Sunday, 13 April 2014

Cor that was flippin freezinn

The Safari didn't put the moth trap out after all last night, it was far to windy and the wind was too cold!
We did nothing all morning until we set off to see if we could find some Great Crested Newts, not seen any yet this year. Driving down the lane we saw that the nearest car parking area was full so we had too turn round and leave, the site is too far from the other parking area for Frank to walk now.
Nothing for it but to head for the nature reserve instead.
There we met up with a few friends who had been round already and not seen too much, that cold wind was keeping everything low and the westerlyness of it had prevented any new stuff coming in overnight.
They went their way and we unlocked the hide, not often we're first in there. The waterfowl have now all but gone and we struggled to find anything more interesting than two male Teal and a drake Shoveler. The Coots are always entertaining at this time of year with there constant bickering and battling.
The gulls didn't provide anything out of the ordinary, best was this fading first winter Common Gull.
A first summer Black Headed Gull took its place after a short while
A Sparrowhawk drifted over them causing a bit of a panic and while we were watching that we picked up a few Sand Martins. No Swallows with them though. A Cetti's Warbler blasted out to our right, apparently one of seven or more singing this morning according to another birder who'd come in to the hide. A Willow Warbler (MMLNR #74) tried a little quiet song but it was really half-hearted.
Sand Martin flocks drifted in and out and eventually one such flock held a few Swallows (MMLNR #75). 
A wander up the bank gave us a bit of a shock, we had hoped to get some more pics of the Snakeshead Fritillaries as more should have been open but where had they all gone??? We bunked in to find a well worn path and dog footprints on the meadow, not a good sign. We found one broken Frit...nibbled but by what, Slugs or Rabbits but who ever it was it was a nightmare. Good to see the Cowslips doing well though and there's going to be a fine show of Agrimony if there is such a thing - it's not particularly showy as wildflowers go. One thing we've not noticed before but must have been present for a couple of years at least was a huge Meadowsweet patch. Doesn't look to be so much Meadow Cranesbill this season but this small meadow is starting look good mind you it's taken well over a decade and it's being invaded by hard to get rid of Common Reed and there are still too many Nettles.
A Blackcap tried to sing as did another Willow Warbler but the by were beaten by the wind.
Going back to the hide we saw more Sand Martins and Swallows and then MJ called out House Martin (131, MMLNR #76) and we were on it like a flash, our favoruite of the three summer swallows.
The gulls went up a couple more times both both times it was a one of thsae and not anything more exciting.
All too soon Frank was pooped, well he's found a ball and demanded to play but he's not really up to that anymore so we took him home and lit the fire to help stop him getting too stiff...poor old boy!
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow and the invisible Sandwich Terns... not that many seen round here yet, they're getting very late.

In the meantime let us know who's been nibbling the exotic vegetables in your outback.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A bit better on the moff front

