Wednesday 30 November 2016

Berries galore but...

The Safari was out on Patch 2 early this morning but it was very quiet out on the sea. Beneath our feet we found a dry piece of seaweed we weren't sure about. There's not that many to chose from so we shouldn't have had any problems IDing it but we did.
We're now fairly sure it's a piece of Egg Wrack that doesn't have any 'eggs' along the midrib our marine biologist friend DB should be able to confirm that.
We tried again on Patch 2 at lunchtime but it was no better. There was a bit of sunshine so we went for a wander around the work's garden instead. Along the back wall there's a good stretch of the invasive and very prickly Japanese Rose. It's absolutely bedecked with bright red rose hips.
But as we walked further we saw that not a single one had been pecked open. Normally by this late in the autumn we have a small flock of Greenfinches kicking around the garden. Where are they? Well a quick peruse of the BTO website gave a bit of a clue - basically there aren't many about compared to previous years.
Taken from the BTO website
So after a population high point 10 years ago there's been a decided crash to fewer than there have been at any time since at least the 1960s probably due to the Trichomonosis disease they are suffering from.
You can see how few there are being reported this year compared to historically using the Birdtrack graph.
Taken from the Birdtrack website
Thankfully we still get them in the garden at Base Camp but that does mean that we need to thoroughly clean the feeders before we refill them.
We'll keep you posted if any Greenfinches turn up and/or we get a different ID on the seaweed. 
A shorter whizz round Patch 1 with Monty late afternoon gave us at least two Goldcrests again, lots of Magpies going to roost, at least 30 and the Peregrine was on the tower settled in for the night - a little warmer for it than of late 5C rather than a chilly -4C.
Where to next? More Patch 2 nonsense and maybe some Patch 1 stuff too.
In the meantime let us know who's all dried up in your outback.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Searching the seashore

The Safari managed to get out on to Patch 2 for some fresh air and head-space time at lunchtime yesterday. The light out to sea was awful and the tide was out so most of the birds were distant silhouettes. On the wall nearby there were three Pied Wagtails catching the cold immobile flies.
They were very skittish and almost impossible to sneak up on. They're used to passers-by and allow quite close approach but only if you don't stop...if you stop they fly off miles along the wall meaning a good walk to catch up with them again. Nightmare! But with a little patience and a lorra lorra luck we managed this one, although it is a heavy crop.
In the sunshine the Buff Tailed Bumble Bees were busy on the Castor Oil plant's flowers too.
Duff pics in the dull shade
Today we were out at lunchtime again and once again the light was horrendous to the south where the Common Scoters were. No sign of the wagtails today but we did meet one of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust's marine lasses. She was looking at the state of the tide with a view to starting a ShoreSearch training session for the marine biology students from the local college. While looking down the slade to see how far the tide still had to drop before her group could start work we spotted a dozen Turnstones  feeding a little way above the splashes from the breaking waves.
After chatting we went back inside but came back out latter to meet the team. They were busy working on their transects and recording what vegetation, and how much of each, was found in their quadrats.
It was warmer down on the beach than it was up on the prom!
In other news Monty has reached Patch 1 twice now. Last night he added a couple of Goldcrests to his life list and this evening he counted about 30 Magpies going to roost close to where he'll be watching the White Letter Hairstreaks next July.
Where to next? More Patch 2 and back to Patch 1 later too probably.
In the meantime let us know who's searching for what in your outback.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Ice is nice

The Safari is still busy with family stuff but the last few days have been very frosty and we've had a couple of opportunities to get out with Wifey, Monty and the camera. Monty looks pretty good against the  autumnal woodland floor.
Spot the odd one out
It was cold out there but not a chilly as a few minutes after first light when we were able to get some nice pics of ice crystals on the moss on a neighbour's wall and some nearby leaves.

