nice if they could accept Beavers and Wild Boar sooner rather than later too.
Where to next? Back to work tomorrow so Patch 2 will be back in play.
In the meantime let us know who's been braving the weather in your outback.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Spring seems to have despringed itself

The Safari was out again this morning but not too early today. It was a very different day to yesterday, no sunshine and a strong blustery breeze with rain forecast. Instead of heading to the nature reserve we decided to hit Chat Alley for a change given the south easterly wind. Had we made the right choice?
As we made our way across the road we heard a Meadow Pipit, good! That meant there probably was some movement going on.
At the cliffs we descended the steep path down to the go-kart track having a look across the rocks to the south on the way down. Nothing obvious down there. But at the bottom we heard a couple of Meadow Pipits and looking up we saw them flitting around the top of the old lift building. A bit of song on the wind caught our ear and looking across the race track there was another Meadow Pipit down on the tiny bit of 'salt-marsh' in the middle of the track. They don't normally breed here so it must have been a 'tyred' migrant.
It was pretty dark down there under the cliffs so today's pics are sadly on the grotty side.
Our main target was Wheatears and it didn't take long to pick one up and then another on a bald area up in the grass. They were pretty flighty barely sitting still for more than a few seconds and flying up and over the ridge onto the flat grassland on the clifftop out of sight. The Wheatears (118) were two weeks later than last year but a week earlier than 2014 and exactly the same day as 2011. 
Little stonkers the pair of them but they wouldn't allow a pic of them in the frame together.
We walked on another mile without seeing much at all apart from a small flock of local Starlings probing for Leatherjackets on the cliff-face. Shame they weren't Choughs, they might have been many, many years ago when the cliffs were still 'wild-land' with a rough pasture hinterland.
Bottoms up
Having said that there's nowt wrong with Starlings - just look at them absolutely stunning birds.
Walking back along the top path we only saw one of the Wheatears, or maybe a third, and two male Pied Wagtails having a right go at each other.
After lunch we had a family wildlife event to lead, by now the rain was hammering down - things weren't looking good for a big turn out. As it happened the rain eased about quarter of an hour before kick off which made us feel a little more hopeful. The local group's stalwarts were out in force braving the elements but unfortunately no newcomers turned up.
Our theme was Wildlife on your doorstep with an emphasis on signs of spring. All the Lesser Celandine had closed up after the rain but a Great Tit and Wren sang incessantly. A family wandered past walking their dogs and were interested in what we were up to and returned a few minutes later with a pair of Toads in amplexus. Great stuff - family enthused = result!
We had a look at the new pond, it's fenced off but the dog walkers have broken in and it's full of suspended sediment. However a big blob of Frog spawn was in the far corner - good to see! There's some nice patches of Flote Grass but it's been too cold to bring the newts out of hibernation consequently we didn't find any 'concertina'd' leaves. 
A Pied Wagtail was poking around the muddy area of the horse field and a Dunnock was picking up tiny pieces of carrots the horses had dropped while chewing what the local folks had brought down for them. Never seen a Dunnock or any other small bird do that before.
A quick look at the 'Black Pond' showed it to have become infested with Crassula. There was a Heron in there which a dog walker flushed but gave us great views as it stood in the nearby field waiting for the disturbance to pass. Good job it was flushed if you were the Toad we could see in the shallows, woulda made an easy meal for the long legged one.
Then the rain came and by eck did it came - it bucketed down. The cars were only 200 yards away but by the time we'd decided to  abandon ship and leg it back to them we were all soaked.
Not a bad safari considering what could have happened if the rain had deluged a few minutes earlier.
Where to next? Might try to get out early tomorrow to see if the rain has dropped anything at the nature reserve - provided it's not deluging down that is.
In the meantime let us know who's getting the wettest in your outback.

Friday 25 March 2016


The Safari was out early this morning. We parked up and headed off to the nature reserve with birdsong filling our ears. Half way along the path we passed a little row of Hawthorns coming into leaf. Looking back the shrubs were bathed in the early morning spring sunshine whereas the other side of the path was still in the dark, cold grip of winter.
Once in the reserve a Song Thrush was singing loudly from the top of a shrub in the scrub and not many minutes later we heard our first singing Chiffchaff of the year. But we were secretly hoping for a Wheatear or some waders on the bottom fields so we walked quickly on. The scrape only gave us ducks, several Teal and a couple of each of Mallard and Gadwall.
A Chaffinch landed in the top of a pathside Willow tree and stopped long enough to allow us to fire of  a few pics.

A big Buff Tailed Bumble Bee was up there too taking advantage of the flower's nectar and/or pollen.
The small Hawthorn bush at the start of the embankment is a favourite place for Reed Buntings to hang out, today was no exception, there were several about vying for the top spot.
Not sure what this one was doing, the open beak isn't singing it was held like that silently for ages as was the spread tail obviously some type of display but that weird open beak???
Down at the bridge we hoped to see the Grey Wagtails or even, yes we were feeling lucky, a Kingfisher but even at this very early hour there'd been some serious doggy disturbance. Undisturbed in the reed-bed was the female Mute Swan sitting quietly on her recently built nest. We're not sure if she's finished building it and if so is it too early for eggs?
We turned back a few yards turned round and scanned the wet areas in the fields seeing very little apart from four Oystercatchers.

Behind us we were sure we heard a 'ping' from a Bearded Tit. We spun round and saw a tawny brown shape scud across the top of the reeds. Then it reappeared coming out and showing well hopping across the top of the reeds stopping here and there and calling all the time.
We then had the most amazing Bearded Tit experience we've ever had, sod the East Bank at Cley, the grit trays at Leighton Moss or the bench at Titchwell, the next ten minutes topped any sightings we've had at any of those awesome reserves.
The bird was very agitated coming close, flying up to 50 feet or more several times, calling all the time then dropping back down and as it seemed coming close to have a look at us. It even flew past us going down the far side of the embankment where the new ponds have been dug.
Awesome!!! Eventually it flew up after a small flock of Meadow Pipits heading northwards and we didn't notice it come back down - did it really go off with the pipits?
We finished the morning with a single Sand Martin (117, MMLNR #82) whipping through without stopping. 
After a brief lunch break Wifey floored us with an offer of taking us back to the nature reserve for a walk round with her - well that's never happened before!!! Being mid-afternoon it was quiet, or at least for us it was quiet, Wifey was racking up the year birds left right and centre. She even met CR for the very first time.
No Bearded Tits this time round and we missed the Iceland Gull by a few minutes but it was very pleasant, we were out about 4 1/2 hours - that's 50% longer than we were out on our own early doors - she must be keen!
We spent some time in the Feeding Station with MMcG who'd seen four very early Swallows.
What a great day out on safari.
And Wifey's year birds
Cetti's Warbler - 57
Chiffchaff - 58
Common Gull - 59
Fieldfare - 60
Great Black Backed Gull - 61
Goldeneye - 62
Jackdaw - 63
Long Tailed Tit - 64
Reed Bunting - 65
Sand Martin - 66
and she didn't quite hear the Song Thrush by the gate which went quiet as we passed and didn't fire up again for her. But there was a Collared Dove (67) singing from the roof of a neighbours house back at Base Camp for her.
Here's a couple of her pics from her phone
Lichens on an Apple tree
Blackthorn flowers
Where to next? Back again tomorrow, hopefully the forecast morning rain will drop something a little more out of the ordinary.
In the meantime let us know who's wearing the beards in your outback.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Sparrows, Sparrows, wherefore art thou Sparrows?

The Safari hasn't heard the House Sparrows for a couple of mornings now and we're getting worried they might have deserted us.
They have been hanging out in the trees and probably in the evergreen Privet bush of the garden opposite when we've only heard but not seen them.

