Monday 28 August 2017

Bit of a mixed bag today

The Safari has had a mixed end to our first week of retirement. We' been round Patch 1 a couple of times with Monty without seeing too much although two well grown juvenile Moorhens out on the lawn by the big pond was good to see, they probably hatched on the more vegetated and less disturbed smaller upper pond .
One morning we spotted a tiny moth on the outside kitchen window sill. It didn't look quite right for a couple of familiar common species so we took a couple of pics and then had an ask on Twitter who's experts came back with Small Dusty Wave. A common enough species which we'd already tentatively IDd it as, but one that hadn't already made it onto the garden list, always good to get a NFG!
That night we were back in Moth and Bat action leading an event at the top end of the North Blackpool Pond Trail. It was very well attended with over 60 people of which about half were children turning up.
On our bat walk as darkness fell we had both Soprano Pipistrelles, normal Pipistrelles, we heard them referred to as 'Bandit' Pipistrelles for the first time by one of the group - we've only recently seen that name in the literature. The Patent Bat Attracting Sticks came into play and didn't they do well. Everyone had great views as they whirled round the PBASs several times. Lots of people told us they had bats at home or at their holiday homes so hopefully they'll use the PBAS technology there and have great fun watching their own bats close up, Over the lake we had several passes of what were probably Daubenton's Bats, as they were skimming and sometimes touching the water although no-one had a torch quite powerful enough to pick out the white bellies at the range they were at. Turning our attention to the moth trap everyone gathered round the sheets laid on the ground eagerly awaiting the first moths to arrive. Before they did there were a lot of Chironimid midges, all black ones until one young lad presented us with a bright green specimen. There were lots of  Crane Flies of various sizes all called by the alternative name of Bandy Long Legs rather than Daddy Long Legs by one little girl and an unknown beetle wit ha very broad head and a small caddis fly were potted. Eventually the moths began to appear as it became fully dark. Not a great selection but Large and Lesser Yellow Underwings wowed the crowd with their vivid colours and large size. Flame Shoulders were viewed as less impressive but a massive Old Lady had the crowd going "ooohhhh look at the size of that!"
All to soon the evening came to a close as the children's bedtime came and went. A cracking evening was enjoyed by all. Massive thank you's go to the CG and the Grow Blackpool team for the loan of the generator and to G U-P for helping lug the heavy brute around.
The following day we headed to the nature reserve early doors. It was quite a dull morning so we didnt take the camera, with that in mind we were convinced we'd come across something stunningly good and need an image but it wasn't to be. We walked the full length there and back without once needing to lift the camera if we'd have had was exceptionally quiet. The only thing of note was an Osprey that got LR and our pulses racing as it came over the tree tops but was in the end 'just' a pale-ish Buzzard flopping lazily southwards and a very mobile small mixed flock that had at least 5 Long Tailed Tits and three Whitethroats along with an unknown number of Blue and Great Tits and maybe some other bits n bobs too. A bit of a disappointing visit really. The biggy will come it's just a matter of making sure we pick the weather conditions and get the visit in on the right day. What it will be is anyone's guess!
That afternoon we went to the cliffs at the north end of town for the high tide spurred on by early morning reports of at least three Bottlenose Dolphins offshore early morning while we were at the nature reserve. We half expected them to put in an appearance as the tide rose or just after. It was a gorgeous summer's afternoon, warm sun - we half wished we'd worn shorts but then thought if we had we'd have ended up with sore sun-burnt knees - with hardly a breath of wind. The sea was calm with just a very light swell - ideal conditions for cetacean spotting...
The massive waste water pipe engineering works were underway with this barge, the Helge R, being filled by the dredger. It's a bit of a bizarre vessel in that it doesn't sink when it splits in two length-ways to drop its load of sand and mud away from the work site, a bit like the bucket on a grab-hire wagon. It's about three miles offshore.
Although you could see a long way the visibility wasn't brilliant in the haze
At the seawall end of the works there is a short section of the pipe still showing above the high tide waves before it disappears below the surface into a coffer dammed channel. By the end of the coffer dam posts we saw a Harbour Porpoise not far from the shore and definitely over what would be the beach at low tide. Sandwich Terns called loudly and fished close inshore, our maximum count at any one time all afternoon was 14 but there could easily have been many more than that coming and going up and down the coast. A long tailed raptor was too distant to identify and as we were straining our eyes at that we thought we saw the falcate dorsal fin of a Bottlenose Dolphin break the surface with a bit of a splash going the opposite direction much closer in. Well we searched and searched but saw nothing until much closer in still we saw a mother and calf Harbour Porpoises, break the surface several times. We don't think the adult was the same animal we'd seen earlier as we had several good views of it and never was there a hint of smaller animal with it. A couple of  Razorbills (170) were sat on the sea nearby, can't believe they're our first of the year!
Still searching the waters to the northwest waiting for the Bottlenose Dolphins to appear out of the Lune Deeps we picked up another lone Porpoise a long way out, possibly the fourth individual of our watch. By now we'd run out of time and it was time to return to Base Camp to take Wifey and Monty out for a breath of fresh air before dinner.
We went to his favourite walk where he met some friend and Wifey chatted to their owners. A bit of bright sunshine brought a Speckled Wood fluttering our way which landed on some lovely bright red Rowan berries just within arms reach of our phone.
Yet another great day in Safari-land.
Where to next? Anything could happen anywhere this week! And we have a couple of cunning plans...Hopefully with a bit more time for ourselves now the rubbish wot we rite will be of a better quality - certainly hope so!!!
In the meantime let us know who's lurking in the dark in your outback

