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Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Whoopers.

 With January already nearly over I have already seen 3 different butterfly species. This includes my earliest ever Brimstone that I saw at High and Over on an icy day of January 11th along with a Peacock, both in a sunny sheltered area. This followed on from the Red Admiral that I saw in the same area on the 8th.

I also had a great trip with David to Dungeness on the 18th. Unfortunately, the birds were rather quiet and our hoped for Bearded Tits were nowhere to be found. The highlight was 5 Whooper Swans showing rather nicely on the ARC pit. A great finish to the day with Jennie cooking another fabulous meal.






Whooper Swans on ARC.

I've also had several great days with Lisa including seeing several Hawfinch and a Goshawk at West Dean and on another day we saw the sunrise at Burton Mill Pond and the sunset at The Burgh with sightings of Short-eared Owls and Barn Owls and a ring-tailed Hen Harrier for good measure in between.

Yesterday Pete and I went for our annual trip to see the Purple Sandpipers on the pier. I'm not sure if it is a bad year for them this year but for the first time I can remember we didn't see any at all. We were entertained though by several Ruddy Turnstones that were hanging around the fishermen hoping for little titbits. Mostly they were running around but one did stop briefly to give me the chance of a few shots. The light was really poor so no flight shots were possible.






Ruddy Turnstone.




Tuesday, 10 January 2023

2023 Butterfly Season Starts.

 January 1st brought my first encounter with lepidoptera for the year in the form of a couple of Wall Brown larvae that I managed to show Lisa. as well as my first moth of the year, the scarce micro moth Agonopterix pallorella. On a walk around the patch we also had a couple of Brown Hares and towards the end some epic views of a pair of Firecrest.



Agonopterix pallorella. (picture from 2017).


On January 5th I finished a long walk with a casual search for Wall Brown larvae and was surprised to find 15 in just over 30 minutes. This included one that was approaching half grown. Certainly the largest I have found this early in the year.

The following day I started my conservation clearing work on the Lace Border site and in full sunshine on arrival I had a macro moth flying around that I think was a Silver Y. Unfortunately, it failed to settle in view. The weather soon went downhill and as I left the site a little over 2 hours later the rain had started again.

My first adult butterfly then turned up unexpectedly on the 8th when another session clearing scrub I had a Red Admiral flying nearby. It was very windy and the butterfly soon got caught up in a strong gust and that was the last I saw of it. After finishing the clearance work I looked for the large Wall Brown larva from the 5th and fortunately I found it very quickly. It showed very well and a few photos were taken, although the wind made it quite difficult.






Wall Brown larva.



Wind Direction, Westerly!!





Saturday, 7 January 2023

Argiope trifasciata.

 My trip to Fuerteventura back in November brought a very good find in the form of several Argiope trifasciata, a close relative of our Wasp Spider.

Looking on the internet it appears the first sighting of this spider on the island was only back in 2016, so it is a recent colonist by the look of it and therefore is probably still quite a scarce species.

I first spotted the quite large spider from some distance and after getting closer a group of 5 were seen over quite a small area. It certainly is a smart creature with its silvery, but was not the easiest one to photograph despite it sitting very still. It was one of my favourite finds during the trip and I was amazed that I had forgotten to post these photos before!!






Argiope trifasciata (Banded Garden Spider).


I also seemed to have missed posting any pictures of the Sahara Bluetail damselflies. I did see many of these on both of my trips over the past couple of years, but this damselfly is a very smart insect and worthy of posting my best shot from this latest trip.

We did also see a couple of Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies, but the only one that sat and posed was when my camera was not with me. However, we did see plenty Red-veined Darters and a few Scarlet Darter, or Broad Scarlet as its called over in Fuerteventura.



Sahara Bluetail.



Red-veined Darter.



Scarlet Darter.


Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Dungeness with Matt.

 On Christmas Eve Matt and I had what is becoming an annual visit to Dungeness. Although no notable birds were being reported from there the purpose of the visit was really to have a bit of quality time with him as he doesn't manage to get over this way that often. In fact the cameras were nearly left behind as it just wasn't a photographic day.

We did stop at Pett Level first and were both surprised and pleased with the enormous numbers of Lapwing in the area. Several Marsh Harriers were also seen as well as a few Ruff, which included one that was already changing to its Spring adult plumage.

