Friday, 24 October 2014

They're/it's back and a bit of luck

The Safari was able to get to the nature reserve for lunch today and had a wander down the main drag. As soon as we got out of the Land Rover we heard an unseen Skylark going over. 
Might be up for sale sometime soon
Not so unseen and definitely heard were the 35 or so Jackdaws going south. A few Greenfinches dropped in to the scrub to feast on the multitude of berries.
A walk to the Feeding Station gave us the last Bramble flower of the year perched between the shriveled remains of uneaten berries. 
Beneath it was a cluster of growing Shaggy Inkcaps, just right for picking and eating but not these - too close to a million and one passing dogs!
A brief visit to the Viewing Platform gave us a singing Cetti's Warbler and a shrieking Water Rail. Conditions looked good for Otter spotting but we didn't linger long - wonder if there's any still about.
Walking round the main drag we saw a couple of Redwings fly out of the Hawthorn scrub to our left. The further we walked the more we flushed, they were really skittish and wouldn't settle in view for a pic, probably at least 20 in all with a few more Greenfinches in the area too. 
For some unknown reason we went down to the hide, dunno why you can't see out of it just yet - needs more wind and the Starlings to knock the reeds down. We have had news of 5 - 6000 Starlings roosting of late but they won't have been in this part of the reedbed. Well worth the visit though as we sat on the bench and peered out three birds flew from the SE and over the mere, three Jays (MMLNR #89)! They were over us too quickly to get a pic and we dived out the door but at the rear of the hide there is a copse of tall trees which totally obscured our aim, so no joy.
Retracing our steps up the path we stopped at the Long Eared Owl watching spot and looked for said owl...without success, we looked and looked and looked but couldn't find it. On the point of giving up a regular friendly dog walker came past and told us someone had just told him it was there - but where??? We looked and looked again, again without success and then there it was or at least there were it's feet - we spotted the lower half of it in the upper quarter of our field of view. Phew! We'd been looking too low. Close to where it was last year but further back and in a different tree.
Shame the camera focused on the twig a yard or so in front of it...dohhh
Job done! Now let's hope it sticks around and remains 'easy' - there's a bit of an 'event' coming up.
Time to have a quick look to see if the Barn Owl was showing in its box. It wasn't but we did pick up a couple more Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails. A gang of Long Tailed Tits had worked along the hedgerow by the dyke and come to the end and were now 'stuck'; where to next???
Some more Skylarks and a few Meadow Pipits went over and then another Jay - and this one landed but dived into the back of distant Willow bush so again not pic.
Dashing back to the Land Rover we noticed the Woodpigeons feeding on the berries were looking rather dapper in the bright afternoon light.
Where to next? Might well be back for another look tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in the bushes in your outback.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Out of fashion?

The Safari was able to get an early morning look at Patch 2 today but little was happening. 11 Cormorants flew along the advancing tide-line going towards the estuary and three more passed much further out. The Common Scoters survived the storm there were plenty of them flying this way and that – who knows why the go where they do. You have to respect and admire those little ducks for sitting it out yesterday – we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again they are seriously tough cookies! A lone Shelduck was the ‘best’ sighting of the post-dawn gloom.
Came across some Gorse in flower in the car park yesterday but it was being blown around something rotten in the hooley so we waited until this morning to get a pic, still a bit breezy but not as silly as yesterday!
There’s an old saying about gorse that kissing will go out of fashion when it stops flowering because if you find a patch of Gorse you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be at least one flower on it somewhere.
Anyway it’s bright and cheery on an otherwise dull day.
Dreadful visibility and increasingly heavy drizzle at lunchtime so no joy at all on the seabird front.
Where to next? We'll try again tomorrow morning.
In the meantime let us know what turned up in the drizzle in your outback.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It’s a bit windy out there

The Safari was out in the teeth of the gale this morning with winds approaching 70mph. But nothing we’ve haven’t seen before. We say pah in the face of these ex-hurricanes. 