At Ma n Da's yesterday a Mistle Thrush was giving plenty of volume to a quiet cold afternoon which was good to hear and later, after dark, we heard a small number of Pink Footed Geese going over.  
Monty was out at the top end of Chat Alley again this morning. The tide was in so we took the camera in the hope of a Grey Seal close to the wall but it wasn't to be, we didn't take a single snal all morning. Monty had great fun playing rough and tumble with a couple of new found friends but crashed out shattered for most of the afternoon and was too tired to go back out.
He's still not quite ready to take on safari on our own yet as he's not learned to walk to heal, loves to try to meet and greet all dogs and people,follows his nose in every which direction; it would be a nightmare trying to hold on to him and use our bins or camera at the sane time. We reckon he'll be a lot more mature in the New Year.
Where to next? There's a little bit of relief from the pressure next week so we might be able to get out on Patch 2 once or twice and maybe get a visit or two to the local Starling murmuration too.
In the meantime let us know who's chilling in your outback.

Monday 21 November 2016

Smiles in the desert

The Safari has been off the radar a bit recently as we've been pre-occupied with a family crisis. Yesterday we received the sad news we've been expecting but not wanting to hear.
With the day and our head in turmoil we stayed off work today. 
Not far along the coast from Patch 2 there'd been a Desert Wheatear working the strandline over the weekend. We needed some time out to ourself so what better than to grab the bins and camera and nip down there shortly after first light in the hope that it was still there after a clear start to the night last night. Dawn today broke dull and gloomy with a seriously nippy wind down on the beach.
Off we went climbing the tracks over the dunes to get down onto the beach, From the summit of the dunes we saw a birder walking up the beach stopping occasionally to scan the fore-dunes. Once a bit nearer we saw it was top South-side birder GC. A quick chat revealed he'd not seen hardly a bird at all so far but was unsure exactly where to look. As it happened we did know where it had been and he'd walked a hundred yards too far. We walked back chatting and scanning, two pairs of eyes are better than one after all! his eyes were better than ours - he spotted Young Un AB waving away in the distance. And he was waving for good cause, he'd found the bird near enough where he'd seen it last yesterday.
We walked up as fast as decency would permit and in no time at all were watching a distant speck working its way along the strandline. Desert Wheatear (184) in the bag with plenty of time to spare.
With no need to tick and run we had time to play the waiting game and hope it came closer. Which it did before too long.
The best way to view it was to watch it from the beach then walk, well out on the beach to get in front of it then cut in to the line of posts which prevent the mechanical beach cleaners ripping up the fore-dunes. From there the bird would come right past us.
It can't half hop quick too, if it didn't stop to pick up morsels we wouldn't have been able to keep up with it.
At  the 'end' of the beach there are huge mounds of sand from the industrial extraction that goes on there. With the bird getting closer we decided to use one of the outlying heaps as a makeshift hide. Well worth it. Our little feathered friend almost landed on our foot and was, for a minute or two, too close to photograph, it was so close we could 'see the whites of its eyes' - a splendid, uplifting experience and just what we needed after the recent harrowing days.
Almost looks as though it could have been taken on a dune in North Africa
Shame it was so dull that the pics are taken at ISO ludicrous and are a bit grainy but hey-ho it's a great bird to have locally.
Where to next? More family stuff tomorrow so probably not a lot of chance to see much wildlife.
In the meantime let us know who's taken a wrong turn in your outback. 

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Indoors and out on the prom

The Safari had a bit of different day last Sunday. We went to see Wildlife Adventurer Steve Backshall give a bit of a talk. He's good, well enthusiastic - nearly as good as we are even!
It was great to see so many youngsters there and how knowledgeable are they, very impressive. We saw some big kids we knew too - even bigger than we are! And chatting to one of them yesterday evening at a meeting he too was impressed with the show and the number of kids there. There is hope for the future of our precious wildlife. We even got to ask the very first question at the end of the superb section about sharks. We didn't ask anything about fish but if he was going to watch the Starling murmuration around the pier after the show. Unfortunately he would be book signing and chatting to his fans so would miss it. Not to worry a couple of families asked for more details  of how and where they could see the Starlings so a result, lets hope they go down and get a good show.
Earlier we'd taken Monty for a wander along the cliffs. It was very busy with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists, so there were few birds to be found to point the camera at.
Eventually we left the grassy cliff top and went down onto the lower prom where we were able to get a couple of shots of the resident Pied Wagtails. One shot was a very fluky hit, we weren't sure it would be in focus but it came out alright.
We think it's a better pic than the full on portrait we got a little later.
Below us the tide was just dropping off the base of the wall giving a few Sanderlings the chance to fly in and feed in the shallow water.

