Friday, 30 September 2016

Smaller in Sardinia

The Safari was off to a flying start with the insects in Sardinia when fresh off the plane on onto the coach when we spotted a shieldbug clinging to the outside of the bus's window.
Best we could get with the phone through the coach's tinted double glazed window
Once we reached the hotel we soon saw several butterflies flitting round the gardens, Large and Small Whites, Clouded Yellow and some little blue ones that were very very fast. Anyway they'd all have to wait until we'd shown our milk bottle white pins at the pool for a couple of hours.
In the evening a whizzy thing shot past us and landed on the rocks close by.

A Hummingbird would be a few days before we had the opportunity to try to get any pics of them in flight. Eventually we did take about a thousand shots one afternoon one of which might just have come out OK.
We'd have preferred a face on shot but would have to wait until the end of our hols before we managed to get a couple or three that were any good.
They're flippin tricky and even in the 'semi-tropics' you need good light, or at least for them to fly in areas bathed in sunshine rather than in the shadows which they seemed to favour!
Other butterflies flitting around were Painted Ladies
and later in the week a few Meadow Browns.
For once it all came together with the little blue ones which turned out to be the very common and widespread Long Tailed Blue.
They rarely settled so getting an open wing shot was a bonus
On our very last full day we saw two fluttering around together all across a large patch of Rosemary bushes and fortunately both came to rest close by.
And then we spied a totally new butterfly, a tiny brown one. Luckily this one settled just about within range of the lens too. Another common and widespread one, Brown Argus.
One of our sight-seeing trips had us at a beach where Wifey spotted a little skipper basking in a sunny spot in the sand at the edge of the track. It took us ages to see where she was pointing but then we found it much closer than we'd expected, a Mallow Skipper.
There were lots of grasshoppers, seemingly all of the same species and incredibly hard to spot until they moved.
 Until we found a stripey one that stuck out like a sore thumb.
During one of our afternoon rambles with the camera we came across a Dung Beetle doing what they do best. We watched it for ages as it went back and forth collecting fried Rabbit pellets and relocating them under a little pile of twigs.
We didn't see many dragonflies, one large one which could have been an Emperor and plenty of these small golden yellow ones.
Just look at those eyes!
Every day we saw plenty of Carpenter Bees but again they were pretty tricky to get decent shots of and it took us a while.
It's those eyes - no contrast with the face makes for awkward photography, and of course in the afternoon warmth they don't keep still for long.
We've also got a couple of crazy wasps still to process for you.
All good stuff if hard work at times but we enjoyed the challenges the Mediterranean invertebrates gave us.
Where to next? Some scaly and other stuff for you tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's too quick in your outback.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

