Small copper I think you’ll find. Been seeing a few, but this is the first one that sat still enough to get a shot of.
For some strange reason, when I typed that word (beetle) I had a mental image of Michael Howard saying it. Like he said ‘people’ – peepooool. Beetooool.
I’ll name it later. Probably
It seemed that Friday was a good day for a seawatch. I mean, a Fea’s Petrel flew past the evening before. How good does it need to get? What with the patch being by the sea, it seemed a good idea to then proceed to sea and watch it. Getting ready for ‘the big one’. The patch tick of patch ticks. A rare seabird. Lets go!
The first Brents of the winter, some Wigeon, some Scoters. No shearwaters, certainly not any Cory’s. Or Gannets. Some gulls. No skuas. Some terns. Hmmm. But then! Hang on one a second there is a small dark bird with a white rump flying almost on the waves!!! Bloody hell! It couldn’t be could it? Where has it gone? Find it find it! Oh, what is that what has gone and landed on that there rock. Oh, it is a Wheatear.
Aren’t you a happy little doggy!
Daddy has taken you for a walk on the beach hasn’t he! Lots to smell and dig and wee on isn’t there! Little doggy is having a great time isn’t he! No lead out here is there doggy? You can run in the dunes and splash in the sea and dig in the sand and chase the gulls and bark and bark and nobody say shutupdog! No they don’t!
What’s that doggy? You need to do a doggy-doo? Well feel free, just go wherever you want to! It doesn’t matter, you can just do what you did yesterday and just do a doggy-doo in the dunes. And the same as you did the day before yesterday, and the day before that. And then you can carry on smelling and running and wee-ing! In fact just go ahead and add another to the hundreds of little lumps of doggy-doo that Daddy has let you do on the beach in the last year. It’s ok, he is a proper Daddy and will clean up after you and dispose of your shit responsibly won’t he! Won’t he?
Of course not. Because you haven’t done it in the street little doggy, and because nobody can see you do it, he can just leave it where it pops out of your stinky doggy arse and move on! Yes he can. And so can most of the other doggy Daddies and Mummies on the beach! It’s easy! No plastic bags to worry about! No carrying stinky canine shits around with you! Just leave it on the beach or in the dunes several hundred times a year! Do the mathematics little doggy. Ten dogs a day (a conservative underestimation) 300 or so days a year and you have thousands of lumps of dog shit spread around the beach. I don’t blame you little doggy – just your stupid lazy ignorant self-centred bastard of a daddy. Thankyou so much dog owners, this end of town looks like shit, and thanks to you it regularly smells of shit. You shits.
Do you remember those cans of ‘fart gas’ that you could buy when you were a kid?
It would generally waste a large chunk of the pocket money that you had saved up for the annual summer holiday, having purchased it after falling for the illusion of actually having a real can of real flatus. The reality was that the smell was rank, but not really that similar to proper anal gaseous discharge. When I say rank, I mean rank. Proper rank. Not enough to produce instant projectile vomiting (that would be amaaaaazing), but enough to clear a ridge tent in quick time, even in the rain. Chemically mixed rankness in spray form. The smell contained in these containers was definitely not pleasant. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it was some concoction from the depths of hell, but certainly a little lister demon that may have passed this region had given a little whisper in the ear of the creator of fart gas. You don’t remember fart gas? Oh.
Compared to what I had whaft under my nostrils on Friday, cans of fart gas are about as unpleasant as fresh honeysuckle. Here is a picture of something that really does smell. Technically, this thing here “really really fucking stinks”.
As I approached it, the smell situation wasn’t in my mind but once I got close and the hoard of flies vacated the whaft whafted. Rankness of another level. Needless to say, this is a pan species patch tick and evidently it has a rude sounding scientific name – Phallus impudicus. Gurgle.
So I went out into the patch and it looked like this.
Understandably, I started getting rained on. So I retreated to the shelter of a nearby motorised vehicle and by the magic of the internal combustion engine I found myself by an area of scrubland. Actually it is desolate industrial wasteground, but scrub makes it sound all wild and authentic and everything. Bored out of my patch mind by the lack of birds to watch I even ended up taking pictures of a bird I don’t like.
I muttered, and took the Lords name in vain with reference to the rubbishness of local birds etc. I mean Wrynecks are stalking local dunes, but not mine. Greenish Warblers are being found in bushes a mere few miles away, but not here. All I have is a Wood Pigeon. And those Sparrows. And that Blue Tit. FFS. Blue Tit? But that would be a member of an entire family of birds that do not present themselves around here at all. Have I fallen into the complacency of the common place again? Yes! Patch tick! Niiiiice! Better get the bins out then and look at it properly. It’s a respect thing. But hang on, what is that flicky thing that is with the Tit and Sparrows in that rubbish bit of scrub/wasteland. Oh it seems to look like a warbler. At 8x magnification it revealed itself to be no less than a Chiffchaff. Another bleeding patch tick! Shmokin!
