Tuesday, 26 July 2022

White-rumped Sandpiper


This was very nearly a replay of my 6th January 2019 blog about a White-rumped Sandpiper at Pulborough Brooks. On that occasion I had sightings of a very distant bird that had been identified as a White-rumped Sandpiper. Despite watching the bird for a couple of hours, during which time it barely moved, I could not see sufficient detail to make the identification myself. It was a life tick missed.

The new bird was reported on the Ferry Pool at Pagham Harbour with a second bird being reported just a mile or so away at Medmerry Stilt Pool. Neither location sounded like a good option for viewing a White-rumped Sandpiper. The bird is smaller than  Dunlin and would probably be around 150m from the nearest viewing points at each site. With a risk that either bird could fly the choice was easy. The Ferry Pool was closer  and would not involve such a long wasted walk if it did disappear.

A quick scan when I arrived located a promising suspect feeding with a small flock of Dunlin.

Dunlin and White-rumped Sandpiper

As with the Pulborough bird, it was overcast and difficult to make out the detail but the general impression was good. Smaller than the Dunlin, bill shorter than the Dunlin, a more slender bird, and with wing tips that extended beyond the tail. There also appeared to be a white supercilium but it did not show as much as I would have liked and the picture above is the only one that showed any sign of it. Slightly decurved bill? well possibly but it is always a subjective assessment. It is difficult to make out the plumage detail on the pictures but white underparts and streaking on the breast and flanks were visible through the scope.

Views through the scope were clearer but the pictures, even if poor quality and heavy crops, give you the opportunity to spend longer considering the identification.

It was looking good but these are not birds that I know well and I hadn't ruled out the very similar looking Baird's Sandpiper. I needed to see the white rump. There were reports of birders I trusted having seen it flying earlier and showing a white rump but having rejected the Pulborough bird I was not going to leave without seeing it for myself.

I had to wait but after a dispute with one of the Dunlin it did eventually fly and it did show a white rump so having waited over three year I had my life tick. Where is the picture of the white rump. I didn't even attempt it. I have made that mistake before, rushed to get a picture, failed to get it in focus or in frame and then realised that I had neither picture or memory of what I had been looking at.

I haven't done much birding lately but getting a life tick and adding Common Sandpiper and Little-ringed Plover to my very modest year list made for a pleasant afternoons birding.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022



Two years ago I purchased a set of  pheromone lures to attract Clearwing moths and also a lure for the Emperor Moth. Success has been mixed. That is to say the Emperor lure was an immediate success with ten to fifteen moths attracted each time it was taken out on the commons and the Clearwing lures were a complete failure or at least my use of them was a complete failure with no sign of Clearwings to any lure.

For a time the success with the Emperor moth was enough with some great picture opportunities being obtained.

But then you start to think, am I doing something wrong or have I been sold some duff bungs that have no pheromone content. I had done the research and over the two years had taken the lures on an extended tour of locations in Sussex, Kent and parts of Wales where there was a history of Clearwing sightings. With nothing to show for my efforts I needed a change of approach.

The Emperor moth had been easy, just clip the lure onto the rucksack, choose a hot day and a suitable location and wait for the moths to appear. But Emperor Moths are big and brightly coloured so easily spotted when they do a flyby. The Clearwings are small and for the most part black and are not easily spotted. There was a good chance that the lures had attracted Clearwings and that I had not seen them. I need some way of trapping them to ensure they didn't just fly off after a quick investigation and dismissal of the lure.

The answer was a cheap plastic trap although I could just as easily have made something out of a couple of plastic water bottles. What better place to try out my new toy than my back garden, in the middle of town, in an area with no history of Clearwing sightings. I really had no chance of success.

I decided that targeting the Six-belted Clearwing was my best hope. I loaded up the trap with the API lure and hung it in the apple tree at the bottom of the garden, checking it every hour. At midday on my fourth check there was movement in the trap. Opening it carefully I had two Six-belted Clearwings. How can finding something so small and insignificant give you such a feeling of joy?

Six-belted Clearwing - Bembecia ichneumoniformis

Six-belted Clearwing - Bembecia ichneumoniformis 

Flushed with success I replaced the lure with the MYO to target the Red-belted Clearwing and within the hour I had four in the trap.

Red-belted Clearwing - Synanthedon myopaeformis

Red-belted Clearwing - Synanthedon myopaeformis

Red-belted Clearwing - Synanthedon myopaeformis

It had to be worth trying for a third and with a lot of mature gardens around me the Currant Clearwing seemed the obvious choice using the TIP lure. There was nothing more that afternoon and checking the trap in the morning all I had was one very angry wasp. There was still nothing in the trap by midday so I added the VES lure which would then also give me the chance of attracting the Red-tipped Clearwing as well. As incredible as it may seem, within the hour I had a single Red-tipped in the trap.

Red-tipped Clearwing - Synanthedon formicaeformis

It just seems amazing that after two years of looking I find that I can attract the Clearwings to my back garden. The quest is now really on. I have three but there are another twelve to see and I also have a Clearwing garden list which is always a good incentive to keep searching.

Footnote - a second Red-tipped appeared in the trap just after I finished writing this blog but so far no sign of a Currant Clearwing.

Red-tipped Clearwing - Synanthedon formicaeformis

Then the next day just after I had finished adding the footnote I had a Yellow-legged Clearwing in the trap to an AND lure. I had been looking for Orange-tailed. I think that makes me nine Clearwings of four different types in four days. 

Given that I live in an area where the Atlas of Britain and Ireland's Moths suggests that no Clearwings are present I think access to these lures will show that Clearwing moths are far more common than we think.

And my garden list moves up to four.

Monday, 4 July 2022

Garden Moths

I don't think I have been out birding once during June and the only bird I have added to my year list is a Spotted Flycatcher I saw in Wales. Holidays and other commitments have worked against me but at least being at home more has given me the chance to catch up on Moths in the garden.

The Spring months which tended to be cold and windy gave very poor catches but it all changed once we hit June and it has been nothing but moths ever since. We had a week in mid Wales which gave me some new species (see previous blog) and the trap in the back garden has been producing a good selection if perhaps not in the numbers I saw last year.

It is always good to find a Hawkmoth in the trap or, as I often find them, sitting on the top of the trap. This years return so far is four species but unfortunately they are all ones I have seen before. I wait with anticipation for a Death's Head or Oleander. There is still time to see one this year but it's a bit like waiting to win the lottery.

Privet Hawkmoth - Sphinx ligustri

Lime Hawkmoth - Mimas tiliae

Elephant Hawkmoth - Deilephila elpenor

Small Elephant Hawkmoth - Deilephila porcellus

The Alder Moth, Camomile Shark, Burnished Brass, and Golden-brown Tubic are all new for the garden list.

Alder Moth - Acrnicta alni

Chamomile Shark - Cucullia chamomillae

Burnished Brass - Diachrysia chrysia

Golden-brown Tubic - Crassa unitella

The rest are just a selection from those I have seen in the garden during June. It's just nice to see and to review the pictures from time to time.

Blair's Mocha - Cyclophora puppillaria

Miller - Acronicta leporina

Oak Nycteoline - Nycteola revayana

Bramble Shoot Moth - Notocelia Uddmanniana

White Ermine - Spilosoma lubricipeda

Nettle-tap - Anthophila fabrician

Marbled White Spot - Deltote pygarga

Maidens Blush - Cyclophora punctaria

Red-barred Tortrix - Ditula angustiorana

Snout - Hypena proboscidalis

Common Wainscot - Mythimna pallens

Sycamore - Acronicta aceris

The end of June brings up the 250 on the Moth Garden List.