Saturday, 18 January 2020

Sunshine at last brings out a Peacock.

The best day of the year so far and it was another long walk.

A quick check on the Wall Brown larvae as I was passing produced 3 of the 5 I have found so far, this despite a very cold frosty morning following a torrential hail storm last night, with many of the hail stones still on the ground.

It was then onto the treatment works behind Littlington where several Chiffchaff were showing along with a very smart Grey Wagtail.  A little further along the track produced a beautiful Firecrest that showed quite well.


It was then a case of the steep hill out of Alfriston to get to the high point of the Downs.  Despite a cool breeze blowing along the top I was very surprised to spot my first butterfly of 2020 in the shape of a Peacock.  I watched it battle away in the breeze for a short while before it dropped to ground for a short rest.  I just managed a single record shot before it was up and away again.


Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Winter Blues.

With the weather being totally rubbish for most of the past month or so it has been very difficult to get inspired to get out with the camera.  So much so that when I did look at the camera the other day I realised I had a couple of shots still on there from near the beginning of December that I hadn't even down-loaded!!

These were from a walk I had done with Nigel down Pevensey Levels, and I was actually quite surprised to find that I had a half decent shot of a Mute Swan that flew over me before he had joined me.

Mute Swan.

Since then I have been out walking a bit but often with just the binoculars, as the light was generally poor and also that I just couldn't be bothered to carry the camera and lens most of the time.

On the walks I have seen a few decent things including a Peacock on the 23rd December and at least 5 different Wall Brown larvae.  I have also seen good numbers of Corn Bunting on the South Downs near the house although they have generally been quite flighty.  It seems the farmer has left a strip of set-a-side on the edge of a field and the Corn Buntings are taking advantage of a lot of free food.

Today I did actually take the camera out as after a morning of heavy rain, the sun decided to make a longer appearance this afternoon, and as I approached the area where I had seen the Corn Buntings I could see a large flock some distance away as well as 4 birds much nearer.  I decided to try and get a bit closer to the 4 and was very pleased to get close enough to get a couple of shots of one of them.  This was the only thing I photographed today despite walking around 8 miles!!

Corn Bunting.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Late Summer to Winter Highlights 2019.

For the 2nd time in 3 years I saw the first Silver-spotted Skipper in the UK on my patch at the back of Seaford.  This male was spotted probably just after it had emerged on the 13th July.

Male Silver-spotted Skipper.

At the same spot and within minutes of seeing the Skipper I was photographing a Six-belted Clearwing.  I had always wanted to see a Clearwing in the UK and with Clare and Dave we purchased a selection of pheromones for them.  Although we started late in the season we saw 3 different species as well as the Raspberry Clearwing that a friend had turning up in his garden.

Six-belted Clearwing.

Without a doubt my rarest find of the year was a Chalkhill Blue Bilateral gynandromorph whilst I was looking for Grayling on the Downs. This strange butterfly is split straight down the middle with one half being female and the other half male.  This is an extremely rare event and there are normally only 2 or 3 records each year in the UK of this happening.  I only heard of one other in 2019 and that was an Orange-tip.  Unfortunately the butterfly was soon lost to view with so many other Chalkhill Blues flying in the area and I was the only person to have seen it.

Chalkhill Blue Bilateral gynandromorph.

At the beginning of Autumn I came across a larva of a Privet Hawk-moth.  I have been looking for these for some time and the last one I saw was many years ago.  As is often the case I found it when I was not searching for them, as I was actually gardening at the time.

Privet Hawk-moth Larva.

A few days later I was with Matt when he heard about a young Dotterel on the top of the Downs.  A quick drive and climb got us in position to re-find the bird.

Juvenile Dotterel.

The expected Long-tailed Blue explosion unfortunately didn't happen due to the horrendous weather that hit us right when the emergence should have happened.  With around 100 eggs known locally all I managed was a very short session with James and Clare. This was my 50th butterfly species seen in the UK this year. My thanks to James for the heads up on the location where he had found them.

