Tuesday 25 October 2016

Yellow Autumn Continues.

By this time of year the butterfly season is often all but over. This year however, there are still numbers of Clouded Yellow of which several are still pretty fresh. Whilst hoping to see some early Purple Sandpipers last week I was in the right place at the right time to see a couple of Clouded Yellows going to roost. Unfortunately the Sandpipers were not here yet. A couple of Small Coppers and a Red Admiral were also seen.

Male Clouded Yellow.

Male Clouded Yellow.

The following day a walk over the Downs from home produced several insects of interest that were all getting autumnal warmth from fence posts. A Long-winged Cone-head was spotted first followed by 2 Dark Bush Crickets. These were followed by 2 young Drinker Moth larva, the 2nd of which adopted its defense pose when I photographed it on some grass.

Female Long-winged Cone-head.

Dark Bush Cricket.

Drinker Moth larva.

Drinker Moth larva in defense mode.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Southern Hawker Surprise.

With it being a nice sunny day, as well as being the last mild day for a while, I headed off to Ashdown Forest yesterday. The biggest problem was with it being a Saturday there were quite a few people about, and as I was hoping to see some Deer that was a big problem!!
On arrival it was actually quite cool but it soon warmed up. It was some time before I saw much of interest apart from some good views of Raven and some varieties of fungi. I then came across a pool where I had seen some Raft Spiders in the past and I was quite surprised to see 7 sitting on the vegetation in the pool. This wasn't the very rare Fen Raft Spider that was seen earlier in the week, but the less rare variety. It was just after this I came across a female Southern Hawker flying across the Heather. She was quite worn but during the cloudier moments she did settle allowing good views.
I then stumbled across a Fallow Buck with 3 Doe. They were unsettled as a large group of students were nearby and they moved away. However, I was able to follow them and gradually get closer to them. For the next hour I managed to get nearer as the stag bellowed at another distant stag. I was hoping they would move into some open space but the wind briefly changed direction and they were off!! 

The Fallow Deer Buck.

Possible Laccaria laccata

After losing the Deer I strolled down to a small pool where I was surprised to find 2 more Southern Hawkers flying. These were both males and seemed in very good condition considering it was nearly the end of October. One male soon caught an insect in flight and settled to eat it. Whilst eating the insect the sun went behind a heavy cloud and the temperature dropped. By now it was mid afternoon and it was soon too cool for the dragonfly to fly allowing me to get up close for some stunning views and some close-up photographs. When the sun came back out again it took a few minutes before it could fly again. I certainly wasn't expecting to get any photos of dragonflies this late in the season so it was a big bonus.

Male Southern Hawker.

Male Southern Hawker.

Friday 21 October 2016

Eurasian Jay.

Earlier in the year I was lucky to get an invite from my good friend Phil Winter to photograph Kingfishers and Little Owls from his hides. On Tuesday this week I had to call on him to pay for a camera I have just bought from him and whilst I was there he suggested visiting a hide he had recently put up to photograph Jays. Of course I jumped at the chance and it wasn't long before I was sitting in the hide as Phil went to park the Land Rover before coming back to join me. Even before Phil got back a Jay had called in and taken a couple of Acorns. From then on we had around 10 more visits before we decided that I should have a worthwhile shot or 2. Once again all this was possible due to the hard work and patience that Phil has used to know where to build the hide. A few of the shots follows of the Jay. 


Much too beautiful to be a member of the Crow family!!

Whilst I have been experimenting with a couple of cameras trying to decide which to get I borrowed for just a couple of shots of a Wryneck. Unfortunately the software on the computer wasn't compatible for some reason. I have now however managed to get those shots sorted so the following Wryneck is from several weeks ago!!


Thursday 20 October 2016

Not For The Faint Hearted.

On our regular Wednesday walk Nigel and I went to see if we could find any late Fen Raft Spiders at Pevensey Levels. It is now very late in the season so we went to a ditch where we had seen several spiders a few weeks ago. On scanning the surface foliage we both found an adult spider each as well as a single juvenile. The adults were certainly looking as if they were approaching the end of their life, but the juvenile looked to be in fine condition and ready to help the population of this extremely rare spider going next year!! This will almost certainly be the final sightings of these this year.

