Monday 30 March 2020

A Week of Wonderful Wildlife While under Lockdown

The Safari like a lot of folk has been mostly confined to barracks this week.We have been able to get out on Patch 1 for a short walk with the dog every morning but so far haven't taken the camera just the phone for any pics. We've seen a nice variety of wildlife like a small flock flock of migrating Jackdaws, a the female of a pair of Sparrowhawks narrowly missing catching a Wood Pigeon, a kettle of four soaring Buzzards, which is the same number as seen in total at the nearby Marton Mere NR between 1950 and 1991 - how much more common are they now persecution has almost stopped - and a Blackbird which looks to be nesting in the big Gorse bush in the middle of the field that is now smothered in bright yellow flowers - it's such a shame that thsi field will probably be built on before the end of the year. 
So far we've only heard singles of Chiffchaff and Blackcap but we're sure we'll clap eyes on both of them before too long.
For vast majority of the time we've been poking around in the garden, taking snaps of the regular garden visitors doing their usual thing.
Collared Dove
Great Tit
Blue Tit
One regular visitor was seen doing something most unusual. Our resident female Blackbird was quite often seen perched in the Crab Apple tree pecking chunks off the suet block hung from one of its lower branches. On odd occasions it was able to perch on the feeder, this was seen when the suet block begin to get smaller and smaller. What we didn't expect was it to cling to the sunflower heart feeder once the suet block had been finished. In all our five decades of birding, feeding the birds in a variety of gardens and watching bird feeders in 101 locations throughout the land we've never seen this behaviour from a Blackbird before. We were lucky to get a pic as it's quite shy and flies away at the slightest hint of movement from either indoors or out. But it has been back to repeat the performance on at least one occasion.
Our unique female Blackbird
Has anyone else seen a Blackbird (or any other of the typical thrushes) do this?
We've had some half decent sunshine and that has brought a few invertebrates out, mostly queen bumblebees - we've had a Tree Bee and a few Buff Tailed Bumblebees and a queen Common Wasp. A large 'colony' of the solitary Buffish Mining Bees (at least that's what we think they are) is on the street corner a few doors down where they burrow between the stones in a revetment banking and butterflies have so far been only represented by Peacocks.
The moth trap has been on all week but so far only one night has produced any moths and then just these two, a Common Quaker, the pale one, and a Hebrew Character (this is an old pic)
The only other news we have spotted an absolutely butchered Holly bush in the park in Patch 2 and to quote a senior arboriculturalist friend "Sack them - Pr*ck with saw alert!" or if it was done by volunteers some serious training is required. But the big question is why on earth do you need to chop a Holly bush in half in the first place. But then there's been some serious devastation to trees and shrubs in the park since we last visited at the beginning of the winter with some good trees having disappeared reduced to a pile of woodchip but again for reasons which seem inexplicable to us like an old gnarly Hawthorn and a standard Cotoneaster waterii that was full of berries among others.
Some seem to have been taken out to open up the view to the huge pylons that carry the electricity cables across the Wyre and beyond to the huge organised wildlife crime scene that is the Forest of Bowland hills. Whatever the reasons it looks like they're trying to purge any and all wildlife from the park. We're just a bit gutted...and the little pond has been cleared so the Moorhens have vanished but the Typha will grow back so they will probably return in a year or two if the clear out doesn't become an annual thing, it is full of Frog spawn though, acres of the stuff and we're hopeful there'll be a Smooth Newt or two still lurking in there too.
Word on the street is that the Roe Deer is still in the vicinity, one of our dog walking friends reporting it second hand as being seen on the golf course across the road and another saying he disturbed it in the park at 05.00 taking his dogs out before going to work a few days wold be great to get a pic of this Roe Deer only a few hundred yards from our front door.

Where to next? For the coming week the weather has turned wintry cold again but we'll keep you posted with what we find on our early morning walk and any offerings from the garden. 

In the meantime remember - Keep your distance, stay safe and don't forget there's loads of fantastic wildlife to enjoy and learn about right outside your door or through your window.

