Saturday 31 December 2016

Some bad misses but if you don't get out you won't see nowt!

The Safari was severely trounced in our Year List Challenge with Monika this year, our 185 nowhere near her 208 species but that's the way it goes some times - you can't win them all and as always in birding you see what you see when you see it and if you don't get out you don't see nowt...which isn't quite strictly true as there is the great #WildlifefrommyWindow for those who for whatever reason are unable to get outside; as we were for a short while after hospitalisation earlier in the year. All you need to do is ignore the dross on your phone and fake news on the TV screens for a few minutes each day and get to grips with the real world outside even if it is #WildlifeThroughGlass. A few minutes watching squabbling Starlings, buzzing bees or even pitter-pattering ants going about their business connects you firmly to our planet, they more you look the more you'll learn and the the more you learn the more you'll see everything is inter-connected including, perhaps even especially, us humans.
So how come we got beaten so convincingly, well we tried and dipped on Bewick's Swan, Caspian Gull, Serin, Nightingale, Turtle Dove, Mandarin and Little Ringed Plover. But totally failed on some really-ought-to-have-gots like Black Redstart, Yellow Wagtail, Little Owl and both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. But you can't see everything, that would spoil the fun!
Where to next? Bring on our photo-challenge!
In the meantime let us know what's outside the window in your outback.

Happy New Year everyone - we hope to see you in the field some time somewhere...

Thursday 29 December 2016

Peregrine was still there but...

The Safari and Wifey have been laid low with post-Christmas colds, Wifey's has developed in to a full blown chest infection requiring a trip to the quacks and a packet of horse pills this lunchime. You know you're deffo ill when your tea tastes more like coffee and your coffee tastes well err... and we've barely touched the festive booze. Consequently we haven't been out much apart from a quick sprint around Patch 1 with Monty. He still hasn't managed to spot any of the local Grey Squirrels and he knows where the Fox trails are.
The last time we were out with the bins and without Monty was the day after Boxing Day. The day started bright and sunny and as promised in our last post the local Peregrine was game on for having her pic taken.
That single brown feather in her wing suggests she's not yet fully adult.
After a quick nip back to Base Camp for some breakfast we headed off to the Nature Reserve sadly the promised all-day sunshine disappeared behind the heavy gloomy clouds. Once there it was even gloomier with little to be seen apart from flippin mutts roaming all over the place, from the relative sanctuary of the reedbeds we heard three or four Cetti's Warblers. We didn't have much of a look over the water but did note an awful lot of Coots and a decent number of Wigeon with probably more tucked up in areas we didn't look at. Continuing on dodging yet more mutts and their arrogant owners we came away not a little disheartened. but almost back at the car we found a small flock of Fieldfares feeding in an Apple tree s owe hung around sneaking foot by foot, minute by minute closer until they were in range of the lens - it never happened a dog walker walked right past us putting all the birds to flight. This was the best of the few shots we got as they flew away to the top of a much taller tree across the main roadway.
A dull day made more dismal and followed by illness - marvelous!
Where to next? If we're feeling better tomorrow we might try to get out somewhere for a couple of hours.
In the meantime let us know who's cutting through the gloom in your outback.

Monday 26 December 2016

A new year and a different challenge beckon

The Safari has been informed that this coming year's challenge with Monika is going to be a little different this time round.
Her Pops has come up with the idea of the challenge to photograph as many species as possible. Identifiable of course not a couple of blurry pixels. That's going to make for an interesting year, and some interesting photo from us, each species can only be added to the list once, that'll be OK for common species no need to submit until the 'perfect' pic comes round but those scarcer or harder to get species may mean a fair few 'record' shots - gotta be identifiable though! I feel some hard work coming on but it's bound to be fun and we'll find lots of other fascinating wildlife too.
But there's still a few days of this year left yet and after a week of family duties and puppy duties
The boy's getting bigger!
we hope to back out on the trail of some wildlife tomorrow and we've our eye on the local Peregrine. It's been visible from our bathroom window most of the holiday, hopefully it'll be still there in the morning and the sun will be shining on it for a change too - bring on the big lens!
Where to next? After the Peregrine we may well have a couple of hours at the nature reserve.
In the meantime let us know who's getting bigger in your outback.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

