Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Some you lose and then you win big time

The Safari had a good start to the week with some decent weather and a flat calm sea giving us an early morning Harbour Porpoise and a couple of Grey Seals. The tide was out and what we wanted to photograph was well out of range. 
Back in the office we had an email from SD telling us he'd had at least one Bottlenose Dolphin too. 
The following day we were out with the camera again to try to photograph our target species for the Year Bird Challenge but a scan of the sea didn't reveal any at all but there was a flock of lively gulls away to our north. A good look at those was called for in case any of our quarry were with them although they were too far away to even think about aiming the camera in that direction.
There was a reason for the commotion - a big splash and a dark shape burst through the water's surface. Still too far away but we fired the shutter off anyway.
We'd got Bottlenose Dolphins...but how many?
For the next half hour they came closer parallel to the shoreline but not much closer inshore. The best count we could get three, one in the lead and two following a good way behind.
The following shots are in the order they were taken. Right on the limit of our small lens.
Missed - not quick enough on the shutter button!
They were tricky to get pics off as they weren't doing any big leaps but let's just say we were grinning from ear to ear when we hot back into the office. Still no additions to our Year Bird Challenge though. That would happen at lunchtime when the tide was in - not the best pic though so we'll try to get another but at least Sandwich Tern (YBC #140) has been added to our photo album at last.
There'll be loads roosting on the beach in a few weeks time, big flocks of them, but by then they'll be in their winter garb.
This week we've played host to a young lad on his Work Experience week. One of the tasks we've being doing with him has been a lot of weeding in the Dementia Friendly Garden. The earlier part of the week was very hot and humid. On Wednesday morning we didn't notice any Ladybirds but as the temperature climbed and the humuditity increased there must have been a big influx around lunchtime as we spotted hundreds of  7-Spot Ladybirds returning to our thistle pulling after our break.

There was also a notable influx of Red Admirals flying through the works garden and on Patch 1 as well. 
Our first Swift (P2 #52) of the year here was heard screaming then seen overhead on Wednesday too.
Our young lad was a geography student and interested in climate change and all that goes with it so we took him to the nature reserve to show him how it is involved with the drainage system of the town and if sea-level rises too much then we could become an island. At the end of June 27 years ago we came for a job interview and before going in thought we'd have a wander around the reserve to familiarise ourselves with it as we'd only visited once or twice previously. That day was like this day with warm sunshine and we remember hearing a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away in the rough lower ground to the right of the track and thinking "Hey that's not bad, I could work work here" or at least something like that. Could it have been a descendant of that Grasshopper Warbler that was reeling away from almost the same spot today??? Little did we know way back then that a few years later we'd be instrumental in getting that patch of rough ground included within the Local Nature Reserve.
As well as the Work Experience lad during the day we've entertained Rainbows and Brownies in the evening. They've both had the nets out and ransacked the pond. The Rainbows pulled out a big surprise. Our pond is raised for safety reasons so we would never expect to find tadpoles in there as Frogs and Toads wouldn't be able to jump or climb the wall to reach the water so seeing three of these was a bit of a shock.
We can only imagine that some well meaning person with a pond at home, possibly one that was in danger of drying up in the hot weather has affected a jam-jar rescue and put them in our pond.
The Rainbows found several damselfly nymphs and a fair few dragonfly nymphs but just a couple of days later the Brownies only managed a single damselfly nymph but a great many dragonfly nymphs.
Probably Common Darter dragonfly nymph
All exciting stuff and then the weather changed from a lovely hot and humid, 28C must be one of the hottest June days ever recorded here but the following day was cold wet and windy back down to, a well below average for the end of June, 15C - it felt like 5C in the wind!
Wit the wet and windy weather coming the wildlife seemed to went and the last couple of days have been a bit sparse for sightings although it has grounded the 7-Spot Ladybirds and forced them to pause their journey to who-knows-where as we were still seeing plenty during our last bout of weeding yesterday afternoon.
Where to next? It's the weekend so there might well be a safari somewhere and next week we will be entertaining more Brownies, this time they'll be rockpooling on the beach so watch out for their super finds.
In the meantime let us know who's mysteriously appeared in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

The trouble with barn owls

The Safari was out early on the hunt for a scarcish bird to hopefully add to our Year Bird Challenge. We were at the site with the scope set up only a few minutes after 07.00. All was peaceful, the sun was already warm on our back and almost all of the sounds were the sounds of nature. It was good to be out almost like being in a scene that might have been painted by John Constable.
We had a good scan for our intended quarry but to no avail. There were plenty of other waders and waterfowl but not the one we wanted...yet.
 Overhead Skylarks serenaded us and from the hedge behind us a Whitethroat sang incessantly but the most obvious sound was the calls from the group of about four dozen Black Tailed Godwits feeding and resting in the pool right in front of us.

Further down the lane there was a Gypsy lad with a lovely modern horse-drawn caravan - we say Gypsy, he might have been any old bod just escaping the rat race - He came over to see what we were looking at before hitching up his horse and leaving. His caravan had metal cartwheels and made a serious drumming and rumbling noise on the road causing the cattle closest to us to stampede through the pool putting the Black Tailed Godwits to flight.
He also said he'd seen a big pale brown owl earlier which we expected would be back asleep in its barn by now. 
We kept on looking for the Little Ringed Plover that's been reported regularly recently but still had no luck so started to occupy ourselves while the birds moved around a bit by watching a family of Coots.
As luck would have it a Barn Owl flew overhead with prey heading back to its nest - where had that come from surely if it had been hunting in the cattle field we'd have seen it! As it disappeared in to the distance we didn't bother raising the camera to get a pic of its backside. And that was the end of that we thought as it was now nearly 08.00. But no, it snuck up on us again while we were engrossed in watching the tiny Shelduck chicks and the numerous mostly well grown Shoveler chicks. It didn't hunt 'our' field but skipped over the hedge and crossed the normally very busy dual carriageway.
Well what goes out a-hunting must come back and after a good length of time come back it did carrying a vole. Trouble is we very nearly missed it. You see that's the trouble with owls they fly silently and this one came back behind us and we were lucky to catch it in the corner of our eye but being behind us and that meant it was now on the wrong side of the light. We swung the camera round and fired away hopefully. Got it - just!!!

