Thursday, 30 August 2018

More deer

The Safari was able to meet up with CR again for a short afternoon safari out to Brockholes Lancashire Wildlife trust reserve the other day. Weather-wise it was a very pleasant late summer afternoon but there was a chilly breeze when you got out from the shelter of the trees, on the other side of the trees it still felt warm enough for mid-summer. 
We had a couple of target species we hoped to catch up with and in the lee of the trees in the sun out of the wind there were plenty of dragonflies on the wing which was a hopeful sign that there might be a Hobby about during the afternoon.
Common Darter

Our other hoped for species wasn't on show from the 'Visitor Village' so we had a look at the fish, either Roach or Rudd, showing well a foot or so beneath the feet of some inquisitive ducks close to edge of the deck. With no sign of our quarry we moved over the main track to have a look at the other large pool, it was here we discovered that the wind was rather nippier than we'd expected. Brrrr...
CR spotted that some of the nest holes in the Sand Martin nesting bank had been boarded up, a bit like the windows in our (now long gone) local pub when we lived nearby. But the reserve manager later informed us that the Sand Martins aren't hooligans but the plastic tubes holding the sand have collapsed and could trap the birds inside so it was decided to cover them over to prevent any accidents. Five of the holes were used this season with the bulk of the colony still using the natural bank on the river a few hundred yards away.
Looking the other way much of the Willow that had taken over the low islands has been removed by the volunteers, extremely hard work apparently and to keep said Willow at bay we spotted an unusual visitor to the island, a small flock of Hebridean Sheep.
They should be hardy enough to stay out there most of the winter and when they've eaten all the stuff they really like they'll get munching on the Willow and hopefully next spring the island will be in peak un(or lightly)vegetated condition ready for the onslaught of breeding waders.
We'd soon had enough of the cold wind and got back to the sunny side to warm up. Here the glade was alive with butterflies and dragonflies including this Comma doing its best to look like one of the shriveling Bramble leaves.
 It did eventually open its wings, gorgeous aren't they!
A Green Veined White was close by too, making up for not being able to get a pic of earlier - well we got several pics but they were all bway beyond awful and the delete button was happily used.
Crossing the road we had a look at the main pool, sadly much of it is smothered with New Zealand Pygmy Weed, probably something the reserve team can do little about - effective biological control will be the answer if a suitable organism can be found, but on a drier patch we did see a couple of Little Ringed Plovers (174) scooting around some rocks close to the water's edge. We took a shed load of pics but at the range and with the heat haze the delet button was needed to excess again.
Something caught our eye to the right - how did we miss it earlier??? A Roe Deer was out grazing on a little island. We've not seen many of these lovely mammals this year so to have extended views of this one out in the open was a real treat.
It did however give us some cause for concern when it turned around and we saw large areas of missing fur, we're not sure if this is normal or not, it certainly doesn't look it but perhaps it is only moulting as the exposed skin doesn't look to have been broken or cut.
After a few more minutes it wandered off Stage Right and had we turned up then we'd have never have know it was there, it just melted into the thinnest of vegetation and out of sight.
A few yards further on we had another opportunity to get some more pics of the Little Ringed Plover, again serious squinting required and you'll just be able to see a hint of a white brow-line and pale eye ring.
Squint hard! Little Ringed Plover (PYLC 154)
As we walked a few more yards back towards the car park another distant movement caught our eye, another Roe Deer had walked out of the reeds on the far side of the pool. We lost sight of it in the thick vegetation on one of the islands then suddenly it bolted out of cover to cross the rest of the lake making for a clump of reeds and a bit of a Willow thicket right in front of us.
We anticipated where it would go to but didn't reckon on it being right by the side road lurking behind the nearest tree to the kerb. We saw its ears twitch as we approached which gave it away. We stopped and tried ever so cautiously to change the settings on the camera for dark things hiding in dark undergrowth but it saw us and was away back down the bank towards the water.
Wandering back through along the reedbed walk to the car we came across some sieve like leaves of Alder trees where a multitude of Alder Leaf Beetles had been hard at work.

