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Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Snow Bunting On The Beach.

Although I have seen quite a few Snow Bunting over the years, it is one of those birds that I have struggled to get shots that I'm really pleased with.

With one of these delightful birds currently spending the Winter on the beach in West Sussex, and a sunny day it was thought a trip in that direction was worth doing.

Following a very clear night I was convinced we would arrive and find the bird had moved on, but as we were walking along the beach one of the many dog walkers told us that the bird had been seen some time earlier. A little further on, and after seeing a couple of other birders that were also looking and failing, I spotted a small bird fly away from a dog a couple of hundred metres further on. Binoculars confirmed the bird had been found. We then had a very enjoyable couple of hours watching and photographing this very confiding bird. It was amazing how many people out for a stroll didn't see the bird even though they were almost treading on it as they walked past. It was mainly dogs that the bird would fly up from as it fed on the main footpath.



Snow Bunting posing well.



A little preen.






It was certainly a messy eater.



Still messy on the beach.

Shortly before we left the bird had disappeared, but I then spotted it sitting on one of the groynes where I assume it was busy digesting its food.
Thinking I may be able to get a shot or two a little different from most of the others I slowly moved into position. With such a confiding bird she allowed me to get several shots as she preened some more before the perfect pose.



Having a preen on the groyne.



And a good stretch. (Hope it doesn't get a groyne strain)!!!!



Snow Bunting looking very pretty.

We then headed for a session with the Short-eared Owls. Once again we failed with the photography, but we did get some good views of several Shorties as well as the Barn Owl.



Short-eared Owl just after the light had gone.





Thursday, 10 January 2019

Black Redstart take 2. If at first _ _ _ _

A repeat of last Thursday, with even the weather forecast being the same. However, this week the forecast was pretty much right with sunshine most of the time.

The Black Redstart was nowhere to be seen when we first arrived, although thankfully after a few minutes it was showing well, and with a patient wait it was soon performing very well for us on and off. We even had it in sunshine and a few minutes later in softer lighting as the sun went behind clouds. The cloudier pictures were much easier to get the colour balance right in processing. A fabulous morning followed by another trip to the Short-eared Owls. These unfortunately did not perform at all well with only 2 distant birds seen. Even the large flocks of Yellowhammer had all but gone.












Male Black Redstart.



Meadow Pipit.



Friday, 4 January 2019

Black Redstart and Blast from the past.

With a sunny day forecast yesterday David and I decided to head for Shoreham where a very smart male Black Redstart had decided to take up residence for the time being. When David arrived at my place the cloud cover was looking a bit heavy, but as that had happened a few times recently we assumed it would clear soon. However, when we arrived on site the clouds were just as bad and it looked as though we were not going to get lucky.
The good news was that the bird was at least showing, although it was quite flighty. Eventually a patient wait brought it within range and a few shots were taken, albeit not as good as we were hoping with the very dull conditions.















Male Black Redstart.


When it became clear that the weather was not going to improve we headed for a nearby site that can be very good for Short-eared Owls. This is one of my favourite Winter sightings and I'm pretty sure I didn't see any of these Owls last year so I was hoping to at least see some. We didn't have to wait long either as one was flying on arrival. A little later we saw at least 3 of them, although the camera stayed quiet. On leaving a lovely Barn Owl was hunting over the meadows but by then the light had really started to go. What was particularly impressive was the high numbers of Yellowhammers. Each field seemed to have large numbers and we may well have seen around 100 of these Buntings during the time we were there. I did take one photo of a flock in a bush, although this is only a small flock compared with some of the others. Several Reed Bunting were also mixed in with the Yellowhammers.



Yellowhammers in a bush.

This morning I had an e mail from Pete saying he had found an old picture of me and my good friend Larry Crowhurst taken many years ago. I would guess that the picture was taken around 1979 or 1980 and was probably in the Chiddingfold Forest where we regularly used to go butterfly hunting in those days. Larry and I used to have some great sessions in those days photographing Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and Wood White. Both common species in that area in those heady days. Unfortunately Larry passed away in October 2002 and is still missed by his many friends. My thanks to Pete for e mailing the picture over.



Larry Crowhurst and myself. I am the handsome bloke on the right, Larry is the intelligent one on the left!!



Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2019 Kicks Off in Style.

Happy New Year everyone.

