Friday 24 February 2017

Emperor in February.

Two years ago Paul had an Emperor Moth handed to him that had been caught locally in a moth trap. This moth then laid a large number of eggs that soon hatched out. Paul then reared them through and in the summer they became pupa. Last year just a single female emerged. Yesterday Paul contacted me to tell me that 4 male Emperors had just emerged, but with Paul busy all day and as I was busy this morning it was not until this afternoon that I could take advantage. By now another moth had also emerged, once again this one too was a male. It is quite unusual for me to photograph reared insects, but the Emperor Moth is a special moth that is always good to see. The sun was a bit too low by the time we could photograph the moths but a few images were managed. I also heard today of a male Emperor being seen in West Sussex yesterday so I will soon be out over the Sussex Downs looking for more of these great moths.

Male Emperor Moth.

The Antennae used to find female pheromones.

Male Emperor Moth showing 4 false eyes.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Twite Alright!!

Despite the dull cloudy conditions it was 4th time lucky with the Twite that has been seen in the Cuckmere for the past few weeks. Out of those 4 times I have only seen the bird on 2 of the occasions. The first attempt was my first ever Twite, but all I managed were 2 very poor images. Therefore, it was a relief to finally get some more pleasing shots of the tiny bird, which is now a very scarce Sussex bird, as it fed on seedheads as well as seed on the ground. If only the sun had shone for a while. The bird was in view most of the time, although it had its head down amongst the grasses, only becoming more visible on the odd occasion. Eventually the bird was flushed by a dog that was running along the riverbank some 300 yards ahead of the owner!!


It drank from this bit of waste a couple of times.

Twite doing the splits.

Twite on the Cuckmere.

Sunday 19 February 2017


Having spent a couple of hours hoping for an early Adder in the warmth yesterday, on the drive home 2 butterflies were seen tumbling about in the air together. These were almost certainly Small Tortoiseshell, but unfortunately couldn't be confirmed without a blue Toyota hitting me in the rear!! Today though, there was no doubt about the identity of the Peacock butterfly I came across soaking up the sunshine. Although I managed my first butterfly photo of the year, it isn't a particularly exciting image!! Good to see my 2nd confirmed butterfly of the year though, following the Red Admiral from Monday.


Saturday 18 February 2017

Another View From The Hide.

Thursday was one of those days where I failed on all fronts. I had decided to have another go for the Twite down the Cuckmere and I failed to see the bird. Only a smart Water Rail saved the morning. I then went and joined Phil where we had another attempt at the Buzzard. Once again we failed on that front too with a bird landing briefly before flying off before we had a chance. Whilst there though we were aware of a small flock of Long-tailed Tits moving through the bushes behind the hide and stopping occasionally to feed on the fat balls to the side of the hide. With these in  mind Phil went back on Friday morning and moved the feeders about a bit to see if the birds would co-operate. It wasn't long before they were perching up nicely and posing for him. He kindly rang me and suggested I take advantage whilst they were in the vicinity, as they are likely to pair up very soon and may leave the area. It wasn't long before I was there and I very soon had some pleasing shots of these little beauties, and with a few other birds around too I soon had a variety of shots. A fabulous couple of hours with great company and also of course, some lovely birds.

Long-tailed Tit.

A slightly unusual view of a Long-tailed Tit.


Great-spotted Woodpecker.


Long-tailed Tits.

Great Tit.

Blue Tit in full breeding plumage.

The Water Rail that saved the day on Thursday.

Monday 13 February 2017

Geese!! (and a Red Admiral).

Last Thursday Matt rang to tell me he had re-found the Twite that had been seen a few days earlier in the Cuckmere, this was after several days of hunting this bird that for him would be a Sussex tick. As I had never seen a Twite anywhere before I headed down where the bird was visible straight away. The bird was foraging in thick foliage though and the heavy clouds made it almost impossible to get a photo. It was really good to see this Sussex rarity though so it was well worth the walk down. All I managed were a couple of shots of the Barnacle Geese and the White-fronted Geese apart from an awful effort of the Twite!!

Barnacle Geese in the doom and gloom.

White-fronted Geese in the doom and gloom.

