Friday 29 September 2017

Cuckmere Waders.

Late on Wednesday afternoon I was at home resting after a long walk on Pevensey Levels with Nigel when Matt called in to get some water before going for a walk down the Cuckmere. When he suggested that I join him I very nearly declined the offer, but as we rarely seem to get out in the field together I decided to go. We had barerly started our walk when we came across 3 waders on the bank of the river. Both of us looked through our binoculars and I said to Matt, 'that looks like a Little Stint'. He replied by saying 'that looks like a Curlew Sandpiper'. As it was we were both correct as both birds were there with a Dunlin. Both the Stint and Sandpiper are scarce visitors to the Cuckmere, with the Stint being only the 2nd one that Matt has seen there in all his visits over the years. Unfortunately the light was by this time very poor so the photos taken were only poor record shots. We ventured on further seeing a female Merlin, a Mediterranean Gull, several Wheatear, a Whinchat and a flock of around 15 Scoter along the sea.
Thursday morning came and I returned to the river in the hope that the Stint and Sandpiper were still there as the weather had now improved. Walking along the river there was no sign of either the birds or birders. It wasn't looking promising. A Dunlin in the meander at least gave me a subject for the camera and after managing some shots I went back up to the top of the river bank and immediately saw the group of 3 birds again. Although they didn't allow a close approach, by staying still eventually the birds came quite close and actually rested near me. Then, following a bit of preening they started foraging on the bank with the Stint coming quite close to me, seeming to be totally oblivious to my presence. 

Dunlin in the meander.

Curlew Sandpiper with Little Stint behind.

Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint in front.

Little Stint.

Curlew Sandpiper.

Little Stint.

Little Stint.

Little Stint, Dunlin and a sleepy Curlew Sandpiper.

Little Stint.

Little Stint.

Curlew Sandpiper.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

It's A Great White!!

No, not a Carcharodon carcharias, but an Ardea alba, a Great White Egret. By regularly following the excellent Ploddingbirder blog by Martin Casemore, I had seen that some Great White Egrets were often coming near the hides at Dungeness. In the past whenever I went to Dungeness I nearly always saw these impressive birds, but always too distant for decent photography. I contacted a friend, David, who lives en route to see if he fancied a trip over to see if we could get any close birds. On entering the hide I saw an Egret walking in the water nearby that was just leaving an open area. It unfortunately kept walking the wrong way as it hunted the small fish in the area, however, before it got to the end of a small bay it returned and then gave us some fantastic views and opportunities for photography. In total on the whole reserve we saw 9 of these superb birds, but only the one close.

Great White Egret through the reeds.

Hunting the small fish.

A bad hair day!!

A small prize for such a large bird.

Great White Egret, a really elegant bird.

We also saw several Ruff, 3 Little Stint and a male Bearded Tit although generally the reserve was very quiet, following a good weekend where several rarities had turned up.

And yes, I have seen Jaws too many times!!

Sunday 24 September 2017

Grey Phalarope.

I had just put my walking boots on yesterday, intending to check up on a Wall Brown egg that I'm monitoring, when the mobile rang. It was Matt telling me a Grey Phalarope had just been found locally if I was interested. Well, no offence to the egg, but the bird did sound a bit more interesting!! On arrival I found Tim Squire, another butterfly/bird enthusiast, who had found the bird 30 minutes or so earlier. The bird was keeping close to the bank and appeared to be finding some food in the mud in the bank. As is often the case with these birds it was not at all bothered by humans and it totally ignored the paddle-boarders that at times came very near to it. It also came very close to us when it changed direction, swimming to within 5 feet of where we were watching it. At times the macro lens would have been more appropriate than the powerful telephoto I had on the camera!! 

Grey Phalarope.

Getting a little too close to us!!

Having a flap after preening.

Grey Phalarope being elegant.

Saturday 23 September 2017

A Double Stint.

It was a very busy day yesterday with me wanting to see and hopefully photograph some Little Stints that were visiting Arlington Reservoir as they migrated South, as well as visiting another area for Small Coppers. 
I started at the Reservoir where the Little Stints were not in the area I had been expecting them. Matt had already text me to say they had been reported so I started the walk along the dam wall, seeing both Common Sandpiper and Yellow Wagtail in the process. With no other birders around I had suspected that perhaps the Stints had flown, but I didn't have to go too far before I saw the movement of some tiny waders and checking through the binoculars confirmed they were indeed still there. I then spent an hour or so in their company, along with David who had joined me just as I had spotted them. After a bit of feeding they split up with 2 staying together and the 3rd resting 200 yards away. The other 2 also went into sleep mode for a while before a bit of preening, followed by further feeding. The edge of the reservoir was scattered with debris, mainly old feathers, and the water was covered with algae which gave it a strange colour. However, the birds were delightful as they skipped along the waters edge.

