Idiot’s pelagic

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Whizzed out of the Mersey early doors yesterday for a job with Tern TV, who wanted to film the wreck of the Pegu (Sefton’s own “Whisky Galore” boat) aboard the Mersey Lass, a smallish launch that lurched about like a drunken rollercoaster until we got out to the wreck.
(For those interested in such things, I’ve posted a gallery of the wreck visit at facebook.com/seftoncoast)
No seabirds worth mentioning, apart from a few Common Terns (can you see the one in the image above?) fishing out on the bar, presumably birds from Seaforth, and a motley crew of commoner gulls.
While bouncing about the inshore swell does not qualify as pelagic duties, it was worth a try.
Great fun though, with up to 17 Grey Seals hauled out on the sandbars on the way back in.
This morning was better in the strong westerly as I was out on the shore at Formby over the low tide.
Light southerly movement of Gannets close in (I bet Manxies were further out and available to anyone with a ‘scope and a dune to sit on) and joy of joys, my first Arctic Skua of the year, a dark phase bird, moving idly south at about 11.30am over the beach.
Feels good to see one again – just need to combine some time off with quality westerlies and I’m back in the seawatching business…

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Just trying to keep cool

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When it gets really warm in the dunes (and it was hotter than the Devil’s bilstons in there today), even sun-worshippers like Sand Lizards need to take a break from the rays and find a bit of shade.
Every now and again one will venture into our office at Ainsdale looking for a spot to cool down for awhile – which is just what this stonking brightly coloured male did today.

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Once it had chilled out in a nice shady storage box for an hour or so, we let it go into the marram, a superb beast.
The population of the distinctively coloured tribe that haunts this coastline is estimated at no more than 200 individuals, so it’s always a privilege to have an encounter with one of Sefton’s coolest residents.

A perfect evening in June

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Groppers still reeling their brains out on Altcar Rifle Range tonight during the second of two walks we’ve led there this year.
One Grasshopper Warbler was happy sitting up top on a ridge so everyone could watch it – very convenient.
Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Skylarks and Whitethroats still in full song there too, with Greater ‘Pecker and Sprawk.
Wildflowers are the order of the day on the managed ranges there of course – orchids, grasses, knapweeds etc stretching on forever.
Lots of other cool unfeathered stuff this week too – Large Nettle Weevil (find me a weirder, cooler looking critter if you can) and Pygmy Shrew (brown bread, but still interesting).

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Meanwhile the dunes at Ainsdale had all the regular summer quality – common stuff here, but none the worse for that… Dark Green Frits, Asparagus Beetles and Emperor Dragonflies (with Black Tailed Skimmers and Broad Bodied Chasers).

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Natterjack toadlets at favoured slacks, Gannets, terns and Great Crests offshore (with a few Common Scoter out horizon-wards), prehistoric footprints and even that there Peter Kay filming out on the sands…..busy busy busy.

I wouldn’t stand there if I were you…

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It must be an occupational hazard if you’re dodging between the cattle in front of Nels after snaily snacks, but the Glossy Ibis nearly got an unwelcome calf shower in the rain today.
A small price to pay I suppose as the coos stomp through the shallows at Marshside presumably disturbing loads of food for the Ibis to snap up.
And it beats being poked up the Khyber by one of the Avocets…

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The rain was more prolonged than I was expecting, but it was an okay hour or two sitting in Nels. Hordes of youngsters around – Avocets, Little Grebes, duckling of various persuasions and stacks of BHGs (up at Sandgrounders).

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Herring Gulls and LBBs still trying to grab the smaller chicks there, while the rain dripped off the bills of miserable looking Reed Warbers at Nels, and the first Pyramidal Orchids sprouted up to join the numerous Bee Orchids on site.

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Behind the Junction Pool up to six Ruff were getting up to “ruff stuff” in the rain, while further out there appeared to be two Reeve.

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Back up at Sandgrounders, when the rain eased two Med Gulls materialised, preening at the back of the BHG colony and calling occasionally, when not strutting about in the gull poop and Southern Marsh Orchids.

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All very summery, but best of all a Hobby came tearing through in front of the hide mid-afternoon, having terrorised everything around Polly’s Pool first.
It got a serious turn of speed on as it Exocet-ted over Marshside Road and out of sight – a thrilling bird…wonder if it was the one Dave Fletcher had on Saturday?

