Saturday 27 September 2014

Crimson Speckled Time?

With little chance of getting out for a few days I thought I would look back on my previous efforts at this time of year and my thoughts went back to 3 years ago in very early October when I came across one of my rarest and strangest moth finds.
In 2011 there had already been a few sightings in the Beachy Head area of the Crimson Speckled Footman but at this time I was only just getting into moths so these sightings didn't really hold too much significance for me. I was really looking for Clouded Yellows as I was walking along between Birling Gap and Shooters Bottom when I disturbed a whitish looking moth that I almost dismissed. However, I did take a closer look and it was a white moth with lots of crimson and black spots on it. If only I knew then how rare this moth was!!

I took several pictures of it before moving on. Apart from a couple of Adders around the bushes I didn't see anything else of interest so on my return I checked on the moth and it was still in the same spot. On approaching it it flew onto some flowers and started to nectar.

Crimson Speckled Footman.

On getting home I looked in my in my old History of Butterflies and Moths in Sussex by Colin Pratt and saw that it was an extremely rare migrant moth with very few records over the past 100 years. Obviously 2011 was an exceptional year for them with a few sightings along the south coast, in fact Michael Blencowe and Graeme Lyons had one the same day after moth trapping nearby. Their moth  though was a different individual as photos showed the spotting pattern was very different.
Whenever I walk along that area near Beachy Head I still remember that find and I live in hope of another sighting of this great little moth, especially at this time of year!!

Sunday 21 September 2014

Hawks in the garden.

Most of the summer I have been having visits from Hummingbird Hawk Moths with up to 2 at a time. Although I had over 30 visits in total I only managed a couple of half decent shots. It was great though just watching these brilliant moths nectaring in the garden.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

Back in August I was having breakfast in the garden when I noticed that the fuchsia had some half eaten leaves on it. It was then a little hunt to look for the culprit which I was confident would be an Elephant Hawk Moth larva. After a little while I found it in its penultimate stage. I was hoping to get it again when it was fully grown, but I couldn't find it once it would have reached this stage. I did manage to find a fully grown one a couple of years ago though when we were away in Bradford-on-Avon which I have included here.

Elephant Hawk Moth larva. Penultimate stage.

Elephant Hawk Moth larva.

Friday 19 September 2014

Cuckmere Dunlin.

On a very warm September day Seaford Head was the destination on the lookout for any unusual butterflies and moths. The biggest surprise was a reasonable number of Wall Brown 3rd brood. With the 2nd brood being early this year there was always going to be a 3rd brood but normally this is a partial brood that is restricted to warm South facing hillsides. This year though it looks as though any area may get some of these with double figure numbers seen today. A Clouded Yellow was also seen along with more Small Coppers.
Along the river bank a Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding, Probably the same individual that Matt saw a couple of days ago. There was also a very approachable group of 8 Dunlin which provided some photographic opportunities whilst they were feeding and sleeping.


Wednesday 17 September 2014

Catching Up

With the computer breaking down again there is a little catching up to do!!

Last Friday it was a short visit to Tide Mills with Pete. I was an optimist by carrying  the macro lens. Fortunately Pete had his telephoto with him as the only interest was with some Wheatears and Whinchats. There was at least 4 Whinchats but they were camera shy, but one Wheatear was quite approachable and allowed both of us to get a few photos. 


I haven't managed to get out much lately due to family issues so yesterday evening I called up Seaford Head again for another go at the superb Small Coppers. Plenty were showing with many still very fresh. Once again a couple performed well for me.

Small Copper.

Today it was back to the Levels. Being late in the season there wasn't an awful lot showing but Migrant and Brown Hawkers were still showing in reasonable numbers. The only photo opportunity came with a male Migrant Hawker settling on a bush in front of us. Still an excellent day on an area that needs a bit of checking out next year.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Challenge Complete?

Although I was very pleased with my efforts with the Small Coppers yesterday I did think I could still have done slightly better with the open wing shot. It was moving around quite a bit on the flower head and I was disappointed that the back of the wings were not quite sharp.
Today I decided to have another go. On arrival the sun was shining and it was pretty warm and all the Coppers I saw were pretty active. However, a heavy cloud came over soon after and all the Coppers went to roost. It was then a hunt for a good one on a flower head and hoping the weather would improve again. I couldn't believe my luck when that is exactly what happened, I found a good one and the sun came back out and the butterfly opened its wings to warm back up again, and I think I have an improved picture over yesterday. It also looks by the shape of the abdomen that it is a female, whilst yesterdays was a male.

Female Small Copper.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Small Copper Challenge.

With the weather over the last few weeks seeming very autumnal it almost felt as though the butterfly season had ground to a halt. This time of year though still has some butterfly delights with both Adonis Blue and Small Copper adding some bright colours to the countryside.
On Tuesday I had a call from my son, Matt, who informed me he had found a Wryneck on Seaford Head. As usual with this species it was very elusive, and whilst waiting for the odd glimpse I saw a few Small Coppers flying. This species, despite being common, has generally been disappointing for me as far as photography goes, so I decided to set myself a challenge to try to improve on my previous images. Thursday and Friday afternoons I went back up there to see what I could do. Thursday was a bit too breezy as well as clouding up too early and Friday was calmer but cloudy all the time I was there except for a few brief minutes.
I managed a couple of half decent images on the Thursday but wasn't totally happy.

Female Small Copper.

Male Small Copper.

On Friday although cloudy it was warm enough for some activity and I followed several hoping they would settle near the tops of flower heads.
At least the scenery was good when the butterflies were not showing!!

The Famous Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven.

Eventually the weather went downhill so much I decided to call it a day. I was walking back up the hill when I found a very fresh individual roosting on an Agrimony seedhead. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I managed a few shots in the poor light and then my luck changed as the only bit of sun for the day showed. The butterfly moved to the top of another plant and then started to open its wings to show its spectacular colours. It didn't make my task any easier though as it kept moving about as it tried to warm up.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Brown Hawkers.

With Pen once again at the hospice I managed a whole day with Nigel on the local Levels looking for more dragonflies and any other delights.
On the Fleabane was a very fresh Painted Lady and Red Admiral. We were also surprised to find some more Raft Spiders on the ditches. Dragonflies were very numerous and a male Brown Hawker surprised us by settling nearby and actually sitting tight for a couple of minutes.

Male Brown Hawker.

Two mating pairs of Southern Hawkers were seen and whilst following one pair I disturbed a Common Frog. It has been some time since I last saw this type of frog so it was good to get a good look at it.

Common Frog.

The most common dragonfly was the Migrant Hawker with lots of males hunting and occasionally settling.

Male Migrant Hawker.

On the way back to the car I was watching a Brown Hawker hunting nearby. I saw it catch a small insect and it then settled on a post to eat it. I crept up on it and managed a sideview shot of it. At this point I saw that it had caught a Ladybird and as it had eaten the inside it dropped the shell. Although the wire on the fence was a slight distraction it does show the fabulous eye of this magnificent species.

Brown Hawker with Ladybird shell.

Monday 1 September 2014

Wasp Spiders.

It was a case of hunting the hunter recently as Pete and I had a go at finding Wasp Spiders. Up until those Raft Spiders the Wasp Spider was my favourite spider with its great colours. We started looking at Tide Mills, a spot where I had seen one last year whilst we were looking for the Long-tailed Blue. After an hour here we decided to head over to the hill near his house at Newhaven where we had again seen them before. After a while we eventually found two, just as it started to rain!! Fortunately the light did improve again after a while.

Female Wasp Spider.

Around the local pond there are still good numbers of Blue-tailed Damselflies and these gave a bit of entertainment as we tried to improve on our previous photographs. Two male Small Red-eyed Damselflies were seen out on the surface of the water trying to avoid the ripples of the water in the very strong wind.

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Over this weekend a male Common Redstart showed on and off in the garden. Following on from the Firecrest during the week it has been a good week for birds in the garden.