Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fungal Foray

We had our annual Cuerden Valley Park fungal foray on Saturday September 24 lead by Dr Irene Ridge. Even before we started someone had brought in a fungus from their garden for Irene to identify which she did with her usual efficiency. We were reminded that fungi come in all sizes, from those the size of a pin head to some which look more like a giant Deep Pan Pizza. Most have Latin names but there is a move to give more of them English names. There was one that was a large white dome shaped mushroom, but my suggestion that it be re-named the " O2 arena" fungus was quickly rejected. Some of the names are self explanatory like  Beechwood Sickener, or Judges Whig. The latter is normally called shaggy ink cap and is pictured above. There are some that can be confusing. The common puff ball looks similar to an earth ball, but the earth ball which has a purple interior is poison. The puff ball, as long as the inside is white can be eaten. I must emphasise that I am no expert so please do not take my word for it that these are safe. Another which sometimes causes confusion is the common inkcap. This contains the drug antabuse which is used for those of us with a drink problem. If you do enjoy alcohol, you will not do so after eating this particular mushroom. Other fungi we found which had interesting names were: Poison Pie; White Saddle; Weeping Widow and then the one which keeps having its name changed for pc reasons, jelly fungus. We did have some non mushroom sightings as well such as self heal, Herb Robert, red campion, Himalayan Balsam and prickly sow thistle but all the foxgloves had passed their best. We had good views of great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, 16 mistle thrushes and were scolded by innumerable robins. The afternoon ended with a refreshing cup of tea in the Barn 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bardsey Pt 3 Windy Wednesday to Friday farewell

Wednesday started with another walk to the south. Solvach can just be seen in this picture on the right hand side where the thin crescent of sand is visible. Turnstones, a couple of shags, and for me a single brief glimpse of a curlew sandpiper were an encouraging start to our day. Then a little closer to the lighthouse 9 ringed plover hugged the grass, keeping low out of the wind. As we came to the east side of this part of the island we saw a brand new seal pup. We kept well clear in order not to upset either baby or mother. Once breakfast was out of the way ( more delicious porridge) the group planned a pilgrimage over the mountain, pausing at significant points to remember all those who years ago had journeyed to Bardsey. Unfortunately my heels were starting to chafe so I returned to my accommodation to apply plasters and softer socks. I then went to near the harbour to wait for my friends. Their journey over the mountain had been challenging but inspirational. 

We then heard reports of a melodious warbler which made then twitcher in me take over. As with most twitches I go on I dipped, but there you go. I did manage to see a wren though. There wasn't a talk that evening but a very enjoyable time learning and singing some new rounds.
Thursday a quick walk to the north end ( no not PNE) proved very quiet and even a quicker walk to Solvach only provided views of a 40 turnstones and 17 chough. Some of these were on the schoolhouse roof
We split the party into two for the morning activities. One group were seeking warblers in the wythies whilst I lead a party on a flower hunt. The two good finds were a very late ragged robin and some sneezewort

There were also sightings of fleabane, spearwort,  rock samphire and Dove's foot cranesbill. I did ask about the autumn lady's tressess, but we were told they had been visible in August and none were now to be found. Thursday was our team's responsibility for evening meal, so we decided to start early. This meant we still had time after preparing and just before tea ( or supper or dinner ) to check out those ringing at Nant. I wanted to get a signal on my mobile, to let my folks know I could be late getting off Bardsey so I walked to Nant valley. There I saw two of the WDCS folk scanning for marine mammals. I walked to them and asked if they had seen any. Their immediate reply was " Not up to now - Oh wait a minute! - some porpoise - thanks for changing our luck!!" I was able to get a good view as well, just no photos. Time for tea and again on the way back I saw three more common blue butterflies. We had guests with us for tea - the Stansfields, ( wardens of the obs) and two of the Porters (the farmer and his son). Ben the farmer's son later gave an illustrated talk on their visit to Kenya which included some time at A Rocha Kenya. After seeing Ben's photos I usually wonder why I try with my camera, since his images are usually fantastic. Check them out on the BBFO blog.
Early Friday we went to Nant to do some ringing. The nets were catching good numbers. On the first round we had 17 birds so decided to furl the nets up and try again after breakfast. 
After breakfast for some reason, all the birds seemed to vanish, so we walked down the west coast to Solvach where some stayed to watch the beach. The remainder walked further and searched the bushes near the lighthouse for more migrants. As we returned to join our friends for our packed lunch, a little egret flew from the harbour area. We then saw Emma, the wife of the warden for the Observatory. She had an important message. " Colin the boatman will take people off the island who need to get off. This will be at 1430 and 1530. If you do not go today (Friday) you could be here until next Thursday" Most decided to accept the offer and later that afternoon we all decided to take Colin's amended offer of a third boat at 1600 ish. A very quick end to a wonderful six days enjoying God's creation in this part of North Wales