Having seeing my last butterfly at the end of November it was a pleasant and pleasing start to 2019 seeing a Peacock at the first opportunity. I was sitting at home working through some photos when I noticed that the sun had come out. I quickly got a bit of gear together and headed up to High and Over to have a quick look for Wall Brown larva. Before I had a chance though to look for larva a worn Peacock was suddenly flying around me. I managed a shot of it before it flew away, although not far, as it was still flying when I left the site an hour later.
There was also a Bumble Bee flying around.




Peacock on 1st January.


It was then onto the larva hunt. One I found quickly, but I then struggled to find any more until I tried a different area. Here 4 were found including one that looked as though it was either approaching a moult, or had just moulted. This one was both marked slightly differently, but also had an over-sized head. All the larva were busy feeding in the mild conditions, it was also good to photograph a couple of them showing their feeding pattern on the grass.




The first Wall Brown larva of 2019.






Wall Brown larva probably approaching a moult. Feeding signs above and below the larva.




Sunday, 16 December 2018

Hiding in the Woods.

On Thursday Phil invited me out to try out his new woodland hide. This hide has the benefit of being in a private woodland, so disturbance was at an absolute minimum.
With the sun shining most of the time the lighting was a little testing at times as shadows from trees behind us caused problems some of the time as the sun moved across the sky.
It was certainly interesting though with lots of small birds keeping busy on feeders, and a couple of times it suddenly went very quiet and we assumed a Sparrowhawk was in the vicinity. One of these occasions a Nuthatch was perched up near us and it just sat totally still for a couple of minutes. 

It certainly was a great session and good numbers of Tits were very busy feeding, with the most numerous species being the Coal Tit, with Blue and Great not far behind. Marsh Tit was another species seen several times. With regular visits also from Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker there were very few dull moments.



Coal Tit.









Coal Tit on Larch.



Marsh Tit on Larch.



Great-spotted Woodpecker.



Nuthatch keeping very still.



Great Tit on Larch.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

2019 Butterfly Season Starts Early!!

Most Winters I try to do some scrub clearance on my patch to slow down the loss of the all important grass downland that is so essential for the insects that I study there.
During a session yesterday, as the sun was really quite warm, I decided to have a quick hunt for Wall Brown larva. As it was a week earlier than I had found them before I wasn't that hopeful. However, the first tussock I searched I found one of these very tiny young larva. At a little under 1 cm it certainly has a lot of growing before it becomes a butterfly next April. I carried on searching a little more but only found one more.




A tiny Wall Brown larva on my middle finger.



Wall Brown larva (just under 1 cm long).


With various commitments as well as some very poor weather lately, I haven't managed to get out much with the camera. On one much better, sunny day I did go over to Dungeness with David. Unfortunately it turned out to be the worst day we have had over that way for birds with only a hovering Kestrel and a Great White Egret photographed, and not much else seen either!!




Kestrel.



Great White Egret. 



Great White Egret in flight.

The valley near my home has seen huge numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare this Winter and several of my walks have been made much better by watching them. The only one I managed to photograph was on a very dull day, so very little sparkle. On the one decent day that I set up a hide near a bush full of berries, most of the birds had moved on during the previous clear night!!



Fieldfare in the gloom.


Friday, 23 November 2018

Jay and Kingfisher.

Earlier this week Phil and I had another attempt at a Buzzard. As usual the bird did not appear, but all was not lost as there was plenty of other action on the bird front. 

Jays again stole the show for the number of appearances, as well as quantity of birds, with 5 being seen together several times as they hunted for Acorns and also bathed in the rather large puddle that had gathered in front of the hide overnight. Most of the time we had cloud cover, that seems to help with Jay pictures, and a few birds posed quite nicely for the camera.






Jay sitting pretty.



Reflection of a Jay.



Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker eyeing each other up.



Jay on a flimsy perch.

We also had several visits from the female Kingfisher. The pond is slightly too far away for photography, but we saw the Kingfisher dive a few times and we saw her catch a Stickleback on one attempt, and on another 2 she caught Dragonfly larva. To get these her eyesight must be amazing. After catching one of the larva she flew and landed in a small bush quite close. As I was in the middle of changing lenses I had to quickly change back, managing just a single grab shot before she flew on again.
With the large puddle in front of us though, she did settle a couple more times quite close.



Kingfisher with Emperor Dragonfly larva.



Female Kingfisher sitting pretty.

Other smaller birds were also coming and going with great regularity, so after taking too many Jay shots these kept us busy and took our minds off the cold day.




Coal Tit.



Great-spotted Woodpecker.






Goldfinch on Teazle.