Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Back on the beach yet again

The Safari started well this morning when a Grey Wagtail (P2 #67) flew over us as we were fumbling with the keys to unlock the front door to the office first thing! Later in the morning we were with the families on the beach again today for the penultimate time this summer season. The early morning had us once again filled with trepidation due to torrential downpours but we needn't have worried as with yesterday the rain dried up and the sun came out. 
We'd arranged the Family Learning team to meet the families at a different place, not just over the road from the office on Patch 2, this time we were up the road a bit by the pier an area we've not really investigated to any degree before.
After a brief intro we gave everyone a net and pot and off they went down the beach. There are no rockpools on this stretch of seawall, it's the 'new' bit with the 'Spanish steps'. The tide had not long dropped and a large shallow pool had been left - just ripe for a  serious amount of netting. 
There were plenty of Sand Gobies but they were so difficult to catch! A couple did manage to find their way in to a pot. A nice variety of shells were found including a huge heavy rather old Iceland Cyprine probably well older than we are, many nice Striped Venuses, even a old Native Oyster, not old in the same sense as the long lived Iceland Cyprine, this was probably eaten as a snack on the beach some time between the wars and chucked away like the kids do with MacDonalds wrappers today and had been rolling around in the surf for all those years.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps there were very few Brown Shrimps, on Patch 2 a runnel like this would be crammed with them. Arthropods were represented by a fair number of small and medium sized Green Shore Crabs along with a couple of Masked Crab carapaces and some shed skins of a species of swimming crab, we're not sure which but possibly Liocarcinus holsatus. The best find was an enormous pincer from an Edible Crab.
As ever our hour came to an end all too soon and it was time to pack up and go our separate ways. The kids had a had great fun, and we have to say their parents had too and these are children who don't normally ever get onto the beach even though they live within spitting distance of it. Let's hope they are inspired to explore more often now they've had a taster session.
We had a very fast bite of lunch and then went out with our own net and pot to see what we could find and try some underwater photographs. Not a lot of success we have to say but we'll persevere, we've yet to suss the best way of using the camera, it deffo needs lots of light and the water has to very clear otherwise the pics look like they've been taken in porridge. Perhaps we need to shoot video and just pull still off that.
Here's a couple of shots of a Common Starfish we came across in one of the rockpools. not bad but we could do better.
Where to next? Another attempt at underwater pics tomorrow - we might try some in more controlled conditions to get the hang of it first - we're thinking freshwater and 3-Spined Sticklebacks!
In the meantime let us know hows netting what in your outback.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A fishy sort of a day

The Safari went out with Frank before bedtime last night and heard a Green Sandpiper (Garden #36) going over. It's a bit of a scarcity but we hear one like this just about annually which leads us to wonder if there's a wet corner in the extensive school grounds across the way and they drop down on there during the hours of darkness, or maybe there's a lot more of them than we think and hearing them isn't unusual at all.
Later in the small hours a torrential downpour woke us up and as we dozed back off to sleep we heard a Curlew calling in the distance. A lovely sound to hear when drifting off to sleep.
This afternoon we had another family event rockpooling on the beach, about 15 young families turned up to explore the beach. All the usual suspects were found and potted for closer inspection. One of the mums called us over to see a flat fish - ohh this one was a bit different to the usual Dabs and Sole we've seen before. we thought it might have been a Plaice but chatting to fisherman friend LR it was actually a Turbot, a species we've not seen here before but according to LR are quite common around the low water mark. We might have a look down there with the older kids at the weekend.
Once back at Base Camp we had a look at what the stealth-cam had picked up. Lots of cats and even more vegetation blowing in the wind and then this little monkey! Strutting around like it owns the place at 07.30 this morning - we were pottering around in the kitchen only a few feet away at the time on our way out to work.
Where to next? Another beach session tomorrow but at a totally different place and one weve not been to look at before, could be interesting!
In the meantime let us know what's trying desperately to blend into the background in your outback.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Seconds in

The Safari hardly got out of the house yesterday but a quick wander into the back garden gave us a nice Flesh Fly - look at his bifurcated white trainers, superb face on him too - well we say him but he could easily be a her

This morning we were on tenterhooks and couldn't settle to much as mater was having her cancer op at some time so we got the shears out of the shed and did a bit of therapeutic 'no thinking involved' hacking of the wildlife garden to start prepping it up for winter; hopefully the Young Uns will be able to help finish it off later in the week. 
A quick lunchtime look at Patch 2 was totally unproductive, there being nothing to see at sea at all.
Our afternoon was interrupted by a txt from marine biologist friend DB, she told us there was a Wheatear-like thingy on the back field. We dashed out and sure enough immediately found a Wheatear, only the second we've seen here in 10 years!
We nipped back to the office for the camera while she kept her eye on it for us. Unfortunately there was a number of dog-walkers on the field and it was flushed and flighty and eventually flew up to the roof of the hotel opposite where we got the only pic of it. We hoped it would come back down but it flew off again right over us at height and continued its migration to Africa.
It is a Wheatear - honest!
Where to next? Another mariney exploratory session with the kids tomorrow and the possibility of an exciting development which hopefully we'll perfect in time for our visit by conservation 'royalty' FW and family.
In the meantime let us know what you know you saw but couldn't possibly prove with a dodgy pic in your outback

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Not many moffs

The Safari made up a potent brew last night to try in addition to the moth trap - we made a wine rope to hang in the garden. As darkness fell we headed out with our torch to see if anything had found it - sadly we drew a blank every time but that probably had a lot to do with it blowing around wildly in the blustery cold wind. We weren't overly hopeful the trap would pull many in overnight either.
But you never can tell, the wind could have died down, well sometimes it does. 
A passing Curlew was heard to call in the middle of the night so there were some things deffo on the move.
This morning as we dragged Frank out just after 06.00 and as soon as we got to the bigger front gardens along the main road we heard a Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff do a couple of 'hweet' calls from down the road.There were a good number at a localish site early yesterday morning reported to us.
Once back at Base Camp and Frank was breakfasted it was time to check the mothy, would anything be in there?
Here's the full list - it's not that long but goven the obvernight conditions it's probably not too bad for here.
3 Large Yellow Underwings - no escaping them!
1 Lesser Yellow Underwing
1 Shuttle Shaped Dart - nice fresh looking one
2 Agriphila tristella - no escaping them at the mo either
1 Rustic agg
1 something too worn to tell
and star of the show a new for the year Flame Shoulder
It was sluggish enough to take out of the pot for a pic. Once on the table we saw that it extended its long tongue and started to lap up the droplets of rain around it. Never seen that before and didn't realise how long a Flame Shoulder's tongue is - wonder what flowers they prefer to feed at, perhaps one part of moth behaviour seldom seen.
We're a bit annoyed the phone focused just beyond the moth's face for this one
The weather put a full stop on our proposed trip down the motorway to have a look at the Purple Hairstreaks that were reported yesterday. Now will the weather be better next Saturday and if it is will we be able to go as our aging dear Mama has to undergo a serious opration on Monday and we will deffo be on family duty at least one day towards the end of next week.
Where to next? No sure about tomorrow yet, anything could be possible weather permitting!
In the meantime let us know who's lapping it up in your outback

Friday, 15 August 2014

Did we mention we were struggling

The Safari mentioned we were struggling to find anything new yesterday and that mention must have put the hex on the struggle because although we got no pics today we have had our moments.
The first came this morning when for some reason or other we had to nip outside fro a couple of minutes and was able to watch a pair of Eristalis Drone Flies mating in mid-air. They whizzed around in tandem before splitting up and going their separate ways for a rest on a nearby leaf and then hooked up again a few seconds later for another tandem fly-past - all very energetic and aerobatic! All the action would have been far too quick for the camera if we had have had it with us.
A lunchtime visit to a rather warm and summery Patch 2 was slightly disappointing in that it was very calm, not quite flat calm but not far off but there was no blubber to be seen anywhere not even a Grey Seal. Other than the rafts of local juvenile gulls there weren't many birds either, just a few very distant white dots  purporting to be terns. Then a large duck flew past at speed low over the ripples heading north, female Red Breasted Merganser, not seen one of those for a while so that'll  do nicely, thank you.
Mid-afternoon a message came through about a couple of Green Sandpipers on their usual flood so that made up our mind to finish as early as possible and take the long way home. A set of temporary traffic lights held us up for three long changes only half a mile from the site, intensely frustrating and annoying - twitchers are a tetchy lot aren't we!
Anyway we arrived at the site got the scope balanced on our rucksack which itself was balanced on the Land Rover's centre console and saw one of the aforementioned Green Sandpipers (158) immediately. We never did see the second but there's  a lot of muddy 'dead ground' it could have been on. The supporting  cast was a nice mix of moulting Mallards, a couple of Teal, Moorhens and a Lapwing.
Also in the message was mention of three returning Wheatears on the large Rabbit warren. Again we were one short just finding two of the three. If the Rabbit warren was flat it would look pretty mint to pull down a passing Stone Curlew...if only...
A Buzzard flopped lazily off a fence post and away across the fields giving us a cue to leave too.
Another wait at a different set of traffic lights give a Swift swooping round over the waiting traffic.
Not a bad day all in all. We've a couple of scoring updates from Patch 2 too for recent days starting with two Common Sandpipers (P2 #65) over the beach during one of our rockpooling sessions and then a flock of ten or so Black Tailed Godwits (P2 #66) going south at high tide a few days ago. don't think we're going to reach our year's target of 200 or our Patch 2 target of 90 - well you never know!
So no activity on the catching up year-listing arch-rival Monika front for ages but at least we've started the claw-back, long way to go yet but we do have a cunning plan for a few week's time. 'Fortunately' almost all of her wildlifing time has been taken up getting amazing pics of Orcas rather than adding to her birding year list. No we're not jealous - much!!!
Where to next? The mothy is set up and raring to go and we have a new mothing technique to try too. Tomorrow we may have a bit of a family butterfly adventure weather permitting.
In the meantime let us know if there's been any autumnal movement in your outback.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Struggling this week