With the Twite still being around as well as the promise of sunshine today I headed down again this morning, although due to oversleeping a little later than I intended. The bird had been seen by 3 birders briefly before it flew to another area!! After a short time I gave up as a really brisk wind was blowing. When I arrived back at the car I realised I had had another senior moment and left my rucksack behind so it was then a long trudge back to get it. On the way back 2 of the White-fronted Geese were showing a bit better in the sunshine so I did at least make use of the extra walk!!

White-fronted Geese in the sunshine.

Doing a Goose Step.

Maybe one more attempt at the Twite soon.

After arriving back home I saw a Red Admiral flying around the Close, a bit brave in the cold strong wind. My first butterfly sighting of the year!!

Wednesday 8 February 2017

A Singing Rose.

As I am not too keen on watching wildlife in housing estates it has taken some time for me to get around to seeing the rare Rose-coloured Starling that has set up residence in the middle of a housing estate in Crawley. Whilst photographing the Fulmar on Tuesday, Paul mentioned that he would like to go there, and as I had been thinking that I ought to see it before it vanished I offered to take him there. The bird has been happy feeding in the same garden since November, and it that time the juvenile bird has started to get its adult plumage. It is not expected to get really pink until its 2nd year so it will have to hang on for another year for us to see that!! Having said that it is now looking really smart and it has in recent days also started to sing. The bird nearly always sits in the middle of its chosen tree so it is near on impossible to get any really clear shots of it. 
The Rose-coloured Starling breeds in 12 countries from Russia southwards and winters in and around India apparently, so the bird is a bit off course. At the moment there are 2 of these birds in the UK with the other one being in Dorchester.
Fortunately the road the bird is in is pretty quiet so only a few people were seen as well as a small number of bird watchers and photographers.

Suddenly at just after 3.30pm it took off with a few of the local Starling to presumably go to roost.

The Rose-coloured Starling singing.

It often stood on its right leg so we think its left leg could be damaged.

Having a bit of a stretch.

A local Starling joining in the chorus.

The Rose-coloured Starling showing a blue/green sheen on the wing.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Fulmar Boots.

With a reasonable day forecast yesterday I arranged with Phil to come down and attempt photographing the Fulmars near Newhaven. With several birds now patrolling the cliffs it was a very successful morning. The biggest problem with this site is that it is shooting towards the sun, however, we were lucky that at times the sun went behind some clouds on and off which allowed a bit more detail of the birds. On looking at my results back home I found I had far more acceptable shots than I thought I would have. Normally with flight shots there are loads of blurred and out of focus photos. With these I filled my boots with so many I didn't know which ones to keep or post. Anyway, a small selection follows, including the time that 2 birds landed on the edge of the cliffs and were then joined by a third and a noisy argument seemed to take place.

Click on any image for a more detailed view.

A noisy encounter.

Fulmar. The ultimate flying spectacle.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Doubtless Wall Brown.

I couldn't understand why I was so confused with the larva from Thursday with the experience I've had over several years studying this species. Another trip on site today I found a different larva that was without any doubt a Wall Brown. The duller green and the lack of the dark dorsal stripe, which was the main reason for my confusion makes me understand why I thought the other one may have been a Speckled Wood. The weather today also helped to obtain much better photos of it.

Wall Brown larva.

Wall Brown larva.

Friday 3 February 2017

Larva Confusion.

As I have possibly seen more Wall Brown larva than anyone else it was a bit strange that yesterday I found one that I couldn't decide if it was a Wall Brown or Speckled Wood larva. It seemed to have a bit of both in it with it being a brighter green than normal for Wall as well as more defined markings down the back although not as defined or bright as most Speckled Wood would be. The lateral line was more Wall Brown. Fortunately I had some thoughts from some experts in the larva field and it was confirmed it was indeed a Wall Brown larva in its 3rd instar but it was thought it was approaching the moult into its 4th instar. This is probably why it appeared a little different, either that or the rain and dull weather we have had for so long has affected my brain!!
It was good to get the macro lens out for the first time this year as well.

The photos I managed were not brilliant due to that weather mentioned as well as a stiff breeze. At least when the weather is poor it gives me the excuse to do a bit of larva hunting. During this year I have tried 4 times with a total number of Wall Brown larva found so far standing at at least 13.
After the search I carried on walking where I was pleased to see a Woodcock in flight as well as a smart looking Brown Hare. Bullfinch have also been quite numerous recently with a few seen and many more heard. 

Wall Brown larva carrying evidence of the wet morning.