Friday 25 August 2017

Oddball bat

The Safari was out helping LW at the zoo with her Grab that Gap project this morning. She needed some help identifying the plants that had come up in a small piece of the garden that has been set aside for native wildlife. A grand total of 47 species were recorded including a several bumble bees and hoverflies feeding at the flowers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over us. Our reward for helping out was a nice cuppa and a rather unusual bat. It had been found wet and bedraggled crawling  on a footpath before the zoo opened and was rescued otherwise it would likely been trodden on by the throngs of visitors. It was taken in to care and looked after all day and night but eventually died. But just look at it. how mad is that! A pied winged bat, is it a Daubenton's Bat with that white ventral fur or is that part of the leucism too?
It;s currently in the garage at Base Camp drying out, could do with it in a warm airing cupboard but it doesn't smell too good. We've put a gauze 'tent' around it to stop any flies laying their eggs on it and the resulting maggots eating it to nothing. Hopefully the tragus in the ears won't deform too much as it mummifies and we can get a good close up pic (with a peg on our nose!) to aid/confirm identification.
A gloomy luchtime shuffy round Patch 1 wit hMonty had us looking for any grounded migrant birds which may have been about, bit late in the day we know but you've gotta try! No birds were found but we did come across three lots of Parasol Mushrooms along the woodland trail we've not wandered down for a few weeks. Well worth the detour  today!
We'll have another look tomorrow if we can to see if the top one has fully opened, it looks like it's going to be a big dobber but wouldn't be surprised if some numbnut had splodged them thinking they were deadly poisonous.
On our second visit of the day we couldn't find anything out of the ordinary but Monty did...he went sniffing about in the undergrowth and came out with another dog's lost ball and must have put his beak through big spider's web somewhere along the line.
The Posty arrived yesterday wit ha parcel for us from our Extreme Photographer. Inside the plain brown card wrapping were a couple of field guides that'll get some serious use next season...Cheers Bud!
And a soirree with friends D & PH had this beauty opened in front of our very wide eyes - we do like a bit of cake!
Apart from the bright yellow puffa jacket that looks like us to a tee!!! The both Monty and the nature reserve look pretty authentic too! But how did it taste? - - as good as it looks - - yummo double yummo
Where to next? Tempted by the cake we might do a long early morning on the nature reserve in the morning.
In the meantime let us know who looks good enough to eat in your outback.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Purple in the rain