Bardsey pt 2 Monday Saxon king, Tuesday seal of approval

I hope I am remembering these in the right order. Monday I was on breakfast duty so was unable to make the early morning trip to the beach at Solvach. I did get lots of compliments about the porridge though.

Our morning expedition was to the north west hide via the two cottages Hendy and Nant. The first bird we saw was a slight puzzle but we eventually decided it was a knot. Once squeezed into the hide we saw several manxies, gannets,  and a few fulmars. I saw a single kittiwake, then a sooty shearwater and a small group of guillemots. We had already decided to walk south down the west coast to Solvach for our lunch. On our way we caught a glimpse of two or three Sandwich terns battling their way against the wind and occasionally diving to catch a snack. During lunch we saw sanderling, turnstone, rock pipit and wheatear. Our afternoons were usually free for us to do as we wished ( as were the mornings) so I decided to go arty and try my hand at pottery. On my walk to the northern part of the island I saw a sparrowhawk and three common blue butterflies.

I started making a whistle type instrument in the shape of a bird. I do know what it is called but I cannot spell it. Monday evening Steve the Observatory warden gave us a talk on observatories in Britain and then Bardsey in particular.
Tuesday early walk was north where from the hide I saw little gull, peregrine, some shags, another sooty shearwater and several manxies. The walk back for breakfast revealed 103 linnet, a raven and another common blue butterfly. We walked south after breakfast noting a dunlin on the beach at Solvach with the expected pipits and wagtails. We also had more manxies and gannets, though two seal pups gave some of our party greater pleasure. A number of wheatears also kept jumping into view as though they wanted to be sure we had seen them. Just before lunch we paused for fifteen minutes or so for reflection on how God had been revealing himself in all the wonderful things we had already seen ( Romans chap 1 v 20). Further sea watching from the north west hide enabled us to see bonxies and common scoter. Late afternoon in the Schoolhouse, Christine Evans gave us a fascinating talk on the history of Bardsey In the evening we had a talk from the WDCS who were also on the island trying to monitor Risso's dolphin.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bardsey pt 1 Delays and Delight

A group of A Rocha friends were supposed to visit Bardsey (Ynys Enlli) from Sept 3rd to 10th. I had travelled over on Friday in order to meet the others at Ty Newydd in Aberdaron for our evening meal. It was good to meet old friends unexpectedly and welcome new ones as well. We were told that there was only a 60% chance of our getting to the island on Saturday morning but we would know more at 10.00am. I camped just outside the village and soon got to sleep. Waking at 0600 I was glad to find there had not been any rain that night so I dropped the tent whilst it was still dry. Making my way down to the village by 10.00 we found there was another delay. Some of us decided to walk the cliff path to Port Meudwy where we usually catch the boat. Along this path we heard the unmistakeable call of chough. Returning by 2.00pm we were dissapointed to eventually learn that our crossing would not be until 0700 Sunday morning.

