Friday, 26 August 2016

Yellow Wagtails

With the autumn migration getting under way, I managed to add a few year ticks this week but pictures opportunities have been limited. Pagham Harbour, in particular, has provided some good birding but the key target, Curlew Sandpiper, has proved to be a bit elusive.

The best photographic opportunity came this afternoon when we found a flock of 200 plus Yellow Wagtails.

They were feeding in amongst cattle in the fields just to the west of the Breech Pool. Initially the flock was only around thirty birds and we could not get close to them. However, by standing in the middle of the herd we managed to get some good close up views.

We then had other flocks coming in and joining the cattle. It was impossible to do an accurate count but we estimated at least 200 birds.

The only problem was that the cows were curios and soon came closer to investigate. I don't mind being licked by them or having them attempt to eat my shirt but licking the camera and blocking the view of the wagtails was a different matter. We eventually had to make a strategic withdrawal with the cattle in pursuit and still managing to block our view.

Still, we had some good picture opportunities with the Wagtails seeming happy to come closer as the cows had accepted us as part of the herd.

Back on the Breech Pool there was a small flock of five Little Stints. I had only ever seen them in ones and twos before.

Two of the Little Stint

Sowing the prominent white lines on their back

The white markings on their back are very distinctive but earlier I had been left somewhat confused by a Dunlin showing similar markings. Fortunately, when you see the Little Stint along side the Dunlin the size difference ensures that there can be no confusion.

Other sightings included Wheatear, Whinchat, Kingfisher and earlier in the week Yellow-legged Gulls and Lesser Whitethroat.


There were also a good number of Clouded Yellow Butterflies at both Pagham Harbour and Medmerry

Clouded Yellows usually mark the end of the butterfly season but there is always the chance of a rare migrant turning up. Last year we had Long-tailed Blues. Perhaps this year it will be a Camberwell Beauty - dream on!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Pied Flycatcher

Today, was a chance to get back to birding. Migration has started and their are a few good birds being reported. Best of all we visited Pagham North Wall and, for once, there were lots of birds there. The Breech Pool and the area north of the wall had been our favourite birding site but over the past year it seems to have been abandoned by both the RSPB and the landowner. The water levels have not been controlled and it has fluctuated between flooding and drying out. Consequently the birds slowly disappeared.

Today it looked good. Just the right level of water, plenty of mud and still some fish to be had. Waders were back in good numbers, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwits, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Lapwing, and Avocets. We also had Canada Geese, a single Greylag and two Bar-headed Geese. Add to these a couple of Grey Herons, two squabbling Kingfishers, two Common Terns, a Sparrowhawk, assorted ducks, Hirundines and a couple of Buzzards that put most of them into the air and we had plenty to look at. I just wish I had some confidence in it staying this way.

You would think that with all these birds I would have some good pictures but the back of the pool, especially in this strong contrasty light is just that little bit too far for the smaller birds.

Juvenile Grey Heron

Avocet  -  unusual on the Breech Pool

Common Tern


Next stop was at Church Norton where a Pied Flycatcher had been reported the previous day. It had been a clear night so we were doubtful on finding it still there. In fact there were two and possibly even three of them around the church yard so we spent the afternoon trying to photograph them.

One of the Pied Flycatchers was ringed so we were hopeful of being able to piece together sufficient information to find where it came from. Nearly but not quite. After a lot of work analysing pictures  Dave came up with a possible Z49592 but unfortunately this does not look like the complete number.

It was great to be back birding again - bring on the birds.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Brown Argus

It will be interesting to see what this years Big Butterfly Count comes up with. My own experience is that the butterflies are there, but they are in much lower numbers than I have seen before. Some, such as Tortoiseshells and Commas, have been few and far between this year.

Two weeks ago I was walking through meadows and on chalk hillsides covered in wild flowers and I was having difficulty finding any butterflies. Then in the past week or so, things have started to improve. We had a good emergence of Chalkhill Blues, then, in the last few days, Brimstone, Peacock, Painted Lady, and Red Admirals all in good condition and in good numbers.

