Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Juvenile Woodcock

A short blog but for me a great record.

A juvenile Woodcock found on a rutted track, in Rewell Wood, whilst we were searching for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. It couldn't fly and was unable climb out of the ruts and back into the undergrowth. A helping hand from Dave and it disappeared immediately. We couldn't see the mother around but it seemed to be in good shape and capable of looking after itself.

The camouflage is amazing. We were within three or four feet of the bird and had not spotted it. If it hadn't panicked and moved we would probably have walked past without seeing it.

Juvenile Woodcock

It's the best picture I have ever managed of a Woodcock. I usually only see the backend as it disappears into the distance.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

An hour at Mill Hill NR on the 25th had got the butterfly list off to a good start with ten species recorded in just over an hour. I didn't manage to photograph them all but at least I got plenty of exercise chasing the Brimstones and Orange tips on the steep slopes.

Best finds of the day, Small Copper and Green Hairstreak. Unexpected were a couple of Wall which I had not recorded at this site before. More worrying was the lack of Grizzled Skippers, usually guaranteed at Mill Hill. Perhaps it was just too cold for them.

Dingy Skipper

Green Hairstreak

Speckled Wood


We followed this up with our annual pilgrimage to Rewell Wood to see the Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Somehow this always feels like the start of the butterflying season.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Underwing view of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

We also had a supporting cast of Grizzled Skipper, a butterfly I had missed at Mill Hill, and a good number of Orange-tips. Picture below is of a female, I don't think I saw a male stationary all day.

Grizzled Skipper

Female Orange-tip

Underside of the female Orange-tip

Although Duke of Burgundy have been reported from some locations I haven't seen any on the local patch. Heyshott Down always seems to be a week in front of other sites. No Blues seen yet either.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Early Spider Orchid

I dabbled a bit with Orchid hunting last year but truth be told I have never really understood the obsessive nature of the orchid hunt. It's not like a bird, butterfly or other insect where you have to use field craft, it doesn't even move. Then today, I found myself laid out full length in the pouring rain, desperately trying to get a photograph before the wind and the rain flattened the specimen I had found. Perhaps I am beginning to understand!

Our first Orchid hunt of the year and I went home with three life ticks, Early Purple, Green-winged and Early Spider.

First stop was Lancing Ring for the Early Purple Orchids. We found a few specimens but this is a much used and abused site. A car park gives easy access and family picnics, children enjoying the area and dog walkers, have resulted in a worn and tired environment and certainly somewhere where you need to carry out a detailed inspection before you get face down on the ground to get a picture.

Next stop Anchor Bottom, a great place to visit, for most of the spring and summer, for flowers and butterflies. The Green-winged Orchids are on the north facing slope with hundreds of specimens visible. Just a pity we got caught in a cloud burst whilst we were viewing them.

Lots of purple and pink variants but we couldn't find any white.

Our last stop for the day was at Castle Hill Nature Reserve, one of the last remaining fragments of chalk downland and probably the best site in the country for the Early Spider Orchid.  Natural England reports 50,000 plants at this site, we didn't count them. There were certainly a lot visible but don't get the impression that they are easy to find. This is a small flower spike and a dull flower and is restricted to a small part of the reserve. Look for the pale green stems rather than the flower. Once you locate the right area and get your "eye in" they are all around you.

We also found Early Purple Orchids towards the top of the slopes. This was a very exposed site compared to the more sheltered Lancing Ring area and it showed in stunted growth and generally weathered specimens. However, find a fresh growth or sheltered spot and there were some delightful orchids waiting to be photographed.

The challenge of the orchid hunt is not so much in the finding of the plant on the day as in the research in working out when and where to look. I think I might be adding a few more to the list this year.

Sunday, 14 April 2019


I haven't posted much lately, which really sums up my year to date. I have probably seen the same number of birds as usual but the picture opportunities have been few and far between. Unfortunately that goes for the Dotterel as well. Seen it, but only managed a really poor record shot of a distant bird. However, as its a lifer for me, poor as it is, it does get published.


I have spent a good few days, in the past, wandering around the Sussex Downs hoping to see them. The Balsdean area is said to be a regular stopping off point but it hasn't worked for me. Seen plenty of Wood Pigeons up there but no Dotterel. A one off visit to the Chosely Drying Barns in Norfolk also proved fruitless. I was getting to the point of thinking I would have to try a long distance (for me) twitch up to Pendel Hill or Danby Beacon to see them. Then last week there were reports of a pair of Dotterel showing well at Cheesefoot Head just over the border in Hampshire.

Showing well they may have been but not on the day I visited. I had great hopes of a decent picture. This is a bird that is said to have little fear of people and that can be easily approached. This pair where in the middle of a crop field at least a hundred metres away, they weren't moving and I wasn't about to risk being labelled as a selfish togger for trespassing over the crop. Sad world that we live in!

I saw the male Garganey at Waltham Brooks. Good, but brief views, as it weaved in and out of cover along the bank side. It didn't seem to be bothered by my presence and gradually worked its way closer to my position. I thought I was doing well until I raised the camera and it immediately took off for the back of the pool.

A visit to Pulborough Brooks doesn't usually give many good picture opportunities but this time it was rescued by a couple of good views of Jays, never an easy bird to get close to.

Jay - at the bottom of the zigzags

Jay - just to the east of the Hanger

A Skylark concludes my meagre collection of photographs for the last month.

Probably my worst month since I started birding. I don't think its the birds, it's not the camera, so it must be me. Must try harder, if Tiger Woods can make a come back then so can I.