We then moved to the area around Lydd where we saw the 35 Bewick's Swans in the arable field. It was good to see that the Swans had obviously had a better breeding season as there were several juvenile birds in the flock.

It was then onto Dungeness, the first time for ages that we had walked around the reserve. It did seem very odd that most of the hides had been taken away and replaced with screens. Fortunately it was a mild dry day but I certainly wouldn't want to stand there on a typical winter's day in Dungeness!! There have been many negative comments about this so I won't dwell on it!!

The Bearded Tits didn't show for us, but a stunning Firecrest was good to see. I can't remember seeing a Firecrest last winter so it was the first for a while. Several more Marsh Harriers and some Great White Egrets are always good to see here and one male and 3 juv/female Goldeneye were also special as this species is getting scarcer down south.

Several Water Pipits were seen flying around high over a boggy field, although only distant views but their call gave them away to Matt. The 2 Glossy Ibis we were hoping to see and as we drove away from the reserve we saw them fly over the road. Fortunately they landed in the horse field and we managed to get close enough for some shots, although with the sun behind them we couldn't get the beautiful glossy sheen on the feathers.

The 2 Whooper Swans were at the far end of the ARC pit and we saw them both ways as we drove to the fishing boats. Not a lot to report on the sea, although a Caspian Gull was seen by Matt who was just trying to get me onto it as the flock took flight so I never saw it. 

As we were about to drive home we took one more look at the horse field and 2 Cattle Egret were now feeding there, but they were a little flighty so no photos of them. We then had a magnificent male Merlin take off from a bush just in front of us. It landed eventually a few hundred metres away on a mound in the field.

A fabulous day out with the lad and a nice start to Christmas.





Glossy Ibis.






Male Marsh Harrier.




Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Murmuration Missed.

 On Friday afternoon Lisa and I had arranged to meet on the outskirts of Brighton to head into Brighton to see the Starling murmurations around the 2 piers.

Unfortunately, due to a car fire on the A27 Lisa was delayed as she was caught up in the road closure so the murmuration was over by the time we got to the seafront. However, we still enjoyed the beautiful light along the seafront as the sun set over the West Pier.

She had also brought with her some warm mulled wine and mince pies. Mmmmmm delightful.



Brighton West Pier.


On the following two days we also enjoyed watching many Red Kites, a Barn Owl and Brown Hares at the Burgh as well as more mulled wine and then at Pulborough Brooks the two White-tailed Eagles, Snipe and Fieldfares with hot chocolate. A wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Little Gulls

 A couple of weeks ago Matt called round and suggested a short trip to Splashpoint as there were several Little Gulls showing very well.

As the weather was pretty dull Lisa and I called down there but I decided to leave the camera behind. Lisa managed to get some very nice photos so the following day, with it being much brighter, I decided to call down there again, but this time with the camera.

Once again there were several of these pretty gulls swirling around as they searched the surf for food and for the 30 minutes or so before a heavy rain shower moved through I had an enjoyable time photographing them.















Little Gulls at Seaford.


Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Butterflies from Fuerteventura 2022.

This year the number of butterflies was quite amazing in Fuerteventura with so many Painted Ladies migrating through whilst we were there. It was just a steady stream of them crossing the roads wherever we went, all heading in the same direction as their navigational impulse sent them south. There must have been millions of them on the island.

With much greener conditions than last year there were also many more of all the expected species as well as some that we were not expecting. Some we managed to photograph, but the Fuerteventura Green-striped White eluded the cameras unfortunately. However, around the Hotel grounds many Greenish Black-tips were a surprisingly showy and late afternoon I set out to find them going to roost.










Greenish Black-tip.


Also around the grounds were many Monarch butterflies. These were generally feeding on the Bougainvillea flowers in the hotel gardens. One of our group even saw a mating pair.






Monarch.


Meanwhile several egg laying Lang's Short-tailed Blues were also active most days.



Lang's Short-tailed Blue.


Out and about African Grass Blue and Geranium Bronze were also seen in smaller numbers, with one of the Geranium Bronze posing very well on a roadside plant.



Geranium Bronze.


Another insect that was spotted this year in enormous numbers was the Maize Moth. Last year just a single specimen was seen, but this year in some areas every step seemed to put some up. This moth is an extremely rare migrant moth in Britain, but in some parts, and probably in Fuerteventura, it is considered a pest species.



Maize Moth.