Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Not so wet in Wigan

The Safari is taking you back to Pennington Flash to show you what we found after the rain had stopped the other day and we were able to 'escape' the excitement of the feeding station.
After eating our butties at the car we had a quick look through a couple of flocks of gulls, one on the field in front of us and the other behind us lurking round the edge of the flash. Almost all were Black Headed Gulls there being no sign of the Mediterranean Gulls that are seen in the roost later in the day. Out on the water there were a small number of Goldeneyes (PYLC # 82) a pair of which came fairly close in, much closer than they ever do at Marton Mere these days.
 We didn't stop long at the famous Horrocks Hide as there were very few birds to be seen and that icy blast coming through the windows was cruel - we soon moved on! The next hide was more sheltered and provided great views over a smaller flash which held a Heron, several Shovelers and Teal. A birder already in the hide showed us superb pics of a Roe Deer he'd seen swimming across the water between a couple of the small islands and then told us had e been there a few minutes earlier we'd have seen a Kingfisher but it hadn't stopped, just shot through. Most of the hides had very nicely positioned Kingfisher perches just outside the reasons to go back - - soon!!!
The next hide had deeper water and just one island - the Isle of 'G' populated by a number of Goosanders and Gadwall...just don't tell the Teal they don't begin with G and shouldn't be there.
 Moving on we passed the adjacent golf course and saw a flock of smallish birds feeding on the greens, a look through the bins revealed them to be about 30 or more Redwings (PYLC #83).
Nice but we couldn't see any Fieldfares that had been reported as being with them. A little further on a Kestrel swooped in and landed in a nearby tree nicely lit for us.
Time was running short now and as we headed back to the car the pair of Mistle Thrush we'd seen earlier  were still on the lawn near the car park so it would have been rude not to have a quiet sneak up on them and get a few pics (PYLC #84).
A cracking day out and big thanks to CR for the driving in some grotty conditions.
The following day we nipped over the river for rather unseasonal Turtle Dove that had been found over the weekend although it now seems other residents in the little village had been seeing it for about a week before it turned up in top local birder PE's garden and the news was out. We arrived after news was that it had been seen that morning so we were hopeful. Two hours and a bit later it had gone to ground all morning and only been seen very briefly when we were at the other end of the village giving Monty a bit of a leg stretch and not seeing much on our travels. The best thing we saw was a decent sized flock of Linnets (for these days at least) and we failed to take the opportunity to add another species to our challenge tally...we shouldn't really struggle for a Linnet pic though. Strangely the small area of marsh and the beach were virtually birdless save for a Redshank and a few Shelducks, which was unusual for here.
Not a lot of other news as later in the week the weather deteriorated again, best was a Great Black Backed Gull (P1 #25) cruising the airspace above and around but not directly over, Base camp.
Where to next? A busy week ahead, back to dip the Turtle Dove again - we hope not!, a kid's birding group and another further flung safari with political cartoonist GB possibly back to Pennington Flash...
In the meantime let us know who were the stars when the rain stopped in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Wet in Wigan

The Safari shouldn't trust the weather forecasts so far in advance! We'd arranged to have a day out on safari with CR this week and at first it was looking like Monday was the best day then the forecast changed to Tuesday being better so we booked Monty in at the sitters and made the necessary pick up arrangements only to find that as the weekend drew to a close the forecast had changed again and Monday was back to being the better day. But now Tuesday it was for the further flung safari.
Monday was chilly but bright and we headed out to Marton Mere for the morning.
With nothing to stop for at the feeding station we went straight round to the  viewing point at the south west bay where our old cabin used to be. As soon as we raised the bins we spotted a small flock of Pintail (MMLNR #52). Great to see, even if a little distant across the far side of the mere.
Moving round to Ice Station Zebra we had to wait a little while for them to come in to the viewable gap between the reeds
The wait gave us a good opportunity to have a close look at the Teal and Wigeon much closer to us.
We also saw a our first Great Crested Grebe of the year here (MMLNR #53).
At the now well used gull viewing hideaway under the Willow trees (really need a screen here now)  half way down to the Bird Club hide there were no gull gulls to view - when does that Iceland Gull that frequents the nearby waste depot come in to bathe???
From the Bird Club hide we had very little other than a good number of Coots. A Buzzard (MMLNR #54) soared over the barn but we couldn't see any Stock Doves or the Kestrel over on the barn roof. Along the embankment we had a female Reed Bunting, on a sunny mid-February day like this we should be hearing the first warm-up chords from male Reed Buntings but not today. The scrub areas to the north of the mere were devoid of birds, the path was far from devoid of dogs, we counted 38 in the two hours we were on site and apart from Monty only two were on leads - the level of doggy disturbance is atrocious - - even more atrocious is the attitude of some of the dog walkers who firmly believe it is their inalienable right to let their dog do whatever it wants even encouraging them to leave the path and enter the habitats, usually to the tune of oh it doesn't matter there's no nature here anyway I've never seen any!
From the thankfully dog-free viewing platform there was little to view apart from the large flock of Grey Lag Geese which have recently decide to call the reserve home.
The Pintail were still on the water but distant and in poor light so no chance of a better pic than earlier. behind us at the edge of the scrub the Snowdrops were in full flower, always nice to see.
We were on the hunt for a Magpie in flight shot for our Photo Year List Challenge and just about managed one (PYLC #74) over Lawson's Field.
We should have used the one on the ground we got a little later but really wanted to post the in-flight shot. Hopefully we'll get a chance to improve on it sometime in the coming year.
The male Greenfinch wasn't on his usual song perch but as we walked towards the car heard Greenfinch song from further down the track. After a bit of a stake out we found a small flock in the top of a large Sycamore tree but couldn't get a clear shot due to intervening twigs and branches. Until at last we found one sitting out in the open but a fraction of a second before we pressed the shutter it/they flew. Still it's almost in focus and just about identifiable as a Greenfinch so on the challenge it goes at #75.
A similar thing happened with the flock of Long Tailed Tits that were working their way through the dense scrub beneath the Sycamore tree. The light was perfect on them but try as we might we couldn't get the camera to focus on a bird fast enough before it had flitted to another branch - infuriating! Then they decided to leave the scrub and fly over to a more isolated and much less dense patch of bushes. Now the light was against us a bit but at least they were perching in the open more often. Click went the shutter - again the tiniest fraction of a second too late.
Not a bad effort and certainly good enough for the challenge (PYLC #76) but we do with it hadn't turned its head away, it could have done us the courtesy of looking at the camera!
After all that blue sky the following day dawned grey wet cold and miserable and we were about to go out on safari with CR. We had a choice of two destinations one of which had no hides the other did so it was the second we opted for, Pennington Flash at Leigh near Wigan - a site we've not visited since the 2013 Lesser Scaup. Was it really that long ago!!!
It was wet and got wetter as the morning progressed. At the first hide we called in at there was a family of Mute Swans chilling out right outside the hide window.
Further out on the pool a Cormorant fished and a Great Crested Grebe cruised around in the rain.
Secreted around the reedy margins were a few each of Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Duck.
The rain eased a little and we took the opportunity to nip round to the next hide only a hundred yards away. This was the feeding station and it was very very lively. We didn't know where to look it was that busy. Star of the show were the Bullfinches at first.
Then some beautiful Stock Doves turned up (PYLC #77) muscling everything else away from the feeding tables
We even got a nice comparison shot when a Woodpigeon turned up, the Woodpigeon cleared all the Stockies off on its own!
One of the star performers here is a confiding Water Rail and before too long we spotted it coming through the brash at the back of open area. 
It was a little shy avoiding the Moorhens a Mallard but soon found some space for itself as it came and went a few tmes throughout the morning.
Now Water Rails are awesome and to get views like this are something else but the real star of the site are the rare and declining Willow Tits. It took a while for them to turn up and when they did, two of them, they were hard to get on as they were so quick darting in for a seed then out again to eat it deep in cover.
We only managed a couple of half decent pics considering how gloomy it was at best we went 'up' to ISO6400 and some of the pics had to be taken at ISO 10000! (108, PYLC #78)
The supporting cast included a Wren (PYLC #80) that repeatedly worked the underside of a fallen log.
Unlike the much bigger Water Rail it was unphased by larger neighbours.
Stay away from my seed you big galoot
Our top count of Dunnocks was five
But the Long Tailed Tits were uncountable, they were everywhere zipping in and out and smothering the feeders.
Just the 16 Moorhens were scratching about in the undergrowth until one turned 'monkey'.
Only one Nuthatch was seen at the feeders although we had had one earlier as we walked off the car park.
A couple of Reed Buntings came and went.
And up to six Robins scrapped for scraps in the rain.
Surprisingly despite all the small bird activity we didn't see a Sparrowhawk all day.
The rain eased off and that was our cue to head for the butties in the car, passing a singing Song Thrush (PYLC #81) on the way, then explore the rest of the reserve.
That's enough typing for now we'll let you know how we got on around the rest of the reserve tomorrow.
Where to next? More tales from Pennington Flash and news of an unsuccessful twitch elsewhere.
in the meantime let us know which site you should have safari'd to more often.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A little bit of snow and a little bit of sunshine

The Safari has had family duties out of town two days this week so we've not been able to do as much safari-ing as we'd normally do. Snow fell hard in the morning at the start of the week and even stuck a little. We walk up the hill on Patch 1 adding Starling (P1 #22) to the Patch list and then Collared Doves (P1 #22) followed by a Sparrowhawk flying over the road on the way back (P1 #23), a productive few minutes! The chilly weather brought new garden visitors for the year in the form of a pair of Collared Doves (Garden #14, PYLC #73). A Wren was poking about in the tatty remnants of last year's flowers in the tubs too but wouldn't stay still enough for a pic.
By the afternoon the snow had stopped and the light improved a little and we were able to get another pic of the pair of Collared Doves now feeling loved-up in the milder conditions.
Prior to that we'd taken Monty for his first ever walk in proper snow - it made him a bit giddy even though there was only half an inch of the stuff lying on the ground before it started to melt.
The full wander of the Heron's Reach circuit had us finding very little apart from several Blackbirds and a couple of Robins and Magpies, best were six Song Thrushes, but everything else must have been well hunkered down avoiding the weather. A quick peek under the refugium that wasn't floating gave us two tiny Toadlets from last year's brood.
At the end of the week a morning out in pleasant sunshine but unpleasant wind at Marton Mere with CR gave us little in the way if photo opportunities. The Feeding Station gave us the most birds but the light was very harsh and challenging.
Blue Tit pretending to be a Treecreeper
Looking across the water it was evident that most of the birds were taking shelter in the reeds at the west end, not a lot was out on the water except for the tough-nut Coot. From the rees in the south west corner we heard a Water Rail call and Cetti's Warbler do a bit of subsong neither were going to show themselves any time soon.
There were very few gulls about so the chances of finding the Iceland Gull were slim to remote so we had to make do with pointing the camera at a passing Herring Gull instead.
At the wickedly cold embankment we spotted a couple of Stock Doves (107, MMLNR #50) on the end of the big barn, and four more on one of the smaller barns. They would have been PYLC #74 but we don't think the pic is quite good enough, we're sure to a better one at some stage in the year but this could be a banker - just in case.
What we didn't spot at the time and only noticed when we downloaded the pics off the camera was the male Kestrel sitting on the spar to their right.
The walk up through the scrub gave us nothing more, barely a bird in sight until a Greenfinch singing at the top of a path side bush went camera shy and did a bunk before we could lift said camera. And that was just about the end of the session.
Very quiet today so we hope that tomorrow will be better.
Where to next? We've got a couple of adventures lined up for the coming week - weather permitting.
In the meantime let us know who's enjoying the wintry conditions in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A pleasant potter around Stanley Park

The Safari spotted some sunshine the other day and without further ado was picked up by CR for a photographic jaunt in Stanley Park. Well why wouldn't you after all the dull and wind and rain we've endured recently a bit of sunshine wasn't to be wasted.
A check of the rail in the lake proved fruitless for Mediterranean Gulls but there were a couple of Black Headed Gulls sporting rings and one of those also had a Darvik ring - White 4FC - a Danish ringed bird reported about annually in the park during the winter since 2013, except 2016 - was it somewhere else or just not reported?
A short walk to the other side of the lake saw us peering up at the old Great Spotted Woodpecker hole where a pair of Ring Necked Parakeets have taken up residence, one was high up in the tree top the other nowhere to be seen until it emerged from the depths of the hole.
The light was catching the Cormorants sat on the rail that partitions off the Conservation Area very nicely.
Lovin those emerald green eyes!
A Great Crested Grebe (102, PYBC #71) came quite close and in full breeding regalia too. It dived frequently but didn't come up with any fish.
From there we moved round to the Heron Island where about 10 birds were sat in or near their nests. There wasn't much nesting activity just a bit of pair bonding and a little stick rearranging, it'll all kick off in earnest in the next week or so, but we got a few snaps in poor light - the sun had gone back in! - to put Heron on our PYBC at #72. We might well go back on a properly sunny day and get some breeding behaviour 'action' shots before the leaves come out and obscure the view.
Always amazes us how those huge feet to stop them sinking in sloppy mud are also dexterous enough to grip the most slender of twigs.
Home for the foreseeable future
The Great Crested Grebe had followed us round to this side too. And while we attempting to get duff shots of Herons in trees C managed to get a quick capture of it in the process of swallowing a Roach
Retracing our steps we heard the Ring Necked Parakeets again, and this time they were at a different nest hole at the top of the lake.
Back on the rail a cluster of Black Headed Gulls had a different ringed bird, this on White VLJ, another Danish ringed bird and a winter regular first reported here in February 2009 and our last previous report of it to the ringing scheme was back in December 2013.
White VLJ - already an adult when first ringed near Copenhagen in March 2008
Returning to the Ring Necked Parakeets original tree the two birds were out of the hole and engaging a bit of lovey-dovey. The posse of parakeetazi stood beneath the tree told us they'd been watching them for about 10 minutes, now in that time we hadn't seen or heard (and they are noisy beggars when they take flight) fly past us from the 'northern' hole so we're pretty confident there were two pairs...interesting and awaiting confirmation.
The following day we'd arranged to take a group of families out on the beach to see what the recent storms had washed up. It wasn't long before tubs, trays and buckets were full of all manner of interesting flotsam and jetsam. One of the buckets contained the leg of a Spider Crab something we've never seen on this coast before - that always happens - someone finds something we've never seen before in nearly 20 years of looking - just shows you what's out there. Although to the children the Dead Man's Fingers sponge was probably a better story!
Spider Crab leg bottom left by the Oyster - should have got a close-up!
We also had a look at the huge selection of pebbles to be found on the beach. All have fascinating stories, from Limestone full of fossils to bits of old house brick, lumps of coal and granite from ancient exploding volcanoes...and most of it courtesy of the Ice Age...fantastic!
We ended the session with half an hour looking for crabs in the boating lake. It took a while to catch anything but then some rather large Brown Shrimps were brought to the surface.
Moving down to the other end by the bridge proved more successful wit ha bunch of Periwinkles found and lined up in the tray by the children for the inaugural Fleetwood Periwinkle Grand National.
A clear winner is emerging - literally!
More Brown Shrimps found their way in to the buckets and then a Common Prawn was found so we could examine the differences between these two similar species.
The crabbing wasn't going too well, it was more like fishing for bacon as the bait was all that was being hauled up time after time. 
But with minutes to go before the end of the session the cry of "I've got one!" went up. The lad came running over to show the rest of the group his catch and there sure enough was a Green Shore Crab tucking in to a slice of best smoked streaky.
A bit of wrangling soon had it out of the net for a closer look.
The lad put it back and then returned a few minutes later with an even bigger one - job done as time was up!
In other news a Fox has been heard at Base Camp in the small hours a couple of times so we've put the stealth cam up in the back garden - fingers crossed. House Sparrows (P1 #20) have been heard early morning in the recently butchered (=Tidied) garden across the street which is a relief as we expected the work to have been so severe as to have rendered the shrubs useless for the sparrows and the patch's first Chaffinch of the year was heard then seen flying over (P1 #21).
In the garden we've added Long Tailed Tit (Garden #13), just a single - or did we not spot the others?
A sunny afternoon walk along the cliffs with Monty saw us actually take the bins for once and immediately we pointed them seawards we saw an enormous flock of Common Scoters (103) - really helps when you take your optics!
Conversely we almost didn't need optics on a sunny morning's walk around Marton Mere as there was very little to see, nice sunshine but the strong bitingly cold wind was keeping everything well tucked away. A few yards from the car this Carrion Crow watched Monty warily as he went giddy splashing in and out of the pond and puddle we really should have prevented him from going in by putting him on his lead much earlier.
After yesterday evening's txt from PT saying she'd seen a group of four Roe Deer very close to Wifey's work and only about 1 1/2 miles from Base Camp we took the opportunity to have a look this morning - nothing but brilliant to know such an awesome creature has been seen so close to home!
So you're all up to date now folks.
Where to next? Not sure yet, we've got a lot of family duties this coming week so might not be able to get out on safari much.
In the meantime let us know who's taking over all the holes in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Twitching in the sunshine

The Safari joined the North Blackpool Pond Trail volunteers on Thursday morning to assist in a bit of pond clearance at one of the top ponds along the trail, so good for its aquatic life it's listed by the Freshwater Habitats Trust as one of their Flagship Ponds.
It is having a bit of trouble with Willow bushes and Reedmace becoming dominant and excluding the open water species the pond was identified as being important for so several days of work parties have been arranged to knock back the vegetation succession to provide more open water so the scarcer species can thrive again. We did a little bit of branch dragging to keep the dead-hedge (built to protect one side of the pond from unnecessary access) team supplied and took a few pics. Unfortunately we had to leave before lunch so you're only seeing half the work that was done...we'll have to nip back this coming week to get some 'after' pics.
Into the wet Willow thicket
The first layer of the dead-hedge
Out comes the Typha
The dead-hedge is coming along nicely
The Willow is being reduced too
More to do but now there's lots of open water
Many hands making light work of the Typha side of the pond too as brew time approaches
The following day we'd arranged to have a further flung safari with CR and as luck would have it we got the easily the best day of the week for the weather, wall to wall sunshine and no was even quite warm for late January - no hat or gloves needed! There's been a few scarce local birds in the Lancaster area recently so we decided to head for those before going on up to Leighton Moss especially as the light would be best for them earlier in the morning. 
The Black Throated Diver was our first stop and an easy find. We drew up by an old fella laying the roadside hedge, we could have joined him rather than twitch the diver as not half an hour earlier we'd taken our axes out of the car! He asked if the bird was still there an a very quick scan with the bins revealed it was if a little distant half way across the reservoir and in the shade of the bankside wood.
It was swimming into the better lit part of the res but was diving regularly not surfacing for long so we got lots of shots like this. (96, PYLC #66)
But eventually got some dodgy pics of it swimming around.

This isn't a species we see often, our previous one was off Patch 2 at Starr Gate way back in 2013 and certainly wasn't giving views like this one.
Next up was the Chough at Heysham so the sat -nav was set and almost at our destination we should have ignored it and taken the direct route for some reason it didn't want us to go on but took us on a loop round the back of town which took us past one of the areas it had been seen so we stopped for a quick look but saw too many dogwalkers so moved on quickly. We should have looked longer and harder as this appeared on the Heysham Obs blog later "Pale-bellied Brent Goose - on the shore off the childrens play area, viewable from Knowlys road vantage point" - precisely where we had parked the car- - dohhhhh!!!! - Isn't hindsight is a wonderful thing
A check of the blog showed the Chough had favoured the other end of Half Moon Bay in the last couple of days which was our intended destination anyway so off we went again ignoring the sat-nav's directions. Again there were dogwalkers everywhere so we weren't too hopeful but it was a good day for a wander so off we went and after scanning the cliffs and having no joy looking in the sheep fields spotted two blokes down on the cliff edge with cameras - bingo - - if you want to find the bird look for the birders! Not ten yards beyond them was a black shape poking around on the cliff edge across a little gully and then we saw the red legs and bill, Chough hits the year list at #97 but could we get a pic for our Photo Year List Challenge?
Cautiously we approached  the two lads especially the last 20 yards or so but to no avail either we or something else spooked the bird and it flew past us back the way we'd come from calling loudly. We swung the camera round pressed the shutter button and fired a few shots off hoping for the best. (PYLC #67)
Not good but there was another couple of birders behind us who saw where it may have landed so we retraced our steps. It wasn't in the sheep field nor could we find it on the cliffs although the light looking at the cliff edge was absolutely dire. But we had a little luck when the two lads who were watching it earlier relocated it in the dog walking field of all places.
It was pushed from pillar to post by passing dog walkers but fortunately didn't seem to want to leave the good feeding it was getting in the field didn't go to far except for once when it went along the cliff face but turned and came straight back.
When flying past us it was often too close for the camera, the action was that quick and sudden we didn't get the chance to zoom out a bit!
We stopped to point out a raft of about 500 Eiders on the sea to the other visiting birders and while we did so we noticed C was filling his boots with pics in field next to the car park. Joining him we saw he was only 20 yards away from the bird which was feeding away quite happily so long as we didn't make any sudden movements or try to get any closer. Views even without the bins were awesome!
It even fed in a muddy rut on the dog walking path at one stage - in the few minutes there were no dogs about.
Well choughed as they say!
It was now approaching lunchtime so we decided to move on to Leighton Moss giving the potential of a Glaucous Gull in Heysham harbour a miss aiming straight to the marshes where we heard a Greenshank (98) flying off into the distance before we got to the first hide. The Lapwings were very unsettled often taking flight.
But they looked stunning in the sunshine when they settled in the shallow water.
There wasn't much else on the pool, a few Teal, Wigeon and Pintail and a scattering of Redshank, the only close-ish bird was one of those Redshanks.
A lady in the hide called out a Kingfisher but it left its perch as soon as we got to her side of the hide and lifted the camera 

Don't think we'll be adding this one to our Photo Year Bird Challenge album - not unless it's still the best we have of a Kingfisher come tea time on 31st December

Leighton Moss was busy! Very busy, so busy it took two laps of the car park to get a lucky space as someone was leaving. There's too many retired folk with too much time on their hands and too much money for optics these days!!!!! - Enough said!
We had some seed normally destined for the garden at Base Camp in our pocket and put it out on a favoured tree trunk a waited - didn't have to wait long before the birds started arriving for the free hand out 
Coal Tit
And with them came a Marsh Tit (99, PYLC #68)
Always happy to accept a freebie
The  group of Snipe (100 - can't believe it's taken us this long to find a Snipe!) in the corner weren't for having their pic taken. With little else happening their we moved on to the next hide where a Little Egret flew off but we checked the other egret to find it was actually the much scarcer Great White Egret (101). It didn't fly off with the Little Egret but strayed put and did some serious fishing catching several Sticklebacks. Brilliant to watch but the light made photographing a brilliantly white bird 'challenging'. (PYBC #69)
C mentioned it would be nice to see a Marsh Harrier and lo and behold one appeared as if by magic giving great views but taking most people in the hide by surprise so no-one got any pics. C now had mythical status and was asked to produce all manner of good stuff like Bitterns, Otters and Bearded Tits, sadly none of those would oblige.
At the Causeway hide (formerly the Public hide) we had superb views of the Teal which started doing a bit of displaying in the afternoon sunshine.
Once again the Marsh Harrier put in an appearance but it was nearer Yorkshire than to us! Not the best pics but just about identifiable so OK for the Challenge - in at #70.
A young Mute Swan from last year's brood took exception to an adult that got into its space and off it shot like a rocket
Don't think we've ever noticed an immature chase an adult like this - it's invariably the other way round but chase it did and persistent too covering 10s of yards with it's double-footed paddle until the adult was well away from where it wasn't wanted.
And then time was up...hat a great day out on safari and all the better for being out in the lovely sunshine.
Where to next? We've got some beach and marine wildlife escapades lined up this week.
In the meantime let us know who's getting all flighty in the sunshine in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

Weather still affecting safari-ing

The Safari was undecided where to go on Monday morning with a bit of a wind still blowing but not quite as howling as of late. It was dry for a change too so off to dunes we went but dull so it as bins only, no camera today. It always makes us giggle at the rate Monty flies up the steep loose slope while we're lagging behind puffing and panting slipping our way to the top. He's on the beach before we're half way down the the side. Once on the beach we had a quick scan along the toe of the dunes and any strand lines just to check ho much food/seeds might be available for the Snow Buntings. Today the wind had blown fresh sand over everything at the bottom of the dunes so there'd be no seeds there, time to check the strandlines. Plenty of fresh washed down the rivers/off the marshes/dragged off the lower dunes by the storms vegetation so a good chance of seeds here. Only one thing to do walk the beach from end to end stopping every so often for a through scan. fortunately there were very few dog walkers out and those that were were ell out down by the waters edge so we had little disturbance.  We only had two black and white birds to show for our efforts unfortunately they were a pair of Pied Wagtails and not a pair of Snow Buntings - we wonder where they have disappeared to and will they miraculously reappear???
In the afternoon the sun tried to come out and the wind dropped a little too so we did take the camera out this time. We decided to have a look at the notoriously doggy Fleetwood Nature Park aka dog toilet but at least Monty could have another bit of a run. He'd have a few friends to run with too there were dogs everywhere when we arrived and the grassy areas are like a minefield where lazy owners haven't lifted the sh*t. It's a wonder there's any nature in the nature park but there are a few dog-conditioned ducks, Mallard, Tufted Ducks and Coots (OK not a duck) and bizarrely a tame-ish drake Shoveler. We headed for the edge of the marsh, the tide was coming in so we didn't want to venture far for fear of disappearing down a deep creek. There was a big flock of Linnets too that didn't want to be disturbed.
That was about it though apart from a couple of Magpies hunting for lordy knows what out on the marsh. They were a photo opportunity for our Photo Tear List Challenge being out in a somewhat unusual habitat but they were far to wary out in the open to get anywhere near. 
With no wildlife to point the lens we had to all arty and aimed it at some long derelict ships slowly rotting away where they'd been abandoned many years ago at the far edge of the marsh.
Tuesday was a windy wash out in the morning, we went to the cliffs at the north end of town and got very wet. We went there again is drier but still very windy conditions in the afternoon. The tide was crashing over the wall and gave exciting views of gulls dodging the spray as they flew low along the wall on their way to roost to the south. We decided to take the camera the next day to try to get some action shots and the bins to see if there were any Little Gulls and Kittiwakes to be found blown inshore by the gales.
This morning we went to briefly join the volunteers on the North Blackpool Pond Trail. We'd intended staying longer but had chores to do which curtailed our available time. The walk down to the pond had us passing a singing Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush by the houses and very little at all along the 'countryside' part of our walk. Close to the pond we thought we heard a Snipe but looking up didn't see anything, it may have been disturbed from the pond by the other vols. A Frog was also seen in the pond, the first of the year.
In  the afternoon we did take our bins and camera but the waves weren't as powerful as yesterday, the tide being less high and the wind less strong and the gulls were flying higher in the lighter wind. Although we'd had a chat with JS who we'd seen with his scope further down the prom and he told us he'd had a few Little Gulls but distant we couldn't find any.A couple of Great Black Backed Gulls came past with the multitude of Herring Gulls.
On the way back the sun was shining  righteously on a small flock of Starlings working the grass at the side of the tram track. We fired a few shots off and luckily got a pic of one lifting a leather-jacket out of the grass. We've been waiting for a different pic of a Starling for our challenge and this one we reckoned was different enough from last years so on the list it goes at #65.
Job done - sorted.
Where to next? Back on the North Blackpool Pond Trail in the a different pond.
In the meantime let us know who's riding the wind in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A week of wild wet n windy safaris

The Safari has been busy 'enjoying' the wintry weather as storm after storm lashes our coast. We've had a day out with CR and then LCV came to stay for the best part of last week so we've been out every day far and wide in search of the commonplace and the exotic for our 2018 Year Bird Photo Challenge with varying degrees of success. We've had a sunny frosty day or two but mostly dull days with strong gales and heavy showers.
A crisp day at Marton Mere gave us some good views across the mostly frozen mere
But the feeding station is in deep shade
From there we headed south on to the beach at Starr Gate to try to find the Snow Buntings, it didn't take long they were only a few yards away along the beach as we dropped off the dunes. Carefully walking past them out further down the beach we were able to watch them at a safe distance and work out what they were doing. Then by getting in front of them all we had to do was to sit quietly and wait for them to approach - which they did - - down to no more than six feet at one point, far to vlose for the long lens could almost have got a decent pic with the phone they were that close but that would have meant moving to reach into a pocket and probably flushing them.
The following day was our safari out with C to Mere Sands Wood and Martin Mere WWT. At MSW we waited at the feeding station enjoying great views of a Brown Rat and a multitude of Robins but alas no Willow Tits.
The first hide overlooking the pools gave us a cracking but distant drake Goosander and a very close Canada Goose, which does actually have two functioning legs.
We moved round to the next hide to try to get better views of the Goosander, passing on the way a very close Treecreeper doing what it says on the tin and a Jay taking seeds left on the path by a previous passer-by, C managed a through the twigs shot but we weren't able to raise the camera before it flew off. A huge shattered Oak tree looks like it's going to provide of multitude of niches for a multitude of species from tiny microbes to bigger things like bats n owls. 
At the hide the Goosander had gone the opposite way and further in t the edge under the bank so was in an even worse place for a pic. There was a good selection of dabbling ducks closer but not quite close enough and the light was still on the poor side of grotty but we fired away anyhow. Duff pics can always be replaced with better ones later on in our challenge should the opportunity present itself.
Drake Gadwall
Drake Teal
With no sign of the hoped for Kingfisher we moved on and then had the best sighting of the week when we heard a commotion in the tree tops just behind us. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were having a right go at each other flying around the uppermost twigs calling loudly when two more joined the fray. Then all of a sudden all went quiet and they evaporated into the tangle of branches. 
The next hide gave us cracking close views of a Little Grebe that was catching small fish, possibly juvenile Rudd or Perch from the red fins we saw. Trouble is it was so close as to be just behind the narrow fringe of reeds outside the hide window.
With not a lot doing at the hide we had another shuffy at the feeding station.
Great Tit
The Coal Tits were smash and grab artists as as wary as a wary thing from Warysville, Arizona, never staying more than a milli-second at the table before flying off especially if they saw or heard a hint of something untoward like a camera being slightly moved...or can they hear the ultrasonic focusing motor???
Shoulda bumped the ISO up wadge to get a better shutter speed although it was already getting towards high enough!
Still no Willow Tits so we left this lovely little reserve and headed round the corner to the much bigger Martin Mere.
Here there were plenty of subjects for the Year Bird Challenge to point the camera at.
Drake Pochard
Black Tailed Godwit
Whooper Swans
A flock of distant Woodpigeons going to roost
Drake Reed bunting
Misty late afternoon Lapwings
Sleepy Black Tailed godwit
Buzzard with prey in the dark
Kestrel on a Mole hill
Lapwings in flight
Juvenile Whooper Swan
Whooper Swans
All good stuff apart from our inability to get any pics of the numerous Tree Sparrows and the no show of the site's only Brambling. We also saw an ultra brief Kingfisher that C missed this time. 
A breezy walk with Monty up the coast and came across one of the Stonechats, we also saw a large flock of Linnets but Monty was being a nightmare as he wasn't able to see over the seawall and getting impatient and uppity so we missed getting any pics of them.
The next day LCV came to stay for the week and we had a great time driving around a selection of local sites.  We tried for the Snow Buntings a couple of times but with no avail although we did get totally sand blasted in the wicked wind. We had no luck with Purple Sandpipers either.
Pied Wagtail
Red Breasted Mergansers
Ringed Plover
Knot asleep
Turnstones and a few other bits n bobs
Bewick's Swan & Whooper Swans
Twite again
So where does all that digital malarky leave us. 
Well so far we've managed to reach the giddy heights of 95 species on our year list with a late Mediterranean Gull along the prom yesterday afternoon. 
Of those 95 we've got photographs of just 64, although we've had plenty of opportunities to get pics of several more species we've declined waiting to get a 'particular' shot of them.
Our garden at Base Camp has had just 12 species and Patch 1 is hardly faring any better with only 17 but with lighter mornings coming soon that tally should start to grow a little more quickly. The first Song Thrush since last summer was a nice early morning find the other day.
Our Marton Mere list is looking healthier at 48 species not quite half our hoped for 100 for the year.
Where to next? No doubt there'll be more shenanigans on safari next week but where?
In the meantime let us know who's doing well to avoid the lens in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

The end of the first week

The Safari has been busy out and about this week enjoying the local wildlife when wind and rain have permitted. To be honest we expected to be doing much more writing now we're retired but we note we've only writted 20 blog posts since the end of September whereas we reckoned we'd be doing at least three a week.
Mostly we've been trying to keep our Photo Year Bird Challenge YBPC) ticking over, it's going OK but we have some missions to accomplish as this year's pics are supposed to be better or different to last year's so we haven't added some species we could easily have got yet. We're up to 28 species but the front runner has already snapped a substantial lead on 84.
A sunny but crisp wintry morning was spent in Stanley Park. Down at the boat house a plethora of pigeons wait for someone to arrive with bread or grain for the ducks and swans.
And once someone is identified as having food down they swoop.
Feral pigeon
Passing by the lake there were plenty of gulls on the rail and many more stood on the frozen ice. The light was against us so we didn't point the camera at them. As far as we could tell there wasn't anything out of the ordinary lurking in the flock. 
One of our main targets for the day was the pair of Ring Necked Parakeets which are proving very popular with the local birdarazzi. When we arrived at their tree there was only one on view and we were looking right up it's **** as it sat high in the treetop twiggery. We'd have to have a walk round and come back later and hope for a better view. First stop on our circuit of the lake was the feeders several kindly souls keep topped up. We got great very close views of Blue Tits, Great Tits, a too quick for our camera Coal Tit and a couple of Nuthatches.
 As we drove past earlier we'd seen a Heron sat on one of the nests, this was one of those 'different' pics we hope to get for our YBPC but unfortunately it wasn't there by the time we'd walked round - never mind there'll be plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks. Crossing the bridges we saw several cameras pointing upwards beneath THE tree so we assumed (you really shouldn't assume anything unless told to in a maths or physics exam) that the main event was occurring...and we weren't wrong. The pair of Ring Necked Parakeets were doing some canoodling at the entrance to an old Great Spotted Woodpecker's nest hole.
After a while the male flew off leaving the female to make some essential modifications to the nest hole.

