Sunday, 27 November 2011

Caspian and myxomycetes

The fog last weekend put a stop to the Larid spotting, but clear skies this weekend enabled plenty.

Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire was spent scanning through the gulls that passed through D res. The highlight undoubtably an adult Caspian Gull which appeared late afternoon on Saturday. However, as seems to be the case with Tophill gulls, it didn't reappear Sunday, which makes it rather frustrating for folk wanting to connect the day after. So after waiting 11 years, to find two in fortnight is rather surprising and lucky. Or maybe perhaps I spend too much time sat looking!!! A 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull appeared briefly on the wall Saturday afternoon, before presumably flying south. The best of the rest was made up of 54 White-fronted Geese on Saturday (a few more were present on Sunday) a 'redhead' Goosander was present lunchtime on Sunday and an Egyptian Goose flew in alone to join the goose flock on the site late-afternoon. Click here for Richard's Tophill news

With me opting to spend Saturday doing the larids, Doug Fairweather was finding myxomycetes. Smart little organisms which aren't quite fungi, but we come across with increasing regularity. I could explain in my terms what myxomycetes are, but this piece by Michael Kuo explains it simply!!

We still don't have many on the site list but here are a couple Doug photographed.

Leocarpus fragilis

Tubifera ferruginosa

Posted last autumn, but the first we have encountered this season, a collection of Parrot Waxcaps.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Odonata in the Algarve October 2011

Anax parthenope - Lesser Emperor

When not sitting on a chair in Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, scanning the skies for the next raptor to add to the day count, probably the next easiest things to see are the masses of Sympetrum, normally moving west or north. It is an impressive sight for anyone who hasn't seen what can only be called a 'swarm' of darters!

A quiet day in Sagres in early October prompted me to head to a site I know reasonably well called the Boca Do Rio which provides ample opportunity to see dragonflies and darters, as well as a few birds.

When the Boca holds areas of standing water it is best described as awesome. On arrival I was greeted by a mass of Odonata of various species which numbered 50+ Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator 150+ Lesser Emperor A. parthenope the odd Vagrant Emperor A. ephippiger (though these were noticeable by their lack of number compared to recent years) 1500+ Red-viened Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii 60+ Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea the odd Southern Darter S. meridionale a few Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura graellsii while my first Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii showed well flying past me before perching up just too far away for a picture in the impenetrable Portuguese vegetation. You get the idea? It is a bit of spectacle!!! Rather makes my Yorkshire site counts of 80 Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata look rather tame by comparison!

Anax imperator Emperor Dragonfly

Aeshna mixta Migrant Hawker

The Red-viened Darters S. fonscolombii sit reasonably well, though sometimes the wind makes getting a decent photo awkward.

While the Broad Scarlets C. erythraea are most often seen perched up sky-pointing or defending territory against just about anything that flies into their zone.

Though this washed out female/over-mature male posed a few problems for identification as its flight pattern and behaviour was total different to any others of this species I've ever seen in my life. I'm reasonably familiar with the species but it was good to learn from.

Having made numerous visits to the site over several years, I have an idea of what is around though its good to add new species to my area list. This time around, searching yielded a male and female Epaulet Skimmer Orthetrum chryostigma

Male above, female below

This Willow Emerald Lestes viridis one of two encountered while I had the wrong lens on the camera!

Plenty to see, and not enough time to spend doing Odonata and draining everything that could be seen in the Algarve, but it gives a taste of just what is there.

I've been trying to capture a decent picture to relate the idea of the number of Sympetrum in Sagres at any one time. So I've decided to show this evening picture showing part of the pine line viewable from the hill one evening. I've altered it to black and white so the wings show up a little more... and bear in mind you can only see the ones against the dark trees!

And that line of pines is about 700 metres away from the hill! Darters are everywhere, these are just the ones the camera picked up!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Discreet visitor returns

Just the one day out this weekend due to work!!! Still it was foggy and by all accounts I didn't miss much Saturday.

So in the fog I thought I best tour Tophill Low NR, East Yorks again, if anything just for the fresh air.

Anyhow, South Lagoon isn't a place I spend much time at on the site... popped in today and was greeted with a 'twic'. A noise many miss, but unmistakably the call of a Cetti's Warbler. A species that has become a winter regular on site in recent years... as well as hosting the first Yorkshire breeding pair.

Managed to catch up with a Short-eared Owl at the Hempholme end mid-afternoon hunting to the east of the river.