The Safari hasn't been able to get out much today, just like much of yesterday too. We did get out for a few minutes on to Patch 2 at lunchtime. Not a lot doing out there but at least the tide was late enough and the wind dropped enough not to throw waves over us. All we saw were a few Lesser Black Backed Gulls and a single Great Black Backed Gull and that's your lot! Maybe we didn't give it long enough but there wasn't really enough to keep us interested.
A call from LR who was fishing the incoming tide a way up the coast had us darting out as he told us a Raven was passing him although he did say it was sort of heading inland but we were hopeful that it would coast again and come past us. If it did we didn't see it and the local gulls didn't make a peep we thought they might with something a but large and, to them, unusual.
While we were out we looked for something to point the camera at as part of the #100DaysofNature project the @BBCSpringwatch are running. The idea is simple - find something wildlifey every day, photograph it and post it on Twitter with the hashtag for all to see.
Today we took a while to find any sort of subject until we spotted the sun catching a pink flower deep amongst the parched dead brown stems of the surrounding vegetation in our wild garden.
Simple but nice, better than nice it's life amongst the end of season death.
Where to next? More of the little same tomorrow unless something drastic happens
In the meantime if there's plenty of life still in your outback.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

There's a new wind a-blowing

The Safari hasn't been able to get out much this week although yesterday we did have a family event. The bug hunting was out due to the weather so we did our best to accommodate everyone round the was a bit busy!
A most enjoyable hour or so which included a huge back-swimming Waterboatman, caught be the ever present E, and the largest two front swimming Waterboatmen that have ever been caught from the pond by the two lads on the far left and the girl at the far end.
Hurricane Bertha hasn't been very nice to us, the salt laden winds have hammered any vegetation in her path - this is what she did to our beautiful green and leafy Cardoon plant.
The leaves might be withered and shriveled but the flowers are still providing plenty of nectar for the bees, not that there's many bees about in the cool blustery conditions this week.
Bottoms up
Get stuck in!
We tried a Patch 2 watch at lunchtime but the sea was already crashing over the wall and we got a soaking without seeing anything more spectacular than a Gannet.
In other news today is the 12th of August when it really isn't safe to be a 'surplus' Red Grouse. Now we aren't squeamish and we don't mind living things being killed for the right reason, we're not vegetarian or anything like that but killing for fun is an anathema to us even if it is 'legal'. 
Take this scenario for example; a youff has an airgun and gets a bit bored and want's some 'fun', he takes the gun down to the local park and takes a pop at the local family of swans on the lake killing one of the adults. Imagine if you will the headlines in the local paper and the venom of the comments below the article.
Now the other side of the coin is in the national papers today when the 'top' echelons of society and a variety of multimillionaires who made their money (exactly how???) dressed in a 'uniform' of tweed do exactly the same to a flock of Red Grouse but somehow that's acceptable, celebrated even glamorised as somehow 'Glorious'. Some will say that the grouse are 'bred' for it, the habitat/ecosystem is severely managed to provide that surplus at the expense of almost everything else. You could also argue that the popularity of the swans mean that they get excessive amounts of un-natural food from the punters and their population is far in excess of what it should be, but that still doesn't mean the lad should have shot it, so why should the others. OK the lad had no intention of eating the swan and the grouse probably will get eaten, for an extortionate amount no doubt, but it;s the fun of killing that attracts the clientele to the eating, the fee to do the killing is far in excess of the price of the birds will fetch in the fanciest restaurants.
The worst of it is the scorched earth policy of habitat and ecosystem destruction that goes to produce the necessary surplus. Nothing but nothing must get in the way of as many grouse as possible, be that protected birds of prey, generalist avain predators such as crows, small mammalian predators, rare Juniper scrub or any other vegetation for that matter, carbon sequestering blanket bog, people who get water delivered to their taps pay extra to have it cleaned of colour that the drainage of the bogs adds to the water through raised water bills and in extreme rainfall conditions even flooding of downstream towns can result leading to higher insurance premiums for all of us...and they get paid by our taxes to do all this, as if they need it! They're supposed to be the richest people in the land why on earth do they need our money too? And if they're breaking the law shouldn't they be in prison? Oh  that'd be at our expense too.
They will tell you they're good for Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover but they sure ain't any good for Whinchats, Stonechats, Snipe, Peregrines, Short Eared Owls, and especially Hen Harriers and that's before you take Adders, Common Lizards, and a whole host of the less mobile invertebrates into consideration.
If you can't run a business without the need to break the law than it surely must be time for a serious change in business plan or an intervention ie a total ban! There must be better less destructive ways of managing our uplands that can be funded with the same public money we're spending now.
Enough is enough!!! Please sign the petition only another 86000 needed to have it raised in parliament. Sounds a lot but you lot can do it.
Where to next? Another dose of pond dipping and bug hunting tomorrow and we might get a dry Patch 2 watch in too.
In the meantime let us know who's blowing the house down in your outback.