We chased a couple of Holly Blues around without success and then did the same to a male Common Blue before finding this more sedate female Common Blue.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
We chased a couple of Holly Blues around without success and then did the same to a male Common Blue before finding this more sedate female Common Blue.
Friday, 30 July 2010
There were quite a few other moths flitting about on this muggy evening and we could be tempted to grab a pocketful of pots and the net next time – now that would get some interesting looks from the great unwashed driving past up and down the hill. Many of the gardens have (mostly) uncut, and therefore flowering, Japanese Privet but just one has a leggy specimen of the native Wild Privet; the Japanese variety seems to be smellier and attracts more moths!
Frank was late getting up this morning so the Patch 1 visit was reduced to a spin round Magpie Wood and back past the Golden Triangle, which has been very quiet of late. Nothing what-so-ever to report.
Patch 2 didn’t produce the yesterday’s floating Harbour Porpoise although a sandy coloured blob way, way down to the south far out on the end of a sand spit could have been it but it was indeterminate even with the scope wound up to full blast. Dark clouds laden with heavy rain were coming in from the west (AGAIN!!! – that’ll make a refreshing change NOT) and visibility out at sea was desperately poor (understatement of the year) a brief view of a single Sandwich Tern was all we could muster – we want (NEED) an Arctic Skua or a Little Tern – the year list has ground to a grinding halt – either that or hit the buffers with a resounding thud!!!
Turning our attentions to the gulls and other stuff (of which there was only a smattering of Oystercatchers in the end) on the beach our initial ‘speed’ scan revealed a lack of juvenile Black Headed Gulls so we decided to do a proper look through said Larids. Lots and lots and lots (= easy 500+) Herring Gulls with a healthy crop of juveniles, an adult Common Gull was pecking at seaweed on the higher part of the beach and we counted 67 adult Black Heads but not a single juvenile! Where are they? A second adult Common Gull was way out on the tide line as was a 4th summer Yellow Legged Gull. This was first picked up during the count of Black Heads and passed over after a short look with a ‘hmmm that’s interesting thought’. Now with dodgy gulls we like to relook for them and find them again – if you don’t refind them chances are they weren’t that dodgy after all. We did refind it after a couple of scans and were lucky enough for a Lesser Black Back, a Herring and a Black Head all to be in the field of view at the same time and, importantly, all stood facing the same way so we could assess the mantle shades accurately. A nice bright billed, almost adult, bird, quite long legged compared to the adjacent Herring Gull – would have been better if it was much closer in so we could have got a shot or two of it. As for the Lesser Black Backs there were very few no more than a dozen including juveniles and a Great Black Backed Gull also out in an appearance…it’s definitely Autumn now!
Patch 2 at lunchtime – a wet wash-out…nuff said. But on getting back to the office what should we find lying dead on the carpet but a hoverfly…now Cliff was asking what a haltere was (see comments yesterday). Well this was too good an opportunity to miss. So here are some pics of the hover with one of the pair of halteres circled – it’s the little white blob – on this species the ‘stem’ appears to be quite short and hard to see in the pics…ohh wouldn’t we like a decent microscope for stuff like this…can’t see us getting one with all the government cutbacks…conversation was something like this; “errr boss can I order a “… “ 'KIN' ELL NO! and don’t ask again”.
We noticed the antennae are unusual in that they are made up of two components, a thick bit and a wispy, thin bit, never noticed that before but they’ve almost definitely got a technical name…over to you Dean? And while you’re at it the species is???
Continuing the hoverfly theme; the curl on the wings of the Great Pied Hoverfly – excellent name – we’ve scoured Google Images and it would seem that it is a species-wide phenomenon not something that was peculiar to that individual. Thinking about it they are very like the tertials on a bird.
The answers to the ‘sketches in the notebook quiz’ are:- Top – Harbour Porpoise, next down – Bottle-nosed Dolphin, next - Basking Shark, then – Grey Seal bottling (trying to show difference in profiles between males and females), bottom – Grey Seal resting prone at surface - - you did get em all right didn’t you?
Where to next? Ah the weekend…but will it stop raining?
In the meantime let us know what wildlife you’ve tripped over in your outback
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Yesterday evening out on Patch 1 whilst chatting to our doggy walking chums we were being strafed by a kamikaze Swallow – we must have been kicking up some insects as we played ball with the mutts, whatever the reason it gave us stupendous views as it whizzed past at ankle height. Walked back through the butterfly ‘glade’ where there were no butterflies but came across this whopping great hoverfly, Volucella pellucens, nectaring on the Creeping Thistles. We have seen these many times before but not noticed the curl on the wing where it joins the thorax. It can be seen clearly on the pics. At first we thought it might be the haltere but, again, that can be seen (just about) on the first pic. So what is it?
