Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Struggling

The Safari is struggling to put finger to keyboard at the moment. It's not that we've had nowt to tell you about as we've been doing loads but we've also had serious family issues taking up a lot of our time.
For a quick catch-up we've moved our birds year list up to 166, the last one added being some Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss last weekend on a visit with our Southside mates.
Our Photo Year List Challenge has come on a bit as well, as would be expected in May with many new migrants fresh in from their winter sojourn. Moving our tally up to 144
Tree Pipit
Siskin
 The two above were found on an early morning visit to Beacon Fell near Preston
A better Siskin taken at a private nature reserve in the southern part of the Lake District
Rook taken at the well worth a visit Kelpies at Falkirk in central Scotland
 A visit to the tern colony at Preston Dock with CR gave us some superb photo opportunites
Arctic Tern in one of the nest boxes
Common Tern
And in flight too
For more pics from our morning please have a blimp at our Flickr site linked on the right-hand margin
The safari up to the private reserve was a brilliant day out which started with being shown a trio of (Barred) Grass Snakes, our first in Britain for far too long.
The blue in the eye shows it's about to moult
Redstart
Spotted Flycatcher refusing to sit out in the open
A couple of days later we were with our long-time mates from the Southside at Leighton Moss which also gave us a few more pics for the Challenge.
Scaup
Reed Warbler - by eck this one took some getting!
Osprey - a last minute fluke after waiting for one to turn up all day!
Mediterranean Gull - Top left and superbly picked out by 'young' IH after we'd totally missed it
Great Spotted Woodpecker - down the road in Stanley Park
We've had a bit of joy with dragonflies and damselflies and other winged things too.
4-Spotted Chaser
Beautiful Demoiselle
4-Spotted Chaser again
Broad Bodied Chaser
Large Red Damselfly
Broad Bodied Chaser
Giant Cranefly
A Scorpion Fly
The visit to Leighton Moss gave us this Avocet with an uncomfortable looking broken but healed leg. It doesn't look good but the bird was moving around alright and putting weight on it but still just looking at it again is making us squeamish.
Across the road the local Bee Orchids numbered only one this year.
At the zoo the other day we were shown the Dune Helleborines that were found growing among the Dinosaurs last year.
We'll have to go back next week when the flowers are fully formed just to conform they are actually Dune Helleborines and not something else although that is a little unlikely.
That's about it for now. As the warm dry weather continues we've been trying to get some invertebrate snaps from the garden at Base Camp and although still very poor the moth trap is at last picking up a bit. We can tell you about our finds, successes and failures in our next blog...and Dolphin season is upon us now and we have a Sea Watch coming up at Rossall Tower...Bring on the blubber, last month we had eight Harbour Porpoises but can we better that this week?

Where to next? Tales from the coast if we get a chance as we're waiting seriously bad news from the family.

In the meantime let us know who's been slithering around your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Plagued by good weather?

The Safari has had little time for keeping you all up to date with our goings-on of late, what with good weather meaning we've been out n about a lot and some serious family stuff to contend with there's not been much time for putting finger to keyboard.
So here's a very swift catch up of what's been about
Swift (155, PYLC #124) - rubbishy pic taken at Lunt Meadows which we hope to improve on but they do seem to be horrendously scarce round these parts this year.
Sedge Warbler (PYLC #125) Lunt Meadows again
Grey Partridge (156) a pair seen as we drove out of Lunt Meadows and unable to get a pic, the Little Owls in the nearby barn weren't one show - AGAIN!!!
A stunning full sum plum Black Necked Grebe 157, PYLC #126) rocked up on a local park lake and was thoroughly enjoyed by hordes of birders showing down to point black range while the resident Mute Swans, Grey Lag Geese, other waterflowl and Herons were oblivious to its presence.
Aquatic Emu?
Not far away non-feathered interest was found in the form of a male Great Crested Newt
What's left of Stanley Park, after some horrifically late tree felling including probably illegally taking down a tree with an active nest box containing eggs on it, held host to unseen Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher but we did catch up with the Garden Warblers (158, PYLC #127) thanks to TS waving us over and later in the day we managed to twitch but not photograph a Wood Warbler (159) not far from Base Camp on the North Blackpool Pond Trail. A pair of Swallows (PYLC #128) posed nicely at the start of the road on the way back, another species that seems to be horrendously low in numbers in their usual haunts so far this season - just late or a winter/migration catastrophe somewhere...we hope it's the former...

A rare trip into town gave us the opportunity to take a quick snap of a Lesser Black Backed Gull (PYLC #129) but the local Peregrines were nowhere to be seen.

Whinchats (160, PYLC #130) were all the rage in early May and we eventually caught up with a pair on Lawson's Wetland/Marton Mere getting very wet feet in the process, the dry spell hadn't really dried out the wetlands that much!
Whitethroats (PYLC #131) have done an excellent job of avoiding our lens and this grotty attempt is the only passable pic we've got of one so far this season and it's really not that good.
Having seen but not photographed the Spoonbills at Marshside on the Southside we did a little better with the recent two Glossy Ibises (161, PYLC #132) although the light and distance were 'challenging'!
At Base Camp the moth trapping has been dire although a 'New for Garden' Marbled Coronet was big surprise and the rarely captured Pebble Prominent is always a treat.
Marbled Coronet
Pebble Prominent
This afternoon we joined the Living Seas LWT team at Rossall Tower for their monthly seawatch and picked up a few Grey Seals, surprisingly late for our first of the year, and at least seven and probably eight Harbour Porpoises including a pod of three that was caught up by a fourth. Sadly all a bit distant for the majority of other watchers without scopes to get a good look at but well worth the two hour session...and we're in joint charge of the next one!

Well that's it for your quick catch up, hope you enjoyed it.

Where to next? An earlyish jaunt to the hills out east in the morning

In the meantime let us know who's not where they should be yet in your outback.


Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Bird bingo

The Safari joined PT to lead the North Blackpool Pond Trail's Bird Bingo family event last Saturday morning. The birds were on fine form, showing well, it's just a shame the families didn't make such a good showing too. Maybe people are doing other stuff on Saturday mornings and Sunday might be a better day for more people to be able to come along.
The birding is quite easy at Kincraig Lake as the birds are more than willing to come close and grab a beakful of whatever is on offer so you can get some nice portrait shots of old favourites like this male Mute Swan.
The sun shone bringing out the finery of the drake Mallards.
Also present was a very tame Heron which has become accustomed to eating bread - Can't be good for it!
Note its iris, it seems to be deformed and not circular like its other one, an old injury perhaps or was it born like that?
There are three Herons' nests on the wooded island this year but now the spring buds are unfurling they are quite difficult to see unless you can watch the birds flying in to them.
Birds came and went and we saw Woodpigeons display flighting, Collared Doves passing by, Feral Pigeons doing circuits and a lone Stock Dove heading north - never really imagined seeing one of those at this sight, weird or what, it certainly wasn't on the Bird Bingo tick-off sheets!
Woodpigeon
One of the Woodpigeons alighted on the fence to our left so we crept closer for a better look
As we were edging closer a Common Sandpiper (154, YLPC #123) flew past us
And landed on the edge of the viewing area just behind the fence almost right beneath the Woodpigeon.
It was quite wary and flew round several times looking for the best feeding opportunities around the lake which has no muddy margins, eventually after waiting most of the morning it came reasonably close.
Where there's water and bread there's inevitably Coots, this one had a nest under construction close by but wasn't going to pass up a free lunch
And if there's Coots there's inevitably Moorhens
A young father and his very young son had tipped out what looked like some porridge oats, neither the Coot nor the Moorhen could pick up the small pieces left after the Mallards had had their fill of the choices and largest flakes in the conventional downward pecking manner we're used to seeing birds do but resorted to this unusual sideways forceps pincer peck to glean the pickings from the hard concrete.
Ever cautious at any hint of danger or anything untoward even if totally not dangerous the Moorhen would scurry to the water's edge where it waited a while before taking the plunge if necessary, which it rarely was.
From the scrub we heard Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcaps and watched House Sparrows collecting feathers for their nest in the houses across the road.
Wandering around the lakeside path we came across our first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year and then spotted this collection of still sleepy Garden Snails.
Back at the viewing area chat had got round to news of a strange video of a deer sleeping on a dumped sofa - how comfy but how odd. Well knock us down wiff a feaver not twenty yards further on was a dumped sofa but this one had a one eyed cat sleeping on it. You couldn't rite it - well errr - we just did!
After giving us the evils for disturbing it it went back into comfy cat mode
Good to see someone has provided a ramp so it doesn't have to leap so high to get on the arm rest - fly tipping at its most considerate?
Further on out of the woods and back in the sunshine a big queen Red Tailed Bumble Bee was giving the pathside Dandelions a good going over.
Dandelions get such bad press so much so that they are the 'weed of choice' for the garden herbicide advertisers and yet they do so much good for the early pollinators enabling them to build up their populations - we should be celebrating them rather than demonising and obliterating them. Us humans really can't stand anything that thrives amongst us we didn't put there can we. Just think of all those expansive and expensive swathes of yellow Daffodils along the roadsides, we could have Dandelions, Lesser Celandine, Cowslips and Primroses for free - but no we'd probably mow and spray them off as soon as they appeared in the name of 'tidiness' -  what a ridiculous species we are.
Rounding the corner our group stopped to let this female Blackbird finish her ablutions.
Back at the viewing area the Common Sandpiper was still flying round and eventually settled on the remains of an old Willow bush. Not where you'd expect to see one but apparently they have been know to sing from the branches of riverside trees on their territories up on the hillside streams and smaller rivers.
A morning's birding in the sun wouldn't be complete without a raptor or two and we had three...a big female Sparrowhawk soared overhead before disappearing only to be found by the local Magpies in the wooded area when we walked through that way. A Buzzard gave a good display of 'skydancing' as it mooched sort or northeast wards and then this came over. At first when we first picked it up coming towards us being mobbed by a throng of gulls we hoped it might be an early Honey Buzzard, but the jizz wasn't right, then as it drew nearer it looked Osprey-ish for a moment but then was obviously far too long tailed. We tried to get some pics but it was quite high and the camera refused to pick it up against the sky until it was annoyingly well past us. we only got this one poor usable shot and now we're pretty sure it's a immature male Marsh Harrier - answers on the usual post card please.
Right at the death a family did turn up but only to feed the ducks...and the Heron!
Isn't urban wildlife great!
Yesterday we had a mooch round Marton Mere with CR calling in at the Woodland Gardens first to see if we could find the male Pied Flycatcher LR had told us he'd found there a couple of hours earlier. Needless to say it had moved on and with not a lot else on show in there we did too.
Our mission was to get some pics of the summer warblers for our challenge but they weren't playing ball, singing yes but showing no. Grasshoppper Warbler, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler all noisy but invisible. The first bird to hit the SD card was a Linnet swaying away in the cold brisk wind on a thin stem poking out above the Bramble thicket.
At the Bird Club hide interest was provided by the first family of Coots we've come across this spring. Our first Swift (155) of the year dropped in with a few Swallows too.
The embankment was cold in the wind and again the Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers were all keeping out of sight, fortunately a Reed Bunting bucked the trend and sang from an exposed perch.
The scrub taunted us with mostly invisible Blackcaps and Whitethroats. C managed a couple of snaps of a Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler deep in cover but try as we might we couldn't get the camera on to anything at all.
That said when all seems lost nature pulls a blinder for you. After seeing not a lot from the viewing platform we turned to leave and C spotted some bee activity around a patch of Nettles catching the sun. Patient watching revealed them as a species of Nomad Bee, we don't think we've ever seen any species of these here before. wit hour birding 600mm lenses getting pics was tricky to say the least. But we both were able to get a few and they look like Nomada flava (based on this one being a male [pale yellow eyes] having all dark antennae) but we could be wrong, they're not an easy group to ID
If the are N. flava they've not been recorded locally before according to the NBN map, Preston 15 miles away being the closest dot. Happy days!

Where to next? Family day on the Southside tomorrow but we might see something if we get a chance

In the meantime let us know who's buzzing around for the first time in your outback