More from sunny Sardinia

The Safari was up at the crack of dawn on our holidays, in good time to see the sun come up most days
The area we wandered around was a field, recently with cattle, adjacent to the hotel for about an hour or so before breakfast. There are a number of criss-crossing tracks various used by our self, fishermen driving to the rocks, German joggers and locals going to work. Our room is circled, just to the south of the field. A dry stone wall separated the open field from the coastal scrub belonging to the hotel where the sea-watching platforms were situated.
That early in the morning the light often wasn't good for photography and we got caught on the hop with the camera still set for afternoon sunshine on a couple of occasions, most notably when a Bar Tailed Godwit flew over us one morning...fancy flying 2 1/2 hours to find one of these when we've not seen one at Patch 2 yet this year - bonkers! 
And on another day an Osprey was the first bird we saw .
 Other early morning migrants seen only once included a Common Sandpiper, a Wheatear
a Grey Plover, which was heard the following day at the beach on the other side of the peninsula, a Peregrine Falcon that stooped at the Feral Pigeons on the mediaeval tower and a loose flock of about 40 Marsh Harriers, there may have been one or two other species in there too; for some reason we just stood and gawped at this spectacle without even thinking about raising the camera!
This time of day was when the birds were most active and the Sardinian Warblers fractionally less skulky than later in the day but still nigh on impossible to get a pic of.
The field held a large flock of very twitchy Linnets
and several Cirl Buntings
which had had a good breeding season judging by the huge number of juveniles around.
Also present daily were a couple of Blackbirds and a pair of Stonechats which were incredibly flighty not letting us approach any closer than about 25 - 30 yards. We saw a Fan Tailed Warbler (aka Zitting Cisticola - we remember when that was going to be the big new thing down South along with Serin but it never happened - - or hasn't happened yet!) on no more than three mornings.
Highly processed from near darkness!
On two days we saw a flit or two of what was probably either a Dartford Warbler or a Marmora's Warbler but glimpses were too brief, the light too bad and the scrub too dense to have any chance of a certain ID.
In 'town' and around the hotel there was a flock of sparrows which again were very flightly and it wasn't until almost the very end of our stay we got a confirmatory photo that they were in fact Spanish Sparrows.
The Spotless Starlings proved evasive to the end!
Of course being surrounded by the sea and with a small marina and fishing harbour there were Yellow Legged Gulls around although not as many as we might have expected.
Sadly there were no Audouin's Gulls around although perhaps we should have spent more time looking at the larger port of Palau when we were there sight-seeing.
Out to sea we regularly saw numbers of Scopoli's Shearwaters; inevitably the biggest numbers and one day a flock of at least 200 on the days we didn't take the scope! The morning of the large flock there were huge splashes breaking the sea surface and although we saw nothing were probably being made by big Bluefin Tuna rather than dolphins. That was the day we were most likely to have seen Yelkouan Shearwaters too but without the scope the action was too far away to have been able to pick one out, we didn't see anything like one on any other day.
Both Cormorant and Shag were present on the rocks and one afternoon we were able to watch one chasing a shoal of fish under water while we were snorkeling, unfortunately it was a bit too far away in stirred up murky water to warrant using the underwater video-cam. We got some other fishy footage in calmer conditions we'll post on a later date.
After breakfast it was time for sight-seeing, snorkeling or hitting the pool/beach depending on the wind followed by cold beers and hot pizzas. Then later in the afternoon there was time for a bit of hunting down some invertebrates which we'll show you tomorrow.
Today it was back to earth with a bump. We had a walk down Chat Alley just as the rain started and an hour and two miles later we got back wetter than when we'd got out of the shower before setting off! And all for just three Wheatears, a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail
Where to next? Tales of wonderous insects and other endothermic beasties from far flung lands.
In the meantime let us know how wet you can get in your outback.

Monday, 26 September 2016

It was sheer purgatory

The Safari is back from two weeks sunny Sardinia. Good grief it was hard work doing all that relaxing in the sunshine.
We went out before breakfast...which also happened to be before sun rise so it was still quite darkish, well quite darkish for pics at least. Part of our walk was taken up sea-watching, this was a real chore, normally we have to stand at Patch 2 here we had recliners to set the scope up at! Really roughing it, but there's nowt wrong with a flock of Scopoli's Shearwaters of a shoal of Tuna before breakfast.
The wildlife Sardinia is surely most famous for is the Sardinian Warbler...they were everywhere, at least a dozen in every bush, in fact there were hardly any other warblers seen during our stay, but can you get a pic of the skulky little blighters!!! We just about succeeded on our penultimate day, sooooo frustrating!
Almost as numerous were the lizards, which we think are Tyrranean Wall Lizards. Lots of them about but being warm scuttled off in to deep cover as soon as anything got within 20 yards of them.
While we were away we had a couple of stealth cams set up in the garden at Base Camp and reviewing the pics they had taken once we got home were very pleased to find this little chap had been visiting on a few occasions.
Where to next? We'll tell your more of our Mediterranean adventures tomorrow when we've sorted out a few more holiday snaps for you.
In the meantime let us know who's playing hide and seek in your outback.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A nice bright morning at the nature reserve