There's snow't about

The Safari hasn't been able to get out much in recent days and when we have we haven't seen much. We've been out so little we've not had a look at Patch 2 all week and have probably come to grinding halt on our Patchwork Challenge for there. No Velvet Scoter or Scaup to add to our list then.
The last week has seen moon-set happening around mid day so we took the opportunity to try a few arty shots from the garden last weekend.
Poking around the garden at work we came across the Borage we saw flowering last week with a new flower recently opened - it;s mid/late December what's going on!
Since the weekend a couple of Snow Buntings have been frequenting the beach just to the south of Patch 2, although news is often released of them being 'dogged-off'. At lunchtime today we thought sod it let's have a long lunch break and drive the mile down the road and have a look for them. Once we were on the beach it took about two minutes to locate them well out on the sands rather than where we expected them, high on the beach on the strand-lines.
We walked well out beyond them to get the light on the right side and then got in front of them to let them come to us; which they very obligingly did. Standing still they came within about 30 feet (10m) of us. If we'd have lain down on the sand they may well have come closer. It was a bit cold and damp for that though! But Snow Bunting (185) is now on the list - wonder how Monika is getting on? She's had a bit of a busy year.
They were finding seeds washed up with the shell fragments on the lowest strandline.
We watched them flit about a few times too when there well deserved colloquial name of Snowflakes was all too obvious - lovely little things and a treat to see on a lunch break that only went five minutes over our normal allocation.
Where to next? Holidays - whoopee-doo; but they start with another funeral tomorrow morning which isn't so good.
In the meantime let us know who's doing snow't in your outback

Sunday 18 December 2016

Can't beat a sparrow or two

The Safari was lucky enough to get out at lunchtime at work the other day just as the sun broke through the dismal grey of the morning. Patch 2 was poor out to sea but we did see this sticker from our friends from the Love My Beach project on one of the bins.
Not sure we agree with the sentiment here, gulls have been using the sea as a resource for a lot longer than we have been bathing/swimming/paddling in it en-masse. What happens when thousands of them turn up on a shellfish wreck after a storm? How much poo do the pods of 30 or more Bottlenose Dolphins do as they cruise the coast in the summer? We can understand not feeding them to prevent nuisance food/ice cream thefts but why the need to vilify them, the poor things get a bad enough and unwarranted press as it is?
With nothing happening out to sea we took the camera round the gardens to see what we could spy.
Where the kind mystery person had put the feeders up there was a good flock of House Sparrows. The sounds coming from the flock are superb, really cheery and uploiting on a dull winter's day.
There were several more to the left and right too
They're usually quite wary and unapproachable but not today, they allowed a reasonably close approach.
And with caution and no sudden moves we got closer still.
This particular female was showing great interest in something at the tip of the twig she was perched on....seeds?
The males are resplendent and overlooked by far too many folks. Dapper little crackers they are.
But if you try to sneak another inch this happens
While we were there a few gulls started flying around and one of them was the nearly full black headed Black Headed Gull we mentioned the other day.
Yesterday was another family day but a wander out onto the dunes with the dogs found us a large Puffball fungus but not the 'normal' Giant Puffball. It's something we've not seen for a good few years.
We didn't get out today, we had hoped to nip down to the pier to have a look at the Starling murmuration at dusk but the afternoon sunshine gave way to grey murk rather than a fabulous sunset so we gave it a miss.
Where to next? There's still a Velvet Scoter to be found out on Patch 2 and of course if there's a sunset there could well be a visit to the Starlings after work.
In the meantime let us know who's doing the cheery chirruping in your outback.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Wax off - wax on