The Safari picked up CR, dropped off Monty and aimed the car northwards on a welcome all-dayer at the big reserve an hour's drive away. The forecast was for bright sunshine all day but the windscreen wipers told a different story.
Our first stop was the saltmarsh where the water levels in the pools looked good, lots of oozy mud everywhere but where were the birds to take advantage? Other than a flock of about 400 roosting Redshanks on one pool and a scattering of Lapwings on the other it was virtually birdless. Gloomy too with persistent heavy showers havingus fear for our camera gear and we'd not brought a waterproof jacket - RULE 1 - - Never believe the weather forecast, as the Scouts say Be Prepared!
Redshanks in the gloomy drizzle
CR found a cooperative Snipe who's ears picked up the noise from our shutter, it went all Wrynecky on us trying to work out where the strange sound was coming from.  
Best of the rest here were a couple of Dunlin, a Black Tailed Godwit, and four camera shy Greenshanks. A Little Egret flopped in to a deeper area to fish for shrimps and a Sparrowhawk causes a minute of mayhem among the waders as it flew over. Away in the distance the cronking calls of a couple for Ravens was heard and we watched them drift high overhead.
Possibilities exhausted we decided to move on to the main part of the reserve, having said that a quick look at the clock revealed we'd been there an hour. 
There had been a local rarity on site for a couple of days and with all the overnight rain it was bound to be still present so we headed straight down that way. The hide was full to busting, standing room only! And the words "you should have been here five minutes ago" greeted us. It was just a waiting game now but within five minutes someone had spotted the Purple Heron (167) creep out from behind a dense clump of reeds. We got really views in the bins of this Lifer and filled an embarrassing gap on our list, although for some reason we didn't twitch the one that was here for over a week 20 years ago. Having to stand we weren't able to get the camera through the opening viewing slats in the hide and our picks through cobweb and rain drop covered glass at an angle all hit the cutting room floor.
There wasn't a lot going on other than the heron so we left to let others take our space, there was a steady flow of 'traffic' coming down the path towards us. 
The next stop was the feeding station where we soon picked up a Bullfinch (YBC #146) four our Year Bird Challenge.
Not the best of pics but what do expect at ISO ridiculous 1/40 sec at 600mm handheld! It's identifiable so it goes on our tally.
We didn't spend long in the nearby hide as it was quite apart from a few snoozing Mallards and some Coots.
By now the weather was trying to perk up a bit and although still cloudy the threat of rain had virtually gone and it was warm and sticky. Walking along the boardwalk through the reeds was quiet - where are all the small birds? A Common Darter dragonfly lifted off the woodwork in front of us, good to see them on the wing as there might be photo opportunities later.
At the hide it was busy-ish but not bombed like the 'heron' hide. There was another "you should have been here five minutes ago" this time we'd just missed the Otter. Never mind it would no doubt come out again shortly - it didn't! But instead an Osprey (168, YBC #147) flew in and landed on the dead tree they always do - if ever there was a need for an artificial platform to be put up this is the place, right on top of the adjacent Scots Pine tree that looks like a Bonsai tree. Never mind the Otters (or lack there-of) and the Osprey there's a Mediterranean Gull flying towards us with a few Black Headed Gulls - best bird of the day no matter what ever might happen later. We called it loud and proud giving directions as to its changing position in the flock but no-one in the hide looked up! Come on guys, bird of the day just flew over and you all ignored/dismissed it - arrrrggghhhh what are you lot like!!
The tree the Osprey was in is a long way off, never mind being in another Post Code it's almost in another County! 