Not a bad little visit and some great sightings, including nearly getting knocked down by a Brown Hare which came careering round a corner screeching to a halt then veering off at the last minute when it saw us.
We didn't spot the famous car park resident Kevin the extremely photogenic Kestrel though.

Where to next? A bit of a Safari southwards coming up.

In the meantime let us know who's boarding up all the holes in your outback.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Top day out with the gang up north

The Safari had a day out with CR and our chums from the South-side on Friday. With poor weather forecast we decided to make for Leighton Moss RSPB reserve where there is a decent amount of shelter in the form of comfy hides in case the impeding inclement weather was as bad as predicted.
With a late morning high tide in the bay we started out at the saltmarsh pools where we hoped the rising tide would push some waders out of the bay and on to the pools - it didn't - they were largely birdless.
There were only a few Redshank and a handful of Greenshank to be seen on the first pool and further out on the marsh mostly hidden in the creeks a small number of Little Egrets showed themselves briefly before disappearing again.
Greenshank and sleeping Redshank
 A diligent observer found a small wader tucked well away in the far bankside vegetation. Through the bins it was just a white dot and it wasn't much better when viewed through the scopes. There was some discussion ass to whether or not it may have been a Curlew Sandpiper but no detail could be seen. Once back at Base camp and the day's pics downloaded the camera had picked out some black spotting on the belly to make it 'just' a juvenile Dunlin.
125% enlargement on the original on the SD card
The second pool was even quieter although IH did manage to pick up a very distant Peregrine that cruised over the marsh disturbing not so much as a single feather until it reached the tide whereupon masses of waders took to the skies in a panic. It had several stoops at them but was unsuccessful as far as we could tell.
Moving on to the main reserve a Garganey was soon picked out from the limited number of ducks present. The light wasn't the best for pics, but you can just about tell it is a Garganey - if you squint!
There are a couple of rafts put  out to attract nesting Common Terns and to help matters along there are some very authentic plastic dummies positioned about the place, they haven't attracted an Common Terns yet but they are a handy place for the Pied Wagtails to survey the proceedings.
Still not too much happening so it was time to move on to the next hide via the leg busting Skytower - really must get a bit fitter! On the way JG stopped to admire a timy juvenile newt that almost got trodden on, gently picking it up we turned it over to reveal it had a plain 'fingernail pink' throat suggesting it was a Palmate Newt. A young family coming along behind us caught us up and the children were delighted to have a little hold of the tint wee beast.
The hide was quiet again for birds at least. After a minute or so the back of a Red Deer came in to view just above the tops of the rushes and after a short wait it came out in to full view, a nice young hind.
Another appeared and then another this one was a young stag but it kept its head down enjoying a good feast of rain soaked grass and reeds.
 After a long wait it did deign to raise its head and luckily for us looked in our direction.
Over at the Causeway Hide we watched a Buzzard  soar over but there was no sign of an Ospreys today.
The little island had been strimmed of its vegetation now that the nesting brood of Great Black Backed Gulls have left, their place being taken by a much more delicate juvenile Common Tern.
There were a few Greenshank mooching about to which were joined by two sizeable flocks of Redshanks.
One of the Redshanks flocks must have held a Ruff we didn't spot flying in with them as one appeared not muh later strutting along the front of the island.
A White Wagtail was with a few Pied Wagtails flitting around the top of the island but we didn't manage to get a pic of the more unusual visitor. We did try to better our Sand Martin pic from Marton Mere the other day to 'upgrade' our post on the Challenge, well over a hundred shots later this slightly better effort was easily the best of the day.
A movement in the reed edge across the pool atttracted JG's attention which turned out to be a Water Rail, just about photographable but we weren't able to get a pic of another mystery wader tucked up in the reed fringe she found a few feet to the right so it remains a mystery.
CR knows we have a thing for tractors, must be the thwarted agriculturalist in us, and called out a yellow one away in the distance. Turns out to be a Massey Ferguson - not often you see them in yellow!
...wonder if it was related to this calamity we spotted from the Lower Hide
Oops - that's not supposed to happen.

