Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Non-birdy wildlife at Marton Mere followed by a good bird day there

The Safari was able to get an unexpected sneaky visit to Marton Mere yesterday morning.There were a few birds about the first notable one being a Cetti's Warbler in one of the ponds at the wetland on the way in. That was followed by a Sparrowhawk circling over the north western corner of the reserve. A few Skylarks were going over calling but unseen the continued on and off all morning, no idea how many were involved all together. 
We decided to go round anti-clockwise taking us to the Feeding Station first where it was quiet with only two Pheasants and two Chaffinches. A volunteer was mowing the path edges behind us and the noise was upsetting Monty so we high tailed it out of there, wasn't owt happening anyway. We'd just got out through the caravan site gate when four Redpolls (MMLNR #82) went over. They'd come from over the mere so hadn't been parked up in the Alders behind the Feeding Station. 
Moving further down the bank we didn't see much on interest until we came upon a smashed up mushroom.
Why do folk do that - fear of the unknown we guess going back to the 'all mushrooms are edible - some only once'. But if no-one's going to eat it why smash it up with a stick? Some folk are absolute numpties, so disassociated with wildlife and nature and sadly that's the norm now.
No more than a couple of yards away were two Shaggy Inkcaps which must have popped up after Mr/s Destruction had gone otherwise they'd no doubt be smashed up too despite being edible - and good...although we weren't going to take a bite out of these as they were very much in a dog zone!
While we were getting down n dirty with the Shaggy Inkcaps Monty's nose had taken him off to our left and he was pulling hard on his lead making us take notice of him again - good job we did he'd pulled himself within range of this Fox do-do and was just about to drop his shoulder for a good old roll in in it...Nooooooooo - only an idiot would have a dog!!! Fortunately we managed to drag him away from it before it was smeared all over his back - why do they do that - YUKKKKK
From the fence we could see there wasn't muxh by way of waterfowl or gulls in front of the Fylde Bird Club Hide so we opted to keep moving instead of going in, good move cos if we had have gone in we'd have missed the two Swallows scudding across the grassed area going westwards at a rate of knots.
With Redpolls and Swallows of interest spotted already we thought it best to call in at the visitor centre and report them officially. On the way up there we saw a cluster of Common Inkcaps - unsmashed and yet these can give you a seriously dicky tummy if eaten and you have alcohol in your system...best avoided unless your a total tee-totaller.
After a quick chat at the VC we continued our circuit. At the gate by the bridge over the outflow stream we found an interesting pellet sat on top of the rubbish bin. It's about the size of our thumbnail and almost spherical. We're not sure what it might have been produced by, Little Owl, Blackbird (bit big for one of those?) something else??? The snail is intriguing, we're no good at snail ID is it a terrestrial species or is it from the adjacent stream?
Some of the black bits look very much like beetle elytra (wing cases) which would point towards Little Owl, or maybe Kestrel perhaps - can anyone shed any further light on the ID? So far on Twitter we've had no response and on Facebook a 'Big Gun' is gunning for Little Owl. Thoughts anyone...over to you.
Our walk around most of the rest of the reserve was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of small flocks of Pink Footed Geese dropping in to the fields to the east but landing out of sight behind a rise in the ground and a handful more Cetti's Warblers scattered around the site. When we reached the path to the Viewing Platform we spied this rather impressive fungus at the side of the path, must be 18 inches end to end - a real beast! No idea what it is though.
At the Viewing Platform we hoped for a Bittern but it wasn't to be, 'just' a small flock of Long Tailed Tits working their way through the top of the recently pruned Willow tree to the left of the bench - great stuff as there is now a sweeping visita right around the northwest corner of the reedbed - just right for spotting any Bitterns popping up out of there and heading towards you.
Just as we were leaving a huge pall of thick black smoke came up from behind the barn just beyond the reserve's eastern boundary - doesn't look good but who ya gonna call? Fire brigade or the Environment Agency? Probably shoulda called the latter.
Framers eh? Sometimes we think they dshouldn't be allowed in the countryside - and we're from farming stock!
The walk back to the car gave us the same number of Goldcrests as we had all last weekend at Spurn - one, in the allotment hedge at the wetlands.

This morning dawned cold and clear, the sun hasn't risen now when we're out on Monty's early morning walk and today there was a crisp frost on the grass and car windscreens. As ever we look for the Peregrine on its usual (now unusual) perch but yet again no sign of it. But high up in the cold steel grey ether we heard another Brambling, none for 14 1/2 years then two in a couple of days! P1 #51)
Coming back on to the main road and looking down the hill we could see a huge swirl of Jackdaws, about 100 of them which we guessed must have roosted somewhere nearby.
Back at Base Camp we were pleased to find about half a dozen Blackbirds in the garden feasting on next door's Rowan berries and our Pyracantha bush.
Blackbirds we expect, maybe not as many as six but they are daily visitors but Starlings are another kettle of fish altogether, very rarely do they come in to the garden so to see three drop in begs the question are they local birds or migrants from afar that have possibly traveled on the coat tails of the Blackbirds...you decide.
Either way it was great to see them in the garden.
A flock of about 85 Jackdaws went over going south west, almost definitely not the 100 we'd seen earlier.
And with the sun shining we decided on taking Monty for another spin round Marton Mere. The walk started as yesterday with a/the Cetti's Warbler at the wetlands. We'd not gone far when we heard the unmistakable woosh woosh sound of Mute Swans' wings carving up the air. Two of them came low overhead making for Stanley Park lake.
So close we could only fit one of them in the frame.
We opted to give Monty a bit more of a run before putting him on his lead so went round the outside of the reserve along the bridlepath, here a patch of sunshine had warmed the place up enough for a Common Darter to fly past and alight on the fence to do a bit of basking and catch a few rays.
We carried on on our way and into the reserve (with Monty now on his lead) and set off along the embankment where we met TS. We'd gone that way on the off chance we might see the Bittern fly over the reedbed and/or hear the pings of a fresh-in Bearded Tit, there's been a bit of an influx along the north west coast line and our reed bed is as good as anyone elses!
While we were chatting we both saw a large black bird we both at first glance thought might be a Raven but when it banked it turned into our first Marsh Harrier here since before 2010. Unfortunately it stayed down the far end before dropping in to the reedbed somewhere near the scrape putting about 60 Teal to flight. We hoped that when it got up again it would come our way and we'd get some spectacular views of it wafting over the reedbed in front of us - no such luck it went down the far end again and then set off high to the north east and away.
We also noted a steady passage of Skylarks and a few Chaffinches from our spot on the embankment. Behind us were more Pink Footed Geese than we'd had yesterday and more still were going over further east.
TS went on his way and we stopped a few more minutes to watch a Sparrowhawk speed by and listen to Water Rails squalling and Cetti's Warblers exploding but not a peep out of any Bearded Tits that might have been but probably weren't lurking in the reeds.
We followed on in TS's footsteps passing a family who think it's acceptable to come in to a nature reserve and take away the birds and animals winter food supply - armed with a long pole to reach the Apples no-one else could reach - how many hundredweight of invaluable winter food is lost to these numpties each autumn - all for the sake of saving a few pence at the supermarket. We're only taking  two or three they told us, each with one of those large 'indestructible' carrier bags in their hands.
Tw*ts
Fortunately the morning picked up soon after that when we heard the soft 'peeuu' call of a Bullfinch and then watched a female lift out of the scrub fly a short distance and then drop back in again. That's the first sighting since early April. 
Our offer of a king sized Mars Bar for the person who gets a decent pic of one still stands, got to be better than our two paltry efforts so far to get that prize though.
Then we had 'bad news' from MMcG we'd just missed a Jay and a Bittern he told us, but we did get on to the two Whooper Swans that were cruising round the far end of the mere, our first actually on the water for several years.
We hung around chatting to the Ranger and volunteers for a while hoping the Bittern might show itself again - it didn't and they disappeared in to the reedbed to remove a substantial Willow growing on a bit of an island so went back towards the Feeding Station. We'd only gone a few steps when BOOM a flock of nine Coal Tits flew over us and went across to the trees in the caravan site - awesome as those over the other side of the pond say. No other species were in the flock and nine is at least six more than we've ever seen on site before!
Best of the rest were the shed loads of Jackdaws, must seen 1000 all morning up to now and a Great Spotted Woodpecker going east over the wetlands.