This morning’s visit to Patch 1 was a little later than normal and it’s a whole new world; you see people and their dogs you never knew existed by being just 10 minutes out of synch. Wildlife-wise a clump of Common Inkcap’s were pushing their way through the turf and a Sparrowhawk flew over – we weren’t able to get a good view so not sure if it was a juvenile or not. When do the adults moult, as the wings looked feather perfect? Not a lot else about.
Patch 2 was a dead loss before work, the short watch gave us two Sandwich Terns and they were distant. Other than that it was hard work and a pointless waste of time so we high-tailed it back to the desk before the next deluge landed – made it with a couple of minutes to spare.
At lunchtime it wasn’t a lot better but before long we were accosted by one of yesterday’s fishermen who had seen the Grey Seal but also something else which he thought might have been a dolphin. He was asking if we’d seen it but sadly we hadn’t. As he described it nothing was ringing a bell. So we drew the most likely suspects in the notebook for him – nope not any of those apparently – so can you recognise what we drew for him…hint: none are birds!
Where to next? More of the same but hopefully including live rather than dead cetaceans.
In the meantime let us know what is pretending to be something it’s not in your outback
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Nothing of note for the Safari on Patch1 this morning. No Peregrines, no Sparrowhawks, barely a Woodpigeon today. A Blackbird with a beakful of worms heading into the shrubbery was probably the sighting of the walk.
We didn’t get a Patch 2 early morning do…due to the weather conditions – heavy rain! At lunchtime we did manage to get over the road for a few minutes and immediately noticed that it was a lot quieter than yesterday, not a lot about at all on the rising tide. A very distant Gannet, a very distant Common Scoter, a very distant Manx Shearwater was yer lot! Closer in we saw just three Common Scoters bobbing up and (mostly) down on the waves and as we turned to leave our friend the Grey Seal bobbed up very briefly. This annoyed the fisherman stood next to us; he had a little rant about it being a nuisance as he and his mates never catch anything when it’s about. They didn’t seem to twig that it’s sat about 300 yards further out than they can cast. Nor does it leave bits of Lugworm scattered all over the floor – what a waste – along with bundles of newspaper, plastic bags and other litter which all ends up getting blown in to the sea. Neither does it leave lengths of broken line with hooks snagged in the sand on the beach waiting to spear the next passing child, dog, gull etc. What is it with people and wildlife getting in the way of their hobby? Recently not too far from here three almost fledged Peregrine chicks were shot dead in their nest - allegedly by the racing pigeon fraternity…an absolute disgrace from people who are using another species of ‘wildlife’ to try to make themselves some money. And anyway the few Pigeons the Peregrines catch are probably knackered or lost and therefore no good to those who want to make money out of them or just in the wrong place at the wrong time ie plain unlucky. No need for the slaughter – just hope the evil sh*ts get caught and then prosecuted properly…won’t be holding our breath…!!!
Enough of the rant – well not enough - really need more right-minded individuals to rant against these low-lives and their antiquated Victorian attitudes.
No other news from the prom though; that was it! Disappointingly much less than expected.
Where to next? Anywhere with a bit of sunshine might make a refreshing change.
In the meantime let us know if the sun still shines in your outback.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Much later, getting towards 11pm, we set off again on the last tour of duty of the night. A steady fine mizzle was in the air and we were soon wet – who’d have a dog? Coming round the corner, off the main road and facing the water tower, from the glow of the street lights we saw a shadowy silhouette swoop up land on the usual ledge – the Peregrine had just come in to roost. It was still there at 06.15 this morning. One thing is obvious from these times – the Safari needs to be getting more sleep!
Other than the Peregrine sat up under the overhang the only other thing we got was very, very wet as we got caught in a bit of a rainstorm. In the distance a feeble, skinny flicker of lightning shot from the base of the thickest part of the rainstorm, turned round and disappeared back in to the cloud.
Too wet to contemplate a Patch 2 visit this morning – probably would have risked it if we didn’t have to do the ‘Long Walk’ as that would only have resulted in the second soaking of the day before 08.30.
Lunchtime on Patch 2 was a breeze by comparison by that we mean breezy and DRY with a hint of sunshine. Our big bull Grey Seal was fishing again and as with the other day getting pics of him proved to be a nightmare. He was close, well over the beach, but wouldn’t stay at the surface long enough to get him in the scope, focus, raise the camera to the eyepiece, focus the camera and snap; no chance he just took a couple or three huge breaths and down he went for another five minutes or so. By the time he’d come back up he’d drifted on the current and so wasn’t in the same place. Now you see him...
Probably about 30 – 40 of them in all but we weren’t sure if they were doing a circuit of the bay. The southbound birds were distant whilst those travelling northwards were much closer in. Only three distant Gannets today each moving south with the distant shearwaters.