Little Stint.

Little Stint feeding.

Relaxed and snoozing.

One of the Little Stint stretching following preening.

Following a quick break at home for lunch I then walked to a local area where I had seen several fresh Small Coppers the day before. Once again, the plan was to try to find one or two as they were preparing to go to roost. By now it was beginning to feel a pretty long day, so it was a relief to find some nice fresh Small Coppers, although as it was still warm the butterflies were pretty active. As the afternoon moved on I spotted a really nice individual that was beginning to slow down in the late afternoon and it soon performed nicely as it soaked up the weakening rays of the sun. 

Small Copper.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Coppers on the Head.

Following a really pleasant day I decided to head up to Seaford Head looking for Small Coppers. On the Head the wind was much cooler and stronger than I had anticipated though and then to make matters worse a strip of heavy cloud covered the sun. Although I managed to find several Small Coppers roosting due to the sudden cool temperature most were well past their best. In fact I only found one that was nice and fresh. Just after finding this individual the sun did manage to find a gap in the clouds and the butterfly made a tentative attempt at warming up by opening its wings. However, with the cool breeze still blowing the wings were moving about quite a bit still. I did manage a couple of shots though that I was quite pleased with.

Roosting Small Copper.

A brief flash of colour. Small Copper trying to warm up.

The Seven Sisters.

The view from the same spot taken whilst hoping the butterfly would open its wings again!!

Saturday 16 September 2017

Cricket. Warts and all.

What would Geoffrey Boycott say about this??

For a few years I have been hoping to find an adult Wart-biter Cricket, a very rare insect which is found in only a handful of sites in the UK, fortunately 3 of these sites are in my local area. Last year I found my first Wart-biter which was not fully grown and was also hiding deep in the grass!! This species being so rare is now of so much concern that re-introductions are being attempted. I have been talking to a friend that is part of these attempts and following a few tips he's given me I have at last found an adult male of this special species. It also became clear why it has been so difficult finding them as their colour gives a fabulously effective camouflage. 

Male Wart-biter.

Although I have seen so many Wasp Spiders this year I was amazed how many of these spiders were in the area. As this spider predates Grasshoppers I just hope that they don't take out young Wart-biters next year. 

Wasp Spider with snack.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Immature Hawks.

I have often looked for, and generally failed to find Hawk-moth larva with only the Elephant Hawk in my collection so it was with enormous pleasure to see an Eyed Hawk-moth larva when I was on a walk with Nigel a couple of weeks ago. This larva was on a small Sallow bush by a stream. I had spotted that lots of leaves were missing and had obviously been eaten by a large larva, but it was Nigel that first spotted the large larva hiding. While we were photographing it the larva was relaxed enough to carry on feeding.

Eyed Hawk-moth looking for more leaves.

Eyed Hawk-moth feeding.

Today Nigel was not able to join me for our usual Wednesday walk so following the previous success I decided to try and find more Hawk-moth larva in Friston Forest, an area where Nigel and I have failed over the past 2 years, although Nigel has found some here in the past. In the first Sallow tree I searched I found 2 Pebble Prominent larva. These strange looking larva had eaten large areas of the leaves so I was confident of finding some kind of larva.

Pebble Prominent larva.

After seeing these two I carried on hunting when I suddenly spotted a superb Poplar Hawk-moth larva. These larva are bright green and it is amazing how well they are hidden when on the tree. After photographing it and looked in another part of the tree I tried to find it again and just could not find it despite a thorough search. I still can't believe I couldn't find it again. I then carried on searching other trees but failed to find anything else.

Poplar Hawk-moth larva.

Poplar Hawk-moth.

This was my last view of the Poplar Hawk-moth larva resting under a leaf.

Another little project I have going at the moment is trying to get some more Hummingbird Hawk-moth action shots. I've had a couple of these wonderful moths visiting the garden over the past couple of weeks and I've tried to come up with a few ideas of getting better photos of them. Unfortunately the weather has not been kind so if it improves soon I may be able to do better than this effort.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Baird's Sandpiper.

This morning I had a text from Matt who at the time was on the runway of Sofia Airport in Bulgaria. He had just had a message to say that a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper had been found in the Cuckmere Valley. This was only the 8th record for Sussex of this rare American Wader that had probably been blown off course by the recent hurricane. It was also the first time one of these had been seen in the local valley as well as being the first Sussex sighting since 1996. The bird was only seen at long distance though and only poor record shots were possible. Several hours later Matt had managed to get back to see the bird and it was now showing down to just a few yards so once again it was down to getting the gear together hoping for some much better shots. The only slight problem was that the weather had now gone downhill and rain was falling all the time. However, seeing this very rare bird at such close quarters was well worth getting a little wet for!!

The Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper.