Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Mid summer moth madness and some other stuff

The Safari apologises once again for not keeping you up-to-date with the goings-on in Safari-land. We've been busy and up to all sorts of wildlife malarkey but not had a lot of time to put finger to keyboard for you.
We completed the National Whale and Dolphin Watch with lots of people coming along and joining in, many more than we've ever had for previous years' watches - a big thank you to all of them. Unfortunately we didn't see any cetaceans, the only ones that turned up were the two Bottlenose Dolphins mentioned in our previous blog-post and a Harbour Porpoise that we saw a couple of hours after the mid-week Watch had ended when we went back to the coast with Wifey and her sister to give Monty a walk on along the beach and the morning of the second Sunday Watch five Bottlenose Dolphins turned up off Starr Gate but didn't hang around for the afternoon tide when we were watching...how annoying! We did have some blubbery luck in the form of a few Grey Seals but they were all nearly halfway to the Isle of Man and even in the telescope racked up to full power not much more than a black dot. At least the weather turned out nice again
Shorts! It must have been summer that day!!!
Don't often get cetacean spotting conditions like this along our coast

Thanks to Debs Woods for the pics
 In between all the watching we've still had to take Monty for his walks and on one of them we found a recently deceased and washed up Guillemot. Still not had decent views of a live one and certainly had no chance of getting a pic of one for our Photo Year List Challenge.
In other news we turned up for the Discovery Walk at Marton Mere last week and ended up almost co-leading it. It was a bit coll and windy so we didn't find any butterflies or dragonflies but the group all managed to find exciting wildlife life for themselves - mostly Blackberries - yum yum and here we are showing everyone a Grasshopper that one of the Eagle-eyed children had spotted on the track.
Maybe our best find was a huge Robin's Pin Cushion Gall, made on a Dog Rose by tiny sawfly wasps.
We've also helped out with the Living Seas NW team's rockpooling event which was really well attended. It's great to see so many youngsters coming along to all these events and learning about their local wildlife and environment.
We're not about to thump some one, there's a couple of Brown Shrimps being saved for comparison with the Common Prawns caught earlier
Back at Base camp - which Wifey informs us might be being packed up and moved - the moth trap has been interesting when not full of Common Wasps and Large Yellow Underwings.
Ancylis badianna
Gold Spot
Latticed Heath
Ruby Tiger
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Spilonota ocellana
Swammerdammia pyrella - as told by the coppery end to the wings
Turnip moth
Broad bordered yellow underwing
Lychnis
Pebble Prominent
And a Yellow Orphion Ichneumon wasp which didn't manage to hit the SD card and a Forest (aka Red Legged) Shieldbug which did, although it was a bit dark when we got round to getting a pic.
We had a real shock when doing the washing up at the kitchen sink the other day when a small butterfly fluttered past the window, looking out of the side window we saw that it had landed on the duvet cover drying on the washing line...so expecting it to be a Common or Holly Blue we grabbed a pot with the intention of putting in the fridge for a couple hours to cool it down so we could get some open wing shots later - certainly wasn't expecting it to be a Purple Hairstreak!!! We could never imagined when we moved to Base Camp 14 years ago we'd get this on our garden list in a million years! Just goes to show how much they're moving around (spreading? - will they stick?) this summer.
We've had a couple of safaris out with CR too, one to the east for some riverside walks hich gave us a few butterflies
But no Grey Wagtails, still not photographed one for our Challenge.
The other safari was up to the private reserve in south Cumbria again. This time we saw no snakes and only had a fleeting glimpse of a juvenile Common Lizard but the dragonflies were good.
Black Darter
Black Darter
Common Darter
Common Darter
Common Darters
Emerald Damselfly
Emperor Dragonfly
A hoverfly (possibly Xylota xanthocnema according to CR who knows a lot more about these beasties than we do) and 7-Spot Ladybird
Southern Hawker
Nice to see Painted Ladies there too.
We also got a pic of the Bog Hoverfly, a right big dobber, that we missed on the riverside wander the previous week.
The local Ospreys didn't disappoint either but were always a bit distant and heat hazy for proper pics.
Underfoot out on the Raised Bog there were loads of Sundews, predatory plants, their sticky leaves waiting to entrap any passing insects.