It was quieter back at Base Camp after lunch but thee were still a few Jackdaws on the move. After the school traffic had died down we took Monty out to the park, Patch 1, but without a camera - shoulda took one as as soon as we got there we spotted a Jay coming in from the east, very very seldom do we see them round here.
Sparrrowhawk and a Small White butterfly were best of the rest until we got home and had a Red Admiral perched up on one of our down pipes at Base Camp.

Where to next? An all day safari over to the Southside with CR tomorrow

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

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

The (almost) annual sojourn to Spurn

The Safari was joined by the main man LCV last week for our 'boys' long weekend to the East coast. As he was driving up to us from the Midlands we arranged to meet at the RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh reserve where local birder SD had recently come across a couple of American Wigeons and a nice selection of other waterfowl and waders including a distant Little Stint.
There weren't many Wigeon on the first pool west of the car park but scanning through them one female stood out as 'odd'.  Much paler, almost sandy, than the others around it and with no hint of red tones on its head which was rather 'salt n peppery' with that obvious dark eye smudge. It looked a good candidate for a female American Wigeon but was it? We took some pics but they weren't up to much in the dull, windy conditions and the bird quite distant.
LCV had a twitter conversation with SD and he agreed it was the bird he'd seen and thought was probably a female American Wigeon although he'd not been able to see the pure white underwings nor had any confirmation that anyone else had either. 
Suddenly a huge roar when up and a jet from the base across the river came arcing overhead.
It sent up an immense flock of ducks from further down the reserve, most of which were Wigeon. They went past us and settled down at the far west end of the reserve so off we went to try our luck at finding the drake American Wigeon.
Most of the Wigeon had gone down in the long grass and were out of sight so we had to make do with a gawp at the still fairly exotic site of Great White Egrets, of which there were three, and numerous Little Egrets which weren't counted but well over 10 were present. 
It's almost an odd day on the coastal marshes if you see a Heron before a Little Egret now. There was just one Heron present and for a brief moment we had all three species in the frame together but failed to press the shutter before the Heron had a go at the Great White and ruined the scene. LCV caught the moment but wasn't able to get the Little Egret in frame too.
Try as we might we couldn't find the drake American Wigeon among the throng of Wigeon that were popping their heads up from the long grass to check there were no predators about. Time to move on and head back to Base Camp to make preparations for the long drive early in the morning. 
We contacted our American friends in the Challenge showing the pics of the female and they reckon it looks good for one so we've added it (167) on the presumtion it arrived with the drake and will eventually be proven to be the real thing. It does look very very like females photographed by some of our American friends for their Challenge.
And so we set off an hour later than hoped...someone who shall be nameless overslept, but it didn't really matter as our drive across the country was a wet and windy (from the wrong direction) one with the thick cloud making dawn a bit later than it should have been.
First stop was the little hide at Kilnsea Wetlands. No point taking the camera out as although morning had properly broken it was still quite dark and wet. To see through the hide windows they had to be opened but that meant the wind blew the rain in, it was like someone was stood outside throwing buckets of water in at us!
We gave it about an hour before driving down to the Warren and bunking in to the seawatching hide, where we were lucky to get a seat as it was busy in there, lots of folk sheltering from the rain even though the sea wasn't that busy. Small parties of Wigeon and Teal were passing southwards while small flocks of Common Scoters, a dribble of Gannets and distant auks went mostly northwards. A distant Sooty Shearwater was by far the best bird followed by a close in Arctic Skua and a distant Manx Shearwater. A Snipe, a handful of Meadow Pipits and a couple of Skylarks came in off the sea. When we win the lottery we're going to buy SE a much bigger hide to live in and maybe a heater too.
The rain seemed to be easing a bit and news was filtering through of migrant thrushes, mostly Redwings but a few Fieldfares and occasional Ring Ouzels too so we gave up seawatching and headed in to the open and the wet. News then broke of a probable Black Throated Thrush with a flock of Redwings but like most of the other birds they kept moving rather than stopping for a rest and feed, it was only seen by a couple of watchers and remains a 'missed'. Looking around the church, Kew and Cliff Farm it was obvious there weren't many grounded migrants about despite the grotty weather, just a few Redwings, Blackbirds and the odd Brambling or two, a Ring Ouzel was reported feeding on windfall Apples at Cliff Farm but didn't stick around for us.
We broke the 'unwritten rule' and had a cuppa in the new visitor centre - who decided that was a good place for it?????????? The brew was warm and welcome, good value at just a quid and served by very friendly staff who may or may not be aware of the controversies surrounding their workplace. There were briefly a couple of Bramblings at the feeders below the panoramic window which we failed to get a proper look at. Unfortunately the view of the feeders and the panorama of the lighthouse and Spurn Point will be obscured in a few years time as the bank below the window has been planted with Blackthorn which although will be great habitat to replace what has been lost will totally obscure the view without constant management this defeating its object as replacement habitat - duhhhh...who makes these decisions??????? 
Just outside the VC is the Canal Scrape so we had to have a look and as ever there was a Jack Snipe, just sometimes they are out in plain view - very unusual for them - but today was the usual fairly distant and obscured views, still better than most places you'll see them though.
PYLC 168
True to form it was doing that up and down 'sewing machine' action all the time it was feeding -we affectionately named him/her Bob the Bobber. A bit of video with some Boom Boom Boom rave music added could have been fun if anyone had the inclination.
Not much else was seen from the hide just small numbers of Skylarks and Redwings passing over, the latter occasionally alighting briefly in the bushes on the far side of the pool. 
Time to try somewhere else and as the tide was on the up we decided to head back to the wetland. Quite a few Redshank had come in off the estuary and there was a bit of a gull roost building up where we found a nice selection of Mediterranean Gulls, seven adults, two 2nd winters and a 1st winter, all mostly tucked up half hidden behind a low bank. Other waders included a smattering of Dunlin, a Greenshank and four Black Tailed Godwits but no sign of the Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper that had been reported regularly over the previous few days. No sign of the Hen Harrier either that had also been present for a few days but we later learned that someone had seen it sometime during the day. With not a lot of excitement and daylight beginning to fade we moved round to Sammy's Point to see if there were any Short Eared Owls quartering the paddocks. 
The horse paddocks were devoid of birds but we did have a couple of Whimbrels and a Curlew on the sea defence rocks waiting for the tide to drop. Wandering down to the scrubby area it was evident it was fairly quiet but another birder staking out a clump of bushes told us he'd heard a Ring Ouzel cchacking away in there and indeed as he was speaking it did it again. We had a good look with him from all angles but couldn't see it in the dense vegetation. We left him to it and wandered back along the top bank. With a bit of Redwing activity and a few quick flits noted we went in to the north end of the scrub where we got the fright of our lives when we nearly trod on a snoozing Roe Deer which took a couple of startled steps before leaping the pretty wide ditch on the landward side pf the scrub. We'd hazard a guess no one had been that way for a while. We also inadvertently disturbed a dozen or more Redwings from the scratty hedge on the far side of the ditch, they took off northwards and then some way behind them and not from the bushes came another, it looked a little smaller and getting our bins on it saw it wasn't a Redwing, no red wing no eye-stripe but was plain and streaky, if it had called Richard's Pipit would now be in our notebook we guess.