After filling our boots and memory card with parakeet pics we went round to the far side of the lake so that the sun would be over our shoulder when giving the gulls a good old peruse. There were a lot, mostly Black Headed Gulls and Herring Gulls but also a few Common Gulls too.
Common Gull
 At the parakeet's tree it had been almost tropical, warm in the sunshine out of the breeze but here although were we in the sun there was an icy wind whipping across the frozen lake. From the tropics to the Arctic in no more than 200 yards! Although it was cold the heavier Herring Gulls were having trouble on the thin ice as the sun warmed it and several were seen to fall through by just standing laughing matter but still quite amusing in a You've Been Framed misfortune kinda way.
Gee that water's cold!
Never mind - someone's got chicken!!!
Back at the pigeon squabble we got half decent pics of Moorhen and Coot for our YBPC although both are remarkably similar to last years pics, the Moorhen is deffo of a seriously better quality though.
We had a look for any colour ringed Coots but didn't find any, it could well be that all those that were blinged up a few years ago have now died or moved on - we'll keep checking though just in case one reappears.
The following day we were out on shopping errands with Wifey and at the end of them decided to give Monty, who'd been in the car with us all afternoon, a bit of a leg stretch along the North Blackpool Pond Trail. It was getting dark and there were a few Blackbirds going to roost and with them at least a couple of Redwings so we made a point of returning the following day in day time to see if we could find them. We thought they might be in the horse field searching for worms but unfortunately they weren't although a couple of Herons and a pair of Mistle Thrushes were, all too far away to consider taking a pic.
Further on at the first pond there was a Little Egret sitting in the bankside Hawthorn bushes!
And we'd only walked that way to check out the House Sparrows we'd heard calling from the bushes on the near side of the pond.
A look around the Community Orchard section of the trail had us looking up to see if we could see the singing Song Thrush and found a cracking 'Face in a Tree' instead. if the right hand branch hadn't been broken off it might have looked like some bizarre kind of horned Viking helmet/mask...OK OK we know the Vikings didn't really have horns on their helmets.
The next day saw us take another visit to Marton Mere. Again it was quite crisp. We had two main targets in mind, either or both of the two Bitterns would have done nicely and a little later chatting in the hide we learned there are now three on site, excellent news! The other target was that Iceland Gull for a better pic in glorious sunshine. It wasn't to be, we missed a Bittern sitting out in the open within range (just!) by five minutes and the Iceland Gull didn't show. Never mind it was still a pleasant wander around and we heard the Bullfinch again but couldn't find it in the depths of the dense scrub. We've been beaten to the best Bullfinch pic taken at Marton Mere by JH although his perfectly focused pic is of a female slightly obscured by twiggery so we still have the 'best' pic of a male.
Great Black Backed Gull
Tufted Ducks
The hide also gave us the opportunity to get a rather different and more interesting pic of a Moorhen when one came out of the reeds, strode up the grassy bank and shooed a Woodpigeon off the bird table, shame it was in the shade of the hide but hey it's not something you see every day.
There are several small patches of Teasel scattered along the path through the reserve and often we find we flush a group of Goldfinches off one of them before we've realised we ought to have stopped to check them out first. Today we did remember to stop at one and struck gold(finch), shame we were being dragged a bit by Monty who'd managed to wrap his lead round our legs in the manner of an Argentinian cowboy's bolas so it's not as pin sharp as we'd hoped...plenty of tie for an improvement but will we strike gold(finch) again?
Goldfinch on the obligatory Teasel head
As we were just about to leave a Kestrel swooped in to view just above tree top height and began to hover - excellent!
And almost back at the car a trackside Robin posed very nicely for us - thank you very much we'll take that one.
Today we had to wait in in the morning for a delivery, that didn't bother us too much but Monty who likes to be on the road as soon after 09.00 was climbing us like the north face of the Eiger. We had a plan for the afternoon and late morning the sun began to come out and lifted our spirits - the plan might just work!
We headed down to the beach and in the distance saw SD pointing his camera at the sea wall so we were in luck the recent Purple Sandpipers were likely still there.
We wound our way round to him keeping well out on the beach and giving Monty a good play with his ball so that he's be at least a little tired and less lively when we approached closer. S told us there were four Purple Sandpipers present and we immediately got on two together. The sun had gone in again by now and a thick sea mist was rolling in from the north west on the light wind so it was back up to ISO Stupid for our pics, not quite Iceland Gull Stupid but not far off. The other day CR told us he'd never dared push his camera to such giddy ISO heights in case it exploded but needs must when the devil (or Monika) drives, so we fired off a few shots and left them to their Barnacles in the hope that one afternoon when the tide is out it'll be sunny too and they won't have left for more northern climes.
With the tide on the turn it was time to leave the beach so we headed back to the slipway where in a large runnel we saw a fairly distant Redshank working its way towards us. Now if we sit down and stay still and hope Monty does too it'll walk right past us in a few minutes and barely 20 yards away - and so it did
And as soon as it reached the closest point Monty, who had been watching its progress intently, made a lunge for it. his lead was as short as it goes but his sudden jolt upright to four legs flushed it which wasn't good as the birds need to rest and feed as much as possible without being disturbed during low tide.
So where does all that leave us?
Well we're only really visiting Patch 1 in the dark of pre-dawn at the moment so that's not doing brilliantly with just 13 species recorded
The garden at Base Camp has been far better watched but has been an absolute dead loss with only seven species seen and most of those have been fly-overs. Really hope it picks up before the Big Garden Bird Count at the end of the month - if you've never done it before sign up and join in one of the world's biggest citizen science projects.
We're doing pretty well at Marton Mere, our target is 100 species there this year and so far we've made a good start and got to 39.
The Purple Sandpipers brought our overall year list to a rather meagre 56 of which we've taken pics for our YBPC of exactly half at 28 although we halve declined the opportunity to take pics of at least half as many again by being more discerning and wanting to wait for THE we're not that fussy come the end of June when it's all gone horribly wrong and we're missing loads we should have got by then!
Where to next? Probably back to Marton Mere tomorrow and then perhaps a safari further afield on Friday, but to where???
In the meantime let us know who's enjoying the tropical winter sunshine in your outback