And to cap it all the reserve has recently been extended to include a couple of hay meadows and just look at the ditch they've dug, what a superb profile, if only all farm ditches looked like this the amount and variation of extra habitat would be phenomenal.
Yesterday we were on the dunes looking for butterflies with our regular family group. It wasn't the best of weather for butterflies but with lots of eyes searching, eager netting and some exceptional tracking by some of the parents we soon were able to pot some up to show the youngsters.
Narrow Bordered 5-Spot Burnet Moth
Common Blue in flight - video grab!
Common Blue
Devils Coach Horse - looking a bit worse for wear
Grasshopper
Grey Damsel Bug - we've never seen one of these before
And neither have we seen a bee like this before either, turns out to be either Red Thighed or Black Thighed Epeolus, apparently variable and hard to tell apart without a microscope and no we'd never heard of them before either...
The day also gave us our best pic of the blog - just look at the expression on the young lass's face, concentration, wonder, engagement - priceless - - that's what it's all about
Many thanks to the Group Organiser and parents of the children for allowing the Safari to use their photos

Where to next? There's the small matter of a Bat and Moth Night coming up - should be fun

In the meantime let us know what's priceless in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

More butterflies and a safari south of the river

The Safari had an errand to run at the beginning of last week down past the dunes, once it was over we took Monty for a scamper on the beach and on the way back to the car found this huge Sea Rocket tucked safely behind the fence.
Sadly without the fence there's no way they can grow like this, they either get trampled by people and their mutts or scraped up by the mechanical beach cleaner. Long live the fence and may many more early successional dune plants flourish! 
In other news we've been enjoying the heatwave even if Monty hasn't. It's not often you see our sea this calm and this blue and the sand looking this bright golden but weeks of calm weather have settled all the discolouring silt we normally see out of the water column and lo and behold our few square miles of the Irish Sea now look (and feel) like the Caribbean
All the tiny dots on the beach are a small proportion of the countless stranded jellyfish we saw that day, mostly Compass Jellyfish.
In between boughts of household chores, dog walking and trying to get to the back of the garage for the first time in years we've had the macro lens out in the garden at Base Camp and taken a few snaps.
Holly Blue - a rare visitor to Base Camp
 Honey Bee mimicking hoverfly, possibly Eristalis nemorum
A hoverfly Helophilus pendula
Red Tailed Bumble Bee
Before the sun has become too hot in the mornings we've been taking Monty to the Rock Gardens to have a wander round the two fields to count butterflies for the Big Butterfly Count with some success.
Common Blue
Other insects also caught our attention from time to time.
Meadow Grasshopper
Small Copper and Common Blue
Small Copper and Small Skipper
Small Copper
One morning on the walk back to Base Camp we spotted a visitor we've hardly seen at all this year. Maybe it's a different individual to the two that used to be around regularly because on the odd occasion we've seen it it's been sitting in places on the same building it/they never used to. We had the butterfly lens with us rather than the big dobber for bird photography.
Peregrine (PYLC #148)
And back to the Rock Gardens on another morning
Common Blue
Female Common Blue
Male Common Blue
 There have been a lot of Meadow Browns but when this one first caught our eye we weren't quite sure what is was, after a bit of chasing around and sneaking up we eventually got a good view and a few pics to see that it was indeed 'just' another Meadow Brown but a leucisitic one at that.
Small Copper again - we never tire of seeing these little beauties
 The next brood of Speckled Woods started to emerge and they are looking really good, a very common butterfly in our area now but it's not that long ago they were unheard of, only 25 years or so
As we said earlier other insects were apt to catch our eye and this one certainly did, we think it's some kind of Ichneumon Wasp, it disappeared under a the thatch of dead grass at the base of the vegetation maybe it had sniffed out a pupating moth chrysalis.
Back at Base Camp while having a cold drink on the patio on a sweltering afternoon we watched a Garden Cross Spider going about its business - yes folks it's autumn now!