So really good to get a Barn Owl (YBC 139) on our our Year Bird Challenge. Unfortunately the Little Ringed Plover didn't show by the time we had to leave to get Wifey's breakfast on the go.
Later we were out again to try to find out if the local White Letter Hairstreak butterflies were on the wing as they'd been reported from the Southside yesterday, very close to where we'd been on our family duties. being a sunny Sunday morning the pollinator killers were out with their lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, we saw a lawn full of White Clover and Self Heal being scalped followed by a large Santolina bush losing its flowers - why on earth cut the colourful bit off? - and then a Buddleia bush having its unopened flowerbuds removed. We also saw the large grassy area behind the fence has been mown, at the end of last week it was a sea of yellow Buttercups. It really is no wonder the bees, butterflies, moths etc  are struggling. Why are we so terrified of flowers and colour?
It was already hot on Patch 1 and there were a few butterflies about. Most were Large Skippers and they weren't for stopping at all. We also had a few Speckled Woods, a similar number of Common Blues and singles of Red Admiral and Small White, no Meadow Browns yet and although we hung around 'the' tree we didn't see any White Letter Hairstreaks.
Also out n about was a rare 7-spot Ladybird, we've hardly seen any ladybirds this year.
Of more interest was this parasitic wasp
We've got a couple of possibles but are waiting for those clever iSpotters for a definitive ID.
On the way back we bumped into a dead Long Tailed Field Mouse lying on the pavement that wasn't there on the way out. Cat or heat? Or a mixture of both?
Where to next? Back to work tomorrow and we have another Brownie group in the evening so there might be something exciting they've found to show you later in the week. 
In the meantime let us know who's sneaking up behind you in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Some you know some you don’t – always something new to learn

The Safari has had a busy week. We've been entertaining the Brownies on the beach and doing a bit of exploring around and about for ourselves too.
We always find it amazing that the beach can change so much in such a short space of time. On Tuesday evening the Brownies found loads of shells
but only one live Green Shore Crab - and that came out of the sand close to where they were standing probably in response to their pattering feet. It wasn't for want of trying either as we had well over a dozen nets being wielded in the rockpools and runnels. They did pull out a huge number of Brown Shrimps including many large ones and a solitary Common Prawn. We found them half a Compass Jellyfish floating in a pool, much more likely battered on the rocks by the previous day's storm than bitten by a hungry Leatherback Turtle. While gently caressing it to turn it over to show its 'compass points' we managed to get stung and had a very itchy thin red wheal on our hand all the following day. The also found something far more dangerous than a jellyfish - lostfishing tackle with a couple of hooks still attached.
In contrast a similar number of Guides found a rather different suite of creatures. They found a smaller Compass Jellyfish lying on the sand and close by were the first of many Sea Gooseberries, something we didn't see at all the previous evening. Like the Brownies they found prodigious numbers of Brown Shrimps but all but one were very small, where had all the big ones gone? They didn't find a single Common Prawn either but did manage four species of fish with neither group seeing any of the very common Sand Gobies in the runnels which would normally be expected. Four species of fish caught in one rockpooling session is good but not including Sand Goby is remarkable.
Despite the rough weather there were no Common Starfish or Brittle Stars to be found nor any of the giant Octopus Jellyfish which had been a feature on the beach only last week. That's why wildlife is so brill - you just can't predict what's going to be about.
Once the winds had subsided the rest of the week turned out nice and there was a selection of invertebrates to be found in the work's garden. A week or so ago when the sun was out we'd spotted a species of spider hunting wasp but were unable to get a photo. and now a bit of sunshine had us out looking again. We didn't see any but did find a rather tall specimen of the rare Deptford Pink and only an hour after telling someone they hadn't come up yet...dohhh prove us a liar!
To be fair we were looking where they've appeared in the past in mown grass and consequently much smaller although this large specimen was only a few feet away so perhaps we should have noticed it.
Around and about flying through the long grass were hundreds of the lovely Broad Centurion soldierflies
So far this year we've not seen many hoverflies anywhere we've been out on safari but the work's garden seems singularly devoid of them so seeing this big dobber was a bit of a treat. We think it's one of the Helophilus species.
 Also present as a single individual was this quite unusually shaped fly. We're sure we've seen it before but can't put a name to it yet - can you help?
Still on the look out for any spider hunting wasps we saw some tiny Cinnabar moth caterpillars. Unusually they weren't on their foodplant but at the tip of a Yorkshire Fog grass stem. What on earth were they doing up there? Basking to get more heat?
Lower down, still deep in the grass were their friends, these were on the right plant - Ragwort - and had made serious inroads into it. Maybe the others had done an early bunk to find a bigger Ragwort plant to start chomping on.
A big movement very low in the grass nearby caught our eye, we'd disturbed something fairly large and brown and out fluttered our first Silver Y moth of the year. You can make out the silver Y on it's fast moving wings as it scrambled to get clear of the grasses to make an escape.
By the picnic area there are a couple of old logs we used to use as seats but which are now in the later stages of rotting away. The furthest gone will be nothing more than a pile of dust soon but interestingly we noticed a few red blobs 'growing' at the most rotten end.
 We gave them a gentle prod with a finger to find out if they might have been candle wax or not, they weren't, deffo well attached to the wood. Could they be young Scarlet Elf Cap fungi? It's a very odd place for that species though, out in the open and very exposed to the most severe elements such as gale force winds, salt spray, direct sunlight. Or could it be a slime mould of some sort? We're going to be keeping an eye on it but if anyone has any ideas let us know.
We did eventually see one of the wasps and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing managed to get a few snaps of it. We're pretty sure it's Amblyteles armatorius which would mean that despite it being on a spider's web and us thinking those fast waving antennae were searching out the web's owner tucked beneath the prickles of the Creeping Thistle leaves it wasn't hunting for spiders at all. Reading the books it appears that this species parasitises Noctuid moths. That's why wildlife is so brill - you just know you'll learn something new before too long. It might have been this one hiding in the seedpods of the Red Campion
Here's a Red Campion pod still full of seeds - when the wind blows it acts like a shaker and the seeds are scattered.
And so what does the non-spider hunting wasp look like - well fortunately we got a few pics that are juts about in focus.
It's certainly a beauty - unless you're a moth caterpillar that is in which case it's your worst nightmare!
Where to next? It''s the weekend and the weather is fine so there might be a safari once family duties are done to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know who's on the prowl in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Wet in the rain and the hope for a boar