Still on ISO Stupid these pics are enlarged by 150%.
It stayed up there a good while having a little shuffle and wing stretch from time to time which we totally missed with the camera. Despite the distance we could hearing it calling though.
Eventually it took off and had a circle round and gave a half hearted dive over the far pool before swinging round towards us. Now this would be great if it could just dive right in front of everyone, the hide waited with baited breath but no, it veered off up and over the hill to our right...soooooo disappointing!
Rubbish pics but you can just about tell it's an Osprey
Off we went again on our ramble passing the dyke where we saw Brown Hawkers and what was either a Southern Hawker or an Emperor dragonfly none of which were for stopping.
Little dicky birds were in very short supply along the woodland trail to the net hide, other than a singing Chiffchaff there was hardly anything about. CR did manage a very quick snap at a raptor disappearing behind the trees, a Marsh Harrier, word on the street was they'd already left the  reserve so was this one just passing through? Once we'd turned left down the track to the hide we immediately heard at least a couple of Bearded Tits (169) pinging away in the reedbed a few yards to our left. No chance of them showing unless one did a short flitting flight across the top of the reeds and even then there'd be no chance of a pic - we'll have to be patient and wait until they come to the grit trays later in the autumn.
The hide was empty and so was the view! We sat it out thinking why weren't we here when the Osprey was on its snag as it would have been a lot closer from here and facing us rather than having its back to us earlier. With nothing happening we set off back to the previous hide. Glad we did cos as soon as we opened the door we were told the Otter was showing and showing well it was! For the next quarter of an hour we had stupendous views.
What worries us is we see far more Otters these days than Stoats and Weasels put together.
Now time was starting to push on a bit so we retraced our steps back towards the Purple Heron to see if we could get a better look at it and hopefully some pics. Stopping at the main hide briefly there was a 'normal' Grey Heron just outside the window.
We needed a quick 'pit stop' so C waited at the feeding station and when wee returned he told us the Bullfinch was on a much nearer now.
The cage is an attempt to keep the greedy Grey Squirrels off the food.
Off we trundled back to the Purple Heron and this time there was no waiting for it to come out and there were plenty of free seats at the windows.
It goes on the YBC list at #145 as we did get some pics earlier even if we did delete them once we were back at Base Camp.
There was a small boy sat next to us who had started birding about an hour earlier but was having trouble seeing the star of the show with his little plastic bins so we put our new Swazzas around his ncck and implored him not to leg it through the hide door. "Wowwwwwww! - How much are these?" he asked looking towards his mum stood behind us. "50 years saving up" we answered, mum looked relieved she didn't have to dash back to the shop in the centre brandishing her credit card. We told him that Red Deer are sometimes seen under the solitary tree in the middle of the view. Some one down the line misheard us and muttered there were no deer to be seen in a stage whisper but seconds later a hind and calf walked in to view - thank you Safari Gods!!! We gently grabbed our little friend's head and turnedd it round - "Wowwwwwwwww - deers!!!!!!!! - this is the best day ever!"
He wasn't wrong! These were the first deer of any species we've seen for at least 20 months, no idea how we've managed that!
The calf
They soon returned to the depths of the reedbed and were lost to view, back to the main event then...
What a great day out and we didn't get wet in the end.
Where to next? Could be anywhere - the adventures are never ending now.
In the meantime let us know who's got all the colour in your outback.

