Friday 30 September 2016

Shrike Revisited!!

Last Wednesday I was the first photographer to have a go at the fabulous juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Tide Mills. It was a really relaxing and enjoyable session with only 3 others joining in the fun that day. Since then of course, the bird has become a bit of a celebrity with many others from all over joining in the fun. I decided that my first session was so good I wouldn't call back. Today though, with not a lot else around the temptation became too much and I decided to call back, mainly just to watch the bird but also to get a few different shots if the opportunity presented itself. It was strange watching a couple of younger photographers that almost ran every time the bird settled to run off lots of shots each time. I dread to think how many photos one of them took and he will still probably be sorting them out at Christmas!!

Autumnal scene with Blackberries.

Just after these were taken there was a massive rainstorm. The bird sheltered in the middle of a bush whilst we tried to protect the equipment by standing by some Pampas Grass!! The rain soon passed but by now the bird looked a bit forlorn with soggy feathers.

Bedraggled Shrike looking as if its going to sneeze!!

Out pops a pellet!!

Oh no. Did I just do that. How rude!!

Tuesday 27 September 2016

More Moths.

Following the excitement of my first Convolvulus Hawk Moth last week there were a couple of other moths worth a closer look. Last night I also put the trap out but this time there were no stunners. Maybe the cat ate all the best ones!!
I still improved on a couple of shots of 3 common moths, so along with the 2 from last week when the trap had a lovely Pink-barred Sallow as well as the Hawk Moth.

Pink-barred Sallow.

Common Marbled Carpet.

Beaded Chestnut.

A Pair of Black Rustic.

Lunar Underwing.

Sunday 25 September 2016

More Shrike!!

It's unusual for me to keep many shots of one subject, but the juvenile Red-backed Shrike was a bit special. It was great being the first photographer to have a go at the bird and it was so confiding with it flying and landing very near several times. James was also there but he only had a macro lens, which he managed to get some good shots with, but he also borrowed my telephoto for some closer shots. Since then it has apparently been quite busy with others at the site enjoying the spectacle of this beauty. A few more shots of that original session follows, it has been quite hard deciding which are my favourite shots!!

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike.

Friday 23 September 2016

Convolvulus Hawk.

After returning from the excitement of the Shrike on Wednesday evening I decided that luck was with me so, with a few reports of Convolvulus Hawk Moths about, I decided to put the trap out and hope to catch my first one of this Mediterranean species. Thursday morning saw me going through the trap and seeing an enormous moth looking up at me amongst all the normal common insects. It looked exactly like a Privet Hawk Moth from this angle, but of course it's the wrong time of year, so once again lady luck was shining down on me as it was a really well marked and fresh individual Convolvulus Hawk Moth.  Amazing that it had flown across from France. Looking at the books I believe it to be a male as these have strong markings and a thicker antenna.

Convolvulus Hawk Moth.

Convolvulus Hawk Moth revealing it's colour.

Before seeing the Shrike on the Wednesday I was hoping to show James a Wall Brown egg. Once again luck was on our side when we saw a female fly into a Rabbit scrape and lay an egg in a position where it was quite easy to photograph it. When first laid the eggs have a light green tinge which it soon loses to become white.

Female Wall Brown nectaring moments before laying an egg.

Wall Brown egg.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike.

A short search for Long-tailed Blues soon came to an abrupt halt yesterday when Paul, a butterfly enthusiast from London informed me he had seen a juvenile Red-backed Shrike during the morning. He also mentioned it was approachable as well as happy to approach him!! He showed me a couple of pictures he had taken on his macro lens which was enough for me to forget the butterflies!! Following this I spent many hours enjoying this fabulous bird with other birders joining in the spectacle during the afternoon. The bird was totally oblivious of anyone nearby, even flying to within a couple of feet to catch a Bee. It was also seen to catch Grasshoppers and Beetles.

Showing well!!

Red-backed Shrike with Devil's Coach Horse Beetle.

With a Bee.

A Fantastic bird!!

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Another Brick In The Wall!!

With such a strong 3rd brood of Wall Brown showing at the moment I was tempted out again yesterday. Already, with so many battling males, the butterflies are showing some wear and tear but there are still a few decent ones about. The best 2 I saw were at the beginning and the end of the session. All those seen today were males, although that was not unexpected as the area I was concentrating on is well known for territorial battles, whereas most of the females are seen in the egg laying areas. It was good to get a decent shot of one off the ground, where they normally sit and soak up the heat.

Male Wall Brown.

With times when there were 5 in the air at the same time battling away. I then had a brief look at a different area. This was not on a South facing area so I wasn't expecting to see many, but the 2 that were seen were a little fresher than the majority at the other site. Once again there were several other species seen as well as a nice male Migrant Hawker.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Wall to Wall.

With the early part of the season being poor it is good to see that the end of the season is continuing with some great butterfly sightings. With my Norfolk trip last week clashing with the start of a 3rd brood Wall Brown emergence I was keen to get to my local patch to see if it was a good emergence or just a small number, as is often the case with the 3rd brood. Straight away it was clear that this is a strong emergence with over 20 butterflies seen in quite a small area. Even better was the fact that at least 5 were females, so some serious egg laying will be going on over the next few days and perhaps weeks. 2 years ago was the largest 3rd brood for many years and butterflies were on the wing for over 50 days, in fact that year the 3rd brood went on longer than both the 1st and 2nd brood!! It is obviously too early to see if this will be as big as 2014. Although I don't often try to get Wall Brown photos I did manage some shots of a nectaring female. Strangely Wall Brown don't generally nectar too much but the 3rd brood do seem more prone to it, maybe they feel their life is going to be a bit short this late in the season so they try to fit it all in quickly.

