Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A Duck and a few Beards.

A great day out yesterday with David started at Pett Levels for the immature Long-tailed Duck. Last year one of these was at West Rise Marsh on the lake and it always kept its distance. That wasn't the complaint this year. It actually came too close and was most of the time out of sight as it stayed close to the bank behind the reeds!! Great to see though and also good to see a few Bearded Tits nearby.

Juvenile Long-tailed Duck.

We then headed into Kent where we were treated to many more sights of Bearded Tits moving through the Reedbeds and occasionally showing themselves. Several Marsh Harriers were also seen as well as one Clouded Yellow and many Red Admirals.

Male Bearded Tit.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Kingfisher in the rain.

On Sunday evening I had a call from Phil inviting me out to hopefully see and photograph the Kingfisher from one of his hides. With the weather forecast looking very poor it was a bit of a gamble, but these opportunities do not come up too often, and of course, if there is one British bird out there to brighten up a dull day it would probably have be the Kingfisher!!
The rain actually started just as we arrived at the hide and the light was poor. Fortunately being in the hide at least kept us dry and with many small birds coming in to the feeders there was plenty to see. 

We didn't even have to wait too long for the first visit from the male Kingfisher, when without warning it suddenly appeared on the Reedmace in front of us. Here it sat for some time looking down at the water as it hunted for small fish. It was also very aware of other birds flying over, at one point it watched very carefully as one bird flew over, although we didn't see what it was watching it was possibly a raptor of some kind.

Male Kingfisher on Reedmace.

A sequence of shots as it watched a possible raptor fly overhead.

Once the Kingfisher had moved on we were entertained by several visits from a Grey Wagtail and a Wren. 

Grey Wagtail.


With several further visits by the Kingfisher, including one where he caught a fish, the light actually got even worse, despite it looking brighter every now and then in the distance. I kept saying to Phil, 'Is it getting brighter', unfortunately it didn't and it eventually made us decide to call it a day. However, it was an absolutely brilliant day with some unforgettable moments. One would never tire of seeing these spectacular birds, and this one was in perfect condition. As ever, a special thanks to Phil for making this possible and for the time he spends making sure I get the opportunity. 

As for the weather, well we would have to have waited another 48 hours before the sun was seen and it is now back to dull and damp conditions. Is it getting brighter? Well, not yet!!

The male Kingfisher on Hawthorn.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Before The Storm.

Having failed to see any Wall Brown on my walk on Thursday, I decided to have one last go on Friday, as with Storm Brian arriving on Saturday there were unlikely to be any surviving Wall Brown after that!! I decided to walk up the hill from home and it wasn't long before I saw a Speckled Wood. Just after this I left the shelter of the trees and it became clear how windy it really was. It was then that I began to think that there was no chance of any more butterflies. At the top of the hill a hedgerow brought more shelter from the wing and a Red Admiral made an appearance, followed by 2 more and another Speckled Wood around the High and Over car park. A pair of displaying Ravens and a couple of late Swallows were seen nearby too which were good to see. I then hit another sheltered area and spotted a female Wall Brown nectaring on Devil's Bit Scabious as well as a Peacock and a Clouded Yellow. The Wall Brown dropped down on the path briefly and was lost to view, however, Clouded Yellows were seen flying around with at least 4 different individuals seen, this included a female that was still reasonably fresh. This one also posed quite nicely, although by now the sun had well and truly gone behind some heavy clouds. With the poor light and the steady breeze I was pleased to get any half decent photos of this lovely butterfly. Despite the weather it had been a very successful afternoon with 5 butterfly species seen, not bad for a very windy October day.

Probably my final Wall Brown of the year. 2017 has been very good locally for these.

Clouded Yellow on Devil's Bit Scabious.

Female Clouded Yellow.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


The weather over the past few days has not been very helpful at all, so today, despite the very gloomy and breezy conditions I just had to get out over the hills. It was not looking at all good for finding anything of interest, with only a single Red Admiral found, when I put up a Vestal from the long grass. This small moth is one of the regular migrants that come over the Channel every Autumn, with between 50 and 100 seen in Sussex most years. After following him for a short while he landed on a some grass in the open which gave me the chance to photograph him. It was just a shame that the light was so poor.


The only other recent trip was to Rye Harbour where I was hoping to see and photograph the Sanderling. I thought the tide would be right, however, the fact that I didn't see any Sanderling scuppered my chances!! All I managed was a Little Grebe in its Winter plumage. Not really worth lugging all the heavy gear for such a distance.

Little Grebe.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A Little Delicate.

No, not me!!

With the butterfly season coming to a grinding halt over the past few days with only a few Red Admirals, Wall Brown, Clouded Yellow and Speckled Wood of note, and the birds also being a little slow I thought I would dust off the moth trap and see if I could catch any of the migrants which could be coming in with the warm winds from Spain.