Mid week saw us take a trip to the southside with CR and meet up with JG for a wander round the fabulous Lunt Meadows reserve. Avocets with well grown chicks refused to be photographed but who'd have thunk it years ago that less than 10 miles from Liverpool city centre and only a mile and a half from our childhood front door these exotic rarities would be breeding one day - certainly not us, Avocets were the birds of dreams and hoped for holidays down in Norfolk where even there they weren't THAT numerous back then. Two Black Tailed Godwits were more photogenic and again who'd have thunk it way back when...will they be nesting here next year?
The rest of the reserve was fairly quiet with snoozing waterfowl and resting Lapwings being the main interest, the most noise was coming from hidden Reed and Sedge Warblers. We did manage to add to our Photo Year List Challenge in the form of a distant heat-hazy Greenshank (#149)
Then it was lunchtime and time to say ta-ta to JG and wish her luck in her quest for some Purple Hairstreaks, a new species for her in yet another thought to be new location. LATE UPDATE - she was successful, great news!
We headed back north a little way to another Lancashire Wildlife Trust Reserve - they do have some real crackers - Mere Sands Wood.
Star of the show here was a juvenile Common Tern occaionally being fed by its parents - we didn't realise they had pontoons out for the terns and that a few pairs were using them
At the back of the pool the heatwave had evaporated much of the water and left a long sandy spit which was full of loafing Mallards mostly. Something spooked everything, we'd been told to look out for a passing Osprey, and one of the spookeess was a Green Sandpiper (PYLC #150) which unfortunately didn't really come close enough for a decent pic.
While we were failing miserably with the heat and distance with the Green Sandpiper CR called out he'd found a female Mandarin Duck a little closer tucked in behind some Lapwings. Again there was a little flush by something unseen and it swam out in to better view though still quite a long way off (PYLC #151).
Not the best pic but a bit of an unexpected bonus so we're certainly not going to complain!
One of the resons for visiting was the woodland as it would be cooled and shadier for a hot dog. It was good to see the plantations of Hazel coming along nicely and still very lush and verdant despite the drought conditions. A vast improvement on the impenetrable thickets of tangled gnarly old Rhododendron we helped start getting rid of in the very early 80s...still plenty more to go at too!!!
Down at the viewing platform overlooking one of the smaller pools we were quite disappointed to see it wasn't creaming with dragonflies and damselflies, only a couple of Brown Hawkers patrolled the far bank. It was nice to watch a young family of Moorhens being gently tended by their doting parents though.
A few feet away two well grown juvenile Shelducks looked as though they'd been abandoned to their fate by their doting parents - big and ugly enough to look after themselves now.
Round at the far side of the reserve the water levels were similarly low with lots of lake bed exposed. There were lots of lumps sticking put of the mud and closer inspection showed them to be the shells of hundreds of deceased Swan Mussels.
Click the pic to see them better
We'd seen the Kingfisher zooming low across the water at a couple of places earlier in the afternoon. The perches set up for photographers were high and dry with no water and hence no fish obviously. So we were a bit fortunate to find the little connecting ditch still had a bit of water in it and then as if by magic the Kingfisher appeared. Bit only for us, from where C was sitting it was obscured by too much vegetation. But we had a little window through the shrubbery giving us a half a shout at a pic.
Result!!!
All this was followed by the start of National Whale and Dolphin Watch. It started well with us getting a msg about two Bottlenose Dolphins coming our way and luckily we got on to them, our first of the year. Unfortunately this was about three hours before the start of our official Watch and the weather, after being hot, sunny and flat calm for nigh on three months was deteriorating rapidly.
Right at the start, chatting to some of the volunteers - pic courtesy of PW
The storm coming in from the left landed soon after and our four hour watch was abandoned after only 90 minutes with nothing other than a handful of Manx Shearwaters seen.

Where to next? Hopefully no more getting wet during National Whale and Dolphin Watch

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


Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

More deep purple, counting big butterflies and other lepidopterans too

The Safari took the opportunity to go back to Singleton church, taking CR with us, a couple of days ago. Once again it was a bit of a wait in the hot sun before we got our first glimpse of one of the Purple Hairstreaks. It was several minutes more before one would show well enough to point the cameras at it and even then it led us a merry dance by flying over our heads and landing on the Turkey Oak a few yards away in the new grave yard.
We had a few more glimpses and an occasional photo opportunity 
This one is a different individual to the first one as it still has its tails. Both of them were drinking honeydew from the surface of the leaves. We also saw but weren't able to photograph one female laying eggs quite low down in the canopy so we're pretty confident they'll be there next year.
Our sightings dried up as the butterflies hid at the top of their tree so we left but as we went through the church yard gate a dragonfly caught our eye in the new Peace Garden. It was chaser and kept returning to the dame dried up stalk albeit against the light from where we came through the gate. when it turned its back it revealed itself as a male Broad Bodied Chaser and a battered one coming to the end of its time a that.
After on of its forays we noticed that it was scoffing a fairly large insect but we were unable to identify what it might have been. Quite substantial whatever it was, certainly not a midge or a greenfly.
A pretty good couple of hours out.
This weekend say the launch of the annual Big Butterfly Count, an easy to join in Citizen Science project which helps monitor the state of the country's mid-summer butterfly populations.
We did two 15 minute counts this morning down on Patch 1 across the two fields behind the Rock Gardens. The rougher of the two fields had the better count, 15 Gatekeepers, 3 Small Whites, 4 Speckled Woods, 26 Meadow Browns, 4 Common Blues, a Small Skipper and a Silver Y moth, they're on the recording sheet. Not at all bad for just walking down one and a bit edges of the field. A bit of sun breaking through the heavy cloud might well have brought out a fair few more. We might have expected more skippers but the recent hot weather might have seen them finish their flight season earlier than normal.
The other field has fewer flowers and fewer species of longer grass and is also smaller, as it took less time to get round we did a few minutes in the 'Butterfly Zone' at the side of the park which was quite productive but alas no White Letter Hairstreaks, the hot weather perhaps finishing them off early like the skippers although they are still on the wing in a few localities across the Fylde. And strangely none of the larger, colourful wider-countryside species like Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell or Comma - where were they - - waiting for the sun to come out probably!
If that's what we didn't see what did we see? Well here goes; 9 Meadow Browns, 3 Gatekeepers, no fewer than 5 Small Coppers, 3 Common Blues, 2 Green Veined Whites, a Small White and 2 Silver Y moths. Totaling up that makes 71 individuals, half of which were Meadow Browns, of 9 species - not bad for a dull morning...and better still despite the muggy, humid conditions not a Clegg in sight - we did have our 200% DEET spray to fend off the little horrors but it wasn't needed thankfully.
Common Blue
Common Blue

Green Veined White
Small Copper  - hiding
Not hiding
Feeding
Back at Base camp the moth trap has continued to produce small but varied catches. A lovely Garden Pebble was New for the Garden yesterday, a large 'micro' moth bigger than some 'macro' moths - unfortunately it evaded the lens....grrrr, so here's a link
What hasn't managed to evade the lens is below...
Lesser and/or Common Rustic
Phoenix
Rosy Rustic - another New for the Garden
Shuttle Shaped Dart
Silver Y
Willow Beauty
Micro moths have been very infrequent during the second half of the month so far but we're hoping there'll be some of the little stunners to show you before too long. Just because they're small doesn't make them any less beautiful than their larger 'macro' cousins indeed many off them knock spots off the larger moths when it comes to colour and patterns.

Where to next? We have another trip lined up with CR later in the week and hopefully the moth trap will produce some interest - once we've dried it out after last night's unexpected downpours...will the electrics still work???

In the meantime let us know who's buzzing around the churchyards in your outback



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Purple patch then porpoise pathos

The Safari has finally got round to updating our Header pic after almost a year - how lazy of us!
Solemn family business took us south of the river a couple of days ago. The journey back held two options, a) bunk in at Marshside RSPB reserve for a walk down to Nels Hide or b) keep moving to avoid the dreaded 'schools out' traffic around Preston and drop in at Singleton church. We chose the latter as Monty was asleep in the back of the car and not sitting up looking like he needed a toilet stop as we passed Marshside.
A butterfly hunter was already in the churchyard when we arrived but the usual question, 'seen owt?' was answered in the negative. Not the best news but the Oak tree is large although only 58 years old and the sun was shining more strongly on the far side so we had a wander into the newer half of the graveyard. Good decision - within five minutes of looking at the top of the canopy a dark movement much lower down caught our eye and Bingo we were on to a Lifer butterfly Purple Hairstreak.We called the other watcher over and we both enjoyed pretty good binocular views of at least three of them fluttering around a small gap in the lower canopy. Really difficult to get a pic of at 600mm as it was like looking down a pea-shooter absolutely no field of view to speak of so finding the right group of four or five leaves was tricky and then the mixture of bright light on reflective surfaces and dark shadows played havoc with the metering. But we persevered changing settings every time we were able to get on a butterfly and with the magic of processing managed to get a couple of half decent pics for you in the end.
The butterflies themselves must reflect a huge amount of UV as they were horrendously over-exposed and the pics above took a lot of processing to get any colour detail at all.
There seems to be a little bit of a glut of Purple and White Letter Hairstreaks happening at the mo with small colonies of both turning up in new places every few days. Whether they are genuinely new colonies or just because there's more watchers watching and checking different sites other than the known hotspots is perhaps hard to tell but they could be moving around in response to the hot dry weather we've had for the last few weeks. We've even had what was probably a White Letter Hairstreak tazz through the garden at Base Camp and yesterday a small dark bronzy butterfly caught our attention as it fluttered along the cliffs, difficult to keep track of with the bins but deffo not a skipper, which we don't see along here nor was it a Common Blue which despite the profusion of Birds Foot Trefoil foodplant or a Small Copper which we very seldom see along the cliffs and from the flight jizz we reckon it was one of the hairstreaks unfortunately we lost sight of it when it dropped into some long vegetation we had hoped it would settle to nectar on one of the taller Ragwort flowerheads where we could get a proper look at it.
It was while we were trying to refind the butterfly we spotted someone's dog sniffing at something large on the beach, training our bins that way we saw it was a stranded and deceased Harbour Porpoise so down we went for a closer look.
It hadn't been dead long and maybe live stranded on the previous tide and been washed out and back in again. Both cheeks had been eaten away they seem to be the first bit the scavengers go for but that looks like a lot more damage than the not so many gulls on the beach could cause in a short space of time unless they'd been perched on it while it was at sea but we don't see any poop splashes although they could have washed off we suppose. It was collected and was in good enough condition to be sent for a post-mortem for the UK Strandings Scheme.
Other finds on the beach recently have included an awesome undamaged Cuttlefish 'bone'. now what we'd really like would be to find a live one, they're obviously out there somehere.
Not so good a find was this long strand of Wireweed, an invasive species from the Pacific Ocean; we've seen more since trapped on the chains along the slipways down to the beach - must be a bit of a nightmare at where-ever it comes from.
Back at Base Camp the moth trap has been producing small but varied catches. This one is Agriphila straminella, a common 'micro' moth but one that doesn't visit Base Camp very often.
We've got a few more moth pics but we'll share those with you next time...might be even more by then too.

Where to next? another trip out to look for/at the Purple Hairstreaks and maybe a river wander too, if there's any water to call it a river!