A flock of six Common Scoters managed to remain mostly hidden in the chop just off shore not far beyond the seal. Barely a gull was seen on the full tide and only three Sandwich Terns were noted too, but with all those Manxies to enjoy we aren’t complaining.
Where to next? More of the same please but would the seal in the front row please sit still and we’ll have more of the supporting cast as well please for tomorrow’s performance. And we’ll be hitting the pond life with a vengeance later tonight as the Cub pack descends on our habitats.
In the meantime let us know what won’t keep still in your outback.
Monday, 26 July 2010
Went up to the north of our area this weekend and all looked very promising; we even had a BBQ on the Friday evening, lovely and warm as we sat out on the patio drinking beer in t-shirts…all went horribly pear shaped on Saturday morning almost as soon as we’d put our boots on. Saturday was the start of the Big Butterfly Count and we were slap bang in the middle of the regions top-dollar butterfly area. So off we headed into the encroaching gloom and freshening wind, not what we had in mind for the last week of July! Five miles of walking later and we had only had one Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary,one unidentified Fritillary (probably SPBF – looked very fresh), a couple of distant whites and a Meadow Brown to show for our efforts. Birdwise we struggled to see or hear anything of note but a late fly past Green Woodpecker was a brief and unexpected bonus as was an, even briefer, mammal tick in the form of a Weasel – with prey – which darted across the path only to disappear into a hole at the base of the adjacent dry stone wall.
Sunday was decidedly worse with no butterflies seen apart from a couple of unidentified whites and not a single dragon or damsel despite spending a few minutes at a real hot-spot. Bird interest was provided by a family of Jays and the call of a Bullfinch from the depths of a thicket. We did see a mammal, a Grey Seal that bobbed offshore for a minute or two before disappearing under the waves. Here's yours truly looking out to sea for it while Benny leaps for his ball.Frankie and Benny enjoyed being out and about in the fresh air. Just who would have called their dogs after a restaurant chain?Best tick of the weekend wasn’t wildlife but a pub! Been visiting this area since before we were legal to drink but never knew of this place and it looks like hasn’t changed in forty years ie a refurb and modernisation would ruin it…the locals call it ‘Spookies’ as it looks a bit like the Adams Family’s house…shoulda really taken a few pics, but here’s one of a gorgeous pint of beer and a couple of cheeky mutts trying to scrounge a crisp or two. A great weekend…if only we’d had a bit of sunshine to bring the butterflies out…lack of sunshine kept the Clegs at bay though so quite good from Wifey and our friends’ point of view. Sparrowhawk seen attacking a Blackbird on Patch 1 this morning – not sure if it got it; couldn’t see through the foliage, dang close if it didn’t was only inches behind it!
Too wet and too busy for Patch 2 today. And why too busy? Former World Champion Formula 1 and Indie Car driver Nigel Mansell popped in on his bike after an 80 mile ride from Chester during his nationawide tour of the Cyling Towns.
Where to next? Back to the Patches and bit of pond dipping coming up.
In the meantime let us know if the weather is scuppering the wildlife watching in your outback.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Something in there was catching his attention. Being a bit dim he nearly drowned cos he didn't realise he can't stick his nose underwater and sniff...kept coming up coughing and sneezing - can't believe he did it three or four times!!!
He's just heard his friends further down the field.
A fair number of Soldier Beetles were mating among the flower heads of the large patch of Creeping Thistles.
Secretly we were hoping that a WLH might come down for a bit of nectaring before retiring for the night. No such luck, just a couple Meadow Browns taking advantage of the last of the sunshine and a final drink before bedtime.
Found out today that this is exactly where one had been seen…dohhh
On the way back we saw that the Peregrine was back on the ledge.
This morning the Patch was quiet, too early for butterflies, too much doggy disturbance for many birds to be about and the Peregrine wasn’t on the tower. However, Patch 2 looked good, grey sky – no shadows, and flat calm. Sadly it didn’t live up to the early promise – but that’s not to say it was no good. A Grey Seal fished annoying close in shore, annoyingly as the light was ‘photo perfect’ but it wouldn’t stay at the surface long enough for us to get a shot and eventually drifted away and out of range.
We did see something we’ve never seen before; on hearing the calls of Sandwich Terns and the shriller begging call of a youngster we managed to scope the two birds coming towards us, the rear one had a small fish. The nearer one, now obviously the juvenile, landed on the water and craned its head skywards whereupon the adult hovered above it and gave it the fish – brilliant bit of behaviour we’ve never witnessed before.
Yesterday’s Gannet-fest had disappeared leaving just a solitary adult sitting out on the water in the distance. Oddly the feeding frenzy wasn’t picked up by an observer(s) further up the coast; they only recorded 12 Gannets, although they did have a Fulmar - a very good find in calm weather along this stretch of coast.