The big lens would have been better than our little zoom given the distance but it was good just to watch them scuttering around in the waves.
Once the tide dropped a bit further we took Monty down for his first look at the sea. He got three of his four paws wet but didn't seemed that impressed. Next week we bet there'll be no stopping him!
Where to next? More news of Monty on the beach at the weekend perhaps, hospital visiting permitting.
In the meantime let us know who's peering over the top in your outback.

Saturday 12 November 2016

The buzzy bees still be busy

The Safari was having a quiet few minutes reflection outside yesterday morning when we noticed the flowers on the Castor Oil plant were still full of insects. The sun was out and it was quite warm out of the nippy wind; the morning had started with a sharp frost and much scraping of ice from the car windscreen. It was so warm in the sun we went back to the office or the camera and a thermometer. We placed the thermometer amongst the flowers the insects were visiting and waited to see how warm it would get to.
13.2C - not bad for 11.15 on a mid-November morning; it actually got to 13.4 briefly but cold gusts of wind sent it back down to low 11s and high 10s. Out the front of the building in the shade it would have only been about 8 or 9C, that sun made a big difference.
As we stood watching the comings and goings of the numerous Bluebottles and Drone Flies (Eristalis tenax) a fat insect with a flash of white caught our eye. No, it couldn't bee, could it? Yes it was and it wasn't the only one, we saw at least three different individuals come and go all with fully laden pollen baskets.
They are Buff Tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris) workers and apparently this species is now increasingly nesting throughout the whole year and foraging all winter. Wonder if they'll survive, which probably depends on how cold it gets and what the over winter nectar and pollen supplies are like locally - we'll keep an eye out and keep you posted. Fascinating stuff, climate change in action?
No bird news from Patch 2, this morning while giving Monty a run round in the back garden at Base Camp a couple of Redwings flew over and there was a good deal of cackling coming from numerous Blackbirds
Where to next? Monty is getting his first trip to either the beach or the countryside today so we may have some news for you later.
In the meantime let us know who's gathering the pollen in your outback.


Tuesday 8 November 2016

Nowt doing here so we're off to Pembrokeshire again

The Safari hasn't been out much. this morning we got news of the first ever Waxwings to be seen within the nature reserve. Even if we'd been able to get out straight away we wouldn't have seen them as they had a little fly round and then flew off while LR was watching them. He did get a pic with his phone but they were so high up at the top of the tallest tree on the reserve they're just dots of about a dozen pixels.
In the absence of any proper local news we were lucky that our Extreme Photographer has had a few days off and has been up to the Teifi Marshes reserve on the Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire border.
He's seen a few bits n bobs up there including a Yellow Browed Warbler but he's been mostly paying his attention to the Kingfishers that perch outside one of the hides. While waiting for the Kingfishers to put in an appearance he was easily distracted by other avian delights.
One Heron or is it two Herons?
Yes the pair of Kingfishers did turn up for him in the end.
He says he's not 100% happy with these four as his camera setting weren't quite right...they look alright to us!!!
Not content with the pics above he went back for another session yesterday. And got what we think is a fractionally bettter result, but only the one pic as the birds weren't playing ball this time.
Many thanks to our Extreme Photographer filling an otherwise empty blog once again.
Where to next? Hopefully we'll come across a Waxwing or two but we'll not hold our breath.
In the meantime let us know who's showing far too much colour in your outback. 