Monday 21 August 2017

All change!

The Safari has reached one of those life moments - we've just gone and taken early retirement! With the pretty rotten last twelve months we've decided that life's too short and having just missed yet another close encounter with the surgeon's scalpel we felt it was time to ditch the daily grind and enjoy some quality Safari-time and look after Monty while Wifey continues to bring home the bacon...well we really hope she will cos being a poor pensioner now if she doesn't we'll starve.
And so ends an era...and sadly it is also the end of Patch 2 as we won't be down that way very often from now on, our seawatching will be done much closer to home from the cliffs at Chat Alley from now on. Patch 2 ended on 56 species.
Talking of seawatching we came across this little snippet from the  Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society

Lizard Point, Introduction to Seawatching 08:00 – 10:00: 6 Cory’s Shearwater, 3 Balearic Shearwater, 9 Sooty Shearwater, 1700 Manx Shearwater, 650 Gannet, 1 Storm Petrel, 1 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Sanderling, 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Chough.

Blimey that's just a two hour 'introduction' to seawatching - that lot would take us two lifetimes and more to come across at Patch 2 or Chat Alley!

Our first assignment as a retiree was to lead a moth and bat night for a local Friends group at their park. We've done them there before around this time of year but have been dreadfully unlucky with the weather. Last night it seemed the curse would continue, rain threatened, the wind howled and it wasn't very warm. But the gods were with us, the train kept off and the crowds turned up eager to learn about the bats and even hopefully get to see some. At least they'd see a couple as we'd brought along our rubber 'Halloween' bat help point out all the animal's salient features, we also had a our mummified Pipistrelle Bats that have been donated by a couple of friends over the years so that they could see how small bats are and how velvety soft their fur is.
Here's a pic of young E demonstrating how his patent bat-attracting-stick works. We had to use a length of rush as there wasn't any suitably long grasses nearby and were worried that the greater thickness of the rush's stem would keep the bats away...should we even find any.
As the darkness gathered we switched on the bat detectors and led the group to the most sheltered area of the park down by the big hedge. There's a bit of a ditch too which helps as it's a breeding ground for all those little midges the bats feed on. Fortunately it didn't take long before the first clicks of a passing bat were heard on the detectors. Then more were heard and the first bat seen. By now excitement was rising and almost all the group got to see bats close up as the patent bat-attracting-sticks we'd given to the children came in to play and did what they are supposed to do. It's magic - pure and simple!  Better still with more sophisticated bat detectors available now between the group we managed to determine that both Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle Bats (our 10th mammal species of the year) were present.
We're led to believe there's definitely a bat in this pic - Thanks to @OhNoItsSteve for this and the pic above
Once we'd had our fill of bats it was time to turn the bat attracting lamp on and wait to see what it might bring in. Large Yellow Underwings didn't disppoint, the children loved them - big and gaudy so far superior to the many dowdy Common Rustics and slightly more interesting Flame Shoulders. Catch of the day was a cracking Burnished Brass sadly no photo for you as we forgot to take either our camera or phone.
The following morning the trap was checked - we'd taken it out of the car overnight - but not having put a cover on it there had been a mass exodus leaving just a single Large Yellow Underwing behind.
Later getting into the car a Copper Underwing sp flew out! Didn't see that one arriving last night.
A morning trip to the nature reserve felt birdy, in fact it felt like an Osprey sort of a day. But after a couple of hundred yards it was evident it was going to be a rather unbirdy sort of a day. Autumnal with Dunnocks peeping and Robins ticing but other than that it was very quiet, even the now laden with  ripe berries Elderberry bushes were devoid of birds. A Sparrowhawk drifted south and Mallards sat quietly on the water as a single Snipe did a quick fly round before plummeting back in to the reedbed. No sign of the recent Otters or the Bittern this morning.
Down at the far end a female Reed Bunting posed nicely.
Not long after watching her a Magpie flew past us carrying what looked like a Shrew sp.
In the scrub even the normally hyper-active Whitethroats were keeping a low profile until this one popped up in front of us and stayed on its perch long enough for the camera to be pointed at it.
Back at the Elderberry bushes there was still nothing happening and we were thankful that this lovely Small Tortoiseshell came to the nearby Buddleia bush for a refuel on its abundant nectar.
Arriving back at Base Camp for breakfast we were please to see a lone House Martin (Garden #28) swooping around over the garden and after breakfast we heard the gulls making a commotion while we were doing some chores so we grabbed the bins  and dashed outside hoping to see an Osprey going over - close but no cigar, 'just' a Buzzard being seen on its way by those gulls.
That afternoon we took Monty to his favourite riverside walk and he was taught to swim by a friendly black Labrador. It was very busy with humans and their dogs and not very busy with any wildlife at all. But where some children were playing in the river we had a brief sighting of a Dipper (166) fly past them so a result, a dog that can now swim and a new bird for our year list - no chance of a pic of it for our Year Bird Challenge though.
So all in all not a bad day after all.
Where to next? Could be anywhere the world is now our oyster! But it'll probably be back to the nature reserve for starters before we get too adventurous.
In the meantime let us know who's been swapped for lesser goods in your outback.