The Safari wasn't able to do the dolphin watch we'd hoped to do for World Environment Day due to bad (= atrocious) weather, nor was there any chance to move it World Oceans Day a few days later due to solemn family duties. The following day we had a bit of a chill out day with Wifey to clear our heads and have a bit of a walk out with Monty somewhere he's not been before.
We had a walk along the river listening to mostly Blackcaps, Robins and Song Thrushes. We had to listen as we didn't see any birds at all in the dense woodland. There was a bird we did want to see and photograph, a Dipper or two, but arriving on site mid-afternoon the amount of doggy disturbance so far, which we added to to be honest, probably put paid to any chance of seeing them. 
Almost at the end of the woodland section of the circular walk we eventually came a across a real live bird, a Robin sat preening on a low twig possibly after having a bathe in one of the many puddles just off the edge of the track.
Once out of the woods the meadow was a picture of glowing gold from the myriad of Meadow Buttercups. Last time we were at this site was last year with BD (or was it the year before? - time flies when you're on safari) there was a team out with a heavy duty motorised scrub cutter clearing away the Alder and Willow scrub that was developing and beginning to over-run the meadow. Now we're all for reforestation and rewilding but there are limits. This work was being done to ensure the scrub didn't totally over-shadow the orchids that grew on the meadow.
The work had been a success as it didn't take long to find the first Southern? Marsh Orchid, nor the second or third, once you'd got your eye in there were thousands scattered among the buttercups.

 A wonderful sight!
Back at the car Monty was being cleaned off and we had a quick look at the apparently empty feeders in the corner of the car park. There was some food and there was a bird there in the deep dark shadows. We edged closer very carefully and fired off a few shots as we went.

Those stripes down the back and the buff wing bar gave the ID away, a Lesser Redpoll (162, YBC #138).
Sneaking a little closer and changing the settings on the camera we ended up with an almost decent pic showing it's lovely red head which gives the bird its name.
Once home we had a txt from CR saying he'd had a Blue Tailed Damselfly close to his pond which he didn't think had emerged from there but flown in from elsewhere. We took advantage of a bit of sunshine and went into the garden at Base Camp to find the same species almost immediately.
This one could well have emerged from our pond.
Later our Extreme Photographer sent us some very interesting pics. His neighbour had been at a friend's and she had brought back a bit of a specimen that her friend, knowing of our Extreme's interest in wildlife, had kept for him. 
The recently shed skin of a very large Grass Snake.
It's a big one, well over 1m long
The ventral scales were about 4 cm across!
What a great addition to his collection of wildlife bits n pieces.
We'd love to see one that big in Safari-land, we like to see one any size in Safari-land!!!
Last night on Twitter we saw a post about wildflowers and lawn-mowers that reminded us very much of Patch 1. So while we were out with Monty after the rain we took the opportunity to recreate the post. Here's today's pic. The field looks like this every day.
But it used to be cut less frequently until a couple of years ago and often looked like this, or white with White Clover and buzzing with bees.
Why do the 'Tidy Brigade' hate wildflowers and all their associated invertebrate life, especially pollinators, so much?
Most of the field isn't played on by the local kids and could easily be left uncut for longer, if absolutely necessary the margin against the paths could be cut to no more than a metre in. We're beginning to think all public green spaces, including, and perhaps especially, the roadside verges should be manged for pollinators and other insects and sod the 'Tidy Brigade'; sports fields would obviously be exempt but less tidy doesn't mean un-managed or uncared for and should be the norm. If people want tidy let them scalp their own lawns and leave the rest alone. What is it that they/we are so afraid of?
On the way back we saw a garden that had recently had some bedding plants put in. There were scattered plants surrounded by what seemed like acres of bare soil. Now the gardener obviously meant it to look like that and will spend ages all summer hoeing and weeding to keep it so. But we thought it just looked like a sounder of Wild Boars had had a rummage and accidentally missed or deliberately avoided a few plants - we can imaging the chaps absolute terror if a flock of Wild Boars had done that to his garden no doubt he'd be calling for a cull!!! They're a species that would do well at the riverside site we visited yesterday provided they could avoid all the doggy would Beavers up the river...heaven forbid!!! BUT the river managers had felled some trees directly into the river to reduce and deflect the flow in certain areas just as Beavers would do...
Come on Britain, pull your fingers out and lets get some wildlife back in our land, urban and rural!
Where to next? Back to the real world of work tomorrow but we do have an event on the beach in the evening to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know who's tidying up in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

