Wednesday 27 November 2013

Snakes Alive

I have always had a fascination with snakes ever since I was a youngster. Then I was actually scared of them, that was until I forced myself to study them to get over the fear. I then caught and photographed them on several occasions. Unfortunately, the best area around Lewes then became a bit of a scramble track for motor bikes and the snakes moved on.
This year has been quite mixed as some areas where I have always found Adders such as the Beachy Head area I haven't found any, whereas woodland near Laughton and Arlington have been pretty good.
A melanic form of Adder.

Another Adder, a normal form.

This year has actually been pretty good for Grass Snakes with more seen than most years on both downland around Seaford and the woodland mentioned earlier.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Tide Mills Spoonbill

Tide Mills has been really good this year with it being one of the main sites for the Long Tailed Blues in the late summer, along with good numbers of Clouded Yellows. Then, after the butterfly season, the Grey Phalarope. Now, a juvenile Spoonbill has arrived. When I arrived this morning it was asleep as most Spoonbills always seem to be. However, it was soon awake and foraging in the muddy river.

It certainly seemed to be finding plenty of food as it spent the next 40 minutes or so hunting.

The end of a small fish!!

Sunday 17 November 2013

July 16th Part 3 The Skipper.

It is quite odd that despite seeing several Long Tailed Blues and a migrant Swallowtail the rarest butterfly I've seen this year is probably a Large Skipper!!!

There I was looking for the White Letter Hairstreaks and only seeing a few high up in the elms, so I walked further along the river to another colony. Once again I saw a few Hairstreaks but they were still all high up. I then noticed a Banded Demoiselle settling on some foliage, I managed a couple of pictures of this before it moved on.


Suddenly this pale Large Skipper settled to my left. At first I thought it was just a faded individual, but I wasn't sure so I took several pictures before it flew off. Back home I looked closely at the pictures and became more convinced that it was probably an aberrant of some kind. I sent some pictures up to UK Butterflies and had an immediate response confirming it was an aberrant called ab. pallida. This is a particularly unusual butterfly to have an aberrant form. Once again I sent details to the County Recorder, Colin Pratt, and he tells me that there has never been a record of an aberrant Large Skipper in Sussex before. The following day I tried to relocate the butterfly to show Nigel but we could not find it. I wish I'd known the rarity value when I had found it.

So with this Skipper and the melanic form of the Riband Wave moth that was 2 firsts for Sussex in one day!!

Thursday 14 November 2013

July 16th Part 2 The Moth Trap and a Sussex first.

Being new this year to moth trapping I often come up with species that I just can't identify. Fortunately I have improved as the year has gone on but on the morning of July 16th I had a moth that I just could not find in any book. Fortunately I do have a couple of experts that I can call upon so later I sent a photo to them. Even they struggled with this one so it was suggested that I send a picture to Colin Pratt, the Sussex Moth Recorder. The response from Colin was very quick. He informed me that the moth was a melanic form of a Riband Wave. Although this is a very common moth this form is very rare and has never been recorded in Sussex before!!

There were many other delights in the trap, although everything else was pretty common. I did however have my only Lackey Moth of the year. This is a species that I have seen as a caterpillar many times before over the hills. The caterpillar is a very brightly coloured species. 

A moth that I had many times over the year was the Buff Ermine. This one was one of the smartest of them though.

Another of my favourite moths of the year was the beautiful Peach Blossom. This specimen was the first of several that came to the trap in the following weeks.

With the rarest moth that I was going to get all year, and a first for Sussex, who would have thought that there was still better things to come on this day including another first for Sussex.

Monday 11 November 2013

July 16th Part 1

My best insect day of the year was so good I'm having to do it in 3 parts. On the 16th July I had a great moth trap and following this I headed off to search for the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly, a particular favourite of mine. I was not able to take any pictures of the Hairstreaks as they all stayed near the top of the Elms but fortunately there was plenty more about. The Essex Skipper had emerged during the morning so those that I found were extremely fresh.


Also seen were 2 very fresh Comma's.

Even common butterflies like these are special when they are so fresh. However, there was so much more to that day including my rarest butterfly and moth find of the year!!!

Friday 8 November 2013

Corncrake and Matts AGP

I don't generally have too many birding highlights, particularly during the Spring and Summer when I concentrate on butterflies, moths and other insects, but there were 2 very good memories this year. The first was on the 17th April when I was walking around Abbotts Wood hoping for an early Orange-tip. I hadn't been there long when I had a call from Matt on the mobile telling me that a Corncrake had appeared at Shooters Bottom. After a while when it was evident that I wasn't going to see too much at Abbotts I drove over to Shooters Bottom where the Corncrake showed several times very well down to just a few metres. An extremely rare sight in Sussex, seen and photographed by many birders.

Then on the 12th June I thought I should go down the Cuckmere where son Matt had found an American Golden Plover which I believe was only the 2nd record for Sussex and the 1st for East Sussex. It was a very confiding bird allowing close views for the many birders that saw it over the days it stayed around.

Monday 4 November 2013

Grey Phalarope

As the Summer is now well and truly over most wildlife interest is now with birds. Today I called into Tide Mills where the delightful Grey Phalarope was performing for several observers. Fortunately Matt was there so I was able to borrow his lens for a few shots.
Following this Pete and myself called in at Southease, walking along the river towards Rodmell. 2 Kingfishers and several Buzzards and a calling Water Rail were the main interest until near the end when a Snipe and then a Barn Owl appeared. The Barn Owl took off from a bush and then flew over our heads circling around 5 times only about 15 feet above us and screeching at us each time it passed over. An amazing experience!!

Saturday 2 November 2013

Early May Memories

The butterfly season certainly took a while to get going this year. It was just into May when some of our early species appeared and it is a great time of year with the whole summer to look forward to. On the 4th of May I went to Castle Hill hoping for some butterflies but had to make do with a few Early Spider Orchids instead.
The following day I was sitting in the garden when I spotted a Holly Blue landing on some ivy at the bottom of the garden. When it hadn't taken off after a short while I decided to run upstairs and grab the camera. When I returned I was surprised to see it was still there and it was actually basking in the sun with its wings wide open. This is quite unusual with Holly Blues and became one of my pictures of the year. It only allowed one grab picture before it was up and away. The dark margins on the forewing show this to be a female.

A walk to Cradle Valley the following day brought a pair of mating Green Veined Whites.

Then on the 9th May I found my first Green Hairstreak of the year, one of my favourite species and certainly my favourite family of butterflies. Early season Green Hairstreaks have a lovely sheen to them which they soon lose. These butterflies had a dreadful year in 2012 but there were some signs of recovery this year although local numbers were still poor compared to pre 2012.