Our birder friend from earlier had now reappeared some way behind us after working his way throughthe scrub and was beckoning us over. He'd found a Yellow Browed Warbler, which we thoughht was a pretty good find considering the absolute dearth of Goldcrests and easterly winds. It had gone into cover but just a couple of minutes later worked its way out to the front of the bush again.
Chuffed that Spurn Bird Obs used this pic on their report for the day
Cracking little birds absolute beauties, but the lack of easterlies meant that these tiny waifs have flown at least 300 miles across the North Sea against the wind - how do they do that and how far west are they now breeding - western half of European Russia or even Fennoscandinavia??? Really good to get one for our Challenge at #169.
We missed a quickly disappearing Short Eared Owl that perched on a post in the rough paddock then flew up river.
With that news it was now time for tea so off we went up country a few miles to our digs.
Sunday dawned calm and clear, LCV's motor even had a load of frost to scrape off the windscreen before we could depart. With the clear skies and lack of wind we were hopeful that there may be some freshly dropped migrants around although it was also a worry that it was too clear and still and they may just go over at some height and not be seen. But this is Spurn so you never know quite what's going to happen...
We parked up by the church and walked the lane to the Bluebell, no all closed down. Nothing much happening, The churchyard was quiet too so we had a look up the village, not a lot at all and not much overhead either, there were rumours of Ring Ouzel in one of the gardens. We waited around but it didn't show although we got a few glimpses of another Yellow Browed Warbler, one of a record breaking 39 for the day here, and were able to point the camera at one of the local House Sparrows. It comes to something when House Sparrows are the best birds to aim the lens at in this part of the world
A wander down the canal gave us a lot more Reed Buntings than we'd seen on Saturday but were they new in or just not hunkered down against the weather today?
A Roe Deer buck broke cover towards the river but from where it came from there was a birder looking at a patch of Sea Buckthorn, we wondered what he might have found. 
There was some interest in the bush in the form of a few Reed Buntings, a Song Thrush and a flock of Starlings. Looking in to the light wasn't good but one of the Starlings didn't look right. We got LCV and his scope on to it and Bingo - best bird of the day/weekend was there, a juvenile Rose Coloured Starling (#170).
We watched it for a few minutes and got a few more birders on to it.
It hung around the bushes often disappearing out of sight for several minutes at a time. Eventually someone came along with a radio and told us no news had broken from the earlier person on the radios or pagers so it looked very much like it was 'our' bird. We moved around a bit to get better light as he put out the news over his radio. From all directions birders could be seen coming our way. This is the first time in about 25 years of visiting here we've found a bird everyone else wanted to see.
We left them to it and went off to see if we could see the elusive showing infrequently Barred Warbler down at the Warren. We had a bit of wait and watched this Kestrel hunting nearby which may be a reason the warbler was keeping its head down.
Our patience was tested to the limit and we gave up to try to get a pic of the Bramblings that were knocking around. We just couldn't get on them at all but we did make our way back to the screen and were lucky that nearly everyone else had wandered off and left plenty of space for us...and for a brief moment the Barred Warbler (#171) came in to view low down in a small Sea Buckthorn bush. Better views were had in the bins and really good to see one of these close up as its a species we very seldom come across.
It did a few circuits, flying across the lane a couple of times and showed well in the top of the 'tall' bushes by the old Observatory building. Great stuff
From there we had another visit to the wetlands to see if the tide had pushed anything in. Plenty of Redshanks and with them was a Spotted Redshank and dodgy Dunlin no one could turn into anything more exciting. Fewer Mediterranean Gulls today but one of the 1st winters was out in the open having a bath but as soon as we raised the camera it took flight.
We had a look at Beacon Ponds where there were quite a number of Grey Plovers roosting along with a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits. A Brent Goose was there too, there weren't many of them around for us this visit. Still no sign of the Hen Harrier or any Short Eared Owls though. We did think we may have found an owl when we saw a Black Headed Gull dive bombing something flying low in the grass, 'just' a Kestrel in the end. 
It was amazing how often folk mentioned the mobile Great White Egret over the weekend and it caused a bit of stir when it flopped over the sea defences at the end of the pond and began catching very small fish - we've got used to seeing them all over the place over on our coast, but to many folk they're still out of the ordinary.
Walking back to the car we passed a field margin where a wild bird crop was being enjoyed by some Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows and looking closely we found a couple of Bramblings and finally got our pic in the gathering gloom (#173).
A quick look over at Sammy's Point gave us a circling Ring Ouzel that didn't drop in the end but turned back towards the coast. Still no Short Eared Owls for us again. 
We said earlier we'd found the best bird of the weekend - well it wasn't quite true as once we were back at our digs news broke that someone had found and photographed a Red Flanked Bluetail but hadn't told anyone until they'd got home and identified their photo in the evening.
Monday morning saw us seawatching again. Once again there wasn't much happening and the hide cleared out and the relief palpable when news broke that the Red Flanked Bluetail had been refound. Sadly it was refound an hours walk across the breach and an hour back which we didn't have time for so we weren't able to go to see it.
We did have a quick look at the Canal Scrape where there the Jack Snipe was almost invisible but a Dunlin made up for it by being very showy.
Not much at Sammy's Point apart from a Brown Lipped Banded Snail taking the long way round crossing a femce via a stile rather than just slithering underneath it. weird or what!
A great trip, 99 species seen, an embarrassing gap on our Life List filled, four year birds and photos for our Challenge tally. 
LCV had another full day with us before he had to go home so we had an afternoon dog walk up country to see if we could find him a Dipper and us a Grey Wagtail for our Challenges. It wasn't long before the River Brock gave up its secrets, a Grey Wagtail (#174) for us and an unphotographable Dipper for him.
The warm weather brought out a few Buzzards overhead too.
Across on the hills where Buzzards aren't welcome Heather burning was being carried out to provide new growth for the Red Grouse - looks a bit close to the woodland for our liking, will have to go back and see if the trees have been damaged. It wouldn't surprise us as trees can provide cover for predators of Red Gouse, their chicks and eggs so aren't really tolerated. The grouse moors are devoid of wildlife except that which doesn't affect the grouse in any way and can tolerate the regular burning, which means very little!
Nipping upstream to another site along the river gave us much better views of a Dipper, it even gave a bit of song for us.
Finally LCV's last morning with us saw us back at Hesketh Out Marsh to see if we could find the American Wigeons - no joy, the high tides over the weekend had pushed most of the birds off the marsh and filled the pools with water so there was little mud for the wading birds so it was a bit of a disappointing visit really - well it just means we'll have to go again before too long.