A few White-fronted Geese remained on D res as the fog lifted, but I decided against going thru the gulls... I could only assume the fog would return.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Raise some cash - sponsor my 'tache

So here is the facial fluff I've been growing as part of The Slug Wranglers gang who are growing moustaches to increase awareness of Men's health issues during Movember and hopefully raise some money.

Up to you whether or not you give, but 50p, 50 cents, £1, 1$ or 1 Euro isn't going to break the bank. Just click on the donations page.

The readers have hit this blog over 2000 times so far this month so go on... all those little donations could mount up to a big amount and I'll grow my slug, or more correctly, this furry caterpillar, until the end of November!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Goose influx

Seems to be a bit of a goose movement on. Good numbers of White-fronted Geese around on the east coast and Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire didn't miss out with 46 birds (including 12 juvs) on Saturday and 52 on Sunday which kept jumping from D res onto Decoy fields. A couple of Whooper Swans appeared on Sunday as did 4 Pink-footed Geese. Just need some Bean Geese now!

Finally ticked Hen Harrier for the site. A female south thru Decoy fields mid-afternoon the first I've managed in 11 years of visiting. Disappointingly, there was a failure to pick out anything of interest among the 15,000 or so roosting Larids... just the way it goes sometimes.

For the week's news from Tophill, click here

The probable Hemipholiota populnea found by Doug Fairweather has now become an actual one after a specimen was sent to our expert advisor so he could look at the spores! He commented 'Hemipholiota populnea, based on the provisional Red Data list of 1992, is considered threatened in the UK by the decline of the chief host species for the fungi. Due to the lack of records since, there is little to suggest its status has altered.'

So it leaves the question - will it reappear next year?

Some other smart bits around.

Field Blewit

Pholiota highlandensis Bonfire Scalycap

A stump of Candle Snuff

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Operation Cachinnans finally proves successful

Well it had to happen eventually! Most readers will know I have a habit of sitting in a cold shed on stilts looking across D res at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, going through the gulls on a regular basis.

This afternoon, I finally added the 'obvious' missing species to the site's bird list as a 1st winter Caspian Gull was present on the res 13.35-13.46 before disappearing south. The bird then reappeared briefly at 14.05 and again at 14.20 before flying SW as many birds often do during the afternoon, presumably heading south to the Humber to roost. After having 4 previous candidates over the last 10 years I'm happy enough to call this one.

Interestingly, there was a noticeable increase in the number of Herring Gulls present this weekend with 45+ birds noted Saturday evening and maybe another 30-50 birds through the site this afternoon. Maybe there is some sort of movement occurring and this bird was caught up in it, especially with there also being a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, another uncommon species, also appearing, before it too flew south.

So as I enter winter number 11 of gull roosting at Tophill Low (I dread to think how many hours that has entailed) , thats 12 species of gull on my site list... unless the next one is a Sabine's it should be a BB rare!

Got to be in it to win it... and note the the rarer gulls historically are one night wonders, or in the case of the Franklin's Gull going way back in history... it dropped in, stayed 15 minutes or so then left.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The joys of the reclassification of fungi species

So Doug Fairweather found this one at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, last week. Difficult to put a name to. Pholiota species perhaps is as far as the books take you. However, with a little advice, it may be possibly be Hemipholiota populnea. A recent reclassification of various species has resulted in a few new ones being created. Just like everything else it would seem... unless its moths when agg gets added to certain species as they can't be done without genitalia examination!

A week later, the specimen looked a little different and has been collected so hopefully our expert friend can come to a definate identification. Hopefully I'll be posting more when we get news.

A few other bits and bobs around. This Lepista flaccida Tawny Funnel part of a good show at the south end of the site.

Note you can see both the top and the underside. Always helpful to see both when trying to identify a species.

I missed the moth trapping, however nothing of note was trapped. Usual November fair... November Moth, Large Wainscot and a couple of Feathered Thorn (pictured)

The gull roost held yet another Mediterranean Gull. I think that maybe 12-14 different birds that have appeared this autumn so far, though I suspect several were missed in October.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Roll up, roll up for the Circus spectacular

I did something unusual for November - birding after work!

Fortunately, the 4pm finish gave me just under an hour of semi-decent light to get to the Humber, Ouse, Trent confluence to see what Harriers were roosting.

In fading light, the spectacle was superb with Harriers on view before I could get out of the car. A quick stumble up the riverbank and a minimum of 34+ Marsh Harriers were on view hanging over the reedbeds giving crippling views. Also a ringtail harrier spp which looked like a Hen, but these days presuming is a dangerous thing (tho one has been roosting) and to be honest it looked like one!

All in all, for making very little effort, walking four strides up a riverbank and observing for 15 minutes or so, it was a pretty awesome sight.