Long-tailed Blue.

My other really rare find was at the end of October when I was with Matt photographing a Snow Bunting.  As we headed back to the car we had a large dragonfly fly up in front of us.  When it settled in the long grass it was the rare Vagrant Emperor, a first for both of us .

Male Vagrant Emperor.

My favourite bird from the Autumn was the Shorelark at Dungeness.  A very confiding bird and a species that I have only seen 3 times before and never photographed successfully.


I was also very pleased with the Firecrest that I photographed from my bedroom window. 


My final photograph from 2019 was from a session with Clare and Pete of the Purple Sandpipers at Newhaven.  As the pier is I believe going to be re-developed this may well be the last time I will be able to get close here so it was good to have several of the birds performing well.

Purple Sandpiper.

All in all 2019 was pretty good for me with a few rare things seen and several reasonable photographs taken despite the year being very challenging on a personal note.

Hopefully 2020 will give me many more opportunities.

My thanks to all of you that take the time to check out what I am up to by looking at the blog.  

A Happy 2020 to you all.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Summer 2019 Highlights.

Part 3 of my looking back at 2019 brings us to the Summer when plenty was going on.

The Thursley Cuckoo has to be included although the session wasn't as good as we were hoping with only 2 short visits by the bird, although having said that it was still an amazing experience seeing a Cuckoo at such close range.


A few days after this I took Clare down to Wiltshire for her to see her first Marsh Fritillaries where we also saw many Small Blue and an unexpected find of several Small Eggar larval webs. 

Marsh Fritillary on Salad Burnet.

Nigel and I then ventured back to Kent in search of a rare form of Fly Orchid that I had heard about. After a bit of a search we eventually spotted it in the deep undergrowth.

Fly Orchid Green Form (Var. ochroleuca).

With the re-introduced Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries emerging I had 2 trips to see them with both trips producing some good opportunities. Until this year I hadn't really managed a decent under-side shot so I was pleased to finally get some that I was pleased with.

Female Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

I had never seen a Chimney Sweeper moth in the UK before and last Winter I heard about a site in Sussex where they could be found.  A visit to the site in June produced several of these great little moths.

Chimney Sweeper.

Another Kent trip, this time with David looking for the Heath Fritillary. The weather was not good at all for butterflies but eventually I spotted a fresh female deep in the woodland. Not long after this the sun came out and a few more butterflies were also seen followed by some of the rarer Kent orchids.

Female Heath Fritillary.

My next challenge was to find a Silver-studded Blue for Clare,  I was really hoping to find one emerging with attendant Ants which I did manage although it was too deep in the grass to photograph. However, one roosting male posed well for us.

Male Silver-studded Blue.

It has been 10 years since I had seen a Large Blue, and as I had to drive Matt to Heathrow at some crazy time of the morning I decided to divert to Somerset to see them again.

Large Blue.

One of the sites where I discovered White-letter Hairstreaks a few years ago has not produced a sighting now for 2 or 3 years and I did wonder if I would find them again in this area due to the loss of Elm trees.  A search on the 30th June produced nothing until I was about to give up. A quick pan of a Bramble bush with the binoculars then produced a lovely female Hairstreak nectaring on the Bramble flowers.

Female White-letter Hairstreak.

An early morning session then gave me a superb male Chalkhill Blue waking up on the South Downs.

Male Chalkhill Blue.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Spring Highlights 2019.

In the early Spring I treated myself to a new pair of cameras.  Whenever I do something mad like this it does give an extra incentive to get out and try to find something to aim the cameras at!!

My first walk produced a mating pair of Brimstone, something I can't remember seeing before and even if I had seen this before I certainly hadn't photographed them in this situation before. Even though the lighting situation wasn't easy I was pleased to get this shot. I felt the new cameras were bringing me good fortune straight away!!

Mating Brimstone.

I managed to see good numbers of Emperor Moths on the local patch during the Spring, and this is one of the better shots of one of these absolute beauties.

Male Emperor Moth.