A great weekend and mega thanks to LCV for his company and all the driving, we'll deffo be doing it all again next October.

Where to next? We hope to get out on Safari somewhere towards the end of next week.

In the meantime let us know who's been migrating through your outback.



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

More twitching tales and a safari to the Southside

The Safari has been a bit pre-occupied tidying up and decluttering in advance of the Base Camp move to get out as often as we would have liked but when a couple of opportunities for a twitch came up we were able to take them.
We were a little disappointed to have dipped all the Leach's Petrels during the gales the week before last so when news of a flurry of late stragglers in the form of Grey Phalaropes turning up all over the country started to appear on social media it was inevitable one would appear not too far away. So when the news broke that one was showing well at Newton Marsh just this side of Preston off we went - we'd seen pics of others showing well on Twitter and F/B which more or less meant crawling into the camera lens! This one wasn't so obliging but at least it wasn't at the same range as the Semi Palmated Sandpiper we'd seen a couple of weeks previously. A great bird to see again, our last one being in 2010 and again superb scope views but just a little too distant for great pics.
A lovely little bird that just wouldn't keep still, frantically picking flies of the surface of the water or occasionally dipping its bill right under for some morsel or other. It spent most of it's time on the far side of the little island but when it flew further down the pool and in to a clump of rushes it  was time to say bye to the fair throng of local birders and head back to Base Camp for more tidying up. It brought our tally for the year to 180 and our Photo Year List Challenge up to 163, a great little 'bonus bird' that was never on the 'radar' - we're still being stuffed by the front runners who are now about 100 species ahead.
But that afternoon news broke of another lost waif, this time just down the road at Marton Mere. A couple of juvenile Black Terns had been reported for a couple of days until one had been re-identified as a juvenile White Winged Black Tern. Fortunately it was still present the following day and in the late afternoon we were able to nip down for an hour for a shuffy. It ranged widely about the mere often hugging the Yellow Water Lily beds on the far side and then disappearing for extended lengths of time when it was discovered to have settled on the lilies. Take your eye off it for a moment and it was lost, its seemingly languid flight being surprisingly fast. 
On the odd time it did come into range we snapped away but only really got one rubbishy pic that shows hints of the diagnostic white rump and the lack of  smudgy neck mark.
Another one well off the radar coming in at 181, PYLC #164, and the first we've seen anywhere in the world in this plumage and the first since the adult we found at the same place in the summer of '93.
It was being reported as being 'not quite right' and some observers say and posting pics of it drooping one of its wings when at rest but it did seem to be flying OK and picking plenty of invertebrates from the water surface. But right at the last of the light we managed this fuzzy pic when it settled on some reeds not too far in front of us.
It shows the left wing drooping while the right wings looks fine and also the left leg is held up and might not be quite as bright red as the right one. In lots of our distant out of focus and too fuzzy to show you shots you can see both legs dangling, whether they do that habitually using their feet as extra air brakes we don't know but it could also be a symptom of an unseen injury/illness. Whatever it might have been the bird was still there the following morning but we were unable to better our rubbishy pics and the following day there was no sign so we assume it was fit enough to continue on its migration.
Also passing overhead but slowing and not dropping on to the water were two fresh in from Iceland Whooper Swans, our first of the year here (MMLNR #81) - really can't believe we didn't see any in the early part of the year! And had we stayed but a few more minutes we would have seen an Otter too.
With summer giving way to autumn and the weather following suit there has been nothing of real note on Patch 1 or in the garden at Base Camp. Until one morning in the week when we heard the loud calls of an agitated Peregrine. Looking out of the bedroom window we could see two crows on its favourite ledge but looking closely they looked big and we thought we heard a Raven cronking. Grabbing the bins a proper look revealed they were indeed two Ravens and the Peregrine was sat above them on the comms masts giving it hell - really unhappy with them in its space.
We'll miss sights like this from the bedroom window when Base Camp gets moved but no doubt there'll be other equally awesome wildlife sights to be had at the new Base Camp- we just don't know what they'll be yet...or where!
And so to Friday when we picked up GB and CR early doors and set off to meet JG at Lunt Meadows down on our childhood birding grounds over on the south side of the Ribble. We arrived first and the short wait in the car park ave us a few Jays flying over to and fro to collect or bringing back Acorns to cache for the winter. Recently arrived Pink Footed Geese could be heard murmuring in conversation the distant fields and Lapwings called their wheezy calls from the wetland between us and the geese. A serene and peaceful morning but just half a dozen miles from one of Britain's busiest city centres.
Annoyingly we couldn't get a pic of any of the Jays for our challenge - becoming a bit of a bogey bird in that respect but while looking up at one flying by we saw a weird object high up in one of the Willow trees around the edge of the car park.
A something we don't recall ever seeing before which we've discovered is Mossy Willow Catkin Gall and now we know that we're quite certain we've never come across one before never having heard of them until now. They are probably a viral infection of a catkin (caused by agents unknown) and are often green rather than black as in this case.
It was a glorious day with warm sunshine and light winds and no appreciable recent rain meant dry footpaths too. However looking at the first pool into the harsh morning light wasn't so good. But it did highlight all the spiders' gossamer trails lain across the rushes over night. The pic doesn't really do the scene justice, there were hundreds of them draped across the fronds shimmering in the gentle breeze when the light caught them.
Turning round to view the pool behind us the light was much better. Here we could see the vivid colours of the Lapwings, rue the eclipse plumage of the Teal and pick out the nuances of the speckley Ruffs.
All looking sup-duper in the bright light. 
Something disturbed the Pink Footed Geese from the fields and all of a sudden their quiet conversation became louder and more intense as the flock took to the air - what a sight, about a thousand of them, but more than a sight what a sound as they wheeled round splitting in to sub-flocks and going off in different directions - truly wonderful.
Just a few of them, couldn't fit the whole flock in the frame
Wandering on we had a look at the next pool but it was quiet there, just a handful of Mallards and a couple of snoozing Teal. The main attraction here, often very showy Short Eared Owls and Stonechats haven't arrived for the winter yet and there was no sign of any Roe Deer either, the vegetation is still a bit too summery for them to able to be easily seen yet. GB got cracking views of what sounds like a pristine Small Copper butterfly and we caught a glimpse of a Weasel darting between clumps of reeds below the hide - no amount of 'pishing' would entice it to break cover unfortunately. Far easier to photograph were these showy and stationary mushrooms sitting among the grass at the side of the steps up to the screen.
One we ought to know the name of but honestly can't remember it just now
As we were moving on to the next screen we heard the call of a Spotted Redshank and swinging round quickly and scanning with the bins caught sight of a small wader dropping on to one of the pools we viewed earlier. As luck would have it, or rather ill-luck, it was located on the one looking into the sun and was very flighty and we didn't manage a pic before it was up and away. We watched it go high to the north but it swung round and came back, we didn't see where it landed but hoped it was on the well lit pool, a long look there didn't find it and when it called again the sound came from the same place as before. We were able to get just a couple of pics of it as went up and away again this time never to be seen again.
Spotted Redshank (182, PYLC #165)
Going...going...gone
And with that so were we - back to the cars for a bite to eat. At the car park it was all go with the Jays again with no less than eight being seen in quick succession heading northwards towards the favoured Oak trees. Yet again we failed to get the camera on to any of them - bogey birds indeed!
Butties scoffed it was time to hit the road to another Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve Mere Sands Wood to see what we could find there.
At the first hide there was a good selection of waterfowl, all now in their eclipse plumage now. But scanning around we noticed a goose on the spit showing a lot of white and closer inspection showed there to be four Egyptian Geese (183, PYLC #166) snoozing away up there.
The fourth one is out of frame mostly concealed behind a clump of vegetation to the left of the left-hand bird.
With not a lot happening and no sign of any Kingfishers around this part of the reserve, and none mentioned by other visitors, we moved on.
The light at the hide in the bottom  corner was much better, once again showing the Lapwings off superbly.
A drake Shoveler swan into view, of all the eclipse ducks these are probably the 'best' looking but that big orange eye gives them a worried look.
Again no Kingfishers for us and similarly so at the next hide, where other birders were already waiting for one to turn up and use the strategically placed perches. No such luck for us but one of the brders pointed out a Green Sandpiper he'd seen earlier when it came back out onto the open. We were pleased to get better pics of this seldom seen (by us) bird in much better light and far far closer than on our last visit here. We snapped away with gay abandon as they say.
Is the dark blob by its feet a dead vole???
Nearby a pair of Teal dozed the afternoon away.
On the way to the next hide there's  an open viewing platform overlooking a smaller pool, here we stopped in the hope of seeing some dragonflies whizzing around in the afternoon warmth but instead our attention was taken by a shoal of fish right below us. Lookin closely at them it would appear that the dorsal and ventral fins are just about level with each other and the one eating a leaf from a water plant seems to have an overhanging top lip these features would make at least some of them Roach.
A few were a little bigger than the rest maybe approaching 6-7 inches (15 - 18cm) long.
The keen ex-fisherman's eyes of GB picked out the striped back of a rather larger Perch lurking below the shoal, although the Roach weren't that bothered about its presence.
As we approached the last hide we told of lots of Migrant Hawkers at which info CR sped off passing a lovely cluster of Fly Agaric mushrooms (or are they toadstools?) in various stages of openness.
Once inside the hide we did see some Migrant Hawker dragonflies as well as at least one Brown Hawker and a couple of unidentified but probably Blue Tailed Damselfies
With a lot of luck one of the Migrant Hawkers settled in a hover in an open patch in the reeds long enough for us to get our best ever pic of a dragonfly in flight by a long way - still not perfect but we're well chuffed with it.
They rarely settled and when they did this was  often a 'good' view
A quality end to a perfect day on safari with great mates...but still no Jays submitted to the SD card despite several sightings and lots heard squawking  - getting beyond a joke now...

Where to next? Another further flung safari beckons.

In the meantime lets us know who's not allowing themselves to be photographed in your outback.


Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Arfa milyun up

The Safari has reached a bit of a significant milestone, over 500,000 views - now that's not necessarily 300,000 'reads' but a big thank you to one and all who have dipped a proverbial toe in the Safari's proverbial waters; we hope you have been enjoying the rubbish wot we've ritten and will continue to pop back for some fun wildlife info going forwards.
So what have we been up to this week. A mixed bag of weather has seen us doing some seawatching, twitching and dipping. We did a seawatch with the Living Seas team on a day when there should have been some Leach's Petrels about (one of our favourite birds). There was but we missed it as did everyone else on the watch, the closest we got was a Swallow coming down one of the troughs that got our heart going for a bit.
We did manage to add a couple of new species to our Challenge, Common Scoters and a sickly looking Guillemot that we hope survived but was being pushed closer and closer to the shore with every wave.
On our drive up from Cornwall news broke of a Semi Palmated Sandpiper on the Wyre estuary and as soon as we hoped for a twitch but it had done a bunk. It took another birder to relocate it a few days later so the twitch was on. Unfortunately it was a long way across the mud flats and spent odd times asleep in between feeding bouts - which is when we clicked to shutter button - darn it! Another lifer all the same ( crikey what's going on two lifers in a week!!!) and we did enjoy great views in other folks' generously offered scopes.
It's the left hand fuzzy blob - there's some proper pics on Fylde Bird Club's Flickr site
Then news broke of a new bird for the Fylde, a juvenile Pallid Harrier. We are very time constrained at the mo and the weather is unpredictable. Luckily CR was up for a drive out before (or at least in between showers) and after a short wait where AB told us to sit - there were plenty of other birders to aim for though - it appeared but sadly it didn't come in to the nearest field like it had done on several occasions in the previous couple of days. What a beauty, those cinnamon underparts are something else and that neck collar stands out a mile away. Just a shame the light was so grotty we couldn't get any decent pics as it quartered  back and forth for ages mostly hidden behind a hedge. The pic might be rubbish but the views in the bins were superb.
Over night we listened to the wind whistling round the eaves and dreamt of Leach's Petrels - did we tell you they're one of our very favourites? As soon as could we were out on the prom and the phone pinged our pocket saying a Barolo Shearwater had passed Heysham earlier and could come past Rossall and indeed it did but with the wind dropping rapidly it must have gone straight out to sea from there rather than coming round the corner and hugging the coast - couldn't have us getting three lifers in a fortnight could we! The dropping wind also meant no chance of any Leach's Petrels and indeed we saw very little other than at least 500 Common Scoters bobbing around in the middle distance.
An hour round the Rock Gardens (Patch 1) we don't get to visit as much as we probably ought gave us a load of panicky alarm calls had us looking up to see a Sparrowhawk passing overhead. There was a bit of vis mig in a handful of Meadow Pipits heading south in a mild quiet gap in the grotty weather which closed in horribly in the afternoon.
Again a bit of gap in the grot gave us the opportunity to nip out with Monty and from the cliff top we watched a Little Egret fly over the dropping tide.
It's not that long since these were considered terribly exotic and to some of use oldies they still conjure up thoughts of warm far away places rather than windswept Lancashire saltmarshes. But recent counts of the local root sites suggest there may be almost (perhaps over) a thousand in the county now and it's become an odd birding day in many local areas when you don't see a Little Egret well before coming across a good old fashioned Heron.

Where to next? More wind coming but what will it bring?

In the meantime let us know who's dodging the waves in your outback.



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Not a bad little boaty ride

The Safari likes a boat trip when we're away and we're a pretty good sailor, not succumbing to the dreaded sea-sickness and we've had some rough rides in the past. Last week we had been hoping to go to the Scilly Isles for a day trip on the Scallonian ferry but with it being an all day trip Wifey wasn't to happy to left home alone so we opted for a half day trip instead. Our first choice of operator had finished for the season the previous weekend so we had to scout around for another and Wifey found Marine Discovery and their snazzy red catamaran. Turned out to be a good choice. The skipper told us the catamaran made for a pretty stable platform and even though the wind of recent days had died down and sheltered Mount's Bay was nice and calm further out there was a bit of a swell going on. Under sail the catamaran just swished along lovely and peaceful, just the lanyards rattling and the flap of the sails without the roar/whine of the outboard motors (which were used from time to time).
While waiting for all the rest of the passengers to arrive we watched some Mullet cruising around in the harbour and snapped away at passing Black Headed Gulls.
Once out of the water our knowledgeable crew, skipper Duncan and wildlife spotter Amber, pointed out a dark shape on the water a fair way off the port bow - getting all nautical for you now...aka on the left - which was Eddie the Eider Penzance's only resident Eider duck (drake) who is occasionally joined by others during the winter months but is currently probably (definitely?) the world's most southerly Eider.
It was while trying to get pics of Eddie we realised that this on board a boat photography wasn't going to be that easy. Even in the calm waters just outside the harbour wall the boat was saying around and of course it was making forward progress too so as soon as the camera had locked on to the subject it was out of focus almost instantaneously. Add the changing light as you looked port, starboard or straight ahead and we had the recipe for photo-nightmares. Yep we're making excuses for the poor quality of our pics already. Oh and we soon realised we should have taken the 18-300mm lens not the big dobber 150-600mm.
Once away from the harbour we turned towards the Atlantic but hugged the coast aiming towards the rocks just off the fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced Mouzle) where the team knew there would be snoozing Grey Seals, again among the most southerly in the world. They were a favourite of the more land-locked of the passengers and even we don't see them hauled out this close along our coast.
Cruising slowly round the island there was a second one and then a third until the Scallonian ferry went past and its wake rudely woke them from their slumbers and washed them off the rocks and into the water. also on the rocks were a number of gulls, Great Black Backs which nest on there but obviously have now finished their breeding season, Herring Gulls and this little cluster of over-exposed first winter Mediterranean Gulls.
Underway again and heading out into open water a passing fisherman in a Rib came close and told us of a group of Harbour Porpoises feeding out by a certain mark so we changed course towards them.
All the while groups of Gannets passed overhead and aay in the distance one of the punters spotted a large number of them diving so we changed course again and went that way to find out what else was with the commotion.
It was then someone shouted out "dolphins!"  (Bizarre - our speech marks key and 'at' key have just changed places - how does that happen?) We looked round but couldn't see them at first until we spotted one right underneath us between the two hulls of the catamaran - awesome, in all the very many boaty rides to see marine life all over the world we've never had dolphins bow-riding the boat we've been on before. It was no it became apparent we needed the shorter eider lens, the 150-600 was U/S! And to make matters worse we couldn't get our phone from the depths of the pocket due to life jacket we were (very sensibly) wearing. At times we could almost touch them, our fingertip only inches above the water surface and their snout only inches below it, superb - what we've been waiting many years for - - and of course the lass who was sat next to us was on her first ever boat ride, beginners luck but we're very glad she was with us!!!
We had to wait until the pod had moved off away from us someway before they came in range.
(Short Beaked) Common Dolphins aren't a species we see along our coast and we can only recall one instance of one being found washed up on the beach in recent(ish) years.
One species we didn't see many of all holiday as Kittowakes, maybe they'd all moved through but there are seriously concerns about population crashes due to the unavailability of their prey from a combination of Climate Change moving the distribution of their prey species to industrial fishing depleting the populations of these smaller fish to make pig food, farmed salmon food, fertiliser etc...not good at all.
The dolphins left us, not bothering to go as far as the bait ball, seems they only wanted to have a look at us and 'play' and weren't too hungry, or they knew it was the wrong sort of fish. Once we arrived the Gannets had mostly dispersed and there were none diving just a few loafing on the water. There were however hundreds of Manx Shearwaters which despite their number were notoriously difficult to get decent pics of leaving us just this one out of hundreds taken!
After have a good close look at the shearwaters we turned back towards the mark where the Harbour Porpoises had been seen and after a few minutes under sail spotted them in the distance, at least five including a juvenile animal. They were shy and moved away from the approaching boat even though we were under sail with no engines running. They did their usual trick of surfacing four or five times in quick succession to replenish their oxygen supply before disappearing on much longer divers when it became very much a guessing game as to where they would resurface, we managed just one dodgy shot of one, at least it shows the typical view of the small triangular fin disappearing below the waves - one we're all too familiar with along our coastline.
Once we'd had our fill of porpoise guessing it was time to move on and the skipper shouted he'd seen a bit if a breach in the distance, he wasn't sure if it was a Blue Fin Tuna or a dolphin but his experienced eyes saw it again and he confirmed it was a (Offshore) Bottlenose Dolphin so off we went that way to see if we could catch them up. We didn't it/they weren't seen again but we did come across another large raft of Manx Shearwaters and this one had two Sooty Shearwaters with them.
Not the best due to the rolling action of the boat just taking it out of the 'sweet spot' (honest) but a species we never in a million years would have thought we'd get a pic of never mind a fairly close up one
 As ever more Gannets were passing the boat but we never did catch up with them diving for fish.
A dark bird coming as if from nowhere across our bows was an Arctic Skua which we failed to get a pic of as it was lost to view behind the sail and then all we would have been able to get once it reemerged was a shot looking straight up its backside - not pretty!
But all was not lost as a Bonxie (aka Great Skua) did almost the same thing but was picked up earlier and stayed in view longer going diagonally away from us rather than straight across us. Scary things these beasts, stealing fish from Gannets twice their size with impunity and even on occasion killing Great Black Back Gulls - now that takes some doing as they're not the most passive of birds themselves!
Moving back inshore we learned about the need for England's newest lighthouse Tater Du and stopped for a moments reflection at the site of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.
Moving on back towards the harbour we passed a sea cave that 'must' have been used by smugglers - well this is Cornwall and 'every' sea cave must have been used by smugglers.
And where there's smugglers there HAS to be pirates, or at least boats that look like they ought to be pirate ships
And with that we were soon back in the dock.  No sign of any Minke Whales on this trip and of course we unable to catch up with the Bottlenose Dolphins, we'd have liked a Great Shearwater and Storm Petrel or two as  well but that's just being greedy and overoptimistic. Only one thing for it - we'll have to go out with them again and we're sure we will. An excellent morning out on the water - thanks very much to Duncan and Amber for their hospitality and knowledge.




Where to next? Tales of local rarity twitching, even more dreadful pics and outside there's a huge south westerly whipping up so we could be in for some Leach's Petrels and other seabird goodies this coming week

In the meantime let us know who's only a fingertip away in your outback




Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

The great Cornish shearwater conveyor belt

The Safari has had a week down in the south westernmost corner of sunny Cornwall, well it was sunny when it wasn't mizzly; Wifey even caught a bit of a suntan!
The drive down to a family overnighter near Plymouth gave us 21 Buzzards and absolutely no Kestrels in pretty good conditions for raptor spotting. Dead things spotted included 2 Badgers, 2 Foxes and 4 Grey Squirrels. The following day we drove the length of Cornwall seeing just one Buzzard and again not a single Kestrel. Death on the roads was represented by a Fox, a small deer, probably a Muntjac, a Grey Squirrel and a Badger. A stretch of legs for Monty on Long Rock beach at Penzance gave us a Wheatear dropping out of the sky and into a small thicket of Brambles adjacent to the railway track. Arriving at the cottage once unpacked we gave Monty another stretch of his legs around the old tin mines where we saw our first Kestrel of the trip riding the updraughts from the cliffs. Around the village we came across Jackdaws, Blue Tits, a Chaffinch, Carrion Crows, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Collared Doves and Herring Gulls
First thing every morning we were at Pendeen lighthouse seawatching except the first morning when we watched from the clifftop at the village a short walk from the cottage.  Although early in the morning it was sunny and warm but quite hazy out to sea. Another Wheatear appeared right by us and had we had the camera with us would have been added to the SD card. 2 Choughs cavorted noisily around the cliffs. Out to sea there was a bit of action to our left with a feeding frenzy going on, Gannets diving, Kittiwakes in attendance, Fulmars looking interested, Shags leaving the rocks and going in that direction and Manx Shearwaters coming in from all angles. We initially thought the commotion was being caused by a pod of dolphins but having not seen any breaches apart from a  nose we now think and that's been confirmed by some of the local watchers was what we were (not) seeing were actually Blue Fin Tuna. A first for us in British waters.
Down on the rocks a Peregrine was perched up doing nothing in particular while back in the village a Curlew flew over us and Rooks had appeared. 
In the afternoon we had a wander up the coast a few miles to the beautiful Portheras Beach, a typical sandy Cornish cove with big Atlantic breakers rolling in. Sightings included a Buzzard, Stonechats, a Swallow, and a Whitethroat. Invertebrates were represented by good numbers of butterflies, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Common Blues which maybe we should have taken a closer look at all week as some may have been Silver Studded Blues. Around a small spring and stream were a handful of Beautiful Demoiselles and out at sea Wifey spotted a bottling Grey Seal.
Not a bad start to the week.
We spent a couple of hours at Pendeen Lighthouse the next morning, 07.00 to 09.00, it started slow and we missed the first Sooty Shearwater that went through. There were two 'tracks' the seabirds were taking one just behind the rocks a few hundred yards off the cliffs and the other about half a mile or so further out, we were looking at the 'wrong' track for the Sooty but never mind we had another two dozen go past with the Manxies once they started moving at around 08.00. Yes that's probably more Sooties in one watch than we've ever seen combined over the years of visits to the east coast in autumn.
Everything was a bit far out for photography and the light wasn't the best but seeing as we didn't have a Kittiwake for our Challenge so we had to try.




A Fulmar proved a little easier being much nearer
We could hear Rock Pipits all around us when the mizzle started to descend, one was kind enough to land on the wall around the lighthouse garden quite close by.
The mizzle made the seawatching a bit difficult but the Manx Shearwaters kept coming through, at least another 600 - 700 that we could see, there may have been many more on the 'outer track' that we could no longer see.
Inshore and in the range of visibility there were good numbers of Shags, many Gannets a few more Fulmars and only a couple more Kittiwakes and a Razorbill. Four Herons were washed off the far side of the offshore rocks by a particularly large swell.
e had planned to stay a little longer bit the mizzle closed in even further becoming more like proper fog and it was just as we were contemplating taking down the scope one of the remaining two other watchers called out Balearic Shearwater. Luckily we hadn't dismantled our kit and got fairly good views of this LIFER as it shot through close to the cliff face below us. Once it was out of sight e packed up and left but really should have stayed a few more minutes as we learnt the following morning that we'd only been gone three or four minutes, and probably not quite back at the car park, that another Balearic Shearwater and one we really hope to see this holiday having only ever seen one before, a Great Shearwater had gone through...so annoying but that's the thing with seawatching - you just daren't turn your back!
Ravens cronking to each other in the gloom around the mines was atmospheric.
And then as if by magic the fog lifted and the sun came out
The second morning we only managed 07.00 to 08.30 at the lighthouse, it started mizzly with poor visibility and got progressively worse! Only about 200 Manxies went past with the wind in the wrong direction (too much south) for this site, a few Fulmars and Gannets cruised about best of the rest were singke Common Scoter, juvenile Mediterranean Gull, and a Kittiwake, somehow we dipped the only Sooty Shearwater of the morning. A Kestrel was around the cliff edge.
More exciting than the sea were the cliff tops which were totally festooned with a myriad of cobwebs like a carpet of gossamer holding all the vegetation together - proper autumnal it was.
Wednesday morning was very very quiet at the lighthouse, the only bird of note was a Merlin shooting through which we totally missed. There was hardly a Manxie to be seen and the '8 O'clock conveyor belt' of them we'd noticed on the last couple of days never got going.
An afternoon sightseeing trip took us to Porthcurno and Porthgarra were we could see a huge raft of thousands of Manx Shearwaters and hundreds of diving Gannets from the seat at the top of the cliff by the cafe while we ate a gorgeous pasty and drank a nice cuppa. With only our bins we even managed to pick out a Sooty Shearwater from the throng. There was plenty of splashing going on too and in the absence of seeing any dolphins breaching we can only imagine it was another pack of Blue Fin Tuna.
The lighthouse beckoned again on Thursday morning and this time the Manxie conveyor belt was in full flow, there were huge numbers passing through, but it was all Manxies try as we might the assembled seawatchers could only pick out a couple of Sooties, no Balearics or Greats were in the constant stream of Manxies, all very disappointing, we felt sure there'd be something out of the ordinary out there. Best of the rest, a Rock Pipit, four Kittiwakes, and four auks - that's all!
The afternoon saw us take a trip down to the Lizard peninsular and Kennack Cove in particular, there's not many dog  friendly beaches in SW Cornwall during the summer season and this was one of the few. In the corner of the cove the tide had ashed up a big wrack of seaweed among which a family party of Rock Pipits was eagerly hoovering up the multitude of seaweed flies. They were quite confiding allowing fairly close approach with the 300mm lens unlike the dozen very wary Ringed Plovers that were perpetually spooked by the other families and dogs on the beach, we tried to keep well out of their way so they could get a few minutes feeding in before the next gaggle of punters came along and flushed them.
A Mediterranean Gull caught our attention but we didn't see much else although to be fair we weren't looking too hard.
A quick sightseeing detour took us to the picturesque fishing village of Coverack where we found this lovely lichen encrusted bench by the car park. Strange it should be so well vegetated in such a busy location right by the car park and overlooking such a beautiful view but for whatever reason very few people appear to sit on it now.
Friday we didn't go to the lighthouse but took a morning's boat ride out around Mount's Bay with very excellent Marine Discovery tours out of Penzance - we'll tell you all about that in our next post.
Twas a good trip
The early start on our last morning didn't give us time to go to the lighthouse so we had to make do with a wander round the lanes and mines finding several Stonechats a distant and flighty Whinchat and after other mornings out round the same area with Monty and seeing one maybe two Blackbirds, this morning there were at least 10.
Leaving the cottage we had a bit of time to kill before being able to bunk with the family again on the way home so had a tire Monty out walk on Long Rock beach where we saw a Sandwich Tern - still not got one for our Challenge! - and a rather odd fish, a Grey Trigger Fish. A species that has been moving northwards from the Mediterranean in response to climate changed warmer waters and has now even made it as far north as the Hebrides off Scotland. But it's OK cos Donald Trumpton says there's no such thing as Climate Change - sorry Don the poikilotherms of the animal kingdom are proving you a liar.
The journey from Penzance to Plymouth with a detour via Fowey (pronounced Foy for those unfamiliar with Cornwall and its sometimes odd pronunciations) gave us just two Buzzards and again not a single Kestrel in reasonable weather conditions. carnage on the roads gave us the first of  only two Hedgehogs of the 1100 mile round trip - no sign of any recovery of numbers in the SW where thousands of non-TB infected Badgers have been 'culled (= killed/slaughtered/destroyed) so maybe the Badgers aren't the reason Hedgehogs are so scarce as the 'county set' keep claiming. Also noted were a single Fox, Grey Squirrel and a Magpie - don't off see them squished they're usually pretty adept at getting out of the way at the last minute.
The main drag back to Base camp up the M5, M6 and M55 gave just four Buzzards and yet again no Kestrels - where are they all??? Badgers numbered three casualties, Foxes two, the second Hedgehog, a Barn Owl and unexpected six Grey Squirrels probably representing post breeding dispersal of young animals.
On a lighter note live things noted other than the Buzzards v Kestrels competition were few and far between apart from numerous and ubiquitous Woodpigeons we only had the only Jay of the holiday, a Cormorant and a Stock Dove all see flying over the M5.
And so back to Base camp and 'normal' whatever that is. 
But the big news is Base Camp is being packed up and moved elsewhere - not far and hopefully slightly nearer the sea...not that we're that far from it now! Yes the For Sale sign will appear imminently.

