Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Grasshopper Warbler

Each year I have to rely on my birding buddy Dave to find me a Grasshopper Warbler. Their reel is well above my hearing range. Fortunately Dave is still up to it and has an uncanny ability to track them down. Without his help I would have little chance of finding one. I then try to repay his help by taking a better picture than he does! Not so easy today. This bird had a territory centered on a low bramble bush surrounded by long grass.

Not too bad on the long range shots but when you try to crop them, the out of focus grass becomes more prominent. There is not a lot that you can do, other than use the lens wide open to put everything but the bird out of focus. Go any closer and you will flush your target.

The bird did actually come a lot closer to us. It was feeding mouse like in the grass and probably closed the distance to about twenty feet at one stage. You could hear it and occasionally see it on the long grass but it was impossible to get a picture.

Earlier we had completed a circuit of Pulborough Brooks picking up year ticks on Nightingale, Whitethroat, and House Martin. The Nightingales were at Fatengates, West Mead and in Adder Alley. Most were in deep cover and were just starting to use the subsong although one at Adder Alley was more advanced on its song and was showing reasonably well. It will probably be another week and a half before they really get going and give the picture opportunities that people are looking for. Here is one from last year.

Nightingale 18th April 2016

A number of other birds were seen including those shown below, Blackcap, Green Woodpecker, and Linnet.


Green Woodpecker


One of the best finds was our first Dragonfly of the year, Most years it would be the Large Red but this year it was a Hairy Dragonfly

Hairy Dragonfly

Also seen over the past week, Tree Pipits at Old Lodge and Orange Tip and Green-veined White butterflies at most locations.

Tree Pipit

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Green-veined White

We also saw Sand Martins and Swallows to add to the year list and a possible Garden Warbler that we were unable to confirm.

All in, a good days birding.

Monday, 10 April 2017

No Large Tortoiseshell

Today we were out searching for a Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly. We didn't find one and I guess we were not too surprised, it was always a long shot. Three have been seen around the North Stoke area but you have to set that against thousands of hours that have been spent searching for them.

There are reports of Large Tortoiseshells found on the south coast most years. They are probably vagrants from France but to have reports so early in the year suggests that these could have overwintered here and may even be breeding here. The sceptics would say that someone is releasing them but with the climate warming we can expect a gradual northward drift of the butterfly species.

It would put my claim to have seen all the UK butterflies in jeopardy but it could be worse. I just have to find one butterfly. Patrick Barkham (The Butterfly Isles) will probably have to start again to be able to keep his record of seeing all the UK butterflies in one summer.

So, no Large Tortoiseshell, but it was good to get out on a first butterfly trip of the year and there were a good number of butterflies about.

Green-veined White

Green-veined White

Orange Tips Anthocharis cardemines on one of its main larval plants Cuckoo Flower/Lady's Smock Cardemine pratensis.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip (male)

Orange tip

Orange Tip (female)


Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Speckled Wood

The weather has been good and 2017 looks like a much better year for Butterflies than last year. Lets hope for a big recovery in numbers. As for the Large Tortoiseshell, well I may give it another go but the interesting time will be July and August when, if there is a UK population, a new brood should be on the wing.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Blue Rock Thrush

News today of a Blue Rock Thrush, found just below the Belle Tout lighthouse on Beachy Head. I couldn't decide if I should go or not. I really wanted to see the bird but I am becoming more and more averse to any form of twitch.

I finished off a few jobs I had been doing, had some lunch, but in the end my curiosity got the better of me. I then did the hours drive over to Beachy Head thinking - stupid, you should have gone as soon as you saw the reports.

Fortunately the bird was still there and the twitch wasn't too big, probably around fifteen people. It was feeding on the ground, mostly in the shaded areas and then perching up in the surrounding trees and in particular in one favoured Ash sapling.

The light was good and the bird was showing well but the problem with any twitch is that you have to keep your distance. The bird did not seem to be that concerned about the people. One person, on their own and taking their time to approach, could have got some superb pictures without disturbing it.

So is this the Stow Blue Rock Thrush on its way back to the continent or a second bird in the country. I don't really know but the timing looks right, the location would seem to fit in with a route back to the European mainland, and the bird did seem to be unfazed by the people present. Perhaps it is used to having its picture taken.

Wherever it came from I am just glad I did not make the trip up to Stow. Beachy Head in the sun was a better location to see it than in a housing estate in Stow.

On the way home I made a quick stop to look at the Kittiwakes on the cliffs at Seaford Head.

Their nesting sites, on the narrow ledges of the crumbling chalk cliffs, always look so precarious.

I am pleased I went. Any doubts I had about the Stow bird not being a genuine vagrant have now been dispelled. Definitely genuine!!!!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Common Redstart

Monday and we were out looking for a potential five year ticks. Top of the list was the Black-winged Stilt, on the Posbrook Floods, just south of Titchfield. It wasn't there and nor were most of the others that we were targeting but we did at least get to see the Barn Owl roosting in the split tree.

Barn Owl

A combination of bad timing and farming activity resulted in none of the other birds being present but the day was rescued by finding this stunning male Common Redstart in the church yard at Church Norton.

Common Redstart

You just need one good picture opportunity and the whole day looks a lot brighter.

Fortunately we had made the right call on the Black-winged Stilt and had moved on after about an hour of searching. We were concerned that it could be roosting in amongst the reeds or perhaps have moved down stream into Titchfield Haven but it does not seem to have been relocated for the rest of the day. If we had stayed we may well have missed the Redstart.