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

One out one new one in

The Safari joined our long time birding chums south of the river for a wintry day ornithologising at Martin Mere WWT reserve the other day. We started off at their new fully glazed hide to get a bit of warmth in our bones before we ventured out in to the wild wet weather.
The problem with a fully glazed hide is that while it may be more comfortable it does make you a bit queasy when looking through the bins at an angle through the glass and isn't that good for pics either, although we could have been anti-social and gone and sat in the end wing with normal opening viewing slats but this was a holiday get-together with the gang not a full blown twitching expedition.
There was the usual fine selection of winter wildfowl in good numbers...except for Pochards which are hugely down on recent years...such a shame as they are a splendid looking bird.
Many species of diving birds from a variety of Families have that red iris so it must have some evolutionary advantage for seeing in murky water.
Also close by were a handful of Ruffs and as AB noted - phoaarr look at the chiseled scapulars on that!
One of our favourite hides here is the Feeding Station where the stars of the show are the 'Bare Tailed Ground Monkeys' of which there were three today, two females and a juvenile. The sit under the feeders while bits dropped/discarded by the birds rain down like manna from heaven - life couldn't be easier. Having said that one of the adults had a huge open wound on its back possibly from a lucky escape from the Buzzard that arrived in a nearby tree and was eyeing them up.
The arrival of the Buzzard sent all the small birds scattering for cover except this Great Spotted Woodpecker which froze in the 'you can't see me - I'm not here' pose, a bit hopeful really!
The Brown Rats shuffled on in the mud unperturbed by the raptor's presence. After it had left and before the small birds returned one of them climbed up the logs at the base of the feeders 
it then made a leap of faith towards the bird table but that turned into a leap of doom when the jump failed to reach the table and the poor animal nosedived onto the squidgy mud below. 
More excitement was seen there when a Moorhen inexplicably flew about 10 feet up into a tree, unfortunately it was badly obscured so we were unable to get photographic proof of this somewhat unusual event.
Moving on between rain showers we had a look from the next hide which was pretty quiet and then narrowly missed a soaking getting to the final hide. Here we had splendid elevated views of the wetland and watched a Marsh Harrier quartering over the fields in the distance. While watching that a small bird of prey shot through and landed on a fence post in the distance. A Merlin (YBC #168). It was just about in range in the grotty weather - why can't these birds do us a favour and sit on the nearest post when the light is awful?
By now it was lunchtime and while some of the gang enjoyed the delights of the cafe those who'd brought butties sat in the foyer overlooking the 'captives' lake. Again we were shooting through a window but it's good to see some species in close-up detail that we don't see often and when we do they are a mile away across a field in the scope.
White Fronted Goose
After lunch we back out on the trail heading the other way this time. The first hide after the new hide is a windowed and heated affair nice but not good for venturing in to the cold afterwards. From here we added a female Goldeneye to the day's list, it took us ages to spot it as it spent most of it's time under water. As it's name suggest it doesn't have a red eye like the Pochards but if you're a diving bird and not got a red eye then golden yellow is the next most popular colour.
The next small hide is another favourite offering exceptional views of everybody's favourite birds, Coots and Moorhens - and if they aren't your favourite they ought to be! Today they were sadly lacking in close up views but a Little Egret wasn't. It walked out of a ditch and sat on the bank in the wind for several minutes before having a big old yawn - it's not often you get a good view of a Little Egret's tongue!
Next up the elevated Kingfisher Hide, normally noted for its big open panoramic-windowed freezingness but today strangely rather mild in there. Stars of the show were up to 19 of the once common Tree Sparrows at the feeders but there was a no-show from the Brambling that had been reported in recent days.
By the time we reached the final hide the light was going. Try as we might we couldn't find the Green Winged Teal in with the flocks of 'normal' Teal.
Watching a Whooper Swan on its way to its maker was a little macabre but why was it it that strange position propping itself up at an angle on half open wings and half extended legs with its bill on the ground - almost as if it was trying to coll itself down to make it's demise come sooner.
With the light fading fast and no sign of the hoped for Kingfisher we had to go before the car park was locked and so ended another excellent bird filled trip out with the 'Boiders'
Our last snap of the day was of a large fungus growing out of a Silver Birch trunk, Birch Polypore.
Roll on 36 hours and it's 2018. Happy New Year to all our readers, we hope it's a good one for you and filled with exciting wildlife.
With the new year starts another birding Year List and another Photo Year List Challenge with Monika and her friends.
The morning of January 1st was sunny and mild but as soon as we got out of the car at Marton Mere the clouds rolled in and heavy hail ridden showers ensued. We had a wander anti-clockwise taking in the feeding station and the caravan site side to get our Photo Year List Challenge started.
Grey Lag Geese
Treecreeper - a good one for the list on Day 1 as we struggled to find many in 2017
Bullfinch - arrghhhh! But still the best pic of this species taken at Marton Mere - must try harder - - or manual focus!
A couple of Carrion Crows watching over the wetland
Not the best start to the year, especially with that out of focus Bullfinch, but not bad given the awful weather and everything else we saw we'll be able to get pics of in better conditions before too long.
We finished the day on 23 species for the year without putting much time or effort in - we put more in to staying dry and failed miserably!
Today we were relieved to find the camera had dried out without issue and that was despite having a waterproof cover on it! The rain was again heavy so we nipped out to the local waste depot to see if the Iceland Gull was about - it was, happy days!A grotty pic for #8 on our PYLC but acceptable given the dreadful weather.
We gave Monty a quick run on the nearby sodden field and picked up Grey Wagtail, flushed by mutt from a large puddle and then Common Gull - amazing that we were able to get Iceland Gull on our year list before this obviously much more common species of gull!
Driving past Stanley Park on the way back to Base Camp and lunch we spotted a few Tufted Ducks in the near corner of the lake bring up 31 species for the year.
Where to next? A we and windy promenade perhaps.
In the meantime let us know who's all blurry in your outback.

Source Dave McGrath Wildlife Safaris

A bit of distant festive whiteness

The Safari has had a family and friend filled festive holiday and hopes you have too. On Boxing Day we had a wander up the prom with Wifey and Monty. It wasn't a bad day with little wind and some sunshine so everyone and his or her uncle was out walking off their excesses from the previous day. We didn't see a great lot of wildlife to to be honest we weren't looking too hard. Away on the top of Bowland's highest peak point, Ward's Stone, the afternoon sun was lighting up a little cap of snow, now if it fell on the fell before midnight that would make it a white Christmas in Lancashire.
The following day we were visiting friends just over the Cumbria birder where a walk to the pub gave us lovely views of the Lake District fells showing their good covering of snow on the higher ground.

In the snow; L>R Bow Fell, Pike o' Stickle, Gimmer Crag, Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark
We think the 'big one' is Red Screes

This morning's early morning dog walk through up a pleasant surprise when we heard a Raven (P1 #43), only the second time we've had them here in 13 1/2 years. Looking round we saw a Carrion Crow and thought we'd made a mistake but then heard the 'cronk' again and looking round behind us watched two soaring in synchronised flight around the top of the water tower - nice!!! 
Later we met up with CR for a spin round Marton Mere. He'd arrived a little before us and had already seen a nice blotchy leucistic male Blackbird. We stopped in the hide affectionately known as Ice Station Zebra, it wasn't too cold today. There were a few Herring Gulls, plenty of Coot and Wigeon but not a lot else. Looking well to our right to see if we could get a glimpse of any more gulls further down the mere and got a surprise view of a Bittern flying across the water into the far corner.
At the Bird Club hide we again scoured the gulls, more Black Headed Gulls and fewer Herring Gulls here but also good numbers of Teal and more yet Wigeon. Best of the rest was a female Mallard lording it over everyone else being Queen of the Castle on the 'goalpost'. That would come into play later too.
Big full crop there!
We continued the circuit seeing not much more than a few more Teal on the way, the embankment and scrub were very quiet apart from a handful of Robins. No sign or sign of any of the Bullfinches
Round at Heron Hide the light was horrid but we still had to scan the gulls of which there were more Herring Gulls now. One of them raised up and had a flap in front of the 'goalpost' - oh yes the Iceland Gull (190, MMLNR #89, YBC #167) was there and we got pretty good views through the bins despite the rotten light as it took to a vigorous bathe. But by the time we'd lowered our bins and raised the camera it had drifted a little way and in the dreadful light we couldn't find it in the viewfinder so had to resort to taking a 'scattergun' of shots in the hope it would be there and in focus. It was, but it wasn't.
Something unseen flushed the gulls and many of them moved further down the lake but a good few left, unfortunately the Iceland Gull was with that group. 
From the Viewing Platform we counted at least 225 Wigeon and we knew there were more hidden in the reeds at the far end so probably over 250 were on site, a good number for here. C saw a Little Grebe that we missed but that probably didn't make up for him not seeing the Bittern nor the Iceland Gull.
Back at the car a couple of Magpies were in the tree by the hedge too close for the 600mm but we had to snap away as the opportunity was too good to miss before we headed off back to Base Camp for a brew.

Where to next? Might well get back out to Marton Mere again tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know who's lording up in your outback.