Where to next? There's a lot of decluttering to take up our time but big winds forecast next week could mean the chance of those ocean waifs Leach's Petrels

In the meantime let us know who's passing the lighthouse in huge numbers in your outback.




Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

More deer

The Safari was able to meet up with CR again for a short afternoon safari out to Brockholes Lancashire Wildlife trust reserve the other day. Weather-wise it was a very pleasant late summer afternoon but there was a chilly breeze when you got out from the shelter of the trees, on the other side of the trees it still felt warm enough for mid-summer. 
We had a couple of target species we hoped to catch up with and in the lee of the trees in the sun out of the wind there were plenty of dragonflies on the wing which was a hopeful sign that there might be a Hobby about during the afternoon.
Common Darter




Our other hoped for species wasn't on show from the 'Visitor Village' so we had a look at the fish, either Roach or Rudd, showing well a foot or so beneath the feet of some inquisitive ducks close to edge of the deck. With no sign of our quarry we moved over the main track to have a look at the other large pool, it was here we discovered that the wind was rather nippier than we'd expected. Brrrr...
CR spotted that some of the nest holes in the Sand Martin nesting bank had been boarded up, a bit like the windows in our (now long gone) local pub when we lived nearby. But the reserve manager later informed us that the Sand Martins aren't hooligans but the plastic tubes holding the sand have collapsed and could trap the birds inside so it was decided to cover them over to prevent any accidents. Five of the holes were used this season with the bulk of the colony still using the natural bank on the river a few hundred yards away.
Looking the other way much of the Willow that had taken over the low islands has been removed by the volunteers, extremely hard work apparently and to keep said Willow at bay we spotted an unusual visitor to the island, a small flock of Hebridean Sheep.
They should be hardy enough to stay out there most of the winter and when they've eaten all the stuff they really like they'll get munching on the Willow and hopefully next spring the island will be in peak un(or lightly)vegetated condition ready for the onslaught of breeding waders.
We'd soon had enough of the cold wind and got back to the sunny side to warm up. Here the glade was alive with butterflies and dragonflies including this Comma doing its best to look like one of the shriveling Bramble leaves.
 It did eventually open its wings, gorgeous aren't they!
A Green Veined White was close by too, making up for not being able to get a pic of earlier - well we got several pics but they were all bway beyond awful and the delete button was happily used.
Crossing the road we had a look at the main pool, sadly much of it is smothered with New Zealand Pygmy Weed, probably something the reserve team can do little about - effective biological control will be the answer if a suitable organism can be found, but on a drier patch we did see a couple of Little Ringed Plovers (174) scooting around some rocks close to the water's edge. We took a shed load of pics but at the range and with the heat haze the delet button was needed to excess again.
Something caught our eye to the right - how did we miss it earlier??? A Roe Deer was out grazing on a little island. We've not seen many of these lovely mammals this year so to have extended views of this one out in the open was a real treat.
It did however give us some cause for concern when it turned around and we saw large areas of missing fur, we're not sure if this is normal or not, it certainly doesn't look it but perhaps it is only moulting as the exposed skin doesn't look to have been broken or cut.
After a few more minutes it wandered off Stage Right and had we turned up then we'd have never have know it was there, it just melted into the thinnest of vegetation and out of sight.
A few yards further on we had another opportunity to get some more pics of the Little Ringed Plover, again serious squinting required and you'll just be able to see a hint of a white brow-line and pale eye ring.
Squint hard! Little Ringed Plover (PYLC 154)
As we walked a few more yards back towards the car park another distant movement caught our eye, another Roe Deer had walked out of the reeds on the far side of the pool. We lost sight of it in the thick vegetation on one of the islands then suddenly it bolted out of cover to cross the rest of the lake making for a clump of reeds and a bit of a Willow thicket right in front of us.
We anticipated where it would go to but didn't reckon on it being right by the side road lurking behind the nearest tree to the kerb. We saw its ears twitch as we approached which gave it away. We stopped and tried ever so cautiously to change the settings on the camera for dark things hiding in dark undergrowth but it saw us and was away back down the bank towards the water.
Wandering back through along the reedbed walk to the car we came across some sieve like leaves of Alder trees where a multitude of Alder Leaf Beetles had been hard at work.



Not a bad little visit and some great sightings, including nearly getting knocked down by a Brown Hare which came careering round a corner screeching to a halt then veering off at the last minute when it saw us.
We didn't spot the famous car park resident Kevin the extremely photogenic Kestrel though.

Where to next? A bit of a Safari southwards coming up.

In the meantime let us know who's boarding up all the holes in your outback.


Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Top day out with the gang up north

The Safari had a day out with CR and our chums from the South-side on Friday. With poor weather forecast we decided to make for Leighton Moss RSPB reserve where there is a decent amount of shelter in the form of comfy hides in case the impeding inclement weather was as bad as predicted.
With a late morning high tide in the bay we started out at the saltmarsh pools where we hoped the rising tide would push some waders out of the bay and on to the pools - it didn't - they were largely birdless.
There were only a few Redshank and a handful of Greenshank to be seen on the first pool and further out on the marsh mostly hidden in the creeks a small number of Little Egrets showed themselves briefly before disappearing again.
Greenshank and sleeping Redshank
 A diligent observer found a small wader tucked well away in the far bankside vegetation. Through the bins it was just a white dot and it wasn't much better when viewed through the scopes. There was some discussion ass to whether or not it may have been a Curlew Sandpiper but no detail could be seen. Once back at Base camp and the day's pics downloaded the camera had picked out some black spotting on the belly to make it 'just' a juvenile Dunlin.
125% enlargement on the original on the SD card
The second pool was even quieter although IH did manage to pick up a very distant Peregrine that cruised over the marsh disturbing not so much as a single feather until it reached the tide whereupon masses of waders took to the skies in a panic. It had several stoops at them but was unsuccessful as far as we could tell.
Moving on to the main reserve a Garganey was soon picked out from the limited number of ducks present. The light wasn't the best for pics, but you can just about tell it is a Garganey - if you squint!
There are a couple of rafts put  out to attract nesting Common Terns and to help matters along there are some very authentic plastic dummies positioned about the place, they haven't attracted an Common Terns yet but they are a handy place for the Pied Wagtails to survey the proceedings.
Still not too much happening so it was time to move on to the next hide via the leg busting Skytower - really must get a bit fitter! On the way JG stopped to admire a timy juvenile newt that almost got trodden on, gently picking it up we turned it over to reveal it had a plain 'fingernail pink' throat suggesting it was a Palmate Newt. A young family coming along behind us caught us up and the children were delighted to have a little hold of the tint wee beast.
The hide was quiet again for birds at least. After a minute or so the back of a Red Deer came in to view just above the tops of the rushes and after a short wait it came out in to full view, a nice young hind.
Another appeared and then another this one was a young stag but it kept its head down enjoying a good feast of rain soaked grass and reeds.
 After a long wait it did deign to raise its head and luckily for us looked in our direction.
Over at the Causeway Hide we watched a Buzzard  soar over but there was no sign of an Ospreys today.
The little island had been strimmed of its vegetation now that the nesting brood of Great Black Backed Gulls have left, their place being taken by a much more delicate juvenile Common Tern.
There were a few Greenshank mooching about to which were joined by two sizeable flocks of Redshanks.
One of the Redshanks flocks must have held a Ruff we didn't spot flying in with them as one appeared not muh later strutting along the front of the island.
A White Wagtail was with a few Pied Wagtails flitting around the top of the island but we didn't manage to get a pic of the more unusual visitor. We did try to better our Sand Martin pic from Marton Mere the other day to 'upgrade' our post on the Challenge, well over a hundred shots later this slightly better effort was easily the best of the day.
A movement in the reed edge across the pool atttracted JG's attention which turned out to be a Water Rail, just about photographable but we weren't able to get a pic of another mystery wader tucked up in the reed fringe she found a few feet to the right so it remains a mystery.
CR knows we have a thing for tractors, must be the thwarted agriculturalist in us, and called out a yellow one away in the distance. Turns out to be a Massey Ferguson - not often you see them in yellow!
...wonder if it was related to this calamity we spotted from the Lower Hide
Oops - that's not supposed to happen.

