Sunday 27 September 2015

Seaford Head.

With the Long-tailed Blues still not emerging in quantities yet, perhaps struggling in the steady cool breeze that seems to be haunting the South coast this year it was a short trip up Seaford Head to see how the Small Coppers were faring this autumn. The answer was not as good as last year with only 4 seen. However, all was not lost as there were a couple of other delights including a superb Fox Moth larvae. This species is often seen in the autumn in its larvae form, but rarely seen as an adult moth. I have yet to see one properly. As ever the larvae was on the ground amongst the grass, but was coaxed off the ground to show it off better.

Fox Moth Larva.

After this I went to check out Harry's Bush to see if any migrant birds were around. Apart from a few Chiff Chaffs there was very little. Walking along the Gorse bushes though I hit lucky when I saw a Meadow Pipit take off from the ground and land on the far side of the bush. A couple of steps further I saw there was a small gap in the bush and I had a clear view of the bird, and the bird did not appear to see me so I was able to get a few shots off. The bush around the gap also gave a really nice softened surround which helped to show the bird off just as I was hoping.

Meadow Pipit.

Thursday 24 September 2015

A Brighter Grey Phalarope!!

After getting a soaking on Monday photographing the splendid Grey Phalarope in pouring rain and poor light I headed down the Cuckmere again today to see if it was still there and to try to get some photographs in brighter conditions. Once again in was feeding in the main channel of the pool and not coming particularly close. David Gardiner was sitting nearby so I chatted with him while we waited and hoped it would fly to the smaller pool. Eventually it did just that and then gave us some further opportunities for getting some nice pictures. It even did some preening making sure it was in tip top condition for us!!

Preening Finished.

Grey Phalarope.

What a beautiful little bird!!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Woodland Birds.

On Sunday I had an invitation from John Stanton to try photographing the woodland birds in his fabulous wood near Handcross. John kindly showed me around the wood before we went in the hides, where John gave me some good tips and advise. Plenty of birds visited the area whilst we were there with lots of Coal, Marsh, Blue and Great Tits. I was hoping also for a chance to get photos of Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Most of my better pictures came from the 2nd hide with the birds being very close and visiting a moss covered branch. Just as I was packing up a Great Spotted Woodpecker suddenly landed on the branch and I had to very quietly move back into position to get the picture I wanted. The Woodpecker then moved onto a close tree where a few more pictures were possible.

Marsh Tit.


Coal Tit.


Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Many thanks John for a great memorable day and making me feel so welcome and helping me get some of my best bird photographs.

Monday 21 September 2015

The Cuckmere Grey Phalarope.

On Saturday a very smart Grey Phalarope turned up at the Seven Sisters Country Park, strangely in the same pool that I saw my 2nd ever Grey Phalarope several years ago. Of course, on Saturday I was busy hunting Long-tailed Blues and on Sunday I was treated to a day out courtesy of John Stanton in his bird hides at his wood. (More to follow on this one). With confirmation coming through that the bird was still there today I headed down the Cuckmere to find the bird. The only problem was that it was an appalling afternoon with very heavy rain and quite a breeze blowing. Not at all easy keeping the camera gear dry!!

The bird was staying in a main channel of the pool and it was a bit frustrating as it wasn't quite as close as I had hoped. I waited for a while at one end of the channel and the bird came close enough for some better chances, although the weather was getting worse all the time. After a while the bird then took flight and landed in a small pool. It was at this point that it became clear how tame the bird was as it swam towards me and was happily feeding only about 3 feet away and was now too close!! The macro lens would have been more handy, although by now the rain was torrential!! I got back to the car dripping wet and cold but happy at seeing such a great bird.

Grey Phalarope feeding in the pool in the rain.

Grey Phalarope coming a bit too close.

Sunday 20 September 2015

The Long-tailed Blue Emerge.

It was the flu jab yesterday morning which meant I didn't get out quite as early as I had hoped so it was a little frustrating when I had a call from Neil Hulme to tell me that he had a pristine female with a possible 2nd Long-tailed Blue in the Tide Mills area. Fortunately I was able to get straight down there and soon was able to watch this special creature in the middle of a Bramble bush. It was quite content nectaring on the few flowers in the bush and looking pretty!! Whilst she was still there I had a hunt around to see if I could find any more, however, apart from a few Small Heath and some Whites that was about it on the butterfly front. Eventually the Long-tailed Blue came out of the bush allowing us to get some pleasing shots. With eggs found all along the coast there should be plenty of butterflies flying over the coming weeks. My thanks to Neil for letting me know about the find. The best picture I managed is very similar to the image I managed of the male from 2013.

Female Long-tailed Blue.

Female Long-tailed Blue.

Female Long-tailed Blue.

Also seen was a Long-winged Conehead, a Cricket that I've seen several times but had been unable to get any photos until now.

Female Long-winged Conehead.

Friday 18 September 2015

The Blue Hunt Carries On.

Possibly too much of my time recently has been spent hunting for further signs of the Long-tailed Blue with several hatched eggs found in several different sites. This, provided the weather doesn't ruin things, looks as though there will be many sightings of the adults flying soon. It could well be another exciting finale to the butterfly year again!!

An Emerged Long-tailed Blue Ova.

Over the last week I have also had a few hours looking for other rare species. At West Rise I had another look for any Red-veined Darters. The flood water has slowly drained away, although I couldn't find any more of these dragonflies I did find another Wasp Spider that gave me the opportunity of photographing the underside. I also disturbed a Red Underwing moth, a pristine individual of this large moth, although it settled a few times it wasn't in a particularly good position.

Wasp Spider under-side.

Red Underwing.

Finally another search of the Nationally rare Fen Raft Spider gave me the chance to record an adult female with its nursery web full of spiderlings.