We've hung a feeder up from our front gate pergola, cunningly positioned to the sidde so we don't bang our head on it when coming and going but the level of seeds hasn't changed so they, nor any other species, aren't coming while we're at work.
How long do we keep it up there for? It;s going to be a cold wet weekend so the seeds might start germinating which wouldn't be good. We might have to move it to the back garden where we're sure the Wood Pigeons if nothing else will take advantage of it if they can reach it. All rather disappointing so far, but you never know tomorrow is another day and there might be a flock of House Sparrows jockeying for position on it in the morning...fingers crossed!
Heavy rain, low dreek cloud and covering lunch for a colleague meant no chance of having a look at Patch 2 today, there could have been some grounded migrants about too as the rain started not long after dawn.
Where to next? It's a long Bank Holiday weekend but the weather forecast isn't that promising...typical Bank Holiday weather in fact! We've got a couple of plans one or more of which might pay off, and a kiddies event to run provided the little darlings don't might a soaking.
In the meantime let us know who's not turned up for their dinner in your outback

Don't forget to sign and share with your family and friends the government epetition to have driven grouse shooting banned, it's a fraction away from the first milestone of 10,000 signatures already so a response from the minister is imminent - lets hope it's got a bit more substance and is less wishy-washy fobby-offy than the previous two responses.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Bits, bobs photos and requests

The Safari has been following dramatic events Down Under very closely this week. News from Maroo Wildlife Refuge is that GB has finally got round to harvesting his Blue Gums. They weren't quite that big when we saw them way back in 2007.
The front third of the refuge is going to feel very bare and exposed for them for a while!
In the corner of the plantation is a huge Jarrah tree that the properties previous owners thankfully never felled but didn't think it important enough not to plant the Blue Gums so close to it. It probably predates James Cook's first arrival on the continent.
Looks like they've been having some murky autumn days down there - where's the blue sky?
It's a monster and one of a kind as most of the other mighty trees in this area were felled long ago.
We photographed it back in September 2015
Couldn't get it all in the frame!
It'll be interesting to see what and how much native bush germinates although it'll be somewhat short lived as GB's starting this cut as the first in a coppice rotation. 
More news and views as it comes up from the Antipodes...Watch this space!

We have also had some news from Yorkshire, young Alicia, our A Focus on Nature mentoree (is that a word?) has been shortlisted for the RSPCA's Young Photographer of the Year Award
So you all know what to do; chose Alicia's photo of the leaping Labrador (No 6) and make your vote, thank you.

The most recent petition to have driven grouse shooting banned or at least talked about in Westminster is rattling on nicely and only a few signatures away from yet another pathetic response from Government. A long way to go for a full debate though. If you haven't signed it please do. Some folk don't think signing these things makes much difference, there's so many these days from a huge array of organisations but I bet the politicians keep an eye on these 'official' ones.
Even if you don't expect to see a Hen Harrier from one year's end to the next your chances of doing so are being severely limited by these criminals who are basically no better that the lovely human beings who bait drugged lions to shoot, it's just our version of canned hunting. To make it viable everything is sacrificed for the grouse. There's barely a tree in our uplands where there should be epiphyte strewn temperate rain-forest, habitat for reptiles and ground nesting birds is burnt, streams polluted so higher water bills, faster water run off so floods and hence higher home insurance, legal but perhaps not moral intensive predator 'control', illegal predator control - there should be several pairs of Golden Eagle and White Tailed Eagle in northern England but they've got no chance of ever establishing themselves here.
This is a battle for our uplands which should be diverse and interesting with perhaps one day animals like the Wisent and Wild Boar roaming round in not too mention a whole suite of Bryophytes, Liverworts, invertebrates and the like we'll never know the names of. The battle is going to be a long one as we're up against big money vested interests and The Establishment but with numbers an persistence we the Plebs WILL WIN and not only will we win but our uplands will too. Remember our 'inglorious' royals allegedly shot not one but two Hen Harriers at Sandringham eye witnessed by staff from Natural England, of course no evidence could be found when the police arrived -0 yes these are the same royals who want an end to wildlife crime like Elephant and Rhinoceros poaching - rotten to the core wildlife crime abroad perpetrated by filthy Jonny Foreigners but a different matter altogether at home when done by their mates.
OK there may be some losers possibly in the form of Curlews, Snipe, Golden Plover and yes, even Hen Harriers in a much more diverse upland bioscape but we'd rather they had the chance to fit into an evolving upland landscape than be either removed from it at every opportunity or used as an excuse to keep the status quo. There might even be the opportunity for those that like murdering things to 'sustainably' murder some of the new inhabitants.
Please sign the petition, there's more than enough wildlife enthusiasts out there to take it beyond a million signatures never mind 100,00 and then there's all those other folk who aren't that bothered about the wildlife aspect but are still affected either directly or in their wallets by this abomination...and we pay some of the wealthiest land owners in the world out of taxes for their 'sport' - can't be right! Get your mates who've never heard of a Hen Harrier, Curlew or Wisent to sign up too, Thank you