The juvenile Common Tern was flying round here with a shed load of Sand and House Martins, so many it was an 'Attenborough' moment - you could almost hear the great man's voice describing the scene. A couple of Little Egrets and Great White Egrets were best of the rest.
Time was now running short and it was a long gallop back to the car park when the rain we'd successfully dodged all day finally landed on us.
Despite the late rain which didn't really dampen our spirits a good day was had by all.
The following night was our moth and bat night for the North Blackpool Pond Trail. Well attended as usual and after a barrage of fireworks from a nearby garden and a corresponding clatter of Woodpigeons launching themselves from the nearby trees a bat then showed up a minute later - on its way out anyway or frightened by the bangs???
Young EM showing us how its done - again!
The bats put on a super show for us and several of the public got 'hits' on their 'bat-attracting sticks'. Over the water it was bat-tastic, they were zooming about everywhere. One of these days (nights?) we'll have to have go at trying to get some bat pics. 
It was when we got to the moth part of the evening it all went horribly wrong. The generator we'd borrowed from our usual source wasn't the one they normally give us and didn't come with a standard plug socket and no adapter either so we weren't able to put the trap on. whilst wandering round the woods looking for/at the bats we'd seen lots of moths so we were hopeful of a decent haul to show everyone. Innovation is the name of the game in these circumstances so we rigged up a couple of white ground sheets to the fence and shone PT's van headlamps at it. but it was to no avail, not a moth to be seen. Not really the fault of the van more likely to have been the position by the lake that was a little away from the best vegetation and shelter from the increasingly strong and chilly wind. Bit of a shame but you can't win em all and at least the bats were superb. JS had brought his professional bat detecting kit and laptop with him now he's a pro ecolgist and hs access to this rinky dinky newfangled stuff and analysing the recordings his detector had made showed there were an awful lot of Common Pipistrelles about. The torches across the lake had shown up the white bellies of some Daubenton's Bats and there were a couple of times when the detectors set at 55kHz were picking up echolocations that those set at 45 weren't suggesting a small number of Soprano Pipistrelles were around too.
Yesterday news broke of a Black Tern at Marton Mere that we had no chance of going to see but foul weather overnight meant it was still present this morning and we were able to nip down for half an hour to have a shuffy. We picked it up straight away as it dipped and rose over the Lily pads but kept losing it for several minutes at a time until eventually a Heron flew in and revealed why we lost it - it had been resting on the Lily leaves. 
Not the best of views at range and not the best of pics in the gloom but very nice to see one here as it's been a while since the last once we've seen there. (173, MMLNR #79, PYLC #153)

Where to next? Might get out with Monty for a dog walk and safari somewhere tomorrow.

In the meantime let us know who's  doing the headstands in your outback.




Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Struggling with the weaher a bit

The Safari hasn't enjoyed the change in the weather back to more normal summer weather. cool wet n windy. 
We have done a few events namely a family holiday club rockpooling down on the beach, great fun but no pics...the sand on the beach and the camera aren't the best of  bedfellows.
We also did a moth and bat night for a local friends group at their park. The weather in the few days leading up to event was decidedly iffy but fortunately the evening turned out mild and dry and the bats put on a great early performance for us and then the moths followed suit with a reasonable variety and the ever popular with the children, Large Yellow Underwings - big and colourful.
A breezy morning up Beacon Fell with GB had us taking no photos but we did hear what was possibly a Crossbill but we weren't able to get a view of it through the tree-tops. On the whole it was quiet with even the Goldcrests and Coal Tits were hard to come by. A stop to look for dragonflies at the pond was a bit of disaster as a heavy squall blew through soaking us and then we saw the pool was almost dry.
Monday morning saw us at  Marton Mere for a habitat/winter works survey and we were able to get on to the island for the first time in years. The scrape looks good - almost exactly how the team imagined it when the Lottery project was first conceived, just needs a bit of time to develop more invertebrate rich organic ooze.
A view of Marton Mere and Blackpool Tower that few folk get to see
Scrape old (close) and new (beyond the green strip) looking good
Volunteers and Interns assessing the possibilities of changing some of the vegetation structure
The prolonged dry spell has meant low water levels and that has meant some plant species not seen all that often like this Marsh Cudweed.
And an old favourite Trifid Bur Marigold - yes there really is a plant called a trifid!
Then we stumbled across this little blue thing- Skullcap, a species we've not seen there before and that doesn't happen often!
We had to leave early as we had another family group in the afternoon so didn't get a chance to have a look at the grassland and scrub works.
The family group was back on the beach at the rockpools. Lots of shells and some decent sized Green Shore Crabs but the stars of the show were these two Blennies.
Now there's nothing overly special about Blennies we catch them every time we take a group down there but look closely - these two have jumped out of the water and stuck themselves to the side of the tub with their (relatively) huge pectoral fins. 
Now that is a bit special as we knew they could do that but in all our years of rockpooling here we've never seen it before. That and the Skullcap at the Mere just go to show not matter how long you've been watching wildlife there's always something new to see and learn. Awesome!!!
After a summer of enforced absence due to having to take Monty (on his lead of course - unlike 99% of other dog walkers- grrrrrr) and there mot being a lot of shade in the red hot sunny recent months we had another visit the following day. 
Nothing much was going on but we did see a couple of Sand Martins mooching about. They aren't on our Photo Year List Challenge yet so we stood and waited and waited for an opportunity. While we waited a trio of Wigeon flew over, the first arrivals of the 'winter'?
Easier to snap away at was this eclipse drake Mallard.
Eventually after about 100 shots we got one that's just about acceptable for the challenge, well it is identifiable - just! (PYLC #152)
It was a long way off on a gloomy day- honest
The walk back to the car had us passing one of our favourite plants on the reserve, the Perennial Pea that's been there for years - possibly the plant noted as the first record for Lancashire way back in 1966, but we could be confusing it with a different specimen that may or may not still exist.
We had yet another visit today on another grey drizzly gloomy day and not a lot was seen and not a single photo taken...that doesn't happen often!
The weather has put the mockers on the mothing back at Base Camp with the trap only able to go out on a few nights. Quality rather than quantity apart from dozens of Large Yellow Underwings.
Canary Shouldered Thorn - a stunner - - far more stunning than most of our butterflies shame no-one sees them as they fly in the dark of night
Cydia splendana - a rather dark individual which had us guessing a bit
Not a moth but a somewhat scary Ichneumon Wasp
Possibly Ophion obscuratus
Square Spot Rustic
Yellow Barred Brindle photobombed by an Agriphila trsitella
All good stuff!

Where to next? We've got another moth and bat night coming up at the weekend and a safari up the motorway tomorrow.

In the meantime let us know who's doing the sticking in your outback.