On the trail of the lonesome bee orchid

The Safari was out yesterday morning joining a guided wildflower walk just a few hundred yards from Base Camp. The sun shone and the small group wandered around the Community Orchard to begin with before moving further afield.
After ticking off the obvious species like Nettles, Cow Parsley, Cleavers and Cock'sfoot grass in the orchard we spent time looking at Red Clover, Ox-eye Daisies, Lesser Trefoil and Crested Dog's Tail grass out in the open. On the hard clay of the open plateau is where the Bee Orchids can be found. Indeed we knew there were at least half a dozen or so lurking on the edge of the denser vegetation as we;'d found them earlier in the spring. But today try as we might we couldn't relocate them and it should have been easier as they ought to be in flower by now. Eventually we did find one and it took some serious tracking down as it was looking very much worse for wear. Perhaps the long dry spell had put paid to them.
All was not lost though as we did come across three spikes of the chlorophyll lacking parasitic Common Broomrape, we've seen it here before but not for a few years. We're pretty sure it parasitises the Red Clover here. It is very local and only ever appears in the same few square yards despite the Red Clover occurring across the whole area. 
With family duties to attend to we had to leave the group early so we went back today for another look this time without Monty so we were less hindered for taking some pics.
Before that, in the morning, we'd taken him round Patch 1 where we heard a couple of Chiffchaffs, one of the Blackcaps and saw the Whitethroat which although we couldn't see if it was carrying food must surely be nesting by now.
The highlight of our visit wasn't the birds though as we spotted four Common Blues
Heavily cropped phone pic
and our first Large Skipper of the year.
As well as this cheeky three-some
Not entirely sure what #3 is up to here, the other two are probably not impressed
Back at the wildflower area after lunch we heard a Whitethroat and two Chiffchaffs there too as we walked in. The first thing we wanted to check was the dyke that we noticed yesterday had been cleaned out recently - right at the worst time of year, we're not sure if that would have been legal, certainly the bush with the breeding Reed Buntings is no longer there!
Surely everyone knows work like that should be done in the winter and certainly by March at the very latest. The waste is piled up on the edge of the County Biological Heritage Site which is a long way from Best Practice too although it would have allowed any aquatic animals to get back into the water but buried much off the local patch of Meadowsweet/ It's hardly as if it was essential work as it's barely rained a drop for the best part of a month or more. Fortunately the other end of the dyke which is far more floristically diverse than this section hasn't been touched - - - yet??? 
Back at the Broomrapes we were able to get a few pics in the sunshine.
Despite its weirdness it's deffo a proper job flowering plant
The third one, unopened
Although it was sunny there weren't very many butterflies on the wing just a couple of Common Blues and this Speckled Wood in the Community Orchard
Pick of the afternoon's fimds was this mating wheel of Blue Tailed Damselflies.
A very pleasant fourth day (already!!!) of #30DaysWild out finding wild stuff and none of it more than a short walk from Base Camp
Where to next? Looks like torrential rain and strong winds are going to put the kibosh on tomorrows planned whale and dolphin watch for World Environment Day
In the meantime let us know who's doing what they perhaps shouldn't be in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

It’s June so it’s #30DaysWild again

The Safari has been struggling to get out as much as we'd like due to work and family stuff but when we have got out we have had some great sightings.
A brief look at the sea on Patch 2 the other lunchtime had us watching a flock of about 40 Gannets diving for fish. They were very distant though and the terns with them were little more than a couple of shiny white pixels in the telescope. Chasing them with ultra agility was a slightly larger dark speck, an Arctic Skua (161, P2 #51). Much closer in and away to the south was a bottling Grey Seal.
Last weekend we had a visit to the nature reserve to try to add some more species to our Year Bird Photo Challenge. We had in mind Blackcap and Reed Warbler with the hope for Swift if conditions were right. Standing nearr the end of the causeway at the wetland we had stereo Reed Warblers but in the damp and windy weather they were staying low in the reeds and we couldn't see them. The slightly iffy weather did mean there were parties of Swifts moving through most of the time we were there but trying to get a pic proved difficult especially as we were on the wrong side of the light for photographing fast moving dark shapes against a pale background. Male Blackcaps seemed to be singing from every other bush but again we didn't see a single one.
Along the reserve's embankment we managed a pic of a singing Reed Bunting but the numerous Reed Warblers down there still eluded us, one teased us by showing well at the edge of the reeds for a few second, until we raised the camera of course.
At the bridge we were slightly better positioned with regard to the light to get some Swift shots, which we did. (YBC #137)
Crikey they're tricky! So flippin quick!!! Eventually we got the pic we wanted but at ISO stupid it's still not perfect
With Swifts in the bag and little else doing we went round to the big park to look for the Treecreepers. We're not sure there's any left in there after so many of the larger trees full of nooks crannies and niches have been removed but word on the street is there is still one pair left. Of course we didn't find them but did see a few cheeky Grey Squirrels demanding peanuts from everyone passing by.
A trip out to the countryside with Wifey and Monty had us failing to find any of the hoped for Tree Pipits, although the time of day was wrong. There were lots of lens voiding Siskins but no Green Hairstreak butterflies, we might have missed those by a week or so, it was a lovely afternoon so they should have been on the wing.not far away there's a lovely riverside walk where we took Monty for a splash to cool off. While he was playing in the very low stream a Grey Wagtail dropped in on the rocks on the far bank to collect food fore its youngsters.
Back at Base Camp thundery weather brought screaming Swifts (Garden #27) into earshot but they were very very high. That is one of the quintessential sounds of summer but has sadly just about gone from Base Camp now. A decade ago it was heard daily with small flocks racing round the rooftop in the evening the last couple of years we've heard them  just once or twice a summer and the wheeling flocks are long gone - very sad and our home life is very much the poorer because of their loss. young children growing up round here now will never know them and think that is normal - all part of the Shifting Baseline syndrome and collapse of bio-abundance.
Best not get too maudlin as there is still some great wildlife to enjoy, what we need to do is appreciate and cherish it so that the baseline starts to shift upwards rather than downwards and the biodiversity we keep hearing about becomes ever more abundant.
At Base Camp male Greenfinches have suddenly appeared gorging on the sunflower seeds they've ignored all winter - there must be some broods of chicks not too far away.
And at work we spotted a tiny Nomad Bee/Potter Wasp buzzing around the Ox-eye Daisies went to get the camera but it had gone never to be seen again by the time we got back. We did see a different solitary bee collecting pollen from the Ox-eye Daisies.And by eck did it collect a lot of pollen!
At first we thought it was probably Colletes daviesanus but it was eventually identified via Twitter as Halictus rubicundus by none other than Steven Falk, author of the recently published field guide to bees. Amid the drivel, nonsense and adverts on social media it's great to have almost instantaneous access to real experts who are willing to give their time and expertise to help out anyone who asks.
It's now June and once again the wildlife Trusts are asking us to find and explore our inner wild and share our experiences on social media. With all the guff around the General Election it's a blessed relief to have some uplifting posts about people interacting with wildlife braking up the time-lines. Only one of the parties mentions the environment yet without a healthy environment to support us all their other policies and especially GDP so loved by the tories (SPIT) are nothing - why can't they see that???
So show the politicians of all persuasions that the environment is important to you by getting stuck in to #30DaysWild and sharing your experiences.
Here's some of the suff we've come across so far
Mating Small Whites on Meadow Cranesbill in the work's wildflower area
What's round the next bend? Let's explore
This beautiful lady was!
Yes we do have a licence to molest them like this
There were also a couple of Toads and a single Smooth Newt under that piece of rubbish. Always worth turning over anything that's been lying around awhile but remember to turn it back once you've finished.
Yesterday afternoon we took a half term family group down onto the beach to do a bit of rockpooling, their best find was this huge Mermaid's Purse
Eggcase from a Thornback Ray
Where to next? We'll be out looking for something wild today - what will it be??? We hope you'll be out in your outback looking and sharing too.
In the meantime let us know what you've already #30DaysWild-ed

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Sitting at the dock of the bay

The Safari was able to get an hour down at the old dock where mooring pontoons have been commandeered by a colony of nesting terns. Actually there wasn't anywhere to sit so we were standing against the railings.The terns are sat on their nests right below your feet!
and offer crippling views 
as they come and go
sometimes bringing food for egg incubating mates
Right by the huge Mute Swan's nest was this Arctic Tern sitting tight. The swan's nest is constructed between heaps of driftwood.
The Common Tern's nest in the first pic got trodden on by the male Mute Swan as he clambered aboard the pontoon to join his mate. Somehow he only managed to kick a bit of cardboard over the eggs and managed not to crush them. Not the best place to build your nest - bit like pitching a flimsy tent in the inside lane of the M6 and hoping the trucks won't squish you.
On the way back to Base Camp we stopped briefly at the neaby marsh where a number of House Martins were busy collecting mud for ttheir nests. Is it just us or do numbers of these little beauties and Swifts appear well down this summer?
We had a quick scan of the muddy margins of the pool but found only a few Redshanks, Lapwings and snoozing Mallards.
Then out of cover close by, perhaps worried about the barking from Monty as we'd left him in the car and he wasn't happy, came a family of Shovelers. Good to have them nesting in our area, let's hope at least a couple of the ducklings survive.
Back at Base Camp the garden is blooming after our holiday and now we have two spikes on our Northern Marsh Orchid in the tub by the sitting room window.
Herb Robert self seeds into every available space buut we don't mind as it's cheery and the bees and other insects love it.
And finally here's a few mmore from Cornwall we've managed to get round to processing.
Botallack's Meeter-n-Greeter in-chief - - no-one was allowed to pass without giving him a tickle on the chin
Bumblebee sp on Gorse
Common Blue
Black Lipped Banded Snail - yellow un-banded form
Garden Snail
Navelwort - very common on the dry stone walls around the village and cliffs, in fact it grow where-ever it could find the tiniest toe-hold

Mine chimney built with granite
Cape Cornwall - originally thought to be Britain's most westerly point until someone measured Land's End properly - - there's five Grey Seals in the cove bottling just behind the surf
Cape Cornwall again
Where to next? Back on Patch 1 for a couple of days before we go back to work.
In the meantime let us know who has to be seen in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