The juvenile Common Tern was flying round here with a shed load of Sand and House Martins, so many it was an 'Attenborough' moment - you could almost hear the great man's voice describing the scene. A couple of Little Egrets and Great White Egrets were best of the rest.
Time was now running short and it was a long gallop back to the car park when the rain we'd successfully dodged all day finally landed on us.
Despite the late rain which didn't really dampen our spirits a good day was had by all.
The following night was our moth and bat night for the North Blackpool Pond Trail. Well attended as usual and after a barrage of fireworks from a nearby garden and a corresponding clatter of Woodpigeons launching themselves from the nearby trees a bat then showed up a minute later - on its way out anyway or frightened by the bangs???
Young EM showing us how its done - again!
The bats put on a super show for us and several of the public got 'hits' on their 'bat-attracting sticks'. Over the water it was bat-tastic, they were zooming about everywhere. One of these days (nights?) we'll have to have go at trying to get some bat pics. 
It was when we got to the moth part of the evening it all went horribly wrong. The generator we'd borrowed from our usual source wasn't the one they normally give us and didn't come with a standard plug socket and no adapter either so we weren't able to put the trap on. whilst wandering round the woods looking for/at the bats we'd seen lots of moths so we were hopeful of a decent haul to show everyone. Innovation is the name of the game in these circumstances so we rigged up a couple of white ground sheets to the fence and shone PT's van headlamps at it. but it was to no avail, not a moth to be seen. Not really the fault of the van more likely to have been the position by the lake that was a little away from the best vegetation and shelter from the increasingly strong and chilly wind. Bit of a shame but you can't win em all and at least the bats were superb. JS had brought his professional bat detecting kit and laptop with him now he's a pro ecolgist and hs access to this rinky dinky newfangled stuff and analysing the recordings his detector had made showed there were an awful lot of Common Pipistrelles about. The torches across the lake had shown up the white bellies of some Daubenton's Bats and there were a couple of times when the detectors set at 55kHz were picking up echolocations that those set at 45 weren't suggesting a small number of Soprano Pipistrelles were around too.
Yesterday news broke of a Black Tern at Marton Mere that we had no chance of going to see but foul weather overnight meant it was still present this morning and we were able to nip down for half an hour to have a shuffy. We picked it up straight away as it dipped and rose over the Lily pads but kept losing it for several minutes at a time until eventually a Heron flew in and revealed why we lost it - it had been resting on the Lily leaves. 
Not the best of views at range and not the best of pics in the gloom but very nice to see one here as it's been a while since the last once we've seen there. (173, MMLNR #79, PYLC #153)

Where to next? Might get out with Monty for a dog walk and safari somewhere tomorrow.

In the meantime let us know who's  doing the headstands in your outback.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Struggling with the weaher a bit