Sightings-wise we've not seen much this week. A lovely male Eider drifting by on the tide yesterday made our day and a trip to the shops added Lesser Black Backed Gull to a couple of lists (Wifey #56) and (Garden #23). Out to sea yesterday we saw a small group of Herring Gulls plunge diving about 2/3 of a mile out and eventually one came up with a what was most likely a Whiting about a foot long which it lost to one of its 'mates' before it could swallow it. The fishermen tell us there's nothing out there, or at least they aren't catching anything; they need longer rods to cast a lot lot further out!
Today was a chilly murky day but a Grey Seal made up for the weather and we watched a Red Throated Diver having a right old bathe - you'd think a bird that spends half its life under water wouldn't need to have a wash.
Still no summer migrants for us but they are starting to trickle by in this part of the world so any day now...
Where to next? Another look at Patch 2 tomorrow and there's a bit of a change in the weather forecast so things could start to get shaken up.
In the meantime let us know where all the trees have gone in your outback

Monday 21 March 2016

A safari round a rural parish

The Safari met up with BD at tthe nature reserve, had a quick look over the scrapes and a chat to a family out with a young lad on his first birding outing and then headed out onto the lanes and byways to the east.
We had a plan and a target bird but as ever you see what you see and nowt else so just sit back and enjoy the wild ride.
Our first stop was to have a look along the river at the pretty little village that was badly flooded earlier in the winter.
The date stone says 1611
To the side  of the church we took the path along the river seeing just a couple of Mallards sat quietly enjoying the sunshine. The high river bank on our side was festooned with Lesser Celandine and being on the sunny side was nice and warm, it didn't take long to find our first of several Small Tortoiseshells.
The first pic of a butterfly taken in 2016
Thankfully it decided to pose in a better position after having a good slurp of nectar.
A second joined it and for a good few minutes there was some flirty fun going on. The male would position himself at one side and flick his wings while moving round the back of the female to the other side.
We tried to get a bit of video for you but they went camera shy. Not long after they settled on a small Nettle too close under the edge of the path to see well but we'd hazard a guess egg-laying was happening.
The floods caused devastation here and many houses had to be evacuated. We could see how high the water level in the river had risen by the debris stuck in the branches of the bankside trees.
The line is about 15 feet (5m) above today's near normal river level.