Saturday 28 March 2020

Waiting for the Wheatears

The Safari hopes everyone is well in these trying times. We've been eagerly awaiting the first of the spring arrivals walking the cliffs watching  every little flit most of which were Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails as usual. We've also kept an eye out to sea too - the mild weather has made for flat calm seas and obviously we were looking out for some blubber, either a Grey Seal or a Harbour Porpoise. Unfortunately neither bothered to put in an appearance for us. Some seabirds have but only distantly like this pair of Eiders about a mile out. But hey-ho they count towards our 1 mile from Base Camp challenge in that we were within the mile even if the birds weren't.
A drake Common Scoter was much more obliging coming in from way way out before turning North a few hundred yards offshore
Somewhere between the two was a flock of Shelducks.
Out on the beach we found the eggcase of a Lesser Spotted Catshark that still had the embryo inside. After a request for adjudication we were allowed to add it to our Vertebrate Photo Challenge, #132.
We were hoping to find some other fish like Sand Gobies and Blennies but cold only find a few Blennies and they hid far too quickly for us to get a pic.
Meanwhile what about the Wheatears? Well we predicted we'd get on on the 15th looking at the weather charts. Well we didn't but they were seen south of the Ribble that day but obviously stopped short by 20 odd miles. They didn't turn up in the Fylde until the 17th and that was somewhat annoyingly to the north of us. We didn't get or first one until 23rd, a couple of days later than our average first sighting for the last 10 years, when three showed up together along Chat Alley. They were very flighty quickly moving north along the cliffs taking some effort to keep up with them.
Vertbrate Challenge #134, 1 mile Challenge #26
On the way back we passed a couple of anglers one of whom was into a fish so we waited to see what she had caught - a nice sized Dab came over the seawall. It was quickly unhooked and returned to the sea. And it counts as it was only temporarily captive and returned to the wild, #135
And after that came the Lock-Down. Thankfully the fields at the Rock Gardens haven't been built on yet (a real travesty given how biodiverse they are) and are slowly drying out after being a total quagmire for months, which is why we've been avoiding them with the mutt who is a total mud-mop, so we do have somewhere to wlak to and explore the wildlife in these 'interesting times' but migration is happening Spring is sprunging and anything can happen - watch this space.

Stay safe folks, keep your distance and above all look outside and enjoy the wildlife all around you - the birdsong is so much easier to appreciate without the abominable traffic noise and the sky-scape is much better without all the con-trails from the planes so there are some silver linings even if at times it might not feel like it. 

Where to next? We'll be regaling you with tales from Base Camp and beyond...well up to a short distance away.

In the meantime let us know what you've been seeing in your very much restricted outback.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Vanity, Vertebrates and a Virus

The Safari has been quite busy with wildlife and other stuff since Christmas, mostly other stuff including another operation on my already butchered hand at the end of January which curtailed safariing for most of February but is now mostly fully recovered. 
A couple of days after the stitches came out - 14 of them
With good news from the Sand Lizard project we've been working on for the best part of a decade we decided to celebrate in hip n trendy style and get ourselves a congratulatory tattoo.
In wildlife news we've been continuing or Photo Year List Challenge with Monika and the gang. This year it's open to all vertebrates and so far we've managed 132 species. This Lesser Spotted Catshark eggcase we found the other day was accepted as a 'Yes it counts' by all in the group to become our 132nd species.
No doubt you're all aware there's a bit of a health issue going round at the moment - seems akin to the Black Death of the Middle Ages - so although not entirely put on hold the Vertebrate Challenge has been replaced by a 2 Week Photo Bird Blitz taking us up to the end of the month. One simple rule - All species must be photographed within a mile of home - a good excuse to get out with the camera, get some excersise see some wildlife and maintain the all important Social Isolation. This Sparrowhawk was soaring over Base Camp yesterday.
2WBB #15
Deadly disease or not the mutt still needs a walk and Chat Alley and the beach are within our mile radius. Neither a bird nor other vertebrate we found these odd cocoons made of sand stuck to the sea defences a couple of days ago. Wonder what they'll turn into, Anyone any ideas.
This morning there was a brisk cool south easterly blowing and a few birds were about especially Meadow Pipits there were a few grounded, one doing its parachuting display flight and most going over more or less due north.
One of the local Pied Wagtails doesn't like the pipits landing on his  patch and chases them off calling noisily as he does. Great to watch the twisting and turning of the chase as the pipit tries to make an escape.
2WBB #16
We named Chat Alley as it turns up chats like Wheatears in reasonable numbers each spring and autumn and occasionally Stonechats too. So far this year we've not come across a Wheatear and today was no exception and also the mean date we first see one along here. However there were a couple of Stonechats, a species we've not recorded along the cliffs for at least a couple of years so we were very pleased to see them
2WBB #17
On closer inspection of the photos when we got back to Base Camp what we thought were two individuals now looks like the same one moving northwards along the cliffs.
The return journey gave us yet more Meadow Pipits.
And finally we stopped off at the Go-Kart track wader roost and found the Purple Sandpiper still present as it had been there yesterday too - the first time we'd looked for it in a while with all the rough weather probably meaning the birds had had to roost elsewhere.
Well that's it for now. We'll try to be more regular in our posts now forced to spend much more time at home.  

Where to next? More of the mile from Base Camp we suppose
In the meantime lets us know who's reappeared in your outback

And don't forget the natural world is a great escape from the problems of today's issues and there's always something to see and new to learn right outside your door or even through your window if you can't get/aren't allowed out.