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Hope that wasn’t summer

The Safari had a couple of early morning wanders around Marton Mere last weekend, arriving at just before 07.00 hours. It was lively both mornings but better on Saturday. Grasshopper Warblers (147) reeled, Cetti's Warblers exploded, Blackcaps warbled, Lesser Whitethroats rattled and fresh in that day Whitethroats (148) scratched. The place was alive with bird song in the almost warm sunshine.
Willow Warbler (PYLC #117)
We took the outside path and sauntered slowly down to The Nook returning via Mere View where we found three Tree Sparrows (PYLC #121) mostly secreted in the dense Blackthorn thicket. We didn't get a pic but went back the following morning to get this one.
It was a bit harrowing (pun intended!) to see the farmer rolling the pasture, OK they'll say they have to do it to get better grass growth but if there were any Lapwing nests on there, and there have been a couple of pairs displaying, they won't have any eggs now. Lets hope they were late or can re-lay, incubate and get agile youngsters off before the next 'essential' agricultural operation.
Down along the embankment we found a Wheatear and another bird on the same fence further along which could have been a Whinchat but was just out of range for our bins. By the time we'd walked down to the bridge to get a closer look they'd both gone so perhaps the mystery bird was 'only' a well coloured Wheatear. We lurked furtively at the new pond dipping platform for ages but neither bird reappeared.
We retraced our steps along the embankment listening to several Reed Warblers, a few Cetti's Warblers and a Sedge Warbler (149). Round the corner we waited for a loud and obviously close Cetti's Warbler to show itself and managed a couple of Blue Tit pics while we waited.
Patience paid off and the Cetti's Warbler (PYLC #118) did eventually show itself and much better than expected, took us aback a little so our camera settings weren't quite right - more feeble excuses for a poor pic!
There wasn't much visible in the scrubby areas but song from Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats were order of the day along with Song Thrushes and Wrens. We weren't going to go to the Feeding Station as feeding has now stopped for the summer but something made us change our mind. On the way something dark brown caught our eye in the other section of the reserve, taking a pic to enlarge it it was a row of pot plants, and then we saw other stuff - several cheeky blighters have extended their gardens into the nature reserve with an array of pot plants, compost bins and heaps and even a trampoline!
We've reported the incursion so hopefully they'll be thrown back over the garden fences where they belong. Slightly miffed we continued the few yards to the Feeding Station and saw a small bird flycatching from the side of the nearest Apple tree, at first we hoped it would be one of the flycatchers most likely Pied Flycatcher but realised it was probably 'only' a Blackcap but when we got the bins on it it was a cracking male Redstart! Get in! (150, MMLNR #73). unfortunately we weren't able to get a pic as it shot through the scrub to the sunny side almost as soon as we'd spotted it.
happy we hit the track back to the car passing a lovely male Blackbird on the way. It might be a simple colour scheme but it's still stunning.
Even better was the Grasshopper Warbler reeling away very close to the path and then we caught a glimpse and were able to creep in to a position in advance of it as it made its way through the tangle of last year's stems.
Very chuffed to get a half decent shot (PYLC #119) - why do they never perch out in the open for us like the seem to do on countless occasions for all those folk on Twitter and Facebook? And then it did us the honour of singing right at us!
One of the objectives of the day was to get a pic of a singing Blackcap but they were all ever so elusive being almost invariably heard  and not seen apart from the odd little flit deep in cover. Almost back at the car we did spot one out in the open and was able to snatch a couple of iffy shots of it (PYLC #120). Woulda been a better pic had we let go of Monty's lead!
A dog walk with Wifey up to Rossall gave us a couple of Common Terns (151) sitting on a floating pallet just offshore and very little else. Then after a family visit we had half an hour late lunch break at Marshside RSPB reserve wher we found a cracking 2CY Mediterranean Gull lurking in among the throng of Black Headed Gulls and Avocets. Also there were a couple of Spoonbills (152), great to see  if a little distant and they they did a close formation fly-past rifght in fron of the hide and we didn't have a camera with us...Oh no man!!! 
Yesterday we had a mooch down the North Blackpool Pond Trail seeing our first House Martins (153) of the year  skimming low over the footy fields in the dull cold and windy conditions. Close by a Whitethroat sang but wasn't for showing itself.
On the return leg we had a look at the Black Pond and found a Heron up to its knees in the awfully invasive Crassula, New Zealand Pygmy Weed. Wherever that Heron goes next it's going to give it a dose of the nasty stuff.
A hundred yards further on and we found a few Swallows and House Martins skimming over a wet patch in one of the horse paddocks. 100 pics later and we got just one that's almost passable for the challenge.
House Martins (PYLC #122)
No we didn't manage to get any pics of the more numerous Swallows - they were just far too quick for us!
A quick scoot between the dog walkers on the top wildflower area had us find just one Bee Orchid rosette, there's probably more but it needs to be quieter to have a proper look.
This morning we planned to go back to Marton Mere but the threatened rain started as soon as we got Monty in the car so we had a change of plan and headed for the cliffs. At first it seemed like nothing much was happening. We noted the clumps of Great Burnet beginning to sprout so added them to iRecord.
and then not too many yards along the path spotted something that's obviously been there a long time but we've never noticed before, a small stunted Apple tree and you'll never guess what there was a similarly scratty bonsai-d Willow not ten paces away. The more you look the more you see, the more you see the more you learn. We looked and looked for anything else we might have missed over the years but those were enough for one day.
The Apple 'tree'
The Willow bush
 There were no birds to be seen on the way north but coming back we saw three Shelducks going south well out to sea. Shortly after a light shower a female Wheatear was seen working its way  along the bottom of the cliffs. Three, two and a single Swallows tazzed up and down along the cliff face gleaning whatever insects were in the air after the rain, the first we've seen here this year. Never mind first of the year a first EVER was about to pop up in front of us in the form of two Woodpigeons walking along the path not far in front of us. Fortunately Monty was well behaved and didn't flush them. We were able to get a bit of phone pic - no camera again!
Wasn't expecting them! Isn't Nature is ace - it always has the knack of throwing you a curve ball

Where to next? It's Bird Bingo with the kids on the Pond Trail tomorrow, what will we find?

In the meantime let us know who you weren't expecting in your outback





Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Spring springs on at last

The Safari had a day out in north Lancashire with CR last week. We started out at Sizergh Castle where we (as is becoming the norm) dipped the Hawfinches. It didn't help that the place was busy and a couple of gimmers parked next to where C'd dropped the seed bait and faffed around getting their kit out of the back of the car for at least 20 minutes. Very dull cloudy conditions leading to rain didn't help the photography either. A Nuthatch flew in grabbed a sunny seed and bombed straight back in to cover.
But a Chaffinch hung around not flitting far when the faffers were moving around.
Look at its legs and feet, the poor little b*gger has Papilloma virus.
The rain sent us to Leighton Moss where there is shelter from the rain. However the rain had eased a bit and that gave us the opportunity to have a look at the Black Headed Wagtail (144, PYLC #112) that turned up a couple of days earlier.
Just a little too distant given the conditions but a bright little stonker whatever the weather. We've seen them before in Greece but it's a British Isles subspecies lifer for us.
Nothing speaks of spring like the cacophony of a Black Headed Gull colony.
There's always something going on in the melee - plenty of displaying and posturing going on
Followed up by the whole raison d'etre for the whole colony

