The Safari has yet again been very remiss about keeping the blog up-to-date. We've sort of been enjoying the Lockdown in that the skies aren't ruined by countless jet trails and there is almost no traffic noise at Base Camp these days, particularly now that the number of ambulance sirens dashing to the nearby hospital has diminished hugely in the last couple of weeks. Even when out n about during the day the reduced amount of human noise pollution has meant we've been able to enjoy the natural sounds around us much more, the sea lapping on the shore, the wind and the trees and even the sweet song of Skylarks on the few occasions we've traveled a little further.
Of course traveling is something we've not been doing much of at all, confining our dog walks to mostly just three sites, the local cliffs and beach or when dry and/or frosty enough for the Mud Monster not to get filthy dirty, Stanley Park and Marton Mere nature reserve - to be known henceforth as the Holy Trinity. We've also had a couple of mornings with a socially distanced CR a little further up the coast on the hunt for wading birds and whatever else we might chance upon.
Our Photo Year List Challenge has come on a pace since our last blog, in which the Heron on the nest was our 47th species of vertebrate photographed this year...so how did we fare through the restrictions of February? Not too badly actually. Starting the month in Stanley Park at last we caught up with a Treecreeper which had eluded us all of January. Not the best pic but it'll do for the Challenge - #48
Our next day out as with CR to Marton Mere where just about the first bird we saw was a Pochard, horribly silhouetted against the harsh morning light. Like the Collared Doves at Base Camp these have become very scarce at the nature reserve in recent winters and unlike the Collared Dove scarce all over the Fylde and beyond now. Another fairly poor pic but we were lucky enough to come across a pair on Stanley Park lake a few days later in much better conditions and much closer.
Next time out was to Marton Mere with CR. A nice dry bright sunny day and we were able to add a few more species to our tally, the first being one of a small flock of Goldfinches in the scrub just through the gate.
While the Feeding Station gave us a mammal, in the form of a Rabbit.Tree Sparrows that frequents the area but only very rarely ventures on to the reserve itself only 100 yards away.
Nearby was a good sized flock of Reed Buntings too, flitting between the thickets of Blackthorn that are found between the rough fields by the cottage.
Bullfinch call, then more than one and stopping to look we could see at least five, at least two of whom were males. For the next 10 minutes or more we tried to quietly follow them as they flitted through the trees never really giving good views for the camera but this was by far and away easily our best experience of Bullfinches at the reserve EVER. Indeed it's really good to see them expanding their numbers in the area in recent years. Shame the pic we got doesn't do the awesomeness of the sighting justice.
Little Owl perched in one of its favourite spots in the hedge that runs alongside the barns. Unfortunately the light wasn't good as the sun hadn't moved round from behind the barn this early in the morning, but not to worry by the time we;d done the circuit of the reserve the sun would be in a much better position. At least for now the Little Owl was in the bag so to speak.
Cetti's Warblers eluded us with their elusiveness as we walked past the reedbeds. At the Fylde Bird Club hide overlooking the water we realised that although we'd been watching the Teal and checking them for any chance of the American version, Green-winged Teal, we hadn't actually taken any pics of them!And of course they were looking resplendent in the gorgeous sunshine.
Poplar trees and up in the uppermost twigs a brightly coloured male Greenfinch was sitting in the sun singing his heard out.
Little Owl again especially as the sun had indeed moved round a fair bit and where the owl was sat was much better illuminated now. All was not lost though as walking back to the car along the old hedgerow it became apparent there had been a cold weather influx of winter thrushes from further east. Several Fieldfares and a couple of Song Thrushes flew out of the hedge in front of us and towards the farthest end of it we heard a couple of Redwings call too. One of these flew to the hedge that runs parallel to ours on the west side of the field where it landed but quite deep in in the hedge and horribly against the light. Still if it's identifiable it counts towards the Challenge so hey-ho.
House Sparrows foraging on the verge at the edge of the little hospital there.It took a while before we came across the roosting waders but when we did there was plenty to point our cameras at, Turnstones and Sanderlings galore.our Flickr site.
Further up the coast from the old sea wall we spotted a solitary wader on the beach, we had been looking out for Ringed Plovers which are quite numerous but was a surprised to see it was a Knot when we got our bins on it. Try as we might we couldn't find any Ringed Plovers on this visit, they'd have to wait for a while.
Linnets and Skylarks successfully avoided having their pics taken, they too would have to wait for another day.
Back on safari at the Holy Trinity site of Stanley Park instead of heading straight to the lake we had a look round the old putting green and sports fields to see if we could find any of the fabled Mistle Thrushes. No joy but an early returning Lesser Black-backed Gull was sat with a good number of Herring Gulls.
Cormorants diving right in front of us in great light but not coming up with any prey. And yes you've guessed it - by the time we got round the other side with them now much much further away and against the light one of them goes and catches a decent sized Jack Pike, Or a small Pike - take your pick.
On previous visits we've heard Wrens singing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming but failed to catch up with both. Today we hit the jackpot! A Great Spotted Woodpecker, not drumming just knocking seven shads out of a bit of dead branch.
Wren very upset at an intruder in his territory - Get orff ma landddd!!!
Snow Buntings down on the beach just south of our old Patch and being just about within the 'local restrictions' range we decided to go and have a look for them. Wandering down the beach we kept well out from the dune edge as in previous winters we've seen them quite a way out on the beach and although there as a lot of doggy disturbance on the dune front we'd still see them if they were flushed. We did get some really good views of several Carrion Crows, yet another species seen daily all year but not yet added to our Challenge tally mostly due to bad light or no camera. No bad light today though!
Snow Buntings and as suspected they were quite far down the beach where they were feeding along a bit of a strandline.
Snow Buntings at all so we were very relieved we'd bumped in to them earlier.
Great Crested Grebe on the lake so we had a good look but couldn't see it. After a good scan we decided to try for the cute little Bank Vole that lives under a pile of logs and put some food down for it. After a few minutes it hadn't shown so we went for a look at the Herons on their nests and wandered further along the lakeside seeing a pair of Treecreepers too which was nice. Returning for another look for the vole we chanced upon the Great Crested Grebe that was now between us and the Heron island at almost point blank range - Nice One! The Bank Vole was again a no-show though.Linnets, Skylarks and Ringed Plovers so when CR suggested another joint safari it was going to be worth a visit.
We got our Ringed Plovers too
The sharp-eyed among you will spot some Dunlins in that flock and we later got our pic of one down on the shingle. Having a good old yawn it was - who knew their bills could bend the wrong way?Skylark and Linnet to our Challenge tally.
And so ends a rather long blog about our adventures during February. We hope you've got this far and enjoyed it.