The Safari hasn't enjoyed the change in the weather back to more normal summer weather. cool wet n windy. 
We have done a few events namely a family holiday club rockpooling down on the beach, great fun but no pics...the sand on the beach and the camera aren't the best of  bedfellows.
We also did a moth and bat night for a local friends group at their park. The weather in the few days leading up to event was decidedly iffy but fortunately the evening turned out mild and dry and the bats put on a great early performance for us and then the moths followed suit with a reasonable variety and the ever popular with the children, Large Yellow Underwings - big and colourful.
A breezy morning up Beacon Fell with GB had us taking no photos but we did hear what was possibly a Crossbill but we weren't able to get a view of it through the tree-tops. On the whole it was quiet with even the Goldcrests and Coal Tits were hard to come by. A stop to look for dragonflies at the pond was a bit of disaster as a heavy squall blew through soaking us and then we saw the pool was almost dry.
Monday morning saw us at  Marton Mere for a habitat/winter works survey and we were able to get on to the island for the first time in years. The scrape looks good - almost exactly how the team imagined it when the Lottery project was first conceived, just needs a bit of time to develop more invertebrate rich organic ooze.
A view of Marton Mere and Blackpool Tower that few folk get to see
Scrape old (close) and new (beyond the green strip) looking good
Volunteers and Interns assessing the possibilities of changing some of the vegetation structure
The prolonged dry spell has meant low water levels and that has meant some plant species not seen all that often like this Marsh Cudweed.
And an old favourite Trifid Bur Marigold - yes there really is a plant called a trifid!
Then we stumbled across this little blue thing- Skullcap, a species we've not seen there before and that doesn't happen often!
We had to leave early as we had another family group in the afternoon so didn't get a chance to have a look at the grassland and scrub works.
The family group was back on the beach at the rockpools. Lots of shells and some decent sized Green Shore Crabs but the stars of the show were these two Blennies.
Now there's nothing overly special about Blennies we catch them every time we take a group down there but look closely - these two have jumped out of the water and stuck themselves to the side of the tub with their (relatively) huge pectoral fins. 
Now that is a bit special as we knew they could do that but in all our years of rockpooling here we've never seen it before. That and the Skullcap at the Mere just go to show not matter how long you've been watching wildlife there's always something new to see and learn. Awesome!!!
After a summer of enforced absence due to having to take Monty (on his lead of course - unlike 99% of other dog walkers- grrrrrr) and there mot being a lot of shade in the red hot sunny recent months we had another visit the following day. 
Nothing much was going on but we did see a couple of Sand Martins mooching about. They aren't on our Photo Year List Challenge yet so we stood and waited and waited for an opportunity. While we waited a trio of Wigeon flew over, the first arrivals of the 'winter'?
Easier to snap away at was this eclipse drake Mallard.
Eventually after about 100 shots we got one that's just about acceptable for the challenge, well it is identifiable - just! (PYLC #152)
It was a long way off on a gloomy day- honest
The walk back to the car had us passing one of our favourite plants on the reserve, the Perennial Pea that's been there for years - possibly the plant noted as the first record for Lancashire way back in 1966, but we could be confusing it with a different specimen that may or may not still exist.
We had yet another visit today on another grey drizzly gloomy day and not a lot was seen and not a single photo taken...that doesn't happen often!
The weather has put the mockers on the mothing back at Base Camp with the trap only able to go out on a few nights. Quality rather than quantity apart from dozens of Large Yellow Underwings.
Canary Shouldered Thorn - a stunner - - far more stunning than most of our butterflies shame no-one sees them as they fly in the dark of night
Cydia splendana - a rather dark individual which had us guessing a bit
Not a moth but a somewhat scary Ichneumon Wasp
Possibly Ophion obscuratus
Square Spot Rustic
Yellow Barred Brindle photobombed by an Agriphila trsitella
All good stuff!

Where to next? We've got another moth and bat night coming up at the weekend and a safari up the motorway tomorrow.

In the meantime let us know who's doing the sticking in your outback.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Mid summer moth madness and some other stuff

The Safari apologises once again for not keeping you up-to-date with the goings-on in Safari-land. We've been busy and up to all sorts of wildlife malarkey but not had a lot of time to put finger to keyboard for you.
We completed the National Whale and Dolphin Watch with lots of people coming along and joining in, many more than we've ever had for previous years' watches - a big thank you to all of them. Unfortunately we didn't see any cetaceans, the only ones that turned up were the two Bottlenose Dolphins mentioned in our previous blog-post and a Harbour Porpoise that we saw a couple of hours after the mid-week Watch had ended when we went back to the coast with Wifey and her sister to give Monty a walk on along the beach and the morning of the second Sunday Watch five Bottlenose Dolphins turned up off Starr Gate but didn't hang around for the afternoon tide when we were annoying! We did have some blubbery luck in the form of a few Grey Seals but they were all nearly halfway to the Isle of Man and even in the telescope racked up to full power not much more than a black dot. At least the weather turned out nice again
Shorts! It must have been summer that day!!!
Don't often get cetacean spotting conditions like this along our coast