The Safari was out before sunrise this morning along the North Blackpool Pond Trail on our last ever Winter Thrushes survey. The world had the fresh green cast of unfurling leaves but the birdsong was still only made up of resident birds though with Blackbirds, Woodpigeons, Collared |Doves, Dunnocks, Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits so it still smacked of winter out there.
A few opening flowers of Bluebells, native, Spanish and hybrids made it a little more springlike and it was reasonably mild for the time of year at about 10C. A few heads of Hedge Garlic were coming out too, bring on the Orange Tip butterflies!
A little further along it sounded a bit more summery with Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing away at the Community Orchard as we neared our survey's starting point. 
The second bird on our survey was a singing Song Thrush giving it plenty a hundred yards further on, this was the only one we heard, indeed it was the only thrush that wasn't a Blackbird and they were down a bit on recent visits probably because half of them might well be sat on nests. Or maybe not as we saw a female carrying a huge long strand of grass in to the hedge by the long ditch.
Thrush action was interrupted by four Cormorants flying north at height. We thought they might drop on to the nearby lake but they kept going straight on, unlike us who broke off the survey route for a few minutes and did visit the lake where in the scrub we heard the liquid cadences of three Willow Warblers (130), two days earlier than last year but about the average date for us for this species but they have been in awhile and we haven't had the chance to get near any.
On the islands a Heron was attending to it's well grown youngster in the first nest while in the other the adult was hunkered well down.
The only notable thing about the second part of the survey was notable for the wrong reason, few Blackbirds but freakin shed loads of cats, they were everywhere!
In the end we only had 23 Blackbirds and the aforementioned Song Thrush on the tally sheet.
Once back at Base Camp we opened the moth trap to find a small number lurking within...whoopy-do - success.
Well it wasn't that brilliant just two Hebrew Characters, a Common Quaker and an Early Grey, nothing over exciting but the Early Grey didn't appear last year so it was nice to get reacquainted with one.
Common Quaker
Early Grey
Hebrew Character
In the garden a bit later doing some chores we heard an 'alba' Wagtail go over, there's a few Whites about at the mo but we'll have to track them down on the ground no chance of IDing an overflying bird.
A flying visit for a brew and drop off some firewood from his current job by our Extreme Photographer saw us in the garden again. We noticed that a chunk of wood had fallen at the back of the woodstore and we footled it out only to see a freshly deceased moth on it - had we just deceased it, hope not - a quick check - well you have to don't you - revealed it as a male Bee Moth, thought these were a summer species mid-April seems a bit early for one to be out and about, it's not been that warm has it? There is a Tree Bee nest just above where we found it - coincidence or not??? They larvae live in the nests of bees eating the waxy cocoons.
A quick trip with Frank to Magpie wood mid-afternoon gave us a nice selection of songsters at the golden Triangle, Woodpigeon, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap, and Chiffchaff. They all went a bit quiet when Sparrowhawk lashed through.
In sports news the mighty Blues Everton scored their winner at the same moment as the lowly 'Pool conceded their second, Europe for one perhaps relegation looms frighteningly large for the other.
Where to next? Moffy will be out again tonight.
In the meantime let us know who's brought the summer with them in your outback.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thrifty? Us?

The Safari was promised a Swallow today, we were hoping it would turn up on Patch 2 as we've not had one here yet. We've only had one so far this year so that does not a summer make but there'll be plenty next week hopefully seeing as how they are one of the countries most widespread species and have increased by over 30% since 1994.
A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flittered through the work's garden, the first butterfly we;ve seen here we've been able to identify this season and we've been able to enter it on the new Butterfly Recording App very easily so if you have one of those new fangled smarty phones download it now and get recording - it's free too.
Our beach clean today was a disaster - no-one turned up which isn't good particularly as there were loads of people milling around enjoying the warm spring sunshine, shame they didn't feel the responsibility to help clean up the towns best resource. But as we were putting the unused kit away we spotted the first of the Thrift flowers of the year. We had a superb show of these along the front of the building until one time we were off sick and a crew came down thought they were weedy grass and dug most of them up...dohhhh modern day landscape 'gardeners' don't you just luv em
The big question is will we ever find Thrift Clearwing moths along this stretch of coast? Could be tricky as they've not been recorded here before - - if you don't look you deffo won't find that's for sure.
No sign of any promised Swallows even though we stayed half an hour longer than normal - on a Friday!!! - and the sea was as dead as a graveyard so still no Sandwich Terns for us - maybe next week.
Where to next? Our last Winter Thrushes survey tomorrow and maybe something or somewhere else.
In the meantime let us know who's getting in on the apps in your outback.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Still nothing beginning with 'S'

The Safari was able to get out on Patch 2 early this morning. The tide was in but everything else was out! It was pretty dire out there.  We had hoped for a Sandwich Tern or two, a Swallow passing by or even a distant skua but no, nowt like that.
It took a while to find a Red Throated Diver and then  a male Eider and a Cormorant came past making an unlikely pair, a few minutes later a couple of 1st year Eiders flew by. Not long after a pair of Eiders and two 1st winter males came past the other way...same two?
Another distant Red Throated Diver was found and that was about the sum of it.
We were still hopeful at lunchtime but it was even worse! The tide had dropped and there was little on the beach due to dog walkers. A couple of Lesser Black Backed Gulls had a bit of a tiff, one had grabbed the other by the wing tip, mangling the outer feathers, while the second bird did three pirouettes round it grunting all the while in a bizarre sadistic sort of dance - not seen that behaviour before.
Nothing was out at sea at all! It's got to happen soon - surely???
A work party did us a nice favour today by planting some tubs of wildflowers we'd brought from Base Camp. They were last year's tomato tubs which spectacularly failed to produce any fruit for us but have given us a fair selection of what some mis-guided people might call weeds. There's Ox-eye Daisies, Evening Primroses, Herb Robert, Common Forget-Me-Nots and some non-native but bee attracting Campanulas - that lot should be good for inverts in a few weeks time...can't wait!
Sorry no pics today
Where to next? Got a beach clean tomorrow so might be able to have a good shuffy around further down the beach than we normally get.
In the meantime let us know who's mis-guided in your outback.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A rare day out