Although it was quite breezy last night I did actually get a reasonable haul which included my first ever Delicate. This moth actually is a migrant, so bearing in mind that this moth has just flown across the English Channel it can't be that 'delicate'!!


Also in the trap was a Bright-line Brown-eye, who thinks up these names??

Bright-line Brown-eye.

A bit of a surprise was finding a Swallow-tailed Moth on the outside of the trap. This species I get in the Summer in good numbers. I wasn't aware that this species occasionally has a 2nd brood. Although it wasn't in tip top condition it was still good to see.

Swallow-tailed Moth.

3 Feathered Ranunculus were also good to get as well as my first Red-green Carpet.

Male Feathered Ranunculus (Note the feathered antennae).

Red-green Carpet.

Several Black Rustic were both in the trap and the fence nearby. These are a very smart Autumnal moth. Two L-album Wainscot and a few other common species made up the numbers. All in all not bad for a night in October.

A trio of Black Rustic.

L-album Wainscot.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Americans in North Kent.

A rare trip for me to North Kent yesterday to see 3 rare birds with David and Paul. With a Lapland Bunting and the 2 American birds, a Wilson's Phalarope and a Long-billed Dowitcher it was a trip to savour. Unfortunately the trip didn't start well as when we arrived at the site where the Lapland Bunting was we were told that several people had been searching without any sightings. With that we headed straight to Oare Marshes where the 2 American waders were. Straight away they were both visible. I had last seen a Long-billed Dowitcher 10 years ago in exactly the same place when Matt and I headed over to see the bird. This was probably Matt's first twitch for a rare bird all those years ago. This current bird is probably the same bird that was here last Autumn, meanwhile the Wilson's Phalarope is not likely to stay for very long. This was my first Wilson's Phalarope. Other birds seen were many Golden Plover, Lapwing, Avocet, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Little Stint. A female Merlin put all the waders up which produced a great sight as large flocks of Golden Plover flew high in tight groups before coming back to the shallows.
Unfortunately, none of the birds came particularly close today, so only distant shots were possible. The previous day both of the American waders came much closer and the Lapland Bunting was also showing particularly well, but a doctors appointment meant that I had to wait for the Friday!!

Long-billed Dowitcher.

Wilson's Phalarope.

Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope.

Long-billed Dowitcher with Golden and Green Plover.

A Common Snipe hiding in the undergrowth.

The Waders returning after being flushed by the female Merlin. (Spot the Phalarope).

Wilson's Phalarope, Dunlin and Lapwing preening together.

Is this smart enough chaps??

Ruff reflection.

Black-tailed Godwit reflection.

Avocet reflection.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Wall Brown Pair.

A stroll up the hill on Tuesday to see how the 3rd brood Wall Brown was getting on was very productive with well over 20 individuals seen including around 5 females. There was also a good showing of Clouded Yellows as well as Common Blues and Red Admirals. A really good butterfly day for October!!
Just as I was getting to the end of the walk a mating pair of Wall Brown took off from under my feet, but with it being cool at the top of the hill they landed nearby. They were at this point in an odd position. They soon took off again but landed again in a bush. They were then disturbed by another male that was trying to get into the act. The next time they landed they were in the more normal position!!

Female Wall Brown on Devil's Bit Scabious.

Mating Wall Brown (Position A).

Mating Wall Brown (Position B).

Mating Wall Brown (Position C).

Sunday, 1 October 2017

View From The Hide.

A fantastic morning yesterday with Phil sitting in his hide. Phil had been monitoring the species in the vicinity over the past few weeks and it was decided we would try for the smaller woodland species rather than the Kingfisher that was not visiting regularly. As it was, not long after we were settled in the first bird of interest was a female Kingfisher near the pond. This was a little too far away for photography. Two more visits to the pond by the Kingfisher made us think that perhaps we should have gone for the Kingfisher after all!! However, after the 2nd visit in which she caught both a small fish and a Dragonfly larva she flew towards us and landed briefly on the tree stump that we hoped the Woodpecker would come too. She was now very close so a portrait shot was possible.

Female Kingfisher.

All through the visit plenty of Blue and Great Tits were coming in with the odd Coal Tit also showing occasionally. 

The first Great Spotted Woodpecker was a female and she stayed for a couple of minutes. A pair of Nuthatch were also seen on and off  before the final Great Spotted Woodpecker, this time a male, came in.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Male Great Spotted Woodpecker with Blue Tit.

Male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Just before leaving a Heron turned up at the pond where we could see it hunting successfully. A 2nd Heron also flew in and drove the original Heron away.


Back at Phil's garden a Knot Grass larva was found by his small garden pond. We also had a surprise of a Wall Brown female, the first of this species that Phil had seen in the garden.

Knot Grass larva.

My thanks as ever to Phil for giving up a Saturday morning for me. It is always a pleasure being in a private hide in great company. Hopefully another chance will come soon for more Kingfisher shots!!