Thursday 17 August 2017

A couple of grand days on the beach

The Safari has been entertaining a lot of children on the beach this last couple of days. And what a cracking couple of days they've been! They've found some superb creatures (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't call them critters - yuk yuk and double yuk). There were several fairly large Green Shore Crabs brought out of the pools. This chap has lost both his pincers so we're  not sure if he'll survive his next moult as he'll be unable to feed - we know he's a he from looking at his underside.
At the edge of a pool on the beach right at the bottom of the slipway was a rather battered Common Sand Star. At first we thought it was dead but after a few children had handled it its finger tips began to curl up and it started to extend its tube feet so we reckon it was probably relieved to get back in the water of one of our buckets.
We always hope to find a loose Beadlet Anemone and this one was a big one. It's taken a long time (= years!) to find one that would sting us with enough of its tens of thousands of microscopic nematocysts to hold its one weight by stinging us.
Stung we were but it's OK as the stingers are so tiny they can only grip the very outermost dead skin cells so we were never going to be able to feel anything, not even so much a s a little tickle.  
Even better was to come, as the children were busy with Common Prawns, Brown Shrimps, little Blennies and a shed load of tiny Green Shore Crabs we had a walk along the not very impressive strandline looking for seaweed with Mermaids' Purses. We didn't find any but did find this striking little shell...
So what is it? Well that's the rub we didn't know, we've not seen one like it before. It's similar to the very rare Grey Top Shell - well it's very rare on our beach we've only found one in the all the years we've been doing this type of event.  
We had to wait until we got back to Base Camp and browse through some field guides that we learnt it was a Painted Top Shell and there aren't too many local records for them...No wonder we've not seen one before. It's been washed and is in our collection tub now!
With a bit of a thunderstorm and some horrendous rain last night we were worried that today's event would be called off but the rain gave up early and the sun came out to give a cracking day in the end.
That was the cue for the one of the biggest turnouts we've ever had...we were bombed!
A great afternoon followed. Lots of everything but strangely lots of very small juvenile starfish of hich we only saw a couple yesterday. 
Some of the parents were very persistent when it came to getting the biggest crab or a tricky fish, our friend in the first pic was caught again. One young mum's persistence paid off with a little bit of help from her friend when she netted this absolute dobber of a Five Bearded Rockling, it's nearly a foot long, the ones we usually catch struggle to two inches!
Second best 'catch of the day' came right at the end of the session when a shrimp fel out of a pice of Hornwrack - not a normal Brown Shrimp but one like a freshwater Gammerid shrimp, Gammarus salinus, not a species we find very often at all.
And so ended two very enjoyable afternoons with some real quality finds - isn't our beach just splendidly brilliant!
Sadly those were the last children's events we'll do after 35 years, we've done hundreds over the years and enjoyed every single one and almost all the children have enjoyed them too...all we ask is that they've remembered something they saw, learnt something new and told their friends who weren't there how much fun it was.
Where to next? Helping our local MP sort out some winners for his environmental awards tomorrow but probably no chance of getting out in to the environment.
In the meantime let us know who's found the biggest dobber in your outback.