No chance of an early morning look at Patch 2 but we were out braving the weather as soon as we were able at lunchtime. The sea was almost pure white with foam and some of the waves in the distance were scary - absolutely massive!
Visibility wasn’t as bad as we’d feared but holding the scope still was an issue, but not much of an issue as hold our self still – we were being buffeted about like crazy. When we went to the gate to take the pic the wind being funneled up the slade was horrendous easily touching 80mph it was difficult to stand up there never mind stand still.
Our watch point was a fraction calmer but still the odd gust made us sway.
Hopeful for a Leach’s Petrel we watched northwards towards the end of the pier looking down the troughs for as long as we dared. A few Great Black Backed Gulls were cruising almost defying the gale to blow them away from their desired course. A couple of Cormorants flew by, probably going to the estuary to roost now the tide was dropping – how on earth can they feed at sea in those conditions?
Local Black Headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls made up most of the rest apart from a flock of Oystercatchers heading out to sea – why??? And another single battling its way towards the estuary.
All too soon we ran out of time but just in time as a huge squall was about to dump torrential horizontal rain on us when we emerged from under the pulled down hood of our jacket.
Not enough time at all to do it justice today, Leach's Petrels, Sabine's Gull and Long Tailed Skua all seen down the coast aways - pair of gloves wouldn't have gone amiss either.
Where to next? Not sure if we've got a school group tomorrow or if they've shy'd off. 
In the meantime let us know what the white water was up to in your outback.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Long time no see

The Safari had arranged to meet up with our long time chums from the southern end of Safari-land for a days camaraderie and birding around some our regular haunts. We'd arranged to meet at the nature reserve with a sort-of plan to go north to a good birding spot then work our way back to the nature reserve calling in a few other locations as we passed them.
All was going swimmingly until we had a later than anticipated start and 'lost' one car load somewhere on the adjacent caravan site for several minutes. "Where are you?" we asked over the phone..."by the Sparrowhawk" came the reply...."Where's the Sparrowhawk? "By a laser thingy!" "What laser thingy?"
While waiting for everyone to get together, we didn't know everyone was already on site by now, we had five minutes in the hide and were lucky enough to watch a small flock of Whooper Swans (MMLNR #87) drop in, first alerted to their presence by their beautiful haunting calls we had just milliseconds to alter the camera settings find them in the viewfinder and blast off a few shots.
A call told us it was time to meet at the allotted place by the soon to be refurbished and enlarged, Ranger Base and as we The Gang turned up and got their kit out of their cars a Grey Wagtail (MMLNR #88) dropped on to a nearby puddle...two site year birds! Not a bad start to the day's proceedings.
We had another look from the hide but by now the Whooper Swans, 19 of them altogether IH told us, had been seen off by the still extremely territorial Mute Swans. A regular winter occurrence if slightly disappointing that the Whoopers rarely get a chance to settle and roost overnight.
A Ceti's Warbler sang on and off for us but wouldn't show unlike the Wren and Robin. Teal and Shovelers showed well but generally it was fairly quite and we couldn't find any Snipe, one of our team's target birds for the day, in the cut patch of reeds in front of the hide. Nor could we find any anywhere else! Well actually there were couple of other things of note, a couple of dragonflies were buzzing around and one stayed still enough to be identified by AB as a male Southern Hawker, the first 'record' for a good few years that we've heard off suggesting that they are seriously over-looked and consequence under-recorded. Across the hide window was a spider's web made by an Amorobius species, the male was in the centre of the web and the female was secreted at the top of the web under the window frame - his days are numbered, unless he doesn't mate of course!
More Cetti's Warblers were heard in the reeds as we walked round to the scrub where the Long Eared Owl had been seen for the first time this season recently. Being still only mid October there are still far too many leaves on the trees to make finding such a camouflaged bird easy - and we didn't! There were lots of Blackbirds enjoying the Apples but also plenty of signs that people have been breaking through the fences to relieve the trees of their fruit and the birds their winter food supply. This year there is an abundance of Hawthorn berries on the nature reserve for the birds to go at so all should be well. Unlike the drive to our next site during which we passed mile upon mile of flailed hedgerow with barely a berry to be seen.
We retraced our steps and then cut off of on the path out of the reserve to see if we could see the owl from the path around the outside of the reserve - even more green vegetation to peer through and again we had no joy - time to move on.
Our convoy headed north to the little estuary/saltmarsh which has now been renamed - with a name that is 'unsuitable' for a public forum which younger persons and those of a delicate disposition read but which will now not be able to be erased from our memory!
We didn't stop at the pub but headed strait to the adjacent cafe for a bite to eat.
Spot the deliberate mistake
While The Gang munched their way through variously filled panini and a spam and egg butty - didn't know you could still get spam never mind it being served in a reputable establishment! - a Ladybird was found on the table, this after earlier discussion at the nature reserve of copious or not numbers of Ladybirds turning up and had anyone seen any, the consensus was none of us had.
This one's identity was found to be one of those nasty cannibalistic, STD carrying native Ladybird killing Harlequin Ladybirds. They come in a bewildering variety of colours and number of spots but note the red/brown legs and the 'M' (or 'W') on the pronotum.
More calories than you can shake a large stick at devoured it was time for some birding. A look at the creeks gave us loads of Redshanks and Teal but the stars here were no fewer than three Common Sandpipers. They, or at least one, often winter here.
Out on the river there were shed loads of Golden Plovers and Lapwings, a good few Curlews with a nice flock of Wigeon thrown in for good measure.
The wind was picking up making passerines hard to find, which was shame as the old railway has 'interesting' bushes where a roving tit flock could easily hold a Yellow Browed Warbler but not today.
A herd of cattle decided to cross the river, we've visited this site many times but not seen this sign of John Wayne driving them so it must be a regular thing they do...the grass is always greener and all that.
Try as we might we couldn't find the Spotted Redshanks but the previously wanted Snipe showed up and showed up out in the open on the mud banks giving excellent scope views. A raptor shot through and landed on the marsh. Peregrine, Merlin? No a big female Sparrowhawk, a little unusual out there well away from any cover.
Another flock of Redshanks were searched through to reveal a large male Ruff but still no Spotted Redshanks.
The birding degenerated into general chat and banter with cursory looks at the marsh.
Sure they're pretending to concentrate
We closed the session with the tide coming in and the call of a Greenshank, Those creeks can hide a multitude of birds and did so quite quite effectively today.
We ran out of time to visit any of the other sites we'd planned to have a shuffy at.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes but sure as eggs is eggs we'll be birding together again sometime soon this winter, and we're sure it'll be a laugh a minute again - you don't want too take this birding too seriously, it's supposed to be fun and with this lot it certainly is.
Where to next? Family day coming up so our next safari-ing will be tomorrow lunchtime on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's hiding in the mud in your outback.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sounds from the sky