Thanks to Debs Woods for the pics
 In between all the watching we've still had to take Monty for his walks and on one of them we found a recently deceased and washed up Guillemot. Still not had decent views of a live one and certainly had no chance of getting a pic of one for our Photo Year List Challenge.
In other news we turned up for the Discovery Walk at Marton Mere last week and ended up almost co-leading it. It was a bit coll and windy so we didn't find any butterflies or dragonflies but the group all managed to find exciting wildlife life for themselves - mostly Blackberries - yum yum and here we are showing everyone a Grasshopper that one of the Eagle-eyed children had spotted on the track.
Maybe our best find was a huge Robin's Pin Cushion Gall, made on a Dog Rose by tiny sawfly wasps.
We've also helped out with the Living Seas NW team's rockpooling event which was really well attended. It's great to see so many youngsters coming along to all these events and learning about their local wildlife and environment.
We're not about to thump some one, there's a couple of Brown Shrimps being saved for comparison with the Common Prawns caught earlier
Back at Base camp - which Wifey informs us might be being packed up and moved - the moth trap has been interesting when not full of Common Wasps and Large Yellow Underwings.
Ancylis badianna
Gold Spot
Latticed Heath
Ruby Tiger
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Spilonota ocellana
Swammerdammia pyrella - as told by the coppery end to the wings
Turnip moth
Broad bordered yellow underwing
Pebble Prominent
And a Yellow Orphion Ichneumon wasp which didn't manage to hit the SD card and a Forest (aka Red Legged) Shieldbug which did, although it was a bit dark when we got round to getting a pic.
We had a real shock when doing the washing up at the kitchen sink the other day when a small butterfly fluttered past the window, looking out of the side window we saw that it had landed on the duvet cover drying on the washing expecting it to be a Common or Holly Blue we grabbed a pot with the intention of putting in the fridge for a couple hours to cool it down so we could get some open wing shots later - certainly wasn't expecting it to be a Purple Hairstreak!!! We could never imagined when we moved to Base Camp 14 years ago we'd get this on our garden list in a million years! Just goes to show how much they're moving around (spreading? - will they stick?) this summer.
We've had a couple of safaris out with CR too, one to the east for some riverside walks hich gave us a few butterflies
But no Grey Wagtails, still not photographed one for our Challenge.
The other safari was up to the private reserve in south Cumbria again. This time we saw no snakes and only had a fleeting glimpse of a juvenile Common Lizard but the dragonflies were good.
Black Darter
Black Darter
Common Darter
Common Darter
Common Darters
Emerald Damselfly
Southern Hawker
A hoverfly (possibly Xylota xanthocnema according to CR who knows a lot more about these beasties than we do) and 7-Spot Ladybird
Southern Hawker
Nice to see Painted Ladies there too.
We also got a pic of the Bog Hoverfly, a right big dobber, that we missed on the riverside wander the previous week.
The local Ospreys didn't disappoint either but were always a bit distant and heat hazy for proper pics.
Underfoot out on the Raised Bog there were loads of Sundews, predatory plants, their sticky leaves waiting to entrap any passing insects.

And to cap it all the reserve has recently been extended to include a couple of hay meadows and just look at the ditch they've dug, what a superb profile, if only all farm ditches looked like this the amount and variation of extra habitat would be phenomenal.
Yesterday we were on the dunes looking for butterflies with our regular family group. It wasn't the best of weather for butterflies but with lots of eyes searching, eager netting and some exceptional tracking by some of the parents we soon were able to pot some up to show the youngsters.
Narrow Bordered 5-Spot Burnet Moth
Common Blue in flight - video grab!
Common Blue
Devils Coach Horse - looking a bit worse for wear
Grey Damsel Bug - we've never seen one of these before
And neither have we seen a bee like this before either, turns out to be either Red Thighed or Black Thighed Epeolus, apparently variable and hard to tell apart without a microscope and no we'd never heard of them before either...
The day also gave us our best pic of the blog - just look at the expression on the young lass's face, concentration, wonder, engagement - priceless - - that's what it's all about
Many thanks to the Group Organiser and parents of the children for allowing the Safari to use their photos

Where to next? There's the small matter of a Bat and Moth Night coming up - should be fun

In the meantime let us know what's priceless in your outback