Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Pulborough Brooks Brown Hairstreak

A disappointing days birding. The promised brighter skies did not turn up and neither did the birds. It was one of those dull, overcast and oppressive days, not good for photography and very little bird song, the birds don't seem to like them either.

We started off at Waltham Brooks with good views of Willchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats. None close enough or still long enough for a good photograph but a promising start. We gave the ducks a once over but obviously missed the Garganeys that Alan Kitson saw around the same time. I would probably struggle to spot the difference between female Garganey and Teal but I hope I did not miss a male.

We had one heart stopping moment when a buzzard flew towards us from the south. In flight it had a profile with very flat wings and the call sounded unusual. Could it be a Honey Buzzard? It looked a possibility but we will never know as did not come close enough to confirm the distinguishing features.

The sewage works gave us distant views of Grey Wagtails but again the picture opportunities were limited.

Grey Wagtail

At about 11.30 we headed off to Pulborough Brooks which was surprisingly empty of both birds and bird watchers. I had thought that with the the previous couple of day's crowds searching for the Broad-billed Sandpiper there would still be a hangover of people. It wasn't the reason we had gone there but perhaps we would be lucky, miss the crowds and get the bird. No such luck, more Willchaffs and Whitethroats, distant views of Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, and Mandarin Ducks but nothing unusual.

It was left to the butterflies and dragonflies to rescue the day again. We missed the real prize a very large Brown Hawker that kept threatening to put down but eventually flew off. the consolation prize was that in chasing it we came across a couple of Comma Butterflies. Nothing unusual in that except that one of them looks like it may be an aberration, probably ab. carbonaria. I know that overwintering Commas do have a darker underwing but this looks exceptional.

Comma - It looks normal from the top view

but it has a very dark underwing

At least the dark colours show off the white comma which gives this butterfly it name. It's strange how the more you get into butterflies the more you find there is to see and learn.

As we headed down towards Nettleys hide we passed under some Ash trees with Buckthorn growing underneath them. Dave commented that it should be a good place for Brown Hairstreaks but neither of us was really looking. I stopped to photograph a Scorpion Fly that disappeared before I could get the macro lens out but when I turned around there was a female Brown Hairstreak resting on some bracken. A soft approach through the bracken was not really possible and I did eventually flush it back up into the trees but at least I got a record shot.

Female Brown Hairstreak

So another attempt to get back to birding that ended up focusing on Butterflies. Things should improve over the next few weeks as the migration start to take hold and the waders begin to return.

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