The Safari has been plagued by work this week and had only very few opportunities for getting away from the desk to do any wildlifing.
The other day a quick lunchtime look at Patch 2 gave us a skein of seven Pink Footed Geese (P2 #75) going south, at last they are on the patch list - was beginning to think the worst.
Today was a marginally better day in that as soon as we opened the front door to leave for work we heard the unmistakable tseeep of Redwings (174, Garden 44 (one short of our garden target)). Looking up we saw four going over the roof of the house, there could have been a few more we missed by not coming out a seconds earlier. At work the Land Rover door was opened in car park and in the gloom of a dreary dawn we heard a Wren, only the second of the year here.
Another brief look at the sea at lunchtime was quite productive. Two Whooper Swans (P3 #76) were well out resting on the sea, closer in there were numerous auks diving for fish the only two close enough to identify were both Guillemots. A couple of Red Throated Divers were out there too, the star was a Grey Seal making mince meat of a large flatfish the cast off shreds attracting several gulls. Not a bad day by recent standards.
In other news we've been involved in an exciting project we've not been at liberty to tell you about. The time for it to come to fruition is drawing close and we were starting on tenterhooks. However devastating news came in yesterday that we won't be making an appearance on the project after all - it will be aired on BBC 2 early in the new year. Must have a better face for radio than TV.
Hands hurting like hell today with a ll the typing at work so not gonna make them even worse woffling on on here so we'll sign off for now. No chance of any pics either - it's not good!
Where to next? Weather looks to be interesting for the next few days so hopefully something new will be in the works garden in the morning - Ring Ouzel please! Or a Yellow Browed Warbler or is that being greedy?
In the meantime let us know what's been migrating through your outback today.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lack of time at the mo

