Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Its A Normal Scorp!!

A Scaup! Oops sorry its a Yellowhammer. I love big fat stinking dirty basslines and big phat dirty gripper buntings. Oh and big fat dirty ducks. Cocks especially, please refer to https://dub-birder.blogspot.com/2011/04/orange-knob-on-black-cock.html - try searching for that post on google!

A few weekends a go, it was Andy's birthday and the wind was blowing from all the right directions. Andy always gets a birthday rare, so with another phat Farnes mate, Ciaran now working at St Abb's we headed up to grease the Lochs. With the May crew wading through ass high puddles of Bluethroat and common migrants along with plenty of conti-mental birds dropping on the east coast, team hopes were elevated for our first bird together since the Seahouses Ivory Gull's in 2013 and of course, the Farnes. Epic times.

Ciaran suggested we hit a small Loch on our way to the head, so we wandered over and started scanning the Tufties. To my left Ciaran could see the righthand side of the flock and after about a millisecond in shouted 'Scaup!?'. I detected that magic tone of rareness in his voice! That gentle 'its just a normal Scaup' OR IS IT thought. By this time I had stepped left a foot, scanned right a couple of birds, and clapped sockets on the Scaup 'Christ it's got a peak! Is it a Lesser?'. It was a perfect looking vermiculated cock. Had that manic scaupish look created by the yellow eye, disproportionately flappy blue bill and more buoyant gait. 

We duly zoned in on the nail/nib, head shape/colour, overall size and the detailing in the vermiculation, which were magnificent. Got to love a worm-backed diving duck! It was obviously a Lesser and not a hybrid to us, but we needed some 'into the brain' scope views of decisive features such as the upper-wing. So Andy babysat the bird while we ran back and grabbed scopes, all the while feeling a bit weird about how easy the whole thing was. We returned to find Andy looking like scantily clad raver freezing their chebs off on a comedown at a bus stop at 8am! We duly force fed him a highly magnified images of the nib til he conceded there were worse things than standing in a freezing easterly. Unfortunately Andy had done such a good job of baby-sitting the Scaup was in bed fast asleep! Despite 2 hours of waiting it didn't flap,wink or fart. Eventually draw of passerine migrants overwhelmed us all along with the cold and boredom. Luckily a local birder papped the flap a short while later helping us clinch this mega first for the county into the anals of time and Borders birding legend....ish.
Many look down upon Aythya for being stupid sex-mad idiots incapable of identifying their own kind. I prefer to see these horny ducks as leaders in their field! They don't mind too much what gender or species you are as long as you're up for some quick, cold, wet fun! This female Tufted Duck wasn't keen on the great blue billed bugger following it around making burping noises!

Nailed on boy!

Have a peak at the peak. Peaky. Peak. 

TWO HOURS WATCHING THIS. If you thought I wasn't insane from my previous posts I assume you will reconsider. Just as well the easterly wind wasnt blasting us face-on til our faces came off!

The Loch that the Lesser wasn't on, well at that time.It was subsequently but now I'm just getting pedantic. Nice spot though innum.

It was late afternoon by the time we hit the head. Alas the only grip was from the sea of thrift and the biblical influx of Diamond-backed Moth, with a dub count of 10's of 1000's! Almost as dense as the fog, the soup of water and moth was a sight to behold. While a background of seabirds and their associated smells and sounds made for an evocative philosophical moment.

Seabirds maaaaan. That shit is wild. Always big up and respect the species and habitat. Great to get shagged down the head!

Thrift and rock, the way we like it.

These Small Copper were getting their Aythya on. Well not quite. Dirty intra-specific copulators. Get back in the past where you belong! 

I'll bang out a power blog on the my biker Bai-curiosity in the next post, and it'll be frigging high-tensile mate! Bring the donger #fencing

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Dub's Own Pantry

Dub birder re-emerges to enhance your natural urges! Dub birder is a mystical force that ebbs and flows in and out of the anal of time. Like a chilli-infused muesli I am re-emerging with energy and vigor! Here to bend language and nature with upmost rigor!

Translation. Hi! Been a few years. Blogs are hard sapiens. Speaking of hard, going hard in god's own country this summer surveying inverts and generally filling my boots with landscape level grip. Also getting into Rye and multigrain Sour Dough breads hard, but more on that just before lunch on any day ever.

What a landscape it is! Never had the pleasure to work in such a grand place. A true Grandscape with associated charismatic mega-flora and fauna that will defo floor ya! I wont be going into 'chicks with specifics' regarding where any of these near-conscious experiences take place because its a secret, and already archived in the dubrary of my hyper-cerebellum. 

Like any modern landscape the Dales show clear signs of degradation and the ironically termed agricultural 'improvement'. While striding abreast a fell-top being hectically gusted to the point of sea-sickness, I often get vivid hallucinogenic intrusions of thought. These visions are of mellow U-bend (LOL) Valleys coated in low-density mature woodland, open and full of sheltered micro-climates abounding with all the ground flora that barely clings to the grazed, burnt and wind-blasted modern form. However from these relic woodland ashes rises the upland pheonix in the form of a safe refuge for breeding waders - with some places visited as loud as the most voluptuous dawn chorus or an all-encompassing seabird colony - filled with bubbling Curlew, belligerent Oycs, buzzing Redshanks, synthesiser Snipe drumming, grunting Woodcocks, descending Mipits, choatic Skylark song, simplistic Golden Plover calls and fluting Rouzel under-toned by the modulating harmonics of Black Grouse leks that all reverberate around the glacial amphitheatre of the Dales landscape. A combination of sounds that utterly grip-out even the most battle-hardened ear canal.