The Safari didn't get out again yesterday morning but there was a bit of interest on the work's back field in the form of several Herring Gulls of varying ages and an adult Lesser Black Backed Gull poking around picking up worms after last night's torrential downpours.
But at lunchtime we were out and the first birds we saw were two Gannet (P2 #46) going south. Unfortunately we couldn't add anything more other than gulls.
Later we had a meeting at the zoo about an event they are going to be doing in a month or so. We had a walk round with LS looking at likely spots to investigate on the day...we really liked the look of the Iberian  Wolves apparently they don't howl - has anyone heard them do this in the wild in the Spanish mountains?...and they have now been recorded not far from Madrid, just how long will it be before they are found in the woods around the M25??? don't hold your breath!
This was more interesting then the nearby Wolves, a Silver Birch tree with a load of hibernating Garden Snails band a couple of Birch Polypore fungi bursting out of it.

We continued round having a look at likely bits of habitat and found our first Toad of the year and basking singles of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock.
Going to be a good day provided the Bank Holiday weather jinx holds off.
In the somewhat surreal Dinosaur zone there is a large lake with large Koi Carp in it which the visitors seemed to prefer to the plastic dinos.
There was Heron fishing on the bank but then it strode deep in to the water, it wasn't going to go for the massive fish was it - eyes bigger than its belly? swam into deep water near to where the punters were throwing bread put its head into the murky water and a minute later came up with a small Rudd right under the bread-throwers noses.
It came back for a second go and this time noticed the eyes on the small boy's frog wellies and was rather too interested for a few seconds, shame it didn't go for the wellies, that would have been worth seeing!
This is bizarre behaviour from the Heron as it's one from the colony in the park a few hundred yards away as in the park they are extremely wary and won't let bread throwing public anywhere near them.
Today we were out early on Patch 2 for a change and again a Gannet was the first bird seen. A pair of Eiders flew past and we also had a grand total of five individual  Common Scoters.
This arvo we had a couple of families out on our beach event. It didn't take long for the youngsters to get the first shells into the tubs and trays. Loads of good stuff was found.
Nice Thornback Ray mermaid's purse in there alongside the bits from three species of crabs, including male and female Masked Crabs and assorted shell fragments.
Razor Shells are always popular but we reckon ours was the longest - honest!!!
Lots of Moon Shells and their egg ribbons were also found but we couldn't find them any Starfish for them, we'd seen some being taken by the gulls as the tide dropped.
One thing we didn't get a chance to photograph was the Red Whelk the young girl in the group found, we don't see those too often -  a really good find! And we did find one of the mums the Beadlet Anemones she wanted to see, being high and dry they were all closed up blobs of purple jelly.
Really great to get down on the beach for a good old rummage around and have some fun again.
Where to next? There's gotta be a Sandwich Tern and or a Swallow with our name on it tomorrow...hasn't there???
In the meantime let us know who's got the biggest shell in your outback.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Naughty weather

The Safari was thwarted again this morning. We were on opening up duty so no chance of an early Patch 2 shuffy. The weather was atrocious with rain rattling off the windows as frequent long showers were driven in on a stiffening north westerly.
It wasn't until lunchtime that we got out but it was duff. We could hardly see across the beach to the sea through the murk. 
There was nothing on the beach apart from a few less than a hundred gulls, mostly Herring Gulls, and a similar number of Oystercatchers but nowt else and then the rain came on heavy again.
Back at Base Camp it was time to take Frank out and he took us all the way to Magpie Wood where were saw one of our favourite grasses, Sweet Vernal Grass, had come out into flower.
We don't know why it's a favourite; it's one of the few grasses we know the name of or maybe it's the fact that it tastes like American Cream Soda and if you do get to taste that when chewing it the taste will stay with you all day or it could just be that after all the wet n windy winter it's good to see grasses greening up and flowering. Whatever it is it's always good to see.
Little more to report other than a Chiffchaff singing in the distance somewhere in the park Frank can rarely get too now.
We had some sad news on the way back, Frank's old fighting 'friend' Blue has come to the end of  his road and passed on to where-ever it is ferocious terriers go, he was nearly 20 a really good age for a mutt.
Where to next? Surely there'll be a chance of a Swallow or Sandwich Tern...won't there?
In the meantime let us know who was visible through the gloom in your outback.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


