Thursday, 28 April 2016

Little Gull and Little Tern

With the small car park in Easton Lane now open, the Stilt Pools at Medmerry seem a little more accessible, but it can still be a bleak walk in when the cold south westerlies are coming in off the sea. Some days you get down there and there is just nothing to look at. Fortunately today was just the opposite. A nice sunny day and lots of birds. Photography is difficult, you are just that bit too far away from the action, but today there was certainly a lot to look at.

Perhaps the best bird of the day was an adult Little Gull. When I arrived it was asleep on the back of an island and I could well have missed it. So my thanks to Peter Hughes the warden for pointing it out. I had to wait a while for it to fly and then had about ten minutes of trying to photograph it before it moved on. Good practice for the Little Terns that were to come.

All I could see at first was just the one Little Tern out on the back of a sandy bar. Perhaps more came in or perhaps they had been better hidden hidden but eventually there were five or maybe six present.

I always forget just how small the Little Terns are. The picture below shows one alongside Black-headed Gulls which themselves are at the smaller end of the Gull family.

Small, fast, highly manoeuvrable, and a nightmare to try to photograph. You need a big lens on to get close enough for a picture but even if you can track them my lens will not focus fast enough to get the shot. The pictures below are not perfect but you should see the hundreds that have been deleted as unrecognisable

The islands look a bit short of the shingle that the Little Terns like for nesting but there is always a chance. They would at least get some protection here as the Avocets that nest at the site are very aggressive parents and see off a lot of the predators.

Also present were at least six Little Ringed Plovers. This pair look as though they are trying out nest sites.

There were a lot of other birds using the pools including a Common Sandpiper, and a brilliantly coloured Yellow Wagtail.

Common Sandpiper

Yellow Wagtail

Catching a fly -  at 1/2000 of a second and still not sharp

Also a lot of birds in the long grass around the pools.

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit


Nice also to see some young about. This young Moorhen even looks halfway pretty.

Other shots taken this week. A Black Swan On Chichester Gravel Pits. They always take a nice picture. I wonder how long it will be before they are on the British list.

Tuesday it was back to Pulborough with Dave so that he could catch up with the Nightingales. He is just back from a weeks birding in Spain with stories and pictures of Bee Eaters, Collard Pratincoles, Squacco Heron, Gallinule, etc. etc. See his blog here for some good pictures but I think good old British Nightingales take some beating

 A great weeks birding so far. Spring seems to be on hold at the moment but that just means that when the cold weather stops we still have the spring migration to come - I hope.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Orange Tip Butterfly

A return Trip to Pulborough Brooks gave me my first Orange Tip of the year. So it looks as though Spring really has arrived. However looking at my records I would expect to see Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, and Duke of Burgundy over the next week. The first two look possible but the promised cold spell could delay the other two.

Orange Tip Butterfly

Nightingale numbers at Pulburough also look a bit low. I could still only see two or possibly three in adder alley and they were singing even less than on Monday. The one below gave a couple of short bursts of song but he stayed low down and deep in cover.


So again the best shots were whilst the birds were feeding.

The best find in adder alley was a group of Grass Snakes with one large female and at least three males. They were forming a mating ball but I could not get a picture of this without risking disturbing them. However, here is another male on his way to join the action.

Grass Snake

I also paid a return visit to Pagham North Wall in the hope of getting a better picture of the Cattle Egret. It is in full breeding plumage so would take a great photograph. 

Unfortunately it was clear, as soon as I got out of the car, that the wind was much stronger down on the coast and there was very little flying. There were Egrets in the roost but they had all descended into deeper cover and were mostly out of sight.

Interestingly there have been no reports of where the Cattle Egret is feeding. The one time I saw it leave the roost it headed out over the harbour rather than towards the fields holding the cattle.

On the positive side, it was good to see increased numbers of Black-tailed Godwits on the Breech Pool. I counted just over seventy although there was very little else of interest on the pool. Wader numbers in general have been low around the area this winter but the Breech Pool seems to have suffered more than most.

Black-tailed Godwits - part of the flock

Other birds of interest. A showy Sedge Warbler in the reeds to the west of the Breech Pool. It was very difficult to photograph in the strong winds. It was only coming about two thirds of the way up the reeds which were swaying through about forty five degrees. The only option was to manually focus on the bird and then take lots of pictures in the hope that you got one where most of the reeds had blown out of the way.

Sedge Warbler

And in the slightly more sheltered stables area a Green Woodpecker and Barn Swallows. The Swallows were already gathering mud to build their nests.

Green Woodpecker

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow in flight

Nothing much new today but an interesting time wandering around the sites.

Monday, 18 April 2016


I have been out of circulation for the past couple of weeks and seem to have missed out on most of the spring migration. Today was a chance to do some catching up, with a trip to Pulborough Brooks to see the Nightingales.

There were a couple calling in the zigzags and three more round in adder alley but as usual none were sitting out giving clear views. The singing was beautiful but it was the picture that I really wanted. After about half an hour it all went quiet as the birds set about feeding and once on the ground I did get a few better picture opportunities.

They always seem very confiding when they first arrive. This bird was coming within about ten feet of where I was standing and often just seemed curious about what I was doing standing there.

I didn't get any pictures of them singing but there will be opportunities over the next couple of week as more arrive.

I also managed to see the American Wigeon. It was about two hundred and fifty metres away so the picture is poor. This is getting to be a bit of a bogey bird. I have seen three over the past couple of years and I still have not managed to get a decent shot.

American Wigeon

Blackcaps and Whitethroats were around the bushes but not showing very well. There was a good selection of the usual subjects, with the Dunnock, Song Thrushes, and Skylarks posing nicely.


Song Thrush

Song Thrush


I also had good views of a Water Vole from Netley's Hide. She obviously had a nest close under the hide and swam straight towards us across open water.

Water Vole

It was only when she swam back that it became obvious that she was transferring the young between nests. She was being a lot more careful in this direction, keeping to the side of the water and using the long grass for cover. Very frustrating, there was a brilliant picture to be had here but I didn't manage to get it.

Water Vole carrying young

A quick trip to Pagham North Wall on Sunday gave me brief views of the Cattle Egret as it left the roost and flew across the harbour. I followed it down the east side of the harbour but could not relocate it. This is the first one that I have seen in breeding plumage in this country.

And to finish off, a moth from the back garden. Moths are not my area of expertise and after studying a few books and looking it up on the web, I had to resort to putting a picture up on the web and asking for help. I am told that it is an Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) a moth of the family Noctuidae. It's also quiet common so I should have been able to do the identification myself. I have a lot to learn.