The Safari started a few days off work with a dawn raid on the nature reserve. Even before 08.00 it was a warm one with the bank of high cloud drifting off east leaving blistering sunshine in an azure blue sky - the perfect start to anyone's holiday! 
At first it felt like there wasn't much happening. The wetland and rough wet grassland on the walk in were birdless desert, the light scrub to our left maybe had a couple more Robins 'ticking' away than we've heard on recent visits but our overall impression was that it was quiet. 
Once through the gate we were almost overcome by the quietness, where is that Redstart and/or Pied Flycatcher with our name on it hiding? The silence was broken by a Cetti's Warbler giving lip at the Viewing Platform and being immediately answered by another the other side of said platform. with the light no better than seriously iffy for viewing from the Viewing Platform we continued our walk. The Paddock and scrub were notably birdless too apart from a few Woodpigeons (Why is it Woodpigeons and not Wood Pigeons? It's not a Feralpigeon is it!). We heard a couple or more Blackcaps 'tacking' away deep in the Hawthorns which we have to say are totally bedecked with berries unlike the roadside hedgerows we passed on the way to the pub last night which have been scalped to within an inch of their lives as usual - no food or shelter for the wildlife this winter just like every other winter sadly.
As we approached the track to the panoramic hide we found our first big birdy activity, a mixed flock of tits and (mostly) 'Phyllosc' warblers. Getting to the other side of them where they were in the light gave us splendiferous views of several Blue Tits, two Great Tits, about 10  Long Tailed Tits (they wouldn't keep still), at least  three Chiffchaffs and one Willow Warbler, a shy Chaffinch that we only saw once briefly (where did  it go - it was in a small isolated clump of bushes!), a couple of Blackcaps and a Whitethroat. We stood and watched for a good few minutes before raising the camera.
Long Tailed Tit with spider(?)
We had a look from the hide but it was suffering from the aftermath of a warm weekend's anti-social behaviour so we didn't stay long. There wasn't much to see apart from a decent sized flock of Lapwings which landed in the scrape so we set off round to count them and see if we'd missed anything 'more interesting' among them. As we left the hide we heard another Cetti's Warbler fire up from the reedbed, they're becoming more vocal again now the summer is drawing to a close. 
At the scrape we counted exactly 80 Lapwings and no other waders, three Teal, a Mallard and a sleepy Shoveler. There was no sign of the Garganey which had been reported again yesterday.
Just as we were moving on we heard yet our fourth Cetti's Warbler of the morning sing a brief snatch of song. We made our way along the embankment towards the bridge scanning the recently cut silage field for any Wheatears, none! Plenty of Woodpigeons and four Magpies were all we could see. But we did hear a Grey Wagtail going over and then heard sporadic calls from 'alba' Wagtails high up in the ether. Also up there at invisible altitude were our first Meadow Pipits of the autumn. Reed Buntings have been thin on the ground over the summer, we've seen odd ones here and there but today we came across five of them, our best count since the spring. one of them even sat still on the reeds as per their name, unlike the nearby Reed Warbler which was far too busy for us to connect with the lens.
She stayed still long enough for us to fire off a few shots before she launched herself skywards and continued her journey to who knows where.
Behind us, down by the new pools a flock of about 20 Linnets got up out of the cut field and landed on the Thistles at the edge of the little dyke that separates 'us' from 'them'. With nothing in the stream at the bridge and too many people beginning to stir on the caravan site we turned back hearing more passing Meadow Pipits and even seeing one - going north west!?!
A quick look from the vantage point the gives a restricted view of the part of the scrape you can't see from the 'normal' spot gave us a duck that look very suspiciously like the Garganey
Off we went at a trot passing the tree which 999 times out of a thousand has a Woodpigeon sat in it and once again it did.
only this time there were two sat up there, that hardly ever happens!
At the scrape our hunch was correct, the duck was indeed the Garganey. Again the light for pics was awful and this is horrendously processed to make it look something like a Garganey.
With time running short it was time to high-tail it back to the car passing not a lot on the way.
All in all a very pleasant morning out, we'll have to do it again sometime!
Where to next? Sometime is coming again tomorrow morning.
In the meantime let us know who's looking like a dodgy duck in your outback