Saturday 5 November 2016

A bit of pink and red but not enough

The Safari wanted to have a look at some of the habitat work that's been done recently at the nature reserve in advance of a wildlife meeting on Monday evening. Luckily the cold dull weather with icy showers during the morning had given over to a cold strong wind with prolonged sunny spells - result! On the way we met up with CR and we both kept our eyes and ears open for anything that may be worth pointing our lenses at. It was good to see the meadow that was really colourful this summer has been cut and raked so here's hoping for an even better show next year. From the viewing platform we saw no Bitterns or Bearded Tits but a distant diving duck down at the far end of the mere was identified as the first Goldeneye of the season, a female. Good to see a new arrival for the winter but not so good to see the reeds in front of Ice Station Zebra haven't been cut yet which is going to make counting the winter waterfowl awkward and getting any pics nigh on impossible.
The scrub areas were quieter than expected possibly due to the constant procession on unleashed dogs wandering hither and thither away from their numpty humans. A few Blackbirds braved the disturbance as did just one Redwing which showed almost nicely in the low afternoon sunshine. But where's the Fieldfares, there's been a few through but we don't think anyone's seen any feeding on the Apples yet.
Would have preferred those two berries above its beak to be further to the left - picky we know
At the scrape we didn't spot the couple of Wigeon we learned later were hiding at the back among the Mallards. The reeds here weren't being thrashed around by the wind so we lingered a while listening for any hint of the Bearded Tits, hope they haven't moved on - a couple of grit trays might have been a good idea to bring them out into the open too, probably a bit late now. 
Down on the east embankment we felt the full force of the northerly wind and it didn't feel far off the slightly more famous east bank at Cley! We couldn't find the pair of Stonechats that have been about for a week or more but there were about a 100 Pink Footed Geese in the fields to the east. They were well out in the field and even with the advantage of being able to get a little closer from the recently mown area around the new ponds they were still a bit far for 'proper' pics.
Good to see them in some decent light though and a reasonable number, 1000 would have been better but we can't complain. Just hope the pillard who walks round with a dog and a Goshawk doesn't put in an appearance and frighten them off preventing them returning for the rest of the winter.
Those new ponds could be good for Snipe and Jack Snipe through the winter too - provided you can get to look at them before the day's first dog walker takes his mutt for a swim in them and flushes everything.
The reeds along the embankment were waving around wildly in the blustery wind so there was very little chance of seeing or even hearing the Bearded Tits so we retraced our steps back to the viewing platform. Water Rail were heard and a Cetti's Warbler seen darting across the pool in front of us. And now TS told us the Goldeneye was now down this end and when he looked there were two! 
Time was running out and a very threatening black cloud was looming so back to the cars we went with plenty of notes for the meeting. 
Back at Base Camp we let Monty out in to the back garden and a few minutes later we were back inside soaking wet, that threatening cloud delivered it's load alright!
Where to next? Another day visiting the poorly parents tomorrow but we might be able to get some wildlife spotting in in the morning and on the drive down to the South-side.
in the meantime let us know who's all of a gaggle in your outback.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Some more ticks on the bird lists

The Safari is still struggling to get out much although we have added a few more birds to our various lists.
First up was a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Garden #30) flying up the street while putting Monty in the car for a trip somewhere or other. We haven't seen one round these parts for a couple of years, the numpty that cut down the big Sycamore because he didn't like sweeping up the autumn leaves didn't help matters! Next up was a Cormorant (Garden #31) flying inland quite high up, another species that isn't quite annual at Base Camp and again Monty was involved, we were out in the back garden giving him a work out with a flattened water bottle - yes we've spent a fortune on toys but his favourite is a squashed old plazzy bottle. Our final addition also involved Monty, this time a late night out before bed-time. A flight of 13 Whooper Swans (Garden #32) were heard long before they were seen passing right over heard eerily illuminated from beneath with an orangy glow from the street lamps. Bizarrely we had another two before dawn the following morning. Whooper Swans have been annual over the last few years after no records between 2010 and 2013.
This morning the recently rubbish Patch 2 came up with a new species for the year when a flock of 27 Wigeon (P2 #77) flew by just behind the  light surf, best of the rest was a single Dunlin which flew in to join a small number of Sanderlings scampering around dodging the incoming waves.
Yesterday there was a bit of a sunrise going on so we took the camera out to try to do a bit of art but were just a tad miffed by the number of plane con-trails.
Pick a favourite
Later we had another short session while the last of the day's warm sunshine was shining brightly on the Caster Oil plant's flowers. 
Lots of these Drone Flies were slurping up nectar.
There were a couple of other species flying around too but we only managed a snap of one of them.
Any one any ideas? CR may well know, he's pretty clued up on hoverflies.
Where to next? Still in the throes of some pretty stressful family stuff so the weekend might not provide as many opportunities for safari-ing as we might like.
In the meantime let us know who's slurping up the last of the nectar in your outback.