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


Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Hardly mothtastic at Base Camp but…

The Safari has been enviously reading about triple figure overnight moth catches of dozens of species all over social media these last few weeks but unfortunately our own moth trap has produced meagre returns both in terms of nightly numbers and of species involved. That's not to say that we haven't had some fun and are always eager to peer in to the trap each morning just in case there's something different in there - - preferably not wasps!
Here's a trundle through some of the moths we've caught - mostly those that have stayed still long enough for us to get a pic of as it's normally already very warm by the time we're able to get to open the trap and there's always a few escapees, probably the most exciting and/or most colourful ones ie Brimstone moth - they just won't keep still!
Brimstone from a couple of years back
The following are all from this month and in no particular order
Acleris forsskaleana
Acrobasis advenella - New for the garden
Blastobasis adustella
Celypha striana
Clay
Currant Pug - New for the garden
Dark Arches - a rather pale individual and worn too
Dot moth
Dotted Clay
Heart & Dart - self explanatory some of these names aren't they!
Large Yellow Underwing
Marbled Beauty
Marbled Minor
Mouse moth
Pammene fasciana
Poplar Grey
Poplar Grey doing what they do best, can you spot him?
Red Barred Tortrix - New for the garden
Riband Wave
A couple of Rustics - or are they???
Scalloped Oak
Small Magpie
Uncertain - Yes that's it's name - - see Rustics above
Our thanks for the trickier identifications go to Sean on Twitter at @mothIDUK he must have the patience of a saint as every morning his feed is jam packed with enquiries from novice moth-ers like ourselves. He really is a font of all moth knowledge and if ever there's a Twitter award he should get it. He's what social media was invented for and should be all about - none of that advertising, spam and bot nonsense.
In other news we've missed a few Bottlenose Dolphins along the coast - we just don't seem to be able to connect with them and the other day we were at a rainy (the first rain for weeks!!!!!!! Grrrrr) Leighton Moss with CR when news broke of a Risso's Dolphin off our former regular watch point at a time when had we not retired we'd have been peering over the wall at the sea. We had hoped to go to the private reserve a little further north but the rain meant we needed at least some cover which is lacking there. The Risso's Dolphin was the second record in less than a year after a decade of no sightings and perhaps begs the question is it the same individual returning this summer after last summer and will it come back around the same time next summer? The species is an infrequent visitor to Liverpool Bay preferring the deeper water of the western parts of the Irish Sea and off the peninsulas of the Welsh coast.
Our visit to Leighton Moss was rain affected and we were a little unlucky with our leaving and arrivinf at certain hides - you should have been here five minutes ago the Otter caught a massive fish and later we were told you should have stayed a bit longer there were three Marsh Harriers up together...dohhh some days the gods are against you but there's always something to see.Summer plumaged Black Tailed Godwits are always a joy
We got a much better shot of a Snipe for our Year List Photo Challenge which still stands at 147 as no more new species were added on this visit.
A Water Rail showed well close by at the Causeway but was always obscured by either a close to us or a close to it reed leaf when the camera fired and we got no pics with its face in a proper clear view.
An adult Water Rail with a tiny black chick was out on the mud on the far side of the pool but too far away for a decent pic unfortunately.
Much closer and of real interest was a Carrion Crow which had picked up a live Eel, we assume (and you should never assume anything) that the Eel was swimming close to the surface among the rocks at the water's edge and the crow had grabbed it, there were no other birds nearby that could have caught and then dropped it.
A Cormorant was also fishing for Eels.
While we waited for the Otters, Ospreys and Bitterns not to show we were entertained by a family of Pied Wagtails flitting around feasting on the innumerable flies and a post hopping Black Headed Gull.
We didn't spend long at the saltmarshes as the pools had dried up and there were only a few juvenile Black Headed Gulls loafing a around - don't think we've ever seen it so dry or so quiet down there.
Young Black Headed Gulls are very bonny birds and all slightly different as they go through their moults at slightly different speeds/times
So a slightly disappointing day out on safari after 'enduring' weeks of glorious weather, the camera was racked up to ISO Stupid for the first time in months!
The following morning dawned hot and sunny - Bl**dy typical!!! - so we took Monty out early to the Rock Gardens before the sun got too hot for him and hopefully before the masses of  blood sucking Cleggs were on the wing - no chance, good job we had our 50% DEET with us just in case.
There was no sign of any White Letter Hairstreaks around their favourite tree but we did see a good many other butterflies; probably in excess of 75 Meadow Browns and likewise 25+ Gatekeepers
with a supporting cast of 'loads' of Small and Large Whites, but no Green Veined Whites that others elsewhere in the country are seeing in good numbers, a few skippers all of those we could get on to and ID were Large Skippers,

a Small Copper,
a female Common Blue
We tried to get a pic of the upperside to show it was a female but Monty was being a nightmare and kept poking his nose in to the grass too close to it and it kerpt flying off, and a Speckled Wood.
Where to next? We've got a moth and bat night coming up later in the week and the moth trap will be back on at Base Camp as soon as this welcome rain gives over. 