Much closer was a House Martin working the sea wall, we’re not sure if these are nesting locally this year. Then a Collared Dove came in off the sea and landed on the sea wall. Ohhhhh at first we thought we were on a winner as it looked a bit dark when we first picked it up and it disappeared out of view under the overhang - - ohh thoughts of the mega, Turtle Dove, loomed large but were instantaneously dashed once it had landed…doh…if only. A sort of mega was seen a little further down on the walk back to work – a Dunnock singing from the back of the sea wall, possibly breeding in the bushes in the ‘out of bounds’ area cordoned off by the tramway construction works.
The lunchtime safari was a little on the strange side and started out with a Funnel Cloud lurking ominously over the Cumbrian coast to the west of Black Combe. Then scoping the sea we found no Gannets but four adult Mute Swans sat line astern about a mile out drifting south, weird or wot!
A scan of the gulls on the beach revealed about two dozen adult Black Headed Gulls but again only one juvenile. One of the adults sported a Darvik ring – details duly forwarded.
Over the sea four Sandwich Terns fished noisily but none of this morning’s feeding behaviour was seen. They did fly over a large dark bird with a cocked tail sitting someway off shore; juvenile Gannets are weird looking things. While giving that a grilling a lone Manx Shearwater shot through much closer in, barely behind the surf, one of the closest low tide sightings we ever had. There endeth a short but strange safari.
Where to next? Will the WLH be out and photographable, will the Peregrine be digiscopeable, the answers and more tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what wasn’t where it should have been in your outback.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
A Great Tit was heard singing, the first on Patch 1 for a while.
Down on the seawall, Patch 2 was a dream compared to recent visits. The sun was out and pleasantly warm on our back, not too much breeze and better still there were some living things to be seen!
We arrived a few minutes after high tide, a very modest 7.5m today, and immediately got onto three Sandwich Terns heading out to sea. Whilst watching where they were off to an auk flew past low and fast as did two Dunlins, one of which was showing its black belly patch as it jinked across the waves. During the whole watch we were to have somewhere between 100 and 150 mixed Dunlins and Sanderlings going past, most were the former.
Out in the distance to the north west there was a large congregation of feeding Gannets. The fish they were interested in must have been at some depth as they were diving vertically from great height. Watching them we saw a flock of 14 Common Scoters going north beyond them. All the while we were noticing the Dunlin/Sanderling flocks shooting through the field of view but totally uncountable while we were concentrating on the more distant stuff in case of marauding skuas.
An excellent quarter of an hour or so – set us up for the day nicely and got us looking forward to the lunchtime session if we’re going to be able to get one in today...which we did.
By lunchtime the Gannet feeding frenzy wasn’t as frenzied and they had moved a little to the south and were now straight out in front of us but still along way offshore. A few had broken ranks and come a good deal nearer giving excellent scope views as they sailed past; others had moved into the mouth of the river channel but didn’t seem to be having any luck locating fish. A Great Black Backed Gull towered over its more numerous smaller relatives, the Black Headed Gulls, of which there were 38 adults but only one juvenile on our stretch of beach.
The shrill shriek of a Sandwich Tern was heard but it was a while before we located a solitary bird.
Best of the safari was a Grey Seal bobbing about just behind the surf. A bit tricky though as it spent most its time submerged.
On the way back passing through the garden we noticed a tiny species of bee buzzing about on the wildflower bed we’ve planted up this season, grabbed a couple or three shots with the ‘little’ camera which happened to be in the pocket and then got the biggy out from the office and took some more – enjoy the results…species anyone? The plant it was taking pollen from most frequently was the Yarrow.
Good pic of the pollen baskets coming up...
Hope you enjoyed those Amila - worth the wait?
Where to next? Anywhere with sunshine so that we can get the camera out and re-activated.
In the meantime let us know what’s been removing the pollen in your outback.
As a bit extra we have loads of stuff coming up on the coast soon as it's National Marine Week when we'll be surveying the thousands of artificial rockpools to get baseline data of their flora and fauna , followed or more accurately concurrently with, the second week of NMW is National Whale and Dolphin Watch when we will be doing our usual watches from the promenade.
Just incase you need some practice for these marine/coastal events why not join in the Great Eggcase Hunt and look for the eggcases of the sharks, skates, rays around the coast. If you are really keen you can let us know which species you think these egg cases we collected last summer are from - check out the key on their website. To help you in the key the big one is 6x4cm, the two smaller ones are 5x1cm.
And don't forget Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count 2010 starts on Saturday so now's the time to decide where you're going to do your count.
That lot should keep you busy - for details of local events check out BEAT Naturewatch
And finally - at last they sigh - from 1st - 31st August the Safari is holding a photo exhibition in Stanley Park visitor centre so if you're in the area why not pop in and have a look at the full size version of some of the pics you've seen on the blog; you never know some of them might even be in focus!