Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Duke of Burgundy

Butterfly hunting again today. This time up on the downs looking for a Duke of Burgundy, a rare butterfly that looks a bit like a Fritillary but is actually a member of the Metalmark subfamily. Again it looked a bit disappointing first thing, overcast, low cloud and quite cool and there were no butterflies on the wing. As the mist started to burn off a few Dusky Skippers took to the air and I also saw a single Grizzled Skipper.

Grizzled Skipper

I was beginning to doubt that we would see any Dukes but then Neil Hulme turned up and confidently predicted that they would appear within the next ten minutes. I have to admit that he was spot on. As the ten minutes drew to a close we had three or four flying and we were able to get some pictures.

Duke of Burgundy

This was the first Duke of Burgundy that I had seen. It was perhaps a bit smaller than I had been expecting but a great butterfly. Not only did it look good  but it was quite obliging in sitting still and allowing a close approach so that I could take pictures.

Fortunately just as we were about to leave it clouded over and a butterfly that we had been following settled with its wings closed. This gave us the final shot we had been looking for.

I have seen twelve different butterflies so far this year and I am setting myself a target of forty so there is still some way to go. I just have to make sure that chasing these doesn't get in the way of the bird photography, or the dragonflies, or ......

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Black-winged Stilt

We set off today with rather ambitious plans. Rye Harbour for the Kentish Plover and Little Stint; Dungeness for the Black-winged Stilt, and the Little, Arctic, and Common Terns; and Sandwich Bay for the Blue-winged Teal and Garganey. Its not really us, its not what we do. Its a twitch, there would be little time for photography and little time to observe the birds, but we had to go, the Black-winged Stilt alone was worth the trip.

The day did not go to plan. We never made it to Sandwich Bay, we wasted time chasing a bird that was not on our list, and we wasted time because neither of us was willing to move on without getting pictures of the birds, however bad those pictures turned out to be. But we did see some great birds.

Our first stop, Rye Harbour, was where it all began to go wrong. We could not find the Little Stint or the Kentish Plover and we should have accepted that and moved on. Instead we were tipped off by the warden to a Temminck's Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. A long walk and extensive search and an hour and a half later we had little to show for our efforts. We saw Avocets, distant Little and Common Terns. and a Whimbrel but none of our target birds.



In the end we had to accept defeat and move on even though three of the birds we were searching for had been see by others. The consolation prize was that Dave managed to pick up  a House Martin as we arrived back in the car park, another first for the year.

A quick stop at Scotney Pits gave us nothing new and on arrival at Dungeness we headed straight off to see the Black-winged Stilt.

Black-winged Stilt

The pair were still there so it was a life tick for me. We should have been able to get some great pictures but just after we arrived the Nuclear Power Station started venting steam and the noise caused most of the birds to relocate. The Stilts were still visible but they were further away. I don't know if it was the beauty of the birds in flight or the thought that I might be getting showered with nuclear particles but I just watched them go and forgot to take a picture.

Black-winged Stilts

There were a  small group of birders gathered there but most were waiting for another bird, a Wood Sandpiper, that was skulking in the reeds. As before we could not let it go and we stood around for about two hours waiting for the bird to appear. The best shot I got in that time was the one below. People who had seen it earlier confirmed that it was a Wood Sandpiper but there is nothing here that I can use to identify it.

Possible Wood Sandpiper

Even when the power station stopped venting steam about an hour later the bird stayed hidden in the reeds. Fortunately there were plenty of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Cettie's to keep us busy although as usual the Cettie's managed to avoid having their pictures taken.

Sedge Warbler


Having wasted a couple of hours and with the rain setting in we aborted the last part of our trip and retired to the ARC hide. This gave us Black Terns and there were probably Arctic Terns as well but we could not separate those from the Common Terns at the distances involved.

So not a completely successful trip but I came away with six year and one life tick so I can't really complain.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Green Hairstreak

With Dave out of circulation for the day I was on my own. Should I go birding and try to close some of the gap on Dave in our "its not a race" birding rivalry. Or should I go Butterflying and try to close the gap in that "its not a race" challenge. I thought about going after a Grasshopper Warbler but they will be around for a while yet. In the end I went for the spring Butterflies. Bad weather and I might miss my chance.

Mill Hill Nature Reserve was the chosen location and the real target of the day was the Green Hairstreak. The weather in the morning was a bit overcast and I was worried that there would be nothing flying. I did have a bit of a slow start but things gradually picked up as the morning went on. Just searching a small area I found about a dozen Dingy Skippers and probably half that number of Grizzled Skippers.

Dingy Skipper (Male)

Dingy Skipper (Female)

Grizzled Skipper

Grizzled Skipper

The Green Hairstreaks were not so easy to locate. I could only find one, but fortunately I got that early in the morning when it was not very active.

Green Hairstreak

There were a number of other Butterflies around, Peacock, Brimstone, Small White, and  Tortoiseshell but the only one stopping to pose for a picture was the Speckled Wood.

Speckled Wood

There were also a few day flying moths about. Most of them were micro moths that probably only have a Latin name, but there was one particularly colourful moth around. It was definitely flying during the day but I cannot find it in the list of day flying moths. It looks a bit like a Mint Moth Pyrausta Aurata or Pyrausta Purpuralis but it has white markings instead of gold and the purple colouration is tending more to pink. Bit of a mystery really. If anyone recognises it please let me know.