Juvenile Fen Raft Spider.

Adult Female Fen Raft Spider.

With just a couple of Red Admirals seen along with small numbers of Common Darter and Migrant Hawkers the only other insect of interest was a Hornet seen on ivy just before we got back to the cars.

Hornet on ivy.

Friday 14 October 2016

Wonder of the day.

Since I started doing the odd bit of moth trapping I have always wanted to catch a Merveille du jour, a particularly pretty moth and not a rare one either. Unfortunately so far, I haven't managed to get any here. However, when I rang Nigel on Wednesday to plan a stroll somewhere he told me he had a couple that he had caught overnight. With this in mind we decided to meet at his place and go from there. Many of our moths have attractive and imaginative names, and the name of this beautiful moth translates to 'Wonder of the day'. It was a real treat to see this, my first encounter, and it really does live up to its name. When at rest on lichen they are almost invisible!!

Merveille du jour.

2 Merveille du jour.

Following this we went for a stroll around the Pevensey Levels where we saw a Ring Ouzel and a few Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. I also spotted a Knot Grass larva walking across the path, presumably heading off to pupate.

Knot Grass larva.

Yesterday I returned again to Tide Mills where I found 3 Clouded Yellow at roost as well as another 2 just about flying in the cool breeze. 3 Wheatear were also showing well, feeding up before the long flight South.

Clouded Yellow.


Tuesday 11 October 2016

Tide Mills Comes Up Trumps.

Despite the Red-backed Shrike deciding to depart around a week ago Tide Mills is still producing a few delights. On the 18th August I saw a Clouded Yellow egg laying and over the last couple of weeks the results of these, and other eggs laid have been showing with several very fresh butterflies on the wing. Strangely all the Clouded yellow that I'm seeing there seem to be males, although I'm sure there will be a few females hiding somewhere, although perhaps the females migrate back South as soon as they can so they can lay eggs that stand a chance of surviving the winter. Yesterday I called there in the small hope of finding a non active Clouded Yellow and even more unlikely, a Long-tailed Blue. As expected I wasn't lucky on either front. There were though several Wheatear passing through and a couple of shots were managed, although they wouldn't let me get as close as I would have hoped!!

Wheatear near the beach.

Wheatear on Buddleia.

Today I called back again to carry on the challenge. Strangely I didn't see a single Wheatear but with the Clouded Yellow I did get lucky. I saw well over a dozen including one individual that was so fresh it was only flying short distances and allowed a close approach.

Clouded Yellow on Blackberry.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Curlew Sandpiper.

My thanks to Matt for ringing his 'Old Man' to tell him about a Curlew Sandpiper today in the Cuckmere. I was sitting at home wishing I had got up earlier and gone Ring Ouzel hunting again and basically not sure what to do, so the call was very welcome. It was very special with this being my first close encounter with one of these birds, although I had seen a few before at both Titchwell as well as the Cuckmere, and well done to Andy Whitcombe for finding the bird yesterday. The bird was mixed in with a group of 6 Dunlin and all were happy to carry on feeding and preening whilst we were able to admire and photograph the birds.

Curlew Sandpiper (2nd from left) with 5 Dunlin.

Curlew Sandpiper.

Curlew Sandpiper is a 'Wader'!!

Curlew Sandpiper after a preen.


As it was I missed lots of Ring Ouzels today with Matt seeing over 100 today!! Maybe I should have got up earlier.

Friday 7 October 2016

Cricket to Ouzel.

There is now a very definite autumnal feel to the weather and with the insect life also winding down over the last few days it is only a matter of time before the macro lens is put away until the spring. Of course there will still be a few insects about and yesterday whilst doing a bit of Cantoneaster clearing I saw a very fresh Common Blue as well as a Clouded Yellow. A recent trip to Rye Harbour NR with Nigel looking for dragonflies we found a few Long-winged Conehead crickets along with a few spiders, including a late Wasp Spider.

Female Long-winged Conehead.