Sunday 13 August 2017

Sandwiches on the beach

The Safari was hoping that the early morning low tides would permit a roost of Sandwich Terns providing there hadn't been too much doggy or fisherman disturbance before we got out. We took the bins and big lens to work and fortunately there was a roost well down on the beach and better still it was directly in front of us and there was no sign of any forthcoming disturbance. So that was it, the wellies went on and we set off down the steps onto the beach. To make sure we didn't disturb them and get in the best position for the pretty rubbish light - we were still on ISO Stupid - we headed off to their left well in front of them with the intention of walking back towards them slowly and stopping every few yards so that they got used to our movements. If we got a hint they were getting fidgety then we could walk back up the beach a bit away from them until they settled down, thankfully we didn't need to do that. Once as close as we dared we took a few pics
and then moved in a few more yards one step at a time
The black sticky-up things in the sand are the tops of Mason Worms whose silk and shell fragment cases get washed up by the trillion after rough weather. 
The did flush in the end but thanmkfully we weren't the culprit, a young Herring Gull had decoded to join their number but they spooked, perhaps because they'd not long since been out at sea dodging the attentions of several Arctic Skuas and the gull looked similar to those persistent thieves.

We succeeded in getting just one BiF shot off.
Yesterday morning we had an early morning wander round Patch 1 finding a couple of Sparrowhawks with perhaps more in the trees as there was a good bit of flying around going on and a lot of squawking to be heard. Also around the rough field's hedgerows were a Willow Warbler and a nearby Lesser Whitethroat while in the park proper there was a calling Goldcrest and a singing Coal Tit along with several 'tic'ing Robins, sounding very autumnal.
This morning we took Monty to the nature reserve with the hope of some pics for our Year Bird Challenge. At last we had a decent morning with good sunshine and for once this summer no wind!
Straight out of the car and through the gate we got a glimpse of the Blackcap that has been infuriatingly noisy but invisible all summer. Eventually it stopped out in the open long enough to fire of a few pics and once downloaded back at Base Camp a couple of them were even in focus. At long last after walking past this particular bird since early April we've finally got Blackcap (YBC #143) on our tally.
The rest of our walk was fairly quiet apart from an unseen Redshank (MMLNR #74) circling round before sounding like it headed off to the coast south west-wards until we got to the Elderberry bushes by the cabins where there was some activity around the not so many ripe berries. Mostly Blackbirds and Whitethroats but there were a couple of Song Thrushes too. A family of Magpies stopped briefly in the Rowan tree next door to pluck a few berries but maybe there weren't many ripe ones although they all looked the same to us as the soon moved on cackling away as they do.
More Whitethroats were seen on the way to the first hide. probably the most numerous bird of the day. A late Swift flew over with a few Swallows following in its wake a minute or so later. We kept an eye on the reedbed in case the Bittern should decide to take a flight but no such luck. Sneaking up to the viewing screen next to the hide we peered cautiously through the slats hoping the Bittern might be in the reeds fringing the pool - needless to say it wasn't but there was a Reed Warbler that deigned to show itself properly.
By now it was late enough for the charge of the dog brigade to be in full flow and it just became so frustrating as we'd see something in the scrub only for either it or us to be disturbed by a dog wandering unleashed off piste. Monty still wants to meet and greet as he's still only a pup (one year old next weekend) so trying to get him to keep still so we can focus either bins or camera on a no empty bush is hard with the constant passage of other mutts. It's a nightmare and ruins the experience of being at one with nature on a reserve. We saw a snippet of Lesser Whitethroat but were dogged off before we could raise the camera. Luckily there was another back at the Elderberry bush by the cabins - it just wouldn't show its face but another 'at laster', Lesser Whitethroat (TBC #144).
Back at Base Camp after lunch the warm sun brought out a Mint Moth, a species we've not seen here for a couple of years.
Phone pic
Monty's evening walk back to Patch 1 had us hearing the Sparrowhawks squawking again but little else until we spotted a couple of fungi on a long felled tree. No idea what they are but they're nice all the same.
All good stuff on a wildlife filled weekend and we got lots of family duties in too.
Where to next? Pond dipping and bug hunting with family centre group at work tomorrow but will we be too excited and busy to take any pics of their most interesting finds?
In the meantime let us know who's eventually given themselves up in your outback.