One walk along a ride in Houghton Forest really raised my spirits. There were hundreds of these freshly emerged butterflies and even a good number of slightly worn Silver-washed Fritillaries. It was just like old times again.

With this years butterfly season drawing to a close I am just keeping my fingers crossed for a recovery in numbers next year.

Brown Argus - Newtimber Hill

A quick trip back to Newtimber Hill gave me a few good finds. This Brown Argus took a bit of chasing but I eventually got the pictures I wanted.

Brown Argus - Newtimber Hill

It is always easier to get the pictures when the butterflies are otherwise engaged and this pair of mating Silver-spotted Skippers was no exception.

Mating Pair Silver-spotted Skippers - Newtimber Hill

Another unusual sight was this pair of Painted Ladies. I have only ever seen them as singletons before. I assume they are male and female. They were sticking very close together but I did not get any action shots. I also noticed that the top one has an extra white spot in the wing tip. Possibly an aberration.

Painted Ladies  - Newtimber Hill

Peacock   -  nice but it looked much more vivid in real life.

Wall - Newtimber Hill

Brimstone - Houghton Forest

Brimstone  -  Houghton Forest

Another great butterfly. A blue version of the normally brown female of the Common Blue butterfly. You might need to read that twice!

Common Blue Female

Common Blue Female

A walk around Tillets Fields gave us plenty of Purple Hairstreaks but as with my previous visit they stayed mostly in the tops of the trees. Fortunately one did drop out of the skies at our feet. It was a bit tatty but still worth recording.

Purple Hairstreak  - Tillets Fields

Dave also spotted a Brown Haistreak at Tillets but unfortunately it was gone by the time I got there.

Red Admiral  -  Houghton Forest

Red Admiral -  Houghton Forest

Speckled Wood  -  Madgeland Woods

Houghton Forest also had the largest number of Dragonflies that I have seen in one small location. I reckon around 40 in the area where we park the car although they weren't exactly lining up to be counted. They looked like Darters and Hawkers but none were landing to enable a definite identification. We also saw large numbers of Southern Hawkers at Madgeland Woods and these were a bit more obliging.

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker

I am missing a few of my usual butterflies this year, White Admiral, Purple Emperor, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, White Hairstreak, plus all the northern species but overall it has been a good year. There is also still a chance of connecting with Brown Hairstreaks and Clouded Yellows before the month is out and maybe even a late Long-tailed Blue so I need to keep looking.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Silver-spotted Skipper

The weather forecast for the rest of the week was not looking good, so the chance of a few hours out this morning, before the rain was due to set in, was too good to miss. Butterflies have been the main theme over the past few weeks and today was no different. The target was the Silver-spotted Skipper and the best place to find them, for us, is on Newtimber Hill, just to the east of Devils Dyke.

It was a cool morning but there was just enough warmth to get a few butterflies moving. Unfortunately most of those were Meadow Browns. The Silver-spots are a butterfly of the hot summer months and today obviously did not suit them, they were mostly staying hidden in the long grass. 

Silver-spotted Skipper

We did eventually get a few picture opportunities where they had crawled out onto flower heads to warm up their wings or to nectar but it took a lot of searching.

There were also a few Chalkhill Blues flying. These were much more obliging and were happy to sit out on flower stems to have their pictures taken.

Chalkhill Blue

I assume that the two females shown below are Chalkhill Blues but it is very difficult to tell them from female Adonis Blue. You really need to see the upper side of their wings.

The following are a few pictures from last Friday. I had stopped off at Pulborough Brooks RSPB to stock up on birdfood and with an hour to spare I had time for a quick trip around the hides.

Small Copper

There was very little showing. One Small Copper, just a hint of Hairstreaks high in a couple of the Oak and Ash trees, one distant Common Sandpiper, and best of all a Green Sandpiper close to Winpenny Hide.

Green Sandpiper

It is really nice to get a picture of a bird on the blog again. They have been in short supply of late. It is a good reminder that the summer doldrums are coming to an end and that the birds will soon be on the move.