Up bright and early to a clear sky and a quiet sea we all left on time on one of the smoothest crossings I have experienced ( Thanks Colin). After unloading all our gear and supplies it was time to prepare a packed lunch and head off to the northern part of the island noticing several gannets out to sea. We had a quick look at the Nant plantation and enjoyed spotted flycatcher and a few other small birds. One of our first and important part of the programme was to have our Sunday service together which included communion. As always on Bardsey this is multi-lingual with often a hymn by Charles Wesley to a wonderful Welsh tune.
This was followed by a walk up the Lord's path to the top of the mountain. A peregrine, several chough and a young shearwater were seen on the summit. The shearwater was a juvenile almost ready to leave. Whilst enjoying our packed lunch three or four Red Admiral butterflies were attracted by the sunshine. Suitably refreshed ( some of us had a quick doze) we descended towards Nant again and returned to our respective residences. Some stayed at Cristin, the observatory and others at one of the Bardsey Island Trust cottages Carreg. Steve our host had arranged to take some of us out later to see if there were any more Manxies around. One of the birds obviously could not wait for us and found its way to the gents (composting) loo

  A delightful end to our first day

Migration at the Moss

I went to Leighton Moss RSPB on the autumnal equinox to lead a walk on migration mysteries. As I arrived on the train I had already seen some little egrets on the Allen Pools as we sped past them. On my walk from the railway station a few greylag flew towards the reserve from across the golf course. I had my refreshing cup of tea before commencing and was pleasantly surprised to see David Hughes and his wife, colleagues from A Rocha UK. The walk proper started in Lilians hide where we had a great view of a juvenile marsh harrier and in the distance a little egret. A single great crested grebe was outnumbered by coot  close to the hide and several pochards. We also had two black tailed godwits doing a flypast.When the coots made a sudden dash for the reeds we suspected otters, but to no avail
The other leader Ken and I shared about ringing as a means of learning more information on migration. We moved on, only pausing to watch a jay looking for food. We did search for bearded tits near the grit trays but a sudden shower encouraged us to head for the public hide. I include a video from a previous year to show we do get them in this location very regularly.

 A mute swan gracefully sailed past with about four cygnets following. The pools did look very full which meant not much room on the small islands for waders to gather. There were a few though. Several greenshanks shared with cormorants and redshanks as they faced the strengthening wind with heads down. At this location we did see a few swallows and house martins heading south. The sun came out in time for us to head back to the centre passing a flock of long-tailed tits on the way. The feeding station was our final point of call with chaffinch, greenfinches, coal tits, nuthatch and marsh tits delighting us at the end of a good morning

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Going Batty

I visited Brereton Heath Country Park near Sandbach on Saturday 17 September. The A Rocha UK Sandbach group had organised a bat walk here. The day had been showery with some thunder but cleared as we gathered at the visitor centre. Just as we were about to leave we had another short cloudburst, which delayed us for 10 minutes. We set off and initially all was quiet until we reached a newly erected screen which overlooked a less dense part of the mixed woodland. We heard one bat, a pipistrelle. Once more detectors were used we heard and saw several soprano pipistrelles. It was the first time I have seen so many 55's. We continued our walk and for a brief three seconds I heard a single noctule. Once the lake had been circumnavigated, we carefully went a little closer to it and were treated to both hearing and seeing a few Daubentons. Finally as we were leaving two males and one female tawny owl bade us a too-woo too-wit farewell. It had been a great evening enjoying God's creation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

There be dragons

I recently visited a friend on my way from Lee Abbey and had seen an interesting looking large pool nearby. I asked if we could investigate one morning. As you can see, we couldn't. We returned later once the sun had burned off the mist. Several cobwebs had been turned into works of art glistening in the newly emerged sun
We were here for odonata not pearls. Swallows were feeding over the surface of the water, and two men with cameras were busy trying to photograph a dragonfly. I eventually managed to get a passable shot 

There were a few different dragonflies around and we saw Black Darter as well as Black tailed Skimmer. I saw a pair of blue tailed damselflies mating and then a single emerald. There was also a migrant hawker close by, but never close enough to take his portrait. Other avian neighbours were some young buzzards mewing all the time, a young male kestrel and a stonechat

I hope to return here to obtain better shots than these