Adrift in the birding horse latitudes…

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Returned to one of the busier dune pools holding Broad Bodied Chasers (they seem to be everywhere this year) today, to watch five males and two females doing their thang, although a male Emperor was cruising above them all the time.
Unlike previous days the male chasers spent far more time perching up today, despite the bright, hot sun and perfect flying conditions – was this a consequence of the presence of the Emperor I wondered?
Usually the chasers spend bright, hot weather almost exclusively on the wing, circling and sparring, but were they trying to avoid the uber-dragonfly today in case they ended up as dinner?
Does the arrival of our biggest dragonfly modify behaviours in other species in the same way that raptors do with other birds? (what do dragonfreaks out there think – anyone??)
I’ve seen Emperors take Common Darters in the past, but not Chasers, and certainly not fatty Broad Bodieds. Has anyone seen one taken by an Emperor?
Pondering this stuff (and I’d love to hear other opinions honestly) I realised I’ve inadvertently strayed into the birding horse latitudes of June now, despite my intentions otherwise.

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Megas notwithstanding, the weather is way too benign for seawatching, despite the lovely tidal sequence recently, which produced just local tern and Gannet traffic when I did look, with a handful of Common Scoters and up to six non-breeding Great Crested Grebes doing that funny “displaying on the sea” thing…and most everything else is busy breeding and best left in peace….yup, welcome to the birding horse latitudes.
So this leaves baking lunchtime strolls through the dunes, which it must be said, aren’t too bad…Sand Lizards, Great Crested Newts, orchid species galore, White Satin Moth, Northern Dune Tiger Beetles, Painted Ladies, it’s all going on you know.

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The serious business of mothing.

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When the nights are this warm, mothing can be a smart move – but it’s a serious business, and you’ve got to do it right.
The first thing to realise is that mothing is a great excuse to sit up till all hours with a nice bottle of vin, ostensibly keeping an eye on the trap, but really watching the type of lousy movies that are rightly consigned to the 2am slot on Channel Z.
And then you get to have a lie in, once you’ve gone through the catch.
A white sheet to put your trap on is a good idea too – it helps you spot moths lurking near the dazzling light of the mercury vapour bulb, but not in the trap yet.
Do not be tempted to play at being a ghost with the sheet – your better half will simply walk away shaking her head sadly, once she’s loaded your tomfoolery onto social media.

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However there’s nothing quite like a good moth haul, with Dempsey Towers scoring a Poplar Kitten (top pic) on Friday evening, and my first Green Silverlines last night (below).

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I’m lucky to have a number of great mothing friends, with the dedicated Andy Pryce living a mere Knot Grass flutter away, and it’s handy to check what each other is getting.
‘I’ve got another Small Elephant”, his text read this morning.
Quite.
Andy is a smashing guy and kindly brought the “small elephant” round for me to have a look at – surprisingly it easily fitted into his car.
Many thanks Andy, a gorgeous hawkmoth.

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Total of 37 species and about 160 moths over the last few nights at Dempsey Towers – including large numbers of the tiny Diamondback, a miniscule micro moth currently performing one of the biggest insect influxes into the country since the gargantuan Painted Lady invasion way back when….

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I’m sure I read somewhere that the theory seems to be that they are coming from the Scandinavian population (based on wind direction) – if only the owls would catch on too.
Luckily most of the micros jiggered off before they gave me a headache this morning – as did the pugs and carpets.
Thank the lord for small mercies.
Also quite a few Orange Ladybirds in the trap last night too – anyone else catching them?
Superb two nights – beats watching wildfowl sliding into eclipse anyway.

Is it summer yet?

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Certainly my mind is turning more to mothing, plantage and dragonflies, but a calling Siskin heading north over my head in the dunes at Ainsdale today suggested it’s not quite time to get off the clock yet.
True, Bee Orchids have joined the blooming Green Winged Orchid, Northern, Southern and Early Marsh Orchids and Common Twayblades, (just the three helleborines, Pyramidal and Common Spotted to go now for the full Sefton coast orchid hit this year), and plenty of birds are feeding young.

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House Martins are prospecting around Dempsey Towers for the first time in nearly 20 years, but while they’ve had second and third viewings of one des res under the eaves, there’s been no action yet.
And it’s hot enough for freshly emerged Common Blue butterflies to land on my finger, while Yellow Bellied Slider terrapins bask at the edge of the Sands Lake.

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But even after a spring as good as this one, I want more… now, where’s that Lammergeier gone???