Tuesday 28 April 2020

A Slight Change of Scenery for Lockdown Week 5

The Safari was still enjoying a morning constitutional along the prom in the first half of the week. Warm sunshine and calm seas made for a very pleasant experience, made even better as everyone was being very sensible and keeping way more than the recommended two metres apart.
We'd seen a few Gannets moving in the distance, no hint of any fishing from them yet, and eventually one decided to come just about in range of the lens.
Up on the top of the cliffs several Starlings were looking for grubs to take back to hungry nestlings.
We always have at least one eye on the sea, just in case of Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises or Grey Seals, but it also helps to have an ear open too. We heard this Whimbrel long before we picked it out at range. Apologies fro the dodgy pic.
At even greater range and well out of audible range was this large flock of Golden Plovers at some considerable height above the sea.
Back at Base Camp thee sunshine meant there was plenty of insect activity to get to grips with. Not sure what this big queen Common Wasp was up to.
Much more welcome were a number of Red Mason Bees.
The second day of the week gave us another dog walk along the cliffs gave us an unusual sighting of a grounded Rock Pipit. We rarely come across them and then usually as a very brief fly past so to see one grounded in good weather that stayed still enough long enough for a pic was a real bonus.
After last week's Little Egret we didn't really expect to see another quite so soon.
We always like to see a Wheatear along Chat Alley, today there was just the one but hey what a cracker he was!
The garden later in the afternoon wasn't quite so lively as it has been so we tried fro some tricky Drone Fly in flight shots and didn't do too well.
They always seem to have their faces turned away from the light when we point the camera at them.
Arty shots of the Forget-me-nots were also tried - a bit easier as they don't move around.
And there's been lots of Gooden's Nomad Bees, they don't sit still often but when the do they do sit quite still - if that makes sense.
Wednesday's account opened with a pair of Greenfinches taking advantage of our feeders. One was on the Black Sunflowers and this one on the Sunny Hearts. This feeder is stout and tough but seems to be much less preferred than our mesh one. We rotate them to keep them clean, especially as Greenfinches have been hit hard by disease picked up from garden feeders.
Back out on the prom after breakfast we once again watched the Starlings collecting food.
And once again just one Wheatear, this time a female.
The warm afternoon was spend idling the time away watching the comings and goings around the bee hotel. This brought a new species to the garden, Blue Mason Bees.
We're sure you've noticed they don't look very blue, certainly not the males! Apparently they can have a blueish sheen about them but on this sinny day we didn't see any of it.
The much bigger Red Mason Bees were very busy fetching mud for their brood cells.
Also visiting the Bee Hotel was the queen Common Wasp again - is it really the same one???
And a tiny Zebra Spider. Their eyes are amazing - wide angle AND binocular vision. Wonder if the the big 'binoculars' actually magnify  - would be seriously cool if they did.
Thursday dawned with a helluva racket from the gulls - something certainly had them rattled and from the tone of the calls we knew exactly what it was and we dashed out. A Grey Heron was on a neighbouring roof  hopefully not eying up the fish in our pond.
Yet again the mutt had to walk the length of Chat Alley but a slight change in the wind direction meant there was little action today. Best we could find were a small group of Sandwich Terns fishing just offshore.

There was a bit more bird action back at Base Camp which had been fairly quiet bird-wise earlier in the week.
Buzzard fairly low over the garden
Robin - trying to sneak up to the suet pellet feeder unnoticed
Chores prevented any invertebrating in the afternoon.
Friday saw  aq change of plan. The tide would be out down at the prom and with the light easterly winds lots of smelly silt was being left as the tide receded - the mutt's favourite thing but not ours so we headed inland for a change and visited the nearby North Blackpool Pond Trail for the first time in a while. A great opportunity to add several new species to our 1 Mile Bird Blitz challenge.
Song Thrush
We 'stole' a hundred yards or so at the top end of our walk to include the lovely Kincraig Lake where we found a nice selection of water birds - hope the adjudicators don't mind.
Great Crested Grebe
Greylag Geese
Sunbathing Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Canada Geese
Secretive Coot
Well away from the water Mallards
Other goodies were found at various points along the trail too.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lots of impossible to photograph busy busy busy Wrens
Stock Dove
Long Tailed Tit
Moorhen at one of the smaller ponds
Dreadful Jackdaw
We were back in the garden at Base Camp after lunch macro lens in hand.
Aphids ruining our yellow Rose
Blue Mason Bee
Tiny Ichneumon Wasp -the hole at the end of the stalk is about 1.5mm diameter
Saturday saw us back along the North Blackpool Pond Trail, this time much earlier in the morning. We picked up a couple of species we didn't see yesterday. A pair of Shovelers were on the main lake but swam off into the distance as soon as they saw us.
Far less expected was this smart Common Sandpiper which flew a couple of circuits of the lake before settling beriefly at the 'duck feeding' area and then flying off high to the north east.
The only terrestrial bird we managed to add was this Whitethroat, bringing our 1 mile Bird Blitz tally to 61. His cousin the Lesser Whitethroat refused to come out from the deep cover we could hear it singing from and the Grey Wagtail was too skittish, not allowing close enough approach no matter how cautiously we tried to sneak up on it.
Back at Base Camp we had to evict this scary black wasp from the sitting room. 
We weren't at all sure if we'd discovered a new species or it was a melanistic form of Common Wasp or what. Good friend AB suggested showing the good folk at BWARS who came up with an answer - it's covered in dust and fluff and maybe some soot from roosting (do wasps roost?) in a chimney or some such place.
We also joined in the iNaturalist City Challenge mooched around the garden and lifted some plant pots to see if anything was lurking beneath.
Centipede - the long one
Green Shieldbug
Nomada flava or panzeri
Rough Woodlouse
Unknown snail sp
Tiny hoverfly on Herb Robert
Andrena sp bee
Pardosa sp Wolf Spider
Philodromus sp Running Spider
While all this macro stuff was going on a quick camera change was needed to snap a passing Sparrowhawk but like yesterday we missed a Buzzard skimming over the chimney pots, either would have been our lowest ever pics of one at Base Camp
And finally number 145 on our Vertebrates Photo Challenge - a 3-Spined Stickleback in our garden pond. Countable unlike the 'domesticated' and totally reliant on the food we give them Goldfish and Golden Orfes.
Somehow there was nothing to report on the final day of the week.

Thanks very much for getting this far down the post, we trust you've enjoyed our adventures in to the wild world on our doorstep.

Where to next? More of the Lockdown same but with a whole host of different characters.

In the meantime let us know who's coming and going in your outback.

Stay socially distant and stay safe.