23 Mar 2018

Blue Bottles

No not the fly but a jellyfish.
Whilst spending the day on Manly Beach in Australia recently the lifeguards made an announcement that lots of these 'blue stingers' had been washed up on the tideline. They're fascinating things and are completely reliant on being moved around by the wind. They can give you a painful sting though and people were being warned to stay away. This is off the Beach Safe website from Australia

The bluebottle (physalia) is probably the most well known jellyfish around the Australian coastline. Their blue, balloon like sail sits above the water and is attached to a long tentacle extending below it. This tentacle is covered in stinging cells callednematocysts. When this touches the skin it reacts by injecting a small amount of a toxin which causes irritation and can be quite painful.



  • Wash off any remaining tentacles with seawater, or pick off with your fingers (they can’t usually sting through the tough skin on your fingers!)
  • Immerse the patient’s sting in hot water (no hotter than can be easily tolerated)
  • If local pain is not relieved or immersion facilities are not available, the application of cold packs or wrapped ice is also effective.


  • Wash off remaining tentacles with seawater, or pick off with fingers.
  • Apply cold pack or wrapped ice for at least 10 minutes or until pain is relieved.
  • Refer to medical aid for further treatment if condition deteriorates.


Lifeguards are often amused and entertained by the many strange and bizarre treatments people try to relieve the temporary pain of a non-tropical marine sting, such as;
  • Rubbing sand over the sting (it just gives you a rash around the sting)
  • Pouring soft drinks over the sting (just makes it sticky)
  • Pouring vinegar over the skin (is vitally important for TROPICAL marine stings, but not for non-tropical stings)
  • Urinating over the sting (it’s just gross, and doesn’t work anyway!)

Of course I had to go and take a look. There were literally hundreds of them washed up and dying on the sand. Beautifully coloured little things and a shame they had to get washed up and died. Even the Silver Gulls left them alone though.

19 Mar 2018

Med Gull on the patch!

We've been getting a large pre-breeding gathering of Black-headed Gulls in the fields all round the house recently. Last year we had a Med Gull on the 1st March so I was keen to get one on the 2018 patch list so diligently set about working my way through the large flock of Black-headed Gulls every time I got the chance.

Friday afternoon I was in the garden when  I heard a Med Gull briefly. After scoping the fields I could see from the back garden I eventually found an adult summer plumaged bird a couple of fields away. Something spooked them and they promptly flew and I never saw it again that day.

Saturday morning saw me checking out the gulls that had landed in the field opposite the house from the study. Frustratingly they were very mobile and kept getting up in a 'dread' and flying around. No Med Gull but even more frustratingly I picked up a colour ringed Black-headed Gull very close to the house but couldn't get enough on it to read the three letter combination as the ring was quite muddy where the gull had been paddling around in the mire. The combination of a white darvic with a black three letter code suggests it was ringed in Denmark. All  I got were two possible letters - M & V.

Another 'dread' and I couldn't find it again as all the birds moved to far away and either landed on the pond or crouched facing into the wind along side it.

Whilst searching for this bird the Med Gull suddenly made a very brief appearance and I managed a short video (8 seconds) before it flew off never to reappear again that day!

A very cold and frustrating day. Still  I did manage 39 species from the window though! Mind you the return of the snow on Sunday brought with it more Snipe and a greater selection of wildfowl (Pinkfeet, Greylag & Canada Goose, Shoveller, Teal, Mallard & Wigeon) and I ended up with 42 species without leaving the warmth of the house! I did go for a walk later but failed to add anymore species.

The Med Gull brings me up to 72 species this year for the patch with all but 1 (Kingfisher) being seen from the house or garden.

Friday afternoon was much more pleasant and finishing work early gave me enough time to to walk Station Rd, Burton along the marshes to the Harp for a fish finger butty and a pint with Jan and our 'grand' puppy. Its a shame I didn't take the camera as we had stunning views of 4 Short--eared Owls hunting in an area just south of Denhall Quay. Best of all, as we were walking back to the car, an adult male Hen Harrier drifted over our heads inland over some maize stubble.

12 Mar 2018

New species for the patch and garden list

The recent cold weather has resulted in good numbers of birds visiting our local pond - all viewable from the comfort of the bedroom thats now been commandeered as my study. The great thing about this vantage point is that the pond can't really be seen from ground level as you can't easily see over the hedge. Its probably 200m from the house but with the scope permanently set up and the mornings and evenings getting lighter I'm able to check it twice a day if I'm working from the office.

The last week has seen some pretty decent records. Following on from the Jack Snipe that dropped in with 20 Common Snipe during the snow I've added both Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit recently - on the same day! The Curlew was present in the early morning and the Godwit appeared in the evening. Record shots only I'm afraid as the distance is t ofar for the DSLR and the weather was appalling.

The next day saw the appearance of 5 Ruff. I had a single Ruff last autumn but the appearance of 5 birds was something special.
The usual Teal and Shoveller were joined by a pair of Wigeon but the real highlight was coming home from work and seeing not one but five Pintail swimming around or resting on the banks. What a bird for the garden list!

The picture below shows the view from the window during the snow with the pond visible just to the left of the telegraph pole.

 Below: sunset overlooking the pond. Above sunrise from the back garden.

Above: some of the 20 Common Snipe present during the snow and feeding right out in the open - no need to flush them to count from my viewing point.

5 Mar 2018

Cold weather movements

Back from Oz and back to a vengeful British winter. With windchill temperatures down to -10 C heavy frosts turned into  lots of snow locally the countryside was transformed into a winter wonderland as the 'beast from the east' hit.

Wrapping up i nas many layers as possible I took the opportunity to walk the local fields and lanes and add a good few species on the patch year list - including two new ones. Little Egret and Jack Snipe.

The Little Egret was expected but still a bit of a surprise as  I expected it fishing for newts on the pond opposite the house but it was actually in a ditch alongside a field of maize stubble. This is the first I've seen here even though theres a large breeding colony at nearby Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB about 8 km away as the Egret flies.

With the cold weather came large numbers of thrushes and Lapwings. 138 Lapwings on a freshly manured field was the record count but they moved on when the snow came. 10 Snipe round a small pond were expected as I'd seen them here before. What was totally unexpected though was the numbers that built up round the pond viewed from the window. I assume the10 from the smaller pond relocated across the field to the larger one that hadn't completely frozen over due to the Canada and Greylag Geese roosting on it at night as we could see them feeding out in the open from the window. The numbers quickly built up to a high count of 20 on Sunday morning.

Lapwings also took advantage of the open muddy areas where the sheep had been feeding and in managed to get a few shots over the farm gate.

Whilst crouched in the freezing weather photographing the Lapwings a Snipe flew in and started running towards me!

Another sign of cold weather was the arrival of the Coots and Moorhens. We've got a 'resident' pair of coots on the pond but 11 others turned up with the back up of 3 Moorhens. The local pair went ballistic and tired to chase off the interlopers but eventually gave up and sulked in their own chosen corner of the pond.

2 Mar 2018


One of the strangest animals on the planet - the Kangaroo! Actually Australia is full of strange animals but the Roo's are the most visible. Where my daughter lives theres mob that comes down from the hillside to feed in the evenings and its become a bit of a ritual standing on the balcony with a cold beer Roo watching.......