The Safari made a bit of a boo-boo this morning. We had intended to do our final Winter Thrushes survey this morning but the plan fell apart. Frank was up a little bit later than usual (although had the hour not changed he'd have been early!) so we took him out to find it had been raining but wasn't now which was good. Once back indoors we gave him his breakfast and began to put our coat back on when we saw it was pouring down and had gone dark again...rats! Coat off, cuppa time. We started faffing around while Frank went back to sleep downstairs; by now we'd realised he wasn't moving too well this morning so didn't want to get him to go back upstairs. Anyway he did stagger back up there but by then it was a bit too late to go thrushing even though the sun was now out, might have a last blast at it next weekend.
Making (yet) another brew we saw that the sunflower feeders were empty, a look in the cupboard revealed a minor disaster - no bags left down there. Only one thing for it - try an experiment with the nyger seed that has been in the other feeder all winter. We ran the risk that it would all fall through the big hokes in the sunny seed feeder - it didn't. But would the birds eat it seeing as how they hadn't touched it for months.

Yes they did! It wasn't long before a Goldfinch was on there and then a Greenfinch fed for about 10 minutes, we can only assume they couldn't find the small holes in the other feeder, although we rarely saw a bird on it unless we'd tipped some sunny seeds on the tray in an attempt to entice them to try the nyger too. Funny fickle things these birds!
Late morning we took Frank to the nature reserve in deteriorating weather conditions. The wind was picking up, temperature cooling down and the showers becoming heavier and more frequent.
Several birders were already in the hide but other than a Water Rail and a couple of dozen Sand Martins hadn't really seen anything of note.
We met up with BD and had a good look at the gulls without finding anything really exciting. A couple of Herring Gulls had more than average white on their wing-tips but didn't show any other characteristics of 'argentatus'. A second winter thing caught our eye, it had a very long snouty bill but we couldn't turn it into anything eastern.
Best of the rest was this young Black Headed Gull that was the only one that ventured within range of the lens.
There were flocks of Sand Martins (MMLNR #69) dropping in and shipping out between showers and the gulsl kept getting up but the only times we saw the culprits they were either Great Black Backed Gulls or Herons and one Sparrowhawk. A Shelduck (MMLNR #70) on the water was a nice sight, we dodn't see them here too often. Over in the scrape a pair of Oystercatchers (MMLNR #71)  kleeped to each other and a hidden  Little Grebe (MMLNR # 72) was trilling incessantly.
To the side of the hide there is a bird table and a couple of feeders which attracted a pair of Goldfinches, a pair of Chaffinches, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits and this rather dapper male Reed Bunting.
A wet wander along the embankment gave us a close loud Cetti's Warbler, a species BD is wanting to get a good pic of but it wouldn't show itself. The fields to the east didn't contain the wanted Wheatears or anything else for that matter apart from another pair of Oystercatchers. A passing pair of Carrion Crows brought a pair of unseen Lapwings in to the air to defend their territory, if they do attempt to nest we don't hold out much hope for just one pair having any success but you never know...with  bit of luck a few more pairs might join them and make defending the airspace a bit easier.
With nothing doing to peek our interest we mossied back to the hide as Frank had given up cream crackered.
Noting much more was doing there either but this pair of Canada Geese gave us a chance to point the camera at something.
Time for something a bit different, we dragged Frank the opposite way to have a butchers at the Snakeshead Fritillaries and Cowslips, no photos today, the wind was blowing them around in the gloom too much .  
So it wasn't the best day to be out but still it's better to be out than in - if you don't look you sure won't see.
A quick stop at a local flood where there's been a report of a Green Sandpiper and White Wagtails  - neither were there; the wind was now cruel so we didn't stop long. 
Once back at Base Camp we had a look at the feeders, the 'new' nyger feeder was down a whole inch or more and a Goldfinch was ensconced on much was eaten and how much was spilled we'll never know but they're certainly eating some/most of will they go back to it when we refill thee dedicated nyger feeder...that could be the six million dollar question.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 - Sandwich Terns please.
In the meantime let us know who popped in for a photoshoot in your outback.