But look closely and you'll find some odd ones out, interlopers, in the colony.
Avocets are pretty aggressive to other species around their nest sites but they're also quite happy to take advantage of the 'cover' provided by the vigilant Black Headed Gulls for extra protection against marauding larger gulls, crows etc.
One of them did us the honour of coming nice and close.
A flock of Black Tailed Godwits was on the pool too, coming in to their stunning summer plumage too.
Pintail are subtle stunners too.
Back on the reserve proper the Marsh Harriers gave us a great performance including collecting nesting material from a pile of cut reed on the opposite side of the pool. Shame the light was so iffy in the rain  so the pics are a bit fuzzy and grainy.
Like the Pintails, Teal are proper little stunners too.
On the trails we came across a Marsh Tit
And a Chiffchaff or two.
At the main hide we fluked a drake Garganey (145, PYLC #113) right close to the hide window which unfortunately we later discovered it had already been seen about ten minutes before we 'found' it.
If front of the Garganey there was a Little Egret that C thought looked a bit poorly.
It did seem to perk up a bit after a few minutes
We also fluked our best pic of Snipe (PYLC #114) of the year - yes this dross is our best attempt at this fairly common species in the last 3 1/2 months, don't know how we've managed that!
Wandering down to the Causeway hide we completely emptied it by mentioning the Garganey, never has so much birding kit been packed up so quickly! Out of the window there was a good variety of waterbirds present many getting well in to their breeding cycle.
Not quite so far along the line was a flock of Pochards, sadly a rare site these days. mostly randy bachelors chasing after the few females present. 
Close up, yet another stunner.
Not a bad day out on safari considering the weather and we did actually remain mostly dry by cleverly dodging the showers and darting between the hides.
Next up was an afternoon up the top of Rossall Tower with the Wildlife Trust's Living Seas team watching for whatever wildlife showed up. A Wheatear decided to fly out across the bay but didn't go far before turning back. Where Wheatears feared to tread a few individual Swallows went willingly as did a small number of Sandwich Terns. Behind us from the golf course we were serenaded continuously by a particularly persistent Skylark. Eventually we found a distant Grey Seal out by the new island which today held only one male Eider with the usual gulls. Towards the close of play we found a second Grey Seal then found what was probably Harbour Porpoise but it never resurfaced to confirm or otherwise.
The following day we had a short jaunt Over Wyre with GB. We were on the hunt for the Water Pipits that have been frequenting a flooded field. Trouble was we'd had a couple of 20C+ days and the flood was shrinking rapidly. The field had lots of Skylarks and some Lapwings, the sound of both our youths. We could only find a single Meadow Pipit on the flood along with a few Shelducks. A Buzzard and a Raven flew over and flushed a load of Black Tailed Godwits of the marsh and a good load of Whimbrel (146, PYLC #115) too.
The warm weather brought out a good number of butterflies too, they were all Small Tortoiseshells though.

Where to next? We've been out to Marton Mere a couple of times and seen some good stuff to tell you about.

In the meantime let us know who's dropping unannounced in in your outback.



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Scales and fluffy stuff

The Safari took advantage of some early morning sun in the weather forecast and planned a trip down the coast to the local lizard hotspot. CR drove the few miles south and pulled up in what he thought was a rather unusual spot, it was the right place and it is possible with a bit of luck to spot our quarry from the driving seat of your motor.
It wasn't to be today as we had to walk up and down the bank a few times, taking care not to let our shadows fall on the vegetation. It took a while but eventually persistence paid off. Hiding under an extensive amount of overhanging Marram Grass was the first Common Lizard of the morning. Cautiously we approached as close as we dared to get a good luck at the little beauty.
They like bare patches of sand that are lightly covered by vegetation. For some reason they don't seem to like to bask out in the open as they do on boardwalks, or rocks, at other places. Maybe next time we should take a rake to pull away some of the excess dead grass to make spotting them a tad easier.
We walked up and don a few more times, the sun was warm but the wind was still chilly. As the sun gained a bit more strength we found a second, smaller individual right down at the far end of the bank but up high at eye-level. Again it was well concealed and we were lucky to spot it.
At first glance we thought it had lost the tip of its tail but when checking this pic we found it does indeed have a full tail.
We were able to get CR on to it before we made the fatal error of moving a little too quickly too close and it darted back down its almost invisible burrow in the sand.
With that one gone we had a check on the first one before we had to leave and it was still there warming up.
Can you see him? Would you have spotted him?
As CR drove away we took the liberty of having a look and yes we were able to see it from the passenger seat of the car as we passed.
The weather deteriorated as we approached base camp and then got worse throughout the rest of the day so we were rather fortunate to have had such good views. 
The following day we got news of a family of Tawny Owls in a local woodland. We saw one there many years ago while leading a moth and bat night and heard one calling when we helped out with moths and bats on a nearby Bioblitz about three years ago. We arrived at the site to see a pair of Stock Doves at the nest box, never seen one at that site before, but way above them in the topmost branches of the tree we found two fledgling Tawny Owls (YLPC #111). They weren't easy to get a pic of, trying to hold a heavy lens still while pointing it almost vertically isn't easy and we fired the ISO up to the giddy heights of 10,000 to get anything a shutter speed to knock out our wobbling.
There was no sign of the adults, with the Stock Doves going in the nest box they probably weren't in there! Maybe they were hiding in one of the Ivy covered large trees scattered about. Fortunately one our chums, PL, got a pic of an adult later in week.
Behind us is a pool where a Little Egret was fishing.
Successfully as it happens.
Still find it a bit weird that we can see these less than a mile from Base Camp.
With time to spare we wandered up through the woods and beyond with Monty coming across our first singing Blackcap (140) of the year, Chiffchaffs and eventually a singing Willow Warbler (141) but we couldn't get the camera on to any of them.
In the afternoon we met up with GR and had a mooch along Fleetwood Prom spotting not a lot apart from a couple of very brief views of what was probably a Harbour Porpoise out beyond the distant light surf.
A couple of scans of the golf course didn't give us any Wheatears but we did eventually find one on the beach. The local flock of Linnets gave us the run around, mostly as they kept being flushed by dog walkers. But with a little luck and patience we managed a couple of pics of a singing male.
Today we met up with CR again and went for another look at the Tawny Owls but they were nowhere to be seen this morning. There were plenty of other birds calling and singing in the woods, Nuthatches, cheeky Blue and Great Tits, Robins, noisy Wrens and singing Blackcaps. But again none of them were for posing for the camera so we drove round to Marton Mere in the hope of some summer migrants perhaps a more unusual one or two.
It didn't take long to hear a Blackcap and a Song Thrush hopped around in front of us until a camera was pointed at it and it went shy a flew in to cover. Cetti's Warblers sang all around us but remained invisible. By Heron Hide two Cetti's Warblers one either side of us tormented us by singing loudly at each other but refusing to show although we did see a presumed pair of Lesser Whitethroats (142) there to add to the one we'd seen earlier, a possible fourth was nearby too but could have been the first one that had moved across the path while we were looking for the Cetti's Warblers. Also from there we heard our first Reed Warblers (143) of the year.
The embankment, south east corner and Bird Club hide were quiet but coming out of the hide C noticed a couple of small bees resting on a fence post. They looked like a species of mining bee but neither of us were sure which one.
A minute or so later we found a female, that had us guessing a bit in the field but once the pics were downloaded and examined it was obviously a Tawny Ming Bee, as were the males seen earlier with their prominent white beard.
We looked for more as we passed the profusion of flowers on the Blackthorn bushes but none were seen. 
At the damp meadow there were a few patches of Cowslips in flower and far fewer than in previous years patches of Snakeshead Fritillaries. Where have they gone? Surely the bulbs haven't drowned over the winter months???
Above the Fritillaries the gulls were going bonkers and eventually C found the culprit, a very high soaring Buzzard which did drop lower and drift off to the south. 
The feeding station was disappointingly devoid of life so we didn't stay long.
The walk back to the car gave us a lone Swallow (MMLNR #66) hawking insects in the lee of the line of fruit trees alongside the track.
So a grand morning out despite the disappointment of not seeing the Tawny Owls and the frustration of not being able to get the camera on the warblers but as ever with wildlife there's always a surprise and always something new to see even if you don't see what you set out to see.

Where to next? A safari up the motorway beckons...

In the meantime let us know who's tipping the scales in your outback.





Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Spring is hardly springing along

The Safari had a very pleasant surprise on Sunday. After a wet and miserable Saturday when we planned to go to have a look at a new car but decided not too because of the weather we had a browse on-line and found a similar one much closer to Base Camp, the original one wasn't viewable on Sunday so we nipped out for a look at the nearer one in dry bight warm and sunny conditions - a proper spring day. Long gone are our days of the fuel thirsty but fun and capable Land Rovers now we're looking at hybrid hatchbacks, they're not the same but needs must!!!
Anyway the salesman was showing us what was on offer on his forecourt when we heard a commotion of gulls above our heads - we had to ask him to hold his patter for a few minutes while we picked out a passing Osprey (138) the gulls had alerted us too. It was low overhead as it circled slowly northeastwards trying to avoid the attention of the mobbing gulls. Yer man was impressed with our find! We weren't able to have a test drive as Monty was in our motor and was a getting on for a bit too warm for leaving dogs in cars so we had to break away from the sales pitch and hit the beach.
The beach was busy and Monty had great fun trying to steal other dogs' balls - he's a nightmare every other dog's ball is better than his own - he has a classic case of the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence! 
With so many people and their mutts about wildlife was non-existent until we spotted a Swallow (139) jinking towards us at about double head-height, judging by the extreme length of his tail streamers we'd hazard a guess that he was a male.
Monday was another proper spring day - tee-shirt sleeves even! We took Monty fro a morning wander round Patch 1 for the first time in ages. As we approached we could see the rough field through the still leafless hedge and it was a sodden quagmire - we daren't let him anywhere near that, we'd have to keep him in the park proper and hope he didn't do a U-ey and make bee-line for the mud.
The first thing to catch our eye in the scrubby wild area was the enormous patch of Cow Parsley growing under the trees - great to see and it be full of interesting invertebrates to get to grips with when it starts to flower.
The second thing we noticed was the grass in the 'butterfly area' has been hammered down by the weather over the winter, much more than in previous winters so that might help the wildflowers put on a better show this season which should help the butterflies and other insects. The only downer was that someone has been camping or sleeping rough and left a very bare muddy patch which could 'weed' up and there's lots of litter around, need to take a carrier bag next time we're out that way. 
The main part of the park was saddening, lots of mature trees and not so mature trees have been felled and a large portion of the previously dense shrubbery has been reduced to a few sticks poking out of a sea of woodchippings. It was noticeable that there was no bird song or calls from the likes of undergrowth-lovers like Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks. The only birds we saw were Blackbirds, Woodpigeons, Blue and Great Tits. Despite the warm and still conditions we saw no bees or butterflies at all. The Moorhens that nested in previous years have gone, the low cover around the top pond they preferred having been removed.
Fortunately no Elms seem to have been felled so the White Letter Hairstreaks should be safe...for now. 
There are a number of newish looking bird boxes up although some are very close together. We watched a Blue Tit investigating one and took up position behind a nearby tree and aimed the camera. Unfortunately it didn't come back to this box but went to another in the cluster a little further away.
Don't these  things normally have a hole?
Nope, not on this side
OK - found it now
While it was investigating the interior we took the opportunity to sneak a few trees closer for a better view.
Not bad, quite cosy
But we'll go and have a look at another one - just in case...
Another lap of the park had us looking up when we heard the usual gull commotion, not the hoped for Osprey or Red Kite but a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying way, way up in the ether this time.
On the little field on the way back to Base camp we stopped to get a pic (wrong lens really) of the Meadow Foxtail grass we'd seen on Monty's early morning walk. No sign of any Sweet Vernal Grass coming in to flower yet, which is the next one in the succession but there were a few Daisies and Dandelions out in flower - no doubt the mowing men will appear imminently to do these in, can't allow pollinator attracting wildflowers ruining our sterile green desert can we!!!
Back at Base camp we did a day of household chores and a bit of gardening while keeping an ear out for the gulls. They did go potty a  couple of times and on only one of those did we find the culprit or culprits as it was - a pair of circling Buzzards heading towards CR's airspace.
Today we're sat here tip-tapping away at the keyboard while outside the rain batters down - back to a typical 2018 spring day then, cold wet n windy!

Where to next? Family business on the Southside tomorrow but there may be the opportunity to have a quick look at some wildlife somewhere and we have a little plan...if we have time.  

In the meantime let us know who's peering through the holes in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