The Safari booked a day off yesterday and minutes after having it Ok'd by the boss on Tuesday afternoon news of a flock of about 50 Waxwings in the neighbouring town broke. Well that was fortuitous! No need to make any difficult decisions about what to do or where to go. We had already planned a chill-out day around a safari somewhere but this news was just what we wanted. 
Tuesday had already seen us looking at a Borage plant still in flower and then watching a Black Headed Gull with an unseasonal almost total brown head in the melee after the last scraps of DB's lunch she was launching skywards over the seawall. Every winter there always seems to be one whose moult is highly retarded or overly advanced. Also slightly unseasonal were a good number of Daffodil sprouts sprouting tall above the soil.
And then back at Base Camp we saw the first green shoots of our Spanish Bluebells.
Anyway after a few small household chores yesterday waiting for the morning rush to die down we then pointed the car eastwards, half an hour later we were pulling up in a parking space to see a small cluster of birders stood close to a berry-laden roadside tree looking very odd and out of place amongst the hip and trendy university students making their way to lectures in the adjacent about sore thumbs! Trouble was none of the half a dozen or so birders ever lifted their bins once while we were walking towards them - a sure sign of chit-chat and no birds to be seen. Sure enough the word was there were some but they'd gone to who knows where. Other birders arrived who'd gone to look at nearby who-knows-where type places but without success.
Eventually news broke that two had been found at a 'traditional' berry-tree lined street not too far away. By the time we'd driven round there they'd done a bunk over the houses not to be seen again. Many years ago we almost bought a house on that street
Two Waxwings had been seen there not long before we got there but had disappeared over the rooftops. The local bloshy Mistle Thrushes might have had something to to do with it as we watched them successfully defend their precious berries against a party of marauding Blackbirds several times. 
With no sign of the Waxwings news came that there were others a mile or so we went and bingo - success. Driving down the small street we looked up at four smallish birds in the top of the tallest tree.
Every twenty minutes or so they'd drop down into a scratty Rowan tree with hardly any berries left on a tiny street corner amenity planting where they gave pretty stonking views.
They are gorgeous aren't they - and just a bit better for their unpredictability rating.
Somehow we managed to only get pics of the juveniles and not the adults with the bright yellow wing patches - doh!!! We'll just have to go back!
Also in the tree briefly was a berry eating Blackcap.
Got one
At work a walk to the shop for the crew's milk had us notice that our mystery local bird lover had been back and put out the feeders for the winter. Good on them. The 30 or more local House Sparrows are grateful too.
Where to next? Might have a look at the Starling murma=uration onm the way home tomorrow if the weather is OK, bit of a sunset would bee a bonus too.
In the meantime let us know who's sporting the natty tufts in your outback.

Sunday 11 December 2016

A mixed bag for a grey and dreary Sunday

The Safari was hoping to get out early for a wander down along the dunes just south of Patch 2 this morning but it didn't happen. Instead we ended up heading north with Wifey who had an errand to run for her sister who was working in her shop today. While Wifey went inside we stayed out to watch the car and watched the urban wildlife flying round the rooftops. Mostly Herring Gulls and Feral Pigeons.
Once the errand was completed we took Monty for a slither up the hill over the estuary at the rather soggy Country Park.
Looks like he's discovered mud!!!
Chomps more grass than the average horse too!
There were a lot of flighty thrushes flying around. Mostly Redwings and Blackbirds with a few Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush or two thrown in for good measure. None of them allowed anything like close enough approach with the camera. Put on the muddy banks of the dropping river in the estuary there were a decent number of Lapwings taking to the air from time to time. 
Closer, on the marsh, but not close enough was a Little Egret working its way along a small creek.
Back at Base Camp Monty was washed down and a bite of lunch was eaten, then it was time to hit the dunes in search of a Snowflake which we now knew probably hadn't been seen since early morning.
We started off at the bottom of Patch 2 and walk the strandline south watching for flits and hits of movement among the clumps of washed up seaweed lying at the top of the beach. As expected we came across a couple of Pied Wagtails after only a couple of minutes.
Once passed those our luck ran out and we didn't see another small bird for ages until a female Reed Bunting was spotted lurking in a patch of Marram Grass on the edge of the dunes. We continued for about a mile seeing just another pair of Pied Wagtails before the light really started to fade. The area of the lower dunes just behind the posts was awash with doggy footprints so we can only imaging our lovely little Snow Bunting had been dogged-off...but will it reappear in the week when it might be a little less busy.
At the farthest point a couple of lads were having a blast up and down the beach on their kite trolleys. Even in the very light breeze they were getting a fair turn of speed going.
We hurried back to the car and leaving the beach watched a couple of folk watching an enormous gaggle of Starlings lined up on the tram's overhead wires. The lady asked us if we were filming the birds so it would have been rude not to point the camera at them even though the light was atrocious.
We left and headed back to Base Camp passing the pier where no roost had started and the sky was dull and grey. As it transpired there was an awesome sunset just after we reached Base Camp and had settled down to a nice cuppa. What a shame we didn't stay out a few more minutes and catch the murmuration with a totally fiery sky.
'Our' Peregrine was roosting in its usual place close to Base Camp when we took Monty out for his tea-time mooch round the block, probably been there all day as we saw when we left this morning.
Where to next? A day off work tomorrow with some jobs to do but we're sure we'll find some wildlife somewhere to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know who's been dogged-off in your outback.