One rain shower for me, two photos for you dear reader, and a rambling post about two patch ticks. Splendid.
Although you might think that an insult, just imagine that it was your actual name!
Behold the Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor.
That’ll be a patch tick and everything like that. And I identified it all by myself for a change. My bug book is not completely useless after all…
That patch pan listing thing hasn’t gone away by the way. There’s no rush…
I predicted Skua. If the magic realist patch situation had reared its head again that is what I would be reporting. It didn’t raise its head, but sort of raised a lazy eyebrow. Like an amateur Roger Moore or something, so I got a patch tick, but it was a Hobby rather than a Skua, which was nice considering I was trying to seawatch at the time.
So there am I yesterday, wittering on about how Kittiwakes are like buses and then I go back into the patch again today (cos that is what it is about, this patch watching) and lo and behold I get another patch tick! Which is immensely satisfying Dear Reader. And then I chuckle to myself about running with the patch tick and bus analogy a bit further for my own amusement and your enduring tedium no doubt. In another universe, it seems that a blogger who may be known to some of you has made much the same observation in a very similar situation.
There you have it, not only are bird blogs very similar (another topic of ‘discussion’) but the same amusing analogies are independently used to illustrate a similar point. I’m fairly sure that this is illustrative of very little, but noted nonetheless.
Anyway, the Hobby was chasing a Swift and it was abso-bloody-lutely first class. You may be hoping for a photo, but from the moment I had it in the bins (close in and being shadowed by a couple of gulls while soaring) until it became a spec in the distance of the optics I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a second. In between this, it had changed from soaring to flat-out in an instant as it chased the almost unchaseable. Tells you something about the quality of the spectacle I expect.
Kittiwakes are. You never thought that before did you? Well I can assure you that round here it seems that they are. After a tip-off from a local birder that a juvenile Kittiwake had been seen flying past, I parked my derrier on the beach this morning for little ol’ seawatch.
Started off with a Guillemot feeding quite close in followed by a quintet of Common Scoter flying past – winter ticks (not year ticks, but the first since before we pretended it was summer). Then, would you adamandeve it, a bloody juvenile Kittiwake flew past! And then a couple of minutes later, another juvenile Kittiwake flew past! Buses you see. Not having seen them in the patch before, this makes it a patch tick. But then, another two flew into view! I was, by this point, talking out loud and saying rude words about buses.
And then I remembered that pointy clicky thingy, and took what we would call a record shot. Patch tick in the bag. Skuas next then…
Cock, Common, Garden or Welsh? That is the question. Something to do with feet. Something to do with habitat. I really don’t know, and until a few days ago it would just have been a beetle. To assist with the definitive identification here are extreme close-up versions of every image I have of the beast, with varying degrees of quality.
So if you know anything about beetles and have nothing to do on this rainy day – chuck your expertise at this lot!
Before this lunatic quest was embarked on, I wouldn’t really have given this plant a second look, never mind take a photo or identify it. It is evidently bitter to eat, and I can inform you that it is quite small. Do feel free to enjoy Biting Stonecrop Sedum acre.
Elsewhere, I may have seen an Xiphydria prolongata, but it moved too quickly to get proper views. Thrilling eh?
There has been talk, or perhaps type, on various internet fora lately regarding the phenomenon known as pan-listing. For those of you are unfamiliar with this term it is not a listing of pans (whether this is for cooking or otherwise) but another use of the word – pan-listing is the listing of every living thing that you have seen. Absolutely everything. Without exception. What an
idiotic admirable task you might think. Listing everything that you have ever seen (within a Natural History framework of course) in a little book or on some check-sheets or whatever. Simple eh? Well the chap that has the most pan-ticks in the UK is at a little over 10,000. Does that sound a lot to you? It does to me, especially after I thought I’d put some stuff together to see where I was up to, and once I totted up my list I realised that I have seen bugger all. Honestly, absolutely bugger all. I thought that I’d seen a few things – I like to try and identify the odd insect, or an interesting plant, the odd sea gooseberry here and there so my thinking was that there would be a fair few ticks on my list, but how wrong I was. Even less than bugger all.