One man-made feature I can live with in most landscapes is a dry stone wall. They at the very least mitigate the blustery moorland vibes and help recreate some of the sheltered micro-habitats that woodland once provided. Being an obvious landscape feature they always provide a focal point for a multitude of taxa  from lichens to stoat dens!

From the big to the small! If you look closely enough there's a full swath of greasy upland flora to satisfy your wildest herbiphilic fantasies. Several spots had some epic pansy-fests with meadows full of all the colours of the rainbow (bar most of the colours of the rainbow). Nice to w@nk off the background landscape perspective to full effect. 

I've always appreciated and respected lower and higher plants but its a one in, one out system in terms of my memory for even their vernacular names. So being in the company of some epic botanists I am making a renewed effort to learn, assimilate, regurgitate their names...then I usually need to quickly defibrillate, as my heart has exploded with the effort and new grip.

The more you learn the more you know! HA. State the oblivious. Anyways the above are two different mineralised growth forms of Mossy Saxiphrage found on old mining spoil heaps just a few feet apart. Such intra-specific variation in close proximity, seemingly forming distinct colonies could easily be seen as part of an evolutionary event - though I made that up on the spot so could be wrong. However the genius of dub penetrates so deep into the every florafice I may just make sense. What I have dedicated more focussed penetrations of thought is the consequences for insect conservation. Such obvious variation in how a single species reacts to different growing conditions really crystallises the impacts of human chemicals and habitat structure on insect niches.

Another plant what I did good learn is the Marsh Marigold. Phwwwaaar, I'd wear that in my hands any day. Seemingly happy with this last year's hot/warm and dry weather, it has been out in force! What a force of yellow it is! And not just a pretty facade though, proper floral and niche resource! Check out the Green-veined White nectaring while a May Fly shelters below. Niche off!

Though I am a Leper by and large, I'm strongly considering becoming a Apiphile. With fluffy queen Bilberry Bumblebees nest hunting around me as I 'do luncheon' on the high tops, its hard not to feel inspired by their beauty and upland specialism.

They are almost better in flight, so for once, being inept/having a bridge camera enabled me to jam a flight shot of that bum!

Here's another classic pollinator interaction - Common carder Bee on Bugle. Banging!

Bugle clumps are proving to be an essential early nectar source in the uplands. Each patch was full of insects. I had visceral flashbacks to running around lowland grasslands in my youth, focusing on microscopic heterogeneous (I knew it then as 'dffierent') patches of thistle, ragwort etc as they were equally enticing for insects and their predators! 

One last butterfly! A Small Heath being an upland specialist by hiding in the sheltered, sunny side of a tussock of grass on a fell top. Great strategy for gearing up for the next 10 feet flight!

Here's some of that dry stone wall micro-niche action. here a sheltered side was utilised by a few male Crambus lathoniellus as they fluttered weakly in search of female scent plumes. 

What's more gripping than dry stone wall niches? GREEN HAIRSTREAK DRY STONE WALL NICHES! Come on! I added Green, Hair and Streak to Dry and Stone - gotta be an improvement?! The upland Green Hairstreak populations are proper spin-outs. Using walls as trees and displaying  (kind of) convergent behaviour with Grayling by flattening themselves against the dark stone to warm up! Absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful insects and some serious behaviour. Have a ton more pics, fill your boots!!

As if you were getting Lepped out. Here's a Mother Shipton - so called by the similarity of wing markings to the traditional portrayal of a witch as a gnarled old person/woman. 

How about this! Found an emerging Fox Moth, got over-excited and ID'd it as a Northern Eggar, then realised I was a stringy (almost) bastard and amended my initial ID. What a furry beast! Heaving itself out of the mat of Tormentil at ground level.

Another mainstay of sunny upland days...the Common Heath. Check out them feathers! 

ONE. gasp. LAST. gasp. LEP. gasp. Pyrausta purpuralis on Cuckoo Flower. Even when they are slightly worn they are just too much for my feverish mind to handle!

I'll depart in a dust of particulate, or particularly beefing uplanders and their habitat and predator. What a place. Get yerself up!  

Fun times watching two male Cuckoo fight a few feet in front of me. This male won, saw me, then flew a few feet so he could start pumping his noise into my ears at head level on the now infamous dry stoners.

Lapwing chick. 

Two chats and their habitat. Ring Ouzel and Wheater. Some magic melodies emanating from these charismatic species, that sit well over the basal sound of wader song.

Where there's food....! Stoats are about up here, cool to watch a proper predator prey interaction as they search for bird eggs and chicks!

Corrr I'm spent. Thanks for coming. I'll be (near a) beck....