In the meantime let us know who's fluttering around the lights in your outback



Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A morning’s rampage through the Rock Gardens

The Safari apologises for being 'off-air' for so long. We have been out n about on safari but have had serious family stuff to deal with culminating in the not-unexpected funeral earlier this week.
With a bit more time on our hands we were able to join CR at the local park mid-week for a butterfly hunt and arriving there we found former colleague WM already searching for the White Letter Hairstreaks.
By eck it was hot and humid down in the 'Butterfly Zone', the rough un-managed bit of the park. Unfortunately with the recent hot spell all but a tiny few of the Bramble flowers have been pollinated already and are turning in to tasty Blackberries. This along with the total lack of Thistles this season meant there was no nectar to tempt the Hairstreaks down from their favourite tree top so we have no pics of them for you, They did emerge very early this year, looking back through our Flickr site we tend to see them on Bramble and Thistle flowers about now or even later!
Although our quarry wasn't for showing itself other than fluttering around the uppermost branches of their favourite tree we did find plenty of other insects to point the camera at.
Celypha laculana
Field Grahopper - or is it Common Green Grasshopper?
It seems to have hairs on the underside which would make it Field but we're not totally sure
Gatekeeper and common Wasp
The same Gatekeeper
Large Skipper - a male due to the scent lines on the wing
Meadow Brown
Leptopterna dolabrata - female
Leptopterna dolabrata - male
Small Skipper - female - - no scent lines on the upper wings
Definitely a female - she started laying eggs on the nearby grass stems
And then went for another refuel
Common Red Soldier Beetle - not sure hat the white stuff on it's face is
If the White Letter Hairstreaks are the animal speciality of the site then Ploughman's Spikenard must be the plant speciality. This year we can only find a handful of specimens but typically there's a dozen or more. Somehow this site was omitted from the huge and authoritative Flora of North Lancashire.
Our final tally was 13 species of butterflies, including Small Tortoiseshell, shich CR didn't see and Small Copper which WM had seen before we arrived. With a bit of luck we could have added Common Blue, Peacock and Green Veined White but were perhaps just between broods wit hthem on the cusp of emerging.
An Emperor dragonfly was good to see there too.
Pottering around in the garden later that afternoon we were lucky enough to be visited by a Comma, a species seen at the Rock Gardens but not keeping still enough to be photographed - well we made amends!
In other news we've moved our Photo Year List Challenge on by not a lot to 147, adding poor pics of
Red Kite
 and Green Woodpecker
Both a long long way away while on our sunny sojourn to south Shropshire. We failed to see, never mind get a pic of, the Yellowhammer that was singing from the hedgerows almost all day every day!

A wander out along the new seawall at Rossall with GB the other afternoon  gave us distant, but close for here, views of Manx Shearwaters....Stop Press...as we type this rubbish there's a House Sparrow calling in the garden - our 1st of the year!!!!!
And relax...and back to the Manx Sheawaters...
We've been doing a lot of moth trapping in the garden and trapping not a lot of moths but we've had some nice ones and some NFGs (New For the Garden) so hopefully we'll let you know all about those in the net couple of days.

Where to next? This coming Thursday we're joining the Wildlife Trust's Living Seas NW team again for the monthly sea watch at Rossall Coastguard tower, Bottlenose Dolphins were filmed off the prom at Cleveleys yesterday evening) so finger (and everything else crossed) for a good result on the watch. And then we're out with CR again perhaps to the private reserve on the fringe of Lakeland.

In the meantime let us know who's been fluttering round the tree tops in your outback


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