Monday, 18 May 2020

Week 8 but are the safaris locked down or not?

The Safari has taken advantage of the relaxed lockdown rules available in the second half of this week. 
To start the week we were still only able to do one proper walk a day and Monday saw us have a wander along the full length of the North Blackpool Pond Trail. Both Sedge Warblers were still in song but unseen at the reedbed at the strat of our walk as was a Reed Warbler, our first there this year. Once again a search of the mound revealed no Bee Orchid rosettes. Continuing through the wooded areas we heard but couldn't see a singing Chaffinch, one we frustratingly still need for our 1 Mile Bird Blitz, plenty of Blackcaps were in song too, is it just us or do they seem very numerous this year to you too? 
Getting to the lake we heard a Little Grebe calling from the 'secret' side and a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying on the public side, no sign of any youngsters, have they nested and failed or not even started nesting yet?
 In its usual place aiting for bread of all things was the local Heron.
Our return journey gave us a couple of Speckled Wood butterflies in the glades bordering the wet woods and what looked at first like 3-Spined Stickleback fry by the bridge turned out to be stripey Perch fry on closer inspection.
The long Blackthorn thciket held a secretive singing Lesser Whitethroat that refused to show itself as did another by the Black Pond; we're now wondering if we'll get these on our vertebrate or 1 mile challenges at all this year or if we do will we have to ait until the autumn when they start eating berries and are a little less shy.
Almost at the end of pur walk at the bottom of the horse fields we heard an unmistakable sound 'prrt prrt'. Spinning round we connected with the white rumps of three House Martins disappearing over the , but still a mile or so further than we've been for a while.cratty hedge that divides the fields - our first of the year. Is it just us or do they seem very scarce this year to you too? 
Nothing was noted in the garden on Monday and nothing hit the notebooks from anywhere at all on Tuesday.
Wednesday was an interesting day! An early morning trip up the garden to the compost heap had us looking up when we heard an unfamiliar call above us. A flutey 'tiuu' sound. We heard it a couple of times more and saw a small short tailed bird circling around not too high up over the roof of the house behind ours before flying off more directly towards the water tower where it appeared to drop possibly in the compound where earthworks have been taking place and there's a few bushes to perch on too. We racked our brains but couldn't think what it might been. A flick through the field guide gave us a bit of a clue but a look in BWP wasn't so informative. Going off the clue in the field guide we had a listen on Xenocanto and found several recordings of flight calls that were bob on - Whinchat almost over the garden - get in!!! Wood Warbler last week, Whinchat this week = Wryneck next week doesn't it? 
Now that the lockdown has eased and we can go anywhere bearing in mind that everywhere is still closed and visitor attractions and beauty spots were imploring folk not to travel we decided to go further afield took the mutt in the car to Woodland Gardens and Heron's Reach. Not far just a dip the toe in the waters so to speak. Our main aim was to have a look for Great Crested Newts in the hot-spots. None there but we did have quite a few Toads under the refugia we peeked under. 
Woodland Gardens gave us a Mistle Thrush foraging on the soon to be destroyed golf course, another species we've had no luck connecting with for our 1 Mile challenge.
Blackcaps were everywhere on our route but the only one we actually saw was this female tackling a rather juicy caterpillar.
On our last visit here not too long before the lockdown we'd found some Bee Orchid rosettes and searching for them again we found they were now quite shaded and not in an optimal place for producing good flowers - we'll try to keep an eye on them over the next few weeks to see how they fare. 
The afternoon in the garden a bit of sunshine had us watching a pair of Red Mason Bees mating and not a lot of anything else. This week's change in the weather has certainly sent the invertebrates to ground.
Thursday dawned sunny but cool. We gave the mutt another change with a visit to Marton Mere nature reserve. e started at Staining Nook and walked in along the Heron's Reach path passing numerous Blackcaps, and Whitethroats, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler along the way. One Whitethroat was sat up in the sunshine atop a tall tree. We stopped for a pic but it flitted down into the bushes below before we could focus on it. It appeared on the edge of the bushes a bit further down the track but look closely and you'll see this bird is a Lesser Whitethroat - bit of a fluke as it's one we needed for our Challenge becoming #143 on our tally. We didn't see the original treetop Whitethroat again.
On the reserve it was reedbed birds we were hoping to see (and hear). Hearing a Cetti's Warbler was no problem, one was singing loudly in our left ear as we chatted (at a safe distance) to FB and TS. Chatting face to face to other humans outside your home - what's the world coming to? Forgotten what that's like.
A singing Reed Bunting gave good views
Unlike most of the Sedge Warblers, of  which there seemed to be more of than in recent years, but persistence paid off and eventually we were able to get a pic of one that wasn't totally obscured by vegetation for #144.
None of the many Reed Warblers showed themselves for more than a millisceond so they weren't submitted to the SD card. We'll have to wait a while until they're feeding young and can be a bit more showy around the edges of the reedbed. We also had great vies of a Cetti's Warbler but like the Whitethroat disappeared into thick vegetation before we could lift the camera. Another Cetti's Warbler teased us with a game of 'hide and hide' singing here and there as it moved all around its territory without actually showing itself. 