The Safari hasn't had a lot of time to get out much over the last few days and our hopes for yesterday were dashed by a poorly Frank but that couldn't be helped and we stayed at Base Cmp attacking the garden and initiating the starts of a project we've been thinking about for some time - a green roof for the garage. Hopefully it'll turn into a huge wildlife haven almost doubling the garden size and not be a calamity ending in a collapsed ceiling and drains blocked with soil..
On Saturday morning we hoped to get up early and do some watching for visible migration but we couldn't get up. Well we did get up to take Frank out before dawn but then went back to bed, we're glad Frank got us up again and good job he did otherwise we might have missed FW and his ringing stint on TV. A great piece it is too well wort ha watch while it's still available.
Not much happened during the rest of the day, a Skylark was heard going over and a little flurry of Grey Wagtails, little being the operative word - just three in five minutes.
Right at the end of the day a couple of Small Tortoiseshell came over the garden in a rather delicate chase and circled around for a few minutes, a mating chase rather than the usual towering rival males 'fight' perhaps.
As we said earlier much of Sunday was spent in the garden but out pre-dawn with Frank there was a notable number of Robins calling from all over the place.
Before breakfast we were hopeful of some vis mig again but it didn't materialise as we hoped it might. just 11 Meadow Pipits, two Chaffinches and a Goldfinch went over, what the 14 things that came fast and low without calling were we'll never know, finchy rather than pipity.
After breakfast we had the very impressive spectacle of about 250 Jackdaws going south at some not insignificant height, their calls filled the mid-morning air - stunning! But there wasn't much else or we had our head down working so hard and missed everything. Just another Skylark and Chaffinch.
A small flock of Starlings flew NE not looking particularly like local birds.
A call from Young Un AB alerted us to three Common Cranes coming our way from the north. We kept a eye out on the western horizon (what little of it we can see). Eventually a Tweet came from Seaforth Nature Reserve, well south of us, saying they's passed over going SSW. The long legged b*ggers must have gone well behind us and not 'coasted'. A bit like this
Thanks to Google Maps for the 'lift'
A similar butterfly experience happened towards the end of the day when a Red Admiral flow over northwards at rooftop height just before dusk.
This morning work didn't allow an early nip across the road to Patch 2 but a mid-morning quick wander round the grounds gave us a Chiffchaff calling, a reasonable Patch 2 rarity!
Lunchtime came round and we did get out but it wasn't really worth it, deadly quiet.
That's all we can muster for today - tomorrow will be better!
Where to next? Again not many opportunities to get out for long again but we will be out and there will be something to see if we look hard enough - or listen hard enough late night Redwings can't be far away.
In the meantime let us know what local 'rarity' appeared in your outback.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Better than Spurn?

The Safari still can't quite get over the fact 'we were there' on a record  breaking day; in thirty years time, when we're nearly 90, and the Spurn Brent Goose record falls again we'll look at their website and see then note saying the record has stood since 2014 and reminisce that we were there and counted some of those as they came in off the sea and have great memories of a couple of cold wet days sat with LCV in a little wooden hut perched on a low cliff looking out to sea.
All told we had 84 species door to door excluding the 'brown' Fulmar and the 'possible' Richard's Pipit but it could have so easily been touching a hundred with a bit more luck with the weather.
Today a quick early morning look at Patch 2 at low tide didn't give us much at all, the most exciting was possibly three Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the beach with the hundred or so Herring Gulls, that good eh! A handful of Meadow Pipits had passed overhead but the bird of the session came as we turned to go back inside - three Lesser Redpolls came in off the sea only a few feet above us. Not a patch year bird but still a good record here.
Lunchtime came round soon enough and we were out again. It didn't take long for another patch mega to fly through. A really chunky dark barrel bodied diver a Great Northern Diver (172, P2 73) going south, it took a while to find a Red Throated Divers but find one we did sat on the sea in the chop not too far out summer plumaged too! Searching the sea for the diver we came across a Great Crested Grebe too. All the while we could see small flocks of Common Scoters bobbing around and there was a continual stream of flocks going south along the horizon, easily 500 probably many more. Also out there about a mile off shore there was a steady stream of passerines going south, too far to identify but most of them were probably Meadow Pipits, well over 100 and could have been seriously more had we counted them properly. Two Eiders were seen one going south then one going north, same bird perhaps? Another Red Throated Diver flew north in the middle distance. A couple of bouncy things way out weren't flying like the 'pipits' and became three Swallows when they drew nearer , again staying well out at sea rather than coming ashore. The bright sunshine caught two waders illuminating them with dazzling gold, a couple of Golden Plovers, somehow we've forgotten to add them to our year list so that's 173, P2 74 (oops). Three individual unidentified auks went south a way out about five minutes apart and that was all we had time for.
So that was about twenty minutes watching and not a bad return to the joys of Patch 2 after the excitement of the east coast.
This evening there was a cloud moment while we were helping (aka hindering) Wifey prepare dinner, so dropping the stirring spoon we grabbed our camera.

At the pub there was a wildlife charity badge box on the bar and LCV was kind enough to pop a quid in the box and treat us to one, a pertinent one considering our year list challenge.
Which (sub?)species do you reckon Monika - no saddle patch would suggest it's not a Southern Resident.
Where to next? Oooh the weekend, sure there'll be some wildlife looked at somewhere along the line.
In the meantime let us know if your outback was better than expected today.