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Bats and back

The Safari was supposed to be leading a Moth and Bat Night last night but all day rain and increasing wind meant we were forced to pull the plug on it early evening. We got  a txt from our co-host saying she was going to go down to the meeting point at the appointed time just in case anyone hadn't got the cancellation message and turned up to find no-one there. The rain had eased off and although tche wind was still raging we decided to skip the start of yet another series of Strictly Come Drivel take out the bat detector and join her. 
It wasn't long before a lady with a torch bearing small boy arrived then another and regular Friend of the NBPT N turned up too saying he'd just seen a bat on his walk down. All was not lost, we'd get half an hour out of the evening at least even if it was way to windy and the ground far to wet to risk the electrics of the moth trap on.
It was too dark to see any birds but the quacking of the Mallards as they settled down for the night on the islands could be heard and above them an indistinct pale blob in the tips of the overhanging trees was likely to have been the resident Heron.
With the small group in tow we walked round to the far side of the lake where the taller trees should provide a bit of shelter from the wind should any bats be out. On the way we heard a couple of quiet hits on the detectors so there were bats flying around, all we needed to do now was catch up with them. And that's exactly what we did near the little bridge. N was in front by a good few yards when even from that distance we all heard his detector blast out a long series of clicks...we were in luck!
A small clearing in the canopy gave all the group reasonable sightings of the bats passing across the paler sky but they were high up at the top of the canopy.
We crossed the bridge to a more open grassy area and tried the bat attracting grass trick which worked a treat. Everyone got superb views of the Pipistrelle Bats. That was the only species we could identify from the bat detectors, the site also has Soprano Pipistrelles, Daubenton's Bats and Brown Long Eared Bats. At one time we had five in view whizzing low over our heads. We saw some behaviour we've not seen before when two bats turned off their echo-location clicks and had a bit of a chase-me chase-me barney over the best place to hunt. We stayed out well over an hour longer than we had planned, the bat action was exceptional but we only saw a small number of micro-moths and just one large macro up in the tree-tops so it was probably just as well we didn't put the trap on.
Not long before we finished we realised the battery compartment cover of our bat detector had dropped off. It was going to hard to find it among the fallen leaves from the White Poplar trees which were about the same size and once fallen, black too. We'd have to go back in daylight for a proper look.
In the morning it was obvious were we'd been stood as the ground was well and truly muddied up. There was also a huge number of blackened White Poplar leaves on the ground and despite quartering the ground in a logical manner we couldn't find our missing piece of plastic. Beneath our feet were hundreds of medium sized Craneflies and dozens of yearling Frogs
The most memorable aspect of our visit was the enormous number of Speckled Wood butterflies, don't think we've ever seen so many in one place before, they were uncountably everywhere!
Both phone pics
After a late breakfast we had a mooch round the garden at Base Camp. Invertebrates were what we were after but there weren't too many about and we had to work hard to find any. We looked in all the sunniest nooks and crannies finding the following.
Common Carder Bee
Marmalade Hoverfly
A tiny spider
A different tiny spider with a greenfly - the action was very fast, the greenfly was injected, wrapped, removed from the web and taken in to cover in the blink of an eye
There's still a few plants in flower including some Willowherbs
and this lovely florescent Dianthus.
Best of all was this fly of which there were a few buzzing around the sunny side of the back gate.
After a  quick lunch we decided to have a wander down the hill to the North Blackpool Pond Trail to see if we could find any butterflies to point the lens at in the pleasantly autumnal sunshine. 
The best wildflower area is just about finished now with only a few heads of Red Clover and some Ragwort offering much in the way of nectar. We didn't see any butterflies at all but did disturb a Silver Y moth which tried unsuccessfully to hide from us in the long grass.
The nice stand of Fleabane along the edge of the ditch often attracts butterflies but there were none there today.
Up the steps the remnant ancient hedge was in sunshine but catching the wind making it tricky to get these small metallic bronze flies in focus on the wildly dancing leaves. They are very eye-catching though, well worth a closer look.
There were people faffing around at the pond we wanted to look at for some dragonflies so we had to give it a miss. We carried on to the cemetery having a look at the corner pond but it was devoid of life. Further on a family of Mistle Thrushes were pulling worms out of the moss at the edges of some of the older stones.
There are two sort of out of sight ponds, but not out of sight enough too many fishermen visit and one of them has found a rather large Swan Mussel and broken it open for bait - what a waste!
The other pond is less visited and normally very clear. It wasn't today there was a horrible algal bloom.
What's going on there??? And then we saw it, or was it them? Bally fishermen have released a/some big Carp in there, we saw at least one stout back break the surface. They must have been rummaging around in the sediment recycling all the nutrients that had been locked away for decades. Not food for any of the other wildlife in this pond and they'll be impossible to get out, sadly the pond is pretty much wrecked by our friendly neighbourhood environmental vandals. Very disappointing and only a brief and distant view of a Brown Hawker - where are all the other dragonflies today, they should have been out in force.
At the furthest point of our walk we didn't take enough notice of a falcon that went high over our head. We're not sure why we dismissed it at first but then turned for another look but by now it was much further away. It did look a bit slight and small for a Peregrine and was too short in the tail and not 'flying right' for a Kestrel - did we just ignore a Hobby???
We wandered back towards the pond we couldn't visit earlier to find it empty now. There were just a few Moorhens on there, count them and there were a few more scattered around the far side out of shot
Turning to leave we saw a movement over the grass below us, a smart looking parasitic wasp - probably a female Ichneumon deliratorius. A fine looking beast.
A few yards further on a bit of a surprise awaited us. We thought we heard a Rook calling, odd because we can't recall ever seeing them here before and they are as rare as rocking horse do-do over Base Camp only a few hundred yards away. And there away across the horse field there were indeed a couple of Rooks.
Our last snap was a butterfly, at last, a nice Small White perched up on a White Poplar leaf.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's dumped what in your outback