Once the insect season gets going I step back a little from bird watching, however, with a couple of Black-necked Grebes at Rye Harbour in breeding plumage it was tempting to have a go.  Matt and I had already seen these Grebes in the Winter but now that they looked much more elegant David, Malcolm and I had a go and with a long wait eventually one came into range.

Black-necked Grebe.

Back onto my local patch the insect season was really getting going and I was pleased to get some half decent shots of a female Adonis Blue very early one morning.

Female Adonis Blue.

Nearby I spotted a Dark-edged Bee-fly resting up in cool conditions.  I was more than happy to have spotted the insect and then to get a photo before it warmed up enough for it to take flight.

Dark-edged Bee-fly.

Also on the patch I found a Pyrausta ostrinalis, the rarer of the pyrausta micro moths, staying still at the top of a grass blade.

Pyrausta ostrinalis.

A superb Oak Eggar larva and a Grizzled Skipper were also seen on that same area of the patch.

Oak Eggar larva.

Grizzled Skipper on Cowslip.

My final image on this little look-back on 2019 comes from a trip with Nigel to see the Duke of Burgundy in Kent.  Being very early in the season and with the weather being a little cool we actually only saw 3 Dukes but Nigel found a fabulous female that perched on the top of hazel regrowth giving me my best shot of a female Duke of Burgundy.

Female Duke of Burgundy.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

2019 Highlights. Winter.

Well, with another year coming to an end, and with very few highlights out there at the moment, it seems to be a good time to look back over the past year, one that has been a difficult year making it hard to get out at times, but there have at least been some really good moments.

My thanks must go out to David for dragging me out when the odd decent bird came along and Phil for giving me opportunities that I would never have had if I had been on my own by letting me share his expertise in his fabulous bird hide, particularly in this early part of the year.

Early in the year a male Black Redstart and a very confiding Snow Bunting were on the West Sussex coastline. 3 visits gave David and I some wonderful views and with a good deal of patience we both managed to get some pleasing shots.

Male Black Redstart.

Snow Bunting.

I then had what was quite possibly my best ever session in Phil's hide when we were treated to some wonderful views of a female Kingfisher as well as a stunning dog Fox.

Female Kingfisher on Hazel.

Male Red Fox.

David and I then went on an unusually long trip to Weymouth where there was the possibility of seeing 4 worthwhile birds, including what would be my first ever Penduline Tit.  At my age it isn't too often that a lifer comes along so it was very much a trip worth doing.
As it happened we saw all the 4 targets starting with a group of Bearded Tit and a Ring-necked Duck at Radipole Lake and then at nearby Lodmoor RSPB a Lesser Yellow-legs and the sought after Penduline Tit.

Male Bearded Tit.

Ring-necked Duck.

Lesser Yellow-legs.

Penduline Tit.

To end this first look back at 2019 David and I had 4 session at a couple of sites looking for Crossbill.  At the 2nd site we hit the jackpot when we had a female drop into a close pool for a wash. Many photos were taken including the following which wasn't posted at the time.

Female Crossbill.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

The Purple Pier.

A short trip to the East Pier at Newhaven proved very worthwhile as the Purple Sandpipers put on a very decent display for myself, Clare and Pete.

With time running out for the Pier we realised this could well be our last opportunity before access is stopped for the forthcoming concrete factory.  What an asset to the town that will be as well as a very beautiful sight for the French people arriving via the ferry!! (NOT).

With 14 Purple Sandpipers seen and 9 Turnstone with them as well as a Kingfisher on the short walk from the car the birds certainly lifted our depression at seeing the destruction of this end of Tide Mills.

Most of the time the Sandpipers were resting up with their bills tucked away, and although they were very settled with us being there they kept a bit of an eye on us all the time.

Every now and then they would move around a little and a few times do a bit of preening and stretching.

Purple Sandpiper preening.


Keeping a beady eye open.

Purple Sandpiper having a stretch.

Purple Sandpiper chirping at a nearby Turnstone.