The simplest things give the most pleasure

The Safari was walking Monty along the top of Chat Alley the other morning expecting to see a  Wheatear or Meadow Pipit or two and secretly hoping for something a little more exotic like a Stonechat or a, heaven forbid, Black Redstart or even a grounded Ring Ouzel. No such luck with the exotica but we did hear a couple of Meadow Pipits overhead. It was a no bins no camera dog walk and as can only happen when you're optic-less up pops a stonking male Wheatear on to the fence only a few yards in front of us...absolutely awesome; it stayed put giving ever closer views as we carefully inched forward towards it. The sort of sighting permanent memories are made of, but sadly not digital images - if we'd have had the big lens we'd have had to wind the zoom right in and still step back a few yards to get it all in the frame we were that close! Once we got as close as we dared without disturbing it we watched it testing the breeze before hopping off the fence and floating down the cliff in that most Wheateary way that they do with legs half dangling and that was the last we saw of it...well chuffed - it made our day and it wasn't even 9.30 yet! Saw our first butterfly of the year too, a Small Tortoiseshell, although we missed one at the Ring Ouzel in the park the other day.
Later in the morning we met up with GB and had a slow mooch along Fleetwood prom. The tide was out and with the weather being better than expected there were locals and Easter holidaymakers all over the place so there was virtually no wildlife on the beach at all save for a few gulls scattered here and there along some of the bigger channels.
We sat for a while on the sea wall at the Observation Tower from where we got two brief and inconclusive views of what was probably a Harbour Porpoise away to our left, a small flock of Eiders was well offshore in that direction too. As the tide rose more birds appeared, mostly small flocks of Oystercatchers heading for the 'new' shingle island and then a Ringed Plover came past close by and landed on the beach to our right. Our best sighting was a flock of a couple of hundred Knot that came from the left and landed on the advancing tide line joining a small group of Oystercatchers.
What we didn't do and perhaps should have done was take a look across the golf course behind us. From where we were sat we could hear Skylarks singing from there but learned later that there were perhaps as many as double figures of Wheatears scattered around the fairways. Still Monty was having a good run and plenty of fun and GB as out n about away from his 'puter for a good hour or so so it was mission accomplished even if we had lugged the camera all the way there and all the way back without pointing it at anything.
Yesterday we'd been invited by EP of the North West Living Seas team from the Wildlife Trust to join her as 'resident expert' on their family rockpooling event. not sure about the 'expert' bit - more knowledgeable than many on all things marine along our coast but we think we need a lot more practice before we get anything like worthy of the accolade of 'expert'.
There was a great turn out with several families coming along on a cool and blustery day. They were soon finding all manner of shells and dipping in the rockpools for creepy crawly things which were sadly lacking, the recent prolonged cold weather might have something to do with the dearth of crabs, shrimps and prawns. We only managed to spot one small Blenny darting for cover too, normally there's lots of them.
But as ever the more you look the more you see and it was evident that there were far more Beadlet Anemones than we normally see, some of them still covered by the water had their tentacles out. We gently prised one from the rock and let it grip to our hand with its millions of stinging cells. We'll post the pic at a later date when it's been downloaded from AN Other's camera. No it doesn't hurt, the stings are too small to penetrate any more than the top most layers of cells of our skin and their toxin is more for subduing microscopic plankton than 85kg mammals. Looks impressive though and is testament to how strong lots and lots and lots of tiny things can be.
While showing one group of children the difference between a Prickly Cockle and an Edible Cockle something on the wall of the adjacent rockpool caught our eye. Only a flippin Limpet! Not a massive one but not a particularly small one either - but you're thinking it's only a Limpet, rockpools all over the shop are full of them what's the big deal? Well in all the years we've been taking groups out rockpooling on this stretch of coast we've only ever seen one Limpet and we believe that was destroyed along with its habitat when the old storm water pipe was replaced with a new one a couple of years ago. This 'new' one was quite away from where the original one lived and was a totally different size anyway. Result - get in!!! That's the joy of wildlife - you really don't know what you're going to see from one day to the next, there's always a surprise waiting for you when you least expect it.
And there was another surprise to come, another family found another Limpet doubling the town's population! Another smallish one and a little nearer to where the original one lived but still definitely a different one.
Something made us wander to the pools on the south side of the slipway, maybe it was took look to see if there were any Green Shore Crabs there as there weren't any anywhere else but then as we approached the end of the pools and where the sea wall had been altered fro the new storm water pipe a little white dot caught our eye, could it be???????
Yes it was!!!!!




Tripled the Blackpool population of Limpets in the space of half an hour - well done guys! But how many more are there if there's three we've found?????
Now this one isn't far from from where we last saw the original one - sort of directly below the chap in the pic above. But is it the same one or is it a new one? Questions questions - we'd like to think that somehow it survived the habitat annihilation caused by the rebuilding of the wall. It's certainly big enough and has that white cast we remember when we last saw it a little over three years ago. Here's some pics from 2013 - what do think, same or different?
One thing that has changed and very probably due to the old storm pipe being removed is the flora and fauna on the rockpools. The old pipe was above beach level whereas the new one is buried and that seems to have had an effect on what grows where and how much. There is certainly much less Honeycomb worm in the rockpools now as well as very little Spiral Wrack seaweed, perhaps losing the breakwater effect of the raised old pipe is causing more sand scour so some species can't get or maintain a grip on the concrete walls. A species that is doing well is the Edible Mussel. Look at the two pics above there is a sharp dividing line between the white of the Barnacles and the black of teeming millions of tiny Edible Mussels, we've never seen that here before it's a brand new phenomenon! Another surprising surprise thrown up by our wonderful nature and just begging more questions to be asked and more observations to be made. Is it just in this locality, does it occur 'round the corner' where we very rarely look, does it occur further north towards the pier again we rarely look that far. A couple of years ago there was a Shore Search survey done by students from the local marine biology course, it would be very interesting to have it done again.
Eventually the tide came in and we all had to leave the beach - happy

Where to next? A wet weekend beckons but no doubt there'll be something to see

In the meantime let us know who's providing the surprises in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Dip tick undip

The Safari has failed to see many fresh-in migrants so far this week. We've been looking at our toes when an Osprey flew unnoticed over our heads and not connected with any of the several others that have passed through close by so far, we've not heard any Chiffchaffs singing from the 'Golden Triangle' of scrub on Monty's early morning walk and there haven't been many Wheatears along Chat Alley.
Then the other morning we did have a couple of Wheatears grounded well out on the beach with a Meadow Pipit with them and almost another two dozen overhead.
Yesterday we were able to get out a little further and decided to have a look for the two Cattle Egrets about 10 miles down the road. We stopped at the place shown on the maps provided by the bird club and even saw some some cows but couldn't find the egrets, we now think we were looking in the wrong direction! There were a few Shelducks in the fields and displaying Lapwings along with a Curlew or two. We drove away with a big dip under our belt. 
We hadn't gone far when the phone rang, it was LR telling us that he'd just been told of Ring Ouzel back in town at Stanley Park. Only one thing to do - point the car that way! A minor traffic jam slowed us down but as we drove into the park it was obvious it was busy with families enjoying the Easter break and we fretted there would be nowhere to park. As we drove up the main drag we saw a bunch of familiar faces staring into the trees on the right hand side of the road. Luckily we found a parking spot and two minutes later were being shown where the Ring Ouzel had been spending most of its time when not hiding up in the top of the trees as it was now.
Within a few minutes the call went up that it had dropped out of the tree but had landed in a dip where we couldn't see it. Not to worry it soon hopped in to view. Great binocular views but a little distant and against the light for the camera so this was the only half decent pic we got. OK for our Challenge (125, PYLC #109). Not seen one in the Fylde for a few years and the only one we saw last year was very very distant even in the scope so it was good to have quality views at a local site.
We stayed a  while but was regularly seen back up in to the trees by the local Blackbirds and stayed there for extended periods.