Female Wall Brown on Scabious.

Female Wall Brown Opening Wings.

Resting after nectaring.

It was also good to see 3 Small Copper, a couple of late Meadow Brown and 4 Clouded Yellow including a very smart helice form. A very late Peacock was a surprise as most of these should be hibernating by now. Red Admirals were numerous on the Ivy flowers.
On the way back to the carpark a Robin performed for me as it dropped into foliage but kept watching me above the leaf line.

Robin Watching Me.

Robin Showing Off.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Norfolk Break.

Following on from our early summer break to Norfolk, we had another chance to go back this week with a late booking. Once again on the way up we stopped at Strumpshaw Fen where I was hoping to see a 2nd brood Swallowtail and to catch up with the Willow Emerald damselfly, a species I hadn't seen as yet. Leaving Pen in the car I had a very brisk walk around the reserve, having heard that only one Swallowtail had been seen the previous day. It was only a short distance into the walk when the unmistakable sight of a Swallowtail flew quickly past me and flew into the reeds. It looked as though it was going to settle but unfortunately, if it did it was well out of sight!! Some distance further on and I approached the Tower Hide. This was the area where a few sightings of the butterfly had been over the past week where they had been seen nectaring on Buddleia. However, today the sun had gone slightly too far over but there were good quantities of Red Admirals nectaring on the Ivy flowers.  From the hide I had good views of both Ruff and Common Snipe.

Red Admiral on Ivy.

Common Snipe from Tower Hide.

Grey Heron from Tower Hide.

Moving on a short distance I was passing a Weeping Willow when an insect flew past me settling on the leaves of the tree. Walking quickly I almost missed it, but there it was, my first ever Willow Emerald damselfly. It was joined by 2 more and in the short time I had I managed a few shots.

My first Willow Emerald.

Male Willow Emerald.

The following day I visited Sculthorpe Moor reserve that was just up the road from where we were staying and I found another Willow Emerald there. With it being too hot for Pen we didn't go out again until the Wednesday when we went to Brancaster to see the Seals. As the tide was on the way up the Grey Seals were waiting at the river entrance for the water to get deep enough for them to move into the river. Some great sights of these Seals with a Common Seal on the river bank slightly further along the bank.

Grey Seal.

Common Seal.

Around the farm buildings where we were staying we had enormous quantities of House Martins and Swallows. These were occasionally joined by Hobbies that were on the look out for weak birds. Other birds we saw overhead were Red Kites and Buzzards. Sitting out in the courtyard after dark we also had a Barn Owl fly overhead 2 nights running. On the Thursday nearly all the House Martins had left leaving just a few Swallows behind.

House Martin having an itch.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Slowing Down at Pevensey.

It certainly feels as though the Summer is fading away, despite the heat of the day. Fewer species about and those that are still showing are looking a little bit faded and tired, a little like how I feel it seems!!
Meeting Nigel for our regular Wednesday walk we were hoping to find a few late insects of various sorts. The first bit of interest though came in the form of a very pale Buzzard. Looking at the Collins guide it is almost certainly a juvenile. Whilst flying over it was mobbed by a Hobby.

Pale Juvenile Buzzard.

In the ditches we found a few of the nationally rare Fen Raft Spiders. A few still carrying egg cases as well as many youngsters. In one spot we could see around 20 spiders.

Female Fen Raft Spider with egg case.

All the time we were seeing Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters. Butterflies were made up of mainly Small Heath, Clouded Yellow and Red Admirals. We also came across a large flock of Yellow Wagtail amongst the cattle, a few Wheatears and a Whinchat.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Clouded Yellow.

Red Admiral.

For all my friends and followers that live in the UK it would be very much appreciated if you could sign the petition to stop the Badger Cull. There is so much wrong with this cull, and could actually be making things worse according to many top scientists.

Thursday 1 September 2016

The Spider and the Wryneck.

Yesterday it was a great day out with Paul, who was keen to see a Wasp Spider. It is several years since he last saw one so it was off to a reliable area to try to find him one. On arrival it was only a matter of minutes before the first one was found, this one was also in a good position for pictures and although I filled my boots the other day it would be rude not to take a few more!! This one also showed the unique pattern in the web that is thought to strengthen the web for catching its favoured food, grasshoppers.

Wasp Spider with a Grasshopper. Zigzag pattern in web also showing.

After finding around 8 of these beauties we were then going to hunt some Clouded Yellows, however, a phone call from David telling us a Wryneck was showing well at Beachy Head had us heading in that direction instead. Here the wind was blowing making it pretty cool. Fortunately Paul had a couple of fleeces in the car which made the long wait bearable. It was probably getting on for a couple of hours before we saw the bird. It was then on display for some time with a few pictures possible and Paul letting me use his fabulous lens which helped get me a few better shots. In all the shots the bird had its very thin tongue out varying amounts making it look like it had a hair sticking out of its bill.