However, not being unfazed so easily I gave the matter some thought and wondered if it would be a practical thing to do. The theory sounded easy at first; just go around identifying everything and then writing it down in a book. Easy. With a little bit of thought it occurred to me exactly what everything actually meant and with a little bit of investigation the numbers started to come in and the size of the task began to dawn on me. Everything. Flowers, reptiles, plants, molluscs, trees, birds, mammals, moths, butterflies, flies, beetles, arachnids, crustaceans, fungi, lichen, moss, etc etc. Want some numbers? 14,000 + fungi in the UK. 600 + birds, hundreds of spiders, thousands of insects, 2500 moths, and the list goes on. There are literally tens of thousands of ‘stuff’ to identify, all of which I haven’t got a clue where to start (other than flicking through a book of bugs – got, got, need, got, swap etc). And to put a specific name to some of them you need to get them under a microscope and piss about with their genitals before you can be sure. No, really. The question then raises its head – can I really be bothered with all that? Joan Collins reportedly said that life is too short to stuff mushrooms. Well I have come to the conclusion that my life is too short to be dissecting the genitalia of Lepidoptera. And that is the end of it. No pan-listing for me. No way.
But hang on a one Gossypium-picking minute. Without doubt the journey would be interesting, but the road is like too long and wide, yah? So what if the pan-listing thing was downsized a bit? Would it be more sensible then? Limit it to just Norfolk perhaps? Still daft, Norfolk is bloody big and there is loads and loads of stuff in it, still a stupidly stupid endeavour. No Norfolk pan-listing for me. No way.
But. Isn’t there always a but? But, perhaps downsize it a bit more?? What if I put two and two together. Go for a spot of pan-listing, but limit it to the patch!?!?! Ooooh – identify and list every single species that can be found in the patch! Even then it really is a stupid thing to do. Have you any idea how many different types of grass there are? Nah, not doing it. I’ll stick to the birds. That is plenty. Small, insignificant, but plenty for me.
Not that easy now though is it? It’s out of the bag now. The creation of a bird list brings out the Lister Demon and his evil temptations, but pan-listing brings out the demon, all his little helpers, the demon’s boss and most of the rest of the hordes from listing-demon-central. The temptation is difficult to resist. The whole idea has the potential to be a stupid tempt filled crusade. In fact I would go as far as to say that it is verging on lunacy. Stupidity. Folly. Trying to identify everything in a patch when you don’t know the first thing about botany or zoology, and not much about birds. Truly, truly stupid.
Bollocks. I’m in. Lets get listing!
In the spirit of the insane new quest, here is a picture of a grasshopper (which I have yet to identify).
Not just a picture of a grasshopper anymore is it? No, it is sitting on some lichen! AAAaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!
Naming wildlife in the old days must have been a pretty easy job. It looks like a cucumber, it lives in the sea – it’s a Sea Cucumber! It looks like a gooseberry, it lives in the sea – its a Sea Gooseberry! It looks like a lion, it lives in the sea – its a Sea Lion! Perhaps not then.
As accurately suggested by James and Harry, it would seem that the little globs of not much (99% water evidently) are not eggs but are complete beings (albeit dead ones), called Sea Gooseberry. They are little jellyfish thingies, and they are classified in the phylum Ctenophora. I did think about loading loads of Ctenophora facts and figures up on here, but then realised that I really didn’t have the stamina for the research. I mean it’s not like it can fly or anything is it? When I say ‘research’, I meant cutting and pasting loads of text what other people had written.
However, if you click on these words it will take you to a blogpost written by Phil Gates who writes the excellent Cabinet Of Curiosities blog, and it is about Sea Gooseberries of all things. He has photos and text and stuff. Click on it!
I thought I’d better take a bit more notice now.
They are generally about 3/4 inch long, mostly translucent, gooseberry shaped but not quite as firm. It looked like there was some kind of smudge in the centre and beyond that they looked fairly featureless. Once the photos had been developed in the dark room, a little more detail could be ascertained. behold…
If you have been reading bird blogs for a while, you will notice the seasonal changes. It goes a little something like this.
Autumn – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of migrants and stuff! I’ll write about it! It’s windy!
Winter – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of winter birds and stuff! I’ll write about it! It’s cold!
Spring – wow! Birds are brilliant and my patch is full of migrants and stuff! I’ll write about it! The days are getting longer!
Summer – Oh, all the summer birds are breeding and I can’t see them for the trees. Boring. Have you seen my butterfly/moth photos?
For the sake of compliance in my little theory, here is another blue butterfly with a massively overexposed background. I think it is a female blue one, but it would seem that my bug book is a little sexist and doesn’t like pictures of certain female butterflies.