Other than the Mallards, the Small Tortoiseshells and the excessive amount of Lesser Celandine we didn't see much at all on our amble along the river bank, all was very quiet so we moved on to another bridge from where we could access the river one side of the road but only scan it from the bridge on the other.
Again the river was quiet, just the ubiquitous Mallard was in residence. The bank had a film of sand from the floods and growing through it everywhere were the cotyledonous seedlings of the dreaded Himalayan Balsam. The sand itself was covered in the tracks of small beetles, they must have trundled over every square inch of it! Also spotted was the year's first Crane Fly, several Eristalis hoverflies basking and a pair of Flesh Flies mating. river was clear but we saw no sign of any fish what-so-ever which might have explained our missing target species. 
A dodge of death across the busy main road saw us leaning over the bridge parapet to see a Grey Wagtail clinging to the weir in the distance and yet another Mallard. We waited and waited but nothing else appeared so back across the road we went to have a look downstream and promptly saw a Dipper (116) fly under the bridge but did it come out the other side - we scarpered back across the road and watched for several minutes but no Dipper came out...maybe there was a nest under the bridge.
Another traffic dodge saw us back looking downstream and you guessed it we saw the Dipper again, this time it flew from under our feet. It landed on some rocks 100 yards or so down the river which should have been visible from where we where earlier so off we went.
There was just one vantage point, clinging to a large Alder tree which seemed to be only just rooted in the bank and was leaning precariously out over the water. We waited several minutes but it wasn't to be nothing, showed up. Time to move on.
Another bridge, this time a little less busy on a quiet rural lane and a lovely tree lined riverside walk. At the car parking lay-by flowering Dog's Mercury caught our eye. The tiny green flowers aren't the most photogenic in the plant kingdom.
We hadn't gone far downstream after talking to a group of ramblers coming upstream that BD spotted another Dipper stood on a rock in the middle of the river. It obliged by staying fairly still long enough for us both to blast off a few pics.
We followed the river down crossing at the narrow bridge on to a farm track. The hedge here has been flailed to within an inch of its life but the bank it was on was a mass of wildflowers. There were a few flowers of Greater Stitchwort out but give it a few days of sunshine and the bank will be blindingly white with them, it was everywhere!
On the stream-side of the track BD noticed some small flowers of Butterbur just poking an inch or two out of the short grass.
Back on the hedge side BD spotted some Wild Strawberries, he was on wildflower fire today, mostly because Sunday evening is #wildflowerhour so was on the hunt for specimens to show.
It was during #wildflowerhour that our plant was re-identified as Barren Strawberry.
The fields on the far side of the river had a couple of majestic old trees, an Ash - look at those upward sweeping branch ends.
And an equally fine Oak
The fenceline probably shows the line of a former hedge that the two trees would have stood along, no sadly long gone and likely never to be replanted.
There has been some new tree planting.
But the species planted in this rural setting aren't  particularly welcome...a flipping Eucalyptus! Where do the think they are, the eastern side of the Great Divide or Tasmania perhaps (if it's the popularly planted garden tree E gunneri)??? Not the best choice for a non-garden situation out here, not when there's lots of suitable natives to chose from.
And while we're ranting, look a this!
Has no-one ever told them Ivy doesn't kill trees and it a valuable habitat in its own rite.
Hopefully the same won't happen to these but don't hold your breath - ignorance seems to reign supreme these days.
Beautiful aren't they - just right for a roosting Tawny Owl to hide away in and packed full of insects
Nice to blog about and get some pics of inverts and plants and not just birds for a change - roll on spring!
Oh - And one more rant before we go, please sign this latest e-petition to our lovely government - yes we know you've done it before but do you really want them to get away with costing you higher water bills, higher home insurance, destruction of our upland habitats, wanton illegal persecution of birds of prey, excessive legal but maybe not morally acceptable 'culling' of Mountain Hares (it's more like massacring actually), the ecocide of smaller predators like Foxes, Stoats and Weasels (including the odd pet dogs and cats and even the world's rarest cat the Scottish Wild Cat) by any means possible and all for a canned hunt. Get you friends and family to sign too please - We will win!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow, wonder what the wind will have blown in, not that  it's that windy at the mo.
In the meantime let us know who's ding all the blooming in your outback.