Thursday 19 January 2017

Special Days - 1. Siberian Accentor on Fair Isle,

Fair Isle

To have a bit of a change from the Butterfly Farm, let's have a look at some of the very special days from The Biking Birder adventures.

Starting with possibly my favourite day from last year. 

A long-eared owl is sitting beside a dry stone wall between The Plantation and Setter. I am sitting watching the super bird. A birder, Shaun, comes to sit with me to admire the bird when my phone starts to receive texts in quick succession:-

First text . . . from Howard Vaughan (10.57)

go go go go >>>> ??????

Second text from Steve Nuttall (10.57)

Hope you enjoy your Sibe accentor as much as me. The pain of missing the Shetland bird will make you appreciate it that much more

Me to Shaun “ I think there's a Siberian accentor on the island!”

third text . . . . from Trevor Girling (10.59)

Sibe acc toila geo fair isle. Go get it.


Fourth text . . . from Gareth Hughes (11.12)

I hope you are still on Fair Isle Mr!

Fifth text . . . . from Penny Clarke (11.15)

Get that Siberian Accentor!!!! Just come on RBA for Fair Isle at Troila Geo!!! Best wishes, Penny

Sixth text . . . . Phil 'The Oracle' Andrews

Sib acc????

The agony of a run and a climb saw me and Shaun arrive at the top of Troila with just Cairan there searching for the special one. 
Lee Gregory. The finder, has gone over towards Tynesdie Geo with Deryk Shaw. The bird had flown at of Troila before our arrival and was being searched for.
Lying down to scan down the geo, I see a small accentor shuffling around half way down the deep valley. Cairan shouts that he can see the bird and I take the World's worst photograph of the bird I can see and show the photograph to him.
That's it!”
Indeed it was.
More people arrive. More people get onto the bird.
Lee and Deryk return and the Siberian Accentor begins to come closer and closer.
A Who's Who of present day Fair Isle birders assemble along the geo edge.

The happiest couple though are Lee Gregory and Cath Mendez.

The bird eventually comes up to the birders' perch. It even sits on a tripod!

The rarest bird for my list in 2016 is secure and I leave to search the island. Back to reality . . .

Text from . . . . . . . Chris Craig (12.56)

I had everything crossed when I saw the message!!!

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Visitors, Pupae and leafcutter Ants.

Wednesday 18th January

Back with Mum and Dad for a few days, time to catch my breath as things are so busy at the moment. What with working at the Butterfly farm, proof reading the first of my hopefully soon to be published books about the Biking Birding years and sorting out all the various projects, things have been thankfully hectic. I would have it no other way. I love life!

Saturday at the Butterfly Farm entailed gluing carefully dozens of butterfly pupae to sticks to be placed in the hatchery. The amazing tactics of the pupae to stay hidden from predators when in their natural habitat is shown in the beautiful colours and deceptions.

Some, like Morho peleides, the Blue Morpho, have pupae that look like unopen flower buds. The pupae of Caligo memnos, the Giant Owl Butterfly, is a perfect dead leaf, if rather a plump one!

Raindrops keep falling on my head, the metallic gold of Tithrea harmonia, the Harmonia Tiger Wing, is stunning. A small pupae that glistens with pure gold.
Then there is the 'don't touch me – I don't taste good' pupae, such as the spiky, dark brown pupae of Hypolimnas bolina, the Eggfly Butterfly.
Green pupae, yellow pupae, so many colours and sizes yet all a miracle of packaging containing the soup that will become the adult, imago butterfly.
Showing these to the many visitors that came through the doors was such great fun that I was there for seven hours. Coffee brought to me went undrunk and I refused all offers of taking a break.

There were also large cocoons of the Giant Atlas moth, Attacus atlas, to show with three adult moths hanging nearby on the two bushes kept for that purpose in the Discovery room.
I know I overuse the word but the privilege of hearing from such diverse people, one a professional singer, with their stories, likes and dislikes; listening to their questions and answering if I could (no, a proboscis doesn't suck blood!) and seeing the excited faces on so many children when a pupae wriggled or they held the Giant Atlas moth cocoon and felt the large pupae inside, is truly wonderful.

Monday was pupae arrival day, 20,000 from around the World, so there's the all hands to the pump, sorting, counting and checking day.
Orders to be made and packaged to send pupae off to customers in Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and further. 

Feeding Colin the blue-tongued skink is easy as he takes prawn and small pieces of fish, trying to feed the Peruvuan iguanas and the chameleon is less successful. they don't want any food. 

Tuesday, spiders and cockroaches, crickets and leafcutter ants; find the first three and persuade them to relocate and clean out and provide leaves for the latter. Madagascan hissing cockroaches have escaped and whilst removing spiders webs in the main flight area, I find a few and put them back in their house in the Minibeast Metropolis. 

John shows me how to carefully take the denuded privet twigs out without the ants biting. Once new material is placed in the tank, the speed in which the ants cut the leaves is incredible. There are ants carrying within minutes. There is a long rope dangling from the ceiling from the leaf tank to the nest tank. It is 15 metres long.

One visitor wants to know what the equivalent distance would be for humans. So imagine an ant two metres long, this would make the rope six kilometres long! The ants take around fifteen minutes to get from one end to the other. Twenty four kilometres an hour, speedy little things.

OK, all figures are all approximates but one can only marvel at the work ethic of the female ants. Yes, all of the worker ants are female.

Of course I take photographs of the butterflies and moths!

BB 2010 Oops, crash and a motorway Abominable Snowman in Hemel Hempstead January 5th

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...