A Nuthatch poking round the base of some of trees kept us entertained and a flock of Woodpigeons held a Stock Dove, another species we've never seen in the park before. It was a shame we weren't able to get a pic of the Ring Ouzel and Stock Dove together or at least in the same frame, would have been a unique Stanley Park combo pic. During one of its sojourns up high we took the opportunity to walk round to the other side of the copse to get better light for pics. We waited and waited until finally it dropped from its perch but was almost immediately seen on its way by one of the Blackbirds. A dark bird was seen to fly high to the north well beyond the nearest trees - was that it had we just seen the last of it?
A Blue Tit kept an eye on us to make sure we didn't stray from the straight and narrow.
After another half an hour and no further sighting of the Ring Ouzel we called it a day and were convinced we'd seen it leave, but fortunately for late comers we heard later that it was seen again in the evening.
First thing this morning there were three Wheatears on the cliffs at Chat Alley but very few Meadow Pipits going over.
After breakfast it was back to the park to see if the Ring Ouzel had stayed overnight. As soon as we got out of the car and began to wander over that way another birder just leaving told us there's been no sign since very early morning so there must have been a gap in the rain during the night and it's taken advantage of that to continue on its way. 
While chatting to another birder we watched a pair of Mistle Thrushes bringing great cobs of moss to line their nest in the fork of a Sycamore tree.
Back and forth they came at fairly regular intervals but at one point a Blue Tit dropped in up to no good by the shifty look of it, checking this way and that to make sure the residents weren't on their way back.
It skiddaldled moments before one of the Mistle Thrushes returned. we thought it might have been trying to burgle some free moss but it left with an empty beak.
Then our friend pointed out a Nuthatch on a nearby tree and looking closer we saw that there were two working their way round the trunk, always seemingly equidistant from each other.
He then spotted a Treecreeper a little further back, good to see these still hanging on in the park after so many large trees have been removed, including a couple that they have previously nested in.
By now it was lunch time so we had to leave.
After lunch with the weather improved we decided to have another try for the Cattle Egrets but as we were on route the heavens opened and ominous dark clouds drew ever closer. Fortunately the heavy shower had passed by the time we arrived and looking at the sky there was a few minutes gap before the next downpour arrived. This time we looked harder and wider and soon found the Cattle Egrets walking along an embankment miles across across the fields. Just about close enough for the lousiest of record shots (126, PYLC #110).
It was good to add a couple of 'bonus' species to our Challenge tally particularly after not doing so well on Anglesey last week. Hopefully we'll be able to better the Cattle Egret pic sometime later in the year - can't believe we've said that 25 years ago regular Cattle Egrets in Lancashire weren't even on the radar...nowhere near the radar even!

Where to next? We really need to come across on the many passing Ospreys! So we'' be out n about on safari looking and listening for the local gulls making  a hullaballoo to let us know there's a passing bird of prey in their airspace.

In the meantime let us know who's dropped in for a quick hello in your outback.




Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A Welsh week on Anglesey

The Safari had a busy week with family duties but did have the chance to stop off at Marshside RSPB to have a half hour look to see if there was anything about. There were plenty of Wigeon and Black Tailed Godwits but on the whole there wasn't too much about. The water levels with all the rain and melting snow were a bit on the high side. The other side of the reserve gave us a walk down to Nels Hide from where the Scaup were nowhere to be seen. Several flights Pink Footed Geese left the freshwater marsh flying low over our head over to the salt water marsh as we walked down to the hide. 
We were asked if we'd seen the Avocets, which we hadn't but as we were being told there were a few about two flew past the window (123, PYLC #101)
They joined a small group of others doing their best to shelter from the ferociously cold wind behind a low island. There's precious little shelter when conditions are bad here.
The left hand bird is Yellow flagged but we couldn't read the code
With nothing else on show, the Scaup were reported from a different area of the reserve we didn't have had time to visit, we had to call it a day.
The following day we took the big camera on Monty's early morning walk along the cliffs and had the success we hoped for with just one Wheatear (PYLC #102) briefly on the lower rocks.
Then we hit the road down to the lovely and sunny island of Anglesey off the north coast of Wales.
As we always do on a road trip we tallied up Buzzards versus Kestrels along the way with the result in favour of Buzzards yet again 5:1 but second dead Kestrel on the side of the road too. Other roadkill wildlife included a single Badger and what looked seriously like a Polecat.
Once we'd unpacked at our temporary Base Camp we hit the beach where we soon found a Grey Seal bottling on the flat sea. Also out there was  a nice variety of birds, several Shags (124) fished offshore while on the beach there were a few Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin or two scattered among them. Out to sea we found five Great Crested Grebes and watched what turned out to be the first, of only two, Sandwich Tern (125) of the week fly past. A pair of Red Breasted Mergansers split up, the male flying inland and landing on a small creek behind the beach. Several auks were too far out to be able to identify but that didn't matter too much as there would be plenty of opportunities to catch up with them at close quarters later in the week.
Saturday morning out with Monty brought us overflying Ravens, distant drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Sparrowhawk that looked like it was on a migratory mission. A trip up to the gorgeous little inlet of Porth Eilian later in the morning had us watching more Shags and a Black Guillemot (126) while Monty had a swim but they were both always a little too distant for decent pics.
On the drive out just up the hill in the village a Red Squirrel scampered along the roadside towards gardens bedecked with feeders. Great to see one, Anglesey is a superb conservation success story for this enigmatic species and we didn't see any at all when we were here four years ago. The drive back to Base Camp also gave us our first dead Hedgehog on the road of the year, that one hadn't survived long after coming out of hibernation.
After tea a final sprint round the beach with Monty brought a bit of a surprise in the form of a flock of Pale Bellied Brent Geese (127, PYLC #103) we hadn't brought the camera so only had our phone to get some pics with and were doing quite well sneaking up on them slowly but surely inching closer until the Monster came charging up behind us and flushed them, they seemed far more wary of dogs than people.
A duff pic but never mind we'd get them with the big lens in the morning.
On Saturday evening we were joined by LCV and his family so on Sunday we planned a big family excursion to the RSPB South Stack reserve and Lighthouse. Reports earlier had shown thousands of guillemots etc back on the nesting cliffs and even more exciting a Snowy Owl had been on the mountain behind the cliffs for much of Saturday.
The morning walk before setting off had us listening to our first Chiffchaff (128) of the year in the cottage's garden and the Brent Geese were on the beach again but we didn't have the camera, two Razorbills (129) were close in too.
South Stack gave us awesome views of a flock of at least 15 Choughs with lots of calling and aerobatic display going on but not photo opportunities, they kept dipping over the edge of the cliffs or flipping up over the skyline and out of sight before we could raise the camera. A Kittiwake (130) cruised the cliff edge below us but again was out of sight before we could get a pic, astonishingly this was the only one we saw all week. The Guillemot nesting cliffs were deserted. It seems the bad weather of the Beast from the East mk2 had sent all the cliffs' residents back out to sea and from Ellin's Tower viewing point they were indeed empty apart from a few pairs of Herring Gulls and Fulmars (131, PYLC #104) - All very worrying, hopefully the huddled masses will return before too long and have a good breeding season. our look for Puffins in 'Puffin Gully' was unsuccessful too, although we learned later in the week that the first Puffin to be seen there this year wasn't until the following day. Despite hordes of birders out on the trail of the Snowy Owl there was no news of that either.
Overexposed Fulmars
While the kids had a run down the million steps to the lighthouse we stayed up top and watched a Meadow Pipit poke about the rocks by the track.
There were very few small birds about giving a hint that there had been no recent migrants on the move. A camera-shy Stonechat on the walk back to the car was best of the rest and more than likely a local bird.
A stop at Porth Eilian before going back to Base Camp gave us more Shags (PYLC #105) and a couple of duff Black Guillemot pics (PYLC #106)
At Penmon Head the next day LCV soon picked up a Harbour Porpoise fishing a few hundred yards offshore. There were plenty of birds but all distant. All the auks missing from the cliffs at South Stack seemed to be here. Lots of Guillemots (132) and Razorbills (PYLC #107)
Some Shags floated close by giving us the chance to better our earlier PYLC pic.
The flock of Eiders weren't so obliging.
LCV picked up a couple of Puffins (133) loafing, appropriately, just off Puffin Island, so far to far for a pic, then he found another half dozen or so a couple of hundred yards further back.
While having tea and a bun in the tea-rooms with the family a Sand Martin (134) flew over us and eagle-eyed LCV picked up the second Sandwich Tern of the week out in the straits. 
Playing ball with Monty a Rock Pipit flew past us and landed close by but by the time we'd gone for the camera it was long gone too.
Tuesday was a wash out with rain and we'd come down with a bug too.
Wednesday saw us feeling a bit better so we headed out across the island to see if we could find some Red Squirrels in the forest at Newborough. We'd only got as far as the first village off the main road before seeing one on the side of the road again. Which was good as the woods were very quite and notably devoid of squirrels, in fact notably devoid of almost all wildlife apart from a smattering of Great Tits and Blackbirds and a soaring Buzzard that was a bit too high for our little lens.
Back at our beach Monty had a good time as we successfully failed to get any pics of the Brent Geese again.
Our last day had us photographing a pair of Red Legged Partridges (PYLC #108) through the kitchen window which we spotted while doing the last of the washing up. We've counted it on our challenge list but as per usual we don't add these multi-millions released for shooting without so much as a by-your-leave to our regular year list.
Then we had a lovely surprise, we went to throw the last  remnants of a loaf out on the lawn for the Carrion Crows when we spotted this little chap snuffling his way through the short grass.
Once back at Base Camp we were able to have a look at the Stealth Cam's captures. After seeing a Hedgehog in the flesh we weren't surprised to see one had triggered the camera and possibly a different one as it looks a bit bigger, the daytime one appearing to be only just large enough to have survived hibernation.
Monty found a Fox turd to roll in in the garden on his way back from his walk one morning yuk, yuk and double yuk!!! So again it wasn't a surprise to see the camera had been tripped by one.
But we didn't expect to see this 'orrible and frightening beast staring at us. Could it be the fabled Welsh Yeti?
So all in all a rather mixed week but great to share the best two days of weather and health with the kids.
As a bit off an aside to the safari we were given the loan of a snazzy all-wheel drive motor for the week. A plug-in hybrid Mitsusushi Outlander - a rather comfortable car to drive with all bells and whistles - or at least all lights and things that go ping. We've never known a car to make so many noises in the cabin!
There's a bit of rigmarole to turn it on, the computer systems like all computer systems need to fire up; no turning the key rev the engine and go...no you have to wait for the 'ready' notice on the dash but it doesn't take that long, it's not going to delay your journey...
We weren't given the plug-in lead so couldn't charge it up overnight from the house electricity so had to use the engine to charge the battery. There are three modes, electric motor travel, electric motor travel while the engine charges the battery and helps if necessary and save the battery for eg fast or hilly driving where the engine does all the work, all can be switched at any time by the push of a button on the centre console.
Due to the nature of the terrain and distances we were traveling we normally used the charge the battery mode, then either using the charge or saving it dependiong on where we were and how far there was to travel. For nipping down to the beach with Monty or round to the local village shop electric mode was great. This vehicle is a 2017 model and only has about 20 miles of electric power depending on the terrain, great for a short daily commute - the owner can get to work 5 days a week without using any petrol and can charge it up at work if necessary (rarely). The current year model has been given a big mileage boost to 40 miles on a fully charged battery.
At high speed on the motorway legs totally on petrol it didn't fare very well at all only giving us about 25mpg, hardly surprising with 2.4l engine and a 2 tonne car with the aerodynamics of a brick. Adding on the time in electric mode the total mpg for the trip was bumped up to 30mpg so a reasonable saving. The electric mode came into its own in a stretch of serious motorway congestion, the half hour or more delay used no petrol at all as we inched forward, in our old Disco we'd have been watching the fuel gauge plummet and getting twitchy if it dropped below a quarter. Also very convenient in the traffic jam was the Auto-hold (foot)brake.
We didn't get the opportunity to use the Super All Wheel Control 4x4 system although did note that the manual warned you not to go off road on to mud or sand in case you got stuck (not surprising given the tread pattern on the standard tyres) and the suspension could be damaged by rough tracks - a bit different to the Land Rover manuals which show you how to get the best out of the 4x4 system on your vehicle.
The dash has more lights than the average Boeing 747 and we're certain we didn't see them all! Slightly disconcerting are the pinging and orange flashing BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE warnings when there's no obvious danger, the sensors having picked up a passing leaf or something blowing in the wind, or worse come on AFTER you've taken evasive action eg on narrow streets avoiding on-coming traffic.
To be fair though we think all this super-technology is all part of the trials in the run-up to driverless cars...and we really like the reversing camera how on earth did we ever park before??? Great for making sure you just within an inch of the double yellow lines!
Would we dash out an buy one, no. Will our next car have some of the technologies this one has - yes but it'll be much older so they'll be a lot simpler. Can we wait for driverless cars - NO - - they'll be perfect for going to the pub!

Where to next? Back to more familiar territories this week, will there be nay migrants to find - that weather is still very wintry rather than springy!

In the meantime let us know who's scampering along the roadsides in your outback