Luckily this Linnet behaved. Nice to see a pair too, fingers crossed for a successful season for them on the reserve
The way back across the fields gave us a stonking male Chaffinch landing just above our head. Why won't they do that on the Pond Trail for our 1 Mile Blitz?
A Grasshopper Warbler sang from the field just beyond the Chaffinch. We had a good listen but weren't able to see it in the dense clump of Brambles it was singing from. Meanwhile a Kestrel hovered over the far end of the field and Swallows raked the long hedge for insects all in lovely sunshine and out of the cool wind - a cracking morning's birding.
Back where we'd parked the car there where several House Martins skimming low to the ground aroiund the horses in the paddock - a lovely summery scene.
After lunch the weather closed in a little but another trip to the compost heap had us come across this 14-Spot Ladybird taking advantage of a break in the clouds and sunning itself on a Nettle leaf. We'll have to check our records but we think this is the first record for the garden.
Friday saw some early sun so we hit the dunes to see if we could find any lizards. A search of the usual bank was disappointingly fruitless. As was an hours tromp through the sandhills. we did see some good insects though with some of them even settling for a few moments like this Common Blue
and this Small Copper, both butterflies looking very fresh and dapper.
Much more static was this large fly sitting motionless on the sand for ages. Had it got cooled and was warming back up? No - it's a Robber Fly which we could tell with our naked eye and was sucking the innards out of an unfortunate Crane Fly - - awesome find. We didn't realise it had prey until we downloaded the pics on the pc back at Base Camp.
Not much else in the dunes just a handful of Meadow Pipits, the odd Skylark and a pair of Linnets, but to be fair we were concentrating on finding scaly things rather than feathered friends.
On Saturday we made the fatal third time error of  not taking our phone out with us early morning. Two  Bottlenose Dolphins close in was the news from SD (he'd also had a distant one a couple of days earlier too) when we got back to Base Camp - dohhhhh what a numb-nut!!!!! Three times!!!! Note to self - JUST TAKE THE FREAKIN PHONE
The moth trap was out for the first time in the week but was empty yet again.
Saturday is also check the stealth-cam day. Not a lot to report apart from a plethora of cats using the garden like their private motorway.  Sadly no Hedgehogs nor Foxes using the garden but thankfully no nocturnal visitis to the pond by any Herons.Best of the rest were this pair of Dunnocks that we rarely see at the moment, they've gone very secretive, must be nesting not too far away though.
We have a Great Tit that comes to the feeders very regularly but prefers to expend his energy manipulating and opening a Black Sunflower seed when there's pre-opened hearts two feet away. Interesting  - and he almost always faces away, probably because that's the way the closest and densest cover is for a quick getaway if needed.
Never mind the Great Tit a real garden rarity turned up - Starling!!! We very very rarely get them actually in the garden although while we were emptying the moth empty moth trap there were two adults and a juvenile sitting on the top of our roof.
This was one of a family party that were taking advantage of our suet pellet feeder and a bathing in the ornamental waterfall. Let's hope they return - might be time to invest in some mealworms which we're sure Starlings can smell from some distance away as when we've fed them in the past Starlings have appeared out of the blue.
With Bottlenose Dolphins in the offing Sunday's early morning dog walk had to be down at the cliffs as the tide rose. Several scans of the sea revealed no seabirds at all never mind any fishing in association with blubber.
Eventually we had a few Gannets passing, a solitary Sandwich Tern dived once while a flock of nine Shelducks flew south west out to sea
We nearly missed a passing Little Egret
and did miss something fairly unusual, a second summer Common Gull, there's not many of those round these parts at this time of year.
Not a dolphin in sight - dohhhh.
It was the mildest night for a some time and next door's stadium quality floodlight wasn't on. That meant moths - at last! And it as a good catch, by far the best of the year so far. 
Here's the full list:-
4 Heart & Darts - yes FOUR!
2 Shuttle Shaped Darts - spot the shuttles below
2 Light Brown Apple Moths
1 Bright Line Brown Eye
and a Turnip Moth
Another real (back) garden rarity turned up in the form of a male House Sparrow. Regular visitors to the front garden they aren't even quite annual in the back. It didn't hang around for a pic unfortunately. We've got everything crossed that it develops a taste for suet pellets and brings the family next week. Less than an hour later a Coal Tit turned up, our first in the garden for ages and again we missed getting a pic - it's a species we haven't yet got for our 1 Mile Blitz..
As Sunday evening drew on this cheeky little blighter was helping him/herself to the bird food.

A mixed week with some superb wildlife - if only we'd got the blubber too.

Where to next? More more distant safaris, hopefully scales ill be involved if there's some sunshine

In the meantime let us know who's passing through your outback.

Stay safe, stay socially distant enjoy the wildlife around you it's good for your well being whether only on your doorstep or further afield if you can get out and about. The world is still turning it's only us humans who aren't.

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