Fen Raft Spider with Spiderlings.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Long-tailed Blue: The Story Continues.

Following the unprecedented influx of Long-tailed Blue in 2013 there are signs that there is a good chance that there could be even more records for this rare butterfly this year. Since reports from across the Channel and the odd sighting in the UK a few of us have been searching areas of Everlasting Pea hoping to see signs of the butterfly. James has managed to spend more time than myself hunting between Peacehaven and Seaford with some success, however, Neil Hulme has been out more than anyone and he has found large numbers of ova on the Pea all along the coast of West Sussex and the Western end of East Sussex. 

Anytime from mid September to mid October the butterflies should be emerging giving us all the chance to see fresh individuals of this stunning butterfly. If you have Everlasting Pea in your garden, or you know of some, check it out for ova. Picture below to show you what to look for.

All my adult sightings so far this year are down to James. It was 2 weeks ago when the phone went and there was James telling me he had a female Long-tailed Blue in front of him. Fortunately I was in a position to be able to shoot off and drive the few miles to reach him. Luckily the butterfly was still performing and I managed a few shots before it flew off and vanished, not to be seen again.

Female Long-tailed Blue.

Following this sighting, despite lots of searching there were no more butterflies seen. That is until earlier this week when I had to be in Eastbourne for Pen. When we arrived home I saw that James and Mark had both been trying to get hold of me. I rang them back and was told there was a mating pair in front of them. Needless to say I grabbed the camera and raced off to find them. Arriving the same time as Neil we both managed a few shots before they split up. Strangely, the female then started to ova-posture, although at this time we didn't think she was laying. This means she certainly had mated before, especially as we did find an ova that she had laid later. For the next 30 minutes we had brief views of both the male and female as well as a 2nd female. 

Mating Long-tailed Blue.

Ova-posturing female Long-tailed Blue.

Female Long-tailed Blue.

Male Long-tailed Blue.

Long-tailed Blue Ova.

It is now a short wait for the fresh butterflies to start emerging and for those that missed them in 2013 this year could and should be 'the year'. As 2013 showed, these new fresh butterflies tend to stay local to where they emerged for a few days giving a better chance of them being seen.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Newhaven Wasp Spiders.

Behind where Pete lives is the Castle Hill LNR where we have found Wasp Spiders before. We tried to hunt them down in 3 areas that we've had success before. Unfortunately our main hotspot had been more or less flattened by an over-enthusiastic strimmer. Always disappointing to see in a nature reserve where many small creatures and birds rely on seeds and cover to help them through the winter and of course no good at all for the Wasp Spider that needs dense low cover for their webs. Fortunately we did find 2 spiders close together in another area and then a further one in a totally new area.

Wasp Spider.

Whilst Pete was photographing the 3rd spider I spotted a Yellow Belle, a very smart moth that never seems to pose well, always hiding away.

Yellow Belle.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Mrs. Adonis and a Firecrest.

With the weather being quite decent today I decided to head to my local Adonis Blue site for another attempt at the female Adonis Blue. On arrival at the site I saw a few slightly worn males flying and then a very fresh female. By now the cloud had built up and the butterflies were less active, although as the day was still quite warm they were far from roosting. I then came across another fresh female which flew short distances between perches allowing just a few quick grab shots to be taken.

Female Adonis Blue.

Back home Matt called me out to the garden as he had heard a Firecrest calling in the bushes. I quickly changed from the macro lens to the telephoto and then hoped for it to come closer. Eventually it came within range and I managed a few shots. 

Firecrest in the garden.

Saturday 5 September 2015

A Journey Through The Past.

It was a trip to remind us of the past on Thursday for me and Pete hoping to hunt out the Adonis Blue on Malling Down and the Coombe. This is an old stomping ground for both of us, although I haven't been to the Coombe area for over 30 years!! We were hoping for a bit of shelter in the Coombe from the cold wind. Parking at Malling Down we saw lots of butterflies nectaring on the Devils Bit Scabious including a very smart Painted Lady.

Painted Lady.

On the short walk from Malling Down to the Coombe we had very close views of a family of Spotted Flycatchers and a Redstart. Then into the Coombe we were surprised that the wind was still too strong and this made the close-up photography quite difficult. A single Autumn-ladies tresses was nice to see as well as a mating pair of Meadow Brown. The Adonis were quite easy to find with good numbers showing in the brief sunny bits. My target of the females were seen with some egg laying, although as soon as the sun went in they became quite hard to find again. I managed a few shots, but not quite as good as I was hoping.

Mating Meadow Brown.

Female Adonis Blue.

Female Adonis Blue.

Thursday 3 September 2015

Not For The Faint-hearted!!

One of those days where lots happened. Following our finding of the more common Raft Spiders last year Nigel and I have got very interested in these smart beasts and with Britain's stronghold of the extremely rare Fen Raft Spider we have been keen to see more of this very large water spider.
On the way to the levels we found a Grass Snake sitting in a bush enjoying the late summer warmth. It didn't realise we were there until we had both taken several pictures.

Grass Snake in the bush.

After a bit of hunting along the many ditches we came across our target with some Spiders with nursery webs, some with egg cases and some sitting on the water plants. Stunning creatures, and to think these are only found in 3 places in the UK.

Fen Raft Spider with egg case.

Fen Raft Spider with Nursery Web.

Fen Raft Spider.

Fen Raft Spider.

Following this I had 2 hours at Beachy Head where I was hoping to see the juvenile Red-backed Shrike that was found in the morning. After some time I spotted it from the other side of the valley of Chat Vale. I then couldn't find it for a while but eventually it appeared quite close. As ever, my bird photography leaves a bit to be desired, but at least I managed something. 

Willow Warbler.

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike.

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike.