Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Dull and dreary - well it is January so what do you expect?

The Safari hasn't had the chance to get the camera out much and only odd few minutes worth looking over the wall at the sea. The weather these last couple of days has been wall to wall low cloud and drizzle but we have seen some good stuff. We've had two school groups out pond dipping in our work's pond as part of their year long study of the habitat.
They've done well and found quite a bit more aquatic life than we thought they would given the pond was frozen hard last week. Sadly the very dull conditions haven't let us get the camera out. Perhaps the best bits have been the lack of 3-spined Sticklebacks, which may be the reason for more of the invertebrate finds, and they always like a Bloodworm, especially when it gets chomped by a large Diving Beetle of unknown species. Predation in action - the class loved it!!! The third group comes tomorrow - what will they pull out? Hopefully a lot and there'll be some sunshine so we can show you.
Today a short lunchtime look over the sea wall gave us about 1000 very distant Common Scoters and a Red Throated Diver (65, P2 #19). No chance of any pics in the grim conditions. They were a little closer yesterday but still too far away for an 'identifiable' pic for our Photo Challenge.
They really could be almost anything, maybe even birds!
Later in the afternoon we had an errand to run to take some stamps to the local RSPB centre for their Save the Albatross appeal @AlbyTaskForce on Twitter if you use social media. While there we took the opportunity to have a look at the lake and see if their were any photogenic subjects on offer. Shortly after lunch we got a rare glimpse of the sun but by the time we'd got down to the lake it had well and truly gone back in and the usual drizzle was beginning to be felt in the air.
Not to worry, we had a couple of subjects that were reasonably close. As ever around a lake someone had thrown some bread at the ducks and that had attracted the attention of some of the local Jackdaws and Black Headed Gulls.
A pair of Moorhens were a little more timid, taking their time to suss out if it was safe enough to cross the short stretch of water where the boats are moored up in the summer.
Walking further round towards the island a flock of mostly male Pochards (66) was loafing around doing nothing in particular. In the poor light they were really too far away for any sensible pics but we fired a few shots off anyway...just to increase our Photo Challenge tally, well the pic might be rubbish but they are identifiable.
Where to next? Depending on which weather forecast we look at there just might be a bit of sun, or at least lighter cloud, by lunchtime tomorrow and then of course there's the school kids pond dipping so hopefully we'll have plenty to tell you about.
In the meantime time let us know who's in the mist in your outback.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A quick dart up the Prom

The Safari wasn't expecting to get out very far today. but slight changes to Wifey's plan meant we were able to have a good few hours out in today's better weather than tomorrow's drizzly rain. It did mean we had to take Monty with us though, his first 'proper' safari - how would he get on; or more importantly how would we get on!?!
We packed him into the boot of the car and headed northwards. At the marine lake we had a particular quarry in mind. To find it we get the pooch out and had a wander along the lakeside path where we soon discovered holding a 5 month old pup and using bins single-handed in a bit of a cold breeze is a bit tricky and not conducive to aiding accurate identifications. We had a good luck for our quarry but to no avail. We did however get a few year birds but had to put Monty back in the car and come out again with the camera; bins and dog was hard enough camera and dog would have been impossible and probably expensive.
At work we watched a Kittiwake (59, P2 #14) battle its way north against the fierce gale yesterday, that could be one of the species we see fairly often throughout the year but end up being unable to get a pic of for our Photo Challenge.
Anyway back to today we soon added Mute Swan (60) to our year list
with a couple of pairs hanging round the lake margins for the inevitable hand-out of copious amount of bread. Much further out were a trio of Goldeneyes (61) , one male and a couple of females, too distant for any proper pics unfortunately.
And two pairs of Red Breasted Mergansers (62) again always way too far out for a proper pic
On the little island we hoped to find one or more Purple Sandpipers roosting over the high tide with about 200 Turnstones and 150 Redshanks but it wasn't to be today; where were they - there were three there yesterday - how annoying! There was another bird for our Photo Challenge though, a Grey Heron.
The smaller lake had a been drained and a bit of a gull roost had formed, mostly Black Headed Gulls but scanning through them hoping for a Mediterranean Gull we soon found a couple of Common Gulls snoozing deeply on the far bank.
After 20 minutes or so locked in the car while we had our photo session Monty needed to stretch hos legs again so we took him up to the Prom where we soon noticed the flood barriers had been fitted. he met loads of new friends and we saw few birds as the tide was almost up to the wall already. Only a couple of hundred Sanderlings roosted on the highest shingle banks. We bumped into some friends we see at work and then CR came along after he too had been unsuccessful with the Purple Sandpipers. We wandered back to the car park with him and then drove back to the lake where we hoped the top of the tide might have pushed the Purple Sands off the last bit of beach and onto the island with the Turnstones, sadly it hadn't. We went our separate ways CR went home and we decided to have a look at the nearby Nature Park aka dog toilet - Monty loved it!
There were dogs everywhere including swimming in the lake but the birds didn't seem that bothered - they must be really used to it! Again we lt Monty have a run round and a play with some new friends before we locked him up and had a few minutes with the camera.
We can't believe it's half way through January and we only saw our first Coot (63) of the year today.
Similarly with Tufted Ducks (64) of which there were several and approachable which they often aren't at many other sites.
There were hundreds of gulls coming off the adjacent landfill site to the pools to bathe before going up on a nearby factory roof to roost, it was a shame we didn't have the time to do them justice we're sure there'd have been a goody or two sooner or later. 
By now it was long past Monty's dinner-time and he wasn't the only one getting a bit peckish so we called it a day. A very enjoyable day out at that with some great birds and doggy fun.
Where to next? Monty is going to meet his cousin Roguey for an afternoon of rough n tumble and we'll take the camera in-case there's something to point it at; the weather doesn't look too promising though.
In the meantime let us know who's playing hide and seek in your outback.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Our birding Photo Challenge creeps on at snail's pace

The Safari saw that the Waxwings were still hanging around some berry laden trees alongside the main road in to town the other day so we had  a quick run up there at lunchtime passing a Rook (55) foraging on a grassy roadside verge on the way.
We spotted them in the tall Poplar trees as soon as we pulled up but the light was awful on a grey dismal drizzly day. Before long they flew down into the berried Whitebeam trees which were much shorter and offered a better angle but before we could get the camera to them a passing pedestrian came by and spooked them making them fly up the road towards town. We waited a good few minutes but they didn't return. Nothing for it as lunchtime quickly ebbed away but to drive back to work the way the Waxwings went and there they were sat up in a tree in a garden about 300 yards up the road.
We threw the car in to the nearby DIY store and jumped out with the camera to try to get a few yards closer.
They came down to one of the two scratty Rowan trees by the side of the car park and we were able to get just one slightly better shot.
Great to get Waxwings (56) on the year list and in the Photo Challenge album.  Lucky too as they haven't been seen in town since that day. While we were chatting to FB, who'd driven up for a quick look at the Waxwings, a Pied Wagtail (57) flew over us.
A quick stop at the waste depot on the way back to the office revealed very few gulls and certainly not the Iceland Gull, more's the pity/
In the afternoon the sun came out and we were able to have a wander on the beach where we got some nice pics of already spotted species for our Photo Challenge.
Redshank and Turnstone
And back on the seawall someone had left a huge pile of left over probably stale crackers but Turnstones will eat almost anything.
Great Black Backed Gull
 There were a few Sanderlings down on the water's edge too.
But perhaps the best thing we found wasn't a bird but a large lump of sea-coal, the biggest we've ever found anywhere ever.
A Carrion Crow on the work's lawn became our 29th species for the Photo Challenge.
All good stuff but sadly nothing added on a very windy day today although a Goldcrest (58) was heard while out with Monty, the Peregrine was on the tower and the Magpie roost in the park is up to at least 100 now.
Where to next? Apparently there's some snow on the way, that might shuffle things round a bit.
In the meantime let us know who's dodging the waves in your outback.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A grey day and even greyer pics

The Safari didn't get to the Southside as expected today. At the time we anticipated we'd be leaving there was thick for again so we decided against traveling. Instead we took Monty round the very soggy Butterfly Zone on Patch 1 where he met several other doggies he's not played with before and he had a blast. Trying to get the worst of the mud off him we walked him round the dry paths of the park where we added Woodpigeon (P1 #15), House Sparrow (P1 #16), Song Thrush (52; P1 #17), and Wren (P2 #18) to our lists.
Once back at Base Camp Monty fell asleep shattered after all that running round and we watched a very empty garden. It wasn't until much later we started to pick up a few distant species for our Photo Challenge. Most of which we're sure we'll be able to get better pics to replace them over the course of the next few weeks.
The Greenfinch (54; #022) was over 90 yards away which at ISO Stupid and hand-held at 600mm we don't think is actually that bad a pic.  A much much nearer male Chaffinch (53) didn't get past the cutting room floor. We doubt we'll struggle for that species though so we're not overly bothered we missed out on it today.
Where to next? Hopefully a bit of sunshine tomorrow lunchtime will allow a mooch on the beach with the big lens. 
In the meantime let us know who's been massively over-processed in your outback.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

More first week shenanigans

The Safari was subjected to a pretty dire foggy day today which mostly involved chores. We did have to go out early afternoon on an errand which took us past FB's house where he's been watching nearly a dozen Waxwings on the street tree opposite from his sitting room window - when we drove past it was that foggy we could hardly see the trees from the driver's seat never mind any birds sat in them.
The grotty weather gave us the opportunity to see nothing was happening in the garden and after that we got to grips with a couple of recent SD cards to show you some more of what we've been up to this week.
Black Headed Gull taken at work
Starling also taken at work
Both of the Snow Buntings
They find the tiniest of seeds well out on a lower strandline well out on the beach
 And then there's the sunsets...
Good to see people videoing the Starling mumuration with their tablet - all technology is acceptable!
The Sparrowhawk banking away after an unsuccessful dart at the flock
Where to next? Back to the Southside for some family duties but we may well get a chance to bob in to some wildlife sites soomewhere sometime during the day.
In the meantime let us know who's been gleaning all the seeds in your outback.