Saturday 31 December 2016

Christmas Birding.

Over the last couple of weeks I've managed a few trips out looking for some different birds. Despite failing on the photographic front I have managed to see 3 birds that I have never seen before in the UK. In fact 2 of the birds were totally new to me anywhere!!
A couple more Short-eared Owl trips in cloudy conditions produced mainly distant views with only a few photos, one of which I was quite pleased with as it is quite atmospheric.

Short-eared Owl.

Short-eared Owl in hunting mode.

Tide Mills has continued to produce good birds this year with a beautiful male Serin. The bird appears to have moved on now, but for a few days over Christmas it was seen foraging around the old ruins. I was hoping for some decent pictures of this beauty, my first in the UK, but the bird was always on the ground amongst the weeds, or sitting in the middle of a bush. After several hours it did eventually sit a little further out in the bush, although once again the results were a little disappointing, although it does show the stunning yellow plumage.

Male Serin.

In the thick fog yesterday Pete and I headed for Dungeness hoping to see the Ring-necked Duck and the Stejneger's Stonechat. Neither of us had seen these birds before and as we left Seaford we hoped the weather would improve. Unfortunately this didn't happen and we arrived at Dungeness in pretty thick fog. After seeing some Tree Sparrows we went to the pool where the duck was and found it was asleep!! We then went to where the Stonechat was meant to be and found out it had vanished about 2 minutes before we arrived!! After searching for nearly 2 hours we went back to the Duck that had by now woken up, hurrah. I managed one photo through the fog before we went back to continue the Stonechat hunt. One chap that had arrived the same time as us before was still hunting for the bird but we heard that it had been seen very briefly by someone else. After another 20 minutes we gave up and headed back to the car. Halfway back though the bird was spotted at last. We then enjoyed watching it for around 10 minutes as the light faded away. At least we managed the 2 really rare birds in the end. Whether I will make it back there in better light before these birds move on I am not sure.

Ring-necked Duck in the fog.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

2016 Highlights- Dragonflies and Damselflies.

It has been another satisfying year for seeing and photographing Odonata, although once again I didn't make it to a couple of species I was hoping for. It was my first year at seeing the Willow Emerald and with this species becoming more widespread I will hopefully get much better images of these soon. Once again most of my sightings have been local, in fact all my favourite images have been from Sussex apart from my best Willow Emerald which was in Norfolk. 

The first image shown here is probably my favourite shot of the year.

Beautiful Demoiselle. (River Cuckmere).

Beautiful demoiselle (River Cuckmere).

Large Red Damselfly (River Cuckmere).

Broad-bodied Chaser (Lewes).

Small Red Damselfly (Ashdown Forest).

White-legged Damselfly (Lewes).

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Lewes).

Southern Hawker emerging (Ashdown Forest).

Willow Emerald. (Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk).

Southern Hawker (Ashdown Forest).

Migrant Hawker (Seaford).

Another of my favourite river insects is the Mayfly, and I was pleased with the following image.

Mayfly (River Cuckmere).

Thursday 22 December 2016

2016 Highlights- Butterflies Part 2.

This post starts off the same way as Part 1 finished, with a Marbled White. One of our most photogenic species and one that does appear in pretty good numbers on my local patch. It was also very refreshing to find plenty of Clouded Yellows in the Autumn, and these kept the butterfly interest going late in the year along with good numbers of Red Admiral. My thanks to all of you that take the time to check out my blog. I hope that it has helped in some way to enhance your interest and enjoyment in butterflies and the many other aspects of wildlife that I follow. 

Female Marbled White. (Seaford).

Male Dark Green Fritillary (Wilmington).

Male Silver-washed Fritillary. (Lewes).

Nectaring Silver-washed Fritillary. (Lewes).

Red Admiral. (Arlington).

Female Silver-washed Fritillary. (Arlington).

Mating Green-veined Whites. (Seaford).

White-letter Hairstreak. (Seaford).

Male Chalkhill Blue. (Seaford).

White Admiral. (Lewes).

Male Chalkhill Blue. (Seaford).

Grayling. (Wilmington).

Wood White. (Chiddingfold).

Female Brown Hairstreak. (Steyning).

Mating Wood Whites. (Chiddingfold).

Female Wall Brown. (Seaford).

Clouded Yellow. (Seaford).

It won't be too long before butterflies will be gracing the local countryside again and we look out for the early Spring species!!

Tuesday 20 December 2016

2016 Highlights. Butterflies Pt. 1.

Looking back at the 2016 butterfly season has actually been very satisfying, despite missing some of my targets that I had been determined to get to this year when I had been looking ahead 12 months ago. The obvious ones I missed this year were Large Blue, Black Hairstreak, Swallowtail and Purple Emperor. In the UK I ended the year with 43 species, 44 if I included a very brief flypast by a 2nd brood Swallowtail whilst I was in Norfolk. Of the species I did see I was very pleased to improve what I believe to be my best shots of several species. Here follows a selection of photos that I have been really pleased with over the first half of the season including a couple from France. Many of these were taken in the area which is only just over a mile from home. 

Male Brimstone. (Seaford).

Male Orange-tip. (Arlington).

Green Hairstreak. (Seaford).

Male Brown Argus. (Seaford).

Green-veined White. (Lewes).

Red Underwing Skipper. (The Cevennes).

Clouded Yellow. (The Cevennes).

Male Large Skipper. (Friston Forest).

Male Silver-studded Blue. (Midhurst).

Male Silver-studded Blue. (Midhurst).

Male Marbled White. (Seaford).

Small Heath. (Seaford).

Male Marbled Whites. (Seaford).

Male Marbled White. (Seaford).

Sunday 18 December 2016

Fabulous Friday.

Despite the grey gloomy conditions that we seem to be experiencing at the moment I suggested to Pete that we have a go at the Newhaven Purple Sandpipers and then head onto one of our local Short-eared Owl sites. The forecast was for the clouds to thin after lunch so there was a good chance of getting some pictures if all went well. The previous day I had tried for the Purple Sandpipers on the pier without any luck so I wasn't totally confident here. On the website though Paul James had seen some showing well about 20 minutes after I had given up!!
Pete is trying out a new lens so even if the Purple Sandpipers were missing there was a very good chance that the Turnstones would be there. As it happened 2 Sandpipers were sitting up top with a group of 5 Turnstone and one of the Sandpipers was willing to sit there for us. Most of the Sandpipers this year seem to prefer being on the lower parts of the pier. This is possibly due to the number of people fishing from the pier this winter.

Purple Sandpiper (Keeping a watchful eye on me).

Purple Sandpiper.

Following this success we headed off for the Short-eared Owls. Arriving much too early, or so we thought, we were just chatting when an Owl flew quite close to us. It soon moved off, but when it turned and headed back we managed to get a few shots of it. Following this all the action was long distance, including one small battle between an Owl and a Kestrel which resulted in a few feathers flying off. Unfortunately the weather remained very dull and gloomy. Just after the sunset however, the clouds lifted. A bit too late!!

Short-eared Owl heading this way!!

Short-eared Owl.

Last night my friend Phil invited Pen over to see those Little Owls that come to his garden. It isn't easy for Pen to do any wildlife watching these days out in the countryside, but being able to sit in the shed in comfort we had a fabulous experience watching both the male and female. The priority was for Pen to see these little gems but it would have been rude not to have taken the camera, so I did take a few shots of the male as he sat on a tree about 15 feet away. Once again a big thanks to Phil for the invite. A great start to the evening.

Little Owl.