This was followed a few days later by a hunt for Hawkmoth larva in Friston Forest. Although we failed to find any Hawkmoth larva we did both find a Pale Tussock larva on Sallow. The light was very poor deep in the tree foliage but it was good to see one of these, my first for many years.

Pale Tussock larva.

A female Speckled Wood also put in an appearance along the woodland ride.

Female Speckled Wood.

In the garden over the last few days a Hummingbird Hawkmoth has put in the odd appearance, this has for me been a very poor year for this stunning migrant moth with only 6 sightings all year. Another migrant insect, the Painted Lady has also been in the garden nectaring on the Buddleia. Whilst mowing the grass I saw the butterfly land in the Clematis where I managed a photo of the under-side.

Painted Lady.

For a few days each Autumn Ring Ouzels can be seen locally as they make their way back south on their migration. I've only seen them a few times in the past but today I was up before dawn hoping to see some. It was not at all easy to start with and I was beginning to think I would be out of luck when after a good walk round I saw a fabulously marked male nearby. It was really dull this morning but the white chest really showed up well. A little after this the birds became more active both in flight and calling and it was soon clear there were good numbers in the bushes. At one time I could see 7 with more deeper in the bush. Difficult to say how many there were in total but it was well into double figures. I more than doubled today my Ring Ouzel life sightings!! The other great bird sighting was a Woodcock which nearly flew into me and Bob Self who was chatting to me. It landed just 20 feet away and slowly wandered off into the undergrowth!!
Just after this my only chance of a photo today of the Ring Ouzel. All the birds were quite wary but one landed a little nearer and although the light was still very poor a photo was achieved, and you can just about see what it is!!

Male Ring Ouzel.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Willow Emerald Hunt.

After seeing my first ever Willow Emerald damselflies during our Norfolk short break recently I was tempted to go to a site just into Surrey to see if I could get them a bit closer to home. The first bit of interest was seeing a mating pair of Hornets that had managed to fall in the top lake. I managed to climb out on a fallen tree trunk and rescue them from the water by getting them to crawl on a twig. Unfortunately before I could get the camera to record the event they had flown off. A single Willow Emerald was seen just after this, but the light was pretty poor. After a while we headed for the smaller lake where the lighting was much better. We were almost to the point of giving up when I spotted one high up on a tree. This one wouldn't descend, but a few yards further on we suddenly came to an area where several were flying together, including 2 pairs in tandem. They all stayed well away from the camera so the images here are much more cropped than I would have liked. 

Willow Emerald on Ash.

Willow Emerald.

There was also some other odonata interest.

Mating Common Darters.

Male Migrant Hawker.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The Blues Turn To Yellow.

With an unconfirmed report of a Long-tailed Blue after I had departed on Friday it was a case of another trip to Tide Mills for a bit of a butterfly hunt. On arrival it was clear the Shrike was still performing with more birders making the trip to Sussex on a fine day. A wide berth around them looking in the areas where the Long-tailed had shown in the past proved fruitless. I then saw James at a distance on his knees, so I wandered over in his direction as it was obvious he had found something worth photographing. As it was it was a very fresh male Clouded Yellow trying to warm up in the sun. It flew very short distances as it was still quite cool conditions that gave us the chance to get a few decent shots. This is a sign that the eggs that the Clouded Yellows that arrived a few weeks ago laid are now completing their cycle.

Male Clouded Yellow.

Male Clouded Yellow on Bramble.

As it warmed up further the butterfly was soon into true flying mode and it headed off. We then patrolled an area that was sheltered from the cool breeze. This gradually brought us towards the Shrike and the birders. The bird then seemed to come and greet us, perhaps it knows us by now!! We watched it for a short while before carrying on the search. Someone then said the Shrike had caught a Lizard. It was sitting in the middle of a bush quite near me and I was the only one in the right place to get a shot. Although the twigs were all over the place I managed to get a couple of quick shots off before the bird flew into an even thicker bush to store the Lizard in true Shrike behaviour.

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike with a large Lizard.

The following day it appears that the Shrike has at long last continued its migration South as it failed to show at all on the Monday.