To Botallack and back

The Safari has been away for a few days down to the far south west, just about as far south west as you can get. Since we've been back we've been on family duties with another terminal illness which ended with the inevitable conclusion yesterday. No matter how prepared you are it's still a shock to the system. Processing the holiday snaps and blogging has necessarily taken a bit of back seat. 
We went down to the Cornish tin mining village of Botallack in the heart of Poldark filming country, although he wasn't there at the time showing off his poor scything technique and 'his' mine is nowhere near there being half way between Helston and Falmouth. Cornish tin has been sought after since the Bronze Age over 4000 years ago and has its value led to the trade and immigration of people from all over Europe well into the Iron Age.
Most of what remains around Botallack is late 18th and 19th Century workings.
We were hoping to get several year birds and a good few pics for our Year Bird Photo Challenge but the weather conspired against us despite the sunny sunshine in the pic above, that was the exception rather than the norm. The norm looked more like this...
It doesn't look too bad in the village but out on the cliffs you couldn't see down to the sea much of the time. And when you could the light was very poor.
We did manage to add Fulmar (158) and Shag (159) to our  year list and we were very lucky to be alerted to the presence of a very swift Hobby (160) hurtling over the garden of our cottage by the alarm calls of the local Swallows.
Breaks in the weather enabled us to get very distant and grotty pics of
Fulmar (YBC #129)
Gannet (YBC #130)
Kittiwake (YBC #131)
Manx  Shearwater (YBC #132)
We also go an awful pic of a House Martin (YBC #133) which we had to replace once back in Lancashire with a much better effort which at least shows their lovely blue sheen and white rump - the original didn't!
A couple of sunny days at the end of our week had us on the cliffs looking singularly unsuccessfully for Adders, which the locals repeatedly warned us about particularly with respect to sniffer here-there-and everwhere-Monty, we didn't even find a Common Lizard!
The wildflowers were good though with Bluebells still in good fettle, Red Campion coming through, the Gorse was a blaze of yellow and the scent of Coconuts from it was heady. Sea Campion and Thift were also in bloom.
One of the Gorse bushes was covered in the thin strands of the parasitic plant Common Dodder. unfortunately we were a couple of months too early to see the small white flowers.
 Birds up on the cliffs included a pair or two of Ravens
Innumerable Jackdaws our best views of sky diving Choughs - ever - - by a mile, but we had the wrong camera with us and nesting Fulmars.
Raptors were represented by a Peregrine Kestrels
A very foggy hour saw a loose flock of about 25 Swifts and a few Swallows going south hugging the edge of the cliff.

Also out there were a few Linnets and a family of very unapproachable Stonechats

Doh - right at the limit of the macro lens
With the sun not being out much we saw few insects other than bumblebees. This Small Copper would have provided a better pic had Monty not wound his lead round our legs as we were trying to get in a better position to show both its wings.
We saw few other buttterflies up there, just a couple of Common Blues and a pair of very fast swirling brown things - (Small) Pearl Bordered FritillariesTalking of Monty we took him down to the dog friendly beach near Penzance most days where he had a whale of a time mashing up seaweed
While we watched his antics we had a go at some stone balancing
Shoulda gone for 15 layers + the base stone

Half way through our balancing act a Painted Lady butterfly flew across the beach and settled briefly  on a nearby Dandelion, we're pretty sure it had just come in off the sea after crossing from France! We grabbed the phone for a pic but after a very quick slurp of nectar was on its way again up and over the railway line and heading ever onwards to the north.

A day trip to St Ive's had us trying to do some serious art - well you have to in this artists' town

Fore Street - where it all happens
Arty harbour - must go when the tide is in next time!
Our last day in Cornwall had us chatting to the locals at the garden gate when something moving in the grass by our feet caught our eye. A Fox Moth, a bit bedraggled but not a bad find and apart from a couple of Light Brown Apple Moths and a White Shouldered House Moth (in the cottage - where else!) we saw no other moths.
On our last walk on the cliffs we spotted a bizarre wall, there's always a wall, why do humans have the need to build them everywhere? What on earth was the purpose of this one. A bit of a scary build for someone too we reckon.
It was high above the world famous and often photographed Crown Mines who's shafts extend out under the seabed.
Not a great place to be working in a fierce Atlantic storm
And our week away ended with a bit of a sunset
Keeping our usual journey statistics we had the following in our nearly 1000 mile round trip of mostly motorway, although the drive down wasn't good weather for raptors to be up and about:-
Kestrels just 1!!!!! Buzzards 16
Dead things: -  
Badger 8, 
Fox 4
Hedgehog only 6 - where are they - what have we done?????
Stoat 1
Our general appraisal of the English countryside is that it offers very little by way of habitat or food for much wildlife at all. The number-plate of the car had barely a squished insect on it on our return and we don't think we needed the windscreen squirter all holiday - where are all the insects - never mind the biodiversity, where is the bioabundance???? Green it might be but it's also a biological desert, there's probably more life in the depths of the Sahara!
Where to next? We've had a couple of extra days off and been a couple of places we can tell you about next time.
In the meantime let us know who's being digging all the holes in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Frustrating ticks

The Safari has been out and about to all sort of weird and wonderful places this last week. The week started well with friend LGB phoning to say a couple of Little Terns were on their way to wards us past his watchpoint down the prom. Great stuff and a big thank you as they aren't a species we can guarantee to see on Patch 2. The eventually came past but were a little distant to 'enjoy' properly still they made it on to the list, Little Tern (147, P2 #48). More enjoyable was the lone Black Tern (14, P2 #49) milling around going back and forth with 11 Arctic Terns followed by a couple of Common Terns (149, P2 #50). So at last we got to see one of the throng of Black Terns that passed through the country last week, what a relief! No chance of getting any of those on the Year Bird Challenge though, the easy two we'll pick up later in the season but the Black Tern won't now be entered in the challenge unless something weird happens.
Something weird happened when one of our work colleagues told us there was a dragonfly dead on the windowsill in the main hall. Further investigation revealed it wasn't (quite) dead and wasn't a dragonfly but a Blue Tailed Damselfly. We'd seen plenty of pics of Large Red Damselflies on social media but none of this species. It was a windy day with the wind from the east so it could have come from anywhere, even from our work's pond just a few feet away - a very thorough check of the edges and reed stems gave us no exuvia so it was most likely from elsewhere. We put it outside but didn't really rate its chances.

A visit to the zoo to help prep up for a Bioblitz later in the month gave us the opportunity for a wander round. We were looking for native species rather than at the exotics but we have to say the Aardvark is very cute if not particularly cuddly. By far the best find was among the dinosaurs, a species of Blood Bee, Sphecodes sp, we've not seen anything like it before and a look on the national database would suggest almost no-one else has locally either. They warrant further investigation and better pics! This one is a phone-pic as we didn't have a camera with us. One of the species is known as the Sand Pit Blood Bee and this one was in what could loosely be called a sand pit...but there are other very similar looking species.

Next up LCV and the children came to visit. A twitch was called for on Saturday morning when we just had to go and have a look at the two Wood Sandpipers that had been found the previous day, another species we can't guarantee to see in any particular year. See them we did but always at some distance in the muddy hollow of a farmer's field. Still it's always good to see a Wood Sandpiper (150, YBC #123).
One of the reasons LCV had come up was to go to see the now resident Pallid Harrier in Bowland - just about the most dangerousd place in England for any type of harrier, or falcon, or hawk, or anything else with a hooky beak. The pics floating round Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc were impressive so we had to go. An early start was called for so the kids were in the car by 07.00, a bit cruel on a Sunday morning especial with the prospect of a 3 mile hike ahead of them, little P is only seven. But they didn't know about the length of the hike at that time - it was a surprise to come later!
Once parked up it didn't take long for the youngsters to find their stride and they soon covered 'Stage 1' - kept them in a better state of mind to have visible targets to reach on the hike. Not far into Stage 2 we heard a Cuckoo caliing from up the fell t oour left. Almost at the top it was and just out of effective range of the lens but we fired away anyway. Cuckoo (151, YBC #124) being mobbed by what we assume to be a Meadow Pipit.
A little further on we heard a Tree Pipit singing (152) but were unable to get a pic.
We were making good time despite slowing down to look for Common Lizards in any likely spot but sadly we didn't find any to show the children. At the bridge we peered into the water to look for fish, there's usually a few but none today. There was a Grey Wagtail (YBC #124) collecting food for its recently fledged chick on the rocks around the concrete spillway.
Unfortunately we didn't see the adult feeding the chick. A Common Sandpiper was also hunting invertebrates between the rocks nearby.
Birders coming down the hill, they must have been early risers!, told us the Pallid Harrier was still about and with that news the hill didn't seem so steep. We reached the fairly substantial crowd and had our breakfast picnic to the news that it had flown a good distant off and into the next valley. Not good but there was nothing to be done apart from watch and wait and enjoy the serenity of the mountain. LCV caught sight of a distant Ring Ouzel (153) and managed a digi-scoped shot.
And from the hillside opposite our vantage point we heard the go-back go-back go-back calls of Red Grouse (154) several times before spotting one and LCV took another digi-scoped pic.
Eventually the cry went up that the Pallid Harrier (155, YBC #126) was up and sky-dancing over the hill at the head of the valley. We could just about make it out in the bins and even through LCV's scope the views weren't much better. At about two miles away it was almost definitely the worst views of a Lifer we've ever had. The whole group hoped and prayed it would come closer, it did but not by much. At about a mile way it was just photographable, nothing like the awesome pics we'd seen over the past few days.
What made matters worse is by the time we'd got half way down the hill unbeknown to us it was doing a hat and cane routine right over the heads  of the watchers we'd just been standing with, but being time limited we'd had to leave - cruel!!!
On the way back down we kept eyes and ears open, hearing Siskins but not the hoped for and seen by everyone else Crossbills in the woods and spotting a family of Mallards shooting the rapids on the river.
There were plenty of Sheep about but most were shy and didn't want their photos taken.
This one was suckling a well grown lamb but to fit all the action in the frame of the big lens we'd have had to have backed off that far we'd have fallen ar*e over breakfast in to the river!
The riverside woods near the bridge almost at the end of the walk gave us two nice birds. The first we heard first doing it's lovely thrush-like warble and using the song we located it high in the branches of an Alder tree on the far bank. Stunning views with the bins of one of our favourite birds, a male Redstart (156). It took a bit of finding in the twiggery of the treetops with the camera and once we had found it found it a b*gger to focus on - we know - - shoulda used manual focus!!!). A millisecond before we pressed the shutter button it stopped singing and did a flit.
Just our luck!!! But hey-ho it is an identifiable blur so counts towards the Year Bird Challenge (YBC #127).
A few yards further on a small group of birders and photographers had gathered and were looking up at the top of an Ash tree on our side of the stream. A cracking male Pied Flycatcher (157, TBC #128)

Ice cream ended a memorable but slightly frustrating walk in the hills.
Back at work on Monday we saw the first of the season's Cinnabar moths emerging from the grass in our wildflower area. What little belters they are!
In other late news we've been stuck in the office and missing passing Puffins, not an easy bird to come across along our coast. But did see our first Pipistrelle bat of the year, at Base Camp, last night. Hope this isn't the only sighting of the year, we only saw one at Base camp all last year and that was in April. A lunchtime look over the sea wall this lunchtime didn't give us any Puffins which we'd hoped for but just about the first thing we did see other than a few white dots on the sea which turned into Gannets was a pod of about four or five Bottlenose Dolphins way out on the horizon. We called some passers-by over for a look but they were too far into the haze to be seen with the naked eye. We then saw a second pod of two or three animals, maybe more, about a mile to the north of the others. The next half hour was awesome watching them chase, charge and leap after their unseen fishy prey with a melee of Gannets and gulls above them, no skuas came in though which we thought they might given the commotion - what a way to spend your lunchtime - - lucky lucky us - so lucky we almost forgot about not seeing any Puffins! You really can't beat a bit of blubber!
Where to next? We've taken Monty round a new site for him and have a couple of pics to show you and there may be a more far flung safari in the offing, we're not sure yet.
In the meantime let us know who's leaping seriously high in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Somehow we missed all the Black Terns

The Safari could practically smell the Black Terns the other day. We had family matters to attend to on the South-side so wasn't able to get out early. News came in from far and wide of prodigious numbers of the wafty little waifs including not more than a mile from our destination. What better than to pop in to one of the sites before our visit to give Monty a run and fire off a few shots. But when we arrived the water was devoid of life bar a handful of gulls. We had a good walk round and still came across nothing of note apart from hundreds of people enjoying a lovely spring Sunday afternoon in the fresh air. We had to leave to go visiting and once home discovered that had we stayed another 30 seconds or so we'd have been in luck. Not only that one of our Twitter chums  @arborist2222 was watching several all the while we were there not 200 yards away but on the nature reserve the other side of the fence...Dohhh cruellll!!!
Not to worry there'd be some at 'our' nature reserve in the morning. There wasn't and somehow it must have been the only wetland nature reserve in England not to have any although a good number were close but passing along the coast.
Monday morning wasn't half bad though we added a couple of old friends to our Year List and while chatting to one of them a Whimbrel ((MMLNR #71) flew over. Talking of Whimbrel here's another coupl of shots from our visit to the dog toilet.
It wasn't a bad morning out on the reserve just not as spectacular as we'd hoped with the run of easterly winds. We did, however, add a new mammal to our list for the year, a Brown Rat stuffing its face in one of the feeders.
We don't mind Rats too much, we think they are often unfairly maligned but realise they can be a nightmare in some circumstances like on originally mammal-free islands - wouldn't really want one in the house though
Back at Base Camp after breakfast we took Monty round PAtch 1 and this was definitely more exciting. As soon as we hit the scrub we heard the 'tic'ing of a Silvia warbler and soon located the tic-er, a Garden Warbler (145, P1 #34) among the half open buds of a large White Poplar tree. Monty had a good run round the bottom fields where we heard a Lesser Whitethroat and up at the top near the road while he wqs sniffing with his new friends we heard a Sedge Warbler (P1 #35) fire up from one of the clumps of ornamental bushes - what a weird place for one of those!
On the way back we saw that the Nomad Bees were out enjoying the sun on the bank of our neighbours garden. With dog in one hand and camera in the other we took a few snaps. one had settled by the entrance to another species of bee's burrow, well they are a brood parasite of solitary bees.
Occasionally they would settle to bask on a sunny stone.
But when we dowmloaded the pics and had a proper look it seems we have two species here - who'd have thunk it!
The top one we think is Gooden's Nomad Bee and has a smooth black back with yellow spots, the lower one we think is Broad Banded Nomad Bee and has red dots and red stripes on its back. It could well be a job for those clever iSpotters to give a conclusive answer, if a conclusive answer can be given to this tricky group of species.
Later news broke of a Whinchat at the nature reserve so back we went. We walked across the side of the wetland to the hedge and ditch to scan and came across a couple of House Sparrows (MMLNR #72). Having a scan across the inaccessible area we soon found it but it was very distant across the far side of the wetland. Always good to see a Whinchat (146, MMLNR #74,, YBC #121)
Hopefully there would be a better view from the top path. On the way there was a Sedge Warbler pretending to be a Reed Warbler. And we disturbed a Meadow Pipit (MMLNR #74) from the damp grass.
The Whinchat was no nearer though.
At least it was now facing the front!
We had  a look at the nature reserve down as far as the scrape where we missed another three Whinchats because we didn't look hard enough at the bank behind the scrape - silly us...note to self - be more thorough in future.
There were Sedge Warblers aplenty, this one pretending to be a Willow Warbler.
 At long last we got a pic of a Whitethroat (YBC #122)
We like Whitethroats but went right off them a little later. We were back on the wetlands where the Whinchat was now much nearer, it was in the hedge the House Sparrows were in earlier. But the local Whitethroats weren't happy with it's presence in their territiory.
Milliseconds before the camera focused we pressed the shutter button and milliseconds after the image was taken the Whitethroats came in and saw it off their patch. Soooooo annoying to be so close to a brilliant shot of an absolutely brilliant bird only to blow it like that. And with them being in such short supply locally the chance of redeeming ourself is slim to remote at best. We really could kick ourselves and/or could cry!
Once the Whitethroats had done the dirty had done the dirty we could not find the Whinchat again and not for lack of trying, it seemed to have vanished up its own a*se.
The Whitethroats on the other hand appeared to gloat in their bullying.
While we were unsuccessfully looking for the Whinchat our perambulations around the wet grassland were stirring up little flies from the vegetation which attracted a posse of Swallows passing through. We had a few blasts at them more in hope than anything else.
Crikey they're quick! Which doesn't bode well for when we try to get some pics of the much quicker Swifts! All the time we were messing around getting these hopeless shots the reserve's most regular birder TS was behind us looking at a female Redstart only a hundred yards away - we really must swap mobile numbers!
Today we had another Sedge Warbler shock when we heard one pretending to be a Garden Warbler - well it was warbling away in the works garden, only the second or maybe third we've heard there since 2004. Being on opening up duty we weren't able to get an early look at the sea but our lunchtime look was productive with four Whimbrels in a muddy hollow well down the beach. They then did something unexpected and a bit bizarre. They walked up the beach over a sandbank and up to the wall to feed in a runnel. how did they know it was there, the sandbanks are quite high certainly higher than a Whimbrel can see over. A very stealthy approach down the seawall steps allowed us to get almost close enough. We fired off a few shots and left them to their walk along the beach. Once back on the prom we heard their distinctive seven note whistle and then they were gone, off on their long journey northbound.
And so ends a good but Black Tern free couple of days wildlifing.
Where to next? More Patch 2 stuff tomorrow
In the meantime let is know who's doing a tern in your outback.