Unknown Day Flying Moth

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

If you have already looked at Dave's blog Friends of Groyne No 4 then this is going to look very similar. We had a very limited agenda today. A quick look at Waltham Brooks on the way through to Pulborough Brooks where we wanted to see a Nightingale. The rest of the day would then be spent in pursuit of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Sightings of a Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler got us off to a good start and gave me a couple of year ticks. We had seen them both previously but I had said that I would not count them until I could get record shots and that had proved harder than I had expected. Even today the pictures are not good but you can at least you can see what the birds are.


Sedge Warbler

Walking back to the car we came across a Nightingale. There was no problem hearing it but seeing it and getting a photograph proved a lot harder. So I now have a set of three partially obscured birds from the mornings birding, better than nothing I suppose.


The good news was that we no longer needed to visit Pulborough Brooks and could make an early start on looking for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

Clouds were starting to cover the sun, it was getting a lot cooler, and there was rain in the air as we approached our intended search site. The conditions did not look good, however, luck was with us and we were straight on to two of the butterflies. The cool air then played into our hands. We managed a few quick shots but then as the butterflies settled we managed to track one to its resting place and had forty five minutes to take pictures before the sun came out and it started moving again.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Waiting for the sun

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Paler and slightly bigger so this could be a female

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was a life tick for me. Strangely there were no other butterflies of any type to be seen in the woods but there were a few other insects about and some of them quite photogenic.

Bee Fly

Green Tiger Beetle

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzels were the target of the day. We usually see them in the autumn on their way south, but one had been reported in a paddock field in Warners Lane Selsey and it had been there for eight days. Of course when we got there on the ninth day it had moved on but the field was still interesting with half a dozen Wheatears, two female and one male Redstarts, and assorted other small birds. The male Redstart looked really smart but he would not come close enough for a photograph. Fortunately one of the females was more obliging.

Female Redstart

There must have been a big fall of Wheatears overnight as we found them wherever we went on the peninsular including the unusual sight of eight sitting in a tree in Rectory Lane.


A walk up the west side of Pagham Harbour from Church Norton towards the Visitors Centre gave us plenty of views of Linnets, Whitethroats, and probably a Lesser Whitethroat, although we could not really get a satisfactory view of the latter.


Then we managed to get onto another Ring Ouzel, this one a male with a bright white breast band. We watched it for a while but found it difficult to get a decent picture.

Ring Ouzel

We were then joined by Dave Smith, Bernie Ford, and Dorian Mason, and they spotted a second Ring Ouzel close by. We ended up with two in the same tree, but I was a bit slow and missed that picture. When we were left on our own we decided to stake out its favourite perch and wait for a better picture opportunity. All looked good, it was gradually coming closer......

.......and then a Magpie took exception to its presence and chased it off. Perhaps the similar black and white colouration led the Magpie to see it as a threat.

There goes my picture opportunity

Magpies have never been my favourite bird. They have now becoming public enemy number one.

We were also fortunate enough to get a flyby from a Cuckoo that we had been hearing in the distance for about an hour. I did manage to get a record shot but you would have to be a good birder to recognise it as a Cuckoo from the silhouette that I ended up with.

Pheasant - there are so many about that I thought I should include a picture.

We then headed round to the north wall. The water was very high in the Breech Pool so there was nothing much to see there but further along the path we saw Dave Shepherd who had another Cuckoo in his scope although this one was strangely quiet.

A couple of weeks ago we had photographed a Little Grebe sitting on a nest. Dave told us that she had hatched three chicks so we went along to have a look. Sad to say there only seemed to be one left, but it seemed happy tucked up under her wings.

Little Grebe on nest  - taken a couple of weeks ago

Safely under mum's wings

Happy that is until she started diving for food. He survived a couple of dips but then ended up floating on the surface whilst she searched for food below. He looked very vulnerable on his own, you can see why the survival rate is low.

Looking a bit lost
Mum's Back with food

When last seen she was back on the nest with the chick scrabbling to get back under the safety of her wings.

We also had a lot of Whimbrels past and I had a lesson from the others on what to listen for to be able to tell Whimbrel from Curlew as they fly over.

Then to finish of the day there was a Whinchat in the Horse Paddock at the end of the wall. It was a great looking bird but it just wouldn't come any closer and I only ended up with a record shot. So not the perfect end to a perfect day but pretty close.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Magnificent Cormorants

Yes, you did read the title correctly. That boring dull bird you see everywhere and only check just to make sure you are not missing a Shag or a Glossy Ibis. Where does the magnificent come from? Well you have to see them in breeding plumage.


I had gone over to the sea cliffs at St Bees Head hoping to see Razorbills, Shag, Puffin, or even a Black Guillemot. It was all very disappointing. There were birds on show but they were Kittiwakes, Fulmar, and Common Guillemots. Nice to watch but not the birds that I was looking for. Then I came across a small group of Cormorants. They didn't look like the birds I see on the south coast and a quick check in Collins had me thinking about the subspecies sinensis. I am still not sure but sinensis is a bird of the east coast and it seems unlikely that I would find such a large group over on the west coast. I think this must just be breeding plumage.


Already a couple?
 - do the different colour patches below the eye differentiate between male and female?


Most other birds were too far away for a decent picture but there were lots of Meadow Pipits on the cliff tops and a single Buzzard over the fields.

Meadow Pipit


And finally my first shot of a Red Squirrel in the wild. I have taken pictures of them at feeding stations before  but this is the first time I have managed to get a picture as one runs past in the woods. I had time for just a single shot and it was gone and I was amazed to find that I had it in focus.

Red Squirrel